December 20, 2010

Christmas Presents or Presence

"You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your Presence."
Acts 2:28

When I was a child the weeks before Christmas were very exciting. Our house was decorated beautifully and smelled of freshly baked cookies. We spent time with family and friends and, of course, participated in the yearly Christmas program. Then, on Christmas Eve, we were almost sick with excitement (and a few too many cookies) as we waited for Christmas day.

Bedtime would come and my parents would hurry us off to bed reminding us that we needed to go to sleep so that Santa could visit. After all he only traveled at night and if he did not come we would not have any gifts to open. We would try to stay awake just to hear or catch a glimpse of this jolly old man; who somehow managed to keep all the children of the world’s addresses and requests straight and deliver everything in one night.

December 16, 2010

@stickyJesus review

"It's jaw dropping: People now spend over 110 billion minutes a month on social networks like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Some are ranting. Some are raving. Almost all are revealing their hearts and minds as never before. This historic social shift is a dream come true for big brand marketers, political parties, and just about anyone who has something to say. So how do you-a Christ follower-navigate the noise, dodge the danger, talk the tech, and speak life and hope into the online space? You get sticky." via @stickyJesus

So, did your jaw drop? Despite being actively involved in ministry, both online and offline for two decades, mine did.

December 10, 2010

What I learned about God from a fish tank

Recently, while attempting to straighten out the pile of books that continues to mysteriously grow in our closet, I came upon a small book by Jennifer Kennedy Dean called Pursuing the Christ. I’m not sure how long it has been in there but the layer of dust I cleared from the cover leads me to suspect it’s been awhile.

It’s a gift size book that features a collection of 31 morning and evening prayers for Christmastime. At least, that is the subtitle that is listed on the cover of the book.

December 7, 2010

No Gift to Bring

"And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Matthew 2:11

One of the things that I enjoy most about the holiday season are the annual Christmas programs which I began watching as a child. I am sure we all have our favorite one and, for some of us, it may be hard to choose. One I personally relate to is "The Little Drummer Boy."

December 2, 2010

Deeper Still

In less than 24 hours I’ll be gathered in a convention center with thousands of women. I won’t know a single one of them. Yet we will all have something in common. Our motives might be different, our beliefs varied, our backgrounds diversified, etc. but each one of us will have taken a “time out” from our lives to spend the better part of two days focusing on Jesus. Why? Because of a desire to go deeper still.

The event
I’m going to attend Deeper Still event which features teachers Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, and Pricilla Shirer. I’ve never met any of them. Most likely, in this lifetime, I never will. But then again, for me, this journey is not about people, places, or things. It is about an insatiable desire to understand more about the Living Word—Jesus. I want to go deeper still.

December 1, 2010

Emmanuel

There is a word that I love. It thrills me like no other. Something about it drips with a sweetness that I can't quite explain.

Each time I hear it the beat of my heart quickens it's pace. The droning of the familiar noises of the day are suddenly pushed further into the distance. Sometimes they are even silenced momentarily as this four syllable word crosses my mind or escapes my lips.

Emmanuel.

Perhaps you've heard it as part of this chorus:

November 30, 2010

A real fix

By nature, I'm a fixer. It's not something that I'm necessarily proud of. Just something I've come to realize. If I had it my way, everything would be right in the world and in the lives of the people that I know. It was only a few days ago when as part of an apology to a loved one I uttered the words "sometimes I just try too hard to fix things."

Problem solving as a life occupation
That is probably the understatement of the century. I've spent most of my life trying to help others with problems. It is part of what I do as a minister and a counselor. But there is a fine line between leading people to truth and trying to fix them.

November 23, 2010

The Power Belongs to God

“Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation. He is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved. My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. God has spoken once, Twice I have heard this; THAT POWER BELONGS TO GOD." Ps 62:1-2, 5-8, 11

November 22, 2010

Autumn reflections

We've had a very different kind of autumn this year in Tennessee. Some trees still have all of their leaves, others are completely bare. Many have already transformed into a rainbow of colors. A few are still green.

When I got a DSLR camera last winter one of my greatest anticipations was the changing of the seasons. Especially fond of the transformation that takes place between winter and spring, and summer and fall I couldn't wait to try to capture some of the beauty of God's magnificant handiwork.

In some ways I have succeeded. Not as evidenced by these pictures, obviously. There are a few very special snaps which to some extent reflect His creative skills. But I've come to the conclusion that much of what God does is not meant to be captured but rather to be experienced.

I am thankful that I serve a God Who I'll forever be in pursuit of. He cannot be captured or fully contained but He can be experienced. The only equipment required for that is an open mind and a ready heart! Through every season He desires to make Himself known to us. What an awesome God, He is!

 "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."- Albert Camus


“Autumn asks that we prepare for the future —that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go—to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness.” ~Bonaro W. Overstreet





 "No Spring nor Summer Beauty hath such grace As I have seen in one Autumnal face." - John Donne



"Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?"- Hal Borland

November 17, 2010

Why I'm Thankful for Bullies

Bullies, I've met a few in my time. One of the interesting things that happens when people unmercifully pick on you is that their words often stick. As a result, years later, the jeers of the past are stuck in the buffer of an unconscious tape that replays in our minds.

I hate that tape.

Perhaps you have heard some of these more universal insults play back at the most inopportune moments. I certainly have. Things like:

November 3, 2010

Rain

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion." Psalm 84:5-7



Our heavenly bamboo tree is living up to it's name before our very eyes. In the past few days it has begun to turn beautiful colors, along with so many other trees, throughout middle Tennessee. Some trees are still fully green. Others stand bare surrounded by their fallen leaves. This has been an unusual autumn with record high temperatures, very little frost, and drought-like conditions.

Yes, drought-like conditions. Perhaps it has rained in some parts of the state but in the area we live in there has been very little rain since the devestating floods of 2010. Our once lush lawn is the light golden shade of a harvested hay field.

It crunches underfoot. I find it downright creepy.

Today, for the first time since May, showers fell steadily throughout most of the day. I stopped to thank God, more than once, for the much needed autumn rains.  

And I continue to pray for rain--naturally and spiritually speaking!

November 2, 2010

The Word

As I prepare to setup an office, after four years of using a tray table on our bed, I've been doing some surveying. I can't help myself. By nature I'm a planner.

One of the decisions that I must make is what will remain a part of the guest bedroom and what will go into my office. I'm finding it difficult, since I have not had a dedicated room for work before. My office has always been a part of another space. For some reason that made planning easier--or so it seemed.

Decisions, decisions.

Several years ago we purchased a beautiful lead-glass bookcase. It's small and holds a mixture of books and CDs. All of my most prized books and music are held within it. Because it's been upstairs, tucked away, I've rarely seen it in recent days. I am an avid reader and currently have piles of books in our walk-in closet. (I really need to do something about that, as well, but for now they will have to wait.)

November 1, 2010

Life

Last night my friend, Debbie Petras, shared a post about the Giving Thanks Challenge 2010 another friend is currently hosting.

I went over to her blog to get the details but, because I had been taking care of my Mom for several days, was too tired to write my introductory post before going to bed. I decided to sleep on it and write it first thing this morning.

For some reason I didn't sleep well. My mind was racing with thoughts of things that I need to accomplish before the end of the year. It's a fairly long list and I seem to be growing further behind with each passing day. My rest was fitful and disturbed and my head hurt.

This morning I woke up early with the same nasty migraine that I went to bed with. Usually migraine medications help when I take them. I didn't. Mostly because on Saturday I'd jumped out of bed to race over and feed my Mom's cat (who eats like a pig) and was hit by a wave of dizziness much like you'd experience while riding a merry-go-round. My blood pressure was low--again.

Nothing about my routine had changed aside from taking Imitrex before going to bed. The first pill had not worked and because it seemed a possible culprit I bypassed a second dose, despite the constant pounding sensation in my head throughout the entire day. Anything to avoid another drop in my vitals during the night.

This morning I woke up early and quietly moved out of bed with lightening speed, thinking I'd grab my netbook and post my intro before going next door. Unfortunately I couldn't take a step due to the spinning. Feeling for the edge of the bed, in our still dark room, I sat down quickly.

The longer I sat the louder the roaring noise in my ears got. I've stood by passing trains that were quieter. There wasn't any point in trying to fight it. My blood pressure was even lower than yesterday and my head felt like it might explode. I laid back down feeling discouraged.

When my husband began to stir I asked for a large glass of water. Despite the desire to retrace all of my steps in an effort to determine why this problem was surfacing again the headache wouldn't let me think. As soon as I was steady enough to stand I went next door to take care of the lifting and bending so my Mom's back can heal. She was worried I'd faint. She has cause to worry. I've done it dozens of times. Blacked my eyes. Bloodied my nose. But thankfully not today. Today my body gave warning signs. And kept breathing.

I quickly finished up my chores and, instead of staying to visit, returned to our side of the condo to get rid of the migraine. It's been a few hours and most of the pain is gone. My thinking is not clear but it's much better than earlier. While resting I thought about abandoning the challenge. Things are getting off to a rocky start. I also thought about all of the blessings that surround me. My life is full of them. Including having the luxury to rest.

Then I began to think back to a time, a few years ago, when my life nearly came to an end. My body crumbled to the floor without warning. Paramedics came to our home, tended to me in our kitchen floor, and told my husband that they were unable to find a pulse or blood pressure--or any signs of life. I wrote a short account of it recently here.

The longer I rested the more it dawned on me that, despite having frustrating blood pressure issues, I am thankful for LIFE. Without LIFE I would not be able to enjoy any of it's blessings. I thank God for giving me LIFE (see Psalm 139) and sustaining my LIFE in difficult times.

I. Am. Grateful.

"In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." Job 12:10

Thanksgiving or thanks living?

Last night, as I made my way across the driveway and into the house, ghoulish sounds penetrated an otherwise peaceful night. Somewhere in the neighborhood behind us a haunted house was entertaining or terrifying trick-or-treaters as they made the trek around the city in hopes of collecting some treats.

This morning, while watching the news, I was suprised to see Christmas commercials. What? There's hardly been time to take off the costumes or rake away leaves that are still falling and already “Christmas is in the air.” I find it a little disturbing and it appears I am not alone.

October 1, 2010

Interview with Carol Kent

Today I am sharing an interview with author Carol Kent whose newest book, Between a Rock and A Grace Place, is now available for purchase.

The book opens with a story about a Christmas gift that Carol received. You can read it in the free sample which is available here.

Between a Rock and A Grace Place focuses on finding grace in the midst of what might seemly be hopeless situations. Carol shares her own experiences as well as the stories of others.

 The Kent's have been on an incredible journey since their son was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Their gleanings regarding grace in the hard places of life is very encouraging.

September 24, 2010

Some Dreams Do Come True: Review of Her Daughter's Dream

Today I am sharing my review of Francine Rivers' latest book, Her Daughter's Dream, along with some information on the author. I hope that you will find it helpful and consider reading both books in the series. I've done my best to keep my thoughts very general so as not to spoil things for other Christian fiction lovers. It was an outstanding read.

The review:
Her Daughter's Dream, which is part two in the Marta's Legacy series, is the first book by Francine Rivers that I've had the pleasure of reading. A mere 20 pages into this 592 page fictional book I understood, without a doubt, why the author's work is award winning. It felt attached to me and vice versa. own.

Without being cumbersomely descriptive Her Daughter's Dream painted a vivid picture of a family saga which spanned four generations. To me, it felt much more like watching a movie than reading printed text. A great movie, I might add, with a heart-wrenching but powerful ending.

One of the strengths of this book is that it's main characters experience struggles which are common to many. It's not a far-fetched tale but a realistic story, taken in part, from the author's own family history. I found it emotionally engaging and was brought to tears on more than one occasion.

The message conveyed is one of hope and restoration. No matter where we have been or what we have gone through God has a plan to bring restoration to our lives spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. All He needs is someone who is willing to dream and able to believe.

I highly recommend Her Daughter's Dream and would love to read, part one of the series, Her Mother's Hope.

The author:
Francine Rivers began her literary career at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English and journalism. From 1976 to 1985, she had a successful writing career in the general market, and her books were highly acclaimed by readers and reviewers. Although raised in a religious home, Francine did not truly encounter Christ until later in life, when she was already a wife, a mother of three, and an established romance novelist.

Shortly after becoming a born-again Christian in 1986, Francine wrote Redeeming Love as her statement of faith. First published by Bantam Books and then re-released by Multnomah Publishers in the mid-1990s, this retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea, set during the time of the California Gold Rush, is now considered by many to be a classic work of Christian fiction. Redeeming Love continues to be one of the Christian Booksellers Association's top-selling titles, and it has held a spot on the Christian best-seller list for nearly a decade.

Since Redeeming Love, Francine has published numerous novels with Christian themes—all best sellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, and the Holt Medallion in Honor of Outstanding Literary Talent. In 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for inspirational fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame. Francine's novels have been translated into over 20 different languages, and she enjoys best-seller status in many foreign countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa.

Francine and her husband, Rick, live in northern California and enjoy time spent with their three grown children and taking every opportunity to spoil their grandchildren. Francine uses her writing to draw closer to the Lord, and she desires that through her work she might worship and praise Jesus for all He has done and is doing in her life.


To read the first two chapters of Her Daughter's Dream click here.

To purchase a copy of Her Daughter's Dream click here.

For an interview with the author click here.

To visit Francine Rivers website click here.

September 20, 2010

Her Daughter's Dream

Today, I am featuring Francine Rivers' latest book, Her Daughter's Dream as part of the CSS Virtual Blog Tour.

I'll be posting my review in the next few days but can tell you that it is an outstanding book which I found nearly impossible to put down. When you get your hands on a copy, you'll be saying the very same thing.

Here is a description:

In the dramatic conclusion to the New York Times best seller Her Mother’s Hope, Francine Rivers delivers a rich and deeply moving story about the silent sorrows that can tear a family apart and the grace and forgiveness that can heal even the deepest wounds.

September 2, 2010

Good grief

Losses--we all experience them along with the accompanying pain. They penetrate our lives in various forms and magnitudes with little or no warning. Some are short-lived while others lead to long seasons of suffering and grief.

Suffering and grief are something we are all familiar with. Yet, these two words are NOT typically "hot topics" in most Christian circles. As a matter-of-fact they are infrequently dealt with. I find that somewhat astonishing given the fact that 1,185 of the 1,189 chapters of the Bible, in some way, touch on the subject of suffering or death.

It is also confounding to see, with so much of Scripture dedicated to the subject, how frantically we search for ways to quickly dismiss grief. Whether we downplay our pain with positive platitudes or frantically numb it with a frenzy of activities the issue remains the same. We need a framework or "theology of suffering" to deal with our pain if we are to experience God's healing. Many believers do not have one.

August 9, 2010

God's Healing For Life's Losses

Readers quickly grow weary of Christian books that pretend. They’re tired of Christian counselors and well-meaning friends who dispense far too much “happiness all the time, wonderful peace of mind.” They’re also gravely disappointed when the answers to their questions about suffering reflect more of the wisdom of the world than of the truth of God’s Word.

There has to be a better way. Christians long for an approach that faces suffering honestly and engages sufferers passionately—all in the context of presenting truth biblically and relevantly. We need to be able to face life’s losses in the context of God’s healing. Jesus did. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

God's Healing For Life's Losses Author Interview

Dr. Robert Kellemen's latest book, God's Healing for Life's Losses presents a wonderful model for dealing with loss and grieving biblically.

This interview, with the author, provides a thorough synopsis of the book.
It is quite lengthy but well worth the investment of time. If you are dealing with loss or know someone who is Doc K's interview is sure to bring fresh light to the subject of grief and healing. It certainly has been life-changing for me to read the book in it's entirety and I'd venture to say it is the best book that I've ever read on the subject. After checking out this Q & A you'll understand why.

Here's the author with answers to questions regarding his book:

1. What’s the “big idea” behind God’s Healing for Life’s Losses? What would you like readers to take away from it?

In a biblical sentence: you can grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). God’s Healing for Life’s Losses gives readers permission to grieve and offers a pathway toward hope. I want people to see their suffering from God’s perspective without denying the reality that suffering still hurts. What would I like readers to take away? The title and subtitle say it best. I’d like readers to walk away with God’s healing hope.

July 13, 2010

Shades of Morning Review

I recently read Marlo Schalesky's book Shades of Morning. My review can be found here.



May 16, 2010

Flashbacks

Flashbacks, we all have them. Some are more pleasant than others. I’ve experienced enough in the past week to comprise a full length movie. However it wouldn’t be very entertaining.

My sleep has been plagued by unwelcome reminiscing of the last days spent with my Dad. My dreams have been disturbing when I’ve been able to sleep. All in all it’s safe to say that losing people is traumatic no matter what the scenario.

Sometimes I find blogging to be an outlet. This is one of those times. I could share with you about my Dad’s fall. Or recount the long days and nights spent on the trauma unit. I could talk about the last moments of his life. They are a part of a tape that often chooses to replay itself in my mind.

But thankfully they’re only a part.

May 15, 2010

Death...technically speaking

As I write this post a death is occurring. Cradled in my lap, growing weaker and more dim with each passing moment, is my Sony Vaio notebook. Oh how attached we’ve become over the years. We’ve been through thick and thin together.

Don’t look at me that way. You know that our computers grow on us like appendages whether we care to admit it or not. Much like the brains inside our heads they retrieve, store, and catalog our thoughts. Some become mouthpieces by which we communicate facts and feelings.

We’ve done all that we can to revive her but, technically speaking, its quite obvious that her days are numbered. Kind of sad especially since some parts of her have aged so well. It’ll be hard to let her go even though her quality of life has been less than satisfactory for quite some time. But then again I’ve found that to be true of most who are dying.

April 11, 2010

Praying It Forward

I still remember when I saw the movie Pay It Forward a decade ago. A few of the details escape me, but the premise of the story was forever ingrained in my heart and mind.

Kindness.

Randomly given.

Seeking nothing in return.

Keeping the cycle going.

Infusing good into the world three acts at a time.

What a concept.

It is interesting how quickly the inspiration we receive from movies, books, sermons, or teaching evaporates against the cold black night of a dark world.

Heartaches come.

Life happens.

People are mean and hateful.

March 9, 2010

Vanishing Act

Several years ago we went to see, world famous magician, David Cooperfield perform live. Both my husband and son are facinated by illusionists. I can't really say that I feel the same, although I must admit, some parts of the show were intriguing. 

The final act required participation from the audience. I can't recall the number of people involved but I'll never forget the jaw-dropping response of the audience, myself included, as 25+ people vanish before our eyes. People nearly broke their necks scanning the auditorium in an effort to discover where they had gone.

Then, after a short bit of time that felt like hours, much to the amazement of the crowd they all reappeared. Unharmed they stood before us just as though they had never left. And despite the fact that they we were complete strangers we collectively breathed a loud sigh of relief. It was really quite impressive.

February 13, 2010

Critical Care Giveaway

We've just posted our review of Candace Calvert's book Critical Care. Along with the review we are offering a signed copy to one of our readers.

Please stop in over at Perusing The Printed Pages for more information and to enter the contest, which ends on February 21rst.

If you already have a copy come by and win one to give to a friend!

February 11, 2010

Love & War

John and Stasi Elderedge's new book Love & War has been released just in time for Valentine's Day. You'll find more information on the book along with my review on Perusing the Printed Pages our review blog.

Enjoy!

February 2, 2010

Slip sliding away

After hibernating for several dreary snow filled days I awoke to the invitation of the sun bidding me to come outside and capture a glimpse of the winter wonderland that a recent winter storm had left behind.

I quickly obliged, new camera in hand, of course. Rushing out the front door my husband stopped me before I'd descended from the porch. "Be careful, it's solid ice" he said, as I was looking out at the blanket of white snow and my anticipation for taking pictures began to heightened.

"I'll walk through the snow" I replied thinking he was talking about the driveway. "No, you need to come here to me and I'll take you down to the street. Go slow." Honestly I did not want to heed his call as I preferred walking through snow to sliding downhill. Afterall, the camera is new, what good is a broken lens?

January 30, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

Many of you know that we had a real winter storm in Tennessee yesterday. I classify it because many times these storms never materialize although people clear the bread & milk from the grocery store days before they've been forecasted to hit.

For as long as we've lived in this state "snow" is considered a four-letter word that sends everyone running for cover. The longer I've lived here the more I've come to understand why.

Sleet, snow, and ice are beastly to deal with here in the South. Many of the roads are windy. Quite a few of the driveways run uphill. We have something called "black ice" which I am pretty sure is invisible.

There are very few tire tracks down the street right now. A few hours ago I watched as our neighbor tried to get into her driveway. To fully appreciate the amazement of her struggle you'd have to see that the driveway is hardly a car's length in distance but covered with inches of solid ice. She made it but it took quite a lot of work.

January 8, 2010

When it comes to resolutions don't be an old bag

As we embark upon a new year many of us make resolutions. We resolve to make important changes in our lives that are long over due or to perform tasks that we have been putting off. The first day of each year, in a sense, we start fresh. It's a great feeling.

Many times the freshness wears off quickly as we fail to make good on our resolutions or continue to put off certain things. In short, for most, resolve is not enough to bring about much of the change we need.
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