Archive for July, 2010

Not Like Me by Eric Bryant

July 30, 2010

As I read this book, I am again convicted that I have a tendency to not get it right.

How many non-Christian friends do you have?  Reading this book, I have been convicted that although I work full time in a secular job, my introvert side is showing.  I have fewer non-Christian friends than I did when I was on staff at a church and going to seminary.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind, and lose focus of what is important.

Thankfully, Eric’s new book Not Like Me was released just in time. People are important.  People are enthralling and amazing.  God has called us to make a difference.  Eric helps give us the courage to live out the life God has called us to.

We, (being human) have a lot of hang ups.  We tend to clump together with other people who share our world view.  It is threatening and scary to reach out and love people like Jesus does – especially when they come from completely different backgrounds.  Sometimes, we feel like we have no common ground.

20 years ago, inviting someone in America to follow Christ was to invite them to follow the societal norm.  Today, Christians are strange (or we should be).  How do you share Christ with someone who has no idea who God is?  Eric writes:

“The most effective apologetic is love.  This may seem simplistic or even naive in a pluralistic, universalistic, spiritually heightened, anti-Christian, and syncretstic world, but knowing all the ‘right’ answers is not nearly as effective as demonstrating a transformed life of genuine love, concern and care.”

Not Like Me is a remake of Peppermint Filled Pinatas, which I reviewed about a year and a half ago.  I wrote in that review that even my teens were enthralled with Eric, because he is real.  The way he lives his life, and the way he writes, is real and authentic.

This new book features a brief article after each chapter with practical ways to apply the principles presented in that chapter.  The contributors include: Ed Stetzer, Amena Brown, Margaret Feinberg, Kevin Harney, Dr. Gerardo Marti, Lon Wong, Mark DeYmaz, Princess Zulu, Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus and Me.

I am so delighted to be able to read this book again.  It is challenging me to again invite people into my life – to invest my time in people – because after all, people matter, and God loves them so much that he is willing to use a broken vessel like me to reach them.  We have always had a ministry oriented family, but we can do better.  I can hardly wait to see what God will do.

Here’s where you can learn more about Eric.

Here’s where you can buy Not Like Me.

Daily Routines

July 30, 2010

Jesus sat on a hillside with 5000 men plus their families all listening to his teaching.  About supper time, the disciples realized these people would be hungry.  I imagine the cranky children tipped them off.

“How are we going to feed all these people?” The disciples asked Jesus.

“You give them something to eat.” Jesus answered.

Then, Jesus directed the disciples to have the people sit down in groups.  Each of the disciples had a basket.  Jesus filled the baskets with bread and fish, then the disciples took their basket out and distributed the food.  Back and forth they traveled – giving all of their provisions, then returning to Jesus for replenishment.  Out to minister, in to gather resources.

All evening the disciples worked, giving out what Jesus gave to them.  When they were done, they discovered that five loaves and two fish had morphed into enough food for all the people with 12 basketfuls left over.  Can you imagine how tired they were at the end of the day?

Sometimes God has us in ‘training mode’.  We go through life doing the same activity over and over, feeling like things aren’t changing.  However, God is training us.  He wants us to learn to rely on Him.  He is our source.  We take what He gives us, and give it away, then we return for more.

Fear No Evil by Robin Caroll

July 30, 2010

Hey – I found a great Christian suspense book.  What happens when a mega church pastor gets Alzheimers?  Lincoln is a former park ranger and the son of a mega church pastor.  Now, he is a police officer in a town next to the Bayou.  His father’s condition has made him mad and bitter at God.

Jade was born into a family of violence.  When she was still a young child, her father killed her mother.  As a young woman, fresh out of college, she is ready to change the world and make sure that domestic violence is a thing of the past.  

Someone is trying to kill Jade.  Lincoln is trying to solve the mystery.  Robin Caroll weaves an excellent story and her characters really grow along the way.

If you are looking for a good summer read, you can find this one at:  Amazon.com.

Learning new things

July 30, 2010

Every moment that you are alive, you are learning new things.  The interesting thing is that our brain doesn’t seem to like to learn and change.  When we encounter new situations, we try to understand them based on information extrapolated from prior experiences.  This seems to be because our brain is locked into a physiological mechanism that requires work.

Romans 12:2 says:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This means that we can’t just ‘change’, instead, we have to train our brain.  We  have to develop new ways of interpreting data.  Out of this renewal, comes a new way of being, doing and understanding.

When life takes a left turn

July 22, 2010

 

swingsDon’t you wish that every day was like a day at the fair?

Some days, we are so happy – everything is going our way, even our past, present and future seem to be in sync.  Miracle of miracles, you like all of your kids and your spouse all at the same time, and there is even the possibility that you haven’t been such a bad parent afterall.

Then, life hits again. 

When we are on top, we can really believe that God is in charge.  When we hit bottom, “faith” seems like a foreign word.

Here’s how to handle the onslaught we call life:  Remind your brain, and therefore your emotions who is in charge (and it isn’t you). 

Yesterday, I was flying on top.  A friend sent me a musical card with the Twila Paris song “God is in Control” on it.  (Thanks, Lee!)  I wondered why I was getting the card.  You see, I have a long history with that song.  When the kids were little, I used that song to train my brain and my heart (emotions) with the reality “no matter what it feels like, no matter what you see, God really is in control.”  

Today, I woke up on the other side of reality.  Everything was bleak – I could only see the negative.  I realized by 9:00 AM that I had a choice.  I could spend the day worrying and stressing over the details of life that don’t fit together, or I could realize that God is in control.  This, of course, is easier said than done.  Every time I turned around, I had a new negative thought.  I banished one thought only to be bombarded by another one.

Finally, I took a break, got alone, and prayed.  I didn’t ask God to please fix things.  I decided to take a different approach.  As each negative thought came up, I told myself (outloud, because that is how I learn) that God had it in control.  He has the past, present and future in His hands.  He is at work, and doesn’t take vacations.

So, are you swinging through the sky, scraping yourself up off the floor, or somewhere in between?  God loves you so much.  He understands who you are, from the inside out.  He has a different perspective.  Your life will seem wonderful some days, other days your hormones will go whacky, and then your kids’ hormones will flip out.  Keep your eyes, your mind, and your heart focused on Jesus.  He really is in control.

Who am I?

July 17, 2010

This morning I was reading a book on 1st century culture.  In that culture, like many of the cultures of the world today, one got their identity by how they were viewed by others.

This was helpful to keeping the societal ‘mores’ in place.  If you complied with the societal mores, you were honorable and dependable.  If you didn’t, you were shiftless and fickle.

In that world, the societies often believed that success was based on the group’s (a whole culture, a city or even a unit as small as a family) ability to please a god.  Christians went against this more.  Thus, new Christians, no longer went through the rituals to appease the gods?   Life got difficult.

Suddenly, everything that went wrong was their fault.  They were no longer appeasing the gods, and when bad things happened, everyone knew that the gods were mad.

Why do you think that Paul spent so much energy helping people to find their new identity in Christ?  Could this be part of the ‘riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints?’

Sometimes, we see ourselves based on our screw ups and failures in life.  When we are successful in life, we feel like we are worthy.  When we are a failure – well, devastation is our middle name.  When other people like us, we are important.  When we feel abandoned, we have lost our importance.

Through Christ, God has a different perspective.  When Christ paid the price on the cross, anyone who accepts him becomes part of God’s family.  This means that we are judged by different standards.  No longer do our mess ups matter.  Those are covered by Jesus.  Instead, God sees us for who we are – the person He created for a purpose.

God made you for a purpose.  You don’t have to see yourself based on your success or failure.  You can see yourself as God sees you – perfect and acceptable.  A son or daughter of the Creator of the Universe.  You have the ability to be whatever God has called you to be – regardless of your past.  Regardless of your present.

Sometimes it is tempting to look at ourselves in light of our un-done-ness.  When we look at ourselves this way, we think that we will succeed someday.  Someday, when I get things organized.  Someday, when I shake this habit.  Someday, when I have more time.  You are being and doing now.  “Someday” is usually an excuse for avoiding today.  What, then, should we do while we wait?  Get to know God.  Learn to see yourself the way that God does.

Daniel had a lot of reasons to think that ‘someday’ life would get better.  He was an official in Babylon, but he was also a slave.  He had no choice but to serve the kings of Babylon.  What would have happened if he saw himself the way that others did?  He would have died young.  Instead, he saw himself the way that God did, and despite his circumstances, He lived with purpose.  He became because he lived.

Today, take a look at what your life is about.  Are you waiting for ‘someday’?  Are you beating yourself up for the past and letting other’s opinions dictate who you are?  Have you discovered your new identity in Christ?  Are you looking for opportunities to live on purpose today?

When a Woman Trusts God by Sheila Walsh

July 11, 2010

The video begins:

Do you ever question Gods ability to catch you when you fall?
Do shame, fear, and brokenness keep you from fully trusting God?
Do you secretly believe your dreams are unreachable?
You are not alone.
Trust THE ONE!

I loved this book.  I agreed to review it back in January, but only got to it recently.  I was feeling frustrated with myself until I began reading.  God’s timing is always perfect, and I needed this book just now in my life.

Do you sometimes wonder what the point of all this is?  Do you, like Sarah, laugh when you get even an inkling that God might give you what you dreamed of?

Do the days seem long, endless and pointless?  Do you feel like you are under a giant haystack of problems and will never see the light of day?

You should read this book.  Sheila looks at the lives of 10 men and women in the bible.  She weaves in her own story, and shows us how the bottom of life is often where God is most active.  In a word, Sheila weaves a blanket of Hope.

Sheila has a comfortable writing style.  She shares her own life with humor, and she shares the lives of bible figures in a story narrative that allows us to really see the men and women who dared to trust God.

This book will strengthen your faith and restore your hope.  You can buy it on Amazon.com.

The Man of La Mancha

July 10, 2010

Jeff Berryman as Don Quixote and Don Darryl Rivera as Sancho

 If you are going to only see one play this year, you should make it Man of La Mancha with Taproot Theatre!

Last night we had the privilege of attending the opening night of Taproot’s lastest run.  For the first time in almost a year, the audience rose for a standing ovation at the end, and the cast enjoyed two curtain calls.

This play is incredibly profound.  Here are a couple of quotes:

“Take a deep breath of life and consider how it should be lived.”

“Look always forward.  In last year’s nest there are no birds this year.”

We were delighted, right from the beginning.  The number “only thinking of him” reminds me of a flamenco opera that I saw in Spain.  The ambiance, the quality…it was perfect.

Here are some of the highlights:

Mike Oliver, who played many parts, has an incredible voice!  I don’t know when I have enjoyed a voice quite so much.  His singing pulls you into the scene.

Don Darryl Rivera made his Taproot debut – and I hope we see more of him.  I never knew that Man of La Mancha was a comedy – but Rivera’s ability with physical comedy is fascinating, surprising and perfect!

Jeff Berryman may have outdone himself.  This is a fabulous part for Berryman.  His ability to switch between Don Quixote, Cervantes and Alonso is amazing.  He does a great job with the complex singing role, and also has an ability to hold the moment.

Candace Vance as Aldonza and Dulcinea

Candace Vance is back again.  She pulled off her part with incredible ease.  I was so delighted to watch her work.  Not only can she sing, but her acting was a cut above anything I’ve see her do to date. 

Stephen Grenley debuted in this production.  He held opposite roles, a gentle inn keeper and the lead prisoner.  He showed a great versatility, and his presence was perfect in each role.

Other parts to note:  Faith Russell does a fine gypsy dance, and Pam Nolte, playing minor roles throughout, delights with a clear, high soprano voice. 

April Wolfe, performing for the first time with Taproot, did a great job.  She and Mike Oliver are key to the “I’m only thinking of him” operetta that is so delightful.  Ryan Childers returned.  He seemed a bit uncomfortable in his prisoner role, but when he was able to take on the role of a gentleman, he came through.  His best moment of the night was his appearance as a Monty Python-like Knight of the Mirror.

Last but not least, the guitar work through out the play was perfect.  Jared Borkowski and Gordon Tibbits are to thank. 

Ready to spend an evening in enchantment?  You can contact the Taproot box office, or buy tickets online.

Wriggle

July 10, 2010

I learned a new word today.  I’m reading Sheila Walsh’s new book “When a Woman Trusts God”.  She quotes John Cotton, a preacher in the Puritan times.  “As long as there’s a wriggle left in you, you’re not ready.”

At first, I thought maybe the spell check in her computer had missed a word – surely she meant ‘wiggle’, but then I wondered if ‘wriggle’ was the English form of ‘wiggle’; kind of like ‘theater and theatre’.  So, I googled the definition of wriggle.

Wriggle appears to be a combination of the words writhe and wiggle.  Here’s what I found:

 writhe: to move in a twisting or contorted motion, (especially when struggling); “The prisoner writhed in discomfort”; “The child tried to wriggle free from his aunt’s embrace”

Remember when you were little and you needed to ‘get the wiggles out’?  Or your mom would say ‘stop wiggling’, which seemed to be congruous with fidgeting.  Wriggling is when someone has you in a lock, and you are trying to get out.

Have you been wondering what has gone desperately wrong with your life? Does God have you in a lock?  Why?  Perhaps He has something great He wants to do, but first, you have to stop getting in the way. 

One of the biggest things I wonder about is whether I am supposed to do more, or do less.  Perhaps life is causing me problems because I’m not trying had enough.  Maybe, if I just work a little bit harder, I’ll reach that place that I can almost see – a plateau, a place to rest. 

On the other hand, I wonder if God has me in His palm, waiting for me to stop wriggling, so He can do His work through me.  This requires a different response.  It isn’t the opposite of trying harder, because that would be giving up.  To rest in God is to actively put my trust in Him and wait for His provision, His answers, His movement. 

That resting only seems to come after struggles.  Remember how Jacob wrestled with God?  Remember how Elijah reached the end of his rope and ran to God – essentially to turn in his resignation in person?  When we engage with God in His process, He changes us.  We get to see life more from His perspective and less from our own.  We become more like Him and less like ourselves.

My second daughter loves to make figurines from clay.  The clay starts out a lump.  Can you imagine being clay, knowing that you could be so much more, and wanting desperately to be a beautiful, useful object? 

First, you need someone to squash you, mush you, get all the stuff out of you until you are pliable.  Then, you get pulled and stretched, sometimes squashed back down and reworked.  Eventually, you look in the mirror, and you see a beautiful grey figurine.  “Yeah!   I’ve reached my goal!” you cry.  But you aren’t put on a shelf for display, you are put in the back room with  pieces of clay.  Then, someone comes and picks you up – at last!  Someone has recognized your beauty!  Alas, they put you in the kiln.  A horribly hot place that pulls all of the remaining moisture out of you.  This part requires you to remain very still, because the slightest movement can crack you.  So there you sit, suffocating of heat and dry as a desert.  Before too long, you begin to feel stronger.  You are actually becoming the figurine, instead of clay in the shape of a figurine!  The oven opens, someone sets you on a cooling tray.  Maybe now, they will realize your beauty!  Then, comes the glaze.  Glazes aren’t that pretty when they are put on.  The point of a glaze is what it does when it is heated.  So now, you are dripping with gunk, and sure that your goal was just a pipedream. 

“Yep, just a pipedream” you think, as they put you back into the fire.  Life must be about the process instead of the goal, you decide.  You begin to ride the waves of the process, just going through life one day at a time.  Occationally you wonder, “What happens if the next process is even worse?”  In defeat, you resign yourself to the process, hoping that things don’t get any worse.  Sitting there in the heat, this oven is becoming a quiet place, a place where you can reflect.  It is becoming a place of comfort. 

Then the door opens again.  Now you are placed on another drying shelf…and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror – you can hardly believe your eyes.  You are no longer clay.  You are no longer a drab piece of potter.  You no longer look like a child’s project, dripping with goo.  Now you have become that object you dreamt of.  Suddenly the process makes sense. 

The fact is that we can’t become an object of beauty on our own.  We can’t become ministers on our own.  It really is the process of life that sheds us of self and turns us into what God intended us to be.  Wriggling is part of the molding process, I think.  It comes right before the kiln.

Claim by Lisa Bergren

July 3, 2010

Remember when we reviewed Sing by Lisa Bergren Claim is the next book in the series.  This series of books is about three siblings in the old west.  In Claim,  the brother of the family, Dominic, traverses the world of gold mining and finds his way back to his sisters. 

Meanwhile, the siblings face danger, and each grows in his or her faith while facing the new realities of their lives.

If you are looking for a nice, calm, historial fiction, Claim will do the trick.  Bergren is a great writer, drawing you into her story while helping you realize truths.

Want to learn more?  Visit Claim’s website.

Want to buy it?  Claim is available on Amazon.com.