Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Question Answered

Confession #1:

    When I decided to boldly ask God for clear direction as to whether He wanted 

    me to continue writing in some “official” capacity (see "Fish or Cut Bait"), I had

    a hope that I didn’t dare articulate to myself, much less share with anyone else.

    I hoped that God would speak to me — that He would answer me audibly. That I 

    would hear His voice. 

Don't scoff. Over the years, very credible people have shared with me that God spoke to them -- literally -- and I’m not going to discount their claims. If you believe (as I do) in God and in the truth of the Bible, including all His actions documented there, why would you doubt that He can and even does speak to people today? 

God did not speak to me in that way, though. 

As I waited, I kept an open mind. By the time I decided to ask God for clear direction, I had gotten to the point where I was truly ambivalent about continuing to write anything at all.

I was completely open to God saying it’s time to put the writing aside; in fact, I knew my life would be easier and my to-do list shorter if He did. I had even begun imagining what I could do with the free time that would result! 

Even though I didn’t hear God speak directly over the last 5-6 weeks, I felt a consistent, increasingly-strong pull to continue writing. 

Then, about 8 days ago, the idea for a project presented itself. It simply felt “right”, and I’ve begun taking baby steps to lay its foundation. 

But some things are going to have to change in my life in order for me to continue working on the project. As a result, over the next days and weeks, I’ll be prayerfully considering what those changes will entail. 

Confession #2:

    Although I’m feeling excited and energized by my recommitment to the writing 

    journey, I don’t really care where the it leads. Instead, this former planner-

    extraordanaire is overjoyed to simply take one step at a time and let Someone

    else handle the rest

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Standing in a Corner, Adult-Style

In the past month or so, two acquaintances and one friend have shared with me that they haven’t dared to dream — to look beyond getting through their current situation — for several years.

Each time I was told this, my reaction was the same:

I nodded in understanding

My heart broke a bit for the speaker

I made a note to pray that he/she would some day dream again

A naughty child told to stand in the corner and not turn around can only see their current environment consisting of very small portions of two walls as they come to meet in a 90-degree angle. Similarly, an adult in very difficult circumstances often can only see his or her immediate situation — whatever crisis they’re in the midst of. 

Just as the child in the corner is devastated and very possibly even angered by being forced to stand in a corner, the adult who can see only devastation, injustice, etc., feels pain, helplessness, and perhaps even anger.

Fifteen years ago, I may have scoffed at that comparison, but life has taught me its truth.

So how does an adult who can’t see beyond their difficult circumstances gain a broader perspective and begin to dream again?

There is no one answer to that question.

Just as what puts an individual into such a dark and despairing state of mind can vary wildly, so does what it might take for him or her to see beyond the present, feel glimmers of hope, and take even a single tentative step toward dreaming of a better future. 

I’ve been thinking about dreams quite a bit these past few weeks; a dear friend and I are completing a “book study” on the topic. We’ve talked about what holds us back from dreaming, we’ve each been developing a list of possible dreams, and this week we’ll begin looking at those dreams more closely.

If you haven’t thought about your own dreams for awhile, or if your life circumstances have caused you to put your dreams on hold, I hope you’ll find some time this week to dream, to consider what you want your life to include, what endeavors you want to pursue, and what adventures you want to embark on.

Dream. Dream big, my friend!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Divine Adventure Awaits YOU!

“Discipline” brings to mind thoughts of punishment — the revoking of privileges perhaps or the administration of some negative consequence.  

But as Rebecca Friedlander explains in her recently-published book The Divine Adventure (BakerBooks 2021), Spiritual Disciplines have nothing to do with Godly punishment. On the contrary, they are practices by which a Christian can grow spiritually and “unlock a life of wonder, passion, and flourishing faith”. There is no hard-and-fast list of Spiritual Disciplines; articles/books typically include 8-18 specific practices.

In The Divine Adventure, readers are treated to a discussion of 12 disciplines such as obedience, prayer, community, forgiveness, sacred rest, fasting, pilgrimage, etc. Those new to spiritual practices will appreciate the well-written, clear explanation of each practice. Even those familiar — and even implementing in their own life — the Spiritual Disciplines will find this book insightful.

Each chapter addresses one practice, with Friedlander weaving together Scripture, her own experiences, and ancient texts to explain what the discipline is (as well as, in some cases, what it is not), how it has traditionally been practiced, and how its practice has impacted her own life and/or that of others. 

Each chapter ends with opportunities for active involvement on the part of the reader. Several “Your Turn” questions allow the reader to reflect on how a particular practice has played out in his or her life, how it might be incorporated going forward, etc. In “Spiritual Practices”, Friedlander provides an activity/exercise by which the reader can begin to practice that spiritual discipline. The questions and activities at the end of the chapters are not at all intimidating; rather, they are thoughtful and insightful, gently allowing the reader to contemplate that practice’s influence on their life and begin to implement it more intentionally.

Friedlander brings a much-welcome voice that is all too often missing from the conversation about spiritual disciplines.  Rather than a dry discussion of a rule-oriented set of steps, Friedlander presents the practices as tools to be incorporated into the routine of life. She readily admits that it may not be easy to find the time or energy to do that, but her warm, engaging style encourages the reader as they do so and offers helpful, practical suggestions.

At the risk of nit-picking, there is one aspect of the book that gives me pause. In the “Notes” at the end of the book, there are several citations for wikipedia, which is not a credible or reliable source. . Additionally, the information found in the wikipedia articles cited could easily have been found from sources that are credible and reliable (it took me less than 5 minutes to do just that). The inclusion of wikipedia-sourced information in a book on such an impactful, scholarly, and spiritually-impactful topic is unfortunate and concerning. 

That said, The Divine Adventure, provides a wonderful discussion of the modern-day practice of 12 Spiritual Disciplines and would be a great resource for both individual and group study.

I'm so excited to be able to share with one reader a free copy of The Divine Adventure by Rebecca Friedlander. To be entered into a drawing for a copy of this book, please do each of the following before midnight on Wednesday, July 14:

1. On social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) post a comment in which you:  a. ask your friends to visit and read this post

         b. include a link to this blog post

         c. Tag at least 3 friends

**you must do all 3 things

2. Post via a comment below a link (the URL) to your social media post

A drawing will be held on Thursday, July 15, and the winner will be announced. 

I received 2 free copies of this book from the publisher so that I could read this book and provide an honest review *and* host a give-away of one copy.