#struggles

struggles“We are living for Likes, but we’re longing for love.” In his latest offering Craig Groeschel explores our desire to be connected with others in the ever-growing world of social media. He shares many stories from people who truly are living for “Likes,” whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other outlets.

Some have become so engrossed with our smart phones we have developed a condition called nomophobia – the fear of going without your phone. The author spoke with a number of focus groups made up of young adults who share their struggles with being overly engaged with their phones and devices. Groeschel even shared a personal story of a time he has struggled with being without access to his phone.

Through the book he shared various statistics and stories that point to an obsession with social media engagement. In one chapter these numbers about Facebook were given: “Currently the average American Facebook user has 338 Facebook friends. But surveys indicate that the average American has only two friends they consider to be close. As shocking as that statistic is, I think one is even sadder: 25 percent of Americans today say they have zero close friends.”

While the author (and this reader) admit that there are many advantages we enjoy with smart phones, social media and other communication opportunities, it is easy for those things to become too important to us. Groeschel shares various passages of scripture and practical steps we can take to keep things in balance. Some are as simple as unplugging for 5 minutes each day, determining times when the phone is off-limits and putting filters and other restrictions on our phones. Some are “drastic” as deleting certain apps or unplugging altogether, if necessary.

In an appendix in the book, Groeschel provides The Ten Commandments of Using Social Media to Grow Your Faith and Share God’s Love. With humor, engaging stories and statistics and practical insights, Groeschel offers a timely book that is not just beneficial to the individual reader, but would also be effective as a small group study. The #struggles are real and there is some good advice to be gleaned from this book.

Undone – a Compelling Memoir

undoneI first heard about Undone from my wife. She is a friend of the author, Michele Cushatt, having attended college with her and now being Facebook friends. I wasn’t planning to read the book because I put it in the category of a “chick book.” I know there are movies that guys refer to as “chick flicks” so I kind of put this memoir into that category – a book for women written by a women. My wife started reading it and kept talking about how much she enjoyed it, so I decided to get a copy. I’m glad I did.

The subtitle of the book is “a story of making peace with an unexpected life.” Not only is Cushatt a gifted writer (she has a way with words), but part of her story had similarities to where my wife and I have been. She writes about the pain of divorce, an ongoing battle with cancer and managing a family with a biological child, two step-sons and three foster children. While I have never struggled with cancer, I related to enduring divorce and experiencing blended families and adoption.

Cushatt writes with an honesty that keeps the reader turning the pages. She shares the lessons she’s learned, the struggles she has add and how she handled adversity – including the good, bad and ugly.

I appreciated her humor that is sprinkled throughout her book. In discussing her diagnosis of cancer and the responses she received from people. This example reveals her sense of humor and she related this response from one person – “And my personal favorite: ‘My friend was diagnosed with the same kind of cancer as you. He died a few months ago.’ Thank you. Super helpful.” Now that’s funny!

This is potentially my favorite quote of the book from a powerful chapter. In chapter 16 she tells about going to Christmas Eve service with her three “littles.” You have to read the chapter to appreciate all that is going on, but as she brings the story to an end, she writes these words that she shared with a friend: “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean we’re not called to it. And just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not good.”

Undone was a compelling read and as I read it, I know the Cushatt’s story is not over. If your life has ever taken an unexpected twist, you will appreciate the words this book contains.

Scary Close

scary closeScary Close is an apt title for this book because in it, Donald Miller allows his readers to get scary close.  In his latest offering Miller pulls back the curtain of his life and heart and permits us to see the good and the bad, the successes and the struggles.

This is my first time to read a Donald Miller book.  I’ve heard of him as an author and have even had a paperback copy of Blue Like Jazz sitting on my dresser for a while.  For me, it was a great introduction to his writing.

In chapter 11 of his book, Miller writes this:  “Vulnerability has served me well. It’s one of the few ways I’ve been able to connect with others, including readers.” This book is all about the author being vulnerable.

In Scary Close Miller shares about his tendency as a writer to disconnect from people so he can write books that impress people.  He describes his journey to a therapy camp for adults that helped him uncover some things about himself and how we relates to others.  From that experience he reveals a painful memory from is growing up years that impacted him more than he realized.  He confesses his struggles in dating relationships and describes his courtship with the woman who is now is wife.

This statement probably sums up his book well:  The idea that authenticity leads to deep and healthy relationships fixated me for a long time.  I’m convinced honesty is the soil intimacy grows in.

This is an honest an honest where Miller connects with his readers, but also provides some principles and tools for the reader to move toward intimacy in his/her relationships.

I found the book to be both challenging and engaging.  Plus, it moved me to pick up the copy of Blue Like Jazz sitting on my dresser.  I’m already 7 chapters in.

 

Praise You in the Storm

photo credit: SimpleSkye via photopin cc

photo credit: SimpleSkye via photopin cc

The Christian music group Casting Crowns released a song a few years ago called Praise You in This Storm.  The chorus of the song says this:

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

This past Sunday, as I was leading our song set, I witnessed people in our congregation living out this chorus.

I’ve mentioned before that I feel like I have a unique perspective on a Sunday morning.  Most Sundays I am up front with one of our praise teams leading our community as we sing.  I get to see people as they sing and respond to God by bowing heads, lifting hands or simply closing their eyes.  Being involved in the church for a number of years I also know some of the struggles that people go through.  I was struck by how a number of our people were able to praise God even though they were going through a storm.

Some in our church family are dealing with relationship struggles and marriage issues.

Others are experiencing loss.

There are individuals and families impacted by health concerns.

Still others carry the burden of a family member who is far from God.

Yet, many are still able to praise God in the storm.

I was moved by their example and reminded that God is faithful no matter what our circumstances might try to tell us.  One of the benefits of corporate worship is being encouraged by the faithfulness of many of God’s people who continue to praise Him in the storm.  It was a good reminder to me that I need to and can praise Him in the storm.

Undaunted

undauntedA few months ago I picked up the Kindle version of Christine Caine’s book Undaunted when it was on sale for around $2. I’ve heard her speak a couple of times (via video), but had not read anything she wrote. I had finished reading another book and wasn’t sure what to read next. I was flipping through my library on my Kindle and realized I had Undaunted. I’m so glad I read it.

Christine Caine is a powerful, passionate speaker and that voice carries over into her writing. In Undaunted she shares some of her own personal challenges, revealing some struggles she had in her past and how that carried over into her life as a speaker, wife and mother. (If you haven’t read the book yet, I don’t want to take away from her story). I appreciate her transparency in sharing her story and what lessons God taught her through them.

I started reading the book about a week before the week of camp I was going to lead. Much of what she shared in her book fit into our theme for the week. I shared part of her story during our first campfire time where we set up the theme for the week.

All of us have different struggles. Even if our difficulties are different from what Christine Caine shares in her book, how she responded to them will be an encouragement to you. God wants to use us despite our flaws and Undaunted clearly shares that message.

Adopted For Life

Adopted_For_LifeSome good friends of ours who have adopted recommended this book, so my wife and I snagged the Nook book. It was well worth it. Adopted For Life was written to those who have adopted, to those who are considering adoption, to those who know someone who had adopted and even to those who aren’t thinking about adoption, but should be.

That last category – those who aren’t thinking about adoption, but should be – is one of the main points of the book. The author, Russell Moore, contends that adoption is a picture of what God does for us through Jesus. God takes people who are not part of His family, but brings them in as sons and daughters. Even though we don’t belong to Him because of our sin and rebellion, God gives us a new name as His children. Adoption in this life reflects what God has done for us.

The author and his wife have adopted two Russian boys into their family after a struggle with infertility. They have also welcomed two biological children into their home and he writes about that experience and the questions that they receive as a result of the unique make up of their family.

Moore covers a variety of issues that relate to adoption. He speaks to those who have struggled with infertility and to those who have biological children. He talks about the paperwork involved, offers advice on finding an adoption agency and speaks to the cost of adoption. He also provides insights to some of the unique struggles adoptive parents and adopted children face.

It is clear through this writing that Moore encourages to the church at large to be involved in adoption, whether through encouraging adoptive families, providing funds and challenging individuals to consider becoming adoptive parents. Adopted For Life is a good read and presents a compelling picture of it looks like to adopt.