Light Look at Reading: June 2016

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I have not posted about my reading in a long time. It’s definitely my fault. For a few months now, I have been reading the book Esther and Ruth, a commentary on both books of the bible. I would have posted about the book months ago, but it’s really hard to finish a book when you decided to start reading Slaughterhouse-Five and Swann’s Way at the same time. I mean, Proust is a literary genius, but come on man how long and packed do your sentences really have to be? But I digress, check back with me in a year to see how I’m doing on that one.

Anyway, after finally coming face to face with some things in my life I had a funny feeling were coming, one of the few things getting me through my sadness and confusion came from Esther 4:14 – “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?

The vernacular translation often circulated for this verse is simply put “perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.” 

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This became all I could think about. Everything appeared to be falling apart on the outside, yet on the inside it was as if everything was falling into place, even if absolutely none of it made sense. I had been praying God would work within me and my situation to bring more glory to His name than ever imaginable. Suddenly I felt I was in the exact place I needed to be.

So how does the commentary for Esther and Ruth fit into all of this? Well I read it for encouragement and it was certainly what I needed to hear, specifically Esther.

Esther’s commentary is titled “The Hidden God Delivers,” which is fitting since the book of Esther does not mention the name of God at any point in the story, yet His intervention is everywhere visible.

Simple overview of the story of Esther:

  • King is mad at queen therefore he seeks a new one
  • Esther becomes queen but hides she is a Jew
  • Mordecai saves the king’s life but is overlooked for it
  • Haman, the king’s right hand man, gets mad at Mordecai for not paying homage to him
  • Haman seeks to destroy Jews
  • Mordecai convinces Esther to intercede to the king on behalf of the Jews
  • Haman looks to kill Mordecai himself
  • Esther outwits Haman by finding favor in sight of the king
  • Haman is hung on the gallows he created for Mordecai
  • Esther is open about being Jewish, the people are saved, and Mordecai takes Haman’s place

Obviously there is more to the story than that, as I said, it was a simple overview. However, nowhere in the story is God mentioned. The Jews lament at the thought of being destroyed, they rejoice when they are saved, Mordecai and Esther intervene, but never do we hear of anyone turning their eyes vertically. Everything in the story is on a horizontal level yet God’s plans were carried out anyway.

Often times we struggle with the invisibility of God. We seek for the God who parted the Red Sea and raised his son from the dead. We desire a burning bush as Moses received (though often times we really mean a burning mountain) to see where we need to go.

We see the plans for our lives thwarted and we wonder why our prayers cannot come to fruition. God simply doesn’t make sense. Even further, it can feel as if we are abandoned.

Yet in the story of Esther, God is the invisible hand working behind the scenes. Timing  is essential in the work of the providence and even though fate seems gloomy for the Jews and Esther seems to care less about her heritage, God is nonetheless at work accomplishing his own ends. Like Esther, we come to realize perhaps God has brought us to where we are today so we may serve Him in truly unique ways.

Tragedy strikes. When tragedy strikes it becomes increasingly difficult to remind ourselves God is in control of all things. We know he works all things together for His glory and our good, yet our hearts are still troubled. We become derailed by circumstances appearing to conspire toward our downfall. As Esther learned, we cannot serve both God and our idols. We have to decide what and who will be our refuge during the storm.

The book of Esther epitomizes the subtleness of God. No sea was parted, no one was thrown in a fiery furnace or into a lion’s den. God did not send down lightning from Heaven to smite people, and still his plan proceeds. All the characters in the story continue to act as they normally would. God does not play with them like dolls nor does He set them into motion only to sit back and watch. They are subject to our own temperaments and desires, even so the end result remained what He purposed from the beginning.

All in all, possibly the biggest lesson I learned from the commentary on Esther ties back into our verse from the beginning. God will place us where we need to be. A great excerpt from the book says this:

[Esther] could glorify God by perishing as well as by convincing the king. It was up to God how to glorify Himself through Esther’s obedience, whether by delivering the people through her or allowing her to be martyred in His service, but He would be glorified one way or another.

Remember that prayer I prayed? That God would use the circumstances of my life to remarkably glorify Himself? This is where I was hit hard. I followed God as obediently as I could and felt pretty crazy in the process. I mean, it was one of those “really God? You’re telling me to do what?” moments. I wrestled a lot with Him. I even tried to abandon it from time to time, only to find things coincidentally pop back in my life, reminding me of all He had spoken to me before.

Then I was hit with this. I’m the person that likes to know where I’m going and how things end because I can be quite the control freak at times. However, we can never know ahead of time how God will choose to use us. The author goes on to expand this idea by saying this:

He may heal our diseases, transform our broken marriages, and plant thriving ministries through us. Or He may sustain us in obedient submission to Him as our earthly hopes are dashed and our lives our poured out for apparently little purpose.

That’s a hard pill to swallow yet it was everything I needed to hear. All I wanted was for life to return to a seemingly lifeless circumstance, but I had to come to realize God would work the glory for Himself in the best way possible. Overall, His glory trumps my plans.

Esther reminded me God is sovereign no matter what. We cannot outrun God and His plans for our lives. I still don’t know “why” I have been placed in the circumstances I am in. I certainly don’t have a clue what God is doing because I feel like my walk with Him was hit with a sharp right hook. However, what I do know is like Esther, no matter how big or small, God will answer my prayer and He will use me to bring glory to His name.

 

 

Light Look at Reading: February 2016

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As promised here is my list of books I read in February. The list is relatively short (February was a busy month for me) but still, I think some good reads are in here.

Here we go:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
    After the death of Harper Lee, I did the only thing I knew how to honor her memory. I first read To Kill a Mockingbird my sophomore year of high school. Going back to reread it, I was reminded how amazing of a book it is! If you’re looking for a good read, this is definitely it.
  2. The Real Roosevelt – Edward Garstin Smith
    Not exactly your light bedtime read. This book was published in 1910 and is a propaganda book totally against Theodore Roosevelt. Seriously, a person has to have some serious hatred for Teddy to call the Panama Canal a tragedy worse than the Civil War and compare him to the Roman Emperor Nero (uh, what?). While a super short read, it’s not one I would recommend. I eventually reached the point the book was so bad, I was laughing. But hey, not every book can be a winner right?
  3. American Gun – Chris Kyle
    This was my second time reading the book. I know I listed American Gun on my original list, but it’s a really good book. Chief Kyle wrote a book that makes history feel personal (and as a history major, trust me this feeling is a rare find). Beyond discussing guns, Kyle also addresses major but often overlooked battles and events in U.S. history. If you like guns, history, or the military (or you’re like me and like all 3) then this IS the book for you!

That’s all for now, y’all. If you decide to read any of these books then enjoy and let me know what you thought about them. If you have any recommendations for me, I am all ears! Now go live fun and exciting lives with your books!

Just A Turn of a Page

 

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If anyone remembers back to my first post (if not, definitely no worries) then you remember I said I have a lot of books I want to read. The list is over 100 books and it seems to continually grow.

Anyway, I have been thinking for a while on how to keep this list updated since I don’t sense myself doing a very good job on posting about the books I read. My solution is to update this list and post a monthly blog about my books, possibly with a small review on them as well.

Anyway, this will be my first list! I started off with a small list counting some of the books I read so far and have a plan to reread some old ones and then continue on with the list.

  1. American Gun – Chris Kyle
  2. American Sniper – Chris Kyle
  3. A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier – Joseph Plumb Martin
  4. A Warrior’s Faith – Robert Vera
  5. Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough – Justin & Trisha Davis
  6. Common Sense – Thomas Paine
  7. The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
  8. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  9. The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
  10. Heading South, Looking North – Ariel Dorfman
  11. Kisses from Katie – Katie Davis
  12. The Lady in Waiting – Jackie Kendall
  13. Mythology – Edith Hamilton
  14. The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
  15. The Pearl – John Steinbeck
  16. Pro Archia (in the original Latin) – Cicero
  17. Redeeming Love – Francine Rivers
  18. The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
  19. When God Says Jump – J.R. Briggs
  20. Why? – Vernon Brewer

All of these are wonderful books! Out of this list my top five would be American Sniper, Harry Potter, The Outsiders, Redeeming Love, and The Screwtape Letters.

And with this my friends, I say keep reading!