April Alerts

I’m linking with Emily Freeman, as she and others share what they’ve learnt in April.

Book: A double whammy this time because Annie Downs’ “Looking for Lovely” came out on 5 April, but on her podcast (the best episode yet, by the way), she said it was part 2 of her story. Some great marketing there because I then had to pick up its predecessor, “Let’s all be Brave” (which I’d been meaning to read for a couple of years). I’m so glad I did. Its timing in my life was just right and I absolutely loved it. The new one took longer to get into and I gave it a lower rating on Goodreads, but only because it digs deeper and the beginning felt a bit heavy. I still enjoyed it overall, particularly the chapter about the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Watch: On Easter Sunday, I stumbled across the first in a series on the Salvation Army, and I’m really enjoying it. Who knew that comedian Paul O’Grady used to be a care-worker? He really is great with people. Christians don’t always get a good press on the BBC, but “The Sally Army and Me” is respectful, combining the outworking of their faith with Paul’s quirky sense of humour. Light-hearted and easy to watch, the last episode airs on Sunday.

Song: I went to a Stuart Townend concert this month with some of my favourite people, and the chorus of this song seems to have stuck.

Bible-Verse: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15) – the idea that instead of striving, we can put quiet confidence in God for our deliverance. I like that.

Blog-Post: Are you someone who’s convinced a church should be a certain size? Perhaps you’ll appreciate my friend Becky’s post, “Big Church Versus Small Church”. A pastor’s wife from New York, she makes her points well.

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If you’re new here, I hope you’ll stay. I’m reviewing a book by Matt and Beth Redman at the moment, and I’ll look forward to sharing that with you next month. Thanks for reading.

Shamelessly Living the Adventure: “Brazen” Book-Review

I signed up to review this having wanted to read one of Leeana’s books for a while, but I must admit I found the subtitle off-putting. “Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding” sounded weird to me. I might have gone for: Shamelessly Living the Adventure. Leeana’s taught me that brazen means ‘Without shame’, and we don’t always have to follow brazen with hussy.

Do you follow authors on Twitter? If you’re reading their book, it’s a great way to send a thank-you note at the end, or if you weren’t overly impressed, find a quote that did resonate and tweet it to them. Revell Books tweeted a link to this podcast with Leeana, which will give you an idea whether you’ll like “Brazen”. It’s a book about returning to who you are deep-down inside, and unashamedly being that person. There’s good advice about recovering and finding your voice.

I appreciated Leeana’s writing style; short chapters with storytelling woven in. I might recommend “Brazen” if a person was lacking in confidence. My only major struggle was with chapter 9 where, because she grew up without a man around, Leeana talks about finding an image of God we’re comfortable with and refers to Him as a matriarch. I know Jesus wept over Jerusalem and wanted to gather her people like a hen gathers her chicks, but Jesus didn’t ever say: “Our Mother in heaven”, so I don’t think we have a license to mess with God’s gender. There are those people (a good friend of mine being one) who don’t have brilliant relationships with their earthly fathers, yet they can look at God and acknowledge Him as their perfect Father – the One they lift their eyes to and can’t help but smile. I’d rather follow their example than try to turn God into a matriarch, but on the whole, “Brazen” is an encouraging read.

First Came Rest

God seems to be teaching me about rest just lately. Today my pastor was talking at church about something Jesus said. I’ve just looked this up and it’s not the wording I’m used to, but I like it: “Come to Me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept My teachings and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives” (Matthew 11:28-29). First it struck me that in Jesus’ order of things, resting and being refreshed comes before learning; then I got to thinking it’s always been like that … ever since the beginning.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (Genesis 2:2-3). God didn’t launch straight into giving Adam instructions on how to take care of the garden. First came rest, for God and all of His creation; then came the learning.

If you’re tired, maybe the best thing you can do right now is to put on your slippers and make yourself a hot drink, or turn on the electric blanket and lie down enjoying the warmth. The learning can wait for a little while; just take that time, and let the Lord refresh you from your weariness.

Turn it on its Head

Do you remember in the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, Wonka would get something wrong and then he’d say: “Strike that! Reverse it”? I’d like to give certain quotes the same treatment. Take this one as an example:
“You’re so heavenly-minded, you’re no earthly use!”
I would argue that those who are heavenly-minded are of far more earthly use. Heavenly-minded people examine their lives. They look at what they do and ask: Does this have eternal value?

When we think of God’s greatest commandments (love the LORD your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself), we see that anything we do for God or for others has value not only for now, but for eternity. That’s what heavenly-minded people give the majority of their time and their money to.

Here’s another:
“Preach the gospel and where necessary, use words.”
When I was growing up, the philosophy was that there were two things you didn’t talk about at dinner parties: Politics and religion. Your beliefs were to be kept private, but faith in Jesus is more than a religion – it’s a crucial part of my life. If God comes first and my loved ones come second to Him, asking me to keep quiet about my faith is like asking a newlywed not to talk about their spouse; it doesn’t work.

I can understand that people don’t want to make a great speech but leave their hearers still in need, and the Bible supports this: “A brother or sister in Christ might need clothes or food. If you say to that person, ‘God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,’ but you do not give what that person needs, your words are worth nothing” (James 2:15-16). We don’t want our words to be worth nothing, but meeting people’s needs should never be a substitute for telling the good news of Jesus and His love that invites us into a relationship with God. Remember when that crowd of five thousand-plus stayed with Jesus so long that they were hungry? Why had they stayed? What were they doing? They were listening to Jesus talk to them about God! God’s Word came first and always will. Meet people’s physical needs if you’re able, but don’t neglect the spiritual. “Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Are there any quotes that you’d like to turn upside-down?