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Review: How to Live in Fear by Lance Hahn

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We and our kids live in an age of anxiety.  Most of us know someone who lives in fear, and maybe we do so ourselves.  Much of the time the fear is mild but sometimes there are panic attacks, and sometimes seemingly endless stretches of unbearable terror.  As Christians, we need to be able to support those who suffer in this way, and we need to equip our teens as well.  The first step is to understand this illness.

Pastor Lance Hahn is one of those people who live in fear, and the extreme emotion he shares with so many others has an official label, severe anxiety disorder. How to Live in Fear is his message of hope to fellow sufferers.  No, not hope of a cure in this life, although he does share practical coping tools, but the certainty that no Christian ever suffers alone, that God holds them close through the struggles and will never leave them nor forsake them. 

It’s tricky, this business of using God’s word to comfort people with mental health issues, because so often ‘comforters’, like those in the book of Job, put the blame for all illness on the sufferer, his sin, his lack of faith, or his deficient prayer life.  And even when they don’t, it is easy for the ill person to hear such blame even when it is not intended.

As a sufferer, Lance Hahn understands this.  Therefore he shares his own story, placing himself firmly beside others who deal with severe anxiety disorder. He understands the tension of ‘preaching about the peace that passes understanding and that guards our hearts and minds while having a panic attack’ and spends much of the book explaining how faith can co-exist with panic in this broken world.

Next he shares the practical things he has learned in his fight against this condition, analysing catalysts and triggers, accepting responsibility for allowing certain thoughts and triggers, discussing the value and acceptability of medication, and learning to discipline thoughts to reflect what is true (vs Hollywood).  Of course, there are also other factors such as exercise, sleep, nutrition, relaxation, and outside time.

Finally, as a pastor Lance Hahn discusses the spiritual aspects of severe anxiety disorder, and this comforting section can bless any Christian, even those who do not struggle with fear. He points out that God’s promises are true, whether or not we are able to believe them at the moment.  He points out that often we think things we should not be thinking.  He states explicitly, “If we truly believed that God is good and He is sovereign, then we would be able to rest in these beliefs as facts.  But we don’t….  I struggle just like you.”  One of the reasons for the struggle is that the things we believe with our minds have not yet influenced our hearts and emotions.  He also deals wisely with the issue of healing through prayer and with the concept of spiritual warfare.  And finally, he shares the three most powerful tools God has given to combat fear:  Scripture, prayer, and worship.

Some thoughts that struck me:

God changes people through their challenges and suffering, and this can be a blessing to the sufferers as well as to others.

“God is watching over you. You are not alone.  You are not forsaken or abandoned.  He does care deeply about you and your situation.  When you are tempted to ask why He doesn’t help more or just fix your fear, remember that it’s not the best scenario yet.  Once it is, He will. Until then, we are to trust He is aware and knows exactly what he’s doing.” P 197

“…truths must be embraced not just cognitively, but emotionally.  This requires investing time into soaking them in.” p 197  This idea is something that the modern church does not seem to understand well and seems to be what David, for example, meant when he talked about meditating on God’s Word.

Throughout the book I also noticed, over and over, the negative effects of Hollywood and the media on anxiety. I noticed a similar theme in Captivating by the Eldredges (link is to my review). It is so important to watch what we put into our minds and the minds of our children. 

I have never known severe anxiety disorder myself, but I know people who suffer from it.  Lance Hahn’s book gives me insight into their struggles and practical ways of supporting them.  It also reminds me that in my life, too, God is always there, will always be there, and will never leave or forsake me.  This is a message we can never hear too often, whether our life is hard or easy.

If you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety disorder, do read this book.  You will benefit from it.

Note:  Apparently anxiety can be treatable with Seligman’s positive psychology methods.

This is yet another book in the in the 2017 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, What to Read Wednesdays and The Book Nook.  For more encouragement see Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book courtesy of Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers.

Memorize Romans, Walk 10K Steps, and Organize Nighttime Notes

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Over the decades, New Year’s goals have changed my life.  Late each year I begin to think and pray about them, carefully trying to choose goals that will have a positive impact on the rest of my life.

This year I have three main goals and achieving them would be transformative.

First of all, I plan to memorize Romans.  Yes, the entire 16-chapter letter of Paul to the church in Rome, full of both deep comfort and some of the Bible’s most difficult concepts.

Why would anyone who owns several Bibles, including an ebook and audio version on her phone, bother memorizing what she could look up any time?  Well, here’s why:  As I was learning more about Romans for our women’s Bible study, I came across a story of a seminary professor who offered all his New Testament students an A if they memorized Romans, even if they did nothing else.  Intrigued, I started experimenting with chapter 1 two months ago and can already echo what William Tyndale wrote in his 1534 English New Testament:

No man verily can read it too oft or study it too well; for the more it is studied the easier it is, the more it is chewed the pleasanter it is, and the more groundly it is searched the preciouser things are found in it, so great a treasure of spiritual things lieth hid therein.

F.F. Bruce, who wrote a commentary on Romans, included this warning:

There is no saying what may happen when people begin to study the letter to the Romans.  What happened to Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and Barth launched great spiritual movements which have left their mark in world history.  But similar things have happened, much more frequently, to very ordinary men and women as the words of this letter came home to them with power.  So, let those who have read thus far be prepared for the consequences of reading farther….

That warning resonates with me.  Yes, in immersing ourselves in God’s Word we are risking change and upheaval—as I have discovered in the past—but we are also growing closer to God and that is, after all, the very purpose of our lives.

Then there is the next goal, walk 10,000 steps every day, on average.  Aiming to walk this much each day has changed my life over the past decade, and I remake this resolution every year.  With dozens of daily decisions I have regained much strength each time after a major health setback.  Last year was difficult for me, health-wise, but I am back to about 7500 steps a day, on average.  My goal is to slowly get back to the full 10,000, knowing that each step is an investment in health and thus also in my ability to fulfill the duties God has given me.

And finally, the one other goal that would change a lot:  get organized about my nighttime notes.  I do have a very organized binder with customized sheets that I regularly adapt to meet different aspects of my life, but I also have many, many little bits of paper.  You see, when I think during the night I grab a tiny notepad and write things down in the dark, very quietly so as not to wake my husband.  (If I don’t write them down I end up staying awake to remember them, which is even worse.)  Some nights are quite productive—to do lists, blog posts, homeschooling ideas, grocery lists, snatches of poetry, the perfect line for a review, another name for my prayer list, an idea to ponder, just the right words for an email….

However, if the next morning is busy I don’t always have the time to finish copying these things onto my main to do list or into an appropriate Word document.  And so it is that all over my desk I have growing piles of little white papers, covered with almost illegible nighttime writing.  This has got to stop.

Once all of my nighttime writing has been copied into its appropriate place, both my mind and my desk will be clearer and more peaceful and I will forget fewer important things.

So, these are my three goals for 2017.  Will I achieve them?  Only God knows what will be possible this year and what dreams have to be given up. However, I am convinced that each of these goals is valuable in his sight and that striving to meet them will be worthwhile in itself even if I never complete them.  Thus each day I will

  • spend some time with Romans,
  • remember to take those extra steps, and
  • go through that night’s notes, as well as some older ones.

In regards to 2016’s goal of catching up, well, it didn’t happen in the sense I had planned but God used poor health to give me space to catch up in a different way.  However, 2015’s goal of connecting has become a vibrant part of who I am and has changed more lives than just mine.  Both mindsets, connecting and catching up, are still part of my life, as they should be.

How about you?  Are you setting goals this year?  Whether you do or purposefully don’t, I wish you God’s blessings as you get to know him better in 2017.  May he be close to you and fill you with his gifts of love, joy, and peace.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

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Skillpower, Willpower, and New Year’s Goals

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In Disease Proof, Katz argues that most people do not accomplish their goals because they do not have the skills to do so.  It isn’t that they are lazy or unmotivated or bad; it simply is that they have never learned the basic steps to choosing goals, losing weight, exercising, and so forth.  This book, based on decades of disease prevention work, is his answer to that problem.

Yes, Disease Proof is a book about health, and as such it covers some of the main New Year’s resolutions people have, but it is also a practical study of choices, motivations, identifying obstacles, learning to overcome obstacles, and increasing one’s ability to accomplish one’s goals.  Complete with tables to learn how to make decisions and to understand one’s motivation, this book focuses on personalizing the choices one makes.  Katz also talks about specifics, like food and exercise, without sensational hype, fully convinced that’s what’s best for us does not change from week to week.

Rather than deciding, for example, to lose weight and to leave it at that, with Disease Proof one identifies reasons, clarifies obstacles, prioritizes which obstacles to overcome first, and learns skills to overcome the obstacles one at a time.  Skillpower, according to Katz, is much more important than willpower, so he focuses on teaching the skills people need to accomplish their goals.  This is a novel approach in the area of popular health books, perhaps, but it is also a common sense one that mirrors research in other fields.

If you remade goals this year that you did not manage to stick with in previous years, it could be that you did not have the skills to own your goals or to overcome the obstacles.  Disease Proof may just have the answer.  Highly recommended, especially for those with health goals involving eating or exercising, but also for those who are interested in the process of setting and accomplishing goals.

I am still thinking about my goals for 2017—all of them, not just health-related goals—and with the methodical approach to obstacles that this book teaches, I suspect that I will be able to meet most of them, Lord willing.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention books and other helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from the library and am not compensated for this review.

For more about books, see 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Semicolon, The Book Nook, Booknificent, and Literary Musings.  For more reading to support goals, see The New Year’s Resolution Challenge.

Books, This Year and the Next

What I'm currently reading and re-reading.

What I’m currently reading and re-reading.

There is so much wisdom and beauty to be found in books, if you select them carefully!  I love reading.  I’m grateful that I can read very quickly and that I have learned to extract what is important from each book.  It’s a joy, too, to share these things with you in my reviews.  (Note:  All links are to my reviews, on this blog or on GoodReads; there are no affiliate links on this blog.)

This year I will have read 80 books, partly because I needed to rest so much, partly for homeschooling, partly because there is so much to learn as a Christian wife and homeschooling mother living in community with others, and partly for the sheer joy of it.   As I look over my 2016 booklist, I can see trends and certain books stand out.

There is more about the psychology of learning than in the past when I would read more course content.  Make it Stick is probably the best recent read in this category, but there are other good ones as well.

Aside from a fiction reading month (lovely Dutch books for Christian teen girls, unfortunately not available in English) when I was too weak and tired to do much else, most of 2016’s books are non-fiction.  The best fiction was, hands down, Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, and I also really enjoyed Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin.

For the first time I read a book of poetry that I can recommend unreservedly to everyone, Given by Wendell Berry. If you have never read it, do give it a try. He’s a Christian, a nature lover, a besotted husband, and a wise, wise man who explores ideas with incredible imagination and skill. I hope to read another of his volumes of poetry this year and will share it, too, with my family.

I read some history of science, one of my hobbies, including two books about the development of MRI and the controversy surrounding its Nobel prize, Gifted Mind and The Long Road to Stockholm.  The urge to be recognized can lead to unpleasantness; there is so much more peace, purpose, and freedom in ‘living for an audience of One’ as was mentioned in a recent sermon.  The most fascinating science history book this year was Decoding the Heavens about the Antikythera Mechanism, an incredibly sophisticated ancient Greek predictor of eclipses and more that overturns standard ideas about Greek scientific knowledge and technology. The Doomsday Men was a chilling story of science, the history of 20th century warfare, and the utter disregard for human life by both sides in the world wars.  It also showed the incredible and destructive influence of popular books and movies on history and science, so this review is important to read and consider.  Galen and the Gateway to Medicine and Mathematicians are People Too, Volume 1 and Volume 2 were part of our homeschool and I recommend them for history and science reading.

The most disturbing and important science history book was actually a history of North American psychiatric medicine, Anatomy of an Epidemic.  (Please do read the review; we all need to be informed about such things.)     The book is quite cynical but, from my exposure to the pharmaceutical industry as a scientist, it does not sound far-fetched.  What is disturbing is how many compassionate people buy into cruelty and questionable practices just because ‘that’s the way it’s done’.  There is a hint of holocaust here and also an enormous opportunity for better approaches.  This is one of the reasons I have begun to read more about psychology, both about mental health and about why and how people think the way they do.  There are so many hurting people and so few Christian psychologists, and I’ve begun to wonder whether that may be where God is calling me as I near the end of homeschooling.   See GoodReads for a complete list of psychology and related titles I read last year, some with reviews.

We did not read many books out loud, and one of them, Two Years Before the Mast, we decided not to finish.  I will be finishing it on my own, though.  But we did complete The Swiss Family Robinson (again), The Sea Islanders (an enjoyable light mystery set in New Zealand), and Sun on the Stubble (a story of growing up in Australia, recommended by Carol, that contains some of the most vivid descriptions I have ever come across.)

And now for next year’s reading plans, which are very informal and, with the one exception of the Bible, completely open to change.  As usual, I’ve looked at what my friends and others are planning:  Carol, Nelleke, and Sarah have great ideas, and Robin, Tim, and Kathy have interesting reading challenges to join. For the list of book lists, see Sherry’s link up at Semicolon.

My primary reading focus is the Bible, the guide to all we need to know for life now and hereafter.  For years I’ve read two chapters a day for myself in a never-ending consecutive trek through the Bible, besides our family meal time devotions.  This past year I’ve found myself turning to various other parts of the Bible as well, but I’ve also learned the importance of always reading those two consecutive chapters just to keep balanced. Doing the extra reading beyond that has been hugely rewarding, though, especially in Psalms and Romans, and I hope to continue immersing myself in those books this year.

Other than the Bible reading, my 2017 reading goal is to read whatever seems to be the best use of my time.

Considering past trends, I expect this will include books about homeschooling, history of science, creation science, historical fiction, psychology, relationships, theology and apologetics, and health.  Here are some specific titles and plans, but most of the reading will, as usual, probably just happen.

Continuing in the tradition of faraway read alouds, I have ordered The Voyage of the Northern Magic, the story of an Ottawa family traveling around the world.  Kon Tiki would be on the list, but we have already read it, and The Brendan Voyage is a bit long-winded although not as bad as Two Years Before the Mast.  Perhaps we will try that this year as well, as part of our Canadian history reading.

I hope to finish two lovely music devotionals by Stapert, My Only Comfort (on Bach) and Handel’s Messiah:  Comfort for God’s People.

Since 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday, the girls and I will read a lot about Canadian history.  Possibilities include The Brendan Voyage as a read aloud, more books by Eric Walters for fun, Ballantyne’s story of his time with the Hudson’s Bay Company (a bit gruesome at times, but with lots of geography and showing the class structure), and some local history.  I need to put more effort into finding other worthwhile teen books about Canadian history.

This year is also the anniversary of the Reformation, so we will focus on that, too.  The girls will be studying The Reformation by Nichols, we will finish The Young People’s History of the Church (as a read aloud with narration) and reread Simonetta Carr’s church history series, and hopefully we will be able to read Boekestein’s books on the great Reformation confessions, The Glory of Grace, The Quest for Comfort, and Faithfulness Under Fire.  I would like to add a few biographies (including The Mother of the Reformation and Idelette), and we hope to listen to the talks of the Relevant and Rich Conference once they go online.

Closely related are theology and apologetics and their relation to science, and I plan to reread Calvin’s Golden Booklet of the Christian Life as well as Lewis’s Mere Christianity and Sarfati’s Christianity for Skeptics.  If I have time, I’d love to slog through McGrath’s Science and Religion textbook and Poythress’s Redeeming Science, but probably Gunning for God by Lennox, The Divine Challenge by Byl, A Shot of Faith to the Head by Stokes or Finding Truth by Pearcey will be more appropriate this year.  We’ll see.  At the very least, I plan to finish The Beginnings of Western Science by Lindberg.

Psychology books in the pipeline include Girls on the Edge and Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax, Psychology and Christianity: Five Views by Johnson, Age of Opportunity by Tripp, Resolving Conflict by Priolo, Journey to Heal by Sutherland, Troubled Minds by Simpson and A Teen’s Guide to the Five Love Languages by Chapman.

Politics and Christianity is a potent mix and to understand it better I plan to read Finding Truth and Why Gender Matters (as mentioned above) and The Culture Wars by van Maren.

Reading books together is fun, so I hope to reread the Anglo Saxon Chronicles with Miss 16, One Man’s Wilderness with Mr. 21 and my father, You Are Here by Chris Hadfield for geography fun with the girls, and another volume of Wendell Berry’s poetry to share with anyone who will listen.

As for homeschooling/educational theory, I want to reread A Mathematician’s Lament (see the related essay ), and compare it to Nickel’s book Mathematics:  Is God Silent? which I would also need to reread. Miss 19 may be taking a history of mathematics course and if she does I will be reading along with her for this project.  Also, Virtuous Minds by Dow is waiting on my shelf.  Finally, I would love to reread some works by Douglas Wilson and Wolterstorff (including his insightful essay on hope in education, found in Etherington’s Foundations of Education), and books by and about Charlotte Mason, and tie them all into modern ideas about learning theory, culture, and effectiveness, including the Dutch experiment with SCRUM in education which closely mirrors how our homeschool currently works.  But this is only if time and energy allow.

If you, too, have reading plans for next year, please tell about them in the comments or connect with me on GoodReads so that we can help each other find worthwhile books and avoid worthless ones.  Or follow me on Google+ where I often mention books and other helpful resources and ideas.  For more about books, see 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Semicolon, The Book Nook, Booknificent, and Literary Musings.

God Presents the Savior: Behold My Servant

Throughout the entire Old Testament, repeatedly and in many ways, we are confronted with our need for a Savior.  Then in Isaiah 42:1-4, God presents him to us. “Behold, my servant,” he proclaims through Isaiah, pointing out six things he wants us to notice about him:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him;

his high position

he will bring forth justice to the nations.

his special calling

He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

his humble approach

a bruised reed he will not break,

and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;

his gentle care and compassion

he will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be discouraged

till he has established justice in the earth;

his faithful perseverance

and the coastlands wait for his law.

his universal appeal

There is a Savior, Jesus, sent to the world and to each of us individually.  Behold him!  Pay attention to him!

This advent devotional is based on Isaiah 42:1-4 as preached about by Rev. A. de Visser.  Eventually the entire sermon will be available online, and I will post a link here.

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