Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Review: Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program for the purposes of this review.

I'd been intrigued by Elizabeth Esther's book after following her on Twitter for some time and reading her blog.  I was a little concerned that I was interested in it in a voyeuristic kind of way, though, because her experience in fundamentalism is nothing I have ever experienced nor do I (think I) know anyone personally who has experienced this.  

In Girl at the End of the World, Esther writes about growing up in a spiritually abusive cult, The Assembly, started by her grandfather, in which she was  trained to be prepared for the end of the world.  She writes of abusive beatings, being afraid of the Rapture, the courtship process, attending public school for the first time, and growing up in a patriarchal environment in which men have control over their wives and daughters.  

What stood out to me the most, though, was the grace and love with which Esther wrote.  While she does not shy away from relating her experiences and how terrible they were, it is done with care.  It is not a "tell-all" book in the way one would watch a sordid afternoon talk show, but rather a careful analysis of her upbringing, her marriage, her escape, and her journey into Catholicism with her family.  

Esther shows how control and abuse can be pervasive even in--or especially?--environments in which one does not expect it.  For those in this type of environment, this book may feel like an encouragement to get help and leave, a message that the person is not alone.  For those who are not in this type of environment, it is a way to open one's eyes to the realities of abuse that exist where we do not want them to. 

Elizabeth Esther is brave and courageous for writing this book; I encourage anyone to read it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Finding Life in Sadness and Disappointment

My #ComeAliveSeries has been pretty quiet lately, for a few reasons.  One of them is that about two months ago I applied for a part-time job and I really, really was excited about it.  It was a great fit for me and I kept thinking up all kinds of idea to put in place once I got it.  I kept envisioning how I'd announce it here as part of this series, as something that had happened in my life to help me continue to feel alive because I was using my gifts and listening to God's call.  

And then, in the last few days, as I awaited hearing from Human Resources, I envisioned something else.  What if I had to write "I didn't get the job"?  After I'd initially applied and was waiting to hear about an interview, someone close to me asked me how I'd feel if I didn't get the job.  "Devastated," I replied.  But in the last few days, that feeling of devastation slipped away, and I felt a peace about me that I was ok with whatever happened.

This morning, I received an email telling me what I think I knew on some level already.

I did not get the job.

I've spent most of the day going through the ups and downs associated with sadness and disappointment.  I know how comforting it is to tell myself that maybe God has something I'd like even better in store for me, that I need to trust God in everything.  

The emotions have come and gone throughout the day, but I am still struck by what seems to be the dis-congruity of feeling that.  It seems odd, doesn't it?   You'd think that being sad and disappointed would mean not feeling ok with what happened.  I've even tried to make myself get angry about it a couple of times, but I can't.  I did find out who got the job, and think she is a great choice and I can understand the difficult decision that the hiring committee faced.

And so I am left wondering how it fits into my theme of "Alive" for the year.  While yes, I would've felt more alive in a job I would enjoy, I also know that being alive comes in many ways, and maybe I was counting too much on a job helping me to feel that way.  I don't know.  But what I do know is that life doesn't always go the way we hope, and we can wallow in the sadness or we can be positive and look ahead to future possibilities--even if they are unknown. 

I've also written a bit this year about the first few verses of Genesis.  The one that is coming to mind now is verse 2.  There are different ways of translating it, but the way it has been in my head has been from the NIV:

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

There was no light yet, but the Spirit of God was there, hovering, waiting in the darkness.  In those times in our lives when it seems dark, God is still there, whether we recognize it or not.

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Thursday, May 08, 2014

A Year of Renewal (Introductory Post)

I have often felt that much of life seems to be about getting through to the next thing.  Just get through the week to the weekend.  Get through the day and get the kids to bed.  Get through winter in order to have better weather and temperatures.  Get through summer to get ready for school starting.  And on and on and on.  Life is fast-paced for most of us and it is often difficult to take the time to stop, to rest, to appreciate the moments, to write, to pray.  Even the best intentions at scheduling time for these activities can be pushed aside, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad excuses.  We are constantly beginning and ending various activities and time sometimes seems to proceed at a faster and faster pace.

No matter how much I want to set aside "quiet time" or "writing time" or "Bible reading time", for various reasons (or excuses), it doesn't happen.  

And then I wondered about something.  Why not find the time to write about the various normal rhythms of life as they are overlaid with the church calender, Biblical events, the Jewish calender, school calendars, U.S. holidays, events particular to my state or town, etc.?  What would I find as I traveled through a year of being intentional about spiritual growth through the various seasons of life?

I'm not entirely what this project should look like, although I do know it will start in the late summer, because the beginning of college football season is a huge way to mark time in my life.  And since most people associate renewal and beginnings with spring, not summer or fall, the idea of starting it then is more appealing to me, because it is not as expected.

I'm not sure if this should simply be a series of blog posts or if it should be a book.

I just know that the idea of being deliberate about spiritual growth, spiritual disciplines, and finding renewal in many places and activities is speaking to my soul in a way that excites me.  

But I need your help in thinking this through a little more.  What comes to mind as you read my initial thoughts on this project?  What experiences have you had or do you currently have that are similar?  What resources would you recommend I look into using?

The following posts are updates on this series:

Labyrinth of the Dancing Christ
Water in the Desert
Reading My Bible
Rosh Hashana

Monday, May 05, 2014

Frank Viola's New Book: Jesus Now

Note: I received a free advance copy of this book from the author but I have not had a chance to read it yet.  I'm promoting it anyway because it will be available to you at a 50% discount for the next few days--and who doesn't like discounts?

Len Sweet Calls It a Masterpiece! JESUS NOW - 50% Off & Free Study Guide Until May 8th

Leonard Sweet says this of Frank Viola's just-released book, Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ.

"Frank Viola is a master at the discipline of historical context, and Jesus Now is a masterpiece that shows us how to ‘Christify’ our story—to move from an unscripted spirituality to a scripturally scripted identity.” ~ Leonard Sweet

Jesus Now contains 8 months of fresh material on the present-day ministry of Christ, answering the question, "What is Jesus doing NOW . . . since His ascension?"

The book explores every text in the New Testament on the subject, breaking it down into 7 ministries that Jesus has today:

Great High Priest * Chief Shepherd * Heavenly Bridegroom * Author and Finisher of our Faith * Builder of the Ekklesia * Head of the Church * Lord of the World

If you purchase Jesus Now between May 5th and May 8th from, not only will you get the book at a 50% discount (the best price anywhere), but you will also receive the companion Study Guide at no charge.