I started a Word Wall today for people to post one word that describes their mom, and I chose “Warrior” for my mom.
My mom’s life was not always what she wanted it to be. In fact, at times, I think it sucked. But, I never heard my mom say a single bad word about anybody or anything. She never complained, never griped or moaned. Never became bitter. My mom also stuck to her guns on things she believed in, mostly in Jesus. She dug in quietly, silently, steadfastly. She was so stubborn sometimes it drove me nuts. I hated it when she was right, and she always was.
I could go into how my mom died a God-awful death from Alzheimer’s, but I’m not going to go there. At least not today. I just want to say that my mom was, indeed, a Warrior. And to quote Pat Benatar (not scriptural, I know), I hope she’s up in heaven singing “I am a Warrior and Victory is mine”.
Rock on, mom.
Book Review and Giveaway – Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters by Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh, 2019. SHARE or COMMENT on this post for a chance to win a free copy, given away on Weds., May 8, 2019.
I just finished reading this book as a Reviewer. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how relevant the topic of mom-daughter relationship ‘mending’ would be for me. I am a daughter, but my mom passed away 15 years ago. And, even while she was still here, I don’t recall any big, relationship-crushing fallouts between us. I am now a mom, but I have only sons, so I was not sure how I could use this book geared toward mothers and daughters.
Yet, I know many, many adult daughters who do have ‘unfinished business’ with their mom – and many moms that have things left undone with their daughter – and for them that’s a big deal (and it should be). So, this book must be highly relevant for a lot of people, including my blog readers. Besides, any book with potential for bringing healing in a family through the application of biblical truths is definitely worth a look.
This book is co-written by a mother (grandmother, therapist) and her adult daughter, sharing their own story of refining and strengthening themselves, as individuals and as a mother-daughter dyad, through thoughtful and intentional application of the Word. Not only scripturally sound, the writers’ insights and suggestions are real, understandable, and do-able. They even provide models and scripts for key steps, like how to start an awkward conversation, or how to move forward from a ‘discussion’ gone horribly wrong (e.g., screaming, crying, stalemate). Check out the book’s free resource, “Seven Ways to Start a Conversation”, at www.ourmendedhearts.com
There are also a number of inspiring anecdotals included in the book, told by friends and faith sisters of the authors who have refined their relationships with their own mom/daughter. The specific scenarios shared for illustration were not always directly relatable for me, as I think the authors and I come from quite different backgrounds. Yet, I found the underlying parent-child dynamics (and struggles) to be pretty universal. With that said, I would suggest this book would be valuable for anyone in any type of family relationship (spouse, parent-son, sibling) that could use a tune-up, whether it’s to just improve communication or to herd out the proverbial elephant in the room.
As a disclaimer: I am not paid to review or recommend this book. I was given a copy to read and one extra copy of the book by the publisher for the giveaway. If you decide to order the book through my Amazon link, I do receive a commission that helps to support my blog.
I have just finished reading Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, a brand new book by Mark Vroegop. And let’s just say, I have had my proverbial cage rattled. Nope, this book is not fun to read, and that’s the beauty of it.
The author is a church pastor, husband, parent, and father of a daughter stillborn. His nearly unspeakable grief in the loss of a child thrust him into an up-close and personal relationship with lament. Out of that came this book.
I think we all get a bit rattled at the mention of lament. The word itself represents pain and suffering – what we spend our lives trying to avoid. Let’s be honest, lament sounds dark and scary. It’s about bad things happening in life. Not to mention, lament falls under being angry with God, doesn’t it? And isn’t that a sin or something? So, as I first began reading Vroegop’s story, I thought, “(Thankfully) none of this applies to me” because I have never experienced anything as horrible as the loss of a child. Whew! So, I’m off the hook for dealing with this messy lament stuff! I thought.
But, as Vroegop teaches - and his writing style is very much that of a teacher - biblical lament is meant for all of us, no matter the ‘size’ of the hurt, loss, or disappointment. Lament gives a voice to any trouble in life, whether the dark clouds come as a passing shower or a hurricane. Lament is a spiritual discipline critical to our well-being as believers, Vroegop contends. It opens the door to grace, mercy, and peace. The author calls upon readers to identify the hurts in our own lives, those pieces in need of lament, and then encourages us to ‘go there’ in a structured and intentional way.
It is clear that Vroegop knows his stuff when it comes to scripture. The book is very well-supported biblically, as the author applies verses directly from the Book of Psalms in creating a framework and formula for practicing lamentation. I like that this book is neither an invitation to a pity party (Vroegop is very clear about not getting stuck in ‘complaint’ mode), nor is it a quick-fix, come-out-on-the-other-side handbook on grief. What it is, is an honest, intelligent, soul-felt guide on why and how the Christian should lament, articulated with realness, compassion, and hope. Vroegop’s approach is practical and user-friendly, and even includes worksheets and sample scripts for the novice lamenter to use when we have no clue where to start or what to say to God.
I found myself thinking on the ideas in this book on my drive to work, at times during the day, and before I fell asleep at night. It has made me ‘uncomfortable’ and a bit distracted. I consider these signs of not only a good book, but one that I needed to read. Having just finished, I can’t say I have completely moved out of my “fear and avoid” mindset on lament – the roots of that are life-long deep. I get in my heart what Vroegop is saying about lament. Now I just need to do the work to wrap it around my head.
This book’s publisher, Crossway, provided me a complimentary copy of the book through the Blog Review Program. I am not paid for reviewing, advertising, or endorsing this book.
If you decide to purchase this book, you can find it online and in bookstores. If you order it through the Amazon link below, know that I will receive a small commission per book that helps support the Faith By Dummy Blog. Thanks.
This Letter is about Christian virtue, specifically, the virtue of humility. It seems the patient, the young man in the story, is in a dance with humility as he continues to get his spiritual legs under him.
There are a bunch of moving parts in this Letter. Let's see if we can pull it all together.
For the Christian to have a humble heart is pretty standard, Christianity 101 stuff. The Bible talks about our being humble a whole lot, so it must be a pretty big deal to God.
"Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven". Matthew 18:4 (HCSB)
"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted". Matthew 23:12 (HCSB)
Arguably, I think most of us get that we're to be humble. Truly humble - honorable, compassionate, respectful, temperate, gracious. Nothin' wrong with any of that, right?
But, Screwtape is suggesting here that humility gets to be a problem (in a good way, for the demons) when we become proud of it. "Proud of our humility". Wait a minute. What?
Pride. It's clear from the scriptures that pride - self pride - is not Godly. It's destructive. It causes us to fall. It's a disgrace.
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall". Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom". Proverbs 11:2 (NIV)
So, how could it happen? How could good humility go bad? Well, according to Screwtape, humility becomes pride when.....
Our focus leans inward and away from God
We become impressed with our ability to be humble
Let that sink in a minute.
Now, Part 2:
I'll kick it off with a question:
Since we're supposed to be humble and pride-less, then that means we are to think very little of ourselves, right?
Answer: Not exactly.
First of all, to think too little of ourselves would be an opinion. And frankly, we are not entitled to an opinion on our worth. Only God is qualified for that.
Secondly, a low self-worth can morph into self-contempt and, as Screwtape says, "self-contempt can be made the starting-point for contempt of other selves". Who knew that hating yourself hurts other people?
Bottom line: Because God loves us so incredibly, unbelievably much - even Screwtape acknowledges this - we are Significant. Prized. A hot property, A big deal. We should think highly of ourselves, because we are cherished by the Most High.
I'm not a bigger deal than you. You're not a bigger deal than me. Our MSRP's are exactly the same.
Pretty much everybody is familiar with the scripture:
“....Love your neighbor as yourself.[a] There is no other command greater than these.” Mark 12:31 (HCSB)
Absolutely. And, thanks to this new insight from Screwtape, I would also suggest we love ourselves (the same) as our neighbor.
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I love music. All kinds of music. Country, rock, R & B, classical... if it's good, I like it.
But, here's the deal. I think we all need to spend some of our listening time - when the world is screaming at us from all directions - listening to Christian (gospel, contemporary Christian, hymns, praise & worship, whatever you want to call it) music. For Believers, a Christian song can affirm our faith, lift us up, bring peace to our heart, hammer home a scripture, reveal a truth - pretty much whatever we need in that moment. Look, I love me some Eric Church, but not as much as Jesus does. And Bon Jovi may be livin' on a prayer, but that doesn't cover me, you know what I’m sayin’? I NEED to take in some Christian music every single day.
That’s not to mention, it's just plain fun to get my personal worship jam on in the car, in the shower, on the exercise bike. Major stress reliever. (True story: Good thing I was on a stationary bike this morning, instead of a real one, when I closed my eyes and threw up my hands listening to Casting Crowns' "Voice of Truth", or there could've been a serious accident.)
So, OK. This post is an encouragement to you to work some Christian music into your daily routine, if you’re not doing that already. It can rock your world, I’m tellin’ ya.
I also wanted to share with you my current Spotify playlist of Christian songs. Some are old, some are new. These are some of my favorites – some because I just like the song, and others I have found the message incredibly powerful during certain times in life. Maybe one of them will really resonate with you, too.
And, if you would, feel free to share (Reply) here – with me and other Faith by Dummy Blog readers, some of your personal, go-to Christian songs. I’m always looking to add more to my playlist.
Link to my Spotify “Christian” Playlist:
Oh, and one more thing…… While you’re in Spotify, I would love it if you would check out my Faith by Dummy Podcast. Let me know what you think! Thanks!
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I am a runner. And this post was written on the run. Literally. During my morning workout.
Ok. Well, I’m not actually a “runner”. More like a “jogger”. Ok. I’m a “plodder of a BMI-inflated carcass on a treadmill”.
I’ve been a “plodder” for probably 15 years now, and I hate it as much today as when I began. It hurts. It’s hot. It’s boring. I want to quit half-way through every single time I do it.
But, I do it. Because, for me, it’s the best bang for my buck in getting some needed cardio and sweatin’ out some stress.
It’s also a great time to think – if I can stay conscious. I have some of my best spiritual epiphanies when I run (plod). And here’s one that came today:
First, I should say that it’s beginning already to get hot here in the South. Temps are rising and the humidity is predictably disgraceful. So, my morning runs the past few days have become even more, let’s just say, ‘challenging’ (can’t wait for July!). At the dreaded halfway-point in my run today, the pain hits. My legs feel like lead. I’m sucking air that’s heavy and stagnant. I can’t breathe. I might puke. I’m sure my body temperature and heart rate are in the stroke zone right about now. I wanna quit. Maybe I should. And then…..
This puff of cool air swirls around me. A surprise of a breeze. A breath of fresh air, literally. Meteorological mercy. It didn’t last long, but just long enough for me to be able to hang in there and finish this run I started.
Which gets me to thinking how it’s the same with God. Right about the time we think we can’t go one more step in whatever we’re dealing with in life, He provides the breeze, the air, the oxygen we require to keep going. And not only keep going, but finish.
That’s lesson one. But, I’m even seeing a second spiritual application here in this “air-apparent” encounter:
If I hadn’t been sweating, hurting, and dying to quit, this breeze would likely have gone unnoticed. It meant so much because I needed it so much. It was significant because I was miserable.
I just wonder how many times we miss out on receiving a restorative breath from God because we won’t push ourselves past our spiritual comfort zone. We won’t run where it’s scary or uncertain or it might even hurt. We don’t let ourselves get to the point of panting for Him. Maybe we should get out of breath more often.
I open my mouth and pant because I long for Your commands.
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In the last few Letters, the young man had been starting to slip a bit, getting more lax and relaxed in his daily walk, particularly in comparison to his fervency at the time of initial conversion. And the demons were loving it.
Well, in this Letter (13) there seems to have been somewhat of a spiritual renewal, and it’s making the demons crazy. Screwtape is really giving it to Wormwood for letting this happen. Apparently, the guy has experienced “repentance, renewal and grace” which, as Screwtape says, constitutes a “second conversion” that is probably “on a deeper level than even the first”. To me, this characterizes the complexity and depth of our spiritual growth over time, through life experiences, crises, ups, downs – all the things that, perhaps ironically, make us more receptive to (and more serious about getting ahold of) God’s care and grace. (Screwtape talked about this in an earlier Letter, in how we are closest to God when we are in a spiritual ‘pit’, yet none of us ever pray to be in a pit).
The dude in the story, it seems, has spent some time lately in commune with God - whether intentionally or inadvertently is not made clear. But, through this actual ‘quiet time' in reflecting and soul-searching, he has reached a point of spiritual renewal and re-focus. And – this is the best part – his assigned demon could do absolutely nothing to stop this from playing out because the Holy Spirit was present with the guy. Booyah! I love this! Now, I should say this is my interpretation of what happened. You see, Screwtape describes this “asphyxiating cloud” that prevented Wormwood from “attacking” the patient during this quiet and thoughtful time. This cloud, according to Screwtape, is well-known to the demons as God’s “most barbarous weapon” that appears when He (God) is “directly present” with a human. I'm saying this has got to be the Holy Spirit. And this “certain mode not yet fully classified”, as the demons call it, is driving them nuts! They hate it. They don’t completely get it, but they absolutely know that they have no strength, no power, in the presence of the Holy Spirit (I'm picturing the spirit world equivalent of kryptonite). Screwtape laments, “Some humans are permanently surrounded by it (the Holy Spirit) and thereby inaccessible to us”. Too bad, demons. You lose.
So, going back to why Wormwood is in trouble with Screwtape..... The ‘patient’ has been able to experience this quiet spiritual renewal because Wormwood has allowed (hasn't been able to stop) him to indulge in some real and “positive” pleasures. Godly pleasures. Not sensual pleasures, but those things that feed the soul. Like reading for enjoyment instead of because you need to be "well read". Or like spending some quiet time – alone, literally – in the middle of nowhere because you love it. The demons’ agenda for us is the exact opposite - to keep us busy, vain, in pursuit of “the best” things, detached from ourselves (existentially) and from God. But now, the patient has what we might call “re-found” himself and who he is in God, and Wormwood was supposed to prevent that from ever happening. Whoops. I like when Screwtape laments that once this happens - once we become “wholly” God’s - we are “more of (our)selves than ever”. This tells me that the things of this world are more than distractions – they are barriers to being what God made us to be. What we can be. What we are.
Screwtape ends this Letter by telling Wormwood that the only thing to do at this point is keep the young man from acting on his newfound ‘repentance’. “Let him think about it all he wants”, Screwtape tells Wormwood, as long as he doesn’t "convert it into action".
Lord, help me to find and then lose those distractions in my life that are barriers to being who you made me to be. Amen.
Oh, and P.S. Thank you, God, for sending us the Holy Spirit, the ultimate super hero.
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Well, I guess, since this is a Christian blog, I really should have a "Christmas" post. After all, Christmas is kind of a big deal when it comes to our faith. And I totally get that - God sending his Son to earth to be our Savior, all of that. I get it, and to say I'm grateful is an understatement. Yet, in full disclosure, I have to tell you that, personally, Easter gives me the biggest bang for my buck as a Christ follower. Jesus defeated death! Booyah! The Christian Super Bowl!
I've reflected a bit on what really strikes me, spiritually, about Christmas. And it is this ---
The virgin birth. The fact that a woman, hand-picked by God, was impregnated without having been with a man. That totally makes no sense. Scientifically impossible. Unbelievable. Certainly, the virgin birth lends to the purity of Jesus, as God could have just as easily chosen an already married woman to bring the Savior into the world. But, I think there's an even deeper insight here.
As I see it, God made the virgin birth of Jesus purposely unbelievable because our entire faith is, pretty much, unbelievable. Let's see.....
Well, first of all, God sent and sacrificed his SON. His child. I don't know about you, but I'm not sacrificing my child for anybody or anything. Unthinkable.
When God forgives our sin, He forgets it. For. gets. it. Gone. Like it never happened. Unfathomable.
The God of the universe takes the time to even care at all about us unworthy bunch of whiners. Preposterous.
Jesus lived, suffered, and died for people who treated him like crap. Irrational.
We can communicate directly with the God of the universe through prayer in Jesus' name. Unimaginable.
Suddenly, the virgin birth doesn't seem all that far-fetched. I kind of see Jesus' birth as God's way of saying, "Hang on, I'm fixin' to blow your mind".
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