Michael Card is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I’ve also often called him my favorite theologian as well. His book about the crucifixion brought a solemness to my soul as I read.
A time to mourn and a time to rejoice. This week surely should include elements of both. These two songs of Michael’s are some of my favorites. May our Holy Week be filled with embracing and remembering the Cross.
Violent yet beautiful quotes from the book:
Of all Jesus’ supporters, only weeping women are left.
If we take the name Christian, we, too, must be recognized by our scars. The visible proofs of crucifixion–not our accomplishments, degrees, possessions, or wealth–will become our identifying marks.
He suffered to serve … The crucified life begins in servanthood … I must warn you that, when we take them as chosen marks of our life, humility and obedience to Christ threaten to change us completely. They will do violence to the old, selfish, superficially promising pursuits that we have mistaken for life. … Out of the beautiful violence of His life will flow a river of grace that will change our world. … Until we allow ourselves to be embraced by this costly grace, we can never know what it means to be completely accepted.
The next two books are written by men I know. The first is a professor that I sat under for three classes. One for credit, and two as an auditor. When Richard Pratt speaks, I like to show up. He has a way of making the things of God explosive to my mind–going to places I’ve never thought of–often places I can’t get my head around fully. I can still remember the first class I was in of his–the one for credit. There were 14 of us. Two women and twelve men. I sat right in the middle, with one row of classmates in front of me and one row behind me. Often he would look straight at me and say, Yes? I nodded apprehensively–mostly just so he’d move on and not draw attention to my lack of getting it. He must have noticed my struggle.
I like Richard in a classroom setting. So as his book sat on my shelf all these years, I hoped that all these years of feeding my brain with the things of God and sitting under this brilliant scholar, perhaps I’d start to get it just a little bit better.
I enjoyed the book a lot. Quick. Intelligent. Biblical. Many of the Bible verses he references should be put to memory. And, of course, still over my head. It’s about defending the Christian Faith by using the Bible. I love that. Often we take our cues from non-Christians when defending our faith, and think we can’t use the Bible to defend the Bible. Who says? Human logic? I’ll take the wisdom of God over the logic of humans any day. I do wholeheartedly believe the Bible is true and reliable enough to attest to itself–yet still remains a mystery to me in many spots. Some apologists prefer to go to historical evidence, or encourage a blind leap of faith into Christendom, but Richard prefers to go to the Bible.
Here’s the thing that I love and remember most about what Richard says, we don’t want the God of the Bible to be true because we want to live independently. As C. S. Lewis said: we want to live apart from that Great Transcendent Interferer. There really are people who know the Gospel message but just prefer to reject it, and choose to live without Jesus.
I get it. I too am not a fan of most televangelists. Or the notion that if we only were to present the gospel in just the right fashion–questions like: if you were to die tonight, why should you be let into heaven?–that non-believers would embrace the Gospel of Jesus. I prefer the use of prayer and relationship to convince someone else to believe what I believe. And, of course, if the Holy Spirit is not illuminating their hearts, then all the wisdom in the world becomes foolishness to them. And for the record, I don’t think I’ve ever convinced anyone who was a non-believer to become a believer.
Most of the non-believers who I have a relationship with know what I believe. They know I trust Jesus for my eternal salvation, and seek to live in light of his holiness until I die. They know. And they could care less. They’re happy for me. And they’re especially happy that I don’t beat them in the head with my beliefs every time we are together. I’ll let Jesus take care of that part.
If I had a critical critique of this wonderful book, it would be that there is not the passion to persuade a lost soul to embrace the Faith that I love. Not so sure that if a non-believer reading it, would come away wanting what Christians possess. I could be wrong.
But my next book did have that passion thing I found missing in Richard’s book. It was written by my step-brother, Buddy. He wrote a book about his own personal and intimate walk with Jesus. He wrote about being turned on to Him especially after the Walk to Emmaus. I get this. I went on the Walk to Emmaus too about the same time Buddy did, some 24 years ago and I too was turned on more to the love and lavishness of Jesus. It was one of those mountain top experiences that you never want to come off of. But it was also one that can take you to new heights in Christ, and make you realize that God is able to do immeasurably more in your own life, when you completely surrender to Him.
I think what makes Emmaus work, is they do a beautiful job of combining dying to self and experiencing beautiful communion with God and others. There at the Walk to Emmaus, the love of God is so very attractive. For me, also, it was examining parts of my life that seemed to stop me up from experiencing the flowof grace. For Buddy it was this awakening in his own faith, with Jesus saying, it’s time to get your faith out of the pew and into the world. For Buddy it was falling in love with the things of God. He gives you a list of his favorite verses and his favorite songs–and I love his favorites. I think for Buddy, he knew God in his head all his life, but the Walk to Emmaus brought it down to heart. And ever since then, all that thrills Buddy’s soul is Jesus. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.
I love that Buddy is my brother in Christ as well as my step-brother. I love also that he married Kathy–not only my sister-in-law, but one of the loveliest saints I know up close. Her gift of mercy is a beautiful thing to witness.
This latest audible book came to me from a.i. Artificial intelligence.It’s real. It bombards our daily lives. Yet its artificial.
I suppose they call it artificial because there’s not a real person behind the actual sending of a book or product into your personal cyberspace. Surely no human besides me really knows that it comes to me. Just a bunch of algorithms–whatever that is–and there you have it. A new book to explore, or product to purchase all becuase of what you have been looking at on your own screens. Because of my own choices in cyberspace, a.i. thinks I may like this sort of book. So I took the bait and bit. It sounded like a good title based on my own values and beliefs and perhaps a.i. is correct in thinking I might like it.
And then it happened. The Supreme Ingelligence–God Almighty–led me to it the morning I was finishing up last weeks’ blog where I focused on anxiety.
I absolutely love it when I realize God is swooping into my life unannounced — yet always invited — to guide me to my next read — perhaps just to confirm that He’s taking notice. Which by the way is perhaps my favorite attribute of His — he SEES and TAKES NOTICE! I know He cares — for me that’s a given — but sometimes I wonder — God, are you seeing this?
Yes He is.
But anyway. This book was all about one man’s struggle with anxiety — the severest form perhaps — panic attacks. And it was a short book. Four hours. I can do four hours in my sleep. But I did it on my way to Charlotte on Monday to lunch with my friend Kim. She’s never had a panic attack. I asked. Me neither. I don’t think. Perhaps one or two back in my early twenties when I went a bit crazy. Perhaps that counts as a panic attack?
But I don’t have to have one to know that they are real, and you feel like you are about to die. Or embarrass yourself to the point of wishing you were dead. I have been extremely nervous before a talk. Nervous to the point that my body was doing weird things. I didn’t realize that knocking knees was a literal thing, until the first time I gave my Christian testimony in public. It is. And I will never forget the first time I spoke to a group of seminary students and my boss who was the Old Testament professor. My teeth were so dry, I couldn’t get my lips to move down over them. It is hard to talk when your lips won’t close. And I can also recall my first year on staff at my St. Louis church where a staff of 30something went around a table each week to report on their ministries. The closer it got to my turn, the more nervous I got. I was continually in my head, pleading for God to calm my anxious mind and heart. I reckon he finally did — thirty years later. Now when I’m around the table at staff, I actually look forward to my turn, even though I usually have not one thing to add to the conversation. But my pastor has a way of asking me just the right question to get me to pipe up, and pipe up I do. Because here’s the thing: I’m sitting around a table full of loving people.
I think I’m on to something as I prod my own issues with anxiety.
When we don’t feel loved … When we don’t feel safe … When we think people are going to find out we’re flawed … That’s the stuff that anxiety is made of. For me anyway.
And you know, sometimes we are in enemy territory — surrounded by people who are either ambivalent at best or really dislike you at worse. Sometimes we aren’t safe. This world is not safe. It isn’t now and it never was. Not even in the 40’s (that was a shout out to my dear husband). He however, did feel very safe in the 40’s. And always, we are flawed. Get over it. You’ve messed up. You need work. You can do NOTHING–of lasting value–apart from Jesus. John 15 says so, and I believe it. You know what is freeing for me: to tell people right up front that I’m flawed and I know it. Especially when I speak to more than one person at a time. That very thing does a lot to free up my dry teeth and knocking knees.
Back to the book. I found myself getting irritated with the flatness of his voice. He reads it himself. I thought also that this guy wants people to think he’s all that. I got a strong sense that he had a very high view of himself. And I have a feeling that his highly charismatic parents gave him a little too much non-age-appropriate things to think about as a kid. As a child, I still can recall the time I felt like the sky may fall at any moment. It was after a revival preacher spoke on the book of Revelation and the end times, and the thought that locusts were going to swarm in and cover the earth was just a little too much for me to handle at such a young age.
This book. This guy. A guy up to his eyeballs in ministry. His story. It takes him until he is in his late thirties — I believe — to actually get it. He’s flawed. And he needs God to intervene and if God doesn’t intervene, he’s sunk. And he was. Sunk as low as you can go emotionally and physically. Yet doing Christian things. Good Christian things.
Amazing to hear the physical impact that a panic attack can have on your body. It’s not real, yet it is real. Sorta like this a.i. thing the cyber-world has going on.
He couldn’t cope–even though he was driven and talented and endowed with great resources. But as he read his take on conversations and life, I thought to myself, he doesn’t get it! He is really impressed with himself. I found myself not liking him. Until the end. He was starting to get it. Hasn’t arrived yet. But he finally realized that God was drawing this flawed, yet gifted human to Himself.
Come unto me all who are weary.
Brian was going to music — even Christian music — going to medications — going to a therapist — seemingly doing all the right things — but still the panic attacks were unrelenting. And then he started to figure it out — and I believe he started to decrease in opinion of himself, and increase in his opinion of God — and started seeking the Lord Jesus Christ in fresh ways.
God will do whatever it takes to get you to the place of utter dependence on Him. For some it takes panic attacks. For all of us, its some sort of addiction that is very real. All of which often leads to a miserable life–apart from God.
But God. There before the Grace of God.
God’s healing power, through his nearness, leads to shalom. I realize this tension of dealing with our own struggles never gets all tidied up in this life. So, until we see the face of Jesus, we shall have to depend on practicing utter dependence. When you start to get that, you start to get it. And then you realize, you haven’t arrived. But there is joy in the journey when you struggle well.
#23 The Sermon on the Mount by Sinclair Ferguson, 1987
This classic has sat on our bookshelf at home for decades – and if I picked it up previously, there is no indication of it. I’m glad I waited until this season in my life to read it, so that I could blog about it. It’s a great work with a lot packed into about 200 pages. I highly recommend it because while Matthew 5-7 could arguably be some of the greatest chapters in the Bible, I also think it can be some of the most difficult to interpret.
I enjoyed Sinclair’s teaching on the beatitudes–blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the peacemakers, the meek, and persecuted. I struggle to remember why it is that we are blessed if we are poor in spirit. And, I also have a hard time with blessed are those who mourn. So, Sinclair’s explanation on these two passages was especially helpful. He says that to be poor in spirit is to be emptied of our own sin-impoverished soul apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit–to be emptied of “self-confidence, self-importance and self-righteousness. I need to memorize that!
The mourning Jesus is referring to is grieving over our own sin. I need to be grieved over my sins. Not the sins I committed decades ago. I trust I’ve moved on–repentantly–but to mourn the sin I committed a couple minutes ago. That is when we are comforted with the forgiving love of the Father.
My favorite part of the book, however, was toward the end when he devotes a whole chapter on Anxiety. (Chapter 12, Anxiety States Cured).
Here’s a quote from that section:
Jesus’ teaching is not a form of ‘power of positive thinking.’ The problem with anxious people is not merely that they think negatively about life. It is much more radical than that. Anxious people think untheologically about life! Their mistake is not that they have low self-images; it is that in all their thoughts there is no room for God. It is only when their focus upon the Lord is restored that they can finally experience the conquest of anxiety.
Anxiety–along with depression–is a way of life for many in this present age. And often we try and fix the problem with drugs. Legal and illegal. But is that fixing the problem or just numbing the soul so we’re not bothered by the entrenched sin within? I think we’re just numbing ourselves. And, I promise, I’m not saying this is an easy fix for many who battle with anxiety. But, I also think that the problem continues because we are not waging war against this battle with the right tools. If this is a struggle for you, I especially recommend this chapter.
I wrote about anxiety over four years ago. If you want to read more of my take on the subject (based largely on a few excellent books), you may find it here.
#24 Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne, 1996.
I bought this book during the years I was enjoying a summer week at Brookstone Camp. Some of my favorite weeks–ever. Blogged about that too four years ago. Oh the joy that floods my soul when I think about those weeks. Sheer fun. Bringing the love of Jesus to children who are eager, filled with wonder, and easy to love. That’s how I remember them.
This book is eye-opening to the ways and thinking of people living in poverty in America. It sounds very tragic and entrenched. There are a couple of key factors in making it out of this life style. They involve emotional, mental and spiritual resources. I prefer to think of it this way:
Great mentors. (emotional resources)
Excellent education. (mental resources)
The people of God sharing the love of God. (spiritual resources)
Brookstone School does all three of these things well. Is it any wonder it’s my favorite place in Charlotte, North Carolina?
For the past two months I’ve been listening to a woman read her autobiography. A woman who I didn’t think much about — no strong opinions either way, yet a very polarizing woman in America still today. Some love her and some do not. So, when I saw she had written a book, and did the audible version herself – I wanted to know more. I wanted to hear for myself what she was like. It was more out of curiosity than anything, but I had a feeling if I read her, my opinions would change.
As I listened, the words of Bill Richardson rang in my head: I could be wrong. Bill’s words challenge me to embrace others with that notion; suggesting that we really don’t know what is going on in someone else’s life. We don’t know their back stories and the recurring tapes they have trouble erasing. We don’t know the hurts and the joys. Or the wounds and scars. And the bandages they’ve used to cover over all those emotional pains that render many guarded and ashamed at any age.
Straight from the author’s mouth. Listening instead of reading was a great way to actually feel her words. I could hear when she softened her heart and I could also hear when she still harbored resentment toward someone or some group. There was vulnerability as she admitted feeling hurt over comments made by the media. She showed me her side of a situation that was spliced and diced to fit a journalist’s preconceived notion about her.
I was also curious as to what it was like growing up black in the sixties and seventies. She’s four years younger than me. Remembering those times brought to mind my own thoughts of segregation in the South. Busing happened the year I was in the 7th grade. I still remember the crushing look on the face of a teacher when a couple of her two favorite boys had a horrific fight in the breezeway outside the cafeteria – one black – one white.
The early years were my favorite parts of her story; she seemed more mature at four than I am at fifty-nine. I found myself having great compassion on the kid who always questioned whether she was good enough.
We all have tapes that keep playing in our heads. Not pretty enough. Not smart enough. Not thin enough. Unlovable. Nonredeemable. You name it, we’ve probably all felt some of these things at some time in our life, and often we still feel them the minute we feel rejection by someone or an entire group of people.
This book made me thankful that I’m not famous. She didn’t want to be famous or in politics, and I believe her. Who would? When I hear that another person has jumped into the political race, I have to think, are they crazy? Or perhaps just narcissistic. Surely a bit of both.
This was a very long book. I’ve been called apolitical in the past, and still prefer to hold that distinction, so I’ll not comment much further.
Except to say … when you are looking to the world to make you feel goodenough, you will always be in search mode. And I do believe she is still in search mode. Not in a bad way, but in “a still knowing you’ve got work to do” sort of way.
I was hoping she’d share more of her faith in the book. There was a smidge and I liked what I heard, but I wanted her faith to infuse every decision and every season of life. I didn’t see that. She surely has some views that don’t line up with Scripture, but as I read and cringed, I also thought, God’s not done with her. I know that to be true in my own life; where the gentle Savior let’s me know, now its time to work on this entrenched sin in your soul.
But I also know that God is not the kind of God you can keep in your back pocket and take him out when the going gets tough. You want to know if you’re good enough? No. None of us are. That’s why we need a Savior. And to be rescued from ourselves most of all. I think if Michelle were to wholeheartedly–with all her mind, soul and strength–embrace God for her eternal soul and current self-worth, she’d be quite the force.
I intentionally waited to the end to share the title, just in case you had your own preconceived opinions that needed challenging. Becoming Michelle Obama.
#22 Understanding Purpose – A Bible study by Carolyn James, 2006.
If you know me well, you know that Carolyn is my hero. One of them. A big one. If you know her too, you know that she’s had lots of tapes whirling around in her head from childhood, and God has smashed them all. In a good way. I wish she’d read some of her books audibly – so I could listen to her voice and remember why it is that I love her so much.
This is a study meant to be done with other women in community. She has a couple of gems in there that I will close this blog with, but for now I shall say a prayer to the Almighty asking Him for the opportunity to one day do this book in community – perhaps in my studio around my wheel.
The Bible is a gracious, spacious place for women.
God’s purposes never fail — no matter what happens.
No matter where God puts us, we have kingdom work to do.
God created you to be like Him. Before you were born, He wired into your DNA the necessity for a relationship with himself. This is true with every woman. We are His representatives in this world — His eyes, and ears, His voice, His hands and His feet. He wants people who interact with us to get a taste of what He is like because of our character and how we treat them. It is a sober responsibility, an awesome privilege. There is no higher calling.
#19 Fast Metabolism Food Rx by Haylie Pomroy, 2016
I complied the above list from two sources: this book and WW’s list of zero point foods. I got tired of looking at healthy food lists that included foods I’ve never heard of. So I did my own.
The author of this book surely dislikes sugar, flour, and dairy. You will not find any foods that contain these things in any of her food lists. I would die without dairy – I know that, and I’m not ready to go that far with any diet or lifestyle. Perhaps that’s why I love WW–they love Greek Yogurt – and so do I. I battle daily resisting sugary, doughy items. The verdict is still out on whether or not it is addictive, but if you ask me, YES it is — it is my Achilles heel. The moment I eat something packed with sugar and butter and flour, it makes me remember just how much I love these things.
A couple of take-a-ways and recommendations from this book that I found interesting:
Tomatoes have more positive impact on human health than supplements.
Drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces every day.
Start eating within 30 minutes of waking each day and eat every 3-4 hours. This will be fueling your metabolism.
I think I shall make it my goal in the coming week to create a tasty tomato soup.
If you look closely, you may notice the little icons next to many of the foods in my chart. In addition to adding zero point foods that WW approves of eating, there is also an icon for foods that give you more energy; foods that repair problems with digestion; and, foods that help control blood sugar levels. The author had several more food charts dealing with all sorts of ailments that we humans go through, but these were specific to my own needs.
I’ve read pieces of many diet books in my day. And they all have these things in common: Eat fruits, vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats. Stay away from flour, sugar, white potatoes and fried stuff. I imagine heaven being filled with flour, sugar and fried stuff. I look forward to heaven. For other reasons too. But I must say I’m looking forward to the banquets and feasting on delicacies not yet imagined.
But for now, in this here final third of my life on planet earth, I think this list should be my grocery list. I have it as a photo on all my devices. Which makes me thankful for devices. And finally, while we’re on the subject, here’s a shout out to my WW community. We heal in community. My WW community makes me think that I can do this never ending battle with food because they keep me accountable, while making the journey joyful. For me, it really does take a village.
#20 Flourish by Martin Seligman, 2011
This was an audible read that I started last year and recently finished. While I love listening to something inspirational while dozing off to sleep, or throwing in my studio, or walking on the treadmill, there is just not a whole lot of retention going on. But I am happy for the fleeting thoughts that come from a good book, and this one was excellent.
Here’s what I recall: The author is brilliant and positive, and shares his keys to a happy life. These keys include great relationships, thinking positively and doing things with purpose. Practicing gratitude is huge for him as well. I’m on board with all of that. And while I think he is in favor of a spiritual life – he doesn’t specifically advocate for Christianity or any other religion. I do. Wholeheartedly. I think you can put all these flourish elements into practice, but without a mighty God, empowering you to overcome sin and temptation, filling you with his Holy Spirit, its only a band-aid. And then you die. So, perhaps you die a smidge happier than if you didn’t put positive practices in place. But you still die. I would much rather end my days, as well as live my days now, in light of knowing that I get to spend eternity with Jesus, and many of my favorite people on the planet.
For me, I truly flourish because of my relationship with the Creator. However. I also recognize that it is crucial to put those practices into our lives that this book suggests if you want to flourish. I am sure you could argue for each one in Scripture.
Here’s the deal. It’s not just what you believe, it’s what you do. It’s both/and. I think we can forget that. Orthodoxy is dead without orthopraxy [right practice]. Flourish is all about orthopraxy with no orthodoxy–which makes me wonder: Can some people–those who don’t believe in God–put into practice the skills expressed in Flourish, and live with real shalom? And, what of those very orthodox folks who don’t seem to work on their character? And, does every soul wrestle until it finds its rest in God? Ecclesiastes 3 says eternity is in every heart. Does that mean the same thing?
These questions rattle in my brain often–especially the one that seeks to balance right believing with right living. It’s ever present. I admit, I get annoyed when I see those who profess the right things, live loveless lives. Yes, that’s a judgement. Perhaps i should repent and keep it to myself. But there, I said it. Now you know what is rattling in my brain. It’s these big questions about life and how we live out our faith. I think we all should be asking these questions, and not just of others, but of ourselves. Then once we ask them, we need to be about the act of flourishing. It’s a life long practice, but worth the journey.
People who think that all sensations reach us through the eye and ear have expressed surprise that I should notice any difference … they forget that my whole body is alive to the conditions about me.
Who writes the story of their life at the age of 23? Helen does. There’s so much about her life that I naively assumed from the movie starring Melissa Gilbert and Patti Duke. Wrong assumptions of course. So, picking up this book that I received as a gift several years ago, was indeed eye opening.
Her family must have had immeasurable resources at their beckoning. And I can’t help but wonder if they had been poor how someone with such disabilities would live out their days. But blessed she was. She met powerful people able to assist her, and her world seemed rich with wonder. She may have been a bit spoiled as the movie portrayed her, but she took great advantage of all the assistance. And to hear her tell her story at twenty something, you’d think she’d had a glorious life. Gratitude filled her soul.
My thoughts however turn to the many children who grow up with debilitating issues but with none of the advantages that Helen had. Specifically, the Korean girls I met in my studio last week. They are perfect from all outward appearances, but the despair that creeps into their psyche is already present. You see, they are orphans, about to age out of the welfare system in Korea; about to be turned out, into a world that may seem inviting and embracing, yet potentially menacing and victimizing, apart from the intervention of God’s instruments.
And God’s instruments are intervening. I met one of them in my studio that day the girls came to play on my wheel. This dear saint, Sarah, has brought these girls to America to experience love and hope found in Christian homes, and share the hope that is found in a God who has more resources than even Helen Keller’s family could fathom. I can’t help but pray with all my might for these women to tap into the embracing and loving heavenly Father who is beckoning them to Himself. Will they choose Him? Will they come to realize the despair that awaits them apart from Him?
It reminds me of myself at their age. I chose the world. In hindsight, it felt as if I had jumped from the huge hands of God that had protected me during my childhood, and into the arms of an alluring world. A world that seemed on the surface to be much more loving than the Church. I thought I knew what was best for me, and was granted the desires of my lust-filled, selfish heart. The result of that choice: about two weeks of what felt like some kind of utopia, then two and a half years of hell. So not worth it! But the lesson of knowing that what I pick out for myself leads to a joy-less, discontented, hellish existence — priceless.
#18 New Life in the Wasteland by Douglas F. Kelly, 2003.
This book was also a gift. From the author. My beloved boss for over 25 years, and professor for a few of them. Dr. Kelly is one of those intelligent Christians I admire. I love that he is on Team-God. His life is an all-consuming passion. His focus so single-minded, there’s not a lot of room for other things. Like packing boxes. I remember helping him pack up his office the summer we both moved to North Carolina from Mississippi. Watching him struggle to tape up a box brought me to a conversation with Jesus that went something like this: Thanks Lord,you gave Dr. Kelly a brain that can expound a wealth of godly wisdom; and me, the gift of taping up boxes. I’m pretty convinced that Tom and I relocated to the same area of the country as he did, during the same summer, only because Dr. Kelly requested of the Lord that his secretary join him again in ministry. He did make me feel I had worth and value to his own calling, while also making me feel I had a calling too. Grading his systematic theology exams for years has sealed much into my brain that is in there for the duration. But back to the book at hand. I love how this book shares Dr. Kelly’s hope in Jesus! I get the feeling that he could care less what Fox News or CNN or the View are all saying about the current state of affairs. His eyes, and this book, are firmly fixed on Jesus and His Kingdom activity. Dr. Kelly actually thinks, from his wealth of historical knowledge, that when things seem to be at their worse, God is perhaps at his best. Our lives are not a result of fate or politics. And it only takes one soul that is firmly planted in the hands of the Almighty God to transform our own corners of the globe. Dr. Kelly does not minimize the depraved and decaying world that we humans have charge of. Nor does it absolve us humans from being responsible for all the depravity and decay. But more importantly and in beautiful juxtaposition to it, he maximizes the power of God. If I were to re-title or summarize the effects of a book like this on my own soul, it would be something like The Redeemed in the Hands of a Mighty God.
Let us fix our eyes not on what is seen! That is what Dr. Kelly is saying on every page and in many ways. It was a fun and wonderful book for me to read, because I could hear his voice in every paragraph. I’ve missed that voice.
If a picture is worth a thousand words then may I present this collage for this weeks blog. These young orphans will be the focus of my prayer altar–my heart–for years to come. February 19, 2019 was one of those windows into my own soul. Truly a sacred moment. The moment I got to teach young women from across the globe how to create something on a potter’s wheel. And afterwards, share my hope found in Jesus alone.
#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:
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 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.
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.