Take It With You

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I just finished a book titled Leading with Gratitude by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.  It’s primarily directed toward managers and business executives, explaining how expressing gratitude to employees will result in increased productivity, better morale and less turnover.  If you read the book, you’ll find there is plenty of research to support these findings.

And there is more!  Gratitude is good for the person expressing it as well.  The authors recommend keeping a daily journal of the things you are thankful for. Several studies of more than 2000 people shows:

“The benefits of counting blessings are tangible, emotionally and physically….People are 25 percent happier and more energetic if they keep gratitude journals, have 20 percent less envy and resentment, sleep  10 percent longer each night and wake up 15 percent more refreshed, exercise 33 percent more, and show a 10 percent drop in blood pressure compared to persons who are not keeping these journals.”

What a simple way to improve our lives!  In addition, another researcher, has this to say about the relationship between gratitude and joy.

“In my twelve years of research on eleven thousand pieces of data, I did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful who did not actively practice gratitude.”

The last chapter of the book is called Taking It Home.  The authors recommend that we practice showing appreciation not only in our work lives, but with our friends and family and yes, even others with whom we come in contact. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Make a commitment to give some undivided attention to your loved ones
  • Be excited to see them
  • Give immediate positive feedback to family members
  • Give them a break (we all make mistakes)
  • Be grateful to your spouse
  • Practice random gratitude  (smile at people, say thank you, remember someone’s name)
  • Be grateful for obstacles and even cranks (remember my previous post about how obstacles are opportunities? see An Opportunity?
  • Serve others together
  • Smell the roses
  • Write letters of appreciation

Of course, if you’re a Christian, none of this is surprising.  As you can see in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians which I listed at the beginning, we are to give thanks in everything.  So, I agree with the authors and I say wholeheartedly, practice gratitude and take it with you.  Take it everywhere you go and spread it around as much as you can.  You’ll be a happier person, and so will those around you.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen–Book Review

This is a book to warm the heart of an English major!  It is attractively designed with a hard cover in silver and gray and a ribbon bookmark attached.  Part of a new series of classics being offered by B&H Publishing, the goal is to help readers understand these works in light of the gospel.

The author of the introduction and reflection questions at the end of each section is Karen Swallow Prior, a Professor of English at Liberty University.  She reviews the work in the context of its’ time, and gives pertinent details about the writer.  For example:

“Jane Austen was a Christian–a devout believer.  She did not sermonize or proselytize in her novels (she was too good an artist to do so), yet the language and themes of her work reflect a life steeped in her Christian faith.”

There are also footnotes throughout to explain words and phrases that might be unfamiliar to present day readers.

If you haven’t read this well-known classic, I won’t give away any details of the plot.  Suffice it to say that it touches on the topics of love and marriage, forgiveness and moral character.  Which is most important and valid in making decisions?  Sense (logical reason and self control) or sensibility (emotion)?  Austen uses misunderstandings, irony and satire to poke gentle fun of her characters.  It falls into the genre of a comedy of manners.  You’ll find yourself smiling often and recognizing different kinds of people you know today in her witty characterizations.

VERDICT:  Definitely 5 Stars.  This would be a great selection for a Christian book club.  I look forward to seeing more in this series.  Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is already available, and other titles are forthcoming.

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/sense-and-sensibility-P005802328

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

 

a long time comin’ by Robin W. Pearson — Book Review

I’m not a big fan of most Christian fiction.  It’s often sappy and not particularly well written (at least in my opinion). However, this novel is an exception.  The family of Beatrice Agnew is portrayed honestly with all their problems and foibles.  Bea has a different relationship with each of her children, and the exploration of these family dynamics is the engine that moves the plot along. I found myself caught up in her story and wanting to learn more about her life and her secrets. Told from the viewpoint of her granddaughter, Evelyn, “Granny B.” comes to life as a complicated and well developed character. She reminded me more than a bit of my own grandmother.

Author Robin Pearson leads the reader on a journey through pain and hardship, guilt,  forgiveness, healing and grief while exploring the family relationships between Beatrice and her children and grandchildren. God is a real presence in the life of the characters. The faith portrayed is authentic, but not sentimentalized.

There are discussion questions at the end, so this would make a good read for your book club.  According to the blub, this novel is the first in a series of three, so if you like it (as I did), you can look forward to more.

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  An easy and enjoyable read.

 

Be Wise

I’m preparing for an adult Sunday School class, and the topic is wisdom — something that, in my opinion, we’re not showing much of lately in our country.  What is true wisdom?  Well, it goes beyond book learning and intellectual accomplishments.  For the Christian, wisdom is knowing God’s Word and applying it well to life.

For example, right now we are facing a pandemic.  The Coronavirus is spreading.  People are panicking. What should we do?  Some would say the Bible has no advice on this problem, but it does– for example, remember the parable about the farmer who decided to build bigger barns to store his excess produce?  Here’s what God said to him:

” ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'” Luke 12:20

In other words, God tells us not to hoard. It may not benefit us at all, and it will harm others. So why on earth are experiencing a shortage of toilet paper?  This is not wise behavior.  What the Bible does say is “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)  Before you empty that shelf, stop and remember that your neighbor needs these items as well.

People are becoming excessively worried about going out among others.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  If you have a chronic health condition that puts you at risk, or are elderly or in another high risk group, of course, stay in,    Everyone else — take reasonable precautions– wash your hands, keep them away from your face, cover your coughs, disinfect what you can.  Don’t make unnecessary trips to public venues.  Seek medical attention and self isolate if you have symptoms. Then stop worrying.  Again, the Bible asks us:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”  Luke 12:25

I understand.  I’m an anxious person myself, and with the barrage of negative information we’re receiving it’s tempting to give in to fear and act in what seems to be our own best ( sometimes selfish) interest. But if knowing what the Bible says doesn’t lead us to act in obedience, what’s the point in saying we’re Christians? (for more on this topic see The Right Kind of Faith) We will experience true peace, even at times like this, when we depend upon Christ and admit that He’s in control and we are not.  In fact, we never were!  Maybe that’s the lesson God is teaching us.

But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand
    deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me.” Psalm 31: 14-15

 

 

 

eat, sleep, save the World by Jamie Sumner–Book Review

Since this book is subtitled:  Words of Encouragement for the Special Needs Parent, I didn’t expect it to find it personally relevant.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  If you are a parent at all you will be able to relate to some of the topics and struggles that Jamie Sumner describes.  Her son, Charlie was born with two challenging conditions:  Beckwith-Weidman Syndrome (a rare genetic disorder which affects the pituitary glands, causing the baby to be very big among other problems) and cerebral palsy.  Because of this, Charlie had (and still has) difficulty eating, walking and communicating.  His infancy was full of different therapies, financial challenges and finding (through trial and error) which strategies worked best in minimizing and controlling his disabilities.  Most of us will never have to deal with problems that are this overwhelming.

On the other hand, mom guilt?  That’s universal.  As is bullying, seeing and appreciating your child for who he or she is, accepting help when you need it, bouncing back from making parenting mistakes and being thankful for blessings.  As parents we all learn that there is so much about our child and his or her life that we cannot control.  The virtues we need are also universal:  patience, hope, persistence, gratitude, humor and resilience.  As a parent of adult daughters, this book took me back to many times when I struggled to survive and make sense of what was going on in my child’s life.  Trusting God is the only way to make it through.  As Jamie puts it:

“This kind of faith is … the most natural thing in the world because happiness and faith come with trusting someone upon whom you are dependent.  And dependence, when viewed as it should be, is a beautiful thing.”

There are reflection questions at the end of each chapter.  This would make a great read for a small group of parents, whether their children have special needs or not.  The author weaves in stories from Scripture in a way that is both creative and pertinent.

VERDICT:  5 STARS

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/eat-sleep-save-the-world-P005817838

 

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

 

The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel–Book Review

If you pick up this book thinking that Craig Groeschel is writing about those other people, well — WRONG.  It’s aimed at most of us, people who call themselves Christian.  People who may even go to church, serve in ministry and contribute regularly.

According to Pastor Groeschel, you may be a Christian Atheist when:

  • You believe in God, but don’t really know Him
  • You believe in God, but are ashamed of your past
  •  You believe in God, but aren’t sure He loves you
  •  You believe in God, but not in prayer
  •  You believe in God, but don’t think He’s fair
  •  You believe in God, but won’t forgive
  •  You believe in God, but don’t think you can change
  •  You believe in God, but still worry all the time
  •  You believe in God, but pursue happiness at any cost
  •  You believe in God, but trust more in money
  •  You believe in God, but don’t share your faith
  •  You believe in God, but not in His church

If you’re anything like me, you’ll recognize yourself in at least some of the categories.  It boils down to saying you are a Christian while not living like one (at least in certain areas of your life).

As you can imagine, the book was quite challenging ( a good choice for Lent when we are meant to be examining ourselves in light of the sacrifice of Christ).                                                                                                                                                      I agreed with most of what Pastor Groeschel has to say, with the exception of some issues in the section on prayer.  He says that the way we live (our righteousness) and the depth of our faith is “one factor that makes a difference” in whether our prayers are heard and answered.  He does qualify that with:

“That doesn’t mean that if you’re mostly righteous, God must do everything you ask him to do exactly as you say.  It also doesn’t mean that if you are a total mess, God will never answer your prayers.”

So it’s a bit unclear.  I can see that the more righteous one is, the more their prayers will line up with God’s will, and therefore, more likely to be answered positively.  However, as my pastor husband would say, this is a slippery slope.  In praying we form a relationship with God, we don’t influence Him.  The only prayer that will never fail is “thy will be done.” (see The Prayer that Never Fails).

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  Worth reading and pondering

For a book on a similar topic visit this link:

Sick of Me – Book Review

Sick of Me by Whitney Capps–Book Review #2

 

 

 

On Our Way Rejoicing

“‘Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself’;  and then go on thy way.  The way in which God shall lead thee may be over rocks and deserts, over mountains and oceans, amid things perilous to the sight and the touch;  but still go on thy way rejoicing.”  Thomas Upham

This quote from my devotions today reminded me of the hymn, “On Thy Way Rejoicing” by John S. B. Monsell (1811-1875).  Monsell was the chaplain and rector of a number of churches in Ireland and England and wrote over 300 hymns.  Now I can’t get this uplifting song out of my mind (not a bad thing), so I’m sharing it with our readers.