• To the Golden Shore

    To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson
    by: Courtney Anderson

    My sister loaned me this biography ages ago. So long ago, in fact, I moved it from Atlanta to Minnesota. It's been sitting on my "to read" shelf and it's just taken me a long time to actually buckle down to the task of reading it. I was intimidated by it's size and the largeness of the man the book is written about. But finally, in desperation to read something that would keep me engaged, I picked it up.

    And then I couldn't put it down.

    It's a beautifully written book. Anderson doesn't miss a detail and he knows just what his readers care to learn. He's well versed in the life of Judson and his writing only worked to clarify details, he's never a distraction.

    Now, onto the life of Mr. Judson. In 500 pages there would be a lot to recap, so I'm whittling it down to the 2 things that have stuck with me the longest after finishing the book a month ago. Although, in various conversations, I'm consistently drawn back to his life, so there are I know there are many more than 2 things that have stuck with me.

    1. Judson didn't know how to let fear make his decisions. Adoniram's main goal was his dedication to His Savior. He stood before governors, kings, faced illness, the death of 2 wives and multiple children, translated the Scriptures into Burmese, wrote the first Burmese dictionary, and suffered a tormenting imprisonment. Through all he endured, he first and foremost trusted His Savior. Every page is drenched with his dedication. He lived through things you and I could never imagine, yet he never allowed fear to make his decisions. He had 1 year after the death of his first wife, where he sent himself off to the jungle to seek God and heal. But even in that time, he placed himself in the center of a tiger infested jungle, trusting in God's care for him, and he returned home more committed to his cause, with a heart softer than he had before, and a renewed dedication to the work at hand. Fear was not his friend. He would not submit to it.

    2. Obstacles are only obstacles. Judson came up against a million obstacles in his life. Before he ever left the U.S. for the first time, he faced the obstacle of financial and familial support for his endeavors. Then illness, imprisonment, death, rejection, few converts, and whatever else you'd care to name, followed him through Burma. But still, obstacles did not automatically mean for Adoniram, that he was to give in to them. Sometimes the obstacles slightly changed his course, but he never let them keep him from his calling. He continued to move forward and pursue his Savior with ever increasing fervor. 

    You'll be astounded by Adoniram's committment and dedication to One Thing. He stuck by people who took years to gain the courage to forfeit their previous lives. Even in the midst of pain and suffering, he painstakingly translated Scripture so the Burmese people could experience God. His translation is still the main Burmese translation of Scripture used today. Finally, he was constantly changing his perspectives. As he matured, he learned to admit his own failures, and grow from them. Read the book. 

  • Come Be My Light

    A friend and I just finished reading this book which includes many of Mother Teresa's private writings. They were writings she BEGGED would never be published, so I felt I was invading her privacy as I read, but I was also so grateful the writings were shared.

    She was a brave woman who lived a dark interior life. Never wanting to cloud others' love of God, she shielded her darkness with "a big smile." She viewed her darkness as sharing in Christ's sufferings. If I were to undergo all she did, I would have a hard time not viewing the darkness as being abandoned by God, but she never gave into that lie. She continued to seek God. She encouraged others frequently to "Give Jesus a free hand and let Him use you without consulting you."

    At one point she was speaking of her love for Jesus and for those around her, "how my soul longs for God for Him alone, how painful it is to be without Him how my thoughts are only the Sisters the Poor. Is this distraction [or]are these thoughts the cause of my praying? They are my prayer they are my very life. I love them as I love Jesus, now as I do not love Jesus I do not love them either. I know this is only feelings for my will is steadfast bound to Jesus so to the Sisters & the Poor." 

    We often talk of "not being used" of "making agreements" of "not being taken advantage of." We speak of "following our hearts" or of "experiencing God." Mother Teresa did not have these phrases as part of her vocabulary. She welcomed what it meant to be spent for her Savior. She became empty so every bit of what she gave could be credited to her Savior. She would say, "I accept whatever He gives and I give whatever He takes." Her very life she held open handedly so God could do as He pleased in and through her.

    Even at the end, when she could no longer speak, she would gather her strength to write on a note, "I want Jesus." She didn't ask for visitation of those she served, of the priests, or of her sisters. She asked for Jesus to visit her. Her plea never changed. The darkness did not overcome her. Through every page my own faith was put to the test. Could I walk with God for 50 years without experiencing Him? Would I commit to such suffering without the visitation of God? Would I give the fullness of myself to ease the pain of others? I think the answer lies in what my life looks like. I don't live as she did. My faith hasn't withstood what hers required of her. I'm challenged by this mighty woman of God who spent herself for her love of God.

  • THE CURE [Nothing Hidden]

    The Cure: What If God Isn't Who You Think He Is And Neither Are You 
    by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall

    My friend Andre started reading this book after she had gotten a few chapters in, she wondered if I'd be willing to read it with her. The book takes a simple approach to some pretty hefty issues and I was thankful to have her to talk it through with. We savored every page, wrestling through issues of vulnerability, identity, trust, forgiveness, and taking a good hard look at how God honestly views us. We agreed this will be a book to read again and again.

    Sometimes in our faith we take the approach that if we work hard enough, if our intentions are good enough, if we just do a little more, we'll find God's pleasure. But the book was about allowing the Spirit to guide our hearts and transform our behavior. It's about giving God credit for the good in us and allowing Him to do the work. It's about forgiving ourselves and others for the wrongs done against us and the wrongs we've done ourselves. It's about being honest before others without masks to cover the parts of us we hate the most. It's about looking at our sin WITH God, instead of consistently believing He's standing on the other side of it waiting for us to tackle the mess by ourselves.

    I haven't begun to scratch the surface of all the complex yet simple lessons in the book, but I wanted to take a second to hit on the one that I can't stop thinking about. Here's the quote,

    "What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?"

    We are taught to hide from a very early age. We hear and believe statements such as: "People will love us more if we follow the rules, if we overcome our flaws, if our good outweighs our bad, if we treat our inadequacies as strengths." But what if part of the grace offered to us through Jesus, is that He can look on our sin with us and still stand in our presence. And right along side this, if Jesus can sit with us in our failures, what if we sat with each other in ours and believed God big enough to transform us all instead of taking it on ourselves to fix them? 

    This lesson alone is one I am working to get my hands around. How many times have I tried to fix the sin of others instead of trusting God to work in them? How many times have I spoken when I should have sat in silence praying and listening to the aches of others? How many times have I told myself, "Just do better. Memorize more Scripture. Pray harder. Sin less," instead of in humility and honesty, coming to my Savior and begging for His presence, mercy and transformation? He sees it all anyway. Why would I try to hide from the only one who has made a way for my sin to be taken care of? Why would I think it's up to me?

    We have long since finished the book, but my heart keeps coming back to the truth, that God doesn't ask me to hide. It's something I'm going to have to work on learning my whole life, as I move into unknown territories, fall into new sins, and practice forgiveness. I don't want to hide and I don't want to ask you to either.

  • Boundaries

    Boundaries:  When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life

    By: Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

    I have had a bit of a crisis here as of late. I realized about myself that I'm not great about communicating my boundaries. I don't know if you've experienced this, but sometimes it SEEMS that more is asked of me in church, work, and elsewhere, because the assumption is my singleness provides me countless hours of time that I'm sitting around waiting to fill by wandering aimlessly about my house eating pints of ice cream, petting my cat, and growing increasingly more bitter. [Not to say I don't love ice cream, but you'll never catch me petting a cat or wandering aimlessly.]

    I learned a few really important things in the process of reading this book [and talking to an amazing life coach.]

    1. I have to do something about my boundaries. No one else is going to do it for me. Unless I communicate out loud what I keep telling myself internally, no one else is going to know what I'm willing to take on and what I'm not. I have to take responsibility for my own self because no one else is going to. That's not a bitter assessment, it's actually quite freeing. "No" gets to be a beautiful word that helps to set values in their proper places. It relieves us of the pressure to take things on because we might feel guilty. There are often responsibilities we've taken on in our pursuit of passions, God, and enjoyment that make our lives feel full and meaningful. Learning what to say "YES" to will enable us more easilty to say "no" when we need to.

    2. In a chapter on boundaries and spouses, I thought I'd just fly through the chapter because it doesn't apply to me, but I found myself knee deep in the concepts. I actually found them quite applicable. I have LOTS of intimate relationships, they just don't happen to be with a spouse. They are with my family and closest friends. I could relate in a big way to a story of a wife bringing her husband to counseling because he was spending increasing amounts of time away from home and she was becoming increasingly lonely within their marriage. She wanted the doctors to "fix" him and get him to want to be home more. Instead, they asked her to take responsibility for herself and her needs. She would sit at home anxiously waiting for him to get home, calling several times a day, and then with mountain high expectations of him when he finally arrived. It was too much for him. He was shutting down and spending more and more time away from her, because she needed him too much. They encouraged her to diversify her interests and friendships. I could relate because the concept applies in every relationship. When our expectations for a person exceeds their ability to fulfill it, we risk them pulling away. No one can fulfill the depths of our needs. We need to know what we're asking of others, and not expect others to be more than they can possibly be for us.

    3. Anger is a sign of boundaries being overstepped. Not ALL anger is going to be caused by someone overstepping my boundaries, but it DID cause me to take a hard look at why I feel anger or resentment at times toward others who ask things of me. A lot of times it is because I have a boundary that they are asking me to extend to them, because I haven't told them it was there in the first place. I can't be angry with someone else because I don't honor my own boundaries or because I don't communicate to them the truth of what I'm feeling.

    What about you? What trouble have you had by not having good boundaries? What keeps you from setting them up in the first place?

  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

    A good friend of mine challenged a few friends to read The Gifts of Imperfection at the beginning of the year. I’m so glad she did. I’ve been inspired by Brené Brown for a long time, and love her TED talk [I’ve included it below…]

    I'm inspired by her research and the way she communicates. She set out on a research project about shame and next thing she knows, she’s a best selling author with her own stories of shame and vulnerability to tell.

    I loved this book. And I wrestled with this book. To be honest, I started it 6 months ago and here it is 6 months later and I’ve just finished it. I had to take it slow. Each chapter [Guidepost] is teeny. Just 4-5 pages. You’d think one would sail through it. Once you read the first chapter you will gain a better understanding of just how quickly or slowly it will go for you. For me, I needed to take my time. Nearly every chapter landed a lump in my stomach the size of a cantaloupe that I needed to overcome before I was able to take a deep enough breath to begin whatever was going to come next.

    This little 130-page book caused me to set goals, have conversations, [cry a little], face disappointments, and ask a whole bunch of uncomfortable questions.

    You can see why I had to take it slow.

    The book’s greatest challenge to readers is to embrace who you are. You become more yourself as you understand shame, vulnerability and their power.

    If you haven’t read anything by Brené Brown before, now’s the time. It won’t be easy, but definitely worth the work.

  • The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan

    I love to read and have been making more time to do it lately, so I’ve finished a few books and wanted to share them with you throughout this week. 

    The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan

    My sister and I always read a book together. We’ve been reading books together for the last 13 or so years. It gives us something in common to talk about each week, and directs us to think deeply about things that we might never get around to talking about with each other.

    The most recent book we read was The Rest of God: Restoring your Soul by Restoring Sabbath.

    Sabbath is something I’ve toyed a lot with over the years. I sort of play at it, so to speak. I’ll be intentional with it for a time, then release it again when I become too legalistic about it. Like any discipline, once you start setting up rules around it, it’s easy to forget the grace found in disciplines and become stuck only at following the rules. I do this with Sabbath often.

    Mark Buchanan challenged me once again in my approach to resting. I would have devoured the book if Manel and I hadn’t promised ourselves to take it slowly. We would read just 2 chapters a week. We savored his stories and the beautiful way he writes and relays the content. From discussing work and play, to sabbatical and legalism, Buchanan covers a wide variety of questions and concerns about what it means to keep a Sabbath. 

    My book is covered with underlining and comments. He caused me to examine my heart and the way I live and then carefully make changes in my life. After every chapter he had something called a “Sabbath Liturgy.” It’s sort of an action step. He didn’t merely want to change our thinking about Sabbath, he wanted us to do something about it. The liturgies are things like Praying, Writing a poem, taking time to play, serving others, paying attention.

    I loved having something to DO when I finished a chapter. I liked about the Sabbath Liturgies that he wasn’t asking his readers to do weren’t some massive life-altering THING. Instead he was asking for small steps that would eventually lead to knowing the best ways of practicing a Sabbath. 

    He isn’t legalistic about his ideas and I don’t want to be either.

    I’ve learned a ton from others who have prayerfully made space in their lives for God to be at work restoring their spirits.

    How does God use your commitment to rest to restore you? In what ways has practicing a Sabbath transformed you?