Archive for the ‘Sidetrails’ Category

Book Review: Love Big, Be Well

October 2, 2017
Share

Hi Friends! I don’t usually post book reviews, but this is special because I am so proud of my dear friend and former pastor Winn Collier for this beautifully written volume:

Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town ChurchLove Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church by Winn Collier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading Love Big, Be Well by Winn Collier made my heart happy, and I highly recommend it to readers who are hungry for a break from big church clichés and over-promising certainties.

The book’s premise is that a pastor returns to the ministry after some time away working a secular job and accepts a position with a small town congregation, the fictional Granby Presbyterian Church. The book is a series of occasional letters from Pastor Jonas to his flock over the course of six years as he gets to know them, grows to love them deeply, and walks through life with them. He shares his thoughts about God, his experiences with God, and how his beloved faith community can rest in God’s love. (Read More)

Can My Friends Recognize Jesus on My FB Feed?

July 20, 2017
Share

Imagine a medical practice whose ads ran with this kind of content:

  • “If your blood pressure is high, it’s your own fault. Just cut the sodium.”
  • “Your smoking addiction offends me.”
  • “Suffering from diabetes? What a jerk you are. If you cared about your family, you would just eat less sugar.”

I can tell you that no doctor with that attitude would ever need to file an Aetna claim from me!

Which brings me to Jesus, a well-known healer of physical misery. Throngs of people flocked to him for relief from their suffering (see Matthew:  4:23-24, 8:16-17, 9:35-36, 4:13-14, 15:29-31, and 20:29-34). They not only knew him as a source of healing, but he was also safe. Matthew says he looked on the crowds with compassion and saw them as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (9:36). That’s why the Canaanite woman could risk asking for help when her daughter “suffered terribly” from demon possession (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30).

Even more important, Jesus offered spiritual restoration and made that offer safe too:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)l

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to introduce a broken world to spiritual healing—rest, peace, restoration, a better way of living, freedom from the chains of sin. I worry, though, that our social media activity is more often presenting an impenetrable barrier to Jesus. (Read More)

God Has Been Good to Me

May 11, 2017
Share

***

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

Psalm 116:7-9

 

I got married! Lynn & Christian April 15, 2017

I got married!
Mr. & Mrs. Christian Pechuekonis
April 15, 2017

Nearly 13 months ago I took a chance and answered a message from a nice looking man named Christian on an online dating site. His profile identified him as a follower of Jesus and a widower who had cared for his wife through a two-year terminal illness. Reading between the lines, I sensed a good-natured man of integrity. He seemed like he might, at the very least, be good friend material. I agreed to my first, first-date in 38 years. So weird.

I had set up my dating site profile four months earlier and had experienced practically no interactions up until then, which was fine. With a couple of years of grieving over my broken marriage out of the way, I felt mostly content with my life—fulfilling job, healthy church, rich female friendships and challenging volunteer work. Still scarred and a little cynical about men (and God, to be honest), I felt no real urgency to have another man in my life and expected that dating would be about an even mix of thrill and disappointment. (Read More)

Good Reads for the Soul

December 19, 2015
Share

booksThis lovely holiday season also coincides with the close of another year, and it has me reflecting a bit. I feel like I’ve been doing some stretching and growing spiritually over the past 12 months—a more blessed and joyful kind of growth than I experienced in the prior couple of years.

Along with attending a new church, I read some challenging books this year, all of which I highly recommend. I thought I would share some of my 2015 book list with you, in case you are looking for some reading to expand your thinking.

Nonfiction

Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels
 by Richard Bauckham

This book takes a definite scholarly tone, but Bauckham presents some great in-depth examinations of a few gospel women. My favorite chapters covered both Luke’s inclusion of women in his gospel, in general, and the disciple Joanna, in particular. The book gave me lots of interesting new fodder for my writing and speaking on the topic of Jesus and women.

Quotable: “There is a good deal of evidence that in the Greco-Roman world in general women were thought by educated men to be gullible in religious matters and especially prone to superstitious fantasy and excessive in religious practices.”

Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity
by Dianna E. Anderson

This book changed my thinking about ways the church talks to women about modesty, virginity and sex. It definitely made me regret some of the things I said to my daughters when they were teenagers. You might be left dissatisfied with Anderson’s refusal to insist on a biblical injunction against sex outside of marriage, but she makes some really important points about the church’s near obsession with sex, as well as its double standard and the toxicity of its sexual shaming.

Quotable: “Women in evangelical culture bear the brunt of modesty teaching. The vast majority of this teaching goes in one direction only. Women do not have sexual desires—we are not ‘visually stimulated’ in the ways men are. Therefore, the burden of modesty falls on our shoulders because ‘men are wired that way.’ (Read More)

This One’s Got to Be Better

January 1, 2015
Share

Happy New YearHello, 2015!

I am so ready for a new start.

Good riddance, 2014! You brought more pain in your 52 weeks than any I have experienced in 52 years.

Don’t get me wrong. The past 12 months weren’t all bad. I received tons of love and support from caring family, friends, and co-workers. I tried some new things, broadened some perspectives, had some great experiences with my daughters, and enjoyed an amazing weekend retreat in Colorado that was purely a gift from God.

The year began, though, with several months of intensive marriage counseling that went nowhere except to make me feel like an utter failure. Then there was the finality of the divorce decision and then months of haggling over a settlement agreement that still isn’t final. I am so ready to put that all behind me. (Read More)

Jesus at the Table

September 27, 2014
Share

 

“Eats with Sinners” is the name of a book by Arron Chambers that our whole church is reading right now. The title intrigued me, and since Jesus didn’t eat only with sinners, I decided to scour the Gospels to learn more. I have a relationship with Jesus, and I have a relationship with food, both of which could always stand improvement, so it seemed like a good topic to explore further.

Food and miracles were often related in the Gospels. Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn a stone into bread after 40 days of fasting. He could have, but he said no, of course.

Jesus, instead, performed the first of his miraculous signs at a wedding feast, after his mom dropped a hint that the hosts were out of wine.

For his next big mealtime miracle, he spent a whole day healing sick people, then his compassion flowed on their empty bellies. He fed 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves of bread and two fish. He reprised that miracle another time on a mountainside along the Sea of Galilee. This time he fed 4,000-plus people with seven loaves and a few small fishes.

Although Jesus certainly cared about hungry people getting fed, if you listen closely, you learn that Jesus was into more than physical nourishment. He told a lonely Samaritan woman at a well that he could give her living water so she would never be thirsty again—and he wasn’t talking about liquid refreshment either. Later, when his disciples returned with dinner, he informed them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” If you remember, in the face of temptation, Jesus had countered Satan with that Old Testament reminder, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Read More)

Looking Like Jesus

March 5, 2014
Share

I’m a little off topic this week, but I’m excited about something new I learned and wanted to share it!

This may not be a new story to you, but I recently learned it about in vivid detail when my daughter shared with me her copy of The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark. It’s a fascinating a book written back in 1996, which I hungrily consumed in a single day of cross-country travel.

I loved the details about the early church and how it fit into the pagan world of the Roman Empire. The best example occurred during a devastating epidemic of infectious disease in the third century. (Everything I’m writing about here comes from chapter 4 “Epidemic Networks and Conversion.”) There’s one report that at its height the epidemic killed 5,000 people per day in Rome. Across the empire the death rates were unimaginably large. (Read More)

Being Jesus on Facebook

December 10, 2012
Share

screenshotWhenever I read the Gospels, and especially when I read about the ways Jesus interacted with women, I am challenged to reconsider my own daily interactions with women. They are too often inconsistent with the example Jesus set. 

Today, I reflected on being like Jesus in my presence on Facebook. I thought about the image I might be projecting through my Facebook posts and the impressions I have formed of others through their posts.

I wondered if the people who see my posts can tell what my life priorities are. Or if anyone is attracted to Jesus through my social networking presence?

 I am not suggesting that we set up a false image of ourselves or pretend to be better than we are. I am talking about taking a hard look at our timelines, though, and the messages we are communicating about ourselves and about the God we represent. I know I want to be more intentional about what I post. 

Here’s a little inventory of questions I made up for myself. It’s not a rulebook, of course, just some thoughts to consider. 

– Can people tell that I love my family dearly but that I also make time to care for other people too?

– Have I given the impression that injustice and the suffering of innocent people occupies more of my attention than books, movies, food, purchases, home decorating, hobbies, sports, etc.

– Do people know more about my passion for helping needy people than about my political views?

– As a representative of God, my church, and an area of ministry, do my posts unquestionably communicate that people with political views different from mine are loved and welcomed in our fellowship?

– Have I posted so many proclamations of what I believe is right and wrong that a person caught up in sin would never consider coming to me for help?

– Does the way I express my opinions communicate to others that I am someone who would listen nonjudgmentally when their life feels like it is falling apart?

– Have I been discrete enough on Facebook that people feel they could trust me with their confidences?

– Do I present myself as the kind of person who would speak the truth in love when someone wanted to hear it?

I am going to keep thinking about this list and may add more in future. What are your ideas?

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
(Colossians 4:6)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
(Ephesians 4:29)

Nonprofits Helping Women and Children

December 4, 2012
Share

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
(Matthew 25:40)

'happy smiling children' photo (c) 2012, planetlight - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/The end of the year often means that lots of us are thinking about charitable giving, and I wanted to share with you some causes that my husband I have donated to in 2011 or 2012. Each of these organizations benefit women and children in some way:

Locally:

I give to the local food bank to help those with emergency food needs, many of which are single moms.

I also support the local Love in the Name of Christ chapter. This clearinghouse organization matches people in need with churches and individual Christians willing to help. Last year, they matched me with Virginia Watkins, a dear 94-year-old widow living by herself. We became great friends. Nearly deaf and blind, she loved for me to read the Bible to her—loudly and slowly. I miss her very much since her passing earlier this fall. Love INC has 130 chapters across 30 states. (Read More)

The Blessings of Family

September 10, 2012
Share

Last week I went on a vacation trip to Tennessee with my parents, Allen and Pat, and their closest friends, Ron and Lil. It’s been a few years since I traveled with my family, and I enjoyed the honor of tagging along with their foursome. We had a lot of fun together. Truly, you cannot beat the unscripted hilarity of minivan conversations between people of a certain age who have all experienced hearing loss to some degree. 

Aside from the giggles, however, this trip gave me time to reflect once again on the many ways my family has blessed me. I’ll mention just a few…. 

I got to grow up in a home with both of my parents always there. My mom and dad have been married for 51 years and counting. I think it’s pretty impressive that, even now, whenever their church offers opportunities for marriage enrichment weekends, my parents sign right up and set a great example for all the other married couples in their congregation. 

All my life, and especially during the impressionable years of my childhood, I have never had a moment of doubt that I was loved and valued. My family always made sure I knew that I was precious to them—but at the same time they allowed me to be who I wanted to be. As I grew into adolescence, I was trusted and free to make independent decisions, which I feel sure helped me to become a more confident woman. 

Of course, I grew up in a Christian home where my parents lived what they believed and nurtured my spiritual growth. They supported my participation in every week of summer church camp and every Christian conferences and evangelistic campaign I ever wished to attend. Later on, they found a way to send me to private Christian college when that was the choice I made. 

I’m sure I don’t even know all the sacrifices my parents made for me growing up in West Virginia. There were years when I was very young that my dad taught school until 3 p.m. each weekday then headed downtown to work another four hours at Sears. Later on, as the college years loomed ever closer, my mom got up at the crack of dawn each morning and worked as a cook in our high school kitchen—back when schools served lunches prepared from scratch. I’m sure there were countless times when Mom and Dad did without life’s little comforts and conveniences for my benefit. 

Maybe the most impressive thing is that, even now in their retirement years, they are growing and stretching in their practice of faith. They continue to search the scriptures and remain eager to learn. They have always been great examples as diligent servants in the church, and my 79-year-old dad has been an elder for decades. Yet, when they are challenged to follow the example of Jesus in ways they never have before, they step up in obedience. 

I could go on much longer, but you get the idea that my folks laid an invaluable foundation in my life for my own faith and ministry in the Kingdom. I can only thank God for such a blessing and hope I did half as well for my own daughters.

(PS: Thanks, too, to Ron & Lil, my second set of parents who sang in a gospel quartet with my folks and serenaded me through my adolescence!)