Saturday, July 31, 2010

100 Prayers God Loves to Hear, 100 Praise Songs

I'm a part of a program that will send me free books for a fair and honest review. The program is called Booksneeze and it is available to any blogger. I've been really enjoying their offerings lately. From time to time, they put up kids books and DVDs for review. They are possibly the books that are requested the fastest; I don't think any children's book is available for more than 2 days, whereas some of the others will be there all week.

I fortunately was able to request this one, 100 Prayers God Loves to Hear, 100 Praise Songs by Stephen Elkins. If your child is like mine are, they will enjoy this book! It is a hardcover book that comes with 2 CDs. My kids really love CDs and music so this was an instant hit. The songs and prayers are actually quite enjoyable to listen to, which I appreciate. I take it that this author has a whole series of books similar to this that looks intriguing.

This is a wonderful book that most preschoolers, kindergartners and lower elementary grades will enjoy and learn more about God, classic prayers, Bible verses on prayer, prayers from the Bible as well as prayers from famous people. A worthy book on any small child's bookshelf.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

What Spills Out

"..... the qualities of character which Jesus and his first followers insist on as the vital signs of healthy Christian life don't come automatically. You have to develop them. You have to work at them. You have to think about it, to make conscious choices to allow the Holy Spirit to form your character in ways that, to begin with, seem awkward and "unnatural." Only in that way can you become the sort of "character" who will react instantly to sudden challenges with wisdom and good judgment.

You can tell when this has happened - and when it hasn't. A familiar story makes the point. A famous preacher had a friend who was well known for his short temper. One day, at a party, he asked this friend to help him serve drinks. The preacher himself poured the drinks, deliberately filling several of the glasses a bit too full. He then passed the tray to his friend. As they walked into the room to distribute the drinks, he accidentally-on-purpose bumped into his friend, causing the tray to jiggle and some of the drinks to slosh over the brim and spill. "There you are, you see," said the preacher. "When you're jolted, what spills out is whatever is filling you." When you're suddenly put to the test and don't have time to think about how you're coming across, your true nature will come out That's why character needs to go all the way through: whatever fills you will spill out. And it's up to you to do something about it."

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright, page 28

Friday, July 30, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I love books; love to read. This is my vacation so I perhaps over-indulged in reading this week. I thought I could read a book a day but it turns out i only read 4 this week. (so far)

i have a few I've still not read sitting on my bookshelf. Tuesday evening D and I hired a sitter so we could go to a movie and to dinner. The plan was to see "inception." Since we we'd be going in about 10 minutes late, we opted not to go at all. I had heard it was a film one had to pay careful attention to and thought it could be a film that if you did not see the beginning you'd be really lost. Even more lost than normal.

After dinner we spotted a bookstore and went in. I love the smell of bookstores, as long as they are not old and musty. (though i also loved an older bookstore called Elliot Bay in Seattle...... it had a very different feel and smell but it was a good smell, not an ugly, dark smell)

David went to the magazines while I journeyed over to several different areas. First Literature. I am contemplating buying a new copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and wanted to see and feel the book. I was surprised they did not have it specially highlighted; it being its 50th anniversary and all. Next to the Religious section. I was surprised; it was way bigger than the bookstores in my area and had a good assortment of books. You could tell which were the "popular" books because they had those well stocked: titles such as Purpose Driven Life, Wild at Heart and Captivating were all fully stocked, and they had many "lesser known" but excellent books too. There were a few that tempted me but..... I really dislike paying full price! So I go and look and feel and browse but in the past have done my shopping via Amazon. Plus, I talked myself out of buying any book because i still have books I have yet to read.

So..... why did I place an order at Westminster Bookstore for a few more books? Because I love a sale? Because I've been eying at least one of the collections for a few months now? Did I mention it was on sale? 45 % off? 50% off?

3 of the collections I ordered total 800 pages. EACH. Plus about 4 more "regular sized" books. i'll be set for a while!

it is a good feeling. Now I have to wait for them to be delivered, but I'm already excited because lately Amazon hasn't even been shipping my 'super saver" shipping qualified books for a whole week. These books from Westmister were ordered late Wednesday night and shipped the next day via UPS. (Amazon has been shipping mine USPS)

I am really liking this.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Last Battle

"And as He [Aslan] spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all live happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no chapter is better than the one before."

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Beyond the Showroom

I just finished reading a book by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer called Transformational Church. It was good, not so different from many of my views and how I perceive the values of the church I attend to be, as it embraces many of the facets this book affirms and addresses: Discerning a Missional Mindset. Embracing Vibrant Leadership, Relational Intentionality and Prayerful Dependence. Engaging through Worship, Community and Mission. Much of the book was rather like a review, and yet it was affirming to me that I'm at the right church, a church committed to reaching out, loving others and making disciples.

One of the aspects that the book advocates is that both a large church gathering and a small-group gathering is important and beneficial. I liked that because I appreciate and value corporate gathering. I enjoy hearing a message that the pastor prepared. I enjoy singing with other folks. I don't see Sunday morning as "performance oriented" as some large church critics say. I think the focus could easily get that way, but I think most churches want to glorify God through excellence in their Sunday morning service.

The chapter in this book almost won me over to the importance of small groups, because if one is truly a committed Christian that wants others to know and grow in Christ, then one will want to be in a small group community. Here is an illustration from the book that made a lot of (scary) sense to me:

"By engaging in a small group or Sunday School class, the dynamic changes. Larger gatherings are like the showroom at your local car dealership. Tire kicking, curiosity, and the value of life with Christ are put on display for the crowd to see. But if the large gathering is the showroom, then the small group is the service department where we look under the hood of our lives and explore faith in Christ more deeply. Dialogue replaces monologue. Tough questions about God, the Bible and Jesus Christ are worked out in community. The smaller community also provides the platform to help others who are struggling. The community demonstrates how to merge Jesus Christ with everyday challenges by looking deeply into one another's lives and helping one anotehr engage Christ in the most difficult times. Small-group relationships provide the environment for transformation."

What do you think about small groups? Is a small group truly necessary to provide the growth, discipleship and outward focus that is needed to bring others to Christ? How important is community and "doing life together?" Is it even possible to "do life together" in the area I live in, when we are all so busy and have jobs, soccer practice, church and all kinds of other activities vying for attention? Or are those very activities and act of doing life together?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


We're in Palm Desert and it is HOT but we like it. (or do we?) It is only Tuesday and we've stocked our condo with more food than we could ever eat in a week, (thank you costco) Actually, that was a mistake because part of the adventure is eating out and trying new places. We've been to the pool at least a dozen times. (did you know if you fail to return your towel it is automatically charged to your room..... at 10 dollars a towel? They must be making a fortune because most folks leave their towels on the chairs) We have seen Despicable Me at the movies and even bought popcorn and a diet coke. I should've taken a photo; the soda cup was almost bucket sized! We finally went out to dinner last night, to a Mexican restaurant where we were the only under 50 couple in the place, especially with kids. I was surprised to see how several of the older folks delighted in seeing my children. It is really sweet and reminds me of how (many) older folks really love children. My 2 boys are now the proud bearers of a year membership to the local skateboard park, run by the recreation center. (it was only 5 dollars each) They had a great time figuring out how to maneuver their boards in and around the cement area. I made the mistake of buying popsicles at costco so I am actually giving my kids 2 popsicles a day in an attempt to get rid of them by Friday. There is a Desert Cycling Club that has group rides Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday so David joined in Saturday and this morning. Had a great time riding with some really strong riders. We went to visit a church service Saturday night and my kids did not want to leave. Seriously, they are still asking if they can go to that church. Still on our list of things to do is the Soak City water park. We've never been. There is a free movie playing at 10 today and tomorrow we could go to at the movie theatre that is less than a mile away. David and the boys brought their golf clubs so I see at least a bucket of balls being hit this week.

In the past we've gone on the Aerial Tram up to the much cooler mountain air, the Air Museum, The Living Desert, to the River (shopping area with a movie theatre) and out to dinner at several locations. Oh, and the mall. And a bookstore. And Costco. (Is costco considered a "destination?")

Interspersed in this vacation, luckily, is a lot of time to relax. My kids all have composition books that I got at walmart for a quarter. (got to love back to school sales) I also picked up a few packs of crayola markers and crayons so they are having fun writing and drawing in their "journal." Each kid has a book, though Katie pointed out that she can't read. David has 2 books and I brought 12. (that is no exaggeration) Yet I still lustily perused the book section at costco, showing amazing restraint, reminding myself that I had a dozen books that I really should read first before purchasing any more.

Lazy but good vacation!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Inner Chamber

Just a few days ago I posted about Oswald Chambers and my love/hate view of him. I have to say, it is mostly love and the "hate" I mentioned is mostly because his entries os My Utmost For His Highest is much like ripping off a band-aid..... good and necessary but it hurts! It smacks of an authority of BIblical truth. I'm not saying I finally agree 100% with some of what he says, but I have a deep respect for him and almost enjoy this daily wrestling with the insight I glean from his classic devotional. Usually when I think of "devotional" I think of reading a short one page thing in a book, reading a chapter of the Bible, mostly in an effort to check it off my list and never think of what the devotional said, it was just a tool to think of God first thing in the morning.

Yet, this devotional defies this expectation. Surprisingly, the daily readings are short, oftentimes shorter than many other devotional books, yet they are not easily forgotten or dismissed. I am usually challenged by them and think about what he had to say in relation to my life, my beliefs, my actions and my devotion to God.

I gave up on devotionals about 10 years ago, mostly because it was "going through the motions." The books I had were not compelling and seemed to add very little to my day. Now, this could be because I wasn't really trying to get anything out of it, but I do wonder if the books I chose really did not challenge or inspire thought. Much of the "devotionals" today are self-affirming, telling us how valuable we are, how God sees us as beautiful, how important we women are and not to be discouraged that we don't get things done, to trust and love Jesus who loves unconditionally. It is implied that God expects very little of us and that a 5 minute devotion time will be honored by God and change one's whole day.

Contrast the fluff to Mr. Chambers..... I have been pounded by him! There is no fluff. Yes, God loves us! Amazingly, he does even though there is nothing redeeming about us except Christ alone and it is in the cross that we find hope and comfort. He does have expectations of us, and yet.... it is not about following the rules or laws. It is deeper, more loftier than merely that.

I just finished reading a short article about Oswald Chambers in a book by Warren Wiersbe called 50 People Every Christian Should Know In it I learned quite a bit more about Mr. Chambers. Did you know that he did not author his books? They all bear his name, but it was his wife, who was an expert stenographer, that recorded his sermons and later compiled them into books.

In Warren Wiersbe's book, he writes that Mr. Chambers in "many respects was not in tune with the general spirit of evangelical Christianity in his day. On his way to Egypt, he wrote in his journal: "How unproselytizing God is! I feel the 'soul winning campaign' is often at the heart of the apotheosis [glorification] of commercialism, the desire to see so much result from so much expenditure. THe ordinary evangelical spirit is less and less congenial to my own soul." His writings are a good antidote to the success philosophy that has invaded the church in our own day. He said that "the 'soul saving passion' as an aim must cease and merge into the passion for Christ, revealing itself in holiness in all human relationships." In other words, soul-winning is not something we do, it is something we are, twenty-four hours a day, and we live for souls because we love Christ. No counting trophies in his ministry.

The book lists a few quotes, in hopes of intriguing readers to turn to the pagres of an Oswald Chambers book. Here are a few Mr. Wiersbe lists:

"You can never give another person that which you have found, but you can make him homesick for what you have."

If we are saved and sanctified, God guides us by your ordinary choices, and if we are going to choose what He does not want, He will check, and we must heed. "

"Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the cross of Jesus will lead astray."

"Stop having a measuring rod for other people. There is always one fact more in every man's case about which we know nothing."

"It takes a long time to realizing the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God's order for others."

Our Lord's first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men; the saving of men was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father."

"Never make a principle out of your own experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you."

Mr. Wiersbe also highlights this quote from Mr. Chambers," The snare in Christian work is to rejoice in successful service, to rejoice in the fact that God has used you.... If you make usefulness the test, then Jesus Christ was th greatest failure that ever lived. The lodestar of the Saint is God Himself, not estimated usefulness. It is the work that God does through us that countes, not what we can do for Him."

Truly, the reason I struggle with My Utmost For His Highest is because it is so hard-hitting. I completely feel I could read this devotioanal every year and never grow tired or bored with it, because it is truth and He challenges on so many levels.

Everyone should read My Utmost For His Highest, though even Mr. Wiersbe writes that when he recounted to a mature Christian friend he was getting nothing out of it, she replied, "Set it aside for a time.....It's something you have to grow into." But it is a delight to have such a book that challenges, provokes thoughts and questions and a book that can and should be re-read.

Review: What Difference Do It Make?

I have been eying this book, What Difference Do It Make by Ron Hall and Denver Moore for quite some time, but knew it could never live it to its predecessor, Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, so I chose not to read it. When I was offered a free copy, how could I say no?

Like the first book, I read this one in a day, but for different reasons. The first book, Same Kind of Different as Me, captivated me. I could not put it down. This one was a bit different. Though engaging, I could put it down. This book is ideal for a person that enjoys reading but only gets to read in small chunks of time, because each chapter can pretty much stand alone. This book is more like a compilation of stories than a single one, which makes it easy to read a few pages, put it down, and return to it later.

The book is not very big, it is a small hardbound copy of about 200 pages. I have read that this book isn't as good as the first and seems disjointed. I'd disagree on those points. If you read the first book, you might be very interested to hear more of Ron and Denver's story and life since their book. Because they feel like old friends, I enjoyed reading these stories about their lives and a bit more details about things that happened. Interspersed between some chapters are little vignettes of how others have made a difference or how their lives were changed because of Same Kind of Different As Me. It is amazing how far-reaching an effect that book had on people, how it has inspired so many others to reach out and put compassion as a priority. It has healed marriages, opened awareness and taken away the fear of doing something or even conversing with the homeless. I found myself in tears several times while reading other's personal stories of hope and transformation, this common bond of one book and its "characters" that every reader now considers their friend.

There are some issues addressed that made me pause and think if I believed in the solutions the book does, regardless, this is an enjoyable read. If the first book impacted you in any way, I think you'll find this one enjoyable.

This quote on page 112 sums it up well. Ron Hall writes, "....loving God means loving people, and loving people means making a difference for God."

It was inspiring to read about the differences God is making in others lives and through other's lives.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Anne Bradstreet - Review

I have a feeling that this series, Christian Encounters, is going to be very popular. This a an attractive book, nicely sized and a perfect amount of pages. This volume in under 200 pages and yet I finished knowing so much more about Anne Bradstreet.

I was given the opportunity to read Anne Bradstreet written by author D. B. Kellog. Have you heard of Anne Bradstreet? She was a puritan poet in a time where women were not encouraged in intellectual pursuits. It is clear she did not have an easy life, it seems few colonial families did, and yet her devotion to God and her family are inspiring.

I enjoyed how this biography was presented. I previously knew very little of Anne Bradstreet, only that she was a faithful woman of God in a time when life was not easy. Her strength and devotion stands out and I enjoyed learning about her life, struggles and joys in a bit more detail. Also interesting was the glimpse of colonial life; hardship, expectations, societal norms and family values and gender roles.

Looking into this series a bit more I see that Thomas Nelson has also published many other titles in this Christian Encounters series that looks interesting: Jane Austen, Isaac Newton, Saint Patrick, John Bunyan, etc. Also, there are many intriguing titles that are planned but not released yet. I enjoy biographies and these small books did not disappoint.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Everything Is Relative

I don't believe in relativity; I tend to believe in absolutes...but I have to admit that certain things change and are not constant even when they are constant!

What do I mean?

Right now I'm in Palm Desert and it is between 106 and 109 degrees right now! In fact, my iPhone says that today's high is 106 yet it says that currently it is 109. Don't ask me how it makes sense, but it is Technology and Technology follows a logic all its own and we do not criticize the iPhone or Apple because it is akin to a precious child to me.

Where I live, if it was even 80 in my house I'd turn the A/C on because 80 is too hot inside. Here, when I entered the condo it was 79 and felt refreshingly cool, yet at my house I'd still think it was too warm! Usually my thermostat is set to 76 in the summer and here in the desert, 76 is almost too cold inside! Why? Because the temperature outside is so hot that 76 or even 78 seems cold!

It is relative. And yet, the temperature itself is an absolute; a constant. 78 here is the exact same 78 anywhere. What has changed is the surroundings, not the temperature.

I have no idea what my point is right now. I'm probably suffering from heatstroke or something! But I so struggle with the concept of things being relative and changing based on the person's view or individual truth and right now, I can almost see how, in small ways, I can concede to: yes, things are relative and yet constant at the same time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Free Will

"Let all the 'free-will' in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength." - Martin Luther

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Sometimes I feel I have a love/hate response to Oswald Chamber's classic, My Utmost For His Highest. I can't figure him out. He'll say something I wholeheartedly agree with and the next day almost make me mad with frustration! Which view is right? His? Mine? Neither?

Probably his, but I still question and wrestle with it, trying to make sense of it, trying to make sense of it in my perspective so I'm not forced to change my view. I like my comfortable view; I don't want to change!

A few days ago I finished Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew. I enjoyed that book, especially his chapter on the Sermon On the Mount. It made sense. Challenging, but it made sense.

Today I finished reading July 21st's reading in My Utmost for His Highest. I had to look it up online because I misplaced my book. (because I am routinely frustrated by this book, there are days I skip reading it but I always go back and read it) Today's reading was thought provoking. I want to quote the whole thing, and I think I will:

"Beware of thinking of our Lord as only a teacher. If Jesus Christ is only a teacher, then all He can do is frustrate me by setting a standard before me I cannot attain. What is the point of presenting me with such a lofty ideal if I cannot possibly come close to reaching it? I would be happier if I never knew it. What good is there in telling me to be what I can never be— to be “pure in heart” ( Matthew 5:8 ), to do more than my duty, or to be completely devoted to God? I must know Jesus Christ as my Savior before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of a lofty ideal which only leads to despair. But when I am born again by the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come only to teach— He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The redemption means that Jesus Christ can place within anyone the same nature that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives us are based on that nature.

The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount produces a sense of despair in the natural man— exactly what Jesus means for it to do. As long as we have some self-righteous idea that we can carry out our Lord’s teaching, God will allow us to continue until we expose our own ignorance by stumbling over some obstacle in our way. Only then are we willing to come to Him as paupers and receive from Him. “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . .” This is the first principle in the kingdom of God. The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having such a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, “Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.” Then Jesus says, “Blessed are you . . .” ( Matthew 5:11 ). This is the doorway to the kingdom, and yet it takes us so long to believe that we are actually poor! The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work."

- My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers July 21st

Does any part(s) stick out for you?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We Received

"When God had mercy on us, when God revealed Jesus Christ to us as our brother, when God won our hearts by God’s own love, our instruction in Christian love began at the same time. When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with one another. When we received forgiveness instead of judgment, we too were made ready to forgive each other. What God did to us, we then owed to others. The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more meagre our love for one another, the less we were living by God’s mercy and love. Thus God taught us to encounter one another as God has encountered us in Christ. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Rom. 15:7)."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Same Kind of Different as Me

Same Kind of Different as Me by surprised me. I was not prepared to be so touched by a book, but I was, partly because it brought up things in my own life. This book touches on the reality that we're more the same than different; though we come from various backgrounds we're all made by God and are worthy of love. God is truly redemptive and forgiving and we can learn so much from each other. I read this book in one day because I could not put it down; it intrigued me on so many levels and I don't want to go too into it or spoil it for others, but it hit home for me. I closed the book in tears because if hit such a raw place in my heart.

I am almost afraid to re-read this book, so instead I have given it as gifts and every person that I have given it to has loved it as I have, been touched by this true story. There were some views that I have a different opinion about but it did not detract or distract from the message. This is a book you will want to loan out and give away. It will be a hard one to keep on your shelf because you'll want to share. A friend of mine did this book in her interfaith book club with a lot of amazing discussion and depth.

Such a beautiful story.

This book was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


"All your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to me to come from an incomplete understanding of sin.....what you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here right now, that the Holy Ghost be translated at once into all flesh. The Holy Spirit rarely shows Himself on the surface of anything. You are asking that man return at once to the state God created him in, you are leaving out the terrible radical human pride that causes death. Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified in time... The Church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and who couldn't walk on the water by himself. You are expecting his successors to walk on the water. All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. Priests resist it as well as others. To have the Church be what you want it to be would be to require the continuous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs..."
pg 236 , Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, quoting Flannery O' Connor

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive." C.S. Lewis

Monday, July 12, 2010


Jesus' Scars

"I take hope in Jesus' scars. From the perspective of heaven, they represent the most horrible event that has ever happened in the history of the universe. Even that event, though - the crucifixion - Easter turned into a memory. Because of Easter, I can hope that the tears we shed, the blows we receive, the emotional pain, the heartache over lost friends and loved ones, all these will become memories, like Jesus' scars. Scars never completely go away, but neither do they hurt any longer. We will have re-created bodies, a re-created heaven and earth. We will have a new start, an Easter start."

Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, page 219

The Good and Bad

If it wasn't so painful, I'd think it funny that yesterday I posted on how I love my church and love the fun and BBQs it has.

And it was probably one of the best after church BBQs I've been to. Canopies provided shade, there was more than enough food, plenty of lemonade and water, and the array of desserts was spectacular! (which is always the best part) They even had Bocca burgers for the vegetarians.

What is not to love? Did I mention the amazing deserts?

I love my church because it is a good church; my kids enjoy it and are tangibly loved there, by so many people. I have friends, my church supports various ministries and encourages involvement in many wonderful ministries, both inside and outside the church walls. Today's music was great; I knew and loved nearly all the songs, the transitions flowed well, (we did sing one song that we sang the previous week too but this time it was a much better rendition of it) As usual, the message was unflinchingly straight from God's word, which is the one thing I prize in my church over all these other niceties that I consider icing on the cake. The "main event", for me, is the message and I tend to love my pastor's presentation of it, faithfulness in preaching from the Bible and his insight.

Except today. (now yesterday)

The Scripture was 1 Corinthians 8 and I though I knew what to expect. I had read it earlier that week and concluded that I really wish Paul hadn't left it up for us to decide for ourselves but had some good 'ole concrete rules to follow. I also concluded that in the end, it all comes down to love, so no surprise when my pastor came up with 4 things: Love trumps all, Do only what pleases the one true God (v. 4-6), Don't assume we all play by the same rules (v. 7, 8) And the final rule: See Rule number one: Love Trumps All.

This all just hits a bit too close to home for me, as he also brought up 3 wrong responses to how we respond: 1. Spiritual Piety (Legalistic..... I can't do that) 2. Spiritual Power (pharisaical...."I'm glad I'm not like that.") and 3. Trying to be the Holy Spirit. ("You can't do that"... guilt)

The odd thing about this case for Freedom in Christ and not to be "spiritually constipated" is that I don't feel that most in my church struggle with the issue of being free in Christ. Except...... me. I'm so guilty of being the legalistic or pharisaical type in a church that at times infuriates me with its relaxed response to things and to "rules." I am a rule follower. I like to be on time. I think everyone should bring their Bible to church. I have a lot of extrabiblical rules that I think people would be better off adhering to. I like to be "good" and perfect and this message revealed that I'm not good and by no means perfect.... and that those that are free in Christ are the spiritually mature and are walking with the Spirit.

So.... where does that leave me except painfully exposed as a graceless sinner in a church that is loving, grace-filled and free?

The really awful part? I can't dispute it. It is Truth. It is Scripture, and I'm completely guilty of being legalistic. It just hurts, and hurts that I'm kinda the oddball in my church that struggles in this area. Funny how I strive so hard to be good and right and wind up failing miserably at being good or right. A part of me wishes I could run and hide but where? And from what? Go join a church that is filled with legalistic and pharisaical sinners like me so I feel better?

I'm grateful for my church but I just wished it did not sting so much.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday BBQ

It is Sunday. I like Sundays because it means church. Even my kids love Sundays because they enjoy church. Not sure if it is for their friends, the fun, or to learn about God. At this point, does it matter?

Not sure.

I know I loved Sunday when I was growing up, for the right reasons mixed in with the wrong reasons. Maybe I still do.

Days like today make me wonder because...... today is BBQ day after church! I tend to look forward to BBQs and this is the first of the season, though it doesn't feel like it because we've had a farewell potluck and a day at the beach. I enjoy this time of being together in a relaxed setting.

But in my experience over the last 25 years at all the churches I've been a part of, both large and small, these things are never picture perfect.

When I lived in Seattle and attended a small Presbyterian church, usually it was the weather that thwarted even the very best planned events. At other churches it has usually been too hot or too cold, or the food runs out well before everyone has been served. Or the tables are laden with casseroles that may have very well been quite tasty a few hours before but now, hours later, it is cold, looks unappealing and probably doesn't taste well either. I know I've never been brave enough to try. At the last potluck someone brought 5 Little Caesars pizzas. Normally, these five dollar pizzas are something to avoid but at a church potluck, it is like the Treasured Prize. Something infinitely predictable and "safe" to eat.

(though I have to say: desserts at a potluck or church event are always the best part of the event. It seems that people take delight in what they can come up with in the realm of baked goods. Or maybe if you put enough sugar in anything it will taste and look good)

So today we are gathering after church to have a BBQ and in the back of my mind, wonder what unexpected thing will happen this time. Perhaps it is part of what makes a BBQ so memorable. Perhaps it is designed to keep the focus not on the food but on others. Or perhaps the church elders are waiting to see who enters the line for food last. (and then try to figure out if if it a mark of spiritual humility, letting others be served first, or a mark of a person's distrust of the food being offered and hoping it will all be eaten before they are served?)

Regardless, I still love a church BBQ. I enjoy the time of being with others, enjoy watching the kids run around crazy, enjoying church and realizing that this community, this fellowship of folks, is beautiful and they are loved here. That almost chokes me up; how much love people show for my kids.

I love my church.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review: Beyond Opinion

I had no idea that this book by Ravi Zacharias was a collection of essays and as such was written by other people as well as Mr.Zacharias on apologetics and the challenging questions that often come up. This book is written in 3 parts: The first addresses various difficult questions, such as postmodernism, atheism, challenges from other religions and from science. He also addressed the question behind the questions.

In the second part he talks about internalizing the questions and answers, and discusses the trinity, role of doubt, and idolatry, denial and self-deception. I found this section particularly interesting to me, perhaps because I am going through my own pilgrimage of some doubt and introspection of my faith. I enjoyed reading these various essays that both challenged and helped soothe some of my questions and allowed me to doubt while still giving me something solid to hold onto. Truly, this book has come at a perfect time in my life.

The last part deals with living out the answers, which is my biggest challenge, as I think I'm still lingering in the second part of wrestling with my questions, nearly emerging and content with the arguments but not quite yet.

I look forward to re-reading this book again, as it has given me plenty to think about. I would recommend this book for those that want to articulate and gain a firmer footing on their faith and wants to live it out.

This book was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program.

For My Good

"Everything that happens to you is for your own good. If the waves roll against you, it only speeds your ship toward the port. If lightning and thunder comes, it clears the atmosphere and promotes your soul's health. You gain by loss, you grow healthy in sickness, you live by dying, and you are made rich in losses.

Could you ask for a better promise? It is better that all things should work for my good than all things should be as I would wish to have them. ALl things might work for my pleasure and yet might all work for my ruin. I all things do not always please me, they will always benefit me.

This is the best promise of this life."

Charles H. Spurgeon

Friday, July 9, 2010

On Being God-Centered

I don't know about you but I have such a hard time with the concept of sovereignty. It is one thing to trust God, but I can't understand how free will of us, broken, flawed creatures and His sovereignty coexist. How can it be that if he doesn't impose His will on us and we are free to choose disobedience, can I fully trust that God is in control and rest in His sovereignty? Doesn't free will rob Him of power? How can I trust that He is involved in my situation? That doors that are "closed" are because He closed it? How can I be safe and secure that He is in control when I really at times doubt how this can possibly be?

Can our mistakes, disobedience, somehow still end in the result He desires? Can we thwart His plans?

I've been told I need to let my questions, my doubts go and rest in His sovereignty; then I'll be content.

If I could really believe that everything happens for a reason and God is in control, I could be content. But this whole concept of free will gets in the way. Did I mess up? Did another mess things up? How can God make everything right when we keep getting in the way?

To put my mind at ease I'm reading Scripture and going back over a study I was involved in. I'll leave you with something positive other than these strange random questions of mine.

"All that came into being exists for Christ - that is, everything exists to display the greatness of Christ. Nothing -nothing! - in the universe exists for its own sake. Everything- from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains, from the smallest particle to the biggest star, from the most boring school subject to the most fascinating science, from the ugliest cockroach to the most beautiful human, from the greatest saint to the most wicked genocidal dictator - everything that exists, exists to make the greatness of Christ more fully known - including you, and the person you have the hardest time liking."

John Piper, Spectacular Sins: And their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ, page 33.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Tension

"There is only one way for any of us to resolve the tension between the high ideals of the gospel and the grim reality of ourselves: to accept that we will never measure up, but that we do not have to. We are judged by the righteousness of the Christ who lives within, not our own. Tolstoy got it halfway right: anything that makes me feel comfort with God 's moral standard, anything that makes me feel "At last I have arrived," is a cruel deception. But Dostoevsky got the other half right: anything that makes me feel discomfort with God's forgiving love is also a cruel deception. "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.": that message, Leo Tolstoy never fully grasped."

The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey, pg. 142

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Tozer Quote

"It is amazing to me! There are people within the ranks of Christianity who have been taught and who believe that Christ will shield His followers from wounds of every kind.If the truth were known, the saints of God in every age were only effective after they had been wounded. They experienced the humbling wounds that brought contrition, compassion and a yearning for the knowledge of God. I could only wish that more among the followers of Christ knew what some of the early saints meant when they spoke of being wounded by the Holy Spirit.Think for a moment about the apostle Paul. I suppose there is no theologian living or dead who quite knows what Paul meant when he said, “From henceforth let no man make trouble for me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). Every commentary has a different idea. I think Paul referred to the wounds he suffered because of his faith and godly life.
–A.W. Tozer (Men Who Met God, p. 59)

Oh, and you can get a free audio book of Tozer's The Pursuit of God at Christian Audio

Death in His Grave

Death In His Grave (Performance Video) from john mark mcmillan on Vimeo.

There are very few songs I instantly love. Of course, there are some exceptions. When I first heard U2 I instantly loved them. Same with Christian Artist Steve Taylor. I really loved music when I was in jr. high and high school. Most songs, I have to listen a few times to really fall in love with it.

Such as the case with a guy I saw in concert in early June, John Mark McMillan. He opened for Gungor, who I blogged about earlier HERE. I so They were good but loud. Most of the audience were dancing and singing along. I loved how they put the words up on the screen, because the words were poetic and beautiful, but it was hard for me to really appreciate them, since I was hearing their music for the first time.

Since then, I keep hearing about John Mark McMillan! On blog posts, on twitter. He has a new album that released today called The Medicine and it did really well on iTunes today. I liked some songs more than others, but this one really stood out to me today. I love the lyrics:

Death in His Grave

Though the Earth Cried out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Her billows calmed on raging seas
for the souls on men she craved

Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious Love would taste the sting
disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

So three days in darkness slept
The Morning Sun of righteousness
But rose to shame the throes of death
And over turn his rule

Now daughters and the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent
When the day rolled a new

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke holding keys
To Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It Is So Easy

Extroversion is something prized in society. Every mom seemingly knows and wants their child be be outgoing, easily making friends, interacting happily with other kids, and having a personality that is compelling, fun and contagious.

Introversion is something to be remedied. It is not a admirable trait. We moms want our kids to have the best in life, to be the best they can be and have every advantage. That means encouraging them to be outgoing.

I do this too. What mom doesn't want their child to have confidence and feel like they can interact with this world and be well received and heard?

I have 3 kids. 2 are extroverts, making friends so very easily. My youngest goes to a playground and will instantly make friends with another child. There is not waiting for the other to make the first move; no looking for verbal or other cues to see if the other wants to be friends. No doubt. It is almost a given: If I ask someone to be my friend, we'll be friends and play and have a great time.

Usually it goes something like this: Hi. Want to be friends? Lets go play! And the other nearly always replies yes and off they go. (and usually Kate comes back to me asking if she can invite her newly acquired friend to her birthday which is 9 months away)

Why is it so easy for children? Why do they have no fear, not even a thought that someone wouldn't want to be their friend? Nothing but a desire to play with another person. Pure. Straightforward. Confident.

I find myself at times trying to create boundaries, because my youngest will spend all day with her new friend and their family, expecting all the rights of an old friend of the family. (food, conversation) I don't want to offend, burden, or bother anyone.

I'm learning that friendships are sticky and they can be a bother, an inconvenience, a bit. Is it possible to have a good friendship without some type of inconvenience? Yet feel safe in it., already knowing the outcome. Knowing that whatever it is will be worked out.

I hate being a inconvenience. I'd rather strive to do everything perfectly, as to not offend, disappoint or upset another.

Of course, for my extroverted daughter, these park friendships are pretty easy. They last only a few hours and though they'd love to meet again and play and give the friendship an opportunity to blossom, most times we go our separate ways and will never see that family again. In a way, it makes the friendship easier and less risky, but does it make it sweeter?

I'm an unfortunate introvert. I find new situations and friendships difficult and tedious, not exciting and fun. To me, a friendship is only sweet after it has been tested. Still, I'd love to be like my daughter; without any hesitation that someone would like to be my friend and all I have to do is ask and be kind.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Have you ever read a chapter or a few pages in a book and words leaped from the pages, answering questions yet simultaneously adding more questions, and loudly proclaiming: "This is what you need to hear" only to go back later and it seems so benign, leaving you to ponder why it was so earth shattering a few hours ago and not now? What changed?

That is what I felt today and not sure what or why. I was so excited reading this; it seemed to all of the sudden make sense. Later an email from a friend surprisingly echoed what I gleaned from this book.... yet looking at the pages read now makes no sense why it would be so exciting for me.

Still, I'd like to write out an excerpt from Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew. This is from page 113. I want to quote 2 pages but I guess that'd be a bit excessive. (buy the book!)

"In the Beatitudes, Jesus honored people who may not enjoy many privileges in this life. To the poor, the mourners, the meek, the hungry, the persecuted, the poor in heart, he offered assurance that their service would not go unrecognized. They would receive ample reward. "Indeed," wrote C.S.Lewis, "if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem tat Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea."

"I know that among many Christians an emphasis on future rewards has fallen out of fashion. My former pastor Bill Leslie used to observe, "As churches grow wealthier and more successful, their preference in hymns changes from "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through' to "this is my father's world." In the United States, at least, Christians have grown so comfortable that we no longer identify with the humble conditions Jesus ddressed in the Beatitudes - which may explain why they sound do strange to our ears."

Mr. Yancey goes on to talk about the spiritual songs slaves sang in bondage. Because of the oppression, they were firmly grounded in the hope of the Eternal. Heaven was a reality, rewards there were what mattered.

C. S. Lewis wrote, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this."

I find myself so closely identifying with Mr. Yancey's words that we (I) have become so comfortable and complacent in my nice little slice of life where there is no "real" threat of persecution. I feel bad about things, I experience grief and disappointment, hurt and discouragement but it truly is because I don't stop and consider the eternal.

I have a friend who really does think at times of Heaven. She has said on her blog a few times and in conversations that she can't wait to hear God day "well done, good and faithful servant." At this stage in my life, I don't think He will say that to me. There's even a part of me thinking that only the elite Christians will hear those wonderful words.

Do you think about Heaven? Does the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount make much sense to you? Do you feel God will tell everyone "well done" or only a certain few?

I know; I have so many questions.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

None But You Shall Understand

A cloud was on the mind of men, and wailing went the
Yea, a sick cloud upon the soul when we were boys
This is the tale of those old fears, even of those empty hells,
And none but you shall understand the true thing that it
tells -
The doubts that drove us through the nigh as we two talked
And day had broken on the streets e'er it broke on the brain.

G.K. Chesterton

in his dedication to E.C Bentley in the Man who was Thursday


Amazing how excitement can so quickly turn to disappointment. I was so excited about a project,; couldn't wait to get started. I envisioned a certain look in my mind and couldn't wait to match it. I wanted to go above and beyond, add a few extra touches. I wanted to get others involved and have them make it "theirs" instead of my project.

Yet it is coming up on 2am and I can't make things work out the way I want them to. Nothing seems to be going perfectly and I've even ran out of a key element to my project..... and of course, it is all due tomorrow morning. Oops, make that THIS morning!

I keep telling myself to do the best I can with what I have, but I'm heartbroken. I don't like to disappoint others, or myself. I look back and wonder what I could have done differently? Wondering why I thought this was such a great idea i the first place. Wondering why I said I'd head it up when someone else could have done such a better job than I am doing!

I was so excited yet now I'm just sad and I can't fix it. The alternative is do do nothing and I have to have something, even if it is not as good as I like.

At dinner tonight a friend brought up a saying that a pastor used to say: "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly at first." Oh, that bugs me and yet..... sometimes it is better to get something done rather than not doing anything at all because I want it perfect.

Yet, now I'm not happy. I can't feel good about my endeavor. What I was once passionate about I am now scared and disappointed, wondering why I wanted to do this in the first place. Wondering why I didn't let someone else do it instead.

I look back and things that I said I'd do and realize I'm always disappointed when I take a risk and do things out of my skill set. I think that things are out of my "comfort zone" and it is good to challenge myself and grow, but lately I am learning that there is a huge difference between "comfort zone" and areas in which I'm not talented in and should NEVER even try to step in and attempt it! Truly, some things are best given to people who really are gifted in certain areas.

So, not only am I disappointed but I'm a bit angry at myself and embarrassed. I wonder why I continue to take risks. I want to stay safe, to hide and only do things that I know I'm good at or things that won't matter if I mess up.

This week has been a tough week for me as I realize this lesson. I'm not good at most things and should leave it to those that are gifted and more creative than me. It hurts when I don't achieve the level I know the situation demands and expects. This week I interviewed an author and pastor of a large multi-site church. He couldn't have been kinder and more articulate but I was painful to even listen to. He may be a pastor and a nice guy, but I'm sure even he got off the phone thinking what a waste of time and why I interviewed him instead of someone that was at least proficient. On top that major blow this week, I have had others. I realized hat people are the same way. For some reason I think that a church is a community where even extremely different people can come together and be loved, but I do think that much is based on merit. I once fought the idea that like people stick with like-minded people but perhaps it is human nature? We want to be around fun people that make us smile and give value and meaning in life, not those that are painful and difficult to engage and interact with.

It has taken me a long time but I finally get it and hopefully next time I'll remember what I'm actually good at and stick only to those things, not leading a Bible study, not interviewing authors, not trying to have a discussion with someone or head up a rummage sale like I did last year. No. I need ot learn to say no. To realize that there are others that are truly gifted and should be the one in a leadership role, not me. Faithfulness and determination is not enough.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Man Who Was Thursday

If you know me, you know I enjoy reading and carry a book with me pretty much everywhere. I am leery of electronic reading devices like the Kindle and iPad, yet still would love to own one! How cool would that be? A tablet with the ability to browse websites, shop, email, read blogs, read books, create things, etc. I could put a dozen or more books on it and carry it with me everywhere.

Yet, there are a few things I wouldn't be able to do with it. I'd never be able to leave it alone, like at a restaurant to "save" my place at the table while I go refill my soda cup. I'd not feel comfortable taking it to the beach, or the park, or around water. I don't enjoy hurting even a cheap paperback, but I feel much more comfortable with a ten dollar paperback than a couple or several hundred dollar reading device!

I really do bring a book with me everywhere, and did so a week ago. I attended a park play day with a friend. Had a great time, but my book was firmly attached in my hand. I never even opened it but enjoyed having it with me. One of the dads in the group happens to be an author and Christian apologist and noticed my book. He commented that it was a really difficult book to get through and understand. It was G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, a mere 114 pages in length. I thanked him for the warning, as he started to explain a bit about the book and why it is so difficult. I'm sure he's right.... G.K. Chesterton is brilliant and I enjoyed his classic book Orthodoxy about 20 years prior, so I knew it wasn't going to be an easy read; indeed, I wasn't look for an easy fictional book. I wanted something with substance; something that would make me think.

I couldn't quite decide if he was being helpful or condescending towards me. As a woman, I do at times feel that certain books cater to men and I am expected to read and enjoy "women books" of certain topics or shorter, or easier to read or just more marketed towards women.

It bugs me like crazy.

The reality is, I don't look like I've any bit of intelligence in me, and I don't act or converse like it either! I really can't organize my thoughts when I speak and am even challenged to do so in written form. There is so much going through my mind, but it is difficult at times to express it. What good is it, even, if I can't communicate? Why read and delight in books of the type I enjoy if I can't hold a meaningful, intelligent conversation about it?

Aw, no one wants to have a meaningful, intelligent conversation with me anyways.

I'll let you know if I enjoy or even understand The Man Who Was Thursday.


I found this on Ray Ortlund's blog at The Gospel Coalition. He quotes a guy I've never heard of who wrote a book in 1909.

“Paul had rich and original conceptions of love, which he had learned from Christ. Christ had loved him in his unloveliness. He had been patient with him in his blindness. His love had been the love of which Matheson sings, ‘O love that will not let me go.’ It had been the love of which Paul himself sang (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). The man who had this ideal of love realized what it was to be a friend.

It was to love unselfishly. ‘The third time,’ he wrote to the Corinthians who had been such a source of care and grief to him, ‘I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you, for I seek not yours but you. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.’ ‘Though,’ as the King James Version reads, ‘the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved’ (2 Corinthians 12:14-15). He loved men for their own sakes, not for what they could be to him selfishly, though he rejoiced when they poured back such friendship love as his in return. But that was their friendship, not his. His friendship love gave and bargained for no return. It coveted good for its objects and was ready to purchase this with pain.”

Robert E. Speer, Paul The All-Round Man (New York, 1909), pages 68-69.

I find myself so often wanting something back from my friendships instead of focusing on them and loving them.