Books Worth Re-reading: 2013

Mindset by Carol Dweck
As a recovering perfectionist, this book stacks up evidence of the harm caused by perfectionism borne of a fixed mindset (the idea that you have certain set strengths and should therefore act within them). I read it initially with my teacher hat on, but by the time I finished chapter 1, the personal impact was clear. Even if you’re not a perfectionist (recovering or proud!) or a teacher, I’d highly recommend it. I plan to come back to it regularly.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl DeWunn
Reality is rough. This book is filled with research and sadly true stories of women around the world who live with unbelievable oppression. It is also filled with the hopeful and true stories of amazingly strong women and thoughtful interventions. This is why we are charged to care for the widows and orphans and to look out for the oppressed.

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
What does that care look like? What does it not look like? This thought-provoking book has changed my thoughts and questions about the best ways to respond to the brokenness around the world and close to home- no matter where home is. While you could probably learn much more about these concepts in university classes, I found this a good primer for helping me to think through alternatives to pity and throwing money at problems (not that money is always bad…read the book.:)

Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Philip Ryken
Given to me by my hostess during a stay in Colorado Springs, I find myself coming back to the challenge offered by Ryken often. I am quickly convicted and simultaneously encouraged that I can only love because I was- am- first loved so well. When my temptation is to work harder to love better, the glory of the good news of Jesus shines brightly.

Getting Love Right by Dallas Willard
This short text is basically a paper presented at a conference for Christian counselors. Its brevity makes the point well:

“Our aim under love is not to be loving to this or that person, or in this or that situation, but to be a person possessed by love as an overall character of life, whatever is or is not going on.”

Again, this must be the outworking of internal grace and love within. That’s supernatural.

Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard
What makes up “me?” And what does it take for me to become more of who God has made me to be? This book is not light reading, but it’s worth a slow, steady, prayerful read. I found this book to be especially practical, and the tone is intent and direct. “Work out your salvation…for it is God Who works in you” might look like this!

What will you re-read from this year?

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Failure

You know it’s a good book when you have to stop in the middle and journal before you can go on.* It’s a good meal, and time for digestion is necessary.

Culture Making, by Andy Crouch, is one of those books.

Because this is neither my journal* (nor the rambling email I proceeded to write) I’ll focus on one quote that captures my attention.

Grace is not an exemption from failure. It is, however, what makes it possible to sustain hope in the midst of failure.

I want an exemption from failure, please. Can I order one of those up?

There’s a part of me (a rather good-sized part, if I’m honest), that doesn’t really care how much grace is involved in the failure. I’d like to avoid it.

But the fact is that I am sitting on my couch at 8:35pm on a Friday night having said fewer than 50 words today. The fact is that I was not in grade three today with my kiddos. The fact is that today was a day of failure, if failure is defined by what I do. (That’s another conversation entirely!)

And grace? Grace is here. Grace is the cool fan, the warm tea, the kind emails from work, the fresh papaya, the peace. Grace is the realization that I have already failed as much as possible and been loved more than I know. Grace is a fresh understanding of truth. Grace is knowing that even when I know failure, failure does not define me. Grace is hope in this moment.

The good news is that this, too, will pass. A few days of silence does not mean the end of the world. Bigger failure will come, has come. Instead of fearing failure, I will endeavor to live each day in the grace that is big enough to sustain hope no matter what. That takes grace. And that’s okay.

*Yes, the teacher-geek in me is thinking of how I just must share this experience with the readers and writers in my care on Monday. What a great job I have! ūüôā

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What do you have that you haven’t received?

This question echoes in my heart today. I read it last night with the rest of the chapter in that way I really shouldn’t read the Bible– without anticipation or expectation.

Paul is in the middle of making an argument to his readers, and this verse fits nicely there. For me, however, it was like a punch in the stomach (or at least, what I imagine a punch in the stomach would be like).

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7 NASB)

What do you have that you did not receive? The rhetorical question became personal and the answer is clear: nothing. There is nothing in my life that I have not received…so why do I lay claim to things mentally and feel justified in my indignation when “my” time goes differently than planned?

So I pray through this verse again and again, asking that the Word Who became flesh will change me and my heart. For all I have received, may I be truly grateful…and less territorial!

All truth…

is God’s truth. So I love to read different (usually highly-recommended) books and see how God’s truth and spiritual principles pop up in random places.

One of my latest reads, Good to Great, is actually about business and how to make a company great.  However, a few paragraphs on the motivation behind great leaders struck me as pertinent to life outside an office.  This quote begins with a sub-quote.

‘We’re just never satisfied. ¬†We can be delighted, but never satisfied.’

Those who built the good-to-great companies weren’t motivated by fear. They weren’t driven by fear of what they didn’t understand. ¬†they weren’t driven by fear of looking like a chump…

No, those who turn good into great are motivated by a deep creative urge and an inner compulsion for sheer unadulterated excellence for its own sake.

What if that excellence is the glory of God? ¬†What if the deep creative urge is the expression of God’s character in His image-bearers? ¬†What if I was consistently motivated by passion instead of fear?

Thankfully, God has been revealing where I am motivated by self-induced pressure and fear instead of joy and passion for His name. ¬†The freedom in revelation and restoration bring delight and excitement for the future! ¬†While there is a measure of satisfaction, as I’ve written elsewhere, it’s complemented by deepened hunger and anticipation.

Slavery to Fear

Sometimes I read something in the Bible, and it’s as if it was just added. ¬†I know that’s not true, and that phenomenon is evidence for the living nature of God’s Word. ¬†In any case, it happened yesterday morning. ¬†I was in Hebrews when I came across these verses:

Therefore, since the children share in¬†flesh and blood,¬†He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that¬†through death He might render powerless¬†him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,¬†and might free those who through¬†fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. ¬†–Hebrews 2:14-15

The author is discussing how believers and Jesus are all children of God.  Jesus, as the Son of God, came to earth to share life with us but also to defeat death.

That was all well and good- great, actually- but not necessarily new to me.  It was the whole bit about freedom from the fear of death and the slavery.

The good news of Jesus is much bigger than freedom from one of life’s greatest fears: the fear of death. ¬†If Jesus can take care of that fear, is there any fear that He can’t conquer? ¬†More on that tomorrow…

You:me

In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed;
In Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation.

Exodus 15:13

The ratio of You(Your) to the people (them) in this verse is 6:2. ¬†I wonder what the ratio of God to me is in my reflections on the past. ¬†Certainly, there is redemption. ¬†His *lovingkindness*¬†and strength¬†do provide leadership and guidance. ¬†Sometimes, like the people in this verse, I don’t like the way He leads. ¬†That’s my issue, though, not His! ¬†This verse is a great reminder that He leads out of *lovingkindness* and strength.

*Lovingkindness is apparently not a spell checker-friendly word; it is, however, a delightful word for God’s grace to His people.*

Just for fun, here’s a tagxedo image of this text.

 

 

 

 

 

In Case You’re Interested…

Get Out of the Way– This quote from Timothy Keller on his goal in writing about Jesus. “…when you‚Äôre actually reading, and you‚Äôre getting directly a sense of the greatness and the attractiveness of Jesus‚ÄĒand by the way, to say he‚Äôs attractive doesn‚Äôt mean he‚Äôs warm and toasty all the time. I mean, sometimes he‚Äôs scary, but he‚Äôs still attractive. I just want to say, I want other people to have the same experience I‚Äôve had as I‚Äôve read.”¬†¬†So he tries to get out of the way.

Eighth Grade in 1895– This test is for 8th graders in 1895. ¬†Yes, some of it is now irrelevant, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

“Bless” Boundless Podcast– If you’ve never heard of Boundless.org, let me introduce you to a webzine and podcast for young adults. ¬†This episode starts with a challenge to bless the people around you and continues with a challenge to young adults to honor the spiritual leaders in our lives. ¬†I’ll leave the Q&A section up to you.

 

Blessed to Bless

“Father Abraham had many sons. ¬†Many sons had Father Abraham, and I am one of them. ¬†And so are you. ¬†So let’s just praise the Lord…” ¬†(Repeat no fewer than 6 times, adding motion each time and collapsing at the end.)

Bless his heart, Father Abraham is now indelibly connected to the #1 song taught to kids to make them move. ¬†Never mind the theology behind the song; never mind the reasons we should praise the Lord as children of Abraham. ¬†Just spin around and praise the Lord for the aerobic exercise in church, right? ūüôā

Father Abraham (the guy, not the song) is awesome because he believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness. ¬†God is awesome because, among other things, He does what He says He’ll do. ¬†Every time. ¬†One of the things He promised to do is bless Abraham and his family; He also promised to bless those who bless Abraham and company AND make Abraham and co. a blessing to the world. That’s a lot of blessing going on.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a lot of blessing, thank you very much!

As I read part of Joseph’s story this morning, the blessings jumped out again and again. ¬†God saved much of civilization from death by famine through Joseph’s dream interpretation and wise administration. ¬†Pharaoh blessed Joseph by giving him honor, position, and loads of stuff. ¬†Even Joseph’s initially slimy brothers blessed Pharaoh by caring for his livestock.

Usually I think of the story of Joseph as a mostly sad story, but it seems that Joseph didn’t see it that way, despite the betrayal and tears. ¬†(Count how many times they “weep on each other’s necks.”) ¬†Joseph got it– he saw his life as a blessing, not as bitterness.

Joseph was son of Abraham by family lineage; I’m a daughter of Abraham by faith. ¬†I’d rather skip the betrayal, false accusation, and prison experiences of Joseph, but I want to be a blessing. ¬†Maybe the blessing of God in my life includes an occasional round of “Father Abraham”, so I’ll work on not being bitter about it!

Forgiveness

“Who do you need to forgive for not being God?”

The question stuck me the first time I read it in a book on spiritual direction…and the second time I read it…and the third time. ¬†On one hand, it is clearly ridiculous; why would we assume that anyone could live up to the divine? ¬†On the other hand, it is all too easy to subconsciously presume that another person should surely, well, do better!

The temptation to impose expectations on others which are best reserved for the only One Who can fulfill them leads to all sorts of unhealthy things.  In this case, the irrational nature of the question points out our own faulty thinking.

Presently Considering:

‚ÄúThe condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be slothfulness in prayer.‚Ä̬†-Charles Spurgeon

Small talk: it is either a way for me to say, ‚ÄúI don’t want to know you and I don’t want you to know you and so I am going to keep it light and make it as quick as possible and see you later.‚ÄĚ Or small talk is a way to say, ‚ÄúI care about you. I would like to get to know you.‚ÄĚ We can talk about a football team or the weather and it is actually an expression of two human beings making that connection, but it is because we love each other or want to know each other. ¬†–David Powlison via CJ Mahaney’s blog

Fellowship with believers outside of your local church family can have one of two results, depending on your attitude: You can be blessed, grateful for the body of Christ and encouraged by God’s faithfulness to His people. ¬†You can also be depressed, wishing for a better/cooler/(any number of adjectives) local church body, and jealous of God’s faithfulness to His people.

Jesus didn’t direct us to pray that there would be a harvest; He directed us to pray for workers for the existing harvest, ready to be brought into the kingdom.