I realized last week that I couldn’t leave books out of my “faves,” since I’m usually reading several books at one time. All of these books are well worth the time, so pick one and dive in.
Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III em>Cry of the Soul: emotions and the Psalms. A short quote; click to read the rest:
“Fear distorts our perception of ourselves so that we seem weaker than we really are. It distorts the size of our problems so that they seem huge and undefeatable. But perhaps most significantly, fear distorts our picture of God.”
C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, a novel about love, shame, betrayal, and reconciliation. “I was with book as woman is with child.”
Mark Helprin, The Pacific and Other Stories. Helprin, crafter of exquisite stories, writes of restoration and hope. One of my all-time favorite stories, “Monday,” about renewing 9-11 wreckage is in this collection. One great line from the story “Perfection”: “If Ruth could, among the alien corn, begin the line in Judah that led to David, then what was not possible here, and what would not be disallowed?” To read another quote, click here
Chris Cleave,Little Bee, a redemption tale dealing with persecution, freedom, horror and hope…this is a real “heart-stretcher.” One quote:
“I could not stop talking because now I had started my story, it wanted to be finished. We cannot choose where to start and stop. Our stories are the tellers of us. ”
A search for a quotation reference today hooked me back into the best book I ever read on emotions and God. My copy of Cry of the Soul, by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III, which I first purchased at a conference in 1997, bears the tattering and teeth marks left by a chocolate lab named Gracie. Somehow that seems appropriate for a work that invites us to take the tears and tears of our soul to the Lord and shows us how that’s exactly what many of the Psalmists do. Listen to this small portion on fear:
“The Psalms, and the Bible generally, extol a type of fear that God greatly desires to instill in us. It is the fear of the Lord. ‘The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in nothing but his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).
What are some Psalms you turn to to express emotion or when you are dealing with fear?
Fear distorts our perception of ourselves so that we seem weaker than we really are. It distorts the size of our problems so that they seem huge and undefeatable. But perhaps most significantly, fear distorts our picture of God. God seems weak, uninvolved, or uncaring in the midst of our troubles. After all, we think, if he were strong and concerned, he would not leave us in this mess.
Fear reverses reality by making evil seem all-conquering, and God impotent. But God is not impotent. The psalms bombard us with images of his power. He is a king (Psalm 47), a warrior (18:7–15), a rock (31:2), and a fortress (46:7, 11). They also fill our minds with pictures of his goodness, compassion, and mercy. He is the shepherd (Psalm 23) and a loving mother (Psalm 131).
“Woman why are you weeping?” She said to them, “they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” John 20:13
You know how when something wretched has happened, but then it turns out really amazingly wonderful? You know how you then retell the stories, saying, “and it looked so bad, we thought we are going to lose, everything was going wrong. But then…” In the week following Jesus’ resurrection, those closest to Jesus experienced such story reversals. Listen to what Dan Allender says about the importance of remembering sorrowful stories:
“Sorrow cannot steal our faith or even cause it to be lost; betrayal and loss steal our faith only when we refuse to remember, tell our stories, listen even as we tell them, and explore the meaning that God has woven into every one. If we want to grow in faith we must be open to listening to our own stories, perhaps familiar or forgotten, where we have not mined the rich deposit of God’s presence. With better eyes and ears we will sense how God has worked to redeem even our most tragic experiences.” Dan Allender, The Healing Path
For reflection: what stories have you reached into to mine the rich deposit of God’s presence? What did you discover?
Our son Robert just shared this beautiful video with me, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you!
It reminds me of something Dan Allender once said, “Live with greater curiosity about people’s stories than they have themselves.”
It's hard to be angry and yet not sin with our children.
“ 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (I Timothy 1:15-16)
This post is continued – sorry to have left the child-sinners hanging on Friday, but I wanted to save the most important point for last. (When my daughter saw the title of my post on Facebook, she wrote, ‘This should be interesting!:).
As parents, we are the “chief” sinners (for more on the concept of leaders as chief sinners, see Dan Allender’s Leading with a Limp). This is because we know more and have lived longer. It is our job to ask forgiveness first when we have done harm to one of our children. I have many stories to illustrate this point, but I’ll settle on one:
Many years ago, I lost my temper with one of my children – AGAIN. I knew I had blown it, and I sent him to his room for time-out before I did any further harm. I prayed (that sounds calmer than it was – more like, “God! HELP!” through clenched teeth). When I had cooled slightly, I visited his room to deliver my apology. “I am really sorry. I lost my temper.”
His words still rattle me as I think about how easy and devastating it would have been to walk through the easy exit he gave me: “Yeah, but mom, if I hadn’t done that, you wouldn’t have…” I stopped him with an answer the Holy Spirit must have put in me, because I wouldn’t have thought of it on my own: “Son, your sin is yours to deal with before God and me, but my sin is mine to deal with. I cannot blame my sin on you. I need to ask God’s forgiveness and yours.”
That’s the gospel. We parents sin. We sin more when we blame our children for our sin. We do need to ask forgiveness when we wrong them. How else will they learn the humility to ask forgiveness for themselves? I wish there were some easier way to teach this, but there’s not. And more importantly, as “ambassadors of reconciliation,” it is more than a parenting lesson, it is a calling. That good news will be our topic tomorrow.
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