Monthly Archives: May 2019

What’s Irresistible to You? Chocolate? Yes. Our Faith? Yay or Nay…

Friends!  Would your friends say you have an irresistible faith?  Anybody besides me want to reply, “Come back in a bit, I’m not quite ready for that question…”

Yes, well, let me fetch some chocolate while we ponder this together…

Recently I was delighted to be part of a committee to choose books for our upcoming book club season for fall 2019-spring 2020.  Seven slots to fill seemed easy, however five for five of us arrived at the meeting with ten to fifteen suggestions, each.  We were a vision of “so many books, so little time.”

One of the many recommendations I received, I also read.  It hit me between the eyes and my poor brain is still trying to process it..  The book?  Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian The World Can’t Resist by Scott Sauls. Scott pastors Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville where I’ve been blessed to attend a women’s conference with my good buddy, Madge, who lives there.

My favorite endorsement of this book comes from Duke Keon who pastors Grace Meridian Hill in Washington, DC:  “With biblical clarity, personal transparency, and a relentlessly winsome  spirit, Scott Sauls shows us how authentic Christianity is attractive Christianity. It’s a timely and reliable road map for those seeking to restore the damaged witness and public reputation of Christians…If you want to learn how the grace of God makes us the ‘light of the world’ in all of life, read this book!”

In his Foreword in the book, Bob Goff says, “This book is an invitation for us to return to the most authentic version of our faith. It’s also an invitation to join, or create, an authentic community of people trying to go somewhere beautiful with their faith.”

Bob has just painted a picture for us of what we experience in Bible study and small groups.  That’s exactly what we aspire to do, to “go somewhere beautiful with our faith.”  I love that!

Scott begins by saying what really bugs him is how many negative reactions the word “Christian” gets.  He quotes San Francisco journalist Herb Caen who said, “The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around.”  OUCH…

Scott rattles off a dozen questions causing us readers to consider what it would look like for our love for the Lord and each other to be so contagious and so irresistible non-believers would want to know the source of our faith. His book offers some much-needed ideas and suggestions. It’s akin to an owner’s manual you’ll want to refer to often. (Scott, any fat chance you could create a pocket-size version for us???)

Scott asks,

I’m happy to report you’ll also get to laugh out loud multiple times.  Scott tells on himself and gifts us with fantastic quotes from other authors as well.  He confesses he finds “more satisfaction in the praise of people than he does in the grace of God.”  We’re all normal human beings and we simply forget the glory goes to God and belongs only to Him. This is not an easy subject matter, and Scott takes us by the hand to show us what irresistible faith looks like.

Brennan Manning says it best:

“I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” (From The Ragamuffin Gospel)

Right about the time you want to ask, “Now what?” Scott reminds us if we keep a “steady diet of God-inspired words, aided and animated by the Holy Spirit, we’ll have nurtured, healthy, and solid souls.” He lists countless classic authors, musicians, all steeped in God’s Word giving us beautiful examples and a well-built case for keeping our noses in His Word.

A new-to-me and now favorite concept we learn about is found in Chapter 4, “Practicing Transparency and Kindness.” We discover a thought from Ann Voskamp that Scott’s church has now adopted, “only speak words that make souls stronger.”

He tells us,

The staff at Christ Presbyterian Church has come to “nurture a culture of benediction.”  They begin their staff meetings “by speaking life-giving words over each other.” Can you imagine the impact on each of them when their co-workers publicly praise each other one by one? What if we tried this in our homes with our beloved family? And friends? And anyone who crosses our path?

Scott teaches us “the universal Christian job description:  all Christians are called as Christ’s ambassadors into the places where they live, work, play, and worship, with the glorious purpose of leaving people, places, and things better than they found them.”

It’s living out Colossians 3:23-24:

Now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and snag a copy of Irresistible Faith.

‘Til next time!

P.S.  While reading this book, I kept thinking to myself that Scott should connect with Christine Caine as they really remind me of each other.  They both pack a punch with mega enthusiasm causing you to want to be on their team.  How like the Lord to have Christine as one of Scott’s endorsers.  She says Scott and his wife, Patty, are friends with Christine and her husband Nick! She goes so far as to say she loves everything Scott writes.  Amen and amen…

 

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When You Get a Handle on Handel: Discover Telltale Facts About Trees, Thanks to Dr. Matthew Sleeth

Friends! May I ask you a couple of questions?  When was the last time you sat under a tree simply to rest and reflect or, perhaps to take a nap?

Have you ever bought a tree purely because of a favorite memory?

Have you ever bought a tree to commemorate or celebrate a life?

In a group of almost 20 friends yesterday, they answered these questions in the affirmative on all levels.  I was right there with them.

There was a huge weeping willow on UK’s Campus when John and I were students there.  We loved sitting under it in between classes.  Time stood still while hearts hovered over our heads.

Fast forward to our current home. A few years ago, we purchased and planted a lovely weeping willow for our front yard. It greets us every time we pull in the driveway.  It, accompanied by now blooming dogwoods, are quite the tranquil sight to see.

I’m blessed to call author Dr. Matthew Sleeth and his lovely wife, Nancy, dear friends and mentors.  They popped into our lives thanks to my friend, Sherry Leavell’s daughter, Laura, who used to work for them.  God was beyond gracious when He crossed our paths.

Matthew has just birthed a fascinating book that’s already a best-seller on Amazon, he’s being interviewed on places like NPR, Fox News,  has written an article for Christianity Today  and The Washington Post, just to name a few. News of his book is spreading FAST.

One of Matthew’s many endorsers, Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well:  Finding the Good Life Through Great Books and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah Moore:  Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist, says of Matthew’s book, “I never knew until reading Reforesting Faith how bountiful and significant trees are in God’s story of the creation, the Fall, and redemption. This book has deepened my love for God’s Word and His world even more.”

Matthew begins by sharing his early love of trees with us.  I suspect many of us resonate with him.

He poses an interesting question:  “What can trees teach us?  Specifically, what can trees teach us about the nature of God and His love for us?”

We learn:

Matthew takes us on a journey via thirteen chapters of his book, showing us how “every important character in the Bible and every major event in the Bible has a tree marking the spot.”  I’d never made this connection before.  You will drop your jaw as you see time and time again where God meets your favorite characters by a tree of sorts.

You will also laugh your head off in every chapter.  Matthew’s transparency and wit bless you on this journey.

His medical background enhances our understanding of the Gospel as revealed in the Bible, giving us visuals we can understand.  Same can be said for his background in carpentry.  Don’t miss chapter twelve.  Funniest story I can recall.

It’s not just a book of humor, however.  The fascinating facts about trees and how they correlate to the Gospel, and ultimately to us as believers, are nothing short of beautiful.  To see our God in action, in minute details, will blow you away.

Let me give you a couple of the numerous examples we readers receive:

“In the Old Testament,

Noah received the olive leaf (Genesis 8:11)
Abraham sat under ‘the Oaks of Mamre’ (Genesis 18:1)
Moses stood barefoot in front of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2-5)
Joseph simply is a tree! (Genesis 49:22)”

Now let’s look at the New Testament:

“Think of Zacheus climbing the sycamore fig (Luke 19:1-4)
The blind man seeing people as if they were trees walking (Mark 8:24),
The disciples gathering on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39).
Paul asserted if we have gone for a walk in the woods, we are without excuse for knowing God.” (Romans 1:20),

And, my absolute favorite illustration from Scripture:

Yes, Lord, may it be so.

Something happened in Matthew’s life which also happened in one of my dear friend’s life, which I suspect if you reflect back over your own life, you can pinpoint the same.

Let me explain. Before you came to faith, if you’re a believer, you may have heard Scripture, or a song, or read something about the Lord but it went in one ear and out the other.  You had “spiritual blinders” on.  And yet you can pinpoint the exact moment when you had an “aha” moment, when the light bulb blasted on and your eyes were opened. Think of Saul-turned-Paul on the Road to Damascus in the Bible. (See Acts 9,)

This happened to Matthew the summer before he started med school. He was doing some carpentry work in the home of a psychiatrist who had a fabulous stereo system.  The doctor played an album for him which stopped Matthew in his tracks.

Matthew said, “I heard trees and people singing together, and it was perfect. Maples were prominent among the trees represented. But spruce, ebony, willow, boxwood, and rosewood trees sang along too, and none tried to eclipse the others.”

Asking the doctor why it sounded so good, the doctor answered, “I think, among other things, it’s because they are using a dozen Stradivarius, Guarneri, and Amati instruments and they’re performing it the way it was originally played.”

We readers discover they were listening to Handel’s Messiah.  The version they were listening to was one “by the late Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music.”  Matthew adds, “and if you think the trees can’t sing, give it a listen.”

Matthew listened to this over and over, never considering the lyrics for thirty years, “until the hour I believed. Then I cried. I sobbed. I wailed. I grinned in delight. And I cried again.”

When I read this, I about fell out of my chair.  You see, my dear friend, Nancy Aguiar, had an identical experience.  I can’t remember milk at the grocery store these days, but stories rarely leave me.  Check this out:

When Nancy was in the 12th grade, she attended Frankfurt International School in Oberursel, Germany. (1970) In choir, she and her fellow students had months of preparation for this magnificent piece known as Handel’s Messiah.

Every day, day after day, they sang the glorious lyrics of Handel’s masterpiece, making certain they were all singing in their correct parts of harmony.

Nancy said, “It is a beautifully written score, it was a beautiful experience with a passionate doctor leading us (Dr. Morgenstern), with hands flailing, voices reaching way past the highest rafters, hearts beating rapidly…and yet I had no capacity to embrace what it was we were singing!  Just words to me!  No concept!”

She continued, “And NOW? Every single time I hear that amazing work, I sing my part (quietly) and  cry! How deeply I love that song after I met Jesus in 1979.  Makes all the difference in the world! What an anointed piece of work!” Nancy also grasped a handle on Handel.

Might you have a story like this?

Sidebar:  A children’s book comes to mind that was given to us by our cousin Russ, when our boys were little.  It would be a fun way to educate your children or grandchildren on George Frederic Handel.  Check out Handel:  Who Knew What He Liked by M.T. Anderson and Kevin Hawkes.  Beautiful illustrations! Don’t miss the details from the book of Isaiah and Handel’s lyrics for The Messiah coming straight from it. (See chapter 10 in Matthew’s book.)

Let’s return to Reforesting Faith. So as not to spoil the many discoveries awaiting you, allow me to share just one more pearl.  Speaking of pearls, did you know Jesus only referred to one gem in the Bible and it is a pearl?

Matthew teaches, “It’s no accident this gem is made naturally of both inorganic and organic material..we’re told the gates to heaven are made of this hybrid material.”

We then learn that in the same way, a fig “is the only fruit that’s made of both plant and animal.” It, too, is an “odd hybrid.”

When we see in Scripture the lion and the lamb lying down together (Isaiah 11:6 and Revelation 21:1-6)  or Moses’ burning bush, there’s yet one more combo’ Matthew reminds us of, that of “dead wood and lamb’s blood.”

He says, “In the hybrid world, nothing is as powerful as this combination. When the two were combined on a doorway at Passover, the lambs’ blood sealed the door shut. The angel of death could not get through such a door, and the people inside were ‘passed over’ and saved.”   This, in chapter twelve, is the beginning of yet another crescendo of facts and explanations that keep building until you finish the last page in chapter thirteen.  I can hardly wait to fill our family in on this!

Matthew also shares about a wonderful ministry called Plant with Purpose.  (Website:  www.plantwithpurpose.org) It aims to equip farming families around the to world to increase farm yields, heal damaged ecosystems, improve nutrition, and. Increase household savings and opportunities.  This integrated approach solves two major issues facing the world today:  environmental degradation and rural poverty.

Reforesting Faith is an eye-opening read.  Whether you’re a tree lover or not, you’ll become one and further your appreciation for God’s Word, His details and why He wants us to be like a fruitful tree.  Matthew ends with, “Grow, make the world better, and bear fruit.”  May it be so.

And now you know what I’m going to say:  Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and buy this book!

‘Til next time!

 

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I Will Never Yell, “Hurry Up!” to Our Children, And Other Motherhood Myths…

Friends! This Mother’s Day Week I thought I’d amuse you with some of my own horrific mothering no-no’s, show off our newest grandchildren (Oh yeah, I’m one of those—pics are at the end!), and then point you to a quick must-read for all parents and grandparents: Praying Circles around Your Children by Mark Batterson. It’s a powerful little paperback that will change the way you think and pray.

Praying Circles

First, here are some of my Motherhood Myths, and then we’ll get to the prayer tips:

I’ll never chuck a pop tart into the back seat on the way to school.” (Well, at least this didn’t happen ‘til child #3 arrived.)

I’ll never yell at our children before church.” (Yeah, that happened more than once: Verrry ugly.)

“We will never blow thru’ a drive-thru’ two nights in a row.” (That didn’t last thru’ the first soccer season.)

I’ll always realize what a blessing they are when they seem to be a pain in the you-know-where.” (I need to write this on a blackboard about a hundred times while begging the Lord for His forgiveness about a thousand times.)

I’ll never cry uncontrollably in front of them.” (Scares our boys silly.)

I’ll stop worrying about them when they reach age _____.” (Hasn’t happened yet.)

I’ll never forget they’re really on loan from the Lord.” (This is a primo reminder I’m suspecting we ALL need. Frequently.) PLUS, He loves them more than we do.

Don’t mess with these Motherhood Myths! While you’re at, pitch your own if you have any! Instead, begin with this beautiful Scripture:

Lamentations 2-19

Author Mark Batterson tells of a legend he discovered in the Jewish Talmud about a prayer warrior named Honi. Honi literally drew a circle around himself in the sand, and stayed there praying for much-needed rain, for mercy on the people of the village, and for favor, blessing and graciousness. He was ultimately honored for “the prayer that saved a generation.”

This eye-opening little book, Praying Circles Around Your Children, gives you loads of promises in Scripture to “circle” around your children. It gives you ideas for circling a place of work, or a school, or a piece of property, or a home, covering that concern in prayer.

“Circling” something or someone in prayer is really akin to:

I Thessalonians 5:17 which simply says, “Pray continually.” Mark recommends we endeavor to rev up the intensity and tenacity of our prayers.

Mark adds, “Prayer is the way we take our hands off our children and place them in the hands of God.”

Of the five prayer circles Mark gives his readers, the second one, Making Prayer Lists, is my favorite. Being a list maker (to a fault!!!), this idea grabbed me. Look at the verse he gives us:

“Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3 NLT)

What’s on your list? I have short-term and long-term requests on mine. I have a list of friends with health challenges. The blessing in seeing how God answers them is worth the time and effort of writing them down, plus you know the direction to keep praying.

Recently I drew circles in my journal and placed people in them according to their circumstances. The visual effect is comforting. Remember, tho’, these lists are not just your wish list.

Mark reminds us, “Every prayer, including your prayers for your children, must pass a twofold litmus test:

Your prayers must be in the will of God and for the Glory of God.”

I love one of Mark’s prayers for his children, “Lord let their ears be tuned to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. I want my children to find their voice, and the key is hearing the voice of God.”

Don’t miss this warning: “If they don’t hear the voice of God, they will echo our culture.” Hello? Anyone aghast at the goings on of our culture???

Checkout the other prayer circles (I’ve only given you a snippet!) in the book. May we heed Mark’s closing remarks,

“Don’t lose heart.

          Don’t lose hope.

                    Don’t lose faith.

                              Keep circling!”

May we all be reminded of Psalm 127:3:

Children are a GIFT from the Lord; they are a REWARD from him…”

I loved seeing this Scripture on the wall of Central Baptist Hospital where our 3rd grandchild, Henry Pierce Hoagland was born in Lexington, KY on 4/22/19. Gordy and Lauren told us a prayer is said over the intercom every morning.

Here we are cuddling with Henry.  What a blessing.

John and Huck with Baby Henry

 

Yours truly with Baby Henry

 

Baby Ford (Woodford Lee Hoagland, Jr.) is now smiling! He is Woody and LT’s baby, born 3/18/19. Ford and Henry are five weeks apart to the day and almost the hour.

 

Claire and Diana at Dawn at the Downs Derby Week. Claire Elizabeth Hoagland turns 2 years old on 5/9/19! John Junior and Diana are expecting Baby Charlotte September 1st.  Let the games begin!

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day Week and Weekend!

‘Til next time!

 

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