The Cosmopolitan Gospel

Standard

I just finished my first week of this new seminary school year, and I am tired and ready to start the weekend rest, so I am going to be brief in sharing a new revelation from my studies:

St. Luke writes his gospel to Theophilus, a Gentile believer who needs reassurance “of the things [he has] been taught” (Luke 1:1-4). This brings a remarkably unique account. I was amazed to recognize that while the text has a very Jewish essence–being deeply rooted in the Hebraic tradition and culture–it is also intentionally written with universal appeal. God has, from the beginning, desired the hearts of all nations, and Luke brings out that diversity without losing focus of the Jewish root of the Kingdom. It’s a fascinating paradigm.

This universal appeal is multifaceted, spanning gender, age, class, culture, and nationality. No one is left out. For example, John the Baptist was born in a miraculous birth coinciding with Jesus’ birth, but as a forerunner for Him. The parallels are immense, but among them is the obvious difference in class: John came from an important religious family who had the attention of the community, while Jesus was born humbly. Class and prominence are clearly not the indicators of spiritual worth. Also in the opening chapters of Luke, Simeon and Anna–an elderly man and an elderly woman–each recognized Jesus as Messiah when He visited the Temple as an infant, demonstrating that the Kingdom is also inclusive of both men and women. And the overall focus of Luke’s gospel is not on Jesus as a sacrificial offering (a natural continuation of Jewish thought), but on the movement of the Spirit, God’s ultimate plan of reconciliation for the world, and the Kingdom of God, which is a uniquely diverse, yet unified, collaboration of God’s children–both Jew and Gentile.

As one of my classmates pointed out, “same-ness is not the same as one-ness.” It’s important to encourage diversity, so that within our distinctions, the church can come together as the well-equipped, perfect, Body of Messiah.

It makes me excited to press forward with the goal to be my authentic self in all things.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Review of With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

Standard

Genre: Historical Romance

Recommended.

with every breath

Set in the late 1800s in Washington, D.C., Kate Livingston and Trevor McDonough had always been school-mate adversaries. Now as adults, Trevor has become a distinguished physician, while Kate (having lost the scholarship that was her only chance at college to Trevor) is struggling in a career that neither challenges or interests her.

When Trevor unexpectedly pursues Elizabeth to work alongside him in his research to cure tuberculosis, she jumps at the challenge, and their wit and competitiveness merge in an amusing chemistry. As their research is threatened by a reckless and anonymous “insider,” Kate is certain that Trevor’s mysterious past has something to do with their endangerment.

I loved reading this. Kate is a fiery, intellectual, strong-willed woman (not represented well by the cover picture); and Trevor is a private, equally strong-willed, introvert, gifted in his brilliance to perfect the world. The story’s depth and dynamic comes through as they each come to terms with their emotions and past wounds (especially with experiencing the death and illness of loved ones in their individual lives).

While faith is a more subtle piece of the story, the theme that love is tested in fire, and is not to be reserved just when circumstances are easy really stood out to me. I also appreciated the historical detail, fascinating period-appropriate medical information, and the compelling mystery.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

First Day of School

Standard

There are several new elements in my life right now: a new look to my blog, new desires in my heart, a new fire in my spirit, and today is the first day of my third year of seminary!

I was a bit anxious for this school year because our university is moving from quarters to semesters–a conversion that is much needed, but which brings added confusion and temporary chaos for students and professors alike. Also, the new online structure is not quite a “semester”–it’s a rigorous seven weeks per class; one week more than what we’re used to, with the potential for a higher workload and more expectations than before. After a meeting with my advisor I am up for the challenge, but it will maximize my time management skills.

The class I’m taking right now focuses on Lukan theology (the books Luke wrote: Luke and Acts) within a Messianic perspective. I have the goal to share what I’m learning weekly, without trying to “perfect” everything. [I realize I have a bad habit of not posting unless I’m certain I know what I’m talking about, which ends in me learning and inquiring into so many interesting things without sharing.] So, there it is: a written commitment to share as I am in the learning process. Cheer me on as I stick to it; and feel free to ask lots of questions. :-)

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Review of Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson

Standard

Genre: Writing/Spiritual Life

Highly Recommended!

51dnAtepoPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Robert Benson creatively and practically shares from his own writing process to encourage aspiring or fellow writers.

I’m not sure how to describe it except to acknowledge that this is the first book about writing that has been truly inspirational to me. Each chapter is concise and fluid, focusing on a particular aspect of writing (e.g. choosing an audience, or staying dedicated). He shares his wisdom in a blend of practical advice, captivating demonstrative stories, and a moving spiritual essence. It’s not a technical book, rather an encouraging collection of insight into his own writing style and process. And it’s truly wonderful!! I especially loved Benson’s honesty and wit.

The way I approach writing is very different from Benson’s, yet this book became a sort of muse for me–inspiring me to pause from the reading to do some writing of my own. I also picked up several new ideas from him that I will likely incorporate into my own methodology. It’s a book I can see myself re-reading as I need encouragement; and one I’d highly recommend to all my writer friends.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Press.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Review of MindWar by Andrew Klavan

Standard

Genre: YA Fiction/Action & Adventure/Sci-Fi

Series: MindWar Trilogy, Book #1

Recommended.

Rick Dial had been the quarterback of his high school football game; but after injuring his legs in a car accident he has been avoiding real life by loosing himself in a video-game obsession. When a secret government group recruits him to enter “the Realm” (a digital world created by a Russian villian) because of his unusually high gaming skill, he begins to rethink his life–and realizes that his father, who recently deserted the family, is not whom he imagined.

I have read Andrew Klavan’s Homelanders Series, and think he is one of the best choices for YA Christian fiction. His writing is swift and action-oriented. MindWar has a very different feel than his other works–it’s lighter, with a little less suspense, more room to provoke thought, but still with as much action and character risk-taking as ever.

There are a couple themes in the narrative that give me pause:

  1. I am not clear based on the first book alone what the “the Realm” represents. It appears to be a replica of the spiritual world and spiritual battle (in a good way!), but depending on how the story moves, the underlying message could go in any direction.
  2. I’m unsure how I feel about the “spirit guides”–maybe a different word choice would be more appropriate (I gather they represent angels).
  3. Rick learns to control his physical reality through his spiritual reality, which I find to be an excellent parallel for putting faith into action, but which could also be mistaken for the manipulation of the spiritual/physical realms as in the occult–or, on the “Christian” side of things, within the “word of faith” movement. The lines between what is and isn’t biblical are based so strongly on the posture of the heart that it is unclear which stance the story is working from since the details are not clearly defined. I judge it to be okay–even a helpful example; but having come out of an occult/New Age background, I am sensitive and hesitant over some of the scenes and word choices.

Overall, I do recommend this book, despite my small hesitations. I think it will catch the attention of pre-teen to teenage boys (or action loving girls). And I like that it opens up the conversation of faith, spirituality, and the supernatural realm without being overtly religious.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Something Backward and Something New

Standard

The past year–maybe two–I have been in an interesting spiritual season. I’ve been struggling through the same chronic health problems that I’ve had for several years, but which have recently moved me from emotional tedium and annoyance into restlessness and desperation. Something has to change, I realized. If not my circumstances then me; and this, we all know, is the more difficult part. The natural movement of transformation comes from the inside out–God changes the heart, and fresh actions flow out of the new creation.

This is an excellent pattern, but I found myself asking, “Okay God, my heart has changed [I am trusting God with my illness joyously], but I am so tired–now what?” And in my desperation for something new, He began leading me in something completely backward from my expectations: to focus on my outside, so that my inside can catch up to what my heart is already doing. Essentially: to live sincerely in the vision of who I am (an act of faith–of manifesting the spiritual reality through my outer reflection).

There is a longer part of the story that I will skip over briefly: I dreamed prophetically, then realized, that when life became physically uncomfortable, I stopped being the fullness of myself. I’ve still been connected with God–maybe more than ever; I’m still involved in all sorts of things; but the way I have approached my life has been…confused. Namely, I began unknowingly hindering myself with my inner dialog, focusing on my limitations (which are there) instead of on the numerous freedoms I have in other areas. The Lord has begun to teach and remind me who He has created me to be–among the surprises, I remembered that I am an extrovert!

This is still a new and ongoing process for me. The essence is that I am focusing on making my physical appearance look as if I am healthy: taking time to do my hair, and make-up, to wear accessories, and to dress myself in colors, patterns, textures, and shapes that naturally express an outgoing and fiery movement in alignment with my natural disposition. For instance, I am tough, so I should wear fabric that is tough to remind myself and reflect that attitude. I strive on completing projects and reaching solutions swiftly, so I should dress in quick, swift, patterns that reveal this movement and essence. I am sharp, fiery, and resilient, so I should dress myself in a way that reflects my inner disposition.

I have only been doing this for about a week, yet so far I already feel like a whole different person. My blood sugar levels and other problems have remained, but they have not squashed me into a lethargic, mopey, emotional mess. Rather, I have been accomplishing more, and having more joy doing it–simply by observing and asking God to reveal the inside of me, and then dressing myself on the outside in a physical expression of those truths and traits.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Review of A Match of Wits by Jen Turano

Standard

Genre: Romantic Historical Comedy

Series: Ladies of Distinction, Book #4

Not Recommended.

Set in 1883, Agatha is a quick-witted news reporter who naturally attracts dangerous and troublesome situations. (She reminds me just a bit of Amelia Bedelia from the popular children’s book series.) When Agatha unexpectedly reconnects with Zayne–a single and handsome man from her past–sparks fly in a match of their equally stubborn natures and evident chemistry.

This novel is simply not my taste. I was intrigued by the book description, unsure about the cover, and plunged into it anyway, only to decide I had made a poor choice for myself.

I still cannot decide exactly why the narrative rubbed me the wrong way because the writing is solid. I think the comedic aspect was just too much for me: over the top, with larger than life characters that were unsettling and even annoying to me. I personally found it difficult to connect with the characters, story, and not-my-style humor; and I had trouble feeling the essence of the historical period.

That said, the story does begin to improve toward the middle as the character and plot focus becomes more settled and concentrated. I imagine readers who are looking for an exaggerated, light-hearted, and cheesy sort of romance and humor would likely enjoy this, even though it was not suitable for my taste.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest