Next Time You’re Down in the Dumps, Grab “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet—Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things” by Sara Hagerty

Friends! Havin’ a bad day? One of those where everything goes wrong? Chances are, if you’re not, someone you know is.

I’ve got just the cure. It’s one we all know, and yet forget daily.

My good buddy, Liz, loaned me a boatload of books recently, and this one, Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things by Sara Hagerty has been an eye-opening blessing for this woe-is-me girl. 63823EB Many times when I read a book, I try to come up with one, single, take-away word. “Adoration” is our inspiration in this book and “adore” the verb to put into action.

You may already be familiar with Sara’s blog, www.everybitterthingissweet.com She has information on her book, resources, her posts for the blog, plus an incredible section with fantastic printables under “Adoration”. (I chose this word before I knew she had an entire section in her blog about it!!!)

Brutally honest, Sara journeys us readers thru’ some tough times in her life. She’s been blessed with friends who she says “wore a brand of Christianity that was attractive, but foreign.” (to her) She continues, “They acted as if they believed God didn’t just tolerate them; He enjoyed them.” These fascinating friends “approached their days with a confidence that God had something for them…” Wow, don’t we all want that?

In the midst of three equally difficult trials (infertility, lengthy adoption processes and her father dying of cancer), Sara said, “God was revealing this kind of availability to me in both the big aches and the everyday small ones.”

With eyes opened to a different perspective, she told her husband, “…all this mess—was fodder for discovering His love anew.” Small newborn baby legs in mothers lovely hand with soft focus on babie's foot Here comes the adoration part….This is what Sara does and what we all can do. She reveals, “My first step in inhaling adoration was inviting that language into my everyday ache.” She began with one word or phrase from the Bible, depending on her particular need or worry. For example, from Psalm 36:5 and 57:10 she read, “Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” Sun Ray Shining Through The Clouds In The Blue Sky Then she’d pray:

God, You are faithful.

You are faithful when I am fearful.

I can count on You.

You will not leave me when You see my failure.”

Here are just a few of Sara’s discoveries about adoration (This is my favorite part of the book and what I believe to be the most powerful):

“Adoration is exploration. The Father loves to be explored.

Fear loses oxygen when every moment suspends itself under the purpose of bringing Him glory.

Adoration makes walking with God more than just reacting to a series of externals.

Adoration CALLS the circumstances, no matter how high or low, into proper submission in our hearts.

Adoration ROOTS us in a reality that no amount of pain and no amount of blessing can shake.

Adoration STEADIES US. Inspirational Typographic Quote - Slow and Steady It REPATTERNS our thinking.

It CENTERS our lives around a God-man instead of forever trying to make sense of the God-man thru’ the lenses of our circumstances.

Adoration ALIGNS US under Him… THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE LIFE IS FOUND.”

Another excellent part of the book is found at the end of each chapter where Sara gives us several Scriptures to look up which pertain to the chapter. The “For Your Continued Pursuit” passages bring light and promises from His Word to bless you, the reader.

Sara’s vivid style makes you feel like you’re riding in the car with them many times and you say, “Oh no!” out loud more than once! However, with her “adoration-eyes-on”, she shows us God is on her side, fighting for her and her family. And just wait ‘til you see how God builds their family. (Not spoilin’ the fun! You must discover this for yourself! You need to take the journey with her.)

I pray we’ll all open our eyes, filled with adoration for our Creator, our Heavenly Father, our Constant Companion.

Sara says the experience is like a “minute-by-minute communion” that makes her feel alive. Wouldn’t you love that too?

Romans 15-13 ‘Til next time!

Comments Off on Next Time You’re Down in the Dumps, Grab “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet—Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things” by Sara Hagerty

Filed under Book Reviews

Letters and Papers from Prison Pack a Punch from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friends!  Don’t you love it when one book leads to another because you want to find out “more of the story?”

Such was the scenario upon finishing Amanda Barratt’s compelling novel, My Dearest Dietrich.  (Here’s my review on her book…) Amanda graciously gives us readers several books for further exploration.

I immediately ordered one of her recommendations.  It has cut me to the core, but in an inspiring way.  If any of you hear me complaining about anything from here on out, you have my permission to bonk me over the head with this very book!

The book?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison compiled by Edward Bethge

These letters are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his family and friends, along with letters in return from them, plus Dietrich’s notes on various topics such as books, types of music, favorite hymns, as well as lessons he learns and occasional poems. His dear friend, Eberhard Bethge, put all of these together in book form. A mere 436 pages, we readers simply cannot rush thru’ these gems. (Don’t miss the two important words in the title, “from prison.”)

What’s evolved for me (you may prefer to read it differently) is I’m only reading a few of the letters each day, devotional-style.  Because Bonhoeffer references so many Scripture verses, it’s nice to look them up and figure out where he’s leading us. There are more pearls hidden in these letters than one can count.

What’s terribly convicting, yet in a positive way to grow our own faith, is Dietrich’s deep contentment and joy in spite of being imprisoned, treated unfairly, many times starved (although he said, “The mind’s hunger for discussion is much more tormenting than the body’s hunger for food.”), all the while enduring air raids, bombing, etc.  His faith never wavered.

As time progresses, Dietrich befriends some of the prison guards as well as the inmates, often helping in the sick bay.  Fellow prisoners look up to him, many times seeking his thoughts and wisdom. We readers gain a beautiful visual of why he was also known as Pastor Bonhoeffer.

His correspondence with family and friends obviously helps him cope with his circumstances.  He once told his fiancé, Maria, that their engagement was a source of strength to him.  He was able to convert “his annoyance at the limitations of our relationship, into a hopeful and eager expectation and challenge.” Maria was allowed monthly visits.

Dietrich said of his relationship with Maria, “I believe our union can only be a sign of God’s grace and kindness, which calls us to faith.” And in regard to trusting in the future, he said, “This is where faith belongs. May God give it to us daily.”

Often Dietrich reminds himself about the importance of worshipping God, praying to God, and doing so every single day.  His resolve and exuberant love for the Lord is the most beautiful aspect of these letters. I kept asking myself, “HOW does he go on?  How can he stand this?”  And yet, he never complains. Ever.

One of my favorite discoveries is the sincerity with which he closes each letter, always personalizing it for the recipient. In a letter to Dietrich’s friend, Eberhard, from 7/21/44 in Tegel prison,  he closes with,

Eberhard organized Dietrich’s letters and papers into four parts in the book:

Knowing of his death in April of 1945, as that date approaches in the book, I found myself getting nervous for Dietrich. From his letters, of course he has no idea, although more than once he directs Eberhard to feel free to use any money of his needed and how to dispose of his things should he not make it out of prison. He also sought out an attorney to prepare his will.

In October of 1944, Dietrich was moved from Tegel, to the Gestapo prison.  It became impossible to visit him there.  We’re told there was an air raid in February and the prison was badly damaged, so Bonhoeffer was moved out of Berlin. Maria goes looking for him, at three different prisons:  Dachau, Buchenwald and Flossenburg. She could not find him.  Upon his death, it took months for Maria and Dietrich’s parents to find out. So, so sad.

On a happier note, one of my favorite entries by Dietrich comes from May of 1944, entitled:  “Thoughts on the Day of the Baptism of Dietrich Wilhelm Rüdiger Bethge.”  Eberhard and Renate named their first born child, a son, for Dietrich.  Dietrich tells young Dietrich his three names bear reference to three houses “with which your life is, and always should be, inseparably connected.” Dietrich continues, “I look forward to your future with great confidence and cheerful hope.”

Dietrich’s sermon teaches young Dietrich about many things such as the security of a good home.  He calls it one of the greatest gifts saying his home “will be a bulwark against all dangers from within and without…”

Children will be drawn into their parents’ protection, and they will seek refuge, counsel, peace, and enlightenment,” adding ,”your parents’ home will be a storehouse of spiritual values, helping dissolve your perplexities and purifying your character and sensibility, and in times of care and sorrow will keep a ground-bass of joy alive in you.” (Ground-bass is a musical reference the families would’ve understood given their musical talent.)

And this phrase Dietrich adds can be prayed for, for all of our homes:

“The piety of your home will not be noisy or loquacious, but it will teach you to say your prayers, to fear and love God above everything, and to do the will of Jesus Christ.”

Then we’re gifted with Proverbs 6:20-22

This is but one of many, many verses Dietrich includes for little Dietrich.  It’s the dearest piece of writing and one I’m sure little Dietrich and his family cherished. Additionally these few quotes I’ve included from other letters are a mere minutia of the gold you’ll dig out of this book.

Eberhard Bethge, who assembled these many letters for Letters and Papers from Prison, also wrote a biography on Bonhoeffer.  You know where I’m going with this…Here’s the cover:

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and grab any of these three books!  My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt, Letters and Papers from Prison from Dietrich Bonhoeffer compiled by Eberhard Bethge, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer:  A Biography by Eberhard Bethge.

Please fill your car with friends and come join us at Branches Book Club on Monday, September 23rd, at Middletown United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00 p.m.  when we discuss My Dearest Dietrich.  Amanda Barratt, while she lives in Michigan, is going to send us a video message you won’t want to miss!

‘Til next time!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews

“My Dearest Dietrich” Encourages Readers to Learn More about Bonhoeffer…

Friends!  Don’t you love it when you finish a book and want to learn more about its subject?  Such will be the scenario when you dive into My Dearest Dietrich:  A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love by Amanda Barratt.

I recently heard an interview with our author, Amanda Barratt, and Eric Metaxas on the Metaxas Talk Show. (www.metaxastalk.com) One could argue over which of the two knows more about Bonhoeffer given Amanda’s research for her novel and Eric’s tome

Not having learned much about Bonhoeffer’s fiancee, Maria von Wedemeyer-Weller, I was delighted to learn of Amanda’s new novel, My Dearest Dietrich, especially since Branches Book Club will open their season with it come Monday, September 23rd. (Mark the date on your calendar!  6:30-8:00 p.m., at Middletown United Methodist Church! Load up your car with friends and come!)

Hearing the interview further fueled my desire to read Amanda’s book, promptly causing me to order it. The Living Word Bookstore currently has lots of copies for you book clubbers! Call to reserve your copy:  (502) 253-8220.

The most astonishing discovery of this talented author is her age.  Wait for it: Amanda is only TWENTY-THREE YEARS OLD.  Huh?  You’ll flip even more once you dive into her book, her words wrapping around you like a warm blanket.

Gaining a peak into Dietrich and Maria’s relationship is delightful.  We readers must remind ourselves this book is a novel, yet we feel as if we are right there with them, almost afraid to disturb their privacy.

For me, seeing this side of Bonhoeffer, my eyes were opened to a much, much different man.  While I’ve always respected him as a ten-talent theologian who continues to inspire thousands, I’d never considered the softer side of him.  Additionally, I knew of his close ties with his family, and still didn’t ponder exactly how close they were.

Finishing Amanda’s novel only made me want to learn more.  Bless her for listing suggestions for further reading at the end of her book, one book of which, I’ll be reporting on soon!  (Letters and Papers from Prison by Bonhoeffer, compiled by Dietrich’s dear friend, Eberhard Bethge.)

The other kicker for me, was, since I knew the outcome of Bonhoeffer’s life (Spoiler alert:  he was hung in prison the morning of April 9th, in 1945.), somehow I still hoped we’d see him freed from prison, and see them married off.  Nevertheless, My Dearest Dietrich is the quintessential page-turner.

The novel opens in June of 1942.  We get to see how Dietrich and Maria meet, his involvement with the Abwehr, his writing habits, along with snippets of his resume which intimidate Maria. For example:  She calls him “a thoroughgoing academic, earning his doctorate in theology at the age of twenty-one, going on to pastor in Spain, complete a postdoctoral degree, study in America, lecture at Berlin’s University, and actively participate in maintaining ecumenical communication between foreign churches. He also became one of the foremost leaders in the Confessing Church—a group that fought desperately both to counter the false teachings of the Reich Church and to keep alive a church founded on Scripture’s doctrine rather than Herr Hitler’s.”

Dietrich, in his 30’s, and Maria, a mere teenager, become engaged much to the chagrin of her mother, insisting they wait a full year to date including no letters and no visits. Thankfully this changes once Dietrich becomes imprisoned. Soon letters become exchanged and Maria gets to visit him once a month. Reading about their visits is simply breathtaking.  They’re also frustrating given the officers who feel compelled to be present.

We see through Maria’s eyes both a serious side of Dietrich as she recounts hearing him preach, counting sixty-eight times his use of the word, “God.” As well as a lighter side: in the same afternoon she witnesses him “trounce everyone at table tennis.”

Another element I particularly enjoyed was the musical influence over his entire family, Dietrich included.  Often they play classical pieces together, everyone playing a different musical instrument, Dietrich at the piano. This was their way of life.

Their family meals seem perpetually challenging intellectually.   I find this fascinating as time around the table is not a part of our way of life today, sadly. Although we can certainly aspire to such! (In a perfect world, a round table is my favorite with our family, you?)

During the frightening times of the Hitler regime, never knowing when one could potentially be arrested, the Bonhoeffer’s made the most of their time together.  Maria said Dietrich’s words were always “full of purpose, clarity, and even rarer, hope.”

Dietrich shared a revelation about his faith with Maria.  He told her what he enjoyed most about his visit to America was in the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  He said,

As time marches on, the intensity of the war builds, the conspirators remain on edge, yet standing firm. Their ultimate goal was to assassinate Hitler.  Black-out curtains are hung in all the windows. Cars begin stalking them and we readers find ourselves on edge as well.  Amanda’s skill at foreshadowing is key.

One of many favorite quotes comes from November 11, 1942, in Berlin:  “The time might come when Dietrich would be among those reduced to starvation rations, and as his gaze traveled the table, the faces of his parents, he committed it all to memory, storing up each scene like an art collector locking away his beloved masterpieces.”

While many of their friends become arrested, others die either from war or suicide.  Dietrich learns of many soldiers suffering, “the young men who had once been his students, the lifeblood of his illegal seminary…”

Dietrich declares in a meeting of the conspiracy, “Above all, these concerns must be taken to God. His is the only authority to which we can rightfully answer. Seek Him, He will not fail you.”

Many fellow prisoners and guards, after becoming acquainted with Dietrich comment on his remarkable peace and tranquility he exhibited.  His steadfast faith and trust in the Lord is wonderfully inspirational. You find yourself reading with your jaw open in astonishment over his ability to stay calm, forever seeking the Lord in prayer, day, after day, after day.

Don’t miss all the beautiful details of Dietrich and Maria’s relationship as well as their inspirational faith.  More than once I asked myself, “Could I, and would I react like this?  Would my faith hold true?”

Now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and grab My Dearest Dietrich.”  You’ll be so glad you did.

And don’t forget to save the date: September 23rd to join us at Branches Book Club, Middletown United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00 p.m. when we discuss this excellent novel.  You won’t want to miss this! We’re hoping to hear from Amanda via a video message (I’ll confirm this closer to our meeting) and of course, we’ll have apple strudel among other German delights!

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 http://www.middletownumc.org

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews

A Man Walks into a Bar…(When Today May Be Your Last)

Friends! Lest you think I’m vying for late night TV, a man really did walk into a bar.  John and I were right there, and this is no joke…

Being empty nesters for a handful of years, we’ve developed hilarious habits. My favorite habit happens to be eating out. (Emphasis on O-U-T.)

Recently, while dining at one of our favorite haunts, Porcini’s (www.porcinilouisville.com), something happened which opened our eyes… porcini-store-front2 John and I were talking to one of our favorite waitresses who informed us EMS would be arriving soon. Seems a guy literally walked in off the street and hollered, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Sure enough, we began to hear sirens. A fire truck and an ambulance pulled up out front. Before we knew it, the EMT’s were whisking a stretcher, occupied by this guy, thru’ the door, and up into the ambulance. Off they went. Ambulance car back at the white background While I don’t know the outcome, it sure made me think: What if that evening, that man didn’t live to see the next morning?

Which of course leads me to pose three huge questions to us all:

What if today was your last day on this Earth?

– Are you sure you’re Heaven bound?

– While you’re at it, are you aging gracefully?”

Not too long ago, several of us were finishing up the Bible study on Acts of God—Why Does God Allow So Much Pain? by Bob Russell. As God would orchestrate, we were on Chapter Eleven which discusses the trials of aging.

Bob shares the painful process of watching his Mother succumb to Alzheimer’s. Several of my friends are dealing with this very scenario as I type. It’s not easy by any stretch. My own Mother died of Advanced Dementia.

Bob tells about two final encouraging visits he had with his Mother, long after she quit recognizing him. They began as seemingly futile. One visit, when Bob was about to leave, he decided to read the 23rd Psalm to his Mother. Like a switch was turned on, she began to quote it with him, word for word. psalm23 On another visit, Bob and his brother, John, began singing a hymn, and their Mother suddenly sang along with them. Bob said, “God is at work in ways we never see. I thanked Him and praised Him on my way home.”

Here’s the bottom line: “It’s only human to fear the unknown, of course, but at some point, genuine trust in God should make the difference.” May we truly trust, daily.

Bob reminds us, “Revelation 2:10 is a promise from the mouth of Christ: ‘Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.’”

Bob talks about people aging gracefully, and of some who do not. You’ll be astonished to learn about Florence Nightingale.

You’ll get tickled when Bob discusses those who get so consumed with all their aches and pains they take themselves out of the battle before it’s fought. Does anyone or several someones come to mind? Clouds and female hand waving with a white flag to surrender Or have you heard, “Oh, we must make the trip, for this could be Aunt Edna’s (or fill-in-the-blank of your longest living relative) last Thanksgiving!” Bob says if we are to age gracefully, we must “live life to the fullest, and let God decide when the curtains are going to close.”

Finally, one more point to consider: “The truth of heaven should also impact our feelings of urgency in sharing the Gospel with those we love.” Old Bible With Sword Do you have a friend or family member who needs to hear the Good News? I keep thinking of that man We saw who came into the restaurant, right off the street. Did he know the Lord? I pray so.

Bob concludes, “Every act of God carries more meaning than our minds can grasp. No matter how we mourn, no matter how sad some days can be, we must believe that God is loving and good, and that someday, in His presence, we’ll see the whole picture and understand that the darkest moments of this life were necessary ingredients to the brightest miracles he was planning.”

May our eyes be opened to those God places in our path.

Press on, friends.

Be ready.

‘Til next time!

(FYI: The teaching DVD’s to Acts of God are incredible. They include clips from the movie of the same name, memorable teaching by Bob, and helpful nuggets from God’s Word. I highly recommend it for your small group/Bible study. You can find these at The Living Word Bookstore, www.livingword.org or, you can order them from www.actsofgodthemovie.com or www.cityonahillstudio.com )

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

Don’t Miss This BRAND NEW Must-Read by Bob Merritt: “Done With That: Escape the Struggle of Your Old Life”

Friends!  Come August 1st, a hot-off-the-press book will be available to you.  Guys and gals will want to bolt to your nearest bookstore to grab this compelling book! Trust me on this…

I’ve been blessed to get a sneak peak.  Bob is a gifted writer as well as a quintessential story teller.  He’s also brutally honest (many times you’ll say to yourself, “Wow, I think that, but I’m not about to publicly confess that.”).

Let’s start with some of Bob’s endorsers—they’re most impressive. One of my favorites is by author Mark Batterson.  Mark says, “…Bob shows that less means more.  Less regret means more joy. Less loneliness means more belonging. Less angst means more contentment. Bob’s hard-fought battle will help you win yours.”

Our own Senior Pastor, Kyle Idleman, says, “Freedom in Christ is one of the most powerful gifts of the gospel. But knowledge of that freedom and walking in that freedom are two different things. This book moves us from knowledge to action, with practical application for every person who is truly ready to move.”

The book’s divided into three parts:  Getting Honest, Aha Moments, and The New Life is Less and More, four chapters per part, with Bob taking us by the hand throughout the entire book.  The Intro’ causes you to say, “I’m so glad I found this book.” Once you get into the chapters you’ll say, “Wow, I need this book.”

Thirty-six excellent discussion questions, three per each of the twelve chapters, are included for your small group or Bible study buddies. Chapter 10 – Fewer Possessions, More People, has my favorite of all the thought-provoking questions in it:  “Create a list of the people who really matter to you. Who are the ten who will cry at your funeral, and is there anything you need to change to make sure those ten are getting your best?”

And look at this:

In Chapter One we learn from Dallas Willard re: “the challenge of living the Christian life.  He said the word disciple appears 269 times in the New Testament but the word Christian appears only 3 times.”  Bob continues, “The cost of discipleship is real, but the price of non-discipleship is a life that NEVER improves and stays stuck in relational breakdown and personal strife.”

Bob shows us that spiritual growth takes time and regardless of where we are, (see below…)

Numerous Scripture verses and Biblical character’s actions build Bob’s points in each chapter.  I found myself logging many of them into my journal, each one pertinent to whatever day I was reading.

Chapter Four gives us a point thanks to a golf analogy that’s also killer funny at Bob’s expense.  Bob manages to tear his rotator cuff (ouch) and suffers thru’ intense physical therapy. We readers feel his pain.

This chapter is about leaving our old life for a new one. It’s easy to get comfy in our old life. And in Bob’s case, things weren’t going to change for him unless he turned himself in for some help.  By that time, Bob reveals he’d seen “two doctors, four physical trainers, and one therapist.”  He says, “I’d read a dozen articles, watched four videos, and received fifteen pages of exercises. I was determined to overcome my problem and resume playing the game of golf as God intended.”

The pain is what was teaching Bob he had to change. Here’s where we’re given three steps toward change:

Humility,

Honesty, and

Hard work… (Don’t miss this chapter!)

Bob’s revelation is:  “Just as there is physical therapy for shoulder pain, there is spiritual therapy to develop our faith:  both require a commitment to doing the work…It took humility, facts, and action to abandon the old life of failure and pain and move squarely into the new life of golf and happiness.”

Totally a guys’ guy, Bob relays some hysterical hunting stories. I’ve read these out loud to my husband while both of us howl ‘til we cry.  My husband is so happy my copy of the book has come in the mail now so he can dive in. (I was reading digitally.)

(Be sure to catch some of Bob’s sermons from his church’s website.)

Finally, I’ll share a few tidbits from my favorite chapter, Chapter 8 – Turning Points. (Never in a million years would I’ve thought an illustration using skinny jeans would grab me.)

Hang with me…the “Spiritual Turning Point” is hugely an “aha!”  We’re gifted with four practices to help us “open up the channels for God’s Spirit to speak:”

1 – Read God’s Word

2 – Read inspiring books (My personal favorite!)

3 – Reduce the noise in your life (Warning:  This is a tough one.)

4 – Confess your sins (Not for the faint of heart.)

Sound impossible?  Bob clarifies, “…these major turning points don’t happen every day. But a major spiritual turning point can happen in an instant, in an hour or two, or over several days. And when it occurs, it’ll feel as though you’ve been saved or freed from something, as though you’ve had a breakthrough, and as though you’re about to enter a new stage of life—a better, stronger, wiser, and more spiritually centered stage…”

These are just a minutia of the WEALTH of helpful information you’ll gain from reading this book.  And, if you haven’t read , Get Wise, also by Bob, here’s the review link.

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

Get a Front Row Seat to Surviving a Storm with Rick and Karen Santorum

Friends!  I recently caught a fascinating interview with Senator Rick Santorum on the Eric Metaxas Show.

I’ve always respected Rick immensely and didn’t realize he’s currently a Senior Political Commentator on  CNN.  He’s on Anderson Cooper and on Chris Cuomo and one of the morning shows each week!  (Which rock have I been under?)

The other wonderful discovery from Eric Metaxas’ show was learning about a book Rick and his wife, Karen, wrote called Bella’s Gift:  How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation. (Their daughter, Elizabeth, helped them write the book.)

As with many of Eric’s guests who write books, upon hearing the interview, I immediately ordered the book.  Reading the book is like you’re sitting down with Rick and Karen (each of them have written several chapters) while they walk us through a whale of a storm they experienced and continue to live with each day.

Parents to eight children, one of which died soon after he was born (Gabriel—his death was their first storm they encountered prior to the current one they’re enduring. Karen wrote a book about Gabriel and their experience:  Letters to Gabriel), we see how their last child, Bella, impacts the entire family which is hugely miraculous.

Bella was born with Trisomy 18.  Most babies born with this condition don’t survive more than a few days. You’ll be astonished at some of the doctors Bella had who never called her by name, wrote her off as untreatable, considered her not worth their time, while calling her “incompatible with life.”

The first few days of Bella’s life were frightening to say the least, charting unknown territory.  Karen says, “A strong prayer chain strengthened and sustained us. Our families and friends were the hands of Christ during her hospitalization.”  And you can see how they remain strong week in and week out throughout the book.

The Mama Bear in me surfaced quickly and Karen, more than once, called this instinct we moms have her “inner Grizzly Bear.”  Happy with relief over finally finding docs who were on board, compassionate, and who gave Bella wonderful care, Rick and Karen brought Bella home where she’s blossomed, has six siblings who adore her and I’m happy to report is now eleven years old!

Frightening trips to the hospital keep the Santorum family on their toes, along with multi-faceted daily care for Bella.  How did they survive the early years and how do they keep putting one foot forward every day? And how in the world did Rick run for President during all of this?  (You must read the book to find out!)

You will be inspired by bold faith, gut-level honesty, and pearls of wisdom both Rick and Karen generously share.  Additionally, you may wonder (and marvel) at how they held their marriage together.  Plus you will never look at a special-needs child the same again, that I can promise.  The Santorum’s teach us, “We see that value is not determined by what society calls ‘usefulness,’ but, rather, value is measured by our capacity to love.”

While each of the eighteen chapters has the word “love” in its title, each offers a glimpse at the many ways love affects us and how we can learn to emulate this beautiful kind of God-given love toward one another.

My two favorite chapters are Chapter 13:  Love Unifies (by Karen) and Chapter 14: Love Encourages Selflessness (by Rick).

In Chapter 13, Karen reveals advice she gives newlyweds based on her own marriage and experiences.  She says, “It’s good to understand that marriage is never 50-50. Sometimes, whether it’s emotional, physical, or spiritual, one of you will need the encouragement and strength of the other. You will give 90 %. …Believe and love each other through the imbalances. …because there’s no room for selfishness in marriage.”

She quotes Ephesians 4:26 as their go-to verse:  “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Karen says when they do have a conflict, Rick always says, “I’m not going anywhere, so let’s just work it out.” I love that and Karen closes with, “Amen.”

Karen and Rick emphasize the importance of family in every chapter.  Because their children were old enough to take on many chores, etc., they were a huge help to Karen managing the care for Bella.  She grew up in a large family and she says,

The Santorums consider Bella a gift to their family for a lot of reasons, and Karen says, “One of the most important reasons was to revisit and strengthen my understanding of love through the fear of loss…Rick and I both understood that ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.’” (I John 4:18)

Last week I wrote about a book by Lloyd John Ogilvie called Facing the Future without FearPrescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millennium.  Lloyd was the Chaplain to the Senate during the time Rick was a Senator.  In Rick and Karen’s book, Rick credits Lloyd, along with a priest, for transforming his faith. You will see in each chapter how strong their faith is which helps them navigate this storm they’re enduring.  God’s impeccable timing is nothing short of miraculous.

Karen closes Chapter 13 with, “Our love for each other and for our Lord has unified us through all the ups and downs. The twists and turns of life have brought us even closer together.” This chapter is inspirational and filled with words of wisdom on the loss of a child, on surviving a storm, and on how to preserve your marriage.  As with each of the chapters, it offers multiple Bible verses (she calls them “sacred Scripture”) you’ll want to write in your journal asap.

Regarding their storm, Karen said, “Venturing into uncharted, stormy seas, my vessel was my faith, and it separated me from the sea of madness and sorrow.”

In Chapter 14, Rick speaks about the importance of family and shows us how “Love Encourages Selflessness.”  He says, “Families are the foundation of society, so when families are healthy, so is the country.” We get to learn of Rick’s childhood and how he saw what it meant for family to come first.

Rick addresses selflessness both in families and in marriage. He teaches us the acronym for FAMILY:  “Forget About Me I Love You.”

Rick once had the opportunity to meet Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  She said something he never forgot, “God does not call on you to do great things; He calls on you to do little things with great love.”

Chapter 15, “Love Begets Peace,” opens with a lovely quote from Madeline L’Engle:

I am certain Rick and Karen have been a beautiful visual of the light of Christ to scores of people they’ve encountered. Whether it was in the political arena, or in hospitals or doctors offices where they’ve  been with Bella, their light from our Lord is causing many to want what they have.

It’s no coincidence Karen used to be a neonatal intensive care nurse. More than once, when they had to call 911 for Bella, Rick and the children chime in it was Karen who saved Bella.  Any time Bella gets a simple cold, it usually goes into her chest, causing breathing to be difficult and a downward spiral to her health.

What Karen and Rick have done for Bella, not just for her as their child, but for thousands of children with special-needs, fighting for their rights and the perfect care, is above and beyond, making all of us realize afresh we are all created by the same God who loves each and every one of us, each with our own purpose to glorify God as He would orchestrate. Amen and amen and thank you, Rick and Karen Santorum for this beautiful, eye-opening book.  God Bless you and your family!

‘Til next time!

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

A “Fear Not” a Day Keeps the Devil Away

Friends! Remember your parents telling you “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?”  I didn’t fall for that for long. To this day, I have to force myself to sit down and eat an apple. Don’t ask me why…

Fun sidebar:  A more interesting proverb about the apple first appeared in 1866 in Wales,

“Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

While most medical experts agree this isn’t true re: docs, some say the act of eating an apple can keep the pharmacist away. Do try this at home…

I have even better medical news (as in “prescriptions” to lower your stress, coupled with giving-peace-of-mind-news), thanks of course, to a book with my name on it. Not literally, but you’ll learn why this book jumped out at me recently…

The book? Facing the Future without Fear:  Prescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millennium by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Lloyd was the  61st Chaplain to the U.S. Senate from 1995-2003. Prior to that he pastored First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California for twenty-three years.  He also authored fifty plus books!

Sadly, Lloyd John Ogilvie died just this month (June of 2019) at 88 years of age. U.S. Senator Mark O.Hatfield said to hear him preach was like experiencing a “living gospel.”

In an interview in 1989, Ogilvie said,

Now, to the book:  First off, and primo to remember, Lloyd teaches us there are 366 “Fear nots” in the Bible.  One for every day, including leap year! Thence the title of this post:  “A ‘fear not’ a day keeps the devil away.”

Each of the book’s twelve chapters are “prescriptions for courageous living.”  If I had to pick a favorite, I’d choose Prescription #9:

 

Lloyd took a survey of the causes of fear and many answered, “imaginary fears.”  He said, “Some went on to explain that many of their worst fears never happened. And yet they continued to be victims of their gloomy imaginations.”

Look at these ever-so-true words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Some of your hurts you have cured

And the sharpest you still have survived

But what torment of grief you’ve endured

From hurts that never arrived.”

It never occurred to me to confess our fearful imaginations to the Lord and BEGGING (my word choice, lol) Him to make our imagination “a channel of His vision and NOT a breeding place for fear.” Lloyd adds the importance and the dire need of our understanding what the Lord intended for our imaginations to do, that it must frustrate and distort His original purpose when we don’t consider such.  What a way to think!  Lloyd assures us if we do this, “then we can claim His power to live out each day as fearless, imaginative, and healthy Christians.”

Let’s reiterate those three adjectives!  FEARLESS, IMAGINATIVE, and HEALTHY!!!

Lloyd continues to define imagination for us:  It is:

“The God-given ability of the thinking brain to form and hold images of thought.

“The drama department of the mind, giving our ideas form and structure,

“It produces the motion picture version of our thought.”

And, if that’s not mind-blowing enough, we’re reminded of Joel 2:28-29 which says,

Lloyd said, regarding the above verse, “It’s not only the prediction of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, but it’s also the promise of the renaissance of the imagination.”  Friends, I HAVE NEVER CONSIDERED THIS BEFORE, HAVE YOU?

Frankly it was a relief to discover later in the chapter that Lloyd had never considered this before either until he kept reading Paul’s words regarding “the fullness of God.”

Let’s read Ephesians 3:17-19:

Now, tuck your toes under the table as they’re about to get stepped on:  Lloyd then asked himself this question:  “If I have been created to receive all of the fullness, have I responded with all of my life?”

He had the revelation he’d been using his imagination to promote fear, not faith, so he made a deep commitment to the Lord re: his imagination and prayed for the fullness of His Spirit to fill it, heal it and use it to help him see himself and other people and the church the way the Lord does. This was a huge “aha” for Lloyd and is also, I’m sure, for us readers! WOW.

The end of the chapter includes six points to recap the wealth of information we’re given in Chapter Nine. The sixth point is my favorite because it truly reminds us to bookend our days with prayer:

I must admit I was deeply saddened to learn of Lloyd’s recent death because I wanted to write him and tell him how much this book has meant to me.  Being fearful is one of my many activities du jour which produce ridiculous worry, thence the need to “readjust” my imagination just as Lloyd advises.

I nearly fell out of my chair while reading another faith-equipping book (which I’ll be writing about next!), called Bella’s Gift:  How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation by Rick and Karen Santorum with Elizabeth Santorum.

I’m sure y’all remember Rick and his run for presidency.  He tells us early into the book how Lloyd John Ogilvie transformed his faith, calling Lloyd a “great man of God.”  (This was while Rick got to sit under Lloyd’s preaching and teaching when he was Chaplain to the Senate!)

Finally, another big fan of Lloyd was author and pastor John Ortberg.  When John was a student at Fuller Seminary, he would sneak over to Hollywood Presbyterian (where Lloyd was the pastor) to watch and learn.  John said, “LLoyd John Ogilvie was a kind of statesman in the world of evangelical Christianity whose type is sorely needed and will be badly missed. He deeply valued the life of the mind and was a model scholar-pastor. At the same time, his commitment to a life of prayer and a fresh experience of intimacy with God shone thru’ almost every sermon…How good God was to lend him to us for a while.”

Dash away, dash away all to your nearest bookstore and grab Facing the Future Without Fear:  Prescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millenium. You will be so blessed!

‘Til next time!

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons, Scripture