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My recent blog on the relationship being good and doing good really stirred up some great thinking and comments from you, my dear readers.  You not only thought deeply about the question, you also gave some powerful and pertinent examples of how the “conflict” can play out in daily life.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your responses!  You really did what I was hoping to do in this blog, you thought deeply and shared your thoughts.  Please keep up the good work!!  I really appreciate your participation.

For those who were concerned about my personal welfare and what would lead me to pose such a question as “how do we balance being good to ourselves with being good?” I’d like to introduce a term that may either clear up your concerns about me or make you write me off as a total loon.  The term is Christian hedonism.  Here is a brief definition.

Christian Hedonism teaches that the desire to be happy is God-given and should not be denied or resisted but directed to God for satisfaction. Christian Hedonism does not say that whatever you enjoy is good. It says that God has shown you what is good and doing it ought to bring you joy (Micah 6:8). And since doing the will of God ought to bring you joy, the pursuit of joy is an essential part of all moral effort. If you abandon the pursuit of joy (and thus refuse to be a Hedonist, as I use the term), you cannot fulfill the will of God. Christian Hedonism affirms that the godliest saints of every age have discovered no contradiction in saying, on the one hand, “We are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Romans 8:36), and on the other hand, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Christian Hedonism does not join the culture of self-gratification that makes you a slave of your sinful impulses. Christian Hedonism commands that we not be conformed to this age but that we be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) so we can delight to do the will of our Father in heaven. According to Christian Hedonism joy in God is not optional icing on the cake of Christianity. When you think it through, joy in God is an essential part of saving faith.

I’d love to hear what you think of the concept of Christian hedonism.

One of my favorite ways to nourish myself is to read (or listen to) a good book.  My definition of a good book is a one that uplifts me in some way, that I feel like I have received benefit from when I finish it.  Sometimes the benefit received can be entertainment, sometimes it can be insight into another culture or time period, sometimes it is a stimulating idea to ponder or things I want to incorporate in my own life.  And sometimes I like to read just for the pure fun of it.

I like to have two kinds of books open at all times, books that I enjoy and books that I can learn from.  Sometimes the two types overlap, but sometimes not.  Sometimes I have to work at reading things in order to learn.  But working at something doesn’t mean it isn’t nourishing!

When I run out of ideas of what to read next I turn to several resources. These have helped me to meet new authors I like (and some I don’t) and to expand my book reading experience.  Next time you are looking for something to read try these out:

Christy Winners-Christian novels of excellence

Readalikes-input an author, series or genre you like and get suggestions of similar books

What Should I Read Next?-Like Readalikes, but this site adds the ability to search by ISBN numbers also

Shelfari-find a book you like then see what other people who also like the same book have read or are reading

Paperbackswap-A site where you can trade books with other people.  You have to pay for postage to ship books but it ranges from 2-3 dollars per book.

There are many other sites out there, but these are a few of my favorites.  So find a nice cool spot to curl up, pour yourself a frosty glass of lemonade and enjoy!

Today’s entry is a little philosophical.  It’s also a little more revealing of myself than I am comfortable being.  However, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

As the tagline of this blog says, this is a place to explore ways to nurture ourselves.  I am not writing from a standpoint of “Look at me.  I’ve got all the answers.”  I am writing because I too am exploring, I’m walking places I haven’t been before.  I’m seeking out new territory.  I’m telling you about good things I’m seeing along the way, but I am still very much on the journey.  I have not arrived at the destination.  I am asking the questions too.

And today’s question is, how do we balance being good to ourselves with being good?  How can we balance nourishing ourselves with living a moral and ethical life?

Here is where I am coming from.

As you know from my last post, I am a Christian.  That means I find my life’s meaning in the person of Jesus Christ.  I try to follow the teachings of the Bible.

But that doesn’t mean that I am mindless.  It doesn’t mean that I am blind to some of the difficulties of following a faith that occasionally seems at odds with common sense.  (Now don’t get your feathers ruffled.  I know that God’s ways are the wisest and best.  I believe that with my whole heart.  But that doesn’t stop me from wondering.)

Scripture tells us that the best way to nourish ourselves is by depending upon God and obeying Him.  But to be honest, sometimes following what God seems to require involves some personal pain.  Sometimes obeying Him feels like it’s hurting us rather than building us up.

So what do we do when faced with this situation?  How do we live a good life while still being good to ourselves in the times when the two goals feel in opposition to each other?

Thoughts?  Comments?

And don’t worry.  The next post will be much lighter.

Although it has been three decades since I nursed my first newborn infant, I’ll never forget what an awesome experience it was.  That squalling little baby came into this world already equipped with an inborn knowledge of what he needed to do in order to survive and grow.  When he was hungry he knew just how to get my attention so I’d put him into the position from which he could nourish himself.  When I held him to my chest, he knew how to turn his head and to search for the necessary food.

Amazingly my newborn son needed only one source of nutrition during his early months.  The milk he slurped from the mommy bar contained all the nutrients he needed to develop and grow.

Just like newborns, older humans also have an innate knowledge of what we need to grow and thrive, not just for now but for forever.  We have a deep sense that there is only one source that will satisfy our needs and our longings.  An ancient book of wisdom calls this being born with eternity in our hearts.  But just like the newborn we need help to get to the source of nourishment.  We need someone who will bridge the gap between where we are and where we long to be in order to get what we need.  That is where Jesus Christ comes in.  When we believe in Him we are letting Him pick us up and place us near God’s heart, the one place where we can latch on and receive all the nourishment we need to grow and thrive..

Unlike a newborn, we never outgrow our need for nourishment from God.  It’s one diet that lasts for a lifetime and beyond.

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July 2010