Favorite reads of 2017

Other than gathering with my church fam to worship, my favorite way to spend a day is curled up, under a blanket (or by a pool, depending on the season), with a good book. Friday afforded me a day of such luxury. We had finished all our school for the week, we had nowhere we had to be, and we all indulged in a day of sewing, Legos, and, of course, reading. I devoured a fabulous book called Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and it got me considering what books were most impactful from 2017. I’ve shared my favorite reads from the last five years here –click the year to read the list. (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012)

My Top Seven from 2017:

1. If You Can Keep It:The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxes. FABULOUS! Metaxes talks about the great experiment of American democracy, and what must be in place in order for true freedom to flourish. He explains the Golden Triangle of Freedom, borrowed from Os Guinness. Basically, true freedom requires virtue, and virtue requires faith and faith requires freedom. He shares historical documents that reveal some of our forefathers’ roots of virtue, humility, seeking God’s guidance, and relying on His grace, and explains that if we depart from those roots, we will never be able to recover the true freedom we have lost. Metaxes doesn’t take sides, he encourages both conservatives and liberals to work together for the common good of our country.

2. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey. This one felt like an answer to my heart’s cry. It’s a challenging read–it’s huge and I had to re-read a lot of portions of it to understand, but it’s so powerful, well-worth the work. Pearcey was a student of Francis Schaeffer, so her book is makes many of his ideas attainable for regular people like me. 🙂 I have tried to read Schaeffer and felt lost (Jeff loves him!). It’s basically a study of the history of secularism, darwinism, and how infiltrated our entire culture, education, and society has become as a result. I was reading this right as Dutch was engulfed in Is Genesis History study, so the timing was perfect. She argues that the gospel doesn’t begin in Matthew 1, but in Genesis 1, and how critical it is that we embrace God as our Creator. Highly recommend!

3. You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis Chan & Lisa Chan. This is a quick read, but probably my favorite marriage book. It’s simple and straightforward: wholeheartedly following Jesus with reckless abandon is the only way to be the best spouse. Ultimately, we love our spouse not because he or she is lovely, or because we feel like it, but because our marriage is a picture of God’s love for his people, and I have been given the responsibility of helping my spouse come to know, love, and follow Jesus fully. Great for engaged couples too!

4. Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment by Shannon Ethridge. I read this and was like, “Whoa. Why does no one talk about this??” I knew about the men’s book on sexual purity, Every Man’s Battle, but I never knew there was a women’s version. I came across it because someone recommended Preparing your daughter for every woman’s battle which is for moms to go through with daughters in the 9-13 age range. I have to say, I absolutely recommend women read this book. It is so eye-opening. So often, sexual purity is talked about from male perspective, and usually seen as a “male struggle”–but Shannon is an incredibly honest, straightforward, insightful voice for women, she has a powerful testimony, and she deals with the emotional and mental side of things. Excellent read, especially if you work with women in any kind of ministry setting.

5. Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxes. LOVE!!  I want to buy a copy of this book for every woman in our church, it’s so inspiring. Metaxes shares brief biographies of seven women: Joan of Arc, Susannah Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Theresa. So inspiring! If you love biographies, but have a hard time wading through looooong ones :), this is a great solution. He does a fabulous job summarizing each woman’s life and the essence of God’s work in and through their lives. Even though I was familiar with most of these women, I learned new things about each one, and gained an all-new level of respect for each one. Plus, they are each SO DIFFERENT from each other. It was very inspiring that God uses women from all different backgrounds, abilities, seasons, and classes in order to accomplish His purposes. And… I want to be Susannah Wesley when I grow up. 😉

6. How Children Fail by John Holt. The timing for reading this book could not have been more perfect. I was frustrated by our workbook-driven educational existence, and felt like we were expending a lot of energy without getting much of anywhere. It was like Holt was exactly answering my fears and frustrations with wisdom and research that confirmed exactly what I was suspecting. In short, Holt shows how simply stuffing children with content will never produce great thinkers. He opens our eyes to how fear cripples our ability to learn, and demonstrates how to cultivate a love of learning, rather than just a desire to get right answers.  It’s worth mentioning that I didn’t love Holt’s other books, but this one is a powerful! If you are attempting to educate your children (whether public, private, or at home), I highly recommend.

7. The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (4 books): Kind of cheating here, because this is four books, but this is a young-adult series that, if I can be so bold, ranks even higher than the Chronicles of Narnia in my book. I honestly think CS Lewis would say the same, I think he’d tip his hat to Peterson and congratulate him on a brilliantly-written saga that ties in fantasy, wit, virtue, and the gospel. At the end, I sobbed, so grateful for Jesus’ free gift of salvation. Dutch read these first and then I quickly became enraptured as well. A great read-aloud for kids in the 10-year-old and up age group. They are intense, but virtuous and inspiring. Would be a set worth buying.

Other great reads from 2017:

1. Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife by Kay Warren: This one almost made the top 7, but it’s for a pretty narrow audience, us pastor’s wives. It was a super encouraging read, and really helpful to get an insider’s glance into the life of Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren, perhaps the most influential pastor of our time. She’s raw, real, honest, and very hope-filled. I highly recommend to any pastor’s wife.

2. The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. To be honest, I have a hard time connecting with the way Ann writes, only because I prefer a more straightforward style, but of course Ann is amazing and any book that highlights the power of brokenness, choosing the low seat, and pursuing a path of humility is always going to be worth your time. Personally, this book helped me not be afraid of getting hurt in relationships, but to move toward people in love even when you feel hurt.

3. Til We Have Faces by CS Lewis. This is considered by many (and Lewis) his best novel. A bit disturbing, but fascinating too. It’s a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, and gives piercing insight into our own brokenness.

4. Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible by Shannon Popkin. This dear girl is a new friend of mine, and she’s NAILED this topic! She’s been speaking and writing on this topic for years, and this book totally gets to the heart of all our control-issues.This has a Bible study that goes with it and would be great for a small group Bible study.

5. Be Fruitful and Multiply: What the Bible Says about Having Children by Nancy Campbell. I had to chuckle while I was reading this, because it’s SO FAR off the normal beaten path of what I read. But it was given to us, and honestly, I really enjoyed it and it was eye-opening. The author basically builds a case for how our society has lost our biblical understanding of what a blessing children are, from God. Instead we’ve come to see them as a hindrance, costing too much money, cramping our style and stealing our freedoms. She goes through the biblical evidence of how God feels about children, and some interesting evidence about the dangers of permanent forms of birth control (vasectomy & hysterectomy). Considering our recent journey, it served as much-needed encouragement to persevere.

6. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May. Well my oh my. Natural-childbirth proponents likely know about this book. It was … wow! Very informative, worth reading.

7. Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize. So glad I read this! I had heard bits and pieces about the “supernatural childbirth” movement, but most of them all revolved around having a pain-free childbirth experience. But this book is SO MUCH more than that! It’s about, again, seeing what God says about children and then believing His Word and His promises regarding our own conception, pregnancy, and delivery experiences. This might sound crazy, but I have this book to thank–by God’s generous power and leading–for the conception of our child. This isn’t the place to get into it, but this book fanned into flame the faith that had dwindled, and allowed me to re-approach God from a correct mind-set, resting on His Word.

8. Different: The story of an outside-the-box kid and the mom who loved him by Sally Clarkson. This is the story of Sally Clarkson and her son, Nathan, who has OCD and sensory disorders. Together they share about his childhood and the challenges of homeschooling, coming into adulthood, and the lessons they both learned as a result. I read it because Dutch is certainly an out-of-the-box child but honestly, my takeaway was that he’s not THAT out-of-the-box. Ha! We actually have things pretty easy compared to some of the challenges that Sally and Nathan had. In the end, it’s her encouragement to love our kids just as they are, and to be patient and gracious with their quirks.

9. French Woman Don’t Get Facelifts by Mireille Guiliano. Are you laughing yet? Right after a book on supernatural, miraculous childbirth is a book on facelifts? A few weeks after my miscarriage, we were spending the day at the river with my mother-in-law, and I just desperately wanted something light. Everything had been so heavy, and I wanted to laugh, so I borrowed this book from my MIL and enjoyed it while basking in the sun. Nothing earth-shattering, of course, but it’s just about aging gracefully and not trying to be something your not, vainly clinging to some 20-something image of yourself. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin (and taking care of that skin!), and eating to live, rather than focusing on diets and body-obsession. Of course, this is not written from a Christian perspective, I don’t endorse everything in it, but it was a quick enjoyable read.

10. Sacred Mundane: How to find freedom, purpose, and joy by Kari Patterson. Ha! Yes, I re-read my own book because it reads differently when it’s actually on paper. You can get get it here for cheaper than Amazon, with free shipping: https://squareup.com/store/sacred-mundane

Re-reads that I thoroughly re-enjoyed:

1. Mere Christianity by CS Lewis (one of my all-time favs)

2. The Great Divorce by CS Lewis (hadn’t read since college–so good! Fascinating.)

3. Educating the Whole-hearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson (one of my favorite homeschool reference books)

4. High Call High Privilege by Gail MacDonald (LOVE THIS BOOK!!! A must-read for every pastor’s wife. I hadn’t read it since we first got married, so it was a completely new experience, almost 15 years later. Highly recommend.)

Whew! There you have it. Now, I would LOVE to hear your favorite books from 2017. Will you please share? Thanks so much for reading.

I am the Cloven, I am the Loved.

I looked down at Dutch, concerned:

“Is Kalmar going to die?”

He smiled but his eyes told me nothing. He’s a stickler for unspoiled endings.

Then I reminded my heavy heart, It’s just a book

Just as certain songs mark seasons of some people’s lives, so books do with mine, and this has most certainly been the Wingfeather month. Dutch devoured the 4-book series and was so completely enchanted by them I thought I’d join him on the journey.

I’m so glad I did. I was quickly swept along in this breathtaking story, and it carried me swiftly through the weeks of morning sickness and made my couch-ridden afternoons a glorious retreat.

They may not have the same effect on you. They’re kids’ books.  The main character is 12. But I’d venture to say even C.S. Lewis would tip his bowler to Andrew Peterson because this Narnia-esque series speaks to deeper places of my heart than any other book has in a long time.

In them I learned that I am the Cloven.

I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that the dark and evil enemy captures victims and drives them to desperation, then exploits that desperation by promising them power, beauty, glory. When they succumb, which they all inevitably do, they are melded with a wild beast to become a hybrid — the Cloven.

His army.

But in this clumsy diabolical process, many are warped, misshapen, left longing for wholeness but unable to go back, left forever bearing the image of their failure, their weakness, their shame.

This happened to Kalmar, the eleven-year-old boy we follow through the Wingfeather Saga. There are times his shame is so painful it is difficult to read. Strong people—unbroken people—can be so mercilessly cruel and the weight of our failure can lead us within a hairsbreadth of abandoning our calling altogether. But every day his mother reminds them,

“Remember who you are.”

Indeed, this remembering becomes the most critical battle plan. Rehearsing your name, your place, the truth of who you are.

But just when the shame seems unbearable, Kalmar meets Elder Cadwick, another Cloven, who reminds him:

Being broken isn’t always a bad thing.”

And then.

The glorious redemption unfolds. Not just for Kalmar, but for the entire Kingdom. For all the poor and powerless, for all the lost and lonely — for every Cloven whose very appearance smacks of failure, weakness, shame.

Only a Cloven could reach the Cloven. 

All the whole and strong people, the unbroken people, they built their fences and set their guards and sharpened their weapons and rightly so, because the Cloven were … monsters. But only one who was also broken could hear the hearts that cried inside and recognize the evil done TO them.

With judgement gone then righteous revenge could be carried out against the source of evil.

And there’s only one. 

Now, as I curl up with the last few hours of 2017, I reflect on this year. There’s never been a year like this year. So much loss and struggle, not just for me but for those I love most. I’ve shed more tears this year than any other, hands down. I’ve struggled and stumbled, grasping for His grace. It’s been there, all along, but I end this year very different than I began.

I am the Cloven.

I’m broken a bit, many more lines adorn my face.

I’m no longer enamored with myself. 

But that isn’t the end. The story isn’t, “Let’s just celebrate our brokenness and learn to love ourselves.”

That isn’t it.

The story is Redemption. The story is a Savior. The story is the Innocent in place of the guilty. The spotless, perfect, righteous One, choosing death for love … for us.

I am the loved. 

You are too. 

So, broken friend—there may be a bit of Cloven in you too, eh?  There’s good news: The broken can hear the hearts that cry inside monsters.

You have a calling, Broken Friend. You have a world to love, Good News to share. You have wounds to heal, lost to find, foes to slay. You have little warriors to raise.  You must be brave. You must be fierce. You must be a fighter, a peace-maker, a dragon-slayer, a Jesus-Lover.

You are the Cloven, you are the Loved. 

Here’s to a 2018 unmarked by our own selfish achievements but shining brilliantly with the love and courage of Christ. What might your brokenness enable you to do? How might Christ be mighty in your weakness? How will you devote yourself completely to His cause, come what may? And how will you remind yourself, daily, who you really are? You are Loved. 

{Happy New Year. Looking forward to journeying with you into the great unknown. Thanks for reading.}

*I found a few more boxes of books in my garage! If you’re still looking for Sacred Mundane you can order here, cheaper than Amazon, with free shipping. https://squareup.com/store/sacred-mundane Happy reading!

The fellowship of the broken-hearted

What is wrong with me??

I leaned against the kitchen cabinet, trying to keep the sobs silent. The kids played, oblivious. Jeff worked outside. I just couldn’t stop crying. I tried to text a friend, but a few words in I quit.

Too much. Don’t even know where to begin.

Another deflating disappointment, another super confusing complication that leaves me bewildered, wondering where God is leading all this tangle of seemingly dead-end roads.

I came upstairs, figured I’d put the clean sheets on the bed. Do the next thing. 

And there, beside my bed, was my answer. To what was wrong with me.

Except maybe it’s not wrong. 

There, beside my bed, I saw the display. My pregnancy book. My miscarriage book. The Pro-Life book. There’s a book on how to provide marriage counseling to those in need. To the left is a book on preparing your daughter for sexual and emotional purity. There’s a photo of my grandma, who passed away this past year. Underneath them all is a phone-book sized biblical parenting book that accompanies a video study. You can’t see the Intercessory Prayer book but it’s there too.

Each book represents an aspect of my life that tears at my heart, that weighs on me, that causes me to cry out in prayer, that, at times, keeps me awake at night. Each aspect represents a part of this past year, something we’ve walked through, or are walking through.

You’re probably familiar with these aspects too, and more.

None of them are cerebral studies. I’m not gathering data for a business presentation. 

Each represents, in some way, a broken heart. 

Friday night, Jeff and I watched Joan of Arc. I had seen it before, but I was struck afresh by this brave & broken-hearted girl who united France and died a martyr, because she cared.

To care is to cry. To break.

A month ago I spoke to a gathering of pastor’s wives. Before the conference, I was in the midst of yet another emotional episode, and I lay with my face to the floor and asked God how this was going to work, speaking to these women, when I was such a wreck inside. I heard, in my heart:

“The fellowship of the broken-hearted.”

Yes. Of course. Each one of these women, because they shepherd others, they lead, they love, and they lay down their lives … every single one of them lives with a broken heart. To care is to cry. To break.

My friend Christine always says, “Breakthrough comes through a broken heart.” 

Certainly much of my own sorrow probably comes from selfishness, but in this particular situation I can honestly say it came from caring. Jesus was a man acquainted with sorrows, and it only makes sense that as we come to know Him more, as we walk His way, we will care more. We will ache more. We will hurt more. There will be victories. There will be hallelujahs. There will be mountain tops and glorious days. But if Jesus wept over Jerusalem, won’t we weep over our nation? If Jesus wept when Lazarus died, knowing He would raise Him, won’t we weep over the sick and disease-ridden, the ones who die too soon, the victims of violence, both born and unborn?

Maybe tears aren’t a symptom something’s wrong.

Maybe they mean something’s right because we care about what’s wrong. 

I came back downstairs, did the next thing. Made dinner. While we washed dishes after, Shane & Shane came on Spotify and I heard Job’s words:

Though You slay me, yet I will praise You

Though You take from me, I will bless Your name

Though you ruin me, still I will worship

… Jeff gently pulled me into his arms–he’s part of the Fellowship too. Each word brought out the broken places and the tears flowed freely, safely, onto his shoulder. At the end of the song, I wiped my mascara-smeared eyes on his black t-shirt and SMILED. The true, genuine, hope-filled smile of knowing my Redeemer lives. And just then, another song came on, and as only Providence would have it, Housefires sang out a scripture equally true:

All Your promises are yes and amen!

Yes! Even in the broken-heartedness, His promises are ALWAYS yes and amen. This is not the end.

So, this post isn’t meant to glorify my fragile emotional state, I’m not proud of it. 😉 But I just thought it might encourage Christ-followers who ache over the state of our world, for marriages, for kids, for loved ones and lives lost, who walk through personal sorrow as well. You know it. You are part of it, the Fellowship of the Broken-hearted. And He’s near.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

-Psalm 34:18

{Keep fighting, praying, caring. Have a great week dear friends. Thanks for reading.}

 

Considering causes: Seasons, Cultural Regions, and your Unique Position

So, I confess: Sometimes, it seems like every day in America there is another injustice, another controversial issue people are debating about, I start to feel this tinge of panic, feeling like I should know more about this, should have something intelligent to say about this, should have the definitive gospel-view on this, and should have already been actively involved in this thing.

It can start to feel like you must be championing every cause at all times.  But while God is omnipresent, we are not. So what do we do? Sadly, we can fall prey to compassion-fatigue and just quit caring about anything at all. We can stick our head in the sand and hope it will all ago away. Or, we can fear falling behind and feel like we have to keep up with them all. But I suggest there is a better way:

Let’s consider three critical aspects of our causes and callings:

SEASONS

For the better part of 3 years we had previously-homeless and drug-addicted people living with us, trying to help them get on their feet. During that season, I was deeply impacted by the passage of Isaiah 58 that describes true fasting (the kind that pleases God):

“Is [fasting] not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house?”

During this season, I championed the value of helping the poor intimately, not just donating to programs, etc. but actually bringing them into your home. 

That was great. I’m so grateful for the experience, and we may very well do it again, but right now God has made it very clear that is not what we’re supposed to do with our home. We’re pursuing other ways to house those in need, but for this season, it’s not inside our home.

Similarly, for several years, we gave half of our income away. I was passionate about the importance of giving to others just as much as you use for yourself. Again, it was great. It profoundly impacted our finances and our view of stewardship. Two years ago, God made it clear that that season (of giving half) was over. Now it’s more in the 35% range and we give in other creative ways.

My point: There are seasons for specific calls and causes, and we are wise to depend on God’s Spirit to lead us, by His Word, through those seasons, without assuming they are forever or that everyone else should do exactly the same thing.

CULTURAL REGIONS

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a pastor’s wives retreat. All of us were from the NW, except one, who flew in from North Carolina. Wow, what an eye-opening experience. Right out of the chute she started peppering us with questions,

“So, do y’all have such a hard time getting people to break free from their traditions? Like, do people only care about how their daddy did and their grand-daddy did it, and are they super resistant to anything new?”

Blink blink.

We stared at her, in complete incomprehension.

I spent one afternoon hearing her whole story. I am not exaggerating when I say it was like hearing stories from another century, or another planet. It was so far removed from anything I have ever experienced, I was floored. I won’t go into all of it here, but let’s just say that the issues in the Bible-belt south are worlds apart from the issues in ultra-progressive, hipsterville Portland, Oregon. It was like two people from different planets comparing notes.

What this made me realize was how important it is that we critique and encourage and address the issues in our specific cultural context. In other words, while it’s all from the Bible, the sermons her husband needs to preach are totally different from the sermons my husband needs to preach. Same gospel, same Scriptures, way way way different culture, and therefore different applications.

That’s why, while there are things like online church, podcasts, FB, and other online communities, there’s no substitute for the local church community. In-person community is often the cure for the cultural disconnect, focusing on face-to-face conversations instead of only Facebook posts. 

YOUR UNIQUE POSITION

Right now I’m neck-deep in some rich biographies, from the book Seven Women. So far I have been floored by the beautiful stories of Joan of Arc, Susannah Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, Corrie Ten Boom and Rosa Parks. What’s struck me is how vastly different each of their lives, callings, causes, and contributions.

There’s not much in common among them except courage.

Well, the other thing they have in common is that they responded heroically to the evils of their culture, in their day, presented to them. They functioned within their unique station in life.

  • Imagine if Joan of Arc spent her whole life lamenting the fact that she was single and didn’t get to marry and have kids? Imagine if she arrogantly insisted that all women—if they really loved God—enroll in the military and fight in battles. But instead, she listened to God’s unique call on her life and refused to let fear keep me from living out her destiny, even though it eventually cost her her life.
  • Imagine if Susannah Wesley spent her whole life lamenting that she was a SAHM, complained about her 19 children and bemoaned their lack of birth control. (Interestingly, John & Charles were 15th & 18th born! Imagine if she had quit earlier!) She had a basically absent husband who handled finances poorly and wasn’t exactly a hero. She homeschooled them all, and because Christian curriculum was hard to find, she wrote her own textbooks! She accepted the place God gave her, and chose to embrace it with enthusiasm and courage.
  • Imagine if Rosa Parks had spent her whole life lamenting that she was a black woman, having to sacrifice her education to care for her aging grandmother, then having to sacrifice her job to care for her aging mother. She could have complained endlessly about the unfairness of life, but she used her unique position as a strength and became one of the most influential people in America.

The point: Each of these women embraced their unique position in life and made a difference right where they were.

For example, while there are a lot of great causes, I have always been drawn to protecting the unborn. The unborn are most certainly the “voiceless” in our society, the most vulnerable, whose very lives hang in the balance, who are being protected less and less by those in power. Sadly, this has become touted as a “conservative” cause, while things like healthcare reform and education are touted as “liberal” causes. This is so sad, because every cause contributes in different ways! I sense Pro-life is to be the focus of my prayers, attention, and efforts, not because it’s a conservative issue, but because of:

  • The SEASON I am in (children at home, having experienced two heart-breaking miscarriages, and very mindful of the plight of young moms in need), because of
  • The CULTURAL REGION in which I live (this infographic demonstrates how Oregon (below also) stands on the abortion issue; we are the only state where there are no requirements, no questions asked, abortion at-will. This is definitely a critical issue in Oregon), and because of
  • My UNIQUE POSITION. When I was a kid, my mom worked at our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, and I have vivid memories of spending my afternoons there, curled up with my homeschool books, looking at pamphlets and posters of pregnant women, while my mom counseled moms and worked for this cause. From an early age I see God putting this issue in front of my face, and it’s surfaced many times. I recognize that there are a lot of things I cannot do, but this is something I can pray about, contribute to, and help in various ways. I do this not because I am a conservative, but because I am a Christian and God’s brought this specific cause to my attention.

However, my attention to my cause does not invalidate the importance of yours.

Your specific calling is valid, important … and yours

Recently Jeff and I hosted in our home a friend who works in another part of the country, ministering to a specific minority people group. Later, he asked Jeff and me if we would consider contributing financially to his ministry. We prayed about it, and sensed no, that although it was a great cause, it wasn’t the specific one God was calling us to at this time. We shared that with him, and I’m so grateful for his gracious response—Yes, he said, there are so many great causes. That demonstrates a maturity, that our cause isn’t the only thing worth fighting for. Also, it’s worth noting my face-to-face interaction with him helped me understand his cultural context, so much better than a FB post or even an email. I know it’s not always possible, but in person is so powerful. 

When we keep our eyes on God and not trying to please people, be a hero, or have a “take” on the latest issue at hand, when we take our cues from Him and His Word, we’re less likely to be tossed to and fro by every new injustice that fills our feed each day. Again, this is not to devalue any one of them, but simply to say that we cannot fight every battle, and we must wisely consider, our season, our cultural region, and the unique position God has given us. I’m no Joan of Arc, but I can honestly say I want to be a Susannah Wesley.

You may indeed be a Joan, and I will cheer you on in the battle. 

So grateful for the varied men and women of old, who carefully considered their place in this world, and courageously gave their all to make it a better place. Let’s honor them by doing the same.

Thanks for reading.

Oregonians: Now is a critical time to sign the petition to end taxpayer-funded abortions. You can do this so easily, online, right here: https://www.stopthefunding.org/sign-the-petition/ You can also order petition sheets there to gather signatures from friends, neighbors, church family, etc. There are many other ways to get involved, to support expecting mothers, adopt, fund, or serve in pregnancy care centers. How can you help? Thanks so much! 

PS Internationally, we focus our attention on water projects and aid to women and children through World Vision and discipleship work and aid through Next Generation Ministries. We have relational connections with both and love their work!

RESOLVE: 2016’s top 10 reads & why I took a break

This year I did something I’ve never done before: I quit reading. 

I shared HERE about my conviction, in early September, to set books aside for a season. It seemed strange, but it was a clear conviction, and I sensed that God wanted me to spend an undetermined length of time without reading any books. I was only to read the Scriptures, and life. There is plenty to read as we look around and LIVE!

I wasn’t sure how long this “book fast” would be, but I waited, and periodically just checked back in with the Father, and prayed that He’d show me when we were done. About mid-December, I was praying about this, and clearly heard/sensed: “CS Lewis.” As I continued to pray I had the impression that I had the freedom to read CS Lewis. Thankfully, he was fairly prolific so that should keep me busy for awhile! 🙂

Overall, I can see more clearly why God had me lay aside books for a season. It was so good to quiet down all the “other” voices in my head, and tune in to His alone. It also afforded me much more time to prayerfully follow along with current events, be engaged with my kids and read aloud to them. It also slow my pace, so that I wasn’t always caught up in some new idea that I’d read. I have a tendency to move along very quickly from thing to thing, idea to idea, and this helped me become more slow and steady, chewing on the Word rather than constantly entertaining new ideas. Overall, I’m very grateful.

So, my reading this for the new year is very simple: Read and re-read all of CS Lewis’s books. Of course, my own book will be coming out in late summer, so I’m hoping He gives me the go-ahead to read that. 😉 

I share all of this not to say that you shouldn’t read anymore. Not at all! Just to say that sometimes less is more, and reading more doesn’t always mean we’re living well. May God give you clear direction as to what to read this year, I do hope that it includes my book. I promises it points to Jesus! 

Anyway, here are the books I enjoyed from 2016, that I’d recommend, in no particular order. I read others as well, but these are the ones I recommend. unoffendable

  1. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen. Oh my, LOVE THIS BOOK. The kindle edition is only 99cents–so worth it! It’s funny, refreshing. The author has Asperger’s, so I only read it because I thought it might help me understand my son, but I gained so much from this book! If you want to fun, impacting, easy-read that will make you smile and think, get this one!!
  2. Do What Jesus Did by Robby Dawkins. Such a great book. It’s fabulous, can’t recommend enough. Great practical field guide on crazy stuff like healing the sick and casting out demons.
  3. The Shattering by Jessica Smith. This was given to me by the author at a conference where I was speaking. It’s simply her story about discovering the truth behind yoga, and her VERY REAL encounter that forever changed her life. It’s a quick read but WORTH IT. I know it’s a controversial topic, but her testimony is powerful and I highly recommend.  It’s one you could read then pass on.
  4. For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley. Oh my goodness, where has this book been all my life?? It’s an absolutely fabulous philosophy of education for homeschoolers or public schoolers. I love her insights. You can easily get this one from the library–I highly recommend!
  5. The Jesus Fast by Lou Engle. I’ve already talked lots about this book here  and in the entire fasting series on my site this summer. It’s not so much a primer on fasting, but a call to lay aside comforts and life-as-usual to embrace an adventure of bringing about God’s kingdom here on earth through extended fasting. A faith-builder for sure!
  6. The Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. A friend loaned this to me and I devoured it on a vacation trip. It’s a long read, and you could spend countless hours here, planning and taking notes. You can get at the library, and then determine if you need your own copy. I love Charlotte Mason so this was right up my alley. If you’re a homeschooler, I highly recommend this book.
  7. Give Your Child the World by Jamie Martin. I’ve already written HERE about this beloved book. A great resource for reading to your kids! Jamie has a new book club for the new year also. Check out www.simplehomeschool.net for more info!
  8. The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz. This is a great wake-up call for Americans. I don’t agree with every single thing in it, but I am grateful for her TRUTH, and especially her specific call to repentance, prayer, and fasting. Excellent!
  9. Childwise by Gary Ezzo. All the —wise books go along with the Growing Kids God’s Way DVD curriculum which Jeff and I are doing right now, and I LOVE it. I have been so blessed by these books, and enjoyed Babywise and Toddlerwise as well. I read Childwise this summer, and it was really helpful for understanding some specific ways I needed to train and nuture our kids at the stage they’re at now. Along with this…
  10. Preteen-wise by Gary Ezzo. Believe it or not, my kids are now in this stage! This book focuses on ages 8-12, and it is SO helpful in preparing for the teen years. However, a lot of this book is a repeat of Childwise, so you might not need to read both, if you’re short on time. If you had to choose, I’d say go with Childwise because it covers the critical core components of teaching and instilling moral reasoning. It’s excellent!

That’s it! Now, you’re turn: What was your favorite read of 2016? 

Thanks for reading. 

 

What I left behind, and why.

Hello from Redwood National Forest! Yesterday we hitched up the tent trailer, and headed out on our annual road trip down to California-Arizona-Utah. This year we got brave (and frugal) and decided that instead of renting a house we’d bring our tent trailer instead. Yup — nineteen days and 3,040 miles in a tent trailer. In the not-Summer. With temps ranging from 40s to 90s. The jury’s definitely still out on whether this is a good idea. But hey, it’s an adventure!

We spent all day Saturday packing, and it’s quite entertaining considering the things each of us chooses to carry. We’re a quirky bunch. But that’s another post for another day.

For me, packing this time was very different for me in one significant way: I brought no books. None. Other than the Bible, there isn’t a single volume along with me here.

This might not seem like a huge deal to you, but it is to me. I’m a book lover. I could read all day. And usually, vacation (especially road trips) is when I devour the stack of books I’ve been longingly looking at for moths.

Books are my life-soundtrack. I remember certain trips because of the stories I read during them. I can still remember wiping away tears as I read Same Kind of Different As Me on the flight to Hawaii. I remember laughing so hard the other passengers were staring at me as I tore through Anne Lamott’s  Bird by Bird. I remember The Glass Castle on the beach, and Half the Sky in Maui and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in the bench-seat of my dad’s truck. So many laughs and tears and the stories, pages, words, they have shaped so many seasons, especially on vacation.

But recently, I’ve sensed the Father urging me to push aside the stack of books. For one, it seems they are coming at me at an alarming rate.  I just feel like there are so many books it can feel like a never-ending onslaught of book recommendations and “you HAVE to read” and “can’t wait to get my hands on” and I just. Cannot. Keep. Up.

Please hear my heart. I have loved these recommendations. I’m grateful for every moment spent savoring these words. But on our last camping trip of the summer, I was reading yet another great book, and it was relating the author’s journey of feeling frenzied, busy, overworking and neglecting her family. She was working on slowing down and enjoying the moment.

On the one hand, I couldn’t really relate that much. We’re actually not very busy. I sleep 8-9 hours a night. The kids and I stay home every weekday. I don’t feel hectic or stressed. I don’t feel driven or pushed to do more or be more. I have in years past, but not today. However, I loved the author’s honesty and transparency, and appreciated her story. So, of course, I wanted to finish the book.

But then. Here we sat, on this hidden-away beach the kids and I had found, along a beautiful lake, all by ourselves, where we picnicked and threw rocks and splashed in the water.

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And they were playing happily so I pulled out my book. But immediately, it all seemed wrong. Here I was, enjoying the moment, but then I turned away in order to finish a book written to help people enjoy the moment.

Umm…?

Why not just … do it.

Then, as it were, scales seemed to fall.

I do this.

I’m a compulsive reader. 😉 I don’t feel driven or pushed in any area of my life, except that I want to read more and more, I want to know more, I want to learn more, I want to discover more so I can grow more. And you know, that’s not all bad.

But why not just … do it.

Do what I already know to do. I don’t need another voice telling me something I already know. I don’t need to read the latest book on prayer as much as I just need … to pray.

Maybe I don’t need another thing. Maybe I just need fewer things.

Fewer words. Fewer pages. Just for now.2016-10-03-14-23-20

Because maybe I need to read the moment. Maybe I need to read their faces. I need to read His writing on the wall and the sound of birds and the way the colors change from Portland to Phoenix and back. Maybe I need to pour out more words from my heart instead of stuffing so many in.

So for now, He’s telling me to read the moment, enjoy it, soak it up, live it, then write it. Reading is so much safer.

It’s so much easier to ingest someone else’s story than to live–and tell–your own. 

But writing, for me, requires courage. It requires me to do something more than just regurgitate someone else’s thoughts. I have to feel this day and their faces and read into each moment. I have to engage and then articulate.

I have to offer something of myself out for all to see.

And risk that even though there are already too many words out in this world (*smile*) it’s still worth while to add a few of my own.

So, for this trip, I left books behind. We’ll be embarking on some varied adventures–everything from National Parks to a Bethel conference to a Half-Ironman triathlon. And of course, plenty of mishaps and memorable moments in between. So I’ll be sharing bits and pieces along the way. I hope some can be a blessing or encouragement to you, in some way.

{With so many words out there, thanks for reading these.}

Give yourself a gift (and your child the world!) this summer

I’ve realized something about myself the last few years: I love connecting people. Just yesterday I have a new friend over, whom I’ve only seen in person once but whom I’ve become acquainted with via text for almost a year. As we chatted, I couldn’t get another friend out of my mind, I kept thinking, “Oh, they would love each other! I have to connect them!” I’m already making plans to have them both over, so they can meet and be blessed.

I feel a similar satisfaction when I can connect people via books. Some of my greatest mentors, comforters, wise counselors, and yes, friends, are people whom I have never met in person. They are authors. Many of them, most of them, have long since passed into eternity, but their timeless words linger on pages and I’m always excited to introduce them to my friends.

Naturally, then, one of my greatest joys in motherhood is connecting my children to fabulous men and women through fabulous books. I am beyond thrilled that they are both taking such a liking to John Bunyon. We now have 5 versions of his story, Pilgrim’s Progress, in our home, and his characters and insights are becoming part of the warp and woof  of our daily conversation.  As we were hiking up the steepest hill from the pond yesterday, Dutch announced, “This is surely the hill Difficulty!”

So, knowing this, imagine my delight in offering you something today that is all three of these types of introductions, all into one. Yes, that’s right. An introduction to one of my favorite people, to a fabulous book, and to an opportunity to connect your children with not just a few, but hundreds of fabulous books. Let me explain:

First, one of my favorite people. We have never met in person, but Jamie Martin is a kindred spirit and dear friend. Over the past six or seven years, she has been an invaluable source of encouragement, inspiration. We “met” when my sister-in-law gave me a copy of her book, Steady Days, and I knew I’d found a friend. I still remember sitting on my carpet, weary and overwhelmed as a mama of two tinies, and letting her comforting, encouraging, life-giving words wash over me.

Two years later, I took a huge leap of faith and with trembling hand typed out an article to submit to her, to see if she’d let me guest post on her blog, Simple Homeschool. To my everlasting amazement, she did, and invited me to join the team from then on. I’m most certainly out of my league amongst those homeschool giants, but I’m so grateful they let me be a part!GYCW cover

Well, this lovely lady has compiled a GOLD MINE of literature into an inspiring, encouraging, and supremely helpful book called, Give Your Child the World. In it, she shares her love for the world and her love for stories, giving personal examples of how both have shaped their own family. You cannot help but love her when you read her humble, gentle, life-giving words. She always makes me feel a sense of peace and rest, and a sense of excitement and inspiration.

Her book includes over 600 children’s book recommendation (seriously!) with stories from around the world, to give your child the gift of a love for the world, and the gift of a well-written story that encourages, inspires, instructions, shapes, nurtures, comforts.

It is impossible to overstate the power of a wholesome, well-written story for connecting with our children and teaching them every virtue. Having just read For the Children’s Sake (love!), I am convinced more than ever that whole-books are the path for an excellent education, and a rich life.

Plus, there’s a fun opportunity starting on Monday, to be part of a Summer Book Club, reading through some of Jamie’s recommendations.  There are lots of perks so you can read more about that here. For now, I urge you, for less than $10 you can give your child the greatest gift–a summer (and years to come!) filled with rich stories from around the world. You can click here to order the book today. This would also be a great thing to buy if you’re a grandparent, to read aloud to your grandchildren, or as a gift to a grown son or daughter who has children.

Again, here’s the link to buy the book.

Let the summer reading begin! Thanks for reading.

More than agreement: The real goal of communication

“I just don’t know how to connect with this person,” I confided to a friend. I wanted to, I wanted to build a bridge, to connect, to find common ground, but we were just so different. I honestly didn’t know where to begin, I felt like anything deeper than surface-level conversation would inevitably lead into the treacherous waters of areas where we sharply disagreed. Emphasis on sharply.  *sigh*

What should I do? 

So often in this situation, we stay in the shallow waters of Safe Communication: No politics, no religion. The challenge is, pretty much all of life — except, say, the weather — eventually ties into someone’s deeply held religious or political views. It is impossible for me to communicate deeply with someone without “my faith” spilling out over into it somewhere or another. How we parent, our consumer habits, our lifestyle choices, all of this stems from our deeply held religious or political beliefs.

And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but political and religious issues are pretty much front-and-center these days!

So how do we really connect with someone with whom we sharply disagree on critical issues?

“What do we even talk about??” 

My friend, after listening to my lament, answered so plainly and simply:

“Why don’t you ask questions to try to understand where she’s coming from? Maybe you could better understand her point of view if you asked her more questions about it?”

Ha!

Well, then. Yes. Yes, that would be a good idea. The problem was, the idea of asking this person to openly divulge all her reasons for believing a certain way, for basically unloading her truckload of data for why she chose a certain lifestyle, it made my blood pressure rise just thinking about it. I could feel my heart start to race. I was physically responding to the stress of having to hear strong opinions that go directly against the life we’ve chosen to lead.

Whoa, then. There’s another issue going on, right?

See, what my friend helped me to understand was that the reason this situation was troubling to me, was that deep-down I had some insecurity, or felt threatened in some way. The reason I wasn’t willing to enter into the dangerous waters of discussing areas of disagreement was that I felt a need to defend my way. I didn’t see that there would be any way we’d ever agree, so why talk about it?

Isn’t the goal of communication to come to agreement? Isn’t that the whole point? To connect by finding common ground?

No. Actually it isn’t.

Forgive me for being so remedial, seriously I’m telling you some days I’m like, “How on earth did I get to be 36 years old and never learn this? Good grief.” But anyway, yesterday at church a seasoned saint Paul Hunter said something that about knocked me out of my chair with its simplicity and piercing truth:

The goal of communication isn’t agreement. The goal of communication is understanding

My goal, in reaching out to someone and communicating with them for the sake of connecting with them, isn’t for the sake of agreeing. That isn’t the goal. It isn’t so that I can go to her side or she can come to mine. It isn’t even that we necessarily find “common ground.” We may not.

The goal is that I can better understand her. Understand him. 

Right now I’m reading How to Talk so Kids Can Learn. I’m only a little ways in but wow, it’s so good! It’s basically saying the same thing — we must communicate in ways that we are truly seeking to understand and empathize with how our children are feeling, before we can lead them effectively into learning, obeying, etc. The goal is not compliance, it’s reaching into their hearts and carefully leading them out of selfishness, despair, immaturity, overwhelm, and into courage, obedience, excellence, love.

Easier said than done. The question was, “Did I love this person enough to put my whole heart and soul into seeking to understand her?” Did I care enough to do that, or did I just want the so-called peace of finding agreement on certain issues.

Are we willing to do the hard work of understanding the other side? Understanding others? Or do we just want to “speak our mind” or stay in the safe zone, content with surface-waters of weather when there’s so much more to be known.

Do I really want to understand my child or do I just want them to comply so I can get on with my day.

This stuff is so much simpler on paper than in life. It’s messy. We try it and fail and try it again. But it’s a noble goal, and a necessary one, especially if we are to love one another through difficult days. And even though I sometimes feel hopelessly remedial in this area, I want to learn.

I want to understand. 

{Perhaps this idea will come in handy this week… Thanks for reading.}

The summer you’ll never forget

What have been the defining moments of your life? What experiences have forever altered the course of your life? What books, relationships, choices, events have changed your direction and brought you where you are?

I can think of several, and for me some of the most powerfully influencers over the years have been books. I can look back at key crossroads, at moments of decision that forever changed my life, and almost always I can recall the influence of a powerful book.

When I was a teen, a random person gave me a cassette tape that contained a scratchy audio book of I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Whatever strengths or weaknesses of that book, it completely changed my path … for good. Several years later, The Reflective Life opened my eyes to the presence of God in all things. The Pursuit of God helped birth the Sacred Mundane. The Hole in our Gospel destroyed our neat-and-tidy American Dream and sent us (literally) packing our bags and moving in an entirely different direction. The key books will be different for all of us, but I feel strongly impressed that there are three key books that would forever alter the course of your life, if you would take the time this summer to delve into their pages.

Could this be the summer you never forget? Could this summer not only be life-changing but world-changing? Everyone with a pulse knows this to be a critical time in our country, and in our world. It can be confusing to even know how to navigate the turmoil. No matter how you lean or vote, all Christ-followers can agree on our mission: To spread the good news of the gospel by word and deed, to shine as lights in a dark land by our generosity and love, to stand in the gap as intercessors who will, with unwavering faith, believe God at His Word and carry out His Great Commission.

There are three books, I believe, that will powerfully shake us out of status quo living, that will awake our hunger for God and give us HOPE for the future. I encourage you, I challenge you, I plead with you: Consider reading these three books this summer. What are they?

Rees Howells, Intercessor by Norman Grubb

Heavenly Man by Brother Yun

The Jesus Fast by Lou Engle

For just $30, you could invest in these three. That’s it! We could easily spend that much eating out one time, we’d spend four times that much on a concert or a conference. We’d think it was a steal to find jeans for that price. Just now I was at the garden store and almost spent that much on a hanging flower basket. (I really wanted to!)  How much better to take $30 and invest in the eternal course of your life, to invest in the eternal course of the world

Perhaps the Holy Spirit will lead you to something different, but I plead with you: Invest in eternity this summer. Do not seize the summer by (only) swimming and sun-bathing, as lovely as those things may be. Now, I’d love to hear from you: What books have been game-changers for you in life? I’d love to hear.

Plan now for a summer you’ll never forget. Thanks for reading. 

 

Nothing short of total transformation

So I guess I had the flu. What I thought was a looooong cold took a sharp downturn and landed me flat on my back for days and I’m just finally coming up for air and headed to speak tonight (pray for no more crazy coughing fits!), so it’s been quiet here on the online front. But, my laundry’s done and everyone’s fed. Glory!

The upside of the flu (!) is that it forced me to the couch, and while my children played happily in this week’s glorious sunshine, I had time to read, pray, and pound out a few chapters on the book. Hooray! As I was revising the chapter on prayer, I flipped back through A Praying Life and was blessed all over again by the simplicity and power of this book. In the current journey we’re on, I’m once again floored by the Father’s relentless love, that He stops at nothing short of total transformation in our lives. It reminded me of this from last year …

~

I wish I could send a copy of A Praying Life to every single one of you.

This book is resonating with the deepest part of my Spirit. You know the feeling, right? That internal Yes! that makes all those loose fragments come into focus and your heart “gets it.” I don’t mean we understand prayer in the sense that we dissect how it works, but we “get it” in the sense that it’s made accessible. There is still profound mystery (and, inevitably at times, profound frustration!) but we’ve waded into the waters of effective prayer and we’re learning to dive down deeper and deeper into its glorious depths. That’s what this book has been for me.

What’s struck me again and again is the fresh awareness that through prayer, God is seeking nothing short of total transformation.Through prayer, God is seeking nothing short of total transformation. Click To Tweet

While we may be tempted to believe that we’re asking God for “too big,” the truth is that God is always doing something so much bigger than I can even imagine. He’s changing me in the process. So the last few weeks I’ve been considering: What are the characteristics of prayers that I’m most often seeing answered, in the Scriptures and in my life? So far I’d say …

1. Faith. Scripture is crystal clear on this—if we ask with doubt, we cannot assume we will receive anything. Faith is the key that unlocks miraculous and astounding “results” in prayer. There is just no getting around this. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The more than we drench our lives in the truth and promises of God’s Word, the more we will believe He is who He says He is, we will know His heart and His will, and we will ask in accordance with it, for His glory. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

2. Repentance. Probably the most significant answer to prayer I have seen recently is in direct response to repentance. God showed me a clear area of sin in which He wanted to me to practice repentance—daily bringing this area to God, acknowledging my “bent” toward it, and asking Him to forgive me and deliver me from evil. To my everlasting amazement, He has! He is, and even did some other awesome things like removing the behavior in another person (i.e. a child of mine!) that was triggering that sin issue. A huge praise, and it all started with repentance.

3. Requests firmly rooted in Scripture. As we saw in Jesus’ radical promises regarding prayer, if we are Christ’s Ambassadors, performing His work for His sake, we need to know clearly what He wants us to do. I’m finding that unless I’m convinced this is the kind of thing my Master would want, my prayers are weak because I lack confidence of His will. Studying the Scriptures helps clarify the Stuff Jesus Does, and gives us greater confidence for praying prayers of faith.

4. Honesty. God sees what I really want, not just what I say I want, so it does no good to doll up my requests with Scriptur-y language if I don’t really mean what I say. We don’t let God work in the real part of us until the real part of us is exposed and laid bare to God during prayer. Whenever we are hiding the “real us” behind churchy language, we forfeit the real transformation that God can work through our honest pleas.

5. Heart. I do not mean mere emotionalism; we don’t have to muster up tears or put on a show. But Jesus was moved with compassion during His days walking this earth, healing people and performing miracles. Again, we can’t fake this or conjure it up on our own, but we can humbly ask God to break our hearts for the things that break His. The more we seek His kingdom during our day, with our time and energy and money, the more our hearts will be turned toward the things of Him.

 {Ready to dive deeper? Whether you’ve been praying for five minutes or 50 years, let’s continue to grow in our pursuit of prayer. Thanks so much for reading.}