August 2011

Well folks, today Jake is back with another review. This time he is actually the one who was supposed to do the review, because it is a marriage book addressing the manly half of our species. I haven’t read Playing Hurt by Brian Goins, not being manly enough, but my first thought when I received the book was that it was appropriately slim. (Um…is that sexist of me?) Here he is:

Admittedly I’m not the ‘I must watch every match of every sport, super fanatic’ a lot of guys are. But I enjoy watching sports, most sports (haven’t figured out cricket yet).

Goins is a gifted story teller. He speaks a language that will resonate with men and encourages them to be the competitor and teammate they desire to be. He has a playbook with 5 tools to help.

Goins covers 3 important relationships and how they relate to each other. He aims to tap into the champion within, the Rocky Balboa, who with one eye swollen shut, rises to the occasion and fights back for the win.

I had trouble following parts of the book. This may have been because I was only able to read it in segments between other things going on and had to rush to get through it or maybe just my aversion to alliteration. If I were to read it again, I’d work through it at a slower pace, chapter by chapter and discuss with another guy. I’m a verbal processor and it helps me to work through things in this manner. It is nice to have the reminder that your wife is on your team. She’s not the opponent.

I’d recommend this book to guys that are playing wounded, or about to give up. I would say this is a much more approachable book about marriage for guys.

This book was provided for review by the LitFuse Publicity Group.


Since I’ve been a bit glum around here lately, I thought I’d post something other than a little raincloud over my head:

PostSecret: My friends Chris & Sabrina have a book on their coffee table called PostSecret, and I love looking at it when we’re at their house. It has some thought-provoking things (a Baptist minister’s wife who doesn’t believe in God), some really sad things, and also some that are really funny. Like the person who switched parking tickets with the car next to them, or the babysitter who poked holes in condoms to assure herself future work. There is a website, too. Which led me to…

Passive-Aggressive Notes. Just great. On the right-hand side are links to Most Popular and Greatest Hits; there are some real treasures there.

Me Talk Pretty One Day: I found this in a used (English) bookstore when we were in France and remembered one of my friends had listed it as one of his favorites on Facebook. Having been pleased with previous book recommendations by this friend, I purchased the book and am so, so glad I did. Unbeknownst to me, the second half of the book is about Sedaris’s experiences living in France. The first half of the book was funny but once I made it to the parts about France…I lost it. Like falling-out-of-my-chair-laughing-so-hard-I-couldn’t-breathe lost it. I really want to read it again but it’s in our storage unit…somewhere.

Dominion: I had never heard of this game until my brother and sister gave it to Jake for his birthday. We pretty much instantly fell in love with it; we have been playing it quite frequently with Jeremy and Sarah (our gracious hosts during Our Time of Need). It’s really fun! (Seth – when y’all are back in the States you should pick one up to take to game night!)

Brown Mountain Cake – my favorite cake. My birthday may have been over 2 months ago but my birthday cake didn’t put in an appearance until very recently. I THINK this is the recipe my mom uses but I’m not sure.It is SO GOOD.

The other thing brightening my days is a little boy with whom I have an awful lot of fun. He has a brilliant smile and is learning to do so many cool things. Sometimes I look at him and my heart does that thing like the Grinch.

In 8th grade, this new kid named Michael came to our school. Whatever it is that makes people cool, he had it and quickly became quite popular. This meant that we moved in VERY different circles. He was in a few of my classes that year but freshman year, I think he was in most of my classes if not all of them. It sounds so young now, looking back, but he was already into some decidedly unsavory practices. I remember being disgusted by him, trying to avoid him, even asking God to miraculously alter class schedules so I wouldn’t have to be around him. Somehow I managed to survive the year, saintliness unsullied.

The junior high we went to split between the 2 high schools in our district. I went to one and he went to the other. I didn’t hear much about him until junior year, when the people I sat next to in algebra (assigned seating) happened to party with Michael on a regular basis. He may have had some unsavory practices before but if the weekly Monday morning reports are to be believed, he had become quite degenerate by this point.

The summer in between junior and senior years, Michael hung himself. His stepfather had previously found out about a drug habit and threatened him about what would happen if there was any kind of repeat. I do remember he had been terrified of his stepfather. Anyway the stepfather had found out that the drug habit had resumed, or never stopped, and apparently Michael found out he knew and was terrified enough of him that suicide seemed a better option.

I happened to be studying Ezekiel at the time and this haunted me that summer, that year, and haunts me still to some degree:

If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.

Ezekiel 33:8

If I could change only one thing in my life, this would be it: I would go back and be friends with Michael. Probably not good friends, but I would at least be nice. I wish I hadn’t been so intimidated by his coolness or his problems, and I wish I had treated him with compassion instead of disdain. He may have made the same choices anyway, but maybe not. Maybe if someone had treated him the way Jesus would, his life would have looked very different and hopefully not so short.

So, that’s it: I wish I had been Jesus to someone who desperately needed Him.

Two years ago at this time, I was in Spain. Last year, I was in Ireland. Pretty awesome.

And in the past week, I got my first voluntary, spontaneous hug from my little boy, which is better than the most awesome vacation ever.

At first I couldn’t think of anything for this topic, because I usually feel like I haven’t “done” much in my life. I was going to say “doing a butterfly release at our wedding,” not because the butterflies were bad but just not as awesome as I had imagined and we could have done something else with that money. But then I started to think of things I’ve said and suddenly I find myself with a wealth of regrets.

Once, years ago, I said something about my brother – not to him, to someone else. I at least knew this was not the sort of thing you say to someone. This something worked its way around to him, though, and I could see in his face that he was deeply wounded.

Sometimes – often, actually – I wonder if it still hurts.

There is a “nature center” in the neighborhood we are staying in. It’s a little piece of wooded area, a protected reminder of what the land here used to look like before the sprawling houses, manicured lawns, fences to keep everyone to themselves, and all the concrete. I run there on the days I get to but half the purpose of running is to get lost in my thoughts so I don’t always notice. But today I took Asher there so the child can experience something besides air conditioned shelter and I saw. I saw the brown leaves covering the path though it’s nowhere near autumn, heard them crunch underfoot. I saw the trees drooping with withered leaves, ready to give up. I saw the the line where the water in the pond should be, feet above where it is. I saw the sandbar where the water had retreated to expose part of the pond bottom. I saw the creek so dry Moses and the children could cross without needing any manner of miracle.

I felt like I was looking at my heart, dry and withering, little pond of faith shrinking and leaving cracked dry ground behind, like lips split and parched. I looked at the ground and I know, from flash floods in my memory, that a lot of rain all together will not help much; the hardened ground does not remember how to accept the water. It needs a slow, gentle, steady rain that falls for days and days to soak in first, to softly prepare it for the moisture to come. As much as I would LOVE for a swirl of miracles to magically end this chapter in my life, maybe it won’t be like that. Maybe it will be small things, hardly noticeable at first, gentle graces that begin the healing and change.

Send some rain, would You send some rain?
‘Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid

But maybe not, not today
Maybe You’ll provide in other ways
And if that’s the case

We’ll give thanks to You, with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If you never send us rain

(But, Jesus, would You please?)

– Nichole Nordeman, “Gratitude”

I don’t want to give thanks. I don’t want to give thanks for the sun when even the sky seems faded from its rays and my skin feels seared just from walking outside. I don’t want to thank God for providing when it doesn’t look anything like what I want it to. (One of my favorite lines from a song is “This is not what I thought I had been praying for” and I always found the irony humorous…until now.) But I am trying. I am trying because maybe the action will train my heart in the correct response, though it doesn’t feel natural. And maybe it will keep my heart just soft enough to receive the miracle of grace when it comes.

Scenario: Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?

I would go to the hospital. Same as I would if we didn’t get in a fight.

Although, I don’t really get into fights with friends. Probably because we are all so mature and everything. Or maybe because I don’t have friends with the sort of wildly differing views that lead to vicious, heated arguments.

But it’s probably because we’re mature.

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