The Night Lake by Liz Tichenor–Book Review

Liz Tichenor, a young Episcopal priest, lost her infant son to an undetected congenital abnormality when he was only forty days old.  Less than a year before this tragic event, her alcoholic mother committed suicide.  This is the story of her navigation through grief, pain, guilt, and surrender to God, and it is ruthlessly honest.

Your grief may not be the same, and your way of coping may not be the same, but anyone who has lived through the death of loved ones will be able to identify with Liz in her struggle to understand and accept.  She managed through physical activity, the support of friends, meaningful rituals and walking through the church year.  The book ends during Lent and Easter, and Liz is able to connect her suffering with the suffering of Christ and His mother, Mary, who lost her son, too.

You’ll learn a lot about what not to say when talking to grieving friends.  Many well-intentoned responses  — “your child is now an angel in heaven” or “lucky you are young, you can have more children” simply caused Liz more pain and even anger.  There is no pat answer that comforts when a dearly loved family member dies.  The best we can say is, “this is terrible, and I’m here for you.”

One thing that bothered me about the book was the language of Liz and some of her friends.  Yes, I’m a pastor’s wife so I know we are people, too, and sometimes in the heat of the moment we say things that we shouldn’t.  However, to hear a priest use words that are crude and in some cases take God’s name in vain is unacceptable to me, particularly in a book.  This could have been easily edited out.  Am I hopelessly old-fashioned?  Maybe so.

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  Other than the occasional bad language, it was a read that captured and kept my attention, and those who are grieving will find it both realistic and hopeful.

Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren–Book Review

It may be dangerous for you to read this book.In it Kay Warren (wife of Pastor Rick Warren) tells the story of her conviction that God was calling her to advocate for people around the world affected by HIV-AIDS.  She found herself “deeply disturbed” and “gloriously ruined” as she was challenged to face her own self-centeredness and unfair opinions of others.

Here are some things Kay learned that should disturb anyone living in our country:

“….if you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 percent of the people in this world!  If you have any money in the bank and some in your wallet and some spare change in a dish somewhere, you are among the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy; …. If you can attend worship services without the fear of harrassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than three billion people n the world.”

I was especially convicted by her chapter on “The Kingdom of Me.” Kay describes her reluctance to engage with the problem of HIV.  You will find the sorts of excuses we all make:

  • The problem is just too big
  • I have enough to do
  • The people I will need to associate with may damage my reputation
  • I may have to change

The ugly reality is what stands most in the way of our surrender to God’s plan for us, is simple:  we care more about ourselves than we do about the suffering of others.

Each chapter with a prayer of surrender and some questions to ponder alone or with a reading partner or small group.  There are further resources and more questions for each chapter at the end of the book.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  This would be a great read for a small group study.

I Give Up by Laura Story–Book Review

Laura Story knows about surrendering to God.  Not long after they were married, her husband required surgery for a brain tumor, which left him alive, but with disabilities.  After experiencing the pain of infertility, she eventually gave birth to four children, including a pair of twins.  Her youngest son was born with a cleft palate.  Life took lots of twists and turns she didn’t expect.  Most of us may not have the same surprises, but we are sure to have some, and Laura’s book gives good advice on how to handle them.

She addresses a number of good questions including:

  • To whom do I surrender?
  • How do I surrender?
  • What happens when I surrender?

At the end of each chapter is a “white flag prayer” readers can use to speak to God about their own need to let go.

Laura’s story is full of important spiritual insights.  Here are just a few that struck me:

  • Receiving one thing new always requires letting go of something else
  • Surrender ia an ongoing process … a committment to a life style
  • When we surrender control of our lives to God, we’re choosing belief over doubt, belief over fear, belief over worry, confusion and despair
  • Marriage (and other close relationships) are great schools for practicing surrender
  • Surrender = worship

If you read her book, you can make a list of your own.

If you’re interested in music, you may know that Laura is also a talented songwriter and plays the bass.  Probably her most well known is the song, “Blessings.”  If you would like to listen to it, follow the link below:

Blessings

Shades of Light by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review

If you enjoyed Garlough’s Sensible Shoes series, you’ll love this book also.  It centers around Wren Crawford, a young woman suffering from anxiety, depression and panic attacks.  She lives in Kingsbury, about ten years after the events of Sensible Shoes.  You will once again meet Hannah, Mara, and Charissa and get some updates on their lives.  You will also learn the back story of their spiritual director, Katherine, who turns out to be Wren’s Aunt Kit.

If you or a loved one has suffered from mental illness, you will be able to emphasize with Wren and her family.  This is another story about surrendering to God — surrendering when life spirals out of control, or when we feel helpless to change the suffering and anguish experienced by someone else’s pain. How do we come alongside, yet still establish boundaries?  It’s also about unanswered questions and how to go forward in our lives when difficult circumstances lack closure.

Wren’s story is interwoven with excerpts from the letters, art and life of the artist, Vincent Van Gogh, as well as the biblical concept of Jesus as “the man of sorrows.”  It introduces the spiritual practice of visio divina –inviting God to speak to our heart as we contemplate an image.

I was disappointed that this book did not include any specific spiritual exercises or a study guide at the end.  There is a list of recommended resources with organizations that can help with mental illness as well as books on suicide, grief, the art of Vincent van Gogh and spiritual formation.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  This book spoke to me on so may levels.  I highly recommend it.

If you haven’t read the other books by Sharon Garlough Brown see these reviews:

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

A Book about Surrender

An Extra Mile by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review

 

 

 

Can You Do This?

“Use thy utmost endeavor to attain such a disposition of spirit that thou mayest become one with Me, and thy will may become so entirely conformed to My all-perfect will, that not only shalt thou never desire that which is evil, but not even that which is good, if it not be according to My will;  so that whatsoever shall befall thee in this earthly life, from whatsoever quarter it may come, whether in things temporal or things spiritual, nothing shall ever disturb thy peace, or trouble thy quietness of spirit;  but thou shalt be established in a firm belief that I, thine omnipotent God, love thee with a dearer love and take of thee more watchful care than thou canst for thyself.”

St. Catharine of Siena

For more about doing God’s Wll see:

Fanning the Flame #6–Seeking God’s Will

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

Make Jesus Your All in All

If we’re to surrender to God, a first step is to give Him first place in our lives.  This is an article written by husband about that.  It appeared in our most recent church newsletter.

Is Christ your all in all?  I suspect that the honest answer for many of us would be “no.”  There are so many things that are important in our lives:  our families, our friends, our careers, our health– so many things that we unconsciously put before Christ is many different ways, that Christ often seems to take a back seat except at certain specified times — Sunday morning, for example.

But if Jesus is who He says He is, if He is indeed God Incarnate, very God of very God, then having anything more important in our lives is a kind of blasphemy.  If Jesus is indeed the Savior of the world, then His very existence must fill all believers with an undeniable desire to serve Him in all things and at all times.  He does not merely seek to be in our lives, but to be first in our lives.

Christ Jesus is all in God’s eternal purpose.  From the very beginning the Trinity established Christ as the way in which God’s final purpose  would be fulfilled.

Christ Jesus is all in God’s plan of salvation for sinners.  There is no other way to achieve salvation except through the Lord Jesus.  Your loved ones will not save you.  Your hard work won’t save you.  Your determination to be saved won’t save you.  Only Jesus can do that.

And Christ Jesus must be all in all in our lives.  That means there is no room for easy believism.  Faith in Christ is not just part of a true Christian’s life, it is central to a true Christian’s life.

We must measure everything we say, everything we do, and everything we think against the standard of holiness that Christ has established for us to walk in.  And I dare say there is not one of us who has ever met that standard.  Nor will we this side of the veil — but that doesn’t mean we don’t try.

Christ will not give up on us.  Neither should we give up on Christ.  Put Him first.  He is your all in all.

To listen to the song by this title see:

Is He Your All In All?

New Month/New Theme

A good part of my reading this recently has had to do with the idea of surrendering to God.  Not an easy concept to grasp, especially in our society.  We value individualism and like to believe that we can control our life through things like hard work, education, or persistence.  The Bible turns all of that upside down.  Instead of “looking our for number one”  we’re to “count others more significant than yourself.”(Philippians 2:3).  Instead of “following our bliss” we’re to become a “living sacrifice.”(Romans 12:1) Instead of stroking our own ego, we’re to “put on Christ.”(Galatians 3:27)

Even if we truly want to live a Biblical lifestyle, how do we actually do these things?  Can we ever really surrender ourselves, all that we have, all that we value to God?  Can we trust Him that much?

These are the ideas we’ll be exploring this month.  Stay tuned to see what you can apply to your own life.  Can you surrender all?  Or even some?