Category Archives: For the Love of Books

Singing in the Fire

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As previously mentioned, Susannah Spurgeon is my new bff. 

Here’s a snippet from her biography Free Grace and Dying Love (which I cannot recommend more highly). It’s long but one of the most encouraging things I’ve ever read. Wherever you are and whatever season you’re in, I hope it ministers to you too.

At the close of a very dark and gloomy day I lay resting on my couch as the deeper night drew on, and though all was bright within my cosy little room, some of the external darkness seemed to have entered into my soul and obscured its spiritual vision. Vainly I tried to see the hand which I knew held mine and guided my fog-enveloped feet along a steep and slippery path of suffering. In sorrow of heart I asked, ‘Why does my Lord thus deal with His child? Why does He so often send sharp and bitter pain to visit me? Why does He permit lingering weakness to hinder the sweet service I long to render to His poor servants?’ These fretful questions were quickly answered, and though in a strange language, no interpreter was needed for the conscious whisper of my own heart.

For a while silence reigned in the little room, broken only by the crackling of an oak log burning on the hearth. Suddenly I heard a sweet, soft sound, a little, clear, musical note, like the tender trill of a robin beneath my window. ‘What can it be?’ I said to my companion, who was dozing in the firelight; ‘surely no bird can be singing out there at this time of the year and night!’ We listened, and again heard the faint plaintive notes, so sweet, so melodious, yet mysterious enough to provoke for a moment our undisguised wonder. Presently my friend exclaimed, ‘It comes from the log on the fire!!’ and we soon ascertained that her surprised assertion was correct. The fire was letting loose the imprisoned music from the old oak’s inmost heart. Perchance he had garnered up this song in the days when all went well with him, when birds twittered merrily on his branches, and the soft sunlight flecked his tender leaves with gold; but he had grown old since then and hardened; ring after ring of knotty growth had sealed up the long-forgotten melody until the fierce tongues of the flames came to consume his callousness and the vehement heat of the fire wrung from him at once a song and a sacrifice.

Oh! thought I, when the fire of affliction draws songs of praise from us, then indeed are we purified and our God is glorified! Perhaps some of us are like this old oak log–cold, hard and insensible; we should give forth no melodious sounds were it not for the fire which kindles round us, and releases tender notes of trust in Him, and cheerful compliance with His will. As I mused the fire burned and my soul found sweet comfort in the parable so strangely set before me. Singing in the fire! Yes, God helping us if that is the only way to get harmony out of these hard, apathetic hearts, let the furnace be heated seven times hotter than before.

-Susannah Spurgeon

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January Reads

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Books are an escape, therapy, and education for me.

And January was apparently the month for escape, therapy, and education. I’ve never read as much in 31 days as those that have just passed. We had a small blizzard over one weekend that canceled all plans and I read 7.5 books in three days. What. Is that insane? Yes. The answer is a firm yes.

Here’s my list (in no particular order).

I would love to hear what you’ve been reading!

“We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure time, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, ‘Bring the books’ — join in the cry.” -Charles Spurgeon

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2017 Reads

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I love to read. 

And this year reading was a challenge.

It was hard to focus and get sucked into the pages because, for the first time in my life, I liked what was happening in my own life better than what was happening in the world of books.

Who knew that was possible?

Instead of spending every free second reading about other people living their lives, I was actually living mine. And it was wonderful and hard and beautiful and excruciating, and I would choose every second all over again to see God the way I do today and to get to know and love (and be known and loved by) the extraordinary people in my life.

Anyway, here are the books I did read. (And, minus the top five, these are in no order whatsoever).

“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
-J.K. Rowling

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A Thanksgiving Prayer from Valley of Vision

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O Source of all good,

What shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
His self-emptying incomprehensible,
His infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
He came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like Him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on
wings of grace,
to raise me to Himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
He united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God-incarnate, to save me
to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in Him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith,
exulting that He is mine and I am His.

In Him Thou hast given me so much
that heaven can give no more.

-The Gift of Gifts, Valley of Vision

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Not Jesus “the Great”

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Pluralism affirms that every “ism” has its own independent validity and an equal right to our respect. 

It therefore rejects Christian claims to finality and uniqueness, and condemns as sheer arrogance the attempt to convert anybody (let alone everybody) to what it sees as merely our opinions.

How should we respond to the spirit of pluralism? With great humility, I hope, and with no hint of personal superiority. But we must continue to affirm the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ. For He is unique in His incarnation (the one and only God-man), unique in His atonement (only He has died for the sins of the world), and unique in His resurrection (only He has conquered death). And since in no other person but Jesus of Nazareth did God first become human (in His birth), then bear our sins (in His death), and then triumph over death (in His resurrection), He is uniquely competent to save sinners. Nobody else possesses His qualifications.

So we may talk about Alexander the Great, Charles the Great and Napoleon the Great, but not Jesus the Great. He is not the Great—He is the only. There is nobody like Him. He has no rival and no successor.

-John Stott, The Radical Disciple 

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Monday Morning Munch No. 162 – 7 Quotes on Prayer by Charles Spurgeon

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The following quotes are from Spurgeon on Prayer, a compilation of culled gems from Charles Spurgeon, which I highly recommend it to anyone. 

You must expect to feel weakest when you are enjoying your greatest triumph.

If [God] has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much need of it.

A prayerless soul is a Christless soul.

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August Reads

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Oh, August. The month when school starts back, the temperature takes a tiny chill pill, and apparently I have more time for reading (which probably has something to do with the whole back-to-school, all-my-babies-have-left-me-during-the-week-for-the-classroom thing). 

As my schedule opened up so have my bookshelves. The following are the books that filled most of my free time last month.

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Monday Morning No. 160 – Stop Letting Feelings Dictate Your Life

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The following quote has popped up twice in the last week and each time its truth has had the same powerful effect on this reader.

In C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters (which I highly recommend—so insightful), the senior devil, Screwtape, warns his nephew (a junior devil) of the danger of a Christian’s obedience to God despite his or her feelings on the matter.

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause [the Devil’s cause] is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy’s will [God’s will], looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” – C. S. Lewis

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Seven Quotes from Blind Spots

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Have you ever sat through a sermon and thought, “Wow, I wish so-and-so were here so they could hear this. This is speaking directly to their sin, struggles, and circumstances”?

Asking for a friend.

Because you’ve never had those thoughts, right? Oh, of course, me either. What am I talking about? We would never think such arrogant and pompous things.

Okay, but really. I was barely into the introduction of Blind Spots when I had that exact stream of consciousness roll through my brain. And then I realized that was the exact purpose of the book.

Blind Spots directly addresses the seed (and possibly full-grown tree) of pride smack in the middle of the thought that others could benefit from this or that before you could.

Here’s what I believe is the heart of the book:

“Abiding in Christ is the best defense against the blind spots that destroy our joy in following Jesus and set us against other believers with different gifts and callings.” (p. 111)

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July Reads

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“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

In June, I shared what books I had read for the first six months of the year. It felt appropriate to publish July’s reads today, as I’ve been told it’s National Book Lovers Day (also, who comes up with these holidays? Asking for a friend).

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