Friday, April 30, 2010

Naked Gospel???

"How could the Gospel be naked?" you may ask. Well, I asked just that. Through I have had the pleasure of receiving books from time to time that I may review in exchange for my receipt of them. I recently received a copy of "The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church" by Andrew Farley. For more information on this book go to . I was a little skeptical. A lot books in this arena I feel are preachy and verge on being overly critical of Christianity without providing any alternatives. Well, let me tell you...I was pleasantly surprised. I L-O-V-E love this book. I have already recommended it to two of my friends and my husband. Its straight forward approach is refreshing. I love Andrew Farley's mix of his own personal experiences (without being overbearing) and his use of well-researched scripture quotes. What I found most rewarding as a reader is that the scripture quotes he used were not the same overworked Bible quotes. He also gives you background and contextual insights that help with the application. He by no means says he has THE answers, but he definitely provides a new way to look at things. I found myself saying "Me too!" as I read. I have had my moments of disenchantment, frustration and depression with Christianity, and I have always felt it was my fault, and I was just falling short. I am not trying to get off the hook here, but it was nice to see that I was not alone in trying to work my way out of what sometimes feels like a pit. We Christians are often guilty of picking and choosing what we hold ourselves accountable for, and this isn't always to our benefit. Like Andrew Farley I have "already accepted the work of Christ as the means to heaven. But it [is] my approach to daily living that [is] beating me up." (pg. 81) I am grateful that Mr. Farley has opened my eyes to some new ways to look at my daily living. If you are interested, you can get this book at Amazon: .

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

4-1/2 Stars....

So, I have been introduced to a very awesome site for anyone who loves From this site, you can choose books that the publisher will send you free of charge if you will publish a review online. Well, what a dream come true! Not only do I get a book, but I also get to share my opinions.

The first book I have received is The Flowering Cross by Beth Ryan. I really enjoyed this book. It is a nice story about a little girl and her family who befriend their grumpy neighbor. It is full of scripture quotes that a parent can use with their children to instruct them on some key bible lessons. It is a wonderful conversation starter in this way. In addition and by far what I consider the book's greatest attribute, it includes an activity that can be done with your child or a group of children during Easter. I love that it includes an activity and that it give instructions including a blueprint. This is not found in many books.

Here is the other side. I must include a disclaimer. I LOVE books. I own 100's, maybe even 1,000's. I have everything from children's books to resource manuals. I like happy books and sad books, fiction to non-fiction, romance to sci-fi. That being said I am a pretty tough judge. So, I am going to be picky. The story was good, but I had a little trouble at the beginning. I had a little trouble getting into it because I wanted more backstory first. Yes, I know it is a children's book, but I wanted to get to know the neighbor and THEN get into how the family befriended him.

All that being said, I give the book 4-1/2 stars. Now, this is another bone I have to pick with the reviewing community. Why do they only give us 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 stars? I very rarely fit into those categories. I want more half stars. I just couldn't give this book 5 stars because it isn't on the level of the classic children's books. However, it is really good. It is way above just a 4.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beauty to me...

A friend turned me on to a website that lets you tour through new books and experience new writers and artists and their blogs. When these books are presented to the group, they are often accompanied by a challenge. The most recent challenge is connected to a new release entitled Found Art by Leeana Tankersley. This challenge is directly related to photography and capturing unexpected beauty, but I found myself focusing more on the beauty and less on the photography. As I sat on my bed with my laptop surrounded by papers and files and books thinking about what I think is beautiful, I found myself drawn to a stack of my books because my love of reading is what led me to the The Blog Tour Spot website and the contest to begin with.
I love books. In this modern society we live in, so many people never touch paper much less a book. Now, don't get me wrong - I love trees, and I know we need to be conscientious, but there is nothing like holding a book, smelling it, touching the paper, flipping through the pages. As my photo shows, I have a lot of them. They may look in a disarray, but each one of them is special and a treasure to me. I know each one as if it was my child. Through my many moves to college, home, back to college, to a new job and beyond, my family has helped me move, and they can attest that a box of books weighs more than almost anything else, but I still would not part with even just one. With each move the number of boxes grew, yet there is still room for more. Their beauty goes beyond their physical existence; they house memories, bring stories to life, motivate, inspire, challenge and comfort. I will soon organize this pile and place them lovingly on the shelves they each deserve, but so very soon the pile with reappear with my new acquaintances and friends. They may just look like books, but the beauty each one houses is as unique as a sunrise, a flower, a shooting star or just about anything one person can dream up and commit to paper.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Trust issues...

Trust. I know there is a God. I love God. I believe not only in God but in all the things God has done. And having said all this, I do not trust God. Or rather, I find it hard to trust in God. This may sound harsh, but the reality is that I know God is trustworthy, but I also know I am not worthy of his trust. Grace, you say? So true, but… How often have I heard “Lay it at the foot of the cross” or “Give it to God.” These saying have always irked me a little. They just seem trite. Recently, though, I have found them on the tip of my tongue. I have two small children. They go to a local Christian school. It is a wonderful little school, and I am grateful to be a part of it. However, there are things that I would like to improve, so I got involved. I am not sure why (fear of change, feelings of criticism and attack, just disagreement of the ideas), but most of the ideas I have presented have ended in battles. A few of these battles have turned ugly. I knew having children would be hard. They must be fed and medicated and trained and protected, but I failed to realize that education would also be a battle. I have been a teacher, and maybe this is why I not only know its importance but can see the incredible possibilities out there for this school. I not only want it for my children but for all the others children whose families have chosen to sacrifice to send them there. I have battled before, but as I look back, it has always been in an area where I had some control. If I didn’t like being single, I could change my clothes, put on make-up, go to different singles locations. If I didn’t like my job, I could quit or get an education to move to a different position. If I didn’t like where I lived, I could move. And all these things I did, and during all these things, I was told to trust God more. I know I should have trusted God more because he worked all these things out for the best, and I can see his handprints all over these times in my life. But this battle is different. I have no control. I have very little influence. I could quit and leave, but would it be out of spite or pride? Right now I think so. As I sit here typing these words, I do so because I want to put some permanence to what I am feeling at this second. I need, no I must give this to God. He is the only solution here. He will provide me with an answer and a solution. He always has. But even more than that, he is the only one who can move a mountain if that is what is called for. He has hardened hearts, and he can soften them. He can inspire and breakdown walls. I close my eyes, and I picture my ideas and hopes for the school. I take a deep breath, a few steps forward, and I lay these things at the foot of the cross because that is where they belong.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My thin place

My friend Melisa just wrote a short essay for a contest inspired by a book entitled Thin Places. Melisa's words triggered in me a reflection that has been lingering more towards the front of my mind recently.

Thin places. We all have them. I really believe that most people have had a traumatic event to deal with in their lives – death of a parent, abuse, birth defect, or something. And I would wager that most of these people could pinpoint a time when there was a before and an after. These events change one’s life. I have one of those events, and it still sticks with me. I often wonder what my after would be like if what happened hadn’t happened. It has been over 20 years, yet I still have trouble talking about it in anything but vague terms. I recently started making a list of the fabulous memories in my life and the people that have made a difference. Everything on the list has been positive. That is not to say there were not also been negative aspects to them, but the positive outweighs the negative. The list is very long, and I realized just how incredibly lucky I have been. But the person and memory that may have been the biggest is not on the list, and I refuse to put it on the list. Am I giving it too much power? Did it really change me the way I think it did, or would I have ended up in the same place anyway? I have often wondered if in some way it was a blessing. Maybe something worse would have happened if that hadn’t. Maybe I am more sympathetic for having gone through my own thin place. I wish I could say it has made me stronger, but I don’t think that. My life was by no means perfect before. I was dissatisfied with things and had unhappy moments, but I believed and trusted and I stood for something. All that changed, and I don’t think I have gotten it back. One positive is that I know I have an emptiness inside me that isn’t right, and this hollowness has often led me to look to God for answers. I am one of those horrible people who doesn’t pray as often or think of God as often when things are good and happy. When I am struggling and suffering, I do seek him. Maybe not as fast as I should, but he has always been the ultimate answer. My friend ended her essay referencing Isaiah 41:10, and I am grateful she did. God can and does speak to us through people. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I am not afraid, but I am weak. Please uphold me, Lord.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I feel G^!(TY...isn't that a S&@^E

Why do four letter words get such a bad wrap? I have always struggled with why a 4 letter word is so much worse than any other word. I know it is due to the connotation attached to most of them, but when did that begin and who decided this? I get sh*t because it actually has a meaning. And back-in-the-day, f**k was an acronym that had a real meaning. But when did these meanings become derogatory when blurted out of context. If I drop a glass and break it, shake my head and mumble “f**k,” I am definitely not referring to any sort of carnal knowledge. Now d**n makes sense to me. It has a biblical sense, but how often does anyone actually really mean that? Again, I don’t want the broken glass to spend eternity with Satan. H, E, double hockey sticks is another good one. These expletives are just that – a statement of release. Why is it so much better to spout “poppycock?” What if I decide this is the most offensive term I have ever heard and begin a movement to get it forbidden and ostracized. Shouldn’t it be the intent behind the word? I am working on this with my kids. We have been working on the word stupid. I don’t like that word, and I have really tried to install in my children that we do not call people stupid. Apparently, though, I use this word quite often. The person in front of me in line is being stupid, someone who is spreading gossip is being stupid, the idea of having to go to work at 5:30 a.m. is stupid, etc. Well, my daughter counts these, especially when I am on the phone, and proceeds to tell me the exact number of times I have used the word. 9 out of 10 times, though, the usage is more descriptive than derogatory. Be careful what you teach your children!

This rant was not my point, though. I started thinking about 4 letter words because for me the worst words in the English language actually have 5 letters – GUILT and SHAME. I have many times in my life heard that all Catholics suffer from excessive and consuming guilt. I do find that pretty true, but I am not totally sure where it comes from. I understand the history of it, but the modern day appearance of the phenomenon perplexes me. I went to Catholic schools, and I do not remember having the idea of guilt pounded into my skull. I know my parents often spoke of sin and accountability, but there was also always the role of reconciliation. As an adult, I have taken classes and then taught classes based on Catholic philosophy and theology, and I can clearly see a forgiving and loving God even if he is demanding with his expectations and plans for us. I guess the Catholic Church does lend itself to a greater checklist mentality because it is so complex with its traditions and organizational hierarchy, but what makes one feel the guilt and shame when these checklist items are neglected or ignored? I really feel it is more due to a personality trait in me, but how does that explain the stereotype that is too often accurate?

Right now I am struggling with some guilt. This is nothing new, but I am trying to think of it in a different way because I know it is not only unhealthy, it is getting in the way of my relationship with God. I haven’t been attending Church because of the shame of some decisions I have made lately – some as simple as losing my temper with my kids and some as serious as telling falsehoods to cover up my failings. This shame leads to guilt – or does the guilt lead to shame? I’ll leave that to another day. The point is I know there is something wrong inside. I have been praying about it and the answer I got was to get back into God’s word. Well, imagine that…the answer was there – RELATIONSHIP. So, the thing I am missing and feeling additionally guilt about (Church) is the same thing as the answer to my problem. Church is an integral part of that relationship building process. I know this. I agree with this. So, how does one get out of the cycle? That is why I am officially declaring GUILT and SHAME to be words I am going to forbid in my house. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A word from the Almighty...

Well, I have been praying more lately and begging God to help me get back into his word. I don't know why it is so easy for me to procrastinate this because I know how much I enjoy it and benefit from it. So, mainly my prayers are about what God wants me to be doing and then for help with being the person I want to be. He doesn't always answer, and he definitely doesn't always answer clearly, but this time I think he did. Here is what I got:

First I picked up my Beth Moore
Praying God's Word Day by Day. Jan. 27 says, "Sometimes God may prioritize performing a miracle on our hearts and minds over a miracle concerning our circumstances." She goes on to say he "can take (us) to heights far exceeding the depths (we) have known." I knew at this minute that I had been focusing on the wrong thing, but it wasn’t too late. Don’t get me wrong. I often fixate on my internal turmoils, but I look for external solutions. Could God have spoken louder?

Then I opened up good old Oswald Chamber's
My Utmost for His Highest and went to Jan. 27th. Well, Jan. 26th is on the same page, so I read it first. The passage for Jan 26th is entitled "Look Again and Consecrate." I’m listening. The quote is "If God so clothe the grass of the field...shall he not much more clothe you?" Matt 6:30 Oswald says, "A simple statement of Jesus is always a puzzle to us if we are not simple...By receiving His Spirit, recognizing and relying on Him, obeying Him as He brings the word of God, and life will become amazingly simple." I realized I am not simple. I have received the spirit, and I do recognize his authority, but relying and obeying are not my strong points. He stresses "if you keep your relationship right with Him.” My relationship is not right with him. What was I going to do about this? “We have allowed the cares of the world to come in, and have forgotten the ‘much more’ of our Heavenly Father." Now, hold on for this is a biggie. "Many of us refuse to grow where we are put, consequently we take root nowhere. Jesus says that if we obey the life God has given us, He will look after all the other things...If we are not experiencing the "much more," it is because we are not obeying the life God has given us, we are taken up with confusing considerations." So, I in the world do we know when we are where He put us and what exactly is meant about the life God has given us? So, we move to the next day...

Open January 27th..."Look Again and Think"…OC (and I don’t mean Orange County) says in the very first line, "A warning which needs to be reiterated is that the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in, will choke all that God puts in...If it does not come on the line of clothes and food, it will come on the line of money or lack of money; of friends or lack of friends; or on the line of difficult circumstances...'Be careful about one thing only,' says our Lord, 'your relationship to Me.' Whenever there is competition, be sure that you put your relationship to God first." Somewhere (I think Philllipians) Jesus says "Be anxious for nothing." All I do is be anxious. The point is oneness with Him and not a "self-willed determination to be godly."

Do you even need more after all that? This was in two nights. And who says God speaks in a small little voice?

So the cherry on the top again came from our good friend Beth. I had started
Living Beyond Yourself last year some time, but only got 5 weeks in. Well, I have been wanting to pick it or something like it back up. This seemed like the perfect time. Again, right out of the gate, we are swinging for the fences. Day 1, first paragraph, "The enemy will do everything he can to discourage you from allowing God into the deepest places of your heart." This day speaks a lot about going through hardships because it is based on Paul's journeys particularly in Galatia. Day 2, quote of the day, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10) She goes on to talk about why God went to all the trouble to save us - because it was his will to rescue us for his pleasure out of love so we could be brought into relationship with him. It pleased God to save us. She follows this with, "One of the clearest proofs of God's power is the evidence of a transformed life." I don't feel very transformed or like I am much of a visible proof of God's power. She makes the point that "God did not save Paul from poverty but from prosperity." That makes the whole prosperity gospel look pretty foolish, huh?

Pretty powerful few days, and I am just getting started. It has been tool long since I felt exhilarated like this. How would I prevent this from being like other times when I would move on to just get distracted again and not take ownership of the gems I had discovered?

I have made a "to-do" list:
1. learn to trust God and what this means
2. learn to rely and obey God and what this entails
3. focus on RELATIONSHIP - the right one (and this doesn't have to be as hard as it sounds - I don't think God is as picky as we think in this arena and he is very patient – after all, he has all the time in the world)
4. stop seeking the approval of others PERIOD

I have already started working on my relationship with God through daily reading and reflection. I have set my first goal to discover a fear of the Lord. Proverbs and Psalms both say this is the beginning of wisdom. Keep me in your prayers. I am learning how powerful they can be.