Friday, February 17, 2017

Books that Challenged my Comfort Zone (February 2017)

For being a gal who loves traveling and lives overseas, I gravitate to comfortable.  I don't like messy.  The thing is, I am finding that following Jesus requires stepping out of my comfort zone.  Life with Jesus gets messy.  One thing I love about books is they often give me a nudge in the right direction.  In the comfort of my chair, I am challenged to learn from others who are different than me, to love deeper, and to live braver.  The next step is for me to take what I am learning and to take a step of faith outside that comfort zone.  So here are the books that nudged me this month...

1. Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

One of my students had to read this book for her English class so I decided to join her.  This book was the true story of Enrique's journey as a teenager from Central America through Mexico to North Carolina to find his mother.  It was full of heartache, bad choices, and no easy answers.  The author did a great job of showing all sides to this immigration issue.  

While reading, I was challenged by the village in Mexico that instead of ignoring the migrants on top of the train, they purposely threw gifts of food and clothing to them to help on their journey.  Who is God sending my way that I need to give to?  How do I need to be more purposeful in how I live?

2. Unashamed by Lacrae Moore

In his autobiography, Lacrae shared growing up year, coming to faith, and the challenges he has faced.  Lacrae spoke frankly about both his successes and his failures.  I liked how he discussed the different stages of his walk with Christ and the growth through each one.   I appreciated his honesty as he spoke about how God used Lacrae in spite of Lacrae. This book challenged me to remember God uses us in all seasons even when we have some things to work through.  It also challenged me to engage the culture.  I don't think I will ever be a fan of his music (since I don't care for rap music) but appreciate what he is doing to redeem the culture and reach out to those who need a voice.

3. Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald

In this novel, Cheryl aka Ice Princess heads home only to find her past coming back to challenge her in the form of Brock, a friend of her brothers.  This is a story of love and healing even when it is hard.  It is about forgiveness and not letting your past define who you are now.   I was most challenged by Brock's mother and the  way she loved on Cheryl.   She loved on Cheryl because her son loved Cheryl but also because God had called her to love.  In the same way, God calls us to love even when someone has a past that makes us cringe or a past that we don't understand.

4. Kept by Sally Bradley

We live in a broken world, and this book is a reminder of that.  Miska is a mistress to a baseball player.  She knows there is more to life, but right now she is holding tightly to the life she has.  Enter Dillion and his brother who move across the hall.  Along with the brother's fiancĂ©  they become her friend and love on her despite knowing she lives and thinks differently.  I especially appreciated the unconditional love of the fiancĂ© towards Miska.  She went out of her way to be a true friend with no conditions attached.  This is story of loving in a broken world and speaking the truth in love.  It challenged me to make friends with whoever God puts in my path not just those that I feel comfortable with.

What books have you read this month?  How have they challenged you?   Once again I am linking up with Anne Bogel at Modern Ms. Darcy in her monthly book link up.  Check it out to get other book recommendations. 
(Affiliate links are included in this post)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Have You Prayed About It?

Around Christmas time, I was reading a book where the main character’s best friend kept encouraging her to go to Texas to take care of some conflict in the main character’s past.  The main character adamantly refused to go.  Being a good friend, her best friend asked her if she had prayed about it.  The main character refused to pray about it.  She was mad at God and didn’t really want his opinion on the matter.  As the reader, I wanted her to prayer and hear God’s voice.  I wanted her to reconnect with God.  From the outside looking in, I could see she needed to pray about it.  

That night as I tried to fall asleep, my mind wouldn’t stop.  It was like I wanted to solve all my problems and questions before going to sleep.  Where should we go for spring break with Big D? How can I do a better job of listening?  On top of these questions, others thoughts and worries piled up on top of each other.  The words from my book came back to me.  “Have you prayed about it?”   The answer, of course, was "No!" Otherwise why would I be filled with anxiety.  I could see clearly that my book character needed to pray but was obvious to my own need. 

Why don't we pray about things more?  Like the main character in my book, we may be mad at God or don't want to have his opinion.  Or maybe we think we can handle this one on our own.  Most of the time, I just don't think about it.  As a follower of Christ, I hate saying that.  I want my go to response to be prayer, but I am not there.  

James tell us in chapter one that if we need wisdom, all we need to do is ask God for it.  He loves to give us His wisdom.  That night I prayed for wisdom, and in the days that followed I continued to pray for wisdom.  Taking the time to pray about something goes against our nature.  We are often struggling to slow down and rushing from one thing to the next.  Personally, I become too easily distracted from the one thing (prayer) that can truly make a difference.  

Have you ever had a situation where you thought that you could handle the decision on your own?  Why pray about it?  The answer is obvious.  At least the answer was obvious until you looked back and saw maybe you should have asked God for guidance.  This happened to Joshua and the Israelites.  In Joshua 9, some men came to the Israelites wearing old garments and patchy sandals.  Their bags contained moldy bread and old wineskins that had been repaired.  They claimed that they were from a far off country and wanted to make a covenant with them.  After further questioning, the Israelites made a covenant with the Gibeonites to only find out three days later that they were neighbors with the Gibeonites.  Verse 14b says, “but they did not ask counsel of the Lord.”  They had disobeyed God’s command of making a covenant with the people in the land.  How much better our decisions would be if we brought them before the Lord first!

What would happen if God’s people prayed more? What if when ...

We don’t know what our next steps will be….. As James advises, we ask God for wisdom. (James 1:5,6)

Our worries are suffocating us… We follow Paul's urging to not be anxious but instead to pray. (Phil 4:6)

We read the headlines and our heart is broken over those hurting due to war, racial tensions, and bad governments….  We remember that Jesus calls us to pray at all times and not to lose heart.  In the parable of a widow who begs for justice from an unrighteous judge, Jesus tells us that persistence is important.  The judge grants the widow justice because of her persistence.    Jesus then says, “ Shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry out to him day and night?”

"Have you prayed about it?" can sound like a cliche.  Even so, it is one I need to hear.  I need to be reminded to pray for wisdom, to give my worries to God, and to cry out for justice for those who are oppressed.  Can we as followers of Christ not just remind each other to pray about it but to go a step further and pray together about the need or decision?  What is it that you need to pray for or already praying fervently for?  Can I pray with you?  

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Quotes (February 2017)

(photo credit goes to my honey)

I have always loved quotes.  They are jotted down every where- on the edge of a bulletin, in my notebook, or even typed up on my computer in a file.  Some of them are found in the clippings section of my kindle.  Every once in while, I take a moment to look through these notebooks and clippings.  It gives me a glimpse of what I thought was important and what I was going through. Today since I was done with all my grading and waiting on just one student to finish up, I opened the pages of my notebook to see what jumped out at me from the words that fill the pages.  Here are few of the quotes that I needed to hear again...

From Ann Voscamp in her post, Dear Fears Trying to Break Us All:

"Find your fears, find your idols".
Isn't that so true?  When I worry about what people think, my idol is wanting others to accept me and like me.  When I worry about ....  Well you get the idea.
"Fear can be what we feel-but brave is what we do."
Living overseas there are lots of situations where I feel fear.  I am often living outside of my comfort zone as I navigate this culture.  Brave is stepping outside of my comfort zone despite my fears.  Some days I do a great job.  Other days I want to run and hide. 

From Stacey Thacker in her book, Fresh Out of Amazing (chapter 3): 

"Aslan: 'You doubt your value.  Don't run from who you are.'"
"When we see God as big, we lose the desire to merely look at the horizontal."
Why is it that I often take my focus off of God and give into my insecurities?  Life is abundant when we look to him and not ourselves.  This is a message I need to hear daily.

From Emily Freeman in her book, Simply Tuesday

"Small is the position of my soul, the posture by which I approach others, God, and myself.  When I'm small, I know I can't control opinions, manipulate outcomes, or force my agenda on others.  When I'm small, I can move into the world confident as the person I most deeply am because I know I don't move the world alone." (p.37)
Amen to that...

From Ed Cyzewski in his book: The Contemplative Writer:

"Habits aren't a guarantee that we'll find more time to write or that contemplative prayer will be a snap.  Rather, habits are an effective tool at creating space in our lives for what is most important." (loc 487-488)
Habits are keeping me sane especially in regards to my work as a teacher.  Now if I could just spend less time on Facebook, I might have more time to write and do other things.

From Michele Phoenix in her book, Tangled Ashes

"We never, at any age, outgrow the rules that apply to children.  We need to known, we need to feel loved, and we need to feel safe. " (loc 2465-2467)
Even though this book was a novel,  this quote points to the whys behind many interactions between people.  It is good for me to remember this as I relate to my students, my family, and my friends.

From Jay and Katherine Wolf in their book, Hope Heals

"Trust Me.  I am working out everything for your good. Don't doubt this truth just because you are in the dark now.  What's true in the light is true in the dark." ( loc 2146-2148)
What a great reminder for all seasons.

From Bonnie Gray in her book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace

"Introverts or extroverts, we were never made to only do life as maintenance.  God designed us to be fully alive: creative, renewed by the sense of adventure, engaged with community, and soul-fed." (p. 228)
Some seasons it has felt like all I could do is survive.  So glad that God does not leave us in these seasons.  He wants us to thrive and be fully alive.

What are some words or quotes that have spoken to you in this season that you are in?