Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: Sacred Marriage - What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

The subtitle says it all: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? According to author Gary Thomas, if we cultivate that attitude, we are better able to bear—and learn from—the daily exchanges that cause us anguish. He writes: “This book sees marriage the way medieval writers saw the monastery: as a setting full of opportunities to foster spiritual growth and service to God.”

According to Thomas, when you become disenchanted with your spouse, marriage offers you the unique opportunity to work on your own issues such as selfishness and self control. Marriage also allows you to model God’s ministry of reconciliation. We can learn to love by holding our tongues, admitting faults and apologizing to each other. I liked the way Thomas included illustrations from his own marriage throughout the book.

Thomas reminds readers that Jesus went against the culture of the day by lifting up women and keeping them in his inner circle of confidantes. Referencing I Peter 3:7, Thomas reminds men to make a special effort to be a good husband because if they fail, their prayers are hindered. He encourages them to think of God as their father-in-law.

Instead of dwelling on the negatives of marriage, Thomas encourages couples to view marriage as an entryway to sanctification and to counter negatives with positives. In other words, if a wife has been ciritical of her husband, she should instead encourage and praise him.

He writes: “The stronger we grow as spouses, persevering and pressing further into our marriage, the more we’ll develop the very character traits we need to become mature believers.” Just as God built a history with Israel through their ups and downs, so we need to build a history as a married couple, and as we embrace struggles, we build character.

In various chapters, Thomas examines various aspects of marriage, the spiritual, the sexual, serving one another. I loved this statement: “Christianity does not direct us to focus on finding the right person; it calls us to become the right person.”

Questions for Discussion and Reflection conclude the book along with detailed notes. With 14 chapters, it could be used for a Sunday school or small group study. A six-session participant’s guide with DVD is also available. Thomas’ website is www.garythomas.com and offers the participant’s guide as a free resource. 

Whether you’re married five days or 50 years, this book will inspire you to become the spouse God has called you to be.





Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Review: Chasing Daylight--How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life

By Eugene O’Kelly with Andrew Postman


Eugene O’Kelly was CEO of a major American firm when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 53. He immediately decided to approach death as he had life—with careful planning. This led him to leave his job and to choose a medical protocol that would allow him to make the most of the little time he had left. He died three and a half months after his diagnosis.

Rather than focusing on what might be, O’Kelly decided he would live in the moment, enjoying its beauty. He would not think about the past or the future. Instead, he would experience “perfect moments” and “perfect days,” periods of time that might previously have gone unnoticed in the busyness of daily routines but that now gave him a great deal of pleasure. Sunsets, conversations, outings.

O’Kelly also made a point of saying good-bye to his family, friends and colleagues one by one, telling them what they had meant to him and how they had enriched his life. As the title indicates, the way O’Kelly dealt with his impending death transformed his life in surprising ways.

I enjoyed the book because it reminded me that all of our lives are “terminal” and that too often we forfeit everyday beauty and pleasure by rushing about and not paying attention to each moment. Instead, we need to determine what is important to us and tend to it.

The book is published by McGraw-Hill; with only 179 pages, it’s an easy but thought-provoking read and is also available in audio.





Thursday, February 2, 2017

Our Words Make a Difference


Dear Friends,

Every Wednesday they trooped in after school, 12 to 20-some kids—hungry, sweaty, pulsing with energy. They devoured cookies and gulped down drinks. They were the elementary children of my neighborhood, and they joined my two boys for Good News Club, an after-school Bible club.

Last week I spoke at a women’s meeting at a church, and a woman introduced herself as one of those Good News Club kids. She said I had led her to the Lord back in the 1970s, and today she is active in the children’s ministry of her church. I could have cried. Sometimes we wonder if what we do or say makes a difference to anyone, and then we find that it does. In a big way.

In time a neighbor provided the snack for our Good News Club and a friend told the missionary story and led singing. Ministry is always a team effort. We listened to the children’s memorized verses, played games and told them stories of Jesus healing, teaching, loving. We tried to love the kids in the same way He loved.

At first we met in our living room. But as our group grew, we decided it was time to build what in those days we called a “rec” room in the basement, “rec” being short for recreation. I can still see the gold/brown patterned rug and hear the slightly off-key piano, a piece from my childhood home so large we had to cut out the bottom two steps to drop it onto the basement floor. My living room furniture was forever grateful when we moved club to the rec room.

Those were the days when teachers placed figures with flocking on the back onto flannel-board backgrounds as they told the Bible story. Sometimes I’d let one of the kids place the figures. They liked that. Ministry need not be high tech to be effective.

Week after week the kids came, from fall to spring, just like they went to school. What drew them? The other kids? The fun of competing to learn Bible verses and play games? The cookies and Kool Aid? I don’t know. But I do know we all long for love and community, and that is what we offered the kids—a place to hang out that included open arms and open hearts. Oh, I sometimes groused at them if they were unruly. But for the most part we got along just fine. And we were all a little richer for our time together.

I learned how to manage children, tell Bible stories and lead children to Christ. They learned to listen, to obey and to sit still for 40 minutes or so. It was a win-win situation, a microcosm of the church that I hope they all belong to all these years later.

A few years ago a former high school student came to me at a church supper and thanked me for encouraging her to join the yearbook staff when I served as advisor. She was a good student, and of course, I wanted her on my staff. I had no idea that she was just too shy to volunteer.

Our words count. They may make a huge difference in someone’s life. And faithful ministry—be in in Sunday school, choir, public school or through a myriad of other opportunities—gets the job done. God can very well get the job done without us, but he invites us to get in the game. He invites us to join with His people to tell and teach and share the good news that Christ has come. Let’s not turn down any invitations to play. Whose life might you touch with an encouraging word?

Have a blessed day!


Shirley

"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." Galatians 6:9

To comment on how a word you've spoken made a difference in someone's life, click on the link below. And feel free to share this post if you feel it would bless and encourage your friends in Christian service.