Friday, December 2, 2011

Traditions


Traditions. I'm finally realizing how important they are, especially to kids. Growing up Christmas always had a few traditions in my family. Fist, we always went to my Granny's house for Christmas Eve. The train, an old Lionel train set, was always out for the evening, and usually involved quite a bit of coaxing and fixing to get it to work properly. It always ad a certain old locomotive-liquid smoke smell to it.

My Granny always had a white flocked Christmas tree, decorated with red Cardinal birds, harkening her back to Kentucky, or so she said. And though she was rather confined to a state of being less mobile and on oxygen, she still commanded and had an opinion on every ornament and bird placed on that tree, in a nearly scary way. As a child, this evening took forever because it was very methodically organized: first we'd arrive, and talk, talk, talk and finally we'd eat. Then the kids would all sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, even though I don't think my Grandma was a believer or even remotely religious! And out of the freezer would come some snowballs. I haven't a clue where shed' purchase them, but they were a ball of vanilla ice cream covered with white coconut and topped with a fake holly and ivy sprig that held the candle so we could sing to Baby Jesus and blow out our candle. After that, it was present time, but it was all excruciatingly slow!

Likewise, we alway received pajamas on Christmas Eve to wear to bed that night, and in the morning Santa always arrived and we'd play and enjoy the morning until it was time to go to my Grandma's home for the other side of my family's celebration.

A few years ago I stumbled on Elf on the Shelf and we now have an Elf named Gabriel that visits every December. He hides and shows up somewhere new every morning. My kids so enjoy waking up and finding him and what crazy antics he's gotten into. Last year I purchased a Nativity set from Africa and my kids love to look at it and see Baby Jesus. Every year we help decorate my inlaws tree and I take photos and we have soup and enjoy hanging out together. It pretty much signifies the start of Christmas, and is a tradition we all look forward to.

This year we put our lights and tree up days before December 1st and it's been so enjoyable! Our stockings are hung, Christmas Decorations out, Advent calendar stocked with candy and goodies. We're set.

The week before Thanksgiving I saw a tweet from Compassion International linking a website that was donating proceeds to their oganization for all those who purchased a "Cradle to the Cross" wreath. Intrigued I looked into it and kinda on an impulse, placed an order. You can check out the website HERE. . It's a wood spiral with holes to hold a candle. Every day you move the candle and the wood Mary sitting on a donkey, on hole forward. For my family, we wanted to have a lot of lighted candles, so we stocked the whole thing with candles and will light an additional one each day in December. It's only the second day but already it's a highlight of the evening meal where we light the next candle for the duration of dinner.

Traditions. It feels so good to have traditions and hope that it creates a strong and sweet memory, as well as reinforce our Christian faith and reflect on what Christmas truly means. .

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Voice New Testament


A few years ago I happened upon a small book called The Voice Revealed by Chris Seay. It was a small book that was pretty much the same selection as ini this Bible, except this is the entire New Testament as well as some other features.

This book highlights images and the story of Scripture. The word "story" is pretty big these days. I've heard at a conference that "the one who tells the best story wins"... not sure what that really means exactly. This book, because I have a hard time saying it's a true translation, is a myriad of innovative ways to express story. Some parts are like a screenplay. Other features include notes, a topical index, four different reading programs, helpful resources and an easy to read innovative way of telling Scripture. While I think it is a good supplemental Bible, I wouldn't use it as my "main" Bible.

Still, as an aid or way to further read Scripture in an engaging unique way, I can see its merit. I have an older copy of this BIble without all the notes and features and I like this new updated version better. It's layout is cleaner and easy to read and navigate. It has more of a book introduction and more features. It also has a pretty cover. It is paperback and the pages are similar to any paperback, not a "bible" feel to it. Though I wouldn't use this as my everyday Bible, I can see how someone might enjoy using this to supplement their reading.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Where Has Oprah Taken Us? - Review


I will admit, I've never been a "follower' of Oprah. Sure I'd watch a show here and there, and I think i did read one of her book club selections once but I never really "got into" Oprah, so imagine my surprise by how much I enjoyed this book, Where Has Oprah Taken Us by Stephen Mansfield.

This is a biography of Oprah and yet, also a commentary on society and culture, intertwined. Oprah really created culture, not just reflected it. The book recounts her fascinating life and what shaped her, the good and the bad, chronicling her resolve and her belief systems that have evolved over the years. Though well-revered and loved by many, she isn't perfect, and in fact, she'd probably be the first to tell you that! It's part of her charm and appeal: In many ways, this influential, wealthy, confident woman faces the same fears and struggles as everyone.

I didn't know much about Oprah's life and this book is a good introduction into it. Really, the woman is fascinating and the way the book is written makes it difficult to put down. What might be dry simply isn't because of the subject matter. I also really enjoyed how Stephen Mansfield wrote this: as a biographer and trying to report without bias, yet bring up several questions and concerns along the way. He'd often put his own opinions and observations in italics and that was one of the most thought-provoking parts and really made the book more meaningful to me.

Oprah has definitely left a mark on how we view religion and spirituality and how we view ourselves as well. No longer is spirituality something dictated by others, we are now in control of what we believe and how it shapes our lives. Of course, I disagree here but the reality is: this has shaped our culture and I think it is good to really reflect on that so we can understand our culture and why this is so appealing.

Intriguing and thought-provoking book. I recommend it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thoughts on Father Hunger

Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson is a book that is worth reading. There's a lot of controversy these days about what "masculinity" is and who should lead in a household. There are too many households that have an absent father or one that doesn't take their role seriously. In fact, there are many today that minimize a father's role in the life of children.

This book addresses the value and influence fathers have on their families, what masculinity truly is, how men should be leaders in the home and may other issues. It can at times be a bit dry but all of it is valuable and insightful.

A great book that challenges men to lead and lead well, and also how God is our perfect Father. Truly excellent book.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Triathlon: What Was I Thinking?

Pacific Grove. What was I thinking?

It would've been easy to not do the race. Even my husband, David wasn't asking me about it. I'm pretty sure he figured I wasn't going to race. There were a few friends that knew I'd signed up for it, mainly my friends the Floyds and my tri buddy Joy, but I didn't really advertise it too much, probably leaving an "out" in case I didn't do it.

I had little intention of doing this race, and I can't tell you why or what changed. A friend named Dave that I had met at Pacific Grove 2 years ago called me up and encouraged me to attend. ("victoria, this is God speaking....). And my friend Bobby and I had a spirited twitter exchange. I wouldn't commit to coming but it was them that made me realize there actually was a part of me that wanted to go, but not sure if I wanted to race; I think I just wanted to be a part of this race scene with folks that I consider my friends, and for some reason, David wasn't racing any Olympic or shorter distance triathlons this year and the 2 Half Ironmans he did compete in were void of any of these familiar faces. I realized I wanted to be among these triathlon community friends but the only way to do it.... was to race!

I already paid for the slot. I already had the wetsuit, a really nice one thanks to wetsuit rentals.com (thanks Patty!) Though I have to admit that I went out in the ocean a few weeks prior and discovered that the pool is nothing like the ocean! I completely panicked and there I could touch the bottom during the entire ocean swim. Knowing this, I am still surprised I decided to compete in this triathlon. There was a part of me seriously concerned that I wouldn't be able to manage the swim and that I'd panic.

Seriously, I had so many concerns! Could I really survive the swim? Could I even get out of the wetsuit without help? (no one is allowed in the transition area unless they are a competitor) Would I be cold and uncomfortable? How would the bike be? I'm not used to riding with lots of people, and I'm still scared of clipping in and out of my pedals. Add to that, I wasn't sure if I could even take a sharper turn that I'd need to do for the 2 laps. And then there's the run: I wasn't too afraid of that, as I had already resolved that I'd simply walk it. I didn't care. I knew there was no hope of running it and....... I wasn't sure I'd even make it to the run, so I didn't even plan that far ahead.

Despite all my fears and misgivings, after some encouragement from my tri buddy Joy, I decided I wanted to race and informed my husband David. He was nothing but supportive, and I almost wonder if he was waiting for me to make this decision on my own. But once made, he was giving me all kinds of advice, especially on the best way of laying out my transition stuff, where to put my shoes, socks, cycling shoes, some sport jelly beans because I still am scared of gel.

THE RACE:

I couldn't sleep at all. Not sure it was nerve, excitement, or the 5 diet cokes (diet pepsi actually) that I had with some church friends after church that night. David had loaned me his nice tri bag that made me LOOK the part of a triathlete but i sure didn't feel like one! Regardless, I do think having a nice bag like that is helpful. David reminded me of what to pack and I was all set the night before, yet still couldn't sleep. Finally, at 2am I fell asleep, only to be woken at 5:00. We were supposed to be in the car headed for the race by 5:30, but that's not always easy with 3 kids, so we didn't actually leave until nearly 6. My swim start was at 7:40, nearly the last AG wave of the day and I had yet to register. I ate a cliff bar and water as we made the drive to Pacific Grove.

We arrived a bit after 7pm and I had no problem at all registering. Tri-Cal does a good job at making their races enjoyable for the athletes and spectators alike. This was actually my third time at the Pacific Grove Triathlon, yet incredibly different this time, being a racer instead of a spectator with a camera.

Since we were running late, I got my package and race number, and headed to transition, where I said goodbye to David and my 3 kids. First, I have to say this now: I can't believe how enthusiastic and encouraging my kids were to see me race. The cheers, the hugs, the encouragement, it was the sweetest thing ever. They'd been to so many triathlons - David's triathlons, I though for sure this was all boring to them, but they were so encouraging to me.

Knowing I was running out of time, I gave David a quick kiss and entered The Unknown. I was completely clueless and without a guide. I knew nothing and I knew I knew nothing! I thought that racks would be by age group, and they were, but they weren't marked as such. Instead, they were by numbers. number But I couldn't figure it out, as my number was 4 digits and these were 3. So I called David who informed me to look for my number. And I found it... but it was a tight, tight squeeze sandwiched between 2 bikes. How would mine ever fit? I was clueless but looked around and just tried to put it on the rack anyways and managed to squeeze some room for my transition towel and quickly laid out my gear in the manner David outlined. I have never felt so alone and clueless in my life. Next, where to and how to put on the race numbers on my bike? Some had it on the seat tube, others on the top tube. I looked at my iphone: I had 20 minutes. If I wasted a bit of time, I could legitimately miss my wave. As tempting as it was, I put on my wetsuit. This isn't easy! I got it halfway up and then I grabbed the body glide, my swim caps (David recommended I were 2, one underneath my race color cap) and goggles. Oh and my timing chip. Can't forget that! I ran out of transition, to where David was waiting for me. But there I was stopped by a volunteer asking if I was body marked. I wasn't! I had 10 minutes before my wave started. She marked my arms, hands, and then I lifted up the legs on my wetsuit for her to mark my age and my race number on my calf. David was waiting. He helped with the body glide, sunscreen, and then managed to zip me into my suit and walked me down to the water, telling me that I should try to get in the water to get wet prior to the race start. So I did, but not because I wanted to, simply because he knew what he was talking about, I didn't. I surely DID NOT want to get cold before I had to! But it was good. I even got my whole head submerged, climbed out and waited with all the other over 40 purple capped women. One standing next to me smiled happily and said good luck. I admitted it was my first tri and I was nervous. She was encouraging to me, saying it was all good; they'd not let me drown.

David remarked later that my wave wasn't very competitive. We calmly and slowly clamored into the water. I started out and then realized that I still don't like the taste of salt water. Within about 5 "real" strokes my heart rate was up and I was getting scared. David told me to go slow, slower than I needed to but I thought even that wouldn't work: I simply couldn't do this at all. I wasn't cold but I didn't like putting my face in the water. The salty taste was difficult for me, so I resorted to a rest kick (scissor kick). I was mildly surprised that this kick was just as fast as some of the other women's freestyle stroke around me. (keep in mind, I was at the end of the pack!) But then, nearing the first buoy, the cold water got trapped in my ear (I have a hole in my eardrum) and instantly was in a state or near vertigo. I was disoriented and stopped swimming. I couldn't find my bearings at all. There was a person on a surfboard a few feet from me and I was so panicked I froze. I think a few others saw the terror on my face and I think someone said I could use the surfboard person as a rest for a bit if need be. My heart was pounding; I was so very afraid and wanted to just quit right then and there. Nearly did, but then I though: just calm down, keep moving. If it took me all day, just keep moving. There was another surfboard up ahead, if I was still scared i'd drown, I could just get help. So..... I continued on, but I can't actually call what I did swimming. Instead, I just kept steadily moving forward. By now I was being passed by the relay groups and under 15 year olds. Yep. I'm certain my own kids would've beat me! But I kept going, happy that there still were others behind me. I managed my way through the kelp beds. It wasn't that bad, and mildly comforting to have the kelp around. I thought I could almost stand on it and I liked that.

Near the end, I forced myself to pass a few folks coming up near the shore and I climbed out. What a strange feeling. I was simply thankful I had made it. David and the kids, as well as friends, were cheering me on, and I am pretty sure I made a face at them, I felt so embarrassed to be cheered for and singled out. And I know I had a simply horrible swim. I wandered up the ramp, made my way to transition. I wasn't moving fast, I didn't care. Got to my towel, sat down, pulled off the wetsuit, and attempted to dry off a bit. It didn't seem to work well, so I pulled on socks and cycling shoes, exchanged my swim caps for a bike helmet, and put on my borrowed race number belt and grabbed my bike. Was there anything else? It seemed too simple. I left my water bottle on purpose; I knew it would do me no good because I still didn't know how to drink and ride at the same time. As I went to exit, I realized my number had torn off my race number on one side. What to do? Nothing, I guess, so I tried to exit transition, but actually at the beginning went the wrong way! Still, not a bad transition for a first timer: a bit over 3 minutes. Wow.

I nearly grabbed a jacket for the bike portion but was surprised that I wasn't all that cold. I was soaking wet, yet, not cold. I know I don't ride fast so perhaps a jacket would be nice to have, but...... if I was going to race, I needed to race! So I left the jacket in transition and glad I did. I made my way to the road where the bike portion starts and got on where it said to. I was prepared to be scared of this as well, but surprised that I clipped into my pedals easily and once I started pedaling, I just felt this feeling of freedom as I realized I was done with my swim and now it was just time to enjoy this bike ride. And I did. It scared me for a bit, all the "what ifs" going through my head of others on the road, passing me, etc. But being one of the last has its advantages: I at first felt I was the only person on the road. Eventually I did pass a few folks. and then more. And more. But didn't feel prideful or good about it: many of these folks were on mountain bikes or beach cruisers and I was on a beautiful, light, carbon fiber bike that I don't even deserve to be on. In fact, I HAD To pass all these folks! But I purposefully tried to keep pedaling and at a more than easygoing pace. (though I'm sure my pace is quite slow for any other cyclist) I also made it a point to take in everything and enjoy the course: it' is simply stunning. The day was mostly overcast but not cold and the water and the beach, the trees, it was all beautiful. I'd driven on this road numerous times but being on a bike is so very different; you see it through different eyes. I've never enjoyed the coastline more than on this bike ride.

I was very concerned with the turn around..... would I be able to do it? Yes, not a problem and it made me happy. Along the way volunteers were shouting out encouraging words to all. I heard one shout "Way to Go! Almost there!" on my first loop of the ride and it made me laugh, as I recalled a sermon my triathlete pastor had preached at church last summer after one of his ironman races. I definitely wasn't "almost there!" But I knew they were trying to be encouraging and would mouth the word "thanks" as I went passed them. (I am not accomplished enough to talk or wave while riding much!) On my second lap I relaxed and tried a bit harder to pass folks. It was just beginning to get fun. I grinned as I realized I wasn't afraid and even was having a good time. I had no trouble clipping out, though I did so well before I was mandated to. David tried to get a photo of me but I'm pretty sure I dismounted before he was able to. I walked to transition; why not? I knew I wasn't doing well. But...... you can't stop regardless of how good or bad you are doing, you have to keep going. I didn't want to keep going. I'd have been happy stopping.

Or would I? In transition I spotted my friend Bobby and chatted easily with him, in a very un-racelike manner. He'd already finished. I had a long T2 partly because I didn't care. I took off my cycling shoes, and decided to put on my second pair of socks because the first was damp. I haven't a clue WHY it took me so long in T2. I can't even recall what Bobby and I chatted about. I put on a cap, and grabbed my race number without the race belt and exited T2, with some sport beans in my pocket. I exited with Bobby, and walked up to David and asked if he had the safety pins I'd left in the bag I'd given him. He did, and within minutes my race number was pinned to my jersey. (though David accidentally stuck me with the pin). My kids, once again, they were so sweet cheering me on. I couldn't help but smile and feel genuinely blessed by my family and friends. I ran and a bit late spotted my friend Denise and Dave. Such smiles! Dave ran a bit ahead of me, trying to take photos the whole way, and me, of course, trying to dodge all that. He was so sweet. It is amazing how someone you met years ago at a tri could be so encouraging., but he was an FCA-E guy, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and his love for Jesus shines so brightly in his smile alone. I have a special place in my heart for Dave and his wife Cheryl and the encouragement they are to so many.

At the water/food area I slowed down. My pace was a slow jog already but now it was a walk. I drank my water slowly, ate each sport jelly bean individually, savoring it. It's candy. I like candy. Mixed with some water, it just tasted so good. I've never tasted candy so good. Or water so good. I twas great. I walked a long time and then..... I resumed. And stopped again. Most of the women were walking too. As I was walking past some volunteers I heard their "encouraging" chants: way to go, good pace and I realized; I have no pace! How can this be good? I'm walking! So I tried to run..Then cheers again, from a larger group of my friends and family. I am pretty sure I told one of them that I'd kill them if they took a photo of me. Or if it ended on Facebook. And I think I might have even mean it literally at the moment.

I lapped around for my second lap and realized that this run/jog thing wasn't so awful, I simply didn't like it but did that mean I couldn't do it? So for the second lap I ran more than I walked, and even set my sights on passing a few folks, Not that they were in my AG, but it didn't matter. I had to pass them anyways. Again, as I neared the finish, a lot of cheering: Bobby, Dave, Denise, Clyde, David and the kids...... it almost made me cry. I heard David shout out "2 minutes! You can do anything for 2 minutes! And I wanted to retort back "what do you know" but.... he knows! He's a "real" triathlete. But I kept going. I passed a few people, and figured that I had to keep running or they'd pass me. I couldn't believe they didn't. I crossed the finish line, hugged my kids and David, It was a very sweet moment. I have always spent my time behind a camera watching this and here I was, participating in it. So very different. My time was horrible, truly, I think that I have friends that can do the same time in a Olympic distance, which is over twice as long! (the run in this tri was only 2 miles). But it didn't matter. I was done. And glad I had done it.

I still don't feel like a triathlete, I actually want a second chance. I want to experience a tri when I feel like I paid my dues and was truly ready. I want to do this again and have a faster time.

Though I may have finished, I am the same person. I'm still not an "athlete". I'm certainly not a triathlete, that conjures of images of perfection and discipline. If anything, emerging from this, I think anyone and everyone can finish a Sprint triathlon, without working towards it. Was it hard? Yes, Could I have pushed myself even harder? Yes. And it is actually a really neat thought to contemplate: I can push myself more. I want to push myself more.

The rest of the day? Got my finisher's medal, turned in my timing chip, hugged my kids, talked with friends at the FCA booth, chatted with Bobby, gave my post-race meal of bagels, cream cheese, fruit, granola bars and chocolate milk to my kids. I think there should be a triathlete for the unhealthy triathletes that really want a hamburger after the race! Then, we said our goodbyes to friends, and I wandered into transition with fellow racer Bobby to grab my bike and gear, then walked back. My kids were excited to spend time at the beach. But..... I wanted a hamburger, so we bought a burger and fries and a nice, large diet coke (my first of the day) and went to the beach. My kids had peanut butter and jelly that I had made for them before we left. We had a great time at the beach and then on the way home even went by Moss Landing. I was tired, and yet.... so thankful and happy to simply spend time with my family. We hardly did anything, yet enjoyed each other and the beauty of the ocean. And it was more than enough. I just couldn't keep from smiling.

Someone asked today how my race went. I wasn't ready to revisit it. By anyone else's standards, it was a failure. I came in last. I did horribly. I was asked if I at least had fun. "How do you define "fun"" because 2 hours of this stuff .... is that really "fun"? Am I happy I did it? Absolutely. And I'd even do it again, except this time, I want to be ready. Overall, I'm thankful for the opportunity and that I decided to do it. I am overjoyed by my friends that were there and those that expressed an interest in hearing this tale. A friend said a first tri is to be celebrated, I'm not so sure. I just don't know if this one "counts" but.... I am still grateful for so much and it became evident before, during and after this race. I am so blessed, by so much.

I may be able to tell you about this race, but I don't think I can articulate the gratitude I felt afterwards.

TIME: I am not telling, lets just say it wasn't good. But my friends, and family made it priceless. Praising God, reciting His Word on the swim bike and run.... again priceless. So much joy, so much gratitude. A very special day.

Triathlon Backstory

First, a bit of backstory. Last July my friend and I watched our husbands compete in Vineman 70.3. As they were on their swim, we both looked at each other and said we wanted to do this. Perhaps not a half Ironman (we're not crazy, after all!) but some sort of triathlon. So, within a few weeks I joined the gym she is a member of and we started to work out together. I was very intimidated by the gym, but she was a great guide and I rediscovered (after the second week) that I enjoyed swimming. There's something about the silence that is calming to me. Anyways, I swam for a few months and didn't do much else, but later on tried to incorporate walking/running. I hate running and dislike it even more because I find it impossible to go even a few steps without stopping. It doesn't help that I have asthma, but it's not the asthma that causes me to stop, it is the fact that I don't like it. It doesn't feel good and I'm lazy.

Then, right after Thanksgiving, I started to attend a group spin class. This was a HUGE thing for me because I had never attended any group exercise class and, well, I'm not in shape, I'm not an athlete, and I couldn't decide if knowing the spin instructor was a negative or a positive. It turned out to be a positive, although initially I was pretty scared, as he has the reputation for having the most challenging spin class, but the reality is, spin class is very much a go-at-your-own-pace thing. I discovered that spinning isn't all that hard. Unlike Zumba or something, there's really only one thing you must do: keep your legs moving. To do it well, with proper form, challenging tension, etc, is a different story but I do think that spinning is something anyone and everyone can do. Eventually I surrounded myself with spin buddy friends, including my (very good) cyclist/triathlete husband and it made the class even more enjoyable. When i finally purchased my bike and rode it in January, I was more prepared than I or even my husband expected, and I attributed it to my challenging go-at-your-own-pace spin class. (It may've been go at your own pace but trust me, I tried really hard! There were days I thought I was going to either throw up or pass out). (

I initially had a June Triathlon date but my tri buddy wasn't in town. Not wanting to do it without her, I didn't do it either. She was at her husband's tri.... her husband that happens to be the spin instructor who also happens to be my friend and pastor! I didn't mention that fact, did I? Besides, I was looking for an excuse not to do it. But then a few weeks later, always a sucker for a good deal, I saw a discount on a Tri-California race and signed up.

I still don't know what I was thinking! With or without my tri buddy, I had committed to this race. A short little sprint triathlon at Pacific Grove. At the time, I was swimming, walking (because in my mind I can't run) and riding my bike, as well as continuing with spin classes.

So, that's the backstory.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thoughts on The Truth About Grace

The Truth about Grace is a short volume by John MacArthur, but is is rather meaty! And it needs to be; grace is not easy to define nor understand. MacArthur does a wonderful job explaining what Grace is and the theology of grace. You might not agree with all his views but it is a very solid book and well-written as well.

While I personally can tell a person what grace is and define it somewhat well, the practical applications and reality is much more difficult for me, so I found this book both helpful and challenging.

I was provided a copy of the book by Booksneeze, a program of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Friday, June 10, 2011

U2 @ Oakland













I've been a huge fan of U2 since Unforgettable Fire came out and have been to so many of their concerts over the years, yet I've never been on the floor, what is called "General Admission" - until now.

I'm a U2.com subscriber so it was easy to purchase the General Admission tickets presale. Originally this concert was scheduled for June of 2010, but had to be postponed. So I purchased my tickets in November of 2009 and FINALLY got to see the concert this past week. That is a long time to wait!

But well worth it.

I'm still not ready to explain and go into detail the concert and what it meant to me. Maybe in a day or two, but for now.... here's a few photos.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Grace of God

The Grace of God by Andy Stanley is simply a gift to read. In it, Mr. Stanley explores grace shown in the Old and New Testaments. In this book he looks at grace by explaining the story of Grace: being chosen by Grace, Surprised by Grace, Redeemed by Grace, Ruled by Grace, Rescued by Grace, Sustained by Grace, Puzzled by Grace, Accepted by Grace, Reborn by Grace, Filled by Grace, Saved by Grace and Commissioned for Grace.

He ends with:

"In his story, he lvoes you no matter what you've done
In his story, he doesn't love you because of what you've done.
In his story, he could not love you more and he will never love you less

It's a better story.
It's a true story.
It's a story of grace.
The Grace of God! (page 216, 217)

I enjoyed this comforting look at grace in the manner Mr. Stanley presented it.

I received this book through Thomas Nelson's booksneeze program. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Final Summit

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews is a well-written story, but one that didn't altogether capture my attention. This might be because I don't read much fiction. Still, it is about David Ponder who is visited by an angel where he meets many famous people from history .

This is a hard book to review because I enjoyed reading it, it was very easy to read, I simply don't think I prefer fiction. Still, it is a compelling story and very well written as well. I think most people would enjoy this book.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of their Booksneeze program and not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Going Deep by Gordan MacDonald

Going Deep by Gordan Macdonald is an interesting look at church and people but instead of a "textbook" approach, he tells the story through a fictional church and it in many ways comes to life. The characters are fictional; the issues are very real in the church today. I've read numerous books that talk about not just attracting people to church or even a "profession of faith" but in actually making disciples that will reproduce themselves. Therein lies the goal and the challenge of the church: to have people use their spiritual gifts to help strengthen the church and each other.

This book encourages us to be "deep" people: people who will lead and train others to be "deep" people and make that their highest priority. Out of that all good things will flow and be sustainable.

Anyways, it is a story, told in story form and yet the many issues it brings up are weighty and real to life today. Though some might get lost on this book, if you are a church leader it would be in your best interest to really read this book.

I received a copy through Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Friday, June 3, 2011

For The Kids

I collect good Christian kid's books and then.... I forget to read them to my kids! So here's a list of the Kid books I've purchased and I hope to go through with my children.




This is a great family Story Bible, with 270 Bible stories, beautifully illustrated. My kids enjoy looking at the pictures in this magnificent book.



Love this book based on the Catechism, basic, foundational truths told in a wonderful story format.



A wonderful twist on an ABC Book, suitable for older kids and even adults will enjoy the subtle humor in this book.



Love this storybook and its fundamental truths that are suitable for older kids.



LOVE THIS!

And one I didn't mention.... the Jesus Storybook. I've already mentioned that several times on this blog! Love it so much!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Christian Spirituality

"True Christian spirituality is not a search to discover ourselves, or to be enlightened, or even to add a new dimension to our lives. No. Christian spirituality is a relationship with God. This search is initiated by God, empowered by God, and made possible by God. He is out desire. not power, not experience, not the supernatural... but God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ."

Thirsting For God, Gary L. Thomas

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't Give Up

The word for today is "road" and my first thought was my road bike.

First, I have a beautiful road bike. I'd never heard of the brand "LOOK" but after test riding several bikes, my favorite was this beautiful white bike. Since it was the fifth bike I tried out, there's a chance that one of the reasons I liked it most was because I was simply becoming more relaxed at riding bikes in general, but I also believe that it simply was a nicer bike to ride. It certainly was the more expensive of all the bikes I tried out! It cost more than my first car, which doesn't say much because my first car costed me about 1000.

Though I love my bike and love how cute it is, how lightweight it is and all that, I'm a bit afraid of it too. Being married to a cyclist, I am well aware of how scary it can be and how many near misses David's had, and he's a highly skilled rider! It just seems so ominous that I will crash someday, and that scares me. Of course, I have fallen a number of times, but only because I haven't clipped out of my pedals correctly.

Sunday I took my bike out on the road to do the course of a race I'm planning on participating in (notice I didn't say "compete"). a race. It's a big hill (that's a relative term but for me... it is a BIG hill!) and last time I tried I turned around. Sunday, with a lot of encouragement from David, I managed to go up the whole thing without stopping. I wanted to stop, but I started playing the songs that I hear in spin class.... Michael W. Smith's "Don't Give Up" song kept playing in my head.

Before I did the race course I was seriously thinking of not following through with the triathlon that I had committed to several months ago. I know I can swim, now I feel I can bike. The only thing I can't do is the 3 mile run. But... I can walk it. I don't want to walk it, but I can do that.

So this is my "road" post. I wish I could think of something deep and meaningful to tie it to, but right now I'm simply excited that I'm not giving up.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Last Great Hope

I was fortunate enough to review Our Last Great Hope by Ronnie Floyd. Everyone knows the Great Commission, and this author is passionate about evangelism. This book is a call to living al life worthy of our calling and to become missionaries to our community and world. But not out of legalism or a set of rules. He writes: "... I didn't realize the difference between devotion to His work and devotion to Him. I found that quite thought-provoking. Another quote I enjoyed is "To know Christ is to love him. To love him is to share Him."

How sobering and yet how true is that? And yet..... how are we doing at sharing Him with those around us?

More than just a commentary on our culture, the author attempts to spur people to action in the cause of evangelism. At times, I do admit to feeling a bit guilty, but his points were all well taken and his passion for the lost and motivating folks to reach the lost is commendable.

I was given a courtesy copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for a review. All views and opinions articulated are my own. I did not pledge a positive evaluation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Heaven is for Real



I'm a skeptic and not sure why I agreed to read Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, but since it is a bestseller that all my friends are raving about, I did and have to admit, that it is a sweet story. Do I take it as a "true" story? Not sure..... it's hard to believe a four year old would talk in the manner that he did; seems so grown up!

While I don't agree with this being full of "theological truth" I can see why it'd be a comfort to many and yet, I have to wonder why Scripture isn't comforting or informative enough? Do we really need to hear about others' experiences to bolster our faith and give us assurance that Heaven and our faith is real? This concerns me deeply.

Still a sweet story and I can see its appeal.

I was given a copy of this book by Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program and was not required to write a positive review

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unleashed

What is the church supposed to look like? What does it mean to be "unleashed"? Is that a good thing, to be "barbaric"? While I enjoyed some of this book's call to leave complacency and be bold, I am not sure I followed all that he was saying. I simply couldn't get into this book. I did hear that it was a re-release of his book "The Barbarian Way" and I'm glad they retitled it but it would've been good to have better defined "barbarian".

All in all, I enjoyed the heart behind this book, I just didn't like the way he presented it. I think it is more than just living boldly or "barbaric".

I received a copy of this book free through Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Permission to Speak Freely

Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson is a rare book that combines honesty with beauty. Her honesty is beautiful and rare as she recounts her story. She grew up as a pastor's kid yet deeply broken. It is hard not to read this and weep at the brokenness yet it is done in such a way that you feel hope because she has found hope as well as the courage to help others. In fact, this whole book is an effort in helping others, to help us understand and to help those that struggle with the reality there is much hope through Christ.

Pornography is an issue that is difficult to discuss, especially in church circles. I think this book is a great tool to open a dialogue about it and allow people to seek healing.

Disclosure of immaterial Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Max On Life

Max on Life by Max Lucado is almost more of a reference book and certain sections seemed very similar to some of his prior material. Basically, this book is broken into sections by topic, making it easy to use as a reference. It is written as a question or letter that Mr. Lucado then spends a page or two providing his insight and answers. It is enjoyable to read, but not a book to read cover to cover in one sitting.

Still, this is a book that is worthy to have on your bookshelf.

I was provided a complimentary copy for review by Thomas Nelson's booksneeze program. i was not required to write a favorable review.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Like Old Times

When I was in jr. high and high school I loved going to conferences like Dawson MacAllister, and all the Christian concerts at our local theme park. I couldn't wait for these events. I also loved drama tours, retreats, camping trips, I loved being in a group of people that I was familiar with.

The funny thing is that I'm a complete introvert and yet, I loved this stuff.

I think I'm more timid and introverted now than I was back then and I can't figure out what is so radicaly different. Is it that I didn't care about perception then? And isn't that ironic because aren't teenagers hyper sensitive to perception then? Perhaps I just didn't realize what a goofball I was?

Not sure but I do know that today things and larger groups are harder for me.

Yet I still love conferences, and right now I'm so excited to be signed up for several in the upcoming months. One is called Ignite and it features teaching from D.A. Carson, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler and others. I've never heard these folks live, though I've listened online and have read books by 2 of them. I also have tickets for another conference and 2 concerts! One is U2, the other is David Crowder with Gungor and John Mark McMillan.

Oh, I just can't wait!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Worst Evils

"Similarly, Martin Luther was amazed and moved by this encounter, because he saw the gospel in it. This woman saw the gospel - that you're more wicked than you ever believed, but, at the same time more loved and accepted than you ever dared to hope. On the one hand, she is not too proud to accept what the gospel says about her unworthiness. She accepts Jesus' challenge. She doesn't get her back up and say, "How dare you use a racial epithet about me? I don't have to stand for this!" Can you hear yourself saying that? But on the other hand, neither does this woman insult God by being too discouraged to take up his offer. See, there are two ways to fail to let Jesus be your Saviour. One is by being too proud, having a superiority complex - not to accept his challenge. But the other is through an inferiority complex - being so self-absorbed that you say, "I'm just so awful that God couldn't love me." That is, not to accept his offer. John Newton, a minister, once wrote a letter to a man who was very depressed. Take a note of what he said:

You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness? Well indeed you cannot be too aware of the evils inside of yourself, but you may be, indeed you are, improperly controlled and affected by them. You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself. You then express not only a low opinion of yourself, which is right, but also too low an opinion of the person, work and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong. You complain about sin, but when I look at your complaints, they are so full of self-righteousness, unbelief, pride, and impatience that they are little better than the worst evils you complain of."

Tim Keller,King's Cross Chapter 8.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Wonder How


Last night my church observed Good Friday. It is hard to call Good Friday a "celebration" and I reserve that for Easter, which is truly a celebration. I can't even fathom the emotions during the three days; the agony of watching Christ die on the cross, the day after of mourning and silence, disbelief and confusion. And then even more confusion and excitement in the reality of the resurrection; looking back at Christ words and life and seeing that if finally makes sense. The words he used, what he said, how he lived. It all actually makes sense.

During our Good Friday service the church family was invited to take communion. A simple act, but a serious one, especially during Holy Week. It always baffles me what to do with communion, as I wasn't allowed to partake of it until I became a Christian and was baptized. In fact, during my early years it was ingrained in me that to eat of the bread unworthily or with unconfessed sin was to face judgment.

During the evening my daughter who is 6 whispers to me that she is a Christian, she loves Jesus and has accepted him in her life. I am still unconvinced; how can I child fully understand? I know when I became a Christian I understood the words, but the principles and all the other stuff I really didn't. I'm now 40 and I still don't understand all that being a Christian is and the beauty and mystery behind it.

I'm still unconvinced she really understands what Christ did and what that means now in her life. I guess I feel this way because every day I'm realizing more and more fully the depths of what it all means.

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

Chorus:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior's love for me!

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

Do you think a small child can really understand the Gospel? Is there simple understanding and faith enough to "save" them? What happens if they fall away later? Were they ever "really" saved the first time?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Missional People

Our churches can have wonderfully written missional vision statements and well-conceived plans and programs. But if individual members are not committed to living their lives as kingdom-minded missionaries in their daily life stations, then the corporate efforts of the church as a whole will never sniff the air of their true kingdom potential. It is impossible to be a missional church if we fail to be missional people. Otherwise, missionality is reduced to sponsored programs that centralize the life of the body of Christ, institutionalizing and containing it in church systems and programs that view mission as something that happens "over there" or at special events."

Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission For Everyday People by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford, page 65

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Dragon and the Turtle Go On Safari

The Dragon and The Turtle Go On Safari is a cute children's book. My youngest enjoyed it most, she's six and loved the characters of the Turtle and the Dragon, loved all the colorful illustrations and though the moral of the story was good, this book didn't catch her interest like most kids books do. Perhaps it was the dialogue and larger words, not sure.

Still, a cute book and one to enjoy reading, but this will not be a book we read multiple times.

I was provided with a complimentary copy through Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Point?


I've only a handful of blog posts during this month of March, and it's not because I've been overly busy; it is simply because the more I think about it, the more I realize I have nothing worth saying. I've been told quite often recently that others "don't care" what I think, feel or have an opinion on, but I've dismissed it because surely they didn't mean it that way; how can one have community or friendship if no one cares about the other person? But after being outright told "I don't care" has made me come to my senses.

And it hurts.

A few days ago I posted a link to an article on facebook from the Wall Street Journal about girls growing up too fast. Normally I post links to articles to further discussion, and my friend commented a very good insightful post. And after waiting a day or two called me a stinker for not discussing my own views. Didn't I want a dialogue?

I realized that I no longer need a dialogue because it is pointless. I wanted to be heard, I wanted to engage and dialogue and be known, but what's the point if my views, likes, dislikes, struggles, thoughts and ideas don't matter and no one wants to hear them? It is one thing to say to someone that they don't need to know they're having spaghetti for dinner that night, but it is another thing to tell a person that you simply don't care what they have to say and their opinion or other, weightier matters.

Once upon a time I blogged pretty faithfully because I thought I had made a commitment to do so, but right now I really fail to see what the point is except my own stubborn, legalistic resolve to post something just to say I'm faithful and consistent. But if no one cares..... what is the point?

A God Great Enough

"If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn't stop your suffering, you also have a God who's great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can't understand. You can't have it both ways."

- Tim Keller, King's Cross, page 54

Monday, March 21, 2011

Life View

"Christian discipleship is not about a bunch of oughts that you don't really believe; it's about the life-view by which you really live."

- Transforming Christian Theology, Philip Clayton

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Dance


I"m reading Tim Keller's The King's Cross and already after just chapter one, I'm impressed and enthralled. I wanted to share this excerpt with you. You really have to read this book!

"In the Garden, Adam was told, "Obey me about the tree - do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or you will die." Why was that the temptation? As I said earlier, God created us to orbit around him, to center our lives on him. When God says, "Don't eat, or you'll die," what is our first response? "Why?" But God doesnt' explain; if you obeyed God because you understood what he was doing and how it would benefit you, then you'd actually be stationary. You'd be saying, "Okay, it makes sense. I understand why I should obey and shouldn't eat from that tree; yes, of course." God would be a means to an end, not an end in himself.

God was saying, "Because you love me, don't eat from the tree - just because I said so. Just to be in relationship with me. He and Eve failed their test; and the whole human race has been failing the same test ever since. Satan never stops testing us. He says, "This idea of self-giving love, where you make yourself totally vulnerable and you orbit around other people -that'll never work."

In effect, the same thing happens to Jesus in the wilderness. Though Mark doesn't tell us what Jesus' temptation is, Matthew's Gospel does. His account (in Matthew 4:1-11) basically says that Satan tempts Jesus to step out of orbit around the Father and the Spirit, and around us. To make sure everyone else centers on him, and to protect himself. And of course this temptation doesnt' actually end with the literal wilderness: Throughout the remainder of Jesus' life he's assaulted by Satan, and the attack comes to a climax in another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, the ultimate antigarden to the Garden of Eden.

We look at Adam and Eve and say, "What fools - why did they listen to Satan?" Yet we know we still have Satan's lie in our own heart, because we're afraid of trusting God - of trusting anybody, in fact. we're stationary, because Satan tells us we should be - that's why he fights the battle.

But God didnt' leave us defenseless. God said to Jesus, 'Obey me about the tree" -- only this time the tree was a cross -- "and you will die." And Jesus did. He was going before you into the heart of a very real battle, to draw you into the ultimate reality of the dance. What he has enjoyed from all eternity he has come to offer to you. And sometimes, when you're in the deepest part of the battle, when you're tempted and hurt and weak, you'll hear in the depths of your being the same words Jesus heard: "This is my beloved child -- you are my beloved child, whom I love; with you I'm well pleased,"

Page 11, 12, 13...... the last few paragraphs of chapter 1. Tim Keller's The King's Cross: The Story of the World in The Life of Jesus

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Questions

I'm reading an interesting book that I identify with. Much like the author, my youth group was a magical time for me and I excelled and knew all the answers. I was unabashedly Christian, invited many to church, talked about faith, and won every competition revolving around Bible verse memorization, trivia questions, or bringing the most visitors to church. I was so very good at this thing. And here I am now, armed with all the right answers and yet, I still have so many questions.


"It occurred to me that in worldview class, we laughed at how transcendentalists so serenely embraced paradox and contradictions, but then went on to theology class and accepted, without question, that Jesus existed as both fully God and fully man. We criticized radical Islam as a natural outworking of the violent tone of the Qur'an without acknowledging the fact that the God of Israel ordered his people to kill every living thing in Canaan, from the elderly to the newborn. We sneered at the notion of climate change yet believed that God once made the earth stand still. We accused scientists of having an agenda, of ignoring science that contradicted the evolutionparadigm, but engaged in some mental gymnastics of our own, trying to explain how it's possible to see the light from distant stars. We mocked New Age ambiguity but could not explain the nature of the Trinity. We claimed that ours was a rational, logical faith, when it centered on the God of the universe wrapping himself in flesh to be born in a manger in Bethlehem.

Most worrisome, however, was how we criticized relativists for picking and choosing truth, while our own biblical approach required some selectivity of its own. For example, I was taught that the Bible served as a guidebook for Christian dating and marriage, but no one ever suggested that my father had the right to sell me to the highest bidder or to take multiple wives, like Abraham. Homosexuality was preached against incessantly, but little was said of gluttony or greed. We decried the death of each aborted baby as a violation of the sanctity of human life but shrugged off the deaths of Iraqi children as expected collateral damage in a war against evil. We celebrated archaeological finds that supported the historical claims of the Bible, yet discounted massive amounts of scientific evidence in support of an old earth."

Evolving in Monkeytown: How a Girl Who Knew All The Answers Learned to Ask the Questions by Rachel Held Evans, pages 79-80.

Ash Wednesday




Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. Last year I gave up drinking anything but water for Lent to benefit an organization called Blood:Water Mission. Basically, for every time I would normally drink a diet coke or coffee, etc, I'd donate the cost of that beverage to Blood:Water Mission instead. It was great fun and several others joined in. I loved it.

This year I've been plagued with the concept of Lent and why I am participating. Is it really in preparation for Easter? I'm a non-denominational protestant; we don't observe Lent or Ash Wednesday.

Yet I still wanted that little ash mark on my forehead yesterday but too timid to go into an unknown church to participate in that ritual.

So have I given something up for Lent or did I finally concede that I really am a protestant and started acting like it?

I didn't give up anything yesterday, but did today. I deactivated (temporarily) my facebook account. But more an an experiment than actual Lent. Facebook is a way I connect with others, and I wonder if it is the primary way. I suppose by deactivating it I should be more proactive in pursuing relationships in other ways and forms, but the question is: will I? Or are my friendships with others more a matter of convenience and one line remarks?

So I journey away from facebook. It might be for a few weeks or the whole 40 days. Maybe I'll like it. Maybe I won't be able to go even 4 days without it!

We shall see.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Band that Played On

I don't know much about the Titanic; my son definitely knows more than I do, so I enjoyed learning a bit more about history though the story of these heroic eight musicians. Basically, these men chose to continue playing to soothe other passengers, knowing that they would not be saved and would die.

It is hard to even imagine playing music in that moment of chaos and uncertainty!

This is a nicely written book that will appeal to those who are interested in the Titanic. I thought it was mildly interesting and enjoyable and happy to have been able to read it.

Note: I recieved this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own; my only compensation was the book.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Finally

I've always enjoyed taking photos. In my jr. high youth group I'd document every mission trip, retreat, etc. I'd dress my bears up, stage a tea party and take numerous photos of my stationary subjects. The images in my mind never matched the prints I'd get back. FIlm was expensive for a kid and developing film also was! Plus, it always seemed to take forever to get back my prints!

Back then, I had whatever point and shoot my parents would buy me and surprisingly I got pretty good shots out of it. Then after I was engaged, David encouraged me to buy a "real" camera: an entry level SLR. It was a Pentax, manual focus, pretty much maual everything! It didn't even rewind; I had to do that by hand crank as well. I fell instantly in love with it, shooting everything: flowers, streams, grass, sailboats, and of course my favorite subject was David, which worked rather well because he's always enjoyed photos of his action sports. I got pretty adept at surfing photos, rock climbing photos, and windsurfing. When Conor was about a year old I bought my first automatic SLR: on that had autofocus and auto rewind. I thought I needed autofocus to catch my now walking child. (But it turned out I was so good at focusing I could rival the autofocus camera!)

Basically, I've been in possession of either a SLR (film) or a DSLR (digital) for nearly 20 years. I've taken a smattering of classes, including a darkroom class that is now obsolete, but mostly I've learned through reading and doing. And it's been wonderful.

One thing I've resisted: photo editing. Though I've had access to Photoshop for the past 16 years, I've never bothered to learn it. In some ways, I considered it cheating but the reality is: there's just too many options! Do I want vibrant color or muted? Do I want it true-to-life or completely over the top and artificial? Do I really want to remove all imperfections from people or leave it as it is, which has sort of beauty on its own. There's so many choices in digital editing; how does one know when to stop "improving" it and how does one know that it is an improvement? It seems all a matter of very subjective taste.

But lately I've been forced to revisit Adobe products while volunteering. The church bulletin is done in Photoshop and I was so scared of it, but luckily the stuff I need to do to change things are minimal so it has been fine so far. Then last week I was asked to very quickly (in two days) come up with some type of brochure/flyer. I really hadn't a clue what I was doing, but through a lot of trial and error (and a very kind husband) I was able to design a cute little trifold. Of course, when I printed it the skin colors were totally off, but I was happy.

This week I was supposed to "spice up" a half page insert. And I did. But I got the impression that it wasn't quite what was expected. It was for Prayer and Care and the only photo I could find was one I took of a child's hands holding yellow flowers. But I decided I'd try again. So I did, only I reverted to a tri-fold again... because it's pretty much all I know how to do so far! Still, it was much harder than the last one; I changed the colors in the template to better reflect my church and had to rearrange quite a bit. It no longer looks like the template at all!

Not sure if it will be more liked than my first attempt; I know a tri-fold wasn't what was requested of me, but I have to say I enjoyed it. I had no idea how much fun Illustrator, Photoshop and inDesign can be. Funny how it's taken me so long to embrace all this!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wormwood the printer

I volunteer in a church several times a week. There's much I love about it; there's a few things I dislike too. But the biggest problem so far has been Wormwood. Wormwood, or WW, is the office printer and I've named him WW because he is not exactly of the devil, but a junior "tempter"..... he tempts me to think bad things (I never say bad words but lately I've been thinking them!), tempts me be impatient, tempts me to be angry..... need I go on?

I know our joy is contingent on nothing (or supposed to be) but sometimes I wonder; WW has quite a hold on my emotions. I do't know anything about printers, and this one is so inconsistent that I have no control at all. I have finally figured out every crevice it can hide paper when it has a paper jam, yet sometimes there is a mysterious "jam" when there isn't! It hates certain types of cardstock one day but the next day all is forgiven and it accepts it heartily without protest.

Then there's the issue of print color. This is what bothers me the most, as I created it. No one will know I had WW trouble and the printer is possessed and enjoys tormenting me; no. That's not a valid excuse. So instead of printing in the cool, cutting edge brown that is supposed to be one of our new logo "trademark" colors, it prints in streaky, baby poo brown (not formula fed). Yet, every once in a while will print perfectly a few times just to baffle me and cause me to think it's not running low on any ink color; it's just tempting me to be frustrated and angry and hate humanity. Now, I'm tempted to throw away all the inferior ones, but that's about 80% (if not more) of the batch and there's no guarantee when I reprint it will improve at all!

I'm told it's no big thing, no one else seems to care that much, but I care; I created it! Plus it's an extension of my church, a first impression. I want it perfect. And there's nothing I can do to make it perfect. It is completely out of my control and I HATE IT and I know there are others that will hate it too, one being the head pastor but he's away and perhaps will never know, but even if he doesn't, I know it and bugs me!

There's supposed to be a Prayer Summit on Monday. I wonder how people would respond if I asked for prayer for Wormwood. Maybe we could lay hands on the printer. Or maybe someone else would like to print the bulletins because seriously it is driving me crazy.

I'd love to hear your suggestions on resisting Wormwood's attacks. You'd think that church printer would be much more well behaved. I could be worse; it could be Screwtape. At least with WW I think that I will prevail his clumsy attempts. (though I admit they seem to be working at the moment)

I hate printers. Oh, and the other printer, the big poster size one? I think I'll name it Screwtape. I have a feeling I won't win that battle......

Sequin Bible


I have a girl. A very girly-girl. Before I even took this Bible out of the box my young daughter was excited. First, it's pink, sparkly and has little sequined appliques of hearts and flowers on the cover with the words "Holy Bible." Inside, the pages are a good consistency and the translation is the International Children's Version, a good, easy to read translation that is good for young kids, though not my favorite version.

In the back of the Bible is a dictionary, an index of "Where Do I Find it?" that contains where to find favorite Bible stories, and a section of Bible Verses that young kids can memorize.

The text is pretty small, but my daughter is so thrilled by the pinkness and shiny cover that all she wants to do is carry this Bible around and try to read it! It's adorable, and I know that the other kids in her Sunday School class are also going to love it. It is paperback but has a rather sturdy feel to it due to the cover.

My daughter loves this Bible and because of that, I have to say that I love it too. It's a simple thing that just because it is cute and pink she wants to read it, but I like that she's so interested in a Bible. This is not a "study Bible", but that's fine. She's not ready for a Study Bible and when she is, I won't be looking for one in this translation.

She adores this Bible, and even the box it came in and for that, I'm grateful to have received this and look forward to her exploring more and more of God's word.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the [...] book review bloggers program. 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 [...] : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Same Old Thing

[Senior devil Screwtape to junior devil Wormwood]: The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And.” You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing."

C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's My Party

There's been a lot of back and forth going on in my house lately. David thinks we must "do" something for my upcoming birthday, because it happens to be my 40th. The only problem is I haven't a clue what I want!

There is a part of me that does want a party with a lot of people, but I know from experience that I'm not usually comfortable in a situation like that. David said we could go away for the weekend but that's not what I want either, as I know I'll be generally disappointed by the myriad of "Happy Birthdays" on facebook but no other effort by even my closer friends. So by having a party, I won't face that disappointment: But do I want a party?

I don't like having others come to my home.... I always feel like the inadequate hostess, so David recommended going to a restaurant, but...... I'm questioning that as well, as I don't think I'd like a large group type of party at a restaurant: Would I really enjoy them all? Or just the four sitting adjacent to me?

Plus, on top of all that...... I don't like the attention to be all on me.

So, I have no idea what I want and a pretty frustrated husband who is trying to make me happy when I haven't a clue what would make me happy, but I know I'll be sad if I have nothing.

I make no sense.

God Gave Us The World - Book Thoughts

God Gave Us The World by Lisa Tawn Bergren is a delightful children's book. The illustrations, as well as the story, are cute and endearing. My little girl so enjoyed Little Cub and the story of how he learns about others around the world, their uniqueness and God's wonderful creativity and love for the world.

In short, this is a wonderful addition to a child's library and I think the adult reading it will be charmed as well and reminded of the wonderful gifts God bestows by creating us different and how much he loves us to have provided in the wonderful way he has.

I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah. 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, February 6, 2011

The Gathered Church

My vision of the gathered church that had come to me after I became the janitor had been
replaced by a vision of the gathered community. What I saw now was the
community imperfect and irresolute but held together by the frayed and always
fraying, incomplete and yet ever-holding bonds of the various sorts of affection.
There had maybe never been anybody who had not been loved by somebody, who had
been loved by somebody else, and so on and on…. It was a community always
disappointed in itself, disappointing its members, always trying to contain its
divisions and gentle its meanness, always failing and yet always preserving a
sort of will toward goodwill. I knew that, in the midst of all the ignorance
and error, this was a membership; it was the membership of Port William and of
no other place on earth. My vision gathered the community as it never has been
and never will be gathered in this world of time, for the community must always
be marred by members who are indifferent to it or against it, who are
nonetheless its members and maybe nonetheless essential to it. And yet I saw
then all as some how perfected, beyond time, by one another’s love, compassion,
and forgiveness, as it is said we may be perfected by grace. -- Wendell Berry

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Competition

Today I realized how competitive I can be, and not in a good way. I don't know why I do this, but there's a part of me that loves to share and wants others involved.... and then once they are involved and love what I love, I no longer feel it is "mine" and that others are going to excel at the things I love more than I do and I'll be nothing again.

Silly, I know, but it leaves me feeling empty, and wishing things were different, wishing I wasn't so competitive.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Little Star - Book Thoughts.

Little Star by Anthony Destanfo, illustrated by Mark Elliot, is an entertaining children's book that is about the Christmas story. It is a sweet story about a little star who wants sacrifices his life to keep Baby Jesus warm, thus exemplifying Christ's own sacrifice for us. The illustrations are sweet and the story cute, but my daughter was still not thrilled with the ending of how the star will live on because it is always remembered. Perhaps that is just a concept that is a bit beyond her still. A cute story nonetheless, and a fun story to add to our Christmas list.

Note: Per the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah publishing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tried Very Hard

"Nobody knows how bad they are until they have tried very hard to be good"-CSLewis

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For The Record

I started off the New Year with perfect attendance at the gym. Today's the 25th and I've been to the gym 21 times. Not quite perfect attendance but not too bad.

I now nearly enjoy spinning, and have been taking at least one class since after Thanksgiving. Now I take about 3 or 4 a week, but at the exclusion of all else. I recently realized that I have to start figuring out how to run 3 miles, and I have to keep up my swimming, so today since i had the time I did a 45 minute spin class, 20 minutes on the treadmill. (with about a full 7 minutes of consecutive running at a snail pace of 11:45) Then I swam 700 meters or yards or whatever it is called.

Now I'm beat.

Tomorrow.... not sure what i'll do in the morning but I have an evening spin class I'm looking forward to.

Such torture.

You Were Born For This

Having previously read a few other of Wilkinson's books, I requested to read this one and I didn't quite like it. It may be that I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to miracles and not sure "predictable' miracles really are miracles and even if it is.... I'm not sure 7 steps to achieving them really make it from God! And yet, what he actually writes about is ways where we can make ourself available to being used BY God, not to get things out of God.

Still, I didn't enjoy this book. If you really like Wilkerson of if you enjoy following 7 "key" things to achieving results, you might enjoy this. For me, it was just okay.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books Program. 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: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fall At His Feet

I loved this quote. (can you tell that I love a lot of quotes?)

“If you knew that there was one greater than yourself, who knows you better than you can know yourself and loves you better than you can love yourself, who can make you all you ought to be, steadier than your squally nature, able to save you from squandering your glorious life, who searches you beyond the standards of earth . . . one who gathered into himself all great and good things and causes, blending in his beauty all the enduring color of life, who could turn your dreams into visions and make real the things you hoped were true, and if that one had ever done one unmistakable thing to prove, even at the price of blood — his own blood — that you could come to him, and having failed, come again, would you not fall at his feet with the treasure of your years, your powers, service and love? And is there not one such, and does he not call you?”

A. E. Whitham, quoted in Raymond C. Ortlund, Let the Church be the Church (Waco, 1983), page 39.

Via

Saturday, January 22, 2011

To Be Happy


I'm reading an unlikely book for me. It's a "girl" book.... well, not specifically but I can tell.... a white dress, arms holding a bird's nest with 2 blue eggs. Written by a woman, with a flowing handwritten title: One Thousand Gifts: Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

Girl book.

Yet here's my quote for today. Coming from this book.

"God said humanity was not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And I moan that God has ripped away what I wanted. No, what I needed. Though I can hardly whisper it, I live as though He stole what I consider rightly mine: Happiest children, marriage of unending bliss, long, content, death-defying days. I look in the mirror, and if I'm fearlessly blunt - what I have, who I am, where I am, how I am, what I've got - this simply isn't enough. That forked tongue darts and daily I live the doubt, look at my reflection, and ask: Does God really love me? If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold that which I believe will fully nourish me? Why do I live in this sense of rejection, of less than, of pain? Does He not want me to be happy?" One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp page 15

Friday, January 21, 2011

Seeking Treasure



I'm thinking about substituting the Treasure Island Triathlon instead of The one at Almaden Lake. Supposedly Treasure Island is pretty flat, compared to a nice big hill on the Almaden Lake bike ride, and I think I'd rather face bay water instead of the lakes's duck poop water.

:-)

I still have another few months to decide before the rates go up for the Treasure Island sprint triathlon. I can confidently say that (if I don't have to stop.... stopping makes me fall) I can pedal (not well) for 12 miles. I can swim for 500 meters or yards or whatever they are. But I can't yet run 3 miles.

I'm working on it. I really loathe running.....

That's Life


My pastor embarked on a new series last week titled "That's Life" on the lessons in Ecclesiastes. My first thought was apprehension; Ecclesiastes isn't really a "feel good" inspiring type of book, but his message was wonderful and in my own reading of the text and commentary I discovered I like Ecclesiastes. I love questions and thoughts on the meaning of life. It was a wonderful message that ultimately seemed to be saying that the meaning of life is not in a title (who you are) and not in knowing more, but that true meaning is found in what Jesus did.

A week ago I volunteered to help in the church office. I wasn't sure what that would mean or look like, but I so desire to help out and be valuable.... though I have to admit, there's a part of me that is questioning this. Am I doing it for the right motives? Will I actually find some type of satisfaction in doing this, or is it going to end up meaningless because I'm doing it not for God, but just to be considered valuable?

Today I sat in the office to be brought up to speed on what is expected of me. It was possibly the most demoralizing thing I've done in a long time. I know so little, feel so over my head, and so scared of messing up and making a mistake and doing it wrong. On top of that, there's the nagging despair of knowing that I'd never be chosen to do this job; I'm only a part of it because I am a volunteer and will work for free. I'm a last choice. It is hard for me to get past this. So instead of feeling good and valued, I feel even less so.

I was chatting with a friend of mine who has done ministry and worked in an office before. As a word of caution, he said to me, "you know, they'll take as much as they can get from you. You have to set boundaries because no one will consider your needs and schedule. That's ministry." and it saddened me. Ironically, is "that ministry?" My husband works for a large corporation and he's echoed pretty much the same words to me as well about his corporate job." They'll never tell you to go home. They'll work you as long and as hard as they can." Perhaps ministry and Real LIfe are not altogether different?

I don't feel I'm actually "in ministry" though I guess when I really think about it, isn't every Christian "In ministry" the moment we become a Christ follower? And I waffle between being a volunteer as "noble" thing or if it is a "worthless" thing.... I'm only a volunteer, I'm not all that important. Or am I?

Regardless, I have to admit to being overwhelmed and cautious, knowing that if I look at this as a "job" that will fulfill me I was of course be disappointed. I have a desire to serve, but is it out of a genuine love for God and a passion for His Church, or is it to make me feel good and worthwhile, and will this worsen or better my motives and desire?

Then there's the other part: I hate failure, I hate to disappoint and I know that failure is inevitable. It is so easy to criticize and find all the flaws and mistakes, and I'm usually the one that points out the misspellings and misinformation..... and here I'll be in the place of making those mistakes and having someone like me point them out. And I have to admit, it will kill me. I hate making mistakes.

I want to help. I pride myself in being faithful and I will do this and fight to do it well, but I know that I have bitten off more than I can chew. I don't know photoshop. There really is so much I don't know. I hate answering phones, I have a squeaky 12 year old voice, and I don't want to be representative of the Church office. I don't want that burden. Even when I go to conferences I have a hard time stating where I go to church... because I don't want them to think I'm typical of the type of person that attends my church. I just don't like to mess up. I'm not polished and I don't think on my feet easily. I could go on and on.

Yes, my rambling and unedited thoughts on display for everyone to see. I will take King Solomon's lead and journey into this as an "experiment" but with him as my guide and heeding his advice that without Christ, all this is folly and meaningless. (Vanity of Vanities!) If I can try to keep ministry and service to Christ in the forefront, I think I'll be okay.

Why is it so hard to do though? I can't help but crave the approval of others.

I like this quote

"Give yourself to the Church. You that are members of the Church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all!
And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us…

All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, also give themselves to the Lord’s people. How else is there to be a Church on the earth? If it is right for anyone to refrain from membership in the Church, it is right for everyone, and then the testimony for God would be lost to the world!
As I have already said, the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers.

The Church is the nursery for God’s weak children where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family.” -- C. Spurgeon

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Thoughts -- Soul Print

Since I have read a few of Mark Batterson's other books, I looked forward to reading his newest, Soul Print: Discovering Your Divine Destiny. I was happy he described it as not another self-help book and that "self-help is nothing more than idolatry dressed up in a rented tuxedo." (page 2) Yet certain parts still seemed a bit like that to me.

Personally, this is an area that I struggle with. Identity in Christ, being content in who I am, forgiving myself for past mistakes, etc, so this book wasn't an easy read for me. I know we're all unique and made in the Image of God, but I often find myself asking why God made some folks "better" than myself.

On page 3 in the introduction Mr. Batterson writes,

"I'm not sure where you're at in your journey of self-discovery. Maybe you're on the front end, trying to figure out who you are. Maybe you're on the back end, trying to remember who you were meant to be. Or maybe you're somewhere in between, trying to close the gap between who you are and who you want to be. No matter where you are, I want you to experience the joy of discovering who you are and the freedom of discovering who you're not. It won't be easy. ANd there are no shortcuts. But if you are breathing, God hasn't given up on you yet. So don't give up on yourself. Let this promise soak into your spirit, because it will energize your reading: it's never too late to be who you might have been." Page 3.

He then goes on to write about self-discovery and how hard yet rewarding it is, and admonishes us to be more like ourselves. I guess that is the fun part... discovering what the true self is, and of course, refining it and becoming better at it. He also uses several stories from Scripture, such as David, Samuel and others.

The part that hit me the most was the chapter called "The Crags of the Wild Goats." I oftentimes am bogged down in regret and his words at the end of this chapter were interesting to hear:

"Most of us spend our lives trying to prove ourselves to people, when all we have to do is prove ourselves to God. That is the key to your integrity and the key to your destiny. You don't have to prove yourself to people, because God is your almighty advocate. And if you live with integrity, then God will not only prove Himself to you; He will also prove you to others. The greatest freedom is realizing that you don't have to prove anything to anyone except God Himself. And that revelation is what made David a man after God's own heart.

Maybe it's time to quit taking the credit so you can quit taking the blame. Maybe it's time to quit proving yourself to epople and start proving yourself to God. Maybe it's time to quit building monuments to self and start building alters to God." (page 89)

There is much to this book to like, and much to wrestle with if you have doubts like I do. It is a very encouraging book and I enjoyed reading it.

Note: Per the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.