Now is what we have…”

god-at-workFrom God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.:

…Christians need to realize that the present is the moment in which we are called to be faithful. We can do nothing about the past. The future is wholly in God’s hands. Now is what we have. The future-oriented obsession of today’s culture pushes our attention and our good works to the future, to what we are going to do later. We must ‘live in the hour that has come,’ says Wingren. ‘That is the same as living in faith, receptive to God, who is present now and has something he will do now.’

This means that vocation is played out not just in extraordinary acts–the great things we will do for the Lord, the great success we envision in our careers someday–but in the realm of the ordinary. Whatever we face in the often humdrum present–washing the dishes, buying groceries, going to work, driving the kids somewhere, hanging out with our friends–this is the realm into which we have been called and in which our faith bears fruit in love.

What I read in 2017

2017-booksMy goal for 2017 was to read 45 books, mostly from my own shelves, and I reached my goal with only hours to spare. ūüôā I’m calling it a good reading year – a mix of fiction and non-fiction with some standouts. My top ten in no particular order:

  1. Rules of Civility – Amor Towles
  2. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
  3. The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ – Andrew Klavan
  4. Boy’s Life – Robert R. McCammon
  5. Island of the World – Michael D. O’Brien (my second time through this one and it’s still my favorite novel)
  6. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
  7. John –¬†R.C. Sproul
  8. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis (a re-read)
  9. The Girl With Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story¬†– Hyeonseo Lee
  10. Eleanor Elephant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

What were your favorites in 2017?

January:

  1.  Cometh the Hour (Book Six of the Clifton Chronicles) РJeffrey Archer
  2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing РMarie Kondo  (a few thoughts on this one here and here)
  3. 30 Days — Change Your Habits, Change Your Life: A Couple of Simple Steps Every Day to Create the Life You Want – Marc Reklau
  4. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth

February:

  1. What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast – Laura Vanderkam
  2. The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ – Andrew Klavan
  3. Food Freedom Forever: Letting Go of Bad Habits, Guilt, and Anxiety Around Food – Melissa Hartwig

March:

  1. Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything – Anonymous
  2. Rules of Civility – Amor Towles
  3. Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously

April:

  1. Emotional Intelligence 2.0Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves
  2. The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things – Courtney Elizabeth Mauk

May:

  1. Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and BetrayalNick Bilton

June:

  1. American WifeCurtis Sittenfield 
  2. My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
  3. Boy’s Life – Robert R. McCammon
  4. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will – Kevin DeYoung
  5. Island of the World – Michael D. O’Brien (my second time through this one and it’s still my favorite novel)
  6. The Magnolia Story – Chip & Joanna Gaines

July:

  1. You Will Know Me – Megan Abbott
  2. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
  3. Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel – Rachel Khong
  4. Since We Fell – Dennis Lehane
  5. A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything – Lydia Brownback
  6. Perfecting Ourselves to Death: The Pursuit of Excellence and the Perils of Perfectionism – Richard Winter
  7. Commentaries on Proverbs – Matthew Henry

August:

  1. The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance  РBen Sasse
  2. Moral Defense (Samantha Brinkman Book 2) – Marcia Clark
  3. Dot Journaling – A Practical Guide: How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That’ll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together – Rachel Wilkerson Miller
  4. The Judgment of Richard Richter – Igor ҆tiks

September:

  1. I Am Watching You – Teresa Driscoll
  2. To Dance With the White Dog – Terry Kay
  3. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
  4. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
  5. Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
  6. Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life – Gretchen Rubin

October:

  1. Leaving Berlin РJoseph Kanon
  2. John –¬†R.C. Sproul
  3. The Touch – Randall Wallace
  4. Eleanor Elephant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

November:
I didn’t finish a single book this month! ūüė¶

December:

  1. The Girl With Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story¬†– Hyeonseo Lee
  2. Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts РDouglas Bond
  3. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
  4. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life – Gene Edward Veith, Jr.
  5. God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything – Douglas Wilson

** Disclaimer: Whenever you click on a link to books around here and then make a purchase at Amazon, you’re helping me — a few pennies at a time — ¬†feed my book habit. Many thanks!

“But what God did about us was this…”

mere christianityFrom C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.

What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man — a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.

 

“…since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world …”

mere christianityApropos of just about everything these days, here is C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more — food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.

“…God will make us good because He loves us…”

mere christianityFrom C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

As long as the natural life is in your body, it will do a lot towards repairing that body. Cut it, and up to a point it will heal, as a dead body would not. A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble — because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.

That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.

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(belated) September reading

Please excuse the blogging pause; it was entirely unintentional. October caught me by surprise, and it hasn’t really let up until today.

September:

  1. I Am Watching You – Teresa Driscoll
  2. To Dance With the White Dog – Terry Kay
  3. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
  4. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
  5. Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
  6. Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life – Gretchen Rubin

I read mostly fiction in September, and most of it was mediocre, at best. To Dance With the White Dog was Thomasville’s One Book this year, so our office read it together. It’s not my usual genre, but it was sweet and southern. Little Fires Everywhere was definitely the best of my September bunch. There were lots of practical tips in Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home, and I’ll likely continue to read more of her books.

What are you reading?

 

“We listen every day to the voices of the culture around us…”

johnFrom John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) by R.C. Sproul:

All of us, even the most pious Christians among us, are overwhelmingly influenced by the cultural customs and conventions of the societies in which we live. It starts in school, where popularity means “being with it,” that is, being in line with the morality of the society, even if that morality includes things of which God does not approve. That’s what our innate struggle with sin is all about. We listen every day to the voices of the culture around us that tell us what’s politically correct and what isn’t, what is socially acceptable and what isn’t. Then, for a few minutes on Sunday morning, we hear the law of God. We know they don’t match up, but unless or until the Holy Spirit takes the law and pierces our souls with it and convicts us of sin, we don’t really pay attention to it.

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august reading

My shoulder and neck issues are improving thanks to physical therapy and daily exercises, and that means that my sleep has improved. And that means that I haven’t read as much lately.

August:

  1. The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance  РBen Sasse
  2. Moral Defense (Samantha Brinkman Book 2) – Marcia Clark
  3. Dot Journaling – A Practical Guide: How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That’ll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together – Rachel Wilkerson Miller
  4. The Judgment of Richard Richter – Igor ҆tiks

The Sasse book¬†(loaned to me by my son) was one in which I found myself often nodding in agreement. I’ve been bogged down in a couple of other books and picked up Marcia Clark’s as a quick diversion. I took a dot journaling class and read Miller’s book after that — it was a quick read that I’ll refer to again as I refine my bullet journaling. The Judgment of Richard Richter was a Kindle First book for August, so it was free. I’m pretty lukewarm about that one.

What are you reading and recommending these days?

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“How arrogant is that?”

johnFrom John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) by R.C. Sproul:

I’m sure you’ve seen the popular bumper sticker that says, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” How arrogant is that? We need a new bumper sticker, one that says: “God says it; that settles it.” It doesn’t matter whether I believe it. It’s settled long before my assent. If God Almighty opens His holy mouth and declares something, we don’t need another witness. It’s over.

 

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“The question is…”

vanishing-american-adultFrom The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance by Ben Sasse:

…in this broken world of lawless souls, there will be control; there will be government. Order-seeking and security-seeking people, as well as those in search of power for their own purposes, will invariably seek to hold back the chaos of the world. The question is whether people will control themselves or submit to the control of another.