Thursday, August 10, 2017

Book Review: Windows of the Soul - Hearing God in the Everyday Moments of Your Life

Windows of the Soul is one of my favorite books. I just reread it, and it was just as meaningful the second time through. Ken Gire writes of seeing God through the windows of life, including vocation, literature, art, wilderness experiences, poetry, movies and more. His stories resonate; his writing sings.

Although Gire graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary, he went through “wilderness years” before finding his niche as an author. His struggles tested his faith, but he came out richer for it—richer in faith and I believe richer in his craft. In this book he shares much of how God has touched him through everyday life.

For instance, Gire was at first unmoved by Van Gogh’s paintings. But he then learned the artist was once a preacher who could not relate well to people. Van Gogh struggled with depression that finally claimed his life. And as Gire discovered this dimension of the artist’s life, he came to appreciate and understand his art.

One of my favorite chapters, “Windows of Humanity,” shares Gire’s feelings as he watched a homeless woman drag a cart by a playground of happy schoolchildren. He saw a woman who had once been one of those happy little girls, and he captured the scene in a poem that takes you there. While Gire admits he did nothing to help this woman, he also tells the story of intervening when a man was beating his wife and how he encountered God through that experience.

On these pages you meet Gire’s wife and family. His writing is rich with imagery, yet practical in application--inspirational and insightful reading at its finest. You’ll get more out of the movies you see, the books you read, the walks you take, because Gire has opened your eyes to God in the world around us—if we only open our eyes to see Him.

After I read Windows of the Soul the first time, I was hooked on Gire’s writing and have since read several of his other books; all of them draw you into a more intimate relationship with Christ.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Six Ways to Add Life to Your Years

You’ve heard the latest: The more coffee you drink, the longer you’ll live. But we need not so much to add years to our lives as we need to add life to our years. What good is it to live to 100 if we’re not enjoying the journey? Here are my thoughts on how to add life to your years:

1.      Live in the moment. As they say, yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery but today is a gift; that’s why they call it "present." Too often we can’t wait for a concert or a family visit or a birthday party. But if we’re always looking ahead, we miss the beauty around us. Savor the glimpse of a flower, the song of a bird, the satisfaction of work. Take a deep breath and look around--now. Enjoy your setting, wherever it may be.

2.      Let the past be past. Sure, we’ve all had our share of hurts and sorrows, and healing takes time. But forget the grudges. Forget the unfairness. Forgive the offenders. Restored relationships trump past injustices, so reach out to someone with whom you’ve differed. Life is too short to short-circuit relationships among family and friends. Chances are you too have hurt someone along life’s way. I know I have.

3.       Listen to your body. Are you stressed? Are you tired? How might you better cope with daily routines? Could family members do more? Could you schedule time for yourself? You are no good to others if you don’t care for yourself. If you need more sleep, plan for it. If you need help, ask for it.

4.      Learn something. We are never so old we can’t learn something new. I just signed up to learn through a group called WordGirls. I bought my husband golf lessons for Father’s Day. What would you like to learn? Cooking? Knitting? Finishing furniture? Whatever it is, you can find a YouTube video (or better yet, a friend) to show you how.

5.      Laugh. I read the comics every day (LOVE “Pickles”), and I love the humor in Readers Digest. Some people always make me laugh; I enjoy being around them. Laughing is good for us, so don’t take yourself so seriously. God has a sense of humor. Look at the penguin!

6.      Look forward to life eternal. The fact is, we will not live forever—no matter how many cups of coffee we drink. Be prepared to meet God. Be sure you understand that Jesus died so that you may live. Be sure to begin your life with Him today so that when you die you step right into that eternal tomorrow.

“To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19

Hope I’ve given you some ideas about adding life to your years. Bill recently came across an old phonograph in our basement. He set it up in our dining room, dug a pile of records off the attic and now, instead of flicking the remote, we spend an hour or two an evening listening to the oldies but goodies while we play Rummikub or Sequence. Works for us. What might help you enjoy the journey with your loved ones? Click on the link and leave a comment to share an idea about something you do or plan to do.

Have a blessed August!


Upcoming Engagements:

August 20, 10:30 a.m. – Friends of the Heart at The Glen with Lykens United Methodist Church, “At Any Age, At Any Stage: Celebrating the Christian Life.”

Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: Boys Adrift

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men
According to Leonard Sax, a physician and psychologist, five factors influence boys to become unmotivated and underachieving young men. Chapters address changes in education, video games, medications for ADHD, endocrine disruptors (caused by plastics) and loss of positive role models.

This is a sobering read, because if what Sax says is true, these factors can turn boys into lazy young men who care little about succeeding in life and even less about helping others. And it may all start in Kindergarten where children now do worksheets and desk work rather than color and play as they did in earlier years.

Sax includes the results of studies relevant to these factors. For instance, a Harvard Medical School study reported that giving stimulant medications to juvenile laboratory animals resulted in those animals displaying a loss of drive when they grew up. There may be a similar effect for children, because these meds damage an area of the brain known as nucleus accumbens. This means that a boy could feel hungry but not be motivated to do anything about it.

Video games may affect the brain in similar ways. Sax is particularly disturbed by the violence of games such as Doom. In violent movies, a boy watches someone else commit the violence, but in video games, he himself inflicts death and destruction. To help parents, Sax includes questions to evaluate a child’s involvement.

The book’s final chapter, “Detox,” focuses on what parents might do to alleviate the results of each of these factors. He offers hope to those who find themselves dealing with unmotivated youth. An “Afterword” updates the book published by Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Extensive notes document his research, and a helpful index closes the 273-page book.

Many case studies from Sax’s files make this an interesting read for parents, grandparents and anyone who works with children. And his insights shed light on far more than these five factors in our ever-changing world.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Book Review: Killers of the Flower Moon; the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

The Osage Indian tribe was pushed around Midwestern territories until they finally settled on the rocky barren terrain of Oklahoma, thinking no one would bother them there. But in the 1920s, when oil was discovered on their land, the Indians became wealthy, and the unscrupulous soon showed great interest in the tribe’s newfound riches. One by one, Osage Indians were murdered, many of them relatives or men and women with ties to one woman, Mollie Burkhart. Shootings, poisonings, accidents--year after year, the killings went on, and investigations turned up nothing.
Then J. Edgar Hoover became head of a new government entity that became known as the F. B. I. He assigned Tom White, a former Texas Ranger, to head up an investigation into the plots against the Osage. And White delivered incriminating evidence. But in researching the story of the Osage, author David Grann found some loose ends.

Killers of the Flower Moon is a chilling account of the depravity of man. The crimes robbed families of fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. If we care about the injustices done in the history of America, this is a book to read. It’s hard to imagine the painstaking research undertaken by Gramm to write the book; sixty pages of back notes and an extensive bibliography document his sources. Pictures show the faces of many of the book’s subjects. Available in large print, the book was published by Random House, 2017.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

5 Steps to Prevent Tumbles--in Life

Last summer my husband, Bill, took a tumble down our backyard steps that left him with significant injuries. This spring he again stumbled but managed to stay upright. I’ve never felt secure on those steps, so I suggested we build a railing. Of course, by “we,” I meant “he.” And so he did.

How different I now feel when I walk up and down those stairs. With my hand sliding along the railing, I feel safe and secure. Why did it take us so long to find this easy solution to a challenging problem?

We need railings in life too. Oh, we may feel free as a bird sailing through life without restraints, doing what we feel like doing, making our own rules. But rules are blessings in disguise. We need them to live a fruitful, joyful life. And the best rules to live by are those found in God’s Word.

For instance, a young man who heeds the words of Solomon, writer of Proverbs, will spare himself much grief by leading a moral life. He has no worries about STD’s; he avoids imprisonment; he enjoys the fruit of honest labor. And the list goes on.

The “rules” of God’s Word are designed to build relationships—with God and with others.

Here’s why I appreciate God’s Word:

1. God’s Word keeps me from sin. I need not debate right and wrong. Should I steal or not? Should I gossip or not? By obeying just the basic ten commandments, I am blessed. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

2. God’s Word enriches my life. As I choose the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control) over the “acts of the flesh,” (sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, etc.), I build stronger relationships. (Galatians 5:19-23)

3. God’s Word assures me of eternal life. His Word tells me God is perfect and no imperfection may come into His Presence. That’s bad news, because I am far from perfect. But the good news is that Christ took the punishment I deserve, and now God sees me as Perfect as Christ. “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed from death to life.” (John 5:24)

4. God’s Word counsels me. God’s principles always challenge me to take the high road rather than seek revenge. We’ve all been offended by those nearest and dearest. But such experiences simply offer opportunities to extend the grace we receive from God to others, and relationships are strengthened rather than shattered. “He gives us more grace.” (James 4:6)

5. God’s Word guards my thought life. This is why I memorize lengthy passages. When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I run scripture through my mind. God may use a verse I’ve never before noticed to shed light on a problem or offer strength for the journey. “I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated . . . . ” (Psalm 77:6)

Have you discovered the blessing of steeping in God’s Word, like a tea bag steeps in tea? I assure you, like the railing of our backyard steps, God’s Word protects, guides and secures our lives. My favorite verse is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

What’s your favorite verse? Click on the link below and share.

Have a blessed month—in God’s Word.