Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Circle Maker

"The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson

I was given this book to read by my dad.  It sat on my shelf for quite a few months.  Then my pastor said that we would be doing the devotional that goes along with this book for a sermon series on 40 days of prayer.  So I decided I should read the book.  It is based on the legend of the circle maker who is a man that drew a circle in the sand and said that he would not leave that circle till God sent rain, they were in a severe drought.  He dropped to his knees and prayed for rain and it began to rain.  The author uses this as an example that we need to draw circles around our prayers and keep praying till God answers, which come in many different forms and not always the yes we are looking for.  I liked the book, it challenged me to not stop praying when it seems there isn't an answer.  It challenged me to pray through and that God wants me to be persistant.  The book stretched my faith.  "We quit praying right before the miracle happens."  We give up but maybe just one more prayer and we would see His answer.  "You are always only one prayer away from a miracle."  I like that, that keeps me praying.  "Too often we let how get in the way of what God wants us to do.  We can't figure out how to do what God has called us to do, so we don't do it at all."  I think we need to leave the how up to God.  We need to have "vision beyond our resources."  "God can do anything through anyone who circles their big dreams with bold prayers."  It takes all kinds of people, willing people, and He can and will use anyone willing.  "With God, it's never an issue of 'Can He?'  It's only a questio of 'Will He?'  And while you don't always know if He will, you know He can.  And because you know He can, you can pray with holy confidence."  I know I don't always pray with hold confidence.  "Sometimes the power of prayer is the power to carry on.  It doesn't always change your circumstances, but it gives you the strength to walk through them.  When you pray through, the burden is taken off of your shoulders and put on the shoulders of Him who carried the cross to Calvary."  "When you know you are praying the promises of God, you can pray with holy confidence."  His promises are right in the Bible, we can take those promises and pray them for ourselves.  "We pray as if God's cheif objective is our personal comfort.  It's not.  God's chief objective is His glory.  And sometimes His gain involves a little pain."  Our prayers shouldn't be for our comfort but for His glory.  "You can't pray for open doors if you aren't willing to accept closed doors, because one leads to the other."  Well alright then, we have to accept the closed doors as open doors somewhere else.  "One reason God does miracles is to stretch our faith so we can draw bigger circles so He can do bigger and better miracles."  This gives us bigger faith, willing to believe for more so that He can be glorified.  "The good news is that you're only one defining decision away from a totally different life. That defining decision will lead to a daily decisioin, and together, these defining decisions and daily decisions will lead to a different destiny."  That is empowering.  Just one decision, one prayer can change everything, pray through, don't give up.  

Under The Overpass

"Under the Overpass" by Mike Yankoski

I found out about this book from a friend and she let me borrow it.  She told me it was a good book but wouldn't be life changing.  I think it was a great book and it challenged me a lot.  It has some hard truths in it.  The author and a friend choose to become homeless for five months in five different cities.  The author, Mike, was convicted one day that he wasn't really living out his faith, that his life looked no different really than a non-believer.  He got this radical idea to put his faith to the test and see if he really believed what he said he did.  He decided to leave his world behind and live a life with the homeless.  It is a fascination story which will cause you, hopefully, to look at people on the streets differently.  The message of the book is a challenge, a challenge to be the hands of Jesus and get out of our comfortable lives.  "Be the Christian you say you are."  That was the title of the sermon that caused Mike to question the life that he was living.  That is a very good statment to evaluate your life and what you are doing with it.  That was on page 4 and I could have stopped reading there.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  "More forgotten, ruined, beautiful people than we ever imagined existed, and more reason to hope in their redemption."  "Psalm 34:18 says 'The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.'  I wondered if pretending you're not broken keeps God at a distance."  We are all broken and the sooner we admit and are honest with others about that the sooner God can step in and redeem.  "If we are the body of Christ-and Christ came not for the healthy but the sick-we need to be fully present in the places where people are most broken.  And it has to be more than just a financial presence.  That helps, of course.  But too often money is insulation-it conveniently keeps us from ever having to come face-to-face with a man or woman whose life is in tatters."  Being fullly present in the places where people are most broken is scary and hard but my bet is it will be the place where we feel fully alive and see more of God.  "Begging is hard.  It's something you expect hungry dogs to do, but not men and women made in God's image."  The people on the streets, God's image bearers, they are having to lower their standards just to eat.  Why do we pass them by?  Why do we pretend that we don't even see them?  It's because we don't see Christ in them, we forget that they were created by God.  We see dirt, and stench and bad choices but we don't see God because if we did our lives would look a whole lot different.  "What's worse?  To do dope or to not love your brother?  Why do we kick drug users out of the church while quietly overlooking those who are ignoring their own different but equally destructive sins?  Why do we reject the loving, self-sacrificing, giving, encourageing, Jesus-pursuing drug addict but recruit the clean, self-interested, gossiping, loveless churchgoer?"  "If we as believers choose to forget that everyone-even the shrunken soul lying in the doorway-is made in the image of God, can we say we know our Creator?  If we respond to others based on their outward appearance, haven't we entirely missed the point of the gospel?"  Jesus hung out with the sinners, outcasts, lepers and sick.  Who do we choose to hang out with?  "I do this becasue my faith tells me to.  The Bible clearly says, if you see someone hungry, feed them; if you see someone naked, clothe them.  Those words weren't written for us to make books and sermons about.  They're written so people don't go hungry and naked.  And they require action from all folllowers of Christ..."  "Whenever we close our eyes to the real needs of the real people of our world, we force them to survive via whatever options are available to them, dehumanizing though they may be."  Each of us has the ability to meet someone elses needs to give where we have so much.  "Again and again it seemed that the culture we had returned to knew how to enjoy God's material blessings, but had forgotten-or didn't care to know-how to use those blessing to help others in Jesus' name."  We are blessed not so we can keep the blessings to ourselves but so we can share.  "Sometimes it's easy to walk by because we know we can't change someone's whole life in a single afternoon.  But what we fail to realize is that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place."  We don't have to change someones life, that is Gods business, we just have to do the one things that He called us to do.  I hope you read this book, not just read it but do something, make a change, be willing to risk your comfort for Jesus.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Packing Light

"Packing Light" by Allison Vesterfelt

I got this book from my best friend who knows the author.  It's a quick read about a twenty something gal, the author, and a trip she takes to all 50 states to find what she has been missing in her daily life.  She thought when she got a career she would find satisfaction or when she got married but she wasn't finding that what she longed for.  When she took this trip she found out what life was like to pack light.  "If you try to figure out how to do everything, all at once, you'll get overwhelmed.  But if you just focus on one task at a time, and keep walking in the same direction, all those little steps add up over time."  We set these lofty goals for ourselves and burn out before we even begin.  Big tasks, goals or journeys begin with one step.  Just do the next best thing and the next best thing and then the next best thing.  "Sometimes we make problems so much more difficult than they need to be."  "Maybe what I needed wasn't fewer expectations, or lower expectations, but the ability to adjust them in the middle of my trip."  I'll admit, I oftentimes set my expectations pretty low or not at all so that I am not dissapointed.  But I think what I really need to do is to allow myself to have expecations but be willing to adjust them.  "When you're doing what you were made to do, hurting people will come to you.  That's what Jesus did.  He just acted like Himself, and weeks after the start of His ministry, hurting people began to flock to Him."  Such a good example.  When we do what God has designed us for, He will bring the people to us that need what we have. "Fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy in this way.  We're afraid so we act out of fear, and because we act out of fear, our fears tend to come true."  Fear is a hard cycle to break and fear tends to breed more fear.  Sometimes doing what you are afraid of is the only way to break the cycle.  "Numbing pain will only make it worse.  The only way out is through."  Ugh.  So hard and so true.  We try and numb pain but we find its still there and we have to do more and more to numb it.  Through it is no fun but it is what finally eases the pain.  "If anyone tells you they have the answers, they're lying.  There are no guarantees.  You just have to take the information you have, and make the best decisions you know how.  Then, if it doesn't work the way you thought it would, you have to admit your mistake and get up and try again."  Life isn't easy and nope, there aren't any guarantees.  We just have to do the next best thing and when we fail, get up and try again.  "Open hands to receive gifts that come, enjoy them while they last, and give freely when it's required."  When we are open to receive gifts we are blessed and then can turn that blessing around and give it away.  "Because when stuff becomes the point of our life, we miss out on the greatest blessing of all: the freedom we feel when we're fully engaged in the push-pull of life, the letting go, and the holding on."      Stuff doesn't last and will always dissapoint.  There is freedom in letting go.  "I think sometimes when things get hard, too many of us assume we're moving the wrong direction.  Like if we're doing life right, it's supposed to be easy."  I want life to be easy but I'm learning that life isn't supposed to be easy and when life is hard I lean on God more and God never dissapoints.  I really liked this book.  It taught me a lot of lessons.  I hope that I am able to pack lighter as I go and that I am not afraid to look for the next adventure.

The Red Tent

"The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant

This book is about Dinah of the bible.  Dinah is the only daughter of Jacob and not a lot is said about her.  This book is written from Dinahs perspective.  It was an interesting book that opened my eyes into the women of the bible and how they lived.  I was fascinated by the way they lived and the bonds they shared.  Women honored each other and I think that today there isn't enough of that.  We are all in this together, why don't we build each other up instead of tear each other down? I don't know how much liberty was taken but I found the book intriguing none the less.  "Why had no one told me that my body would become a battlefield, a sacrifice, a test?  Why did I not know that birth is the pinnacle where women discover the courage to become mothers?"  Truly, you don't know till you go through it and truly, being a mother takes great courage.  "The painful things...seemed like the knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place."  There is no beauty without pain, all the hard things in life make it that much more beautiful and meaningful.  "I am so honored to be the vessel into which you pour this story of pain and strength."  It is an honor to sit with another in their pain, it is truly a sacred place.  I enjoyed this book and the tale it told.  It made me think about the women in my life and how I need to be buliding them up.  It also made me think about my own two girls and the things that I want to pass on to them.  All in all a good read.