Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review - The Sacred Meal

I have read several books about communion lately to better understand the liturgical tradition by various denominations. To be honest, I found this book really wonderful and a little disappointing. The writing about communion itself, it's history, it's meaning is fabulous. The extra information and the stories that accompanied them are a little hard to connect to the main theme.

Here's what I did love - the remembering that communion is a practice. "To engage in a practice is to show up and not get attached to the outcome. The purpose of a spiritual habit is to help us stay awake." I liked the reminder that communion is meant to be done together, with a group of fellow believers just as Jesus shared it with the disciples. The overall theme of this book is to experience communion. "This is how change happens. One step at a time. One prayer at a time. One wafer and one cup at a time. That's why communion is called a practice."

What I'll take the most from this book is that receiving communion forces us to be real. We bring all that we have to that alter - the good, the bad, and the ugly and trust that we are still welcomed by Him who loves us and wants us. "When I opened my hands I got dizzy with vulnerability. It's dangerous opening your hands - you don't know what will end up in them."

There's so much argument about communion - is it really the body and blood? Do you have to use this brand of wafer or this kind of wine or juice? In the pew? At the alter? BLAH. Who cares. This book reminded me that it's about Him. I come. I receive from Him. I remember. And in a best case scenerio I'm changed by that sacred connection.

*For Thomas Nelson

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stumbling Into Grace - Book Review

True Confession - I've never read a book by Lisa Harper. Another one? I'm so sad I haven't.

As one who frequently feels like she's stumbling in the faith department, I related to every single page of this book. Honest, funny, and deeply spiritual without being condescending - this book is a keeper. I'm not exaggerating when I say I laughed and I cried - on repeat - from beginning to end.

I loved her explanation about Jesus advocating rest for His followers. It's an ongoing whispering theme of this life - rest, be still, know that I am your God. She says, "Resting, learning to weave practical Sabbaths into our schedules, isn't a punitive decree; it's God's generous endowment for our protection and perseverance." Amen.

I've been thinking a lot in recent months about the people in my story. I've thought about taking the time to establish and nurture those supportive relationships, people who are on a similar path on the way home to God. On the opposite side, I've thought about those who do not speak their concerns about this life with love, who are negative, and who are draining. It's been a difficult decision to let some of those fall by the wayside. Discernment.

"I've been praying for that same kind of discernment lately. I want to recognize the dangerous, potentially biting characters in my story: the people who create constant emotional debris with their destructive personalities or who refuse to shed the skin of deception, the ones who threaten the God -with-me peace in my life, learning to keep my distance and to pray for snakes but not make a habit of getting down in the dirt to play with them."

Again I say - AMEN!

You'll want to read this book. You'll want to give this book away to all your girlfriends. You'll put it on your bookshelf and on the nights when faith seems far away, life seems harder than normal and the tears won't stop - you'll pick it up again and feel like you've found company for your journey.

Releasing this summer - pre order it TODAY! You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Risen Indeed

Before I could even say I'm sorry for sins I had not yet committed - Christ died for me.

If I've heard God whisper anything in these weeks it's been, "You were worth it." Truth be told-I don't feel worth it. Every single day I do things, say things, harbor things in my heart that make a complete mockery of His sacrifice. Not in an attempt to gain His love, but just out of respectful appreciation for all that He has done, I want to take life more seriously, especially my walk with Him. He is worth whatever sacrifice. It's a constant day by day remembering to give myself all to Him. I'm leaving this Lenten season with the words "Be intentional" blazoned on my heart.

And with that I am going to take the rest of Holy Week off from blogging to let the meaning of His death, burial and resurrection soak deep within this heart. Be back Monday.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Liturgical Year Book Review

First of all, I love this ancient practice series put out by Thomas Nelson. Their brand has grown recently to include the deeper practices of faith and it is refreshing. As someone relatively new to the liturgical traditions, I loved this book. I couldn't agree more that the spiritual life is an adventure. I love to see the church calender provide the framework for a well lived life with God. This book was a great reminder to me that church is more than Sunday. We are joined in this life by the Spirit of God every moment of our lives and if we are careful to listen-we'll never be the same. I plan to reread parts of this throughout the year and have already shared it with those in my life who love the liturgical traditions. I hope Thomas Nelson will consider this first set of ancient practices a spring board for many, many more publications on similar topics.

*For Thomas Nelson

Max on Life Book Review

I question the depth of Max Lucado at times as far as my own life is concerned, but overall I appreciate his style. He is approachable and gives the comfort level of being "your pastor." His advice is solid. His foundations are biblical. He lives his relationship with Christ on his sleeve and being around his writing makes me want to love God more.

This book is different than his previous publications. Covering a broad range of topics, I see people using this more as a resource than reading it cover to cover. I immediately wanted this book on my desk at the hospital, my desk at the bookstore and a copy on my coffee table. I can see myself flipping through this book when the hard questions come in my own life or in the lives of those I love.

Dripping with grace, this book offered comfort to me in several places. I enjoyed the readings from his previous books throughout this one. I left it with the gentle reminder that Jesus is the Answer no matter what the question.

*For Thomas Nelson

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In Need of a Holy Week

I don't know about your life, but Holy Week has come at a perfect time for this one. I gave up myself this year for Lent and quite frankly it would have been easier to give up french fries! I've thought a lot about what it means to be all His in these days. I've questioned the motivation of my heart. I feel like I've experienced my own death, burial, and resurrection in a lot of ways.

Sitting in church this morning I couldn't help but desperately want to read the part of the Story where Jesus rises from the dead. My humanity doesn't want to read about the cross. I don't want to relive the suffering. I don't want my voice to be mixed within the crowd saying, "Crucify Him." I want to get to the empty tomb, the promise of hope and the resurrection. But the promise of life doesn't come without the fulfillment of death. We have to walk the road with Jesus to appreciate the empty tomb.

We find glimpses of our own humanity as we watch Jesus complete his mission on the earth. He cries out feeling forsaken by the Father. Ever been there? Me too. I find myself staring at the cross and saying deep within my soul, "You shouldn't have." Quickly grace floods in and I whisper, "But I'm so glad you did." Thankfulness overwhelms me as I scramble to find new ways to make this life worthy of the Ultimate Sacrifice. I sometimes think I need to let the mantra, "You died for me," play on repeat in my heart until it affects every aspect of my life.

So, this week I'll remember His sacrifice in a Seder tomorrow night, at various church services throughout the week, and in my own time with Him. I'll remember that freedom in Christ actually was a hefty cost. And even though it makes tears run down my face, even though it makes my stomach hurt, I'll force myself to look upon the cross with the Son of God hanging there - and remember. And I'll ask the same Father to make my life an honest reflection of the gift of salvation. Not just on Easter. Not just on Sunday. But every day until my very last one.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Final Summit Andy Andrews

Truth be told, I've only skimmed other books by Andy Andrews and I assumed I wouldn't like his style of writing. It's not exactly fiction and it's not exactly non-fiction. I'm so glad I read this one from cover to cover. It's a quest to save humanity from their bad decisions and they only get five tries to make it happen. I found the historical characters emerging into present time fascinating. I was amused and encouraged by the Angel Gabriel. I found the journey to be one that each of us in the human condition will make. It was an easy book to read, but one that will be hard to forget. It was better than I expected and one I would recommend.

*For Thomas Nelson

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's not a sin to be depressed

Every so often I feel the need to discuss depression on my blog. One, I get all kinds of back channel comments and questions about it. Two, it's a good reminder to me that it's part of my story but not the whole thing. And three, when people are ignorant they tend to make hurtful comments. One blog reader sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago. "I know God isn't happy with me. If I had more faith, if I prayed more, if I didn't miss church sometimes, and if I just believed I wouldn't be depressed." Perhaps I'm just low in the faith department at times, but that made ZERO sense to me. Personally, I pray more during bouts with depression, I trip over my own two feet getting to the safety of my church when I find it hard to believe alone, and if I'm really honest, sometimes those are my best moments with the Lord. That's not to say I didn't understand what she meant. Sometimes I get afraid that the next person who says to or near me, "The joy of the Lord is your strength!" is going to get drop kicked by yours truly into the next century. I know people mean well, but with all due respect - we already know that. You don't tell a bleeding person to pray harder. Stop telling depressed people to get over it. Stop telling anxious people to calm down. Believe me-if they could-they would. And I do know it's hard to understand if you haven't been there, but try to remember. Depression is not a sin-it's a symptom. It's a sign that something isn't right. Sometimes it makes perfect sense to me that I'm depressed - too tired, too stressed, etc. etc. Other times, life is going along perfectly fine when I get blindsided. I've discussed my journey with depression on here before so no need to rehash. Trust me on this - it's hard enough to be depressed without having spiritual guilt heaped on your head. Be there. Listen. Don't pretend to have the answers. Pray. Be supportive. The wave of depression tends to come and go. I keep the people in my life who are willing to lead me to the Anchor without trying to be one. Just my opinion.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

World with an End-Amen

You'll have to forgive this post. I just watched the musical horror that was Grey's Anatomy from Thursday night which has me thinking about what's wrong with the world. Yes, I'm 2 days behind. You'll remember I'm adamantly opposed to owning a tv, but not to the wonder that is iTunes (don't judge). I have no deeply religious opinion on the fiasco, but the verse "Jesus wept" comes to mind for some reason. I digress. This week I got all the dark color stripped out of my hair and returned to my natural bonde-ish state. The chemicals made my hair dry which made my hair frizzy which made me mad. I'm on the deep conditioned road back to flowing locks of beauty, but it's apparently going to be a longish journey. In other news, I really want to watch Tangled (and I will). I, super reader that I claim to be, have been reading the same novel for over a month. True story. That's what my life has become-one that can't finish a whole book anymore. To be fair, I don't love the book and I've read a few in between, but still. Also, I think Jodi Picoult must get a TON of hate mail. Just sayin. I love the new Mandisa CD. No, really, I love it. I've listened to it ALL week. If you feel sometimes like God has left the building, you're frustrated with doing life on your own, or you just need permission to cry once in awhile-this CD is for YOU! I couldn't pick a favorite song if you held a gun to my head. OKAY, if you hold a gun to my head I'll say number 6. Or 11. See, I can't. GET IT on Tuesday! The free Starbucks reward drink I got in the mail yesterday was a glowing reminder that yes, I've fallen off the "I gave up caffeine" wagon recently. I had good reasons, but I don't anymore. So, it's back to tea for this girl. True confession-I feel better when I drink tea and my wackadoo blood pressure tends to be a tad more cooperative. Forgive me Apple for I have sinned: This week I returned to a PAPER daily planner. I really, really tried to run my entire life from my phone, but when I turned it off (GASP) for hours at a time, with it went the reminders for important dinner. And a girl's gotta eat. I know. Prehistoric. I may have prayed one prayer more than others this week, "Thanks for loving me.......a mess." I believe God loves those prayers. Which makes me happy that one day this world will come to an end and with it bad hair days, Caffeine restrictions and all the other craziness that makes me glad to be on my way Home. World WITH an end....... Amen.