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Monday, September 1, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Dancing on the Head of a Pen

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Dancing on the Head of a Pen, by Robert Benson, is a beautiful book about the process of writing. Written in short chapters--with a warm tone of voice and simple metaphors to illustrate different aspects of the writing process--this book gives heartwarming advice to anyone who seeks to write a book. Because I am (of course!) writing a book, I found myself captivated by this one.

Gently passing through aspects of writing such as self-discipline, the importance of daily writing, and reading others' writing for inspiration, Benson gives kind hope and encouragement to those of us navigating our way through this art called writing. He suggests ways to draw inspiration for writing, and how to choose an audience for whom to write. He even tells how you might know your book is done.

I love the thread that runs through this book of letting life itself show you what and how to write. He encourages writers not to lose touch with the beauty of a neighborhood stroll or the practical lessons gleaned from talks with neighbors. Ultimately, it is recognizing that God knows what you are to write and when you are to write it..and will fill you in on the plan if you'll just listen long enough to hear it.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah for review purposes. If you would like to learn more about Robert Benson, go here. If you'd like to read the first chapter of this book, go here.

BOOK REVIEW: Revangelical

Warning: don't read this book if you are comfortable in your Christianity.

Challenge: read this book if you are comfortable in your Christianity.

I seriously challenge every Christian who checks "evangelical" on his or her list of what-niche-I-fit-into to read Revangelical. I needed the wake up call, and you might need it too. Evangelism means bringing good news...but too often we don't. Too often people looking at the evangelical movement from afar would instead say, with Gandhi, "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Lance Ford draws from his own experience as a mainline evangelical and his progression through a transformation into a revangelical...people who, in his words, "seek to live their lives as Good News people of the Kingdom of Heaven, even if it costs them the American Dream."

Beginning right between the eyes, Ford addresses our political stances and then moves on to our "tweetable gospel"--the one that often starts and ends with the sinner's prayer. We give ourselves pats on the back for leading people to Jesus, but then sometimes walk off and leave them there--without the meaningful investment in their lives that will help them walk in this new life (#prayedtheprayer #savedfromhell #awesome).

He goes on to challenge the way we often get fired up with devotion to right-wing talk show hosts and authors who incite us to develop an "us-them" mentality against our fellow human beings...rather than get our wisdom and direction from the One who died for them. He points a finger at our self-righteousness. He confronts our attempts to hang on to what we deem ours, whether it be a standard of living, a political position, or a border. He even likens us to Pharisees who don't "see" "sinners," forgetting that that's who we are every day. Jesus had much to say about self-righteous religious leaders who tithed meticulously but were unmerciful to those they deemed "unclean."

Yes, sadly, sometimes as evangelicals we deem certain people "unclean."

Revangelicals are those who realize we have become Pharisees, repent, and begin looking at the example of Jesus for how to bring Him to our families, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Revangelicals realize we are to be salt and light, people that others are drawn to. Remember that the "common people heard Him gladly"? Revangelicals are heard gladly by others because they are willing to get involved in doing life with them.

Ford gives examples throughout the book of revangelicals who have made a demonstrable difference in the lives of those around them. I liked this because it helped me to put pictures to what he presents.

Here's what I appreciate about this book: it doesn't advocate condoning sin. I've read books in which the pendulum swings so far to the left that we are told to embrace things the Bible says are sin, out of an ooey gooey love shift. Ford makes it clear that what the Bible has always said is sin, is still sin. However, fulfilling Jesus' mission statement in Luke 4 means getting inside people's lives, as He did. Rather than pointing at their sin, point them toward heaven so that, between your example and the truth of the Word, they decide to make life changes. Now that's good news.

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why pray for our youth?

As I am embarking on my pinterest career, I created a board about praying for youth--since that is one of my primary passions--and looked for pins to build it. Um, I didn't find much. Maybe I'm searching with the wrong keywords, but I don't see much about why it's so critical to pray for our teens.

For the past 10 years, I have led an intercessory prayer team for our youth ministry simply known as the "prayer moms." We are a group of ordinary women who have no special training in prayer, no special qualifications. We are just moms of teenagers who feel that God wants us to stand in the gap and pray for them. We meet weekly to do so together, but also pray individually every day for our youth pastor, youth leaders, and youth kids. How we specifically do that is subject matter for another blog, but the point is that we believe the young people of this generation need consistent intercessory prayer as they begin and grow in relationship with God prior to heading out into the world of college and beyond.

Here are the main reasons we do so:

  1. Kids need truth. Ever since the Bible and prayer were removed from our public schools, secular humanism has crept in. Relative truth has replaced absolute truth and created an atmosphere of confusion for teens who need firm boundaries and parameters for decision-making. Kids need the absolute truth of the Bible to steer their lives.
  2. Kids need salvation. Statistics show most Christians make their decisions for salvation before the age of 18. Kids need to have real encounters with Jesus while they are still in their formative years. 
  3. Kids need sustainable faith. Not only do teens need to have real relationships with Christ, they need to be grounded in active faith. They need to know their Bibles for themselves, and pray for themselves, and apply godly counsel to their own circumstances. 
  4. Kids need spiritual protection. The enemy is real and he never takes a day off. His goal is to steal, kill and destroy--and at all costs prevent our kids from walking out into the world saved, walking in sustainable faith, and knowing absolute truth. He plays dirty and hits below the belt. They need intercessors to step out onto the spiritual battlefield and ask God to help them. 
Encouraging moms to pray for the youth of their churches--or neighborhoods--or whatever--is my passion, because I believe it makes a difference. We have seen many answered prayers during the past 10 years as we have consistently and diligently interceded for the youth of our church. If you want to know more about this, email me at 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Evergreen

Are you an empty nester? If so, you may relate to the struggle John and Ingrid Christiansen experience during their first Christmas alone in Susan May Warren's Evergreen.

As Ingrid wrestles with her conflicting feelings--sadness at her empty house and gratitude for her children's independent lives--John looks forward to a trip away. When that is thwarted, and they are thrown into the role of temporary parents to Ingrid's nephew, Ingrid's long-simmering bitterness over an issue John didn't even know bothered her is stirred to a flame. Both struggle to reconnect with the love they used to feel for each other, but the Christiansen home is unusually frosty this Christmas.

Told in Warren's characteristic warm style, this novella is yet another reason to love the Christiansen family. As Warren's series on this family continues to expand, readers will find Evergreen a delightful interlude between  longer installments in the family's lives.

For more information on Warren and the Christiansen family series, go here.

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

Thursday, August 7, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Short Walk to the Edge of Life

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Talk about a take-your-breath-away adventure! Scott Hubbartt, in his book A Short Walk to the Edge of Life, takes the reader on a journey that changed his life--and his perspective of it--forever. Similar to an episode of "I Shouldn't Be Alive," Scott embarked on what he confidently thought would be an 8-10 hour hike in a Peruvian canyon to explore his wife's family history. A decorated Air Force veteran who had completed Survival, Evasion, Rescue and Escape training, he assumed he could handle the elements. He couldn't.

This book strikes right to the heart of what we all must admit before God: we're helpless without Him. Scott found, as he wandered for four days without food or water, that God will miraculously provide when we call to Him in admittance of our utter dependency upon Him.

Need some reminding as to Who is sovereign over your life? Take this journey with Scott and see how it changed his relationship with just might change yours, too.

Read the first chapter here, and find out more about Scott Hubbartt here.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for this review.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Red sweatshirt days

My mom's been gone seven months now. Although the funeral is now a poignant distant memory, there are days when the loss of her hits me like a hurricane and I am immediately out-of-breath overcome with sorrow. It can be a John Denver song in the grocery store or the fragment of a poem that I hear her say in my mind. And in that moment, all the grief is fresh and I just miss her, brand new, all over again.

Going through her belongings, in her house, was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was even harder than the funeral, because the only experiences I've had in the Oregon house are--experiences with her. To walk in that house and see her place on the couch empty, forever, was devastating. To walk through the kitchen and realize I would never hear her sing while preparing a meal or doing dishes ever again on this earth, was like a sock in the gut. To go into her bedroom and open up her drawers was to ache in a way that can't be consoled.

My brother had thrown away or donated most of her clothes in the past few months, but he'd kept some items he thought my sister and I would like. When he offered me an unremarkable, rather tattered red sweatshirt, I turned him down, because not only was I trying not to take home more than I really "needed," but also because I couldn't imagine a purpose for it. Then he explained: whenever Mom felt lonely or sad, my Dad would say, "It's a red sweatshirt day." That meant she should put on one of the red sweatshirts he always made sure she had, as kind of a security blanket that meant he loved her and would be close to her in spirit all day. My brother said, you need a red sweatshirt. I took it.

It took me about three weeks to open up the boxes I brought home from Oregon. When I did, I was overwhelmed with memories of her and of my father in pictures, love letters, and tiny memorabilia. But it was when I lifted out the linens and clothes I'd brought home that I lost it, because they smelled like her house..and again the grief hit me like the waves at WindanSea when I was 17 and Alan was teaching me how to body surf.

A red sweatshirt day. The only problem? Here in San Diego it was 85 degrees, and a sweatshirt wasn't called for.

But I get the point, and the red sweatshirt is easily accessible for when the weather cools. I have a feeling there will be a lot of red sweatshirt days before the Lord calls me home and my mom and I see each other again. Until then, aside from the tangibility of a piece of clothing, is the growing sense I have that, as I've said before, heaven really isn't that far away. Sometimes as I read my Bible and pray, I feel like it's really just on the other side of me--like just a shroud of unseen substance separates me from her. Like she's really actually looking over my shoulder, or my dad is sitting on the chair next to me--we just can't touch each other.

Heaven is real, and it's close, and when we get there
     "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new." Revelation 21:4, 5a

"...there shall be no more red sweatshirt days."

Monday, July 14, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: All for a Sister

What a delightful book!

This is the first time I have read a book by Allison Pittman, but it won't be the last. All for a Sister is a truly fun story about two women whose lives are woven together by their parents' a heartwarming end.

The book is told through a refreshing mix of viewpoints and genres (memoir, current events, and the occasional screenplay vignette) that left me unable to predict around the next turn--which is unusual in many of today's novels. It truly illustrates the truth of Romans 8:28, that "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Although God is not a frequent reference in this book, the plot nonetheless highlights His goodness to those whose lives have been determined by others' sins.

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes from Tyndale Publishing.