Book Review: One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church

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I received a copy of One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church by Gina Dalfonzo.

Gina Dalfonzo approaches a highly important topic in today’s culture in her new book One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church. As a single adult, Dalfonzo has spent numerous years observing and experiencing the church’s approach to its single members. As a young adult single, I could relate to most of what she said. Dalfonzo tackles her topic from numerous angles, ranging from sharing singles’ feelings of being left out of a generally family oriented culture to suggesting how the church might incorporate singles into ministry.

At first I disliked the way she shared so many paragraphs of examples taken from her surveys of singles. I didn’t want to read a bunch of seemingly unconnected, brief notes from numerous people. It also didn’t seem like they were incorporated in the expected manner (an introduction to the person and the quote), but after a while I grew to appreciate the thoughts of so many singles. I found they didn’t necessitate high credentials to represent the plight of everyday people found in every church. It kept it on a realistic level, allowing me to continue to find myself amongst those singles.

Overall, the points made stayed spot on. Dalfonzo captured the negative feelings a lot of singles have felt as an unintentional effect of how some people approach them (even with good intentions) and how the church steers their belonging in groups and ministry. It brought to light a lot of disappointment and how people can unintentionally compound the pain of searching for a mate. Hopefully it helps people see how to better approach how they “help” singles in their quest for a mate and how they understand their unique set of difficulties. For example, Dalfonzo points out how many married folks may quickly think to themselves that a single doesn’t know the true meaning of busyness since they don’t have kids, etc; however, as Dalfonzo points out, married people might forget that a single person still has a household with an equal amount of chores that they must do alone since they don’t have a mate to assist with the work. Most importantly, she shares that people tend to forget that finding a mate isn’t as simple as believing in God and creating an online dating profile.

Dalfonzo highlights the plight of the often overlooked singles in the church, but she also points out positive ways the church has viewed singles. She goes further to suggest ways to deepen their involvement in the church, thus keeping them strong in their faith as they wait for a mate and as they serve in the church. As she points out, a single person can balance out perspectives and have a lot to offer the church in ministry.

I enjoyed this book, and it gave me hope as a single person seeking deeper involvement and community in church. I could see this benefitting anyone in the church as it shares an understanding of the experience of the single person and how the singles and married folks can contribute to a community incorporating singles.

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Book Review: Real Love In An Angry World

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I received a copy of Real Love In An Angry World: How To Stick To Your Convictions Without Alienating People by Rick Bezet in exchange for a review.

This book seems fitting for today’s society where so many opinions get tossed around on a daily basis. Without fail, these topics enter into our everyday discussions, potentially leaving us wondering how to share appropriately differing viewpoints. Overall, Bezet focuses on staying rooted in the Word and faith. From there we can ensure what we say flows from a godly perspective rather than from our personal feelings.

As an example of these roots, Bezet illustrates the story of Moses and the Israelites fleeing Egypt. He reminds us how daily they had to collect their bread in the form of manna. We too have to collect our physical bread and Word bread from Jesus, again on a daily basis. This shapes our minds and hearts and allows us to share love as we reflect and grow.

Bezet maintains a casual style, which I mostly enjoy. He comes across as someone having a conversation with you, a fitting approach for the topic. However, a couple of the jokes distract me from the professional tone a book still should uphold. The book overall makes the information accessible and easily applicable.

I have enjoyed this book and may revisit points again in the future. The point to stay rooted in daily scripture serves as an important reminder. I also want to reflect how I talk to people and ensure that I maintain approachability, compassion and understanding in my encounters and discussions with people.

Simple Joys on a Simple Fall Sunday

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I’ve been going through She’s Still There by Chrystal Evans Hurst as part of an online bible study. Each time I sit down with that book, I realize I like her and her  insight even more (today I also listened to her talk about cultivating, curating and creating content for writing). As part of my devotion time today, I reflected on some questions at the end of chapter 12. The first question got the thoughts stirring about simple joys. Sunday feels like a great day to contemplate the little details that my senses can enjoy on this day of rest as well as every other day.
First I made a list of things that I can engage with my senses that make me smile. Considering just today, I came up with:
crisp, cool air: I missed fall last year since I was in Houston (yes, Houstonians, it truly does exist outside the magazines and movies), and I daydreamed about sweaters by late spring, which probably didn’t help me feel any cooler in that hellish Houston heat. This year, I bask in the cool air again and feel especially thankful for it. Especially this weekend as the cold has finally set in, it feels good to be cold again.
colorful leaves on the trees: This falls into the category I started above. Again, I didn’t witness fall last year, and that included the beauty of the trees changing colors. They truly do hold a beauty all their own, and the cool air only adds to the wonder of fall.
the yellow mums sitting on my desk on a plate with sea shells I gathered with my best friend Katrina in Galveston during her visit: Yellow is a joyful color, and flowers always add beauty to a room. The shells add another positive aspect with their memory association; they even come from a memory of a sunny day (probably the only time I enjoyed being outside in Texas…the ocean air made a tremendous difference).
music on my iPod: “Believe” by Hanson was playing as I made my list. My iPod contains a lot of music, and they reflect a lot of memories and emotions. It helps to hear expressions of feelings to which I can relate. Oftentimes, music gives words to what’s on my mind, and it keeps me from going too deeply into my head. It also reminds me that I’m not alone in my experiences.
candy corn pumpkins: My severe allergies have made it difficult for me to find my favorite Halloween candy for years. Persistence pays off though because after checking labels for years knowing each time I would most likely find the bags were possibly contaminated from my allergens in the factories, I finally found some safe candy corn pumpkins! Let’s just say I bought a few bags. Tonight I can enjoy them during my Sunday Ritual. After I paint my nails I can do Halloween weekend my style and watch Stranger Things while I eat pumpkins.
aromatherapy pillow mist on my pillow: I rested my eyes earlier and enjoyed the mist on my pillow. I thought aromatherapy from essential oils sounded hoaky when I first heard about it, but I reconsidered after I saw that Mayo Clinic agreed it could possibly help (any small improvement in mood is worthwhile). Last year I received a diffuser and essential oils and started using it. I enjoyed the different scents and how they seem to relax or lift my mind a little. This afternoon I rested as I inhaled the scent of eucalyptus and tea.
I agree with Chrystal Evans Hurst that simple joys matter. I’m glad that I took the time to fill in my blessings journal throughout the day today and that I took the time to do her reflection questions. It continued to serve as a starting point on staying positive and being open to God’s involvement and guidance in my life.

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17

This Is Us: “Deja Vu” Invites Pain to Experience Healing

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The third episode on this season’s This Is Us invites viewers to experience “Deja Vu” of their own past pain. Each one of the Big Three experiences a new layer of the loss of their dad as they embark on new parts of the personal journeys. Though the tragedy happened while they were teens, they still feel the pain. As Sylvester Stallone (playing himself) wisely points out, “There is no such thing as a long time ago. There’s only memories that mean something and those that don’t.” While Randall and Beth’s new foster child clearly shows signs of pain in her not so distant past, a lot of pain lurks below the surface where others can’t see easily. In all cases, we see a need to face the grief (or pain) and that it requires talking about it.

Jack continues to fight his alcohol related problems, which in the previous episode we see him literally fight at a boxing club, and he points out how going through AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and talking about his issues prove difficult for him. He knows his wife Rebecca stands by him and wants to partake in his recovery, yet he finds it hard to share his pain with her. Grown Kate and Kevin have an argument over neither one having talked about their dad’s death since they were teenagers. Kate, Kevin and Jack all take the first step of facing their grief and reaching the relief on the other side by recognizing they need to discuss their pain. Kate tells Kevin that she saw a counselor at her weight camp, and there she learned that she couldn’t talk about her father’s death. She now sees that not doing so is “like taking in a breath and holding it for the rest of your life.” By the end of the episode, she and Kevin make up, knowing they need to talk through their grief. Jack shares a similar conversation with Rebecca. We see him struggle to tell her what he experiences going through the AA program, but he finds the words to say that he struggles with it and that he wants to keep telling her and will over time. All the Pearsons exemplify how the healing and recovery processes are a journey and take time.

Meanwhile, Randall’s household grows both in number of occupants as well as in experienced pain as his family welcomes a teen foster child. During her first night, she has an argument with Beth, and we witness her flinch when Randall appears in the doorway to check on them. We don’t know her past yet that might have caused such a reaction, but it becomes clear that her history involves pain (and highly likely abuse). In her case it seems obvious due to the severity of her reaction to Randall, but those roots of pain don’t show themselves so obviously in everyone. Again, we see issues taking root from childhood. Like the Pearsons, she took on some pain and coping mechanisms at a young age. She too will have to undergo a healing process, hopefully with the Pearson family by her side.

One key aspect all these characters have in common in their childhood homes with Pearson parents is their known safety. Also, despite the circumstances, they clearly know their parental figures love them. Even those enduring healing and recovery find love, security and hope through their connections to each other. Jack finds the courage to stand by Rebecca and finish their date night with added intimacy after he shares his struggle with her, Kevin calls Kate to make up (she easily agrees) after their “twin fight” and admits he needs to talk about their dad, and Deja illustrates her high need to recognize her pain and need to heal when she slams down Randall’s family photo as she storms out of the living room.  The family members stand by each other.

As AA (or Celebrate Recovery) would point out, the first step to recovery is admission of the need for healing. These characters show how that helps them move forward. They also show that a long time ago does not guarantee healing. Not all may flinch like Deja does, but they show a need to face their grief and pain. Jack perfectly captures that struggle as he shares his difficulty in talking about his struggle. People commonly have a hard time confessing their pan to others. The Pearsons show the importance of holding onto their support system and persistently pursuing the next step on the healing and recovery journey.

The Breaker Anointing: Book Review

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I received a copy of The Breaker Anointing: How God Breaks Open the Way to Victory by Barbara J. Yoder in exchange for an honest review.

Yoder’s book highlights an important message: God will break through to deliver us. God breaks through to do this on numerous levels. These range from bringing us healing to getting us to a point where we can fulfill the purpose for which He created us. As Yoder points out, we can see examples of this throughout history. He did it for Moses, and He does it for us. However, I would have enjoyed a little more descriptive depth to connect to these illustrations on a more personal level. Yoder describes truth but doesn’t paint an emotional picture like most Christian living books tend to do. She does know her message though, and she makes her point with scripture and experience to back it up.

This Is Us: Family Ties Are “A Manny-Splendored Thing”

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This weekend I’m catching up on NBC’s hit tearjerker This Is Us, and the second episode doesn’t disappoint. Filled with touching moments, especially between characters who haven’t been as close previously, it captures the difficulty and depth of developing a family. Randall and Beth further contemplate fostering a child. Through Randall’s doubt and Beth’s persistence in their discussions, they demonstrate the uncertainty in family connections and the communication necessary to develop those connections. They show triumph over uncertainty and difficulty to connect leads to the development of strong family ties.

Randall knows firsthand what it feels like to struggle through childhood. As the adopted child of the Big Three triplets and only one of a different race, he knows how easy it can be to feel separated. He also has witnessed the effects of parents’ problems on children; his adoptive father Jack struggled with a drinking problem passed down from Jack’s father, a problem that stirs conflict within Jack and Rebecca’s marriage and family, and, his biological father struggled with drug problems and ultimately died from cancer. Randall understandably fears not feeling equipped to deal with a foster child who may have been abused in some way (Beth at first guesses he feels nervous about answering the question about his family history of alcoholism and drugs). As Beth points out, they didn’t know what they would get when they had their two daughters.

Their discussion and their potential to know beforehand whether a child would have the difficulties of healing from abuse or difficult medical histories intrigued me. As Bev points out, people generally don’t know what problems may arise related to their children or their preparedness to parent. Life, and families in particular, face a lot of uncertainty. Yet Randall’s life proves that the uncertainty and challenges can be overcome. Perhaps some of Randall’s perfectionism and hard work ethic stem from a desire to prove himself worthy. It also fuels him to work to stay connected with his family despite the difficulties. Ultimately, in this episode, we see how Beth’s insistence to continue their discussion until completion of the foster care questionnaire demonstrates how communication can further deepen and develop family connections. She does not let Randall give up, and together they progress their goal to broaden their family.

Beth’s story arc in this episode also shows how connections can develop even where they don’t have much depth already. She informs Randall that she does not find his brother Kevin funny and that she does not care to watch the recording of Kevin’s show The Manny. Kevin knows their relationship does not go deep, but he still seizes his chance to be there for her and his brother. Beth finds herself in Kevin’s room backstage and shares her frustration with Randall. Rather than remove himself to give Beth space, Kevin chooses to stay and communicate. As she divulges their plans to adopt, Kevin sees Beth’s need for understanding and connects with her through a humorous background story Beth didn’t previously realize connected them. It serves as a point for them to start deepening their friendship as well as encouragement for Beth to not get discouraged in her journey with Randall to become foster parents.

As usual, this episode makes me tear up at the touching depth to these characters and their situations. They remind me that with effort and communication we can all develop deeper connections with family. Their strength does not come without difficulty. Opportunities always exist to connect as well, whether they be with family members who have been around for years or with ones who may not have joined yet. Like Randall and Beth, we should not let fear of uncertainty steer us away from developing those ties.

Book Review: The Perfect You

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I received a copy of Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book The Perfect You: A Blueprint for Identity in exchange for an honest review.

This selection reads like an easily accessible textbook. While that may conjure an image of a boring book, it provides a lot of insight. The idea of understanding how your thoughts work and how you can shape them to improve your life gives you not only knowledge but hope. As Leaf explains, a lot of people feel stuck in their negative thought patterns, and she shares understanding and guidance to alter those for the better.

Leaf divides the book into sections, separating the parts that explain how the thought processes work and the biblical bases she uses with the assessment tool and explanations on how to apply it. The flow generally made sense as it gave a foundation for the information so you could have a strong base to use the assessment rather than simply take the assessment and have no background for it. I preferred the first two sections most as they provided all the information. However, the assessment could be used as a workbook for further reflection. I would like to spend more time on nit to use it as an ongoing source of encouragement and growth. The assessment has a lot of questions and depth to it, so it seems like this can be used over a lengthy time for best results.

I enjoyed the book overall, both for its insight as well as its tools for improvement. Leaf knows her brain as well as her bible. I particularly liked how she ties them together. She makes the information accessible and relatable to real life by pointing out how people feel when they do good and how we tend to steer our thoughts. Then she anchors the hope for improvement using biblical principles on how God created us and continues to shape us.

 

“But, as I have emphasized throughout this book, you do not have to let your thoughts control you. You are not a victim of your thoughts and their biology; you are a victor over them. This means you can change these thoughts! You may have been nursing these negative mindsets for so long that they are so familiar to you that you think they are normal. This mistake is often made. However, only the thoughts formed when you are in your Perfect You, from God’s perspective, are normal, while the rest need redesigning or, to use the scientific term, reconceptualization. You can analyze your thoughts and, because of the neuroplasticity of the brain, redesign and rewire them. This is ‘renewing the mind’ in action, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit it is an essential part of a healthy, good life. Indeed, it is grace meeting science, since research shows that conscious awareness of thoughts makes the thoughts amenable to change because they are physically weakened!” (page 257)

Our Time, Our Days

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just as I was leaving

you found me again

now we’re right back

onto that same track

 

you make me want to stay

you make me want to go

wherever you decide now

I’ll figure out how

 

each with a foot out the door

we found an anchor of hope

like a welcoming homecoming

a reminder of becoming

 

when we lost touch then

we lost our way to stay

yet here at a crossroads now

we have place to share our odes

 

you kept in my time

feelings ticking on your wrist

a subtle reminder of me

and what we may not see to be

 

while I tucked away mine

let the hands fall still

waiting for a chance to tick

yet on your day it’d stick

 

 

 

 

because once we reached

our time coincided

the days the same

despite what the calendar said

 

 

July 20, 2017

 

Craving Higher Hopes

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no money, no rent

no way to meet ends

yet you daydream away

hoping somebody else tends

 

a day laid in bed

a blanket blocking out

no light streaming in

inspiration to move about

 

until I’m invited again

a smile lift lips

as you start to arise

head resting on my hips

 

my lap brings comfort

the presence you need

to embrace the real you

as that desire you feed

 

a connecting you bring

to go deeper you crave

what you hold dearly

you still can save

 

 

July 20, 2017

Chester Bennington

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listening back now

seems so hard to miss

that deep felt desire

for life more than this

 

so how did we not

see that darkness filling

what light was left

as hope went spilling

 

radio plays nonstop

an endless tribute stream

what now seems proof

in that musical scream

 

let us not forget

the reality of those songs

as hopelessness expresses

it feels it belongs

 

success matters not

when the mind does miss

a light, a hope, a faith

to make life worth this