Review: Love to Pray

Love to Pray: A 40-Day Devotional for Deepening Your Prayer Life by Alvin Vandergriend

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alvin VanderGriend’s little book LOVE TO PRAY is an excellent resource approaching prayer from a variety of perspectives. It has eight sections with five devotional readings in each. VanderGriend attempts to help us see prayer as more than a religious activity, but as accepting an invitation from God to come into His presence where we are warmly welcomed.

I loved his definition of prayer: Prayer is the conversational part of the most important love relationship in our lives, our love relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

This is a rich devotional resource I’m sure I will return to again in the future. I want to grow in prayer. I want to love to pray … and VanderGriend has given me excellent perspective to see prayer as an ongoing conversation with someone who loves me deeply, and with whom I can share my whole heart.

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Review: The Journey Toward Wholeness

The Journey Toward Wholeness: Enneagram Wisdom for Stress, Balance, and Transformation by Suzanne Stabile

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Enneagram is an immersive approach to personality discernment that is aimed at personal transformation. The approach is about so much more than just 9 ‘types’ or ‘numbers’. Stabile goes deeper into the Enneagram in this book, talking about Triads and Stances, going into detail for each number, offering practical suggestions for wholeness. She shares personal stories in each chapter that help us understand more fully the concepts and the pathways toward bringing up repressed centers of intelligence.

I’m not an Enneagram expert, only having read a few books and talked about it with a lot of people. But this book gave me some clarity. Still, I can see there is much to learn – mostly about myself. As I read through the information about each number I could identify with some of each … and it caused me to question my own orientation toward my number. I thought maybe I was wrong. But then I read the chapters that related to my number and I knew that there was so much to identify with that I am correct.

Now that gives me some soul work to do…. as Stabile says often … to know what is mine to do, and what is not. Highly recommended. Oh, Enneagram 9w1.

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When Children Have Grown Up

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Note: Erma Bombeck’s newspaper columns and books are irreplaceable in American humor and insight. I found this article in my files and wanted to share it.

One of these days you’re going to shout, “Wy don’t you kids grow up and act your age?” And they will. Or, “You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do and don’t slam the door.” And they will. You’ll straighten up the boys bedroom, neat and tidy. Bumper stickers discarded, spread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on the shelves, hangers in the closet, animals caged. And you’ll shout out loud, “Now I want it to stay that way.” And it will.

You’ll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn’t been picked to death. And a cake with no finger traces in the icing. And you’ll say, “Now there’s a meal for company.” And you’ll eat it alone.

You’ll say, “I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No pantomimes. No demolition crews. Silence. Do you hear?” And you’ll have it.

No more plastic table cloths stained with spaghetti. No more bed spreads to protect from damp bottoms. No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps. No more clothes pins under the sofa. No more play pens to arrange the room around. No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent. No more sand on the sheets, or poppy movies in the bathrooms. No more iron patches or wet knotted shoe strings or tight boots or rubber bands for pony tails.

Imagine lipstick with a point on it. No baby sitter for New Year’s Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn’t ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap. No PTA meetings. No car pools. No blaring radios. No one washing her hair at 11:00 at night. Having your own roll of transparent adhesive tape. Think about it.

No more Christmas presents out of toothpaste and library paste. No more sloppy oatmeal kisses. No more tooth fairy. No more giggles in the dark. No knees to heal. No responsibility. Only a voice crying, “Why don’t you grow up?” And the silence echoing: “I did.”

The Message

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This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. – 1 John 3:11

There is nothing more plaintive and comprehendable than that simple statement. We should love one another. Who could disagree with it? The Amplified Bible gives insight when it offers this translation:

For this is the message which you [believers] have heard from the beginning [of your relationship with Christ], that we should [unselfishly] love and seek the best for one another…

To love is to unselfishly seek the best for one another.

It is simple, but complicated. Our minds immediately begin to search for exceptions. We wonder if we can really seek the best for someone we do not like very much. Maybe the passage just means ‘be nice to your brothers and sisters’. Maybe there are loopholes here that make my feelings toward a brother or sister acceptable. After all, they deserve to be … less than loved in this way.

Let me make this perfectly clear: ALL of us deserve to be less than loved. If the truth were known, and all of our motives and misdeeds were exposed, we would recognize the big job it is to love one another. It takes a lot of grace to love someone you know really well.

In the end, it’s not what you believe or understand about love that matters.

“We know what real love is because Jessus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” – 1 John 3:12.

To understand how to love my brothers and sisters, I simply must replicate the love I have experienced from Christ. He unselfishly sought the best for another… for me.

That’s the message we have heard from the beginning. What’s keeping us from loving one another?

For Those Who Haven’t Sinned

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For Those Who Haven’t Sinned

First, given the title of this post, why are YOU reading it?

Apostle John wrote, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (1 John 1:8 NLT).

I know there was probably some background issue that John was writing to deal with, but I think it has resurrected in modern times. In today’s world no one thinks they are a sinner. If Nathaniel Hawthorne had lived in our culture, he could never have conceived of The Scarlet Letter. The only thing that is deemed ‘wrong’ today is telling someone they are wrong. But I’m just pointing fingers at others when I write about this. I need to look into the mirror for a minute.

I freely confess to be a sinner, in desperate need of God’s grace. I often claim to be ‘grace-dependent’ because I am.

In an honest moment, however, I can sometimes think of myself as always being right. I can believe that my approach is best. I can frown when someone suggests something different. That’s not the same as claiming to have no sin, but I wonder how often I overlook my own sin and focus on someone else’s sin? If I do, I’m only fooling myself and not living in the truth.

It’s more serious than just a Christian in need of some honest introspection. John goes on to write:

“If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts” (1 John 1:10 NLT).

Calling God a liar is something I want no part of. But if I fail to acknowledge my all-too-obvious shortcomings, I may be in that territory. The more we spend time in the Word being drawn closer to the heart of the Father, the clearer our station really is. John’s prompt is to bring your sin to the One who can do something about it.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9 NLT).

Now that’s a heavy burden removed… and a daily focus. We do not have to be afraid to bring it all to Him, because He forgives and cleanses. And I like the word “all” there.

In the Amplified Bible Classic, we read:

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].

So, for those who haven’t sinned … well… that’s not anyone reading this. For the rest of us, we have the truth about ourselves to face and we have the truth about our Father to embrace.