The Practice of the Presence of Jesus by Joni Eareckson Tada — Book Review

Most people know the story of Joni Eareckson Tada, a well-known advocate for the disabled. Following the swimming accident that left her a quadriplegic, she turned to the Scripture, and to writings of other Christians on the topic of suffering. A book she found particularly helpful was The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a 17th century lay monk, who spent most of his time working in the kitchen. Although she had read this book before, it came to have special meaning for her as she sought peace and acceptance of her condition.

In this devotional book, each entry begins with a short section from The Practice of the Presence of God, followed by Joni’s own thoughts on its meaning and present day application. At the end there is a question for journaling or meditation. Some of Joni’s drawings are sprinkled throughout the book. There is also an introduction that summarizes the lives of Father Lawrence and Joni.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. I’ve been using this for my daily devotional reading.

The Lutheran Ladies received an e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.

For more book reviews see:

The Lives We Actually Have by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie — Book Review

Learning Humility by Richard Foster–Book Review

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

On Getting Out of Bed by Alan Noble–Book Review

This is the second book I’ve read recently that deals with the difficulty of persevering in the Christian life. Maybe this is a trend? This short book, almost a long essay, will resonate with all Christians, but is particularly focused on those dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Alan Noble obviously speaks from personal experience when he says:

“…however you explain the difficulty of living in the modern world, whatever theory you accept, you’re still stuck with the reality that a normal life includes a great deal of suffering. Ultimately, you must have some reason to put up with such a life, some reason for still getting out of bed….though getting out of bed in the morning can be incredibly hard.

We all suffer at times, and we all sometimes feel that the best we can do is to get out of bed and make a small effort to keep going. Noble tells us that this is okay, and even courageous. It is a small act of hope in the goodness of God. He advises those in pain to be willing to humbly ask for help. However, he also reminds all of us that it is important to fulfill our responsibility to others and to God, even when it is hard.

Throughout he emphasizes the importance of remembering that God is good, and life is good, even when we are in pain. Turning to God’s love, grace and forgiveness (along with therapy or counseling when needed) is the only way to maintain hope, especially in the face of chronic conditions.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. A realistic look at the challenges of mental health issues from a Christian perspective.

For more book reviews see these posts:

What is a Girl Worth by Rachael Denhollander–Book Review

Quilt of Souls by Phyllis Biffle Elmore — Book Review

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

A Conference Quote?

Sometime during the recent AFLC conference, I wrote this quote down — I can’t remember in what context it was given, I just know that I liked it and maybe you will, too.

‘When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.’
-St. Sebastian Valfre

In our country, and our society, we know very little about suffering and we certainly avoid it in any way we can (I’m no exception.). Yet the Bible tells us that in this world we will suffer. (See John 16:33) Not only that, the apostle Paul tells us:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

Suffering can seem pointless, but often it isn’t. Our suffering may lead to a hope that is anchored in Christ, instead of our own strength. If we bear our suffering patiently, asking God to reveal His will, we may reap great benefits.

Next time you are suffering, don’t ask why you are suffering. Instead ask God, “what can I learn?” or “how can I use this painful experience?” You may be surprised at the answer.

For more posts about suffering see:

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

United with Christ in Death and Resurrection

Behold the Man!

No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler–Book Review

I ordered this book from my local library because of another book by the same author that I really enjoyed (Good Enough by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie–Book Review). In this memoir, Kate walks us through her experience of being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the age of 35. It deals with the issues of suffering, pain and the seemingly random events that cause them.

All of us are living with uncertainty, but most of the time, we choose to ignore it. We meander along, day by day, behaving as if our life will last forever and nothing much will change. Having a life-threatening disease reveals the absurdity of our assumptions. Will this be my last Christmas? My last birthday? Will my young son remember me? What’s more important — my accomplishments or my relationships? These are the kinds of questions the author asks herself as she navigates her health crisis.

Kate survives, but her perspective has changed. She now realizes that in light of our mortality, the question is “how do we live now?” Each of us is living in the space between a past that is over, and a future that is uncertain. We must learn to accept that with courage, doing what is possible today. The promise of eternal life always gives us hope, but when it comes to our life here and now, we will never feel finished.

At the end there is an appendix listing some of the cliches we often hear to explain suffering, and along with what the author has experienced as the more complicated truth.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. This is an easy and inspiring read.

For more spiritual memoirs see:

Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey–Book Review

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron–Book Review

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

Exodus Chapter 3–What Stands Out

Recently, as part of my daily Bible reading plan (Plan to Read the Bible), I’ve been studying the book of Exodus. Here’s what stood out for me in Chapter 3:

“… I know their sufferings” Exodus 3:7b

I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I like even less than suffering, it’s admitting that I’m suffering. That may come in part, from being raised in a family that was pretty stoic. The attitude was, “don’t complain, just get on with what you need to do.” My grandparents survived the depression, and life was pretty hard for them. They didn’t want to hear whining about things or circumstances that weren’t life threatening. Then there’s the part of me that doesn’t like to admit to suffering because it makes me look (and feel) weak. I should be able to handle whatever life throws at me. Sometimes I even tell myself that keeping my suffering to myself is what I’m called to do as a Christian. What kind of example am I if I let life get me down? Christians are supposed to be joyful, aren’t they?

Well, there’s probably some truth in all of these ideas, but I do suffer and so does everyone else. I sometimes suffer from anxiety or feel depressed. I suffer from physical discomforts as I age. I suffer from disappointment when things don’t turn out the way I hoped they would. I suffer when others don’t seem to appreciate me. Most of the time, I try to ignore my suffering because I don’t think anyone else really wants to hear about it. They have problems of their own.

This verse tells me there is someone who cares, and already knows every little ache and pain, whether it involves my body or my heart. God knows my suffering, and the verse goes on to say,

“I have come down to deliver them.” Exodus 3:8

During the time of the Exodus, He sent Moses. For us, He sent His own son, Jesus. We don’t have to suffer alone. So, if you’re suffering, turn to the One who already knows and who has compassion on our weakness. God is always waiting to hear our prayers and ease our suffering.

For another posts about suffering see:

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

Strengthen Your Feeble Arms

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. ”  Hebrews 12:12

My husband has been preaching through the book of Hebrews (my favorite).  A few weeks ago, we heard about the great cloud of witnesses who surround us — those biblical and contemporary saints who went before us and suffered for the faith.  Then we learned about discipline, how we should submit to it because God is building our character through it.  Last week’s sermon started with the verse above.  The therefore means we should pay attention to what has come before.  Because we are one in a long line of saints, because we have endured the Lord’s discipline, we are to continue to be strong in order to encourage others.

I have to admit that lately I’ve been feeling rather weak.  I’m getting older (turning 70 later this month) and this coronavirus situation has dealt a blow.  A month or more of enforced isolation somehow lessened my desire to get out and accomplish things.  Church is more difficult — people are uneasy and quick to accuse others of not doing the right thing, some are not attending at all, finances are suffering.  We’re uncertain about the future, and frankly, I’m not sure I’m up to being an optimistic leader right now.

The verse about tells me that quitting is not an option.  We are to remain strong, not only for ourselves but for others.  Any suffering we encounter is simply a consequence of our sinful humanity, and as the author puts it in verse 4:

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  Hebrews 12:5

The last chapter of the book closes with a list of things we can be doing no matter how daunting our situation.  Take a look:

  • “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy.” (12:14)
  •  “See to it that no one misses the grace of God, and that no bitter root grows up” (12:15)
  • “Keep on loving each other as brothers.” (13:1)
  • “Do not forget to entertain strangers” (13:2)
  • “Remember those in prison” (13:3)
  • “Marriage should be honored by all” (13:4)
  •  “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” (13:5)
  • “Remember your leaders” (13:7)
  • “Pray for us” (13:18)

There’s more, but this gives you a taste.  There is much to be done.  We’re to continue serving God and serving others — this much is certain.  Weak knees are not an excuse!

For more on the book of Hebrews, see these posts:

Interactive Bible Study -Hebrews Chapter 12

Interactive Bible Study-Hebrews Chapter 13

Thankful for Others –Hebrews Chapter 12

Thankful for Leaders –Hebrews Chapter 13
















Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian Freedom

While imprisoned by the Nazis at Tegel military prison, and shortly after learning of the last failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned a short poem for his friend, Eberhard Bethge.

Though we must be careful to appreciate the time and place from which it sprung, it brings with it plenty of implications for the ways in which we order our lives and allegiances. Indeed, in his prodding toward obedience, discipline, and submission to God — features many would find contradictory or in opposition to freedom — Bonhoeffer’s embrace of this profound paradox dovetails quite nicely with Lord Acton’s statement defining liberty not as the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”


Stations on the Road to Freedom by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


If you set out to seek freedom, then learn above all things to govern your soul and your senses, for fear that your passions and longings may lead you away from the path you should follow. Chaste be your mind and your body, and both in subjection, obediently, steadfastly seeking the aim set before them; only through discipline may a man learn to be free.


Daring to do what is right, not what fancy may tell you, valiantly grasping occasions, not cravenly doubting – freedom comes only through deeds, not through thoughts taking wing. Faint not nor fear, but go out to the storm and the action, trusting in God whose commandment you faithfully follow; freedom, exultant, will welcome your spirit with joy.


A change has come indeed. Your hands, so strong and active, are bound; in helplessness now you see your action is ended; you sigh in relief, your cause committing to stronger hands; so now you may rest contented. Only for one blissful moment could you draw near to touch freedom; then, that it might be perfected in glory, you gave it to God.


Come now, thou greatest of feasts on the journey to freedom eternal; death, cast aside all the burdensome chains, and demolish the walls of our temporal body, the walls of our souls that are blinded, so that at last we may see that which here remains hidden. Freedom, how long we have sought thee in discipline, action, and suffering; dying, we now may behold thee revealed in the Lord.