Monday, November 23, 2015

Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

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I finished it. I have been talking about this book a lot lately and I even read from it in Sunday School yesterday. It is a really really good book. It totally stretched my thinking and has given me some food for thought. I'm still not sure if I agree completely with everything Caleb says, but he knows way more about this subject than I do.

The caption on the front of the book says this: "How a pastor with gay parents learned to love others without sacrificing conviction." Doesn't that make you raise your eyebrows and say, "I wonder what his views are?" In a day, when it seems like so many churches are accepting practicing homosexuals and modifying the Bible to fit their beliefs, it's refreshing to hear Caleb's take on this. He grew up in the LGBT community, he went to their parties, marched in their parades and became a Christian at the age of 16. He then had to do a lot of soul-searching to figure out what the Bible says about homosexuality. His conclusion? It is a sin to have sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman.

This book is somewhat his journey, but it is also a call for individuals and churches to reach out to those in the LGBT community and I would broaden that to say reach out to all those people who are different from us.  So many Christians have been mean and rude to this group of people that it has turned them sour, but what would happen if we were to show them Christ's love, to love them as we love any other person, to treat them like a beloved child of God, to develop a relationship with them and then to speak truth into their life. Caleb defines this all as a tension between grace and truth.

There is so much I would like to quote from this book, but I will try to stick with one or two or three and say this "Read the book".

On the story of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus, Caleb says this: "When releasing the woman caught in adultery, he displayed both qualities [grace and truth]. Jesus had grace when he set the woman free. He along, being the true God, had every right to condemn this woman if he wanted to, but instead he chose the path of mercy and forgiveness. yet he also had truth. He did not condone her activity. As a matter of fact, he used strong language for it: sin.

"This story is a call for us to live in the tension of grace and truth. I've often wondered what the best word is to describe this tension. While thinking through this story, I finally figured it out: love is the tension of grace and truth.

"Here's what I mean. When you have a person in your life involved in activities or life choices that aren't healthy, you feel the tension. On the one hand, you feel extreme love for them, but on the other hand, you know that somehow you need to speak truth into their life. It's the same feeling when someone you love makes decisions outside the bounds of Scripture-- you have the desire to show them grace and help them understand the truth of the matter. If you have ever been in this circumstance before, then you understand.

"We see Jesus's loving action toward the woman throughout the story, and it's because he was living in that tension of grace and truth. Jesus loved her enough to tell her the truth and show her grace.

"Somehow, despite the messiness we encounter, we have to figure out how to be the bearers of grace and truth, because it always results in love."

One other thing that Caleb talked about that was a new thought to me is on the issue of identity. Being gay is a way bigger thing than just sex; it's an identity, a community, friends, etc. We all identify with something, but what is most important first and foremost our identity needs to be as a disciple of Jesus Christ. So can a gay person go to heaven? His response to that is this: "I think if we're going to ask that question, then we have to ask if someone can be an alcoholic and go to heaven. Can someone be addicted to drugs and go to heaven? Can someone be a gossip and got to heaven? Can someone be a worrier and go to heaven? Can someone be jealous of others and go to heaven? Can someone be an arrogant know-it-all Christian and go to heaven?" He does go on to make distinctions between someone who is tempted to sin and fails occasionally and someone who just blatantly sins without regard for what God's Word says.  It's a challenge for me to be reminded once again that sin is sin and there aren't levels of sin; it's way more about our hearts and if we are trying to live above sin or just ignoring the Bible and doing whatever we want.

I would recommend this book if you are looking for ways to reach out to the LGBT community or just reaching out to your neighbor who is different from you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What is Truth (Part 1)

Yes, I said part one because thoughts have been going through my head on this subject and I'm not going to write much tonight and I want to give myself the option of continuing it later.

I'm teaching SS tomorrow and the title is "Walking in Truth". I'll admit, I saw that title and thought, "Oh this will be easy" and then I read the text and I was blank.  2 John and 3 John for those who want to read and offer insight.

I read it a few more times and thoughts started to come, questions mostly. I like to come to class armed with questions and I will ask them in different ways until someone starts talking and if nobody talks tomorrow, I will call out names. That is a threat to anyone out there that might read this tonight or early tomorrow morning and attend my SS class, so take heed.

How do you "love in the truth?"

How do "truth and love" work together? I'm reading a book that explains this a little I think, but I won't talk about it now because I need to write a book review on it.

"And this is love, that we walk after his commandments."

And then there's some verses on deceivers and antichrists and how you should not let them into your house and you should not bid them God speed and I want to cry. How do I know if they are false teachers? What if they are really seeking and confused and I turn them away? And then there's Diotrephes in the next book and he was proud and arrogant and turned away missionaries of the Gospel and yet he wasn't kicked out of the church.

And then we move beyond the SS lesson and start talking about truth in the books we read and the things we listen to and then I must bid you adieu because I am starting to get a passion for this and I'm not sure I'm brave enough to tackle this hornet's nest yet.  I leave with one question: do the things you read and listen to and believe line up with God's Word? And some thoughts on a topic on the books we read: maybe coming later.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Parable Treasury by Liz Curtis Higgs; Illustrated by Nancy Munger

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Aww, this is a beautiful book.  I was expecting a thin hard cover book with fairly small writing and a couple pictures to go with each parable.  Instead I got a 3/4 inch or so thick hardcover book with a padded front cover.  Each page has just a couple lines of the story and a beautiful picture that matches very well with the story description.  What I really like is at the bottom of at least half of the pages is a Bible verse that goes along with the story. It's a beautiful children's book that would span a wider range of ages than some because the stories are parables and so the older child could read and learn the deeper meaning along with being able to understand the Bible verses.

There are four parables: one on Easter and new life, one on sunflowers and spreading the Good News, one on pumpkins and not Halloween, but on being a light to those around us, and one on Christmas and the Christmas Tree farmer who sacrificed the most beautiful tree to a poor family that couldn't afford to pay for one.  This story brought me close to tears.  It was a tree that the farmer's wife would not sell because of its perfection, but when the poor little girl with no concept of cost asked for this tree, the farmer's wife couldn't resist and told her that the tree was not for sale but she would like to give it as a gift to the poor family.  What a picture of God's love.

Like I said, the illustrations are very well done, brightly colored and would keep a young child's attention.  It even kept Amber's for split seconds at a time.

I would definitely recommend this book for a nice Christmas gift this year.

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Reframe by Brian Hardin

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From the God we made to the God with us.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book; parts of it were excellent and parts left me with questions of uncertainty, but the premise behind this book is right on. We need a relationship with God and that relationship needs to be a two-way street.  Relationships with friends, with spouses involve a giving and taking on both sides. If one side always takes and the other side is the giving side, it's not a solid relationship and it likely isn't going to last.  Too often that is what we do with God, we take and take and take and we forget that God wants us to give as well.  We need to give ourselves to God: all of us, heart, mind, soul, will, emotions, body, etc. etc. etc.  God wants a relationship with us.

Constant prayer is one thing I have been challenged with and want to do better--to just keep God in communication all day long in everything and with everybody.  Think of how my speech could change if He was the central focus of my life every day.

One of the counter ideas that Brian introduces in this book is: it's all about you.  Normally we say, life isn't about you and I still agree with that, but listen me out.  It's all about you.  You are the only one that can decide on a relationship with Jesus Christ.  You are the only one living in your body.  It's up to you what you do each day and how you live it out.  What you do today, decisions you make today will influence others. How you live your life will influence the generations coming after you. That's just scary, but if you stop and think about it, it's very true.

Then here is where I go off on my own tangent.  If I live selfishly as though life is all about me and I'm the only one that matters, I'm making decisions that could cause my children to grow up to be selfish brats.  That is where life isn't about me. It's about me making decisions that teach my children to live for God, to live devoted to having a relationship with Him, and teaching them to live selflessly and devotedly.

This book was given me by Tyndale House for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.  To learn more about the book go here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Forgiven by Terri Roberts with Jeanette Windle

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This is an amazing story of forgiveness.  Remember the Nickel Mines Amish School shooting? This is the side of the story told by the killer's mother, Terri. She talks about the shock and horror they felt when they heard their son had done this awful thing and then she talks about the way the Amish extended forgiveness immediately to them and how in the years that followed her and her husband Chuck became very good friends with the Amish.

It's a story of grace and forgiveness and healing after a tsunami swept through and destroyed the old normal.  It's a story that is pertinent today because forgiveness is always pertinent. I can't imagine being Terri and Chuck or Charlie's wife, Marie, left to deal with the aftermath of such a disaster.  Trying to understand what would drive a man to do such a heinous crime; a man who was a family man, who provided and took care of his wife and children.

Terri talks about learning to give thanks in everything as she battled breast cancer and then when "The Happening" (as the Amish called it) happened, she felt God telling her to give thanks again in everything and it was hard for her to do, but as she was willing she could find things to be thankful for.

To me, it is an amazing testimony of what God can do when you are surrendered to Him. The Amish extended an open hand of forgiveness, they would go along with Terri as she gave talks on what she had learned and they would call her to help others in their group extend that same forgiveness.

In her last chapter entitled "What Now?", Terri gives a few pointers on what to do.

1. Move forward. This involves taking a deliberate step while still maintaining a perspective of grief and pain.

2. Think on These things. When dark times or memories of the sad event want to occur, think about the happy memories.

3. Practice forgiveness. Bitterness will lead to the choices her son made and that is not good.

4. Make right choices.

5. Share your story with others. It might bring healing to another person.

6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Be willing to ask hard questions even if it may make you seem nosy.

7. Pray with Thanksgiving

8. Focus on Eternity.

I highly recommend this book.  It touched me and I want to reach out and offer forgiveness easily and quickly.  Nothing in my life has been close to as traumatic as having my son kill innocent people and then commit suicide, but life isn't a picnic and living with people and building relationships requires a forgiving spirit to work through misunderstandings and I want to do that.

At the time of her writing, Terri had just found out that her cancer was back, Stage IV. She didn't know what the next bends in the road would look like, but she was determined to walk them with God.

This book was given me by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reading and writing a review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Six Months

Six months already.  How can it be? And on the other hand, how can it not be six years already?  It feels short, it feels long, it still feels unreal.

Yes, it is six months today since the doctor told us that Dad is brain dead. Six months since we made hard decisions and released Dad to Jesus.  Six months since we stood around his bedside trying to be strong as we watched him breathe his last.  Six months since we went to Randy's one last time, this time to talk about planning a funeral; hope was gone.  Six months since we made that last drive from Eau Claire to home.

We were just in Eau Claire a few weeks ago on our way to New Jersey; we stayed there for the night right across from the motel we had spent over a week at six months ago.  There was no way I was going to stay in the same motel.  Not yet; maybe not ever.  But I would go to Randy's again, for their comfort pudding if nothing else.

Do those memories never fade?  I am blessed and grateful to have been with Dad in his final week of life. I wouldn't trade it, but I can still picture him laying there so still; machines in place doing their work, keeping him alive.  I can still picture the silence in the few minutes before he died; watching him take his final breaths and then all was still and silent as the color drained from his face and he woke up in glory land with Jesus.  Thankfully, I can still remember Dad the morning of the surgery as well, as we talked and he lay in his bed with his surgical cap on, not saying much as was Dad's nature.  We tried joking and talking to cover the seriousness of the occasion.  It's a treasured memory. I'm glad I have that one because the rest of them from then on can almost make me angry.  How can this happen?  How can a 96% success rate mean that Dad becomes one of the 4%?  He seemed healthy.  I was proud of my healthy parents and was looking forward to talking about my 90 year old parents and how healthy they were.  Was it pride?  I was anxious to see how much more energy Dad would have after this surgery? How much difference we would be able to see.  Well, I realize the difference is incomprehensible now; Dad has more energy and vigor than ever!!!

I know if Dad can see any of the goings on on earth, he would be proud.  Dad's death did bring us together as a family more than we were before.  Dad would be proud of how his sons take care of their mother; how they step up and do what needs doing, even when it isn't fun.  Dad would be proud of how Mom keeps going, doing things she hates doing like driving in the dark. I think he was cheering from the sidelines when Mom called to ask for help with her yard; maybe cheering because he didn't have to help this year :) :), but cheering nonetheless.

We as a family have been blessed with a good legacy.  We can be proud to say we are Amos' children.  Yes, the last six months have been brutal, but God has been there, church people, community, friends have been there.  Thank you thank you, but don't forget us now, especially mom.  We still have Thanksgiving, Dad's 80th birthday and Christmas coming up all lumped together in one exciting package.

Grieving is exhausting, but good memories make it endurable. And so we continue on with God.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Win or Lose I Love You by Lysa TerKeurst; Illustrated by Jana Christy

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This is a lovely little children's book for ages 3-8 or so would be my guess.  It's a nice hardcover book with very attractive pictures. The illustrator did a very good job.

The story line is about being graceful winners and losers and how it's not so important that you win as the attitude you have about the game itself.  In the story, the animals were competing in a Field Day to see who would be the leader of the forest.  In the end, the leader was not an animal that had won anything, but the animal who had worked hard to make everything okay for those who lost. I really liked this book. Lulu and Max are nice little people who go on adventures together.

At the back of the book, Lysa has ten Bible verses that go along with attitude and things like that. Verses like the Golden Rule and working diligently, etc.

I would definitely recommend this book to others and will look forward to seeing more books by Lysa.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review about it.  All opinions expressed are my own.