Review of 2012 [in books]

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Jan 022013
 
bookreview2

I read a blog post by someone else where they suggested books to read in the upcoming year and I loved the idea. But I also wanted to personalize it by suggesting some of the books I read in 2012 and explain how they spoke to me. I also wanted to reveal some of the books that I will be reading in 2013, in case anyone wanted to join in. I love this idea and I think I am going to keep this as a New Year’s tradition on my blog (which means next year it will be better because I will be planning ahead of time and collecting information and thoughts as I read them). You can also connect with me on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/9326025-tina) and see what I am currentlly reading. Goodreads also has a 2013 reading challenge, therefore I have challenged myself to read 24 books in 2013 (I am really hoping to read more, but felt I should start with a reasonable goal the first time, especially with resolving to blog on a regular basis).

So here is my review of 2012 in books:

 

 

From Fear to Freedom: Living as Sons and Daughters of God by Rose Marie Miller

This was an amazing book from a personal standpoint. It was a book that God very clearly had brought to my attention, and after reading it I knew what He wanted to teach me through it. Rose Marie Miller is poignantly honest as she speaks through her own testimony, but it was so often like I was reading about myself. She speaks of the characteristics of an orphan mindset as opposed to living as a child of God, such as living in our own strength instead of in Christ’s transforming power. I read this book on my flight home from Nicaragua, after living there for six and a half weeks with friends there adopting a sibling group of four children. So many times the children would handle a situation as an orphan would and I would feel God whispering to my heart of times I act like that towards Him.

 

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis

“People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.” – Beth Clark (Author of the Introduction)

This book was referred to me by the same friend who is adopting the sibling group of four (we share a heart for orphans and therefore she knew upon reading this book that I would love it). It is one of those books that I know I will read again, probably many times, which my friend already has done. There are so many things in this book that are both convicting and inspiring.

 Katie Davis writes, “People from my first home say I’m brave. They tell me I’m strong. They pat me on the back and say, ‘Way to go. Good job.’ But the truth is, I am not really very brave; I am not really very strong; and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am simply doing what God has called me to do as a person who follows Him. He said to feed His sheep and He said to care for ‘the least of these,’ so that’s what I’m doing, with the help of a lot people who make it possible and in the company of those who make my life worth living”

To read this story of an ordinary girl doing something extraordinary through Christ, as a response to Christ’s love, spurs me on to live boldly for Christ in His transforming power. I cannot live boldly for Him in my own strength, but I can “do all things in Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)

Real Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples by Jim Putnam

I read this book as part of a small group as my church moves towards being more intentional about making disciples, but it was very informative even in my own walk with Christ. As it teaches through spiritual maturity from a standpoint of training up disciples, it is also revealing about your own spiritual maturity and areas where you need to grow. I also found this understanding of spiritual maturity has helped my relationships as I can see the role spiritual maturity plays within the relationship.

 

The Fitting Room: Putting on the Character of Christ by Kelly Minter

My finding this book was unintentional and ironically after beginning the book recognized Kelly Minter’s name as the author of a study that my small group was going to begin upon my returning home from Nicaragua. What I love about Kelly Minter is her realness. She is funny and uses daily life illustrations. It appears that she also has a heart for foreign missions, is also a single woman of God (like myself), and clearly we both love to write and study God’s Word, therefore I related well with her and saw similarities to my own life.

Kelly Minter writes, “For it is out of the unfathomable riches of Christ’s love for us that all these characteristics become attainable virtues: First, because His love gives us a new life, literally allowing us to cast off our selfish natures and clothe ourselves in the character of Christ. Second, because knowing we’re loved gives us the confidence and freedom to live in this new way. When we know and believe God loves us, the biblical virtues are no longer like school uniforms we begrudgingly put on but exquisite clothing we are eager to slip into. When we are confident we are loved, Paul’s list of Christlike characteristics become less chores and more delights we are eager to embody, because we trust the ways in which God has called us to live. We understand that these characteristics will not only bless those around us but will be beneficial for us as well. This is all a distant cry from moralism or behavior management.”

 

Fearless by Max Lucado

Oh where to begin. I had seen this book in a catalog and made a mental note that I wanted to read it, but had done nothing to pursue reading it. While at a friend’s house, I was asked if I wanted to borrow any books, I took a look at her bookshelf as I thought about how many books I was already in the process of reading and therefore how I really shouldn’t start another one. Then I saw Fearless on her shelf and immediately picked it up. Then it was a done deal and I had to borrow it. I read the book that week and loved it. I struggle with fear and tend to live according to my fear, so it was not hard to figure out that Christ wanted to teach me a few things before I left for Nicaragua. Many of the areas in this book were areas where I struggle with fear. I would definitely suggest this book to anyone else who struggles with fear.

What I am planning to read in 2013:

 

Nothing is Impossible with God: Reflections on Weakness, Faith, and Power by Rose Marie Miller

 

Love Does by Bob Goff

 

Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan

 

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Timothy Keller

 

Don’t waste your life by John Piper

strong

Keep your eyes open

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Sep 302012
 

Sometimes I forget that I am in a third world country. It is easy to have days where you forget between our home being behind a fifteen foot wall, internet access, skype meetings, and social media. Even being driven around, at times I get caught up in what the kids are doing inside the vehicle, or talking and laughing with others. But then I take a walk, and I am completely brought back to reality. The sights, the smells (mostly burning), and the sounds. Seeing what is considered, in America, as dilapidated buildings. Hearing car horns honking (it is a courtesy here to let pedestrians know you are driving near them), and not being able to comprehend most of what anyone says when we walk by. I tend to just shut down, stop looking around and not look anyone in the eye. But I realized this is not because of where I am, but where I come from. We are taught that if you walk in downtown Portland not to make eye contact with anyone, don’t speak to anyone, and keep to yourself. This is the opposite of loving our neighbor and being a light to the world. As Robin and I grabbed a taxi to go pick up dinner, and the taxi (a compact car type) already had two adults in it, my tendency is to not even look at anyone. However as I realized my reaction, and we pulled over to drop them off, I looked back to see an older couple who eagerly waved goodbye and smiled sincerely. In America, if anyone was even willing to share a taxi they almost certainly would not be happy about it. There are areas that are best to stay away from, usually noted by Robin as we walk by, like this afternoon’s “Be careful around here, that is a bar”. Helpful, but alarming as you walk by. At one point Robin asked a police officer if everything was okay with a guy we could hear screaming around the block, to which the reason of drunkenness was given. There are reminders all around of dangerous possibilities, but I need to not shut myself off from the people around me as my own delusional protection. There is a difference between wisely cautious and cowardly doubt.

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,  but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.  And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-33

Every Step Forward

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Sep 222012
 

Every once in a while my old self takes over and I think ‘What was I thinking?!’ But then I have to take a deep breath and remind myself why- my life is not mine, it is not for my comfort, it is not for my selfishness.

These periods usually come in response to being out and about and feeling vulnerable. I hate feeling vulnerable, but I also know God has made great strides in my life in this area. However feeling vulnerable also leads to feeling His protection all the more. Last night I went to watch Christian play soccer. I didn’t really think anything of it since usually there are others, I have met, that go and watch. But last night was not one of those nights, which meant I was the only one, of the group I went with, not on the field. When I first realized this fact I was a little anxious but it quickly went away, thanks to Jesus no doubt. I didn’t think about it again until I realized that all of the families that had been sitting around me had left and it was just me and a group of guys that were hovering close by. Looking down the field and realizing that everyone I knew, probably the only ones there who knew English, were at the opposite end of the field just made matters worse. It was a deep breath and pray moment. But it was also a moment of feeling His protection.

Every time I leave our gated home, at some point, I will have an uncomfortable experience of questioning my safety. But my safety is not based on remaining in comfortable, seemingly safe surroundings, my safety is found in Christ. Every time I return home I thank Christ for His protection and keeping us safe, but in reality I am not any safer back home. It is a delusion. I wake up every day, go about my normal routine and everything is familiar which feels safe. It isn’t safety, it’s complacency. Comfort does not lead to happiness, it leads to complacency. I have been in more dangerous situations in Maine than I have been in Nicaragua, yet I do not thank Jesus for His protection upon returning home every day. With one exception, after being present during an armed robbery I lived months at a heightened state of awareness and fear, but the difference was the fear. During that time I was fearful all the time, unless at home, because I was not trusting Jesus. My faith was lacking as faith and fear cannot coexist (except a reverent fear of God).

I am not any safer at home than I am here in Nicaragua, I just have to rely on Christ more here. I don’t have the delusion of comfort, routine and familiar to find refuge in instead. I don’t want to return home and fall into the same complacency, I want to rely on Christ fully no matter where He places me. I am happier and more alive in that state of being. It means focusing on Jesus with every step forward.

“for ‘In Him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:28a

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:4-7

Facets of Trust

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Sep 112012
 

Everything here requires me to trust God. Trust that, although the walls of the house do not meet the roof, some animal is not going to come into the house or my room in the middle of the night. Trust that there is not going to be some natural disaster since they feel more common here than they do at home. Trust when we are out and about that, although we automatically call attention to ourselves, that we will remain safe. That I am not going to come down sick.

And yet I can see in many of these areas where God has grown me. Two years ago, I did not want to visit this country for a week long mission trip (instead was going out of obedience), and never would have believed that I would want to live here for an extended period such as this. A year and a half ago, although I fell in love with Nicaragua while here, I was on the lookout everywhere I went for anything I was afraid of (and boy was there a list).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I have learned that when the kids are playing in the faucets outside, it sounds like hissing in my room. I have learned the sound of a cat jumping on the tin roof in the middle of the night, or a bird walking across it for that matter. I am no longer startled when I see a gecko crawling up the wall. I wasn’t even very startled when I saw a cockroach in the bathroom (slightly grossed out….which is progress for me I assure you). I wasn’t thrilled with seeing a dead gecko laying on my mosquito net on my bed, but it didn’t send me screaming in the opposite direction (baby steps…). Even going to the zoo was really an example of growth for me, as this was not a zoo up to American standards. I was thankful that our driver warned me of the area where I would want to cover my eyes.

I have to trust Him, because the alternative is to drive myself crazy. But I also know that is partly why He has me here. It becomes easy to trust Him at home, among the familiar, but here every facet of life requires me to depend on Him. Some days it is exhausting, other days I love it. Some days the enemy has a field day using every sound or fear, other days are peaceful. In either scenario, I am holding tight to Him.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121

 

Jun 052012
 

One year. So much can change in one year. One year ago today I was three days away from leaving on my first mission trip. I feared the flight. I feared being in a third world country. I feared being out of my comfort zone. I could go on and on with my list of fears.

A year ago an eleven year old  boy, named Emanuel, could not independently walk. A year ago a preteen girl, named Bianca, was guarded and less confident, yet compassionate at the same time.

Today I was shown some of the things God has mightily accomplished over the course of the year. Emanuel can now walk independently, although he still loves to be carried and held. If I remember correctly, he is also smiling a lot more and showing more emotion. He also now cuddles with people and advocates for himself as shown by his persistence to go outside. Bianca, has come out of her shell, she has come into her own and appears more confident. I’m not sure if she remembered me, but my guess judging by the hug she gave me when she was asked if she did, would be yes. I have been praying for these children, along with others I met not quite a year ago since leaving, so to see how God has moved mightily in their lives is amazing and humbling.

I have also seen some of the ways God has grown me in the last year. The comparison of where I was emotionally and spiritually at this time last year to now is like night and day. I can’t say how many times I was asked if I was scared as this trip grew closer and closer, but my answer every time was ‘no, not at all’. If anything the trip could not come soon enough. I hadn’t wanted to leave when the last trip came to a close and it feels like it has been longer than a year since I have been here. I couldn’t wait to get back. There are numerous ways God has molded me in the last year, to the point of not even feeling like the same person and never wanting to return to the old one. And I know He is faithful and is still molding this broken clay pot. Just when I started to think this trip wasn’t going to have the same ‘shock and awe’ as the last, He sent a devotion that may as well have been personalized for me and my biggest struggle, followed by seeing the differences in the children later the same day.

“What You complete is completely done.”

Jesus te amo.

Courageous through Faith

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Jun 052012
 

I recently saw the Sherwood Pictures movie Courageous. I have to say it was powerful and awe-inspiring. I was actually more blown away than I expected as I knew the movie was directed at the message of a father’s role in his family. But, while it had a powerful message to men and fathers and subsequently to wives and mothers, it left me examining why I felt so inspired and exhilarated, as being a wife or mother is not a role I am currently fulfilling.

It did, however, remind me that every Christian is called to be courageous in their faith. That even if I am not filling a role in raising a family, I do play a role in my extended family, my groups of friends and my church family. I can recall as a child always being in awe of my aunt’s boldness about her faith. I remember being a child that cared so much what others thought that I accepted being that bold was not possible for me. Obviously, now  I can look back and see it had planted a seed in me. Even now I can recall, in the years before giving my life to Christ, when I really only had an intellectual belief in Christ, I never talked about even that belief. I wasn’t courageous to say the least, but a distant belief generally doesn’t spur a passionate and courageous response. However a personal revelation of Him, His goodness, His mercy, His love and His sovereignty does.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2

The old is gone as Jesus prunes us and cuts away the dead within us, the parts of us that are detrimental to our life in Him. He loves us so much that He will accomplish this whether we are willing to lay our fears and strongholds at His feet or whether He needs to break us out of them.

The movie also reminded me of some of the courageous women of the Bible, and therefore my call to be just as courageous for Him. Deborah, who agreed to go into battle after Barak told her that he would lead his men against Sisera’s army only if she went with him. Jael, who then kills Sisera after he flees on foot to her tent. Ruth, who loyally stayed with Naomi even as she returned to her home and a nation that was Ruth’s people’s adversary, and was used by God in the genealogy of Jesus. Esther, who heroically broke a law, punishable by immediate death, to save her people. The woman with the issue of blood, who believed in Jesus so much she was healed through her faith-filled and bold move to touch even the fringe of Jesus’ garment. And the Samaritan woman who fearlessly went on mission for Jesus after a personal revelation that He was in fact the Messiah.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Jesus calls us to be courageous and trust He will be with us no matter what task He lays before us. It is our faith in action. The living out of our faith in a wordless testimony to those who do not know Him.

It can at times become all too easy to buy into the enemy’s lie, by looking at our, at times, seemingly mundane lives, and think ‘God can’t use me’ until you buy into His truth of who He is and how He sees you. When you accept who He is then you realize He makes the “impossible”, possible. That no matter what your role is right now, be it a youth, a single man or woman, a parent or spouse, a Sunday school teacher, a regular church attender or a church leader God can use you in His kingdom. You may not see how He is using you, but He is in fact using you.

Flowers in Dormancy

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Jun 052012
 

While driving through a Central American country, one of the first things I noticed was the dried up vegetation and dustiness of the land. Although we were told that in merely a few weeks the vegetation would be green and lush, it currently looked brown and dormant. It was a scene of houses made of unpainted wood and sometimes metal, landscapes of just dirt or sometimes brown vegetation and fences of barbed wire or wood. It seemed everywhere I looked was bleak and saddening. Then all of a sudden I noticed these beautiful flowers of purple growing along the fence of a house and slowly began noticing them along the fences of almost every house. Among a background of brown these vibrant flowers were like a breath of fresh air.

I began thinking about these flowers that seemed to thrive while most vegetation looked like it was hanging on for dear life. I inquired about them and was told they were Bougainvilleas, that they only bloom during the dry season and while most vegetation is lush these plants are like flowerless vines. This made me recall the last few months where I felt like I was dormant and immobilized in my circumstances. Struggling to bridge the gap of what I know in my heart to be true and what was occurring psychologically. I was like the dusty, dried up ground vegetation hanging on for dear life. It was only in the few weeks approaching this trip that I felt as though I was breaking through these walls. And more than that, had felt God was revealing to me some of the reasons He had allowed certain events which forced me to depend on Him and trust in His plan for me. Knowing He is always in control even when I can’t see past the darkness surrounding me. In my life He was that element that was making these flowers bloom amongst these normally hostile conditions.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I had realized entering into this trip that without these difficult situations I had been placed in, I would have been coming from a very different place both spiritually and mentally. It had been easy for me to say I trust God all the while clutching on to some of the control. But these circumstances had brought me to my knees and showed me how powerless I truly am while He allowed me a glimpse of His power. So that while on this trip I truly could acknowledge that I was not in control at all but could rest in the peace of knowing that He was completely in control.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1b-2

Without Him my life would be like that colorless scene of dried up vegetation, but walking with Him is what allows those flowers in me to bloom and grow.

Jun 052012
 

Why is it so easy to remember and trust that God is in control when life is going well or even when you get caught in the day to day routine of life? And yet when trauma happens, something that catches you so off guard that you feel stunned, suddenly you start to doubt? Not to say that you don’t “know” in your head and heart that Christ is in control but that in that stunned, shaken or emotional state, where you feel like evil has the upper hand, your subconscious doesn’t go to that mindset of “God’s will be done”- no, instead it falls back to the panic stricken and terrified survival mode. Now of course when I say “you” I really mean me. It may just be a personal flaw, or maybe I am part of a minority, or maybe it is from having only a few years experience in walking, or should I say, doing my best to walk with Jesus.

Instead of feeling panicked, terrified or victimized shouldn’t I be thinking “God is in control” and “His will be done” no matter what the outcome is for me? His kingdom being furthered is so much more important than my minute time here on earth.

“For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” Psalm 103:14-16

After all isn’t that the whole point? Flaws? What about the other person? Instead of seeing the evil that is controlling them in that moment shouldn’t I be thinking that they are just a flawed person like me? A fellow sinner. God loves them just as much as He loves me, whether that love is reciprocated or not. A fellow human who also needs Jesus and desperately requires His grace.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “With Him were crucified, not two of His followers, but two murderers. But they all stood beneath the cross, enemies and believers, doubters and cowards, revilers and devoted followers. His prayer, in that hour, and His forgiveness, was meant for them all, and for all their sins. The mercy and love of God are at work even in the midst of His enemies.”

After all, we are called to love like Jesus and leave the judging to God and His perfect justice.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9

And so I will sign off with a verse that seems to keep surfacing for me during this time.

“So we can confidently say, ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6