Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book Review: Counter Culture

If you feel overwhelmed by the world’s eroding values and pressing needs, read A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution, Abortion, Orphans, Pornography by David Platt. He begins with “The Greatest Offense: The Gospel and Culture,” which explains how we face a conflict between good and evil that began in the Garden of Eden.

Then Platt opens readers’ eyes to what is going on: How are young girls recruited into sex slavery? How is religious liberty threatened even in our own country? What does it mean to our society to redefine marriage? Platt offers glimpses into the lives of real people to illustrate his points.

He also clarifies issues and challenges Christians to take a stand. Chapters clearly define problems and suggest responsible ways Christians can respond to a landscape of changing values. For instance, “Where Rich and Poor Collide: The Gospel and Poverty,” “Unity in Diversity: The Gospel and Ethnicity,” “Christ in the Public Square: The Gospel and Religious Liberty,” “The Most Urgent Need: The Gospel and the Unreached.”

Most valuable are the end-of-chapter sections: Pray, Participate, Proclaim. “Pray” sections suggest how to ask God to work in these areas. “Participate” sections offers ways for readers to respond to needs. And “Proclaim” lists truths from scripture to support Platt’s positions.

This book will open your eyes in many ways. For instance, did you know that six million Jews died during the Holocaust but each year 42 million children die through abortion? Did you know about 18 million children in our world have lost both parents? Did you know surveys show that over half of men and increasing numbers of women in churches view pornography? And pornography feeds prostitution, increasing the demand for sex trafficking. Seven pages of notes document research into areas listed in the subtitle. 

While Platt’s research is alarming, his book’s value lies in the way he encourages readers to respond to pressing societal issues. He has touched my heart. Although I read this book on library loan, it is so valuable I plan to buy it for myself. Counter Culture would stimulate great discussion at book discussion and Bible study groups.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Book Review: Women Who Think Too Much

Overthinking is not your friend because it steals your power. You can’t deal with life if you’re concentrating on something from the past rather than on positive actions you might take in the present. The subtitle offers hope: How to break free of overthinking and reclaim your life.

According to author Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, we can be our own worst enemy through “overthinking.” Many of us fret, worry and ruminate far more than is good for us. In fact, we can think ourselves into depression. I appreciated the way the author illustrated her points with interesting and believable case studies to which I could relate. And I also appreciated how she ended the first three chapters with detailed Quick Reference Guides to guide us in taking action to overcome overthinking.

Nolen-Hoeksema opens the book describing the problem and offers techniques to help resolve overthinking. For instance, if you find yourself stuck on thinking about a bad day at work, give it a rest by focusing on something positive, such as reading a good book or engaging in a hobby. While the author acknowledges life can be unfair, she offers strategies to move your thinking to higher ground. The Quick Reference Guides list strategies to deal with overthinking and descriptions of how to apply the strategies along with concrete examples of action to take.

The author shows insight into people and situations. Her suggestions are practical enough for anyone to apply. Chapters deal with specific areas of overthinking: marriage, parents and siblings, children, jobs, health problems, loss and trauma.

Nolen-Hoeksema is a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, so she is well qualified to write. And her writing is very understandable with engaging case studies to which readers can relate.

The book includes an index plus pages of notes giving documentation of her content. The back cover offers a quick quiz to check if you might be an overthinker. As an overthinker myself, I copied the Quick Reference Guides and expect them to serve me well. If you worry, second guess your decisions or can't get your mind off troubling issues, I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Five Things You Learn From Rejection

I am a freelance writer, so editors have said “no thanks” to plenty of my ideas. I’ve also experienced rejection as a speaker. I was once told my voice on a tape was painful to hear. And I’ve experienced rejection when tension developed over my administrative role as a woman in ministry. So what have I learned from all that?

1.       You learn the world doesn’t end when you are rejected. Life goes on. Yes, I’m disappointed. Yes, I’m discouraged. But if I’m doing what I feel God calls me to do, I persevere, because perseverance is a vitamin for the soul. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith . . . perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

2.       You learn to seek only God’s approval rather than the approval of others. If God closes a door, he opens a window. If one magazine doesn’t want my work, perhaps another will. If I may not administrate, I may write or teach or whatever opportunity opens when I look around. God is not limited in how he uses our skills and spiritual gifts. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23)

3.       You learn you are not the center of the universe. Perhaps you’ve come to believe you are indispensable. Guess again. Any one of us can be replaced in a heartbeat. Rejection is very humbling, but humility is a grace that enhances your beauty in God’s eyes. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

4.       You learn rejection leads to blessing. My writing, speaking and serving has been strengthened as I’ve looked for kernels of truth in input from critics. Perhaps that job you lost will lead to a better job. Perhaps that relationship that ended opens your heart to a new and better relationship. “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of them that love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

5.       You learn to rely on God rather than people, jobs and/or circumstances. Too often we forget about God as we go about our daily lives. We think we’re in charge. We make plans and schedule events. But then a rejection wreaks havoc in our lives. Suddenly we turn to God. And we find he’s been waiting for us. We find he is faithful—even in this.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

So if you have experienced rejection (and if you haven’t, you will), keep these thoughts in mind as you move forward with life in spite of it. And life will get better in spite of it—maybe even because of it.

Have a blessed May. If you receive this blog by e-mail, just click on the link at the bottom to leave a comment about something you’ve learned from rejection. I’d love to add to my list. And feel free to share this post if you know someone who needs a word of encouragement.


Upcoming Engagements (all except last one are Friends of the Heart Mother’s Day events):
May 7, 10 a.m. – Duncannon Church of God
May 7, 6 p.m. – Ruhl United Methodist Church, Manheim
May 11, 6 p.m. – Trinity Lutheran, Valley View
May 14, 1:30 p.m. – Salem United Church of Christ, Elizabethville
May 14, 6 p.m. – St. Peters United Church of Christ, Berrysburg
May 15, 6 p.m. – Bethesda Evangelical Congregational, Reedsville
May 22, 8 and 10:30 a.m. – Shirley speaking at First UM, Millersburg