Posted in Devotion, Holidays

Forgive like a cat

My cat was angry at me tonight. First I took away his food this morning, so we could travel. Then I made him ride in his crate in the car. Finally once we got home I wouldn’t let him eat the TV cords or scratch the couch. To top it all off I clipped his toenails.

He wouldn’t even look at me. If I tried to touch him, he’d nip at me. He was angry.

Two hours later and a little catnip, he was back to snuggling. I think when Jesus talked about forgiving others, he could have used a cat as an example.

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Posted in Life

I’m Sorry

Homonyms are words that have the same spelling but different meanings. “I’m sorry” is what I dub a homonym phrase because there are, based on my observations of the world, four major ways this phrase is used.

  1. The repentant sorry in which the speaker realizes she has done something to hurt someone, intentionally or not, and truly wishes to change her actions in the future. These are rare. These are also the kind of sorry that God wants to hear from us.
  2. The empathetic/sympathetic sorry in which the speaker knows that the listener has experienced a heartache. Whether the speaker can relate to the situation or not, she wants to show empathy. These are not to be belittled, but if not used carefully, they can become trite.
  3. The empty sorry. This sorry could be intended for either of the other categories but lands in this third category due to a lack of sincerity. This is best represented by the child whose mother or father has commanded the child to say “I’m sorry” to another child or adult whom this child has offended or hurt. Adults do this as well to placate one another or make themselves feel better. This is the most common “I’m sorry” and most often is expressed by “sorry” (probably to avoid personally feeling the words).
  4. The insecure “I’m sorry” in which the speaker has a vague feeling that they’ve upset someone and wants to smooth things over. This may come from a selfish desire to be liked or it could be an insecurity within the speaker. While the intention is closer to the repentant sorry, the words are often used so often it becomes an empty sorry in the ear of the listener. The speaker could improve the sorry by following with a specific reason for apologizing.

I do not write this to cause you to start questioning the motives of others when they apologize to you because it’s generally a good practice to assume the best intentions of others. Instead, pay attention to the way you use these potentially powerful words. Aim for the first or second category. Be genuine.

Posted in Blogging for Books, Book Review

Waiting for Morning

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Picture a happy family coming home from a camping trip, an anxious mother waiting their arrival, and a stranger who just lost his job. They meet at an intersection in this book about forgiveness and mercy. What’s left is a mother and a daughter at odds and a man facing a life in prison. Waiting for Morning by Karen Kingsbury is a fascinating read where I just wanted to shake the characters and make them see how their actions affect others.

The lessons in this book are powerful not only for people affected by drunk driving but also for anyone who’s ever had to find the power to forgive when it’s hard. The mother lets hate toward the driver of the vehicle that hit her family’s car build up in her heart to the point that God is pushed out. The powerful message of the book is that only God can heal hearts.

Not only does God have work to do in the mother’s heart, but He also provides an opportunity to the drunk driver’s heart as well. He learns how to finally change his ways and how to gracefully accept his consequences. The surviving daughter also has a battle to fight. Living with guilt and a mother absorbed by other matters, the daughter’s faith in God is the only thing she can hold onto. Literally, it saves her life.

This is a powerful book full of believable characters and a God that can work through the toughest of circumstances. Once again, Karen Kingsbury has reminded me of God’s power and God’s truths. Thank you. I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.

For more information on the book: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/92853/waiting-for-morning-by-karen-kingsbury/

For more information on the author: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/15746/karen-kingsbury/

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Posted in Book Review

A Parchment of Leaves

Silas House’s A Parchment of Leaves is a portrait of the tension of humanity. Woven with rich language, the text tells the story of a young couple trying to navigate the ties between families. They are asked several times to stretch beyond themselves to forgive past and present faults, and many times only the natural world can help them come to that realization. The novel is set in Kentucky during the early 1900s, when being Native American was not appreciated. A young man, Saul Sullivan, goes up the mountain looking for work but returns with a wife who is nothing like his mother expected. Vine, the young Cherokee girl who steals the heart of Saul, spends the next few years of her married life learning about family ties, forgiveness, and the hatred toward her people.

The connection to nature in this book made me want to be outside more and more, especially during the gloaming. Unfortunately I spent most of my time reading this book in an airport or inside. Like the characters I have often looked at nature as a connection to God, not in the sense that I speak to God through the trees but that the trees represent God’s ability to create beauty. At one point, Vine wonders about the trees and says ” They were like God in many respects: they stood silent, and most people only noticed them when the need arose. Maybe all the secrets to life were written on the surface of leaves, waiting to be translated.” If we all spent more time pondering nature, I think we might understand God just a bit more or at least desire to be closer to him.

Family is huge theme in this novel. Amidst tough situations, Saul realizes that “All a man had in this life was his family, and he had to do his best by them. This was the think that would matter most to him when he lay upon his deathbed, taking inventory of his days on earth.” At first Saul and Vine each try to cling tightly to their individual families, unwilling to see any faults in their own natural family and always running back when things got tough. They learn that while they can remain close to their own natural family they now have a new family by marriage.

I give this book a 5 out of 5. The story kept me entranced and the language was beautiful. I will leave you with one more quote from the novel that really sticks: “Words become solid on the air when spoken, but quickly drift away. Ink lasts always.”

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http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/83293/a-parchment-of-leaves-by-silas-house/

Posted in Book Review

The Storyteller

In true Jodi Picoult fashion, The Storyteller was a mix of characters that fit together towards the middle of the book and then the book raced toward the end. When thinking about my review while starting the book, I thought I would give it a less positive review compared to other Jodi Picoult books, but now that I have finished it, I think it still deserves to be placed on the shelf next to the rest of her books.

The story begins with a young woman with some major self-esteem issues. She works at a bakery in the night because in addition to loving to bake, she wants to avoid people. Sage (adequately named for a baker, but maybe a bit forced for a novel character) frets that other people will judge her for the scar down the side of her face, but when she meets an older man who comes in to the shop and stays after it closes she can’t continue to hide behind her flour and hair anymore. She begins to have a friendship, but the friendship gets rocky when he reveals that he was once a Nazi.

Picoult really displays her ability to create dynamic and real characters. There’s the bakery cashier who only speaks in haiku, which as you might imagine displays Picoult’s ability to write poetry. Josef, the former Nazi, is known by the rest of the town as the kind, retired German teacher who coached baseball and wrote letters of recommendation. The bakery owner is extremely nice to Sage but has an interesting past as an ex-nun. She now keeps a garden on a hill above the shop, called Our Daily Bread, where she is often found praying. She acts as sort of a spiritual guide for Sage, who is an atheist but comes from a Jewish family. Adam is the one character who is a bit flat because he plays the boyfriend who is also married. Personally I found his character a bit unnecessary except that he contrasts Leo, the detective. Leo is the guy that Sage contacts once Josef tells her that he regrets his actions as a Nazi and requests that she help him die.

This book centers around a couple of key questions.
1. Who can forgive?
Josef comes to Sage because he regrets his actions as a former Nazi and wants her forgiveness. Since she rejected Judaism, Sage doesn’t feel that it is her place to forgive him regardless of her family’s religion. She also argues that her forgiveness will not undue his actions. This logic is exactly the same logic that is keeping Sage from forgiving herself. We learn that Sage blames herself for her mother’s death, which is why Sage hides from the world. This is also why Sage has a relationship with a man already married; she doesn’t see herself worth anything more.

2. How powerful are stories?
Interspersed between narratives are short chunks of what is obviously a different story about a vampire falling in love with a girl (better than Twilight I promise). Towards the middle of the book, we learn that this story was written by a Jewish girl living during World War 2. I think this question is what makes me think this book is worth reading. The girl writing this story uses the story throughout her entire life in the ghetto and concentration camps to encourage other people and to save her life. While in the camp, she tells the story to the other inmates as a way of enticing them to live one more day, if only to hear the next part of the story. At one point, her whole existence in the camp is based on her writing ten more pages a day to present to a curious officer. The story literally saves her life. Later, she trades the journal where the story was kept for her life.

3. When can the past stop dictating the present and future?
Josef has created an entirely new life for himself in the United States, but he can’t quite seem to shake his past from his mind. Sage lives in isolation because she can’t let go of her past. Sage’s grandmother won’t talk about her past because it is so full of pain. So many characters in this book let the past tell them how to live in the present and the future. Sage has to figure out how to first learn about the past and then how to let it guide but not control the future. She learns this for herself and others throughout the course of the book.

Overall I would give this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars. It ends really well; in fact I was almost late to work because I wanted to finish reading it. The book, though, starts sort of slow and I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the characters. Some of the sub-plot was unnecessary and distracting.

Posted in Bible Study

Forgiveness and Focus: Joseph

Maybe I can get back to writing.

The story of Joseph in Egypt is a beautiful story that reveals many truths. At this point in the story, Joseph is a leader in Egypt when his brothers come to him for help without knowing his identity as their brother. It had been twenty years and much had changed. Joseph waits a few minutes to reveal his identity but when he does it is worth the wait. There is forgiveness towards his brothers and praise for God within his words.

Genesis 45:1-11

1 Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.

“I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them.“Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.[a] So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser[b] to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.

“Now hurry back to my father and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me master over all the land of Egypt. So come down to me immediately! 10 You can live in the region of Goshen, where you can be near me with all your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you own. 11 I will take care of you there, for there are still five years of famine ahead of us. Otherwise you, your household, and all your animals will starve.’”

When his brothers came to him, Joseph had two choices: forgive or harbor resentment. In the world’s eyes he had every right to harbor resentment; his brothers had thrown him into a pit and then sold him simply because they were jealous of his coat and father’s love. Thankfully Joseph chose forgiveness even though his brothers had committed major wrongs against Joseph. Corrie ten Boom says “forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” Joseph chose to put aside his feelings about the past and forgive his brothers even though he was in a position to harm his brothers.

It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives….God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! Genesis 45: 5, 7, 8

20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20

In the midst of a tough situation, Joseph not only forgave his brothers but also gave glory to God. He mentioned three times to his brothers that God was the one in charge of everything. Joseph could have blamed his brothers for everything, but part of forgiveness is recognizing how God moves through every situation. Joseph fixed his eyes on God rather than looking at his current situation.

Colossians 3:1-2

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

So as you move through this life, remember to look for God in every situation. Be quick to forgive people as you realize that holding resentment only detracts from God’s glory. Keep your eyes focused on God rather than on the hurts of this world.