Life-giving Links and Likes

Happy One Word Friday!  I think some of the ways we “Choose Life” (my two words) are by choosing truth, choosing grace, and choosing to delight in the gifts of God.  I thought I’d share some of those gifts that have been delighting me lately.  What about you?  Share what’s delighted you lately in the comments! Continue reading

What I’m Not Reading

I’m home.  Home to my little house in my “Mayberry” neighborhood and my community filled with people who cheer and frustrate, and are broken and in the process of being put back together just like me.

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The past two months have been rich and stimulating and very, very full.  Full of new relationships and places and ideas, and stories and prayers and intense conversations.  It’s been wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.  And not the norm.

I love variety and travel and learning new things.  It’s a blessing.  But I need to get back to living my real life.

So…this is the pile of books I’m not reading.

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Don’t get me wrong.  They look really good and I’m excited about digging into them, but here’s where I’ve felt a pinch in the butt by the Holy Spirit.

I’m getting fat.

It’s crazy wonderful to be exposed to stimulating relationships and new information and great books, but the danger is we become obese – filled up with all of the deliciousness and getting no exercise.  Processing and applying nothing.  A holy hoarder if you will.

I think…”Oh that’s such a great IDEA!!  I should tell someone and they should DO it!”

“I will think more about _______________(insert anything I hear that I’m convicted or excited about) and how real that can be real in my life…someday.”

“I’m gonna Tweet that quote!”

We consume more, tweet more, Instagram more than we live into.

These days I need to do more living into.

I have a friend who used to say, “Start reading Jesus’ words in the New Testament and when you get to a command, stop, and don’t read further until you do it.”

And then there’s Jen Hatmaker who writes, “At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts.  We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming.”

I’ll get around to reading these books and be glad I did, but not today.

Today I need to write a note of encouragement, take a walk and pray present, do laundry, and forgive that person who dinged me.  I need to create stuff and breathe deep and serve others in my real-life community.

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For you the challenge may be the opposite.  Maybe you need to stop doing and be still.  Or maybe you’re starving for more sustenance and need to fill up with inspiration from God’s Word and information about the needs in His world.

What are you living into today?

Two Memoirs

We got home from two weeks in Africa yesterday afternoon and are trying to stay awake and get back into a work-day rhythm.  John and I keep looking at each other and saying “What time is it?  What day is it?”  The good news is that with about 159 hours of flight time, there was lots of opportunity to get books read (even for a slug-slow reader like me).

Among the titles I tackled were two fantastic memoirs I’d highly recommend!  When we Were on Fire by Addie Zierman, and Table in the Darkness by Lee Wolfe Blum. Continue reading

Carry-Ons and What You’re Reading

It’s Fearless Friday, but I don’t feel like writing about fear. 🙂   

John and I are leaving today for a couple of weeks in Zambia and Tanzania with our church and World Vision.  Not to be braggy, but we kind of pride ourselves on our ability to travel light.  We rarely check bags, but always use carry-ons.

The one place this proves problematic for me is with books.  Now when the Kindle came out I was thrilled because I knew it would be a great resource, at least when we travel. Think of all the space we could save!  157 books in the size of less-than-one!  Never mind the fact that it takes me 39 days to read just one.  I’m an optimist.

John has adapted well to the Kindle and uses it all the time, but me?  Well, I’m too tactile, too visual, and maybe just too remedial.  I need to be able to flip back and forth, to review what I’ve read and quotes I’ve underlined.  I also have this weird thing about wanting my full sized Bible with me that has all my notes and dates and underlines.  I just seem to “know” it better than other Bibles.  We’re old friends.

Bottom line?  I just hate using the Kindle and only submit when absolutely necessary.

Which brings us to this trip.  I have so many books right now that I’m excited about reading!!  Here are a few that I’ve finished and some I’m looking forward to. Continue reading

Summer is for Reading?

It seems like when summer dances in everyone comes out with lists of “summer reads” like you’re going to have all this amazing leisure time at the lake and your daily responsibilities (or your kids) will magically disappear.  Well, that hasn’t exactly been my reality.  And add to that the fact that I’m a slow reader who doesn’t retain much and you’ve got a profile of my reading world.

However, I have read a few books over the past two months, and I’d love some suggestions from you too!  Here are mine.

Continue reading

Bread and Wine, part 1

First, a Disclaimer:   I was totally predisposed to love Bread and Wine, Shauna Niequist’s newest book, coming out in a couple weeks.

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Shauna’s mom is a dear friend of mine.  And Shauna’s faith journey has been similar to one of my daughter’s so she’s the one I sent desperate emails to, begging for advice during a clueless season of parenting.

Also, I’m crazy about Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet – her first two books – which I think are lovely and insightful.  Her just-right word pictures and conversational style and authenticity inspire me as a writer.  In fact I love her writing so much that I have this uber paranoia that someday I’m going to write something and it’s going to inadvertently be a phrase she wrote that I liked and swirled around in my brain so much that eventually I thought it was mine.  And she’ll call, and be like, “Uh, Laura…” and I’ll be mortified.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let me say that Bread and Wine is totally wonderful, but a little different.  It is a collection of essays about the meals that draw us together and what they can teach us.  Included with almost every chapter is a recipe.

What is different is that it is a smidge more of a food writer’s book than I expected, but don’t let that deter you.  The warm and honest Shauna who reflects on faith and not being perfect comes through.  I definitely think you should buy the book and savor it and throw a party or a shower.  Or bless someone with  a pan of “Annette’s Enchilada’s”.

Many will read Bread and Wine, and as they do, breathe a sigh of Oh, Phew!  I’m not the only one!” as Shauna revisits some of the pain she’s written about in her first two books.  Her authenticity is what draws readers in.  It’s a gift.

However there are also many, many lists of friends and food – a devoted community gathered around lovely meals.  You may read this book and be tempted to think, “Oh, I love Shauna!  I want her life!  But I will never have friends like that or meals that flow so naturally with laughter and meaningful conversation!”

Don’t.

Don’t go there.

Be inspired, but don’t let this book suck you into a comparison game that leaves you feeling like you can only truly exist vicariously through a hip young mama with a life lived large.

Instead, do what Shauna suggests, and celebrate your own.  Use it as a chance to gather some old friends (or invite some new ones) together and crowd into the kitchen, and try out some recipes.

“Here’s what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them and dinner’s at six.  I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter.”

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If you’re not a foodie (or even if you are) don’t take yourself too seriously.  If you get it wrong, be prepared to laugh and figure it’s a good story you’ll tell someday.

If you are a foodie (or even if you’re not), remember it’s not about the food primarily.  The recipes are wonderful, but they’re an excuse and a putter-at-easer…a means to creating a nurturing space conducive to community.  So be intentional.  Make it about more than food.  Use the discussion questions at the back of the book or make up your own.

I’ll share Wednesday about what happened around my table…

Books and a Give Away Because it’s Friday (fake title)

It’s Friday, and you’ve made it through another week.

Some of you have made it through “somehow”, hanging on by your toes, holding back tears, and wanting to hide in a hole.  It’s gonna be ok.  Be gentle with yourself.

For some of you it’s Friday and your stomach is in knots or in butterflies or in whatevers and you’re nervous or fearful because even though it’s Friday you still feel like Rocky going into the ring.  The hard conversations, or pressure to produce, or scary diagnosis doesn’t disappear for the weekend.  It’s gonna be ok. Be gentle with yourself.

And others have come to this Friday “triumphantly”, feeling like you want to high five the checkout girl and the barista and maybe even give a thumbs up to the person who cuts you off in traffic.  We’ll try to be happy for you. :).  Celebrate!

At the end of the week, what do you do to care for yourself?  What is most nourishing to your soul?

For me it’s getting outside biking, walking, playing – soaking up the beauty of the world, and relationships where there’s meaningful conversation and lots of laughter and hugs.

Reading is replenishing too, but lately I have felt a check in my spirit.  A caution that I need to live more than I read.  

I fear we (I!) get sucked into collecting sound bites, hoarding information, sharing pithy tweets, taking lots of notes and not allow any of it to seep into our souls and change us into people who look more like Jesus.

We read more than we live.

We quote more than we do.

We know more about praying than we pray, know more about serving than we serve.

I need to live what I know.

If I fasted from reading for a time, would my hands and feet and heart ever catch up with my head?

Note the title of this post.  I just added the parenthesis.  I sat down today, fully intending to share a couple book reviews and do a give-away, but I prayed and…well, this is what came instead.  Thoughts?

Books I’m taking on Vacation

We leave next week for vacation in Florida.

I know, some of your are saying “VACATION??  What’s a vacation?”  And you’re right.  I’m grateful and don’t deserve it.  And others of you are like “Been there, done that, Spring Break’s over.”  But there’s a little thing called Easter that my husband kind of has to stick around for, so we’re getting out of Dodge a little late.

Anyway, here are the books I’m taking with me to read, along with the War of Art by Steven Pressfield and King’s Cross by Tim Keller on my Kindle.  (Oh, and if Seven by Jen Hatmaker comes in before we leave, I may sneak that in too)

I have a Kindle specifically for travel so I’m not lugging a bunch of books on a plane, but I just can’t help myself!  I love “real” books.  What about you?  Are you E-book readers or “real” book readers?

What are other books you’d suggest?  Maybe a little more fiction to round things out? 

And if you want a little more encouragement to read, check this out.

The Not Best of 2011

We see a lot of people doing “Best of 2011” lists this time of year.  I wish I had the confidence to post the “best” definitively.  No way am I falling into that trap.  All I can do is share some of my favorites.  I’ve read a lot, but here are a few books that enriched my life in 2011.  (This is not an intense list.  I saw a list of “25 Books Every Christian Should Read” – most of them a few hundred years old –  and thought maybe I need to take it up a notch! ) Many of you may look at this and think, “Been there, read that, so last year.”  I would love to hear your favorites too!  Let’s swap.

Some non-fiction books that challenged and provoked me (in a good way):

Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan

Love Wins by Rob Bell

Most practical, applicable book on leadership I read:  Integrity by Henry Cloud          Another great leadership book I’m reading now it Great by Choice by Jim Collins

Favorite Fiction (Clearly I was on a WWII kick):

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Guernsy Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Sarah’s Key by Julia Jarmond

The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy

Favorite Memoirs:                                                                                                                      Jesus, My Father the CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron

West With the Night by Beryl Markham (probably my favorite of the year)

I wrote down enough great quotes to fill a year of blogs, but here’s one I liked:  “When God removes something from our lives it’s not because He’s trying to take away something good.  It’s because He’s trying to make room for something better.”  Stephen Furtick

I’ve probably forgotten some, but that’s what comes to mind as favorites.                          Your turn!  I’d love to hear your suggestions!