I received a copy of "Runaway Radical: When Doing Good Goes Wrong," by Amy Hollingsworth and Jonathan Hollingsworth, from Family Christian Stores for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
And great news! Family Christian has offered to give away THREE copies of this book to some of my readers. You may enter to win a copy at the end of this article.
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Recovering Pharisee.” I’ve used it myself. For the individual (like me at times) trying to quit being so legalistic in his or her faith walk.
What it means for me, when I use the term, is that I’m done following a set of rules. That list of do’s and don’ts I created in order to ensure Jesus would love me.
Because following a rulebook to the letter can’t make Him love me any more than He already does.
In the book, “Runaway Radical: When Doing Good Goes Wrong,” Jonathan Hollingsworth and his mother tell their very personal story about a different form of legalism.
The radical call to do good is how legalism gets to young people who couldn’t be tricked any other way. It’s the gateway to my generation, Jonathan said. What we are talking about is an ancient evil, not a new fad with a shelf life of a couple of years. Legalism doesn’t fade; it just reinvents itself. I only carried the ideals of the radical movement to their logical conclusion, followed legalism to its only end. And it always ends in some kind of ruin. It always ends in despair.
This is a lesson Jonathan learned the hard way. Jonathan grew up in a Christian home. A member of a generation hungry for social justice. They see through fake and long for ways to genuinely serve God and others. According to Jonathan,
My biggest fear is that I will fail to give God the glory he is due.
After spending a while in college, Jonathan decided to do some mission work before continuing his pursuit of a degree. He spent time first in Honduras, then prepared to spend a year in Africa.
This book tells the horrifying story of what happened to him in Africa. Going on this mission trip seemed the natural next step to a lifestyle Jonathan had been embracing. In the words of his mother:
Jonathan began to pray that God would pass him over, would allot his blessings to others. He said that the first twenty years of his life had been so blessed that he could be miserable for the rest of his life and still be grateful.
He got rid of practically everything he owned. At home, he slept in his closet after getting rid of his bed. He journaled on his closet wall; references to Scripture, quotes from saints and books he’d been reading.
His first few months in Cameroon seemed to go well. He made good contacts and had the freedom to do work he found satisfying. He regularly communicated with his family.
After a while though, what he couldn’t tell his family because he was so closely monitored, was how restrictive his life had become. A long list of dos and don’ts kept him under a house arrest of sorts. Thousands of miles away from home.
Finally, his parents were able to piece together the SOS their son kept trying to send. What started out as a mission trip to do good had turned into a nightmare. His mother writes:
Desperate to get Jonathan out of Africa, we considered every possibility; Do we get the State Department involved? Do we fly to Cameroon ourselves? A church offered to buy Jonathan a new ticket. A pastor friend offered to fly over and retrieve him under the cover of night. Finally Jonathan’s church, where he served as youth leader, stepped in and secured his release home.
I kept asking myself, “How did this normal Christian family end up having to consider these questions? Is this what Jesus meant by take up your cross and follow me?”
After Jonathan returned from his mission trip to Africa, he had to put his life back together somehow. He needed to cogitate what had actually happened to him. He had to figure out what to do next with his life. Obviously his purpose, his faith, had been redefined.
This book was part of that process. Even though it was difficult and brought up things neither mother nor son wanted to face, it helped them process all they’d lived through.
Near the end of the book, Jonathan shares this discovery,
The legalism I rejected proclaimed, ‘Look how good I am because of what I don’t do.’ the legalism I accepted proclaimed, ‘Look how good I am because of what I do.’ But the latter is just as shallow as the former. Both are self serving. Both say, ‘Look at me.’
What Jonathan ultimately realized is what every recovering Pharisee needs to realize.
If it was legalism that shut me out, it was grace that snuck me in.
It trended on Twitter. I saw it on my newsfeed probably a dozen times on Facebook. The black ink on the printing press had barely been applied to the newspapers and magazines by the time the whole world knew...
Princess Kate had her baby! Our entire world shared in the excitement. Baby Charlotte carried on the name Diana. We all wept. The royal family posed for a picture perfect portrait like ten minutes after Kate gave birth. We all said, “Whaaaa?”
I grew up thinking I wanted to be a princess. While Aurora and Cinderella didn’t exactly make it look easy, in the end they got their prince and that made everything totally worth it.
Happily. Ever. After.
But I’ve had a few doses of reality over the years. I now realize that, as a friend of mine told me once, "The grass may look greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it.”
I received a copy of Isabella: Braveheart of France, written by Colin Falconer from NetGalley for the purpose of generating a review. This book released in April 2015. Italicized quotes from this point on are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
I read Isabella with this notion in mind. Betrothed at eight, then at the ripe old age of twelve, a princess of France marries the King of England. Because that’s how things were done in the 1300’s. Her father’s parting words to her offered this advice:
King Philippe: You will love this man. Do you understand? You will love him, serve him, and obey him in all things. This is your duty to me and to France. Am I clear?
Queen Isabella spent her entire life trying to honor these words.
Even though it was very clear King Edward was incapable of fully loving her back. When his interest lied elsewhere.
Queen Isabella: "A woman might have private longings, but if she is royal, she cannot indulge them, no matter how she burns for more."
All the times she questioned his actions as King. Indeed, harboring private thoughts that perhaps, even though royal blood ran through his veins, he was not cut out to be king at all.
King Edward: "I sometimes think it would be better as a foundling than a prince," he says. “Let me have a day working in the field, some mead at night, and a few prayers. I think it should not be such a bad life."
Yet, in spite of these grievances, Isabella shows herself to be a survivor.
Queen Isabella: “I am a queen. I want my place at the council and at the king’s side, and if he will not give it to me, I will force his hand. He will see that I am no coward.”
If you’re a historical fiction fan, like me, you’ll appreciate this book. Author Colin Falconer does an excellent job of making you feel like he’s right there living in the era and journaling back to you.
Also, if you’ve convinced yourself that Princess Kate really did feel like a million dollars ten minutes after giving birth. If you somehow think a princess has it SO easy, you need to read this book.
One of the biggest challenges in blogging is prioritizing your time. On the days I blog, I usually put in about four hours a day. Of course, with our smartphones, this isn’t an accurate assessment of my time. I can, and do, reply to blog comments an emails and social media posts all hours of every day. But when I set aside this specific time to blog, here are some examples of things I do:
Respond to emails.
Read other blogs (approximately 12-15 coming from Twitter, various Facebook groups I participate in and blogs I subscribe to via email).
Write an article. This includes doing any research needed. Tracking down photos that assist in telling the story. Then share the post on Pinterest, Twitter and FB in multiple places. If it’s a book review, I email it to the right contacts, share it on Netgalley and post it on Amazon.
Interact with Facebook and Twitter communities. Try to grow my number of likes and follows (which gives me the heebie jeebies to think of me trying to recruit followers - please not me, but Jesus).
Consider sharing articles on various blog link-ups and a handful of blogging communities I read regularly.
Look for new books to review. If there is one area of my life where I need to learn about discipline....
I haven’t made a single dime blogging but it has become real work for me. You might be wondering Why do I put in all this time? I’m so glad you asked.
God made me a writer and I told you about that here. As far back as second grade, I remember having a passion for putting a pencil to a blank piece of paper and recording a story. I love a blank piece of paper. Some will tell you it intimidates them. Not me. The possibilities are endless when you sit down to a blank page.
I didn't grow up wanting to be a blogger, which probably goes without saying since the first memory I have of the Internet is in college when I received my very first email address. But I did grow up wanting to teach. That has taken various forms over the years and I wrote a bit about that here.
A truth I internalized deep within. I have lots and lots and lots of questions (what is the name of Noah’s wife for example) but I know God loves me and sent His Son to die for my sins like I know I need to keep breathing in order to keep living.
This knowledge has changed me. The Holy Spirit at work in my life since I was seven years old has taught me:
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)
And I think your life will be changed, for the better, the more you realize Jesus loves you as well. In fact, the more we all realize this, the better off our world will be. Thy kingdom come. Hallelujah. That’s the reason why I write and teach. For Him. For you.
My blog meets with success when I help each reader draw one step closer to Jesus.
The authors who have read my reviews and received encouragement because I could see they’re doing exactly what God would have them to do right now.
The lady who decided she’d try church one more time because I reminded her she’s never alone in God’s house.
The number of people who join me in learning about church liturgy, feasts and holy days. Wondering why on earth we didn’t know about these ways of focusing on Jesus before now?
The folks I read the Bible with every single day. We learn together. Growing ever closer to Jesus as we realize He was always God’s plan for us since before the beginning.
Yesterday, I added a new piece to my blogging efforts. After considering all the different things I could do, I decided on this one. Another way that I hope will center us on Jesus. Calling us back to Him in the midst of our very busy days.
Sacred Spaces. An email I plan to send out to my subscribers 2-3 times a month. Each email includes a photo of a place where we worship along with a few words reminding us of our holy God. Nothing complex or lengthy. A simple way to help us remember.
Here’s the very first one.
I’ll be very honest here when I tell you it’s hard to separate blogging from the numbers game. I have no idea where this blogging thing will take me. Already, it's provided some wild opportunities and introduced me to some amazing people. I do trust God to do His work through the words He lays on my heart. But it’s a whole lot of fun to see the numbers grow or to hear how stories impact lives.
So, yes, part of the reason I’m sending out these emails is to grow my email subscription numbers. But I pray it always goes hand in hand with the real reason I write. I know we could all benefit from drawing one step closer to Jesus.
I'm pleased to be partnering with Family Christian Stores for this Pentecost post. While the post is sponsored, the opinions expressed here are my own.
Maybe, like me, you’ll need a working definition before you can consider observing the season of Eastertide. According to wikipedia,
Eastertide is the period of fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.
A simple definition. As I've learned more about this season, I wonder why more Christians don't observe these fifty days? Why do we celebrate as David did only one day a year - on Resurrection Sunday?
Oh yes, I’ll dance to God’s glory—more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned . . . I’ll gladly look like a fool . . . (1 Samuel 6:22a - The Message)
Photo Credit: Mars Hill Church Seattle
This year I decided to extend the celebration. A blogging friend of mine had partnered with a graphic design artist to make some beautifully illustrated 3x5 cards helping readers commemorate Eastertide. Each morning, before my daily Bible reading, I would read the simple thought on one of these cards. Except they weren’t that simple. We considered the Resurrection through the eyes of Mary, the first person at the tomb. Lazarus, who had firsthand experience with resurrection. Thomas, Peter, John and other followers of Jesus. Often, these cards would provide food for thought throughout my whole day.
For example, the resurrected Christ walked on this earth for forty days before His ascension into glory. On those days I read words like these:
We are Easter people, the empty tomb always in the back of our minds, in every season. But at Easter, we are also Advent, Lent, Epiphany, and Good Friday people. This is how we are whole. (Cara Strickland)
He said my name, just my name. My broken heart leapt. There was no time to be tentative with joy. (a reflection on John 20:16 - Cara Strickland)
And this week, remembering the ten days after Christ left this earth, ascending into heaven. The final days leading up to Pentecost. When God told believers once and for all eternity, I will never leave you nor forsake you. When the Holy Spirit took up residence. In us. I shared some of my own reflections on Twitter:
Tweet: I'm thankful we have one another. Our Lord and Savior has ascended but together we can remember. #Ascension #Pentecost #PentecostSunday
For fifty days, I’ve extended my Resurrection Sunday celebration. The first few chapters of Acts leapt off the page in my mind as I put myself in the sandals of these early followers.
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. Acts 1:9
It heightened my worship. Remembering what Jesus had done on the cross. Celebrating that glorious empty tomb. These facts remained at the forefront of my thoughts. For almost fifty days now, I’ve had good reason to celebrate.
We used to sing a song in the little country church where I grew up.
Give me that old time religion, give me old time religion, give me that old time religion, it’s good enough for me.
Photo Credit: denisbin
Not once did I sing this song thinking of liturgy or holy days or seasons of the church. But I do now. I’m learning to rely on these church practices to help me remember. To right my focus. For thousands of years, the church has encouraged believers to observe festivals and days and weeks to focus on all God has done for us through His Son. When life is calling at me from a dozen other directions, these practices bring me back to the crucifixion. The Resurrection. I’m reminded (again) we serve a risen Savior.
Family Christian has some great resources to help you and your family learn more about Eastertide and Pentecost Sunday. I hope you’ll consider extending your Easter traditions along with me.
Children’s Activities for the Christian Year - This book offers teaching for elementary students all throughout the church year, not just Eastertide. It would be excellent for children's ministers or homeschool educators.
The Feast of Pentecost DVD Bible Study - I have my eye on this one. This study explains how our Pentecost ties in with the biblical feast celebration that occurs at the same time.
Acts: Seeing God’s Power in Action - I've done several of these LifeGuide studies. They're not too lengthy but provide good insight. This study is just one example of many that Family Christian offers. What better way to understand the giving of the Holy Spirit than learning about the mission field He fueled?
Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season - Here's one example of a book you can just keep out beyond Resurrection Sunday. These excerpts from well-known Christian authors would make for excellent reading during these fifty days of reflection.
The Resurrection of the Son of God - He's oh so deep but good. I've read a few articles online that NT Wright wrote in support of observing Eastertide. In this book, he walks readers through the intricate details of the resurrection.
Pentecost: Season of Power (with CD) - Again, no need to put away your Resurrection Sunday music quite yet. CDs like this one can help you remember during Eastertide. We can keep singing "I know my Redeemer lives!"
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
“Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss
This Dr. Seuss book is a popular one this time of year. Bookstores dust off their copies, order a few more to be safe and create an endcap display.
I was gifted my own copy for graduation a few years back. OK, quite a few years back. Its message is good and true.
I received a copy of Let the Journey Begin: Finding God's Best For Your Life by Max Lucado from Family Christian Stores for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes from this point on are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
But when I considered what gift I wanted for our graduate friend, I knew I wanted to give her something that would help her remember our faith.
Looking back on my own college years, I recall how important it was to visit all those new churches. To be the awkward guest, away from my church community for the first time. I found fellowship in every church. I was welcomed into the family of God universal and to this day I’m thankful.
The habit of fellowship: ‘Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another.’ You need support. You need what the Bible calls fellowship. And you need it every week.
When I go to our friend's graduation party this spring, I’m going to gift her this new book, “Let the Journey Begin: Finding God's Best For Your Life,” by Max Lucado. Using excerpts from his previous books, this collection layout reads like a devotional. It offers Scripture or other quotes for focus. Followed by short stories for reflection. A perfect send-off for any graduate.
Now, for the young lady we’re celebrating this year, she’s a musical type as well. I wanted to show off my eclectic music savvy (of which I have none) so I asked a good friend of mine for advice on a CD I could include with this gift to make it complete.
So, we’ll send her off with a song in her heart and the Word of God on her nightstand. In the words of Max Lucado himself:
Let God have you, and let God love you - and don't be surprised if your heart begins to hear music you've never heard and your feet learn to dance as never before.