Making time to read

Time and energy for reading comes and goes in seasons, with a new baby, big change or new schedule goes time for reading.  We’re a couple years past new baby times but headed that way again.  The benefits for my brain and soul that come from taking the time to read I’m starting to realize make it a priority regardless of the season.  Funny how the old phrase “You make time for what matters to you” rings true almost every time.

My pattern over time has leaned toward reading books and not the Bible (gasp!).  As I read other people’s perspective about such and such thing, if I am not rooted in truth then it can be pretty easy to adopt their way of thinking about something without wondering why.  It can be easier and more engaging to pick up a riveting novel or hot new book about something of interest.   I’ve been on a quest to curb this for several months, mainly because I truly believe that the Bible is the best food for my heart and spirit, even when it might not seem interesting every single day.  By having written down what I’m reading for each day and/or listening to the Bible in the car and/or just reading one verse because that’s all I can do, it has become more of a habit than at any other time in my life.

So currently, finding the balance between Bible and books is a continual thing but making time to read is a constant.  With little kids it’s easy to mentally check out and not challenge your thinking.   Pregnant brain turns into new baby brain and it all can seem like mush!  Even if it takes a month to read a book, I would argue it’s still a worthy investment of time.  Especially if it makes you ask questions, makes you laugh or encourages your heart.

Last month I read Palmer Chinchen’s True Religion in 3 days.  I was captivated by his heart and message.   Though I can’t pack up and move to India tomorrow, I can still “take pieces of heaven” to people or places around me that need it.  I agree so deeply that our hearts should hurt for the hurting in the world, that we should care about poverty and injustice, not just because it’s hip or trendy but because GOD DOES.  If I want my life to be spent for Him, then I have to let Him grow my heart and that means hurting and caring about “hell on earth”.  It means sponsoring two more children through Compassion International.  It means looking again at how time and money are invested and what that reflects.

A couple weeks ago I also read Mary DeMuth’s Thin Places in a couple days.  It is an incredible first person memoir account of one woman’s life journey.  Her experiences of sexual abuse as a five year old girl broke my heart.  But the way Jesus found her and led her to encounter the deepest, heart level healing.  It is an incredible picture of redemption.  We all have places that ache and burn and long to be redeemed.  Even though her story isn’t like mine, it reminded me of all the ways I’ve watched God weave beauty out of ashes in my life and so many around me. It is one of the great mysteries of life and I will never tire of reading or hearing it.

Next up this fall is The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wells, highly recommended by my friend Tina and Radical: Taking back your faith from the American Dream by David Platt.  I’m still wading through Future Grace too, by John Piper.  Super deep and profound and blessing my socks of but slow reading, even for me!

Crazy Love – a book review

I picked up Crazy Love, by Francis Chan, almost two years ago.  It was a time of great transition and great trial.  I tried to read it but couldn’t really read anything at the time.  It was a survival-mode season.

Around Christmas last year I picked it up again finally.  I dug right in and read a couple of chapters.  It felt like a friend had written it to me, it was so readable – and it made me ask some great questions.

Then I got to the chapter called “Profile of the Lukewarm”.  Just the name of the chapter made my heart sink.  I knew what was coming.  Or I thought I did.  But I didn’t.  I read it.  Read it again.  Then I put the book away.

Reading Chan’s long and spot on list of all the characteristics of ‘lukewarm’ left me feeling sick.  Honest.  It described most of the ‘church going folk’ I’d ever known.  What was far worse?  It described me.  Of course not in every instance and I could rationalize all I wanted to make myself feel better.  But I didn’t want to feel better.  That’s why I’d picked up the book in the first place. I wanted my thinking to be challenged…to be changed really.

In the last year and a half, stepping out of full time ministry and also out of regular church attendance (gasp!) I have spent so much time in some serious, sometimes very uncomfortable reflection on God and church and what it really means to follow Jesus.  Growing up in church then serving in a church setting for ten years, I had plenty of exposure to all sorts of ‘religion’.  Much of it was life-shaping and very good.  And of course there was your run-of-the-mill hypocrisy and church politics.

After I stalled out on my Crazy Love reading (I quit reading the book for two months!), I tried again.  But I was not the same.  I had wrestled and argued and thought through some really hard things.  If you read my blog and know our story, this of course coincided with the very tragic loss of my husband’s father this January.

I was ripe for a crisis of faith.

And maybe that sounds bad, which is okay with me.  But really, if we never have a crisis, never question what we believe, never look inward and take some serious inventory…then maybe we don’t even know what we believe or why.  When we are shaken to the core, we are forced to find out what we really hold on to – who we hold on to.  And if it will keep us afloat or not.

God’s overwhelming, relentless love that this book speaks of, that love is the only thing that has carried me through this past season and every other desert I’ve walked through.  It has shown itself in hundreds of ways.  God’s unmistakable, unwavering love.

Beauty in a movie and a book

As always, there is good and bad in every day.  Yesterday just as we pulled in to the driveway, Rylee threw up all over the car as she was getting out of her seat  (the bad).  I had a mini-meltdown, including tears, at our OT’s office due to a scheduling error on their part (bad).  I almost broke my mom’s finger trying to get my new stroller open, we both nearly cried (very bad).

But in the midst, with a new organization plan in place for our daily life and some better boundaries for me on my time, I still decided to finish a book and watch a movie last night (both very good).  Those two helped off-set the rest of my day in just the right way.

Yesterday afternoon while everyone here rested and I completely gave up attempting to clean the van, I finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Tears blurred my ability to read the words yesterday as I read the last 50 pages.  It was a long, 500+ page book.  I’ve been reading it for over a week.  It was beautifully, uniquely written.  If you want to dive into something deep and lovely, it would be a great choice.  ‘Death’ wrote the book and as such paints a remarkable picture of humanity.  As he ushers souls into eternity, a story catches his attention in the middle of Nazi Germany.  It is a story of courage, of love, of hope and of the incredible strength of a little girl.  He writes one particularly miserable afternoon in June of 1943, when I believe the first gas chambers were used at Auschwitz.

Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born.  I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks.  I listened to their last, gasping cries.  Their vanishing words.  I watched their love visions and freed them from fear.

I took them all away, and if ever there was a time I needed distraction, this was it.  In complete desolation, I looked at the world above.  I watched the sky as it turned from silver to gray to the color of rain.  Even the clouds were trying to get away.

Sometimes I imagined how everything looked above those clouds, knowing without question that the sun was blond and the endless atmosphere was a giant, blue eye.

They were French, they were Jews, and they were you.   (from page 350)

I also watched the movie The Soloist after bedtime.  It was particularly interesting to me that it’s the guy from the church messes everything up in his pious, well-intentioned acts.  And it is the regular, everday man whose life is profoundly impacted by the life of a mentally ill, homeless man who posseses surreal musical talent.  Again, it was a story of beauty and depravity and the coming together of the two.