Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Calling Me Higher

Recently I was asked to be on team for the upcoming Emmaus Walk this spring.  I had my usual initial reaction to being asked to spend a weekend away from my family..."Lord, please give me a good reason to say No."  Well, that's what was in my head anyway. But I pleasantly agreed to pray about it.  I checked the calendar for conflicts on meeting dates or the retreat weekend....none.  No kids sporting events.  No reason my husband could not be home to watch them.  No easy out. 

It's not that I dislike Emmaus, quite the opposite in fact.  The ministry that happens on these weekends is amazing.  I just prefer that someone else do it!  I'm not that great at connecting with women and I don't like getting up in front of a group to speak (which would be required in my role). The easy road then is to not go.  But as I prayed, I realized that while I may not feel like making the commitment, I would be forfeiting an opportunity for God to use me.

Soon after I accepted, I came across this song that confirmed I had made the right decision.  It describes how it's easier and safer to stay where we are, but how God calls us higher.  He has something greater waiting ahead.

The past few days I've been working on my talk. There is a basic outline to follow, but I get to fill it out and add in my insight and experiences.  I love this part...creating something relevant and personal.  Now that I'm this far, I can start to see that maybe I do have something worth sharing.  Maybe my words can make a difference for one of the women there.  My earlier dread is being replaced with excitement.  I'm so glad I said "yes".

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reclaiming Your Heart by Denise Hildreth Jones

Reclaiming Your Heart is one of those books that, had I picked it up from the library, I probably would have returned it after Chapter 1 because it didn't seem to fit my situation.  Sure, I have my struggles...but I couldn't relate to being so shut down that I didn't even know who I was.   But since I had agreed to review the book, I pushed through and read to the end.  I was pleasantly surprised that from Chapter 3 on the insights shared can be beneficial for all women - so I'm glad I kept reading!

I love a good analogy that takes everyday experiences and weaves spiritual insight into them.  Chapter 3 was by far my favorite because Denise relates our lives to the game of golf.  She writes "Imagine that life is a golf game.  We each have one course to play.  In the process of playing that course, we will encounter all kinds of situations, positive and negative.  Sometimes we'll find ourselves on velvety greens...and sometimes we'll find ourselves wildly off course...Life is happening to us, and we've got to respond one way or the other."   Just as you respond on the golf course by choosing which club to use, we respond to life's situations by choosing how we react.  And just as a golfer depends on a caddy to give helpful advice, we choose to either listen to the Holy Spirit or fall for the lies of the enemy.

The remaining chapters focus on different responses (or "clubs") we sometimes use that are damaging to ourselves and those around us.  Denise teaches what each of these responses looks like, what lie is at the root of it, and how we can overcome and reclaim our hearts.  The heart issues discussed are performance, disappointment, control, criticism, shame, anger, fear, and weariness.  It would have been nice to have some discussion questions to go along with these chapters (for small group use), but none were given.

One example that stood out to me concerned the disappointed heart and how we miss many of God's blessings.  "It is the enemy of our souls who still gets in our heads and hearts and convinces us that if life isn't working out the way we pictured it, that means God doesn't care about us. What a sneaky lie.  First he convinces us that we are entitled to something, that our life is supposed to go a certain way.  Then, when it doesn't happen, we are left with a disappointed heart."  I don't know about you, but that's a lie I've fallen for.

Overall this is a relevant book with good insight in how to overcome some of our struggles.  I do think that some women will relate to it better than others, depending on where they are on life's journey. However, there is something in it for everyone.

*I received a complimentary copy of the book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Comparison Kills Contentment

My son, Jacob, turned 11 years old this week.  He proudly proclaims to others that he is a sports nut.  So it was no surprise when he decided that he wanted tickets to a Cleveland Cavaliers game for his birthday.  Using this as a learning opportunity, we explained to him what an expensive gift this is.  It's more than just buying him a ticket.  First of all, it requires buying two tickets since someone needs to go with him.  Then there are handling fees, money for gas, parking, food, etc...  When we announced that we would make it happen anyway (provided he chip in a small amount of his birthday money), he was overjoyed.  He didn't care if we got the cheapest tickets that were up in the nosebleed section...he just wanted to go!

Then he got on the internet and started looking at the arena and seating options.  He began to think of how cool it would be to sit closer up.  He found a website that showed you a camera view of what it would be like to view the game from different seats.  All of a sudden he was no longer satisfied with simply being at the game...he wanted better seats.  He began to negotiate.  Could he use more of his birthday money to buy a better seat?  When we put a limit on it, he actually got upset!  He only sees the here and now.

Are we any better as adults? Valentines Day is tomorrow.  I don't really like this holiday because comparison is so hard to avoid.  Sometimes women ask "So what did your husband do for you on Valentines Day?".  I am usually quite content with whatever gesture he makes, but I hate this question.  Why?  Because someone always has a better story.  On Facebook you will see pictures of someone who got a bigger bouquet of flowers or a more creative display of affection.  Or for some women it is just a reminder that no one is pursuing them in that way.  We compare, we envy, and we can become discontent.

It would be good for us to remember then that all things come with a cost.  If you want better seats or a bigger bouquet - you will also end up with a bigger credit card bill.  You may want a more romantic husband - but I'm willing to bet that those husbands have other weaknesses their wives have to live with on a daily basis that we don't see.  If you are single, you may be so focused on what you don't have that you miss out on the ways God is trying to show you His love. 

How do we get rid of comparison?  With thankfulness.  May we focus on what we have and rejoice in that.  May we turn our eyes away from ourselves and think about ways that we can bless others, celebrating their joys without becoming envious.  Scripture tells us love does not envy, it does not boast, and it is not self-seeking.  Seems to me that a holiday celebrating love has missed the mark.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Redeeming a Song

Being married to a worship pastor, I am used to hearing music blasting from the upstairs room where my husband works.  On my day off this week I was in the kitchen cleaning up and listening to an unfamiliar tune floating down the steps.  The music was slow and sad, beautiful enough to stir my soul.  But then I heard the lyrics being sung:

If there are any words that I don't want to hear coming from my husband's lips, it's these.  Thankfully, he was not rehearsing a way to end our marriage...whew!  Instead  he was chording a song that is being sung at church this Sunday to illustrate a point in the sermon.  My first reaction was to resolve not to listen to him practice or perform it.  Being someone who struggles with insecurity, these are NOT the words I want ingrained in my head!  And then I started seeing faces of my friends who I know are having marital difficulties and would be sitting in the chairs listening.  These are not the words I want in their heads either! 

So there I was...stewing over this issue and trying to forget that I'd heard the stupid song.  But then the lyrics in my head changed.  God redeemed them with His truth to say:

Know that I'll never give up on you
I will keep trying to get to you
Anywhere, I will follow you
Know that I'll never give up on you.
Now those are words my soul yearns to hear my husband sing.  Those are words that give life.
I knew my husband was in a programming meeting at the time, so I emailed him an idea.  The sermon was on the idea of Oneness.  What if we paint a picture of what is broken (using the original song) and then after the message, redeem the chorus by singing words that would honor God and our relationships.  Leave the people with a better song to sing.  I ended up being accused of placing a bug in the office, because little did I know they were discussing the SAME IDEA at that moment! 
This song, Say Something by A Great Big World, has been #1 on iTunes charts.  We live in a society that is quick to give up on each other.  But 1 Corinthians 13:7 says that true love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  It doesn't give up. 

Jeremy and Laura did such an awesome job (oh - and the band too!), I just had to share. (If the video won't play from the blog, click here.)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Passion Principles by Shannon Ethridge

It's no secret that long-lasting marriages are hard to come by these days.  And what's one of the most common reasons for marital tension? Sex. It's a topic that is sensitive and sometimes hard to talk about.  Most of the information we do get is from the media, which is often very misleading.  That's why this book is so needed.  The Passion Principles is the most well-rounded, straight-forward book about sex that I've read.  Written in a Q & A format, Shannon answers 40 frequently asked questions about sex from a Christian worldview.  The questions are divided into 4 sections which explore all aspects of sexuality: Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, and Physical.

Shannon Ethridge has been researching, teaching, and coaching couples on the topic of sexuality for years.  She knows the issues and questions that often come up in marriage that are hard to discuss and overcome.  She shares many real-life scenarios in the text, letting the readers know that they are not alone in their struggles.  She is also very open about her own experiences.  Yes, the straight-forward talk may make you blush at times, but it's also very refreshing hearing the truth shared so openly.

If you decide to read this book as a couple, there are discussion questions and prayers following many of the answers.  Every couple is unique, so using these questions and applying the information to your marriage would be very beneficial.

Valentines Day is just around the corner.  This would make a great gift to give your spouse and begin reading together! (Oh, and be sure not to skip over the forward by Gary Thomas...he presents an analogy that will not be easily forgotten!)

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.