Monday, August 15, 2016

Have You Ever Wanted to Recommend a Book to a Fictional Character?

Have you ever wanted to recommend a book to a fictional character?  Well I have.  This month as I was reading the latest Aggie book by Chautona Havig, I kept wanting to tell Aggie that she needed to read this new book by Stacey Thacker called Fresh Out of Amazing.

You see Aggie has 9 children and one on the way.  It’s been a crazy three years with inheriting her sister’s eight kids, remodeling a house, and marrying Luke.  As book 4, Ante Up! begins, the family is just moving back into their repaired home that had been vandalized by teenagers.  Instead of home sweet home, they find vandals have hit again.  To top it off, Aggie is eight months pregnant and feeling overwhelmed with homeschooling and the holidays approaching.  She is fresh out of amazing.  In other books, she is always singing hymns.  In this book, the singing has stopped.  Aggie finds herself doubting and losing her faith.   She is fresh out of amazing and holding on by a thread. Ante Up! is not only about Aggie’s faith struggle.  It is about teenagers struggling with social issues, the need to communicate with others when you need help, and holding on when everything looks bleak.  It is about a family who is determined to look to Jesus and make it work even when one of them is struggling.  This book was not as light hearted as the last three but was a good read.

Why would Fresh Out of Amazing be a good read for Aggie?  In the first half of her book, Stacey Thacker examines the different ways we can feel fresh out of amazing by using the lives of Ezekiel, Martha, Hannah, and the woman at the well.  I am sure Aggie could relate to chapters called “Burdened and Busy” or “I Feel Like My Dreams Have Died”.

Aggie and I both could use the reminder from Stacey that…
Fresh out of amazing isn’t a one-way ticket to despair; it is an opportunity to see God be big.  When we see God as big, we lose the desire to merely look at the horizontal.”  

In the second half of the book, Stacey uses the book of Habakkuk to show how to deal with being fresh out of amazing.  Stacey also shares how God has helped her in her fresh out of amazing place especially after the death of her father.   Stacey would tell Aggie that it is okay to wrestle with God in prayer. Start there and see where God leads.  For Habakkuk, it led to hearing from God and eventually being able to worship despite his hard circumstances. 

Just So you know I was given an advanced copy of Fresh Out of Amazing in return for an honest review.   I honestly think it is great book to help us in those fresh out of amazing seasons.  I look forward to going through this book in the future with a friend and having some good discussions on the topics.

Once again I am linking up with Modern Ms Darcy her new and notable monthly book reviews.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Doing Great Things

(photo by Big D)

I grew up wanting to do great things.  Why not?  If you put your mind to it and work hard, you can do anything.  At least that was the message that I heard from teachers, TV shows, biographies, and advertisements such like the Nike ad, "Just do it."  Graduation speeches were about reaching for the stars and making a difference.   At some level, we all know that we can not do anything just because we work hard enough.   Some of us are not smart enough to be rocket scientists.  Others aren't tall enough to play basketball.  But on another level, we believe it.  It is part of a culture.  It is a part of wanting to be noticed.  We want to do great things.  We want to be successful.  

Currently I am in a bible study that is going through Beth Moore's study of Daniel.   She references the World Biblical Commentary that says
There is nothing wrong with "doing great things" but the expression is only used in an unequivocally good sense of God (1 Sam 12:24, Ps 126: 2,3); of human beings it tends to suggest arrogance(Jer 48:26, Joel 2:20, Zeph 2:10...), or at least achievement at someone else's expense(Zeph 2:8;Lam 1:9)-here achievement that presages calamity.
Doing great things is God's doing.  My job and your job is to do the next thing-to be obedient.   It means being obedient in the big and small things.  Daniel was consistently obedient from chapter one when he was a teenager to the end of the book when he was in his 80's.  He knew that eating the king's food might eventually lead to him making compromises in other areas of his life.  His daily time in prayer laid the foundation for him standing up in front of kings and standing firm when his faith was tested.  His fervent prayer and faithfulness led to him getting a glimpse into what God would do in the future.  If asked, he would not say that he did anything great but that God did great things during his lifetime.  People were saved from a fiery furnace and lions' mouths were shut.  He was just faithful.  

Some people think that doing great things means working overseas or winning a championship or the nobel prize.  I think great things happen when we are available wherever God has us.  We do the next thing (we obey), and God does the rest.  

What does the next thing look like?  For me, it is working on daily time in prayer.  As I get ready for school, it is being prepared for my students to give them the best education that I can.  As a mom, it is watching my words and training my children in the way they should go.  Sometimes it is small like a gentle word.  Other times it is stepping out of my comfort zone to help someone which for me feels huge.  It is being obedient when no one sees but God.  It is being faithful in the mundane of the everyday.  Today the next thing is reaching out to a friend who is sick.  Tomorrow obedience might be washing the dishes yet again with a joyful heart.

What is God asking of you today?  In what thing is God asking you to be faithful?

God, May we be faithful in the big and small, in the mundane and exciting, and in the easy and the hard.  Thank you for examples like Daniel who show what it means to follow faithfully all their days.  May we be available.  May we see you do great things in our time that you can be glorified.  In Jesus name, Amen

Lessons Learned in July (2016 edition)

July has gone by fast.  It has been a good month full of walks along the beach, playing Bananagrams with Big D, and getting my classroom ready for school to start.   Each day West Africa is feeling more and more like home.  It helps that our shipment came at the beginning of the month so I have my cozy blankets and kitchen gadgets.  What more could a girl ask for?

My intention was to blog more this summer but somehow I didn’t have a lot of say.  All my energy has gone into settling in and being present here, but I did learn some things this month and here they are.

1.   Time=Good conversations.

I know that saying is that it is quality time that counts, but I think with teenagers quantity leads to quality.  I have enjoyed having Big D here for the summer.  Due to there not being a lot to do, he has spent a lot of time hanging out with his mom and reading.  It is during that hanging out time that conversations just happen, and I get a glimpse into what he is thinking and how life is for him.   As he gets older, it has been good to have conversations about life that make me think and hopefully help him in his faith journey. 

   2. Our former team in Central Asia received their flight permissions.

It has been over a year in coming but they have permission for 6 months with the hope to extend that to longer.  Thank you for your prayers in this regard over the last year.  

 A part of my heart will always be there as I continue to pray for God’s love to conquer all.   The challenge for me now is to make room in my heart for this new people and place.

3.    Fresh Fish is Yummy!!

Last week a local guy came by my house twice selling fresh fish.  The first time it was red snapper.  We made a creole dish with a corn bread salad.  The second time he sold us a tuna which my husband smoked on our stovetop smoker.  I would have to say the tuna dish is a new favorite of mine.  It was my first time eating fresh tuna, and I must say it is nothing like the canned tuna.  Even Big D who hates tuna liked it.  I can’t wait to cook up the rest we have in the freezer.

4.   Now is the time to establish Holy Habits.

This week I finished up a study on the book of Daniel.  His integrity and faithfulness were not an accident.  From the beginning, he established holy habits when in chapter 1, he resolved to not eat the king’s food.  Throughout the book of Daniel, you see his first response to crisis is always prayer but you also see that he made a habit of daily prayer.  His relationship with God was a priority.  It also helped give him strength to stay true to God as he lived in the Babylonian culture. 

As our culture is gravitating to look more and more like Babylon, it is more important than ever to develop holy habits so we can stand firm.  Consistency is hard.  I don't know why but consistent prayer time is the hardest for me.  I don't want it to become just an item on my checklist but then I also don't want to neglect this privilege we have of connecting with God.

What have you learned this month?  Any new fun tidbits?  Any new insights or resolves?