Tag Archives: Books

Recommended Book: Following Jesus

Following JesusFollowing Jesus by John Shea

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is deceivingly thin! But true wisdom does not need many words.

What you will find in this book is a manual for how to be a disciple of Jesus according to scripture. It has a broad subject, but John Shea narrows the concepts down to nine chapters, averaging 12 pages each.

This book was definitely amazing because it opened my mind to deeper understandings of Christian living. In many ways, that is a rare event because of all the theology I have soaked up for my Masters Degree I completed only a year since reading this book.

One example of insight was when John Shea brought up the story of the Good Samaritan, and asked readers to type out the story or write it down on a sheet of paper, and then keep it with them. The reader should re-read the story occasionally through the days and weeks, and hopefully the question, “How can I unconditionally love my neighbor in this instance,” will come up as a guiding principle in our speech and actions.

I never had anyone tell me to do that with scripture. Simple, yet profound!

The best part is that you do not have to be a theologian to read this book. The hard part is whether people will try to whiz through the material or prayerfully read it. I found myself doing both, but I went back and re-read any parts that I speedily devoured.

One more hard part is that although John does not write as an academic, his thought-process is very learned. Not everyone will easily digest his wisdom.

Here’s a quote to ponder on as well as to get a sense of his writing style.

“Spiritual knowing works like the physical heart. The heart…pumps blood throughout the body. After the pumped blood has circulated throughout the body, it returns to the heart to start the process all over again. Again and again, the heart gives life to the entire body. Our spiritual center…pumps life into the whole mind-body organism, renewing it over and over again. In order for the mind and will to stay filled with life, they have to return to the spiritual center and then go out from it again…. Spiritual knowing happens when we open to the flow of life in the center of our being and it enter and elevates our minds and wills.” -p.89 (Second printing edition, July 2010)

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Sometimes It’s Better to Be Mundane

There is truth and depth in living simplicity.  I dare say, there are some of us who always want more.

Simplicity can be mundane for me.  I have the personality that seeks out adventure and spice in doing my normal routine.  I have successfully broken my normal routine moments throughout my days, my weeks, and my months.  I admit it could be a coping method for feeling inadequate, but alas, I am enjoying myself and my life.

Yet, living some moments and routines in a simple way has been very liberating.  As I have sought to do extravagant prayers for 9 days, or the 30 day prayer, or the search for finding heroic ways in fulfilling my obligations, I have also felt defeated in such practices.  The vicious cycle goes like this: I will start the new prayer and the new task, and fail to be consistent with it.  Then I give up doing anything at all that may resemble an attempt to get back to my resolution.

This obviously leads me to be less in touch God.  As if there was no such way to achieve a balance, I tend to shoot for the extreme opposites.

The following podcast is from a woman who has wrote about finding solice in daily simple prayer.  In her book, Acedia and Me,  she speaks about how our faith can be tested more than we want to believe it is, and in those moments of great testing, we need to do at least something to keep our daily prayer going, and eventually keep the motor of faith oiled up so that it will not rust.

http://americamagazine.podbean.com/2013/03/25/april-1-2013-podcast-everyday-faith/

  • Daily Prayer (focusedandfree.com)
  • America Magazine: Founded in 1909 by the Jesuit order and directed today by Jesuits and lay colleagues, America is a resource for spiritual renewal and social analysis guided by the spirit of charity.

Bitter Transitions Don’t Lead to Healing

I have included below a great passage from a book that sounds like it’s worth looking into.  Thanks to another blogger, Joy Eggerichs, who got the author to write a passage that’s from material in his book, but not necessary a direct quote from it.

It speaks about the temptations we deal with when we come up against transitions that were imposed on us.  In this particular passage, it’s a pondering over the grief and hurt we may carry if we don’t accept and forgive those involved in the circumstances of a broken relationship.

Believe me, I have just recently been going through such transitions, or, as Jeff calls them, the land between.  I do feel the hurt and the confusion, and many other emotions that don’t seem to point toward being loving and forgiving like my God is.  So I’m tempted to stay angry, or to blame the other person for the mishaps and misfortune.

But these feelings will not lead toward freedom to love.  The more I don’t process the hurt and realize that I, too, had my own part, the longer the process of real healing will take.  If anything, I am called to forgive the other person even if it was entirely an issue of theirs.  We are called to forgive all because no one ever fully understands why they do what they do, or realizes the full repercussions.  Jesus said forgive 70 times 7.  That was another way of saying, “forgive and forgive until you die.”

This will take much growth, and much maturity will come from it.  Read on to take part in Jeff’s wisdom and caution for this “land between.”

A Greenhouse for Growth

By: Jeff Manion

When deeply hurt by someone, your future is in jeopardy. When we feel abandoned, betrayed, or deserted, the heart can drift into a grove of lasting bitterness, or a lingering resentment that can poison our other relationships. We also have the opportunity for the grace of God to meet us in the damaged place – transforming us into people who are tender, gracious, and approachable.

I have long been convinced that it is not simply the events of life that shape us but our response to those events. For me there was a lightbulb moment when this truth crystallized.

We agreed to meet at 10:00 p.m. at Denny’s, where we figured we could find a quiet corner for an intensely personal conversation. When I arrived, Tony had already secured a booth and was cradling a mug of coffee. His wife—soon to be ex-wife—had moved out, announced that she had no interest in counseling or reconciliation, and left the state to join the man who had stolen her heart. It seemed that the only remaining conversation was who was going to get what.

Tony quickly realized that with only one income, he could no longer make the mortgage payment on their—his—home and would soon be looking for an apartment. He spoke bitterly of the prospects of selling the house in a down market, projecting the beating he would take on the sale. He was certain that he would realize no equity after all those years of making payments. Foremost in the ongoing conflict was who would end up with the newer car and who would have to drive the beater. But the quibbling extended to the appliances—not only who would take possession of the washer and dryer, but trivial stuff such as the toaster and the blender.

It was tragic to me that Tony was losing his wife, and here we were in a Denny’s talking about losing the toaster. As he spoke about the division of the household items, his energy level began to elevate and the intensity picked up. Customers at nearby tables began to look over nervously as his voice got louder. I could feel his deep disappointment transition into a fuming anger, which in part I found excusable, understandable.

But as he vented, I could sense something inside him turning a deep shade of bitter.

As I sat opposite Tony in the booth, I had a light bulb moment. I realized that in fifteen years, neither of them would be driving either car. Both vehicles would be on a scrap heap somewhere. The washer and dryer would be history. The toaster would be long gone, experiencing a much shorter life span. But the decisions of the heart made in this troubled space could affect Tony’s life fifteen years later.

Certainly he would need to walk through stages of emotion, stages of grief, as he worked to process the betrayal, heartache, and loss. But I realized as we sat together in the late hours in the half-empty restaurant that Tony was in the process of deciding who he was becoming.

I was shaken by the reality that his response to the divorce could end up having a greater effect on his life than the divorce itself.

This is so significant when we pass through seasons of extreme disruption, what I have come to call The Land Between. It is critical to recognize that not simply the hardship, but also our reaction to the hardship, is forming us. With each major disappointment we experience, our responses both reveal the person we are and set the trajectory for the person we are becoming. Whether we age with grace and poise or become bitter, resentful people is largely determined by our response to disappointment.

These deeply troubling seasons can be a greenhouse for transformational growth. It is also the desert where faith goes to die. We decide. Our response to deep disappointment may end up being more defining than the pain itself.

Questions

How have your reactions to hardship shaped your life?

Do you believe troubling seasons can be “a greenhouse for growth”?

________________________________

Jeff Manion is Senior Teaching Pastor of Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for more than 25 years.  Jeff is the author of The Land Betweenand he and his wife, Chris, have three adult children.

Follow Jeff on Twitter HERE.

New Year’s Resolution: Read more small books

I started this resolution actually during Christmas when I decided to read A Franciscan Christmas. I found the book to be simple, profound, and short. It was great for someone who hardly makes time to read!

Now I decided that if I was going to read more in this year, I needed to focus on reading short stories, or short books. Because some reading is much much better than no reading. Don’t get me wrong, I do read interesting articles passed on to me or something I might have come across. I will share those articles with all of you as well.

In the meantime, below is my review of another great small book that I reviewed on the awesome “goodreads” community.

Jesus and Mary: Finding Our Secret CenterJesus and Mary: Finding Our Secret Center by Henri J.M. Nouwen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is beautiful in its simplicity. There are two parts of this small book, the first being a sermon to priests on retreat…but the material is good food for thought for everyone who wants to deepen their relationship with Mary, Mother of God.

The second part is about Nouwen’s trip to Lourdes. It was great to walk with the author in his simple thought process. It was a short but very meaningful journey. I think it’s relatable if you have ever struggled with vocation(i.e. what you feel called to by God), feeling loved by God, or really felt a need for peace in your life.

It’s a book worth your slow reading, or during meditation.

View all my reviews

A journey of Horror and Forgiveness

From the book:
“What was that all about, Immaculée? That was the man who murdered your family. I brought him to you to question…to spit on if you wanted to. But you forgave him! How could you do that? Why did you forgive him?”

I answered him with the truth: “Forgiveness is all I have to offer.”

pg. 204

—————–

THAT line is the goal….but how the heck did this woman get to that point is why you NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!!

Guilt and anger are forces destroying our cultures, our churches, and ourselves most of the time, if we don’t know any better. Even so, it is extremely hard to look at the ugly face of reality and actually embrace it.

This woman’s message of how she came to forgive unspeakable atrocities (but she does write about them so that we can ponder the potential horror in society), and it needs to be heard and understood.

Yes, the book tells of gross details and it isn’t some theme you could sip a latte over. BUT THIS MAY SAVE YOU FROM YOURSELF!

and isn’t that worth the effort, to read a book that may not be at all lacking challenge, but one that will bring you to ask the question: what angers me or what relationship has been forgotten because of the lack of forgiveness?

God grant us the strength to not die with unresolved issues, or hate in our heart, regardless of circumstance.

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