Archive for June, 2010

New Things to Like

June 29, 2010

Every once in a while, I find new things that are lots of fun, and make life easier.  Here are some sites to consider:

www.smilebox.com

Want to know what to do with your photos?  Smilebox will help you make a beautiful presentation in mere minutes.  (I first saw this when Jodi Detrick put Jana’s photos on Facebook).

www.zoner.com

This is a new picture editing software.  I’ve been using Google Picasa.  Zoner is much better, except in the area of straightening and cropping.  Zoner’s cropping is much more like Photoshop, allowing you to crop to all sorts of sizes.  I’ve discovered that standard cropping works much better for my uses.

Trevor Vance showed me www.getpaint.net yesterday.  I like this program. It is loaded with all sorts of goodies.  However, it is not as easy to pick up as Picasa and Zoner.  It will take a few sessions before I can figure it out.

Wes and I started a website:  www.theclosenetfamily.com.  This week we added two new articles (under family) on parenting tweens.

For some time now, I’ve enjoyed Kindle for PC.  This week I also found Adobe Digital Editions and MobiPocket reader.  These two programs allow you to check out digital books from the local library.

Enjoy!

Advertisements

Running on the Train Tracks

June 28, 2010

running on train tracks

Last week, my train hit a 14 year old girl who was playing on the train tracks with her family.  Thankfully, she suffered only minor damage.  Her family ended up jumping into Puget Sound to avoid the train.

The wierd thing about the accident was that it was on the straightest part of our trip.  You can see the train coming for a long way.  The train was able to see her, and blew it’s horn for at least 20+ seconds.  Yet, she couldn’t get out of the way in time.

I wonder just how many of us have things in our life that we are sure we will be able to ‘jump to safety’ at just the right time?  I can think of three types of flirting with danger:

1.  Engaging in sin, believing you can manage your relationships with God, family, friends.

2.  Walking as close to the line as possible, because of course, we live in freedom.

3.  Having a hard heart – it doesn’t matter how right you are, if you don’t love people and love God, you are missing the point.

We need to focus on our Creator.  He loves us so much that He longs to talk with us, be a friend to us.  Where is your focus?  Is it on managing the balance?  Is it on the ‘line’?  Is it on your own view of the world?  With the Holy Spirit to teach, guide and direct us, we have every opportunity to enjoy the ‘play’ spaces of life without getting trapped on the train tracks.

Here is my challenge to you – take time to ask God to reveal your heart to you.  Then ask Him to refocus your thoughts and energy on loving Him and loving others.  You will be amazed.

Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

June 9, 2010

I had an interesting experience today. 

I read chapter 8 of Jesus Manifesto – The Forgotten Tree.  Len and Frank would have us consider that the religion of Christianity focuses much more on The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, looking for ‘how to live a Christian life’ than to the Tree of Life – the source of life. 

Consider this – Jesus is the vine, we are the branches.  Jesus said that He came to give us life, and life to the full.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of us – to teach, guide and correct us.  Yet we spend most of our time teaching, guiding and correcting ourselves. 

After reading the chapter, I came home and flipped through the channels.  On a Christian station, I heard a preacher say “the person of Jesus is to guide us into eternity.  The principles of Jesus show us how to live life now.”  This preacher was telling us that if we just take Jesus’ principles and live by them, then we would be prosperous.  Ugh!

I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life that makes a difference.  How do we accomplish this?  Do we taking the teachings of Jesus and run with them, gaining wisdom from Jesus’ Word so that we can be ‘successful’?  Do we get to know the person of Jesus, die to self and let the Holy Spirit live through us?  Is your head spinning?

I think that we need to seriously consider what place we have given Jesus in our lives.  Is He our helper as we become successful?  Are we living for Him, letting Him live through us and in us?  When we reach out a hand to help, is it our hand, or Jesus’?  Does everything we do point people to being successful, or to getting to know God as our Source?

I have loved reading this book.  It is much like reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, or the sermons of Spurgeon.  Everyone needs to read this book.  It will challenge you.  It will re-root you.  You will find again your fascination with Jesus and the Word.  Jesus said to his disciples “you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3).  Reading Jesus Manifesto is like taking a shower in the Word, and refocusing your eyes on Jesus.

Want more information?  Check out the author’s website.

Want to buy the book?  You can buy it on Amazon.com.

Striving or Living?

June 2, 2010

Today I’m letting you into my thoughts – and they are a bit random.

I’ve noticed a dicotomy in myself lately – my “wanter” isn’t working so well.  I want to curl up with a book, watch a tv show, etc. AND I want to prepare a sermon, update our website (www.theclosenetfamily.com).

Since I work full time and commute, I don’t have enough hours to do everything.  I would never want to be striving for striving’s sake – I want to only do what is helpful to God’s purposes for my life.  Yet sometimes I just want to relax and do nothing.

This is what I am discovering – “work” is what takes energy away from me.  Sometimes that work can be as simple as reading a book.  Sometimes it is truly relaxing to sit, write, and think.  Striving seems to be connected with doing – am I “doing work” when I was called to sit?  Am I “doing relaxation” when I was called to work?  In both cases, I am being drained without being replenished.  However, if I listen to the Holy Spirit, who teaches, guides and corrects, I find that work is a joy and relaxation is replenishing.

This week, I am working through my ‘to do’ list – not as a striving thing, but with joy.  I love to see God get things done. 

Paul said “it is no longer I, but Christ that lives in me”.  I understand that.  Why fight the battle of self when we can let the Holy Spirit be in charge?  It makes life a lot easier to listen and learn and do under His guidance. 

Christ said – “I came that you might have life, and life to the full”.  Think about a plant that has life – is it flourishing or wilting?

So we come to this – are you wilting?  The Holy Spirit can guide you to replenishment.  What you need might be work, and it might be play – but it will definately be good.

Sing by Lisa Bergren

June 1, 2010

Sing is the second book in a series.  I liked it well enough that I’ve asked to review the third in the series.

Bergren has rich characterization abilities.  She also does a great job of weaving plot.  She gets a ‘B’ (which is actually a fairly high rating) for showing Christ in her plot.  She lets the characters struggle against a religious upbringing, turn their back on God, and come to the end of themselves.  This was one of the first traditional Christian fiction books that I read where the Christian aspect wasn’t overly contrived.

Set in the old West, Sing takes us from Europe, to New York, to San Franscisco and finally to the Midwest.  We face adultery, abortion, and emotional exhaustion.

When you are done with this book, you will find that you have bonded with the characters and can’t wait to finish their stories.

Want to buy this book?  Check it out on Amazon.com.

Want more?  Here’s a quick interview with the author:

Q. This is mainly Moira’s book, but you also focused on Odessa’s growth and relationship in this novel. Why’d you think that was important?

A. Moira seems to steal every scene she’s in (Nic too!). But I wanted to show how Odessa, now physically healthy, still has some emotional growth ahead of her—like we all do. We’re all continually evolving, learning, changing.

Q. Is that why you were so tough on these characters in this book?

A. I think it’s easy to be a Christian when things are good. You show what your faith is made of—and possibly discover new depths—when you encounter the bad. Or you walk away. I was glad to see these three getting closer to God, but Nic obviously has a ways to go.

Q. You talk about the characters as if they have minds of their own.

A. [Laughing.] They do! That’s the fun of fiction. I have one idea, but then a certain spin occurs and casts them in a different direction, and I discover new things with them as if I’m riding along, observing. I always start with a rough outline, knowing some key things that will happen, and the ending I’d like to see, but I leave it to the characters to take it from there. When I’m invested in the scene, feeling it as if I’m in their skin, sensing their emotions and mind-set, the plot often turns.

Q. We’re in 1880s Colorado. It surprised me when we got to the conquistador gold—what inspired that?

A. The third novel I ever wrote was a romance called Treasure, in which the heroine was seeking Spanish gold as a nautical archaeologist. I think if I’d had half the chance, I would’ve loved the opportunity to be a treasure hunter myself. Indiana Jones and all that, you know. Childhood fantasies. So I always note treasure-ish things I come across, and I read about an actual legend of lost conquistador explorers, who left behind a bounty of gold when they got separated from the rest of their troops in the Sangre de Cristos. Reportedly, two lost hikers came across the cave in a snowstorm twenty years ago, marked it when the storm ended, intending to come back, but could never find it again. They spent years of weekends searching for that cave. Isn’t that fantastic novel fodder? Love stuff like that.

Stumbling Souls by Chris Plekenpol

June 1, 2010

Have you ever been tempted to really give it all for Jesus – only to pull back out of fear?

Stumbling Souls is about what can happen when you don’t pull back.  Chris Plekenpol and a group of men took on the challenge to love a homeless, HIV positive, homosexual man as a brother.  Stumbling Souls tells their story – the good, the bad, the ugly and the redemption. 

If you have worked with the hurting population at all, you know the dangers – not the dangers we think of first.  We first fear for our physical safety.  But working with broken people brings danger to our hearts.  We want so much to help –  but we can’t make decisions for other people.  We can only be Christ’s hand extended and leave the rest to Him.  How do you gain the wisdom needed to work in that community?  Through experience – and through reading books like this one.

I have a real soft spot for the down and out.  I am so glad that Chris wrote this book – because it helps us gain wisdom and knowledge.  It also helps us gather up the strength to risk relationship that might cost us time, money and emotional energy.  In the end, it is all about Jesus.  He is the one to make the difference.  We are just His hands.

One important thing that I saw in this book is the community feel.  We can’t individually do much, but as each of us does what Christ asks, we find that He has used us mightily.

I challenge you to read this book.  It is an easy read – I read it over vacation in just a few hours – but it is life changing.  It will help you see yourself and others a bit more like Jesus does.

You can buy this book on Amazon.com