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.


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.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Thoughts -- Defiant Joy

I so enjoy G.K Chesterton's writings, so I was thrilled to see this biography, Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life and Impact of G.K. Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte. It was a solid, good biography, but left me wanting more. I felt I was enticed and had a good general foundation of Mr. Chesterton, and I enjoyed the many excerpts of his writing and what his contemporaries thought of him, but I longed to learn a bit more.

If you are unfamiliar with G.K. Chesterton, I'm sure this book will make you want to read his original writings in full. Even if you are familiar with him, I bet you will want to go back and re-read some of G.K. Chesterton's classics in a new light and appreciation.

I received this book free from Nelson Publishing in exchange for an honest opinion about the book.

The Longest Day

Sundays are now my Longest Days. I enjoy the Saturday night service that my church is now doing, but there's a small part of me that misses Church on Sundays.

Nothing happens on Sunday. On Saturday I'll be invited a a few kids birthday parties, and a myriad of other events, but on Sunday it is all silence.

Now, I like silence, except since I have 3 kids there is rarely ever TRUE silence.

I'd never leave my church just because it moved to a different time or day, but I miss the interaction I have on Sundays. Saturdays seem like a whirlwind.... trying to get so much done, invited to so many events and Sunday is still and slow.

Maybe I just need more time to get used to it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My New Church

I go to a new church. It focuses on transformation. It is welcoming to everyone, people of all types and backgrounds. The music is good and this morning, very inspirational. The speaker's message was relevant and life applicable, translating easily to my life and how I can grow and be a better person. I felt a connection with those around me, knowing we were sharing the same experiences and life together; a common purpose.

I left energized, refreshed, and at peace.

The only thing missing was God. And that sounds horrible, until I mention that my "church" was a spin class at the gym.

It is so strange how it works, but I enter and I am greeted. All people of all abilities are welcome, but we'll all be challenged. Today I met a new instructor. I've now attended several spin classes with a total of 4 instructors.

R is a bubbly extroverted personality. I think that she attracts a following because I've now been to two of her classes and they are always packed. She knows people by name, and even knows their stories and weekend plans. She has a lot of commentary during her songs, her shrill laugh and voice penetrating the music thanks to a headset. She makes us work, hard. She reveals tidbits about herself, her life, favorite bands, people, TV, etc. She's always smiling.

L. I've only met once. She seemed more genuine than R and more down to business. She also knew her "flock" but welcomed new folks, encouraging them to stay on the path of wellness. She spoke easily but with purpose. I liked her class, and she took the time to come visit with me prior to spin and helped me set up my bike, pulling the straps of my pedals tight.

D. is my pastor. It was the first spin class I took and remains the hardest. Not sure if it is because I try harder in it, or because the music he plays (I really do try to keep up with the music). There's not a lot of talk or chit chat except that commands spoken rather forcefully. Though he obviously knows the Back Row of the class well (most of us attend his church) he keeps the personal interaction to a minimum.

And finally, M. This is where I realized that I now attend a new church. Surprisingly, it wasn't in my pastor's class. Today I was welcomed by M, and the gathering began. Much like my "real" church, folks staggered in late, but it began on time. The music all had a theme and a message, and the speaker/instructor was quite motivational, talking about ways to change our life, based on the song playing. She told us that we are control of our lives, and every decision and choice we make counts, so choose wisely. She encouraged us to believe in ourself, think positively and be open to opportunities in life. She told us we were empowered and could do anything, be anything we wanted. We just had to follow through with our choices. We can change the world through changing ourselves. She even told us how to do that, by little steps that will result in big changes, focusing on our purpose in life and our own importance.

Then we stretched, found our center, and filed out to go home. (or the treadmill)

What do I look for in church? Community? I can get that at the gym. Purpose? Well, if my purpose is myself, I can also get that by working out at the gym. Helping and changing the world? My gym, with the other locations, collected over 2,500 running shoes and is sending them to people in need in India and Guatemala. A great, life-changing inspiring message? I can easily get that at the gym. Friendships? Gym. And God? Well, I'm told you can find God anywhere.

Now, before you think that I'm serious, let me tell you that the reason I love my real church so much, (not the gym) is because It is so much more than what I mentioned here. I love my church because it is so different than my gym experience. The songs are not so much inspirational, as much as they are centered around the magnificence of God our Creator. The message my pastor prepares is definitely "relevant' and "life applicable" but it also is centered on what Christ has already done for us, and our response to that is life changing and transformational. No "7 easy steps" to achievement,... more like an act of surrender.
The community I have at my church is growing. We're all so different and yet the common bond of loving Jesus is strong. I have certain folks I spend more time with than others. I have friendships at church but that's not the reason I go to church.

I love my church because it loves God and shows us how to love God. Not just by songs or teaching.... it shows me how to love God by loving others. Both inside and outside of the churchs' walls. And it is not easy for me to love others, but the more I learn and grow and be around others, the more I see Christ in them. I love my church because my church honors God in its purpose.

Purpose. It's not all about me. I think it is. At the gym, it seems to be. But I love that my church's purpose is to glorify God and helps me to glorify God too.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life

I read The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spirit, by Joan Chittister. I was looking forward to it because I wanted to know more about that. When I attended a Presbyterian church they observed certain parts of the liturgical year and I enjoyed participating in Ash Wednesday, Lent and Advent, so I was looking forward to learning more about that.

I found this book a bit dry and not as in depth as I would've liked, but still a good introduction. It did not compel me to want to seek out observing the liturgical year and it still left me with questions.

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

Monday, January 3, 2011

Philippians 1:1-6

1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ
Jesus, to all the saints in Christ
Jesus who are at Philippi, with the
overseers and deacons:
2 Grace to you and peace from god our
Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 i thank my god in all my
remembrance of you,
4 always in every prayer of mine for you
all making my prayer with joy,
5 because of your partnership in the
gospel from the first day until now.
6 and I am sure of this, that he who
began a good work in you will bring
it to completion at the day of Jesus

Sunday, January 2, 2011

For the Record

It's been a while since I've posted and kept track of my time at the gym, but rest assured, I've still been going. The past few weeks have been a bit chaotic, but I hope to get into more of a routine now that the kids are in school again.

Jan. 1: Went to a morning spin class. It was an hour! An hour is so much more than 45 minutes But I finished it. Later that day I went with my friend back to the gym, did about 30 minutes on the treadmill (my HR was so high! I've no idea why its always so high!) Then some weights. I'm quite sore today. I don't like weights.

Jan. 2nd. Wanted to go for a bike ride with David but went to Costco instead so I could make soup for dinner. Decided to go the gym but there was only an hour before it closed. Went anyways and did the treadmill for nearly an hour, until the place closed. Felt good. I realize I need a class to really push me, otherwise I just do things at my own comfort level.

It is my goal that I can stay disciplined in both my eating habits and workout routine. I have plotted out all the spin classes that I can attend. (a total of five a week) Now I just have to stick with it and not sabotage my eating! (so easy to do)

Tomorrow: A bike ride and possibly swim! Looking forward to it.

Book Thoughts - Chazown

I heard Craig Groeschel speak at WIllow Creek Leadership Summit last summer, so when I saw Chazown, I knew I wanted to read it.

This will be a hard book to explain my thoughts, because this book is really geared for someone that wants to change and is motivated to do the exercises and things suggested in the book. Merely reading it cover to cover really isn't enough, and yet, I'm not quite ready to embrace "defining my vision. Pursue my passion. And Live my Life on Purpose" as the subtitle suggests. So maybe this wasn't the book for me to read, because I'm a skeptic when it comes to change. There's so much I don't understand about God and how he changes us, it is completely a mystery to me, and in these pages, Mr. Groeschel goes though many aspects of vision, passion and purpose. He lists personal experiences as well as other's experiences. There are diagrams and things that make so much sense and yet I still felt defeated reading this. It seems to say that anyone can find their purpose and gifts and follow God in a unique, vibrant way, and he might be right. I don't know because I did not engage in the things he suggests. But what he writes makes sense..... thinking on your core values, spiritual gifts, and past experiences to discover your unique part that God has for you that will fulfill you and fill you with purpose that is a joy to do daily.

If you are eager to embark on such a journey and spend some time in prayer and reflection, then this might be a life-changing book for you. If you are weary and tired and still a skeptic of what God can do by you and through you, you might want to hold off reading this book until you are able to really listen to what he has to say.

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

Thoughts on The Quotable Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton is a thought-provoking writer that is said to have inspired C.S. Lewis with his book The Everlasting Man. I have several Chesterton books on my shelf and his works are quite varied but equally magnificent. His Father Brown mysteries are the most accessible of his works, but he is also well known for his book Orthodoxy. This book I received was a compilation of quotes from many of his books. It is called The Quotable Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton's books are full of wonderful quotes, so it is doubly delightful to see them catalogued here in one book. For those that know and have read Chesterton, this book will be a delight, for those that don't, I hope this will inspire them to read the books these quotes originate from to better appreciate them.

Here's some of my favorite quotes I've had through the years:
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”—G. K. Chesterton

“There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.” —G. K. Chesterton

“The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.”—G. K. Chesterton

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”—G. K. Chesterton

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”—G. K. Chesterton

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?”—G. K. Chesterton

"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." -- G. K. Chesterton

The New York Times (Ross Douthat) did an opinion article on Chesterton several months ago and stated this:

"Part of what makes Chesterton appealing to so many readers is also what makes him frustrating if you approach his writing looking for straightforward, syllogistic argument — namely, that his appeals on behalf of Christianity (or any other cause) tend to rove from history to philosophy to intuition to revelation to politics to aesthetics and then back to history again, with all different sorts of arguments crowding in together, and no necessary A=B=C thread to follow all the way through. He is not an “irrationalist,” as Bramwell suggests, but he isn’t Plato either. But then again neither are most people: They justify what they believe, whether it’s about God or political order or love or any other aspect of human affairs, based on a mishmash of different facts, ideas, experiences, premises, impulses, and so forth. And Chesterton succeeds as a polemicist, if not as a philosopher, because his style of argument fits so well with this very common, and very natural, way of human thought."

I think most anyone would find great value and though in this book, and it is well worth having it on your bookshelf.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. 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

There Is a Difference

I'm training for a triathlon. I've spent the last several months at the gym, attempting to get in shape.

I'm still not in shape, but I'm definitely better. Before I could barely swim 2 laps and now I can do about 40. I started a spin class right after Thanksgiving and it is one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm getting better there too, as before I couldn't stand up and now I can. (barely)

I still have a long way to go.... I can't even run a quarter of a mile yet. I'm scared of taking out my new road bike.... those thin wheels, the clip-in pedals.... the fact that crashing is inevitable and this bike is twice the cost of my first car, a used 1967 Mustang.

I've never been an athlete; I'll never be an athlete. There is a difference between a triathlete and someone who has participated in a triathlon. I thought that maybe if I did an international distance tri that it will make me feel more "real" but I've come to the conclusion that it won't. I'll be able to say I did it, but will never be able to say I'm an athlete or a triathlete, no matter how many races I attempt. I don't belong in this group.

Yet, I am committed to doing this small sprint. It looks like my friend and I have chosen to do the Silicon Valley Sprint Triathlon. David warns me that there is one steep hill section on the bike, but that I can do it. (If I practice!) He still sounds dubious.

Or maybe I'm not yet committed.... I still haven't registered and paid my money. But I must do this. Not sure exactly why I must except that I said I would and feel I must. But if I am hoping this makes me any better, or a real triathlete, I already know that I'm mistaken. Nothing will change who I am,, no accomplishment, no amount of effort or outward change of appearance will change who I am. And athlete I am not.