Thursday, May 28, 2009

Short Thought for Today

A parenting tip I picked up somewhere (or maybe I thought of it myself? I doubt that.): I don't always have to get on every roller coaster ride with my child. I can meet for him at the end of the ride--love him, support him, listen to all the tales of the ups, downs, twists and turns--but I don't actually have to GO ON the ride. Hmmm. There are some rides I want to go on too, or maybe a few where I should be alongside, but I don't have to get on all of them. And I believe this philosophy works in all relationships.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Do You Have in Your Hand?

Wow, was last week crazy for our family. I would love to share all the ways we saw God at work, but the stories aren't really mine to tell. They belong to Scott and to Lars mostly. I can say that we were amazed at God's activity; His perfect timing, the people He placed in our paths... I'm over and over awed by how much God loves imperfect, prideful, quick-to-doubt me.

I love how God teaches through connections of real life experiences, His word, from other people's stories and from our own. I've been thinking through an idea this last week that I can share. The connections that led me to it? Reading The Hole in Our Gospel, the study I'm doing in Proverbs, and some of the events of last week. A million times I've written about the importance of "intentionality." As a parent, a wife, a daughter, a neighbor, a follower of Christ, I gotta' be doing what I'm doing on purpose. I must pay attention to what I do (or don't do, in some cases), be aware, and be decisive. This is a drum I've been banging for quite some time, but I happened upon another one, the drum right next to the intentionality one.

The action step that has to follow intentionality is surrendering. I think intentionality happens in your head, and heart, and surrendering is more active. Surrender happens when you open your hand--the one that's hanging on to the thing you're clinging to--and let go. I guess I've written and thought a lot about surrendering, too, but this is a new thing for me to see intentionality and surrender together, as a two-step process. I found it in Proverbs 21:5, where it says in the New Living Translation, "Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty." I think the good planning is being intentional, and hard work is surrendering.

Here's a benign example: if I decide to be intentional about getting into shape, I need to set my mind to it. I need to be intentional about how I grocery shop, what I put into my mouth, and how I incorporate more physical activity into my day. But to really get over that hump, there's some things I have to surrender. I have to let go of the bigger portions and the bowl of ice cream that I really, really want after the kids are in bed. I have to put on my shoes and go for a walk, give up some of "my" time and get moving. The intentionality is a very important first step, but to make real progress, I have to be willing to give up some behaviors, and deny that voice in me that says, "mine. mine. mine." Makes me think of the sea gulls in Finding Nemo. And what happened to them?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review--The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer that Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World

Someone close to me saw that I was reading The Hole in our Gospel and said, "Oh great, another book by some rich guy, who, after he'd made his millions, then decided to take his faith seriously..." Richard Stearns is a rich guy, who did radically change his priorities and the lifestyle his family was living, after working as a CEO of a big-wig company for many years. But when he took the position as the President of World Vision, he came to see some truths that are applicable to all followers of Christ, regardless of income or career path.

The thrust of the book is that we have a tendency to take the Gospel (the Good News, that Christ is our salvation, that His Kingdom is real and the life He offers is forever and abundant!) and mold it into what is comfortable, leaving out the parts that require surrender... leaving a gaping hole that is breaking the heart of God. In the introduction he explains that,
"the good news was meant to change the world. Belief is not enough. Worship is not enough. Personal morality is not enough. And Christian community is not enough. God has always demanded more. When we committed ourselves to following Christ, we also committed to living our lives in such a way that a watching world would catch a glimpse of God's character--His love, justice, and mercy--through our words, actions, and behavior....Living out our faith privately was never meant to be an option." (pg. 3)

The book spells out exactly what the conditions are in developing countries, what poverty looks like and how it impacts entire villages and cultures. And Stearns shows lots of ways we can begin to live out the whole gospel, in big and small ways. He tells his own story of how he was confronted with the whole gospel, when he was asked to consider the position of President of World Vision, and how he saw the hole in his own walk, despite his desire to be a fully committed Christian.

I love a section where he explores the debate over faith and works... and how he boils it down: "But faith and works were never meant to be in dichotomy.... Simply put, we are saved by faith, saved for works." (pg 198-9) Our faith is what saves us, but our works are where our faith is demonstrated. The idea of our faith being something just for us is really missing the boat.

Stearns writes honestly and it feels like you can hear his voice. He shares how he was driven to succeed, and when he became a Christian and how that changed his life. He challenges us all to look at our own stories. Who are our neighbors, and how are our lives giving them a glimpse of God's character?

I reviewed this book as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger Program. You can get more info about the program at and more info about the book itself at

Thursday, May 7, 2009

One of These Things is Not Like the Other One...

A few weeks ago I caught just the tail end of a radio interview. I don't know who was talking, but it was about managing finances and getting out of debt. I heard the interviewee say that he and his wife had purposed to live differently, and it was this conviction that helped them get out of debt. He described the difficulties, and sacrifices they made and said, "You know, when you decide you're gonna' live differently, then you're gonna' live different, you're not going to do things the same way, and you won't look like everybody else."

This idea has been rattling around in my brain ever since. It's an idea that covers much more than just the financial realm of our lives. We do, in our family, purpose to live differently. To live in this world, but to be motivated differently, and make decisions differently. Hopefully our speech and the way we treat each other sounds different. The way we make and spend money may look different. In our management of time we strive to be different.

Over and over in the New Testament, it is made clear that we are to live here in this world, be engaged here in this world (in other words, we aren't supposed to create little worlds of our own, isolated from others--that Fundamentalist Mormon commune in Texas comes to mind) but we aren't to be overcome by the world and worldly ways. Tricky business, it is. When people talk about changed lives, and transformation, this is it. Living differently.

I guess it goes back to the idea of intentionality. Recognizing that with each action or inaction, we are making choices that are leading us closer to or farther away from worldly ways. So our thoughts about it are important. Using our minds and being aware of what we're doing helps us be different. But when we are followers of Christ and accept His salvation, we also have a resource to help us in our endeavors--the Holy Spirit. So there's more to it than just being intentional. We also must surrender our selves, and seek the help that God has given us.

Just thought I'd spill the rattling contents of my brain out...
How do you live differently?