Laudable Linkage

Here are some good reads discovered recently:

Women: Trade Self-Worth For Awe and Wonder. Yes!

Trouble, We’ve Been Expecting You. Excellent.

Stop Trying to Make the Bible Relevant to Teenagers, HT to Challies, by which he means, you don’t have to present it in a way to try to make it “cool” to them. Its truth relates to all of us: just show them how it speaks to their needs.

Back to the Early Church? Excellent. Sometimes people idealize the early church in Acts, but it had its problems, too.

On Bible study:

What Is Bible Study?

4 Reasons Why Every Bible Reader Should Do Word Studies.

On prayer:

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer. Good tips not just for moms.

4 Ways to Keep a Fresh Prayer Life.

On caregiving and dealing with aging parents:

What I’ll Say to My Children If I’m Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s.

What Caregivers Know and You Can, Too.

Her New Happy.

On parenting:

As Seemed Best to Them. Yes! Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Why We Don’t Punish Our Kids. Not advocating not dealing with sin, but explaining the difference between punishment and discipline.

And to end on a smile…I saw this on Pinterest and cracked up:

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Happy Saturday!

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Friday’s Fave Five

friday fave five spring

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

We’re over halfway through July and heading toward August! Here are some favorite parts of the last week:

1. Jason’s birthday. We kind of extended the celebration: since his birthday was on a week day, we had our main celebration on Saturday but then got together to play Settlers of Cataan on the actual day. Always a joy to celebrate God’s gift of my middle son. ♥

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2. Grilled pizza. This was the main dish for Jason’s birthday – which Mittu put together and Jason grilled. They were all very good, especially the dessert pizza.:)

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3. Being back in the gym is an odd listing since that’s not my favorite thing to do or place to be. But I do feel better afterward. Last week I had only been able to get out one day for various reasons, and it felt good to get back to it this week.

4. Power restored. I’ve mentioned several times being thankful for not losing power during storms. We actually did lose power on Saturday evening, but there were no storms – we never did figure out what caused it. Thankfully we had my mother-in-law’s dinner already pureed and heated when it happened, but we also had her flat on her back, changing her – and you can’t raise the hospital bed with no electricity! Yikes! But we used the Hoyer lift to get her in a seated position in her wheelchair and fed her there. I figured evening/nighttime was probably the best time for it to go out, and we’d just go to bed early. But thankfully it came back on later in the evening. Just having it off for that amount of time made me appreciate it so much more.

5. Two more new successful recipe experiments: Macaroni Sausage Stir-Fry and One-Skillet Chicken Parmesan.

Bonus: This photo. ♥♥♥

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Happy Friday!

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Book Review: City of Tranquil Light

TranquilI’ve had City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell on my TBR list for a while now, at least ever since seeing Sherry’s review. When I needed a new audiobook to listen to and had finished my Classics challenge, I was reminded of this book.

Though the story is loosely based on the author’s grandparents, it is fiction and incorporates elements from other people’s lives as well. It’s told in the first person from Will’s point of view, interspersed with sections from Katherine’s journal.

Will Kiehn was the son of a Mennonite farmer in Oklahoma in the early 1900s whose only plan was to continue the farming he loved. But when he was twenty-one, a friend of the family who was a missionary to China came through, visiting various churches on furlough. When he preached, Will felt “found out” and could hardly speak at dinner. When their guest, Edward, spoke of China at their table, he “could not look away.” When asked if he might consider going to China, Will’s siblings laughed because he “was the least likely to leave,” not good at public speaking, “quiet and shy” and “not a good student.” He felt he hadn’t “‘any training or gifts of that kind.’ Edward said, ‘The Giver of those gifts may feel otherwise…A torch’s one qualification is that it be fitted to the master’s hand. God’s chosen are often not talented or wise or gifted as the world judges. Our Lord sees what is inside and that is why He calls whom He does.'”

Will wrestled with these truths for a few days and finally surrendered. “Despite the fact that it would mean leaving what I loved most in the world, I felt not the sadness and dread I had expected but a sense of freedom and release. The tightness in me loosened like a cut cord, and I was joyful.”

He was so green that when he set out to return with Edward a few weeks later, he had given no thought at all to finances. His mother foresaw that and gave him traveling funds. There was no deputation: I assume the mission paid missionaries’ salaries.

A few other recruits sailed with Will and Edward, among them Edward’s sister-in-law, Katherine. She only saw Will as a boy, “clumsy,” “awkward,” and “bothersome,” but her brother-in-law’s excitement about him “makes me believe there must be more to this Will than I can see.” On the voyage and then during their first months in China, they began to appreciate qualities about each other, and their love story is tenderly told.

After they marry, they travel to Kuang P’ing Ch’eng— City of Tranquil Light to start a church. Theirs is not a story of giant super-heroes of the faith, but of quiet, ordinary people faithfully walking with God and working with Him, people with whom most readers could relate. The story of their first convert, his wife’s eventual coming to faith, and the birth and loss of their daughter, are all touchingly told. The beginning and growth of the church, laboring against superstition and anti-foreign sentiment, trials of bandits, famine, civil war, and the influx of Communism draw them close to the people and city they love.

A few standout quotes:

After the loss of their child and during a time her husband is missing, Katherine writes, “My faith feels tattered and threadbare and I am ashamed. What good is it if it does not see me through pain? But a scrap of faith is better than nothing, so I cling to it tightly.”

“I find myself questioning my Lord’s ways; I do not understand why He would place a longing in my heart that He doesn’t plan to fulfill. But whys don’t get me anywhere; they just lead me around in circles. So I pray I can accept this painful lack, and if my prayers are half-hearted, I know they are still heard” (pp. 157-158).

During famine, Will is asked:

“Why do you stay with us here when you could so easily go to your home and eat your fill?”

“My home is here. And if my belly were full but my heart empty, what would I gain?”

“Ah,” he said. “It is a marvel nonetheless for a foreign-born to endure our pain” (p. 166).

In an encounter with an enemy solider:

“You preach the man Jesus, do you not?”

“I do.”

“Are you not aware that what is well suited to you may be ill adapted to others?”

“I am…but it is not a question of what is suited to me. It is a question of obeying my God and passing on what has been given to me. I would be remiss if I kept it to myself.”

“You believe it is your duty to impose that truth on other nations?”

“Not to impose it, sir, like a law. To share it like a gift, freely given” (p. 202).

Though fiction, the book rings true with other missionary stories I’ve read from the era, especially Rosalind Goforth’s Goforth of China and Climbing, even to describing how the curiosity of the people at first led them to wet their fingers and touch the paper windows, making a peephole through which they could observe the foreigners and their strange ways.

Not long ago I came upon the term “quiet fiction” – Jan Karon’s Mitford books would be an example. It’s not that there are no climaxes or suspense or tension or emotions: there are plenty. But the purpose of the story is the relationships, not razzle-dazzle plot twists. I think that term describes this book as well. The audiobook I listened to was nicely read by Bronson Pinchot, who echoed the quietness of the narration. I checked out a hardback copy from the library to reread certain spots.

In trying to find out a little more about the author, I found the Wikipedia article on her maddeningly short. But I found a couple of interviews with her here and here that I greatly enjoyed.

I wouldn’t agree with every little point in the book theologically, but I think I would on the bigger issues. I loved the story: I loved how it was related: I am going to miss Will, Katherine, Chung Hao, Mo Yun, and Hsiao Lao.

(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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Nursing Wounds

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All of us have wounds of some kind. Oh, not just the physical scars from surgery or childhood scrapes (my husband has a couple on his forehead from when his siblings played “magic act” and he, as the youngest, had to be the victim assistant inside the box while they plunged knives into it. Yikes!) But all have emotional or mental hurts as well: being the last one picked for a team, not being invited to a gathering of friends, neglect, misunderstandings, losses, insults, teasing, hazing, betrayal, even sometimes cruelty and abuse. All of us, if we live long enough, will experience some kind of trauma.

Telling someone they need to “move on” from whatever has hurt them is not usually the best advice. How do you “get over” the loss of a loved one or a deep wound that still affects you today? In many ways the pain grows less intense over the years, but still leaves a tender, sensitive place. And something that has been long forgotten may rise up and wound again when memory resurrects it.

On the other hand, there is a difference between the residual soreness of a wounded place and just wallowing in our hurts, feelings, and woundedness. Sometimes we can hinder our healing by nursing our wounds and focusing on them to the exclusion of everything else. We can also grow worse if we let it get infected by growing bitter or resentful.

One of the best examples in Scripture of “handling” hurts is Joseph. First, “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him” (Genesis 37:4). He probably didn’t help that he had to bring “a bad report of them to their father” (verse 2). Then he had dreams about his brothers and parents bowing down to him. I’ve heard Joseph faulted for “bragging” to his brothers about this. Maybe that is what he was doing, but I don’t really get that sense just from the text: it looks like he was just sharing his dream with them. In those days dreams were often prophetic, and maybe that was one way God was speaking to the family about the future. But whatever the case, the brothers “hated him even more for his dreams and for his words” (verse 8b). Their hatred ran so deep that they conspired to kill him (verses 12-20) until Reuben intervened. Then they decided they’d just sell him and lie to their father, saying an animal had attacked him (verses 21-35), ignoring his pleas (Genesis 42:21). So as a young man, probably a teenager, he was removed from the only home he had ever known, taken to a strange country, sold as a slave (Genesis 39:1-6), tempted by his master’s wife (39:6-12), lied about and thrown into prison for doing the right thing by resisting her, (39:13-23), forgotten by those he had helped who had promised to help him in return (Genesis 40).

Joseph could have been angry, depressed, or bitter. He didn’t have a Bible, Christian counselors or friends, church, Christian music, or many of the encouragements to our faith that we have today. He only had the truth he had been taught as a child and the Spirit of God. But He took comfort in God and stayed close to Him, acknowledged His control over the circumstances of His life (Genesis 45:4-8), served God the best he could in every situation, cared for the needs of others (Genesis 40), and forgave those who had wronged him. Throughout his story in Genesis 41-50, he rose to leadership and maintained a good testimony, and “the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands” (Genesis 39:3). Eventually God delivered him from prison, made him Pharaoh’s second in command, used him to save Egypt from famine, and restored him to his family. He named his second son Ephraim, meaning “Fruitful,” saying, “For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” He acknowledged the affliction, but he focused on the fruitfulness God allowed in it.

And even greater than Joseph, consider the Lord Jesus, who was misunderstood, probably more than any man, betrayed, deserted, beaten, unjustly tried, and condemned to death though innocent. He forgave His enemies (Luke 22:34) and “suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (I Peter 2:21-24). Therefore, Peter says, “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.  For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps (I Peter 2:19-21).

I’m not saying we should ignore or “stuff” our hurts down: if we don’t deal with them, they’re likely to come up again and cause even more pain. But there are ways of dealing with them that can enable them to be used of God.

One thing I have to remind myself of when hurt or angry to to stop feeding the fire, to use a different metaphor (or, to stay with the medical one, stop poking and picking at the wound). I can tend to replay an incident over and over in my mind, thinking “I can’t believe they did that” and speculating why they did, which usually makes thing worse, because we rarely come up with the right reasons. Each rehearsal of it only fans the flames or keeps the wounds open, and I literally have to tell myself to just stop and think about something else.

Sometimes it is hard to know when to confront someone who has wronged us (Matthew 18:15-17) or just overlook the offense (Proverbs 19:11; 1 Peter 4:8). But either way, we must forgive them, not because they “deserve it,” but because of the great offenses we have been forgiven (Matthew 18:21-35). It’s not just good for mental health; it’s a command (Matthew 6:9-15). But God has forgiven us so much: how can we withhold forgiveness to anyone else?

Then we can follow our examples here. We can remember God is in control and seek what He has for us to learn from it.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5, ESV)

Whatever God allows in our lives, He can use to mold and shape us. A hurt we have experienced can make us more mindful and compassionate towards the hurts and needs of others or even lead us to minister to them. Just this morning on Facebook I saw this quote from Paul David Tripp (I don’t know if it is from a book or a speech): “The hard moments are not just for your growth in grace, but for your call to be a tool of that same grace in the life of another sufferer… God intends for you to give away the comfort you’ve been given.” We can turn our focus upward towards the Lord and outward towards serving others. We can put away bitterness and anger (Ephesians 4:31-32). We can “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). When the wound feels tender, we can let it be a reminder of God’s grace to help us overcome and even triumph. We can encourage ourselves in the Lord and trust him to make us fruitful even in our affliction.

(Sharing with Woman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday, Thought-Provoking Thursday)

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Book Review: The Methuselah Project

MethusalehLately I seem to be catching up with books that were popular a year or two ago. Maybe that’s how long it takes for them to go on good sales for the Kindle.:) At any rate, when The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry came up as  Kindle sale last year, I remembered seeing a number of favorable reviews about it, so I got it.

The first part of the book switches between two different story lines. In one, Captain Roger Greene is a US pilot flying on a mission in Nazi Germany in 1943. His plane is shot down and he is captured, but instead of being taken to a POW camp, he is taken to an underground bunker set up like a lab. He and six other captives are subjected to experiments by a Nazi doctor designed to accelerate the body’s healing and prolong life. If successful, the doctor will be able to to pass along this technology to the Nazi powers that be. When an Allied bomb destroys the building, the doctor, and all his research, as well as the six other captives, only Roger and the doctor’s assistant survive. The Nazi regime keeps Roger captive and sets up the doctor’s assistant in a new building to try to figure out what the doctor did to Roger so they can duplicate it.

The alternate story involves Katherine Mueller in Atlanta in 2015. Her parents died long ago and she was raised by her uncle. The major consideration in his life is the Heritage Organization, a secret society “aimed at challenging individuals to higher levels of achievement, improving the world with inventions and positive influences, then passing on a stronger heritage to the next generation.” He wants Katherine to move up the ranks in the organization, which involves excelling in marksmanship and field exercises involving tracking. She doesn’t know exactly what the organization does – only the higher-ups do – and it seems almost cultish to her sometimes. But her Uncle Kurt and both her parents were involved in it, and she trusts her uncle completely, so she wants to carry on the family tradition. Though she loves her uncle, she’s frustrated by his matchmaking involving only men from the organization, none of whom attracts her in any way.

I assumed these story lines would intersect at some point, though they were 70 years apart. And wow, did they ever! I won’t reveal how, but let’s just say this is the fastest I have read any book lately because I kept looking for opportunities to open it.

There were just a few speed bumps in the writing in the first part of the story, but I didn’t even note what they were except that Roger at first seemed beyond the stereotypical brash and breezy WWII American flyboy into something of a cliche in the first chapter or so. But that feeling dissolved pretty quickly, and it wasn’t long before I was totally wrapped up in the story, racing to see how the author would bring various elements together and whether some of my suspicions about some of the characters and the “organization” were accurate.

I’m not sure exactly how you’d classify this book. It’s part sci-fi, part historical fiction, part contemporary fiction, part action and suspense. It is Christian fiction: neither Roger nor Katherine are Christians at the beginning of the book. Roger has faint memories of a former Sunday School teacher encouraging him to pray, and he is given a Bible in captivity that long hours of inaction and desperation drive him to. I thought the author wove the faith element in quite naturally.

Overall – I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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Friday’s Fave Five

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It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

Another week has zoomed by. Here are some favorite parts of it:

1. An afternoon to myself is rare these days, especially on a Saturday. But everyone else was otherwise occupied, and I got to spend some focused, uninterrupted time on some blog posts that needed more thought than I had been able to give them.

2. Successful recipe experiments.  This one is just called Baked Chicken, but it needs to be called Pesto Chicken or something else a little more descriptive. It was my first time ever to use pesto. Everyone really liked it, and I am sure I’ll be using it again. Honey Mustard Sausage and Vegetables was a hit as well (we used turkey rather than beef sausage). Chicken In a Skillet was pretty good, too.

3. Take-out – two nights in a row! I requested it Friday night, and we got Papa Murphy’s. When my husband suggested getting something out again on Saturday, well, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.:) We got Red Lobster’s then.

4. Not losing power in a pretty bad storm yesterday. It blinked off for a moment, and we were without Internet for a few hours, but many had it much worse. My son and daughter-in-law have been without power since yesterday afternoon and spent the night here.

5. A “Laundry” sign. I had seen this several months ago and thought it work well with the other decor I had in there, but kept resisting. Who needs a sign that says “Laundry,” of all things, hidden away in a laundry room? But it was on sale 1/2 price this week, making it only about $7, and I still have credit left on a couple of Hobby Lobby gift cards, so I went for it. And I like it.:) This is the first time I’ve had a cheery, decorated space in a laundry area, and it does brighten up the task.

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Happy Friday!

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Book Review: Thin Places

Thin PlacesI don’t remember where or in what context I first heard of Mary DeMuth. I hadn’t read anything by her that I remember, but when I saw her book Thin Places: A Memoir on a Kindle sale, the name registered somehow, and I got it.

The title comes from a Celtic term for “a place where heaven and the physical world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet.” DeMuth uses it as a metaphor for “moments…when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways. They are aha moments, beautiful realizations, when the Son of God bursts through the hazy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh.” “God woos me from behind the veil through the tragedies, beauties, simplicities, and snatches of my life I might overlook.”

It’s a wonder, with Mary’s upbringing, how she ever turned out with any sense of stability: she was raised by hippie-ish parents who regularly had friends over to get stoned, even passing their marijuana to her, had a series of step-fathers, was raped repeatedly at the age of 5 by neighbor teenage boys while supposedly under the care of a neglectful babysitter, suffered the loss of her father. All of this plus other circumstances made her feel unloved and unworthy and fueled a need for attention and approval and a fear of men.

She came to know Jesus as a teenager, some twenty-four years before the writing of this book, and sank down into His love and acceptance and cleansing. Yet some wounds heal slowly, and it took a long time of getting to know Him and His Word and walking with Him to transform her view of herself and others, a process still ongoing.

She wrote the book for several reasons: to help others feel they are not alone, to magnify God’s grace in saving and healing her, and to convey hope.

In the past I needed all the fragments of my life placed just so, like diamonds set in a tennis bracelet. The older I get, the more I see that Jesus wants me to trust Him for the missing pieces, the broken clasps, the counterfeit baubles–to relax in the unknowing, to be at peace with the tangles, to learn the art of living with mystery. He is more than capable of handling all my questions, and someday He will make things right.

I used to think that if God truly loved me, He’d give me everything I want, not realizing that getting everything I want will give me an idolatrous heart. And a meaningless life.

I would differ from Mary theologically in a few places, particularly in the area of tongues and visions, and a couple of places made me wince just a bit (“The grace of God is my Mary Jane,” a vision of Jesus “dancing like a crazy man” and offering her an invitation to join Him), though I know she didn’t mean them irreverently or disrespectfully.

But even though we would look at a few things in different ways, there is no denying the grace of God in her life and the way He has worked in and through her.

(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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