All posts by libraryfree4all

Thrive in Retirement- book review

In Thrive in Retirement, Eric Thurman shares what he has learned about living well in the “third season” of life. The material is presented with a light, encouraging touch, simple stories and quotes from famous people. In the matter of maximizing happiness, people in every stage of life could benefit from Thurman’s research.

Thurman adds some depth through summaries of findings from many studies on aging, happiness, health, relationships, cognition, and more. He refutes two major stereotypes of this stage in life: that a happy retirement looks like a never ending vacation, and that people fade away when they get old.

Each chapter summarizes ways to find purpose, pleasure and peace (three key aspects of happiness) in one of the five principle aspects of life: body, mind, relationships, soul, and finances. The studies affirming the health and financial benefits of involvement in a faith community were particularly interesting to me.

The notes section of the book offers articles, web sites and books for further reading. The appendix provides guidance and checklists to plan care and distribution of resources at the end of life.

Although the primary audience is older adults, I recommend this book to anyone who would like to know how to maximize their happiness.

Favorite quotes:

“A thriving life of delight and meaning isn’t going to come as a streak of good luck. It will happen as the result of deliberate choices and actions.”

“The most important conversations you will ever have are conversations you have with yourself.”

I was provided a free ARC for my review.

#PRHpartner #sponsored

Advertisements

Be Still

Try this: look at the black dot in the middle of the red circle for a count of 30. Then look at the black dot in the center of the white circle.

Color circles

Fun, isn’t it?

In just 30 seconds, something physical happened through your eyes that allowed you to see something in a completely new way.

I used this illustration recently to teach a spiritual truth. If we don’t take the time to stop and allow our minds to be focused on only one thing, then we will miss being able to see the world as God would have us see it.

God tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10)

Let’s practice that on purpose this holiday season. Set aside time every day to simply be still. Allow your mind to contemplate what it means to know that God is God. Ask God for the ability to be still and for increased wisdom.

When you take the time to focus toward God in that way, something spiritual will happen that will allow you to see your life and this world in a new way.

Merry Christmas!

Book Review: The Minimalist Home

I thought The Minimalist Home was going to be about reducing clutter and organizing, which it is, but it’s more. I was surprised at how much it got me thinking. Joshua Becker begins by having you think of your vision for your life – then think about your home and the purpose for each room. What do you envision doing there? Then handle every item in the room and decide if it supports that purpose. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. It’s missional when you think of it that way.

I didn’t actually go through the process as I read the book, but I did begin to clear out old piles in various places in my home. A particular thing I appreciated is that he never encourages the reader to launch into minimizing without considering the other members of the household.

It’s not heavy-handed, but almost every chapter mentions our culture of materialism and consumerism. Minimalism involves both getting rid of excess as well as adopting new habits to keep it from creeping back into your life.

One good quote: “a minimalist home can be a home that’s always primed to say, ‘Welcome.'”

I was provided an advance copy for my review #PRHpartner

Holy Sexuality and the Gospel – book review

Dr. Yuan tackles the issue of same sex attraction not from the standpoint of behavior, but from the standpoint of being holy. What I love about it is he hits at the heart of the gospel. We need nothing short of a complete overhaul – all of us. His writing is full of solid theology, encouragement, and admonishment for believers.

It would be most effective used by a Biblically knowledgeable leader with the included 8-week study guide.

The book has many passages with powerful words of encouragement. There are words not just for those who experience same sex attraction, but also for:

  • parents grieving over rebellious children
  • married people who struggle with being satisfied in their marriage
  • people who are single in an environment that almost idolizes marriage
  • those of us who wish the process of sanctification weren’t so difficult

In short, Dr. Juan has words for all Christians. The final chapters give outstanding advice about how to reach out to people in the gay community.

On the other hand, it’s quite academic. Dr. Juan often uses vocabulary and references concepts that are probably only familiar to serious Bible students. The study guide does an excellent job of guiding the reader through the language and concepts, but there are still difficult portions.

Four stars for being an encouraging, foundation-affirming read.

FAVORITE QUOTES

On clarity:
In our culture of confusion, ambiguity is no longer an option. Instead of affirming what’s generally normal, common or usual, we must look precisely at what’s biblical…What we need is a completely new paradigm to represent God’s sexual ethic: Holy Sexuality.

On struggling with sanctification:
We have so sanitized what it means to follow Jesus. We want Instagram Jesus – a nice me-centered app that is really not about following Jesus but about following my friends and getting more to follow me. Following Jesus should cost us everything; if it doesn’t, we’re following the wrong Jesus.

On language:
Don’t say “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” – just do it.

I was provided an advance copy of this book for my honest review. #PRHpartner

Justice and Mercy

I recently served on a jury. The defendant in the case never claimed she didn’t commit the crime. Her defense was that she had a good reason to do it. She said she was afraid if she didn’t do the criminal act, she would be hurt or killed, or her daughter would be hurt or killed. The defense is called “duress,” and the defense attorney spent a lot of time building the case that the accused had good reason to believe she was in danger.

But after six days of testimony, when the jury convened to render a verdict, we weren’t making our decision based on whether we believed she would be hurt. Our decision wasn’t based on whether she truly believed she would be hurt. We had to make our decision based on a legal definition that was given to us. Under the law, the defense of duress requires that a person be in immediate danger of death or severe harm. The threat had to potentially happen right now. And when the jury read the definition, we knew we could not render a verdict of not guilty. The defendant had many chances over the course of several days to get herself to safety and get help. The verdict was guilty.

Afterward, we asked the defense attorney why she used the defense of duress, knowing there was no support for it. She said her advice to her client had been to plead guilty and go straight to sentencing (the judge was doing the sentencing in this case, not the jury). But the client refused to plead not guilty and wanted to take it to trial. The duress defense was a best try at an unwinnable defense. The defendant was given twenty years in prison – the maximum punishment.

As I thought about things, my mind went to the heavenly court that will one day convene. The Bible describes Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days in radiant white clothing, taking His seat on a flaming throne. Thousands upon thousands attend Him. The court is seated, and the books are opened (Daniel 9:7-14).

Every one of us will stand before that court one day. We will give an accounting for every word we have spoken and every deed we have done.

If you’re like me, you have two thoughts skitter one right after the other when you think of this. The first thought is deep fear, and the second is justification of myself. “I’m not a bad person.”

And I’m not a bad person, but the first thought is the one that will lead me to wisdom. Judgement will not be based on how good I have been as a person. Judgement will not be based on how I feel about how I’ve lived my life. It will be based upon how I have measured up to the perfect law of God.

Throughout scripture – old and new testaments, there is reference to the perfect law of God. Psalm 19 says “the law of the Lord is perfect; it restores the soul.” Psalm 119 is all about the perfect law of God. James, in the New Testament, says that the person who looks at the perfect law, which leads to liberty, and doesn’t forget it, but does it, that person will be blessed. Jesus says at the end of his mountain sermon that he did not come to get rid of the law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), and he tells us to be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

Perfect. That is the standard we will be measured against. And every one of us has fallen short of perfect (Romans 3:23).

1 John 2:1 refers to Jesus as our advocate with the Father. Advocate is a legal term, like a lawyer. And Jesus’ legal counsel to us is this: plead guilty.

On the day we stand before the Ancient of Days to have every word and deed in our life measured against the perfect law of God, plead guilty. If we choose not to plead guilty, then we will certainly be found guilty, just like the client in the trial. Judgement will not go well for us because justice demands punishment when the law has been broken. But thankfully God is not only just, he is also full of mercy, and Jesus offers us a defense that is much better than duress. He offers us Himself.

The justice and mercy of God come together in the person of Jesus, the Christ. Jesus, who fulfilled the perfect law of God in every word and deed, nevertheless received the punishment of the law breakers. That is what qualifies him to be our defense on our day of accountability. He is our only defense on that day. My prayer is that all who read this will come to accept that defense for themselves. We will all be rendered guilty, but those who plead the defense of Jesus will not go to the sentencing stage because that has already been done for them.

Those of us who have received this teaching, we are called to seek justice and love mercy, just like our God (Micah 6:8). Jesus said the same thing in a different way: love God with all your heart (justice), and love your neighbor as yourself (mercy).

I think the song, I Trust in Jesus by Third Day says it wonderfully.

Battling Failure to Achieve Success

Have you ever felt embarrassed when you’re completely alone? I have. The memory of some goofy comment or thoughtless action comes to mind, and the heat rises in my face and body. I may even turn my head in reaction to the sensation, although there’s nothing to turn away from. If it happens at night, and invades my sleep, I can feel like an insect pinned on a board at the mercy of waves of embarrassment at best, and shame at worst.

I have techniques for handling this:

Discern Where the Battle Lies

Some of our self-criticism is true, and some of it is not. It’s vital to distinguish between the two. We will exhaust ourselves if we simply shadowbox with the voices in our heads, so I refuse to shadowbox and I take my struggle to God. One go-to prayer I ask is from the end of Psalm 19:
But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I recognize that I am incapable of discerning the true intention of my heart without outside help. The Word of God is capable of judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Is there something I have not obeyed from God’s Word? Is there an attitude I have held or expressed in violation of God’s command to love? Did I not speak truth when the situation called for it, or did I not show compassion and mercy? Am I withholding forgiveness? I bring the details to God in prayer and ask Him to show me if/how I have sinned.

Choose the Appropriate Approach

God convicts us of sin in order to purify us and bring us into closer relationship with Him. Satan accuses us of sin or magnifies our mistakes in order to weaken us and keep us feeling defensive or useless. If God shows me nothing that I have done in violation of His Word, then I know I have been listening to a voice in my head that is not His, and I need to counter it with God’s words. A quick search for “encouragement from God’s Word” gives plenty of good verses to counter fear, loneliness, weakness, purposelessness, unworthiness, unloveliness, etc. But knowing it for yourself is powerful. Prepare for these moments by memorizing scripture, and you will be blown away by how God uses it to guide and comfort you.
If I am guilty, then I need to confess and make amends quickly.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:9)

Confession begins with God because He is the one we have sinned against. He has commanded us to love one another as He has loved us. If we are unloving to one another, we are disobedient to Him. Confess to God, forgive all who have sinned against you, and then apologize to anyone you have wronged. If it is necessary, make amends as Zaccheus did (Luke 19). This is hard-core obedience, but the faster you obey, the quicker you will be free from the anchor of guilt.

Once you have confessed and made amends, you truly are free. If guilty thoughts continue to hound you, counter them with God’s Words.

Remember What the Battle is About

We are selfish creatures, and our tendency is to think our life is a personal battle. Sometimes the accusatory voices in my head come from other people – either they really said something accusing me, or I imagine that’s what they think. But the Word of God says this:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

The people we battle in our heads are not our enemies. The enemy is the one who is trying to separate us from the love of God. That enemy does not want us to live in the freedom from sin and guilt that God offers through Jesus Christ. That enemy is a liar, and accuses or flatters as it suits him.

God has chosen to forgive, through Jesus Christ. God calls us worthy because Jesus has given us worth as His sons and daughters. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us because He loves us, and nothing can separate us from that love.

Measure of Success

Our success in this life will be determined by how well we have stayed locked into the love of God. God’s love is an unselfish love, and it will produce unselfish love in us. As we use the Word of God and prayer to do battle against the accusations and criticisms in our minds, we will become people who are able to offer encouragement to others. And that is how our failures become successes.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:4-6)

Focusing on the Right Question

Picture this: someone is gathering belongings for her vacation, busily packing a swim suit, towels, sunscreen, boogie board, rubber flip flops. When she’s all prepared, she joins her fellow vacationers, only to find out they’re setting out on a snow skiing trip.

Whoops. Seems like someone forgot to ask an important question.

If you don’t know where you’re going, then how can you prepare yourself for the journey?

Where do you believe you’re going with this one life you’ve been given? We all have an answer to that question. If you’re not sure what your answer is, then look at your actions, because we always act based on what we believe.

What drives your thoughts, financial plans and schedule each day? Whatever you’re spending your effort “packing” indicates where you think you’re going. Isn’t it important to be sure you’re spending your time packing the right stuff?

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Noone comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14). Those of us who believe that statement spend our time checking with Him to pack the appropriate things for our journey.

Here’s a list of a few items in my bag:

Confession – I have had to give up the idea that my view of the world is 100% correct and name the ways I have been getting it wrong. That means I have to cast away pride, because if I’m packing pride, confession won’t fit.

Repentance – I need to correct my behavior and attitudes to match up with what God says is true. Spending time reading God’s Word and with other believers will help keep me honest with this, if I let them (again, no room for pride).

Forgiveness – When I confess and repent, God is faithful to forgive me (1 John 1:9), and He expects me to share with others what He has given to me. I have to remove revenge to make room for forgiveness, and I have needed help from other people and wise counselors to learn how it fits. In the process, I have had to repack confession and repentance, and try again with forgiveness. The church word for this process is sanctification, and it’s really pretty annoying. I just want to get it right and keep it that way. But, then, forgiveness can be shared with myself, too.

Thanksgiving – This is the most versatile item. The Bible says it like this: “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5). It’s appropriate in all circumstances. It’s the little black dress for life. Thanksgiving can look like singing, dancing, prayer, enjoyment with other people, quiet moments alone – it can take almost any form and be practiced any time. The more thanksgiving I pack, the more space seems to be freed up for my other items. It’s like the TARDIS that way.

If I spend my time and energy packing these items, I will be equipped for where I’m going, because I’m going to be with my Father in Heaven.

Won’t you join me?