For the Gospel

At church tonight, I walked away with a main idea completely unrelated to the message. That’s Jesus, I guess.

Church is probably the most socializing I do all week, and sometimes, the crowd gets to me. Why is it when I try to wave to people, they never see me and wave back? Oh my gosh, lull in the conversation, ask them how their week was… is it just me, or is she wayyyy more excited to see him than she is to see me? Crap. What did I do? And so my train of thought goes.

Tonight, though, Jesus spoke to me loud and clear: Live for the Gospel, not for approval. 

The lie of approval says this: You are worth whatever those around you say you’re worth. Some mistakes just need to be covered up and denied, because if they weren’t, you wouldn’t be welcomed. Life is a competition that you are bound to lose. If not enough people love you, then you are doing something wrong.

The truth of the Gospel says this: Your worth is determined by the Universe’s King whose Son hung on a cross on your behalf. You can be forgiven and accepted no matter what. You have been uniquely equipped to live out your story. Loving people is a much better purpose than being loved by people.

It’s this last point in particular that has been really getting to me. I overanalyze every greeting and conversation, wishing that I could be better at a million things just so people would like me more. Popularity is an absolute idol, but it comes in the disguise of “being a good friend.” The truth is, I am vying for others’ attention and approval, rather than to show them how much Jesus pays attention to them and approves of them. Far too often, I live for my own belonging, rather than to make others feel like they belong.

Living for others’ approval is overwhelming, exhausting, and unfulfilling. But living for the Gospel is an exciting adventure that ultimately leads me to the truth: my Father approves of me so much more than I could ever understand. That approval is infinitely more satisfying than anything my people-pleasing habits could offer, and it’s my job to show others that their Father feels this way about them, too. This is the Gospel I live for, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Let me just start by saying this: The Retribution of Mara Dyer was one of the best series finales I have ever read. This book is the third and final book in the Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin, and I’ve been waiting for it since January (which may be why my kindle slipped and I read it in two days). This book was everything I’ve ever wanted in a book three: adventure, humor, intensity, Lord of the Rings references, character development, tying up loose ends, Lord of the Rings references. Michelle Hodkin did an absolutely beautiful job with this book, and I give it a 10/10. (Warning: the following review has spoilers for all of the Mara Dyer series, including Retribution. Basically, leave and go read. Also, the following review is incredibly long because I could not stop raving about this book)

Things I Liked:

  • Is it too vague to say that I liked everything?
  • Probably. Shoot.
  • Okay, the first thing that comes to mind is that Michelle Hodkin ties everything together wonderfully. Going into this book, we knew a little about Mara’s grandmother and her connection with Noah’s mother and next to nothing about Abel Lukumi. But instead of a fantastically boring, Council-of-Elrond-esque backstory, the truth is revealed through flashbacks, random memories, bits and pieces coming together into one final monologue by one David Shaw. I had no idea how Michelle would bring this all together (example: I was beginning to think that Mara was the Doctor). But all the puzzle pieces finally click at the very end in the most dramatic, awesome way possible. #archetypeswag
  • Along with the previous point, the climax scene is wonderful. I was home alone when I read it, and there were a lot of gasps and screams and general bewilderment. It’s intense, surprising, not too lengthy, not too short, and absolutely incredible.
  • The writing is beautiful. My review notes for halfway through, when Mara is bleeding out and we’re getting flashbacks, are full of me VERY AGGRESSIVELY FREAKING OUT IN ALL-CAPS. This scene is just one of many examples of the incredible writing: intense, poetic, full of great lines, incredibly paced, generally on point.
  • Jamie Roth and Lord of the Rings references, ladies and gentlemen. Grumbling about Lembas, “fool of a Took!”, wanting to “Wormtongue” his way out of things, etc. I died laughing every time. Jamie in general is just fabulous.
  • Noah Elliot Simon Shaw. I feel like this might be the point on which most of the fans disagree, but I loved the way he enters toward the end. We’ve never really seen Mara without him, and I think it was important for her character growth that she spend the entire book searching for answers and him instead of searching for answers with him. When he does come in, it’s fabulous and dramatic and perfect.
  • Noah’s computer password is “marashaw.” My heart.
  • Mara and Daniel bro moments!
  • The ending after the climax, with the letters and unfortunately necessary decisions. At first, I was kind of annoyed at Mara having the whole “love Noah to ruins dilemma” again, and then I was upset that there’s not really a satisfying choice. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that her choosing Noah over the fate of the world is so consistent with her character throughout the rest of the books. She always chooses Noah, no matter the consequences, and he always chooses her. The fact that they end up in the same messed-up romance that they’ve always been in makes for a more satisfying conclusion than butterflies and rainbows.
  • Noah’s POV is all I could ever ask for in a book. The sass! The darkness! The drama! The sass!
  • Mara’s acceptance of herself is the most perfect thing in the world.
    • “He thought I was someone else… someone who wouldn’t fight back.” BAM.
    • “I thought it would be easier to be someone else than to be who I was becoming, but I didn’t think that anymore. The girl who wanted those things had died with Rachel, buried under the asylum I brought down. And I realized now, for the first time, really, that I didn’t miss her.” *AGGRESSIVE APPLAUSE*
    • “The most terrifying thing in these tunnels is me.” HECK YES.
  • Classic Michelle Hodkin character sass, including the aforementioned Noah Shaw and Jamie Roth. It lightens up these dark, depressing books so much.

Where is my “things I didn’t like” list? Ha. There isn’t one. This book was flawless. All the awards to Michelle Hodkin. Thank you for Mara Dyer, for sharing her story with us, and for this perfect conclusion to an exciting and adventurous series.