Friday, June 25, 2010

A Girl's Guide Does Tell the Truth

A Girl's Guide to Life by Katie Meier covers both challenges and opportunities girls face in a relevant, readable way. Meier divides effectively the book into three sections: Mind, Bond and Soul. Her writing style works for teens. As an adult and mother of two daughters, at times I thought the author's tone was flippant and then reminded myself that both my girls would appreciate and relate to dialog Meier sets up with the reader.


It combines wise advice with creative encouragement for young women to consider the next best steps. She does an excellent job of speaking into their hearts, heads--anticipating their questions and answering those in a relevant way.

It's personal, but just to establish a relational connection--it's not her story but touches on experiences that cover most teenage girls.

Meier frankly addresses hard hitting issues of rape, abuse and date rape. She discusses eating disorders and peer pressure directly. However, she also does a good job of talking about what girls dream about, what they care about how they feel and things like texting and fashion.

A Girl's Guide is written by a Christian for Christian girls, but it does not include faith-based instruction: no chapter on prayer or worship or youth group--it could absolutely benefit a young woman who is not a Christian.

My only negative is the title, it sounds too much like the American Girl guide series and this work is for older tweens (at least 12) and young teens. Two problems, my teen daughter was turned off by title, thinking it was for middle school age kids and if a younger tween actually read this I don't think it would harm them but it introduce realities that are not on their radar yet. The subtitle: the truth on growing up--is stronger. It is a truth telling, encouraging helpful book.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Married Into A Rich Family

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "I will never  leave you or forsake you."   Hebrews 13:5

The idea of contentment includes have an unfailing strength, a satisfaction, that what you have is enough. 

I spent the past week with my mother in law, an 88 year old treasure whose life has been full to the brim, as is her frequent tea cup.  She tells the stories of her family with humor and joy. 

She and my father in law moved 4 children and a small truck of possessions from New York to New Mexico, arriving with no money in hopes of securing a small lumber yard for the launch of a new business.  

She giggles as the details of sitting on the ends of suitcases at the table because they could not afford chairs and decorating tumbleweeds as there was no money for a tree at Christmas. 

She does not however romanticize what it means to be poor, but instead was able to personify contentment, strength that what they had was enough.  They had a healthy family, education, affection and confidence that this was temporary.  

Mary and Tom started their family while he was serving in WWII, they had perspective as to what sacrifice really looked like.  They also had humor, they laughed at the circumstances.  They also had humility, waiting appreciatively for the Salvation Army to help them with some furnishings, some clothes. 

What they did not do was hunker down and get through adversity, but they lived knowing they had in abundance what was really important and they absence of chairs and Christmas trees was kinda funny. 

They did not have to live in such modest means for long, which I am sure contributed to present day amusement, but I was struck as it is not a survival story, but snapshot, one of many but all having to do with family and not circumstances.   Mary lives free, and laughs a lot.

Perspective, humility and humor--it's enough.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Refreshing Repentance

"The only sure cure for selfish speech is true repentance."  Life Application Commentary on book of James.

It's seems that people who measure things have measured that the average person speaks between 18,000-25,000 words a day.  Many women can comfortably offer up 30,000 words a day. 

James is happy to say, and repeat at least 7 times in a short letter, that I am responsible for those thousands of utterances.  Fantastic.  No problem. 

Let's assume I agree with L.A.C. that there is a disease quality to selfish speech, a type of infection that can make my heart sick, but also can hurt others.   Then, I move to the cure--true repentance.  Why would such repentance inoculate against selfish speech?

I suppose if I am going to have a self focus, and that focus is on my falling short, my missteps, my wrongs and weaknesses then my expressions will be less burdened with my critical or sarcastic or uncaring tone.  From repentance comes freedom from comparison and humility.  

I recently complained to a group of my pitiful, scattered, routine prayers.  A renewed emphasis on my repentance may breathe life into my prayers and also infuse my speech to benefit others.

Bit of a climb for a Monday morning, but refreshing on this blistering day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Faithful To Do List

What good is it my brothers if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds? James 2:14

There is an ongoing discussion among friends as to the wisdom of works/deeds--busyness, activity.  Sometimes this discussion is about balance, sometimes about wisdom, sometimes about priorities, sometimes about pride or guilt or exhaustion.  Always there is a measuring scale:  doing too much, not doing enough.  What is right?  Where do I go wrong?

The one thing that is clear to me, I am to be active.  Not just a flurry of activity (dusting light bulbs) but active, as in--wait for it--not passive.  

James makes this point simply, faith without deeds (ergon:  enterprise, a product of one's hands, something accomplished) is of little value.

There is a connection between what I do and what I believe (faith/pistis--a firm conviction of truth).  Do I make that connection in my approach to what I do?

I wonder what Christ's opinion is on what I do with what I have?  Would he consider the way I spend my time wise, frenzied, selfish, generous, petty, focused on others or focused on myself?

Turn James' instruction around: deeds without faith is of no value.  The Message translates it more bluntly: Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything?

If doing, and believing are connecting to get me somewhere, well then where?  What am I traveling toward, the destination for the path of ergon

I think the purpose is that what I do should be marked by who I am, what I believe.  Whether that is tending to dusty light bulbs or tending to two daughters in my charge or tending to the needs of my church, or another church (gasp) or a neighbor or the local PTA or an orphanage in Africa or at a neighborhood swim meet or at a job.  Big, small, secular, faith based:  these are secondary concerns--primarily, am I active and in my activity is my faith obvious?

I  think Philip Yancey describes the destination of deeds well in changing motivations:  "Previously my main motivation in life was to do a painting of myself, filled with bright colors and profound insights so that all who looked upon it would be impressed.   Now, however I find that my role is to be a mirror to brightly reflect the image of God through me. Or perhaps the metaphor of stained glass would serve better, for after all, God will illumine though my personality and body."   excerpt from Open Windows

Monday, June 7, 2010

He Worked for the Good of Others

Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes preeminent among the Jews and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews because he worked for  the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.  Esther 10:3

The book of Esther closes with this message:  the high estimation of Mordecai is directly connected to his work and risk for other people--his people. 

This story concludes that the measure of a man is who/what motivates said man to act.  Haman, the evil antagonist in Esther is motivated to satisfy his rage, and is brought low.  Mordecai is elevated for his motivation to save his people from this evil.

Am I motivate to act, to risk for the best interests of others?   So I seek the esteem of those around me who act and risk for the best interest of others?  

The question came up in class yesterday:  how do we move from obedience to the command love thy neighbor to the simple but powerful desire to love thy neighbor?   Such a shift is through the work of the Spirit, but what posture do I need to assume to be cooperative?

*ask the question:  what would benefit them
*how can I celebrate that which benefits them
*remember the power, not just the value of living for other's betterment
*be creative, who and how have I never considered
*remember in Scripture how blessed people were when this love of love was followed
*consider honestly the real destruction I cause when motivated by self

That list is a good start for a Monday morning.  It would benefit from some additional contributions...

Friday, June 4, 2010

People Acted for My Good, I Acted Nervous

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.  Proverbs 3:27 (NIV)

This verse reminded me of a meeting that began by taking the time, and it took a fair amount of time, to go around the room and everyone announced why/how they thanked God for each person at the table. 

In looking into the intent of the Proverbs verse however, the meaning has to do good for those who need help--like pulling over to assist with a flat tire.

Yet the more I thought about, I still think the greeting at the meeting fits the meaning of the verse.  We do need help in knowing the good that people see in us--it is a powerful encouragement to know when our help helps. 

It was interesting that as I sat and listened to the kind and specific words about me, I became uncomfortable.  I was tempted to make a joke or even argue with my ministry team members.  Why?

In part, I knew that some of what they said was not a consistent reality (which they probably knew too, the consistent part at least) but some of it was just a discomfort with healthy praise (God was credited with sourcing everyone's good stuff).   

I did not have a completely resistant reaction, I did feel encouraged to continue to serve and help in lots of ways, as many made clear that my ministry work was having a positive influence on others--but in general, I wanted my turn to pass and get back to honoring others.  Why?

I know its hard to take criticism, makes me defensive but why would encouragement make me defensive too? 

I wonder if it plays on my doubts that God would use me, in spite of a diverse list of flaws for some real impact on His Kingdom.   I wonder if I think it is safer to live with the idea of small influence versus the idea that God has given me much opportunity to serve and share--and the reality that He is working through me to His purpose raises the stakes.  

When others make it clear your play a relevant part in the execution of plans and ideas, then your connection to the continued work grows.  The temptation to rest on laurels was not really evident, instead it was a humbling reality that if my service helps directly, than I need to remind myself again and again not to withhold anything that might be good for another.  

It was a unique and powerful way to start a typical committee meeting and it shook me up to remember that even in meetings God works in so I can work out (Philippians 2).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jacob was alone

Genesis 32 “So Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled (abaq—to grapple, get dusty) with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower, he touch the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me."  The man asked him, “What is your name.” Jacob.” He answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob but Israel because you have struggled with God and with man and have overcome.”

Jacob means heel grabber, he was born grabbing his twin brother’s heel , called (zxa—to grasp or possess coming from a struggle in the womb), and continued to grab at throughout their lives until he left with brother Easu’s birthright blessing. Saw in a Nooma lesson, that Jacob was ready to leave behind that title and move through life with another. Really?

Not condemning Rob Bell, he is a highly effective teacher, but I did not see that exactly, in the story. What I see is Jacob is now grabbing onto God, not willing to let go until the relationship is settled. Releasing a hold on one thing (in this case a brother) and taking hold of and wrestling (living/relating) with God.

Jacob was left alone…It’s as if God waited for that moment, Jacob alone.

Jacob was about confront his long lost wronged brother (his past, his pathos) the next day, he wanted to walk into that with an assurance of his relationship with God established, known. He was blessed with confidence of knowing the connection and that the connection was a struggle.

I need to isolate myself from those thing that I hold onto, and wrestle with God. Not hold onto my kids, but wrestle with God as to the best parenting which reflects his will. Not hold onto my husband, but wrestle with God to learn about a grace filled marriage. Not hold onto my work, reputation, friendships but wrestle with God for qualities that reflect His character.

Perhaps Bell is correct, Jacob was ready (alone) to confront the past, the labels, but more importantly he was willing and active in holding onto God, not just letting go.

What is worthwile, what is worthless?

The strength of a man consists in finding out the way God is going and going that way.  Henry Ward Beecher. 

God is going, and I am going--are we moving the in the same direction.  Purpose, will, direction--all themes of faithful living. 

Do I really care about the direction God is going?  I care about the destination:  reconciliation, but the direction takes me to people and places and situations and conversations and works that may not be on my chartered path.  Is reconciliation a desired path for my selfish feet to tread?   I want people and circumstances to reconcile with me, not the other way around.  What does traveling the reconciliation path look like anyway?

I have to let go of distraction and disappointment.  The distraction of laziness or pettiness.  The disappointment of not being in control, recognized/included or even pleased with an outcome.

So, what does that look like, where does that begin?   Pursuing the worthwhile and giving up the worth-less (that which is not worth holding onto). 

Off to a study group, more later.

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?