Monday, May 3, 2021

Book Review: Becoming Elisabeth Elliot

 

Here was a woman who overcame many challenges. She loved fellow college student Jim Elliot, a man who felt celibacy was God’s highest calling in life. Fortunately, he finally recognized marriage as a high calling as well. Elisabeth’s notes on translating the language of the Waodani tribe were stolen. And the greatest tragedy was the death of her husband in Ecuador at the hands of the very tribesmen they tried to reach for Christ.

The book started slow, giving details of Elisabeth’s childhood, but I soon became engrossed in the life of this remarkable woman and the events that shaped her.

Elisabeth kept a detailed diary, and in Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, author Ellen Vaugh shares many of these details with us. Vaugh also interviewed people who knew Elisabeth, including her daughter Valerie. And Vaugh was given access to letters that show Elisabeth’s struggles and temptations, yet her determination to follow God’s call.

I liked the many quotes Vaugh included such as this one from missionary icon Hudson Taylor: “It is not what we set ourselves to do that really tells in blessings, so much as what He is doing through us when we least expect it, if only we are in abiding fellowship with him.” This proved true for Elisabeth Elliot, who often felt her work had no impact.

Although I’ve read Elliot’s books and even heard her speak, I never knew of the ongoing challenges she faced with missionary Rachel Saint.

The book was published by B & H Publishing in 2020 and includes pages of notes of documentation. It also includes photos that introduce you to Elisabeth’s life with the Waodani.

Any Christian facing challenges in carrying out his or her calling will feel blessed through reading this book, and all of us can benefit from the insight and wisdom on its pages.


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Book Review: Ten Words to Live By

 

Ten Words to Live By: Delighting in and Doing What God Commands

You may think you know the Ten Commandments, but this book will open your eyes to ways you may be thoughtlessly breaking some of them.

Take the third word, for instance: “You shall not take the name of the LORD in vain . . . .” Did you know that in the Ancient Near East the name expressed the sum total of a person’s character? And since God is holy, compassionate, just, etc., to pray “in His Name” is to pray according to His character. If we preach a moral code we don’t uphold, we misuse God’s name.

It’s hard to express in a short review how eye-opening this book can be. Author Jen Wilkin is a Bible teacher and an advocate for biblical literacy who has authored multiple books. Find her at JenWilkin.net.

I borrowed my copy of this book from a library, but I plan to buy this book because I need time to think through the end of chapter verses for meditation and questions for reflection. For instance, at the end of the third chapter: What situations are most likely to trigger you to misuse the name of the Lord? How could you change our typical response . . . ?

I recommend this book because passages on the Ten Commandments have become so familiar we may read them without thinking through their implications.

 

 


Friday, April 16, 2021

Five Steps to Make Peace With Transitions

 


With the click of a “Send” key, I moved into a new stage of life. Much as I love it, I resigned from writing for my local newspaper. It’s become stressful to keep up with conversations during interviews. In person, we wear masks; on the phone, I have difficulty hearing every word. And my body no longer tolerates stress.

Transitions. This one is fairly easy. I am free from responsibility, free from deadlines. Free from prying stories out of shy people (although I must say, most people were happy to share with me because I only wrote happy, uplifting stories). I will miss the fun of it all. I truly loved meeting people, interviewing them and capturing personalities on paper.

Maybe you’re facing a harder transition. Maybe a child is leaving home to go to college or get married, and you’re facing the empty nest. Maybe a spouse has moved out, and you’re left facing life alone. Maybe a loved one has died, and you have to live on without their love and support. Maybe you lost a job . . . and your livelihood. Maybe you’ve been forced to work from home, and while you can answer the phone in your pj’s, you miss the camaraderie of colleagues.

How can we handle transitions forced upon us?

Cry if you feel like it. According to a psychologist friend of mine, mourning any type of loss leads us to a stronger healthy place. So it’s OK to feel sad. Like the 60’s song, “Cry if you want to.” Tell a friend. Express your grief. You’ll feel better.

Enjoy the memories. Flipping through pages of articles I’ve written makes me smile. I’ve interviewed some celebrating achievements and others mourning losses. I’ve interviewed closings, such as that of the local R & K Diner, and openings, such as that of a new drug recovery center in Millersburg. Volunteers. Parents. Kids. Doctors. Missionaries. Pastors. Centenarians. Football players. I’ve met them all. What a privilege I’ve enjoyed.

Accept the unacceptable. As we ponder losses over which we have no control, we come to accept them. After all, God has permitted this situation to develop. It may not be his perfect will, but He walks with us into each new stage. For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV). I’ve heard said there are 365 “do not fears” in scripture. That’s one for each day of the year. One for each transition.

Adapt to the speed bumps. There are blessings to be found, no matter the jolt. We may find we’re stronger than we realized. A different job will lead to friendships with different people. A more independent phase will help you discover strengths you didn’t know you had. You might do things you never dreamed you were capable of doing.

Achieve personal growth. Through challenges we develop a deeper faith. What do you need to add to your faith? Find your place in the following list and strive on.

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness . . . . “ (2 Peter 1:5-6 NIV).

Find peace. In fact, we may enjoy this fresh start. You turn that child’s room into a guest room. You love that new job and the people it brings into your life. For me, I will simply enjoy reading the newspaper instead of writing for it. And guess what?! Just today, a week or so after I “resigned” from newspaper writing, I received an assignment to write devotionals, my favorite kind of writing, for a Christian publication to which I had applied.

Every change doesn’t have to be perfect for us to be perfectly satisfied. Life holds transitions and fresh blessings in every stage. Watch for them. Gather them—like fresh bouquets of flowers. And breathe in their fragrance.


Saturday, April 3, 2021

How to Turn Easter "Problems" into Blessings

 

As a child, I loved dolls. I eyed them on a high shelf at a country grocery store. I ran my hand over catalog pages that showed my favorites—baby dolls. I was ecstatic the year I received a doll that drank and wet her diaper. Oh, the heavenly smell of talcum powder on her rubbery skin.

As I grew up, I yearned for dolls of my own. I wondered if I’d marry and be blessed with children. Fortunately, I was. And, of course, nothing compares to the love I felt for my real live babies, the joy from the smell of talcum powder on soft cuddly bodies.

You might say I idolized dolls. And sometimes, even as adults, we idolize bright shiny things. We frown on Aaron who built the golden calf soon after the Israelites were given the 10 commandments (Exodus 32:4). We can’t understand why the mother of Micah made a silver idol for her son (Judges 17:3). What did these people not understand when God said, “You shall not make for yourself an idol . . . “ (Exodus 20:4 NIV)?

But are we any different? Oh, we don’t mold images from silver or gold, but we let other things come between us and God. And is that not what an idol does? It takes the place of God in our lives. It demands our attention, our focus. It distracts us.

Where is our attention as we approach Easter? On the idols (let’s call them problems) . . . or on the blessings?

The Problem: I’ve noticed that Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services are sometimes sparsely attended. Why is that? Perhaps it’s not convenient. It interrupts our routines. Families with young children may not want to keep them up for an evening service, and I understand that. But I wonder how often we “idolize” our free time.

The Blessing: Through a Maundy Thursday service we celebrate the Lord’s Supper with His disciples . . . and with our families. Through a Good Friday service, we feel the somberness of the day Christ died. These services help us appreciate the sacredness of the season. And there’s something about doing the inconvenient that speaks to our families of our love for God.

The Problem: When I was young, we bought new clothes—dresses, hats, shoes—for Easter. Now I must say, that spoke to me of the desire to come to God in our Sunday best on this special day. And I still “dress up” for church. But just like eating Easter candy before Easter dinner keeps us from enjoying a nutritious meal, so concentrating on the trappings of Easter may prevent us from appreciating the real reason for the season—Christ’s resurrection. Let’s not let the Easter baskets, the vacation time, the family gatherings distract us.

The Blessing: Let’s view Easter as a way to witness to our faith. Let’s give inspirational books as gifts. Let’s put candy crosses in the Easter baskets. Let’s pray before that meal, thanking God that because of His resurrection we someday can all be together with Him in heaven.

One Final Problem: Churches often decline in attendance once Easter is over. If it’s important to worship in Easter, it’s important to worship every Sunday. After all, we enjoy God’s blessings and care day all year long. It’s only right to acknowledge His Lordship one day of the week. COVID is ending (we hope). Let’s not idolize the comfort of viewing church from our couch or skipping services altogether because no one will know.

The Blessing: When we worship together, we get to interact with the Body of Christ, our fellow Christians. In Sunday school and Bible studies we hear of their victories . . . and defeats. We share joys . . . and sorrows. We celebrate and rejoice . . . and support one another. Online services are a poor substitute for rubbing shoulders.

Just as my dolls could never take the place of a real live baby, so bright shiny things cannot take the place of a relationship with a real live God. In fact, bright shiny things blind us to blessings.

Like real live babies, our relationship with our Real Live God needs to be nurtured. See you in church on Easter Sunday to celebrate His resurrection together. And the Sunday after too.


 


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Facing and Chasing the Lurker


Just a quick post to share with you an article of mine that appeared in the online publication, Refresh Magazine, published by Lighthouse Bible Studies. This issue's theme is "Don't Be Afraid." Just copy the link below to pull up the Spring, 2021 issue. My article "Facing and Chasing the Lurker" is on page 38.

This too is a free online inspirational magazine. I've gotten to know several of the other writers through a Thursday night Zoom Bible Study led by the magazine's publishers, Katy and Beebe Kauffman. And anyone is welcome to join that Bible study during which we read and discuss our articles.

 http://lighthousebiblestudies.com/refresh-bible-study-magazine