Monday, December 3, 2012

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller

Gospel-humility.  Definitely one of my goals.  But how?  When one pursues humility directly, it is elusive.  It becomes a focus in and of itself, which is counter-productive to the whole idea. 

Tim Keller addresses this is in his short but power-packed booklet on Self-Forgetfulness.  Our egos are always busy - looking to fill themselves up on something.  We are usually over-inflated or under-inflated...but either way, we are puffed up on the proverbial 'hot air' instead of filled up with the 'solidness' of Christ.

Keller builds his talk on the book of Corinthians - Paul says that he cares very little if he is judged by any human court and he does not even judge himself! 

Keller states,
"Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself.  Not needing to connect things with myself.  It is an end to thoughts such as, 'I'm in this room with these people, does that make me look good?  Do I want to be here?'  True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself.  In fact, I stop thinking about myself.  The freedom of self-forgetfulness.  The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings." 


"A truly Gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person.  The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes.  It just works.  It does not draw attention to itself." 

C.S. Lewis states that humility is not thinking less of oneself, but thinking of oneself LESS. 

In  true Gospel-Christianity, the VERDICT of Christ's righteousness leads to our performance; our performance does NOT lead to the verdict.  We are declared righteous. 

Keller closes his booklet with this...
"Like Paul, we can say, 'I don't care what you think.  I don't even care what I think.  I only care about what the Lord thinks.'  And he has said, 'Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,' and 'You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.'  Live out of that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality - Pete Scazzero

Loved this book.  I suppose I say that about all of the books I read...I guess because each one is kind of like a new friend:  you can learn something from all of them, even if they have some faults.  (Maybe that is why I don't like to give my 'friends' away...and my library grows too large!  haha)

I appreciate Pete's vulnerability - his willingness to lay before the public eye his weaknesses and even failures as a father, husband and pastor.  I don't look upon him harshly - I see only the path that we are all walking as believers:  believing the Word, praying, etc - but still noting that our struggles don't disappear.  The struggles of our world are intense and we feel as though we lack the tools to fight well.  We find our humanity is all too apparent and wonder where victory is.

The basic cry of this book is to SLOW DOWN and GROW UP and live the life God has designed for you only.  He repeatedly emphasizes that you cannot be emotionally immature and spiritually mature at the same time. They are integrated.  Knowledge alone does little to transform us unless we slow down, and allow the Spirit to reveal hidden strongholds and emotional 'allergies' that have followed us through life.

I could quote and list MANY things that impacted me but I will share just this one that list that hit me square in the heart:  a list from St. John of the Cross: "the seven deadly spiritual imperfections of beginners that must be purified."  And yes, I'm a beginner - I've been a believer for 32 years, have 6 years of Bible training and countless hours of conferences and sermons, and I am still a beginner:

  1. Pride: they have a tendency to condemn others and become impatient with their faults.  They are very selective in who can teach them.
  2. Avarice: they are discontent with the spirituality God has given them.  They never have enough learning, are always reading many books rather than growing in poverty of spirit and their interior life.
  3. Luxury: they take more pleasure in the spiritual blessings of God than God Himself.
  4. Wrath: they are easily irritated, lacking sweetness, and have little patience to wait on God.
  5. Spiritual Gluttony: they resist the cross and choose pleasures like children do.
  6. Spiritual envy: they feel unhappy when others do well spiritually.  They are always comparing.
  7. Sloth: they run from that which is hard.  Their aim is spiritual sweetness and good feelings.
Ouch.  'Nuff said.

One final application from this book - He recommends praying the "prayer of examen" by St. Ignatius Loyola at the end of each day.  This discipline asks us to stop in prayer before sleep each night and look over the events of the day with Jesus - and to stop and ask where we were walking in the Spirit or not.  I often drop in bed exhausted and 'save my praying' for the morning - but i would like to change that habit to a more mindful watching of my heart throughout the day. 

Sorry this is so long and quick - as someone once said, "I don't have enough time to write less."  So this will do for now...perhaps more thoughts will follow.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grace Through the Ages - by Dr. Bill Smith

Grit & Grace: One New Yorker’s Thoughts on this newly released daily devotional...

I consider myself a New Yorker now...six years in this city will change a person.  One tends to find themselves more defensive, more on-edge, and less trusting than perhaps previous lifestyles have led them to be.  As a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to mirror Him to others but find myself struggling against the grain.  To be gracious and kind when the world around you is rough and rude - how is that possible?

Bill Smith, in his poignant, kind and sometimes ironic tone, identifies the only real transforming ingredient of our lives: the grace of God. While I read this devotional, I see glimpses of the character of a God Who blows me away with His gracious response to rude, disrespectful, and demeaning human beings: i.e., ME.  The only way I can live as a daughter of Him in this messed up world is to know the transforming power of an unimaginable grace that has been levied on me.  Just like the parable of the forgiven but ungrateful servant, I face a choice to pass that grace onto others OR show the world that I have not yet really and deeply understood just how much I have been forgiven.

The next time someone pushes me on the subway I'm going to try and remember that.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Tipping Point - by Malcolm Gladwell

The basic idea of this book is that epidemics spread based on ingredients that are often different than what we'd expect.  And no, not medical epidemics per se, but whenever anything 'goes viral' and suddenly moves from a small, cloistered few to a large, sweeping point of interest.  One illustration in the book is how hush puppies made a comeback, from a small group of eccentric fashion-forward people in the East Village of NY to a country-wide fashion phenomena. 

Gladwell's points were few, but heavily illustrated.  I have to admit that I'm of the temperament that would prefer less illustration and more direct writing...however...the illustrations did help me understand his points more deeply.  Still, I think I could have skipped a few illustrations and still come away with the basics of author's ideas.

The Three Rules of Epidemics - The Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context.

The Law of the Few - Social epidemics are "driven by the efforts of a handful of exceptional people." "sociable they are, or how energetic or knowledgable or influential among their peers."   These few can have a powerful, far-reaching effect when the idea or product they are promoting engages with the two other rules of epidemics.  Three kinds of people help move ideas to epidemics:  connectors, mavens, and salesmen.  A  connector is someone who is well networked, and seems to 'know everyone' and continually be introducing one person into another network or world.  Connectors spread ideas through the simple fact of being linked with a wide variety of people.  Mavens are those who are the watch-dogs of quality, and will research and correct those who miss the mark.  Mavens are rare, but they delight in correctness for its own sake and will insure that a company knows about his/her presence.  Mavens promote products they believe in and speak loudly both about those they like and those they dislike.  The concept of  the salesman is a bit self-explanatory.  True salesmen can sell 'ice to an eskimo,' and in so doing, be part of the spread of an epidemic. 

The Stickiness Factor - this is Gladwell's attempt to describe that illusive something that forms the difference between a commercial that is entertaining, and a commercial that not only makes us remember the specific product but also want to buy it.  Stickiness is what makes something more enduring, memorable, and effective.  "Stickiness means that a message makes an impact.  You can't get it out of your head.  It sticks in your memory."

The Power of Context - "The power of context says that human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem."  Gladwell uses the 1984 NYC subway system as an example.  Dirty, ridden with crime, and full of graffiti, it wasn't exactly the kind of system that promoted public pride.  Fare-jumpers were common, and police didn't even bother with them.  The whole system was broken, and the public knew it.  But when the system came under new management, things changed.  One of the very first actions of the new manager was to clean every subway car, scrub off the graffiti, and keep it that way.  What?!?!  When crime and broken trains and fire were rampant every day, why the focus on cosmetics?  Because - the CONTEXT that patrons were in every day bred a lack of responsibility and ownership.  The system was abused because the graffiti sent the message that nobody was minding the store.  As soon as someone began to mind the store, things began to change.  This idea suggests that for an idea to stick - we are extremely susceptible to our environment and the messages it sends.  Epidemics can be fueled by context.

I agree with Gladwell that the power of context is enormous, while I do think that the author went a bit TOO far in his application of the idea.  While context influences us all more than we realize, we are still responsible for our own actions and must therefore have an outside source to help us know what is right and wrong.  Gladwell describes a murder that takes place on the subway in that time frame and why, in his thinking, some of the 'blame' went to the context that the gunman was in every single day.  Again, context IS powerful and I cannot deny that - but BECAUSE it is powerful, as a Christian, I believe that is why we must have an even more powerful 'context' in which to think, act and live.  For me, that is the Word of God and the Holiness of the God I serve that dictates my actions.  We are all susceptable to decline based on context, but we still make personal choices. 

As a Christian, there are plenty of things that I would like to see become an 'epidemic.'  Church-planting and missional lifestyles.  Gospel-based thinking and actions of mercy.  Scripture-memory and engaging prayer.  Justice for the down-trodden and food for the hungry. 

From a Christian perspective, I think that what Gladwell is describing captures some of the ways that God uses His own people to move ideas from small pockets into large networks.  As a leader, I want to think intentionally about these three 'rules' and where they might apply in my own context.  What is my role?  Who else do I need on my team in order to move big dreams into reality?  Where can I find a Maven, a Salesperson, and more Connectors?  What makes my vision 'sticky' for the Body of Christ in NYC?  And what context do I need to either 'create' or act in defiance of in order to see movement happen? 

Good to Great - by Jim Collins

I have always liked the idea that "good is the enemy of great."  I have always been drawn to things that challenge the status quo, and this is one of those things. 

Jim Collins is one of my favorite authors (and we need to pray that he comes to faith!).  He identifies key concepts in leadership and management that, not surprisingly, often mirror Scriptural principles. 

This book captures the elements of what moves companies from "good," to "great."  With strict standards and much research, his team interviewed leaders and developed these key concepts.  There is a lot of great material in this book - but let me share what impacted me the most. 

Level 5 Leadership: - in summary, someone who has leadership ability, vision, competence and talent, but MINUS the ego.  The ego, in a sense, is subservient to the cause or purpose/vision of the organization.  It was certainly a challenge to me to look at my own ego and evaluate where it falls.  To be human is to desire growth and accomplishment, but we can't allow this desire to overrun the real reason we exist and serve.  C.S. Lewis said something to the effect that he could not work too hard to avoid thinking of his own success and fame. 

What We Can Be Best At:  Jim Collins describes the three circles:  "What you are deeply passionate about," "what you can be the best in the world at," and "what drives your economic engion."  Where these three circles overlap: this is your sweet spot, what your company should pursue to the exclusion of all other distractions.  He calls this the "hedgehog concept."  I love this simply because our tendency, especially in Christian ministry, is to do too many things...and to do them all half-way.  I have heard the phrase, "if something is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly."  While I intuitively don't like that expression, there is truth in it at the beginning...UNTIL you figure out what you should focus on, and then pursue it with all excellence and exclude the things that distract you. 

Start a 'Stop Doing' List:  In order to apply the hedgehog concept well, we must STOP doing a number of things that distract us.  Time wasters, time drainers, or even worthy things that take us away from our main goal.  Once your core purpose is identified, everyone should keep a "stop doing" list in a promonent place!

Create a Culture of Discipline/Get the Right People on the Bus and in the Right Seats:  While the 'bus' concept may already be familiar to you, I appreciated Collins' challenge to create a culture of corporate discipline that keeps standards high.  One issue that clogs up an organization is someone in the wrong seat on the bus who has no passion for what they are doing, and thus no inward drive that can push them into excellence.  If you've ever been in a position that doesn't fit for a long season of life (I have), you know the intense drain emotionally and even physically that results.  However, in contrast, getting the right person into the right position naturally will release their passion and interest and drive - which will naturally build into your culture of discipline.  This reduces the amount of time that management needs to spend in making sure that there people are working hard enough or producing results.  Instead, your people will be motivated internally to produce results that lead to excellence.

In conclusion, a worthy read!!  I think the "level 5 leadership" was the biggest take home for me and the "one thing" from this book that I will remember well and attempt to apply.  May God transform ME into a level-five leader someday!

Friday, September 7, 2012

How Successful People Think - by John Maxwell

How you think is how you live.  Our thought life is not some hidden, personal area of our lives.  It 'leaks' into our actions and behaviors and interactions with others. 

John Maxwell, in his usual direct and succinct way, discusses 11 areas of "thinking" that influence our lives.  In this small book, he is trying to identify the key areas of thought that determine if a person will be successful or not in any area of their lives.  His theory?  Change your thinking = change your life. 

His list of "thinking" areas is as follows:  (1) Big-Picture Thinking, (2) Focused Thinking, (3) Creative Thinking, (4) Realistic Thinking, (5) Strategic Thinking, (6) Possibility Thinking, (7) Reflective Thinking, (8) Question Popular Thinking, (9) Benefit from Shared Thinking, (10) Unselfish Thinking, and (11) Bottom-line Thinking. 

'Successful' people tend to think in those ways.  They engage the big picture and are not limited by narrow views.  They focus their thoughts on what is most important.  They are not dry and static, but engage in creative problem solving.  They blend positive thinking about what is possible with realistic thinking in order to plan for the worst-case scenario.  They plan ahead with strategic thinking, learn from past mistakes with reflective thinking, and never automatically follow popular-thinking without first questioning its foundation and truth.  Successful people include others in their brainstorming and projects so as to benefit from shared thinking because the wealth of the whole is greater than one part.  They engage in unselfish thinking and behavior, which is always a 'win' in the long run for their organization's purpose and health. And, finally, successful people never lose sight of the bottom-line: why they do what they do. 

As with all of John Maxwell's books, I often finish a book feeling inspired to grow and lead in a better way...and I feel overwhelmed with the sheer number of ideals and new actions he suggests putting into practice.  John states things to simply and practically that it sounds as if it is the easiest thing in the world is to put these new actions into place.  Well, that may take some time!  I feel that the best way to read John's books is to select 2 or 3 key action areas to put into practice, and consider it success if you do!

Summary - a good read...but not my favorite...too many ideas packed into one little booklet makes it hard to know which one to focus on!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Complete Works on Prayer - EM Bounds - 1

Wow, this is a big book!  Each page contains a great deal of I cannot adequately summarize this book, and I'm only on page 69 of a 562-page work! 

Here are a few nuggets from my recent readings and how they impacted me...there may be more posts in the future on this book.

(1)  "The praying which influences God is declared to be that of the fervent, effectual outpouring of a righteous man.  That is to say, it is prayer on fire, having no feeble flickering flame, no momentary flash, but shining with a vigorous and steady glow." 

How many times have I tried to go through my devotional time in the morning - just trying to stay awake and focus, let alone have fervor?  Yet - I know what he is saying.  The times when I take myself "by the scruff of the neck" and push to engage my deep desire for God to work in my prayer - something changes both in me and in my communication with God. 

(2) "Obedience follows love, and prayer follows obedience.  The business of real observance of God's commandments inseparably accompanies the business of real praying."

Our sin is covered by the CROSS, however, unconfessed sin does hinder our functional (not positional) relationship with God.  I do believe that sometimes when our prayers are not answered, it is due to unconfessed sin in our lives. The other day I was struggling with temptation - and for a brief time allowed myself to be drawn in.  Within 5-10 minutes, the Spirit was too 'loud' to ignore and I had to stop.  I cringed at the idea that my prayer life might suffer in its fervency and effectiveness because I entered into willful sin.  There is too much at stake - too much of a great war around us - to fool around with sin when we have the serious business of prayer to use in this great spiritual battle.

(3)  "The Word of God is the fulcrum upon which the lever of prayer is placed and by which things are mightily moved.  ...The Word of God is made effectual and operative by the process and practice of prayer. ...If [the Word of God] be lodged and written in our hearts, it will form an outflowing current of prayer, full and irresistible." 

For about two years now, I have used the Word of God to fuel my prayer life by writing verses on a 3x5 card, then using those verses to pray for myself and for others.  I have been amazed at the answers to prayer that come.  The Word comes alive in my life and others' lives as I call upon God to act out His will according to His Word. 

More to come later...

Handle With Prayer - Charles Stanley

Handle With Prayer:  Unwrap the Source of God's Power for Living

I really enjoyed reading this book.  For some reason - right now - God seems to be putting prayer "in my face" more than ever before!  This book was part of that.  I didn't agree with everything Charles Stanley wrote, but most of the book was helpful to me.

Four key areas of impact for me were...

(1) God desires to make known to us what is unknown.

Jeremiah 33:1-3  While Jeremiah was still confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the Lord came to him a second time: 2 “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: 3 Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Stanley states, "We read books, attend seminars, and talk with others, trying to find out what God has to say to us.  Usually, after we've exhausted all over possibilities, we turn back to the Lord and wait on Him..." 

ouch!  So true! There are some things that only God can reveal to us in prayer.  We are a very resourceful people, but sometimes God desires to reveal His mysteries to us in the deep and intimate communication of prayer.

"How many times have we just said or heard others say, 'I just don't know what I'm feeling.  I can't seem to figure it out.'?  Fasting prunes and peels off layer after layer of feelings, attitudes, and experiences until we get to the hard core of what God desires to say to us." 

This idea relieves my heart.  Like many, I tend to be analytical and try to "figure it all out."  Sometimes, that is not my job - I simply need to go to my Father.

(2)  Prayer is powerful in the battle, more powerful than anything else

"The only time Satan worries about us is when we enter into this battle.  Nothing else we do is much of a threat.  Satan knows that real spiritual battle is fought on our knees.  Prayer is the weapon he fears most; therefore, it is prayer against which he makes his greatest attack... it is on our knees that we will face our greatest assaults." 

"[Satan] does not feel threatened by our organizations or our cutting-edge technologoies.  But when God's people fall on their knees and claim Christ's power and authority, everything in heaven will begin to move, and everything in hell will begin to shake."

We often don't need better strategies - we simply need more prayer.
I've also been warned that the stronger one's prayer life grows, we need to be prepared for greater attack - and thus pray more for protection from it!

(3) God sometimes gives us 'prayer burdens'

Sometimes there is something on our heart that we just can't shake - a person, conflict, situation, or need.  Sometimes it is for our own lives, but often it is for others' lives.  God means for us to get on our knees and stand in the gap for that person or issue.

Stanley shares these ideas:

"Be careful not to mistake a burden for some physical or emotional problem.  Sometimes a burden will drag a person down to where he thinks it is a case of depression.  But instead of getting down in the dumps, we are to get down on our knees." 

"..whenever God burdens our hearts about a particular situation, the burden is evidence that He is already working."

"If God requires a drastic change in my life, the burden will stay with me until the change is made.  He will keep the pressure on until I focus on Him and seek His guidance.  ...When a burden comes, a time of cleansing always follows.  Perhaps this is one reason we run from burdens - we don't like to be cleansed.  But God knows that the cleaner and more Spirit-filled we are, the more effectively we can pray." 

"We stand in the gap between the need and the satisfaction of that need.  When we see ourselves in that position, we will understand the need for consistent, unwavering prayer.  We will begin to pray without ceasing." 

(4) Prayer and Conflict

"Through prayer, God closes the gaps created by conflict.  He then manifests His Spirit of godliness and reverence." 

"In our spiritual conflicts, the outcome is not determined by what is seen in the field of battle, but rather by what happens in the place of prayer." 

"Our faith soars as we see that those who war against us must also war against the Christ Who is within us." 

If our confict is with another person, we have spiritual authority to come against the strongholds of sin that we may observe in their lives - and ask God to convict and release them to greater effectiveness in the Kingdom.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood...

Other Thoughts:

One question I had after reading this book was this - in one section of the book he states that we don't need to keep asking God for the same thing over and over and over again.  If we ask in faith, and if we believe God has promised to answer, then it is done and we just need to wait.  But in another section of the book, he discusses the parable of the man who came and pleaded with his neighbor for bread and would not leave until he got what he needed.  This was a parable that Jesus used for prayer. So which is it?  I suppose the key difference is when you believe God has promised you an answer, in faith, you do not need to continue to ask.  But sometimes I just don't know - so I choose to keep knocking on the door as Jesus instructed. 

Closing Musings...

The content of this book was helpful to me, but perhaps even more so was the example that Charles Stanley has set as a man of prayer.  When one can write with experience and authority in this area, it is born from countless hours of unseen time on his knees before the Throne of God.  That speaks more powerfully than anything else. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Enemies of Excellence - by Greg Salciccioli

Bad Habits...
Ignoring family life or friends for the sake of work...
Lack of attention to exercise and health...

And the list goes on...the things that can slowly escalate from annoying habits to outright moral failure and the destruction of all that we say we value in life and ministry. 

Everyone faces these challenges.  Every leader especially faces these challenges.  And every ministry leader is even more at risk as the Deceiver delights in fertilizing the above list in order to destroy the work of the Kingdom.

Greg writes pointedly and succinctly in this book.  He shares the story of 'Rob,' a high-profile ministry leader who eventually crashed in moral failure, losing all that he had worked for.   By tracing Rob's steps backwards, we see the ingredients that contributed to his final crash. 

High profile failures are not uncommon.  It is far too easy to point our fingers at high-profile ministry leaders who endure a public failure and display our sometimes self-righteous shock and horror at what they have done.  It is far more difficult to point the finger inward and ask, 'what am I now doing that, if left unchecked, would bring me to the same result?'  In essence, that is the focus of Greg's book. 

I read this book quickly, breezing past the suggested worksheets and activities NOT because they are disposable, but first, because I wanted to see the big picture layout of Greg's direction in this process.  And second, because I will soon be going through this book piece by piece, step by step, in community: in order to engage deeply each area of my own life that could derail me if left unchecked.  If you desire to glean the utmost value from this book, my suggestion is that you do the same. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful! by Marshall Goldsmith & Mark Reiter

Executive coaching is a growing business.  Renowned coach Marshall Goldsmith gives his perspective on some of the ways that leaders hurt their own staff and effectiveness without even realizing it. 

This book is worth reading.  That being said:

As a believer (Christian), it is my opinion that the ideology of change in this book is flawed . This author is not a believer, and thus, does not write or think like one who is filled with the Spirit.  There is certainly truth in the book, but its not all truth.  The author (1) is almost purely behaviorally oriented and does not focus on the heart of the issues revealed by these behaviors, and (2) believes that the best way to motivate anyone to change is to appeal to natural law: i.e. their basic desire to benefit themselves.  For example, the author believes that if being a less critical person will enable an employee to move up the corporate ladder...then the motivation for lessening their critical comments must come from self-interest: one's personal advancement.  While behavior change is important, changing behavior alone stands in clear contrast with Biblical teaching and Gospel-centered transformation.  I don't recommend reading this book to strengthen your Biblical foundation, however...

I do recommend reading chapters 4&5 that list and describe the top 21 habits leaders have that decrease their effectiveness and irritate their staff.  These habits are:
  1. Winning too much
  2. Adding too much value
  3. Passing judgment
  4. Making destructive comments
  5. Starting with 'No,' 'But,' or 'However'
  6. Telling the world how smart we are
  7. Speaking when angry
  8. Negativity, or 'Let Me Explain Why That Won't Work'
  9. Withholding information
  10. Failing to give proper recognition
  11. Claiming credit that we don't deserve
  12. Making excuses
  13. Clinging to the past
  14. Playing Favorites
  15. Refusing to Express Regret
  16. Not Listening
  17. Failing to Express Gratitude
  18. Punishing the Messenger
  19. Passing the Buck
  20. Excessive Need to Be 'Me'
  21. Goal Obsession
The author's descriptions of those habits (verbal and otherwise) that we all have, but don't realize, are well illustrated so that one cannot help but find two or three or four that hit 'too close to home.'  He points out that most of the time - we are unaware of these habits - and of course we all know that awareness is the first step toward change.

If you decide to continue on:  the final chapters discuss the author's recommended methodology for changing one's behavior:  (1) get honest feedback about yourself and acknowledge its truth, (2) apologize to those you have wronged - this step cannot be skipped, it is crucial, (3) 'advertise' that you are trying to change.  People have a hard time noticing your efforts - you've got to help them see that you're really trying and asking for their help.  (4)  Listening - i.e. active listening that truly engages and shows respect,  (5) Thanking - actively and intentionally acknowledging others efforts and the fact that you could not be a success without them (6) Following Up - change can easily be a passing fad unless you continually and actively check with others about how you are doing  (7) Practicing Feedforward - asking people for positive ideas on how to improve your future behavior (in contrast with negative criticism about your past). 

The above steps are Biblical in every way - not surprising that Scripture could be applied to each step.  I wonder what Marshall would think of that! 

The last few chapters contain some good advice!  I can recommend this book - just know that I don't agree with everything in it. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Failing Forward - by John Maxwell

Have you ever failed at something?  I have.  Have you let the weight of that perceived failure hang over your head longer than it should have?  Another yes for me!

John Maxwell has hit the nail on the head in this outstanding book on learning how to fail forward, in other words, how to learn from your failures so that you don't stay in the same failure-producing patterns.

This book gave me a fresh perspective on the failure/s in my life.  I see them as God's instruments to teach me deep and valuable lessons.  I see them as a way to know who I really am (not who I thought I was!) and what I really need to work on.  I see them as a step toward brokenness.  I see them as an opportunity to develop maturity and resilience so that I can get up, dust myself off, and keep going.  I see them as a milestone, a 'marker' in my life that allows me to ring every drop of growth from it so that I can improve on my future performance. 

When I look over the variety of failures in my life, large or small, I can see clearly that God had something to teach me, and that I needed to learn it through experience. Beck Weather states, "...You never know who you are and what you are until you've really been tested.  You gain a whole lot more from having failure kicked up from around your ears than success could ever teach you." 

More than anything else, I can now more deeply distinguish between something that 'failed' versus seeing myself as a 'failure.'  Big difference.  There is a time for personal learning and growth, and a time to get up and move on and try again. 

Maxwell gives 15 points on how to 'fail forward':
  1. Realize there is one major difference between average people and achieving people.
  2. Learn a new definition of failure.
  3. Remove the 'you' from failure.
  4. Take action and reduce your fear.
  5. Change your response to failure by accepting responsibility.
  6. Don't let the failure from outside get inside you.
  7. Say good-bye to yesterday.
  8. Change yourself, and your world changes.
  9. Get over yourself and start giving yourself.
  10. Find the benefit in every bad experience.
  11. If at first you do succeed, try something harder.
  12. Learn from a bad experience and make it a good experience.
  13. Work on the weakness that weakens you.
  14. Understand there's not much difference between failure and success.
  15. Get up, get over it, get going.
You've got to read the book to understand his points...and its well worth it!  No matter if you are dealing with a small or big failure in your life, or simply preparing for the possibility of it, this is a fantastic book to read.

Its never, ever, ever too late to 'fail forward!'

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Loving Well (Even If You Haven't Been) - by Dr. William P. Smith...

The love of God.  Something I have known intellectually my whole life - "Jesus loves me, this I know..." and yet in the past few years I have realized just how much I do not yet understand about the depth and breadth and heigth and width of the love of God.  We love as we have been loved.  We pass on to others how we ourselves are treated.  The premise of Dr. Smith's book is that if we truly and deeply understood God's love for us, this would enable us to love others well.  Really well.  "Beyond what most of us are used to or expect" kind of well.

Not very long ago, I had a short visit with a pastor at my sending church (the same pastor that Bill Smith refers to several times in this book).  This long-time friend of mine has a special ability to make those around him feel loved and valued.  Its not the kind of thing you run into every day.  I distinctly remember walking out of his office feeling "loved well" and I had this spontaneous desire to love others well that day, no matter who it was. 

Of course many of us have the opposite experience a whole lot more often.  We probably all have at least that one friend who feigns interest when you try to share about a struggle in your life: you start to open up a bit - and that look of disinterest and distraction passes over their face.  Or perhaps it is the family member that is so prickly that you can hardly have a discussion without inadvertently tripping over an emotional landmine.  When I have these kinds of encounters - I don't walk away with the desire to 'love well'...I just feel a sense of loss and frustration.

The experience of the love of God sometimes seems elusive to me, unless it happens through the Body of Christ that are His hands and feet on earth.  That's tangible.  That's relational and feels real.  Learning to experience the love of God through my relationship with Him directly - such as through the Word, prayer, the Spirit - this has been a growth process for me.  Growing...increasing...but still a long way to go.

"We love because He first loved us."  I John 4:19 
"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35

Some nuggets from the book...

"The way I live out my relationships with people is one of the clearest indicators of how healthy my relationship with the Lord is.  If I live knowing that God moves toward me all day long and invites me to move toward Him, then I will engage people positively in their lives.  But if I wait for others to give themselves to me first, then I show that I really don't believe or regularly experience this God Who is reconciling people to Himself.  Either way, I live out the truth that you become whatever you worship." 

"You can love other people only out of your own experience of being loved.  Or, to say it in reverse, you cannot pass along what you yourself have not received." 

"It's only after having been loved that you respond with love.  You love [God] back, and you reach out to share with others a tiny portion of the love that you yourself have received... It's only as the reality of His love becomes my present experience that I will be more concerned about expressing my love to others than insisting they express theirs for me." 

As I journey through this book - I think the key growth area I am asking my Abba for is that my sole source of learning how to love people - and the strength to do it - would come from directly experiencing the mind-blowing, soul-flooding, grace-infused, overwhelming, and totally incomprehensible LOVE of God.   

Monday, June 4, 2012

Forgotten God- by Francis Chan

Wow...where to start?  This book really impacted and challenged me. 

Francis starts first by challenging our rather human habit of functioning dependent on our own strength and talents. 
  • "Without [the Holy Spirit], people operate in their own strength and only accomplish human-size results.  The world is not moved by love or actions that are of human creation.  And the church is not empowered to live differently from any other gathering of people without the Holy Spirit.  But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural.  The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice."
Francis Chan points out that Jesus said that it was "better" for Him to leave because He would send the Holy Spirit!  Have we ever really wrestled with that idea - that Jesus Himself said it was better for us to have the Spirit than Him in the flesh walking beside us?  Wow!  Jesus walked next to His disciples, but the Spirit dwells inside of us!

I think what I loved especially about this book is Francis' point that we have access to the Spirit  - and this means that living outside the realm of the 'normal life' or even what is acceptable in our Christian culture is actually what the Spirit is calling us to do! 
  • "It really is an astounding truth that the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you.  He lives in me.  I do not know what the Spirit will do or where He'll lead me each time I invite Him to guide me.  But I am tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people who do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them."
  • "The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn't normally want to choose to do.  The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be.  The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be.  This often incredibly painful process strips you of selfishness, pride, and fear."  Just like Eustace in The Chronicles of Narnia:  "Sometimes the sin we take on becomes such a part of us that it requires this same kind of ripping and tearing to free us.  The Holy Spirit does not seek to hurt us, but He does seek to make us Christlike, and this can be painful."
My heart sang in agreement with some of the following statements...
  • "And like our Savior, Who poured out His life and blood so we have reason to rejoice, we were made to lay down our lives and give until it hurts.  We are most alive when we are looking and actively giving of ourselves because we were made to do these things.  It is when we live like this that the Spirit of God moves and acts in and through us in ways that on our own we are not capable of."
  • Francis states, "...I have felt closest to God when nearness to Him was a necessity."   -- "Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the 'Helper' or 'Comforter.'  Let me ask you a simple question:  Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?  It is those who put their lives at risk and suffer for the Gospel (Phil 1:29) who will most often experience His being 'with you always, even to the end of the age' (Matthew 29:20)." 
We don't need the Spirit if we are just trying to live a normal life...but if we want to obey everything Jesus taught - and teach others the same - then we need Him desperately!  I want to be one of these people.
  • "Thinking, questioning, and talking can take the place of letting the Spirit affect our immediate actions in radical ways.  God wants to see His children stake everything on His power and presence in their lives." 
  • The widow who gave two coins - "Jesus commends this woman, whom the world overlooked and perhaps even derided.  Jesus praises her for her revolutionary faith, for holding nothing back.  She literally gave everything she had, even though she was a 'poor widow' with no other means of income or support.  And Jesus holds her up as an example."  -- "The Spirit may lead me into total sacrifice financially, or He may lead me toward humiliation in the opinions of people around me." 
  • "I don't want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn't be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through. That if He doesn't come through, I am screwed..."
  • "I don't believe God wants me (or any of His children) to live in a way that makes sense from the world's perspective, a way I know I can 'manage.' I believe He is calling me- and all of us - to depend on Him for living in a way that cannot be mimicked or forged. He wants us to walk in step with His Spirit rather than depend solely on the raw talent and knowledge He's given us."
I have known people who walk with the Spirit...who leave me wondering how they manage to walk through life with such peace and grace toward others.  I look at my own life and wonder where some of that power is...and desire that God would cause a deep change in my life. 
  • "Haven't you met those rare people who you can tell are daily keeping in step with the Spirit?  Somehow they exude graciousness and peacefulness to a degree that is not humanly possible. Don't you want that in your own life?  I mean, who really wants to be a stressed-out, angry, selfish person? It's not much fun, for you or anyone who happens to come in contact with you."  ... "Look at the fruit of your own life and let it be a gauge for you of your own connectedness with the Spirit." 
I am a fearful person sometimes.  I look at my history, my life story - and it is marked with insecurities and uncertainties that long ago internalized in a why that make them simply part of my life journey, the challenges I face daily.  Some people seem so brave and strong - unhindered by fear and what other people might think.  But I have been encouraged lately - because it seems that God delights to work through those who are 'unlikely' and 'weak' - the ones that others perhaps look down on for their insecurities.  But as Francis states below - perhaps my life's palet is here so that God can do a transforming work in a way that only He can do!
  • "Have you ever prayed that God would so fill you with the Holy Spirit that people would know the change could be empowered only by the Spirit?"
  • "... He wants to completely transform us.  He wants to take a timid heart and set it ablaze with strength and courage, so much so that people know something supernatural has taken place..."-
  • "...God delights in showing up when His people are in desperate need of Him, because that means no one else can steal His glory." 
  • "If you have not known and experienced God in ways you cannot deny, I would suggest that you are not living in a needy and dependent way. God delights to show up when His children call on His Name and when they are trusting fully in Him to come through..."
To summarize - how can I step out in faith in new ways?  How can I take bold new steps to show that He is at work in me...stepping out of my comfort zone...relying on Him desperately to come through?!?!  Francis sates,  "God wants the praise for what we do in our lives.  But if we never pray audacious, courageous prayers, how can He answer them?  If we never follow Him to positions where we need Him, how can He show up and make His presence known?"

God, I seek to follow You to places where I need You desperately... Spirit, come and transform me!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

IDENTITY THEFT: Reclaiming Who God Created You To Be - by Mike Breaux

In this book, Pastor Mike Breaux simply and humorously presents the four areas that often rob us of our true indentity in Christ:  Relationships, the power of the Mirror, pursuit of Success, and our Past.

Well, there is a lot that I could say here to try to summarize what Mike brings to the table...but I'd like to focus in on how he steers us back to God's love.  Wherever bitterness or hurt or struggles or betrayal have wounded our hearts in the relationships we have been in - Mike reminds us, "It's only when you allow God to love you and to experience His unfailing love - His unconditional grace and mercy - that you'll be able to extend that same kind of grace and mercy to another person, especially the person who has hurt you."  We cannot give out what we have not received.

Mike quotes Brennan Manning: "When we freely assent to the mystery of our belovedness and accept our core identity as Abba's child, we slowly gain autonomy from our controlling relationships. We become inner-directed rather than outer-determined. The fleeing flashes of pleasure or pain caused by the affirmation or deprivation of others will never entirely disappear, but their power to induce self-betrayal will be diminished." (Abba's Child)  So true...

We are all way too obsessed with ourselves! :)  We are "buying a lie that equates looking a certain way with being happy, contented, and showered with unfailing love.  Here's how the lie plays itself out in our heads...If I'm attractive enough to other people, I will be accepted and admired.  I will be respected, significant, and loved.  I will be worthwhile.  I will be enough.  And once that happens, all my problems will be resolved; my life will fall into place.  Members of the opposite sex will find me irresistible. Employers will want to hire me.  Friends will want to be with me.  Friends will want to be me!"  But in reality:  "We're buying a lie that equates looking a certain way with being happy, contented, and showered with unfailing love."  Yup - sooo not gonna happen in reality. 

As I reflected on this idea - I began to think of people in my life who have deeply impacted me, or somehow caused me to grow, look to God more, or consider my life's path.  You know what?  I have to think really hard to remember what they might have been wearing...or how they looked...or if they were over or underweight.  But what I did remember was how they made me feel, and how I was motivated to know more of Christ beause of spending time with them.  It made me want to strive to leave this kind of impact...and worry a whole LOT less about my appearance.

I am not above being too self-focused.  Sometimes my perfectionism works itself out in a form of "naval-gazing" - trying to fix whatever is wrong with myself so that I will be accepted.  Mike makes a strong point in referring to Isaiah 58 - "Isaiah is saying you can find healing for yourself by not focusing so much on yourself! When you love those whom God loves, it puts life into proper perspective. You start to live as a person made in God's image, and all the cultural lies about what your image 'ought' to be are revealed for the shallowness they represent."  As God has graciously worked on my heart in this area - I see how freedom comes from looking more at God, and much much much muuuuuuch less at myself!

Success is not wrong in and of itself, but it can become an end in itself, a pursuit.  Why?  Mike states, "As I look around...I see way too many people whose success-related drives are way out of balance and completely out of control.  And I think that's more than a simple desire for success.  I think it's a hunger for acceptance.  I think it's a longing for the elusive 'atta boy' or 'that's my girl.'  I think it's yet another way some people try to satisfy their hunger for unfailing love."   Oh so true, Mike.  I've been there, and I continue to do watch-care over that part of my heart that wants success so that I can claim that I really belong, I'm finally "in."

I love how he states this:  "Because when your identity is all wrapped up in worship of the image, you start to morph into an envious, hyper-competitive, self-absorbed, stressed-out, insecure, approval-seeking person.  Then when everything comes crashing down - and it will - you will have no idea who you even are."   I can relate.  Ugh.  This is not a happy place to be. 

Mike reminds us of this truth - "I'm already accepted.  I'm already somebody.  I don't have to strive or perform.  I don't need to keep a crazy schedule so people will like me.  God already likes me - with an unfailing like.  So I don't have to be rewarded, regarded, or recognized.  I don't have to be the best; I just have to be my best - to the glory of God."  Mike reminds us that God's love is an overpowering, completely absorbing kind of love.  Not some kind of sweet, syrupy love - but a pursuing, overtaking, overwhelming kind.  And this Love is what secures us. 

What keeps us locked in our past is often related to past mistakes or even past sin.  "Secret sin cannot coexist with inner peace."  and  "Unresolved guilt is a malignant kind of thing, capable of spreading and poisoning every part of us.  Just look at what else King David had to say on this subject:  'When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long.  Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.  My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.' (Psalm 32:3-4)" 

Confessing sin in the safety of community brings freedom and forgiveness.  "God wired us to be in community, and when there is an openness to human frailty among friends, there is a spirit of acceptance and grace that can transform our lives."  God seems to be educating me in what community can do in and for us, especially in the area of helping us see our sin and patterns.  But community can also be healing:  mirroring God's acceptance of us (because of Jesus) in the way that our friends extend grace to us.  As one friend recently put it - "Ironically, self-awareness is not something that you can generate yourself."  Awesome.  Well said.  We need others to help us see ourselves...and we need grace extended to us so that we can keep growing.

Mike's comparison in this chapter is that we all need a kind of "etch-a-sketch" approach to our life...knowing that we mess up that screen trying our best to draw some kind of picture: but then we hand it right over to God Who wipes it clean...again.  Mike lists his sins sometimes in his journal - but then after his time of confession with the Lord - writes "FORGIVEN" in giant red letters across that list.  Not a bad idea.  The visual is powerful.

Our identity changes when we follow Christ.  The past does not define us.  Christ defines us...and this is the identity we must stand on. 

To Summarize:  "Instead of chasing the American Dream and running so fast to prove to everyone that you're somebody, you will relax in the truth that you are already somebody in God's eyes.  You won't need the applause of others, because you've already got the applause of the One Who matters most.  You will surrender control of your life and your career and watch as God stuffs your portfolio with such assets as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control." 

I enjoyed this book (but it doesn't rank as a top favorite for me).  Its a simple, humorous read - refreshingly real and Scriptural and encouraging.  Recommended if you want a good read on keeping your identity based firmly in truth!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

CRAZY LOVE - Francis Chan

I thoroughly enjoyed "Crazy Love" and more importantly, was challenged to change some things in my life. His style of writing is "down to earth": simple, direct, Scriptural. My own response to Crazy Love was twofold: First, I want to ask my Father to change the areas in my life that don't match His Word. To help in this area, I copied several Scripture verses onto my prayer cards so I can cry out to God to change me - because I am so deeply aware that I cannot change myself. Second, I want to look for ways to serve the poor and marginalized of our world in new ways. I want to step out of my comfort zone and be the hands and feet of Jesus in new places.

Francis especially hits "comfortable Christians" pretty hard.  I love it.  I needed the reminder.  May we never be "holy enough" or "doing ministry enough" to think that we do not need reminders from His Word to reassess our obedience.  Francis' approach to Scripture is refreshing - believe it and do what it says!  I was raised in a middle-class, suburban background - and somehow the idea of helping the poor and marginalized was not highlighted in my experience.  Francis reminds us that to be called a Christian is to care about the poor - they are not and cannot be separated.  May God use me in new ways that stretch me and make me gloriously uncomfortable! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Leading from the Sandbox - T. J. Addington

I don't have the time to review this book as thoroughly as I would like, but let me just simply say that I heartily recommend it to leaders and those who are trying to create a 'culture' of selected values within their organization.  It was clear, concise, and provided easy to follow guidelines on how to identify and shape strategic goals and tools for staff evaluation.  The author values clear goals and evaluations based on results.  I look forward to applying what I have learned in the future.

"Half the Church" by Carolyn Custis James

The upside of airplane travel is reading a die-hard book lover, air travel time = reading time.  I was able to finish this book because of my recent trek to Texas and back!

The premise of Carolyn's book is that we need to take a look at the role of women from a global perspective.  Responding to the book, "Half the Sky" (a description of the plight of women globally and the atrocities they suffer daily), Carolyn outlines her view that we must interpret Scripture outside of our Western context.  For many of us, myself included, our view of Scripture has been deeply impacted by the culture we have grown up in.  My middle-class, suburban environment isolates me from the sufferings of women around the world.  Carolyn raises the question, does our so-called Biblical view of the role of women encompass ALL women globally or just those within our own cultural background?   The word "submission" may be a hot button to a freedom-loving, American middle class Mom...but it is even more so to a woman in the Middle East who has suffered intense abuse in the name of "submission."  She emphasizes the question, what does the Bible hold for women that is GOOD NEWS?, then lays out her views from Scripture and pictures of women that we see there (such as Ruth, Mary, etc). 

On the positive side - I applaud her attempt to open up the dialogue on women's roles to a global conversation.  Women in the Middle East have insights into the text that I, as a WASPy type person, will totally miss.  I applaud her call that women in the church must rise up to answer the call of God as His image-bearers and His EZERS (helper-rescuers!) to a world in great need.  This is not a time to hang back and wait while there is great need and suffering in the world.  I also applaud her view that single women in the church are often overlooked in the discussion of women's roles...for those of us, myself included, who have not yet met "Mr. Right," this is a refreshing discussion.  I don't belive that my "only" role  in Biblical womanhood is that of wife and mother, because if it were, I would somehow be currently missing out on my calling in life?  I don't think so - God is bigger than that, and the Apostle Paul's call to singleness in Scripture is for women, too. 

On the negative side - I was somewhat disappointed in the writing style and layout of the author's material.  This was one of those books where I felt that it would have been better presented as a shorter book, or perhaps a series of articles.  There were mutliple good "nuggets" to chew on (and my book is heavily marked, noting these nuggets!) but inbetween those nuggets I sensed that some of it was "filler."  I am perhaps being overly critical...and some of the material she shared was already familiar to me from having studied this issue from other sources.

The author refuses to claim membership in either the egalitarian camp or the complimentarian camp...hoping that this will grant her an audience in both.  While this is somewhat frustrating, I also can see why she does this.  As soon as one states their position, red warning flags fly on either side and all sorts of assumptions rise to one's mind.  She endeavors to avoid these assumptions by asking questions relevant to both 'sides' of this theological debate of the role of women.

Overall - I can recommend the book - because it asks questions that both egalitarians and complimentarians need to wrestle with!

I DO believe that Scripture says much more about women than just a handful of verses about submission or being a wife and mother.  I also believe that our original design as EZERS is so much more than what we assume "helpmate" means today.  EZER, the word usually translated as "helper or helpmate" in Genesis 2, appears 21 times in Scripture: Once in Genesis 2 for the role of Eve/women, three times for "nations to whom Israel appealed for military aid"...and ..."sixteen times for God as Israel's helper.." (p. 112, Curtis). It is a MILITARY word, and means "STRONG helper."  This description of women is PRE-FALL and should speak loudly to us about God's original intention for women before sin produced curses and limitations. 

Carolyn's conclusion is that God has created a "Blessed Alliance" - meaning that when men and women work TOGETHER they are able to create and produce something better than when they work in isolation.  I wholeheartedly agree.

Monday, April 9, 2012

"Humility" by Andrew Murray

Was Jesus really meek and mild?
It has caused me to wonder about the way we see Jesus - was He "meek and mild" or strong and forthright and bold? Yes, both. Sometimes Murray seems to paint Jesus as so meek and unassuming that it doesn't match what I see in Scripture. Jesus was humble enough to be "obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross"...but He also overturned money tables in the temple and spoke outright against falsehood in religious authorities! It just makes me wonder what humility really looks like - and I think it looks meek and mild in some circumstances and bold as a lion in other Jesus. The difference, I suppose, is that Jesus was acting in defense of truth and the character of the Living God. We often act like lions when we are simply trying to defend our own, often foolish, selves. Big difference. I once heard the expression that those who are proud are concerned with WHO is right, but those who are humble are concerned with WHAT is right. hmmm.

True Love & Humility Shown Through Everyday Life
I'm only part way through the book - but here are two portions that hit me square between the eyes, based on I John 4:20 "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."

(1) Murray states: "What a solemn thought, that our love for God will be measured by our everyday intercourse with men and the love it displays; and that our love for God will be found to be a delusion, except was its truth proved in standing the test of daily life with our fellowmen. It is even so with our humility. It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God: humility towards men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real; that humility has taken up its abode in us; and become our very nature; that we actually, like Christ, have made ourselves of no reputation."

(2) And another one... "...the only humility that is really ours is not that which we try to show before God in prayer, but that which we carry with us, and carry out, in our ordinary condcut; the insignificances of daily life are the importances and the tests of eternity, because they prove what really is the spirit that possesses us. It is in our most unguarded moments that we really show and see what we are. To know the humble man, to know how the humble man behaves, you must follow him in the common course of daily life."

I wrote in my journal not very long ago that its so much easier to humble myself before God - He is holy and just. His judgment is true. His mercy is never-ending. His forgiveness is beyond comprehension. Humbling myself before men who might twist my words or use them against me is an entirely different choice to that involves trust in my Sovereign Lord above the choices that men may make.

Two Different People
Two images popped into my mind of two different people that I have walked with in a busy, bustling city: the first one pushes his way through and starts arguments with those that are in his way; the second one offers to carry my bag for me, and stops to ask a homeless person about their health. Guess which one I'm going to attempt to emulate.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Necessary Endings

Life brings endings. Its not easy, and if you are wired like I am - loyal to the core - then endings feel like the end of the world! But sometimes endings are necessary! I've been reading a lot by Dr. Henry Cloud lately, and I'm in the middle of his book "Necessary Endings." In it, he points out that sometimes hope, while often a great quality in a person, needs to be founded on some reality or some measurable difference that shows that something will change in the future. If its not founded on reality, its just wishful thinking. Maturity and wisdom means that we can see the difference between hope as a positive virtue, and hope as wishful thinking.

I recommend this book to anyone who would like to get some clarity in their life on whether or not you should hold on a bit longer, or bring something to an end.