The Vertical Self

The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers

If you’re looking for a self-help, Dr. Phil approach to finding your untapped potential and personality, this book isn’t it. And truthfully, I can think of no higher praise to offer Mark Sayers.

If you are looking for a Christian perspective not just on western culture, but on the effects of western culture on the Church and on the individual, then you need to add this book to your library and you need to read it with pen, paper and sticky notes close by.  Sayers cuts through all of the pomp and splendor of our concepts of “image” and challenges us to begin the search for our true self, which is often difficult and frustrating.

I’ve read so many books that talk about our desires and why we are the way we are and…et cet. But this is the first book I’ve read that ends with a clear teaching about holiness, peace, sanctification, and becoming our redeemed selves.

For more information about this book, please visit the Thomas Nelson product page for The Vertical Self.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program.

Facing Your Giants

Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado

Notice the “s”? This isn’t simply another retelling of the David and Goliath story.  Lucado walks us through the story of David’s life, of the numerous giants he faced, of his successes, his failures, and the God who was with him through it all. In classic Lucado voice—gentle and encouraging, we hear the message loud and clear: “Focus on giants—you stumble. Focus on God—your giants tumble.”

Other reviewers have noted how quick a read this book is, but I would encourage you to read it one chapter at a time, thoughtfully working through the study guide at the end. I have read several of Lucado’s books in my twenty-some years, and none have ever resonated so deeply and so consistently within me. Whether you are tending sheep, charging Goliath, fleeing Saul, exhausted at Brook Besor, or plotting Uriah’s death, Lucado reminds us to keep our eyes on God.  Our giants today may not look exactly like David’s did; we face poverty, depression, addictions—but Lucado shows us that our giants are all the same. And more importantly, our God is the same.

I give Lucado five stars on this. With the frustrations and worries facing Americans today (war, finances, addictions, abuse, etc.), this book is an excellent reminder of where our hope lies and who our closest friend is.

For more information about this book, please visit the Thomas Nelson product page for Facing Your Giants.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program.


Just Another Hymnal

Well, the book sale was wonderful, but mostly a bust. I didn’t find a single book on my list! I did find some goodies, though. And in spite of the fact that I already have several different hymnals, I couldn’t resist the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal in the Music section! She was calling to me, “Sarah! Sarah! Take me home with you!” I’m not embarrassed by my choice. You cannot, as a rule, have too much music.

I was working through the hymnal last night and found several hymns I was unfamiliar with, several that were older than most of the hymns I know. Look at this one:

O gladsome Light, O grace
of God the Father’s face,
the eternal splendor wearing;
celestial, holy, blest,
our Savior Jesus Christ,
joyful in thine appearing.

Now, ere day falleth quite,
we see the evening light,
our wonted hymn outpouring;
Father of might unknown,
thee, his incarnate Son,
and Holy Spirit adoring.

To thee of right belongs
all praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Life-giver;
thee, therefore, O Most High,
the world doth glorify,
and shall exalt for ever.

This song is from the 3rd century and its author is unknown. It is beautiful. I was astounded that a hymn of the Church could have survived so long. Most of the hymns we sing today are only a few hundred years old–and even those seem ancient to us! But here is a song the Church was singing in the 3rd century, and it blew my mind. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with the bigness of history and of the Church.

It can be so easy to forget that the Church is more vast than right here and right now; that there really is “a cloud of witnesses.” The notion that somehow we are able to sing the same worship and praise that Christians sang in the 3rd century just overwhelmed me with a sense of both my smallness in the scheme of things and also my being surrounded by so many Believers.

It also made me wonder what songs we would add to our hymnals as history unfolds. There has been this incredible transition in some churches, moving away from “hymns” and preferring something more “modern.” But aren’t most hymns “modern” to their time? So what songs would we add to “O For A Thousand Tongues” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Doxology”? What songs of adoration will be remembered from the Church today?

Any thoughts?

Pax Domini.

Semmie

Marvelous, Glorious, Wonderful Books!

Books!

Marvelous, glorious, wonderful books!

That’s right, folks! Books, books, books! There’s a book sale at the public library next weekend and my stoked-o-meter has already overheated and melted the nice plastic stoked-0-meter pointer doodad!

Books. Oh, glorious books! My heart is overwhelmed with such hope and anticipation! Books make things happen. They bring random thoughts together and birth ideas you never knew you had. Books are magical. Really, they are! Have you ever considered the time and thought and blood (I’m not joking) that a stranger would put into a book just for the sake of communicating something to you? Really, have you thought about that? Most of us these days are bloggers at the least; even those who don’t blog keep updates on twitter and other social networking sites. How hard is it to write something memorable? And that’s just 140 characters long!

The incredible skill required to write a book cannot be overstated (though, you wouldn’t know it from some of the garbage being published nowadays, would you?). The ability to communicate effectively with a faceless, nameless audience is–I’m convinced–an insanely passionate and compelling force, rather than a simple desire to see one’s own words in print. And most days, writing is more like dry-heaving–empty and unsatisfying (at least, it is for me)–than mining for gold.

But even dry-heavers are worth reading. And even dry-heavers deserve credit for spending so much time on their knees, gagging into the porcelain.

And books, even poorly written, are to be loved. Just like people, who sometimes come from odd or unsavorly circumstances, each tells a story. Each is a story.

Come on! Get excited with me! How can you not be excited, when Sunday will be the great $2 Paper Bag Event? Everything I can fit into a paper bag for $2! That’s a steal, my friends; a steal. So come. Tell me which books to be on the lookout for. This is your one opportunity to try and influence my reading habits. Here’s my list so far:

  • Anything Jane Austen
  • Anything C.S. Lewis
  • Anything G.K. Chesterton (because, as a rule, you can never have too much Chesterton, Lewis, or Austen. Trust me on this; I have a Chesterton to give away. Don’t let me forget.)
  • The Temple: Its Ministry and Services (I know…good luck finding Edersheim at a public library; but I have to try!)
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Lenin, Stalin, & Hitler: The Age of Catastrophe
  • Wuthering Heights (I know! Can you believe I haven’t read this?)
  • Mandie Books. Right, stop laughing. I was reading them as a young girl, but unfortunately, I grew up faster than Mandie did. Lois Gladys Leppard left me off in the middle of Europe.
  • Have I mentioned how much I love making lists? I really do.

So what do you say? Do you have any book suggestions for me?

Did I mention the part where I get to shove as many books as possible into a paper bag for only $2??? Oh, yeah, baby. :D

    The Church

    At the beginning of December, I asked several questions about the Church in a post titled “All About Me.” I want to return to this topic for a few moments because it remains heavy on my heart and mind. I welcome (to be read “I beg for”) thoughts and questions that might stir up additional thoughts and questions that might bring me closer to being able to answer these issues.

    I was reviewing my notes from A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, and I stumbled upon this statement:

    We Christians are the Church and whatever we do is what the Church is doing. The matter, therefore, is for each of us a personal one. Any forward step in the Church must begin with the individual.

    It blew my mind away for the second time. It seems like such an obvious truth, but how often do we step back and look at the Church without realizing that we are the Church? If we would have the Church be more loving, then it must begin with ourselves. If we would have the Church be more accountable, then it must begin with ourselves. If we would have the Church be more reverent, then it must begin with ourselves.

    That’s heavy.

    The Church is not some abstract concept of super-elite Saints. The Church is me. The Church is you. The Church is us. Rich Mullins once said that the scary thing about the Church is that God doesn’t have a Plan B–we are it. We are His plan to share the redemptive love of Christ with the world.

    It strikes me today that God gives us dreams for this reason. Not that we would be able to serve only those of like faith, but that we would be a light to the world among our friends, our families, our co-workers, and the world. And whether we realize it or not, we are in a constant state of testimony. Our words, our actions, our attitudes are continually speaking to what we truly believe about Christ. Who knows what lives you are touching in the course of the day?

    “The Church” isn’t just what happens on Sundays. “The Church” isn’t just doctrine and traditions. “The Church” is every day, every minute, living, breathing, being changed into His likeness, sharing the Good News that our Savior has come.

    You are the Church.

    I am the Church.

    So. What is the Church doing?

    Pax Christi.

    Semmie

    The Emotional God

    Have you ever been called an “emotional” person? I have been. It always gives me pause when someone says that, because I have to think, “so, what? You don’t have emotions? Okay, super-human, un-feeling, freak-oid!” Of course, I would never say those things, but really? There are people who are not emotional? Come on! What they mean to say, I think, and are trying desperately to avoid saying so they won’t offend me, is that they are uncomfortable with my emotions, or they think I am governed somehow by these emotions.

    Hey folks, if there’s one thing I’m not–it’s governed by my emotions. I feel enormous feelings, I won’t deny that. And I know that some of you secretly roll your eyes at my enormous attachment to my feelings. But I think it’s silly to be otherwise. Why would God give us emotions unless they were meant to be felt? And how often has our society taught us to ignore our emotions, just “suck it up” and not deal with what is right there in our own hearts?

    And ironically, I think we serve a God who is emotional, as well. Last year, when I read Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy, one idea I kept stumbling back upon was the reality that God is not any one thing. Everything that God is, is God. So when we deny that God is one way or another, it doesn’t just mean we are “mistaken,” it means we have an altered view of who He is. And not only that, but it skews our understanding of His other attributes. Consider God’s mercy. If God were not also a just God, then His mercy would mean nothing.

    So do we paint an untrue image of God by acting as if He is entirely rational and unemotional towards us? If anything, God is a wild man. It’s what Rich Mullins called, “the reckless, raging fury.” The love of God. What kind of rational, unemotional being would commit the sacrifice for us that Christ has? None! It cannot be! It is because of His passion, His emotion, and His deep love for us that He paid that price.

    So we could be brought back to Him. So we could know Him. So we could be His people and He could be our God.

    Scripture describes Him as rejoicing over us with singing. Christ drove out the money changers from the temple. His anger burned against Moses. Christ sweat drops of blood. Jesus wept for Jerusalem. What are these if not emotional?

    I am emotional today. And I thank God for it. My Mom’s Compassion child is from El Salvador, where hurricane Ida has left so many without basic things that we take for granted–clean water, electricity, hope. Shaun Groves shares an excellent blog–with some gut-wrenching images–about this. Please go and read it HERE. If your heart doesn’t lurch at the thought of such despair and need, then you might need to check your pulse. If you are able to help in any way at all, please consider doing so. We are having incredibly difficult times here in America, but sometimes I think we forget what Dash stated so well as a comment on my Veteran’s Day entry:

    The worst of America often far outstrips the best of other nations in the world. I have had the privilege of traveling the world, and the honor of doing so in service to this nation. There is a reason why others in the world are willing to risk life, career and loss of family to come here.

    God, grant us hearts that overflow with emotion for You and for Your Children all around the world. Teach us the gift of generosity, and the outrageous and glorious blessing of blessing others. Make us more like You. Bend our minds ever to recall Your faithfulness toward us, even when we are faithless. Fill our hearts with thankfulness for all You’ve done, even in our hours of struggling.

    Pax Christi, all of you emotional people.

    Sar.

    So…I know I already blogged once today, but I have the urge to write. I just want to share the random thoughts, questions, situations going on in my life as of today, October 27th, 2009.

    I was up until 5 o’clock this morning. Why, you ask? Why would someone sit up until 5A.M.? I was reading, of course. In the process of cleaning my room, I found a box with a stinkload of stories ideas and attempts from my younger years. At about 1:30 this morning, I sat up in bed, having remembered vaguely a storyline involving a large frog stuffed animal. So I turned on my music and my light and began reading through stacks of papers to find this frog story. Coincidentally, I didn’t find it.

    What I did find, which I had forgotten entirely about, was a series of stories I had been writing my freshman and sophomore years in high school. It was such a trip reading some of it! I remember that I used to sit up at night after everyone had gone to bed, and I would type at the very cool new computer my brother had bought for the family until I couldn’t stay awake any longer! I had saved the files to a floppy disc (woah…whoever thought the phrase “floppy disc” would date you?!) because I didn’t want to lose the story, you know? Unfortunately, I lost the story, anyway. I don’t remember how. I had printed a good portion of what I’d written at that time, but in the course of moving and editing and just being as unorganized as I am, I apparently lost more than I saved of the stories. The first story (I believe there were three complete; and I had started the fourth and had ideas for the fifth) is preserved in all its glorious completeness. Not a page is out of order! One story has about twenty typed pages to start, and another ten at the end, but everything in the middle is gone. AGH! I don’t remember much of the plot, but I do recall that I killed off one of my best characters! I’m so disappointed that this didn’t survive my youth. Anyway, for several years after I’d written these stories initially, I was rewriting and revising, and so I had a couple of pages of notes about who each character was and how they were related to other characters, etc. That’ll be a nice little companion if I ever decide to rewrite this series.

    Another gem that I stumbled upon last night was the original copy of the Toilet Paper story that I wrote for Toge. That’s right–the Toilet Paper story. I believe the T.P. story itself is in the box of letters between Jenny & I, but I couldn’t say for certain. I haven’t seen it in years. But yes, I worked out all the kinks to this story, and wrote the final draft on a roll of toilet paper for Jenny. I had actually forgotten about it until Jenny mentioned it to me recently. I laughed pretty hard when I read it. I surprised myself at the ending!

    Ahem. At any rate, I wanted to show you my writing space. I cleaned in preparation for NaNoWriMo so I would have a sane, inspiring place to write. And this is what I came up with:

    My Writing Space

    So here’s what we’ve got:

    1. The old, comfortable, pink chair that my sister Maggie wants to steal from me because it has a flat bottom and–she claims–it is perfect for playing cello. We’ve had this chair as long as I can recall. It’s really a piece of junk.
    2. My current musings and ideas regarding NaNoWriMo.
    3. My tweb blogs, printed and saved in three-ring binders. I am such a dork, I know. I don’t think I even have them all printed. I’d better double-check that.
    4. The material on “the big novel” I’ve been working on since December 2006. Also, in the white binder, are snippets from Diggity’s story, which will put my story to shame…or it would–if he would finish writing it… :D
    5. Journals, journals, journals. And that’s not even a fraction of them–that’s just the current journals.
    6. A couple of my childhood photos. The teeny-tiny one is my senior photo. The one on the right with all the hair…is how I look now. Just kidding. Kinda.
    7. My Compassion boy, Joseph! He is truly an inspiration to me. He chases chickens.
    8. Music, of course.
    9. Sweat Pea body butter. Nothing screams “writer’s block” like cracked, dry skin!
    10. Hrm. I’m not sure why there were hand knitted socks on my desk. But there they are. Hand knitted socks on my desk. Hm.

    So…I can’t tell you how excited I am to have a well-functioning writing space. Now…if only I could get my desk to write my NaNoWriMo novel for me…

    In other news, it is Autumn. The colors this year have already piqued, and we are in that down slope, where everything turns a rotten brown or yellow color. Today, the leaves were just falling from the trees like rain. It was gorgeous. Snow is on the way.

    I have a smudge on my camera lens. I’m really annoyed by it. Anybody know how to safely clean a camera lens?

    John sent me the rest of the Martin books. He is such a great guy. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to really “get into” the other book he had sent to me–Dean Koontz’s From the Corner of His Eye. I know it must be a phenomenal book, but there’s been so much going on in my life that I just haven’t had the energy to commit to reading it. And yes, reading does take a lot of energy for me. So today, the Martin books came in the mail and I suddenly had an appetite to read. Amazing how that happened. So I picked up the next book, intending to read only the prologue–after all, that’s not technically part of the book, is it? I thought that if I read the prologue, it would motivate me to finish the Koontz book so I could return to the Martin series. Woopsies. I looked up to realize…I’d read far more than the prologue. So. What now? I did promise John that I would finish the Koontz book, and I want to! I just…am so enraptured with the Martin story and I desperately want to know what happens next.

    It just occurred to me…that I could be reading instead of blogging. Hmmm.

    Adieu, my friends.

    Pax Christi.

    Semmie.