When to Love, When to Hate

When my daughter was a pre-schooler, she asked me if it was okay to hate the devil.  I think I stumbled over the question, trying to say both yes and no, explaining that God loves everyone and had created Satan as the most beautiful angel ever. It was the actions, the sin that God hated. When I think of Satan, I think of the evil things he does and I hate them…it’s hard to separate his actions from his being. 

Try saying to your children, “I hope you grow up to be as good at hating as Jesus is.”  Such a provocative statement will grab their attention! It’s been easy for me to see that Jesus is loving and caring. But to think of Jesus as someone who hated is harder to swallow.  No, he never hated people. But he always hated sin and evil, actions that led the people he loves into bondage. 

I live in a small city that is occupied by a “Christian” hate group that stands on street corners with signs expressing God’s hate for certain types of people.  That’s not the kind of hate Jesus had. I hate their hate. Then there are those who protest the protesters by waving our country’s flag and proclaiming peace.  Instead of responding with returned hate, they try to point to what is good.

While sometimes it is hard to separate a person’s actions from their being, it is truly possible to completely hate the action of a person and still completely love him. When one of my children tells me a lie or shows disrespect, it brings me grief. I hate that lie with a passion and I hate the disrespect with a vengeance because it puts a strain in our relationship. Yet even in my frustration, I still love both my children immensely and nothing they do could ever change that. I want them to hate sin and to hate evil in their own lives so that they will not suffer that barrier that they place between themselves and God.

Jesus may have hated, but he hated actions, not people. His love for people even in the midst of their sin is evident throughout the gospels. He loved them even while they were choosing sin. He offered the means for the barrier between them and God to be broken. Because He loved so much, through the cross He provided the way for the bridge to remove the gap.

I want my kids to hate – to hate sin – to hate it enough to turn away from filthy music, raunchy television shows, and immoral actions of peers. I want them to love goodness and light, to let Jesus shine through them so that others will be drawn to Him and away from the ways of the world that entice, trap, and enslave. I want them to be good at hating what Jesus hated, and to be good at loving what Jesus loved.

Rosebud Blooming: Hurting to Healing in His Timing - Book Review

Grab a cup of coffee or hot tea and sit down with Nancy Maggio in her book Rosebud Blooming: Hurting to Healing in His Timing. She writes with such complete honesty and vulnerability that you will feel like you have been chatting with your best friend.

Each chapter begins with Nancy Maggio’s own heart-felt poems followed by a vignette from a particular difficult season of her life that tested her faith. She weaves into her stories the amazing ways how God carried her and bloomed her into something better. Spanning from childhood to seniorhood, she divulges many very personal experiences including unwanted pregnancy, divorce, sexual addiction, inadequacies, health problems, physical pain and aging, to name a few. She portrays the way God has transformed her into a rosebud blooming through each of the painful journeys.

This was the first book I read on my Kindle, so I’m not sure if my view is tainted, but while reading the poems, I kept finding myself finding better words or trying to improve the rhythm. This may have been due to the layout on the Kindle itself.  The way poetic words are laid out on a page is an important part of conveying its meaning.

While I found this book intriguing and enjoyable to read, I would love to have seen her take the message of God’s hand at work and in transforming her another layer deeper.

Disclaimer: To comply with regulations by the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, I am disclosing that BookSneeze® provided me a complimentary copy of this book.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

For Women Only in the Workplace - Book Review

I began reporting to a new male supervisor the same day the mailman delivered the book For Women Only in the Workplace: What You Need to Know about How Men Think at Work, by Shaunti Feldhahn. My previous supervisor, a female, had a passion for Jesus and had become a close friend, so I felt devastated by her departure. The dynamics of my work environment were about to change drastically, and I was eager to get my hands on any tool to help me become mentally prepared.

Through stories and examples to back up her ideas, Shaunti Feldhahn explains how men and women operate and communicate differently at work.  She discusses mistakes that women make in the workplace, why respect is so important to men and unintentional ways women undermine it, how men’s ability to compartmentalize affects their methods, and many other interesting topics. 

Among the interesting ideas to consider, a couple seemed most applicable to me:
  • Get to the point. Men like to hear the conclusion up front, then the story of how you got there. Hearing the conclusion or bottom line up front helps them listen. Personally, I find this true for myself as well, so while I’m not convinced it’s strictly a male quality, it’s a good idea to keep in mind whether speaking with males or females.
  • Asking questions might be viewed as a sign of weakness. What women view as the quickest and most efficient route to the answer, men view as being unable to figure things out on your own. I’d like to argue with this because it sounds so stereotypical - like a man not wanting to ask for directions when he’s lost; however, I truly got nicked on an evaluation by a male supervisor once for asking questions. I was told to just fly by the seat of my pants instead.
While at times I felt like Shaunti Feldhahn was stereotyping and categorizing people in boxes by gender without consideration of personality types or other factors, there was valuable information to carry into my life – not just for the purpose of career success, either.  She presents the information in a way that we can honor God not only in the workplace but in every aspect of our lives. Integrating some of the insights into everyday life is a way to love our neighbors and look out for the interests of others.  

Even though I don’t agree with all the ideas in this book, I found it intriguing.  If you haven’t read many books on the differences between men and women and you spend time with men at work, I’d recommend this book.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review. The opinions I have expressed herein are my own. 

Stepping Up

Is God leading you on a path – through a dark valley, over a mountain, or across a desert? Or do you feel stuck in the grassy plains that stretch from one horizon to the other, hopeless of change? Do you want to make progress as you go from here to there? Do you want to consistently take the high road in your circumstances instead of the tempting low road?
God is inviting us to go up, to draw our souls closer to Him through a spiritual pilgrimage. When we let Him lead, we never stay in the same place. He wants to take us to the next level, which is always out of our comfort of sameness. God wants us to make a daily practice of “going up” with Him.  The process of how we go there is part of getting there.
I’m beginning a journey through the Psalms of Ascent through Beth Moore’s Bible study Stepping Up, and over the next few weeks as I join a small group of beautiful ladies, I hope to summarize the words that the Spirit impresses on my heart.   Psalms 120-134 were sung by the Israelites during the Pilgrimage Feasts, so this part of Scripture will be the Biblical focus of my upward trek the next six weeks. 
I often lament that my emotions interfere with my walk.  But Beth Moore asks "What if those very emotions become avenues of worship rather than distraction?"  When your feelings need Biblical expression – overwhelming praise and gratitude or oppressing sorrow, fear or anger – the Psalms help us express them to God and turn our emotions into worship – and not just the happy thankful feelings but the not-so-pretty feelings too.  The Psalms show how we can bare our souls to integrate all our emotions into our relationship with Him. It's not like we can hide them from Him anyway since He knows us more intimately than we could ever know ourselves.
Beth Moore says that God has goals for us and a private agenda for each of us, but we can count on them being based on the following truths:
·         God desires to dramatically change our outlook on daily life.

·         God wants to raise us to a higher plain of worship and service.

·         God wills to usher us to the next step in our personal journeys with Him even if we have to press through the thickest forest to get it. (page 12)
My deepest desire at this time of my life is to interpret my circumstances, situations, and relationships through His eyes, and then match my steps with the path and rhythm of His. I eagerly anticipate learning how my emotions can be a source that evokes praise and worship to my Almighty God and draws me closer to Him.  Time to take the first step...

"Remember Who You Are"

"Remember who you are."
My parents said those words repeatedly when I left the house to go places as  a teenager.  I don’t recall exactly what they meant, but I think it had something to do with properly representing the family name. 
Like the clich├ęs “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” or “this will hurt me more than it will hurt you”, it never occurred to me that I would ever repeat “remember who you are” to my own children. 
Yet, those simple words flew out of my mouth last Friday night as my daughter stepped out the door to go to a high school football game and dance.  A million things that I wanted to say went through my mind, but in the brief moment of opportunity to speak, those four words popped out of my mouth. I wonder what she thought I meant when she called out “I will” as she crossed the threshold into the world.
If I could think faster and had a few extra minutes, when I said “Remember who you are,” I really wanted to say:
     Remember that you have the light of Jesus in you. Remember not to conceal it but to find ways to let it shine.
     Remember you are a child of God and He is always by your side to give you courage and to show you how to demonstrate His love to others.
     Remember He is ready to give you courage to take the narrow path and to live in purity.
     Remember that in a moment, in a split-second decision, all of life can change, but if you follow God’s ways and seek His guidance in every step you take, you will be able to walk in confidence no matter what happens.
    Remember, you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You are supposed to be different.
   Remember the more you let your light shine, the darkness will retreat!
Become what you are becoming.  Be who you are!

Stained Glass Hearts - Book Review

I’ve heard great things about Patsy Clairmont’s humor and ability to apply the Bible to the lives of women, so I decided to read her book Stained Glass Hearts: Seeing Life from a Broken Perspective.  I must admit that I expected her witty writing to be shallow, but I was delighted to discover that I was wrong.
Through her personal life stories of brokenness and difficulty, Patsy Clairmont displays how God can take our broken pieces and mold them into stained glass beauty that brings Him glory.  Each chapter closes with a section called “Art Gallery” where she references works of art that you can peruse on the internet – art that stirred her heart and connects with the chapter’s themes  - paintings, puzzles, music, poems, museums, etc. She shows how we can reflect on God’s beauty through the artistic talent given to human hands in various cultures.
If you asked me how this book was organized or what it was about specifically, I would have to thumb through the pages to review it, and even then I might be stumped. It’s like an abstract piece of art, or more like a bunch of colorful globs of paint thrown randomly onto a canvas. While I found it delightful and easy to read, it seemed fragmented and consisted of very little sense of organization.  If you are already a Patsy Clairmont fan or if you are looking for something meaningful to pass by the time, then I would recommend this book.
To comply with regulations by the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, I am disclosing that BookSneeze® provided me a complimentary copy of this book.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Prickly Burs - Forgiving the Little Things

Sometimes hurtful words can roll right off my back and be quickly forgotten with no damaging effects. Other times, words can cut like a sword, slashing my heart, but the wound eventually heals, even if scars remain. Often though, words stick more like burs – the kind that hook onto my socks when I walk through the woods or an overgrown field. They are an irritant, and even when one is removed, there are often hundreds more clinging just under the surface.  
C.S. Lewis says, “It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand…” (The Weight of Glory).
How do I get rid of all those throny irritants attached to my pant leg? God tells us that we should forgive just as God in Christ forgave us, graciously, not begrudgingly (Ephesians 4:32).  How we forgive wrongs demonstrates the degree to which we treasure the cross of Christ. The burs that stick are an opportunity to express the mercy and grace of God, over and over and over again. 
Thomas Watson defines forgiveness as:
1.       Resisting revenge
2.       Not returning evil for evil
3.       Wishing them well
4.       Grieving at their calamities
5.       Praying for their welfare
6.       Seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you
7.       Coming to their aid in distress
Every time I feel the prick from the bristles, if I choose to do at least #5, pray for their welfare, then the burs tend to lose their prickliness.  Sometimes they completely fall off.  I can bravely hike into the messy places armed wtih at least half of these on my list and not fear the potential harm from attack. They may actually roll off.
The most humbling thing is knowing that I am sometimes a bur-inflictor.  My own faults remind me to extend to others the same grace and mercy that I want extended back to me.

Muscular Faith - Book Review

When the fierce storm winds blow, I want to be able to endure, standing deeply rooted. Not just stand but grow stronger. I want to build my faith muscles so that in any circumstance I can see God’s hand at work and remain completely faithful in my thoughts, words, and reactions.  Ben Patterson’s Muscular Faith: How to Strengthen Your Heart, Soul, and Mind for the Only Challenge that Matters, seemed like the perfect book for my faith workout. On the back cover in large print, it reads “become spiritually stronger than you ever knew you could be.”

Ben Patterson explains that muscular faith is vigorous and demanding, requiring us to stake our whole existence on God and trust in Him as our only hope. Faith is not a casual assent to truth, but something we must for which we must fight.

The book is divided into four parts: 1) The call to vigorous faith – fighting the good fight and finishing the race, 2) the case for vigorous faith – why Jesus speaks with severity and urgency, 3) The obstacle – our enemies of the flesh, the world, and the devil, 4) The essentials – how to fight the good fight.

Maybe I was hoping for some spiritual steroids, but this book was not as practical as I had hoped.  Nevertheless, I have written pages of notes of ideas that I want to remember.  Even though this is not a how-to book, Ben Patterson does discuss a few practical ways to grow your faith in the last part of the book.

For example, he explains that practicing the spiritual disciplines is like spreading a sail to position ourselves to receive the wind – to receive more of Jesus and all that He is ready to give.  He reminds us that the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint, and when we fail, what counts is what we do when failure happens.  Enduring hardship and suffering is worth it if it means hearing and seeing Jesus more. Hope transforms disappointment.

This long book is full of nuggets of truth, but you have to dig through the piles of sand to find them.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review.