What are you absorbed in? {Book Club}

Here we are in our third week discussing Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift. If you’ve missed the first two, you can find our chats on December 1-3 here and December 4-10 (and art work!) here. I love the rich discussion going on!

This week we’ve walked with Rahab, Ruth and Naomi, Samuel and David, Isaiah, Elijah, Jonah, and Micah as we trudge, skip, or walk towards Bethlehem and the birth of the King of Kings. So much history, hope, longing, disappointment, and variety reflected in that one sentence, isn’t there?

I don’t know the history behind all of the red ribbons that are traditionally used in Christmas decorations, but I have a new appreciation for them after reading:

“Rahab, the scarlet woman, flings a scarlet cord out her window –that one thread everything’s’ hanging on. And that scarlet cord is her identity — that scarlet line running from the animal sacrifice covering Adam and Eve’s nakedness in the Garden of Eden to the crimson markings of blood on the door frames of the first Passover to the willing drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane– and Rahab is delivered by that singular scarlet cord and tied into the Jewish family.”

On December 12th, anyone else underline When we have an agenda for God, we can’t see the gifts from God.? Ann’s reflection on Naomi’s comment that she went away full, but the LORD had brought me home empty. I know when I”m on the agenda driven side of things, my focus tends towards things that don’t always bring out the fruits of the Spirit, shall we say. I loved this day and the way that Ann rooted us in ordinariness, not in flashy miracles.

And that quote from Stuart Briscoe!!! comparing and contrasting the Spirit of Christ with the Spirit of Christmas ending with The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. Let’s just sit with that for a moment.

 

 

How about on December 13th when she looked at the story of Samuel anointing the next king? A story and lesson we’re old hats in. “You can see it, too, how the world keeps looking for beauty in appearances than in His appearing.” But then Ann gives it a modern spin. “From Hollywood to Pinterest, the media of this world aggressively schools your soul to see the exact opposite on the way God sees.”

I feel the pull. The tug. The importance of the outside. Of finding just the right image to go with this post. How do you push back? How can we push back together?

Moving on to Elijah and Mt. Carmel and I Kings 18:21. “How much longer will you wave, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him!” And that in Hebrew the word for wavering is sinking. Wow. I’m not saying that we might not feel a bit pulled under in times when we’re not wavering, but I can definitely see the tie in with when I’ve wavered and when I’ve sunk. How about you? Can’t wait to see this one in the comments section.

There was so much to this week! The gift of a storm?! Anyone, anyone?! But this should be enough to get the conversational juices started. I’ll list a few of the reflection questions Ann gave:

  • Do you know what it’s like to have a bad reputation? What does it mean to you that God’s grace is enough to coder any kind of past?
  • Like Naomi, do you sometimes miss the love all around you? Name some of the people who have been faithful Ruths for you.
  • What is one thing you can do to spark home for someone else today?
  • What emotions are evoked in you when you realize that God doesn’t expect you to perform for Him — that He has already given you everything you need?
  • When have you felt like Bethlehem … poor, small, forgotten?

Ann asks us, what are you absorbed in? Get a cup of something warm or cool to drink and let’s talk. What stood out to you as you read? And do come back as the conversation unfolds.

Amy

Photo credit: Alex Workman via Lightstock

——-

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29 Comments

  1. Jennifer December 16, 2013

    The “gift of a storm” is among the standout moments for me this week… We are not alone in the middle of the storm, in the toughest of times, in the seemingly alone times. Storms can really be a gift despite or maybe because of being challenging too.

    1. Amy Young December 16, 2013

      I like your phrase, “seemingly alone,” Jennifer. I don’t believe that God plays with us, but it’s a good reminder that things / situations/ feelings may not be all that they seem to be.

  2. Kimberly Todd December 16, 2013

    I keep coming back to this: “Maybe sometimes the miracle begins by growing not in bitterness but in faithfulness–because, for all its supposed sophistication, cynicism is simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is it to see the cracks? The radicals and the reflective, the Ruths and the revolutionaries–they are the ones on the road, in the fields, on the wall, pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and the Advent coming again. Brilliant people don’t deny the dark; they are the ones who never stop looking for His light in everything.” (December 12th)

    1. Amy Young December 16, 2013

      Quite a phrase, isn’t it … cynicism is simplistic. It’s a bit like arm chair quarterbacking. Easy to sit on the sides and pick at things. But actually jumping into the fray, as a Ruth or a revolutionary, is an act against cynicism.

      Question for anyone — how do you know when it might be time to get out of the fray. That cynicism is creeping in even though you’re engaged. Have you done it? How did you manage guilt at “abandoning” a cause (if you had guilt at leaving)?

      1. Kimberly Todd December 17, 2013

        I thought my thinker sore and this is what I’ve got: I don’t know. But I know there is a time for a move like that, and I think it has a lot more to do with feelings than we might be comfortable with. Then the guilt is real, so if I’ve made a principled decision, checked it once and twice (or way more), gotten trusted counsel and made my move, I guess I just have to sit with the guilt and acknowledge that it is until it isn’t.

        1. Amy Young December 17, 2013

          OK so I went to sleep thinking about the role of cynicism and woke up thinking about it too. I know I am taking this MUCH further than Ann intended and I’m very behind, don’t be “simple cynical.” I’m just thinking about when someone has been engaged in a place, a group, a cause for a significant time period and there are some genuine problems that are just not being addressed (things will never be perfect, I get that). Sometimes, I think cynicism might be a yellow flag to say, “tune in here” and to ask yourself hard questions. To turn into the pain, instead of away from it. Kim, I like the way you said that our feelings might be more of a guide than we’d like. Oh for everything to be rational!

          1. Kimberly Todd December 18, 2013

            I had a moment of clarity after reading Ann’s thoughts for today. It can be at least as much of a radical revolutionary act to get out of the fray as to stay in it. I’m all for taking the long view, but the truth is cracks that are unaddressed in a system get bigger, not smaller, and more people fall through them. Like you said, tune in and turn in though it hurt like h… Then to move out of an oppressive system is courageous…and costly. Maybe that weight of guilt is one of the costs, for a time. When Jesus bore ours, I’m sure it wasn’t lighter for not being of his own making.

    2. Danielle Wheeler December 17, 2013

      Such a powerful quote. It IS profound to see the cracks. Oh, to always be looking!

    3. Jennifer December 17, 2013

      I liked… and was challenged by the mention in the quote you mentioned of “the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption” … and “Brilliant people don’t deny the dark; they are the ones who never stop looking for His light in everything”. It does me well to recognize that recognizing the brokenness and the dark times … what is not good… is not a bad thing in itself, though getting stuck on it or focusing on it can be. Denying the brokenness and the dark can actually stop us from seeing the “light” in the darkness or as she said, the light shining through the brokenness, and in the dark. Closing our spiritual eyes to avoid looking at the brokenness and at the dark, can simply prevent us from seeing the light God is shining in the midst of it. I am very slowly and very imperfectly beginning to see the light in what has been my darkness.

      1. Amy Young December 17, 2013

        Yes 🙂 … closing our eyes doesn’t make the problem go away, does it? Glad little specks of light are shining in for you!

  3. Kimberly Todd December 16, 2013

    Calen-door

    1. Amy Young December 16, 2013

      Again, I’m delighted and speechless. Thanks for sharing! In the video posted on Thursday, I was struck by how much your ram looked like the ram in the video. You have got to make a book of these!

  4. Kristi December 16, 2013

    “What emotions are evoked in you when you realize that God doesn’t expect you to perform for Him — that He has already given you everything you need?”

    Relief infused with joy. Gratitude that grows into praise. Physically I feel muscles relax, my breathing slows, and a faint smile crosses my lips. I can just be.

    1. Amy Young December 16, 2013

      Relief infused with joy.

      Just that. More, please!

  5. Jessica Hoover December 16, 2013

    I am always astounded at Rahab’s story. I loved the way Ann really pulled out the strand of her story in such a beautiful and powerful way. Her story is so counter to what we would think of as right or fair. God’s grace covered her and her whole family and moreover made something great out of her. It really turns my ideas about how far God can reach or the way He can use those I deem hopeless on it’s head.

    1. Amy Young December 16, 2013

      Me too! And Tamar’s — was reading in a commentary (when I “should” have been listening to sermon on Ruth on Sunday) a bit more about the Jewish laws and how Judah viewed her as a son killer so didn’t want to sacrifice any more of his sons after two died (though he didn’t realize it was God’s word and not Tamar’s that resulted in their deaths). And then when God gave her twins, he restored to Judah the same number of sons but returning two! Yet another story that doesn’t seem sprinkled with rightness or fairness, yet redemption runs through it! (Next Sunday I’ll try not to get distracted by a question I had and focus on the topic at hand!)

  6. Morielle December 16, 2013

    “I feel the pull. The tug. The importance of the outside. Of finding just the right image to go with this post. How do you push back? How can we push back together?” Was just talking about this last night with my mom! (Who is one of my Ruths: I too often take her for granted, but never should). She was talking about how she spends so much time packing clothes for trips, and I was talking about how I spend so much time dressing for things. And we decided that we’d fight back by committing to spending more time in prayer and reading God’s word to prepare our hearts for an event than we spend showering/dressing/makeup/etc. for that same event.

    1. Amy Young December 17, 2013

      Morielle, doesn’t it feel empowering to know that we are not stuck in old patterns or ruts? Love this idea!

  7. Jenny December 19, 2013

    So chiming in a few days late here but it was day 14 that stood out most for me. I have always loved thinking about light and what it means that Christ is the light of the world, but the reality of darkness didn’t begin to sink in until I moved overseas. I live in Sweden, a bit north of Stockholm and so in the winter our days are incredibly short (right now the sun if above the horizon for roughly 6 hrs a day). It is dark here in ways I never experienced before- physically dark and very spiritually dark. Yet it is a culture that longs for and values the proper use of light!
    The quote “No hint of help. No rumor of relief. No sign of saving. For us waiting through the night, waiting through the dark. And then… there it comes to the waiting, to the learning, to the cold-a dawn! Light! Light!” brings tears to my eyes. How beautiful!
    Lately Christ has been shining his light into my life to lots of place I would rather keep in the dark… and to be honest, I’ve been running a bit. It’s uncomfortable to see those things and yet, in the light they begin to lose their power and those areas begin to heal. I want to cry “Light! Light!” with gladness in my heart, not cringing away with fear. Or as Isaiah called to the house of Jacob (2:5)- come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

    So that was a bit of word vomit, if you made it to the end, well done!

    1. Amy Young December 21, 2013

      Jenny, never, never too late to chime in :). There is something cozy about a dark winter morning with a candle lit. But I can see that dark winter mid-days have less, shall we say, ambiance! And it can be a bit unnerving to have light shone into places we’d rather keep to ourselves (for many a reason!). But I have found there is such freedom and release as we can let the light in — not an easy process, but as you said, one that has great rewards. Thanks for your thoughts :). I’ll be thinking of you in Sweden as the sun sets today. See you next week 🙂

    2. Shelly Page December 21, 2013

      I am chiming in VERY late. The main question was “what are you absorbed in?” Sadly it is work, the next thing, and not this thing of taking in each day as it leads up to THE day of His coming. Jenny, I was also struck by the day about light. A couple of years ago my verse for the year was Isaiah 60:1.

    3. Shelly Page December 21, 2013

      (continued, but the photos don’t seem to be loading.)
      Well, it finally clicked that the light promised in Isa 9 is described more fully in Isa 60. The people will see a light, and then the light will shine on those of us who put ourselves in Gods bright sunshine, and nations will be drawn to us. I was inspired to do some word art…let’s see if I can get the photos loaded.

  8. Shelly Page December 21, 2013

    sorry to flood this stream with attempts to share photos. Trying again.

    1. Shelly Page December 23, 2013

      No success with the photos. If you are my friend on Facebook you can see the word art. For others, it’ll have to wait until someone shows me how to post pics here.

  9. Amy Young December 23, 2013

    These images are from Shelly and they are stunning!lovely!

  10. Danielle Wheeler December 27, 2013

    These are so lovely, Shelly! Thank you for sharing your art and for making that connection for us between the two passages!!

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