Category Archives: Christian books

Stewardship of My Reading

Standard

“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”  1 Corinthians 10:23

Anyone who reads our blog regularly knows that I am an avid reader.  I read all sorts of things:  suspense novels, historical fiction, novels that address ethical questions, legal thrillers, nonfiction books about the brain, mental illness and other medical issues, spiritual autobiographies, books on prayer and other aspects of Christian living, the Bible (of, course) and more.  None of these books are “unlawful” and sometimes I use my reading time to just relax and take my mind off my responsibilities and the stress of everyday life.  Of course, we learn something even when we read books that seem merely escapist — we increase our vocabulary, travel to foreign cultures, grow in understanding people very different from ourselves, etc….I’m sure you could add to the list.  However, it is also true that some books are more edifying than others.

Gracious Uncertainty: Faith in the Second Half of LifeMost of the time I am reading two books at once:  one that is just for fun, and one that builds me up in some way.  I read my serious book for a bit first thing in the morning (when I’m fresher) and the other one throughout the day and before bed. Right now my morning book is called, Gracious Uncertainty: Faith In The Second Half of Life by Jane Sigloh.  In the forward, Jane is described as a “wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, poet, vintner, cook, gardener, and story keeper.”  The book is a serious of short essays, starting with a memory about her spiritual life, many from her childhood and youth.  It has inspired me to look back on my own spiritual journey and consider writing some of those memories down for my children and grandchildren.

I also try to do my Bible study early in the day.  I’ve been reading through the book of Acts (that’s what we’re studying in our Tuesday morning class at church) and parts of 1 Kings (our Sunday School unit this quarter is called ‘Kings and Prophets–we’ve been using material from Concordia Publishing, if anyone is interested).

My point in all this is simply:  if you’re a reader, like I am, be a good steward.  Read to relax, but also try to also spent time with things that are truly worthwhile.  Don’t have much time?  Pick a book like the one I mentioned or a devotional that has short chapters or essays and read one a day.  Read through the gospels in small bites.  Read a Psalm each day.  Then think about what you’ve read.  Write down quotes or verses that strike you.  Talk to others about what you’ve been reading. Build yourself up.

P.S.  The Lutheran Ladies recently signed up to be B&H/Lifeway Bloggers, and review new books.  Look for our book reviews on our blog and B&H Publishing website.  Hopefully our reviews will point you toward some edifying reading!

Advertisements

Prayerful Relationships

Standard

“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

Trying to Read God’s Mind

Standard

This morning, as part of my devotional time, I was reading from a book, When God Says “Wait”, by Elizabeth Laing Thompson (sidebar:  I got this as a free Kindle book from Book Bub).  This morning’s chapter discussed some of the unpleasant thoughts we have when we’re waiting;  often we come to the conclusion that God is angry and is punishing us.  Then the author makes a very good point:  WE CAN’T READ GOD’S MIND!  The Bible makes this very clear in the book of Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

If you read closely, you’ll see that we’re not only incapable of reading God’s mind, when we try we’re almost certain to get it wrong — He just doesn’t think the way we do.  So, what do we do when we want to know God’s will?  When we want to know why some dreadful thing is happening to us?  When we have questions about the purpose of our life?

I think we have to go back to a previous blog post I did, “Agree in the Lord, Example #1.”  In that post, I talked about the fact that we can’t read the mind of other people — if we’re upset about something they said or did, the best course is to go and talk to them directly.  The same holds true with God — when I don’t understand or don’t like something that’s going on in my life, I need to go and talk to Him about it.  The most important way to do this is prayer:  pray, pray, pray and then pray some more.  It also means studying His word, because often that is how God speaks to me.  It means attending worship — another opportunity to listen to His word through the readings, sermon and hymns.

Does this mean I’ll always get a quick and clear answer?  Well, no.  It does mean I’ll have a relationship with God.  I’ll come to a better knowledge and understanding of His character.  I’ll mature in wisdom and discernment.  I’ll trust Him, even when I don’t know all the answers.

Have questions?  Go to the primary source;  go to God.

An Image of the Trinity

Standard

Image result for rublev's trinity imagesThis icon of the Holy Trinity was painted by the monk Andrei Rublev.  It depicts the three visitors to Abraham, each angel symbolizing one of the persons of the trinity.  When you look closely, you will notice that each figure wears different garments, but has the same face.  Many comment on the feeling of invitation and inclusion experienced as you spend time gazing at this beautiful image.  I have a number of icons, and this is definitely my favorite.  It gives me a sense of peace and light.

Here’s a quote about this icon from Henri Nouwen’s book, Behold the Beauty of the Lord.

“During a hard period of my life in which verbal prayer had become nearly impossible and during which mental and emotional fatigue had made me the easy victim of feelings of despair and fear, a loving and quiet presence to this icon became the beginning of my healing.  As I sat for long hours in front of Rublev’s Trinity, I noticed how gradually my gaze became a prayer.  This silent prayer made my inner restlessness melt away and lifted me up into the circle of love, a circle that could nt be broken by the powers of the world.  Even as I moved away from the icon and became involved in the many tasks of everyday life, I felt as if I did not have to leave the holy place I had found and could dwell there whatever I did or wherever I went.”

Is there a Christian painting or work of art that has affected you deeply?  If so, please comment and tell us about it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Witnessing

Standard

“God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man.  Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth.”

From ” Life Together”

A Quote by Dorothy Day

Standard

I’ve been reading a book by Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love, and I really liked this quote.  It’s a little off topic, but then is love ever off topic when it comes to Christianity?  In case you don’t know Dorothy Day was the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and started the first of many houses of hospitality for the poor and homeless.

“If we could only learn that the important thing is love, and that we will be judged on love–t0 keep on loving, and showing that love, over and over, whether we feel it or not, seventy times seven, to mothers-in-law, to husbands, to children–and be oblivious to insult, or hurt, or injury–not to see them, not to hear them.  It is a hard, hard doctrine.”

 

Introverted Evangelism

Standard

I found the quote below on evangelizing and I really liked it.  Guess what, I’m an introvert, I like to think about things. It occurred to me that Jesus himself often asked these sorts of questions–for example, “who do you say I am?”  Does it appeal to any other introverts among us?

Adam S. McHugh

“The verbal tool of exploring mystery together is not confrontation or preaching but dialogue. We subject ourselves to the same questions we pose to others, and as we traverse them together, we may arrive at surprising conclusions we could never have reached when simply trying to defeat one another’s logic. Our questions are open ended, granting the other person the freedom to respond or not to respond. The questions stick with us, even haunt us, long after we ask them, and we await insight together. The process is more important than an immediate decision.”
Adam S. McHugh, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

Yes, But How?

Standard

Well, we all seem to agree that witnessing is something every Christian should do.  Now we come to the important question Nancy raised, which I call YBH–Yes, but how?  I’m going to start with a quote I like from Dorothy Day.  In case you don’t know who she was, Dorothy, after living a completely unchristian life for many years, converted to Catholicism and founded a number of hospitality houses (rescue missions) where she tried to live and work in a very simple way, not owning much more than her “guests.”

“Works of mercy are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the prisoner, and burying the dead.  The spiritual works of mercy are instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, rebuking the sinner, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving all injuries and praying for the living and the dead.  Works of mercy are the most direct form of(I would add here apostolic)  action there is.

from Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy Day

When we imitate Christ by doing His work on earth, things like the ones Dorothy lists, we are most truly his witnesses. Of course, it is also important that the folks we are witnessing to know who (or maybe I should say whose) we are.  That comes from building an ongoing relationship with them.  (probably a topic for another post).

Going back to Nancy’s comment citing St. Francis of Assisi, I recently read a story about him in the Max Lucado Study Bible.  It is said he once asked a young monk to go with him to a nearby village to preach.  They arrived and St. Francis began to visit people:  the butcher, the cobbler, the teacher, a new widow.  This went on all morning until Francis told his follower, “It’s time to return to the abbey.”  “But we came to preach” protested the young man, “and we haven’t preached a sermon.”  “Haven’t we?” responded Francis.  “People have watched us, listened to us, responded to us.  Every word we have spoken, every deed we have done has been a sermon.  We have preached all morning.”

So what do you think readers and Lutheran Ladies?  Do we witness through our actions?  How do you witness?  I want to hear your stories.

 

How to Recognize a Christian

Standard

When a consecrated believer follows the Lord faithfully several evidences appear sooner or later.  Meekness and quietness of spirit become, in time, characteristics of daily life.  Other outward signs are:

  1. Grateful acceptance of the will of God as it comes in the hourly events of each day
  2. Pliability in the hands of God to do or bear whatever he assigns us
  3. A sweet disposition, even under provocation
  4. Calmness in the midst of turmoil and confusion
  5. Willingness to let others have their way
  6. Refusal to notice slights and wrongs
  7. Absence of worry, anxiety and fear

Taken from The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith