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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sand-washin' surf


Can you see them? The footprints in the sand? No, this isn't a sappy re-rendering of the famous "Footprints in the Sand" poem, though I find that lovely and have drawn on its truth many times. 

When on my last writing retreat in April, I walked from my room to sit and pray on a bench above the shore. It was early morning. My attention was drawn to this tractor, which was going up and down the beach smoothing out the sand. However, it seemed that as soon as it would pass any particular point, some other early-morning walker/runner/prayer would have the nerve to mar the pristine section the machine left behind. I thought, how useless!  All that work and yet it gets messed up as soon as the tractor passes by! 

The voice of God then gently directed my attention to the area of shore where the sand met the sea. People walked there also, but the sand remained smooth. Why? Because the sea constantly washed their footprints away. 

Suddenly I had the message. 

See, I'm often on the tractor side of this whole picture. I often feel cluttered and fragmented in my head. I never get everything done that I'm supposed to do. I forget what God said to me in my morning reading and don't follow through with my resolves. I forget to pray (gasp! yes it's true). I ignore stuff on my to-do list, then kick myself for doing so. I get to the end of the day and feel like there are meandering footprints all over my desires to live like God wants me to live. Go to bed feeling defeated and like a complete failure. 

I wake up the next morning and rev up the tractor. I "clean up" yesterday's "footprints" on this beautiful shoreline called My Life on this Planet by resolving to do better, obey better. I read my Bible again, confess again, pray again, resolve again, and head out into my life...only to footprint all over it in no time. Call that tractor back! 

But God whispered to me, "Walk by the water." 

Water in the Bible usually represents a few different things: a fresh start from sin, the presence of the Holy Spirit, eternal life. 

When I walk surrendered to Jesus, knowing I belong to my heavenly Father FOREVER, allowing the Holy Spirit to wash my footprints and nudge me through the day, I can look back at the end of the day and see--clean sand. 

It's easier said than done, of course. But the visual above helps me to remember it. I can call the tractor back time after time all day long, or I can walk by the water. 

Later in the day, on a break from writing, I did just that. Kicked off my flip flops and walked down at the shore line for a couple of miles, feeling the breeze, smelling the salt water, hearing the crash of the waves clear out my head. I rolled up my pants and waded through the clean, clear surf as it fizzled over the sand and washed it clean. 

Yes, eventually I had to leave the beach and resume Life, and I can't say I've "walked by the water" every day since--many tractor tracks at this house, unfortunately--but that's just the point. As soon as I remember, and head for the shoreline, it's ok. Because the sea will continue flowing in to cover--and ebbing out to remove--the footprints for every minute of every hour of every day of every year until I go into eternity. 

 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them." Ezekiel 36:27

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,[a]who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1

"Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Galatians 5:16

 "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Galatians 5:25





Tuesday, June 30, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Tank Man's Son

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I love biographies. Reading through the account of what made a person who he/she is today interests me. And when that person has overcome significant obstacles, his/her story can be quite compelling. Such is the case with "The Tank Man's Son," by Mark Bouman.

Bouman grew up in the midst of dire poverty and terrible abuse at the hands of his father. Living on 11 acres outside the city, he, his mother, and his siblings were isolated from the community in which they lived. His father, whose philosophies were riddled with neo-Nazi thought and whose rageful behaviors were terrifyingly unpredictable, was known simply as "the tank man" after his bizarre purchase of a WW2 tank which he stored on their property. Tanks are impenetrable and crush everything in their paths...and thus was Bouman's father to his family.

This experience not only knit Bouman closely together with his brother and sister, but in a process only God could design, prepared him for the good works God had for him to do. It is not an easy book to read, but it is important, for those in similar situations need to know that God can redeem the most difficult situations. And the book is redemptive...I promise there is a good ending for those who will hang in there through the pages of  helpless sadness.

For more information on the book, go here.

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an impartial review.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: A.D The Bible Continues

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With the popularity of the TV series by the same name, "A.D. The Bible Continues: The Revolution That Changed the World," is a perfect read. Following Paul, Peter, and other early notable biblical figures through the first 11 chapters of Acts, Dr. David Jeremiah uses a narrative style to show us details we may never have seen before. For instance, a good example is how he shows us, in-depth, the points Stephen made in his speech prior to being stoned--and how the Jewish leaders would have understood it from their point of view. It's easy to see how incensed they became by the arguments he made against them. Dr. Jeremiah does this for each of the chapters he narrates, giving us a fresh look at familiar territory.

Two other features of this book are quite enamoring. First, the insets throughout that illustrate key people, places, and terms allow the reader to glean some "behind the scenes" information. Second, each chapter, after narrating the text, includes application of biblical concepts to the believer's life. For instance, the chapter on Stephen's martyrdom then takes us through the greatness, challenge, and reward of serving.

This book would be easy for someone who is not a believer to read and understand. In fact, because it is so biblically sound, I could see someone who is not familiar with the Bible finding this a great introduction to the Word of God. On the other hand, for seasoned believers, this provides a new look and some deeper "nuggets" about stories they know and love. A win for everyone!

Dr. Jeremiah's site offers more information, as well as clips from the show.

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a fair review.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Car alarms and the zombie apocalypse

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Jesus might come back tonight. 

Or, He might come back in 5 months and 3 days. 

Or 12 years and 8 months. 

You get the point. We are told we will not know the day or the hour of His return...but we are told He definitely WILL return. 

God told Daniel that "knowledge will increase" at the time of the end. 

Paul told the believers in Thessalonica, 

'But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would. For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness. So then we must not sleep as the rest, but must stay alert and sober.'  1 Thessalonians 5:4-6, NET

Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 24 some of the signs that would precede the end. 

And the book of Revelation clearly outlines the events that will occur as this world draws to a close. 

These snapshots, and many others in God's Word, seem to indicate that though we cannot predict Jesus' return, we can have a good sense of when it is near. We are seeing many of these events unroll right in our headlines today. Almost every day. And we're supposed to pay attention. 

I heard a car alarm go off the other day as I was in my car at a stoplight. It sent a shot of adrenaline through me as I recognized that it is meant to indicate a dramatic problem--someone is breaking into your car. (This was a car under repair at an auto shop, however, so there wasn't really a threat). The alarm kept going. And going. And pretty soon I just wanted it to stop. All of a sudden, this thought came into my head: 

Things meant to ALARM us, 
and make us pay ATTENTION,
often just ANNOY us
and lead to AVOIDANCE. 

(For the record, I really used to dislike alliterative messages. However, God seems to give me a lot of words this way. Pretty sure He thinks that's funny). 

I thought of how many alarms are going off in our headlines these days--alarms straight up from the pages of the Bible. They're supposed to make us pay attention, because they point to something dramatic about to happen--something that will find millions of people unprepared. 

Remember this song? How about this video (which is fairly cheesy, but gets the point across) (and should probably be updated to include video footage of terrorist attacks in just the past year)?

As I type this, young people at a university in another country under siege by terrorists are being asked if they are Christians or not. Those answering yes are being shot. 

But instead of paying attention, much of the world is just annoyed at the persistency of the alarms. Be quiet. Stop shouting. Don't bother me. New episodes of (fill in the blank) are now on Netflix. What colors do you see when you look at that dress? We're not ALARMed. We're not paying ATTENTION. We're ANNOYed. We AVOID. 

Tonight commemorates the night Jesus poured out His prayers for me and for you in the garden. So intense was His passion for our salvation that He sweat blood. He pleaded with His Father: is there any other way to atone for their sin? No. There is no other way. So He got up and went to the cross, beaten, bloodied, spit on, cursed, crucified. Spent three days in hell. Rose in power--ALIVE. ASCENDED to heaven to wait for that moment, known only to the Father, when He will come back for those who choose to ACCEPT the "get out of hell free" card He purchased with His blood. 

Man, the A words are just flooding the page today.

Also tonight is the 3rd of the "blood moon" tetrad of 2014/15. These blood moons occurred on Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles last year, and are set to do the same this year. Historically, significant events have occurred in Israel coincident with these moons. It's possible something significant could occur tonight. Or tomorrow. Or in October, at the 4th blood moon. Or not. 

But here's the deal: the alarms are going off. We're supposed to pay attention. I don't want to tune out the blaring sounds and ignore them. I don't want to be annoyed or to avoid. And I don't want anyone else to either. I want my life lined up and ready because I listened to the alarms and paid attention. 

Here's a link to Matthew 24 if you want to read Jesus' words yourself. He had a lot to say about being ready. 

"I wish we'd all been ready..." 

Oh, and there's no zombie apocalypse. I realized some of you who are reading this are waiting to see when I'm going to get to that. I'm not. 


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wake yourself up!

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What sound does your alarm make when it goes off in the morning? No matter what pleasant tone I choose for mine, it always sounds pretty loud and rude to me. I am always convinced it went off in error, that for some reason I set it for the middle of the night. But no...it really is time to get up. I want to hit the snooze button. Sometimes I do. Sometimes more than once. And I know you do too.

While getting up late might result in some minor inconveniences or make my morning more stressful than it has to be, it probably won't be life-changing. But I've been praying really hard lately for a particular segment of the body of Christ: those who are content with hitting the snooze button on their faith.

I read these verses the other day and they burned in my heart:

"Wake up, wake up! Put on the strength of the LORD's power. Wake up as in days past...wake yourself, wake yourself up! Stand up, Jerusalem!...put on your strength, Zion!...Stand up, shake the dust off yourself!...You have forgotten the LORD your Maker." (Isaiah 51:9-17, 52:1-2, selected, HCSB)

See, we can hit the snooze button on our faith by just going through the motions. Church on Sunday. Life for six days. Repeat.

But God made each of us for a unique purpose here on earth. Our lives, our walks of faith, mean something in eternity. We were made to be part of the "us" that is the community of believers down here on earth. We were made for intimate, personal, daily relationship with our Creator through His Son Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. We were made to know and walk with Him every day.

I refuse to be ordinary or normal in my walk of faith. Yes, I spiritualize everything, which causes no end of groaning from my sons (and ask one of my future daughters in law what angle I took when I overshot Siri's directions on the way to a baby shower). Yes, I get up in the dark every morning and read and pray through the dawn. Yes, I really do set my cell alarms with hourly prayer reminders on busy days. But I want to leave this earth walking in all that God made me to do and be while I'm here for this breath called life. 

"But Moses entered the thick darkness where God was"--Exodus 20:21

Do I have it all together? A firm and quick no. My family will tell you that I fail every single day in any number of areas. And I'm often shy in front of others and have a hard time speaking what God speaks in my head and heart--which is why He made me a writer, I guess. I yell at my kids, get grumpy with my husband, and am often blindsided by fears or doubts. 

But that's just the point---I'm no different from anyone else. 

I don't want anyone to walk away from church on Sunday and go through a busy week and then come back next week for a fill up. God wants to be our everything. He wants to walk and talk with us and fill us in all the ups and downs of our days. To imprint His Word on us when we open it every day. To hear our prayers, whether they're for a parking space or a dying loved one.

Don't leave Him in church on Sunday morning, hit the spiritual snooze button, and "forget the LORD your Maker" till you walk back in next week. 

You, too, can have a heart that burns for---whatever God made your heart to burn for. You too can fall in love with His Word, worship for real, connect with Him, hear His voice.

Want more than you've got in your walk right now? Ask for it! Get down on your knees and ask Jesus to fill your mind, heart, soul, and strength with oomph for what He put you on this earth to do. Ask Him to give you the Holy Spirit to sanctify you and teach you. Then

  • Read your Bible every day--even if it means getting up in the dark or spending lunch at your desk. 
  • Pray for your family--set alarms on your cell if you need to! 
  • Worship Him--put on praise music at your desk or in your home or through your headphones. 

Wake yourself up! And if you do, message me and tell me what happened. I'm praying for you!


Monday, March 16, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Stay

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I loved this book.

I'm pretty busy, so sometimes it takes me a while to get through a book, even a really good one. However, when a book really, really grabs me I am known to shove everything else away so I can climb into it...and that's what happened when I began reading Stay, by Dave Burchett. Stay is an easygoing, conversational recounting of the spiritual lessons Burchett learned through his two dogs, Hannah and Maggie.

This actually makes such superior sense. Why hasn't there been a book like this before? I've often thought, as the owner of four (yes, four--though one actually belongs to my son and his fiancee) dogs, that there are spiritual lessons in the relationships among us. Burchett grabbed his pen and journal and put them down on paper to share with us.

The first lesson is perhaps the most significant. As Burchett's wife Joni battled cancer, Hannah was steady, sure, and never condescending. She was a precious, visible reminder of God's closeness to their family as they traveled through the valley of the shadow of death.

There are other lessons. For instance, watching Hannah shake excess water off her body one day when she emerged from the water, Burchett spiritualizes us to "shake off the lies." The enemy of our soul assails us, drenches us if you will, with lies. We have to learn to shake them off, remembering to "step back, be still, and listen for the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit."

Burchett learned another critical lesson from Maggie. On the first day of her obedience training (and she needed obedience training!), the instructor said something that truly preaches: "First of all, you have to teach her to sit and stay. When she is sitting, she can't jump and misbehave." Yup. Application? "..when I abide (the biblical version of "sitting") in Christ, I am empowered to resist sin." Amen!

If you love God and you love dogs, read this book. It is sweet and delightful as it speaks so loudly about our walks of faith. You can visit Burchett's blog here.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for a fair review.


Monday, January 19, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Always on my Mind

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One of my favorite series has a new installment! Always on my Mind, by Susan May Warren, is Book #4 in the Christiansen Family series. Highlighting Casper Christiansen this time around, this book brings us back to Deep Haven and places Casper and his older brother Darek together at the resort.

We find Casper returning to wintry Minnesota after a failed attempt at treasure-hunting. Casper's restless attempts to escape the conflict that triangulated his brother Owen, beautiful Raina Beaumont, and him are unsuccessful as he finds himself face to face with her...in her 9th month of pregnancy with Owen's baby. Although Owen's whereabouts have been unknown since Book #3, his presence is very much felt right in the middle of Casper and Raina, who gives the baby up for adoption. A decades-old mystery captivates them, however, just as a new flame threatens to prevent them from ever acknowledging how right they are for each other.

As always, Warren creates believable characters and weaves them into solid plot-lines. For instance, against the central story of Casper and Raina we find Darek and Ivy negotiating conflict of their own as Ivy nears term with their second baby. John and Ingrid Christiansen, the pillars of the family, return from Europe (with daughter Amelia hiding a sad secret) just in time to offer sage advice and assistance to their adult sons. The final few moments of the book leave us on a cliffhanger, anticipating Book #5. And like every book in the series, God's love and perfect direction for each family member's life thread through the pages.

Here is a delightful letter from Warren about the book series. Enjoy!

I received this book for free, in exchange for my review, from Tyndale Publishing.