Book Tour! Day 7 – Racial Reconciliation

Welcome to my 10 Day Book Tour.  I love to read, and I am often given books to read for review.  Over the last year, I determined that I didn’t want to turn my blog into a book review site.  However, I can’t help that I LOVE books.  I truly do.  They add so much value to my life, because I learn from them and glean new perspectives from the authors who put their hearts to the page.  So, I’ve decided that each quarter, I’m going to do a 10 Day Book Tour.  What have I been reading, what do I honestly think about the book, and to whom I would recommend it.  Each day, for ten days, you will get a peak into my bookshelf.

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I received a copy of The Gospel Life Series- Racial Reconciliation from B&H Publishers for the purpose of reviewing.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

This is a big topic right now.  Some topics are really hard, complex, uncomfortable, and we may even try to avoid them.

If you want to have a voice in the conversation, you have to be willing to hear some hard truths.  Your eyes have to be open to see what may have been hidden from your life.  Your ears need to be open to hear the experiences of others, that differ from your own.  You also need to be prepared for what is going to come your way.

When you pray for the Lord to break your heart for what breaks His, expect to be deeply broken.  Invest in tissues, because you won’t be able to unsee or unhear.

It was in a recently interview, I heard a Pastor state that he believed that the Lord is bringing this issue forward, that we can no longer ignore it.  Another Pastor said the church needs to be on the front line on this issue, not hiding behind the pews.

The Gospel for Life Series – The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation is a great book to start your journey on this complex topic.  It’s a small book, which means it gets right to the point.  It’s also a collection of voices, with chapters contributed by J. Daniel Hays, Thabiti Anyabwile, Trillia Newbell, Eric Mason, Matthew J. Hall, and D.A. Horton.  There is also a list at the end of the book for additional reading to continue learning.

What I have learned in regard to this discussion, is that first I need to listen.  I need to read.  I need to watch.  I need to lean into those who have experience, not opinions.  I need to feel for those who hurt, not try to justify the how or why things happened.  I need to open my eyes, ears, and heart to what the Lord would say.  This book is certainly a great tool in that process.

We explore what the Bible says from our creation in His image (all of us), what the Lord purposed us for, how the Bible would have us interact with one another, how things went wrong, inter-ethnic marriage, how to get to know those who don’t look like us or come from a different background, how the church should engage, and what does the culture around us say (and how do we respond to that).

In Chapter 4, Pastor Eric Mason states:

“Churches need to recognize that one of the Enemy’s devices is to fight against reconciliation between God’s people (2 Cor. 2:11).”

When we recognize this, we know that we can’t stay silent.  It’s US versus the Enemy.

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Enjoying the Break

I’ve been slowly working my way through the book Enjoy and I’ve really been thinking about how much more I could be enjoying the life that the Lord has gifted me.  Enjoying serving more directly.  Enjoying the friendships He has brought into my life, which have been answers to specific prayers and longings of my heart.  Enjoying the opportunities to get out of my nest and fellowship in new places with new faces.

So, I put the book down for a few days and did just that.

I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family and our new extended family members, as our family grows.  I stole away from the food and conversations and spent a precious 30 minutes or more with my new grand niece.  I couldn’t be more in love with her.

Then, I actually went Black Friday shopping.  I’ve never done that in my entire life.  But, later in the afternoon my husband and kids convinced me to go.  We had a great time and fortunately had missed a lot of the chaos.

I decided that I didn’t want to schedule much in those days before the kids went back to school.  Instead, I wanted to enjoy my time with each of them.  Playing board games and watching Christmas movies.

I called up a friend who I knew would be busy in December and made sure to schedule in some face time once the kids were back at school.  It was great to do something last minute, even it if meant it had to be short.  I enjoy spending time with her because she is safe, I don’t have to tread lightly or watch how I word things. She chooses to see the best in me and gives me the benefit of the doubt.

Another friend invited me to her church Women’s Event and I wasn’t certain I could go.  But, I made it happen.  What a blessing it was too!  From the evening’s events to the face I ran into my nephew’s wife there.  That was a surprise!  We had the chance to have a little fun together and talk before the night ended.  Had I not gone, I would have missed that beautiful memory.

I attended that Sunday’s service at a different time, and ran into faces I hadn’t seen in a while.  It was great to catch up and ended up making plans to get together more frequently.  Multiple services can do that, you know… separate you and you don’t even realize it happened.

That evening, I realized I had a burden on my heart.  I reached out to another friend and we scheduled a very last minute meet up at her house.  I am so grateful that she was able to squeeze me in, listen to me, counsel me, and pray with me.

There are times we can focus on what we wish we had, and not see the blessings that the Lord has put right in front of us.  I’m so glad that the Lord is opening up my eyes to enjoy these relationships and opportunities in a new way.

Sometimes, we need to put down the book and actually DO IT.

I’m not only choosing to enjoy…

I am choosing JOY.

I am choosing to REJOICE.

And I am going to love and find contentment in all that He has given me, my cup runneth over, I want for nothing but more of HIM.

Working Through Chapter 4, Enjoy.

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This past week was work. I had some things on my “to-do” list to accomplish, appointments to squeeze in before the holiday, and of course we actually celebrated the holiday with our family down south. Then, and I’m not entirely sure how this happened, I was wrangled into doing some Black Friday shopping. This is a first in my lifetime. Saturday was a blur, and here we sit… Sunday.

I’ll be honest, I don’t always enjoy work. My Pastor’s wife once called me “high capacity” because I am a person who can get stuff done, done well, and done quickly. But… that doesn’t always mean I want to do things I think in part it was how we were raised, you just do what has to be done. No sense whining, just get it over with.

When I graduated high school, I got a job as a cashier with an office supply chain as a cashier. Within just a short number of years I was promoted to Assistant Store Manager. This was unheard of for that company, and I was the youngest manager in the history of the company. Due to my high capacity? Probably. But to be honest, it probably had to do more with boredom.

I was bored as a cashier so I did everything I could to get bumped up to another position. I was the first to volunteer for cross training in other departments, it was nice to get called back to another area of the store. It would break up the monotony of my day. As a manager, each day brought new challenges and tasks. Even the mundane wasn’t as mundane being broken up by the randomness of each days obstacles.

When my husband and I had our first child, and we determined I would not return to my job… that was a shift. A huge shift for me. I missed my purpose and the identity I had created in my job. Almost immediately I looked for something to do that would provide that same self value.

I struggled seeing value in what I was doing at home. Emotionally, I knew it was right. I couldn’t bear to work the hours my job required of me and be away from my baby. Yet, sitting at home for hours on end when the baby would sleep doing housework… I didn’t get it. It was boring. It was the same thing every day. The mundane wasn’t being broken up by challenges to overcome and strategies to develop.

It is still something I struggle with, and I’ve been parenting for nearly 18 years. What it has always comes down to, for me, is having to remind myself of two points.

1. It’s a season.
2. God has a reason.

Eventually, these children are going to grow up and move out of this house. We had our children so young, that there is still a lifetime ahead of me. For whatever reason, this is the season the Lord called me to. He didn’t give me a heart to return to work full time and any attempts I have made to bring “work” back into my life… he always seems to thwart. I didn’t get it at first, but as my eldest navigates her senior year… I notice I say no a lot more often. Spending time together a family has become far more important, and I realize that all of these years with her have had more value than I could have ever imagined.

Chapter 4 of Trillia Newbell ‘s book Enjoy is centered around work and how we can find joy in what we do each day. Whether you are a parent, working at home, or out in the workforce. She recognizes the beauty of a God who worked for six days before He rested, doing good work. Pointing out that the call to work really hasn’t changed but instead sin corrupted our attitude toward our work. And, Trillia helps us to explore how we can find joy and delight in even the most mundane work, by shifting our perspective on work.

Lord, help us to see the beauty in this gift to toil for you!

The Unexpected of Chapter 3 (Enjoy)

Well, well… Chapter 3… Trillia Newbell tackles what can be a tough and awkward topic.

Chapter 3 is all about intimacy in our marriages, and if you are a fan of Authentic Intimacy … chapter 3 is a worthy read (Hannah Nitz ). Lord knows I have a heart for that ministry, because of my own failures. I am a tough cookie to crack, with some baggage.

(Also, single ladies… there are some pages in there for you too!)

What I didn’t expect were some of the nuggets from Chapter 3 that made me think of other areas and relationships. Yes, sexual intimacy is a marital… but intimacy is not exclusive to our marriages. We have other people in our lives that intimacy is a good thing (best friends), is a place of safety (parents), and our relationship with God is very personal and should be rooted in complete intimacy (we can hide nothing from Him).

So, a big thing that struck me from the chapter was when Trillia explained that bitterness in it’s simplest form is unforgiveness. Just a bit ago, I was a guest contributor for Virtuous Bella talking about wounds that are bound up so tight they begin to fester. So, perhaps that is why this caught my attention.

I started reflecting on my notes from the chapter, on the evidences of bitterness. I began to think of conflicts I have been involved in. I’ve thought about how people have responded to me, and even how I responded to others.

I think we’ve all been guilty of bitterness now and again. However, some of us have allowed the wounds of past hurts to created roots of bitterness that have grown deep. Too deep. Where these bitter roots of past relationships have begun to strangle out the healthy relationships that fall in their pathway. Skewing how we perceive people coming into our lives, always as a threat or at least someone to be suspicious of.

When our perspective is skewed, we see a threat that doesn’t exist. We take things personally, that were never meant to hurt us. We are so bent on self preservation that we become incapable of seeing those who God has brought into our lives to try cut back those roots. Instead we just let them grow deeper and continue to stretch further.

Let me share with you a great thing about the book, Enjoy, that I think is such a blessing. At the end of each chapter, Trillia challenges us with: The Enjoy Project. It is a list of tasks/suggestions that are based on the chapters theme, ideas to help us enjoy our lives and relationships more.

These project ideas are great ways to cut back those roots of bitterness.

Trillia Newbell’s book ENJOY!

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I really love this book.  This is going to be different from my normal blog posts on book reviews (which I did receive an advance readers copy of this book to read for the purpose of reviewing).  It will be different because I really, truly, want to explore this book as I find the content pretty important.

First, because it’s a book that reminds us that we have permission to enjoy the life the Lord has given us. There is freedom in salvation, and that freedom includes enjoyment. Have you ever considered the number of times in the Bible the word “rejoice” is used? Second, because it challenges us to make better choices about how we are going to respond to our lives. I’ve had twinges of conviction, as well as inspiration on how to live each day to His fullest for me (which is far greater than anything I could come up with on my own).

Today, I want to focus on the first chapter, which focuses greatly on contentment. Trillia puts it very succinctly that discontentment will impede joy, reminding us of Philippians 4:11 “for I have learned to be content in whatever situation”.

Yesterday… I was having a moment. I wasn’t very content with something and how it shaping out. It was affecting my mood (aka my attitude) and I had to make a choice. Was I going to give into this discontentment or instead would I rejoice. Could I be content with how things unfolded? I realized I could, and made an active choice to change my attitude. That doesn’t mean throughout the day thoughts didn’t creep in. I had to make the active choice… REPEATEDLY… to be content and move on.

In the book Enjoy, Trillia shares that contentment results in peace. As long as I allowed my thoughts and attitudes to remain in discontent, I was not finding peace. And my responses to everything else were skewed. Once I made the choice to be content, I could take those thoughts captive. I decided to do something I enjoy (painting) and I found peace. The more peaceful I felt, the more enjoyable it was to be around me. It was better for everyone.

Trillia Newbell
It’s a pre-order giveaway! To celebrate the upcoming release of Enjoy by @TrilliaNewbell, she’s written a devotional to help you enjoy this Advent season. http://bit.ly/2eBZ0Cz

Because, It IS Important – #Write31Days

 

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I requested a copy of The Gospel for Life Series:  The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation for review on this blog, from B&H Publishing Group.  I requested it, because this is an important issue.  In the New Year, the Women’s Ministry Council will be discussing this issue in regards to how we build up diversity and unity within our local Women’s Ministries.  I requested this book to help us prepare for this important conversation.

In 2016, the topic of race has been a hot button topic.   Deep generational woulds have been festering as the bandaids put in place are no longer working.  We are faced with truths that things are not that much better, at least not as much as we have convinced ourselves they had gotten.

I’ve listened to men and women recount their stories.  My eyes are opened to realize that something I perceived as a small percentage problem is much greater than that.  I’ve also witnessed people, who I have great respect and love for, say things that shocked me and made me question how well I know the hearts of those I include in my circle of friends.

When put on the spot, it is very interesting how our hearts will often be betrayed by our mouths.  We will say things that reveal who we are on a deeper level.  We also seem to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, and use that excuse to dismiss that there is a real problem.  We accuse the media of creating something, I would challenge the media is simply exposing the festering wound that has been there all along.

As Christians, if we believe that we are all made in the image of God… if we believe the scriptures that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, man or women, servant or master but that we are all ONE… then how can we turn a blind eye to racial injustice in our world?  How can we not demand better for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Lord take these scales from our eyes!  Let us see, truly see, what is happening and compel us to action!

In the book, The Gospel Life Series: The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation, the editors and contributing authors, begin at the beginning.

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The truth is beautiful.  Man and woman created in God’s image.  Not some men, or some women.  All of us.  Crafted in the likeness of our God.  Then man fell and we were distorted, but through Christ the old self died and we were a new creation.  A new creation in God, in His image.  All of us, regardless of the country we come from… the tint to our skin… the sound of our voice… the language we speak… the texture of our hair… the traditions of our culture… the food we eat… etc.   One people, united in the family of God. Sons and daughter of the Most High.

These first chapters explore the biblical truths of who we are, what we were created for, how ethnic and cultural differences were viewed in the scriptures, and how Christ would have us respond.  The latter chapters walk us through our personal response, in how we live out our lives, as well as how the church should respond.  Chapter 5 caps us off by looking at our modern culture and how racism exists today and what we can do about it.

This book is an excellent read, at five chapters it is one you could get through on a weekend.  I would challenge you to pray as you read through this book that the Lord would open your eyes, convict your heart if needed, and guide you to reconciliation when needed.  However, I would also challenge you to share this with your Pastors and ministry leaders.  As the church needs to be willing to stand up, united, to bring it’s family back together.

The Blessing of a Conference

I absolutely love going to conferences, if I could… I would go to them all.  So, if you know of anyone hiring a Christian Conference Reviewer please give them my name.  There is something special about conferences, different than church … different than my own personal study time… different than discussing theology over coffee with a group of friends.

This past weekend, I was with 7,200 other women who clearly feel the same way I do.  Many traveled far to be here, most were repeat attenders who might have brought along a friend or family member for their first time.  I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t planning to come to the next one.

Worshiping in a room with that many people is unlike anything I have ever experienced.  Listening to anointed teachers, scrawling notes, tears streaming, hands clapping, audible gasps when a point hits home….  THANK YOU, JESUS!

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What makes conferences so special to me?  In part, it’s the opportunity to get away from the comfort and familiarity of my home town.  I’ve never feared traveling alone, and I love the opportunity to see new places and meet new people.  Flying absolutely astounds me and I could look out the window the entire flight… to think that I am suspended in the air, a God’s eye view to His creation.  The colors, patterns, lights… it’s really breathtaking.

As a person who has put on mini-conferences and women’s retreats in the past, I can also appreciate the amount of work that goes into an event of this magnitude.  Knowing that every detail was meticulously planned, each speaker vetted and prepared, content that can speak as clearly to 7,200 women as it does to just 1.  Conferences give me an opportunity to learn about ministries that I can share with our local women.  And, hey… when the International Mission Board wants to give a girl coffee… we’re best friends.  (The coffee was amazing. by the way).

As a reader, the fact that most conferences have a book store….  it’s a beautiful thing.  Add in that there is usually special conference prices on the books; this means I can grab books that I have been wanting but also take risk on some new titles.  So many of the women who have shared their book haul from this conference share about the gifts they purchased for friends who couldn’t come.  Women’s Ministry Leaders and Pastor’s Wives are bringing home books to plan out their Small Groups for the year.

There is even something to be said for those moments when I saw a woman thumbing through the pages of a book, contemplating the purchase… and I could say:

“That is one of my favorites.”  or  “You won’t regret buying that one.”

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Yes, all of these things are parts of what make going to conferences special.  There is something to be said about spending several days, unplugged from your every day life, worshiping with other women, seeing new sites, and meeting new faces.

However the thing that makes them so special to me and draws me in, every time, is the access to amazing people who have been walking this road ahead of me.  Men and women who are not only anointed with wisdom but called to share that wisdom with others.  Men and women who are apart of those called to not only be in the fray of this fallen world, but invest in raising up other leaders and equipping them for the battle we fight every day.

So that, when the day is done, my hands are tender from writing pages of notes and my brain is swollen from all of the Good Word that was injected into it.  Interpretation I had not considered, application that I did not see, and from that the burn to share that with others.  Immersed in the Word, surrounded by my sisters & brothers… all there for one reason, the same reason.

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This is incredibly special, a wonderful opportunity to glean form the sages of different walks, ages, and stages.

While this is what makes conferences special to me, it is the blessing that comes from the conferences that always puts me on my knees in gratitude.   If you follow me on social media, you will know that I got a bit whiny due to flight delays and complications.

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A friend responded:  There must be a huge blessing for you in Indianapolis!

And boy was she right.  In fact, every year when I have gone to this conference I have entered the conference with something weighing on my heart.  Every year, when I leave… there has been an answer, affirmation, or direction given.  Every single year.   If I gained nothing from the conferences other than this, I would still call it my favorite and I would still call it blessed.

The Lord blesses us when we surrender our time and ourselves to His Word and His teachers.   He blesses us when we humbly put our issues at the foot of the cross, and lean into His guidance.  God blesses us with the people whom He puts in our pathways to say “just the right thing” even when they have no idea what you are struggling with.  The Lord blesses us in a place like this, when we are all together for one purpose in one accord… and the Holy Spirit moves throughout the space.  Touching hearts, healing wounds, directing steps, giving wisdom, developing gifts, sharing tissues… THANK YOU, JESUS.

It comes in the plenary sessions, seated among 7,200 others.   It comes in the workshops for a few hundred to just 15 women sitting in a circle, who say:  “You too?”

We find so much in this COMMUNITY….

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And of course, it is nice to come home and find out you were missed..

Watch & listen for yourself, by clicking the banner below.

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Pre-Conference Sessions on Prayer

All Conference Main Plenary Sessions

And a thorough selection from the many workshops offered.