R is for Run

Been thinking about this for a while and I think it’s time to write it.  Let’s start with my “inspiration.”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  ~ Hebrews 12: 1-2

I didn’t do a lot of running in school.  For one thing, I went to small, private schools that just didn’t have elaborate P.E. programs–particularly not competitive sports.  Additionally, I was the kid who passed out after .10 mile.  Yeah.  That’s not a joke by the way.  Just sayin’.  However, my brother ran.  I remember my parents telling the story about my shrimpy brother Berechyn running in a track meet.  The people all around Mom and Dad were talking about the runners.  Once the gun was fired, most of the comments revolved around how Bear just kept a steady pace behind the pack.  They said things like “kid can’t keep up” and “just too little to be in this group” and similar observations.  Then he kicked it up a notch.  He passed the first kid, then the second.  Runner after runner got a taste of his tailwind as he flew past and finished first.  The comments changed to things like, “Look at the calves on that kid!”  By the way, he got those calves because my dad used to take the garbage can lids with him on his way to work and dump them a mile or two away from the house.  The boys had to wake up and run in opposite directions (because for a while they were taking turns sleeping in and one of them running… snort) to get those lids before school started.  For the record, I obviously got different genes.

But… one thing I learned from Bear was that when you’re racing, you don’t look behind you.  You don’t look from side to side.  It will slow you down.  You look straight ahead, at the finish line and you RUN.  You keep your “eye on the prize” as they say.  I think this is where that saying came from– Hebrews 12:1-2.

But as Christians, do we do that?  Do we run “our race” (or as we more sedentary folk call it, our “Christian walk”) focused on Jesus?  Or, do we let our eyes wander to see how well our brethren are doing in their race?  Are we concerned with keeping our eyes on Jesus or are we obsessed with the log in our brother’s eye that is holding HIM back?  Is that why we keep stumbling and falling?  Is it because, like Peter, we take our eyes off Jesus and the reality around us knocks us down?

Look, I know it’s not a perfect analogy.  We need to be there to help one another.  I would hope that winning a race would not be so important to me that I would not stop to help someone in it that truly needed ME to be the one to stop.  I just think that sometimes we try to be “all things to all men, all at once, all the time, all by ourselves” as Richard Swenson of the book Margin likes to put it.  In a race, there are those who are assigned the task of helping the fallen.  That might mean it’s you.  It might not.  But is your task to critique the running style of your comrades?  Is your task to focus on where they could improve their technique?  Is your task to obsess over the flaws of others and glory in your superior style?  If they ask for pointers on how to imitate yours, do you get upset when they discover it doesn’t work for them?  Maybe their legs are shorter, maybe they don’t have the type of endurance you have, or maybe they just haven’t built up the muscle to run the same race yet.  Maybe they need to do sprints for now or maybe you’re the sprinter and they are the marathoners who look like they’re not getting anywhere, but at the end of the road, you both have won your prizes.

It just feels like there’s a lot of focus on critiquing the race that our brethren are running and not enough focus on staying our own course. Sounds scarily familiar.  Starts with a Ph… Phoenician?  Philippian?  Pharisee?  Eeek… yeah.  that one.

Don’t we have enough in our own lives to concentrate on without nitpicking everyone else’s?  They eat Pop Tarts and you eat whole grain mash.  They do time outs and you just want time out from their unruly children.  They read the KJV and you like the ESV.  They play video games and you play Dutch Blitz.

Really?  That’s worth taking your eyes off Jesus for?

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What If…

I have a character who intrigues me.  Have you ever wondered what you’d do if you could start your life over– completely?  Ella gets that chance unexpectedly and the results are interesting.  To her, she is who she is now– she always has been.  It is as if her real self has come forward and now has a chance to shine. The problem is, the others in her life do not know that person.  Daily she says or does something that confuses them, frustrates them, or causes some sort of contention with them.

I’ve “reinvented” my life a million times, but not certainly not to the degree that Ella did.  I remember the day I woke up and realized I was going to learn to hate sewing if I didn’t change the number of hours I spent at it per day.  That doesn’t sound like reinventing a life, but when the bulk of your days was spent sewing, cutting, planning, or processing orders, you have to admit that it is.

Some things are non-negotiables.  I am a Christian.  No changes in how I live my life can conflict with that.  My choices, decisions, and priorities must align with God’s Word.  I WANT my life to reflect that the Lord of it is Jesus.  It’s not easy, but it’s simple.  If I’m going to make changes in my life, the first ones should narrow my focus from myself and to my Lord.

I am a wife.  I am my husband’s “helper” according to scripture.  For the first 23 years of our marriage, I have been blessed to have a husband who spent much of his free time doing my job for me– helping me.  Well, I think the time has come for change.  It’s time for me to pick up some of the slack that I’ve left over the years.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do a lot around here– much more than even I think of at times.  I am just talking about embracing that “helper” role instead of “getting ‘er done.”  This non-negotiable cannot be crowded out by the rest of life anymore.

I have nine children.  Nine.  Yes, one is married with two of her own children and another one slated to appear in April/May.  One is off at the University of Irvine–three hours away.  I have two more adults at home and five minors.  Just because some of my children are grown doesn’t mean my job is done with them.  They aren’t dolls.  You don’t sew and stuff and paint them until they’re finished and then put them on shelf to admire.  If anything, sometimes I think your older children need you more than ever.  I’m a mom.  It’s part of who I am but I think I need to be MORE of a mom– somehow.  That’s a non-negotiable.  I can’t set that aside and I wouldn’t want to.

I’ve really wrestled with this but home education is definitely a non-negotiable for me.  Would I like to feel free to “outsource” our children’s education?  Absolutely.  There are days it is my daydream– long mornings and afternoons with no one around but myself.  No planning, correcting, or working with a student that just doesn’t get something.  The problem is, I can’t do it.  I just can’t.  It’s not negotiable.

If what I decide what I want to do and be conflicts with who I am as a Christian, a wife, a mom, or a home educator, it can’t happen.  It just can’t.

The real question then begs, what I can I decide?  What– blended in with the four things I cannot and will not supersede–will I do?  Who will I grow into in these next years?

I’m eager to see.  Ella had the advantage of an author who could mold the story to fit the will of her character.  I have the superior advantage to have an Author who is able to mold me to His will.  I’m fascinated by the concept.

Food=Fuel

Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was just thinking about the point of eating the other day.  You know, food is necessary to keep a body going.  That’s why we eat.  We don’t eat to store it up for some odd day sometime when maybe we’ll use what we ate.  It’s a little like manna.  You know?  They were given just the food they  needed to make it through that day.  Similarly, food we eat that we don’t burn is wasted– and becomes revolting.  You know… those rolls and rolls of extra rolls around our guts.  Yeah, I was thinking about it AFTER getting ready for an “event.”

But then my mind swerved to scripture.  Just how often do we gorge ourselves on the Word but never use it in our lives?  I have to admit, I know I’m guilty of it.  Isn’t that what James called being “hearers of the Word and not doers?”  Makes you think, doesn’t it.  It seems weird to consider yourself a “spiritual glutton.”  I don’t think the point is to read the Bible less but to use it more.  Just like (for me anyway) the point isn’t to eat less food (I don’t eat a whole lot of it anyway) but to exercise more.

Yeah.  Time to get me some new walkin’ shoes so I can do some real exercising.  It’s time.  And as I start walking, perhaps it’s also time to do a little praying, memorizing, and meditating.  It’s time to put “feet” to that Word I claim to love so much and show my faith “by my works” kind of thing.

Oy.

Oh, and another silly thought I had when I was analogizing… there is no such thing as “junk food” in scripture.  Isn’t that great!  It’s all wholesome food!  Some might be milk, others might be meat or honey, but none of it is “junk.”  YAY!

A Time to…

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

1For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2a time to be born, and a time to die;a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal;a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh;a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose;a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew;a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate;a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

This has always been one of my favorite passages.  I remember my father using it to explain appropriateness.  I imagine the part about a time to keep silence inspired his lesson that day.  I had a particular talent for the “time to speak” part… I just seemed to imagine that all of life was a time to speak.  All through my life I’ve used this to remind me of things specific to my circumstances.  As a student in school, I would remind myself that there was, “A time to study and a time to read” or “a time for Literature and a time for Science.”  Yesterday after scrubbing the shower for some time, my arms worn out with the effort of scrubbing  the fiberglass enclosure free of the build up of soap, rust, and grime, I chided myself about not having spent the “time” to maintain the cleanliness of it.  This passage came to mind and I wondered about the “Time Tos” of my life.

For everything in my home and life there is a season, and a time for every matter under my roof.

  • a time to arise and a time to sleep
  • a time to teach and a time to learn
  • a time to procure groceries and a time to prepare them
  • a time to clean and a time to educate
  • a time to rebuke and a time to encourage
  • a time to write and a time to read
  • a time to work hard and a time to relax
  • a time to declutter and a time to acquire
  • a time to enjoy hobbies and a time to put them away
  • a time to pray and a time to sing
  • a time to wash and a time to fold
  • a time to advise and a time to listen without speaking
  • a time to be home and a time to get away
  • a time for chaos and a time for peace

 

It’s nothing so profound, but when I do this, I remember that every good thing, whether work, play, fun or miserable, has an appointed time and there is nothing virtuous in spending all my time killing myself with work any more than there is something sinful in enjoying things that enrich my life and bring me joy.  God has given me all the time I need to do what He wants me to do.  I simply need to ensure that I do those things.

Just Sayin’…

I’ve read it a million times in various books.  Someone says something like, “Well, things are just going downhill.  In my day…”  Invariably, the impression is clear.  Only “old” people are bothered by the relaxing of standards once considered important.  Well, I think I’m old.  Call me a hypocrite, but I’ve never been bothered by words like darn and heck.  For one thing, they’d been around for several generations before me and were far removed from the original words.  I get that language is fluid.  I get that things change.  I just don’t agree that all change is good.

It started with a so-called mild form of excrement.  Not as offensive as the “S” word, this word I’ve heard spoken glibly by nearly everyone.  I hate it, but I tried to keep my opinion to myself.  After all, just because I don’t like it doesn’t make it wrong.  Then there came the spin-offs of the vulgar “F” word.  I hate them.  Cannot stand them.  However, I have to say, they are still preferable to the more modern “F-ing” or “WTF.”  I hesitated typing those out.  I feel like I just used nasty language.  You know why?  Because I did.  I’m sorry, but it’s quite obvious what words are meant there.  The mind fills them in for you.  I have actually heard people say both aloud. Text-speak has invaded modern speech in new ways.  People actually vocalize “LOL” or “OMG” as if they are words.  I’m sorry, exclaiming “OMG” is frankly no different than saying “Oh, my God!”  Let’s hope that is a prayer on your lips.

I know that a lot of people say, “So what?  It’s just a matter of taste.  You’re just judging/putting your standards on others/etc.”  Um, actually, I’m quite certain that Scripture is clear on this kind of thing.

I know, I have a love-affair with the book of James.  People who know me well could have guessed I’d start there.  James 3: 5-10

5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

6And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

7For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.

8But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;

10from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

When I think of these verses, the first thing that comes to mind is how easily our tongue controls us rather than the other way around.  When you take Luke 6:45 and read it with James in mind, it becomes quite sobering.

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

Gulp.  When we’re throwing out words that refer to irreverent usage of God’s name, excrement, and the most vulgar words in our language, what does that say about our hearts?  Can we truthfully stand before the Lord and say, “I knew You’d use that language, so I was good with it?”  If Jesus wouldn’t use our choice of “phraseology,” then what makes those of us who call ourselves “Christ Ones” (Christians) think that it is acceptable for us?

I’ve actually heard Christians defend the use by saying that the Bible doesn’t forbid it.  Seriously?  We have movie and even TV show ratings that both signify and warn about “Profane speech” in their choices.  You can expect to possibly hear a few “mild” profanities in PG, possibly quite a bit with PG-13, and if you get to R, well it could be like the time we went to see the movie Phone Booth, expecting to have to overlook a few obscenities and left after just a few minutes and about 50 F-words.  It was ridiculous.  If the world can see that certain words are “profane” why are we so quick to dismiss it.  Ephesians 5:3-5 has something to say about that.

Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Um… no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk which is out of place…

What about the ESV?  I thought it was interesting to compare the NAB to the ESV on verse 4.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

What the NAB calls obscenity, the ESV calls filthiness.  What the NAB calls silly, the ESV calls foolish talk.  What the NAB calls suggestive talk, the ESV calls crude joking.  OUCH.

Ok, I’m going to be horribly transparent here.  Occasionally someone will say something that sounds “just wrong.”  You know what I mean.  Thank the French for the concept of the “double entendre.”  Usually, I wish I could truthfully say always, I don’t comment.  I mean, really.  Just because one person’s words sounded suggestive when I knew it wasn’t meant to does not mean that I have to send everyone else’s minds around me into the same “obscene/crude” place that mine went.  And, I’ve noticed that the less often I let my mind stay in that place, the less often it goes there.  It’s as if crudeness begets crudeness.  Imagine that.

Look, I know we have what we call “free speech” in America, and I believe it is a wonderful right that the citizens should protect to the best of their ability.  However, as CHRISTIANS, we do not have that right.  As Christians we are specifically called not to be “of the world.”  We are told to keep our thoughts and speech pure.  I’m sorry, but even text-speak abbreviations for things that are impure don’t sanitize them.  Your spouting “WTF” when something goes wrong or astounds you puts the actual words in my mind.  As a Christian, you are defrauding your sister.  You are being offensive.  You are making it next to impossible for me to keep the impurity of such words out of my mind.  If you cannot see the need to restrain yourself for your own benefit, can you not show Christian charity to your sister in Christ?

When you tell a sexually implicit or explicit joke, turn everything into a double meaning, or use words that send others’ minds in those directions, you’re causing brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.  Would you really do that if Jesus was right there taking part in the conversation?  I know you can’t “help” what jumps into your mind before you’ve had a chance to dissect it, but you can help putting those same inappropriate images and thoughts into the minds of those around you.

Hey, I’m talking to myself on that one.  Even my (truly) shocked, “Aaak” can do it.  I remember watching a movie once.  All the innuendo (or most anyway) went straight over my head.  It usually does.  However, when we went back to see it with friends and my kids, one person with us caught every single one– and made bothered noises to that effect.  Hey, I don’t blame her.  When you “get it” it’s hard not to be offended by it.  However, every single one of those “ugh” type sounds alerted me to the ugliness I’d missed.  On the one hand, since I’d brought  my older girls, I was glad of it.  On the other hand, I wonder how much of the ugliness they’d have ignored if they weren’t being alerted to its presence every few minutes.  My guess is that most of them would have been like me.  Clueless.  And that’s how I’d have preferred it. I do it often without realizing it until it’s too late.  As a mom, there’s a fine line between not drawing attention to crudeness or obscenity and pointing out what we avoid.  However, between friends, there’s just no excuse for sending one anothers’ minds into the gutter.

Or, in the words of one of those Disney cartoon characters.  “If you don’t have something nice to say…”

Just sayin’.

Book Review: Blind Hope *Win a FREE Copy*

Title: Blind Hope

Subtitle: An Unwanted Dog & the Woman She Rescued

Author: Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher

Publisher’s Synopsis:

ABOUT THIS BOOK

An unwanted dog. An emotional rescue.
Two lives forever changed.

Laurie’s dreams had been shattered before she came to work at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch—the ranch of rescued dreams—where broken horses and broken children encounter healing every day. In an attempt to soothe her aching soul, Laurie reached out to save a dog in need. And she soon began to realize that the dog was rescuing her.

An inspiring true story told through the engaging voice of Kim Meeder, Blind Hope reveals poignant life lessons Laurie experienced from her ailing, yet courageous canine friend. Despite the blindness of her dog—and her own heart—Laurie uncovered what she really needed most: authentic love, unconditional trust, and true acceptance, faults and all.

As Laurie and her dog, Mia, both learned to follow the lead of a master they couldn’t see, Laurie discovered the transforming power of God’s grace even for imperfect and selfish people—and she experienced a greater love than she had ever known.

“Love is a bridge that stands firm through difficulties and connects one heart directly to another, not because of how it looks, but because of what it is.”    –Kim Meeder, Blind Hope

This is one of those gently but profoundly encouraging true stories that makes a significant impact on your life.  Nothing in this book is a stunning revelation that you haven’t read before… well, aside from the fact that it is a true story that you probably haven’t read before… if you know what I mean.  No, my point is that this book reminds us of gentle truths that we often let get stomped by the harshness of life.  How to hear a master’s voice… you know, by listening.  How to love the unlovely… you know, by realizing that you are the unlovely and yet someone loves you.  The truths of this book are simple to see, but not so simple to allow to take root in your heart.

This book will make you cheer, might make you cry, but in the end, it’s just one of those encouraging books that we all need to read from time to time.  No, it isn’t earth shattering– and yet, for the woman who lived it, it was.  I recommend it for a lazy summer afternoon when apathy is ready to attack with full force.

I want to thank Multnomah for providing this review copy and I am excited to give it away in order for someone else to be blessed by it.  Just leave a comment and tell me what lessons you’ve learned from a pet in your life!

Book Review: The Last Christian ** Win a Copy!**

ATTENTION:  I found this review in my drafts folder.  This blog tour is a good month or two old now (the emails are on my old computer).  However, I felt obligated to post it now anyway and to offer my apologies to WaterBrook for my error.

Title: The Last Christian

Author: David Gregory

Publisher’s Synopsis: In the future, it’s possible to live forever—but at what cost?

A.D. 2088.

Missionary daughter Abigail Caldwell emerges from the jungle for the first time in her thirty-four years, the sole survivor of a mysterious disease that killed her village. Abby goes to America, only to discover a nation where Christianity has completely died out. A curious message from her grandfather assigns her a surprising mission: re-introduce the Christian faith in America, no matter how insurmountable the odds.

But a larger threat looms. The world’s leading artificial intelligence industrialist has perfected a technique for downloading the human brain into a silicon form. Brain transplants have begun, and with them comes the potential of eliminating physical death altogether—but at what expense?

As Abby navigates a society grown more addicted to stimulating the body than nurturing the soul, she and Creighton Daniels, a historian troubled by his father’s unexpected death, become unwitting targets of powerful men who will stop at nothing to further their nefarious goals. Hanging in the balance—the spiritual future of all humanity.

In this fast-paced thriller, startling near-future science collides with thought-provoking religious themes to create a spell-binding “what-if?” novel.

I must confess, I had trouble with this book at first.  After a confusing start, it became interesting, and then collapsed into a bit of confusing.  Part of the trouble was that there were several plots, happening all at once, and so it was like starting to read four or five books at exactly the same time.  Read part of a chapter of one, skip to the next, and then to the next, and so forth.  Because of that, I almost didn’t continue the story.  A part of me just wanted to be done, but once the stories began to converge in tangible ways, it wasn’t work to read the story, and then by about half-way through, I was engrossed.

The fascinating part of this futuristic novel is how similar some parts are to my own novel I wrote last year, Volition, and how other parts are so drastically different.  At first, I became concerned that mine would be too similar in some of the reality issues, but fortunately most is not so I doubt anyone but me would see any similarities.

I really can’t explain the story without giving away plots.  There were parts I loved, other parts I hated, and as much as I hate it, the ending was absolutely perfect.  The message of the book, however, is the key.  I really think that every Christian in America needs to read this novel.  Its message is powerful and simple.  The Christian life isn’t something you live.  The Christian life is what Jesus lives through you.  It sounds like the same thing, but as this book so brilliantly demonstrates, they are not.

Read the book.  If you don’t win it from my blog, go to amazon.com, to your local store, or to the library and get the book.  Wade through the beginning… I bet most people didn’t have the trouble I did, but even if they did, it’s worth it, and read the book.  Compare what the author teaches through the story with scripture.  Be a Berean.  I promise you, you will not be disappointed.  Well, unless you want a Pharisaical life filled with human attempts to live a life that only Jesus can do for you.

I have two copies generously provided by Multnomah/WaterBrook.  I am giving away both copies.  Simply leave a comment and tell me why you think we tend to grasp the Christian walk is something we do rather than something Christ does through us.

Book Review: Life, In Spite of Me ** Win a FREE copy**

Title: Life, In Spite of Me:  Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice

Author: Kristen Jane Anderson with Tricia Goyer

Publisher’s Synopsis: She wanted to die. God had other plans.

Why does my life have to be so painful?
What’s wrong with me?
It’s not going to get better.
It could all be over soon, and then I won’t hurt anymore.


Kristen Anderson thought she had the picture-perfect life until strokes of gray dimmed her outlook: three friends and her grandmother died within two years. Still reeling from these losses, she was raped by a friend she thought she could trust. She soon spiraled into a seemingly bottomless depression.

One January night, the seventeen-year-old decided she no longer wanted to deal with the emotional pain that smothered her. She lay down on a set of cold railroad tracks and waited for a freight train to send her to heaven…and peace.

But Kristen’s story doesn’t end there.

In Life, In Spite of Me this remarkably joyful young woman shares the miracle of her survival, the agonizing aftermath of her failed suicide attempt, and the hope that has completely transformed her life, giving her a powerful purpose for living.

Her gripping story of finding joy against all odds provides a vivid and unforgettable reminder that life is a gift to be treasured.

Includes notes of encouragement Kristen wishes she had received when she was struggling most.

With a title and synopsis like that, I knew this would be a difficult book to read.  I both looked forward to it and dreaded it.  The depth of her pain before the horrible night on the train tracks alone were enough to make me want to take her home and help wipe the pain from her life.  Of course, had someone done that, she might never have gotten out of the, “I’m a good girl so I’ll go to heaven” mentality.

The story is well-written and almost makes you feel as if you’re living it with her.  I kept wanting to shake my head with her as she wondered, “Did I really try to kill myself?”  I, just as she did, felt like it wasn’t possible.  It was a horrible mistake, or maybe she’d been drinking before hand or something.  This book was truthfully one of the most inspiring stories I’ve read in a long time.  A twenty-first century true story that reminded me of Christian classics such as Joni or The Cross and the Switchblade.

Don’t hesitate.  Buy the book.  You won’t regret it.  There is so much more I want to tell you about the book, but I can’t do it.  You really need to read the story for yourself.

Multnomah gave me two copies of this book, but I think I’m keeping one.  This book is one I think my daughters would enjoy reading and I have a few friends here in town who would also appreciate it.   Just leave a comment and I’ll enter you in the drawing for the other copy.

Book Review: 360° Life ** Win a FREE copy **

Title: 360° Life

Author: Billy Joe Daugherty

Publisher’s Synopsis: What if you only had a few days to live?
Would you love?
Would you laugh?
Would you give?
Would you live differently than you do right now?
–Billy Joe Daugherty

If possible, would you do a makeover on parts of your life? Most of us would gladly say “Yes!” to a fresh start, and that’s exactly what God offers.

So many people live empty and frustrating lives, which is tragic because God desires a full, productive, and satisfying life for His children. 360° Life explores how ordinary people, regardless of their challenges, can experience life-altering change through simple faith.  Billy Joe Daugherty weaves material from the Bible, his own experiences, and riveting interviews with contemporary Christians to reveal how not just to survive struggles, but to rise above them.

That’s the fulfilling result of a 360-degree life.

First, I’d like to apologize.  I found a bunch of unsubmitted reviews in my drafts folder.  This was supposed to go up a couple of weeks or more ago.  I can’t tell when they were supposed to go up, because that’s on the old laptop and Kevin hasn’t moved them over to this one yet.  I’m frustrated over it all.  Here I thought I’d been on the ball, but I wasn’t.  Sigh.

Ok, this book.  First, I was sorry to hear that Mr. Daughterty passed away before this book was published.  I have to confess, I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it.  In several places, I was very pleasantly surprised.  There was a heartbreaking sort of irony to see the book open with the question, “What if you only had a few days to live?”  I admit, I know nothing about the author aside from this book, but that brought a lump to my throat.  It was compounded by the personal commendations by his friends that seem to indicate that he lived what he taught.

The book addresses ten ways to live “more richly, deeply, fully.”  Each chapter begins with questions that are designed to make you think.  I loved those questions.  I loved how they made me think.  Each chapter was filled with anecdotes from the lives of people changed in powerful ways and are used to illustrate the point.  I found many of the stories inspiring.

Technically, the book isn’t anything earth shattering.  We all know that we need to put our trust in the Lord and to “fear” Him only.  We need to be thankful and not let our circumstances keep us down.  We are more than conquerors.  However, what this book does do, is remind us, with the stories of those who have walked this pathway before us, just how to do it.

My guess is that those with a charismatic bent will appreciate this book the most.  Due to theological differences in places, it isn’t one I’d buy to give to friends, but I’d give it to my more charismatic friends in a heartbeat.  I know a few who would be truly blessed by it.

I have two copies, generously provided by Water Brook, to give away, so leave a comment and tell me what number one thing you do (or try to do) to live “more richly, deeply, fully.”  I’m going to have a boatload of books to give away this week, so snag your chance now.  You might have a whole box coming!

I Love C.S. Lewis…

Who can’t love a guy named Clive Staples who started a book with the line… “There once was a boy named Clarence Eustace Scrubb, and he almost deserved it?”

Well, today on Facebook, my friend Anita had this as her status.

“I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say.  I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else.  I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people.”

One healthy reminder that Matthew 7:12 was not a suggestion… eh?

Do You Ever Wonder…

How the rest of the world observes Christians?  When they read a blog post about Bible versions, dresses vs. pants, elders or congregational rule, modesty, movies, or the flaws in different ministries, do they go, “Wow… ” and if so, why?

Do they see hearts so in love with the Lord that we want to please Him with all of our being… or do they see people who miss the essence of what– or rather Whom– they claim to believe?

I bet this seems kind of odd after my recent “Dear Young Person” rant.  After all, I was pretty harsh.  I know I was.  Sometimes, you have to “turn over the moneychanger tables” and other times you have to back off and remind a brother to “go and sin no more.”  Christians have a horrible reputation of “shooting their own”.  “Friendly fire” is common in churches and Christian circles.  The sad thing is, because of that, true sin is often overlooked, excused, or practically encouraged under the guise of “love”.  It isn’t loving to watch someone drink poison.  It isn’t loving to let someone destroy themselves.

Do you remember when you were a kid?  Maybe it was the time you started to lie about who broke Mom’s vase and then ‘fessed up.  Mom said, “I’m just glad you told me the truth.  I’ll clean it up.  Just be careful on your way to the kitchen.”  You deserved some kind of consequence and all you got was forgiveness.  Why?  Because Mom saw that you were penitent and that you chose not to compound an accident with a wrong.  That’s what Christians should do when their brother sins against them.  It’s the right thing to do.

If the sister is in continual sin, it does her no good for you to pretend like it’s all ok, or worse, justify it.  “I know you just trashed your husband’s reputation all over Facebook, but he really did blow it and you were just venting.”   Gulp.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen, if Christians quit trying to live up to a set of rules and started just immersing themselves in the Bible.  I mean really FEED on it.  Make it such a part of our lives that we feel hungry– starving even– without it.  And then… just because I like to be radical… live it.  Not rules, not regulations, not a check list of ‘to-dos’, not even a “WWJD” kind of Charles Sheldonesque thing…  Just that when you’re ready to fire off a stinging reply to someone who unjustly blasts you, instead you remember to “see that no one repays another with evil for evil , but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.”  You don’t do it because it’s another “godly discipline” but rather from an outflow of what you’ve been infusing into your heart.  In other words, you got slapped on one cheek and instead of raising your hand to retaliate, you opted not to (which leaves you open to further attack hence, the other cheek thing).

  1. Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
    Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
    Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
    Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
  2. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
    Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
    By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
    Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
  3. Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
    And run not before Him, whatever betide.
    In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
    And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
  4. Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
    Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
    Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
    Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
Yes, sometimes I wonder what the world thinks of Christians… but then I put that thought out of my mind.  I really don’t want to know.  I don’t want to know because deep down I know it isn’t what I want it to be.

Dear Young Person…

I know you have grown up and heard a lot of stories about the mistakes your parents made.  The things they did probably make you roll your eyes or maybe you’re one of the kids who hears about the drugs, the parties, the drag races through town, and you think, “You turned out ok.   You had fun and now look at you– talk about boring!  Man, why do people think it’s so bad to try some of this stuff when you’re just going to grow up to be the same as every other parent on the planet?

Let me give you a reality check.  Most of our friends and companions that did the stupid things they did are not the law-abiding staid people that reside in your living rooms today.  Many are in jail or have spent time there, some are still trying to relive their ‘glory days’ as the wild hip dudes and dudettes they used to be and looking just as ridiculous now as they did back then.  All of us were scarred deeply by our foolish and often immoral choices.  Sin is sin.  Sometimes it leaves marks on our bodies or on our health, other times no one but us and the Lord can see the hideous scars that criss-cross our souls.

That tattoo that seemed so cool– oh the satisfaction of annoying dad when we walked into the door with a buxom blonde on our arm or rose on the back of our shoulder.  Now it’s faded, embarrassing, and terrifies small children when we walk into church.    We gained and lost weight and now it’s stretched and wrinkled beyond measure.  The piercings we thought we had to have are empty now– we have nothing but the scars from the holes to remind us of how strongly we wanted to make our mark on the world… and our bodies.

Getting high was great until we got caught, got addicted, and ended up criminals to feed the habit.  Most of the people we knew that did those things are still struggling through life or worse, successful and still enslaved to the stuff.  Few of the people we hung out with were there for us when we needed them most.  They were strung-out or dealing with their own problems.

You think your parents are so out of date.  You roll your eyes (inwardly if not openly) at the restrictive attitudes that you see in us, or worse, you’re condescending and treat us like simpletons who can’t possibly understand the “complex new world” that you’ve entered.

Think again.  Do you truly think we haven’t been there?  Do you truly think you’re the first generation to have new temptations, new ideals, and do you truly think that you’re the only ones who thought that they’d change the world with their brilliance?  Think again.  It’s a generational thing.  Let me give you something else to roll your eyes at.  Come on, I’m trying to make it easy to sit there in your smug superiority.  Read the words.  Really think about them.  They’re profound, even if they are sung by out of date country dudes.

Tommy’s selling used cars, Nancy’s fixing hair,
Harvey runs a grocery store and Margaret doesn’t care.
Jerry drives a truck for Sears and Charlotte’s on the make,
And Paul sells life insurance and part time real estate.

Helen is a hostess, Frank works at the mill,
Janet teaches grade school and prob’ly always will.
Bob works for the city and Jack’s in lab research,
And Peggy plays the organ at the Presbyterian Church.

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
Oh, we all thought we’d change the world with our great words and deeds.
Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs,
The class of ’57 had its dreams.

Betty runs a trailer park, Jan sells Tupperware,
Randy’s on an insane ward, Mary’s on welfare.
Charlotte took a job with Ford, Joe took Freddie’s wife,
Charlotte took a millionaire, and Freddie took his life.

John is big in cattle, Ray is deep in debt,
Where Mavis finally wound up is anybody’s bet.
Linda married Sonny, Brenda married me,
And the class of all of us is just a part of history.

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
But living life from day to day is never like it seems.
Things get complicated when you get past eighteen,
But the class of ’57 had its dreams.
Oh, the class of ’57 had its dreams.

It works for any year.  ’27, ’37, ’47, ’57, ’67, ’77, and even *gasp* ’87 (my year)… ’97, ’07… ’17…  Reread those choruses.  They’re deep for all their simplicity.

All these “mature” (I’ll try not to be rude and laugh at that) decisions you think you want to make… smoking, drinking, piercing, tattoos, filling your minds with books, music, and movies that will leave their imprint on your personality– your soul… aren’t so brilliant ten years down the road when you’re stuck with “Heather’s” name on your arm… and you’re married to Caitlin.  It’s not so much fun when your health and life insurance premiums are double what the next guy’s are because you thought you looked cool proving your independence with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.  Those holes the size of a penny in your ear were a real fashion statement– until the job you wanted most didn’t allow jewelry and you had to let them go.  Now they make great toys for your kids and every time you look in the mirror, you wonder… “why did that seem so cool?”

The fact is, all these kinds of things… few people are thrilled with the decisions they made trying to show their independence and maturity.  They work so hard to be “individual”…  and end up making the same mistakes as everyone else.

There’s a brilliant line in the movie People Will Talk… “Oh, the frightening things that people do when they’re afraid to be afraid.”  A similar one could be said for people trying to prove something to the world.

I’m not saying that everyone who has a tattoo, is pierced in places that makes others cringe, or chooses something different than what they think others might want them to are going to regret it.  That’s just not true.  What is true, however, is that once done, it’s usually unable to be undone.  The WHY of things really get to the heart of it.  Why did your dad get that tattoo of a Barbie doll-like woman on his chest?  Was it because it had deep meaning for him?  Seriously?  I know a family who all got tattoos in memory of their mother.  I get that.  It’s not what I’d do, but I totally understand it.  There was purpose and thought in it.  It wasn’t done in REBELLION or to prove anything to anyone.

Can the same thing be said about those cigarettes that you bought last night?  You think you’re so cool.  I know your mom smokes them.  I also know she’s wanted to quit for the last 25 years.  I know few smokers who are GLAD they started the habit.  You had a choice to make a different decision– to learn from mom what she wishes she’d have understood and could do over.  Instead, you use her choice– one she made no older than you– as license to rub her face in her past with your brilliant, “Well, you do it and you think you’re so godly.”

Is that really what you want to say to Jesus on Judgment Day?  “Well, Mom was rebellious and she’s here.”

Don’t you get it?  It’s not about the holes in your ears, the studs in your nose and lips, the gang symbols on your arms, or the legal or illegal addictive stimulants in your purse/pocket.  It’s about the rebellion in your heart.  Those “out of date” adults… they get it.  They know that rebellion.  They know it better than you do– for now.  They’re trying to help you avoid it.  They love you.  Do you hear that?  They love you.  They don’t cry and rail at you for the things you do because they think it’s ugly (not deep down) they weep because they know the root of it and it terrifies them.  Rebellion is an ugly, frightening thing.

Wake up.  You’re not as cool as you think you are.  You’re just another sinner like the old man with dentures and more wrinkles than last week’s laundry.  You’re just a sinner like the little girl in the smocked dress with sparkling eyes and pig tails.  You’re just a sinner like the preacher standing before the congregation on a Sunday morning.  You’re just a sinner… like your parents.  Like me.

Some people will read this and scratch their heads.  After all, I never pierced anything but the tiny holes in my ears, never had a tattoo, didn’t spike any part of my body, never smoke, never did drugs, and never got drunk.  How can I possibly know what I’m talking about.

I’ve seen it, people.  I may not have done THOSE things… but I’ve done plenty of other wrong things when I allowed rebellion to take root in my heart.  Do I believe that tunnel jewelry is a sin?  Not in and of itself, no.  I also don’t think it’s wise.  After a time, your body can’t recover.  It’s permanent.  Do you really want to be 80 with holes the size of nickels in your ears?  Be honest with yourself.

It’s about rebellion and it starts in the heart.  When you go to make a decision, whether it’s about what you study in school, what shirt you buy at the store, that tattoo on your neck, what music you add to your ipod, or the movie ticket you’re about to buy… look deep into your heart.  Why do you want it?  Is it because you’ve thought it out, made the decision, and know that you can support that decision with scripture.  Do you know there’s no rebellion in your spirit?  Could you truthfully defend your decision to Jesus?

One more thing.  Just because you CAN… doesn’t mean you should.  Ok, so you know that song is 100% ok.  You know that you are fine with it.  You’d add it to Jesus’ ipod tomorrow.  Wouldn’t think twice.  There’s no lying to yourself, you are completely honest with yourself and others.  Ok?  I get that.  We’re on the same page.  The song is totally innocuous.  And it breaks your mother’s heart to know you’ve got it on there.  Let me ask you something.  Is that song so important that you can’t let it go to soothe her spirit?  I’m not talking about every single thing in the world that your parents might disagree with you on.  You won’t be able to go through life without them at least QUESTIONING a decision now and then.  It’s not possible.  I get that.  My question is, she knows about this one, it’s killing her, regardless of whether or not she’s being reasonable or even pleasant, can you defer to your mom as someone worthy of respect and honor and give her this one?

Let me let you in on a secret.  If you can’t… don’t be surprised when they day comes and your kid is breaking your heart and you hear, “It’s just a movie and you’re making a federal case out of it.  It’s not sin.  You don’t have the right…”  You’ve heard it all.. probably last Thursday night.

Caveat:  No, I don’t think every kid out there is evil.  No, my kids are not breaking my heart with their choices.  I’m not even writing this for my kids.  I doubt they’ll ever read it.  This is NOT about actions (such as smoking, watching a movie, getting a tattoo… those are examples), it’s about the heart.  However, I see the grief that teen and adult kids are putting their parents through– often under the argument that “you did it”– and it’s killing me.  If it doesn’t apply to you, don’t get all bent out of shape.  I didn’t write it for you.  If it DOES apply to you, then I don’t care if you get bent out of shape.  Go to the Word.  Read it.  Compare it with your heart.

Book Review: An Absence So Great ** WIN A FREE COPY**

Title: An Absence So Great

Author: Jane Kirkpatrick

Publisher’s Synopsis: Did photography replace an absence in her life or expose the truth of her heart’s emptiness?

While growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele’s personal life is at a crossroads. Hoping she’s put an unfortunate romantic longing behind her as “water under the bridge,” she exiles herself to Milwaukee to operate photographic studios for those owners who have fallen ill with mercury poisoning.

Jessie gains footing in her dream to one day operate her own studio and soon finds herself in other Midwest towns, pursuing her profession. But even a job she loves can’t keep painful memories from seeping into her heart when the shadows of a forbidden love threaten to darken the portrait of her life.

Oh, my word.  I’ve loved Jane Kirkpatrick’s books since I read All Together In One Place.  GREAT book.  This is another amazing story.  Jane Kirkpatrick has a beautiful ability to take a true story and fictionalize it.  She writes about real people with real problems and weaknesses.  It seems as though she’s drawn to independent women who make unusual choices in their lives, and An Absence So Great is no different.

The book begins with a photograph, a slight vignette about why that picture was taken, the story surrounding it, and it seems to set the tone for the next chapter/section.  The heroine, Jessie, is torn between wanting what is wrong to desire and knowing that her heart desires it anyway.  I love how each person in the book is shown with all their faults, strengths, weaknesses, and glory moments.  You pity Mrs. Baur, despise her, and see how similar she is to her husband… even though she sees herself so far above him.  Jessie is so strong and fiercely independent.  Her parents see her as rejecting their upbringing, but really, she makes decisions, almost every chapter, that show how committed she is to the same values.

Sin isn’t glorified in this book, but neither is it preached about.  It’s confronted, for what it is, and the reader is left to determine where it fits in the scheme of Scripture.  It takes talent to do that without leaving the reader with the impression that the author condones it.

On the negative scale, there were places the story truly stalled.  I had to go back and reread sections to understand where she was trying to take the story.  It certainly isn’t a story killer, but it was frustrating.

Do I recommend it?  Without question.  I love reading these fictionalized true stories by Ms. Kirkpatrick. I feel obligated to point out that things happen in this book that aren’t what we’d always like to see in Christian fiction.  Without giving away the plot, things that I believe are wrong and very damaging to families happen as a matter of course.  However, this is biographical fiction.  This is the actual story of Ms. Kirkpatrick’s grandmother and her life.  She can only write what happened in that case.  She can’t whitewash what happened to make it fit into the neat boxes that Christian fiction usually confines their heroes and heroines in.

I’d like to thank Water Brook for providing me with this copy to review.  You can win this copy by posting a comment.  Please tell me how old your favorite picture is!

And, as always, please be sure to read my Giveaways disclaimer if you haven’t read it in the past or as a refresher!

We Have Winners *** Start Here ***

Annette!  Winner One!  I’ll get you a copy ASAP.  I even know where to snag your addy FAST.  Yippee!!!

But, because I consider this book so important, I’m giving away BOTH copies that Waterbrook so generously provided and I’m buying my own copy so I have a second one!  Off I went to see who won that one and…..

wait for it…

SUSAN!  You win!  Yippie!  I know how to get YOUR address quickly too.  Man, I’m doing great today!

Well, that’s all the books I have to give away today but man it felt good to do something with “good news” in it today.

Please read (if you haven’t before) my “Giveaways Policy.”

We Have Winners!!! *** Dancing With My Father ***

Cari!  Perhaps God agrees that you need to read the book, because you won!  Yippie!  I’ll be sending you a copy asap.  If you want it faster (ie. I don’t have to dig out your addy) send me your address via email!

But… there was more than one!  Sooooooo I went back to ye trusty number generator thingie  and punched it again and got…

Diane L!  Please email me your address and I’ll be happy to mail your book out ASAP.

For those who don’t have my email address, I will be posting an image with it on the sidebar.  Just sayin’.

Please read (if you haven’t before) my “Giveaways Policy.”