Tuesday, December 31, 2019

What I Was Reading in 2019

Here on the last day of the year is my list of books read in 2019. Some were good, some not so much, but here it is. I'm in the middle of two more books, but seeing as there are only a few more hours left in 2019, I probably won't finish them, so they'll have to start the new 2020 list. If I happen to finish either before the day is out, I'll add it at the bottom.

January 2019

  • Lila - Marilynne Robinson (F). Probably my least favorite of the three books in the Gilead trilogy, but I still liked it. 
  • Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng (F). I have come to enjoy this author, especially now that I know she grew up in Shaker Heights, OH, where we lived for a year.  I probably don't agree with her a whole lot politically, and that's ok, as I can see since I've followed her on Twitter, but she is, nonetheless, a great writer. If I only ever read authors I completely agreed with, my reading would be dull and my thinking shallow, and I have enjoyed both of her books and hope to see more from her in the future.
  • Jesus Wins: The Good News of the End Times - Dayton Hartman (NF). This was an encouraging little book. Tim Challies wrote a review and that's what sparked my interest. 
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving (F). This is a favorite and a re-read.
February 2019
  • Girls of Glass - Brianna Labuskes (F).
  • The Western Star ( A Longmire Mystery) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Gay Girl, Good God - Jackie Hill Perry (NF). Wow, this was good. God is so good, and what a testimony to His immense grace and love and goodness.  I found a rich deepening in my desire to fully believe in the power of God to save through His gospel, and save to the uttermost, even when things may seem impossible from my limited perspective, as I pray for others and for my own heart as I read this. 
March 2019
  • Depth of Winter (A Longmire Mystery) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Danger in the Shadows (O'Malley Book 0) - Dee Henderson (F).  I'm not a huge fan of Christian fiction, as I've said, but this was ok.  I saw this listed by some friends as having liked the series and thought I'd try it.  I liked it ok, but I don't think I'll continue the series.  I have my qualms, still, but won't go into depth with my criticisms here, except that I was discouraged when I looked up the author's webpage to try to find out a little about her and she links to books  (nonfiction) by authors that I find very troubling (Bill Johnson, for one). I had been bothered by how shallow the discussions about 'God' and prayer were, though better than some Christian fiction I've read (Jesus is never mentioned, gospel belief is assumed, but sort of shallow in portrayal in my opinion, etc.), considering how much opportunity there was imbedded in the story itself to go much more in depth with that. And I guess I'm just not a huge fan of romance novels in general. Sorry, I don't mean to be critical.  I don't expect novels to be heavy on theology, but it just felt shallow to me, when, given the subject matter, it could have been richer. On her webpage she talks about more recent books having a deeper discussion of theological things, but after seeing who she links to as recommendations, I think I'm wary. 
  • 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You - Tony Reinke (NF). Because of something I'm working on, I read this again. I was reminded why I recommended it so strongly the first time.  I think maybe it's one I would benefit to revisit every year, to be honest. 
April 2019
  • Dune - Frank Herbert (F). A classic. I read it because my boys were reading it and, though I'm pretty sure I read it a long time ago, I couldn't remember much of it. I don't need to read the rest of the series.  It was ok, but, I'd rather move on and read something else. You can definitely see how much of Star Wars is taken from it, though. 
  • Respectable Sins - Jerry Bridges (NF). Our women's Bible study this year from September through April at church was based on this book, with a study guide written by our pastor's wife and the curriculum committee form our church. As we were working through the study, I began to realize a lot of the book sounded very familiar, and I checked my Kindle, and, sure enough, I had read it a few years ago. I got much more from it this time around, though, taking all these months to slowly work through it and through the homework, because I had to take the time to think and digest.  My biggest take away is how much I now recognize throughout the day as a sinful attitude or thought that I didn't before, and how very many of them I am still so prone to. But God's mercy is so great, and I am thankful! And the chapter on Ungodliness has stuck with me, because that just seems to be the pervasive sin underneath all the others.  Now that we've done this in depth study, I want to keep the book out and re-read it periodically.  I do not want to forget. 
  • I Was Anastasia - Ariel Lawhon (F).  I liked this one.
  • The Screwtape Letters - C. S. Lewis (F).
May 2019
  • Absolute Power - David Baldacci (F).
  • The Clockmaker's Daughter - Kate Morton (F). Kate Morton has become one of my favorite authors, and I've enjoyed everything I've read from her.  This book is no exception.  I loved it, and I loved the characters. Beautifully written, and sad, but in a satisfying sort of way. 
  • Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus - Nabeel Qureshi (NF). This is the best book I've read yet this year.  Such a powerful testimony. 
  • Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn (F).  Did not finish and cannot recommend.  The language and other stuff were awful, I did not like the characters (probably not supposed to), figured out the big mid-book plot twist before it was revealed, and just don't want to spend more time and mental energy filling my brain with the atrocious language and stuff. I did something I almost never do and found a plot summary to see if I even would have liked the ending. Doesn't look like it, so good call on not finishing. Just not my cup of tea.
  • Pray Big: Learn to Pray Like an Apostle - Alistair Begg (NF).  This was very good, one I will read more than once to keep it fresh in my mind. 
June 2019
  • Hinds Feet on High Places - Hannah Gurnard (F).
  • The Apostles' Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits - R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (NF).
  • The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom Series, #1) - Bernard Cornwell (F).  I really liked this one. Looking forward to reading the rest of this series.  
  • Total Control - David Baldacci (F).
  • The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom Series, #2) - Bernard Cornwell (F). 
July 2109
  • Secret Undertaking - Mark de Castrique (F).
  • Lords of the North (The Last Kingdom Series, #3) - Bernard Cornwell (F). Due to our move to Virginia, July was a slower than usual reading month, but I liked both of these books.
August 2019
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling (F).  Wanted to read these again, and while waiting for a library book I have on hold, I thought I'd start the series again. 
  • Spiritual Depression - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (NF). I kept starting this and then putting it down for several weeks until I finally decided I needed to read it and quit waiting until I felt like reading it.  I'm so glad I did.  I very much needed this at this season of my life.  I'm keeping it on my Kindle for rereading as needed when that darkness looms again. It's a great discussion of right thinking about Christian living. I highly recommend it. 
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J. K. Rowling (F).
  • Sword Song (The Last Kingdom Series, #4) - Bernard Cornwell (F).
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling (F).
September 2019
  • Putting Amazing Back into Grace - Michael Horton (NF).  I very much liked this one. I could relate to so much of what he described growing up evangelical and struggling with assurance of salvation.  Having a biblical view of grace and salvation has been such a blessing. 
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J. K. Rowling (F).
  • The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances - Alistair Begg (NF).
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling (F).
  • The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (F).  This was very good, well-written and moving. 
October 2019
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince  - J. K. Rowling (F).
  • Unlikely Converts: Improbable Stories of Faith and What They Teach Us About Evangelism - Randy Newman (NF).  This may be one of my favorite books I've read this year.  It is encouraging me to pray more passionately and I want to change - to be more open to opening my my heart and my mouth and really engaging with people. 
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling (F).
  • Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society - Rachel Green Miller (NF).
  • An Equal Justice - Chad Zunker (F).
November 2019
  • The Winner - David Baldacci (F).
  • The Burning Land (The Last Kingdom Series, #5) - Bernard Cornwell (F).
  • Empire Falls - Richard Russo (F).
  • What Angels Wish They Knew: The Basics of True Christianity - Alistair Begg (NF).

December 2019
  • The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation For Failure - Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (NF).
  • The Simple Truth - David Baldacci (F).
  • Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation - Dennis E. Johnson (NF). This was very good.
  • Saving Faith - David Baldacci (F).

Monday, December 30, 2019

Out of the Heart the Mouth Speaks

Matthew 12:33-37
“33 Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.  34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil?  For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  36 I tell you, on the day  of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I read this the other day and was grieved as I took a moment to think back over how I’ve used my words just in the past few days. If out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, what have my words said about my heart? Is what I’ve said to or about people edifying or hurtful? It grieves me to think how often ‘edifying’ has not been the adjective to describe my words and thoughts, but hurtful or prideful is. It really makes me cringe to look back and realize how careless I am, and how unkind at times. This is a good reminder to check my heart attitudes, how I think about other people, do I put the best construction on things or am I arrogant, prideful, presumptuous, or sinful in what I’m letting my mind think?  And how intently do I purpose to follow and obey Christ, even in how I think? As I think, so will I speak. Our words can be a very effective glimpse at how well we are battling sin at the heart level. How thankful I am for the grace and mercy of God to bring that scripture in front of me when I need it, and how incredibly thankful I am for His grace in that even this sin was forgiven at the cross. 

I got to thinking about this yesterday, too, while we were watching a movie we had wanted to see in the theater. What was overall a funny and fairly clean movie, was spoiled by an overabundance of casual blasphemy that was totally unnecessary in the dialogue.  I’ve noticed that our culture is getting more and more desensitized to this, and as culture is…..so am I.  It seemed that there was just so much more in-your-face taking of God’s name in vain in a movie where you wouldn’t have expected it that my husband and I noticed and commented on how surprised we were by it and how much we don’t like it and how totally unnecessary it was. It grieves me, too, that I can hear God’s name used flippantly and even laugh at the joke made with that added on and not be more bothered by it than I am.  It should bother us. I’m bothered that the more we surround ourselves with casual blasphemous talk, the more desensitized we are.  I don't say this to be legalistic, but that if it is true that out of the heart the mouth speaks, we need to be careful about what we allow to influence our hearts. When you hear coarse language and flippant, casual blasphemy often, it gets in there and makes it harder not to have it pop into your mind where you really don’t want it.

So, I’m thankful for God’s word and the Providential timing of reading this passage this week and how the Holy Spirit uses His word to bring to light sin that needs to be brought to light. This is a good thing to meditate on here at the end of one year and into the beginning of the new year. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Not the Half Has Been Told

Hebrews 13:13-15 
“Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to our God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” 

1 John 3:2-3 
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 Corinthians 2:9
But, as it is written,
‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him - ‘“

My daughter and I were sitting together yesterday in the living room and looking at the Christmas tree with the pretty presents around it. She mentioned that she agrees with the character in a book we’ve read and enjoyed together when he said that he likes Christmas Eve best, better than Christmas morning because on Christmas Eve there is a sense of wonder and anticipation, and everyone is singing and worshiping Jesus and focusing on the truth and reason we celebrate when we are together at the Christmas Eve church service, and looking forward to Christmas….so much so, that sometimes the actual Christmas morning can almost feel like it’s over too quickly. We got to talking as we sat there looking at the pretty presents, with me knowing what is in most of those presents and knowing that for many the anticipation is more exciting that what is actually in them and how quickly that anticipation ends once they’re all opened and we have the clean up to deal with next, and we got to thinking that that could almost be a parable for how unsatisfying all of our idols ultimately are. Anything in this life that we look to other than Christ Himself for satisfaction will ultimately disappoint. That’s one reason I can't stand the worldly sentimentality of most secular Christmas music and movies.  It builds up this impossible expectation of the perfect holiday, perfect family time, that nothing could possibly live up to, and it leads to increased depression and hopelessness at a time when we should be focusing on the greatest hope of all, because so much of how our culture celebrates Christmas is devoid of any contemplation of Jesus and why He came, but focused purely on earthly idols that cannot fully satisfy when we rest too much hope upon them. Not that family and the joy of being together isn’t a good thing in itself, it is, but it is not where our ultimate hope must rest. As I’ve seen quoted from Tim Keller, “Idols will always break your heart.” 

My daughter and I got to talking about how there is only one thing that we can anticipate and hope for that when what we’ve been looking forward to and anticipating is fully known, we will not be disappointed. When we see Jesus, we will not be disappointed.  When we see Him and know Him as we are known, when we are eternally freed to worship Him without the taint of our fallen nature, well, we can’t even imagine what that will be like. Everything else pales in comparison.  Do you remember that old song that New Song used to sing about ‘Not the Half Has Been Told’? I’ve been thinking about that a lot today, and finally had to go find it and listen to it. Jesus is where our focus needs to be at Christmas and always, so that we are free to love our neighbors and to sing our songs in such a way that it will be obvious that we know and belong to God, our Abba Father, our Savior, and so that no matter what temporal disappointments we face in the everyday of our lives, our hearts beat with the cry and our actions are motivated by the thought, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” 

Monday, December 16, 2019

A Very Musical Monday

Isaiah 9:2-7
“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 shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
       you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
       as with joy at the harvest,
       as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
       and the staff for his shoulder, 
       the rod of his oppressor,
       you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
       and every garment rolled in blood
       will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
       to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
       and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace 
      there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
      to establish it and go uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
       from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Isaiah 9:2 is one of my favorite verses, when you take time to really think about what it is saying. A friend of mine shared this song on Facebook today. I had not heard it before, but I very much liked it. As I listened, these words struck me and brought me to tears of wonder: “He who is mighty has done a great thing, taken on flesh and conquered death’s sting, shattered the darkness and lifted our shame….holy is His name.” Shattered the darkness and lifted our shame….oh ponder the magnitude of this! We no longer have to walk in darkness and sin and shame! 

Often during the Advent and Christmas season I am reminded of a conversation I had years ago with a friend from work who was a Jehovah’s Witness. She asked me, “Why celebrate Christmas? He hadn’t even done anything yet.” I remember feeling a bit astonished and kind of looking at her funny and saying, “Oh, but He had done a great deal already!” And I also explained that what we celebrate at Christmas doesn’t stop with the birth of Jesus, but we’re celebrating the whole thing - redemption, from the promise in Genesis 3:15 of a Savior, to the Cross, to the Resurrection and that He is the risen King of Kings. Hadn’t done anything yet??? Whenever I think about how blind that question was, it almost takes my breath away, and makes me so sad for my friend. What about fulfilling centuries of prophecy, the Virgin birth, God With Us - God taking on human flesh to become truly God and truly Man? The promised Savior stepped into time to redeem His people. All of Creation and all the Temple sacrifices had been pointing toward this Jesus.  Hadn’t done anything yet? Just ask the angels who proclaimed to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). Hadn’t done anything yet? Just ask Simeon and Anna in the Temple when Joseph and Mary brought the Child about that. Simeon 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 peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)  

I agreed with my friend that day about Santa and all the stuff that gets all mixed up with the trappings of the holiday, and sadly takes precedence in the secular world at Christmas.  I can see how Christmas must be confusing to people who think The Polar Express is what we seem to think it’s all about (have I mentioned how much I hate that movie? And how much I can't stand sappy, overly sentimental shallow movies and songs? - sorry….), and that is truly unfortunate. What a shame to miss the depth and richness of what we actually celebrate at this time of year. I know, with that particular friend there was a world of difference in our understanding of who Jesus is, and Christmas was just one minor sticking point for her, but this time of year does remind me to pray for her, as I have for years, that someday she will know the real Jesus, know the true God, that the veil will be removed and she will be brought out of darkness into the light of knowing Jesus as the Savior, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace before whom every knee will one day bow. She told me that day she thought I was being a little intense. I guess I was. This matters

Today as I listened to that song, I was so moved by that line, I think, in part, because I’ve been reading through the book of Revelation and thinking about Jesus and His triumph. While listening to my playlist later on today, this song came on, and again, I listened to it while considering Revelation and what I’ve been studying about Jesus and His extreme worthiness and His deep love for His people, and I just had to sing out loud in my kitchen. 

Christmas is beautiful because our God is gloriously beautiful.  Let the beauty of the glitter and the lights and the shimmer of the shining decorations be but a pale reminder of the splendor and brilliance of the Savior.  The rich symbolic language in Revelation is full of such an abundance of light and color and brilliance, let the beauty of this season cause you to reflect on the majesty of our Creator. This Advent season, let yourself be reminded again just how worthy of worship our God is, be reminded how majestic His salvation is - the whole plan to redeem fallen mankind, to save a people unto Himself and show them such love and mercy, be reminded of the fact that Christmas isn’t just about the Baby in the manger, no…what we celebrate is the whole grand story of our God who is with us, our God who is for us, our Savior who died and rose again to set us free from the curse of sin and who is the reigning King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The veil was torn in two from top to bottom and we who trust in Christ alone are made righteous and granted access to our God. 

The last song I want to share in this musical Monday post also came on my playlist this afternoon, and again I heard it through the lens of what I’ve been studying in Revelation and had to lift my hands and sing. I hope you can enjoy it, too. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Thought From Proverbs

Proverbs 12:25 “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”

I’ve been pondering this verse since I read it during my daily Bible reading a couple of weeks ago, and wanting to write a blog post about  those thoughts, but I’m just getting to it today.  

I’ve mentioned that this move was one of our harder ones for various reasons. One thing is that I seem to struggle a bit with some depressing and anxious feelings whenever we go through these kinds of life changes. I know not to spiral and dwell there in my mind, but often the feelings linger and I can’t always even describe them or why, exactly, they are weighing on me like a gray cloud for days, weeks, sometimes months as I try to acclimate to a new normal in a new place.  

Anyway, for quite a few years now, since our pastor at a former church several moves ago encouraged us to do this, I’ve made it a habit to read through Proverbs each month.  With thirty-one chapters, it is easy to read a chapter a day every month. So, when I came across Proverbs 12:25 a couple of weeks ago, it happened to be on a day when I was having some of those nebulous, hard to describe, frustrating, heavy anxious and sad feelings. I got to thinking about “a good word makes him glad.”

Do you know what my refuge is, and has been for as long as I can remember when those anxious, depressed thoughts and feelings hover and linger? God’s Word.  In season and out, it is my habit to read through the Bible each year, every day. I can’t say that every single day I get a “wow” moment, but a lifetime of reading the Bible every day changes you.  God’s word gets down into your thinking, and, friends, I NEED it there, deep down in my core, when lying thoughts and emotions try to take control. 

Sure, a good word, an encouraging word from a friend can also serve to make us glad, but the abiding gladness that comes from a joy and a peace which passes all understanding, comes from the good word found in meditating and pondering on the Word of God. Reading His word and hearing it preached will truly make you glad when anxiety is weighing your heart down.  I know from my own experience this is truth.  The feelings don’t always follow immediately, but the load is much lighter when I’m pondering what I’ve read, or working on the passage I’m trying to memorize (Colossians at present), and especially when I push through the anxiety and depression and join with fellow believers in corporate worship.  Y’all, I can't tell you how thankful I am that we found a good church quickly this time.  Sundays are just plain refreshing. It’s like drinking from a cold fountain when you’re parched and thirsty.  

I’m thankful for the good word that makes me glad when I read God’s word - how over time, He allows His word to seep into my heart and mind, reorients my thinking to His priorities and His amazing goodness, and eventually those anxious feelings submit to the truth. I’m thankful for the good word of the spiritual songs and hymns we sing together with the choir and orchestra and gathered believers on Sunday (and Wednesday night practices, too!). I’m thankful for the good word of sermons preached by pastors who love God and HIs word and who love God’s people.  

Yes, a good word truly does make me glad. 

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Lost Things

The thing about moving every 3-4 years is that there are hidden griefs beyond the obvious ones. Obviously, we grieve when we spend the first part of a move grieving the loss of friends and familiarity from the previous place we lived and trying to find our place in our new home. Then, just about the time we’ve established good friends and found our way around and it has begun to feel like home, it’s time to move again, and we go through that whole grief process again. Then when you get to the new place, you have to push on and jump in and meet new people, because you don't want to walk around bleeding the hidden grief all over the new people, you have to move on and be present here and make this place home and embrace all the good things and great people you get to know here. 

I’m going to be a little raw and admit that I am still struggling with this move.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m older this time and my kids are older and we’re kind of on the way toward being almost empty nesters, or what, but I am fighting like you wouldn’t believe against a gray depression and lack of motivation to really jump in and get to know people here. I’m doing it - I’ve joined the church choir, I’ve been to my first middle school band boosters meeting and I’m planning to sign up to help with an upcoming band event soon, and we are looking into joining the church as soon as we can.  But, with leaving both boys behind at college in Texas, I’m struggling a bit with the beginnings of the empty next on top of having to start all over again in a new place, after leaving a place we weren’t ready to leave.  I have to admit, I’m having a hard time with my emotions this time.  

What brings this up today in a fresh way is that I’m dealing with one of those hidden griefs of moving as often as we do - that fresh knife-cut wound when you realize something else that had a lot of sentimental value that should have been here, somehow isn’t here.  As we finish going through the last of the boxes and realize, “Hey, I haven’t seen……” and we go looking and can’t find that thing. There have been several things like that this time.  We know for sure that our University of Florida diplomas and some precious art work and photos that were packed with them are not here, and we have a claim and a plea with the moving company that stored our stuff to please find those boxes. They aren’t worth any money that the company could pay us, really, but they are full of irreplaceable sentimental value, and there's a catch in my throat every time I consider we may never get some of them back.  And today, as we’ve been going through the last of the bookshelf boxes, it seems that my “Omnibus” magazines - the creative writing magazine from high school where I was on staff - seem to be missing also.  My husband says we will find them.  I’m feeling less sure than he is, but I appreciate his understanding of my tears.

I know that this is just ‘stuff.’ I know that in the grand scheme of things, these are not really important things. But, today, right now, it’s one more opening of the wound of the grief of moving again.  This move has absolutely been the hardest one we’ve done yet.

BUT, I will still sing, and I will still praise, because through it ALL, I know that God is good and He has placed us here at this time for His purpose.  In some ways it’s been a great move.  My daughter has had the smoothest transition she’s ever had with a move, and has already made some good friends at school and at church - people who are truly glad to see her when she comes down the hall. That is priceless. And just living here, in this particular place, we see all kinds of opportunities, especially for one of our sons - because of some connections we’ve made here, he will be getting an awesome scholarship and we can foresee some wonderful internship possibilities.  And we have found a great church, where we know that in time will feel just as much like home as any other church we’ve been members of, because these are fellow believers who love Jesus, just as we do.  I love the choir already, and we’ve been invited by some sweet people in our Sunday school class to an informal fellowship tonight.  God is so good, and He always, always provides abundantly for His people.  I know that as I keep my eyes on Him, He never changes and I am His. He will heal my broken heart, and help me to let go of things that should not hold my heart too tightly, even when I feel that renewed cut at the realization of one more lost thing, and for that I’m thankful.  

Isaiah 26:3-4
"You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you, 
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock."

Psalm 34:1
"I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth."

Psalm 34:18
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit." 

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

"Away for the Day"

2 Timothy 2:23 
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.”

2 Timothy 3: 1-5 
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  Avoid such people.”

I’ve been reading 2 Timothy the past couple of mornings and these passages stuck out to me today.  To me, they pretty well describe much of what I see on Twitter - especially, “Christian” Twitter, to be brutally honest.  It seems like lately Twitter is becoming a more and more toxic place to hang out. “News” stories are posted as fact before all the facts are in, meaning that the original story often is NOT the true reading of what has happened, but by the time the retractions are printed, it is a bit too late - the first, misleading impression is already planted firmly in people's heads. There is a lot of incivility in interactions, too. So much arguing over things that are better not argued in the Twitter or Facebook space, because it’s really not designed for reasoned arguments. Anyway, most of the heated debates I see do not seem to be all that edifying, and are usually more unhelpful than anything. I know I’m being vague, but I don’t need to throw out specifics here.  If you’re on Twitter and Facebook at all, you’ve seen these kinds of things. And the conspiracy theories on various and sundry topics, oh dear.  Wowza. Not a wise use of time or mental energy.

I find that I’ve been, once again, spending more time on Twitter and Facebook than is probably helpful, and reading 2 Timothy today, with the warning - “Avoid such people,” I got to thinking it’s time to take a breather. 

My daughter’s middle school has adopted a policy this year that they call, “Away for the Day.” Basically they have asked all the students to either leave their cell phones at home or at least turn them off and put them in their backpacks and lockers during the school day. I’m thinking that may be a wise course of action for me, too. So, I’m thinking that after I post this, I could very much benefit from an “Away for the Day” policy regarding my use of social media. Just today I’ve already seen a difference in my attitude, as time I would have spent scrolling through Twitter this morning I actually spent reading a book that is ministering to my soul, and spent some time in prayer that was desperately needed, and wrote this blog post, something I'd like to do more often - write blog posts, hopefully thoughtful ones, that is.  

So, I’m thinking “Away for the Day” will be a good thing to try for a while. And maybe, just maybe, I may need to clean out some of the voices I follow on social media and ‘avoid such people.’ I’ve already started purging my Twitter feed a bit.  

Happy Wednesday!

Saturday, September 14, 2019


Colossians 1:13-20
“13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

Preeminent: Superior to or notable above all others; outstanding.

I have something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now. I’ve held off writing about it because I feel like sometimes I can be hyper critical, but as I’ve been thinking about this, I don’t, think, in fact, this is a case of being hyper critical, though people might see it that way.  Here goes….

We went to visit the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. Before I get into my critique, I want to say the production quality overall at the museum is very high, very well done, from an aesthetic standpoint. From a historical standpoint, there is much that is good, and I liked a great deal of the exhibit on the Reformation and the translating of the Bible into the common languages. The Old Testament walk through experience had a whole lot that I liked, and which was done very well, but, in the end I left feeling a sad emptiness, like there was a huge missed opportunity - not once in that exhibit was the opportunity taken to point forward to Christ. In several places, I was shouting on the inside how much the opportunity was missed, especially when talking about Ruth and King David. No mention of the link to Jesus, just how great, but flawed, a king David was.  No, rather they ended at Ezra saying what a great thing it was that the light was restored because they had their scriptures and a rebuilt temple. No mention of the shadows pointing toward the ultimate fulfillment that those very Scriptures prophesied, the ultimate Light, who is Christ.

I hoped that when we went over the New Testament exhibit maybe that would be corrected, but I have to say that I actually left that exhibit offended, because really, though they mention Jesus, it’s almost like they kind of blew past the crucifixion and resurrection without expanding AT ALL about why He is so significant.  In the pre-movie about John the Baptist, they even made Herod almost a sympathetic character, like he was sadly forced into arresting and executing John, if only John had cooperated better, and made it more about politics than anything. Totally missed the point that John was prophesying the Messiah! And in the exhibit, much was made about the changed lives of the apostles and about Paul, but it was amazing how little focus was actually on Jesus. If you didn’t already know the gospel, I think you would leave that exhibit a bit confused - what was the point of it all? So He was a good teacher who sadly died, and oh, yeah, the grave was empty and these lives were changed but so what, really? I found that highly offensive, though I can tell the creators of the museum do not mean it to be.  I’m sure they mean to give much respect to the Bible and to how people have been impacted by it though the years, but they MISS THE POINT.  It is offensive to spend the millions of dollars I’m sure have gone into that effort and miss the entire point of the book they are trying to honor.  

JESUS IS THE POINT.  From beginning to end, HE is the point! From Genesis to Revelation, it is ALL about Jesus. To blow past Him and talk vaguely about changed lives but miss the actual gospel message that God is the Creator, and He has spoken in His word, and what He has spoken is salvation to a lost, sinful, and dying world is a hugely wasted opportunity.  I’m glad they want to honor the Bible as such a significant book, but it is significant precisely because in it we find salvation.  Those people’s lives were changed because they met God! Not because He was merely a good teacher who did some miracles, but those miracles pointed to Who He is. 

The message of the Bible is that God created everything, mankind sinned and we are under the wrath of God because we are sinful to our very nature, but God who is just and merciful, came to earth - Jesus lived among us and fulfilled ALL of God’s holy law, that law that we cannot fulfill, and He died on the cross, suffered the wrath we deserve as our holy substitute, He finished everything that He came to do, He did everything God’s righteousness requires, and He rose again, proving that the sacrifice is accepted, and to all who believe in Him and repent of their sin, trusting in Jesus alone, and only to those, He credits His righteousness and counts us as righteous and forgiven. 

Jesus is the preeminent One. Any effort that attempts to respect His word, but downplays HIM, is offensive to a degree that I just can't get over. It doesn’t matter how beautifully done the production value is if Jesus is not ultimately lifted up as the preeminent One.  It may succeed in pleasing those who do not want to see Him as preeminent, but it is ultimately lacking in what matters most.  

So, at the risk of once again being too critical, that was my take away, much as I wanted to like the museum, I just can’t fully. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019


Resilient: adjective
  1. springing back; rebounding.
  2. returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched.
  3. recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyant.

*This is me being a little raw, so it may not stay up for very long.*

I have come to rather dislike the word, “resilient.” I have grown a little weary of people encouraging us by saying how they have so much respect for my kids and my family and how we are so resilient and what amazing coping skills and wider horizons we’ve developed when I share the grief we experience when we have to move yet again. Yeah, they can be, and we can, but only because we’ve had to be, and in our case, most definitely by God’s amazing grace have we been able to ‘recover rapidly and spring back’ when we’re stretched. 

We aren’t fundamentally made of different stuff from other people.

I think what happens sometimes is that people see how quickly we adapt and jump right in to our new situation, and they assume that we are fine, better than fine. My kids seem so well-adjusted, so we must be used to this life. There’s so much there you don’t see, though.

When I sit crying with my weeping teenagers over the real, deep, wrenching grief of having to sever friendships with people they know they probably will never see again, it cuts deeply and rips my heart along with theirs. When people hesitate to become close with us because they know we’ll be leaving in a few years and we haven’t always been in this place, it’s lonely and it hurts. When people start pulling away emotionally even before we leave, and we unintentionally do the same, again, it’s a lonely place to be. And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t get easier with subsequent moves because we’ve gotten ‘used to it.’ No, if anything, it gets harder, because we know how long it takes for the ‘next adventure’ to finally start to feel like ‘home.’ 

That’s not to say there hasn’t been a lot of good that has come with moving often.  There has.  It’s also not to say that I resent my lot in life or don’t accept God’s sovereignty over it all, or that I’m at all ungrateful.  I am so very grateful.  All those things you hear about - that resilience word I’m resenting at the moment, for one, my kids and I have, indeed, learned it. And it’s a good thing. My husband and I and our kids have developed a close-knit love and respect for each other that runs deep and has rich roots in our mutual faith in Christ that I cherish deeply. We have made real friendships with people in lots of places we never would have met if we’d not had to move, some who we still stay in contact with. It’s true that my kids have a much wider understanding of the world and ability to talk to and befriend people who are different from them and who think differently than I did at their age. We’ve had lasting and deep and meaningful friendships with our church families everywhere we’ve gone, and how incredibly thankful I am for this! Christ’s church has been a blessing to us, and Christ is the absolute anchor for my soul, always, no matter where we go. And that matters way more than some ‘stiff upper lip, grin-and-bear-it’ sort of resilience that anyone who moves a lot has to learn. No, what I have in Christ is a real peace that passes all understanding, a knowledge that no matter how lonely, no matter how full of grief, we are not alone, and we are called to glorify and enjoy Him in all things.  There is meaning and purpose in embracing our portion and seeking to honor Christ, even in this.  

But in those moments when I’m struggling with the grief, and even harder, with the grief my kids are experiencing, please don’t comfort me by telling me how you respect our resilience.  I’m not feeling all that resilient at the moment. I’m feeling pretty broken, in fact. I’m feeling pretty empty of words. One of the most meaningful ways a friend ministered to me the other day when I broke down in tears and told her this is the hardest move we’ve ever done was to just stop, open her arms and hug me while I cried, no words necessary. 

What I need to remember again and again and again is how Jesus, my perfect and great and loving Shepherd binds up the broken hearted. Pray for us to love our children well and, while we cannot shield them from the sadness and difficulty of yet another move and all the emotionally difficult things that come with it, we can help them to also know they can cling to the One who perfectly understands all the emotions we can barely put into words. 

Psalm 34:18 

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

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.