Tea and a good book
On cold winter days, I tend to do more reading. Nothing better on a snowy afternoon than a cup of tea and a good book. Well, I would prefer chocolate, but I do try to resist temptations that throw my blood sugar into chaos. But, I digress....
Two books have stood out to me recently. So I hope you all don't mind my blog being a book report. The first is titled Awe: Why it matters for everything we think, say and do, by Paul David Tripp. The main idea of this book is actually quite simple: Where, or in whom, we place our awe matters. A lot.
To explain. Here is the big picture view of why awe matters:
1. Awe is everyone's lifelong pursuit. As humans, we are 'hardwired' for awe. We search for things that bring meaning to our lives, that feed our hearts, cause us to wonder, and fill our desires.
2. God created an awesome world. I have been enthralled for the past few weeks by the view I have had of Venus in the early morning skies. Watching the birds at my birdfeeders has brought laughter, wonder and amazement at these small creatures. Even the pattern of barren tree branches in the winter reminds me of lace against a blue (or grey) background. It is an awesome world He made for us to enjoy, whatever the season.
3. God created us with an awe capacity. We have the ability to appreciate the things that
God created, and I think our enjoyment of these things brings glory to God. Our five senses all contribute to our experience of God's created world.
4. Where we look for awe will shape the direction of our lives. Will we live in awe of the material things that we collect as indicators of our success? Where we place our awe will determine how we spend our time and energy and abilities.
5. Awe brings us the greatest joys and deepest sorrows. What brings you the greatest happiness in your life? What angers you or saddens you deeply? What makes you want to persevere, or by contrast, what makes you want to quit? Where we look for awe controls our thoughts and emotions in ways we probably don't realize.
6. Awe placed in the wrong things disappoints. Awesome stuff never satisfies. Which leads to the next point....
7. Every created awe is meant to point us to our Creator. This is where the book is going. When I look at the birds on my feeders, I am meant to look beyond them to the God who created them. When I do that, I am drawn to praise Him for His infinite care for even the smallest of the creatures He made, to wonder at the sheer number of different kinds of birds (why so many kinds of finches, for example?), and to thank Him that I have eyes and ears to enjoy their antics, and material blessings to buy feeders and food for them.
This simple idea - that AWE is meant to point me to God, not to created things, has changed the way I look at my life and the world around me in the past few months. When someone cuts me off in traffic, rather than rant about their horrific driving skills, sometimes (I'm not perfect at this yet!) I am able to look to God and thank Him for protecting me from harm, and to pray for the person in the other car. I have even just thanked Him for keeping me from giving in to anger about it.
I still have a lot to learn about placing my awe in God rather than in anything else, but He is teaching me and showing me step by step how to do this and that it really does draw me closer to Him. It lifts my spirit, increases my love for the Father and deepens my joy in Him. This book is a great way to start the new year with a new perspective. It is not heavy, and his writing style is fairly conversational. But, I think if you let it, you too will find that all too often, your awe is misplaced. Where we place our awe really does matter, for everything we think, say and do.
The second book I am reading and finding both encouraging and challenging has a terrible title: The Afternoon of Life, by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Really, the afternoon of life? Yikes. Makes me feel really old. But it IS written to 'women of a certain age' - specifically, she defines 'afternoon of life' as 41-60. I'm there. Barely, but there. *sigh*
Each season of life brings opportunities and challenges. This is the first book I have read that focuses on this time of our lives when our kids have grown up and (mostly) left the home and we have more time and less energy than in previous years. I love her honesty about the reality of this time of life, but also her encouragement that God still has plenty for us to do and learn from Him. It might be a time for women to change their direction in ministry, or to keep on in the same direction but with a deeper sense of dependence on Him. I'm only about halfway through the book, but already it has encouraged me to learn to accept and embrace this stage of life as a blessing rather than as a deterrent. If you find yourself in the 'afternoon of life', I recommend this book as an inspirational shot in the arm. And if you decide to read it, let me know. I would love to compare notes with you and hear what you are learning!