Review: Make Your Marriage Stronger

5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Marriage Stronger
by Ron Garwood

You can have a better marriage, and there’s some things you can do to secure that better marriage. In this little book – less than 100 pages! – Ron Garwood guides the reader through some simple steps you can take to strengthen your marriage.

First off: There is nothing wrong with this book. All the information is gospel-based and solidly presented. The advice is good advice, and I stand behind it. If you’ve never read anything about how to strengthen a marriage, this is a good place to begin.

That said… maybe I’ve read too many books about marriage, but this was both way too shallow and way too deep for the length of the book. (more…)

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The Battle-Planning Has Ended

Planning

Every interaction with the church leadership required careful battle planning. How to explain this? What part of their spiritual immaturity was most likely to explode? How to deal with that ahead of time, if at all possible? Who do I need to talk with before it’s brought up in council?

Any time we had a meeting of the leadership of the church, I would stress out. It was a cause of ulcerous concern. I really would call it battle planning, and it would start weeks ahead of every meeting. And considering we usually met about monthly, that meant a lot of my time was filled up with just dealing with church leadership. So much mental and emotional space was crammed with all that.

I would feel the pressure building up weeks and weeks in advance. I’d pray that this person or that would simply not being at the meeting, so we could just get the thing done or addressed and move on. I hated it.

I tried to build bridges. More than once we had the church leadership over to the house for just a friendly meal… and though it wouldn’t turn into an argument, it did turn into a business meeting. The leadership couldn’t just talk about how their lives were going with each other; it had to be about the church every time we got together. Not about Jesus, mind you – about the congregation.

The stress grew and grew. I dreaded the meetings. There were parts of ministry I looked forward to, but it rarely had anything to do with anyone in leadership. As the pressure built, I hated that part of the ministry more and more.

And then we moved. (more…)

Review: Elijah

Elijah: Fiery Prophet
by James A. Aderman

Elijah served when a wicked king and queen suppressed worship of the one true God. Because of their evil, God shut the sky for three and a half years. Elijah struggled with depression as well, even asking God to kill him. And yet this prophet was used by God to share his Word in dramatic ways. This book takes the reader through the life of Elijah, seeing how he both received grace from God, and shared that grace with others around him.

Elijah is one of my favorite prophets to read about. I find his struggles with God and his own depression so incredibly relatable. I was looking forward to reading this little book that gives him a story-based biography. Unfortunately, some unique choices in the writing made it a hard read for me. (more…)

“Go get Jesus!”

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I don’t know.” She stares out over the river, her mind distant. “I mean, I try to do good. But my mind keeps on doing things. And I’ve done things.” She lapses into silence again. “I mean, I’ve done things that are bad. Really bad.” She looks down. “If it’s the Ten Commandments, if it’s really the Ten Commandments, I don’t know what I’d do.”

And I tell her.

I tell her it is the Ten Commandments. God says, “Be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.” Jesus says, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” He says, “Do this and you will live.”

I really don’t have any hope, either. Not if it’s based on the Ten Commandments. No way. “The soul who sins is the one who dies.”

But then I point her to Jesus. “So, Jesus was holy. He was perfect. He really deserved life! And do you know what happened to him instead?”

She nods, a little hesitant. “He died on the cross.” (more…)

Review: It’s Not Too Late

It’s Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen’s Faith
by Dan Dupee

So, your kid’s a teenager now. I guess that means your job leading them to faith is done, since they don’t listen to you anyway. Might as well hand them over to a youth minister. And if your kid’s in college? Well, expect them to sow some wild oats, and don’t expect them to ever show up in church. It’s just that time of their life.

Except… don’t.

In It’s Not Too Late, Dan Dupee puts out seven myths of bringing emerging adults to faith and keeping them there. He presents the myths and shows why each is false, using statistics, personal anecdotes from his position as a chairman for a national campus ministry, and lots of Scripture. He then shows how parents can use their influence to help their children continue walking with Christ.

Short review: Buy this book. Read it. Even if you don’t have a teenager or your children are grown, this book will be useful to you. Dupee points out that when infants are baptized, the entire congregation is asked if they will support the parents. That means every teen that has been baptized is part of every member’s responsibility to encourage. (more…)

Medicated Pastor

Pills

Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash

My friends told me I needed to see a doctor. More than one friend. They said my depression was getting worse, and they could tell.

They were right.

I delayed going. I figured the next step would likely be meds. It can take a while to find the right med to help a person. That search is well worth it; I’ve seen the positive results. However, I needed time to be able to go through that search, and the buildup to Easter probably wasn’t the right time.

But Easter is done now. I’ve survived. And… and I want to the doctor.

Long story short: I’m now medicated. (more…)

Review: Plan B

Plan B
by Pete Wilson

What happens when God doesn’t show up the way you thought he should? What happens when your life falls apart and you need to go with “Plan B”? In the aptly-titled Plan B, Pete Wilson walks through several people in the Bible that had to go with Plan B and what happened with them. He then applies these lessons to our lives today. In the end, he points that we can trust God, because he knows what he’s doing.

Like many books I’ve read, this one really frustrated me.

At first, I thought that I was going to end up simply throwing it out. He paints King David as someone who turned his back on God often. For instance, when he runs from Saul fairly early in his life, Wilson writes, “He turns his back on God and he tries to take things into his own hands” (16). He also bluntly uses the theology of glory: “See, God is teaching his people: I have so much power, and I want to manifest it in your life. But if you want to see my power, you have to take the risk. You have to take the step. You have to take the spiritual risk of trusting me first” (44). (more…)

Post Easter Recovery

Head above water

Photo by Li Yang on Unsplash

I have survived the dreaded Easter. Am I surviving recovery?

Mostly. I am so, so thankful I serve a smaller congregation where I can rearrange things and take a week mostly off. I canceled nearly all my meetings for this week, and had worked ahead so that there was very little office work. That doesn’t mean the week has been easy, though.

Sunday night was bad. My brain would not shut off. I kept on going over Easter worship that morning. “I should have spent more time with him. She’s going to think I’m a jerk, because I was. They left pretty quick – what did I mess up?” There was this paranoia setting in that everything was going to fall apart because I messed up again and –

I ended up taking out a book and reading most of it to try and shut my brain up. (Thankfully Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen held my attention pretty well!) And even after finishing that book… my brain wouldn’t stop. I eventually passed out, but it was a struggle to get there. (more…)

Review: Pastoral Care under the Cross

Pastor Care under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering – Revised Edition
by Richard C. Eyer

Where is God when people suffer? God suffers with them on the cross. In this excellent book, Richard Eyer guides pastors with multiple practical applications. He begins by laying out the theology of the cross, and then in subsequent chapters applies that theology to various suffering groups: the elderly, the dying, the mourning, the depressed, and others. In the end, he always points to Jesus as showing that God is with the sufferer.

I love Eyer’s definition of pastoral care: “Pastor care consists not in removing someone’s suffering but in helping the sufferer learn to interpret his or her sufferings in the light of the cross” (21). So much of our culture focuses on taking away suffering of any kind, even saying that life isn’t worth living if it’s going to involve suffering. Eyer reminds us that Christians have a different outlook. The point of life isn’t escaping suffering; it’s Jesus. “The goal of pastoral care is not necessarily to remove a person’s discomfort, but to help the sufferer use the discomfort for growth in faith and love of God” (71). (more…)

Surviving Easter

Depression 5

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

Twenty-four hours ago, I dreaded Easter morning worship. It was coming. It was well-planned. I had practiced it several times.

I wanted nothing to do with the upcoming worship service.

The people. Oh, the people. I had been without rest for so long, it seems, and now nearly any interaction I had with a person for longer than a few minutes would bring me down. It wore at me so much that depression was able to gnaw at my soul.

And Easter morning? Do you have any idea how many people I’d have to interact with?

I braced myself. (more…)