The statistics on people who read books on a regular basis after high school/college are concerning. There is so much to learn, there is so much to experience, there is so much to be comforted by or challenged by that we are ignoring. Too often our pursuits in life tend toward what makes me comfortable instead of what will challenge me or change me for the better. In January I challenged myself (and you!) to read more and I set out to include books that would inspire me to be a better Christian/wife/mother/friend. I hope you will join me on this journey. It hasn’t been easy, in fact it took me all of January and most of February to read the first book because life became a bit overwhelming, so I skipped reading my February choice but instead of condemning myself or giving up all together I kept on going and I’m so glad I did! I also have divided how many pages I need to read daily in order to finish by the end of the month, a daily discipline that enhances my life.
The book for March is Undaunted by Christine Caine. I love the way she writes because it feels very conversational which makes it easy to read. Most importantly, I am only a few pages in and already my heart has been gripped by her story and her passion, her willingness to push herself beyond the fear and place of comfort and live a life of effectiveness. She doesn’t just talk about helping others, she spends her life actually doing something to help others and it is changing the lives of many men, women and children who are victims of trafficking. This passion of hers is contagious, start reading this book and become infected by it!
I want to invite you to join my book club! Its not fancy, its not Oprah, its just a great way to get yourself reading and stretching your brain! I have picked out 12 books for the year 2017, they are from a variety of topics and authors all of which I think you will enjoy! We will start reading on January 5, 2017 and on January 30 I will post some brain stimulating questions about the book and you can leave your comments and/or questions, tell me your thoughts, feelings and what you got out of the book.
Let’s make 2017 our year for growth!
Am I my brothers keeper?Sometimes keeping a friends secret is not the right thing to do. It is TRUTH that sets people free, not silence. Sometimes the right thing to do is to tell a pastor, a teacher, a parent or a spouse. But, you say, I might get them “in trouble”. You might, or you might expose them and their situation to someone who can help, someone who knows what to do, someone who has the resources and wherewithal to help them fix it or at least walk with them out of their darkness and into the light. Because that’s the thing, anything that is hidden in the darkness, grows, strengthens and festers. What starts out as a personality “quirk”, a destructive habit or a dangerous flirtation, can turn into a full blown addiction/bondage/downward spiral.
I’m not saying that we should be blabbing everyone’s business everywhere, social media is full of too much of that already. What I am saying is that the next time someone comes to you and says “I need to tell you something but only if you promise to keep it a secret”, don’t give them that promise. The next time someone displays behavior that you know in your gut is wrong or hurtful or destructive,and you don’t know what to do, say something, go to someone, find help. It could be the kindest most loving thing you can do.
So, what do you think? Are you your brothers keeper?
I have to reinvent myself. The person I’ve been is no longer enough. Enough, I’m not even sure that’s the right word. But definitely the person I’ve been is not meeting expectations, the expectations of others as well as my own. But how does a person reinvent them self? How do you go from living your life one way and then switch to a completely different way? How do you pull a high paying career out of a background of “stay at home mom”? And it’s not just that, there are so many other expectations; be athletic, be thin, be young, cook healthy, delicious meals, keep the house clean, have life long friends that you have deep and meaningful conversations with, take care of your aging parents, be involved at church, reach out to your unsaved friends, have a hobby, support your husbands dreams, follow your passion, be there for your kids, dance like no ones watching, have a vibrant marriage, take time to smell the roses. Oh, and don’t forget to deal with your own emotional baggage, forgive your enemies, read your bible, pray, turn the other cheek….
So, how does someone reinvent them self? Yeah, I don’t know either. But it looks like I will be finding out. And I will admit, I am someone who is reluctant to change. I don’t like risk, I like caution. I like security, safety and predictability. If you asked me where I wanted to go for lunch, any where at all, I would probably tell you Panera, and I would order the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad. My fave. Reluctant. To. Change. Definitely me. But I don’t think that I’m alone in that, in fact Esther comes to mind. You know, Esther, yeah that Esther. The one that saves her people from being destroyed, the one that was born “for such a time as this”. I know what you’re thinking, no way does someone who orders the same salad over and over have anything in common with someone who risked her life to save her people. But if you remember, she was reluctant too, she tried to excuse herself from it. In Esther 4, Mordecai was fasting in sackcloth and ashes and Esther sent him clothes with the message please stop, stop drawing attention to yourself. He reminded her that she was in the perfect position to do something about it and she deferred, she shrank back, she gave an excuse, she all but said no. You know the rest, God used her to stop the evil Hamaan and save her people. So despite her reluctance, despite her desire, (and yes I probably am reading a little into it), to settle in to her life and routine as the wife of the king she “reinvented herself”. She was brave when she had been timid, she put herself in the spotlight when she could have safely sat in the shadows. And here is something else that I noticed when she made the decision to reinvent herself, in Esther 4:15 she sent Mordecai this message, “…go and gather all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days night or day. My maids and I will do the same”. She asked for those around her, as many as possible, to fast and pray for her. She knew this was not something she could do on her own, this kind of responsibility and change of focus wasn’t something she could pull off. She needed the support of those who knew and loved her. She needed faithful prayers to an all powerful God that could move on her behalf. So, as I make these changes, as I push forward into the terrifying unknown, I will be asking those that are near and dear to me to pray for me, fast even. Because this is not something I can do alone.
I read an article a few years ago about the top 10 things that people love to hear. One of the things that people love to hear is their own name, if you can remember someone’s name after first meeting them, they will think you’re a genius and/or the nicest person in the history of the world. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it’s hovering around the truth. As an experiment, the next time you talk to someone you just recently met, make a sincere effort to remember their name and watch as their face lights up when you say it. It’s a thing.
The top 3 things that people love to hear are, I love you, I forgive you, and dinners ready (or supper if you live in the south). It reminds me of John 21: 1-19. This portion of scripture takes place after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, some of the disciples have seen Jesus but I would imagine they were all still in shock, especially Peter. Poor Peter, he had just had the most devastating week of his life, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times, which he did, the third time to a young girl. And then Jesus is crucified and buried in a tomb, the emotions that were swirling around inside of him must have been crippling. So, he gets up and decides he’s going to go back to what he knows which is fishing. He might have thought that he could just disappear into the world of fishing and try to forget all that had taken place, especially his own failings. But then Jesus appears, cooking some fish on the shore. They don’t recognize him at first, no doubt lost in their thoughts of recent events. But then Jesus asks them if they caught any fish, “no” they answered so Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side, something he had said to them before, in fact the day Peter first met Jesus. Then John says “it’s the Lord!”, Peter jumps into the water and gets to Jesus as fast as he can. Now what is Peter feeling? Elation? Fear? Shame? Probably a mixture of the three. So he gets to the shore and Jesus tells him, dinners ready, he has cooked for them. Jesus has served Peter and the other disciples in a very simple but intimate manner. Cooking and eating a meal together is something families do, they come together, they eat, they talk, they reconnect. That’s what Jesus was doing, reconnecting with Peter, reminding Peter that he still loved him and that Peter still had a job to do, feed my lambs. In Mark 16:7, the angel tells Mary Magdalene and the others to tell the disciples “and Peter” that Jesus is risen. God wanted to make sure that Peter knew he was still loved, he was still wanted, that he was forgiven.
God is so loving toward us. In Romans 5:8 it says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Just like Peter, God still loves us in spite of our failings. Even after our most devastating betrayal and rebellion, God shares with us a message of love, forgiveness and intimacy. He calls us by name, he hasn’t forgotten us. (Isaiah 49:15,16). He offers us his forgiveness (Colossians 1:14), the free gift of eternal life. And shows us that he loves us (John 3:16).
No matter what you’ve done or where you are in your life today, God is still saying those things to you. He knows you, he loves you, he forgives you and he invites you to be a part of the family of God. You are just one prayer away from that kind of intimacy with your heavenly Father. It’s as simple as praying this, God forgive my sins, thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross in my place, and that he rose again. I receive your forgiveness. Thank you that I am a child of God. Amen.