Wonderstruck {A Timely Book Review}

One of my favorite authors,  Margaret Feinberg [www.margaretfeinberg.com], has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God[www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck] (releasing Christmas Day)—a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life.

A Sneak Peek At Wonderstruck from Margaret Feinberg on Vimeo.

I’ve read many of Margaret’s other books and they have all been great.  Because I’m such a big fan, Margaret recently sent me the first few chapters of her book along with some insights into the back story for a sneak peak.  Here are some highlights from the interview:

Where did the inspiration for the Wonderstruck book and Bible study come from?

Have you ever had one of those seasons where everything goes wrong, and when you think it can’t get worse, it somehow finds a way? Most people who have worked in ministry have experienced those seasons—some may be in one right now.

My husband, Leif, and I had just gone through one of the roughest years of our lives. In the aftermath, as we processed the pain and loss, I had an unexplainable desire in my heart. I began praying for the wonder of God. In essence, I said, “God reveal yourself, your whole self to me. I want to know you as Wonderful. I want to know you as I’ve never known you before and see you in places I’ve never recognized you before.”

God did not disappoint.

What do you mean by “the wonder of God”?

Sometimes talking or writing about wonder feels like tying kite strings to clouds. It’s ethereal, and you can never quite get a grip on it. But if you look in the dictionary, the two main definitions of wonder are: “being filled with admiration, amazement, or awe” and “to think or speculate curiously.”

Those definitions come together beautifully in our relationship with God. That’s why I define the wonder of God as those moments of spiritual awakening that create a desire to know God more.

In other words, the wonder of God isn’t about an emotional experience or having some cool story to tell your friends, but the wonder of God makes us want more of God—to go deeper and further than we’ve ever been before.

Why are you calling people to #LIVEWONDERSTRUCK?

If you look in the Gospels, what you’ll discover is that those who encountered Jesus were constantly left in wild amazement. They were awestruck by the teachings of Christ, the healings of Christ, the mind-bending miracles of Christ. Within the Gospel of Luke we see words like “awe” and “wonder” and “marvel” at every turn. If this is the natural response to encountering Christ, how much more should it be for you and I—who are invited to live in relationship with Christ as sons and daughters of our God Most High?  We even created a free PDF that looks at some of these Scriptures. For a free copy, email us at wonderstruck@margaretfeinberg.com and we’ll send you one.

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter [www.twitter.com/mafeinberg], Facebook [www.facebook.com/margaretfeinberg], or her blog [www.margaretfeinberg.com].

I’m personally looking forward to my copy tomorrow to enjoy during our Christmas vacation. There is no time like the present to awaken to the wonder of God.

From the Archives: Preparing for Church

Suzie Lind:

Reposted from the archives because every once in a while, especially near Christmas, I need to remind myself.

Originally posted on Hemmed In:

This morning if you are going to church, remember these things…

There are people who will struggle to get there. There are others who will be there first because it’s the only place they feel any hope. There are people who will hate being there. For some it is the one day of the week they look forward to. For some it is exactly what they need. There are others who will come for the first time and no one will greet them. There are some who will come for the first time and be received in a way they never have before. Some people will hear the Gospel for the first time. Some people have heard it a zillion times in their life time but today will be the day when they actually realize Jesus loves them. Some preachers will deliver their message with no problem and…

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Maybe We Need a Little Less Salt

Social media circuits are inflamed with comments and push back on a few of the loudest voices in Christendom because of a few unhelpful comments in light of the nation’s grief.  I have been saddened and at times enraged by some responses to the tragedy on Friday.  I wish the news would quote people like Rebekah Lyons and Jen Hatmaker instead.

It does matter what you think of guns and the laws of using them.  It does matter what you think about gay marriage.  It does matter what you think about prayer in schools. It matters what you think about abortion.

But not now.

What matters now are the 26 families and a whole community who lost someone very precious to them.  What matters now is every mother in this country is holding tight to her kids and battling the fear in her mind that this could happen to her child.  What is important now is that the world is watching and waiting for the invisible God to be seen.  Whether we realize it or not, we are all longing for hope, desperate for answers and bleeding out for comfort.

Those who call on the name of Jesus are to mourn with those who mourn and not pour salt on to wounds with their words of correction.

Colossians 4:6 says, Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

If you dip your finger in a pot of salt and take a lick, you will likely get the willies from the over powering taste. On its own it is no good.  Last night I made a pot of stew made mostly of herbs for some friends, one who had never enjoyed this particular dish.  It is a Persian recipe, so I wanted to do my part in making it a good new experience for my friends.  As I taste tested during cooking, it tasted bitter, so I added some salt.  I kept adding salt until the bitterness was transformed into a robust flavor.  If I dumped a whole bunch of salt in at one time, I would risk ruining the stew.

Our words should be used the same way, a dash here, a dash there… little by little bringing out the flavors of ingredients already there.  For many, what they are tasting is something new and their taste buds will be forever imprinted by our presentation.

It is the end of the year and I am coming out of a very busy and heavy season so I’m tired.  Unfortunately, those around me have experienced me in a somewhat bitter way from the salt of my tears to the unwise things flowing from my mouth.  My words have not been used well in time and place.  No one says it better than the writer of Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything… a time to be silent and a time to speak.

So now I realize, before I judge the voices in the media for their insensitivity and their destructive comments about the brokenness of our world, I should look no further than my own heart and ask Jesus to come and clean house.

Jesus help me to be slow to speak and quick to listen. Help me mourn with those who mourn. 

Create in me a clean heart and remove every bit of yuckiness. 

Season my bitterness with your grace so I can bring it to others along with

Your comfort, Your peace and Your joy.

Thirty-One {31 Days of Wisdom}

Unfortunately, the Proverbs 31 Woman has become some kind of caricature of femininity in this post-modern culture we live in. When her address is mentioned, eyes either roll with irritation or sink low with condemnation and feelings of not being good enough. Yet God sees fit to include her likeness in the pages of Wisdom and the twenty-one verses about her were written actually as a blessing rather than a “To-Be” list for all women who would come after her.

As one friend pointed out, if you read carefully you won’t misunderstand and believe this is a daily docket of her life. She does not do all these things in one day and most likely not in one season either. Verse 28 says, “her children rise up and call her blessed,” indicating when her children grow up, they realize how blessed she is to have been able to care for her family, her employees, her community, the poor, and of course her man. Perhaps her life ebbed and flowed according to each season of the year and each season of her life because she knew who gave her each day and breathed life into them.

I started this project of 31 Days of Wisdom because there are some things in my life right now that require an extra measure of wisdom, the kind I know I don’t have and the kind I know can only come from God. I need it to guide me and help me before a word is on my tongue and before I take any actions. I also wanted to treat it as a writing project… to read the words and then respond immediately in my heart. These posts were both excercise in writing and of the soul. In the last month, I’ve learned a bit about writing and blogging, but I’ve also learned more about me and my God:

1. I need to watch what I say. Words are powerful…what they say and when they are said. In almost every chapter there is something about what our conversation can do for a person and a situation. I want to be a life-giving person in word and deed and in a split second a word or two coming out of my mouth can take life and with that… much more time to repair.

2. Wisdom is like a garden that requires tending. The vegetables I planted in the Spring are all gone. The tomato plants were so prolific I literally couldn’t keep up with them. I let them go too long and their vines were attacked by aphids and all kinds of things of which I have no idea about. The fruit shriveled up and their branches became dry. The word of God is seriously prolific… it’s living and active and it’s amazing what happens when it comes to life. But to live by it and live through it requires tending. To get wisdom, one must pursue wisdom, one must ask for it. Solomon who wrote these Proverbs knew that well. He could have had anything he wanted, but instead he asked for wisdom. God gave it to Him and then some…. But if I ignore it, like the tomato plants in my yard, the fruit will shrivel and be tasteless…useless and the branches dry. Living water, every day.

3. The Proverbs 31 woman taught me the necessity of accepting the seasons we are in. This is not the season in my life when I can write a blog post every day. I was getting stressed out about posting every day, until I gave myself permission not to. Hence, the 31st post on November 2. But who cares? The point was to read the Proverbs, not to keep up with a non-existent standard.

4. I love to have written. When I did sit down to write, I gave myself a time limit, a goal and God fed my soul. God has created me to write, and to write is to create, and when I do so… I am grounded. My best {my favorite} writing comes from when I see Him moving among us… in whatever and where ever He has us. Writing settles my mind, it settles my heart and it releases all the stuff inside me that can come out in unproductive ways when not stewarded wisely.

5. I want my children to rise up and call me blessed. In the journey through Proverbs this month, a lot of what I read and locked my mind on had to do with raising our boys. At the end of the day, I realize Jesus is everything. And because of that, when I look in their eyes I know this is the one thing, the only thing, I desire for them as well. For Jesus to be their everything. He has to do that work in revealing Himself to them… calling them out and bringing them along. Yet in the meantime, He has chosen Steve and I to make it real to them. The faith, the doubt, the failing, the redemption, the grace the mercy… all of it has to be real in us if we want them to birth their own real love for Jesus.

So November is finally here and I will go back to posting less often, but hopefully more often than before! If you’d like to subscribe you can do so via email or a reader in the upper right of this screen.

Thanks for being on the journey with me.

Thirty {31 Days of Wisdom}

These last two chapters of Proverbs have provided quite a summary for my personal time in these pages.  In this particular chapter 30 verses 5 & 6 read:

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.  Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” 

God takes His word seriously, and so should I. 

Every word, every promise, every warning, every bit of wisdom.  Last week when I prepared to teach a class about men, it occurred to me, God knows His creation and He knows full well the ins and outs, the hows and whys and every intricate wiring, mark and mechanism of His creation.

It’s truly amazing an infinitely wise God such as this, would also be an immeasurably compassionate and graceful God to put up with me and my doubts. My cynicism, my unbelief, and my rebellion.  So even when I don’t understand, when it doesn’t make sense, faith kicks in and is what it is…. the assurance of hope and a certainty of the unseen.  To take Him at His word, even with a slice of questioning in my mind still places me with Him.  Surrendering blindly, not seeing yet believing. This is faith.  This is wisdom. This is refuge.  Choosing to find shelter under something larger, stronger and more stable than myself.  Trusting in the protection, grace, and all that is promised without knowing the outcomes.

verses 7 through 9:

“Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:

Remove from me falsehood and lying, give me neither poverty nor riches;

feed me with the food that is needed for me, lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”

He knows what we need and when we need it.  Enough to be satisfied but not too much so we succumb to the tryptohan of over indulgence this world offers.  Surrendering to allow Him to give us our portion, no matter how small or large for the season… it’s enough.

He is enough.

His Word says it all, there is no need to add.

His grace is sufficient and His strength made perfect in weakness.

So be it.

Twenty-Nine {31 Days of Wisdom}

Most likely the area I have been convicted most over these last 29 days has been in the way I use my words.  The way they can bring life and in one second tear down. The way they can comfort and the way they can cause pain.  The timeliness of a good work and the foolishness of a word out of turn.  Today’s proverb speaks this:

“A fool gives vent to his spirit but a wise man quietly holds it back.” {ESV} 

The New Living Translation says it like this:

“Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.”

How many times have I called up a friend and opened the conversation with, “I just need to vent.”

Or how many one-sided conversations have I had, processing a situation that almost always involves a person and I’ve ended it with, “I’m sorry… I just had to vent.”

While there is a place for verbal processing and a trusted friend who you can share with is priceless…even those words, especially those words can bring death.  The gracious and listening friend may leave the conversation with a tainted view of another person, or a tainted view of me… my faith… the person of Christ in me.

There is a place for talking through anger, but in our haste sometimes we say things we really don’t mean or say things that are hurtful which would be better healed if taken directly to the Healer himself.  We are all human and in our flesh we can make judgments of others which we do not intend.  Holding it back doesn’t necessarily mean not ever sharing what we are going through… holding back the venting, at least for a little while, can cause us to calm down and receive a perspective and peace from God we may not receive if we continue to stir the pot of our emotions in the midst of venting it out.  Then when we go to process it, perhaps it doesn’t come out as scathing as it once might have.

The dryer vent outside my house emits the heat and scent of the dryer. It goes out into the atmosphere from yard and I can’t see it… but it is there.  Next time I want to vent, I hope  God will give me the strength to hold back and not release the ugliness in my heart into the atmosphere, causing someone in front of me to inhale the nastiness when it could be more easily resolved… or healed when taken to God.

He can handle my venting and the anger it is rooted in much better than my girlfriends can {no offense to my girlfriends}.

 

 

Twenty-Eight {31 Days of Wisdom}

Courage is hard to come by on our own.  There is a certain amount of it we could probably muster up when we need it but then there is a different kind of courage, a strength that comes when you least expect it.  Those times when you look back and marvel at how it appeared and what you did because of it.

It wasn’t just the Wizard of Oz or Narnia that drew our attention to the lion as a picture of courage.  God started that imagery and in the proverbs he says,

“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” {Proverbs 28:1}

2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us “God made him who had no sin to be sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  There is this righteousness that can only be attained by the blood of Jesus all over us.  This proverb makes it plain that when you have this {and I pray you do}, you have a boldness, courage that is stored up within you and is accessible when you need it most.  Better yet…more of it is available to you as you pursue Jesus and keep you eyes high up on Him and not so much on what’s in front of you.

Without it, we are running around like someone is chasing us when really they aren’t… we can get caught up in our vain imaginations and without the perspective of God, those imaginations can lead to our demise.  We keep on running…away, around, to and fro without direction, without purpose and without hope.

Jesus steadies us in the race. He gives us our lane and shows us the finish line.  He gives us endurance, He fills our bodies with electrolytes, he hydrates us with living water and He is our food.  He carries us when we feel like we are limping along and He lights the way when it seems dark.

The righteous can run with confidence when they are one with Christ. So move…go…. with confidence for He is with you.

 

Twenty-Seven {31 Days of Wisdom}

“Love and marriage, love and marriage, goes together like a horse and carriage…”

An old song, but the lyrics are attempting to state the truth that marriage is about two elements working together to make something beautiful.

Ephesians 5:21 prepares us for teaching on marriage by saying:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Two people, preferring one another, working towards each other because of Jesus.  Is there a better motivation?

Proverbs 27:15 and 16 warns us however:

“A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand.”

Drip. Drip. Drip.

There is a strong word to women hear about being someone who argues, comes against, nags, complains…all without restraint.  But it also speaks to the truth that marriage is a mutually formative relationship.  It was designed to make two people work together towards something intended to bring glory to God.  Easier said than done.

As women, we need to heed to the power acknowledged in these words that our quarrelsome behavior can be impossible to restrain if we are not careful.  And if it’s continuous we will be annoying at best… but worse…detestable and undesirable to be around.

God gives women a unique perspective, sense of wisdom and common sense and that wisdom needs to be fed and nurtured by the Creator of it.  It is good for us to speak up and speak into the lives of others, especially our husbands and into our marriages.  But if we are not careful about how we use our words and the respectfulness of our words we will become slippery like oil and nothing we do or say will stick.

From one to another, let’s move forward today with restraint and be careful to wait until what we have to say is fitly spoken.

Don’t be a drip.

Twenty-Five and Twenty-Six {31 Days of Wisdom}

It’s so easy to get drawn into arguments with others.  Especially over topics we are passionate about.  The discussion may start off as civil whether it’s about politics, religion, the way children ought to be raised, cultural issues… you name it.

Have you ever argued with someone and the argument sort of goes from one level to the next when it seems the other person is no longer making sense and is simply just trying to be right?  Maybe that person was even you?

I’ve been on both sides of that argument.

Proverbs 26 has much to say about engaging in these arguments.

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (5)

“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (12)

“Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” (17)

Proverbs 25 advises a different way:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.” (25:12)

Ever been in a situation when someone said the right thing to you at the right time? It may have been something you’ve heard dozens of times, but in that moment, you had ears to hear.

A woman who just listens and doesn’t say much until she has something really good to say is a rare find.  I am not one of those.  But I’d like to be.  Listen, the irony of writing a blog daily (or catching up on a blog you committed to writing daily) is not lost on me.  But I would really like to be more considerate of the equity of my words.  To wait until the words I share are fit for the moment, for the situation, the conversation, the particular person spoken to.

God, help us use our words wisely today. To not engage in conversations we are not meant to be a part of. Help us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  Give us our words for the day and season them with grace, encouragement and hope.  Amen.