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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges

**I first drafted this post over a week ago. Since then there have been some explosive political news stories in the U.S. I'm thinking of one in particular. So I re-wrote my post just a little to include a very brief note on this subject matter.**

"The only safe evidence that we are in Christ is a holy life."
- Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness

My yearly reading list is largely influenced by the previous year's reading list. When I look back over my reading lists, I am looking for holes. I'm looking for lack. I'm looking to see what I favored and what I largely ignored. When I look over my 2017 reading list I find myself sadly lacking in the Christian non-fiction department. Now, did I consistently attend church and listen faithfully to my pastor's sermons? Yes, I did. Did I read scripture consistently? Yes. But did I seek God out in other ways and forms to further education and/or encourage myself in my spiritual life? No. I did not. So this is an area of personal concern that I feel the need to rectify this year.

There is also a pressing need to spend time educating our children as to what it means to be a Christian as well. If we their parents don't do it, the world stands at the ready. The world is not the only one who begs for opportunity to influence though. Oh no! Other Christians do as well which is not always a bad thing but one thing I noticed about 2017 was how many Christians in my generation were more influenced by the political winds of the day than scripture. Sure it was a hot political year and there are many issues which are currently on fire in the political pit. Should we pay attention to the issues of our time? We'd be foolish not to. However, I've noticed that younger Christians feel like it's either God or politics but it can't be both. Babies are flying out of windows along with the proverbial bathwater. I have been completely amazed by the absolutely stubbornness of some in their declarations that if you stay in the church then you are sticking your head in the sand at best or are a war-like criminal at worst. The rhetoric of middle aged and younger Christians has gotten ridiculously out-of-hand. I know of some who have even left the church with loud declarations that politics are more important. They can't see or hear what they are doing. Sheer stubbornness and pride gets in the way of both ability to converse and the ability to pursue holiness together instead of apart.*

Experiencing a few friends fall away from the church for the sake of taking "a good political stance" has had an effect on many people, myself included. If anything, it makes me to know that God will have to work on them and that I must also pray without ceasing that God will hold my family fast -- closer to Him than a political position. However, mark this: if you leave the church over politics then you are leaving the church to follow after a political god of your own making. Jesus Christ is quite, quite abundantly clear that the church is His bride and that He died to redeem her of her sins and that we ought never to think that we are more holy than Christ by leaving her.

To get to the point of The Pursuit of Holiness though, I picked it up because I read a lot of Bridges when I was a teen and I wanted to review it before handing it over to my own pre-teen. I have explained before that my memory with books is sketchy which leads to the need to re-read! Of course, I also read the book with myself in mind because of my 2017 reading failings. There was a dual purpose in this!

I launched in and read the entirety of this book, walking away with one chief thought that I had not expected. Bridges drives home the point at the very beginning of this book that it is not against ourselves that we sin, but against Christ. Therefore there is a driving need to always be pursuing holiness so that we can approach the throne of grace.

Bridges quotes David from the Psalms 51 who declares:

"Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment."

Bridges admonishes (in his friendly way!) that we should not make ourselves out to be more righteous than God by being upset over sins we perceive being committed against us and/or to berate ourselves for failing ourselves. We are not more holy than God. It is His holiness that cannot tolerate sin in the least. It is our humanity that loves to produce it.

To turn personal here as explanation, you should be aware of the fact that I have five young children. Working with them as a group and individually can prove very exhausting at times. I want them to grow up to be God-fearing, hard-working, exceptional souls, of course. However, the journey of getting there is a massive work in progress. And getting there means that I have to change and grow spiritually as well and I don't like it. Every morning I wake up and rehearse to myself how the day is going to go and how I'm going to be the world's most awesome mother that day. Within 5 minutes (more or less but usually less) I've failed and am internally kicking and chaffing against myself for my downfall. I say things like this to myself: "How could you?! You're ROTTEN as a parent! They are probably going to hate you when they grow up and I, for one, wouldn't blame them." Or this one: "I will never be a good parent." Oh woe is me. I have sinned against myself. I have 'let myself down.' I never bother to look up and say, "Against You and You only have I sinned. Forgive me." I haven't sinned against me and my best intentions. I've sinned against a Holy God. And this realization struck a chord with me and caused me to stop in my tracks and re-program the ol' brain a bit. The rest of the book was reprogramming.

Bridges counsels with scripture that we serve a Holy God who cannot abide sin in any form or fashion. Once this fact is established in the reader's mind, Bridges moves on to the importance of pursuing holiness so that we will not continue on in our sin but will pursue holiness so that we might be more like Christ. And the reason to be more like Christ? It is to please Christ and not anyone else. It is to please Christ and not anyone else. It is to please Christ and not anyone else. (No, that's not a typo. Say it again if you need to.) Take heart though because lots of people in your life will be more pleased when you are more like Christ so the win-win situation becomes quickly and readily apparent! (It's probably important to also note that lots of people will also be less pleased when you are more like Christ but that's not your problem to solve.)

There were several quotes I copied out of this book and I'll share them below but the crux of the argument I took away from this book is this:

I needed to hear and to know that I am not failing me. I am failing my Holy God. And therefore I have a job to do and that is to absolutely stay in scriptures so that I can learn to be more like my God. This in turn will affect the changes I am so desperate for - both for myself and also for my children.

To bring this all back around to my opening remarks, I think it's incredibly important as Christians that we do not make ourselves out to be more righteous than God as individuals or as global citizens. I think this is a super important point that modern Christians (especially those my age and younger) really need to grasp hold of. I certainly needed to come to a better understanding of this so feel free to lump me into that mix and keep reminding me that I am only holy because He is holy. My holiness follows His, it does not lead it. I must follow where He says He is and will be. I must believe who He says He is and who He will be forever. And if I should stumble (and I will) then someone please pick me back up and remind me that He is a great God who loves His children and will forgive them of their sins and heal their land.

Did I ultimately think that this is a book worth passing along to my pre-teen? Yes, mostly. I think Bridges is perfect from the age of 13 on. Our oldest is currently 11 and we decided against having him read the entirety of the book for the simple fact that Bridges goes into some subject matters that our 11 year old isn't quite ready for. In a few years he will be, but for now there's a couple of chapters we've asked him to read for the moment. Bridges is easy to understand but he doesn't lose the meat of his message. He might occasionally cut your meat for you, but it's still meat and it's a good starting point to learn the lesson that we serve a Holy God who invites us into His presence daily. So come. Believe. Believe like it's your job to believe. Because it is. (John 3:18; John 6:29; Acts 16:31; Hebrews 11:6)

"Frequent contemplation on the holiness of God and His consequent hatred of sin is a strong deterrent against trifling with sin." (Chapter 2)
"As we read and study the scriptures or hear them taught, we are captivated by the moral beauty of God's standard of holiness. Even though His standard may seem far beyond us, we recognize and respond to that which is "holy, righteous, and good" (Romans 7:12). Even though we fail so often, in our inner being we "delight in God's law" (Romans 7:22)." (Failed to write down the reference point on this one.)


"Faith enables us to obey when obedience is costly or seems unreasonable to the natural mind." (Chapter 15)

*Whether there is agreement on this point or not, it is my observation that people are leaving the church because they insist that Christians behave like Christians and that politicians behave like Christians. I agree that Christians must pursue holiness and that it is a process. It is a life process. It is a slow and steady commitment to pursue love justice, mercy and to pursue peace. I do not agree that we can hold politicians to a Christian standard because we are a nation that has collectively rejected God and His standards of holiness. When a leader acts in a manner which is less than Christ-like I find myself with very little to say because we have long "agreed" as a nation to shut God out. If I feel annoyance or anger about the political situation we are experiencing here in America, my sole motivation is to dig into scriptures and to teach my kids truth and to encourage my fellow believers to cling HARD to the Gospel of Christ. For if you are clinging to the Gospel and if you are fully focused on pursuing holiness then the Gospel shall be lived out in your life and you will be Christ to others, just as God designed. Just as He designed. The world will not like God. They will hate and despise Him. If you follow after Him, they will hate and despise you also. Do not be surprised by this. It should not come as a shock. The world's hatred of Christ and His standards should not incite panic. Stay the course. Run the race. Pursue holiness. Love justice. Be merciful. Walk humbly.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Prince Edward Island in Photos

Our family vacation in 2017 was to Eastern Canada where we spent some time on Nova Scotia and then, chiefly, Prince Edward Island. As mentioned, we spent a great deal of time as a family immersing ourselves in the world of Lucy Maud Montgomery leading up to the trip and it was an enjoyable and wonderful experience.

I probably won't read as much Montgomery this year, strictly because I'm rather saturated at the moment, but I will read some. Meanwhile, thought you all might enjoy seeing a few pictures that we took during our time on the Island. It was beautiful, it was wonderful, and yes, I want to go back!

For starts, this was our "back yard" during our stay.



One of life's chief happy thoughts for me is having red dirt on my boots! Heh...


We watched a lot of sunsets to the point where our children asked us why we "had" to watch so many sunsets. (We're mean that way.)




We hiked all over the place.






And we saw the things we wanted to see.








Over all it was a magical, wonderful time and we cherished every moment (except for the part where we got a tummy bug but nothing in life can ever be perfect).

It was a lovely visit. Hope you've enjoyed the pictures.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Reading Reflections 2017

You know my life is busy when I'm not reading. I have to be super busy not to be able to read. (Or I have to think I'm too busy to read. It's one of the two.) From October - December of 2017 the only thing I managed to read were books aloud to the kids and I was playing major catch up in my Chronological Bible in order to complete reading the Bible though by the end of the year.

You can see my 2017 Reading List here. I link reviews to titles and one thing you'll quickly notice is that while I read a little, I wrote even less. The sad thing to me is that I have a bad memory when it comes to books and writing out my thoughts on them helps to solidify stories and information. For that reason, I am sorry that I dropped book blogging because there is likely much more information lost than in year's past. While I hope to correct that this year, one never knows how life will go! Meanwhile, I thought I'd take a quick moment to record my favorite reads of 2017.

As I mentioned earlier this week, this past fall our family went to Prince Edward Island on vacation and so the large chunk of my 2017 reading was focused on the works of Lucy Maud Montgomery. A huge treat and treasure was picking up a copy of After Many Years: Twenty-One "Long-Lost" Stories by Montgomery. If I had to pick a favorite of my Montgomery-related reads, I'd have to pick this After Many Years because it was fresh, new and therefore especially fun!


As a bonus, I purchased my copy of After Many Years at the site of Maud's Cavendish Home and it is stamped as such.

The book I feel most accomplished for having read (or, uh, finished) was Atlas Shrugged and I made a very short blog post about that! Atlas Shrugged was tremendously fulfilling but a great deal of work! I can honestly say I enjoyed it and that I'm glad to have read it. Also, I'm glad it's over.


I'm still a huge fan of D.E. Stevenson books and still devour everyone that I can lay my hands on. This year I was blessed to read three different titles by this delightful author. If I had to choose a favorite I guess I'd say I most enjoyed Celia's House.


One of the most interesting books I read this past year was most definitely Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies, by J.B. West.


I picked this up during one of Amazon's Deal of the Day offers on the Kindle and I'm SO glad that I did. This title is absolutely fascinating. If you want to get a better picture of what the life of any random First Lady is like, then this is the book for you. West served as Chief Usher at the White House for decades and he recounts his experiences with six of our nation's First Ladies. What I love is that he didn't write this book to "dish" on any one particular First Lady but to explain an institution. It's fabulously well done. Take a trip down memory lane with this one and enjoy the ride!

This past year was probably the year I learned the valuable importance of the read aloud book for me, the mother. If the only book I get to spend time with is the one that I also will be sharing with my kids, I want to make that read aloud a particularly good one! (I can see some of you smiling and nodding your heads even now!) Once upon a time I was browsing the bookshelves at Powell's up in Portland. A dad approached me to ask if I had read the Swallows and Amazons series yet. He raved for a few minutes about how he had read them aloud to his kids and absolutely loved them. His sales pitch sold me and I purchased a couple of the titles.

Fast forward to 2017 and it looked like the reading level would be appropriate for almost all of our kids (ages 3- 11 now!) and so I pulled Swallows and Amazons off the shelf and read it aloud.

And. we. loved. it.


This twelve book series is set in between the World Wars and is set in the Lake District in England. Published in the 1930's, these books were the Harry Potter series of their day and they deserve another go 'round. It follows the adventures of four siblings and their explorations as they sail and camp and make friends with the locals on their holidays. We read the first book and immediately chased that book down with the second, Swallowdale. I loved these books so much that I think I have to declare them my top favorite books read in 2017! They are wonderful! Oh, and the kids liked them too. However, they did request a break before we move onto the third book in the series so I've complied with the request. Just you wait though because the moment I am "allowed" to go back in the world of the Swallows, I'll be there in a heartbeat! Also, I'm pretty sure I want to spend the rest of my life in the Lake District in England.

That pretty much summarizes my reading year. What about yours? If you've written up an end of the year reflection post, I'd love to see it! Leave the link in the comment section and I'll go visitin' my old book blogging buddies and catch up a bit!

Happy New Year to you all! I really have missed you!

Monday, January 08, 2018

Remembering Lucy Maud Montgomery, by Alexandra Heilbron

It's been awhile since I've regularly blogged. Life crept in and we took on some new projects (chiefly, opening up a store in our hometown) and something had to give. That something was blogging. And reading too, to a great extent. I have missed it. I process so much life through and by writing things down and I've missed having the time to be able to document my thoughts and jot things out for myself, let alone for anyone else who might benefit from my bookish thoughts on the side.

I really can't say what 2018 holds (who can?) and I don't know if I'll get to blog very much at all. But I do know that I'd like to try. Someone left a comment for me on last year's L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge post asking if I was going to host for 2018. I love that people care enough about L.M.M. to want to see this happen. If only for the one, I'll keep this reading challenge going.

Although I didn't blog very much (or read very much) in 2017, what I did read and live and breathe for the majority of the year was L.M. Montgomery and her books because dreams do come true: our family took several weeks of vacation on Prince Edward Island this past fall. (I'd like to share some pictures soon so fingers crossed that I'll manage a pictorial post!) In prep for our trip, the kids and I read a lot of Lucy Maud Montgomery. We finished watching the entire Road to Avonlea series as well! (That was a lot of fun.) (Has anyone else missed my side thought parenthesis, by the way?) Due to the fact that I invested much of my reading time in Montgomery books last year, I'm not feeling overly pressed to read too much of her this year as part of this year's reading challenge. I have a bit of a hankering to re-read A Tangled Web for myself, and the kids and I will read some picture books about Montgomery, but as we've been living and breathing her lately I think it's time for us to take a little break and move on to some other authors. That said, I wanted to share a few books of note that I purchased when on the Island, today's book being one of them.

I had not heard of Remembering Lucy Maud Montgomery before our trip but found it sitting on a shelf in a bookshop in downtown Charlottetown. It was patiently waiting for me and I eagerly snatched it up! Alexandra Heilbron gave the world a gift in this book in that she gave us the personal impressions of people who had personal relationships/interactions with Montgomery during her lifetime. Not every person recorded had a great story to share, mind you. School girls who admired Montgomery and were once granted an interview shared their impressions and those are so-so. Don't get me wrong, it's interesting to hear from someone who actually swapped words with my favorite authoress but the more interesting recollections were from maids who worked for the Montgomery family or from her nieces who lived at Park Corner. Some people's stories were long and others short. I won't share any here but will make you read the book to learn for yourself what people said of this famous Islander.

While I can appreciate all of the literary scholars' interpretations of Montgomery's life, I rather thoroughly enjoyed the simple reflections of the "regular Joe" who had some sort of normal, run-of-the-mill story about Montgomery and her day-to-day life. The individual stories recorded in this book made me to feel like I understood Montgomery and her personality almost better than any other work has ever done. It's not that I want to discount the work of the amazing men and women who have worked tirelessly to safeguard Montgomery's works and artifacts from her life! Not in the least! Everyone who loves Maud can contribute something when it comes to carrying on her legacy. But Heilbron hit on something fairly unique and I was just absolutely delighted to have found this book and to have had the chance to read it.

The Amazon paperback price for Remembering Lucy Maud Montgomery is a bit steep, true, but the Kindle price is decent and reasonable. If you're looking for a bargain, check your library or purchase for the Kindle. I, for one, am glad to have this for reference and perusal. It's a treasure and if you can find a copy I highly recommend you give it a read! I can't think but that you'll be glad you did. Thank you, Alexandra Heilbron, for taking the time to collect these stories for all present and future Montgomery fans. It is greatly appreciated!

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge 2018

Do you know what I love? That every year someone contacts me and asks if this reading challenge is still a go? And since I love Montgomery so, the answer is always YES! As long as people want to read more Montgomery and learn more about her, I will continue on with this challenge. This will be the 9th year I've hosted this challenge but the rules never change. The explanation for it remains the same and is below. Hope you'll join in!

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

Hello, my friends! I might be a tad late launching the party but welcome to the Annual Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge held every year in January right here at Reading to Know.

If you are new to this, here is the idea behind the challenge:


Read as much Montgomery as you can during the month of January.

Just that. Pure and simple.

Montgomery is my favorite female author of all time and I love beginning a new year with her quiet, spunky, imaginative characters. Despite the fact that her life was far from serene and perfect, she managed to create characters that have made the world laugh and smile for over 100 years. I take pleasure in her books, despite the fact that they are rather formulaic. I find them to be remarkably peaceful. They are quiet reads which keep a slow and steady pace and which continue to draw me back to them year after year after year. If you have not had the pleasure of reading a L.M. Montgomery book, I hope you'll take the time to do so this month. If you are looking for another excuse to take a leisurely walk around Prince Edward Island with some of your favorite friends, well then, please, let me provide that excuse!

I invite you to read any book by Montgomery or about Montgomery as part of this challenge. Audio books are, of course, very welcome as are the first two Anne movies created and produced by Kevin Sullivan. The only two things which never have and never will "count" towards participating in this challenge are the following:


  • Before Green Gables, by Budge Wilson. This is a made up history of Anne. It's the imaginings of another author about my most beloved Montgomery character.
  • I also do not allow the inclusion of Anne Of Green Gables - The Continuing Story because it's so far off the mark. This movie should be considered Anne heresy and is banned around these parts.


Consider these limitations a host's prerogative if you must. (Heh.)

Everything else is fair game.

What I ask participants in this challenge do is to write up a post on your own blog stating the following:

a.) That you intend to participate in this Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge;
b.) List which of her books you intend to read (or which movies you intend to watch); and
c.) Enjoy whatever it is that you manage to work through during the month.

I do hope you will join in and be a part of this reading challenge. I so enjoy hosting this every year and always try to learn something new about Montgomery as I read on. If you're planning to read along, please let me (and everyone else!) know in the comment section!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

VICTORY IS MINE!!!

I don't want to write a big long blog post about this but I did want to say that three many long years ago Shonya challenged me to read Atlas Shrugged. I meant to do the deed in one year but it has taken three.

But I did it.


I have been asked if I would recommend it to others.

My response goes something like this....

  • It is a classic.
  • It is a work of art.
  • It requires you to think. A lot. Hard. 
  • It is detailed and memorable.
  • It requires something of you.
  • It makes demands.
  • I wouldn't say that it's a Must Read. But I'd give you a round of applause of you went after it.


It's definitely high school reading material (on up) due to some of the content. I wouldn't suggest it to my kids until they were in high school.

I feel I have now earned the right to watch the movie TRILOGY. (There is no way to wrap this book up on a screen an a measly hour and a half!)

Now I'm spinning circles feeling free as a bird wondering what on earth I should read next . . . !

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Learning Contentment, by Nancy Wilson

Although blogging is sporadic, reading is forever.  This and other areas where I need to grow in my ability to be content. (Heh.)

Life is just a busy blur at the moment and blogging is sporadic at best (non-existent at worse). However, I just finished reading Learning Contentment, by Nancy Wilson and there were three quotes which I wanted to mark down in order to reflect upon and to remember. This might not be such a "polished" review as it is a memory bank at the moment. That'll do for the present.

Quote #1:

"Contentment is internal. It is humble. Contentment is submissive to God and thanks Him for all things. Contentment chooses not to fret or fuss or moan or complain and views such things as threats and enemies. This doesn't mean that we quit praying . . . . It means that we are content while we pray. We are satisfied with what God is doing in our lives through the hard circumstances."
(Chapter 8, Some Practical How-Tos)

Being human and possessing a short-sighted view of the history of the universe, it is quite hard not to fret, fuss or moan when I don't believe that things are 'going my way.' Viewing the fretting, etc., as an enemy puts a new spin on those behaviors and challenges me to be more on guard. It's much easier to think that God makes mistakes than it is to accept the fact that I have limitations and can only see fragments of a large puzzle.

Quote #2:

"A godly grief glorifies God. This means we must think about how to grieve in a God-honoring way and keep our hearts from being "troubled." A godly grief does not turn inward. It continues to look up to God and out to its neighbors. Duties are still required in both areas. our grieving must be Christian. It is vastly different from the grief of those who are without hope and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). Our grief must evidence our belief in God Almighty. Maker of heaven and earth. It must be kind.

Often those who are grieving in a godly manner are sources of great comfort to those who come to comfort them. When those who grieve like Christians receive clumsy attempts at comfort from well-meaning friends, they receive it with kindness and grace. But an ungodly, discontented grief shuts people out, has no grace to extend, and can quickly grow into discontent, bitterness, and self-pity. It refuses comfort." (Chapter 10, Contentment in Grief)

Pain comes to all and to each their own. We cannot escape life without having a set of afflictions. The only thing that varies and is questionable is what type of grief you'll be visited with. But rest assured, trials are coming (if they aren't here already). It's so remarkably easy to curl up into a tight fisted little ball and say to those who try to approach us, "You don't understand. You've NO grace for me!" Lately I've come to see that that response is anti-grace. It demands grace without extending it. It is hard to reach a person's heart when they are hollering at you that your words are wrong and your actions are pathetic. A grieving person is a grace-eating machine but with few exceptions seldom recognize that they are not extending it themselves. I include myself in that accusation!

When I read this passage by Wilson I thought, "YES! THIS! This explains how it's supposed to look." We each of us have duties in grief which include working at keeping our heart from being troubled, asking God to reveal His will and direction for our lives, and loving those who approach us with a desire to speak peace. One of these duties does include accepting another's attempts to love, even when they seem childish in their offerings. Godly grief is easier to accomplish in a state of contentment, sure. So I see the importance of 'learning contentment' because grief is a sure thing.

Quote #3:

"Most families with broken relationships are caught up in petty fights over things that were no more important than being late to the dentist. It is here in the daily bumps and provocations that our enemy disturbs our peace and makes war against the unity and fellowship we should enjoy.

But when we see the temptations coming and with God's grace subdue our fleshly impulses, we can cover provocations (and sins) with love. The atmosphere of contentment is spiritually healthy and pleasant. Relationships can flourish." (Chapter 11, Choosing Contentment)

I think this world is full of a spirit of discontentment. Going against that flow and following hard after Christ is a challenge for each and every Christian -- to stand against the tide, go against the grain, and declare that we'll choose something better and something greater. Contentment doesn't come easy but the good things never do. Will any of us ever be perfectly content on this earth? Not likely. But should it be our aim and should we put the work and the effort into striving towards it all the same?

I say yes. Do the hard thing.
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