September 29, 2014

Nature's Sketchbook

I was cleaning out some of my cupboards the other day and came across this book that I hadn't looked at in years. So I decided to sit down and have a read through.

What a delightful book!

Filled with the art of Marjolein Bastin of Holland, and her insights and experiences from the nature she paints.

I love this kind of art, so full of color and life. So much detail you can look at one painting for hours and enjoy all it has in store for you. : )

I thought I'd share a few paintings and insights Marjolein shares throughout the book.

Strawberries are my favorite summer fruit! Here she paints some in a new basket.

She writes:

"The spiders and beetles loved 
my old basket... it was perfect
For playing hide-and-seek.
To them, 'old is beautiful,'
but I must advert that
as a flower basket,
it had become pretty rickety.

But here is my new one...
and I'll try this time not to leave it
out in the rain!"

Here she writes some interesting facts about these butterflies and violets:

butterfly has made
his life very difficult:
his tiny caterpillars
will not eat anything other than these violets.
And when they are not
there anymore,
the butterfly
will vanish, too."

I love making bouquet's of flowers. It's always fun to create something new each time.

Here she writes about painting this lovely bouquet:

"This beautiful bouquet
inspires me to paint with
such enthusiasm that there
is hardly enough room left for my words!

Just imagine this
in a jam jar on the table...
how opulent!

Bluebells here are protected, so you're not allowed to pick them.
That's way drawing is so nice - I can always sit among
the bluebells with my brushes and enjoy
their natural beauty."

Though this isn't a book of faith, I found God's creation bursts forth on every page. He truly makes beautiful, intricate things for us to enjoy.

Here are a few of her paintings that aren't from this particular book, but as a gardener who loves flowers, I had to share!

I'm not sure if this book is still in print but here is Marjolein's website where you can explore all her gorgeous creations... Marjolein Bastin's Website

September 26, 2014

God is My Rock

Friday's Thought:

Today I thought I'd share one of my favorite verses that the Lord always encourages me with. : )

"He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us."

Psalm 62:6-8 

And that Rock this Psalm talks of, is Christ...

"Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,

all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,

all ate the same spiritual food,

and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ."

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 

September 23, 2014

Introverts in the Church

I have to say I was a little disappointed in this book.
And I struggled with the decision on whether or not I should write about it.
Back in July I included this book on my '5 books on my future reading list' post and it got a great response.

There's a lot of us introverts out there. : )

So I've decided to share a few of my thoughts and concerns.

By the title of this book, I was lead to believe it would be mostly about introverts in the church. When in actuality it was more about being an introverted pastor or leader in the church. Since I'm neither, these parts didn't speak to me. (which was 2/3 of the book) Though he did make some great points for those who are.

What also disappointed me in these latter chapters, was the overall feeling that introverts need to be dealt with by pastors and leaders in the church. (Ex. have spiritual classes just for them) This is exactly what we don't be singled out. As an introvert this made me sad. This is the one thing about being an introvert, that has been the most painful in my life...

Being misunderstood.

Having others put words in my mouth before I could gather my thoughts and share them, and therefore being judged by their misunderstandings.

Introverts just want to be treated as fellow human beings with a brain that works differently than extroverts, and respected that our lives are lived in a quieter way. We don't need to be dealt with or have 'special' classes.

The book 'Quiet'  by Susan Cain, was much more sensitive to this and I recommend it over this particular book in understanding the mind of an introvert. You can read my thoughts on it HERE

Also, I recently read this blog post by Holly Gerth, which was spot on and very encouraging. Here's the link: 7 ways you can love an introvert

There were also several things that made me uncomfortable reading this book. I felt the author stereo-typed introverts into a certain type of spirituality. 

One of these was contemplative spirituality or apophatic spirituality, also referred to as via negativa (the negative way). A practice of emptying your mind through speaking repetitive words.

The author says it's:

" seek to move beyond our senses."

And here he quotes Otto Kroeger and Roy Oswald:

"In this prayer form, we move in silence to quiet the mind and focus on a sacred word or phrase. Apophatic prayer tries to rid the mind of all images and forms so as to be open to encounter directly the Mysterious One. It is the desire of the mediator to listen to God, rather than talk to God."

*Before I continue, I want to make it clear this type of practice described above, by this author, is very different then the Biblical practice of meditating on the Lord and his Word.

'My eyes are awake through the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.' Psalm 119:148

Does this verse not suggest that we be conscious while meditating on His Word?

Many things disturb me about this kind of contemplative prayer practice. Firstly, I believe that if God wants us to hear Him speak, we will  hear Him speak. Whether we are in a place of darkness and far from God, like Saul of Taurus was, or whether we are in close communion with Him, like Daniel was.

God is in control of who will hear Him, not us.

We can not manipulate God into speaking to us through any kind of practice.

As a Christian I believe in being still before God, being quiet, but this is not the same thing. In the stillness and quiet time with the Lord we sit in His presences and rest. We meditate on Him and His Word.

Shouldn't we rather rest in Him and wait for His time and place to speak? And doesn't He have our best interest at heart to speak to us in His perfect time? And does He not speak already to us through His living Word?

I love that when I'm troubled, I can rest in Him. When I am stressed, I can rest in Him, When I am overwhelmed, I can rest in Him.

'Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him' Psalm 37:7

I recently read a book called 'Jesus > Religion' by Jefferson Bethke, (I'll be sharing about it soon), and this quote encouraged me so much while writing up this post.

"Religion is man searching for God, Jesus is God searching for man."

You don't' have to empty your mind to find God, He has already come! He has already spoken! And He wants a relationship with you. Just rest and wait on Him.

'Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!'  Psalm 27:14

(If you need encouragement and understanding in resting in God, I highly recommend 'The True Vine' by Andrew Murray, which is a deeper study into John chapter 15)

What troubles me the most about this kind of prayer is that you do not need Christ as mediator. You can be a Buddhist, a Hindu or a New Ager. No belief in Christ is required to practice it.

But the Bible teaches otherwise:

"...there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1 Timothy 2:5

We need a mediator, and it's not us, it's Jesus.

I thought I'd leave you with a passage from John Piper's book 'Finally Alive.'

He's first talking about how we are saved through hearing the word and then continues about how mantra's (A practice of emptying your mind through speaking repetitive words) don't work.

"...'hearing with faith' is what happens when we are 'born again through the living and abiding word of God.' The gospel - the news about Jesus Christ - is preached, we hear it, and through it we are born again. Faith is brought into being. 'Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth' (James 1:18).

This truth, this living and abiding word, this gospel, is not a mantra. 

And it doesn't work like a mantra. It doesn't work through the repetition of sacred sounds. It works because it is the intelligible truth about what really happened when Jesus died and rose again, and because God means for his Son to be glorified by our knowing and believing who his Son really is and what he really did to save sinners.

What we learn from 1 Peter 1:23 is that the whole worldview supporting the mantra is misguided and mistaken.

"having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 


“All flesh is as grass,
And all
the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away, 

But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you."                                                                                             1 Peter 1:23

It (the mantra) isn't rooted in history.

It isn't rooted in Jesus Christ. 

It isn't rooted in the intelligibility of historical narrative. 

It isn't rooted in  the responsibility of the human mind to construe meaning from the preaching of Christ. 

It isn't rooted in the duty of the soul to see and believe the gospel of Christ crucified and risen."

I want to be rooted in Jesus Christ. How about you? : )

September 19, 2014

Choosing Books...

 Friday's Thought:

"We should always choose our books as God chooses our friends, just a bit beyond us, so that we have to do our level best to keep up with them." 
                                                                                  Oswald Chambers

September 16, 2014

The Narrow Gate

I recently finished John MacArthur's book 'Hard to Believe.' It was sobering at the least and not a lite read. The chapter on the narrow gate really stuck out for me, so I thought I'd share a few of John MacArthur's thoughts on what Jesus says about it.

Jesus said:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matt. 7:13-14

 And in Luke one asked Him:

 "Then one said to Him, 'Lord, are there few who are saved?' And He said to them,

'Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Luke 13:24-25

John MacArthur says of the narrow gate:

"It is not enough to listen to preaching about the gate; it is not enough to respect the ethics;

you've got to walk through the gate. 

And you can't come unless you abandon your self-righteousness, see yourself as a beggar in spirit, mourning over sin, meek before a holy God, not proud and boastful, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and not believing you have it. Hell will be full of people who thought highly of the Sermon on the Mount. 

You must do more than that. 

You must obey it and take action.

You can't stand outside and admire the narrow gate; you've got to drop everything and walk through it. There's that self-denial again. 

You come through, stripped of everything.

But isn't that narrow-minded? Does that mean Christianity doesn't allow room for opposing viewpoints? No compassionate tolerance? No diversity?

That's exactly right.

We don't do it that way because we're selfish or prideful or egotistical; we do it that way because that's what God said to do.

If God said there were forty-eight ways to salvation, I'd preach and write about all forty-eight of them. But there aren't:

"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved," Acts 4:12 reminds us, no other name but Jesus.

In John's gospel, Jesus said, "I am the bread of life" (6:35); "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (14:6); "He who does not enter the sheepfold by the a thief and a robber...I am the door" (10:1,7)

Paul affirmed these words in 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." 

There's only one: Christ and Christ alone. That's a narrow viewpoint. but that is Christianity, and it is the truth. You have to enter on God's terms, through God's prescribed gate. Christ is that gate. Holy God has the right to determine the basis of salvation, and He has determined that it is Jesus Christ and Him alone. You can enter only through Him, by faith."

He then talks about how to enter the narrow gate. He says here:

"To come through the narrow gate, you must enter with your heart repentant over sin, ready to turn from loving sin to loving the Lord."

And later he writes:

"The requirements are firm, strict, refined, and clear-cut, and there's no room for any deviation or departure from them. It must be the desire of our hearts to fulfill them, knowing full well that when we fail, God will chasten, and then God will wonderfully and lovingly forgive and set us on our feet again to pursue His will."

The narrow gate is not a popular subject.

It's been debated a million times, even within the church, but when we step away from the chatter and really listen to what Jesus is saying we will hear...hope in the narrow gate, unconditionally love in the narrow gate, and unspeakable joy in the narrow gate.

Because, Jesus is that narrow gate.

He is forgiving of a repentant heart and the gate is always open to you.

You just have to walk through it.

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."   2Peter 3:9

Here's one of my favorite songs by Jeremy Camp, which expresses the wonderful only way...Jesus.

Buy it HERE on Amazon

September 12, 2014

Rembrandt's Raising of the Cross

Friday's Thought:

I've been reading Francis Schaeffer's book "How should we then live: The rise and decline of western thought and culture" and came across this painting by Rembrandt.

The author wrote this of Rembrandt and his painting:

"Rembrandt had flaws in his life (as all people do), but he was a true Christian; he believed in the death of Christ for him personally. In 1633 he painted the Raising of the Cross for Prince Frederick Henry of Orange. It now hangs in the museum Alie Pinakothek in Munich. A man in a blue painter's beret raises Christ upon the cross. That man is Rembrandt himself - a self-portrait. He thus stated for all the world to see that his sins had sent Christ to the cross."

Reading this gave me great pause and appreciation, not just for this masterpiece, but for it's deeper meaning, of what Christ did for us.

Art is a beautiful expression of who we are and I'm thankful for artist's like Rembrandt who decided to share his talents with the world and by doing so, shared the gospel.

September 10, 2014

Jane Austen's First Love

This was such a sweet and delightful novel!

If you enjoy the writings of Jane Austen, you are sure to enjoy this Austen inspired novel as well.

The author, Syrie James, has taken a sentence from a letter Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra, and has created a wonderful story of what if...

She quotes and writes in the afterword:

"We went by Bifrons and I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure the abode of him, on whom I once fondly doated."

So wrote Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra in 1796. That tantalizing sentence has long intrigued me. Every Austen scholar concludes that Jane, as a young woman, was enamored of Edward Taylor, the heir to Bifrons, a grand manor house and estate in Kent - but the details of their relationship were never known. Who was Edward Taylor? What did he mean to Jane Austen? Did he return her affections? How did they meet? 

Fascinated by the implications of this connection, I was determined to learn as much as I could about it. Unfortunately, Austen biographers presented very little information about Edward Taylor, simply repeating the same brief, generic, reference: that Jane met him while visiting her brother Edward in Kent."

Bifrons Manor in Kent, England

Jane is fifteen and spending the summer in Kent on the engagement of her brother Edward, to Elizabeth Bridges. There Jane meets Edward Taylor, an adventurous young man of seventeen.

Filled with historical persons in Jane Austen's real life, as well as hinting at some of her novel's characters and plots throughout, this book is sure to put a smile on the face of any reader who loves her.  : )

Buy it HERE on Amazon

September 5, 2014

Meditate on what is good

Friday's Thought:

If you've been watching the news lately, you know that evil is rampant in this world and it's easy to get overwhelmed by it all.

But what we need to remember is this, that God has not called us to dwell on evil, but to meditate on what is good.

"Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." 
                                                                                  Philippians 4:8

September 2, 2014

A New Look and A Bookish Questionnaire

I'm back! I've had some fun redesigning my blog this summer and I'm ready to start blogging again. I thought I'd begin with this fun A-Z bookish questionnaire.  : )

Author you've read the most books from: Fiction would probably be Janette Oke when I was a teenager. Non-fiction would be C.S. Lewis.

Best sequel ever: I'd have to say 'An Echo in the Darkness'  the second book in Francine Rivers, Mark of the Lion Series.

Currently reading: 'Finally Alive'  by John Piper. I'm a couple chapters in and it's good so far and 'How should we then live?'  by Francis Schaeffer which I'm almost finished and it's excellent! Great book on how mankind has thought through history and it's impact on us today.

Drink of choice while reading: Ice water

E-reader or physical book: Physical book

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school? LOL...I barely talked to boys in high school!

Glad you gave this book a chance: 'Mere Christianity'  by C.S. Lewis. It opened a whole new world to me of theological type books and a different way of thinking in my christian walk. From Lewis to Tozer to Spurgeon... I now love them all. : )

Hidden gem book: 'Humility'  by Andrew Murray. Most beautiful book.

Just finished: 'Holy Ghost Girl'  by Donna unbelievably sad page-turner of spiritual abuse.

Kind of books you won't read: Anything with the overall theme of horror, the occult, or sexually explicit. I also don't usually choose books that are known for bad theology. I believe what we read can contribute to our overall way of thinking and living. So I stay away from all these kinds of books.

Longest book you've read: 'London'  by Edward Rutherfurd. It was over 1100 pages!

Major book hangover because of: Not sure

Number of bookcases you own: Two

One book you read multiple times:  I don't usually re-read books, but I did re-read one of my favorites, 'Pride and Prejudice'  by Jane Austen.

Preferred place to read: It would be by the ocean, but since I don't have an ocean in my backyard, I usually read on the couch. : )

Quote you like from a book you read: I'm a quote collector, so it's hard to just pick one!

Here's one from Oswald Chambers. A quote that encouraged me to not just believe what I believe, but know what I believe.

"If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don't, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth... Always make it a practice to stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed."

Reading regret:  Finishing a book I didn't like. I always feel like if I paid for it I should finish it!

Series you started and need to finish: Colleen Coble's 'Mercy Falls'  series. I just need to read the last book!

Three of your all time favorite books: Hard to pick only three! You can read my favorite reads HERE

Unapologetic fan-girl for: I don't really think of myself as a fan. When I read I feel like I'm reading something a friend wrote.

Very excited for this release more than all the others: 'Sheba'  by Tosca Lee

Worst bookish habit: Leaving books all around the house.

Xmarks the spot: Not sure what this means?

Your latest book purchase: Just bought: 'Jesus > Religion: Why He is so much better than trying harder, doing more, and being good enough'  by Jefferson Bethke.

Zzzz snatcher book: Oh boy, I've read a lot of books that kept me up late. Can't think of just one.

This was a lot of fun to put together. If you decide to do a post like this, let me know. I'd love to come by and read your answers! : )