Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full; Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms – Book Review

Gloria Furman does it again. In this little book Furman goes through the truth of the Gospel: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then she takes that truth and applies it to the everyday mess and busyness that is motherhood.

The subtitle for this book says “… for Busy Moms” but to be real, what mom isn’t busy. This is for all moms. That being said, I cannot recommend it enough. It is a short 160 pages, which includes all of the notes and back matter. Yes, it’s a quick little book, but man does it pack a punch.

If you’ve ever read Furman before, you know what I’m talking about. Her writing style seems, to my eyes, to be heavily influenced by her life as a wife to a disabled husband, a mother to multiple children, a woman in ministry struggling through all the demands that work entails, and lives in a challenging international city in the Middle East. She does not have time for the fluffy, round about way of saying things. “Get to the good part! Tell me the good news, now! I need it!” Her words seem to say. That’s exactly what she does in this book.

Yet, there is not a sense of urgency or chaos, as sometime is the case when this attitude of immediate need is applied to writing. She presents the message, or the “Treasures” as the title puts it, of this book gently. With the tenderness of a woman, and a parent. It is a breath of fresh air after a long slog type of feel she gives in her writing.

I think this is mainly due to the content of this book. It is difficult to come across as harsh, chaotic, prideful, or condescending when you are presenting a message that is not essentially your own. Gloria Furman in this short, sweet book presents Christ, the Message himself, to tired, busy women, with children in tow. Her books is life giving, because Christ is. Her words are comforting, confronting, and refreshing, because Christ is.

She does this through, not her own words, but through the scriptures. I type this with a smile, for it is difficult to read farther than a sentence or two without some scripture reference or quotation. Further proving that this treasure, this good news, this hope, is not her message, but God’s message, is Christ himself presented to the world, and through Furman, funneled at mothers.

Moms, pick up this book! Read it. Re-read it. It is that kind of book that you can read a few paragraphs, filled with scripture quotations, as your quiet time and dwell on truth all day long.

I read this in the carline while I waited to pick up my children from school, with my toddler in the backseat. Grab a paragraph or two while you nurse (actually you may be able to get a whole chapter while nursing). Read a little while your kiddos do their homework next to you. It’s small enough to fit in most purses! Take it to work and sneak a chapter in on your lunch break. It’s not dense, so even a few sentences before you collapse into bed is possible.

If you’re not a mom, read it! It’s the gospel. It applies to you too. Better yet, read it, and pass it on to a mom. Then, you can have discussions about what’s in the book! What a blessing! And you will get much more out of it talking about it, as usually when you talk about something, your mind and heart dig into it a little deeper.

Whatever you do, where ever you are in life. Read on, friends!

Soli Deo Gloria!

To Read, To Write, To Learn

I’ve been doing a lot recently. All of it has caused me to do one thing: think deeply.

I’ve been writing in a more creative way. Finished a manuscript for a novel, now working on my second novel, and have several short stories finished and some short stories in the works.

I’ve been reading a lot, and been keeping a reading list. As of today, I have read 14 books since January 1st, and am currently reading about 12 others. Audiobooks have helped me bulk up these numbers, and they totally count. If it counts as reading for my children when they are read aloud to, then it counts when I am read aloud to.

I keep this by my bed, with my favorite color pen at the ready.
This is where I keep all my quotes, book lists, and whatever else.
Also, The Literary Life Podcast is wonderful, I love it. (Not sponsored or anything, I’m just a fan!)

All this word consuming and creating has made me extremely thoughtful. I’ve read things I didn’t agree with, and things I didn’t think I agreed with until it was explained. I’ve read some horrific accounts, and some tellings of delightful tales.

The main thought that keeps running in and out and around my mind is this: Why?

Why did the author write this?
Why is this considered “good” or “bad”?
Why did I not enjoy this before?
Why don’t more people read this?
Why would someone do that (in the case of some non-fiction books)?
Why don’t I like this?
Why is this so hard to read?
Why do others think this is so hard to read (because it’s really not)?

Why, why, why?

I don’t have answers for many of these, but that hasn’t stopped me from asking the questions, postulating answers, and then badgering my husband with his opinions (he was a philosophy major, and still is a philosopher at heart, so he doesn’t mind).

Why do you read what you read?
What makes that genre or that author or that kind of story your favorite?
What stops you from reading?

Looking over my booklist two types of books stick out to me as favorites: old books, and detective novels.

Old books (my definition): anything written by someone who has been dead for at least 50 years.

Detective novels: crime solving novels, usually involving a detective, private or official.

Why do I like these so much? I’m not sure, but I know that I do. I love history, so I suppose that is part of liking old books. I love learning about people and places. There is nothing more mysterious and full of things we don’t understand than the past. Old books, even fiction, open up a world that is, for the most part, foreign to us. I find this delightful.
I think I like detective novels for the same reason. And, I like to feel smart, and solve clever puzzles, and feel a part of righting a wrong and doing justice, even if it’s fiction. There is something deeply human in detective novels. We see wrong and right very clearly on display. The fight for rightness, justice, meeting the tension of inadequacies, grey areas, and fallible good guys. Detective novels, and math, prove, in a way, the existence of objective truth. There is a reason why Agatha Christie is the best selling author of all time behind only the Bible and Shakespeare. We humans are drawn to truth, objective truth, goodness, and beauty. Books highlight this reality.

“The difference between nonfiction and fiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable.”

(possibly said by Mark Twain, but true regardless)

I wax poetic and digress into theology, philosophy, and pondering the gracious purpose of life. We have a title!

What are you reading? Has it got you thinking?

Soli Deo Gloria

Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me…

I went on a walk with my two older kids (ages 5 and 4). I had a letter I needed to send something via the post office, and I had a check to deposit at the bank. Both locations are just over a block from our apartment, and the parking is ridiculous. So we walked.

About half way between our destinations and our home is a church, with a brick – thing out front. We have been here before, but it never really hit me what the brick thing is. It’s in the shape of a cross. Longer on two sides, shorter on the other two sides.
And, my kids favorite thing to do with this brick thing is: hide in the corners of it.

My kids didn’t know that is the shape. They just like hiding in the corners and trying to scare one another.
My kids didn’t know that this morning I had read Exodus 33.

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Exodus 33:8

It struck me so powerfully, particularly this truth:
In the Old Testament, before Jesus came, Moses had to be hidden from God’s glory, had to hide from God in the cleft.
Later in the Old Testament, in Psalms, there are these words: “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come” (Psalm 71:3). It’s the longing of the Psalmist’s heart to come near to God, to find refuge in God, the rock.
Then Jesus comes and we can draw near, immediately, intimately, continually (see basically all of Hebrews, but specifically 4:16, 7:19, 7:25, 10:22). No longer through the priests, no longer through the blood of animals, but in spirit in and in truth (John 4:23-24).

The rock in which we take refuge is the cross. Because of Jesus’ redeeming work, we don’t hide from him, we run and hide in him.

Enjoy Chris Rice’s rendition of this Rock of Ages.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Finally, my pilgrim’s journey is over!

Before you jump to conclusions… I just finished Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.

It took me pretty much a year, but I made it! Here are my reflections on the book.

Obviously it’s an allegory, so there’s some interesting things there. Thoughts about how literal is this telling? How directly is it related to life? Are these real people or more like character traits?
That last one is interesting because Christian is a person, but the rest of the characters seem to be ideas, concepts, and character traits.
In the second book, about Christian’s wife and children journeying to the Celestial City, this breaks down a bit. There is a whole group of characters who seem to portray actual people or at least types of people.
I really want to talk about the second half of the book, about Christian’s wife, Christiana, which I will just call the second book from here on.

The whole time I was reading the second book, I had one question: Why does Christiana have so much help, while Christian had just one companion? (My second question relates to a specific character, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

I think Bunyan was pointing to the trend that the first person in a family, a city, or any kind of community who becomes a believer in Christ, is in a way blazing a new trail. There is no one for them to follow, there is no testimony of faithfulness showing them the way, walking along with them. So this make sense that in the first book, Christian was so incredibly dependent on the Bible, and on his fellow pilgrims, namely Faithful and Hopeful. However, he did not have any “older believers” to be imitating, seeking counsel from, or bringing to mind how they did this part of the path.

In the second book, a great amount of words are spent recalling what Christian did in the first book. The places he went are revisited, monuments are noted recounting the things he did, etc.
Christiana and her children seem to be the second and third generation of believers going through life remembering the one who went before, the faithfulness of God to him, the hope he had, and therefore the hope they have of heaven.

That brings me to my second question that I kept asking myself while I read the second book: Who is Great-heart?

I still don’t have an answer for this, but here are my guesses:

  1. He is the Word, the Bible.
  2. He is a pastor.
  3. He is an angel.

Let me break these down.

First, Great-heart is an allegory for the Bible. My main reason for this is that he is dressed all in armor, he is the literal armor of God. This reasoning falls apart a little bit at the end when we meet Valiant, because he is also dressed all in armor and clearly using it.

Second, Great-heart is an allegory for a Pastor. This one possibly makes the most sense. A good pastor leads God’s people (see the entire books of 1&2 Timothy and Titus, is responsible for God’s people (James 3:1), should be dressed in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:12-18), and skilled in using the Sword of the Spirit, the Bible (2 Timothy 4:2).

Third, Great-heart is an allegory for an Angel. Angel’s are literally ministering spirits. Just as they ministered to Jesus in the garden (Luke 22) it makes sense that angels minister to those whom Jesus redeemed, although mostly unseen. Looking into the Old Testament, angels were involved in much of God’s communication and leading of his people. What comes to my mind are the angels appearing to Abraham on several occasions (see Genesis, all over the place). Just recently I was reading in Exodus when the Israelites had just escaped Egypt, and are on the edge of the Red Sea, an angel is described as leading them. Here’s the passage.

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.

Exodus 14:19

I still don’t know the answer to who or what Great-heart, and to a lesser extent Valiant, are representing in the book. Thinking over it, however, has been kind of fun, and really made me think deeply about the entire book and what points Bunyan was making with his allegory.

Allegories always point to reality, but because this book was written back in the 1600s, it is less clear.

Also, the language is an adventure. On that note, here is far and away my favorite quote from the book:

Bowels become pilgrims

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Just yes.

Walk on, Pilgrim.
“…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10)

Soli Deo Gloria!

How to encourage your children

Spoiler alert: I’m not very good at this.

I’m am not a natural encourager.
It is not my spiritual gift, if you want to put it that way.
I have an analytical mind, which delights in ruminating on all things, actions, words, ideas, jokes, dreams, songs, pictures, movies, turns of phrases. Everything! You pick something I will sit for minutes, hours, days thinking over it, dissecting it, pulling it apart, rearranging it, finding different possible meanings or intentions or directions or… Well, you see what I mean.

But, God calls me to love my family sacrificially, to “consider others as more important than myself” to paraphrase Philippians 2:3, to get out of my head and my thoughts and put love into action.

Encouragement is, I think, the most basic way to “put on love”, as Colossians 3:14 commands us to do.

My ‘three steps’ for how to encourage your children, or really anyone in your life.

1. Get to know them

The first step in how to encourage anyone, but especially our children, is to get to know them. Each child is different, in case you haven’t noticed, so each one will be encouraged differently.

For example:

My son loves a quick hug and a sentence saying how much I love him. A simple “I know you can do this” when he’s frustrated is just what his little heart needs to hear.

My middle child on the other hand would dig in her stubborn heels and let loose the sass machine if I said “I know you can do this”. I’ve tried. Her response was: “I know I can’t!”
For her, I have to do something different, because she is different from her brother.

Get to know your child. What helps, what doesn’t, what haven’t you tried yet. And remember, they are not just different from each other, but also your children are different from you! What would never in a million years be something you would like, may bring joy to their souls.

2. It will be inconvenient, so be patient.

This is less of a step and more of a reminder for you.

These moments when your child needs you rarely come when you are ready for them.

Before launching into fixing your kid’s problem, take a deep breath, calm yourself (and the situation if necessary), and set your heart in an attitude of patience. Because the whole point of encouraging your children is to love them. “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4), not ‘love is busy’.

3. Repeat the encouragement. Say it again. Today, tomorrow, in a week, in a month

Point made, yet?

Seriously though, keep encouraging your child! Don’t just do it once and check off the box. That’s not how it works. It’s certainly not how it works for you, is it?

Remember, we as Christians are modeling Christ, God himself, to our children (and to the world!).
God repeats himself a lot. A major theme in the bible is how incredibly forgetful we humans are, and how often God is reminding us, his people of who he is and what he’s done. Your children are humans too! They forget, and just like they need repeated instructions to clean up the Legos all over the floor for the eightieth time, they will need repeated encouragement and love from you, too.

“I know you can do this.”

“I love you, even when…”

“Here, let’s do this together.”

“I understand, sometimes I feel that way, too.”

“I hear you, thank you for telling me!”

“I love watching you play, can I play too?”

“Big hug and kiss?”

Go encourage your children today. (Or whoever you happen to be around today, tomorrow, any day of your life: your spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, coworker, neighbor, friend, etc.)

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3)

Soli Deo Gloria!