Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Two Convicting Books, One Audiobook, and Two YG

My favorite thing to do after a long day of homeschooling four students (two of them not my own) is to hide away in a corner of my room with a good book.  The window is open with the fresh air blowing in as well as the sounds of my students playing outside .  It makes a great way to unwind after a long day.  Most months I join up with Ann at Modern Ms. Darcy as she writes about some of the books she has read in the past month and asks her readers to join in.   Here is the link and here is my list.

Two Convicting Books

1. The Insanity of God by Nik Ripkin 

For the first half of the book, the author shares the story of his family's time in Africa and how they end up leaving the field discouraged and with questions about why things happened the way they did.   Nik's journey continues in the second half of the book as he travels around the world collecting stories from believers who have been persecuted for their faith.  Their stories inspired me to look at the strength of my faith and to thank God for their faithfulness.  Here are three quotes that challenged me.
"Serving God is not a matter of location, but a matter of obedience." (p.75)
"You don't have to come back.  You just have to go." (p.167)
"Ruth and I have seldom encountered a mature believer living in persecution who asked us to pray that their persecution would cease.  We have never heard that request.  Rather, believers in persecution ask us to pray "they would be faithful and obedient through their persecution and suffering.  That is a radically different prayer." (p.306)

2. Keepers of Salt by Debby Davis 

In biblical times and even still in some cultures today, covenants are made by exchanging salt, eating bread together or through some type of blood ritual.   Debby uses stories about covenants in the bible and her life in American and Africa to share how we as followers of Christ can do a better job of keeping covenant with God, our friends, family, and, in my case, with our team here.  Here are two challenging quotes that I am hoping will help me change the way I respond to those I am in covenant with.
"Rev. Carlton Spencer often said, "It is as much a sin to be offended as it is to offend." Many times we think that the offender is the only one at fault.  However, if you take offense and give it a home in your heart, water it with a good dose of bitterness and unforgiveness, you are also at fault." (location 718)
"If you only see spears, you will gladly pick them up and throw them back where they came from.  Sometimes we get caught up in the fight and lose sight of the Covenant.  But those with the eyes of Covenant see the person who is throwing spears.  They remember their Covenant to them and to God." (location 1705)

One Audiobook

3. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell 

One bonus to listening to audiobooks is that if the book is good, my house will be extra clean since I always like to work as I listen.  So I can thank Malcolm for a clean house.  Malcolm begins the book with the story of David and Goliath and insights into what advantages David has as the underdog.  The rest of the book goes along this premise that underdogs often have some type of advantage because of tragedy or disability or due to way they respond to those in authority over them.  The book is full of stories and Malcolm's take on why the underdog came out on top.  As a teacher, I appreciate his insights on class size and how a teacher's classroom discipline doesn't just depend on a good plan but also on the teacher's rapor with her students.

Two YG

4 and 5.  Scorch Trials and The Death Cure (Maze runner series) by James Dashner

Last week our family watched the Maze Runner movie.  Curious to see what happened next, I read the next two books in between helping the kids with their school.  The books had lots of good twists and turns.  I also appreciated how this series had less boy/girl drama then series such as Hunger Games and Divergent.   The books were fun reads but would not be on the top of books I would recommend.  

What are some books you have read this month that you have enjoyed and would recommend or even a book you didn't like and wouldn't recommend?  For more book suggestions, follow this link to Modern Ms. Darcy and her suggestions.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Just What I Needed Today

Today I read a blog post that someone had shared on Facebook.  My eyes filled with tears as I read Rachel Pieh Jones' story, Another Chance to Be Afraid-and Trust God in Christianity Today Online.  She shared her fears about her children and herself as they live in Africa.  I found myself understanding her fear even though we live in different places.  When I take a trip to the grocery store, I wonder is it worth the risk for something special that I want?   When I send my kids off to a friend's house or leave them at home for an hour or so, their safety is in the back of my mind until they return home. I don't feel like I live in fear but security is a big part of my life here.  I also think it is important to recognize my fears so that I can more fully cling to and trust Jesus.
Rachel then says this.
I would rather go with this Jesus into my fear than be left behind, safe and on my own. And right there, I see all the motivation I need to cling to him: Safe is an illusion, and my lust for it can do nothing to guarantee it. When the disease comes, when the plane crashes, when bombs burst, when loved ones grow old, right there in the middle of brokenness, fear, and the utter destruction of any illusion of safety, I need Jesus. This need doesn’t cancel out my fears. It teaches me trust. And the way God teaches me trust comes in unexpected ways.

To this quote, I say AMEN!  No matter where you live or your circumstances maybe you can relate too.  
Blessings, TJ

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Like a Little Flower in the Field:(James Two Verses at a time +1)

When we were little, none of us said we wanted to be poor when we grew up.  We may not have wanted to be rich, but we certainly didn't want to be poor.  With God, it seems that many things are upside down.  The first shall be last.  The weak will be strong.  The poor will be honored.  The verses this week discuss believers who are poor and those who are rich.  Even though the series is two verses at a time, I am including three this week thus the +1.  Here is  James 1:9-11.
Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them.  And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them.  They will fade away like a little flower in the field.  The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away.  In the same way, the rich will fade away with all their achievements.

How does God honor the poor?  In Psalms, it says God protects them and their refuge.  They are basically dependent on God for life.  (Ps 12:5, 14:6, 86:1)  God is looking out for the poor.  They are his children, and He honors them.  James tells us later in his book that those who are poor in the eyes of the world are actually rich in faith. (James 2:5)  God honors them by making them rich in faith.  They see God as their protector, provider and giver of life.

This past month, I read the book, The Insanity of God.  The book talks about how believers all over the word have not only survived but thrived in the midst of persecution.  By thrive, their faith has grown to where they are stronger than ever in their walk with God.  They would be considered poor but in God's eyes, they are honored and rich in faith.   I was encouraged to hear their perspective and about the depth of their relationship with God.

In contrast to most of the world, I would be considered rich.   I am humbled by the way that God has blessed our family but realize that all of the things in this world are temporary.  What really lasts is not my achievements but what God does through me.  What really lasts is my relationship with God.    It is so easy to forget that what I have is not because of me.  I am still dependent on God.  It could all go away in a moment's time.  I also need to remember that my time here is short.  Am I doing what I need to be doing?  Would my faith stand the refining process of suffering and persecution?  

As I write these posts each week, I am no theologian or expert.  I am just writing what I am learning as I go through and memorize the verses.  This post was hard to write since I still don't understand fully what it means for the rich to boast that God has humbled them.  I do understand that my perspective is changing about what I view as important.   In life, it is so easy to focus on the here and now when God focuses on the eternal.  I know that too often comfort can become an idol in my life.  I crave comfort when I should be craving the things of God.  So before I ramble on much more, here is my prayer for the week.

Dear God, Thank you that you are with us all whether we are rich or poor.  May we know that all things come from you no matter what our circumstances are.  May we be strong in our faith through the ups and downs of life.  May the things of this world not distract us from following the straight path that you have laid before us.  May you be glorified in all things.  In Jesus name, Amen