June 30, 2013

Book Review - 'Encouragement: the Key to Caring'

This month I read Larry Crabb and Dan Allender's book Encouragement: the Key to Caring.  Never has a book simultaneously so unnerved me and spurred me on!  Wow.

Here's why.  When we get to thinking about how real encouragement can happen in our churches and consider the possibility of being one of those encouragers, we have to take a hard look at ourselves.  The authors begin by explaining how we all live behind layers to protect ourselves from the various things we fear.    (They include some fun little diagrams, that visual folks like me definitely appreciate.)  As I read I found myself squirming a little, thinking, Wow, they know.  I've been found out.  And then later, Am I really able to trust God enough to abandon myself to ministry in this fashion? Wiggle, squirm.  Squirm, wiggle.

At the same time, however, the text is comforting.  It can be so relieving to have the truth out in the open, can't it?  And it can be so refreshing to be reminded that God is trustworthy to strengthen us as we engage in His work, can it not?  Once we see that we live behind layers, we can be honest with ourselves and others, and begin to work through them.  Once we are reminded that there's a big, glorious, loving God calling us to serve, we can abandon ourselves and step out in faith (a little, if you're like me) more boldly.

The thrust of this book is that real encouragement can only happen when the fears are addressed.  If we keep bumping layers with others, no real encouragement will ever happen.  But if we do the hard work of getting to know ourselves, getting to know the Word, and really listening to others, we can become real encouragers.  Allender and Crabb argue that the final goal of encouragement is to move people along in their walk with Christ (p 127).  Isn't that something wonderful to think about?  To enter into conversations and relationships thinking, I really want to spur this sister or brother on toward Christ.  That does not mean that we can no longer have any fun and must always be looking to dig up peoples' dirt and fear, by the way!  Rather it's simply a mindset that loves God, loves neighbors, and keeps the door open to opportunities to encourage.  According to the authors, Encouragement is not a technique to be mastered; it is a sensitivity to people and a confidence in God that must be nourished and demonstrated (p 80).

As such, you will not find a multi-step program in this book.  You will, however, find very practical guidelines for growing as an encourager, along with solid arguments about why it is important for members of the church to make such ministry their primary goal.

All told, it's a quick read.  The book is broken into two parts.  The first chunk of chapters offers an explanation of what encouragement is (and is not).  The second set of chapters delves into the process of encouragement.  Throughout the text, the authors offer examples and stories of their experiences to help the reader see how ministry through encouragement fits into normal life.  But despite the clear and concise writing, this book might make you a little uncomfortable (as I experienced) and will most certainly leave you with a lot to think about.  As a result, you will find yourself engaging in conversation differently, with an increased desire to minister to those with whom you interact.

So consider yourself warned: this book just might change you a little in the present, and perhaps a lot in the future!

June 23, 2013

A History Lesson or a Lesson from History? Yes.

These last couple of weeks have flown by; sorry for my long absence!  After school wrapped up at the end of May, we had a couple of family birthdays, then Colin flew out for a conference in R.I. and the kids and I went here:

Seeing the sights in Washington, D.C. was not our primary objective, however.  My main purpose for our trip was to catch up with some girlfriends and their families: one from our days in Boston, one from college, and one from high school.  (I also intended to take my computer along and write this post while we were there, but left my backpack on one of our kitchen chairs instead.  Oops!)

I didn't have words to express how excited I was to see my friends; what a blessing to share history with people!  As I anticipated the trip, I got to thinking about how history can give us hope.  From each stage of my life, I have fast friends.  We may not talk regularly, but our overlapping paths "back then" allow us to pick up quickly where we left off.  It's marvelous.  And I've got many wonderful ladies in my life where I live right now, as well.  (Hey gals!)  So as I think about our move to a new town this summer, a place where we could settle for quite a while, I'm encouraged to trust that God will provide another great crop of friends there, too.

But the child of God need not stop thinking about history simply with the beginning of his/her life.  Nope.  We can go even further back than that.  Consider these words from Psalm 136.

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
       His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
       His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
       His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders,
       His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
       His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,
       His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights—
       His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day,
       His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night;
       His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
       His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
       His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
       His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder
       His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
       His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
       His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
       His love endures forever.
17 to him who struck down great kings,
       His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
       His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
       His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
       His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
       His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
       His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estate
       His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
       His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
       His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
       His love endures forever.

The story - the history! - of God's faithfulness and love extends all the way back to creation.  And the Word tells us that His love endures forever.  The Israelites didn't have Jesus to include in their recounting of Psalm 136, but this Psalm could certainly extend from the Old Testament into the New, then up to the present day.  God has been and is preserving His people.  I love to imagine how this Psalm could be continued by each one of us with specifics from our lives and the cadence, His love endures forever.  Not only can we sons and daughters of The King be comforted in the midst of change or challenging circumstances by our brief history on this earth.  Oh no!  We don't need to stop there.  We can look all the way back to Genesis 1 and consider (with delight!) how God's love truly does endure forever.


Remembering our history and remembering our God has such power to set ablaze our faith.  I'm so very thankful for my friends and God's grace in allowing or walks on this planet to intersect for His predetermined periods of time.  And I'm thankful for what looking back does to rejuvenate my faith as I look forward.

Will you join me to day and consider your own history?
Drop a comment if you'd like.
I'd love to hear stories about ways God has used looking back to give you hope as you look ahead.

June 3, 2013

"Glimpses of Grace" Winner!

Thanks to our highly advanced selection method,

we were able to get ourselves a winner!

Congrats, Jenny V.!

I'll be in touch to send you your very own copy of
Gloria Furman's
Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home.

For the rest of you who valiantly thew your hats into the ring, remember, 
you can pick up your own hard copy here or the kindle edition with this link.
Do it this week to take advantage of Crossway's cool launch-week promotions!

'Glimpses of Grace': Promotion Reveal and Give-Away Day!

Hey gals!  Today I can let you in on this cool promotion from Crossway Publishers, because it's finally launch week for Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home.  Woo-hoo!!

Purchase a copy of Glimpses of Grace from your favorite local or online retailer from June 3-7 and receive a free copy of the ebook as well as one of Gloria's favorite resources—the ESV Study Bible Online (ESVBible.org Web App & Ebook)!
To redeem your free extras, simply scan and email your receipt to glimpses@crossway.org before 11:59am on Friday, June 7.*
*Any receipts that are not legible, not included, or believed to be fraudulent will be disqualified. Limited to one promotion per person.

Pretty cool, huh?  If you don't win a copy from me, you can pick up your own hard copy here or the kindle edition with this link.


You can win your own copy of 
Glimpses of Grace!!

Click right >>>>HERE<<<< to leave a comment for entry.
For a second entry, share about the give-away on Facebook!

I've enjoyed reviewing a handful of books for you this month.  I've started into a new one that I'll share with you at the end of June called, Encouragement: the Key to Caring.  Have a great Monday!

June 2, 2013

They Have No Idea: a Reflection on Marriage

Yesterday I had the privilege and joy of not only attending a wedding to witness the exchange of vows, but  of standing next to the Bride as her Matron of Honor as she and her Groom made vows to one another that none of us can keep.

The pastor talked about that.  He reminded us that without the Lord at work in our hearts, we can't get into the deepness of the marriage relationship.  It is in the middle of needing to live out real love (patience, kindness, forgiveness, not keeping a record of wrongs, etc.) that we grow as individuals and as a couple in marriage.  Those day-to-day hiccups that come with one sinner living with another sinner as husband and wife are what build up into a strong relationship, though not without work, prayer, and commitment.

The commitment comes with the covenant.  I love that the church talks about marriage as a covenant.  We make promises to one another and they are binding.  And the promises we make are not dependent on what the other person is doing, how we're feeling, or what circumstances we're in.  Husband and wife need to keep looking back to that day when a gorgeous bride and a handsome groom said "I promise" to one another in the presence of God and many witnesses: ... in plenty and want, sickness and health, as long as we both shall live.


The day you get married, you have no idea how hard it's going to be.  You might know you're proud or stubborn.  A few years of marriage will reveal to you a depth of pride and stubbornness you never thought possible from such a nice person as yourself.  It's ugly.

The day you get married, you also have no idea how wonderful it's going to be.  You might know it will be fantastic to no longer have to say 'good night' after a date and go your separate ways.  A few years of marriage will reveal what a joy and blessing it is to slip into bed every night with your best friend and forever confidant.  It's good.

The ugly and the good are both part of the package.  Then there's trials that come that are beyond your control.  They test the strength of your bond and your faith in the Lord to sustain and provide.

As I sat at the end of the rehearsal on Friday evening, I received an email update from some friends who are missionaries with World Harvest Mission in Uganda.  At the moment they are home for a while, because when they came home in December for five months in the states before returning to Africa, they found out  (by the providence of God) that Travis has colon cancer.  Now, rather than being able to attend missions conferences and return to duty, they visit doctors and endure chemo treatments.  It is remarkable to see how their bond as husband and wife and their love for the Lord is sustaining them.  They don't pretend anything is easy, but they trust the Lord and are faithful to their commitment one another as much in sickness as they had been in health.

Weddings are so much fun.  I love them.  The time for celebration is right and good!!  We had a delightful party last night after the ceremony.  But with a decade of marriage under my belt, I know that the best is yet to come for my friends.  They have no idea.  And that's just the way it's supposed to be.  I'm so, so thrilled for them to know that the Lord will sustain them and enable them to uphold their vows and that each day, week, month, and year they have together as husband and wife will grow an intimacy that they've never known before, giving them a little peek into how Christ loves His church.  I'm so happy for my friends and look forward to watching the Lord unfold their story before them!


June 1, 2013

Learn More about Gloria Furman and 'Glimpes of Grace'

So, you can't really "try before you buy" with a book, but here's a link to an interview with author Gloria Furman, about her new book Glimpes of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home, that will help you get to know a little more about her and the book.

Launch week starts Monday.  To celebrate, Crossway is offering this promotion....  Oh wait, I can't tell you yet because it won't be revealed to the public till Monday.

Oh well!  You'll just have to pop by on Monday to find out what it is.  For now, don't miss your chance to win a copy of this book from Life in the Valley!  Click here to read my review and enter your name!!

Have a good weekend, friends.