Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Book Review: Nailed It by Anne Kennedy

A Book Review:
NAILED IT – 365 Sarcastic Devotions for Angry or Worn-Out People
by Anne Kennedy

I first discovered Anne Kennedy via Twitter.  Someone retweeted a tweet of hers that I found interesting, so I started following her.  Following her led me to her blog, which I also found interesting and edifying.  Following her blog led me to her book, this devotional. 

Though I’d found her tweets and blog posts thought provoking, I wasn’t sure about actually investing money in her work, especially a devotional.  There’s a certain vulnerability I give myself over to when reading a devotional versus a commentary or study book.  I don’t read them intellectually or critically but…devotionally. And so I worry my theology could be led astray. But I couldn’t resist the title or the cover. It depicts a woman, Jael from the Book of Judges, holding a mallet and a bloody spike. My warped sense of humor won out!

Anne Carlson Kennedy is an Anglican minister, wife of an Anglican pastor, and home-schooling mother of six, so her understanding of scripture and worn-out people is astute. She self-describes herself as sarcastic, but I only found her mildly so (which could be revealing my own level of sarcasm).

This not a typical devotional book, as I have found typical devotional books.  It is not filled with saccharine messages or trite moral teachings. Though seminary educated, Kennedy’s devotions are not academic lessons, either. Her writing displays scriptural and spiritual insight while her personal examples leave room for the Spirit to stimulate readers’ own personal application.  No cookie cutter answers are offered. What Kennedy describes as sarcastic and angry I call “real”. Her tone and style are a cross between Ann Voskamp and Dorothy Parker.

An excerpt from Day 331 (November 27) – I Cor 5:6 “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”
                A little sin goes a long way. It wraps itself around everything. It moves through the whole batch of dough leaving no single part unaffected. There isn’t any way to get rid of it. The people of Israel were supposed to get rid of all the leaven out of their houses before the Passover feast. They had to wash everything and scrub everything and clean and clean, almost to the point of exhaustion. They could satisfy themselves that no leaven was in the house. But what about the air? There can be invisible airborne leaven. I know this because of once trying to make sourdough bread.
                So with sin. A little goes a long way, and you can’t ever completely get rid of it. So why, this being the case, and its power being so immense and destructive, would you go out and find it and bring it in? Because it makes life taste better? Because you think you will overpower it with the good that you dredge up from somewhere inside you? Or maybe through the Spirit. Maybe you will overcome sin through the Spirit.
                No. Don’t think so highly of yourself and your abilities. Flee from sin. Confess your sins. Call out to Jesus for help. You can’t do anything at all without him.  Only blood will wash away the stain of the leaven.

This is a devotional that will allow the Spirit to prick your conscience, encourage your heart, and let you know your LORD and God better. And that’s really what a good devotional is supposed to do.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Year of Jubilee

November 28, 2017 marks my sixth anniversary at my current job. My employer treats me well and I enjoy the work I do. I look forward to working there for many years to come, as long as they'll have me.

 I have a 47 mile, 50-minute commute each way, which I've found amazingly pleasant. By the time I get to work I'm wide awake and by the time I get home, any stresses are miles behind me. I use my commute time for prayer and I listen to music, audio books, and podcasts. I used to regularly listen to talk radio, too; until the 2016 Election Cycle, that is!

My route is primarily on interstate highways and the roads are generally clear, harsh winter weather notwithstanding. My daily journey is scenic, taking me over Chautauqua Lake,  and most days I drive towards the sunrise and sunset.

But...each year there has been an "incident" that gave me cause to be alert, intensified my prayers, and made me humble. On this work anniversary, I take this time to recall these "events".

Year One - The fuel gauge on my car was malfunctioning so I had to keep close watch on the odometer to judge when  I needed to fill my tank.  One morning I had time to either gas up or grab a doughnut.  I looked at the mileage reading and figured I had enough fuel to get to work but would need to refuel on the ride home.  I bought the doughnut (Mighty Fine Angel Cream, if you were wondering). Two blocks from work my car died.  This was one of those humiliating  humbling experiences I'd mentioned.

Year Two - As I mentioned, the roads are generally clear. My issues are very rarely with winter road conditions. Visibility is another story!  One February evening, I hadn't been paying attention to the weather and even worked over, so I got a late start home and not a minute of my ride was in daylight. Not that it would have helped, since it was blizzard conditions.  My normal 50-minute commute took 150 minutes. A portion of the interstate was closed and the detour took me to an unfamiliar country road. It was a downhill route and I felt I was driving in to a dark tube with no end.  Slippery roads and white outs had me moving at 5 mph for much of the drive which caused snow and ice to build up on my windshield wipers, rendering them useless.  At one point I became keenly aware of my isolation, no lights in front of me, no lights behind me.  I pulled over under an overpass and called my brother who was about 35 miles away. He kindly listened to me but gently told me "Barb, I can't come get you".  "I know! I just needed to hear another voice!" I cried.  I hung up, put the car in gear, and slowly pulled out to continue my journey home.  About 6 miles from home, I was able to get off the highway and get on familiar roads. However, I wound up stopped in traffic on a hill.  I had come to a complete stop (really) when I felt my car start to slide.  I desperately pumped the brakes but didn't stop until I bumped in to the WalMart semi in front of me, cracking my bumper cover.  A bright spot to all this was that my boss texted me to make sure I'd gotten home safely.  I told you, they treat me well there!

Year Three - Do you remember that WKRP in Cincinnati episode "With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."?  Well, turkeys CAN fly.  Not very high, but they can fly.  They can fly about the height of the windshield of a Ford Escape.  The turkey hit my driver side windshield, shattering it.  I want it on record that the turkey hit ME, I did not hit it. He misjudged his takeoff and flew in to me as I was driving my.  I was about 40 miles from home and (stupidly, I admit) tried to drive the rest of the way by leaning over to look out the passenger side windshield to navigate my way home.  That lasted about a mile before I realized the futility, pulled over and called some friends who lived not too far.  They came to my rescue, waited while the tow truck carted away my vehicle, fed me dinner, and loaned me a car to get home.  It's not just my employer who treats me well.

Year Four - I travel 47 miles to work each day.  My boss travels about 30 miles, much of it the same route I take.  On my way to work one day I noticed a State Police vehicle, lights flashing, had pulled over a vehicle that looked a lot like my boss's car.  I laughed and thought of ways I'd tease him when I got to work.  As I passed the vehicles I also noticed a couple of dead deer and felt sorry for the poor driver.  And the poor deer.  As I walked to my office I looked in to my boss's office and saw he was not there yet.  He could have been in a meeting, he could have had the day off. I figured I'd razz him later.  About 8:30 I heard him talking to someone outside my office.  "No, the air bag didn't deploy" I heard him say.  Air bag!!! I hurried to the hall and said "Was that you????" "Yeah, I saw you drive by."  Yes, folks I drove by my boss as he was stranded on the side of the road after hitting deer.  And it wasn't a couple of deer, but THREE deer he'd hit. I have job security just so he can hold this event over my head until the day I retire.

Year Five - Road crews still kept the highways clear, but there was still nothing to be done about that darned visibility.  On my way to work my wipers once again iced over and I couldn't see.  I needed to pull over to clear them but to do so on the interstate was too dangerous so I decided to pull off at the next exit to find a safe place.  Only I couldn't see the exit.  I traveled to the next exit, and missed that one, too.  The third exit was the charm. The blowing snow calmed down just long enough for me to see the exit and I was able to get off the highway.  The road was still busy, though so I pulled over as far as I could to a place where I could safely exit the car and clean off the wipers.  I pulled over too far, got caught in a couple of ruts that pulled me right in to a large, deep ditch.  How deep?  The snow came up to the hood of my SUV.  From my vehicle I called AAA and ninety minutes later they showed up to tow me out.  I texted work to tell them I would not be in.  In six years I've only missed two days due to snow, though I probably should have missed a few more.

Year Six - I hit a deer. I cried. I didn't cry for the turkey.  HE had it coming.  But the poor deer...

And so I'm entering Year Seven.  In Leviticus it describes the Year of Jubilee, seven cycles of seven Sabbaths.  I don't know where in the cycle we are officially but I'm hoping that this next year is the right seventh year and I get a year off.  My insurance company and the wildlife of Chautauqua County are hoping this, as well.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A Book Review: None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

Following is a book review I wrote for my church.  I was blessed with so much insight about God and His greatness from this book, I cannot recommend it enough!  May you be blessed from it, as well.

A Book Review:
None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us
(and why that’s a good thing)
by Jen Wilkin

About 18 months ago, I asked Pastor for a book recommendation on God’s attributes. He suggested Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology When he saw the look on my face Pastor quickly reassured me I only need read a small portion, about 17 pages, and that I could find used copies (i. e. cheap) on Amazon! Grudem’s work did what it was supposed to; it described God’s attributes, providing substantial proof texts, and it whet my appetite for more. Wilkin’s short book (158 pgs) is a banquet, including dessert!

While Grudem’s descriptions of God’s characteristics were understandably academic, Wilkin’s are intimate and personal. With sound biblical teaching she describes God and then pointedly illustrates how we fail to stack up comparatively.  In our goal-oriented, esteem-conscious culture, this would make one feel incredibly downcast; but with socially relevant examples she reassures us “why that’s a good thing”.

At the end of each chapter are study questions and a section where readers are asked to write a prayer of confession where they have tried to usurp God’s place by trying to be omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, etc; trying to be God themselves. As I wrote these prayers I was made aware of sin I’d never even considered. Though humbled and convicted, when I saw my sin I was made more aware of the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love.

Wilkin’s writing style is likeable and down-to-earth. She presents sophisticated material in an understandable manner. Though the book is written by a woman from a woman’s point of view with a cover of pink roses on a teal-colored background, men would not feel uncomfortable reading it.  It is also appropriate for people at all stages of their Christian walk.  I’ve been reading the book with a friend of mine for whom all this information is new material.  We are both awe-struck and mind-boggled by the information presented.  In fact, if anyone wants to do a book study on this I’d be willing to go through it again, it is that good!