Some recent thoughts

Just collecting some quotes and thoughts from this week.

From The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton:

Whoever you are, the land to which God has brought you is not like the land of Egypt from which you came out. You can no longer live here as you lived there. Your old life and your former ways are crucified now, and you must not seek to live any more for your own gratification, but give up your own judgement into the hands of a wise director, and sacrifice your pleasures and comforts for the love of God and give the money you no longer spend on those things, to the poor.
Above all, eat your daily Bread without which you cannot live, and come to know Christ Whose Life feeds you in the Host, and He will give you a taste of joys and delights that transcend anything you have ever experienced before, and which will make the transition easy.
Earlier in the book he also said this: “”I made the terrible mistake of entering upon the Christian life as if it were merely the natural life invested with a kind of supernatural mode by grace.”” A
This past week I was reading our next Book Club book, Deeper Water by Robert Whitlow. He has a scene of a pastor preaching on this scripture from Ezekiel 47:

2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. 3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.

The sermon includes this:

That was their abominable condition, but what about you? Are you satisfied with dipping your toe into the river of God’s glory and pretending you’ve sold out to Jesus? Is knee-deep water enough for you to play in and call yourself committed to the gospel? Do you believe you’re righteous because the water laps around your waist? … Are any of you willing to cast yourself into the river of God where only Jesus can hold you up? Who will go into deeper water?

All of this leads me to hum the Steven Curtis Chapman song, Dive

The long awaited rains
Have fallen hard upon the thirsty ground
And carved their way to where
The wild and rushing river can be found
And like the rains
I have been carried here to where the river flows yeah
My heart is racing and my knees are weak
As I walk to the edge
I know there is no turning back
Once my feet have left the ledge
And in the rush I hear a voice
That’s telling me it’s time to take the leap of faith
So here I go

I’m diving in I’m going deep in over my head I want to be
Caught in the rush lost in the flow in over my head I want to go
The river’s deep the river’s wide the river’s water is alive
So sink or swim I’m diving in

I’m still listening to the audiobook Not For Sale by David Batstone. I can only take 15 minutes a day because I am overwhelmed by the depravity and nastiness of people in the world and the tragedy of the victims – physical, psychological, short-term, and long-term.

I’m going to Madison tomorrow to spend the day with Judy. We’ll probably visit the gravesite and maybe go through a few things in the house and just talk. I miss him.

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What’s on my nightstand today?

nightstand

Wow, it’s that time again.

Right now I have a nice stack:

Les Miserables for the March Classics Bookclub at 5M4B.

Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century for the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

honey, i don’t have a headache tonight by Sheila Wray Gregoire

Not Knowing Where by Oswald Chambers, a loaner from a friend.

Your God is Too Small by J. B. Phillips picked up from our Sunday School shelves.

And I am finishing up the audio book Not For Sale, which was the Feb freebie at christianaudio.com

That means I will probably have a new audiobook when March rolls around.

Progress from last month.

I finished The Seven Storey Mountain and the Oswald Chambers biography (January’s free audio book). I also read The Great Eight by Scott Hamilton for the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers and Deeper Water for my church book club in March.

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Deeper Water by Robert Whitlow (review)

This is our March book club choice: Deeper Water (Tides of Truth Series, Book 1). I have never read anything by Robert Whitlow so I was wondering what I would find. Then I start it and find out the main character is a young woman in law school who was homeschooled by her mother until high school. And she was raised in a very conservative religious environment with a faith that is very real and very practical. Turns out the story is good, too!

The setting is Georgia. First the western part where Tammy Lynn’s family lives. Then Savannah where she gets a job as a summer clerk. The law story was interesting, and the law firm environment was well portrayed, even the other summer clerks. There are differences, but it isn’t one Christian girl among an entire cast of heathens. There are differing levels of faith, different types of faith, and folks with enough money to think they don’t need faith.

The story is told from Tammy’s perspective. We learn a lot about her and we see the other characters developed through her eyes. This means we don’t always know what their motives are, but even then I came to a few different conclusions from Tammy when deciding who to trust and how sincere some people were.

There is more room for growth and development in this series. I have not read much Christian fiction outside of Francine Rivers, but I have heard some common concerns with the lack of plot or believable characters. I found this a very believable book, watching a woman who is growing in her faith and learning to stand on her own with a firm foundation laid by her parents, and a family turning to God for the strength and wisdom to let her grow.

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The Seven Storey Mountain – review

I finally finished The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. Here are some thoughts on the book.

I’m not a Catholic so it was interesting to see his perspective on Mary and purgatory. What I enjoyed was that his faith was so real and his worldview as a result of that. And that also made it convicting because he points out where he settled for just a “nice” life and then when he was disturbed enough to move deeper in and higher up.

Here is an example: “I made the terrible mistake of entering upon the Christian life as if it were merely the natural life invested with a kind of supernatural mode by grace.” All he has to do is live as he did before while avoiding mortal sin. This is so true and I still struggle with this.

My initial reaction was that I would rather read more of his contemplative work and not have spent 400+ pages going through his life. But since I finished reading it, I have found that it was the story of his life that has been coming back to my thoughts. His last days with his brother during a visit to the monastery, his struggles to come to grips with the faith that was pursuing him, his change from wanting the easiest order so he would know he could “make it” to wanting to give it all to God and walk into a very difficult order as a monk. Perhaps it was best to see it all in the scope of his story told by him.

I loved the introduction where they explain that this is not a deeply researched biography, it is an autobiography so of course the author skips some things and isn’t always exactly right with the order of events. That is exactly how my autobiography would come out, so I could relate. This is what he remembered as the important points and events.

Here is another quote that hit home:

I did not have the humility to care nothing about what people thought or said. I was afraid of their remarks, even kind ones, even approving ones. Indeed, it is a kind of quintessence of pride to hate and fear even the kind and legitimate approval of those who love us! I mean, to resent it as a humiliating patronage.

This quote from the first chapter grabbed me and kept me wanting more from the book. Then he talks about not wanting his little brother hanging around, even though John Paul just loved Tom and wanted to be with him.

“And in a sense, this terrible situation is the pattern and prototype of all sin: the deliberate and formal will to reject disinterested love for us for the purely arbitrary reason that we simply do not want it. We will to separate ourselves from that love. We reject it entirely and absolutely, and will not acknowledge it, simply because it does not please us to be loved. Perhaps the inner motive is that the fact of being loved disinterestedly reminds us that we all need love from others, and depend upon the charity of others to carry on our own lives. And we refuse love, and reject society, in so far as it seems, in our own perverse imagination, to imply some obscure kind of humiliation.” p26

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My week

Well, it’s been an interesting week.

I haven’t gotten to bed early enough each night to be good about getting up at 5am. I only got up early 2 days this past week and only worked out 3 days all week. I also got called from a few people on my bad mood lately so I have been working on that.

On a positive note, I finally finished reading The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. The Seven Storey Mountain refers to Purgatory, especially Dante’s description. It was an interesting story, but for a bio I could have gotten enough from the wikipedia article. I didn’t find inspiration in his on again, off again struggle (although I found it very real and believable). But his contemplation and observation of life from the perspective of a believer deep in the heart of his faith was great so I will be sure to read some of his contemplative writings at some point.

Friday night Anthony’s sister and boyfriend came over. We had dinner and watched The Dark Knight. Only Anthony and Connor had seen it, so we all enjoyed it.

Today was a baby shower for a friend from school. Tomorrow is two funerals for relatives of friends at church. Time is short.

Speaking of which, I need to work on Les Miserables now.

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New Me, new week

Time for an update.

I was up and working out 4 days last week. I was starting to feel a little bit under the weather and I was up late Thursday night with my EMBA dinner, so I slept in Friday. Then Saturday was a full day. Sunday I didn’t do any organized exercise, but I did play quartet handbells and full handbells so I got in some activity.

I’m still doing a good job of getting up at 5am, too. It is working out well to get the Egoscue and work out done so early and then have time to do some reading or writing before starting work. But when I finally start trying to wake the others up at 8am it’s hard not to be a bit high handed since I’ve been up for 3 hours and have been so productive. 🙂

Eating habits haven’t been quite as good and I need to pay more attention there. As usual, what is in the house is pretty healthy, but it is too easy to eat too much during the day.

I went shopping for new jeans (the ones I have are just too tight and won’t fit again, it’s time to admit that). If I lose more around my waist, then I can buy another pair. It is fun to wear a comfortable pair of jeans.

I also feel the need to remind myself why I do what I do. It gets so hard some days and I just want to stay in bed longer and laze around without making myself sweat and push. But I need to take the long-term view and know that in addition to being good for me now, this will be good for me for many years to come. Putting it off won’t make it easier.

First, Egoscue. I do this to increase my flexibility and improve my posture. It really works. I started it to see if my sore rotator cuff would heal faster. Anthony started because his knee was hurting. He realized after starting the e-cises that his lower back stopped hurting. It adds another 20 to 30 minutes to my morning, so I have discovered audio books. Christianaudio.com has a free resource each month. In January, while doing my Egoscue e-cises I would listen to the Oswald Chambers biography. This month it is Not For Sale about the modern-day slave trade. The e-cises look easy but they can actually be a bit challenging, since they are trying to get my body to change. I enjoy seeing how much easier a position gets as the days pass.

Also for flexibility, I do power yoga. I started yoga when I was in New York, when I found that Beryl Bender Birch taught classes a few nights a week. I went fairly regularly and saw the potential, even though I saw little progress since I have so little flexibility. Since this is something I need so much, it becomes a lot of hard work and is the one thing I am most liable to want to skip. I also groan and grumble the most when doing my yoga. Which is not the mindfulness and attitude I should have. I have spent some time each year trying again, but this is the longest I’ve stayed pretty consistent with yoga. I started last summer (before I hurt my rotator cuff) and have done yoga almost every week since then. Currently I do yoga 2 or 3 times a week, with another form of cardio and strength training the other days.

Other strength/cardio workouts. We have an elliptical, a Bowflex, and PowerBlocks. I have done individual workouts, but find it hard to keep myself going hard enough to get a real cardio workout and find it hard to fit in both cardio and strength training, since I am already doing the Egoscue and yoga. So, right now I use videos. I have been working out with the Slim series by Debbie Siebers that I bought from BeachBody a few years ago. I enjoy her style and the exercises that we do. I have also done some Tony Horton workouts, also from BeachBody. In the next week I will be starting something new. I read this review on Health.com and I admit the comment about being able to charge up stairs without panting is exactly what I want. I know my breath support needs help. The actual PowerStrike website looks very interesting. I’m starting with an older DVD that I won on eBay yesterday. As soon as it arrives in the mail I’ll be trying it out.

thenewmegraphic1

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Convicting

While I was visiting the blog of a young woman who serves on a Mercy Ship (she’s home on leave right now) I found this video. The concept is very interesting. I thought I’d share.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/3214134[/vimeo]

Posting this from Vimeo

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Discussing Darfur

My EMBA class met again tonight. Last month we discussed the professional violinist who played in the Washington Metro. I agree with my friend that it wasn’t a fair test being in a spot where most people passing would have deadlines to meet, not time to stop and listen.

Today’s topic is Darfur and the genocide in that country.

One of the resources we used was the Council on Foreign Relations Crisis Guide on Darfur

This crisis guide plus the Council’s Special Report brings up the “responsibility to protect” principle first raised in 2001. This principle holds to the idea that mass atrocities in one state are the concern of all states. This principle was adopted at the UN World Summit in 2005. (I have my own opinions about the usefulness of the UN, very mixed results). The first part describes the obligations of a state to toward those living within their own borders. The second part addresses the responsibility of the rest of the world when a state fails in those obligations. This is recognized as a huge change in the attitude toward sovereignty, where the borders of a state were considered inviolable for 3 centuries. Now that sovereignty is conditional upon the behavior of the state.

There is legitimate concern with agreeing that other countries can interfere in a domestic issue, even if it should only apply to atrocities. Is this a good neighbor policy or a slippery slope? Have nations ever needed legitimate reasons when they’ve decided to jump into another country’s issues?

Also, is there capacity to address atrocities in other countries? The UN is already spread out over the globe and the US is pretty busy in Irag and Afghanistan and other places. China and Russia aren’t interested because they have conflicting interests. I also have to include that I’m ambivalent about the UN being the forum for this enforcement. They do not have a good reputation in the area of Peacekeeping, and addressing an atrocity inside a country’s border is quite challenging.

Another resource was a series of columns on Darfur in the NYT. What I have read is well written and provides good information and a compelling perspective. I read the column The Pain of the G-8’s Big Shrug with some interest. Nicholas Kristof does a good job bringing out the issue of genocide compared to other global poverty issues such as banditry, malaria, or AIDS. There is an urge to spend time and money solving issues we know how to fix, such as malaria and maternal mortality, rather than the messy and complex business of stopping genocide or even the civil conflict in Congo. The first thought I had, though, as I read these numbers being tossed about was abortion. According to the Guttmacher institute (who work with Pro-Abortion supporters such as Planned Parenthood for their numbers) there are between 42 and 46 million abortions worldwide each year. That number does put the 10 million to 12 million lives lost in genocides of the last 100 years in some perspective.

All of this fits in with the audio book I’m listening to this week, Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–and How We Can Fight It and the chapter I’m currently listening to on Uganda and the boys recruited into the LRA and the girls kidnapped and kept as sex slaves and servants. I was impressed to learn that World Vision has camps where they take the children who are rescued and works to help them recover and move on to a productive life. There is post-traumatic stress and shame and fear and shock and so much else, on top of the physical healing that is needed. Another organization that is doing great work in combating slavery is the International Justice Mission.

It’s all so big. Our group talked about trying to find a way to get involved and make a difference. Whether it’s helping refugee resettle in the US or donating to organizations that work in other countries, or letting our representatives know that what’s happening in Darfur is important to us, there are things we can do. I know the only thing that will make lasting change anywhere is for a spiritual awakening and more personal relationships with Christ and the basic needs must be met before people will hear the message.

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Love and Marriage

This week I’ve read a few good articles/blog entries by Sheila Wray Gregoire. I’ve been reading Sheila’s blog entries for about a month now and I find them very useful and smart. I just got her book Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight: Help for Women Who Want to Feel More In the Mood and plan to read it soon.

The first column I saw this week that caught my interest was over at Heart of the Matter where she does a great job of talking about how men and women think differently. It took me a while to figure out that I could take Anthony at face value and not have to worry about what he was thinking when he wasn’t talking (I’m still not used to the fact that someone may actually not be “thinking” about anything in particular at a point in time). Sheila’s column does a great job of pointing out we have to learn this, accept it, and then act on it. Stop being suspicious or pressuring for some piece of information that doesn’t exist.

Her blog entry over at …to Love, Honor and Vacuum was about love languages. We’ve read this book and discussed our own as well as those of some close relatives and friends. It is a great concept and does help understand someone who is different in how they give and receive love. Again, the trick is to use the knowledge once you’ve caught on. Anthony’s love language is time, especially time spent watching a movie (I’ve discovered that it is very hard to multi-task in a darkened room) or making love (he settles for a quickie sometimes ;-). Obviously, time is not my love language, unless we’re talking about giving me time alone to read. I struggle some times to sacrifice time spent on getting lots of things done so that I can just sit still and be with my husband.

My love language is gifts/acts of service and my husband has gotten pretty good at using that language for me. Yes, I’m admitting he’s a better person than I am. Or maybe he just has different priorities than I do, no need for multi-tasking or accomplishing a dozen different things in a day, he’s happy just getting 4 or 5 things done and having one or two of them be for me. And while he’s doing that act of service, he’s not grumbling about having to do stuff for me, or reviewing some list to see if I’ve done an equal number of things for him, or worrying that he won’t do it right and I’ll get mad. He’s just excited thinking how happy I will be when I find out he’s done this thing for me. Oh, Lord, let me be happy and let him know more often just how happy I am to spend time with him.

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This week’s question

questionoftheweekblogactually

The question this week:

Have you read any Christian classics? Which would you recommend and why? If you haven’t read any, why not? Are they too intimidating? Not enough time? Are any on your TBR pile?

Much like Becky, the first classics to come to mind that I have read are Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Hinds’ Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard, and The Christian’s Secret Of A Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith. I actually haven’t made it through The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, but I did just finish Mere Christianity and I have read The Great Divorce.

I have also read The Attributes of God by Arthur Pink and a few books by A. W. Tozer. I have also read In His Steps by Charles Sheldon, Practicing His Presence by Brother Lawrence, and and Frank Laubach’s letters. I have also read The Compete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer.

In my TBR pile for this year I have The Confessions by Augustine, On Incarnation by Athanasius, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and Writings by Thomas Aquinas. At some point I also want to read The Dark Night of the Soul.

While I think the classics have a lot of benefit, I also read more current books such as Desiring God and others by John Piper and books by R. C. Sproul. I plan to come back from the Ligonier Fall Conference with a stack of new books to read.

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