Christmas, as I've shared before, has always been my favorite time of year. Even before I truly understood the gift that this holiday is, there was something about the lights and the quietness and the colors and the smells and the hope (even on an ocean coast) of snow - that was simply magical. Mysterious. Right. It was special; it was different; it was something I waited for all year.
I was so hopeful this year that the magic and the mystery would still capture my soul - and it has, in moments, here and there. But the pervading sense of joy and peace and happiness that filled my soul on December 23rd has gotten lost somewhere in the craziness of the past few days. The rest of the world has moved on past Christmas, and to a degree, I feel like I've been moving on right along with it.
But I'm not of that world, and as I've come in the past half hour to realize all the ways in which I've forgotten that this week, I have made a decision. I refuse to be swept by that tide any longer. It is Christmastide yet, and it is only half over. There is still waiting and watching to be done. There is still worship to offer. Praise to bring.
And so here I am, at what is now almost five o'clock in the morning, watching and praying, enjoying the lights on my tree and a cup of chai, and thanking God that He's stopped me in my tracks for this moment. I am, at last, putting down all the things that have distracted me all week, and am instead kneeling in my heart beside a manger, in awe of the tiny, quiet, perfect miracle that was actually the beginning of the greatest thing that has ever happened in the whole world. The very Son of God was born - to us, the Scripture says.
To us. For us. With us.
He was here.
He is here.
...and He is coming back.
In this quiet moment, there is nothing more real or more true, and I am filled with gratitude and wonder.
Merry Christmas, friends.
As we've been reading along in God's word and in The Uncluttered Heart this week, reflecting on joy, there is one idea that I've felt God driving home to me all week: whether or not you have joy is not dependent on whether or not you feel joyful.
It started with the reminder from Monday's reading about joy being a fruit of the Spirit. "Hap, you have my Spirit; therefore, you have joy." It isn't something I can produce on my own - it's something He grows in me. I may not experience the emotional benefits of it all the time, anymore than I experience the benefits of wearing my favorite (and very warm) sweatshirt while it's in the laundry - but just because I'm not aware of it, doesn't mean I cease to have it.
Because Jesus is my Saviour, I have the Spirit of God in me (John 14:16-17).
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Therefore, I have joy.
Awesome, right? But it gets even better. The Bible also tells us two other things about joy:
1. that the joy of the Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
and 2. that joy replaces sorrow. (Esther 9:20-22, Isaiah 35:9-10, Isaiah 51:11, Jeremiah 31:12-13)
And this is a part of the good news of great joy that we wait for in this Advent season. (Luke 2:10). Emmanuel, God with us - Jesus - came to this world for a little while, experienced first hand what life is like for us, paid the price for our sins, and rose from the dead. Then, when He went back to His Father, He asked Him to send us His Spirit to help us - and one of the things the Spirit does is produce joy in our hearts - joy that strengthens us when we are weak and beaten down by the sorrows of this world; joy that foreshadows and is a promise of the lasting joy that will be ours, when all things fade away, and we are finally Home with Him.
Sorrow - no matter how deeply felt - is only temporary. Joy will come. Indeed, it is already here!
There is so much comfort in that.
"God rest ye merry, gentlemen" (and women). It's been my favorite Christmas carol for ages, and I love those words.
"God rest ye" - may God cause you to rest. "God rest ye merry" - may God cause you to rest with gladness in your heart.
Wherever you are today, friends, whatever the sorrows that burden your heart - my prayer for you is that you will remember the deeds of the Lord and His kindness toward you, that joy will flood your soul as you do, and that you will find at the end of this day that God really has rested ye merry.
Seek peace and pursue it. Seek peace and pursue it.
I've been trying. In this week of Advent Peace, I've been pursuing peace as if it were the elusive White Stag of Narnia. Every now and again, I've glimpsed it. I've found it in some unlikely places: Christmas shopping, driving around in my car, cleaning the house, charting Christmas carols. I've found it in likely places, too: the quiet moments when I've paused to worship, decorating Christmas cookies with our Tuesday night Advent group, having dinner with one of my best friends. But then something would happen, and I would find myself wondering where that peace had gone.
Seek peace and pursue it.
I will not go into the details of why this week was so incredibly difficult. I will simply say that I am so glad for the respite that this morning brought. Saturday is my Sabbath day - a day to worship and rest and simply be. For the first time since last Saturday, I did not roll out of bed with a task list. There are things to do today - grocery shopping for the holiday dinner I'm cooking tomorrow, Christmas shopping, etc. - but they can happen whenever I get to them, and it doesn't really matter to anyone else. Today there are no pressures, no demands, no responsibilities. Today I am free to finish decorating my tree, and to be my introverted self. Today... I can rest.
I am so glad God built Sabbath into our lives. He knew how desperately we would need it. A day to stop. Breathe. Remember Him. Reorient. Reprioritize. Oh, wait - life isn't actually about all that stuff that seemed so important last week. It's about glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Right. Okay, let's try that, then.
And again, I find myself so grateful for Advent, and a week that forced me, by its liturgical rhythms, to remember peace. I needed the daily reminder to be a shalom-bringer, and to look for the ways in which God was at work in the seeming chaos that was this week. I needed that constant whisper: "seek peace and pursue it."
One of the things I am learning (again) is that peace and rest go hand-in-hand. It is possible to be at peace in the midst of insanely busy seasons, to be internally at rest in the midst of complete craziness. I don't always live that way - and at the end of weeks like this past one, I am extremely grateful for mercy and grace and the promise of a new day! But if God tells us to seek peace and pursue it, it is because peace is something we need... and it is because peace is something that will be found for the seeking.
Our responsibility is not to "achieve" peace somehow - but to simply pursue it. And as we seek it, peace will come. For He himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), and it is His promise that if we seek Him, He will be found (1 Chronicles 28:9).
There is so much comfort and joy in that. So God rest ye merry, friends - as we, with Hope and Peace, lean into Joy this coming week.
I read this verse this morning, and I'll confess - my first thought was, "what does this verse have to do with Advent?" But as I reflected on this verse a little longer, it became clear to me that it might actually have everything to do with Advent. And here's why.
This week, we're thinking about Advent hope, right? The hope that we have because Christ was born - because "the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14, The Message). Now think for a minute about the people you know who know this hope. What kind of people are they? What adjectives would you use to describe them? (What adjectives do you think should describe them?)
People of hope have a positive outlook. They're the staff you meet in the store in the middle of the Christmas rush who take the time to smile at you, and make you feel like you're their only customer, even tho there's ten people in line behind you. They're the people who ring bells for the Salvation Army on street corners and wish all the people who don't seem to care a merry Christmas anyway. They're the people who get really bad news and yet try their level best to find a bright spot in the middle of complete horrible situations. They're the non-complainers. They're the people with whom you find yourself wanting to spend time because just talking to them is incredibly life-giving. They love you.
Are you a person of hope?
I'll admit it. I am - but I don't always act like it. But my attention was captured today by the words in the prayer from today's Uncluttered Heart post. The idea that hope is something that I actually need to practice hit home. When you practice something, you usually tend to get better at it over time.
So what will it take for me to practice hope today? And in so doing, will I "increase and abound in love" for people, as so many people of hope have abounded in love for me? Yes.
So that Scripture really does have everything to do with Advent...
One of the things I love most about Advent is that it isn't just about waiting for Christmas and remembering the Story. It's also about remembering that the Story isn't over yet. Here's another passage, written by the apostle John, that has everything to do with Advent, too:
I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: "Look, look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making His home with men and women! They're His people; He's their God. He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good - tears gone, crying gone, pain gone - all the first order of things gone." (Revelation 21:3-4, The Message)
This gives me so much hope. And today, I'm going to remember it, and with His help, try to love Him and love people better simply by practicing a positive, hopeful outlook - no matter what this day may bring. And if I keep at it, one day being hopeful will simply be habit. (I'm hoping for it, anyway.) ;)
There's so much security in that, isn't there? We were created to live life God's way, and He's promised to teach us everything we need to know to do that. No more running around, trying to figure out what it is we're supposed to be doing that we're not doing that's leaving us with this empty, unsettled feeling that there's got to be more to life that "this" (whatever it is). It is far more simple than that. All we need to do is follow the directions that He's given/gives/will give us.
But here's the thing about directions: you actually have to listen to them and do what they say for things to go well. I have a set of bookshelves I've put together myself, and let me tell you - the one I didn't read the instructions for is extremely unstable! And life works the same way - if we're going to live it well, there's a set of instructions to follow, and we need to listen to them.
Listening for God's voice takes time, patience and practice. It's possible to read His Word without actually understanding a word of it on the heart level where it's meant to instruct us. It's possible to pray frantically for help in a situation for which we need specific direction and then rush off without waiting for an answer, still trying to figure out what we're supposed to do, on our own.
But God's Word says there's a better way:
"...In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength..." - Isaiah 30:15
We need to get quiet.
Quite some time ago, a good friend of mine picked up the phone and made a reservation for me at a retreat center. I was leading a song at church that weekend, but there was something in the way - something that was blocking my ability to lead it from my heart. And so my friend packed me off to a retreat center for 5 hours, to sit quietly with God, and find from Him the wisdom and instruction I needed.
The first 1/2 hour was painful. I had about eighteen million things I was thinking about other than the task at hand. Getting quiet, internally, seemed like an insurmountable task. But my friend, far more seasoned in this sort of thing than I was, had warned me it would be like that, and I'd taken with me, on his advice, a notebook. Every time something came into my head that could be labelled as a "distraction" (for example: things to add to the grocery list, emails I needed to write, phone calls to make, etc.) - I just wrote it down, so I could deal with it later. And finally, all the head chatter faded, and I moved into silence, and waited.
And He spoke. Through His Word, through the beauty of creation all around me, directly to my heart - and even through the nap I ended up taking that day. And 5 hours later, I was so at peace, and knew what I needed to do to live the way I was made to live, instead of the way I'd been trying to live instead. I'd confessed the sin I needed to, and walked straight out of the barren wilderness of it into the rich, full mercy of God. It was beautiful.
And it began with being still.
Sometimes life can be so overwhelming. It's busy, frantic, fast-paced, and loud. It's tough to hear anything in an environment like that. But if we could just be still...
"The Lord is my light and my salvation - of whom shall I be afraid?.... I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Be strong, and take heart, and wait for the Lord." - Psalm 27:1, 13-14
But how do we do that? How do we "be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord"?
Well, we repent for what we need to. We slow down and rest (even when there's a million things to do, because they will still be there later). We get quiet. We choose to trust Him (no matter what). And we listen. We listen for the Voice that will always speak truth, whose words are life and light to all who hear them, and who promised us that all we see is not all there is.
And we keep on waiting on Him, day after day, because we know, no matter how dark things may seem some days, that there is always hope.
"Do not be afraid, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-12)
Tomorrow is the first day of Advent, and I have been waiting for this moment for almost two months. No, actually, more like eleven and a half months.... I love Advent.
Some of my best childhood memories are centered around Advent. Decorating the banisters of our New England church sanctuary with real evergreens and red ribbons and candles and a Christmas tree so tall you could barely see the top from the floor. Replacing the green banners of Ordinary Time on the pulpit with the rich purple hues of Advent. Taking a break for soup and crackers with the church family, and eating out of the church's fine china dishes. (Washing and drying all those dishes after lunch!) Making wreaths to take home and hang on our doors. Waking up every morning to open the next little door on the Advent calendar that hung on the cabinet in the kitchen. Watching the colored lights twinkle in our tree. Setting up the Nativity scene on the bookshelf. Putting out our Christmas decorations. Listening to Kenny and Dolly and Amy Grant and Alabama and Bing Crosby and Manheim Steamroller and countless others sing Christmas carols, back in the days when we had actual records and cassette tapes. Wrapping Christmas presents. Popping popcorn and watching Christmas movies. Lighting a candle every Sunday on the altar at church, marking one more theme celebrated, one week closer to Christmas. Wondering why the third candle is pink.
And FINALLY - Christmas Eve. Dressing up, leaving home in the dark. Caroling outside the church for an hour before service for the people passing by and coming to church. Caroling some more indoors. The beauty of the Christmas story read aloud. Hearing a soloist sing "O Holy Night" and hoping that someday I'd get to sing it (one day, finally, I did). Lighting the Christ candle, and then passing the light of Christ's love from candle to candle through our historic church sanctuary and singing Silent Night together acapella. Watching the familiar faces of friends and family shine with the mystery and beauty of it all as we ended our service in quietness, peace, and candlelit wonder.
And now that I'm older, this season has become even more special than the magical memories it held in my childhood. For now I understand, in a way I didn't then, what this season is really all about.
Advent is a season of waiting. A season of joy, hope, peace, love, wonder - and waiting, expectantly, for something to happen. It's the pathway, the journey to Christmas. And with Christmas, comes radiant, amazing, overwhelming love - in the form of a baby boy, born in a stable. The very Son of God, laid in a manger, here to experience all that we do - and to make a way back to God for us.
God waited a long time to send His Son. He waited for the perfect moment. But while He was waiting, He did some things. He wrote it in the stars, that this baby was coming. Remember the Magi, following that star? Think about the fact that light takes time to travel, and that what you see in the sky is actually something that happened a really, really, REALLY long time ago - and think for a moment: God put a star in the heavens that would point the way to His Son AGES before His Son would be born. Does the wonder of it floor you, even just a little bit? He also promised us that a Saviour would come - His prophets foretold His coming, and His people waited, too. And then, finally - He came. And He is coming again.
For these four weeks of Advent we wait. We remember. We hope, dream, imagine, wonder, experience the mystery that is the gift of God's Son, born in the city of David: Christ the Lord. We sing special songs - songs we sing once a year. We celebrate. We give gifts that echo, tho they could never compare with, the Gift that we've been given. We light candles.
We wait. Quietly, but with great joy.
Last year for Advent, my friend Amanda and I did a devotional study together with a book and a website called The Uncluttered Heart, by Beth A. Richardson. We loved it so much that we've invited our church family to go through it with us this year. Nineteen people have signed up so far! We are super-excited about this. :)
And if you want to join us, we'd love that, too. The Uncluttered Heart website has all the info you need to get started.
Hope to see you there!
and Happy Advent-Eve. :)
This happens to me frequently when I'm with close friends, but it's usually in the context of saying something I probably should have run thru the filter first, or saying something to be funny and then joking about, "oh, did I just say that out loud?" But today it happened with two simple words that I've said thousands of times before without thinking about them at all:
It's just what you say, when someone says "thank you," right? But think for a minute about what those two words mean when you put them together outside of the generic, rote conversation in which you usually find them. "You're welcome."
You - are welcome. You're welcome.
What does that mean? In French, it's "bienvenue," which translates literally to "good coming." You've come well; it's well that you came? I was glad to do what you're thanking me for because I'm happy you're here, that you're a part of my life.
You're welcome here.
My heart's posture toward you is one of welcome.
We say it to a lot of people, strangers and friends alike. But do we mean it?
Food for thought. :)
"God, thank You so much for this day!" (followed by an explanation of why said day was so awesome)
"God... (pause) ...this has not been the best day in the world." (followed by an explanation of why, but often followed by:) "BUT...."
and anything could happen then. "BUT - thank You that tomorrow is another day." or "BUT - thanks for being there with me anyway." or "BUT - i know You have a plan for this."
She taught me a lot about prayer. about God. and about being honest with God in prayer.
And tonight, listening to the Tallis Canon for about the 25th time today (because I've needed it that much - this song centers me, re-orients me to the Truth and to Life and to the way things should be) - I find myself praying:
"God, this was really not the best day in the world. There are so many things about it that I would go back and fix if I could. But I know You are good, and Your timing is perfect, and I will wait on You. I will to wait on You. I choose it. I will do this. I will wait, and I will trust You, and I will be honest and I may yell and rage and tell You exactly what I think, but at the end of the day, Lord, You are GOD and You can do anything You like with me and with this day and with my life. So here it is - and Glory to Thee, my God, this night, for all the blessings of the light - for there are so many, and they are all from You. Forgive me, Lord, for Thy own Son, the ill that I this day have done... I messed it up a lot today; I've messed it up a lot for ages. But You are good, and Your love endures forever. Your mercy knows no bounds. Your grace is sufficient for me. I trust You, Jesus."
Praise Him above angelic host; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - for He is worthy to be worshiped and honored and praised and extolled and loved and adored and trusted.
Somehow, it will all work out okay. And I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. So be still, o my soul, be still. Be still, and take heart, and wait for the Lord.
Be still, and take heart, and wait for the Lord.
it's been tough to be so far away. my dad and my sister are there with her, but it's my mom, you know? i just want to be there, even if all i can do is sit and read while she's sleeping, and just keep her company while she's awake.
please pray for my mom. it's going to be a few weeks of recovery, and she's usually such an active person. this is going to be - this IS - really hard for her.
On the table next to my bed is a collection of things that are very special to me. I half-jokingly refer to it as an altar, because most of the objects on this table are actually icons - objects that, at least for me, point past themselves to God.
There are a lot of things on this little altar, but here are just a few:
There's a birthday card from a friend and mentor. On the inside, he wrote, "God does have a plan for your life, Happy, and it is greater than your dreams." This card came at a time when I really needed to hear that, and he had no idea how timely his words were. And now, every time I see it, I am reminded that it's true - that God's dreams for me are greater than my own, and that His plan is perfect and can be trusted. The card is an icon that leads me into His presence and inspires me to worship Him for who He is: Jehovah Jireh, my Provider.
Another icon that reminds me of God's provision is a car key. My senior year in college, I took a job - the only job I could find - but it was across town, and I had no way to get there. I was telling a friend about my dilemma, and right then and there, he just gave me his car, for the whole year. His generosity reminds me to be that ridiculously generous, and this key reminds me that even when I can't see a way, God always has a plan and will provide exactly what I need.
There's also a nickel - which reminds me of something a man named John Wimber said once. He said, "I am just a nickel in God's pocket, and He can spend me any way He wants to." That quote really hit me the first time I read it - and comes to mind often (usually when I don't want to be spent the way I'm pretty sure God wants to spend me...) The quote reminds me that I belong to Jesus, not to myself, and that acknowledging His sovereignty - His Lordship over my life - is always the best way to live, and that surrendering my life is actually an act of worship. Again, it's an icon, connected to a story that points me to Jesus.
There are a lot of icons that the church has turned to over the years as well: things like the cross, stained glass images of Bible stories, sometimes even actual church buildings... We have to be careful with icons - it can be easy to turn an icon into an idol if we're not careful. How can you tell if you're doing this? The minute an icon becomes more important to us than the One to whom it is supposed to point us, we're in trouble - but icons can actually be very helpful in assisting us, as His word tells us in Psalm 77, to remember the deeds of the Lord.
It occurred to me as I was thinking about communion this weekend that Jesus gave us an incredible gift in this sacrament that we celebrate. This loaf of bread and this cup are icons that point past themselves to Jesus, and remind us of what He's done. We come to the Table, we see these two things, and we instantly remember that we are saved solely by grace through faith in Christ, and not by anything we've ever done.
This is the story: God's word tells us in Matthew 26 that "while they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then He took the cup, gave thanks, and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
We know from Scripture, especially passages like 1 Corinthians 11, in which Paul gives instructions to the church as to how to celebrate it rightly, that the church very early on began to celebrate what God had done for them in Christ by eating bread and drinking the cup together. Communion is a centuries-old feast of remembrance, and in coming to this Table tonight, we do, as Paul says, "proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." We remember the amazing grace that was given to us as Jesus went to the cross for OUR sins, and we give thanks. And we come together, as Christians have always done, because this gift was for ALL of us.
So tonight, as you come to the Table, I simply want to encourage you to stop for a moment and remember. This is a serious moment. We come to this Table with great joy and gratitude, but Paul also warns us to come with a proper mindset. He says, "...whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself." (1 Cor. 11:27-29)
So let's take a few minutes to pause and reflect. What is it that Lord has done for us? What has He saved us from? Is there any sin in our hearts that we haven't confessed to Him yet? Let's clear that up now, confess what we need to, and receive His forgiveness where we need it. And then come joyfully, together, each of us as we're ready, to celebrate and remember the mercy and the grace that was given to us through His broken body and shed blood, represented by this loaf of bread and this cup - icons that remind us of a very simple, but very profound truth: God loves us.
In the Reformed church, where I spent a lot of time in college, at this point in the service, they say, "come, for all things are now ready." I love that - because the truth is, Jesus HAS prepared this table for you, in the presence of your enemies, and because of His death and resurrection - surely goodness and mercy WILL follow you, all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
So come, for all things are now ready.
I didn't know him super well, not nearly as well as many of my friends did, but he was a great guy. Shy. Quiet.
Completely in love with the Lord.
And now he's home.
It's a little unreal.
My heart is breaking for the people who knew him best. Who will miss him more than I can imagine missing anyone. Who will need to say Kaddish.
Rest in peace, Rylan. We are so very glad for you that you are home with Him, but you will be greatly missed.
How could I lead people in worship when I had absolutely no awareness or understanding of what God was doing in the room? And it had always been that way, every single time I'd ever led. I felt so... detached. I was certain there was something I was missing, that I was doing something wrong, and I began to question whether or not I was even really called to do this. I longed so much to help people connect relationally with the Lord in worship, but if I couldn't model it - if I couldn't connect - then how in the world could I ever expect to lead worship well?
My mentor, Matt, told me something that night that's stuck with me. "Hap," he said, "Leading worship is kind of like riding a bike. Once you take off the training wheels, you've got your hands full just trying not to fall off. There are so many things to think about - balance, speed, destination, where the brakes are, how and when to shift gears to make it up that hill - and it takes a ton of concentration. You don't see a whole lot of what's going on around you. But if you keep at it, if you keep practicing, there will come a day when you won't have to think about it quite so much. And you'll be biking along, and all of a sudden you'll feel the wind in your face, and you'll look up and there before you will be the most glorious sunset you've ever seen, and you'll take your hands of the handlebars, and you'll fly."
(I'm sure he said it much better than that, but that was the gist of it.) And it's given me so much hope.
I led worship this morning for the first time in awhile, and I walked into church rather wondering if today would be the day. There were moments in rehearsal this week when that metaphorical sunset was glorious; His Presence was so sweet. And every time I've played through this set over the past two weeks, joy has just bubbled up in my soul. It seemed so clear that there was going to be a moment to fly...
And from all reports, there was - and people did. And I'll be honest and say that I did sense His leading as I led, in a way that I haven't always - but it still wasn't quite the soaring I'd hoped for. It was still a lot of thinking about balance and timing and wondering if people were with us or if we'd lost them somewhere during that instrumental back there, and was I going to whack anyone with my guitar if I turned to signal our drummer to bring it down for the next verse? And why, oh, why hadn't I thought to bring a notebook for my music this morning like I usually do, and did we really have time to do both of those songs at the end of the service or should I cut one out on the fly, and.... Well. I'm sure you see where this is going. Lots of thinking, quite a bit of emotional detachment.
Oh, well. There will be other days. And honestly, I'm actually pretty happy that I can walk away from this morning knowing that in spite of the fact that there's still a constant stream of mental chatter when I'm leading, I did actually lead well today, and there's a sense in which I've finally grown up into this calling, however much growing I still have to do. I may not have felt the wind in my face - but I knew it was there.
Mark's told me more than once that he thinks God often doesn't let me see what He's doing when I lead in order to keep me humble and dependent on Him. And if that's what it takes, then I'm so okay with that. But I do have to say - those moments this week when I did fly? They were pretty amazing. Mostly because He's so amazing. And because there, in those moments, I caught the slightest glimpse of His glory.
And it was breathtaking...
Wilson tells a lot of stories, from the Bible, from his own life, and from the lives of people he knows. It is evident that the compassion he feels as he writes comes from walking closely with a lot of people who have suffered through great heartache, and his constant encouragement throughout the book is to not give up, but to turn to the One who can help and heal us - and to trust Him with our lives.
I wanted to like this book; I really did. Unfortunately, I really had trouble getting my mind around the basic concept of the book. Just because things aren't going my way doesn't mean I'm stuck in some sort of "plan B" - which sounds to me like an inferior plan. The very "plan A" versus "plan B" analogy seems to me to walk some dangerous theological ground. Wilson did try to explain that by "plan B" he means that things aren't going the way we would have chosen - but what seems to us like "plan B" isn't a secondary plan to God at all, and I don't feel that Wilson explained that very clearly.
There is a lot of good truth in this book - I highly recommend the parts where he quotes Scripture! - but much of the book felt a little preachy to me, and there were parts of the book where I felt he was reading into Scripture through the lens of the point he was trying to make. Still, he tells some good stories that illustrate truth, and his heart is in the right place. So I'll give it 2.5 stars - no, actually, 3. The study guide at the end has some really great questions.
Disclosure in agreement with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising": I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Love that is patient when it could be easily frustrated. Love that is kind when it could have chosen to be cruel. Love that isn't envious of the blessings of others even in the absence of blessing to itself. Love that is humble and quiet, not boastful and self-centered. Love that chooses to forget the wrongs done to it; love that refuses to stay angry, even though it has every right to be upset. Love that rejoices with everything that is good and true and right in the world, and weeps over that which is not. Love that protects fiercely, that trusts unyieldingly even when it doesn't understand, that hopes unswervingly against all odds, and that perseveres no matter what. Love that refuses to fail. Love that embraces grace, that extends it, that doesn't give up. Love that recognizes it can't be earned. Love that mourns sin and celebrates repentance. Love that is meek enough - gentle enough - to both hear and tell the truth. Love that hungers for righteousness. Love that extends mercy. Love that is pure in heart. Love that seeks peace, at great cost to itself. Love that will not shy away from persecution of any kind, because its purpose is greater than any temporary pain. Love that is... Love. (He is also known as Jesus.)