Posts Tagged ‘books’
So it’s January. In fact, we’re already halfway through January, and I feel I’m just coming out of my post-Christmas stupor, blinking my eyes against the sometimes harsh light of the new year. I hate having Christmas over. I’ve always had a problem with saying goodbye to Christmas for another year. My family will tell you how I used to spend New Year’s Day curled up in a fetal position on the couch while Woody took down the Christmas decorations and hauled out the dry bunch of needles that had been our tree.
But there’s also, once I get past my goodbyes to Christmas, something good about January. A sort of cleansing. The house looks pretty good after all without all the clutter of Christmas. And there’s something hopeful about turning the calendar page on to not only a new month, but a whole new year. Who knows what possibilities lie ahead?
There’s a reason why the month is called January. It traces back to the legendary Roman god Janus, who had two heads, one looking back and one facing forward. He was the god of doorways, gates, and bridges, symbolizing beginnings and ends. Reflection and remembering the past. Hoping and praying into the unknown future.
But you moms of young children are not, I am quite sure, spending hours in reflection. You probably feel jolted into January. Back into school routines and (for us in the North) early morning jackets and boots and lunch boxes. And homework. Yes. Homework.
The month doesn’t slow down. Suddenly all the realities of the world we live in can hit hard. New diagnoses. New challenges at work or school. Back to the grind . . . it can be jolting. Suddenly (or so it seems to me since I’m not the one to whom it is happening) I’m hearing of sad goodbyes two of my friends are saying to their beloved fathers. Two precious ones I pray for are either awaiting or receiving stem cell transplants. My only remaining aunt, dearly loved, is facing unexpected surgery. And one very brave very godly young mom I know is commemorating, along with her four precious children, the sudden death of their husband and daddy in a Marine helicopter crash one year ago in mid-January. There can be a lot of tears in January. And a lot of Hope.
All this is why I am delighted to have a great book to recommend to you. It’s a daily devotional by Paul David Tripp called New Morning Mercies. Wait. Don’t stop reading because the last thing you need is a new devotional to stack with all the other unread volumes—or someone putting you on a guilt trip because you never get to any devotional time at all with young kids needing you every waking moment (even those intended for sleep)! Before you give up, let me tell you what I love about this devotional.
First, it grew out of daily tweets that the author sent out, and every day’s reading begins with a tweet-length thought that will fire up your day even if that’s all you get to. Also, it is saturated beginning to end with grace. And if there is anything we moms need, it is grace. That’s because it is full of Biblical truth (thus infused with grace). This truth is passed through the filter of the author’s experience (seminary training as well as training and experience as both a counselor and a pastor) in such a way that it hits us right where we need it. Yes, it is convicting as well as comforting (remember it is Scripture-saturated). Nearly every day it feels as if it were written just for me. Maybe you, too.
I want to leave you with just one favorite quote. But it is very hard to choose because nearly every page I’ve read is totally marked up with “favorites.” And by the way, a note for you Type A Firstborn Perfectionists (How do I know you so well?!): Do not hesitate because you didn’t start with January 1. I first got this book in September and started reading from there. It works perfectly well wherever you start.
From January 10: “The DNA of joy is thankfulness . . . [but] If my heart is ever going to be freed of grumbling and ruled by gratitude, I need your grace: grace to remember, grace to see, grace that produces a heart of humble joy.”
Grace to remember what God has done in the past. (In his Introduction, Tripp reminds us that “remembering is spiritual warfare; even for this we need grace.”) Grace to see His work in what is before your very eyes. Right now. Right here. Even in January.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22–23 ESV)
“Every hour is grace.” Nobel Peace Prize winner and famous author Elie Wiesel said that. I’m not familiar with the context, but I suspect his definition of grace may be different than mine. Still, I can’t get the quote out of my head. It seems to capture the essence of my life.
For me, as I’ve written elsewhere, this is a season of grace. A season both on my calendar and in my life. I seem to come across grace everywhere.
I recently read a fascinating novel entitled Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger. There’s a lot about grace woven into this piece of fiction. A quote from the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus about “the awful grace of God” provides background music for the whole story.
I’ve also been working on a new retreat topic: Gritty Grace. I’ve been combing through scripture verses on grace—124 of them, it turns out. I’ve also come across some great quotes on grace. I like how Max Lucado put it: “God answers the mess of life with one word: Grace.” One of my favorite Philip Yancey books is What’s So Amazing about Grace? I remembered this recently when I saw the title of his latest book: Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? I can’t wait to read it.
Then I exchanged emails with our son-in-law about his most recent sermon. “This one was harder to prepare, he commented. “It was on grace . . . so maybe it should be hard to understand?” Richie has a way of saying some pretty profound things in short sentences—a gift I’d like to have! But it got me thinking.
Grace is indeed hard to understand. God’s relentless, remarkable, amazing grace. Free, but not cheap. Costly grace. Oh, how it cost Him. Words from an old hymn come to mind: “Amazing love! How can it be? That Thou, my God shouldst die for me?” I resonate with Anne Lamott’s words: ”I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
Grace: It came with Christmas. The Gospel writer John heralds its coming: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 17)
This is a good season to be thinking about grace. Of course, that’s true of any season. But Advent may help us focus. I’m finally reading Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas—way behind many of you, I suspect, as it came out in 2013. I’ve just started the book, and grace has found me again. I love how she describes Advent: “This slow unfurling of grace.” (p. 5)
Wishing each of you a “slow unfurling of grace” in the days ahead.
Author/Pediatrician Dr. Meg Meeker has written another great book. Some of you may remember that I previously recommended her two earlier books: Boys Should Be Boys and Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters.
This time she’s written about mothers. The title captivated me immediately: The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity. Sounded like a book for Mom to Mom moms to me!
And indeed it is. Writing from both her own experience as a mom and from 25 years of conversations with moms as a pediatrician, Dr. Meeker recognizes both the deep passion we moms have to be good mothers and the extraordinary pressures we put on ourselves. She begins by putting her finger right on the problem: The “. . . full-blown obsession we have with getting mothering right . . . is taking many of us down.” (p. xii of the introduction)
Then, gently, but passionately and convincingly, she sets forth her prescription for becoming healthier mothers. At the risk of being a “spoiler,” I want to share her top ten points, hoping they’ll inspire some of you to read the book and help those of you who can’t imagine having time to read a book just now.
Meg Meeker’s Ten Habits of Happy Mothers:
- Understanding your value as a mother
- Maintaining key friendships
- Valuing and practicing faith
- Saying no to competition
- Creating a healthier relationship with money
- Making time for solitude
- Giving and getting love in healthy ways
- Finding ways to live simply
- Letting go of fear
- Making the decision to have hope
As I read, I found myself thinking how deeply Meeker’s wisdom correlates with what we try to do at Mom to Mom—especially her first four and last four habits. I also kept thinking of our oft-quoted Mom to Mom mantra: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Dr. Meeker clarifies at the outset: “This is not a book about being a better mother because are plenty of books on that. This is a book for you, and only you, to help you become a happier mother.” (p. xii of the introduction) True. But I can’t help but add: Being a happier mother will make you a better mother, too!
A good read, and a good question: What makes you a happier mother?
Recently I had the fun of engaging with a group of women in a Q&A session. And they asked some great questions! I’ll share one of them in this post and at least one other in a future post.
“How can I get my husband to see that Scripture has more than negative rules—do’s and don’ts? Growing up we tend to hear the ‘rules’ and not the love.”
A really important question. But it made me a little sad—to think how easily our view of scripture can be distorted (depending on our backgrounds and early exposure). For the Bible truly is God’s love letter to us. Or, as Philip Yancey so succinctly put it, “In a nutshell, the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 tells the story of a God reckless with desire to get his family back.” (The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 268) The “rules” are rooted in relationship. They grow out of our relationship with God. And they facilitate better relationship with others. God’s ways are, as some have put it, user friendly.
So how to help someone see the true message of the Bible? My first thought was, “Invite him to read it!” But then another part of this woman’s written question got me. “How can I get my husband to…?” The short answer? You can’t “get your husband to” do anything.
Bulletin: We wives are not called to be the Holy Spirit in our husbands’ lives—no matter how good we might think we could be at the job! So maybe our starting point should actually be on our knees. Step one would probably be: “Pray that the Holy Spirit will open his eyes and heart to God’s message of love to him.”
Then think about how your husband might best be able to see the scripture for what it is. Maybe there’s an opportunity to attend a class or join a small group that could help him hear God’s message of love to him. Or, if he’s a reader, books like Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God or Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing about Grace? might be useful.
Perhaps best of all, try showing him the love of God in the way you love him. After all, our children often best come to understand how God loves them by the way we love them. May be that could help a husband, too.
Recently I’ve been reading a great book by Tim Keller called Counterfeit Gods. I highly recommend it.
It’s gotten me thinking about all kinds of idols that we manage to make for ourselves. Money can become an idol. Or success. Or a political ideology. Or romantic love. But the book got me thinking especially about one idol Keller doesn’t talk about all that much: our families—or maybe specifically our kids.
Our kids?!! How can that be? Well, Keller defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” (Counterfeit Gods, p. xvii) Hmm . . .
It’s food for thought, you must admit. Of course none of us would say out loud that we love our kids more than God. But what do our lives say? What do our thoughts say? Our worries? Our obsessions? Our preoccupations? Our discipline?
A terrifying verse from Scripture comes to mind. When the Old Testament priest Eli was confronted about his tragic negligence regarding the raising and conduct of his sons, God said to Eli, “ Why do you honor your sons more than me . . . ?” (I Samuel 2:29b)
“Why do you honor your sons more than me?” It’s a haunting question. A question that has pierced my parental heart over the years. I would think of it from time to time when grappling with a particular discipline problem. I didn’t like seeing my kids in pain of any kind—or sad, or disappointed, or mad as could be at me. But sometimes honoring God by disciplining them in a loving, Godly way meant that my kids wouldn’t be all that happy, for the moment anyway.
And how about my priorities? My choices about activities, about sports, about how we spend our time or our money?
Wait a minute, you may be thinking. Doesn’t God give us our kids? Doesn’t He want us to love them with everything we are and have? Well, yes, to a point. But let’s not get confused. It’s the Lord our God we are told to love with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And after that, our neighbor. Starting at home, I would say. But let’s not confuse our kids with God!
It’s really a question of what—or Who—comes first, isn’t it? Naturally when you’re raising babies and toddlers, your mom-job with them will absorb huge chunks of your time—much, if not most, of your life, in fact. But will those kids become your life? In the big picture (not just a snapshot of one moment or another of your day), will they absorb so much of you that there is nothing left for your husband? Or for God? Will they become your ultimate source of worth and value, so that you feel personally responsible (and perhaps guilty) for every choice or decision they make even as adults?
“Idols are good things turned into ultimate things,” Keller reminds us (p. 148). It’s a question of alignment. Of what (or Whom) we worship. When God is truly first in our lives, our other relationships fall into much healthier alignment. Children raised in a home where God is first and their parents’ marriage second tend to be much healthier children (for those of you who are married—but this in no way discounts the potential effectiveness of Godly single moms). Children who themselves become objects of their mother’s worship grow up with a distorted view of themselves, of others—and most tragically, of God.
One last thought from Keller: Borrowing from Alexis de Tocqueville’s long-ago observations on Americans’ “strange melancholy,” I believe—Keller says that idolatry involves taking some “incomplete joy of this world” and building your life on it.
Oh, what joy our children can bring us (sometimes . . . see previous blog post). But even at best it’s an incomplete joy. Only God brings ultimate Joy. Building our lives on Him will make for much stronger family-building in the end!