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Friday, January 30, 2015

"Jesus Without Borders: What Planes, Trains, and Rickshaws Taught Me About Jesus" by Chad Gibbs

Growing up in Alabama, USA, Chad Gibbs lived the fairly typical Christian life of anyone in the Bible Belt.  When you live in a place where there is a church on every corner and even finding a Catholic person in the neighbourhood can be difficult, it’s easy to assume that Christianity is the same every where else.

But as Gibbs began to travel outside his home state, he began to see that there are a wide variety of people and practices in this far-reaching religion.  And he decided that it was time for him to step out of his comfortable existence and explore what it is like to be a Christian in all corners of the earth.

So he set off travelling around the world, from Brazil to China and everywhere in between, to meet with Christians and visit churches, and find out what influences their faith, what is different about their practices, and if at the end of the day are we are who we are because of our faith or our culture or both?

Jesus Without Borders: What Planes, Trains, and Rickshaws Taught Me about Jesus is a chronicling of Chad Gibbs' travels to find out what life is like for believers around the world.

I found the premise of this book very interesting, especially because my life as a Christian is very different from that of Gibbs, even though we live in two similar countries.  My faith has been influenced by that of my European parents and my Caribbean husband, while also living in a city made up every faith on the planet.  I love learning about the different ways we share this earth and think it’s a great idea to learn about the different ways we share our faith.

Gibbs writes with great honesty and humour and that makes this an enjoyable book.  I was very impressed at the way he talked about his preconceptions, even if they were very silly and sometimes bordering on a bit offensive.  He’s very open about misconceptions that Americans can have and the way some view themselves compared to the rest of the world.  And he’s very real about how these ideas were challenged while on his trip and how he began to look at American Christianity in a different light.

There were a few things that I wish were different about the book.  I understand that the scope of the book and what it is taking on is very difficult, but I would have liked to see a bit more depth to it.  At many times it felt more like a travelogue with a bit of religion thrown in along the way.  I also had hoped to see more of a variety of countries - the Western European countries tended to be the same in terms of religion and there wasn’t much to add about the way Christianity is practiced.  His visits to Turkey and India were fascinating because these are areas where Christians make up a small minority population.  I was expecting more of that in this book.  

For people who are interested in Christianity around the world and the different ways in which it is practiced, this is a good place to start, but by no means the only read (though Gibbs is very open about the book being that way.)  Many of Gibbs’ insights and observations made me laugh, and this was an enjoyable and easy book to get through.  It will definitely make people think about how different our faith is practiced around the world and the ways that God is working in the midst of Christians everywhere.  


Quotes

"I'm just saying we make up a very small part of Christianity, and while there are things other denominations can learn from us, there are also things we can learn from them." (e-book, Loc. 831)

"We're not always best at diagnosing our own problems, but spending time with Christians in other cultures, and even Americans living overseas, really helped me identify the biggest stumbling blocks to my faith." (Loc. 2952)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Words to Calm

Source: Tumblr

I needed this verse over this week.  When things go crazy, when my anxiety ramps up, this is what I repeat over and over in my head and it calms me down.

Monday, January 26, 2015

On Modesty

For a while now, modesty is one word that has been placed on my heart.  I think it is partly because I live in an area where the majority of people follow a religion in which modest dress is an expectation and is thus, very noticeable.  When I contrast the people in my neighbourhood with what I see in the media, I wonder “where do I fit in? What is modesty for me?”  

Modesty isn’t just about the clothes we wear, it’s also about how we speak and how we carry ourselves.  But our apparel is usually the first thing people notice about us.  And in today’s era of crop tops and mini-skirts, one can wonder just how important modesty is to young women.

While there are no specific admonitions about how women should dress in the BIble, Paul does touch on the subject of modesty for women.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array - 1 Timothy 2:9

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel - 1 Peter 3:3

There are different ways that these verses are interpreted.  One is the idea that they are explicit in what women shouldn’t wear (no gold! no pearls!), another is that here Paul isn’t concerned about what we wear but how we carry ourselves.  For me, I find both in these verses.  

It is important to note that at the time, there was a focus on extravagant dress in the larger society.  This was something that Paul did not want to see carried over into the church.  Braiding of hair, gold jewellery, fancy clothes were like our crop tops and miniskirts.  Paul is talking about the apparel of women being different from that in society.  When our focus is on the extravagance of our clothing, our best ornament - our faith - is not being displayed.  When we wear items that are characteristic of the world, we can be confused with those in the world when we should be set apart from them. Paul wants women to take care that their dress matches up with their profession of faith, and that holds true today.  

It would be nice if people didn’t judge each other by what they wear, but it happens.  In our world, people make assumptions on what kind of person you are based on how you present yourself.  Think about witnessing to someone not of the faith.  Will your words have a good impact if your outward appearance places an emphasis on your clothes or your body?


Just as with our behaviour and our language, it’s important that our manner of dress is modest.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear nice clothes, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care with your appearance.  It’s not an edict to cover yourself from head to toe in drab fabrics.  It's about matching our appearance to our faith, it's about sharing our values in all that we do.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sing to the Lord

Source: Spoken.ly

The Lord has been good to me and I love to sing to Him.  My go-to songs?

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) - Hillsong United
He Wants It All - Forever Jones
Forever - Kari Jobe
Hello, My Name Is - Matthew West

What are your songs when you want to sing to the Lord?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dealing with Anxiety

Source: Pinterest

As I mentioned in my testimony, I have been dealing with anxiety for the past few years. It started with panic attacks that spiralled into depression.  

How did I deal with it all?  I’d like to say that I did it all myself, that it was my faith that put an end to it but I can’t say that.  For one year I took medication, an SSRI that took away the depression and the panic attacks.  But in my hardest and darkest moments, it was my faith that kept me going.

At nights, when I was dealing with insomnia, I would pray and sing worship songs.  Shout to the Lord and Awesome God were songs that I would sing over and over.  During the days, when I didn’t want to leave my bed, God’s Word kept me going.  Once the medication got me balanced and back to normal, I found myself with a renewed spirit and commitment to God.

I still have moments of anxiety, where my heart to starts to beat a little faster and my head starts to whirl.  But the first thing I do is turn to God and He calms me down.  The Bible speaks so much about the peace that Jesus brings to us.  If you struggle with anxiety or worry, here are verses that it would be worthwhile to commit to memory.

Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Matthew 6:33-34

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:6-7

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. - Psalm 55:22

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. - Matthew 11:28-30

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. - Philippians 4:13

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world. - John 16:33

More Tips for Dealing with Anxiety

Take Your Vitamins - A B Complex Vitamin is amazing for stress and anxiety.  It gives a great boost energy through the day so I recommend taking it in the morning or just before the time you find you usually start to feel tired. Vitamin D is a fantastic vitamin for your immune system and overall health. Lots of us are deficient so a supplement gives a good boost in addition to what we get from the sun.  

Get a Good Nights Sleep - it can be hard to get the needed 8 hours so make the most of what you can get. Wear a sleep mask to block out any light, drink camomile tea before bed, wind down at night by reading instead of watching a screen, do some relaxing stretches before bed, and keep something lavender scented in your room. I've learned that often when I think I'm feeling anxious, it's because I haven't gotten enough sleep.

Go Out Into the Sun - the sun is a fantastic mood and immunity booster.  The best time of day to do so is in the first morning sun, between 6am and 10am.  If you can, go for a walk in these hours.  Get a sun lamp for the winters if you live somewhere that it seems like the sun disappears from for half the year.

Keep a Journal - write down when you have troubles with anxiety, see if you can identify a pattern.  This will help you deal with it and take steps to prevent it.  Also, keep track of your blessings and your gratitude.  Be sure to focus on what is going right as well.


Talk About It - I kept my anxiety hidden for a long time. When I finally did talk about it, I found out that my mother has it as well.  And my sister mentioned that she has had a few moments of it as well.  Lots of people don’t talk about it, but if you do, you’ll probably find others dealing with it as well.  It will help to know someone who is going through it as well and give you guidance.

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Hitting the Right Note" by Rhonda Bowen

JJ Isaacs has always dreamed of becoming a star and now, as she goes out on tour as a back-up singer for R&B superstar Deacon Hill, her dream just might come true.  Deacon sees JJ’s potential, and so does Rayshawn, JJ’s manager and producer - and secret boyfriend.  But the more success she finds on stage, the harder it becomes for her to stay true to her faith.

While JJ is on tour, her sister-in-law Sheree is struggling through a difficult pregnancy back in Toronto.  But she knows that she can count on doctor Simon Massri to take good care of Sheree.  What JJ doesn’t expect is that she’ll soon find Simon taking care of her.  As JJ struggles to deal with her feelings for Simon, her flailing faith, and her impending stardom, she finds herself having to make a tough decision - love or career?

Hitting the Right Note is Rhonda Bowen’s fourth novel and it is a lovely, Christian novel that will strike the right chord with readers of faith.

This novel follows-up Bowen’s third novel, Get You Good, but this time follows different characters.  I really enjoy novels that follow the same set of characters but focuses on different ones in each book and I’m glad that Bowen did that this time around.  There are more sisters in the family, hopefully that means there will be more books! If you haven't read the first novel, it doesn't matter, this book can be read first.

The character JJ is a woman who has lost her way.  She comes from a tight-knit family, a large group of sisters who depend on their faith and each other to guide their way through life.  But her dream of becoming a star takes her away from all of that and drops her into a new world where it seems that no one shares her background or values.  You don’t need to become a superstar to find yourself in this situation.  Most people go through a point in their lives where they find themselves in a place that puts their values to the test.  This is one of those books that will have you thinking “what would I do” the whole way through. What would you sacrifice to make your dreams come true?

I think we have all been at a place where our faith is tested.  The idea of living in the world but not of it is much easier said than done.  Sometimes our place in the world comes up against our faith and we find ourselves seriously tested.  This may be a fiction book but there is a lot of good advice in the book.


Ms. Bowen writes with ease and warmth which makes reading this novel a joy.  Though you pretty much know which way the novel is going to end, getting there is full of twists and turns that will have you pulling for the characters.  Bowen has hit the mark with another great novel about faith, family, and love.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chosen by Him


In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. - Ephesians 1:11-12