jueves, 31 de diciembre de 2015

Libros 2015 / 2015 Books

English
1. Phantastes, a Faerie Romance for Men and Women (George MacDonald)
2. The Legacy of a Couple: Ruth & Billy Graham (Hanspeter Nüesch)
3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Susan Cain)*
5. Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Aproach to Intentional Living (Tsh Oxenreider)
6. 10 Gifts of Wisdom: What Every Child Must Know Before They Leave Home (Sally Clarkson)
7. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves)
8. Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life (Emily P. Freeman)
9. Night (Elie Wiesel)*
10. Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media (Phil Cooke)
12. I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)***
14. Rediscovering the Ministry of the Evangelist (Raphael Anzenberger)
16. Totally Infatuated: Pursuing a Life-Changing Passion for God's Word (Jacqueline Pierre)
17. Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship and Betrayal (Nick Bilton)*
18. Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science (John C. Lennox)
19. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Madeleine L'Engle)*
20. The Portrait of a Lady (Henry James)**
21. Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)
22. Speaking Truth in Love: Counsel in Community (David Powlison)
23. Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target (John C. Lennox)*
24. At the Back of the North Wind (George MacDonald)
25. Middlemarch (George Eliot) (896 p)**
26. Peter Pan (JM Barrie)
27. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)**
28. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing) (Marie Kondo)
29. It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War (Lynsey Addario)
31. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Timothy Keller)***
32. Four Quartets (T. S. Eliot)
35. When God Breaks In (Michael Green)
36. The Bible (mostly NLT version)***

Español
4. La Cruz del Rey (Timothy Keller)*
11. El jardín de Victoria (Keila Ochoa Harris)
13. Lágrimas de una esclava (Juan Miguel Torrero Aguilarte)
15. El retrato de Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)*
30. Los puritanos: sus orígenes y sucesores (Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones) (592 p)*
33. Diario (Anne Frank)**
34. El marciano (Andy Weir)**

Children's Chapter Books (Read Aloud)
1. The Princess and the Goblin (George MacDonald)*
2. The Lost Princess (George MacDonald)**
3. Ten Boys Who Used Their Talents (Irene Howat)
4. Ten Girls Who Used Their Talents (Irene Howat)
5. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle)*


jueves, 21 de mayo de 2015

If you've been unfollowed

Following and unfollowing in the social media world can be capricious. Before we only got a menu at a restaurant, but now the entire Western life is one huge colorful menu, and what you ate on Monday, you don't have to necessarily digest again on a Tuesday. Every turn can be customized, every voice pressed on or off at will. 


Tight-knit communities: even while getting a tooth pulled... (Adriaen Van Ostade)
It wasn't the case before, living in tight-knit communities. The town gossip, the priest, the scoundrel, the drunk, the swains, the lord, and the relatives were there to stay for life, for the most part, barring sudden catastrophy or conscription. And you had to grow with it. 

Sometimes I wonder if our growth is somewhat stunted from being able to choose too freely, too frequently? When news content and feeds are tailored to our particular surfing and clicking patterns? When we too easily friend and unfriend, both in cyberspace and physical space? 

And do we do the same with God? Today I follow, tomorrow I unfollow? Or follow this Bible verse, unfollow the next one... 

It strikes me that the only one who doesn't do this in our lifetime is God himself, for we are told, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life." Even when you've blocked him, he hasn't blocked you. While you have life and breath, he will never unfollow you because he doesn't deal in capricious currency. For you, he deals in his own lifeblood. 



(Five-minute Friday: Today's prompt was "follow.")

martes, 28 de abril de 2015

Esconder un vertedero: cómo intentamos ser buenos

Estamos todos en casa, recogiendo porque vienen invitados, y le digo a mi hija más pequeña que necesita despejar su escritorio.

Como todavía es pequeña, su "escritorio" es una mesita nido en un rincón del cuarto.

Me voy, pero me pregunto si me habrá entendido, y en menos de cinco minutos me llama con voz triunfal: —¡La he limpiado!

Viene corriendo al salón a por mí, me coge de la mano con urgencia y me lleva al cuarto para que lo vea yo misma.

Su mesita está, en efecto, impecable. Completamente despejada — y eso que hace unos instantes sostenía un monte precario de piezas de puzle, libros, cuerdas, muñecas, ceras, bolsos... Todo ha volado.

Sí, ha hecho el trabajo que le he pedido, pero no puedo evitar reír...porque ha conseguido meter todo lo que estaba encima de la mesa...debajo de la mesa...donde ahora no hay quien meta ni un dedo gordo del pie.

Para más inri, esta mesita nido es de esas de cristal y se ha convertido en el mirador perfecto del nuevo vertedero. Pero mi hija me está mirando con toda sinceridad y seriedad porque ha "cumplido" lo que le he pedido.

¿No es así cómo a menudo intentamos ser buenos nosotros? Barremos la superficie. Nos damos prisa por esconder esas cosas feas. Debajo de capas de sonrisas o logros donde no se puedan ver. Donde no estorben. Y no hablo solo de religiosos o de ciudadanos respetables que quieran mantener cierta buena imagen. También hablo de gente a la que supuestamente le da igual lo que puedan dictar las instituciones o las autoridades...todos queremos limpiar nuestra reputación a nuestra manera, tenemos algún código y una serie propia de faltas o fallos...o suciedad...que queremos enmascarar. Todos, en efecto, trabajamos por esconder el plumero, y en el fondo, pensamos que lo conseguimos.

Pero al igual que la mesita de mi hija, nosotros también estamos hechos de cristal — somos más frágiles de lo que nos imaginamos, y más transparentes de lo que nos imaginamos. Está todo ahí — lo puede ver Dios, y a menudo los demás también, aunque lo intentemos tapar y pensemos que hemos dejado una superficie impoluta, intacta. Jesús dijo que era imposible esconder lo que somos: "El que es bueno, de la bondad que atesora en el corazón produce el bien; pero el que es malo, de su maldad produce el mal, porque de lo que abunda en el corazón habla la boca." (Lucas 6:45)


El Viernes Santo histórico lo necesitamos porque para ser verdaderamente limpios, necesitamos que alguien sea bueno por nosotros desde los más hondo para afuera, que pueda sustituir nuestra vida imperfecta con una perfecta. Necesito al que fue perfectamente transparente — al que relucía tanto en la superficie como en el interior. Ya no tengo que esconderme porque Jesús ha cumplido todo por mí y llega al nivel de limpieza transparente que yo no puedo alcanzar.

viernes, 3 de abril de 2015

Hiding the dump: how we often try to be good

We are cleaning up for guests, and I tell my daughter she needs to clear off her desk.

Photo: Dimitris Petridis
Her "desk" is a small nesting table in a corner of the room. She is, after all, only three and a half.

Five minutes later she yells triumphantly, "I cleaned it!" She grabs my hand and leads me back to the room to see.

Her desk is effectively spotless. Completely empty. It had been piled high with puzzle pieces, books, strings, dolls, crayons, purses. All gone.

But still, I can't help laughing.

All of these same possessions are now dumped under the table, to such an extent that there is no way anyone could fit even as much as a toe under this makeshift desk.

To make the situation even more hilarious, the table has a glass top, and I am looking directly at all the junk crammed underneath. But my daughter is looking at me earnestly because she has truly cleaned the top of her desk.

Isn't that how we often try to be good? Sweep up the surface. Quickly hide the ugly. Underneath. Out of the way. Don't let anything show. Or so we think. But like the desk, we're made of glass too. It is all still there — for God to see, and often for others to see as well, for "A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart" (Luke 6:45).

Yes, we need Good Friday because to be truly clean, we need someone to be good for us from the inside out, to substitute ours with a perfect life. I need the one who was perfectly transparent — with everything shining both above and below. No more hiding because Jesus meets the standard for me.

(Five-minute Friday: Today's prompt was "good.")

martes, 31 de marzo de 2015

When it's all there and we won't take it

It's Saturday morning, and I'm waiting for my kid to take a break. He won't. He's too engrossed in what he's doing. I hear his empty stomach growl.

He's been at those toy cars and cards and books for two hours.

And the breakfast has been laid out for hours, up on the table above him, ready for the taking.

After a while he finally walks around the house moaning.

"Are you hungry?" I ask him.

"I'm starving! I haven't had breakfast!" He drapes himself over a chair, ready to die. This kid doesn't need acting school.

"It's on the table, as it always is on Saturday," I smile. "You just had to look up. Didn't you hear me calling?"

I too am always engrossed with what I have in front of my nose: relationships, work, play, life, the next thing.

Meanwhile there's this gnawing hole inside, increasingly hungry but strangely put on hold.

The banquet is laid out, ready for the taking. Will I look up? He's been calling for quite some time now, the Father. Thirst and hunger, ready to be satisfied in him. 

Won't we all just take a break and get the meal we need?

"You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy." (Psalms 63:5 NLT)

(Five-minute Friday: Today's prompt was "break.")

viernes, 20 de marzo de 2015

Running shoes, rocking chair

Photo: Erika Thorpe
I'm pausing and thanking God tonight because stress makes me real. Stress halts the pursuit of perfection. Stress shoves on the glasses and the running shoes and leaves the lipstick behind because there was no other way to get to the school on time. Stress makes me ask the three questions instead of the cocky, half-listening one because when stress runs the clock, there may not be time to repeat that conversation or hear that person again. Stress gives pride a punch in the gut and makes yes-man me learn to say no with grace for the love.

I'm always praying for stress to go away. Always looking at stress as the enemy. If only...

But today I thank God for what he knows is good for me, and because he is good, and because he is real and wants me to be real too. Reality could never be so picture perfect for long. There is a time for running in three directions at once, and there will be a time for simply rocking in the still of the night. Yet at either time, the heart has to be held up like a cup, receiving and thankful, ready and real.

(Five-minute Friday: Today's prompt was "real.")

jueves, 12 de febrero de 2015

"All I could do was embrace him and weep"

Reminded of the questions we may ask from deep suffering...and the answers we may give...but that surface instead in a tearful embrace.

From Francois Mauriac's foreword to Night after meeting Elie Wiesel as a young journalist and survivor of Auschwitz:

And I, who believe that God is love, what answer was there to give my young interlocutor whose dark eyes still held the reflection of the angelic sadness that had appeared one day on the face of a hanged child? What did I say to him? Did I speak to him of that other Jew, this crucified brother who perhaps resembled him and whose cross conquered the world? Did I explain to him that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for mine? And that the connection between the cross and human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood was lost? And yet, Zion has risen up again out of the crematoria and the slaughterhouses. The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among its thousands of dead. It is they who have given it new life. We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Almighty is the Almighty, the last word for each of us belongs to Him. This is what I should have said to the Jewish child. But all I could do was embrace him and weep.


viernes, 6 de febrero de 2015

Stop. Asking. Questions.

Image: Billy Alexander
My heart sank the minute my small daughter bit her lip, hung her head and slowly twisted away from me. Thirty seconds ago I had been Pressure Cooker Mommy in a large store with three kids and husband in tow under very specific time constraints dominated by The List. My daughter was at my elbow every minute, asking me question after question until I swung around and spat, without explanation, "Just stop. Asking. Questions."

Now travel in time with me and observe some disciples acting as bodyguards for Jesus, pushing pesky parents away -- you know, trying to get it all for their little cherubs. There is one of them arguing with Peter and nearly pushing past, "Just a blessing! A blessing from the rabbi!"

And what about the children? Years ago when I worked summer after summer in different educational and caregiving jobs, I would have dozens of grubby hands pulling dme in every direction. Every eye would plead for attention. And their questions always bubbled in multiples. We are not told, but I can see the disciples shooing away not only the parents but the children as well: "Jesus has had a busy day. He's got to move on. Get away, kid. Just stop. Asking. Questions. "

Try as I might, I can't find a verse in which Jesus tells someone to stop asking questions. He did get away for solitude, but he took all the questions in stride and asked a lot of his own too. And Scripture says he was "indignant" at what the disciples were doing with the youngest questioners and their parents: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14-15).

Two things encourage me here: Jesus is indignant that his disciples are blocking the way, and Jesus wants everyone to pay attention to the very people they are rejecting and learn from them. The way Jesus accepts children is great news for the curious, the questioner and the skeptic. Perhaps as such you have felt others barring the way every time you open your mouth to ask a question. Maybe someone has even said, "Just believe. And stop. Asking. Questions."

In Jesus we find someone who honors both the question and the questioner. No impatience. No avoidance. No fear. He, in fact, asks us to be like the children, the question-asking children, to enter the kingdom of God. Of course his statement about the kingdom of God involves a richness and depth we can't cover here, and it goes beyond this one facet of a child's natural curiosity. But may we consider this? That if you have lots of questions, you may be closer to the kingdom of God and to Jesus than you realize.


Today I reflected and asked my daughter forgiveness. I cried when she answered, "I just wanted to be with you." Her heartfelt statement leads me to a final consideration: Where are your questions ultimately taking you? Why are you asking them?

lunes, 2 de febrero de 2015

21 things that saved my life in January

...hats on bad hair days

...A. A. Milne's The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh

...listening to how weird and prosaic and funny we all are on the Spanish radio program Ciudadano García as I drive to school to pick up the kids

...it's enough...it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful (the Nester)

...discovering that, most of the time, reading what I like satisfies me more than watching what I like

...majoring on reading what I enjoy, not what I feel I have to read

...a big down coat that not only keeps me warm but also looks pretty

...a daily Bible reading plan on YouVersion

...shutting it when able...the discipline of silence on bad days

...learning that my children need my written words too

...learning to acknowledge "I can't" even when my pride doesn't want to let go

...occasional homemade Mojito sherbet (recipe in Spanish)

...looking at beautiful scenery around the world on Instagram

...packages that friends or family send out of the blue

...browsing The Clothes Horse and letting the red lipstick rub off on me too

...understanding more about EQ and finding myself listening better when people talk to me: hushing my brain always rushing ahead in practice what-am-I-going-to-say runs

...getting rid of stuff

...the best black leather boots

...not expecting him to be able to plan ahead and surprising him with tickets to the theater

...the new Zara Home butterfly duvet on my bed

...writing for the joy.

Thanks for the idea and the beautiful thoughts, Anne (Modern Mrs. Darcy).


(P.S. My relatives on my husband's side went through a very difficult time of grief in January, and our own children were struggling to put things together as well. My own heart is often still full of pain when remembering January's events. This fleeting "saving graces" list comes at the risk of sounding flippant. For the record, there are greater, eternal joys that ground the heart in times of pain -- namely, God himself grounds the heart as one who has reached down into the depths of our suffering -- but strangely, that doesn't mean the smaller ones are insignificant or disconnected. In January I also found myself writing for the grief, and that was also saving.)

jueves, 22 de enero de 2015

The Rock at your lowest

I participated in the 2015 MAI Devotional Writing Contest, and you can read my first entry here

The devotional below didn't make the cut because as I was writing it, I checked the rules again and realized that the stories had to include the writing life. I'm posting it here in case it can speak into your life.

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Photo: Christophe Libert
"Lead me to the rock that is higher than I," cried David (Psalm 61:2). As a warrior he knew boulders as places of refuge, a respite from the heat, a possible source of water, a vantage point to see far into the distance. We immediately sense the connection as Christians seeking God's protection, and so we still sing David's prayer today. But as sublime as the high rock is, I've also come to realize that I can't live without the low one.

During my first pregnancy, my husband and I were experts in theory. As eager new parents, we studied manuals, scoured parenting newsletters and blithely failed to assimilate the possibility of anything going wrong.

Our naiveté was dashed some months after delivery when we blinked at the black-and-white images of our daughter's unwhole brain, diagnosed with spastic hemiplegia. Doctors gave us the possible worst case scenario in response to our questions.

As in distressing moments in the past, I didn't feel angry or question God. I cried, but they were numb tears, shocked tears. One night, though, I felt like I was plunging into a fathomless well.

Over my sobbing I heard God's gentle "Where are you?"

I replied in cliché: "I've hit rock bottom."

He didn't argue with me. "At the bottom," he echoed, "you're on a rock. You can't go farther than the rock."

Even as I visualized myself face-planted in the lowest pit, I suddenly realized that the rock wasn't cold and slimy; it was warm, solid and larger than me, larger than life.

"You can't fall lower than the rock."

Scripture says that Jesus was the rock addressed in the Old Testament, a living stone (1 Peter 2.4-7). As precious as this stone was, it was rejected, and Jesus descended to the depths of our pain and misery when he died on the cross, bearing our sin. Peter quotes an unforgettable line from Isaiah about anyone trusting Christ: "he will never be put to shame."

That night as I embraced the living, scarred foundation stone of Jesus, I realized that I could never fall beyond his security. The one who had suffered beyond imagination and conquered death would not let me down.

Do we know that this Rock is holding us at our lowest?

Lord Jesus, you are my Rock in the heights when I'm in danger or in the depths when I'm crushed. Let this be engraved in my heart: you never disappoint.

miércoles, 7 de enero de 2015

Libros que leí en 2014 / Books I read in 2014

Emiliano Hernández
Me había propuesto leer 30 libros el año pasado; sabía que era una meta alta dada mi rutina diaria, pero no pensé que me quedaría tan corta. Eso sí, de los 17 completados, he leído unos excelentes, así que sigo contenta y lo considero un buen año de lectura.

Este año 2015, me he propuesto una meta más realista, leer cinco más que en 2014 -- es decir, llegar a 22.

Me encantan las listas de libros a final de año, así que si alguien pasa por aquí y ha publicado la suya, que deje el enlace en los comentarios. Gracias.

_____

I had the goal of reading 30 books last year; I knew it was somewhat unrealistic given my daily routine, but I didn't think I would fall this short. However, there were some truly excellent books among the 17, so I'm still happy and consider it a good year of reading.

This year I'm proposing a more realistic goal, reading five more books than last year, thus reaching a total of 22.

I love end-of-the-year reading lists (like these three I enjoyed checking out: Ross Lawhead, Austin Kleon [he read more than 70; I feel faint], The Nester), so if someone happens to stop by here and already published a similar reading list, please leave the link in the comments. Thanks.

_____

Perdón por la mezcla de idiomas. Comento el libro en base al idioma en que lo leí. / Please excuse the Spanglish. Comments are in the language in which I read the book.



  • Peregrina (Keila Ochoa Harris) Devastador en su sutil y acertado retrato del cristianismo cotidiano. Novela de época sobre una zona de México muy interesante, Real del Monte.

  • The Bible / la Biblia


  • Gift from the Sea (Anne Morrow Lindbergh) By Lindbergh's wife, famous in her own right and prolific. A book for when you are getting away from everything and reevaluating. The way the book looks and feels is the way it reads.

  • The Nesting Place (Myquillyn Smith) I didn't think I could cry with a book on interior decorating. She understands.

  • 3 teorías de todo (Ellis Potter) Presentación de las tres cosmovisiones principales de la vida utilizando el dibujo de un círculo, una mezcla de filosofía con testimonio personal, ya que describe su cambio de monje budista a cristiano. Lo volvería a leer.

  • Hearts of Fire (The Voice of Martyrs) A sobering account of the true stories of Christian women suffering for their faith in different parts of the world in the last decade.


  • The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) You close the book, and you're still aching. 

  • The Return of the Prodigal Son (Henry JM Nouwen) Nouwen's life was changed by meditating on Rembrandt's painting; he shares his insights. Surprisingly riveting.


  • Belles on Their Toes (Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey) I have no idea how this ended up in my home. I haven't read or seen the prequel, but it was enjoyable in a weird way. Made me go to sleep with a smile.

  • A Heart for Freedom (Chai Ling) Tiananmen Square student leader's account of her life and events surrounding the massacre, subsequent escape to the USA and finding the Christian faith.


Turn your phone off and read on! (unless you're reading on your phone :-)
Apaga el móvil y ¡lee! (a menos que estés leyendo en el móvil :-)