Gregory Wolfe of Image Journal interviewed Christian Wiman, a poet I've come to love who speaks a lot about Christ and faith, suffering and struggle. He has an amazing story, told in part here. This is a solid interview and, hopefully for many of you, introduction to a wonderful living poet.
Wiman looks like, and in some ways sounds like, a cross between the profundity of Tim Keller and the postmodern searching of Rob Bell. Please take that in a generous way as that's how I intend it. If you like what you hear, you should check out his poetry. Most of my readers would thoroughly enjoy his recent book, My Bright Abyss. Enjoy.
From Jen Thorn...
You know, you can find yourself in a dark spot without tragedy turning your life upside down. Darkness can slowly creep in like a cool fog until it has filled your heart.
And Satan rejoices when this happens, because during these times I am useless for the Kingdom, or so it seems. I don’t do a good job encouraging my husband or pointing my kids to Jesus. Satan loves that. I forget what the providence of God really means and ignore his word. I become discontent and unhappy. I am sure this makes Satan cheer because my quest for godliness seems to have come to a screeching halt.
The path to godliness is not a “flowery” path full of ease and sunshine. Though I really wish it was. It is instead an uphill road filled with difficulty, pitfalls, enemies, thorns, confusion, and sometimes darkness.
Read the rest: "Treasures in the Dark" by Jen Thorn
If I were to write a book on suffering, I would wonder what Joni Eareckson Tada thought of it. Well, she writes a glowing review of Tim Keller's new book on suffering, Walking With God Through Pain & Suffering. Here's a blurb...
Yes, suffering is a mystery, but it is not a mystery without at least some explanation. Besides, life may be hard, but God is good—much more so than we can possibly imagine. And he stands ready to give, well, perhaps not the answers the world would like, but to give the One who holds all the answers in his hand.
Tim Keller does a righteous job of showcasing to us, and to the world, that Jesus is worth trusting. Period. End of argument. After all, when they hang you on a cross like meat on a hook, you have the final word on suffering.
New books to Note:
- Tim Keller: Walking With God Through Pain & Suffering (WTS | Amazon | Kindle)
- Tullian Tchividjian: One Way Love (Amazon | Kindle) -- Glorious Ruin is still FREE for Kindle
Cheap Kindle Books:
- Christine Hoover: The Church Planting Wife ($1.99)
- Derek Prime & Alistair Begg: On Being A Pastor ($2.99)
- Jared Wilson: Gospel Deeps ($2.99)
- Stephen Miller: Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars ($1.99)
- John Calvin - A Heart for Devotion, Doctine, & Doxology (FREE | Kindle)
Jen Thorn, Joe Thorn's wife, has a new website. Bookmark it, Feedly it, read it. She's a gem.
John Wesley on the Discipline of Reading by Brian Hedges
Reading requires discipline. But the investment of time yields great dividends for our personal life and ministry. The depth and breadth that reading will add to our thinking and preaching are surely worth the effort. Fellow pastors, do not neglect reading!
10 Ways to Become a Better Preacher by Justin Buzzard
In my opinion good preaching is something that flows through the heart of a man who is excited about Jesus because he’s personally enjoying the love of Jesus. I think the single most important thing a pastor can do is wake up each day and focus his energy on enjoying Jesus and having as much fun as possible. This is the only thing I know of that will protect you from the burnout most pastors experience from the relentless strain of preaching and leading a church. I don’t think there’s much power in preaching grace if you yourself are not reveling in grace.
Is a Deacon Just a Servant? by Russell Moore
The question is not whether deacons serve or lead. Leadership, scripturally defined, is servanthood. The question is in what way do deacons lead. Deacons maintain the unity of the Body by giving leadership to the serving of temporal needs. They’re not a corporate board, nor are they a spiritual council of directors. They serve the Body by removing potential obstacles to unity by meeting human needs.
20 Great American Cities for Writers --> Go Chicago!
If you can’t live somewhere that isn’t a big, bustling city and you don’t want to pay New York City or California rent, you can’t beat the Windy City, which boasts great bookstores like Myopic in Wicker Park, Powell’s in Hyde Park, and the best place to get your weird zine/chapbook/comic fix: Quimby’s. There’s plenty of art and architecture to admire, wonderful coffee from local roasters like Metropolis, nice-sized and somewhat affordable places to live, plenty of great bars, schools like the University of Chicago, writers and poets like Adam Levin and Lindsay Hunter calling the place home, the Printers Row Lit Fest … All of which is to say, Chicago plays second literary city to nobody.
This is outstanding on "Longing for Wholeness." It's spot on for what my family is experiencing at the moment, and has been experiencing the last few years. Mark Talbot is apparently writing a book on profound suffering titled When the Stars Disappear. I look forward to buying that book, that has been his labor for years now, in light of this excellent teaching from Talbot at the Desiring God's Works of God Conference. Please watch or go listen to/download the audio. (via JT)
I'm very excited to read the new book from Tullian Tchividjian, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free. Check it out...
In this world, one thing is certain: Everybody hurts. Suffering may take the form of tragedy, heartbreak, or addiction. Or it could be something more mundane (but no less real) like resentment, loneliness, or disappointment. But there’s unfortunately no such thing as a painless life. In Glorious Ruin, Tullian Tchividjian takes an honest and refreshing look at the reality of suffering, the ways we tie ourselves in knots trying to deal with it, and the comfort that the gospel brings for those who can’t seem to fix themselves—or others.
This is not so much a book about Why God allows suffering or even How we should approach suffering—it is a book about the tremendously liberating and gloriously counterintuitive truth of a God who suffers with you and for you. It is a book, in other words, about the kind of hope that takes the shape of a cross.
This looks great. Go grab it!
Update 4.13: Molly slept terrible last night. Terrible. She is exhausted. She saw her neurologist today. He is trying to manage her sleep, or lack thereof, and we have no idea whether it will work. Nothing has helped so far. We should know in a couple days. I'm not sure I've seen her this frustrated over her health since 2008. Thanks for continued prayers.
Brief update (4.12): Molly had about 5 better days in a row after some significant time off of her part-time job at the school and a lot of rest. Still not great, but better. More functional in daily life. Some of her brain fog issues have gone away for the most part, though she has remained easily exhausted.
The last two days things have turned worse again. She's barely sleeping, and we can't figure out why. We assume it's making symptoms much worse. It's been linked to times of increased symptoms in the past. I'm taking her to her neurologist tomorrow morning in the hope he'll take this another step and figure out what, if anything, can be done.
We are hoping for answers soon. We are praying for God's help and healing, and for her to continue to place all of her hope in Christ when circumstances at times feel hopeless.
UPDATE 3/7 at 4:20pm: Molly's MRI has been scheduled for 2:30pm on Friday, March 16th at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. Last time it took just over 3 hours (if I remember correctly).
It's been a long time (over a year) since my last post on my wife's 4 1/2 year struggle with Chiari I Malformation. Find out about her diagnosis, symptoms, surgeries, and more in my series of posts: Molly & Chiari. Here's a brief, but important, update.
Molly's symptoms are returning in a significant way. This has happened before, as you can note from previous posts. A few times they have subsided. But they don't always, which is why she's had brain surgery twice. We live with the understanding that at any point something can happen that causes her spinal fluid flow to decrease and that would result in another surgery. Her stent could dislodge or clog. Scar tissue could form around it. Or maybe something else we don't anticipate.
Currently her symptoms are headaches (significant ones, some have led to vomiting), numbness in hands/feet, difficulty thinking or "brain fog," balance problems, continuous physical fatigue and weakness, nausea, waking without feeling rested, etc. She is easily overwhelmed. A trip to the store with all the colors and sounds and busyness can be difficult for her to endure. At times she has to find a quiet place and just stop because of the sensory overload.
This time around the symptoms have started and have kept increasing over a longer period of time. That may not mean anything significant and she may eventually recover. But it's bad enough right now that her neurosurgeon, Dr. Frim, wants another set of MRIs done. I've been emailed the MRI order just a few minutes ago and we will be working today to schedule an appointment as soon as possible at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After reviewing those images, Dr. Frim will be able to see if something is wrong and if we need to make an appointment with him.
We'd appreciate your prayers for healing and strength for Molly. For comfort. For peace in times of great frustration. For a deep trust in the goodness of God. For me as I need to serve her well, help with the house and kids, help her shop, etc.
Thanks as always to the many friends (and many others we've never met!) who have been prayer warriors on Molly's behalf. To God be the glory.
On Saturday I had the privilege to speak to a mausoleum full of people who lost and buried loved ones last year at McHenry County Memorial Park. An employee of the cemetery is a family friend, which opened the opportunity to preach for about 20 minutes from the first two Beatitudes.
I wanted to share with you some free music from The Joy Eternal: A Sweet & Bitter Providence (download below) which I found to be very encouraging during my prep week for this event. John Piper readings are featured in these songs, and he says this about the music...
Big truth and beautiful sounds are a powerful combination. The Joy Eternal has touched me both ways. One of my biblical sieves for what is real is the apostolic word 'sorrowful yet always rejoicing.' I hear that in these songs, and they ring true. Beautifully true. May God give them wings.
At The Gospel Coalition this week I was able to talk with David and Nancy Guthrie. Nancy Guthrie is the author of many books, including Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus and Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.
Nancy and David told me about Respite, a ministry to parents who have suffered the death of a child. I want to encourage those who have lost a child or have friends who have suffered in this way to check it out. Pastors, this could be a very valuable resource to keep in mind.