#13 and 14

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#13 Dealing with Difficult People by Charles J. Keating, 1984

My how times have changed. The author’s use of both “he” and “she” pronouns had me thankful that “they” don’t do that anymore. I’m waiting for the day when we do away with “quote marks” too. We’ve come a long way since 1984–my first full year of marriage–by the way.

My favorite chapter of the book was his thoughts on dealing with people in light of the Myers Briggs Personality Preference Inventory (MBTI). Reading this section greatly entertained my own personality preference. It’s the preference that wants to take every personality test out there and prove to myself–and others–that I really am a fun-loving, easy going person. I’m like my departed grandmother when she asked every visitor that ever entered her home, how old you think I am? But I do it with personality styles.

I’m a High I. Sanguine. Otter.   ENFP.

So, when my dear friend, Nancy, encouraged me to take a turn doing staff devotions, I decided to have a fun-filled MBTI party instead of preach something from the Old or New Testament. At this season in my life, I don’t feel called to expound on the Word of God to our pastors and staff. Not that I ever felt called to such a calling. My speed in this season is more touchy/feely kumbiyah-ish. Which I now realize makes others think we ENFPs don’t really have much of an intellect. But do you know how hard it can be to give a “talk” that looks like you just threw it together? Hours upon hours are spent over writing and re-writing. OK, maybe minutes upon minutes. Once in front of an audience that’s all I seem to want to do is enjoy, and tap into my inner-comic. You know, I think if I were brave and self-assured, I would have been a stand-up-comic. But I’m neither brave nor self-assured (that was obvious when I decided I shouldn’t jump on a trampoline at 60). But. Life’s not over. I do think the older I get, the braver I get, and not that I get self-assured, but perhaps I’d call it God-assured. That feeling you get when you know that you know God takes great delight in using you in His Kingdom advancing activities. Just this morning, as I was writing Him only, I remarked about feeling so very much a part of thy kingdom come. I do think that there are places on this earth where the already is far greater than the not yet. And I think I am living in such a place and time. I also think there are places on the earth today where there is very little of the already not actualized at all. [This already/not yet concept may foreign to some and if that is the case, please google it. I have not the energy or intellect (there it is) to explain it.]

But what if everyday, from here forward, we fell asleep reflecting on whether or not the day had been more filled with already or not yet? I like that idea.

But for now, back to Myers Briggs. This book had some great points on how to embrace the strengths in yourself and in others, and help us all to recognize how someone not like us, would like to be treated. It tells us how we prefer to embrace the world, embrace vocations and prefer to make decisions, among other things. If you don’t know your preferences, I highly recommend going to the internet and taking the test for free. You can google that too, of course.

Here’s some personal and perhaps helpful observations from my time thinking on such things:

  • It may be best to adjust your personality preference when talking with a person who you find difficult (or vice versa). Just the facts ma’am. Less is truly more when an ENFP is talking to an ISTJ.
  • Even though you may be a Perceiver (the spontaneous ones), you still may enjoy an organized home, and love to make lists just because you like being productive. You may also be much quicker at decision making than J’s (Judging).
  • And just because you are an extrovert it does not mean you are enjoyable to everybody. Some will find you completely obnoxious.
  • And just because you are an introvert doesn’t mean that you don’t socialize well. Some of my favorite people and closest friends are introverts. (Elisabeth! Share! Julia!)
  • Thinkers can be incredibly kind even though they don’t wear their heart on their sleeve like feelers seem to do.
  • You may have the same MBTI as another yet have a completely different personality. (I discovered that this week, made me giggle, and also made me think, the other person was saying in his head, You got to be kidding, I’m nothing like her?!)
  • If other ENFPs are anything like me, then we don’t have to finish anything well. Or even finish at all. We just stop and move on to something else. Kinda like this blog …

#14 The Question of God by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., 2002

I LOVED THIS BOOK!

Can’t tell you how much I loved this book. But, I’m not so sure everyone would love it like I did. Especially if you are an atheist. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for the atheist worldview. Here’s an indication of that from the very first page:

Dr. Sigmund Freud Dies in Exile at 83. New York Times headline.

This book discuses the meaning of life based on the writings of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis.

I’ll admit, I find Lewis hard to read, but reading about him or watching Shadowlands … well, you had me at hello. Perhaps I really am shallow.

While I remember liking Mere Christianity in spots, I never could get through Screwtape Letters or The Great Divorce. A required reading of The Abolition of Man was painful. Really. Even The Chronicles of Narnia have never drawn me in. But I am such a fan when other people interpret Lewis for me. Even a phrase of his can bring me to glorious heights. Like this one:

Everlasting Splendors.

It was John Ortberg however who led me there, when he said something like: We are in the process of becoming everlasting splendors.

That’s what this life, here and now, is supposed to be all about. Preparing us to be everlasting splendors so that we will rule and reign with the Creator of the Universe. Really! No eye can see — or ear can hear — what God is preparing for His children!

Perhaps the reason why I loved this book so much is that it showed me how someone as brilliant as Lewis embraces the truth of Jesus Christ and the Word of God so beautifully and intelligently. I can’t help but think that anyone who reads it would come away “wanting Christianity to be true” even if their minds still found it difficult to embrace.

I don’t like it when the world acts like Christians are backward, un-evolved bumpkins. That’s what Freud thinks of Christians, and if there is a God, he loves to hate him. But the problem with this is that when you choose to ignore or marginalize the God who created you, life loses its intended meaning. It’s often fame and fortune that one seeks to make them happy, and of course it doesn’t, and they end their days on earth filled with cynicism and despair. Yes, I believe that. Call me what you will.


#11 and 12

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#11 50 Things to Do When You Turn 50, edited by Ronnie Sellers, 2005

I was 45 in 2005, when this book was published, which means I probably bought it around the year 2010 when I turned 50.

Never finished it. Never got very far into it. Even though I remember the first chapter was delightful, most of the chapters don’t suggest things that interest me. I don’t want to jump off a bridge. Or jump out of an airplane. I did think I wanted to jump on a trampoline and told my sister the other day that perhaps we could do that when I turn 60. She said, “have you been on a trampoline lately?” I think she may be on to something. I can get motion sickness riding in an elevator now. As a kid, nothing thrilled me more than roller coasters and merry-go-rounds. I do think those day are over. And that’s ok. No need to relive certain thrills.

Perhaps when people turn fifty its when the bucket list begins. But if you’re a woman and turning fifty, menopause happens. It’s real. And for most of my early fifties it was hard. One minute I was fine, and the next was ready to jump out of my skin–preferably into a pool of cool water. I wanted no responsibilities for anyone, not even myself.

This too shall pass.

And it did.

Here is one take-away from the book that came screaming at me when they were suggesting I do something in my fifties that I had no desire of doing:

Don’t just do something so that you can say you’ve done it. I think the world tells us we have to do such-and-such in order to be fulfilled. I don’t think the world has a clue at times.

However. There a some things I’ve done since turning fifty that I do recommend:

  • Be creative. Find your inner-artist. Just yesterday I was getting my taxes done, and the professional doing them said, “let’s see, what shall we put for your occupation? How about artist.” I laughed. Suggested potter, and thought I’d also be pleased with artist.
  • Give away more than you purchase. There have been a couple of years in the past decade where I’ve made a pledge with myself to not by anything material for an entire year. I usually never make it a whole year when my birthday comes around in November, or my aunts visit in the summer. This is sizing up to be another one of those years to be non-materialistic. There is more freedom in this than you may think.
  • Find a ministry you can plug into. Can I just tell you how much I love showing up on Wednesday nights at my church? The joy of the fellowship in our moms’ group is other worldly to me. And, truly, all I have to do is show up. My dear ministry leader packs more into one hour than is always humanly possible, and I get to participate in the best community I’ve experienced in G’town EVER! And I’ve been here 25 years! I imagine even the “cloud of witnesses” are looking in on us wth sheer delight.

And, one final thing that I think can occur almost naturally in your fifties: perhaps we get a little more other-focused. It’s not about us, and we can feel free to walk into a crowded room and enjoy just being there. We finally realize that no one is talking about us, and if they are, we don’t care! We can work on being most comfortable with an audience of One, and realize that He truly is the only One that matters for our emotional well being.

#12 Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper, 2005

This book was also written in 2005, the year I graduated from seminary, and now that I think about it, I did have a bucket list. Two things were on it, that I recall:

to run an urban camp and learn to throw pottery.

The urban camp came in the summer of 2011 and quickly became my favorite week of the year. Pottery lessons came about three months after I graduated. Ten years later, I turned Tom’s garage into my clayhouse.

These dreams-fulfilled seem a bit self-indulgent after reading stories of missionary women. These women know a discipline and servant nature that I know nothing of. Several years ago, after reading Amy Carmichael’s story, it had me thinking that I wanted to pray like her–Lord, use me anyway you want–and then she fell in a hole. I took that prayer back so fast, I was hopeful it hadn’t hit the throne of God yet.

Living the American dream has turned many of us, me included, into frogs lounging in warm water. There is no trying to find balance in that. There is only tension.

As my friend said, if grace is off the table, I’m in trouble. (paraphrased) #metoo.

It’s hard not to look at a life lived in total surrender and utter hardship on some difficult mission field serving the Almghty and not think: I could never measure up. There always seems to be some part of my mind that says, “this far God, no farther.” And perhaps that’s because when you are His, you know that life will not be safe or easy. It really is hard to say, “Do anything God, that will fit me for your kingdom.” So, does he require us to be Amy Carmichaels? I don’t think so.

But.

I do think that when you belong to Him, He will take you to places that you thought you didn’t want to go, and once you are there, you are filled with inexpressible joy, and wouldn’t wish it any other way.

The hymn, “Let Him Have His Way With Thee” comes to mind.

His power can make you what you ought to be … his blood can cleanse your heart and make you free .. His love can fill your soul, and you will see … twas best for Him to have His way with thee.


#9 & 10

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#9 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, 2014

I’m not a fan of stuff. At my age, stuff doesn’t spark joy for me personally. Surely it did as a newly wed, when I thought I would be a forever collector of angels, and copper kitchen decor. Now, getting rid of stuff sparks more joy than keeping stuff. When I see too much clutter in my home, I can easily get annoyed.

Marie Kondo gives me permission to get rid of anything that I don’t love. I think I needed that permission because in the past, there was some inbred need to keep most things until they wore out or broke. Now I find joy in giving things away that aren’t on their last leg, or worn to a thread. In the age of cyberspace, I think it may be time to purge even more after I snap a photo of it!

I am however, married to a man who loves stuff. Not just for stuff’s sake, but because it does trigger some fond memories of his past. Thankfully he is content to localize his stuff in his office. And has allowed me to arrange his stuff in ways that are acceptable to my decluttered sense of well-being. Marie Kondo doesn’t address the problem of being married to a memorabilia collector. But we manage.

I was recently visiting my 70something year old mother. She has stuff. And she really isn’t a stuff-loving person. I don’t think she realized just how much stuff she has accumulated in her life. For example, on her shoe rack hanging on the outside of the door in her bedroom, she has multiple pairs of the SAME shoe–only in different colors. Really Ma!? But she insists that once she finds a shoe that is comfortable; she needs to buy them in every color to match every outfit in every season. I had an absolute ball helping her decluter her video closet and sewing closet while there. I’m starting to think that may be another calling on my life in my final third.

Here’s why I don’t like stuff:

  • It ties you down.
  • You can never find what you’re looking for because you have too much stuff to go through.
  • You have to dust stuff.
  • Someone else could probably use or enjoy the stuff you have tucked away in the basement.
  • When you die, other people will have to go through your stuff.

I remember, one of the most poignant moments in my auction going days was when other people’s stuff–which they probably loved and spent lots of money on at one time–was going for pennies on the dollar–now that they were dead and their survivors didn’t want it. I thought, why not just give it away? But no! We think we need to sell our stuff because surely it is worth something. Can I just tell you how abundant God has been with me in my life? Well, he has. And the idea of trying to sell something I own after it is well used, just sounds a bit stingy to me.

I found this verse in Deuteronomy some time back and thought, this is how I need to deal with my stuff because God has dealt that way with me:

Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

There are consequences to being stingy and I want none of them. So my advice, enjoy your stuff, but if you don’t, take great joy in passing it on as soon as possible.

Favorite tips from Marie Kondo’s book:

  • Roll the stuff that you put in drawers (i.e. socks, shirts, dish towels)
  • Group similar stuff together and keep it in one place only.
  • Keep papers at a minimum.

#10 What’s Your Worldview? by James Anderson, 2013

Marie Kondo’s worldview did not spark joy for me. She seems sweet and gentle, but to personify stuff is not my thing, so reading Dr. Anderson’s book right after finishing her book made me very thankful for my own worldview.

He writes, “a worldview is an all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists and matters to us. Your worldview represents your most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the universe you inhabit. It reflects how you would answer all the ‘big questions’ of human existence.”

Perhaps my worldview may have something to do with why I don’t like stuff. Or perhaps it is just my own personality preferences. Surely there are those who hold similar worldviews–like my husband–who have a fond affection for things. Regardless, this book sparked in me a desire to write out my worldview. Here goes:

I believe in an Intelligent Creator who created an incredibly beautiful Universe, filled with incredibly complex humans–physically, mentally and spiritually. I believe humans are the Creator’s crown and glory of all creation–the one creature he chose to put his own image on. I also believe that this Intelligent Creator is the God of the Old and New Testaments and Jesus is his only begotten Son, who came to earth to live a perfect life and die a horrible death so that humans might be reconciled to our loving, wise and powerful God. I’m ok with not understanding his unsearchable ways. I think he’s ok with me not understanding them too. I also think he is always near, and wholly other. And, he really loves, me, and longs for me to get my act together, which he knows I’m incapable of doing apart from the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We image-bearers are to be training in this life to reign with him in the life everlasting. That can hurt–this training thing–but only for a little while–which we often forget.

I love my worldview and believe it is the only one that enables me to live a joy-filled, contented life.

#7 and 8

#7 Younger Next Year by Crowley & Lodge, 2007

The next third.  

It’s the season I am wading into and this book promises to help men thrive in the final third of their lives.  Who knew it was a book for males?  The cover gave no hint.  But I was intrigued and read on.

When I was in my 20s and 30s I had no grand aspirations to live a lengthy or healthy life.  But now that I’m here, I have grown awfully accustomed to living.  Now at 59, I have the desire to have a body that is cooperative.

Each decade has brought more joys than struggles.  My late 40s were some of my favorite years.  In my early 40s I found joy in the journey of seminary.  My 20s had me snow skiing in the Rockies a couple times for an entire week – and my early 30s had me working a lot so that Tom could go to seminary full-time.  It was a tough time in many ways living in the Deep South, being a self-identified Midwesterner.  But during that time I enjoyed working with recovering addicts and singing in a choir.  In my 20s I married the man of my dreams, never thinking he’d go for someone as dysfunctional as I was at the time.   My teen years have some fun memories, but can I just tell you how glad I am to not have to repeat that decade ever again!  My 50s brought hourly hot flashes but it’s sizing up to be my favorite decade thus far in spite of them.

Now here I sit, looking forward to being a sexagenarian in less than a year, and I am enjoying getting fit.  I know I could never do this without the strength of the Almighty or my Weight Watcher community, and I know that if my mindset is not doing battle every day, I could easily revert to old behaviors that render me miserable. I have to come to grips with the fact that I cannot eat “white stuff” as much as I want.  Neither, can I keep cookie dough in the fridge.  Tom reminds me that I have an addictive personality.  Perhaps this quote from the book should be my current motto:  

“For those who are given to excess, abstinence is easier than moderation.”

Just these past two weeks, I have been creeping up ever so slowly in my weight loss journey.  And for the past two nights I have overindulged in ways that are not beneficial.  Indulging every now and then shouldn’t hurt, but my personality screams: every night!  See the struggle?!  I do.  So this morning, I set a few goals for the next 18 hours, and will go from there.  Lord willing.

Back to the book and a few takeaways that I plan to implement now and later. 

Snow skiing. 

Later. 

I thought that was a thing of the past until this book.  I’ve planned to snow ski with most of my favorite people in eternity.  But if the author of Younger Next Year can enjoy skiing in his seventies, surely I could too! I’ve already persuaded my friend, Sharon, to go with me for at least a week in the Rockies some time in the distant future.  As of last night, Elisabeth is on board too!  Woo hoo!    

Now.

I started putting an incline on my treadmill for at least one lap.  Not that I enjoy it, but the book said to do it, so I did.  I started lifting a few weights.  But then I started feeling some aches while sleeping, so I stopped.  Perhaps I need a personal trainer – definitely a recommendation from the book – but I’m cheap. 

And finally, I decided to write out my own rules for living because Harry Lodge gives you his.  If you’re interested, here are his: 

1.  Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.

2.  Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life.

3.  Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life.

4.  Spend less than you make.

5.  Quit eating crap.

6.  Care.

7.  Connect and commit.

Here are mine:

1. Live all of life in the presence of God.   

2. Practice what you love.   

3.  When you mess up, start over.   

4. Don’t verbalize everything you are thinking.

5.  Don’t think that everything you are thinking is right thinking.

6.  Repent often.

7.  Surround yourself with exceptional people of all ages.

8.  Minister to those needing ministering to.

9.  Practice gratitude.

10. Set goals.

#8 Changes that Heal, Henry Cloud, 1990

Great book.  I recommend reading it! It’s Tom’s favorite book this year, buying many copies so he can give them out to his friends and enjoy conversing over its contents.  I like Dr. Cloud’s perspective on who God is and the human condition.

Lots of takeaways, but the kind that quickly escape my memory.  So, I wrote all my favorite quotes on two pages of my 2019 Reading Journal, and I think they are blog worthy: 

And I Quote:

There is nothing further away from the heart of God than a theology divorced from love and compassion.

Since we often do what we know is wrong, rules rarely keep us in line.  Love does a much better job of keeping us moral.

When we are isolated from God and others it is impossible to feel joy.

Distorted thinking blocks you from relating to others. We must take responsibility for our faulty thinking and work on correcting it.

The Holy Spirit empowers you to change and to come out from bondage of your old ways of being.

If we do not feel like we have a choice, we feel we are out of control of our lives and we resent the ones we perceive as being in control of us.  Denying choice, and it renders us powerless and resentful.

Ownership is crucial in creating boundaries.  On the one hand, people who are not allowed to own their own thoughts, feelings, attitudes, behaviors, desires, and choices never develop a true sense of responsibility.

The victim mentality keeps many people stuck in their pain.

If we feel responsible for other people’s feelings, we can no longer make decisions based on what is right.

The “name it claim it” gospel makes God into our servant and denies his boundaries and choices.  God often says no for reasons we may not understand; his refusal to grant our wish doesn’t mean that we do not have enough faith.  Ask Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

Stop blaming others.

Create goals for yourself and set about accomplishing them with continued, patient effort.  Perseverance creates discipline and responsibility.  Perseverance creates character.

Decide what your values are going to be and work toward your goals.

If we demand perfection from ourselves we are not dealing in the real world.

A good witness is a sinner who witnesses not to show how victorious he is, but how forgiving God is.

Seeking the approval of God and not trying to please others is an important aspect of growing into adulthood.

#5 and #6

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#5 The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make by Hans Finzel 2007

Why another book on leadership?

They grab me.  I like hearing about what other people think and do in order to be successful.   I am ever in search of formulas—even though I know there’s not one—or secret keys to a better you.  That type of stuff.  Not that they work, or that I buy into many of their methods.  It’s just too easy to be a sloth and plunge head first into habits that render me useless.  BUT!  His mercies are new every morning, so here I go again, picking up a book that doesn’t really speak to where I am in life and career today.  And, surely it will have some gems and takeaways that I can pray into my life for now or save for later.  That’s how I do it when I read.  I intentionally pray—usually not out loud: “God, I want that.”

Here is my favorite takeaway from the book: 

“Great leaders … inspire us to go places we would never go on our own and attempt things we never thought we had in us.”

I’ve had some wonderful leaders in my life. I began taking stock and thanking God for them.  Like the one who gave me this book, my professor and friend, John.  I asked him for this book when I was packing up his office about five years ago.  He said, “it’s yours.”  Never was there a man as kind as he, as I sat in his preaching classes.  The only female.   The affirmation I received during that season of my life was invaluable.  His encouragement made me think that God had gifted me in ways I didn’t have the guts to dream for myself. He embodied this “great leader” theme for me personally.

Then there was the guy who appointed me to be a dean in a seminary.  Against all odds—and even opposition—he promoted me to this wonderful position shortly after I graduated with a masters of divinity degree. 

I loved Frank’s leadership style.  He embodies this book. Specifically, he is a servant leader.  Now watching him on TV these past two weeks as he led the Colts in a great comeback to be in the NFL playoffs, I can still see he is that kind of leader.  One of my favorite memories was when I went to him, telling him that a member of his staff was about to loose it due to the heavy load that was put on her.  His immediate response was, “tell me what to do.”  So I did, and he quickly implemented my suggestions.   I love that!  Will never forget it.  Oh, and there is that time he sang the country song, “I Wanna Talk About Me.”  Indeed a moment that is seared into mind.  I digress.  Frank was always encouraging as a leader.  He let me know with certainty that if I messed up, he would quickly have my back.  The trajectory of my life was changed because of his influence, and I will be grateful forever.  That’s what great leaders do.  They lift other people up. They inspire. They delight in shining the light outwardly, not inwardly. 

Now, in case you’re wondering what it is that leaders SHOULD be doing, I’ve put a positive spin on the author’s top ten list: 

1. Be a servant leader.

2. Be a people-first leader.

3. Affirm others.

4. Appreciate mavericks.

5.  Involve others in decision-making.

6.  Delegate—no micromanaging.

7. Communicate often.

8. Evolve and escape corporate culture.

9. Groom your successors.

10. Prepare for the future.

#6 Everybody Always by Bob Goff – 2017

I listened—not read—Everybody Always as I walked my treadmill.  My friend, Julia, recommended it.  I enjoy watching Julia love everybody always.  

Bob Goff is positively delightful to listen to while walking.  He loves well.  I can’t tell you how well he loves.  I think it’s a gift.  Because without gifting from the Holy Spirit, I don’t think it is possible to love like this. 

This is the kind of love I need to be praying for in my own life.  We all could use a dose of what this guy is selling, and it Jesus with skin on.  He errs on the side of love.  He loves the unlovable.  Talk about needing a role model to emulate – I believe this guy is it for this present age.  Here’s one of the things I love about him:  he has office hours at Disneyland once a week!  He just goes there to hang out and if anyone wants to come hang with him, they know where to find him.  Ha!   

This is the kind of book I come away from needing to repent for my own unloving heart and then partner with my Savior to look more like him to those I’d prefer to avoid.  Such a hard balance.  But I do believe the more we are His, the more we are strengthened spiritually to love everybody always.

#3 and #4

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#3 Don’t Waste Your Life by Piper 2003

Definitely a God Pick.

Because I needed it.

The day before I picked this book up, I was defiant and insistent about something that may be about to happen. I wasn’t happy about it, and wanted desperately to try and make sure that this thing wouldn’t become a reality.

When you read a book like this, you start feeling really, really small and self-absorbed. Oddly enough, however, not in a self-defeating way. In a way that makes you want to throw yourself at the mercy of God and say “OK, God, have it your way.” I can say this because I know that God’s ways are truly higher and better. And that is always true. Not just capital “T” True, as in “the Bible tells me so,” but in the lower case “t” because my life tells me so also. Just when I think the bottom may fall out of the way I think things should go, God impresses upon my soul this notion: “I got this.” That is what I have heard him say over and over in the past few years – perhaps it should be my new theme – perhaps I should write that on my pottery this year – which by the way – I made another goal – to write something “God-Like” on every piece – or at least the majority of the pieces.

Read this book! I’ve heard that it makes some people feel guilty about their retirement plans, but it didn’t me. It made me realize how blessed I am to have a God who wants me to be part of His plan. He’s very inclusive, and truly does know what is best for every human who seeks to follow Him with her whole heart. You know, that may be it. Your whole heart is what He requires. And there’s the rub. We often want to reserve some portion of our heart, our lives, our desires for just us. We say, this far God, and no farther. That’s not how it works (my opinion) – perhaps it does for you – but it doesn’t for me. Perhaps my favorite childhood hymn knew it all along:

Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus.

Happy in Jesus. That’s the theme of this book. I pray that is the goal of my life.   Pottery writing worthy? Surely.

#4 Dare to Lead by Brene Brown 2018

I started Brene’s latest book—audibly—a couple months ago, and just finished it. Mostly I listen to her at the beginning of a nap – or falling off to sleep at night. I didn’t download it because of the title—Dare to Lead—but because Brene was reading it.

I like her.  I have since I first heard her on a Ted Talk several years ago. She talked about vulnerability.   Go watch it for yourself, because surely my recollection is foggy at best.

Brene is a Christian but I have a feeling our views on Scripture and other things sacred may not line up completely. That doesn’t stop me from admiring her. You see, she spent some of her childhood in New Orleans too – and I feel a connection with women who have grown up in that very unusual town. Just watch the New Orleans Saints fans on tv to see what I’m talking about.

In the first part of the book, she shares a drill team tryout experience that left her young soul shattered. I too tried out at my junior high school in NOLA but was cut in the first round. I know I was bad and it didn’t leave me shattered. But Brene was good at it and she was cut because she wasn’t “their type.” Here’s the thing I love about this story. It was hard and crushing – yet it didn’t render her an ineffective wreck. Some of my most admired humans are those who had it hard, yet have risen above it all and prospered in spite of it.

Life is hard. Especially in childhood!

Some have it harder than others. And you know what’s weird? Many who have not had it so hard—children who were over indulged or over coddled—often, those are the ones who seem to have it harder in adulthood.   I can actually remember my own pity party several years back as I thought about aspects of my own adolescent woes. But thanks be to God, he opened my eyes after a short while, and I realized that no trial need be wasted, even those childhood ones.

It is because of my union with Jesus that I have the power to move on. To throw off those hurts and trials that can easily render me ineffective. And often they do for a time, but that is when I pray the most, because I hate living joyless. And letting this world get the better of me can surely bring me to new lows.

Brene’s vulnerability soapbox has brought her great success. I like it. But, being vulnerable can hurt. For a little while. Being vulnerable also helps us to “get real.” Grieve if you need to, be honest about what you are thinking and feeling, but then allow God to do his wondrous work of transformation in you. He wastes nothing.

#1 & #2

#1 The Ten Minute Trainer by Bowman 2005

I chose my first book for one reason. It was on loan to me almost a year ago and it is past time to return it. I started it as soon I got it, but only read a dozen pages. It is more of a resource book, and I think I got the premise pretty quickly:   If you want to keep anyone’s attention, you need to do it in 10 minute intervals. And, here’s a bunch of fun and quirky ways to break up your teaching. Yes I enjoyed it and yes, I learned a lot – and yes, I came away from many of its pages by praying that the Lord let me be a “teacher” again one day. I’m thinking my 8th decade. So as I get a jump on my 7th decade, I shall take books like this one and file them away in my soul, and hope that God helps me to pull them out when He grants me that long term goal of some sort of “speaking” when I am 70.

I don’t really want to talk about the book, even though I recommend it. I want to talk about the person who gave it to me. Betsy. I’m not sure there is another parishioner that loves me as well as Betsy does. Even when I say that, I can picture in my head Betsy’s mom (Vicky) telling me, “oh, she loves you.” That was after I told Vicky how much I loved her daughter. Betsy knows how to love well. So, when my church hired her to be the Director of Women’s Ministries last spring, selfishly I thought – I get to be with Betsy every Tuesday at staff meeting!   Not only is Betsy a great lover of souls, she is a gifted Bible teacher. While it is obvious she puts hours and hours of preparation into every minute of teaching, it’s also obvious that she seeks wholeheartedly to walk her talk. And her talk is Jesus. I find it such a pleasure to watch her grow in grace, and do look forward to seeing her in her 6th decade and teaching the word of God (she’s a lot younger than me).

#2 Soar by T.D. Jakes. 2017

Tom asked me to buy this book last year –it’s a new book –very current – even makes references to Facebook! Love that! even though I hate Facebook. I think Tom probably saw Bishop Jakes on Dr. Phil and asked me to buy it. Not that the details of why its on my shelf are essential – or that I feel the need to apologize for reading someone not in “my own camp of choice” – but sometimes televangelists are lumped in one bucket and we just as soon put a lid on the bucket and bury it deep in the backyard. But I like this saint. Every time I see him on TV he seems kind and humble and genuine. So, I thought, let’s pick it up and read it!

On every page I can hear his voice. He writes like I picture him, and I like that. If he were to read his own books on audible, I’d get it and go to sleep by it, because that’s how soothing he is to my soul.   But, surprise surprise, this book is about being an entrepreneur. Who knew? Not I. So, I gladly took his words of wisdom and thought about my pottery and wondering if one day it will become a real business. I don’t know. But I hope it doesn’t happen any time soon. It’s nice to have an avocation that doesn’t have to produce money. It’s nice to be able to gift the plumber and the heating and air folks who come to my house and serve us well. Our fabulous gardener, Joel, has quite a few pieces. Just last week, the day after Christmas, I brought my little bowls to my WW family. This morning, I was received with gratitude and pictures of how they are using their piece. Can I just tell you how much that warms my heart and soul! But, back to TDJ, I love him and if I don’t meet him until eternity I shall hope to spend an afternoon with him sharing the joy he brought me as I read his book in my first week of my 2019 goal. I shall consider it a God-thing that I had it and chose it.

Happy New Year 2019!

I love this week in between Christmas and the New Year—for several reasons.

First, it’s my time to be reflective of the previous year. Second, I get a lot of joy and motivation from setting goals for the coming year.   And finally, it’s the week of the year that I indulge myself while vacationing in my own home … watching movies, eating popcorn and playing on my iPad.

So, as I sit here and reflect on last year, I must mention that my dad (my biological dad) passed away this year. That’s big. I don’t think I’ve come to grips with it fully, and yet I am ok with that for now. Another biggy happened one month after his passing, when my mom confessed she had breast cancer. That’s a tough one. I imagine my mom being around for a long time. I am not ready to send her on to be with Jesus, although I think she would be quite content with that option. But enough hard stuff! As I reflect, I take great satisfaction with goals accomplished—the one where I translated 1&2 Corinthians. That took the entire year, and brought a soul-satisfying tradition to many mornings in 2018. Another biggy … I got a new calling in ministry back in January when my pastor called and asked if I would consider coming on staff as the director of adult education. My first thought was, “really?!” But it didn’t take long for me to love the notion and one of my favorite times each week is showing up for staff meeting and enjoying great fellowship among the saints at First ARP Church.   It has been a year of glorious community for both Tom and me.

Now a word about 2019 goals.

I came up with this first goal a couple days ago as I was looking at our bookshelf in the den. There are books on the shelf that I need to return to friends and books that we bought in the past year that have never been opened. So! The goal is to read—or even skim—two books a week. That’s 104 books for 2019. Can I do it? I don’t know. But it’s my goal and I’ve started on 2 already – and can I just tell you now, that I am thoroughly enjoying both in many ways. So, my next goal will be to write/blog about the books that I read/skim each week. Perhaps re-watching the movie Julie & Julia last week gave me the inspiration for that goal.   My next ongoing goal of translating the New Testament (from Greek to English, yes I know it’s been done before but not by me) is to do the Gospel of Mark in 2019.   It is my hope to get through the whole of the New Testament by the time I am 70. And perhaps if I make that goal, I will retake Hebrew and try and tackle a few Old Testament books. Not! Ok, maybe.

On to the third reason why i love this week:  Play time.  Adios.

 

 

Growing through your past

On Wednesday of this week, I had the opportunity to speak to our moms group on anything I wanted to talk about. I chose the topic of our past, and how it effects us in the here and now.   The 3 books that I relied on as I prepared were: Making Peace with Your Past (Wright), The Wounded Heart (Allender), and Instruments in the Redeemers Hands (Tripp).

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Instruments:

“We aren’t just struggling with the horrors of our past, but with how we deal with them. If sin is part of our nature, we will always be dealing not only with our personal history, but with how sin distorts the way we handle it. Help will only come as we deal with our past and our own sin. This is essential because sinners tend to respond sinfully to being sinned against. This is why the only hope for us is a Redeemer. We cannot step out of our sinfulness. We need more than love and encouragement, information and insight. We need rescue. Anything less will not address what is really wrong with us.

“Sin complicates what is already complicated. Life in a fallen world is harder than God ever intended, yet our sin makes it worse. We deal with much more than suffering, disease, disappointment, and death. Our deepest problem is not experiential, biological, or relational; it is moral, and it alters everything. It distorts our identity, alters our perspective, derails our behavior, and kidnaps our hope.

“The good news of the kingdom of God is not freedom from hardship, suffering and loss. It is the news of a Redeemer who has come to rescue me from myself. His rescue produces change that fundamentally alters our response to these inescapable realities. The Redeemer turns rebels into disciples, fools into humble listeners. He makes cripples walk again.

He changes us, he allows us to be part of what he is doing in our own lives.   As you respond to the Redeemer’s work in your life, you can learn to be an instrument in his hands.” That’s the goal in the Christian life, I believe—in the here and now—to be an instrument in the Redeemers hands. But the work that it takes to make us USEABLE instruments, can be hard work. And we simply get too comfortable with our own “sin” patterns, to want to give them up. (paraphrased)

These are my thoughts as I remember Dan Allender’s threefold process for healing your wounded heart:  

We say, Jesus is the answer, and He is – but what does that looked like fleshed out?

How do we “put on Christ” – how do we unite with Christ in his suffering? How do we work out our salvation with fear and trembling?”

  • Honesty
  • Repentance
  • Bold Love

Without Jesus, it is impossible to get truly honest. Our hearts will continue to deceive us.

Without Jesus, there is no one to repent to who has the power to cleanse our minds and hearts and souls.  Without the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we will feel no need to repent.

Without Jesus, we will never figure out how to love others well.

So, with Jesus, what does this threefold process looked like?

Honesty, with Jesus: I think this looks like taking responsibility for the way we sinfully respond to adversity.

Sin destroys right-thinking.

Repentance, with Jesus: We go to him and confess and ask forgiveness for the way we sinfully respond.

Repentance is the most freeing act! We repent, He cleanses. He restores. We may still live with consequences in some measure – but he restores – he doesn’t want us living under the yolk of condemnation. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

The main consequence for not dealing with your past is this:

A stunted spiritual growth.

When we continue in this role of victim and blamer, – we can’t see past our noses. It doesn’t just stunt our spiritual growth – it stunts our emotional growth as well. You can possess all the knowledge in the world and still be incredibly UNWISE. Wisdom and smarts are 2 separate things, and without getting real with who you are and who Jesus is, wisdom will not happen. Wisdom comes from the Lord.

When we get honest and repent, we are met with bold love. We are met with mercy and grace and forgiveness.

You are learning “to respond differently not out of your strength and ability alone but through his power and presence. Jesus believes in your ability to accomplish a new way of interacting with others. He wants you to be a new person, to develop the potential God has endowed you with, and to be more effective for the cause of Christ.” [Wright]

“Wounds limit you. They diminish your capabilities.  But they will heal if they are treated correctly.” [Wright]

Wounded people are overly sensitive.

“The gospel makes it possible to escape over-sensitivity, defensiveness, and the need to criticize others.” (Tim Keller)

So!

The question to ask ourselves daily, as we are confronted with hardship and suffering and being sinned against is this:

Am I living in light of the gospel of Christ? When the answer is often no, its time to get honest, repent and love boldly.

at 100+

I saw this on Pinterest this morning… it came to my email… I’m glad that Pinterest thinks I would like it … cuz I do … very much … if I make it to 105, I hope you will find me at my wheel most days … and if I make it to 105, I trust my “theme verse” will say:

I owe it All to Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.