31 January 2017

At Dinner

   
On a whim, I typed “dinner out with Brian” on our merged calendars one Thursday night.

So we sat across from each other, next to the cozy fireplace in our town’s Famous Barbeque restaurant, I feverishly working to find meals for us that weren’t full of sugar, gluten, or dairy.  And were reasonably priced.  This barbecue restaurant wasn’t cooperating with my economically healthy food desires.

Brian humored me by going along with this food plan, but I was starting to sweat guilt that he wouldn’t get to enjoy his sweet ribs and coleslaw.

After my hundredth fretting question to him, he grabbed my hands and looked me straight in the eyes.  “This isn’t about the food.  It’s about being with you.”

What do you say to that except “oh?" And sigh in relief.

This is what God says to each of us, actually.  To you, specifically.

He’s not looking for anything from you. He truly wants to know you, to be with you.  Rest in that with me, yes?


26 January 2017

Dayna's Books of 2016

Behold, 2017.  That means 2016 left.  But I’m carrying with me some good thoughts from interesting authors, growing and changing me I hope.

I read 24 books this year.  I always go for 40 and always hit low 20’s.  For 2017 you’d think I’d try for 30, but I’ll stick with 40.

Here are the books I’d like to reread if time for it allows:
(Side note: this does not necessarily mean these were my favorite reads, just that they are books I’d like to re-engage at some point because of the depth and beauty I experienced.)

1.Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
 
A Greek myth retold by the master, it is at once understandable and difficult to fully grasp.  I’ve never looked forward to picking up a fantasy read like this before, and definitely want to revisit this one.  It was a mirror to my soul but I couldn’t quite grasp the image.

2. Watership Down by Richard Adams
 
Apparently, when Richard Adams tried to get this gem published, those he approached didn’t know who to market it to.  It was too complex for children, and too imaginary for adults.  We listened to this on audiobook as a family.  It is over 16 hours long, so it is ideal a road trip or two or three.

This is a that story deals with a community of rabbits.  That description alone has halted me from reading it, classic though it is.  I’ve never been able to fully enjoy Ralph S. Mouse or even Charlotte’s Web because I struggle entering imaginary worlds where animals and human characters interact on an equal level.  Must be my farm girl background.

Thankfully the rabbits don’t interact with the humans as friends, but are realistically afraid of them.  I’m going to use the word depth again, sorry.  The depth of the community relationships as this band of rabbits struggles to find a place to create a new warren is completely incredible.  Sociologists really should use this as a textbook.

3.  40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Cole
 
This is a Lenten guide.  I’m thinking about going through it with a group of people again this Lenten season.  Though it is full of more ways to fast or decrease than I was able to fully participate in, it was a wonderful challenge for my days.
Each day is broken up with scripture, deep devotional thoughts, and an explanation on the history of lent.  I wish the history of lent would be put into its own section instead of broken up into pieces, but that’s my only idea for improvement.

4.  Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
        
I keep thinking she’s Hannah Hurnard, when actually this author is a modern day woman approximately my age living in the countryside of Virginia as a rural pastor’s wife, writer, mother, and avid gardener.  

She uses all of her experiences; ministry, writing, parenting, and especially gardening to explain the truths of humility.  Her premise starts with Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.”

I know I missed things in this gem, and I love all the agricultural analogies.  I want to return.

5.  The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris
 
Really, Norris is in her own league.  (C.S. Lewis is in his own league too, of course.). As I read this tiny collection of essays on the liturgy of the ordinary, I suddenly saw my own dish doing and laundry folding as beautiful.  I’ll pick it up again when the mundane becomes cumbersome.

Others I loved but probably won’t get to again include:

Fiction:
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (well, I’ll probably read this again)
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCoughrean
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
The Penderwick’s by Jeanie Birdsall
Home by Marilynne Robinson
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Anthem by Ayn Rand
The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander--I LOVED this on audiobook.  At 2 hours long, it is a quick listen and incredibly told; a completely deserved Newberry award winner.  I’ve listened to it at least three times, and will listen again.

NonFiction:
Design Your Day by Claire Diaz-Ortiz
Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson
The Life Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarckson
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Roots and Sky by Christy Purifoy
God With Us, an advent devotional by Greg Pennoyer and other editors
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin (I may reread this as well)
Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner--This one really made me think and wrestle with my beliefs.  It is about a girl who becomes a devout Jew and then transitions into a belief in Jesus as Messiah.  Still, nine months after reading it, I think about her description of Incarnation and what a powerful pull that had on her.  Maybe this should be a re-read.

If you are still reading, I have bonus material:

This was my favorite podcast of 2016.  I listened to it over and over.  During our family’s epic vacation to the Beartooth Mountains, we listened to it two days in a row while heading up the Beartooth Highway for hiking daytrips.  Interestingly, listening to this podcast in that setting was one of the most memorable pieces of our trip.


And this video series by Tim Keesee has been eye opening as well.

I hope this will give you an idea or two for your 2017.  May everything we fix our minds upon be purposeful, helping us to love God and others more.  

Do you have any suggestions for me for 2017?

17 December 2016

Promise


December came in like a lion, an immediate shift to living in a land of closed interstates, negative temperatures, frigid winds, and blowing ice.

Our dear friends are moving away today.  Last night, all bundled up to walk half a block, we stop and half joke that God may be telling them not to move.  How will they get to Wisconsin with all the road closures?  And the slashed tires on the moving truck?

Yet we know they will go.  If not today, soon.  If not this winter, this spring.  Spring will come, so even as the cold causes continual challenges to schedules and well-beings, there is an underlying knowledge we people dwelling in North Dakota carry around with us: this winter won't last forever, even when it feels like it does.

We know this intellectually, learning about seasons in science class.  We know this experientially , having gone through the seasonal year before.  For me, this is my fortieth winter, my fourth in North Dakota, and every year I've lived, spring has come.  It is a promise rooted in fact and experience, and I can understand it.

Even more certain than spring are the promises of God.

Peter describes them as "very great and precious."

I've been trying to think of what I might describe as both "very great" and also as "precious."  There really aren't many things that come to mind.  Maybe a rare and valuable jewel?  Not quite.  Possibly a brand new, uniquely designed sports car?  Still doesn't fit.

The words "very great" make me think of power and enormity, the word "precious" connotes fragility and irreplaceable value.

I came up with three categories that seem to fit both adjectives:
People
Pursuits
Promises

The relationships with people we have, such as marriage, parenthood, or friendship are both very great and precious.  It is mind boggling that I committed to stay with one person for my entire life that I'd known for just over a year.  We walk this life together bringing forth life through our union and learning to love each other more through the years.  It is also extremely precious, as we make ourselves vulnerable to each other and experience how easy it is to grow apart, turn away, or lose this union through death, deceit, or destruction.

My husband says a family reunion as very great and precious.  Maybe it only happens once every ten years, where family from all over the world come together to celebrate their blood connection.  I still remember the family reunion we had when I was just about to start college.  I showed up to freshmen orientation a couple days late in order to be with my extended family as we celebrated my great-grandmother's hundredth birthday.  She died just a few months later.

Freedom is a pursuit that is very great and precious. The idea that all can be free to think as they so desire, to live and love and use their minds without oppression of government or other authority.  The cost of freedom is often high for those willing to fight for it.

But the disciple of Jesus, Peter, uses the adjectives “very great and precious” to describe God's promises. (2 Peter 1)

God's promises are different than people’s promises.  Variables such as a bad memory, a busy life, a broken budget, unforeseen weather or circumstances all creep in, causing people’s best of intentions to fall short.

Not so with God.  Every Single Promise He has ever made has been or will be fulfilled.  He never forgets, never gets too busy, and never is unable to fulfill them because of things outside his control.  He has every resource at His fingertips; every say over the course of events.  And He’s good.

We can stand on on God’s promises like nothing else.

For my son’s 14th birthday I gave him a promise in his card that I would take him out to dinner and a movie.  He’ll be watching at waiting for that to be fulfilled until I make good on my word.

In the same way, we need to be watching.  God has given us very great and precious promises, but do we know what they are?  Are we looking for them to be fulfilled?

Anna and Simeon sure were.  They were watching, ready to see the fulfillment of God’s Word that He would send the Messiah.

How about us?  What promises have you claimed for your own, asking God for fulfillment in your life and watching to see Him accomplish it?

As my dear friend reached the end of her life she was wondering if her life was complete, and as she talked to me about what completion might look like, she was thinking of the promise in Philippians 1:6:
“..being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  For some reason, God’s work for her was done here before she turned 50.

A promise Brian and I claimed when we moved to North Dakota is found in Mark 10:29 and 30:
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions” and in the age to come, eternal life.”

So I watch for God to provide a hundred times as much as we left behind.  I believe He, in His ridiculously amazing grace, is doing what He promised.

Flesh and bone type these words, in the form of fingers, nails, palms.  Eyes confirm the letters are accurate, mind and heart working together to attempt communication of idea.  “All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”  1 Peter 1:24,25

That Word became flesh and “made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

He keeps His promises.  He will keep His promises.

They are very great and precious.