One of the mixed blessings of living in 21st century America is that we have an enormous selection of books about Christianity and countless blogs about Christian living. Some good, some great, some…….not so much.
If you’re anything like me, you get a little overwhelmed by all of the choices sometimes!
With so many options it’s hard to know where to start. I thought maybe we could help each other with that.
For this Friday’s post, I thought we’d focus on favorite CONTEMPORARY Christian books. This category is somewhat nebulous, but if it was published after 2000, we’re going to call it contemporary. I realize that seems awfully recent, but with as many books as come out each year, having 11 years of contemporary books to talk about will still give us a huge selection.
So that is my (completely arbitrary) definition of contemporary for this post.
My pick for this category:
For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn: I found this book incredibly insightful, as have other women I’ve talked to. While only God can save/improve a marriage, I think He’s using this book as a powerful tool in the process for many people.
I’d also recommend For Men Only (also by Feldhahn). My husband liked this book, and the two of them together gave us some interesting things to talk about.
One caveat: There are some things in these books that could be tricky, but valuable, to talk about. Any discussion with our husbands about these books should be done prayerfully and with the utmost consideration for their feelings.
So, what’s your favorite contemporary Christian book? (Feel free to tell us why, too!)
Get a Free Book!: Next Friday, I’ll randomly draw a name from those who leave comments on this post and send that person For Women Only. I’ll announce the winner in next Friday’s blog – when we’ll be talking about favorite Christian classics!
Happy Friday, everyone!
Below are the requests for the week. Please take just a minute to pray for these requests. If you would, please leave a quick comment – “praying” as a comment is sufficient – so the ladies making these requests can see they’re being prayed for.
Remember: if you have a prayer request for the week, you can put it in the comments below OR email it to me by Monday night, so I can put it up on Wednesday. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thanks, everyone, for making this sort of encouragement possible!
1. A family member is facing a big decision. Please pray that she would be able to discern God’s Will.
2. Another family member is trying to figure how many outside activities are too many for her family. Please pray for God’s wisdom as she and her husband try to make the right decisions for their family.
So, we all know that unsolicited advice is rude, but what if I call it a “suggestion,” instead of advice? Then it’s fine, right?
Working on that (admittedly shaky) premise, I thought it would be fun to use Fridays as sort of a catch-all day of things I’d like to talk about (and hopefully, in the future, things YOU want to talk about). I was going to save this particular topic for a later week, but a discussion with a friend yesterday reminded me how much I like this topic. So, first topic: quotations……
I love quotes! I have one for each week on the syllabus I give my freshman students. It relates loosely to the topics of the week — and it’s usually something that I think is good advice/information. Do they notice these quotes? I have no idea. Do they read them each week and ponder the great truths I’m passing on to them? I doubt it. But maybe some of them read one occasionally. Maybe the quotes I choose make a handful of students think about something new. Maybe.
To encourage them to think about (what I think are) awesome quotes, the final exams in my freshman classes often involve choosing a quote from a list of about six and defending or disputing the quote’s truth/usefulness/etc., using the texts we’ve read over the course of the semester. I like this particular assignment because it asks them to synthesize new information with things they’ve already studied. It also lets me evaluate how well they can make an argument and juggle multiple texts in an essay. So it’s a win-win on the critical thinking/writing front.
I will not be assigning an essay in the post today (bummer, I know) — but I will pass on some quotes I like! (These aren’t necessarily my “favorite” quotes – labeling something as my “favorite” quote is way too much pressure! But they’re all quotes I like.)
I had a really hard time narrowing it down to five (which was the arbitrary limit I put on myself).
Some of these are explicitly Christian, but others are not. I think they all, however, provide some insight on the types of lives Christians should live OR provide some insight on the world in which we all live.
John 15:4 (Jesus speaking): Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Mother Teresa: We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.
Thomas Aquinas: The things that we love tell us who we are.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Wisdom is found only in truth.
Charles Barkley: These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me. They won’t make you rebound like me. They definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.
So, what’s your favorite quote? Or if “favorite” is too much pressure: What quote(s) do you like? (Feel free to explain why!) Maybe some of your quotes will find their way onto the final exam of my students! I’m sure they’ll be very grateful.
(Side/Unrelated note: I had each quote in an awesome font, but wordpress took the fonts away. Do any of you fellow wordpress-ians know how to use various fonts in posts?)
Hi, y’all. I was thinking it would be nice if we could share prayer requests on Wednesday. That way people who come to the blog can pray for these requests. Even if it’s a quick prayer, I think the idea of people all over praying for these requests would be awesome.
This week, I’ll put two requests I have. In the comments, you can just leave a quick comment letting me know you’re praying, if you’re willing to pray for that request. That way we can all see that people are really praying for these requests.
You can also leave your own prayer request in the comments.
In the future, I’d like to post other peoples’ prayer requests on Wednesdays. So, if you have a prayer request for the week, email it to me by that Monday night, so I can put it up on Wednesday. (Email: email@example.com)
I think prayer is a very powerful tool, and I think it’s encouraging to know that other people – even people you don’t know – are praying for you.
So, my requests for this week (I’m sorry these are vague, but I’m almost positive none of these people would want to be identified):
1. Two lovely friends of mine are going through a very discouraging time. Please pray that they would be encouraged and that they would feel God’s peace during this time.
2. A dear young man is in need of guidance from God. Please pray that God would continue to pursue him – and that he would be open to that pursuit.
Thanks, everyone! (And please send your requests by Monday so I can post them next Wednesday.)
In the last post, we talked about putting God in front of everything else in our lives. Today, we’re going to look, specifically, at giving him the first fruits of our time/energy. Below are some questions that should help us start evaluating this area.
1. What do I spend my time/energy on? (Really think about each moment of your day. Even the mundane stuff.)
2. How much of my time/energy do I give to God and God alone? (That is, how much time do you have with just God. Not prayers-on-the-go (although these are good). How much time do you spend just fellowshipping with God?)
3. During how much of my other time am I in communication with God? (How often during the day do you seek God’s guidance?)
4. From what areas of my time/energy have I excluded God? (This is a hard question to think about, but I think it’s an important one.) When during my day am I most disconnected from God? During what activities do I least seek God?
5. What part of my time/energy is used in a way that I haven’t consulted with God about? (I think this is another important one. What commitments or routines do you have that you haven’t asked God about? What do you take for granted as “part of your day” that God might want changed?)
Of course, all of these questions have to be answered prayerfully. If you’re open to it, God will reveal areas where He’d like to be more involved in your life.
Although it can seem hard to carve out time with God from our busy schedules, time with God is never wasted. Consider this scene from Jesus’s visit to His good friends’ (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus) house (Luke 10:38-42):
As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
So much is going on in this little passage, but for now, we’ll focus on how the two women were using their time: Martha was making preparations for an incredibly important guest (and His crowd) — I think if Jesus were coming to visit us, most of us would be very busy with preparations. And think of all those last minute things that Martha was probably scrambling to get done during this passage!
Mary, however, is sitting at Jesus’s feet, listening. Not helping Martha. And Jesus commends Mary’s choice to leave all the work to her sister!? Not exactly. Jesus commends Mary’s choice to spend time with Him. He doesn’t want Martha to be left with all the work — He wants her to spend time with Him, too.
If I were Martha, I’m pretty sure my jaw would drop when He said Mary had made a better choice about what to do with her time. Here I was SERVING Him, and Mary gets the praise?
Is it possible that Jesus would like you to spend more time at His feet and less time on yours? Over the next few days, try to spend more time with Jesus — even if it means something else doesn’t get done. Make the choice that can’t be taken away from you.
If you’re struggling with a particular aspect of giving your time to God, please feel free to share in the comments below (or in an email, if you’re more comfortable with that: firstname.lastname@example.org). If you’ve been successful at giving God the first fruits of your time, please share some of your strategies below!
A question I’ve wrestled with for a long time: What does it look like to be fully submitted to God?
This post is one of my attempts at sorting that out. My prayer is that some of what I’m thinking about might be helpful to some of you as well — and/or that some of you might have something wonderful to add that I’ve missed! (I welcome your questions and insights. Please comment below!)
I think one place we can look to start understanding what full submission to God looks like is the two greatest commandments — found in Matthew 22 and Mark 12. Matthew 22:37-40 reads:
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.”
Love God with all you are.
Love others as you love yourself.
And what does that look like? Perhaps a better question: What is love?
Biblically, love is unselfishness. It is putting God before everything and putting others before ourselves. It is not, as my husband puts it, having the warm fuzzies for something. The English language uses a single word for love, but the Greeks had several words for love. They would use different words based on the type of love they were talking about.
Now, however, our language lumps everything into the same “love” pile: I love pizza. I love football. I love to teach. I love The Office. I love God.
Because we have only one word for love, we run the risk of minimizing what it means to love God.
What I mean when I say “I love The Office” is that I think the show is hilarious, the characters well-developed and well acted. I mean I enjoy watching the show. I mean I generally get a good feeling when watching the show. Notice the “I” in all of those statements. The way I love The Office is entirely tied up in how I feel about it, what I get out of it. My love for The Office is an entirely selfish one. If I stopped thinking it was funny or if I just didn’t enjoy it as much anymore, I’d stop watching it. I’d stop loving The Office if it stopped providing me with what I wanted.
Is this the same love we offer God? Does “I love God” mean that I think God has good characteristics? Does it mean that I enjoy being with God? Does it mean that I generally get a good feeling when I’m with God? Can my love for God be defined in almost entirely “I-centric” ways? If so, then the rest is true too: If I stop feeling like God has good characteristics or if I stop enjoying God, then I’d stop spending time with him. I’d stop loving Him if He stopped providing me with what I wanted.
That’s not the kind of love we’re called to in the Bible. In the verses about the greatest commandments, love means putting the needs of someone else ahead of our own. Love in this sense is, essentially, unselfishness.
So, if I mean that I love The Office in the Biblical sense of the word, then I would put watching it above anything else in my life; I would do whatever was in the best interests of the characters/actors; I would spend as much time with it as possible. I think we’d all agree, that’d be pretty weird. But, Biblically loving God and others does involve putting them above anything else in my life, doing whatever is in their best interests, and spending as much time with them as possible.
So, you can see why the fact that we only have one English word for “love” can cause confusion. It can also dull our senses to what it means to really LOVE God. When we’re so used to saying how much we love reading or shopping or the color blue, saying we “love” God isn’t something we necessarily give a lot of critical thought to.
My challenge for all of us this weekend is to start giving some critical thought to it.
Ask yourself: Can I honestly say that I love God (that is, that I put God in front of everything and everyone else in my life)? Can I honestly say that the first fruits of my time, energy, money, etc. are directed at Him? Which of these areas is the most difficult for me to give to God? Why? In what areas might God be asking me to become more fully submitted? (Please comment below.)
I would encourage you to answer these questions honestly. God already knows the answers — and it will be beneficial for your walk with Him, if you know the answers too. Knowing the answers will help you restructure any parts of your life that aren’t in line with loving God.
So this weekend hopefully some of you will join me in looking honestly and critically at what we mean when we say “I love God.”
In the next few posts (next one coming up on Monday!), we’ll break these areas of submission down further. (And I’ll share one of the ways God asked me to more fully submit to Him.)
To read the next post, click here: (becoming) fully submitted, part 2
Saw this quote on a friend’s facebook page. Loved it. Thought I’d share it.
I love the encouragement this quote provides: that whatever our season of life, God has us here for a reason. Our service to Him, even if it seems small or insignificant to us, is our way of demonstrating our faithfulness! Awesome.
“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
― Elisabeth Elliot
goal of this blog: I’d like to create a community of believing women who uplift each other and encourage one another in all areas of their lives. My hope is that this blog can create a network of women who can seek each others’ counsel, knowing that their honest questions and struggles will be met with love, compassion, and encouragement. [Please see the “About” section for more on this.]
why i think this is an important goal: I think Christian women need encouragement from a strong system of other Christian women. I think women’s natural tendencies towards gossip and insecurity often undermine our relationships with each other and with others around us (husbands, kids, unbelieving friends). I think solid connections with other women who are trying to walk with God can combat this type of culture and instead refocus women’s talkative tendencies towards communicating effectively and lovingly, and refocus their insecurities towards a reliance on God and a recognition of others’ worth.
how i’d like to meet this goal: By posting entries on Mondays (maybe more once the blog gets established?) designed to promote discussion, interaction, and action in our lives. Most of the posts will have a specific challenge associated with them. I think a mistake many of us make is talking about changes we need to make — but never making them. (I know I’m guilty of this!) My hope is that you’ll share your successes and roadblocks in the comment section under each entry. You never know how encouraging your situation might be to another woman!
why i believe it’s important for lots of people to contribute to a blog like this: Because we all have different experiences, we can all offer each other different things. I can get a discussion going, perhaps, but I can’t offer what each unique woman who reads the post can offer. This idea of everyone contributing their ideas is Biblical, as well. In 1 Corinthians 14:26 we’re told: “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” How can your unique talents and experiences strengthen this community of believing women?
first challenge: What would you most like to get from a blog like this? What do you think a community of women trying to live for God could offer you? What might you be able to offer that community? Please post your answers in the comment section of this post. Which of your friends might enjoy a blog like this? Send her the link!
Want to read more?
Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife
Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward
Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful
Are you a worrier? Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier