#3 & #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

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#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!

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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.

Another year older

About this time 58 years ago, I was born.  I hear it was an easy birth.  My mother reminds me that I was an easy child.  No wonder my theme song is “I’m Easy,” by the Commodores. You could take that wrong.  But don’t.

So, while my dearest husband on the planet has a prolonged snooze this morning – I’ve been reflecting on the year.  It’s been wild and crazy.  Yet beautiful and glorious.  I’ve had to pause a few times during my “writing the Lord” and write a few humans just to say thank you.

I wrote my old boss, Ric, who hired me 23 years ago.  I wanted to tell him how much of a God-instrument he has been in my life.  You see, he “ordered” me to take care of two international women – one that came a few years back – and to this day – we are still beautiful friends.  The other came this past spring.  She came from Indonesia – and I  think my former vocation lasted just long enough to bring her into my life.  Both of these women are coming over tonight to help me celebrate 58 —  bringing dinner and a chick flick.

I wrote three friends thanking them for last night.  I enjoyed last night.  I’ll back up a bit:   I had the desire to preach on “holiness” as being God’s will for the life of his daughters.  And my new ministry leader gladly accepted my offer to lead the evening mom’s group.   Now, I thought my birth date was a secret to this new group I’m a part of and I was  prepared to preach my heart out – with the help of God and his prayer warriors.  But then my G’town BFF – being part of the plan – delayed my walk over to the ‘birdhouse’ – where we found it pitch dark.  That should have given it away – but I can be dense.  This new group, that I have grown awfully fond of,  surprised me with singing and cake and silliness.  Our group leader – a former youth director – is filled with silliness.  I turned into my Aunt Vic (I noticed this after I saw the video of my reaction) and was delighted by their thoughtfulness.

But can I just tell you about this group?  They have filled me with joy in the presence of God.  It has provided me with some true intimacy among women this year and has allowed me to be fulfilled in one of the overall desires of my heart – which is to be used in ministry by Jesus.  I’ve written all their names down in my God-letter this day.

Then there’s my church!  Often we humans can focus on how un-Christ-like “the church” can be.  But not my church.  In this season of transition – I can’t begin to tell you how gracious and loving they have been.  To me.  And, to my husband – who still claims “staff status.”  All the pastoral and parishioner visits have brought joy into our home.

Then there is this saint who was in my life back in our St. Louis days. I haven’t written her yet, but I will.  I can’t even write this without tears flooding my face.  She has been to me an instrument in the Redeemers Hands this year.  She stepped in to a tragedy and turned it into a cup of gladness.  She was the one who personified “who can make trouble when You send me peace.”   She showed me that the God I serve is a God who sees and takes notice – and longs to be lavish with his children.

And then there is my studio.  I get to sit at a wheel for several hours every day if I desire – and discover what it means to be a potter.  This week, the Lord showed me one of the biggest requirements/attributes that is needed for a potter.  And it is ‘gentleness.’  I am not gentle.  I ding my bowls with my carelessness  – it happens too often and too quickly.  But it has made me ponder this week just how gentle God is – and has been all year with me.  He has turned my sorrow (over losing a vocation that I loved) into rejoicing.  He has brought me to higher ground.  He has given me a ministry where I am made to feel loved and valued.  He has put a new song in my mouth – that I get to sing and dance to daily in my studio or in my morning sanctuary (which is my living  room).  He has rejoiced over me with such goodness and mercy – and I rejoice in him with thanksgiving and worship.

 

 

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Talent Show – a prayer-filled review

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photo-32Oh Lord. Lo davirm indeed. Thank you for last night. The joy that now floods my soul for an evening of community. And love. And fellowship. And delightful children and adults with talent.

It was an evening to remember. And perhaps before I forget anything, I should give a record for the joy that is in me—beginning with my newest Gastonia BFF Alex, who writes music and sings so very beautifully. Yet she began with a belly button song that was priceless. She’s adorable. Thank you for giving me Alex this year. May you continue to flood her soul with your joy and wisdom. She is indeed a soul sister.

Then Ana. (Aaaaah-na to me). She has a beautiful voice! It reminded me of Lily’s. Oh so soothing. She is fun! Lord, thank you for bringing her to us. Prosper her so that she may have a dynamite ministry in your name one day. Yes, she also closed the show with a seminary Spears number that was so fun and clever. She’s gifted. Thank you for gifting her.

And then came a new talent that I knew nothing about until a couple weeks ago – Keith & Olivia Ginn. Oh so very beautiful – and fun (Ikea! Ha!) – and talented! Lord! That was such a pretty song (Blessed Be The Tie)! I could listen to it in eternity. Such a dear couple who truly added grace to the evening.

So, now it’s going to get fuzzy.

Because I can’t remember the order.

But the Lee children! Oh my! What discipline and talent. What a family. Lord, they are beautiful and adorable and excellent. Whatsover is pure, lovely, admirable … surely Hann and Hazel are teaching them such things. I’d love to witness their family life.

And Lucas! Now with his brother Caleb – doing an adorable skit. Makes me giggle remembering them. Lucas is a treat for every show. Thank you for giving me the Browns for a long time. They are forever friends and I never want to lose that. Lily’s voice is perhaps my favorite voice in all the world – and you gave her to me for a long time. She sang an Easter song that silenced the hollers. Amazing how we can go from nonsense to reverence when Lily sings. Prosper them and bless them beyond their wildest dreams. That’s the thing, holy God, the people who participate in the show are truly exceptional in character and not just talent – that is what I see. There is this humility to their talent that impresses me greatly.

Then Elihe and Erin! Oh my. They are growing in grace and talent before our very eyes! Lord! That was incredible! And beautiful and difficult – and then the duet along with cello & violin – lo davrim (that’s no words in Hebrew) – I’m glad they love this show as much as I do. I can always count on them to step it up – and they did so in abundance last night.

Milling! Oh so adorable. Milling is a new pianist who played a number called Say Cheese. It was delightful, which matched her smile and enthusiasm and personality. Oh I’d love to be friends with this delightful girl. I think I’ll work at making that happen!

And that back table! Pedro, John, and Travis among others! Cracking me up! Because they hollered and rooted for them all with great zeal.   And what a Student Council!  Many of them showed up at 4:00 to help with the meal and twinkling décor. I’m going to enjoy this council. They are truly servant leaders, who desire seminary community, and are willing to make that happen.

Thank you Father, Son and Holy Spirit for gracing my vocation with such joy and blessing.