A Book about Surrender

Barefoot, by Sharon Garlough Brown is the third in her Sensible Shoes series.  The subtitle is:  A Story of Surrendering to God.  In this book,  readers follow the same four women already introduced as they navigate a variety of losses.

It’s a story about death, but not only physical death.  Relationships also die, jobs end, children grow up.  Even wonderful new experiences such as getting married or having a baby, involve loss.  We may lose some privacy or independence.  We may have to revise the image we have of ourselves.  We need to make compromises.  We find we must die to the person we were before.  It’s important for each of us to name and grieve our losses as we practice discerning and surrendering to God’s will for our life.

Every reader will find some situation with which they can identify, if not right now, then in the past.  The characters illustrate the struggle involved in spiritual growth, as they face and deal with the same sinful tendencies again and again in different ways.  Progress is often slow, but easier with friends who understand, pray and share the journey.

Sprinkled throughout the book are spiritual exercises which include a bible reading, questions for personal reflection and for group reflection.  I have been using them for journaling, but the book would also be well-suited to read and study with a book club or study group.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  This series just gets better and better!  Try to read them in order if you can — here are the first two:

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

 

 

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Remembering

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Change, Loss and Faith

This is an article I actually wrote many years ago when my church at the time, Peace In Christ Lutheran in Walkersville, had undergone the major change of buying a new church building and moving to a different location.  I think the ideas are still relevant today.

Our daughter Kate, age 20, who is living and going to college in South Carolina, called recently.  The old car we gave her finally died.  So she went out, bought a new car, and got her own insurance.  When I told a friend about this, she said, “Joan, that’s a good thing!”  And it is.  Parenthood is all about guiding your child to independence.  I’m proud of Kate and relieved she is now able to take care of so many things on her own.  But, at the same time, I feel a pang of loss.  She doesn’t need me as much as she once did.

For some of us at Peace In Christ, the church was for many years “our baby.”  Church social events took place in the homes of our members as we didn’t have a kitchen or fellowship hall.  My husband even taught adult Sunday School in our living room one year!  Just about every active family had a member serving on either the Church Council, Board of Elders, or Sunday School staff.  The success of an event depended upon all of us pitching in and being there.  We were truly members of the same body and the body needed every one of us to function.

At the new facility things have changed.  We’ve grown in numbers and no longer know everyone;  there is a greater variety of interest and level of commitment;  communication doesn’t just “happen” anymore.  This brings a feeling of loss and in a way, even death–death of the close community and roles that were valuable to us.  Elizabeth O’Connor, in her book, “Many Selves” says, “those who participate in change must participate in death.”

However, during this Easter season I am reminded that death is not the end.  We’re called to practice resurrection–which isn’t easy during the painful uncertainty of transition.  Here’s a quote from “Hope for the Flowers.”  Two caterpillars are discussing becoming a butterfly:

” ‘You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar’, Stripe said. ‘You mean to die?‘  asked Yellow.  ‘Yes and no,’ he answered.  ‘What looks like you will die, but what’s really you will still live.'”

When I put on the mind of Christ, I know that what’s really Peace In Christ will continue to live through all of the changes.

 

Life after life after life…

 All of us have had the experience of being reborn.  I was thinking about this on Sunday, after hearing a sermon on the life of Joseph (the one in Genesis with the coat of many colors).  Joseph’s life took some drastic turns.  He went from being the favored son of Jacob to slavery; from slavery to imprisonment; from being a prisoner to being the right hand man of the Pharaoh of Egypt! Surely some of those changes must have felt like a kind of death and rebirth.  He “died” to his family.  He “died” to having special status.  He even “died” to being free.  Who could have predicted the final outcome?

 Most of us do not suffer such extreme changes in our life or status.  But we can still identify with Joseph.  Sometimes our life changes in a positive way, a way we have planned.  We may get married, have a child, or receive a promotion that causes us to move across the country.  Other things just happen:  we develop an illness, lose our job, our spouse or child dies.  Each important change causes our way of life to dissolve, and eventually a new life takes its place.  The result is unpredictable.

 In the midst of Joseph’s deaths he never lost faith in God.  He told his brothers:

 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today”.  Genesis 50:20

 He couldn’t foresee what his new birth would be, but he trusted the Lord.  Jesus also trusted His father when he went to the cross.  What looked like a horrible death, became life for us.

 What death is going on in your life?  Do things look hopeless?  Have your plans gone awry?  God is still in control.  Your life is in His hands.

 “…. For those who love God all things work together for good.”  Romans 8:28