Monday, December 30, 2013

Passing Along the Best Stuff, Part 1

One of the things I enjoyed doing a whole lot more of in 2013 was reading. I'm a bit behind in sharing my reviews/thoughts on various reads, so here's a bit of catch up. Enjoy!

Okay, not a book but my favorite new CD for 2013 was Fortunate Fall by Audrey Assad. Incredible through and through. The album drew from St. Augustine's writings so the lyrics are rich and anything but trite. My absolute favorite song on the CD became my anthem for the year - I Shall Not Want.

Now on to some books. It was a very tough autumn. Over the years I have struggled with depression that seems to show up in September. It's an odd month for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but apparently that's when I'm vulnerable. I wrote a bit about it in this blog post. It was during this time that I discovered a terrific book by Edward Welch, Depression: Looking Up From Stubborn Darkness. I've since recommended this one to several others wrestling with depression.

You'll start to see a theme, but my next recommendation is Undone: When Coming Apart Puts You Back Together by Laura Sumner Truax. I just loved the title, but then I loved the book and Laura's writing. She has a beautiful way of being very transparent and weaving the scriptures throughout her story. Perfection not required.

In October I was able to go to a conference in Wichita for a few days. My introverted self was thrilled to get away by myself for a long drive across Kansas. The IVP table was loaded with books and I snagged two by Craig Barnes, Yearning: Living Between How It Is and How It Ought to Be and When God Interrupts: Finding New Life Through Unwanted Change. Neither is particularly new (1992 and 1996 respectively) but somehow I missed them in the 1990s. So glad I found them in 2013 - they are wonderfully written and are steeped in the truth of scriptures.

And on that same trip I was able to listen to a very creative and thoughtful audiobook: Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos. Fabulous, simply funny and fabulous. I found myself laughing out loud in the car as I trekked across the Kansas wheat fields. Taken from the description on Amazon, because it's a great synopsis: "Imaginary Jesus is an hilarious, fast-paced, not-quite-fictional story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before. When Matt Mikalatos realizes that his longtime buddy in the robe and sandals isn’t the real Jesus at all, but an imaginary one, he embarks on a mission to find the real thing. On his wild ride through time, space, and Portland, Oregon, he encounters hundreds of other Imaginary Jesuses determined to stand in his way (like Legalistic Jesus, Perpetually Angry Jesus, and Magic 8 Ball Jesus). But Matt won’t stop until he finds the real Jesus—and finally gets an answer to the question that’s haunted him for years. Be warned: Imaginary Jesus may bring you face-to-face with an imposter in your own life."

Okay, more to follow on some of my best reads from 2013.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Picking My One Word...2014

I can't believe that 2013 is slowly, but surely, wrapping itself up. No disappointment here, it's been a challenging year and yet as I looked at my 2013 "list" and I haven't done too bad: lost weight, read more than 24 books, started getting caught up on scrapbooking, purged a lot of belongings, worked on writing a Rule of Life, etc.

But back on July 21 I wrote about a book - My One Word - and I think it's time to revisit what it had to say: "This book will give you a simple but effective plan to effect personal change (spiritual formation) by allowing a single word to become the lens through which you examine your heart and life for an entire year."

I suspect I will still have a bit of a list for 2014 - it's just who I am, a list maker. But I also think having one word to focus on is a pretty smart idea.

I just listened to the first of four sessions from the DVD that goes with the book. I've been saving it for this week between Christmas and New Year's. A bonus for you...I found this first session on YouTube. It's just a little over 18 minutes long but gives a great running start on how to select your one word for the year.

So if you join me in picking a single word for your year, I'd love to hear about it. I'll be back in a week to post my one word.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Be Where You're Supposed to Be

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard." Luke 1:13a

Gabriel, the angel, delivers this incredible news to Zechariah, the priest and husband of barren Elizabeth. This is the opening miracle of the Christmas story. The promise to them was that this long-awaited son, born from years and years of prayer that presumably seemed to result in the silence of God. This gift, John (the Baptist) promised to be a blessing in not only their lives but to the people of Israel as well.

"From the witness of scripture it seems that God acts in ways that speak to a bigger picture than we hold. God's gifts overflow from the recipient and into the wider community." Every year I select an advent book to enjoy throughout the season and that quote is from this year's selection: Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent by Enuma Okoro. And it is wonderful.

Yesterday, Day Four - Remembered by God, spoke a wonderful word to my soul:

"Enduring seasons of seeming silence from God on a particular concern of ours are usually unbearable. They can, among other things, tempt us to believe that God has forgotten about us. Instead we hold onto what we know to be true about God's character even if we don't currently experience that truth about God, no matter how deadening and lengthy the silence. We find faith strengthened in persisting in the commitments and spiritual disciplines of our faith, as did Zechariah....It is interesting to note that when God remembers Zechariah and sends the angel Gabriel to share the good news, Zechariah is where he should be."

He was right where he was supposed to be. (Selah)

"Who knows how God will meet us when we least expect it in the very place we were meant to be."