random thoughts

~ Parents, people do not think your child is cute when you give them the mini-shopping cart at Publix and let them wreak havoc down the aisles. Please keep an eye on them and the other shoppers around you.

~ If you’re trying to sell someone essential oils, skincare, etc., and they say no, please just respect that and don’t continue to email/text/DM. I know that the motivational speakers at your conferences tell you otherwise, but it really just puts people – often your friends – in a very uncomfortable position. Some of us don’t like saying “PLEASE DON’T EVER ASK ME THAT AGAIN!”

~ Spring has sprung here, and the dogwood trees in snow white bloom remain my favorite.

~ The canopy roads in these parts are spectacularly green:

canopy-road

~ Roses are blooming in Thomasville, the City of Roses:

mar-rose

~ I’ve got 5 knitting projects in various stages of completion, and I have 4 books in progress. It’s time to power through some of these and move on.

~ By the time this post appears, I’ll likely have finished Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, and it’s really good. I love reading about people who pursue a vocation with excellence, and this one fits the bill.

Happy Thursday y’all,

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“I tend to think of it as an escape into reality.”

death-comesFrom Death Comes For the Deconstructionist by Daniel Taylor:

And so I do what I often do in this situation. I decide to read. Books were an early lifeline, and I turn to them regularly with a certain desperate hopefulness. People talk about reading as an escape from reality—I tend to think of it as an escape into reality. Books aren’t an escape from trouble. There’s more trouble in novels—and most other books—than anywhere else. Books aren’t even an escape from your own particular troubles, because a good book always makes you think about your own life while it pretends to distract you from it. It’s just that books suggest the possibility that trouble can be survived, if you know what I mean. Or at least named. Books are more real for me than the rest of my life because they light up more parts of me than the rest of my life ever has.

 

“…the peace of God is not the absence of negative thoughts…”

[a repost from March 2014]
walkingwithgodFrom Tim Keller’s Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering:

Today, when you read books or websites on overcoming anxiety and handling fear, they usually talk about removing thoughts. They say: Do not think about that; do not think those negative thoughts. Control your thoughts, expel the negative ones. But here we see the peace of God is not the absence of negative thoughts, it is the presence of God himself. “The God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:9).

Christian peace does not start with the ousting of negative thinking. If you do that, you may simply be refusing to face how bad things are. That is one way to calm yourself–by refusing to admit the facts. But it will be a short-lived peace! Christian peace doesn’t start that way. It is not that you stop facing the facts, but you get a living power that comes into your life and enables you to face those realities, something that lifts you up over and through them.

Many believers have experienced this peace of God. It is not just positive thinking or willpower. It is a sense that no matter what happens, everything will ultimately be all right, even though it may not be at all right at the moment. In my experience, people usually break through to this kind of peace only in tragic situations, often in the valley of the shadow of death. Here is a metaphor for it. If you have ever been on a coast in a storm and seen the waves come in and hit the rocks, sometimes the waves are so large that they cover a particular rock, and you think, ‘That is the end of that rock.’ But when the waves recede, there it is still. It hasn’t budged an inch. A person who feels the ‘peace that passes understanding; is like that. No matter what is thrown at you, you know it will not make you lose your footing. Paul of course is the classic example. He is beaten; he is stoned; he is flogged; he is shipwrecked; he is betrayed; his enemies are trying to kill him. There is wave after wave, and yet–there he is still. ‘I have found a way to be completely poised under any and all circumstances,’ he said. All the waves of life could not break him. And he says it isn’t a natural talent of his–you and I can learn this.

That is the character of Christian peace. It is an inner calm and equilibrium but also a sense of God’s presence and an almost reason-transcending sense of his protection.

 

2018 reading

This year – the year that I turn 50 – my goal is to read 50 books, mostly from my own shelves. Here’s how it’s going so far:

JANUARY

  1. This Must Be the Place: A Novel – Maggie O’Farrell
  2. Young Jane Young – Gabrielle Zevin
  3. Delores Claiborne – Stephen King
  4. How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem – Rod Dreher
  5. The Temptation of Adam – Dave Connis

FEBRUARY

  1. Death Comes for the Deconstructionist– Daniel Taylor
  2. In Fairleigh Field – Rhys Bowen
  3. The Whole30 Day By Day – Melissa Hartwig
  4. Not Perfect – Elizabeth LaBan
  5. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

MARCH

  1. Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff
  2. Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line – Michael Gibney

APRIL

  1. My Berlin Kitchen: Adventures in Love & Life – Luisa Weiss
  2. Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits– Gretchen Rubin

woah

three-booksMy reading year has started out with a bang – three excellent novels:

All were well-told stories of complicated (aren’t we all?) people and relationships. All three were filled with dead-on observations of human behavior and familiar situations. All had satisfying endings that weren’t tied up in that trite happily-ever-after way that gets on my nerves. I’ve read Stephen King (Misery and 11/22/63) and Gabrielle Zevin (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) before, but this was my first taste of Maggie O’Farrell’s work. I will be seeking out more.

I’m enjoying three other books (two non-fiction and another novel), and if this keeps up 2018 will be a mighty fine reading year.

What are you reading this month?

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. 🙂 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) – Jeffrey Archer
  2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – Marie 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  – Ben 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 Štiks

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 – Joseph 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! 😦

December:

  1. The Girl With Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story – Hyeonseo Lee
  2. Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts – Douglas 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.

 

a book recommendation

johnAs folks around the world and web remember R.C. Sproul’s life and influence, I’d like to point you to one of his books that you may not have encountered. This past fall, I went through his commentary on John very slowly – a chapter a day – and I highly recommend it as a devotional. Here are a few passages I marked along the way:

All light finds its origin in Jesus Christ, who is the fountain of all truth.

—————

Therefore, if you have in your heart today any affection for Christ at all, it is because God the Holy Spirit in His sweetness, in His power, in His mercy, and in His grace has been to the cemetery of your soul and has raised you from the dead. So you are now alive to the things of Christ and you rejoice in the kingdom into which He has brought you.

[I love that phrase “…to the cemetery of your soul and has raised you from the dead.” I didn’t need to be persuaded or wooed to come to Christ. I was doornail dead and had to be brought to life.]

—————-

The whole of Scripture speaks to us of the love of God for His people, but so often we fix our attention on God’s love for us that we forget that the ground of that love is the love that the Father has from eternity for His Son. Remember, we’re not the natural children of God. We’re the adopted children of God, and even our election must always be understood to be in the Son.

—————-

We have to keep a close watch on what we do in worship, asking ourselves: “Is this according to the truth of God? Is this God’s teaching in His Word?” Our worship must be based on God’s self-revelation in Scripture. He is truth and His Word is truth.

[This is completely counter-cultural.]

—————-

The deepest theological question that I can think of, the one for which I have no adequate answer, is the question, “Why me?” My students come to me with all kinds of conundrums from theology, but they rarely ask, “Why did God save me?” It sometimes seems as if we’re thinking: “Why wouldn’t He save me?” Yes, we have little aphorisms such as, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Do we really believe that? Are we really amazed by the measure of grace God has poured out on us? Can we say with John, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on its, that we should be called children of God!”

“Why me?” indeed. Why do I live in a time where solid, rich biblical teaching is at my fingertips day and night? Why was I “introduced” to R.C. Sproul’s teaching as a very young woman so that I could benefit as I grew in my relationship with Christ?

Amazing grace.

 

“…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.