A Book About Men Written by a Man: “I Wish he had Come with Instructions” Book-Review

You don’t have to be married to enjoy reading books on marriage. I’ve always liked and found them helpful. Sometimes you’ll see titles on how to please your husband or how best to pray for him, but Mike Bechtle’s “I Wish he had Come with Instructions” is different. It’s a book about men written by a man, so you can be fairly sure he knows what he’s talking about. I appreciated his clarification at the beginning that it wasn’t a one-size-fits-all book. Every man is unique, and this ‘Understanding manual’ was written as a starting-point. I liked Mike’s use of storytelling to connect readers with his message.

I would recommend this whether you’re single, married or preparing for marriage. Perhaps like me, it’ll be a conversation-starter with your male friends and you can see who’s the exception to the rule!

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The Blind Pleading the Blind: Organisations

One thing I learnt in the sight loss awareness training that prompted this series is, every blind or partially-sighted person is entitled to an assessment of their care needs. During that assessment, social services will categorise their needs as Critical, Substantial, Moderate or Low. Shockingly, many fall into the Low category, for which no funding is available. Now, I don’t think I’m someone who likes to play the sympathy card, especially when it comes to being assessed. Organisations will advise you to paint the blackest possible picture, but I think it’s really important to be honest about what I can do, so I don’t currently have any help from social services, but I do have a volunteer from a local organisation come to read my post once a week. This is very beneficial, but you do have to be organised, E.G. what if your volunteer’s been on Wednesday, but it’s someone’s birthday on Monday and you’ve forgotten to ask her to write their card? Thankfully I have friends/family nearby and a lovely, small, family-run card shop. They’ve addressed a last-minute card for me before now, but if your local card shop is a chain and staff are constantly busy, they may not be able to do this.

To help someone with sight loss, I’d really recommend seeing what’s available locally. (Non-UK readers, please bear with me for a minute.) You used to be able to look for your local Association for the Blind. They now have more abstract names like Sight Concern or Vision Link, but I’m sure if you contacted your County Council, they’d point you in the right direction. Though RNIB is a very high-profile charity, I really don’t understand why. Admittedly they do have a great selection of products to help with everyday life, but blind and partially-sighted people still have to pay for these. Now they’ve merged with National Library and Action for Blind People, there are the books and holidays as well, but I think local organisations are far better when it comes to meeting your needs as a blind person. There are more benefits to RNIB when you’re a member, E.G. getting books transcribed into Braille free of charge.

What was that about holidays? Yes, there are holidays that cater specifically for visually-impaired people. Action for Blind People run hotels in Devon, Somerset and the Lake District. A friend has been on several of these holidays and loves them, but because I’m wary of dogs, she’s cautioned they wouldn’t be for me. (In hotels like these, a high proportion of the guests will be guide-dog owners.) If you’re a Christian, you might enjoy a Torch holiday, or if you’re more adventurous, Traveleyes take blind and sighted travellers to all sorts of destinations – Cape Town, Canada, Jersey, York … Can you tell this is the one I’m leaning towards? Sighted travellers receive a discount in exchange for guiding a blind person, so blind people have to pay more in order to subsidise their guides. Fair enough, but it is very expensive. One day when I’ve got the money, I’d love to go to Cape Town, or on the holiday they call Rhythms of the Deep South.

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If you’re supporting someone with sight loss, my recommendation would be to get as much advice as you can, from as many different organisations as you can. I hope this series has given you a starting-point to be able to do that.

March Moments

How can it be the end of another month already? But tomorrow the clocks go forward here in the UK, and we’re into British Summer Time, so here are a few takeaways from March –

Podcasts: Find out how an old-fashioned pager helped cancer-patient Andy, or have a listen to some of Shauna’s wise words on when to take your teacher’s hat off, and other parenting advice. I found it interesting even though I don’t have children at home to look after.

Quote: My blogger-friend Kristen wrote this before she went on holiday. “You have been neighbours and friends who bring over delicious casseroles of words and encouragement.” I liked that. You may not be the best cook in the world, and you may not live near enough to certain friends to share a physical meal with them, but a plate of encouragement in their inbox is just as good!

Blog-Post: My favourite this month included a video. I’ve read Annie’s blog, and more recently listened to her podcast. She comes across as such a fun person, full of energy and always smiling. I enjoyed hearing in one of her quieter moments how seriously she takes her calling to speak to women and point them to God.

Discoveries: I went to a Compassion coffee morning earlier this month. Not only did I meet some lovely people, I also learnt new things. Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard the story of the starfish washed up on the beach and about to die. A boy throws one back into the ocean and says: “I made a difference to that one”, but did you know this starfish story has a modern-day twist? Another thing: If you’re a sponsor, have you noticed the blue corner on all your mailings from Compassion? It’s distinctive, but more than that, it points back to Leviticus 23:22, where the Israelites are told not to harvest right to the corners of their fields, but always to leave something there for the poor. What a privilege to partner with an organisation that has such a heart for God’s Word.

Book: Finally, this I’ve put on my to-read list – “Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography”. I heard Jen and Craig talk about how his addiction affected their marriage. They sound a lovely couple, and I love to read about real people and how they’ve overcome. If you’ve read the book, what did you think of it?

Is there anything you’re taking away from March?

Finding What’s Right in Front of You: “Life Unstuck” Book-Review

Have you ever asked a shop-assistant where something is, only to find it’s right under your nose? Sometimes chinks in our lives are staring us in the face, but we need other people’s help to see them. Reading “Life Unstuck” could be one way of giving yourself that help to put your past behind you, enjoy your present, and look forward to your future.

The author’s introduction made me think this would be a bit heavy, but don’t be put-off. Pat came across as more approachable when she started chapter 1 with a personal story, and there are plenty of these throughout. If you love people, I think you’ll enjoy Pat’s style of writing and willingness to admit her mistakes. If you love the Bible, you’ll appreciate going deeper into the intensely personal Psalm 139, one verse at a time.

Discovering Your Spouse and Yourself: “Romancing Your Better Half” Book-Review

“Romancing Your Better Half” is an odd title for this book; you would expect it to advocate putting your other half’s needs before your own, when in fact the recurring theme is: “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.” If you’re anything like me, when you pick up this book, you might feel it starts slowly or that the author generalises too much: Men like this; women prefer that, but in some instances, this is helpful. I found it interesting to read (in chapter 7) about our different ways of dealing with conflict. Author Rick Johnson has been married for over thirty years, so at least you know he’s speaking from his experience of a lasting relationship that works.

As an unmarried woman, I wasn’t sure how much of this would apply to me. I think it could be extremely beneficial for courting or engaged couples as well as marrieds, but there’s also advice in there that could help anyone in their friendships or family-relationships with those of the opposite sex. At first, I didn’t expect to be recommending this book, but I think it is probably one I’ll go back and reread.

“I Need Some Help Here!” Book-Review: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

What I expected and what I got from this book were two different things.  The title “I Need Some Help Here!” makes me think of Michelle Pfeifer or Julia Roberts playing a harassed mum, up to her eyeballs in dirty nappies; yoghurt spattered on the wall; a pre-schooler with only one shoe …  I  expected lots of funny stories of little ones and their mishaps, and tips on how to cope with them; what I got was a very serious twelve chapters on how best to bring up children.  There were several stories, but more emotional than practical, and none that really made me laugh.  The first chapter was particularly hard-going.  To grab people’s attention, it should have started in chapter three.

 

This book could benefit new Christians, Sunday churchgoers, struggling parents or those who want to support them.  Its main themes being prayer and God’s sufficiency, there are prayers for children and their parents.  You will find useful advice in here (the chapter on mental illness especially), but Kathi’s packed a lot in to some of the chapters, so definitely not a light read to pick up and put down.  Changing the format to a month-long devotional might improve it somewhat, but I wouldn’t be falling over myself to buy this for a new mum.

Healthy Sharing

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisors bring success” (Proverbs 15:22).

 

I think this is one reason why community’s so important.  I’d definitely say sharing with others and getting their input into your life shouldn’t be restricted to Sundays.  Just the other week, I was struggling with something a church-member said, trying to process it, and one thing that helped me do that was chatting with some Christian women on Facebook.  Sometimes I can be quite hard on myself, but when I shared with the group, no one said what I might have said – that I needed to be thicker-skinned.  In fact, the most helpful comment was one about ‘Our gentle God’ – one that made me refocus on the love He has for us.

 

If I have a dream that’s potentially life-changing, before acting on it, I ask people I can trust, who are most likely to put me off.  When even they can see it working, it reassures me that I’m not coming from another planet!  What about you; who do you bounce your ideas off?  Do you prefer to share online or face-to-face?

Who are You?

Cindy wrote to me this week, and I’m very grateful to the staff at her Compassion-project.  They’re teaching her an important lesson – that she’s beautiful on the inside.

 

I don’t know about you, but when you meet people, doesn’t it feel more comfortable if you’ve got a title to attach to yourself?  “I’m a secretary”; “I’m a teacher”; “I’m a mum”.  It seems people pay so little attention to who we are on the inside, and yet that’s the most important thing:  It’s what makes us … us.  If when we met someone for the first time we had to introduce who we really were, I wonder what we’d say.  Why don’t you get a piece of paper and try to write it down?  Any negative traits will be things you can ask for God’s help with, and the positives are things to hold onto.

 

So, how did you do?

A Family in Trouble

Aren’t families complicated?  Take this one family:  There’s a son and a daughter, and the daughter’s very beautiful – so beautiful that her half-brother falls in-love with her.  I’ve read about this recently (2 Samuel 13).  The man’s so frustrated because he knows it would be wrong for him to end up with his half-sister.

 

He could have handled this in a Godly way:  Perhaps he could have asked God to bring someone into his life he loved even more – someone he could rightfully marry.  It wouldn’t have been the first time somebody asked God for His help to choose a wife; Abraham’s servant did the same when looking for a wife for Isaac, but the man chose not to.  He could have been honest with his half-sister and their father about his feelings and asked for God’s help to avoid temptation, but he chose not to do that either.  Instead he took some wrong advice – the advice of his cousin, who told him to pretend to be ill.  He was very convincing and requested that his half-sister bring some of his favourite food.  Their father agreed, she brought the food into his bedroom and you can imagine what happened next.

 

Whose family was this?  King David’s.  The ruler of Israel wasn’t immune to personal problems; nobody is, and God cares about them all.

 

Are you struggling with something in your life?  Can you think of a right and Godly way to handle it?  Perhaps you’re being given all kinds of advice and don’t know where to turn.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I know that God does.  I’m here if you want to share in the comments, and I’m happy to pray for/with you.

 

Stay tuned because I want to write about the second part of this story in a future post.

Let Go, Hold On

Do you ever read articles and listen to sermons, and one person says one thing, one person says another and you end up totally confused?  Or is it just me?

 

I listened today to someone saying God is an abundant God – a King with finance, healing and so on under His authority.  Then I read about someone else, who gave away 15 boxes of clothes, including a pair of heeled shoes she found it hard to part with, because she felt God was convicting her to have less.  So which is He:  A God of abundance or a God of necessity?

 

Another example:  I heard someone say he looked at people living their ordinary lives and feeling small, and he saw a cage around them and wanted to grab hold of the bars and set them free.  Then I read about how sometimes there’s a reason God doesn’t move us out of situations.  So what does He want:  For us to let go and move on, or persevere and hold on?

 

I think the first question’s easier to answer than the second.  “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” – 1 Timothy 6:17-18.  Be generous, but don’t forget God loves you and wants to be generous to you, too.  He is ok with you enjoying things, as long as things aren’t your priority.

 

Now to the tricky one:  If you see the situation you’re in as a cage, do you ask to be freed from it, or to stay as you are in hope that the way you live will speak to someone’s heart?  If you’re unsure, can I give you my answer?  Take … one … day … at … a … time – something God told me a few years ago and reminded me of again today.  It’s a great piece of advice.  Sometimes we can get so worked-up about what we think we should be asking for, it can rob us of our joy in the present.  Didn’t Jesus tell us not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)?  Just like parents don’t tell children everything when they’re too young to understand, maybe we’re not ready and God needs us to wait … but let’s enjoy the waiting.