Here are links to the resources we talked about Sunday for Praying the Psalms. On the Bible translations, I included a link to the Psalms alone and another to Psalms and Proverbs. They are priced the same. Unfortunately, the Psalm/Proverb combo is out of stock at amazon. With several of these books, if you buy them through amazon, the Kindle version is then available at a significantly reduced rate. Nice to have the Bible available on a device too.
Years ago I was challenged by this Mark Batterson book .
christianaudio.com offers a free monthly download.
The Lion book is this month's giveaway.
It's not a scam. I've done this before...no tech evil will befall you!
Enjoy the read/listen.
Post comments of what you learn.
Every month, christianaudio.com offers a free book.
There is no catch.
You do need to set up an account. Once you do, you can download a free book each month.
Here's the link:
If you do listen, I'd be interested in hearing your insights on the book.
You may want to google Dietrich Bonhoeffer to get some background on his life. It will help you gain a greater appreciation for his work.
Almost every one has been worth downloading.
I thought this one might be worth passing along.
I have not read/listened to it yet, though I am familiar with the author.
I'm not very athletic, but have a pair of highly competitive sons.
I'll be listening for them to see what I can pass on.
I like to read.
I need to read.
I communicate for a living.
That requires a full tank of thoughts.
On Wednesdays, I share my current reads.
I am a huge Peggy Noonan fan. She is a master of the communication craft. If you are a student of communication, you study masters. She is worth studying. I not only learn from what she says, but the way she says it...her grammar, her style, her cadence, her word-choice.
Noonan is responsible for some poignant moments in modern American rhetoric.
She penned some of Reagan's most memorable speeches, including his words after the Challenger Disaster and the 40th Anniversary of D-Day (Boys of Pointe du Hoc).
She also inspired some of Bush 1's memorable lines:
a thousand points of light
a kinder, gentler nation
Read my lips...
Her style is unique. Some would peg her as pretentious. I see her as intentional and deliberate.
The way she speaks is the way she writes...thoughtfully, conversationally, with depth and clarity.
I bought this book years ago, and last week I decided to pick it up. I wrote a post last Thursday, expressing a desire for more civility and maturity in public and private discourse. This seemed like a good follow-up.
Overall I liked the book. It's Peggy.
I had a few things to overcome:
It was written just prior to the 2008 election, so it is time-bound. I had to return emotionally to Fall 2008 to experience what she was saying in context. The reality of the last four years, versus the hope for change that existed back then is rather stark. I needed to erase what is and return to hope for what might have been.
She talks of impending crisis. For her, the focus was on another terrorist attack. This book was released on 9/30/08, written before our financial meltdown. Crisis was on the horizon, but the explosion was financial. All she says about the need for leadership still applies if you replace her fear of another 9/11/01 with the reality of 9/15/08.
The middle section was a bit Bush-bashy. Didn't seem to fit well in a book about grace.
She, like me, and so many others, longs for one simple thing...we long for maturity. A maturity that can extend good will, believing the other person might actually have good intentions even if their opinion differs.
Maturity. That's all. Let's be adults. Let's act like adults. American adults.
I appreciate the fact that she does not line up with those who simplistically think that the solution is to do away with partisanship. When I hear people speak in lofty terms of moving beyond partisanship, I cringe. At its core, people are suggesting one party, one opinion, one mindset. Really? The problem is not differing opinions, the problem is an inability to extend grace to those with whom we disagree.
She writes, "Politics is a great fight and must be a flight; that is the purpose. We are a great democratic republic, and we struggle with great questions." She goes on to say, "But we can approach things in a new way, see in a new way, speak in a new way. We can fight honorably and in good faith, while – and this is the hard one – both summoning and assuming good faith on the other side." (41)
The book has a number of moving anecdotes. She tells a story so well.
It also has many thought-provoking lines:
For more and more Americans, politics has become a religion. It has become a faith. People find their meaning in it. They define themselves by their stands. When politics becomes a religion, then simple disagreements become apostasies, heresies. And you know what we do with heretics. (50)
Crisis is a great editor. (63)
Being able to persuade, to explain, to elucidate, and to lead truthfully, matters. (93)
I believe there is a general and amorphous sense that things are broken and that tough history is coming. (119)
A nation that does not know why it exists, or what it stands for, cannot be expected to long endure… We cannot expect that a nation which has lost its memory will keep its vision. (151)
Noonan offers a number of reason for why we are where we are. They include the political climate post 9/11, the decentralization of news sources (we do not share the same news sources anymore--154) and the rise of sourceless, non-vetted opinion blathering made possible by technology (blogs, social media, etc.).
One reason she nails for our dive into coarseness as a society is the ability to bloviate anonymously. Verbal snipers. Sneaky character assassins. Cowards who would never say what they think to your face but find their guts behind a keyboard in a darkened room.
I love technology. I embrace it. I've blogged since 2005. I was Facebooking before most 40-year-olds knew it existed. I embrace it, but I also despise it. Faceless conversations...lack of eyeball-to-eyeball talk coarsens our discourse. The gutless find a voice, and that voice is seldom a speech that builds up. Anonymous tends to bring out the worst in us.
Let's wrap this up...
I have to admit, I have little hope for change.
Last night the Republican Convention opened. This morning, we all turned to the cable source or internet site that reinforces our predisposition. Want to think that Christie hit it out of the park? Turn to Fox. Want to think that Mrs. Romney blew it? Go to MSNBC. We've become a nation that simply reinforces our biases rather than listening...and the divide continues to widen and deepen.
My solution this season has been to turn it all off. I have to say, while it feels better, it also feels irresponsible. I want to know the facts and the issues. I am in the daily habit of listening to the other side. More than once this political season I've had to turn the TV off when I, as a conservative, was accused of wanting to put people back in chains or being a hate-filled bigot who wants to change the name of our country to Caucasia. I want to have an honest conversation, but I'm tired of being insulted. I do not want to throw old ladies off cliffs--neither does Paul Ryan who I deeply admire.
I do not long for dirty air or polluted water.
Like I said, I have little hope for change.
In the meantime, I will do what I can do. I will do my best to put relationship before being right. I will not post on a site what should be said to a face, an I will never comment it without my full name attached to it. I will extend grace to those who disagree, and I will make an honest effort to assume good faith on the other side.
This for me, this will be hardest of all when my views are being labeled as bigoted and hate-filled.
But I will try.
Did pain exist before The Fall (the fatal bite of fruit that unlocked evil upon this world)?
When Eve was walking in the garden and stepped on a sharp stone, did she wince and withdraw her foot quickly? When Adam bumped his head on a low-hanging branch, did it hurt?
I'm not sure when we adopted a bubble-wrap mentality toward pre-Fall life...a mindset that holds tightly to the idea that God loves His creation too much to ever let them experience pain. I do know why we adopted it...we assume pain is bad and know that God is good. In our math, a good God would never let us feel a bad hurt.
Yancey explains that in a world designed on predictable natural laws, pain is inevitable (baring constant supernatural intervention). This same world, based on predictable law, was also designed by God with the ability to make choices--free will. The improper exercise of free will (sin) introduced an element to the pain equation that did not exist before The Fall--suffering.
We need pain.
Pain is a gift.
Pain serves as a dummy-light on life's dashboard, letting us know that a problem exists. When yellow-jackets started stinking my body multiple times a couple weekends ago, God's gift to me was the warning light of pain. If I experienced no burning pain, hundreds of bees could have stung me and I could have been killed. The sting said run!
My view of pain changed dramatically after reading Where is God When it Hurts by Philip Yancey over twenty-five years ago. The chapter that impacted me most was chapter 3. In these pages, Yancey shares the work of Dr. Paul Brand, who spent his life working with those who suffer from Hansen's Disease (HD), known to us as leprosy.
My view of this disease was formed from Sunday School stories. To my young mind, the tragedy of the disease was missing body parts. I did not understand why they "fell off" (that's what I imagined...suddenly your nose, ear or finger would be laying on the ground).
The underlying issue of leprosy is insensitivity...a complete lack of pain sensations in the extremities. In the absence of pain, a person could reach into a fire and not feel pain, though their flesh is literally cooking.
This image started an important flip for me. Pain is not the problem any more than a screaming smoke detector is a curse. Pain is a gift screaming that a problem exists requiring my attention.
He writes, "Pain is not an afterthought, or God's great goof. Rather, it reveals a marvelous design that serves our bodies well. Pain is as essential to normal life, it could be argued, as eyesight or even good circulation. Without pain, as we shall see, our lives would be fraught with danger, and devoid of many basic pleasures."
The sensation of pain is not God's great goof; it is just the gift nobody wants.
This paragraph rings so true: "The typical American response to pain is to take an aspirin at the slightest ache and silence the pain. That approach only deals with the symptom of the problem. We dare not shut off the warning system without first listening to the warning."
There was pain before the fall. However, it is also true that The Fall introduced forms of pain not previously present in the garden: thorns and thistles, lies and betrayal, and death, both physical and eternal. These forms of pain are the result of a simple truth--God gave us the gift of free will and we abused His gift.
Yancey's book does not minimize pain. No one is suggesting a Spock-like, emotionless reaction to boo-boos and deep brokenness. What the book does is place pain in a proper perspective. Pain is a gift. It is not an unpleasantness to be avoided at all cost.
Yancey quotes CS Lewis, who called pain God's megaphone. Lewis profoundly stated that God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pain. He says pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
When my friend died in 1977, I felt deep pain. I did not understand until years later that the pain itself was not the problem. I wanted to eliminate the pain. Like many people, I wanted to deaden the symptom rather than deal with the real problem(s).
If you are in deep pain, I highly recommend this book. It is on my short shelf of works that radically changed my life. My thinking was adjusted. Proper behavior is rooted in right thinking. We do not act differently until we think differently (Romans 12:2).
When I am tempted to view pain as a curse, I imagine a leper with his hand in a fire. I am grateful that God wired me is such a way to quickly, reflexively pull my hand from the flames.
Pain is a gift. I'm not saying I like it, but I can now see its purpose. I hope the same for you.
On Sunday I republished a post from 2008.
I shared what was undoubtedly one of the most painful chapters of my life.
At 14, I lost my best friend. He was electrocuted and I wasn't there. I wasn't there to stop it. I was sure if I had been there, it would never have happened. I carried that burden for years...searing pain mixed with overwhelming guilt. He was gone, and it was my fault, or so I thought.
August 12, 1977 marked the beginning of a bleak season for me.
Many days, I just wanted to die.
I felt so sad, so hopeless, so guilty. I was torn to pieces.
As I look back, I realize that constructive healing did not start to take place in me for years. I had help along the way, family who listened and cared as well as summers far, far away from my source of pain, but I did not face the real root of it all until years later, when I was at college.
Side note: I sought advice years ago from a counselor for a couple whose child died. He stressed the importance that they start processing their pain immediately. Most people push it away. By the time they do face their pain, it is much deeper and more complicated that the original hurt. I can say from experience, he's dead-on accurate.
By the time I faced this in college, I was a real mess. I had told myself so many lies and embedded so many warped ways of thinking that I could no longer see straight on pain or God's love for me.
While at college, I talked with a professor who recognized that I was bleeding all over the place. She recommended the book Where is God When It Hurts by Philip Yancey. Ironically, it was first published in 1977.
That book started a healing process that began to mend my soul and make sense of my brokenness.
Yancey puts pain in its proper context. He demonstrates that pain is not a curse from God, but is actually a gift. These thoughts began a long process of rewiring my crazy, mixed-up ways of thinking.
I've not touched the book in years. In light of my recent post and conversations that it has stirred up, I felt led to share it with you. I'm going to reread the book this week and give highlights next week. I thought it was important to set the context for the next post with more of my story.
If you're bleeding like I was, get the book and start to read. I'm not saying that it has every answer or that it will make everything in life all better. It just offers perspective, something that often gets lost in the face of tragic experiences.
The book is based on a concept that has been around for many years. A well-lived life is a deeply examined life. We need daily moments for reflection, to think about how we are living the life God's given us.
Every day you ask yourself two questions. After answering them to yourself (preferably on paper), you gather with trusted friends, state your answers and allow others to probe the events with you.
The two questions are pretty straight-forward:
Last week, I went camping with four other people, three being 15 years old or less. I wanted to try this with them. I assembled little notebooks with a card in the front. On the card were simple instructions, including, "Be serious, not silly" and "Be ready to share with the group." It also listed the two questions. I did a kid version and an adult version. I've included sample images. Click here for a PDF to make your own card.
I'll admit I was apprehensive about doing this with kids. Perhaps you have tried to introduce a spiritual exercise with your kids, only to be greeted with eye-rolling, excessive silliness or an obligatory level of energy that makes you want to give up. This group was great. They were all into it!
The sharing time was really good. It grew me. We not only put our moments on the table, but we talked about them in a way that probed deeper into motivation and attitude. We celebrated high points, but did not condemn on the low points. We offered gentle challenges to ourselves and each other.
One day, all ten of us had the exact same answers! And it was sincere.
I noticed a dynamic taking place in myself and others. The questions were on our minds all day long. When something good happened, I would think, "Is this going to be the best moment of my day?" When a bad experience would take place, we'd kid out loud, "Maybe that one will make your list tonight!" It made us think about life as we were living it.
Let me share one of my least grateful moments. On the way over to Rock Island, the ferry operators were real jerks. They were rude, cranky and brusque. They even rushed us away from unloading our stuff so fast that we left a bag on the dock, a long walk from our site. I was mad. Really mad. We're on vacation for crying out loud. Don't these people get that their job is to create great experiences for vacationers? Apparently not. It was no Disney Cruise!
When sharing how I felt about this low-point, I realized something. I let these two guys control my life for a few hours. I let their grouchy dispositions pull me down to theirs. The truth is, they did not make me mad...I chose to be mad. So they were grumps, so what? Maybe ferry driving is a grumpy career move. Whatever.
On the way back we all purposely opted to be cheerful, no matter how they acted. They were the same guys, and as rude as ever. Ben saw a water-snake just moments before boarding. He asked the driver about the identity of the snake. His response? "Yep, we have snakes." Oh well, no change in them, but there was a change in us, a change in me. This time, I did not hand them part of my day to be ruined.
It helped me to see that, too often, I let the mood of others dictate my mood, even if only for a few minutes.
That is a learning I will take with me for the rest of my life.
So, now I need to figure out how to make this part of daily life. I could do this alone, but there was real power in verbally sharing the answers and probing them together. If we figure it out, I'll post about the progress.
Here's another plug for my friend Bill Nicason at Cornerstone Church Network. They host a monthly Pastor's Resource Call. A call lasts for an hour, and features a leader or author presenting a topic. The last call was with Keith Meyer. His topic was soul-care, an area in which I am taking great interest these days.
He recommended a book. The call broke up, and so I did not catch the name the first time. He said it again. I amazoned it.
Hmm. This can't be it. It looks like a kid's book, I mean a little kid's book.
You can see the cover. What do you think?
It was the right book. The subtitle is, "Holding What Gives You Life."
The book opens with the story of orphans in WWII who could not sleep at night for fear of waking homeless and hungry. Someone had the idea of putting a loaf of bread in bed with each child, like a teddy bear. Hugging the bread, they slept soundly. The bread reminded them, "Today I ate, and I will eat again tomorrow."
I can hear Him now...
Give us this day our daily bread.
The book's format is purposeful. It presents a simple spiritual practice that anyone can do, even a child.
I won't go into all the details, but every evening, you answer two questions:
For what moment today am I the most grateful?
For what moment today am I least grateful?
It focuses a person on their daily moments of consolation and desolation.
I'm going to put this to the test with a group. I'm headed out to the tip of Door County (Rock Island) camping with Nate, my friend Ben and his two boys, Matt and Sam. I got each of them notebooks and we are going to try this practice for a few days.
Next Wednesday, I'll do a follow-up, sharing more details of the book as well as a summary of our experience.