Monday, March 23, 2015

My Outtakes from Daring Greatly

My book club is reading Brene Brown's "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead". Brown's TED talks are some of the most watched on the TED site and her books have been NY Times Bestsellers. Having finished the book, I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes.  If one of the challenges of post-modern Christians is to learn to be authentic and courageous, then some of her insights can challenge us toward that goal.

"What we know matters, but who we are matters more."

"I know the yearning to believe that what I'm doing matters and how easy it is to confuse that with the drive to be extraordinary."

"Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement."

"....I also learned that the people who love me, the people I really depend on, were never the critics who were pointing at me while I stumbled.  They weren't in the bleachers at all.  They were with me in the arena.  Fighting for me and with me."

"There is no intimacy without vulnerability.  Yet another powerful example of vulnerability as courage."

And many more.  I have plenty to say about the book, but the one thought I record here is that engaged motherhood is all about daring greatly because being a mother is all about uncertainty and risk and vulnerability.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tennyson Today

A few lines from our poetry reading today that I loved.  These are from Tennyson's  "Morte D'Arthur":

"The old order changeth, yielding place to new.
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."

Pray for my soul.  More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of.  Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."

These thoughts are beautiful reminders that God works in mysterious ways, and prayer is essential for who know what all it is accomplishing.  Urges me on to ceaseless prayers.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A New Perspective

For years the part of Romans 12:2 that has been burned into my memory is, "Be Ye Transformed...."  It has always seemed like a commandment in that translation and that meant to me, it was something I was supposed to do.  Wow.  That made it a pretty tough commandment to follow.  Could I really work all these years on being transformed?

Then about a month ago, I bought a tiny copy of the New Living Translation Bible.  Every now and then I try a new translation to help give a fresh perspective on the Scriptures.  I am enjoying it, but the verse in Romans 12 was a shock and a relief.  In the NLT that verse says:  "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but LET GOD TRANSFORM YOU into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."  

Wow.  Did you get that difference?  It was like a cold snap of winter air hitting my face when I open the door.  "Let God transform you".  That is wonderful.  It isn't up to me anymore.  It is God doing the transforming, the metamorphosis, the work.  I am to surrender, to not kick against the work.  What a relief of a "works mentality" for me.  I hope it is for you too.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Professor in Your Pocket

Scouring the aisles at Hastings, I often find unexpected little treasures.  Honestly, though, it is a bit dangerous to let me enter the doors....after all the place is filled with BOOKS.   I know there are other things there like movies, music, video games, and such, but the books are what captivate me.  I listen to all the predictions about how soon there will be no more brick and mortar bookstores.  I will put black crepe paper all over my house and lawn when that day comes.  (Ask my family...I have done that before, a long time ago, over something completely unrelated.)  I really don't mind browsing books online, but I thoroughly delight touching books in person whether at the bookstore or the library or the piles on my bedroom floor. There is so much more to discover skimming a book and getting a feel for it instead of reading another person's review.  Which, by the way, here I am reviewing another book.....

My favorite times at Hastings are during the 5 for $25 used book sale.  On one of those days, I found Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor for Kids.  I didn't know at the time that he had written an adult book titled the same, only of course without the "for Kids" part.  It was such a fun and interesting read, I did what I usually do and assigned it to "the kids" to read.  (Yes, you can hear them groaning I am sure.)  Then I requested the adult version of the book from the library for me to read.  

How To Read Literature Like a Professor,  especially "for Kids" is a quick introduction into how to discover all those "themes" and literary techniques that I (loathed) was supposed to learn in literature class in high school. Thomas Foster puts it into a readable, engaging style and tells  it in less time than it took for the bell to ring in 11th grade.  In my defense, that year was the year we had to do "author reports" and I got assigned Henry David Thoreau.  Really?  I have to read about some guy who made pencils for a living and went off into the woods so that like a million years later I would have to read endless pages of his describing how an ant walked around on the ground?  Yeah....how can anyone make a report about him interesting?  I had way better things to do, I reasoned in my 16 year old mind, including play field hockey and skip classes for a pizza break.  

So finding a guy who can make all those quests, symbols, and appearances of vampires meaningful is a treasure in my mind.  I want the kids to learn to recognize the nuances of literature without having holes bored into their skulls and a learning vitamin inserted.  Foster does a good job of revealing things to be looking for.  It is like having a professor in your pocket if you want to understand what you were supposed to be learning in literature class but found as dull as toast without jam.

The only thing disappointing to me was that when Foster declares "There's only one story", he cannot explain what that story is or its meaning or where it came from.  Christianity can answer that and it is so satisfying:  there is one story...it is THE STORY and it is the GREAT STORY and all really great, wonderful, satisfying, beautiful, agonizing, creative, scary, epic stories that we return to again and again are the ones that reflect something from the GREAT STORY.   So drop a professor in your pocket that you actually like and learn something from and use it to teach your children to consider literature's themes.  Then do something more and teach them to recognize and redeem story for the glory of God.    

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bread and Wine and Risotto

Last night I made risotto for the very first time.   I think it came out a little too sticky, but I did have to increase the recipe amounts to accommodate my large family so I learned I don't have to increase the liquid quite as much.  I honestly did not know what risotto actually was until I read about it in Shauna Niequist's book Bread and Wine which I and my book club friends just finished reading.

This book is a collection of essays and stories about the author's life and philosophy on community, fellowship, and how food is central to both.  It is a cookbook with personal anecdotes, but also important tricks for how to make many of the recipes she includes in the book.  Since her family has gluten issues, many of the recipes are perfect for gluten-free needs. From the book jacket, Shauna states her main purpose: "Many of the most sacred moments in my life, the ones in which I feel God's presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place around the table.  Something extraordinary happens when we slow down, open our homes, look into one another's faces, and listen to one another's stories around the table.   This is my love letter to life around the table."    

Shauna Niequist's call is to another generation to learn how to cook food for their family and friends, to demonstrate hospitality without concern for what she calls "Martha Stewart-y" perfection, and to develop relationships and a welcoming spirit for those that cross our paths. This book is similar to older books like Karen Mains' Open Heart, Open Home and Steve Wilkins' Face to Face where the general idea is that Christian's are not to be "lone rangers" as Mr. Wilkins says, but are to obey the hospitality commands and use their homes, themselves, and their substance to reach out in ministry to others. 

Bread and Wine made me thankful for the times our family has shared with loved ones over a hearty meal.  Some of my favorite memories of the last 20+ years are from interaction with people of all walks of life, from different denominations, and with unique perspectives.  My children have grown up with a knowledge that hospitality is just part of who we are as Christians.  Serving others is often inconvenient, time consuming, costly, and disastrous, but that is true in any form of ministry.  We have plenty of our own stories to tell about sharing meals with strangers and friends alike, but they are all memorable and woven into the fabric of our family traditions. 

 Bread and Wine inspired me to try new recipes like risotto.  My parents were children of the Great Depression.  To them, it was a big deal when they could afford a good roast.  They grew up on farms, so we had meat, potatoes and vegetables.  My mother always had "intult" (a word from my Scottish great grandmother) soup or casseroles where she threw leftovers from the week's meal "in to it".  When we lived on the coast, Mom would go down to meet the fishing boats on the pier at the end of the day to get fresh shrimp or fish.  I don't remember Mexican foods being available in New England in the 1970's but I do remember when pizza became popular.  I also remember when my grandfather in Vermont was so excited to try instant ice tea mix (the unsweetened kind).  So, that I didn't know what risotto was is nothing surprising to me.  My friend who grew up in southern California had never seen or had a Hubbard squash.  My other friend who grew up in Idaho had never known avocados until she went to California when her husband was in the service. The availability and accessibility of foods has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. I look forward to trying out more recipes of foods that I didn't know existed.

There are two disturbing things I found in Shauna's book that are disturbing trends I see in the church at large.  The first trend is that Shauna is a popular speaker at Christian conferences.  Her work takes her away from her family extensively.  She mentions putting her little five year old on the bus to public school. Like Jen Hatmaker, author of 7, these young mothers have chosen a lifestyle that thrusts their little ones into a godless arena where hours on end every single weekday their children are being exposed and trained to think in anti-God ways.  Meanwhile these young mothers are being leaders and speakers (especially to other women) to follow God's Word...and this is where the disconnect happens for me.  God is pretty clear in many verses in Scriptures about what our priorities are supposed to be as wives and as mothers.   Second, I am disturbed that many middle aged women who should be taking on the roles of teachers and mentors are missing from the Christian world at large.  Those same middle aged women are attending these conferences where these young women are speaking. The disconnect for me here is that Scripture also says that the "older women are to teach the younger women" not the other way around.  I have theories about why this is happening, but that would have to be another post...but one thing I know is that choosing to live the teachings of Scriptures often means serving in obscurity. These aspects of Shauna Niequist's writings are sad but common in the next generation of "relevant" Christians, but someone can still enjoy the simplicity of her message to make hospitality a part of your walk with God and others.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Birthday Bliss

 My artist daughter with the impressionist style I love so much, Momma brought back a teacup from Vermont, a perfect kitchen memo board my kids found, candle filled creamer my daughter found at a craft fair, and a teacup and saucer covered in wild roses from my son and daughter-in-law.....

 Special decorations....

 Two special friends surprising me with high tea at a local Bed and Breakfast.
My husband and kids totally spoiled me.  How can you beat Napoleons for dessert instead of cake?  Napoleons remind me of a little French bakery my parents and I would visit whenever we went to St.Augustine.  I got to go see the new Hobbit movie and enjoy a brisk walk along the dike.  Momma gave me money so that I could get a haircut and my first ever facial....ooooh, aaaah!  Hard to not feel completely wonderful when my cup overflows.  Thank you dear ones for all the love, gifts, and blessings of YOU.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thinking of Oneself

In the Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom wrote:

    "And as the cold increased, so did the special temptation
of concentration-camp life: the temptation to think only of oneself.  It took a thousand cunning forms.  I quickly discovered that when I maneuvered our way toward the middle of the roll call formation we had a little protection from the wind.
     I knew this was self-centered:  when Betsie and I stood in the center, someone else had to stand on the edge.  How easy it was to give it other names!  I was acting only for Betsie's sake. We were in an important ministry and must keep well.  It was colder in Poland than in Holland; these Polish women probably were not feeling the chill the way we were.
     Selfishness had a life of its own....And even if it wasn't right---it wasn't so very wrong, was it?  Not wrong like sadism and murder and the other monstrous evils we saw in Ravensbruck every day.  Oh, this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his:  to display such blatant evil that one could almost believe one's own secret sins didn't matter."

This thinking only of oneself is such a daily temptation outside of concentration-camp life. I see it in myself and other Christians.  When we grab the first place,  try to be the one recognized or elevated, look for ways that our kids get the best opportunities over others, subtly take whatever it is that we want first for ourselves....this is plain selfishness. Whenever we do it, our actions impact someone (or many) more.  Selfishness has room for only one and it is NOT the other person.  We make excuses: "after all, I worked hard and deserve this"; "I was mistreated and that gives me a right"; "if I don't work to get this it won't come to me";  "it is just a little thing and doesn't really matter"; "my kid is so special and should have this"; and so forth.  Whatever it is, to whatever degree, it is still selfishness and it is still sin. This temptation is rampant in modern American Christianity. We are all about coming out ahead or in first, having it all together and things going our way, and being admired for what we have and are.  We have forgotten what God values: humility, faithfulness, service, sacrifice, and most of all, love. We forget that what we do to the least of the brethren even in small things--all these selfish acts--we actually are doing to Christ.

So what's the cure? Miss Ten Boom said, "It was all Christ's strength...that made the difference."  Christ at work in our weaknesses and sin, Christ showing us our tendency to selfishness and excuses, Christ leading us to repentance and confession, Christ enabling us to put others first instead of ourselves. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)  It starts with putting aside ANY selfish ambition and all excuses for it.  Then changing our minds and our thinking so that we hold others in high regard (esteem).  We actually need to consider others better than ourselves. The rest of Philippians chapter two tells us how Christ lived it and He is our example. What we need is His strength to produce in us self-LESS-ness.