Happy New (School) Year

This is a new year for many people, especially students heading to college, or families with school-aged children. We’re all coming out of the fun-and-sun times of the summer, and it’s time to get back to a more normal routine.

With this return to routine, many people make New (School) Year’s resolutions. If you’re going to make them, you should do your best to keep them, don’t you think? So here are a few quick bullet points from my message on Sunday.

  • Check your motivation—be motivated by something which will last into eternity.
  • Set realistic goals—we often overestimate what we can get done in a day, and underestimate what we can get done in a year.
  • Don’t quit when you slip—there’s always slip-ups with new things, so be prepared for it, and don’t throw in the towel when it happens.
  • Start now—the Bible uses the word today twice as often as tomorrow, and uses now 1000 times more than later. Get the point? Don’t wait!

And two more tips that may help:

Guys—studies show you are more likely to follow through on your resolutions if you set specific goals (like: read one chapter a day, or exercise for 30 minutes three times a week).

Ladies—studies also show you are more like to stick with your resolutions if you tell a friend what you have resolved to do differently, and then ask that friend to follow up with you.

Happy new (school) year!

Permission To Speak Freely (book review)

I was first introduced to Anne Jackson’s writings through her blog. Something about the raw honesty in the way she wrote was instantly both compelling and confronting. When Mad Church Disease came out, I devoured it in a couple of days. With Permission To Speak Freely, I couldn’t put it down, finishing it the first day I received it.

I say that Anne’s writing is both compelling and confronting. Compelling because her words create in me a desire to want to be the kind of Christian that loves people and embraces them just as they are, just as Jesus showed us. And confronting because I know I am so far away from this.

Permission To Speak Freely addresses a real problem in the church: we don’t let people speak freely. At least, not people with “problems.” People who appear to have their act together, who know how to quote Scripture left and right, who never have a bad day, who always say and do the right things, those are the kind of people that can speak up in our churches. But those who are asking the tough questions, those who are hurting, those who aren’t sure Jesus is for them, those who don’t know how to “behave” in church, those are the kind of people who need to keep quiet. Tough words, I know; but sadly, they are true more times than not.

Anne goes first. She steps out from behind the I’ve-got-it-all-together façade and tells us what sort of struggles she had and has. She gives us “the Gift Of Going Second.” She breaks the ice, she pulls down the churchy barriers so that the rest of us can say, “Yeah, that’s me too.”

Part of this book reads like Anne’s memoirs. But then there’s the poetry, and the artwork, and the handwritten postcards with real people confessing real hurts and real questions. This book grabbed my heart and made me take a hard look at how I expect people to act in church. My kids are PK’s (preacher’s kids) just as Anne was, so I had to take a look at my expectations for them. I confronted my expectations for the families and individuals in our congregation.

I believe that is what this book will do most for you: cause you to confront the way you’ve always believed people should act in church. I looked at myself, and I found myself needing to extend more grace. Thanks, Anne, for being transparent enough to get me to take an honest look at my own life.

I highly, highly recommend this book to you.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

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