Hungry for God, Starving for Time

Lori Hatcher has to have one of the best titles ever in her book Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time.

Most of us can identify with what Lori says in her introduction: we don’t always have an hour to spend in the Bible, but “even when we can’t sit down to a five-course feast, even a quick nibble from God’s Word can nourish and sustain us” (p.16).

The devotions in this book each begin with a question to ask God, results of Lori’s own search for answers in the Bible since her early life as a Christian. The responses are designed to take about five minutes to read. They include experiences from Lori’s life and applicable insights from God’s Word.

Some entries are heavier: “The Day the Car Caught Fire” and “When This Sad, Sick World gets You Down.” Some are whimsical: “Bad Hair Days and the Kingdom of God,” “Sometimes I Wake Up Grumpy,” and “Caesar, the 115-Pound Lap Dog.”

One of my favorite chapters was “Distressed or Damaged?” Lori and her daughter were furniture shopping when Lori was amazed at the asking price for a chest of drawers with “dinks, scuffs, and chipped paint.” Her daughter explained that “distressed” furniture was considered highly valuable. Another piece, though, was actually damaged rather than distressed. Lori talks about how we can be distressed–shiny finish worn off, chipped surfaces as a result of encountering life. After discussing a few verses about God’s healing and help, Lori concludes: “God’s care reminds us that distressed and damaged is not discarded and defeated. Perhaps the designers have it right—distressed can be beautiful.” (p. 48).

If you’re eating on the run, it’s important to eat something substantial and healthy. Lori’s devotions are like a spiritual protein bar.

Lori’s not advocating that we never spend more than five minutes a day in the Bible. But on those days when we hardly have time to sit down, we can still have meaningful time in God’s Word.

In my case, our church is reading through Numbers. The book of Numbers has some dramatic moments, but it also has some dryer portions. Most of its chapters are fairly short as well. I enjoyed finishing my devotional time with a section from Lori’s book.

I had heard Lori speak at two of the writer’s conferences I attended, so I was sure I would enjoy her book. You can find her also at her blog, also named Hungry for God, Starving for Time, and her Facebook group by the same name.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Bedside Blessings

Bedside Blessings by Charles R. Swindoll was one of my mother-in-law’s books. I had never read him, but I have heard parts of his sermons on the radio. I decided to go through this book last year.

It’s a small book, 5 1/2 inches by just under 4 1/2 inches. Most pages contain just a paragraph or two from Swindoll and a Bible verse. It takes its theme from Psalm 63:6 (NASB): “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.” It’s just the right size for the nightstand, just the right length for a thought to begin or end the day with (or turn to in the middle of the night.)

Most, if not all, of Swindoll’s writings here seem to come from his other books. Sometimes his sentences didn’t seem to be on the same theme as the verse for the day—maybe they were in their original context. But for the most part, his words go along with the verse in the readings.

A few quotes from the book:

The Word of God doesn’t tell us about the truth; it is the truth. It doesn’t merely contain words about God; it is the Word of God. We don’t have to try real hard to make it relevant; it is relevant. Don’t neglect it. It is the foundation of a stable life. It feeds faith (p. 22).

When I read God’s Word, I don’t find that many stories about great crusades and city-wide revivals and mass meetings where God’s attention rested on an entire country or a whole community. More often, I find individual men and women who made a difference, who set the pace or cut a wide swath or stood in the gap and changed their times. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God’s hand on the lives of individuals who thought and said and did what was right – regardless- and as a result, history was made (p. 186).

When the temptation to worry first arrives, that’s the critical moment. The tendency is to entertain it. To let it onto the front porch and allow it to sit there. But before you know it, worry has crawled in through the window and made itself at home! No, worry must be stopped. We have to decide that we are going to commit this worry to God right now and refuse to entertain it, even on the front porch of our thinking (p. 190).

When preparing for an unprecedented event, wait on the Lord before getting involved. At least as important as the thing we are waiting for is the work God does in us while we wait (p. 208).

If you are blessed with abilities, if you are gifted, if you are used by God, it is easy to start believing your own stuff. Yet one of the marks of a truly mature life is humility of spirit. A truly humble person looks for opportunities to give himself freely to others rather than holding back, to release rather than hoarding, to build up rather than tearing down, to serve rather than being served, to learn from others rather than clamoring for the teaching stand (p. 315).

God’s redemptive providence is always at work, even through the most diabolical schemes and actions. . . .So, take heart, my friend. God is in full control. Nothing is happening on earth that brings a surprise to heaven. Nothing is outside the scope of His divine radar screen as He guides us safely home. Things that seem altogether confusing, without reason, unfair, even wrong, do indeed fit into the Father’s providential plan (p. 332).

All in all, I thought it was a good resource.

(Sharing with Booknificent Thursday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another

Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another was compiled by Donna Kelderman from the writings of “twelve godly women from both Great Britain and America who lived from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries” (from the Preface).

Some of these women’s names are familiar. Susannah Spurgeon was the wife of oft-quoted pastor C. H. Spurgeon and had a thriving writing ministry herself. Frances Ridley Havergal was the author of several hymns we still sing today, like “Take My Life and Let It Be.” Harriet Newell and her husband sailed out with Adoniram and Ann Judson to India as America’s first foreign missionaries, and she died just a year later. Her writing was published posthumously.

I did not know the rest of the ladies, but Donna has a page-long biography of each one at the end of the book. She says in the preface that the ladies came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were married, some were single. Some had children, some did not. Some were widows. Many faced a variety of health issues. Some faced persecution. Some were published authors in their day. Some of the writing is taken from journals or letters.

One thing true of all the women is that their writing is saturated with Scripture. Donna notes that some of the letters and journals were written informally with Scripture, hymns, etc. incorporated from memory without chapter and verse notations. That’s my biggest takeaway from this book: to minister to others spiritually, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with His Word.

I have many places marked, but here are just a few quotes (there are no page numbers, so I’ll note the dates the quotes are from:

Sermons, instruction, and good books are all useful and blessed of God, but do not only be contented with what good men say or write about the Bible. Read it for and apply it to yourselves, seeking the help of the divine Spirit. Thus, draw water for yourselves out of the wells of salvation. Take each of you your own pitcher to the eternal fountain … the “water of life,” which we are to take so “freely,” is far best also at its source. Search the Scriptures, therefore, for yourselves. Despise no helps to understand the Scriptures, but above all read God’s Book quietly and with prayer, and think about it (Elizabeth Julia Hasell, January 28).

Shine on us, shine in us, shine through us—and in such light there will be living warmth (Ruth Bryan, February 28).

To know that He is ours, and that we are His. To draw near in faith telling Him all that is in our hearts, conscious of having the ear and heart of Jehovah toward us. Is this not true substantial happiness? (Mary Winslow, March 16).

May this trial be as a lattice through which Jesus will show Himself to your soul … [Concerning those delivered through the parted sea] It might be that “little faith” looked at the walls of water and feared they would give way, but those fears did not make the promise of no effect, though they might rob the soul of comfort (Ruth Bryan, March 26, emphasis mine).

Many times the Lord has had to disturb our nest and bring us out of some earthly refuge that was becoming too easy and too dear to our soul. But, as music sounds the sweetest when heard across the waters, so do God’s dealings make the purest harmony in our hearts when they reach us over the waves of trial and affliction (Susannah Spurgeon, April 7).

The ground of Paul’s belief was not something, but Someone. Simply, I believe God! This belief, of course, includes all His messages … (Frances Ridley Havergal, May 8).

It is no light matter when He calls the understanding, the will, and the affections each to bring their favorite objects and deliver them up to the fire that must either purify or consume, but this He will do to everyone that He has formed for Himself (Sarah Hawkes, May 9).

Time has not altered Christ’s heart, no, nor all the weaknesses and provocations He has seen in you; but having loved you freely and fully, He will love you eternally (Anne Dutton, May 29).

We often pray, “Lord, increase our faith.” In answering this prayer, the Lord places us in such circumstances as call it forth (Mary Winslow, June 6).

Oh, never shrink from the probing of our beloved Physician. Dearer and dearer will the hand become as we yield to it. Sweeter and sweeter will be the proofs that He is our own faithful Friend, who only wounds that He may perfectly heal (Frances Ridley Havergal, June 13, emphasis mine).

If by many poor attempts I may be used to stir up but one warm loving remembrance of Him, I shall be thankful. Satan is ever striving to divert the mind from this object. He will allure or alarm, he will use what is pleasing or painful, anything to keep the soul from delighting in Jesus, from looking unto Jesus, and believing in Him for life and salvation (Ruth Bryan, July 16, emphasis mine).

The soul that has learned the blessed secret of seeing God’s hand in all that concerns it cannot be a prey to fear; it looks beyond all second causes straight into the heart and will of God and rests content because He rules (Susannah Spurgeon, August 3).

I cannot tell you how sad it is to my heart when I find this savor lacking in some who have been long in the Lord’s ways, and active in serving Him too. They are cumbered with many things, and too little alone with Jesus, without which we shall become like salt which has lost its savor. It matters not what great works there be if the spice of love be lacking (Ruth Bryan, October 23).

Religion composed of mere desires will not do for a dying bed (Mary Winslow, October 27).

The spiritual sloth that arises from indifference and the spiritual debility that arises from unbelief are equally dangerous to the soul (Susan Huntington, November 6).

Like as the natural sun may be obscured from our view by some passing cloud, so may the comforting rays of the Sun of righteousness be for a time obscured by some mental cloud through which our faith is unable to penetrate. And then we soon begin to fear and say, “My beloved has withdrawn Himself!” To the law and to the testimony, therefore, we will turn rather than to sense and feeling, and, under the darkest cloud, rest upon His blessed word of promise—”I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” It is in order to produce, or rather to exercise, this stability of faith that we are suffered sometimes to walk in darkness. Every true Christian has his winter and summer seasons. It is only in that blessed country, toward which we are hastening, that there is one unclouded day (Sarah Hawkes, November 12, emphasis mine).

Praise has the power to lift the soul above all care as if on wings (Susannah Spurgeon, November 25).

There is no true separation from the things which Jesus calls us to leave without a corresponding separation unto things which are incomparably better (Frances Ridley Havergal, November 26).

Donna said that she “lightly updated” the language from the originals. I looked up the original sources of some of these in order to quote them, and that made me immensely appreciate Donna’s editing. In just a few places, the language is still a little hard to plow through, but it’s not insurmountable.

My one slight disappointment is that, this being a book by women for women, there were hardly any passages pertaining specifically to women. I believe women’s books shouldn’t just focus on what are called the “pink passages” of the Bible relating to women. We should read and study the whole counsel of God: all of it speaks to us. But since it does contain some special passages for women, it would have been nice to have  little Titus 2 teaching.

Nevertheless, in encouraging a close walk with God, diligent study of His Word, faith in Him through every circumstance, and vigilant combat against sin, this book will touch all areas of life. This is a book I can highly recommend.

(Sharing with Booknificent, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: A Spectacle of Glory

I don’t usually do book reviews on Sunday, but I wanted to get this in before the end of the year for those who are considering a devotional book for next year.

SpectacleJoni Eareckson Tada explains that the title for A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining Through Me Every Day comes from a quote of John Newton’s:

Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’ The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.

Joni, as most of you know, broke her neck in a diving accident in her teens and has been in a wheelchair the 51 years since. In addition she’s had breast cancer, chronic pain, and has recently been diagnosed with a second bout of cancer. So she knows about suffering, and she has spent many years seeking God’s grace and purposes through them. The book is not exclusively about suffering, but many of the entries do deal with that and related subjects.

The pages are small, about 4×6″. Each day’s reading takes just one page and includes a Bible verse, a couple of paragraphs of Joni’s related thoughts, and a prayer at the end. So this book is easily readable through the year and tremendously meaty.

I have many more places marked than I can possibly share, but here are just a few samples:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” When you are in trouble, God doesn’t just send help; He is your help. And this help is ever-present. God is closer than your troubles and stronger than all your fears. Fix your thoughts on Him, and He will sustain you (p. 28).

When God gives you some extraordinary blessing, don’t clutch it with a white-knuckled grip, or you may destroy the very thing that makes it a blessing to you…Be willing to let the blessings go, should God choose to take them away. One day He will return what He has removed–or replace it with something better (p. 47).

Show people how someone changed by the gospel actually responds to the rough edges of life (p. 110).

It takes spiritual discipline, as well as consuming adoration for the Savior, to not become weighed down and distracted by the hard work of energetic service. Don’t shrink from serving the Lord today; just be certain to keep Jesus and His glory as your goal (p. 114).

Lord, You have never asked me to go where You haven’t gone Yourself. If I find myself on a path of pain or sorrow, I can see Your footprints ahead of me. And I know where this path leads–to joy! Just around the bend, all of the suffering will be over forever–little more than a dim memory on a fresh, eternal morning (p. 135).

If these are mere flashes and keyhole glances of heaven, what will the reality be? Every earthly beauty that moves your heart is a God-sent gift to whet your appetite for the next life (p. 314).

The robust hope of the believer is not that we will escape hurts and sorrows, but that God will make every one of them an instrument of His mercy to do us good–both now and in eternity (p. 168).

Don’t ever tolerate low thoughts of a barely adequate, minimalist Savior who might “keep you going” but not much more. Jesus has riches to bestow on you right now. He will not only give you heaven above, but heaven-hearted joy in serving Him here on earth (p. 242).

Some of Joni’s thoughts spurred my own into posts here:

Why Isn’t God Winning?

Dark Valleys and Fiery Furnaces

Don’t Plug In: Abide

I can heartily recommend this devotional book to you.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Semicolon’s Saturday Review of Books, and Carole’s Books You Loved)