Archive for the ‘book’ Category

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Day #26: When Crickets Cry

I just finished a book in 2 days.  I’m a fast reader, but that isn’t why I finished it in 2 days.  It was just that good.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read something as good as this book was.  You need to read it.  Very well written.  Great story.  Full of faith, but not in a “beat it over your head”  kind of way.  Just wonderful.  I won’t even tell you what it’s about since discovering what the book is about is 75% of the experience.

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The Reason for God

Last quote from Tim Keller’s book “The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism”.

From Page 181:

The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued and that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself or less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less. I don’t need to notice myself-how I’m doing, how I’m being regarded-so often.

I don’t have anything to add to this.  Other than to say: Awesomeness.

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Problem of the Pharisees

This is also a quotes from Tim Keller’s book “The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism”.   In this particular chapter, he was discussing some people’s tendency to get so wrapped up in rules (aka: being like a Pharisee).  He thinks that:

From page 178:

The devil, if anything, prefers Pharisees-men and women who try to save themselves. They are more unhappy than either mature Christians or irreligious people, and they do a lot more spiritual damage.

I can relate to this!  From my own life – when I’m so focused on doing the right thing just for the sake of doing the right thing, it’s easy to be unhappy.  Because I’m usually focused on the thing that I’m doing and how I don’t really want to be doing it.  Example: I’m not always 100% joyful to cook dinner.  But I don’t like eating out all the time either, so I cook.  I’m doing the right thing, but my attitude isn’t great.

I’ve also seen how this kind of attitude in Christians does damage to other people.  When people are so law-focused (even on good laws), it can really grate on others and it really is a big turn off to Christianity because the law-focused people are miserable.  Unfortunately, the example that comes to mind are some people who hold the position that parents should not prevent children/pregnancy.  While I think their heart is in the right place and I believe that they are truly convinced of this from God and Scripture, sometimes they way they go about expressing this belief is so off-putting that it keeps me away from them.  And I mostly agree with them!  Imagine the reaction someone who disagrees with them?  Probably not good.

Anyway, I thought it was a sobering thought.

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The Reason for God

A couple of months ago, I read a wonderful book (checked out from the library!) by Tim Keller called “The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism”. I can’t remember how it got recommended to me – it had to have been one of the blogs that I read. It was fabulous!

His goal was to present common reasons that he, as a pastor of a large church in New York City had encountered for why people don’t believe in Christianity. And his reaction to those reasons. He also presented reasons (independent of people’s objections) of why he is a Christian. It was an encouraging book. It was a logical book. It was so well-written. For those reasons, it was easy to read.

I won’t talk about all of his reasons, but I do want to share a few quotes that I really liked.

From page 49 of the book:

“For a love relationship to be healthy there must be a mutual loss of independence. It can’t just be one way. Both sides must say to the other, “I will adjust to you. I will change for you. I’ll serve you even though it means a sacrifice for me.” If only one party does all the sacrificing and giving, and the other does all the ordering and taking, the relationship will be exploitative and will oppress and distort the lives of both people.

At first sight, then, a relationship with God seems inherently dehumanizing. Surely it will have to be “one way,” God’s way. God, the divine being, has all the power. I must adjust to God-there is no way that God could adjust to and serve me.

While this may be true in other forms of religion and belief in God, it is not true in Christianity. In the most radical way, God has adjusted to us-in his incarnation and atonement. In Jesus Christ he became a limited human being, vulnerable to suffering and death. On the cross, he submitted to our condition-as sinners-and died in our place to forgive us. In the most profound way, God has said to us, in Christ, “I will adjust to you. I will change for you. I’ll serve you even though it means a sacrifice for me.” If he has done this for us, we can and should say the same to God and others. St. Paul writes, “the love of Christ constrains us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).”

I love this! God has adjusted to us! So many times I think of life as “God’s way or the highway”, but that isn’t so. Since we have a relationship (not a dictatorship) with God, there is a give-and-take (to reasonable levels – God isn’t going to tell me that murder is okay). And even beyond that, our relationship with God is only possible because God adjusted to us first. God sacrificed for us first. God changed for us first. Long before I was here on earth, Jesus was. AMAZING!

And the really convicting part is that we should do the same for others. I do this, to some extent, with my husband. I have changed for him. (He has changed for me too). I do this with my children. But I can do more changing and adjusting and serving. And, I can do that changing and adjusting and serving with a better motivation – not just because it’s nice of me to do so, but because the love of Christ motivates me to do so.

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Okay, another post on the things that I learned/was impressed by in the series of Thomas J. Stanley’s books that I finished reading not too long ago.  (They include: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, The Millionaire Mind, and Stop Acting Rich…And Start Living Like A Real Millionaire).  This time, it’s on the fact that most millionaires aren’t DIY (Do It Yourself-ers).

Although most true millionaires are frugal people (considering their income), most millionaires don’t do many DIY projects – like landscaping or carpentry or fixing up houses.  Seems kind of strange since doing things yourself is usually a cheaper option than hiring someone else to do the work for you.  But that isn’t necessarily true – for this group of people, anyway.

  • Since they typically have higher incomes, it’s more cost efficient to hire a handyman at $25.00/hour than for them to do the work.  Reason? They can spend that hour making money and they’ll make far more than $25.
  • Additionally, since the millionaire isn’t likely skilled in that area or have tools for the job, a professional can do in 1 hour what might take them 3-4 hours to do.

The exception is if the millionaire likes to do that kind of work.  Some millionaires like building things or landscaping.  For them?  They’ll do the work themselves – not motivated by saving money, but motivated by spending their down time doing what they enjoy.

For us, we don’t DIY much.  Some, but not much.

  • I do our own decorating painting, but when we moved into our house, I hired someone to paint all the walls.  They could just do it much faster than I could and had the right experience for a bigger job like a whole house.  My time was better spent packing and coordinating everything else.
  • I did install our own ‘board & batten’ looking thing in our back entryway.
  • I do our own landscaping, but honestly?  To call it landscaping is quite a stretch!  It’s just grass and some hosta plants.

So, see!  I already act like a millionaire when it comes to DIY projects.  There’s just 1 problem: We’re not millionaires!  Which, since I’m not, I do want to do more DIY stuff, but mostly just the things that would save us money (ie: there’s no sense in me learning to re-plumb a house when I’m more likely to cause damage than to fix damage!) or things that interest me (like the board & batten type project).

I guess this is a good time to learn this – we just bought a new house this weekend!  We don’t close until end of September, but this is a house that will have lots of opportunities for me to DIY some things (should I decide to!)

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This House is Just Right

At least one more thought on the books I finished by Thomas J. Stanley on millionaires. (They include: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, The Millionaire Mind, and Stop Acting Rich…And Start Living Like A Real Millionaire).

In all of Stanley’s research on the wealthy, he found that there’s an interesting relationship between someone’s income and the cost of their house. You might think higher income = more expensive house. And that’s true in a lot of cases.

Take one of the neighborhoods in your city and you’re likely to find a lot of the people that live there have big incomes (think hundreds of thousands dollars a year – maybe even a million dollars year).

Many people who want to seem wealthy, buy big houses. But there are problems with that. Bigger houses mean not just a larger purchase price, but they also mean more maintenance expenses. And you’re likely surrounded by neighbors that also spend as if they are wealthy. That means private schools, boats, cleaning services, fancy furnishings, faster cars.

It’s not that you’re required to do those things, it’s just that you’re in a pool of people who do those things and thus, you’re more tempted to think that’s normal. People expect it of you.

And doing all those things require money. So you make lots of money, but you spend lots of money too.

But if you step down a notch or two and go to less expensive (but quality built homes), and that’s where you’ll find the real millionaires. Some of them even live in the same neighborhoods that they did as children. Few people know that they’re wealthy and, so, there is no pressure to keep up. Public schools are good schools. No one else has a boat, so why would they? They can clean their own house, mow their own yards and why replace perfectly good couches and bedroom sets just because they aren’t new? If you buy a good car like a Toyota Camry, it’ll last at least a decade. It’s quite roomy too!

He found housing costs to be correlated with wealth. The more wealthy a person truly is, the less of their wealth they’ll spend on their housing. They know the value of quality and safety and, more importantly, good enough.

It made me appreciate the house that we have (even more). Conventional thinking out there says that we could buy a house 3 to 4 times the price of the house we have. When we were looking at houses (and as I continue to keep my eye on the market), that isn’t close to what we’re looking at. We aren’t even looking to double the cost of our house.

It just reminded me to value quality and to know what is good enough when it comes to housing. Right now, I have a house that’s not too big, not too small. It might not be in line with our income, but it’s just right!

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Big Hat, No Cattle

I just got done reading a bunch of books by Thomas J. Stanley on millionaires. (They include: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, The Millionaire Mind, and Stop Acting Rich…And Start Living Like A Real Millionaire).  Characteristics of them, mostly. It was super interesting (though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading several of his books back-to-back – it tends to get repetitive!)

Anyway, he had several points that I, in particular, found really interesting. One of the phrases that he used is that many people are “Big Hat, No Cattle”. It’s a Texan term, apparently, but easy to understand. It’s the concept that many people look like they’d have lots of cattle, but they don’t. Many people look like they are wealthy, but they aren’t.

They do things that they THINK wealthy people do. They buy things that they THINK wealthy people buy. They wear things that they THINK wealthy people wear. But, they themselves are not wealthy. And chances are, the things that they think wealthy people do, buy and wear aren’t really things that the truly wealthy do.

The typical/average/common millionaire has many different habits than they are stereotyped for. They don’t buy $10,000 watches, wear custom made suits, or even drive $50,000 cars. The chances are really high that they:

  • Have their shoes re-soled instead of buying new ones.
  • Drive a Toyota, not a Porsche.
  • Spend $20 on their haircuts.
  • Have a stay-at-home spouse (not part of a 2-income family).
  • Have never inherited any money or won the lottery.
  • Became millionaires in their 50s.
  • Don’t work insane hours.
  • Don’t own a boat or a vacation house.

Many people who want to be millionaires mistakenly think that real millionaires spend extravagantly. And since they want to be millionaires, they want to imitate them. But they’re doing many of the wrong things to get there. If they want to get there, they would do things much differently.

Millionaires buy cars that suit their lifestyle and that they consider good buys. A Porsche is not a good buy, but a Ford F150 is great for fishing on the weekends.

They might have high incomes (but typically not the highest incomes). A huge percentage of them own their own businesses, invest their money well (but don’t take huge risks on stocks; they tend to play it safe) and work hard, but not 80 hours a week insanity.

Instead, they make wise choices (compared to their incomes). Sure, they have more expensive watches, houses and cars than I have, but considering their income, they are not extravagant. They likely live in a neighborhood with people who aren’t nearly as wealthy as they are and their neighbors would have no idea.  They buy suits that are on sale at Men’s Wearhouse, Kohl’s and JC Penney.

It was interesting reading to me. While there are millionaires that do spend lots of money, it’s not the norm.  Those are exceptions rather than the rule.

I’ll share some more thoughts on it just cause I found it interesting. We’re not set to become millionaires or anything (that’s not even our desire)…I just found it really fascinating to think about.

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Book: What Did You Expect?

I just finished a book by Paul David Tripp not too long ago – “What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage”. An excellent book! It’s a book on marriage (clearly) not full of practical tips, but on the philosophy of marriage and why it can be so difficult. It’s on why what you (when you’re just dating) think marriage will be like isn’t what marriage is really like.

From the book:

It happens to everyone. It is the unavoidable reality of marriage. Somehow, someway, every marriage becomes a struggle. Life after the honeymoon is radically different from the honeymoon that preceded it. The person you loved to play with, you are now living and working with. The person who was your escape from responsibility has become your most significant responsibility. Spending time together is radically different than living together. Reasons for attraction now becomes sources of irritation.

Somewhere along the way you realize that you, too, are a sinner, married to a sinner, and you are together living in a broken world. Sometimes this reality just makes mundane little moments more difficult than they should be, and sometimes it means facing devastating things you thought you would never face. But it happens to all.

Everyone’s marriage becomes something they didn’t intend it to be. You are required to deal with things you didn’t plan to face. In every marriage sin complicates what would otherwise be simple. In every marriage the brokenness of the world makes things more complicated and difficult. In every marriage either giddy romance wanes and is replaced with a sturdier and more mature love, or the selfishness of sin reduces the marriage to a state of relational detente.

This is kind of where my marriage is. We’re not in the giddy “Oh yay! Jeff is home from work!” stage of life. We’re also not in a facing cancer/unemployment/betrayal stage of life either. (Pray that that stage never comes, but it might.)

But we’re transitioning into that “sturdier and more mature love” that Mr. Tripp writes about.  He writes about how to transition into that kind of love.

How it’s important to prove your trustworthiness daily…

How to deal with differences…

How to protect your marriage.

Most importantly, how to bring grace into your marriage.

It’s a great thing – giddy feelings do fade and that’s okay.  They were fun while they’re there and so new.  You want them to be replaced by stronger, sturdier stuff.

It’s a great book and I’d recommend it for anyone – single or married and no matter how long you’ve been married.

In other news, Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Last post about the book that I recommended on Monday.  (You have bought a copy, right?  Or reserved one from the library?  Go do so!  I’m for reals.)  It’s “Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches” by Russell D. Moore.

This time it was a story of when his two boys left the orphanage on their way back home.  He writes:

We nodded our thanks to the orphanage personnel and walked out into the sunlight, to the terror of the two boys.

They’d never seen the sun, and they’d never felt the wind. They had never heard the sound of a car door slamming or felt like they were being carried along a road at 100 miles an hour. I noticed that they were shaking and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance. …

I whispered to Sergei, now Timothy, “That place is a pit! If only you knew what’s waiting for you – a home with a mommy and a daddy who love you, grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and playmates and McDonald’s Happy Meals!”

But all they knew was the orphanage. It was squalid, but they had no other reference point. It was home. (pg 43)

The trauma of leaving the orphanage was unexpected to me because I knew how much better these boys’ life would soon be. I thought they knew it too. But they had no idea. They couldn’t conceive of anything other than the status quo. My whispering to my boys, “You won’t miss that orphanage” is only a shadow of something I should have known already.  (pg 46)

To the boys, leaving that place felt like suffering.  A form of torture, maybe.  Panic.  Even though they had started to bond with their new parents, they were leaving the only home that they had known.  It wasn’t too long later, he writes, that they were settled at their new home with the Moores.  They got used to wind and cars and sun and not having to hide food.  Their old home couldn’t begin to compare to their new home. But they didn’t know that then.

Do I do that?  Am I in a place that feels like home, but really is suffering compared to something else?  I’m particularly thinking of my eating habits, as unhealthy and undisciplined as they are.  If I were to start eating better, it would feel like suffering to me.  I’d have to deny myself things that I dearly love today.

But if I ate healthier (the AFTER), I might realize that eating healthy isn’t suffering.  It was the BEFORE that was really suffering.  I just couldn’t know that until I tasted (ha!) the something better.  Just like his boys couldn’t have known that it was the BEFORE that was bad without knowing the AFTER.

Makes me think.

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Still talking about the book that I recommended on Monday.  (You have bought a copy, right?  Or reserved one from the library?  Go do so!)  It’s “Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches” by Russell D. Moore.

It’s practically a Christian buzz word or hot phrase these days to say “My identity is in Christ.  That’s what matters.  Nothing else.”  I’m sure I’ve said it myself.  But…confession time…I’ve never completely known what people mean by that, to be honest.

Do they mean that nothing else matters on earth?

Does it mean that no one should call them mom or dad or grandma or CEO or pastor because they don’t identify with that role?  Should Phinehas grow up calling me Christian Jayme, not Mom?  Should Jeff call me Christian Jayme, not ‘dear’?

Does it mean that they are confident in everything they do because they know that Jesus has their back?

Does it mean that it doesn’t matter what they do or what they say or what they don’t do or say?

What does it mean?!?

Mr. Moore talks about how the early Christians and Jews were in conflict over circumcision.  The Jews had the rite of circumcision as a way of saying “We are God’s people.”  If Gentiles could now be God’s people because of Jesus, didn’t they need to be circumcised too?  What was the thing that would identify them?  Without something, how would one ever know if they were in or out?

From the book:

The New Testament reminds … of our adoption so we’ll remember that we are here by the Spirit, not by the exertions of our flesh.  Because we’ve been brought into an already-existing family, we ought not to be proud, as though we were here by family entitlement (Rom. 11:11-25).  We’re here by grace.

But our adoption also shows us just how welcome we are here.  This is not, after all, the first time, God has adopted.  Too often we assume that the Gentiles are the “adopted” children of God, and the Jews are “natural-born” children.  But Paul says that Israel was adopted too (Rom. 9:4) … Israel was an abandoned baby, wallowing in its own blood on the roadside (Ezek. 16:5)

…Circumcision answers the question, “Are you part of the family?  Are the promises made to you?  Are you in the covenant?”  … It’s a lack of faith, a lack of repentance.  If they are clinging to their identity in Christ, being found in him, then everything else is rubbish.  Yes, we’re part of the family, but we don’t point to our own circumcised flesh to prove that; we point away from ourselves and to a circumcised, law-keeping, faithful, resurrected Messiah (Col. 2:11-13)

…We now come before God as sons bearing the very same Spirit as was poured out on the Lord Jesus at the Jordan River, a Spirit through which we cry “Abba!”

This means repentance.  We recognize and know that we never could have found ourselves in this family “through the flesh” — whether that striving was through biblical circumcision or through pagan orgies or through modern self-absorption.  Our identity is found in another – Jesus of Nazareth. (page 30-31)

So, it isn’t that nothing else matters at all.  Other things matter.  The roles that I have on this earth.  The people in my life.  It’s that nothing else is as defining as being a Christian.  It’s that nothing else determines my eternal destiny.  It’s that I don’t have to point to anything as proof of being a Christian.  Other stuff is nice (good deeds, baptism, evangelism, being a wife, being a mom), but it isn’t the definition of me.

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