How the French Revolution Hijacked my Reading Challenge

When Tim Challies throws down a reading challenge for 2017, I have no choice but to pick it up. Seriously, if you know me at all, you know I’m not kidding. And, in the same way I do most things, I dive into the crazy end of the pool. I don’t commit to the “light reader” plan. I go all in. You can read about his challenge here:

http://www.challies.com/resources/the-2017-christian-reading-challenge

So, I’m blitzing past the first two on the list – a biography and a classic novel. I slam into the third one – a book about history. I decide, completely in random fashion, as per usual, to find a book on the French Revolution. I have no idea why, except I was probably thinking about cake, which leads everyone back to the French Revolution. Right?

Anyway.

I look up the topic on amazon and search through the top picks. I land on one that has fantastic reviews and I buy it for a ridiculous amount of money on my kindle, and settle in for an interesting read, thinking I can knock this one out in a matter of days.

People. I’m not going to tell you the name of the book, for fear that some of you have it sitting on your bookshelves in the “must read again” section. Meanwhile, I am totally lost. The author just assumes from the beginning of the book that his readers are smarter than I actually am, and doesn’t explain things that seem to me to require an explanation. Do any of you just already know what the First, Second, and Third Estates of France prior to the revolution are? Please say no. Apparently, I was supposed to.

And to up the challenge, the author also liberally drops french words into the text. They just appear, with no translation. Wait, what? Was I supposed to be able to read French to understand this? Why did none of the reviewers tell me this? Can they all read French?!

And then, no matter how much I read, I can’t seem to get past ten percent of the book. I didn’t think to look up how long the book actually is. It’s 500 pages. 500 pages of things i should already know about written in part in a language I should be able to understand.

Sigh.

I refuse to let my reading challenge get derailed by the French, and so while I’m faithfully plodding away and trying to get through it, I moved on and finished the next three categories in the reading challenge. And that’s the last time I let my reading material be influenced by my love for baked goods.

Just kidding. I’m sure it’s not the last time.

 

 

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Fear

I lay in bed, looking at the clock as it rounded 1am, wondering.

How long has fear been such a constant, close companion of mine? How long has it been even at times my closest companion? And, knowing that the answer was one I would not like, why had I let it go on for so long?

The topic of fear is one long ago exhausted, with untold numbers of books written about it, blogs denouncing it, sermons addressing it. But here I was, well-read, well-educated, and well-acquainted with fear.

I fear so many things. Some of them are real and tangible – like did I unload an entire dishwasher of dirty dishes while contemplating the new episodes of the Gilmore Girls? (And yes. Yes I did.) But so much of my fear seems like a vague, gigantic thing. Maybe like comparing specific sins to the idea of Sin in general, I can identify fears and then I can identify just fear itself.

 

One thought hit me directly as the clock headed for 1:30am – fear is easy.

 

I require no help to be afraid, I can do that one all on my own. It takes no time, no effort, really no thought at all. And once fear is present and starts to make itself at home in my heart and in my head, it feels weirdly comfortable, consuming. Protective, even. Like I put it on as armor for this dangerous and at time disastrous life.

I’m not saying it’s not an armor. But I am saying that it is not THE armor I am called to put on. That particular armor, documented so well in Ephesians 6:10-20, is actually in direct contrast to the fear that has covered me for so long now.

Again, fear is easy and I require no assistance in being afraid. To not be afraid, to live a life that does not involve this persistent, continuous presence of angst, I must have help with. There is no way I can fight fear on my own, not in this world I live in. And the lovely thing is, God knows this and practically yells it at us over and over in the bible. Even in the beginning of the description of the armor of God, Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10 to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Because I sure can’t be strong on my own. When you start to look up the incredibly numerous times God tells us not to fear in the Bible, it’s almost always with a reminder of why we don’t have to fear – because He is our God, because He goes before us, because He will never leave us, etc.

This is not an exhaustive look at fear or even how to fight it. Maybe it’s just more of reminder TO fight it. Because if you aren’t fighting it, then it’s covering you. And it’s a heavy weight, my friend, that will keep you always looking either down or inward. And you can certainly choose that view. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

I also would not recommend eating Little Debbie St. Patrick’s Day snack cakes at 2am while randomly typing a blog, but that’s an issue for another day…

With open hands

Yesterday morning, after wrestling through a night of very little sleep, I got myself up before the dawn and before the babies (Can you still call 3 and 4 year old children babies?  It’s my blog, so I say yes.)  I rarely have trouble sleeping these days.  Most of the time, when I fall into bed, it’s a matter of seconds before I’m out.  But a combination of sickness and multiple stressors conspired against me.  I’ve blogged before about 3am worries, and I confess to those and an overall sense of unease and…hurriedness.  Both of these had been haunting my steps recently, and both of these can suck the joy out of your day if you allow them.

So there I was, watching the sunrise, thinking of all that needed to be done before I could, finally, go to bed that night.  And I realized what I was just doing.

Before the sun had risen, I was trying to figure out how to make it through the day until the sun would set and my day would be done.

That’s no way to live.

It smacked me in the face, this lesson.  I was so very thankful for the quiet time I had been given to process what I had just discovered about myself.  I was cheating myself.  I was cheating my husband and my kids.  And I was cheating God.

I got down on my knees, right beside Eli’s lawnmower and some random books left scattered on the floor from the night before, and I opened my heart to God, because here’s what I want.  I want to open my hands every day and recieve whatever it is that God is giving me today. Not to fight it or fight against it, but to recieve it with thanksgiving. Not to try to find a way to escape from it or hide from it, or drug myself in some way to avoid it (and let me be very clear – there are many ways to drug yourself to escape your life that having nothing at all to do with substances – a drug can be anything that dulls your senses and takes your eyes off of God).  I don’t want to spend the day waiting for it to end, unwilling to find in it whatever it is that God would have me learn today – and there is always something to learn today.

Even, it seems, before the sun come up.

“Listen to your life…

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” – Frederick Buechner

Thankfully not the exception

I wonder if anyone else deals with the same lie that I contend with every day.  In some fashion, in regards to one thing or another, I lie to myself by telling myself that I am the exception to the rule.  The specific rule changes, depending on the situation.  I tell myself that I can still be healthy, while subsisting on the equivalent of junk.  I  tell myself that five hours is plenty of sleep for me to be able to function normally.  I tell myself that I really can be everything that anyone needs me to be, and not let anyone down.  This list could go on and on.

The rule, however, that has the most potential for danger is the one that deals directly with my walk with God.  I tell myself that somehow I can walk with Him, I can be holy, I can be always aware of His presence, without spending any time with Him. This is a lie, and completely contrary to Scripture. This rule gets tricky for me right now.  I have three small children, a job, a ministry, a husband, family, friends, obligations, laundry, for heaven’s sake!  I lie to myself by saying that these things make me the exception.

Of course they don’t make me the exception.  If anything, at this time in my life I am in desperate need of my time with God.  This is also a time in my life when I have to get a little creative in what that time looks like.  What I’ve noticed is that when my daily time with Him dwindles, eventually it disappears altogether.  This then leads to a nasty spiral of sin, self-indulgence, and excuses.

I am thankful that I am not the exception to this rule.  I would be robbed of the peace that comes from my time with him, the quiet joy that I find in fellowship with Him.  It changes my entire day.

Sisters in Christ, Part 2

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Starting this Wednesday, January 9, a group of women from Graefenburg Baptist Church will begin meeting again to address the essential topic of being sister in Christ, and the importance of female friendships in the context of the church.  I have deemed myself their fearless leader, with perfectly colored hair, make-up in place, pretty, dangling earings, and absolutely no clue what I’m doing.  Oh, I know what I want to do.  I have a clear vision of the end product of these meetings.  I have stories and question, quotes and music lyrics all bouncing around in my head, but I cannot sit down and map out our classes, with a syllabus  that includes major topics and points covered.

Part of this reason, a very large part, is because not only have I never led a group like this, I’ve never seen one done, and I’ve certainly never participated in one.  The few times that we were able to meet at the end of 2012 were such blessings for me, but they were the tip of the iceberg as far as want I’m wanting.

I want women mentoring women of all ages, and not out of a sense of duty, but out a joy of being able to pass along wisdom and knowledge.  I want secrets kept, gossip squashed. I want each lady lifted up and honored for who she is and what she has been through.  I’m not meaning this in the form of idolatry, of course.  I want any lady at church who has a need to feel that she has made deep connections with many women, and then has the freedom to go to them for help or comfort.

I’m weary of ladies (I can only speak for the ladies.  Sorry, guys!) feeling unable to admit to weaknesses, sins, frustrations, feeling that if they are admitted and spoken out loud, the repercussions would be dire, instead of finding a soft landing place with sisters who will not encourage their sister to keep walking in sin, but will offer to start the walk of righteousness with her,in accountability and prayer.

So whether or not you are in this group of ladies, please lift us up in your prayers, that God will guide us with wisdom, give us kind and graceful hearts and let us learn from each other, walk with each other, and catch each other when we feel.

Geez, the class is still three days away and I’m aready tearing up.

“Joy is not the…

“Joy is not the opposite of depression. It is deeper than depression. Therefore, you can experience both. Depression is the relentless rain. Joy is the rock. Whether depression is present or not, you can stand on joy.” – Edward Welch

I realize my recent quotes have been regarding depression, so I should explain that the first book I’m reading in my series is a book on depression, looking at it through the lens of Christ and Christianity.  So far it’s an amazing read, and I would highly recommend it.  

Depression: A Stubborn Darkess – By Edward Welch

“Isn’t it true …

“Isn’t it true that suffering reveals us? While prosperity allows us to hide, hardships peel off masks we didn’t even know we were wearing. During the better times, we can be happy, unafraid, confident and optimistic, but the lean years reveal the best and worst in us. “

From Depression: A Stubborn Darkness, by Edward Welch

Healthy and well-read…in theory.

My New Year’s resolutions always include the basics: drinking more water (which I’m doing, but I’m using a straw, and I was just informed that using a straw would give me wrinkles.  So which is worse, less wrinkles or not drinking water?  I know, the logical answer here is to drink water without using a straw.  Sometimes (frequently) logic and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Sorry, that was a long side note.)

Anyway, in order to get back to my pre-baby weight, I’ve decided to change my snack foods.  Again, I realize the foolishness of this sentence.  Really I should probably just trash the snack foods and stick to healthy meals, but hey, I’m a mom of three kids under the age of four, with a part time job and a full time ministry.  And an incredible love for chocolate that I can only assume was given to me by the Lord.

And so here’s a snack I picked up from Walmart, thinking it would be a great way to get my chocolate fix in a healthy(er) way.

2013-01-05_10-58-14_271.jpgThe problem with this theory is that one wasn’t meant to eat the entire box in one sitting! That’s ten snacks at 80 calories each. Clearly, I’ve got some work to do in this area.

Another resolution is to read at least one non-fiction book a week. For some, this seems like a ridiculous resolution. (See the comment about the three children, job, ministry, etc.). For me, this will be almost always absolutely doable. I read fiction as that same rate that I eat candy and drink Dr. Pepper. However, reading fiction requires hardly any processing. There’s very little stopping in the middle of a paragraph to ponder what was just said. (Maybe I should add that I read lite, happy fiction…).

With that being said, here is my reading list that should take me to the middle of March.

booksIf anyone has read any of the above books and has some comments, please let me know!