Hello Friday: Summer’s Endings, New Beginnings

Hello Friday is a look over my shoulder at the events of the past week. I notice what was life-giving and then share it with you, a week-ending examen. Maybe you’ll find something in it that brings you life, too; maybe even try your own.

  • “The Beast” is progressing! I’ve been walking Lewis most mornings. He is more mystery than manners at this point, but he raised the bar for himself this week by demonstrating his ability to wait quietly while I unleashed him upon our return so he could rejoin Boo in their kennel (which we moved to the nut grove when the temperatures soared to sustained triple digits). Otherwise, his norm is to spasm a little too enthusiastically at the door. It’s good to be winning the courtesy contest, if even a teeny bit. (And speaking of courtesy, photo by Mr. S)

Woman standing next to large white dog, holding leash

  • The classic definition of stress is being presented with a challenge one feels they haven’t the resources to meet. My pastor preached on it a few messages ago in a sermon titled, When God Asks Too Much. I listened to it again this week. If you feel like God is stressing you out by asking more than you feel you have the resources to meet, this one’s for you. Stick in your ear buds and take your beast for a 25 minute walk or push back the recliner and rest (audio is messy for first 30 secs; fine after that).
  • I spent a few delicious hours in a mountain retreat with a friend. Our lives are busy these days; in many ways, not our own. But we found a date when the white space on our calendars synced, and squeezed in a few hours to meet and catch up–reminisce, share current status, look forward, laugh, lament, and listen–deeply. Feeling oh-so-grateful.

Green chair by window

And I came away with a new resource to recommend: Seeking God’s Face.

I’ve talked before about my favorite Blue Book, A Guide to Prayer For Ministers and Other Servants. This one may bump it to second. Another prayer-book, but with some brilliant features:

  1. 15 years of actual dates in a little box at the top of each page. I don’t have to know where I am in the Christian year as long as I can remember (or find…) today’s date! It does ALL the thinking. You’re welcome.
  2. No second book needed, includes all scripture text.
  3. Prayers are in accessible, meaningful language that facilitates integration of spiritual thought with current, lived experience.
  4. Eugene Peterson’s thoughtful Forward.
  5. Format that engages both heart and mind.

Yes. It’s that good.

  • Though I am ambivalent about this one, there is life here. My tongue-in-cheek critique of Beth Moore’s book, Get Out of That Pit, had more to say about the condition of my own soul than it did about her authorship. I ended up recommending the book, but also telling the truth about what were, for me, its less-than-glowing aspects. Unflattering truths are hard for me to speak, but it felt good to do so honestly…if I’m honest. My spiritual director suggests God may be inviting me to move beyond my fear of approval by “growing a pair”–which you may or may not approve of my saying. Sorry…I’m practicing.
  • I transported a couple of family teens and their seven over-stuffed bags, water bottles in hand, to catch their ride to the hospital 2 1/2  hours away where a family member is recovering from a heart transplant.flowered design water bottle

 It felt like summer camp drop-off day with my own then-teen girls. I’ve been going through old pictures this week, trying to “minimize” (which is apparently more fashionable to be doing than old-fashioned “down-sizing” was, or “throwing away junk” was for generations prior). Anyway, I’m doing IT and found THIS. The one on the far right is celebrating a 16th wedding anniversary today! Mamas, don’t blink.

Mom and 3 children sitting on brown couch

  • I ran into a music buddy at the home improvement store on the weekend. “Keeping up your chops, aren’t you?” he said. I had to confess I wasn’t, but it reminded me that for a week or two I had felt an impulse toward playing once again, which has been absent for a time. On Monday, I found myself singing: (I know…ancient…)

You are the rock of my salvation.
You are the strength of my life.
You are my hope and my inspiration.
Lord unto You will I cry.
I believe in you, believe in you.
For your faithful love to me.
You have been my help
in time of need.
Lord unto You will I cleave. (Maranatha! Music)

  • This is a good place to mention that the week ended with this coming across from Gretchen Rubin about new beginnings. She’s good for me.

Podcast 129: September Is the Other January, the Fun of Post-It Notes, and What “They” Think.

  • And last, the week ended on a high note having lunch with a treasured friend, nurturing a valuable relationship.

Plate with slice of lemon, takeout box and restaurant check folder lying on table.

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about obedience as cooperation. I love and live  better when I remember that “trust and obey” just means I’m cooperating with Some-thing/-one good beyond myself. And it’s easier to trust when you believe that Someone has your best in mind. Thus, these words have been chock full of meaning this week:

The Lord is trustworthy in all his promises and faithful in all he does. Psalm 145:13b.

What are you letting go of as summer comes to a close? And what promise might those endings hold?

Blessings, G

Book Look: Get Out Of That Pit

adult with kids reading book

Confession: The postman left a manila folder containing a book I forgot I had requested for reasons I couldn’t remember by an author I didn’t care to follow. I’m probably just jealous, for who can resist Beth Moore’s effervescent presentation of hope? Apparently, there are few of us. Remember Proverbs 27:14? “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.” Such has been been my response to Moore’s prolific output. And like a good neighbor, I have carefully avoided her work—not an easy feat in modern day Christendom. Too bad for me, since I discovered upon opening the package that she has some really good things to say. When I read the enclosure, I was reminded I had, um, agreed to post a review. Here it is.

Get Out of That Pit has a timely message for anyone who finds themselves feeling stuck, unable to stand and having lost vision. From my curmudgeonly introduction, you have surmised that might be me! Moore delights with sunny, southern colloquialisms–if one has an affinity for that form of humor, then sucker punches with unavoidable truisms. As a result of her transparent sharing rather than the plastic perfection of which I [might] have accused her, I found myself open to her message, taken predominantly from Psalm 40, and the account of Joseph.

For me the most valuable takeaway is this: A pit is not, by definition, an external circumstance or a location outside of one’s self, but is, in fact, mobile. One can carry their pit with them into any situation, which she illustrates with a comic sketch of driving/crashing a stinking RV into a well-appointed living room to set up household. She posits at the beginning that it is this internal pit from which our true deliverance must come. As a spiritual director, I was thrilled to discover this nugget within. However, her attention quickly turned, in subsequent chapters, to the external “pits,” i.e. less desirable choices and willful disobedience. My initial thrill, thus, was tempered a bit. I would have liked to see more of the book devoted to the inner aspect. It seemed the freshest.

As to literary quality, while the stories are witty and charming, the writing is redundant and unfocused at times. Thus, I had a hard time staying engaged–maybe it’s just me. Thankfully, the study guide in the back brings clarity where it is lacking within the specific chapters. To her credit, she is forthright, stating that the style is conversational and can be problematic for some (…me, maybe?).

Women, in particular, looking for devotional material full of familiar biblical passages that “fill you up”–a significant portion of the scripture-consuming population, will no doubt find it enjoyable and helpful. Those who appreciate a more serious use of language, whose invitation is to deeper layers of reflection and self-awareness, who want to explore meaning beyond metaphor, should be aware that Get Out… will likely not serve that purpose, though it will serve its purpose in redirecting us to an awareness that we have agency in how long we stay. And it offers some actions to take to help us Get Out of That Pit! Spoiler alert: They mostly concern the mouth.

While I resist formulas, I recognize the value in organizing our thoughts. So, if you or someone you know seems to recycle through insurmountable situations—feel stuck, can’t stand in the face of difficulty, and have lost vision, Moore offers good insight. You may want to skim, though, rather than read each word. Congrats on the 10th anniversary of a successful piece of work.