Book Review: Jesus+Nothing=Everything

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I was raised in a Christian home by parents who never could quite understand the legalistic rules that were so prevalent in the church as a whole during the 90s.  I found it somewhat exciting and interesting that my parents let me go to school dances and watch movies and listen to rock music and wear two piece bathing suits…all with the understanding that if I couldn’t handle the responsibilities that these brought with them, then I could not be free to partake in them.  My parents knew grace…and freedom in Christ, before they could even put proper words to it.  They knew that God was bigger than rules, they knew that wearing or not wearing, doing or not doing, saying or not saying would not keep us from or draw us into God’s favor.  And despite what the church had wanted me to believe, I came out on the other side knowing what so many kids my age long to know…that you don’t need to add anything else to Jesus.  He is absolutely everything.

The book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian was everything I wish I could have grasped as a teenager.  As I struggled through what was right and what was wrong it was constantly difficult for me to separate what was tradition…and speculation of man….and what was actual truth.  Was I really not a Christian if I watched an R rated movie? Was I really making God angry if I wore pants to church or said a cuss word? And even on into adulthood, this book could have spared me from the incessant wrestling that would go on in my mind about the spiritual disciplines.  I could have avoided beating myself up every time I forgot to read my bible…I could have felt relief from guilt and self-consciousness.  And more recently, if I could have read this book sooner I wouldn’t regret so many choices. I wouldn’t have felt so often the need to measure up or felt defeated by the goals I did not meet.  This book slams you in the face with the gospel and gives you a nagging challenge to give up on trying to do something…and just rely on what has already been done for you.

In the first two sections of the book Tchividjian gives us a clear picture of what he means by “Nothing” in the equation that the title proclaims.  By giving us a window into his own life we have a clear application of what the book will boldly explain.  A need to please, a need to do more, a need to meet a standard could have easily caused him to collapse under the weight of expectation and performance but by His mercy, God revealed His intentions in these events.  And that is when Jesus + Nothing = Everything became real to the author and from this revelation he begins to show us a way out from our relentless striving for more.  Through a desire to control our own lives in combination with the emptiness inside that needs filled, we create rules and standards for ourselves that God never intended for us to have.  And then legalism, or as he refers to it “performancism”, becomes our go-to strategy for feeling right with God and with ourselves.  We can all agree that salvation is not obtained by anything that we have done but only by faith, but through our actions we often portray that in order to stay in favor with God we must perform.  We feel we must be striving for Christian growth, we feel we have to be beating ourselves up about sin, we act like we have to constantly be in performance mode…we try to add all of this onto what Jesus already did for us and we hope to get something beneficial out of it.  But we are left feeling discouraged, frustrated, and disappointed with nothing to show for it.

Jesus+Nothing=Everything provides a simple, clear picture of the gospel and reveals the transformation it can have on our lives.  As the book explains, the need for the gospel goes far beyond our salvation and spills over into our Christian walk.  The true heart of the gospel is that Jesus did it all for us…he was perfect because we couldn’t be, he died so that we wouldn’t have to, he took our sins, he was raised, he stands before God…we are expected to do nothing else, except lean on the gospel.  If we try to do anything else we are totally missing the point.  And then when we realize how little we can do, and how much the gospel can do, our hearts are full of gratitude which pours over into our actions….so often we try to do it the other way around and fail miserably.  And through this progression we will actually be showing the world the gospel instead of scaring them away from it.  The world doesn’t want to see people who have it all together giving them a list of rules to obey…they want to know that we have an answer for the mess that they can’t seem to get themselves out of.  They want to know that Jesus really is Everything.

So…for anyone struggling with the lingering effects of legalism….for anyone who feels like life is a battle, and you are the perpetual loser….for anyone who feels like they never measure up….for anyone who can’t seem to ever keep up with all the rules you have made for yourself…for anyone who prides themselves on being a perfectionist….for anyone who is tired of not pleasing anyone…for anyone who just can’t seem to break out of a cycle of sin….this book is for you.

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Fashion Friday: Fabulous Fall Basics

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Here are a few of my favorite fall basics…

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This leopard print tote is a great basic tote with a twist.  The neutral cognac leather eases into any fall wardrobe. Paired with boots or heels, it can bring life to any fizzled out, tired outfit.

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Marled sweaters are popping up everywhere for fall.  Paired with anything from basic denim to black leather…from patterned pants to maxi skirts…marled sweaters are as versatile as they are comfortable.

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I’m really lusting after this style of boots. Ankle straps and heels give these casual booties a little flair.

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I have also been keeping my eye on this coat.  This would be a perfect neutral coat for the cold fall and winter up here in Michigan.

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I’d be more likely to wear this dress as a tunic top but with a leather jacket and edgy boots this is the epitamy of my style.

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Leather + tweed= Edgy + preppy….a versatile jacket like this can add structure to any outfit.

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Chambray is still going strong.  This shirt combines the classic denim fabric with the structure of a button-up and can easily be worn under sweaters or over tank tops.

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These ankle boots give any outfit an edgy twist. I love the deep slope along the ankle and the shiny silver accents. Or if heels aren’t really your thing, try these…they are very comfortable and come in so many great color options.

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Basic black leggings are easy to pull on under tunics, with a chambray shirt, or with a sweater and boots.

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I bought this vest last year and it quickly became a staple in every season.  And the military look never goes out of style.

Robots and Abstract Art

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Zane’s bedroom is starting to come together…its not the Spiderman room he asked for, but he still likes it.  There is still some work to do but so far I have painted the ugly gold and cream colored fan white and silver and rehung it.  I found the perfect curtains in just the right color to match the baskets we had used in his nursery.  And the bedspread was exactly what I had been looking for and with the contrasting gray and white sheets, it really pulls the look together.

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Then Zane and I worked on some art projects to give the room a little more character.  I gave him some paint and let him go crazy and he produced the perfect abstract piece for the wall next to his bed. This has always been my favorite method for creating art for our house. I let Mia make the art for their playroom at our old house, and the design she came up with looks so playful and happy…something I never could have captured if I tried to do it myself.

And then I painted some canvases with the colors of his room and used painters tape to frame out the pictures in white.  And my intention is to paint a different robot on each canvas in silver…but our busy schedules have kept me from finishing a lot of house projects this month.  Hopefully I will get this lonely robot two happy friends in the near future.

How Are You Doing?….

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This past Sunday my husband and I were blessed to see a familiar face from his seminary days.  A friend and member of the church we attended in Louisville spoke at our church here in Detroit creating a comforting sense of God’s sovereignty.  After the service was over my husband and I, along with our two children, stepped up to speak to him and before I could say anything, he looked intentionally into my eyes and very sympathetically asked, “How are you doing?’ And I knew what he meant.  That question has come to be a lot more specific to me over the last year…it has come to mean more to me when I speak it and when I hear it.  It has refreshingly come to actually mean something instead of just a casual way of offering greeting.  But at the same time, it has connotations of offering sympathy that I have never been good at accepting. And I knew what he meant by asking…his wife had read my blog posts about my health (probably back in the days when I was scared of what was happening to me)…but now that I am much more informed and much less paranoid I can finally offer somewhat of an answer to the question “how are you doing?”

For once in what feels like my entire life, I actually feel good.  The first visit to my doctor here in Detroit produced the answers I had been searching for over the last three years.  After feeling weak, exhausted, wracked by pain and infections…wondering what is going to be okay to eat and what is going to make me feel sick…after two failed surgeries…after nausea and dizziness…and not being able to be touched by the ones I love most…I finally received the news I refused to accept before.  “I would like to explore the option of fibromyalgia…”  I had run from that statement, done everything I could to find some other answer but the moment I heard a doctor finally say that I felt such relief.  “There are medications I can give you that would help tremendously…I really think I can help you feel a lot better.”  And finally accepting what I had been running from gave me the chance to actually start to feel better.

I had such terrible misconceptions of what fibromyalgia actually is…and from what my doctor told me, most medical professionals still remain stumped by it.  I had never known anyone with fibro…so I just categorized it as a kinder way to speak of hypochondria.  I imagined it as a doctor’s way of telling me that I was making everything up…that none of my ailments existed but they could drug me to keep from thinking about it so much.  I thought of it as a label that if accepted, would just portray to everyone that I was lazy, weak and anxious. And because it is incurable, I thought there was nothing that the doctors could do for me. But through the last year, my eyes have been open to the truth about this troubling condition.

I already knew people who had fibro but was completely unaware of their condition because they were some of the most active, friendly, hard-working people who you would never hear complaining about anything….especially their health.  I was shocked to know that my husband’s mentor, a pastor we had known for years, had been diagnosed with fibro long before we knew him.  He is such a humble and patient man…never speaking of himself, never complaining, never wanting focus to be on him. I was encouraged to know that the woman at our church who I looked up to as such an energetic and vibrant person…very active, and such an ongoing presence of encouragement to others in the church also had fibro. The people that I pictured as such selfless, active, and strong would never have been the picture of fibromyalgia in my head.

But now I know better…now I know it is a syndrome characterized by pain accompanied by mood, sleep, and mobility issues.  Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.  The answer lies deep in your nerves…somewhere that is really hard to study and run tests on. Fibro is more than what a doctor can messure…but the pain is there and anyone that has experienced this problem knows how true that is.  And now that I have been educated and had my stereotypes stripped away…I am on a medication that has helped tremendously (when my insurance will give it to me….but that’s another story).  I have found that the person I had always been didn’t have to be someone I would never know again…I could be the active, involved, happy person I once was.

But I’ve also learned that it’s okay to have bad days…and it’s okay to admit it.  Fibro is unpredictable and frustrating.  I’ve tried to explain it to other people but I feel like no matter what examples I use it just doesn’t capture how I feel. I’ve described it before as the feeling you have when you get a really bad tooth ache…the pain is in your tooth but it makes it hard to concentrate on anything else.  When the pain is bad, it’s hard to even put together sentences so you just end up saying nothing.  You feel irritated and annoyed about every little thing because the pain keeps you on the edge. Often times I try to explain it like when you are wearing a really scratchy sweater….but on every part of your body. I just want to get out of my own skin.  And sometimes I feel like someone has beaten me all night while I was sleeping. And sometimes it feels like my head is full of fog…somedays the fog is thicker than other days.  The comparisons could go on and on…but still not really explain exactly how I feel.

So, since I’ve given you the run-down of how I actually feel…the next time you ask me “how are you doing?”….I can give you the short answer of “good” and you will know what I mean.