Who would imagine that biblical lists could be a rich source of spiritual insight? It’s really tempting to just skip over them, but lately, I’ve come upon a better plan. Rather than skipping over the lists as if they were somehow “extra,” what if we viewed them as a string of beads to finger and linger over? What if we applied our minds to those lists in the practice of scripture meditation?
I have created a guided meditation in PDF form with the goal of expanding your practice of chewing on the words of the Sacred Text. After you’ve completed the process, you can apply the practice to Bible verses you know or want to become more familiar with!
Let’s work on 2 Peter 1:5-7 together:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with2 Peter 1:5-7
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Slow down and meditate on one passage of scripture to deepen your understanding and its impact on your life. This month, I’m offering a free guided meditation on 2 Peter 1:5-7.Tweet
Now Let’s Talk Books!
Six brand-spankin’-new books from my summer reading will certainly inspire you, but don’t miss the older titles embedded within the post. C.S. Lewis advised readers to take in one old book for every three new books we read, which sounds like wisdom to me. Be looking for evidence of this in future Book Talk posts.
Let’s get started…
The Making of C.S. Lewis
The Making of C. S. Lewis landed on my Kindle at around the same time I had purchased God in the Dock, a collection of C.S. Lewis’s essays. Both books flew to Colorado in my backpack, and say what you want about air travel–it affords some prime reading time. I had read Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, but Harry Lee Poe focused on Lewis’s life from 1918-1945, the impact of two world wars on Lewis’s life, his conversion, and the blossoming of his career as an educator, a writer, and a thought leader whose influence is still felt today.
I have read most of Lewis’s writing and a good amount of other people’s writing about Lewis, but even so, I was captivated by the way Poe presented Lewis’s personality and his world. For instance, one of Lewis’s quirks was his refusal to read newspapers, and he offered the excuse that “if anything important happens, someone will be sure to tell me.”
War shaped Lewis’s adult years, and he almost certainly suffered from PTSD as a result of his involvement in World War 1. In fact, the shoulder wound inflicted upon him troubled him for most of the remainder of his life and, it was the likely inspiration for Frodo’s shoulder wound in Tolkein’s Ring Trilogy. Lewis’s involvement in World War 2 (which he called his “war work”) consisted of BBC broadcast talks and in person lectures at RAF bases.
Lewis’s rapid movement from atheist to apologist was aided by his knowledge of the Bible as literature, long before he ever believed it was true. Poe goes into fascinating detail about how Christianity impacted Lewis’s writing and his relationships while giving equal time to his reputation and impact as a scholar. There’s another volume in the works to continue with the rest of C.S. Lewis’s life, and Poe brings this volume about a successful and satisfying career masterfully to a close with the hint that “perhaps he might even write some stories.”
Where the Light Fell
I’ve been waiting for this book for a LONG time! Of course, details of Philip Yancey’s hardscrabble upbringing have come out piecemeal throughout his other writing, and, more than once, I’ve borrowed his self-descriptive phrase: “recovering fundamentalist.” His long-awaited memoir combines the narrative drive of good storytelling with the life impact of Yancey’s Christian non-fiction.
On page one, I was transported back to Philip’s grandparents’ 1960’s-era living room, with The Lawrence Welk Show on the television and a new girlfriend seated beside him on the couch, as a family secret landed like a bomb in Philip’s young adult life. The agony of that untold story radically shaped his childhood.
Flannery O’Connor described the south as “Christ-haunted,” but the ghosts that showed up in Philip and his brother’s growing up years had more to do with their widowed mother’s fierce fundamentalism, the pervasive racism and legalism of their ultra-conservative church, and the suffocating poverty that impacted every aspect of their lives.
Where the Light Fell: A Memoir is a cautionary tale for Christian parents who long for a degree of orthodoxy in their children to validate their parenting practices or to confirm their own faith. It takes a sinewy faith to watch our children veer off into a different kind of following life, but God is in the business of building our faith by showing us how to let go.
Yancey’s memoir sheds light on the motives behind his writing career based on documenting the messiness of faith and the mystery of God’s ways. As he unwraps the layers of his story and comes to an understanding of the shaping influences on this Christianity and his writing, he reveals the mercy of God and the power of truth to prevail in a life that could have gone in at least a dozen destructive directions, but, by grace, followed the path to Light instead.
A Spacious Life
Ashley Hales invites believers to leave behind their 21st-century addiction to hustle and to embrace the spaciousness of a life within God-designed limits. Humanity has been boundaried since The Garden, but we persist in living as if it weren’t so, first in stepping up to a forbidden tree and, ultimately, today using our iPhones to style ourselves as omnipresent and Google to fake omniscience as we power through our days on caffeinated omnipotence.
Drawing from her own experience as a mom to four, a church planting ministry wife, and an academic, Hales is well-qualified to speak to the futility of hurry and the goodness of real community—even with all its constraints. It turns out that freedom lies along a road with strong guardrails.
“Your limits are an invitation into the presence of God. He desires to meet you in your limits” (106).
The truth of this counter-cultural claim washed over me in a season of hurry and hard work, and I’ve already written one post grounded in Ashley’s good thinking. Laying my spinning plates at Jesus’s feet sounds like a good beginning, a spiritual practice that leads to life, A Spacious Life.
You Are Not Your Own
It’s no accident that I’ve placed this book directly following A Spacious Life. Do you enjoy reading books on related themes? This correlated reading experience was serendipitous for me, but the two sing beautifully together, so I recommend them as a pair!
The myth that we are limitless, that guardrails in life are a negative thing, and that the narrow path leading to life is restrictive—even claustrophobic—is the fundamental lie of our age. In You Are Not Your Own: Belonging to God in an Inhuman World, Alan Noble’s thesis refutes the lie with solid truth that it is in belonging to Christ that we find our true purpose in life, for “to belong to Christ is to find our existence in his grace, to live transparently before God” (5).
If I am my own and belong to myself, I must bear the weight of justifying my existence and the weary task of assigning meaning to my life. I must calibrate my own moral compass, define the identity others will see, and then hope against hope it will be affirmed. Otherwise, do I even exist?
Society will affirm me in this quest by offering a cafeteria of possible identities and then providing products and platforms for expressing and communicating my selected identity.
However, if I am not my own, but belong to God, I am not required to be enslaved to efficiency, and I am no longer required to operate according to the slick techniques that keep the world going round in hopes of achieving perfection (or at least progress). If I belong to God, all my meaning-making and meaning experience is tied to objective truth about God, the world, and my neighbor.
Noble’s final chapter zeroes in on the true comfort found in owning the limits of belonging. In life, we reject the numbing and embrace discomfort and vulnerability because we are not alone in it, and in death, we find ourselves carried by the grace that sustained us in life, even in suffering. Noble avoids pat answers, prosperity Gospel, and happy-clappy solutions to the brokenness of this world, offering instead gritty truth that belonging to God is the only hope for humans living on a fallen planet.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is an invitation to humanity to come into the presence of God and to be known. Aubrey Sampson explores this life-changing truth, first by reminding readers of who we are, and then highlighting the glorious detail of whose we are. Solid truth is the surest weapon against the lies we live by, and Known: How Believing Who God Says You Are Changes Everything incorporates the ways God has named us and appointed us with our own role as Name Giver in the Kingdom of God.
Named, loved, and known, we reflect God’s work and his ways in the world, and the goal of Sampson’s writing ministry is to help her readers to live in that freedom, unburdened by false names life has pinned to all of us. Scriptural accounts of Jesus’s stories and his dealings with others alongside her own very personal accounts of living her way into an awareness of her belovedness form a convincing argument that God is always working. Believing God’s goodness and trusting his sovereignty in that work becomes confidence and multiplied blessing, for God’s naming is also a sending and a calling into the flourishing lives of others.
Supplementary resources include a reflective discussion guide for deeper study as well as insights into several of the names of God which have been formative for the author. Knowing and believing God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do is key to embracing our identity, safe in the plan of the God who names us, knows us, and loves us so well.
Help, I’m Drowning!
One look at Sally Clarkson’s sweet smile and readers know they will find encouragement and lots of grace within the pages of her books. Sure enough, in our present season of disappointment and anxiety, she has come alongside her readers with empathy and hope, sharing her own story of loneliness, health challenges, career pressures, unexpected calamity—and deliverance from fear in the storm. Hardly a one of us in the past eighteen months has failed to sigh at least once, “Help, I’m Drowning!”
A comforting arm around the shoulders is nice but more sinewy and consequential is a right understanding of God, our world, and our place in it. With that in place, all the waves that threaten to drown have, instead, the redemptive outcome of “character built, humility learned, compassion developed, and sympathy kindled.”
Our suffering is never without meaning and purpose, for God is always at work behind the scenes, and Help I’m Drowning is evidence of his work in the life of one faithful woman who has learned to say “yes” to his plan every day—even when it is not the plan she had chosen for herself. Rather than a quick fix, what we all need is a patient faith that sits with God in the process, trusting for grace. Being prepared for a storm makes all the difference.
That’s it for another month! Thanks for talking books with me today, and be sure to share your latest reads in the comments below!
Holding you in the light,
Six brand-spankin’-new books from my summer reading will inspire you, but don’t miss the older titles embedded within the post. C.S. Lewis prescribed one old book for every three new books, which sounds like wisdom to me.Tweet
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Many thanks to InterVarsity Press, Crossway, Bethany House, Tyndale House, and NetGalley for providing copies of these books to facilitate my reviews, which are, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
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