Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday's Fave Five #12

It's time for another Friday's Fave Five (hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story).

My fave five this week include:
1. Pocky's Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Sticks.  It's my favorite childhood snack in Thailand.  I'm so glad that I can buy them in Asian grocery stores here.  My kids love them, too :).

2. Writing poems.  I enjoy writing poems; this week I wrote two.  I'll share them sometime on this blog (they still need some polishing).  On Tuesday, I just posted one of my old poems, Complete in Christ, at Faithful Feet (the international Christian blog that I'm a part of).

Christianity3.  A free social network for Christians around the world.  If you sign up, please add me as a friend (I'm Urailak L.).

4. Conservative Homeschooler.  This is a conservative Christian homeschooling site for moms and dads to gather for friendship, faith, and fellowship. They just moved from ning site to a new site.  If you sign up, please add me as a friend (I'm "LivingforGod" there :)).

5. "Trying to Forget".  My 16 year old daughter, Alyssa, just made her second pro-life short film for the 36 hour film contest at  I think it turned out really well, considering that the film was made within 36 hours.  Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the video.  I notice that the video gets cut off on the right side here; please go to YouTube to see the full screen.

P.S. You can see her first pro-life short film here.

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Just Like You

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Zonderkidz (March 9, 2010)
***Special thanks to Pam Mettler, Associate Director of Public Relations, ZonderKidz for sending me a review copy.***


Marla Stewart Konrad is keenly interested in global issues and has a special concern for the well-being of children. Her career as a speechwriter and communications professional has taken her to numerous countries in Asia and Africa. She lives near Toronto, Canada, with her family, and is the author of several books for children.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (March 9, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714788
ISBN-13: 978-0310714781

Please Click the Button to Browse Inside the Book:

My Thoughts and Review:
This is a sweet book about babies born in different coutries/cultures from America, Australia, Africa, Egypt, China, India, Russia, the Amazon rain forest, to the Arctic.  It's beautifully illustrated (by Lin Wang).  All babies are precious gifts from the Lord.  Their lives are celebrated by their families and are so loved by God.

"In celebration of the publication of Just Like You, Zonderkids is donating $10,000 to World Vision, an organization dedicated to helping children and communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty."(quoted from the inside of the book's jacket) I think that's wonderful! I used to work for World Vision in Thailand and I have seen many struggling children and their families living in poverty. They need our financial help and prayers. You can sponsor children through World Vision. If you would like to learn more about World Vision and their children sponsor program, please click the link on my sidebar.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Fear to Freedom

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Fear to Freedom: Victim to Victory - What if you did not have to be so afraid?

VMI Publishers (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Paula Krapf - Chief Operating Officer - Author Marketing Experts, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


Rosemary Trible’s experiences as the wife of former United States Congressman and Senator Paul Trible provide fascinating insights into the challenges and opportunities of public life. During their twelve years in Congress, Rosemary’s involvement in the inner city of Washington gave her a fresh perspective of the need for reconciliation and the importance of the “power of love” over the “love of power.” Rosemary’s compassion for the poor led her to travel widely hosting mission trips around the world to places such as Cuba, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and India. While in Calcutta she was greatly impacted by the opportunity to work with The Sisters of Charity. Mother Teresa challenged Rosemary to “be a woman of prayer,” which continues to inspire her today.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: VMI Publishers (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935265091
ISBN-13: 978-1935265092


Chapter 18

Abiding In God’s Presence

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). These words invited me to draw near to God in my everyday life. I had felt such an incredible closeness to the Lord during my near-life experience and now my passion for living in God’s presence is greater than ever.

Jesus certainly knew the importance of dwelling in God’s presence. For him, prayer was a priority. Jesus taught, healed, preached, and then went away to spend time with his Father. Here he received the guidance, strength, and comfort he needed for each day. Likewise prayer strengthens our faith, helps us appreciate the joys of life, and brings us into the delightful presence of God.

St Augustine said, “For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”1 What a difference prayer can make in our lives! Only here can our hearts find the true rest we long for.

I want to know God’s purpose for me and my family. To do this, I need to spend time with Jesus in the Word and in prayer. After all, the most strategic person I need to reach with the love of God is me. I have called my time of prayer an Appointment with the King since I heard Becky Tiarabassi use that expression at a woman’s retreat years ago. The pace of life today is full speed ahead, and the noise of life is so loud it can distract us from God, who is wooing us—inviting us to slow down, to sit and be still. What if we made an Appointment with the King for twenty minutes each day? We would still have twenty-three hours and forty minutes of our day left! We are so busy running and doing that we have lost what it means to just be still—to know that God is holy, faithful, and unfailing.

Elijah on the mountaintop did not find God in the storm or the wind or the fire but in a small whisper. God often whispers his love to us: “Come to me. Enter into my presence, and find rest for your soul. Come with no agenda but to be with me for you are my heart’s delight.”

I have come to believe that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. God is not concerned about our past except for the grace he gives to cover it. Today we can have a relationship through his son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. I am the way, the truth and the life, I am the good shepherd.” This is true for us today not in the past tense. I want to know Jesus now—I want to learn to walk like him, and forgive like him, and love like him.

Jesus is alive today. He is healing, forgiving, restoring, and loving today. I believe he wants us to be part of his transforming work, but this flows out of our time with him. Instead of being with Jesus to develop this intimacy, and seek his vision, we seem often to focus on the doing instead of being. If what we do is who we are, then who are we when we stop doing it?

I am comforted that Jesus did not run through Jerusalem! If we are always running throughout every day, checking off our to-do lists and responding to our e-mail and text messages, we become exhausted. We must find balance by spending time alone with the Lord. On my calendar there are many entries for every day, but my prayer time, my Appointment with the King, is my highest priority.

Find a time of prayer that works for you. After I went back to work, it was difficult to continue my regular morning time of prayer. God let me know, “That’s no problem. We’ll just meet in the middle of the night when we can be quiet together.” For the past eight years I am awakened sometime between three and four o’clock and have found this time to be the most precious part of the day. I enter into God’s presence when my mind is not already focusing on the days’ activities. If your heart’s desire is to be with God, you can find a time that is best for you.

A revelation from my near-life experience is the importance of living in his presence now. Jesus’ spirit lives in us and therefore we are never alone. Moment by moment, step by step, day by day, we can be one in Jesus as we open our lives to this transforming relationship. We are the ones who must open our hearts to the fullness of this love.

Billy Graham once said, “Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask.”2 Sometimes we do not know how to ask, what to seek, and how to begin to knock. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7–8). So keep knocking!

Moments With Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is a great example of this kind of radical devotion to love and prayer. Her life epitomized love, for she reached out to everyone who crossed her path—the rich and the poor, the powerful and those who were dying in poverty and filth. When people asked her how they could make a difference, she would often suggest to them, “Simply respond to what is right before you—love the person in front of you. You are called not to be successful but to be faithful.”

I first had an opportunity to meet Mother Teresa in February of 1994 when she was the speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast. Because I was helping with logistics that year, I visited with Susan Mendies, who traveled with Mother Teresa and helped make her arrangements. She indicated Mother Teresa would rather not sit at the head table, but have a simple chair placed for her behind the dignitaries.

While others were eating their breakfast, President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and his wife, Tipper, came behind the curtain to spend time with Mother Teresa. I watched from the wings of the stage as Mother Teresa reached her arms around these two couples while she prayed for them. The program was about to begin, but the most important event seemed to be the scene I was witnessing. Five people sitting in folding chairs as this humble woman prayed for them—the leaders of our nation and the world.

Mother Teresa was so small that we placed a box behind the podium so she could be seen when it was time for her keynote address. When she spoke, however, the authority of God seemed to come through her, and you could hear a pin drop in this crowd of five thousand who listened intently. She challenged the audience that represented some 146 nations to “Love until it hurts.” She said:

And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.

You too must bring that presence of God into your family, for the family that prays together, stays together. There is so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our prayer, with our sacrifice, are beginning at home. Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do.

We can keep the joy of loving Jesus in our hearts, and share that joy with all we come in contact with. If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world.

If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for. God bless you!3

I had another wonderful opportunity to be with Mother Teresa in the spring before her death September 5, 1997, when I traveled to Calcutta to work in the House of the Dying and the Orphanage of the Missionaries of Charity along with Susan Mendies. There I experienced Jesus as never before among the poorest of the poor.

Morning worship was in the Mother House at 6:00 a.m. Mother Teresa was in her wheelchair, and beside her was Sister Agnes in her wheelchair in the back of the crowded room. Sister Agnes was the first nun to join Mother Teresa in Calcutta. She was the contemplative nun who prayed while Mother Teresa was out serving. They were devoted friends who were paired in their lives in Christ. As Mother Teresa worked in the streets, her friend for forty-two years, Sister Agnes, kept a prayer vigil. Every morning the sisters repeated this prayer called “Radiating Jesus”:

Dear Jesus, help us to spread

Your fragrance everywhere we go.

Flood our souls with your spirit and life.

Penetrate and possess our whole being, so utterly,

That our lives may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through us, and be so in us,

That every soul we come in contact with

May feel Your presence in our soul. . . .4

After morning prayer, I knelt by Mother Teresa’s wheelchair and felt I was beholding Jesus face-to-face. Her dancing eyes twinkled with joy as her warm wrinkled hands, leathered from years of serving and loving, held mine. It was if I were looking into the eyes of unconditional love. Her challenge has stayed with me ever since: “Rosemary, be a woman of prayer.”

I love what she said about prayer: “Perfect prayer does not consist in many words, but the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus. Love to pray. Feel the need to pray often during the day. Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of Himself. Ask and seek and your heart will grow big enough to receive Him and keep Him as your own.” Another of her favorite sayings I have engraved on a rock by my bed: “Do no great things, only small things with great love.”5

I thought often of Mother Teresa’s words as I worked in the House of the Dying. I saw all around me great love and felt blessed, in a small way, to care for those on the threshold of death. The hurt and pain was evident, but God’s peace and love was even more present.

On this weekend nuns from across the world had gathered to determine who would follow Mother Teresa as head of the Missionaries of Charity. To help with the daily jobs, teenage novices had come from another province to work that weekend. That made me the oldest person serving in the House of the Dying. The doctor asked if I would give out the medications to each woman. He paired me with one of the novices, who checked the name on the individual cups of pills and bottles of liquid to determine the medicine was going to the right woman.

My mother had recently died, so my heart was particularly tender when I was with these women in their last days. I held each woman in my arms and spoke softly about my own mother’s dying and how she had said, “Jesus is coming. He is coming for me.” I will never know if any of these dying women could understand what I was saying, but I felt a deep peace in the midst of this the dying. As I told them about my own experience in the vision of heaven, I looked into their eyes and felt somehow they at least knew they were loved and cared for.

I asked one of the nuns later, “How is this unusual peace possible?” She replied, “The peace comes from love. These women, many who have been picked up out of the gutters, now know they are loved. God loves them. They have been forgiven and may soon be free from their pain. She told me how one person had said, “I lived my life in filth, but I will die as an angel.”

The next day I was not expecting to see Mother Teresa. Then I heard tiny footsteps coming from behind me and there she was. Her eyes sparkled as she asked, “Do you have one of my business cards?” “No, I’d love to have one!” I replied in total surprise. I told her about my time at the House of the Dying and how the next day I was going to spend time in the orphanage. She asked, “Do you love children?” I replied, “Oh yes, I have two children who I adore.” “I’ll give you one!” Mother Teresa exclaimed!

My jaw must have dropped open. But before I could speak, the nuns had come for Mother Teresa and whisked her away. Her business card read:

The fruit of Silence is prayer.

The fruit of Prayer is faith,

The fruit of Faith is love,

The fruit of Love is service,

And the fruit of Service is peace.

Mother Teresa changed the world through her life of loving everyone. Whether a leper everyone despised, an abandoned baby, the pope or the president, each person was special to her and to God. She is buried, as was her request, in a simple pine box. This tireless and compassionate woman was loved by the poor and powerful alike. She lies in the Mother House where her last simple message reads, “From Mother—Love one another as I have loved you.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Restoration Road

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Credo House Publishers; 1 edition (March 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Dr. Mitchell Kruse is an author, speaker, and the driving force behind The Restoration Road, a ministry movement that equips believers to live authentically where culture connects with Christ. Kruse is best known for his contribution to the auction arena, especially in the area of collector cars and real estate. For seventeen years, Kruse was owner, CEO, and auctioneer of Kruse International, the world’s largest collector car sales organization. Kruse was the youngest licensed Realtor in the nation and the first person to sell a vehicle for a documented one million dollars cash, while he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Indiana University.

For more than a decade, Derek Williams has worked with those who have a heart for compassion. His experiences in both church ministry and the entertainment industry have allowed him to build a company that combines media with compassion efforts. A few of his credits include: Executive Producer on Break Through with Tommy Walker: Live At Saddleback, in partnership with Purpose Driven Ministries. He was also writer and producer for The Invitation, a short-film and music project that captured the lives of 14,000 families living in a city landfill in the Philippines. Over the last decade, he has been a leader and producer for independent projects that have generated over $1 million for compassion efforts.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $17.50
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Credo House Publishers; 1 edition (March 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935391313
ISBN-13: 978-1935391319


sanD, stone, anD clay

In the small French town of Molsheim, a mystery remained unearthed inside the estate of famed automobile designer Ettore Bugatti. A vision, first shaped in a clay mold, was later transformed into seven of the most magnificent vehicles ever crafted--the Bugatti Royales.

These breathtaking vehicles were launched just as the world economy began to sour on the verge of the Great Depression. All seven had been built by 1933. They were enormous, with a 169.3 inch wheelbase and an overall length up to twenty-one feet--five feet longer than today's average car length of sixteen feet. They sported the first true “bling,” with twenty-four inch rims to support their 7,000 pound body. The 12.7 L “straight 8” engine produced up to 300 horsepower, with cylinders bored 5.1 inches, each discharging more horsepower than the entire engine of a contemporary Type 40 touring car of its day.

The Bugattis were rolling sculptures. And one man, now driving through Molsheim's Nouveau Quartier, was nearing the end of his quest to uncover these works of art.

Briggs knew that four of the Bugattis had already been sold, and the seventh one made had been destroyed by fire. But the remaining two were still missing. He slowed the truck along a dirt road as two refrigerators bounced back and forth in the back, and stopped at a wrought iron gate just outside of Bugatti's estate.

Ten minutes later Briggs stood in the main hall, surrounded by paintings and photos of Ettore's grand accomplishments. One piece of sculpture struck Briggs as unique. It was a statue of a boy kneeling before his father. Etched into the stone were the words, The Prodigal Son Returns. It was a beautiful work of art by Rembrandt himself--Rembrandt Bugatti, that is. Ettore's brother was a world-renowned sculptor who had added his considerable talent to the designs of the famed Bugatti Royales.

A woman's voice echoed through the hall.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Cunningham.”

“Therese, it's so good to see you again,” Briggs replied.

Therese was all business.

“As I mentioned to you yesterday, I'm not sure how much help I can be. However, you are welcome to take a look around.”

“Great! I'd like to start in your father's study.”

“Very well.”

Briggs followed Therese down several corridors. He glanced into the rooms as they passed by and noticed all of them were empty. It seemed that the cost of the war had wounded even those whom society had previously deemed untouchable.

Therese stopped at a mahogany door and reached for a key. Years had passed since anyone had entered this forgotten place--until now. As she swung the door open, Briggs noticed that this room was still fully furnished. Inside was a beautiful wooden desk and two leather chairs facing an old, red-brick fireplace. In the far corner, a sledgehammer stood propped next to a gas lantern.

Therese waited in the doorway as Briggs stepped inside. It had been years since her father had passed, and this unexpected visit had flooded her with forgotten memories, none of which had occurred in this room.

“Mr. Cunningham, what is it you do?”

“I build race cars,” Briggs replied. “And I've been captivated by the beautiful automobiles your father built for quite some time.”

He ran his fingers over the aged brick and wondered if he was about to unlock a piece of history. Could the stories he'd heard possibly be true?

“Whether I find what I'm looking for or not,” Briggs said as he reached into his pocket and handed Therese an envelope, “this is for you. And, as promised, the refrigerators are outside.”

“Thank you,” she replied.

Briggs' eyes gleamed with excitement as he glanced back toward the brick wall at the south corner. He was here to find an authentic original. Without another word, he picked up the sledgehammer and pounded into the center of the wall. As he did so, pieces of brick scattered in all directions.

Therese was stunned by this sudden burst of destructive energy, but she continued to watch, a bit bewildered by what unfolded before her. Even though reluctant to admit it, she was captivated by what this American might find hidden after all these years. All the while she told herself that her memories of her father and the legacy he had left behind were greater than any artifact that might now be uncovered.

Sweat poured down Briggs' face as he swung the hammer again and again. Thirty minutes later, Briggs and Therese stood in front of a small black hole. With one final grunt, he pulled a pile of bricks out of the opening. As the bricks tumbled at his feet, he grinned and turned toward Therese.

The moment of truth.

She lit a flame and handed the lantern to Briggs. Now she stood by his side and followed the glow that illuminated what was behind the wall. What they unveiled was a forgotten garage, built to protect two pieces of art that no one believed still existed. Briggs had found a lost treasure--Ettore's personal Bugattis, one of which was the prized Bugatti Royale Kellner.

“I knew you'd keep them close,” he whispered.

“Fou d'Amérique” Therese muttered. Crazy American.

What a day this had been! Briggs Cunningham had passed through a gate to Ettore Bugatti's estate, traveled up an unassuming dirt road, and arrived at a destination where he discovered two of the most sought-after, most valuable automobiles in the world--the rarest of Ettore Bugatti's priceless works of art. It had cost him a mere fifty thousand dollars and two refrigerators. Now that he had found them, he knew he must restore the automobiles to their original, authentic condition.

Briggs Cunningham was an American adventurer, a risk taker, whose heart beat to build the fastest cars on the planet. He was also a treasured acquaintance of mine who shared his love for rare automobiles with me. I remember strolling through his museum as he shared the Bugatti story. (I've taken the liberty to fill in the missing pieces as I imagined them.)

What always remained true about Mr. Cunningham was his heart's desire to find the rarest pieces of Bugatti's collection and restore them to their authentic, original condition. It was a dream that he believed one day would come true. He never gave up, using every resource at his disposal to fuel his treasure hunt until he found what was needed to complete the authentic restoration.

Maybe you too are an adventurer, a risk taker, in search of your heart's desire; someone who is searching for a hidden treasure to restore your authentic life. Perhaps you have repeatedly asked yourself, “How can I make what's old in my life shine like new again? How can I restore the truest desires of my heart?”

Whether we are CEO's, blue collar workers, stay-at-home moms, college graduates or freshmen in high school, we all have old patterns in our lives that we would like to change so that we can be restored to new. The challenge we face is answering the question, “How do we restore what's old in our lives--the rust that has formed on our purer motivations, the dings that have appeared in our passion for the good, the faded paint of our resolve to love God with all our hearts--to its authentic, original state?”

By definition, something that is authentic reflects the design of the designer. As in the case of Ettore Bugatti and his magnificent creations, an authentic collector car reflects the design of its designer. This is the design that Briggs Cunningham worked so tirelessly to restore, the same design that the Designer desires to restore in us.

The Desire of the Designer

Each collector vehicle begins life as a clay mold that carries the handprints of the designer who fashioned it. That design flows from the heart of its creator. Later, the design comes to life through a community of engineers, manufacturers, and executives who work together to carry out the inspiration, or the “breath,” of the designer. When it comes to automotive restoration, there is no greater value than a restoration that is carried out by a car's original designer.

Like a collector car, we also began as clay molds in the hands of the Designer who breathed life into us (Genesis 2:7), the same Designer who desires to restore us to the original creation that He intended. Our deep, inborn desire for authenticity originates from the One who designed us from the inside out.

Authenticity, one of the highest values in our postmodern culture, aligns our lives from the inside out. As postmoderns we deconstruct the layers of every person we encounter to discover whether he or she is someone who is the same, someone who is truly “authentic,” all the way through to the core of his or her being.

Pretense, the opposite of authenticity, misaligns our lives from the outside in. Pretense focuses on the outside at the expense of the inside. In the collector car world, we call this a cosmetic restoration--a vehicle is spruced up on the outside just enough to fool others that it is restored. It is only a matter of time before the concealed truth about the vehicle's cancerous undercarriage is revealed, followed by another outside in attempt at restoration.

This process never satisfies.

When we are uninformed, unaware, or unbelieving, we often pretend that we are the ultimate designers in our lives. Consequently, we pretend with ourselves, with God, and with others that we do not need inside out restoration. Those of us who continue on this path live our lives trapped in continual, progressive pretense that leaves us dissatisfied.

In life, our desire to be restored comes as a result of the damage, the dings, the rust and the corrosion that comes from trying to live lives our own way. And such a desire is not new to us today--we find the desire to be restored to authenticity scattered in writings throughout history, in religious texts, in those we love, and even in today's news headlines. And when we're honest, we also find it hidden in the darkest places within ourselves. We hear it in the countless whispers of anyone who longs to be brought back to a life that restores him from the pride-filled addictions that leave him destroyed. Restoration is truly humanity's deepest desire.

The Restoration Process

A life of pretense keeps us unrestored; therefore, a life of authenticity is impossible without restoration.

To be restored means “to be made new again.” When an auto enthusiast finds the car of his dreams buried under tarps in an old barn or chicken coop, he has a vision of what the car was and what the car could be again. He has a firm belief that this dusty, rusty, dinged-up old crate can be remade to the specifications of the designer.

This optimist, this visionary, surrenders his old basket-case of a car to a restorer so that the restoration process can begin. During the process, the car is disassembled and the individual parts are restored, piece by piece. After each part of the car is restored, it is carefully reassembled. After all the work is done, it's finally time for a test drive.

As the owner displays his pride and joy, others learn from his experience and dedication. However, even the most detailed, correct restorations lose their luster over time. The car gets dinged again, the paint fades, the interior tears, the tires wear, the engine grows tired and the metal rusts. But the true restorer's passion is to make these things new again.

The same is true for our lives.

First, the old is surrendered. Like a classic car that needs restoration, each one of us must surrender our old basket case of a life to the Restorer. Second, the pieces are surrendered. The Restorer begins to disassemble and renovate the components of our lives, piece by piece, whether they be unrestored or self-restored. Third, the new is surrendered. As the restoration process unfolds, we learn that we are designed to bring authentic restoration to others. We surrender the new for this purpose and continue to surrender any old parts that corrode again over time.

On our restoration journey our resolve can fade, tear, wear, grow tired, and become rusty as we occasionally turn from the Restorer in an attempt to restore the individual pieces ourselves. Pride deceives us into either believing that our self-restoration attempts are working, or thinking that we cannot bring a particular piece to the Restorer more than once. Consequently, pride leaves us questioning how we are supposed to surrender that one last piece of our lives.

Pride is the Lock on the Human Heart; Humility is the Key

Imagine the inner workings of a lock fashioned with two concentric cylinders that are held together by four spring-loaded pins. A key is the perfect combination for each respective lock. It pushes up the spring-loaded pins high enough so that the innermost cylinder can turn freely inside the outermost cylinder, unlocking the door. If by inserting the key we say we are surrendering the key to the lock, then partially surrendering the key into that lock will never open any door. Only fully surrendering the key will unlock it.

The same is true for our lives. In order to be restored to authenticity, we must humbly and fully surrender our hearts, desires, and lives to the Restorer.

Let's look into this metaphor a little more deeply. The inner cylinder represents our spiritual heart. The four pins are indicative of its four chambers. The outer cylinder illustrates our four primary, God-given desires (both the chambers of the heart and the four primary God-given desires are defined later in this chapter).

When the key is fully surrendered into the lock, all four pins pass through the inner cylinder, representing the heart, and the outer cylinder that encompasses our four primary desires. The lock is opened, which allows us to open the gate to the three key resources of our life: our time, talent, and treasure. When we unlock this gate, our lives are unlocked and opened to a restored life of authenticity. This newly surrendered life is measured on the basis of godly wisdom, not by any temporal measure of success.

Jesus spoke of similar keys when he said to his disciple Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). When paired with our current metaphor, this kingdom perspective comes into clearer view. The kingdom of heaven is God's divine reign, rule, and order in the hearts and lives of people on this earth, both now and in the future. It is one of the most profound expressions of Christ living within us. When we fully surrender the key of humility into the lock of our human heart, we open wide the gate to the kingdom of heaven in our lives. When we partially surrender the key of humility into our prideful heart, the gate to the kingdom of heaven remains locked--both in this life and the next.

The Sand and Stone of Pride

Pride is a hard heart, one that makes itself higher than others. We find it in two forms: a heart of sand or a heart of stone.

A sand heart partially surrenders the horizontal at the expense of the vertical. It focuses on people and tasks rather than on God. This is license. A heart of sand is loose and scattered; it requires a storm to be shaped and restored.

A stone heart partially surrenders the vertical at the expense of the horizontal. It focuses on God rather than on others. This is legalism--the thought that one can manipulate the deity of the universe through the actions and activities of our lives. A stone heart is hard. It requires tooling by a sharp instrument to be shaped and restored.

Ironically, both sand and stone are the same substance, just a different aggregate. In its essence, sand is just tiny pieces of crumbled up stone. However, neither a heart of sand or a heart of stone reflect the design of the Designer who is also our Restorer. Sand hearts and stone hearts break apart the vertical from the horizontal, creating four walls that form a prison. The result is the incarceration of pride.

The Master Key of Full Surrender

The Master Key that fully surrenders our hearts, desires, and lives to the Restorer is cross-shaped; this is the perfect picture of the vertical intersecting with the horizontal. The vertical axis is our relationship with God. The horizontal axis is our relationship with people. In order to fully surrender the Master Key into the lock of pride on the human heart, one must humble his heart vertically to God, and horizontally to others.

Christ the Designer (Colossians 1:16) and Restorer (Colossians 1:19) holds the restoring key of David that unlocks the kingdom of heaven. What he opens, no one can shut; what he shuts, no one can open (Revelation 3:7). He has unlocked the door to abundant and eternal restoration to those who humble their hearts, desires, and the three resources of life to Him. For those who choose to live in their pride and reject Him, the door will remain closed on this side of life and the next. In order to discover who God created us to be, we must gather the courage to travel into the mystery that God will reveal to us as He unlocks the condition of our hearts, our desires, and our three resources of life for the advancement of His kingdom.

A Clay Heart

A clay heart lives in the sweet spot where the vertical intersects with the horizontal--where our relationship with God intersects with our relationships with others. A heart of clay is a humble heart. The words “humility” and “humanity” come from the same Latin word, humus, which means “from the ground.” Humility involves bending the knee. It means “to make ourselves lower than.” Consequently, humility always has an object.

Whereas a sand heart is a picture of license, requiring a storm to be fashioned, and a stone heart is a picture of legalism requiring a severe tool to be shaped, a heart of clay is a picture of love. It's a heart that is malleable in the hands of its gracious Designer. While all three substances come from the ground, the heart of clay is void of meaning unless it is shaped and restored by the heart and hands of the Designer.

CLAY is an acronym that helps us remember how to live with a humble heart. First, we confess to God our proud sinful hearts of sand or stone. Second, we learn His design for our lives from the Bible. Third, we apply what we learn from the Scriptures to our daily tasks and relationships. Fourth, we yield the outcomes to God. A clay heart experiences the design of the Designer through full surrender.

The heart of the Designer, the One we desire to emulate, is clay. His deep desire is to restore all that He has designed. As the Designer, he understands the pattern that he has built into humanity--the pattern that has been damaged by sin. As the Restorer, He is the embodiment of a clay heart, of the vertical axis intersecting with the horizontal axis. He walked the earth as fully God and fully man. He is the authentic picture of a humble heart that fully surrenders everything in communion with the Father and at the same time humbly surrenders everything in community with others. He has restored the vertical (God with man) and the horizontal (man with man). He invites each of us to be restored to authenticity, to the unique expression of the Designer in us.

Outside in Versus Inside Out Living

On Restoration Road, we are reminded that the Restorer is Jesus Christ. He fully surrendered His heart, His desires, and His life to the Father. His heart was humble (Matthew 11:29). All of Jesus' time, talent, and treasure were completely surrendered to the promptings of His heavenly Father. Jesus glorified the Father in coming to earth as a sacrifice for sin, and in return, the Father restored Jesus to the glory of heaven (John 17:1-4). He came to inaugurate the kingdom of heaven, the biggest restoration project in the universe, because He came to restore the unique expression of the Designer in each one of us.

But we turn away from that design. Often times, our hearts of sand and stone sign up for self-restoration--that which takes place from the outside in. We think that if we go somewhere, we can do something, and then we will be somebody. This pattern attempts to restore our three resources of life (time, talent, and treasure) without first addressing our hearts or desires.

But living restored to authenticity occurs from the inside out. This is the be-do-go of full surrender. Who we are designed to be determines what we are designed to do, which determines where we are designed to go. This is the individual design of the Designer in each of our lives. Consequently, Restoration Road transforms our hearts, then our desires, and finally our three resources of life for the advancement of God's kingdom.

Let's unpack this a little more thoroughly. As we established earlier, Restoration Road is the road we travel in our journey of life. Remember, Jesus is the Restorer. First, Restoration Road transforms our hearts, the identity of who we are designed to be. When a vertical line intersects with a horizontal line, four chambers result. These represent the four chambers of the spiritual heart. We can remember them with the acronym, WISE.

The first chamber is the will. This is the chamber of our choices. The second chamber is the intellect, or the mind. This is the chamber of our thoughts. The third chamber is the spirit. This is the lead chamber of our prayers. The fourth chamber is the emotions. This is the chamber of our feelings.

In order to be restored to authenticity, we must fully surrender each of the four chambers of our hearts to the Restorer. We must choose, think, pray, and want to make this surrender. This is the prerequisite to unlocking wisdom's gate (Proverbs 1:7; 11:2).

Second, Restoration Road transforms our desires, or what we are designed to do. This is the heartbeat that connects our hearts with our three resources of life--our time, our talent, and our treasure. As we travel the road of life, we can see the desires of our hearts in three different ways, depending on the condition of our hearts. Whereas sand hearts see desires for their gratification, and stone hearts see desires often in terms of negation, clay hearts see desires for their transformation. The last one is what we were designed to do with our desires.

God created us with at least four primary desires, each coming from his being, or his identity.

Desire 1: Significance from being created in God's image (Genesis 1:27).

Desire 2: Contentment from being blessed by God to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue (bring contentment to) the earth (Genesis 1:28).

Desire 3: Control from being empowered by God to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28).

Desire 4: Security from being given every seed-bearing plant and fruit-bearing tree (Genesis1:29-30).

These desires flow vertically from the heart of God into each one of our hearts. They flow horizontally into our relationships with others (Genesis 2:18).

So the next question is, what happened to these pure desires? How did they become corrupted? The answer to this question is summed up in one word that we focused on earlier in this chapter: pride. This original sin came into play when humans searched for the satisfaction of their desires apart from God (Genesis 3:5-6).

God had created Adam and Eve with humble hearts. In the perfected Garden, God was the object of their desires. Consequently, He satisfied their desires. However, pride made humans the object of their own desires and created the need for restoration. This is a pattern that each of us repeats both by birth and by choice (Genesis 8:21).

The first sin was followed by the world's first self-restoration program. I call it “sin's trifecta”: (1) Adam and Eve were ashamed because they had been swayed (Genesis 3:7), (2) they hid because they were afraid (Genesis 3:12-13), (3) they blamed because they had disobeyed (Genesis 3:12-13). Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and from that point, humans have determined for ourselves what is right and wrong (Genesis 3:1-6). This is our heritage; this is our legacy.

In essence, we take God's gift of life and continually attempt to satisfy our desires by setting ourselves up as gods in our own self-made kingdoms. We trust in our giftedness rather than our godliness. We follow our will rather than surrendering willingly. We rely on our own decisions rather than submitting them to the Decider. However, God the Designer responds by offering us the opportunity to be restored to authenticity (Genesis 3:15, 22).

Restoration Road transforms our three resources of life, or where we are designed to go. Time is fully surrendered to the Restorer, and our calendars are transformed. Talent is fully surrendered to the Restorer, and our business cards are transformed. Treasure is fully surrendered to the Restorer, and our investments are transformed. When we surrender all three resources of our lives to the Restorer, He leads us down Restoration Road to reflect the design of the Designer.

The Pursuit of Wisdom

Money is pride's measurement of our giftedness (time, talent, and treasure). Wisdom is humility's measurement of our godliness (Christ in us). Although the Bible often comments on money, it is the latter commodity that we are advised to pursue repeatedly throughout Scripture.

Wisdom is the intersection of the vertical with the horizontal. It is God's heart (vertical) combined with street smarts (horizontal). Wisdom applies one's relationship with God to one's relationships with others, including the tasks to be achieved. We were designed to have a heart for wisdom (Proverbs 3:5-6; 22:17-18). We were designed to desire wisdom (Proverbs 3:15). We were designed to pursue wisdom with our three resources of life (Proverbs 4:7). Wisdom begins with a humble, malleable, clay-like heart toward God (Proverbs 1:7; 11:2; 22:4).

Thousands of years ago, Jewish Rabbis searched for the ultimate word to describe God. They chose “wisdom.” Wisdom resides in a person in whom the vertical perfectly intersects with the horizontal. Christ the Restorer is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Christ is the authenticity of God (Hebrews 1:3). He is humble in heart (Matthew 11:29). Humility toward him is the beginning of His wisdom in our lives (Proverbs 11:2).

Foolishness is the opposite of wisdom. It is derived from a proud heart. It begins as wet cement and progressively hardens like cured concrete. A stone heart is foolish. A sand heart is foolish. The two substances added together form a concrete mix that imprisons us in lives filled with pride instead of humility, and foolishness instead of wisdom. In our pride, we foolishly pretend that the satisfaction of our desires will occur through the pursuit of more time, talent, and treasure apart from God. The result is a life of pride, pretense, and foolishness that leaves us unrestored and dissatisfied.

The Gate, the Road, the Destination

So what happens as we move down Restoration Road? What are the mile markers, the signposts, the points of interest that we should be looking for? When we surrender our hearts, we know that Jesus is the voice on our GPS device directing our paths. But why are we on this road, and what is the goal?

The gate represents our hearts. On Restoration Road, we learn to shift the gates of our hearts, or who we were designed to be, from us to the Restorer. We move from a heart for our position to passion for His grace and His provision in our lives. We transition from a heart for our purpose to a passion for His vision. We change from a heart for our contentment to a passion for His peace. We journey from a heart for our competence to a passion for His character of wisdom. We travel from a heart for our control to a passion for trusting His power relationally manifested in our lives. We leave a heart for our security for a passion for His authentic truth. We give up a heart for our significance in exchange for a passion for His love. We let go of a heart for false liberty apart from the Restorer in lieu of a passion for the freedom found in the Restorer.

The road is imagery for our desires. Restoration Road leads us to change our perspective, or what we were designed to do for our satisfaction, from us to the Restorer. As Jesus leads us away from what was done in the Garden of Eden, we move from a desire that is closed to open. We go from a desire of hiding to seeking. We travel from a desire of protecting our pride and disobeying to praying and obeying. We change from a desire that is stubborn to one that is teachable. We cease our desire to trust ourselves and begin trusting the Restorer. We transition from our desire of denying truth to recognizing and acknowledging truth. We leave a desire of rejecting others and begin to accept others. We stop our sand-and stone-hearted desires of resisting and withholding forgiveness to surrendering to receiving and offering forgiveness.

The destination is where we go with our three resources of life (time, talent, and treasure). Restoration Road is a dirt-road journey into the secret places of our lives, places still filled with sand and stone, to a place that brings us to authenticity. As we travel this road, we gain the wisdom needed to live restored. Our time, talent, and treasure moves from the lock of death to the key of life. We go from the darkness of detouring from God to the light of His vision for our lives. We transition from living off-line, deaf to God, to living online, listening to Him. We travel from damming His river of wisdom to opening the flow of His wisdom in our lives, learning from Him. We no longer go through life as slaves, dividing ourselves from God, but now we live as sons and daughters, leaning into Him. We give up going through this journey with a heart of stone or sand that is deceived and have it replaced with a heart of clay that can lead others to the Restorer. We stop building walls in relationships where we are detached, and build bridges through love. We no longer live in the dungeon of unforgiveness for our wrongs and those of others, but we live waving the white flag of full surrender to freedom in Christ that allows us to let Jesus take the wheel of our lives. This is the goal of our journey down Restoration Road.

Briggs Cunningham unlocked the key to restoring the Bugattis when he broke through that brick wall. What brick wall in your life needs to be torn down so that you can travel Restoration Road? Will you allow the Restorer to unlock the chambers of your heart, your desires, and the three resources of your life?

Imagine how your life might be different than it is today if you traveled Restoration Road. As you surrender your life to Jesus, every activity, every relationship, every task, every decision in your life will come down to this: have you unlocked the door to a restored life with the Master Key that guides your journey? Are you working with the Restorer to help you choose between humility and pride, authenticity and pretense, wisdom and foolishness? As you travel Restoration Road, do you do so with a teachable, moldable heart of clay rather than one of sand or stone? If so, then you're venturing, with the help of the Holy Spirit, toward a life that is truly priceless.
More Info. about Mitch Kruse: The art of auctioning has been passed down through three generations of the Kruse family, but as Kruse followed in his father’s footsteps, he discovered that success is a fragile thing that often comes at a high price. Though Kruse had been raised in a Christian family, he had vacillated between legalism and relative lawlessness. Facing the constant pressure of his life in the fast lane and the real possibility of losing everything he had labored to build, Kruse finally reached a turning point and surrendered control of his life to God. This move radically transformed both Kruse and his business over the next several years.

He sold his company to pursue his calling to communicate God’s restoration through grace and wisdom evidenced in leadership. Kruse earned his Master of Arts and Doctor of Religious Studies degrees with high distinction from Trinity Theological Seminary. He volunteered as teaching pastor at Blackhawk Ministries, a church of two thousand members.

Mitch Kruse Interviews Tony Dungy about Restoration

Mitch Kruse sat down with Super Bowl winning Coach Tony Dungy at an annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Monday, March 29. Coach Dungy answered questions about his need for restoration, his self-restoration attempts, and his full surrender to Christ, his Restorer, including how God has used him to bring restoration to others.

The video of this interview as well as other interviews and discussions about the book can be viewed at .

An interview with Mitch Kruse about Restoration Road

Q: The book includes many stories from your own restoration process. Tell us about your life before you took those first steps down restoration road. What was the turning point for you, the moment when you realized it was time to surrender your life to this process?

A: My family had set the bar extremely high in terms of achievement. Both my father and my grandfather were famous auctioneers, and I was determined to follow in their footsteps. So I became the world’s youngest Realtor and licensed auctioneer as a senior in high school. Our world-renowned family business specializing in classic cars and other high-end auctions had suffered a devastating blow, and we were all but ruined. I made it my mission to rebuild the business, restore the family name, and then to become a billionaire by the time I turned 40. I wanted to prove to the world that a Christian could do it. But my years of foolishness with money, of putting my business before my family and faith, led to me believing I was the master of my own fate. I realized how fragile and empty the world I’d created for myself really was. I didn’t want to be the one in control of my destiny. That was the moment I surrendered my broken life to the Restorer’s plan.

Q: What is the key that unlocks the gate leading to restoration road?

A: In a word, surrender. God does not force His restoration on His children. His passion is to make old, damaged things new again. This can only happen when the old is surrendered. Like a classic car that needs restoration, each one of us must surrender our old basket case of a life to the Restorer. He begins to disassemble and renovate the components of our lives, piece by piece, whether they are un-restored or self-restored. Finally, the new is surrendered again. As the restoration process unfolds, we learn that we are designed to bring authentic restoration to others. We surrender the new for this purpose and continue to surrender any old parts that corrode again over time.

Q: Just as the physical heart has four chambers, you believe the spiritual heart is comprised of four chambers and each of us also carries four God-given desires that shape our decisions and our values. Tell us more about this.

A: God created our spiritual hearts with four chambers that we can remember in the acronym WISE (Will, Intellect, Spirit, and Emotions). The Will is the chamber of our choices. The Intellect is the chamber of our thoughts. The Spirit is the lead chamber of our prayers. The Emotions represent the chamber of our feelings. Each of these chambers beat for the satisfaction of our four primary desires. We see them in the very first book of the Bible. That’s how foundational they are to our lives. Every choice, thought, and feeling, every investment of time, talent, and treasure is an attempt to satisfy these desires. The first primary God-given desire is significance, which comes from being created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). The second desire is contentment from being blessed by God to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue (to bring contentment to) the earth (Genesis 1:28). The third desire is control from being empowered by God to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28). The fourth desire is security from being provided with every seed bearing plant and fruit bearing tree (Genesis 1:29-30). Notice that each desire is from our being, or our identity in the Designer, who is also our Restorer. These desires flow vertically from the heart of God into each one of our spiritual hearts, and they flow horizontally into our relationships with others (Genesis 2:18).

These desires are all good—they’re given by God himself, after all. Our attempts to satisfy them apart from God will lead to a series of foolish and damaging choices.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

He's All You Need

Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the video.

He's All You Need (by Steve Camp)

When you're alone, your heart is torn, He is all you need.
When you're confused, your soul is bruised, He is all you need.
He's the Rock of your soul, He's the Anchor that holds
Through your desperate time.

When your way is unsure, His love will endure...a peace you will find
Through all your years, the joy, the tears, He is all you need
When you give in to that familiar sin, He is all you need
Guilt as you're paralyzed, it slowly eats you alive, He is all you need

He'll be faithful to you though your heart is untrue
And your love's grown cold
His forgiveness is real, it'll comfort and heal your sin-weary soul
Well, God loves you so, He'll never let you go...He is all you need.

He'll be faithful to you though your heart is untrue
And your love's grown cold
His forgiveness is real, to comfort and heal your sin-weary soul
Through all your years, the joy, the tears, He is all you need.

God is all we ever need!  Not Him and house...not Him and career...not Him and family...not Him and ministry.  He alone is all we need!  We are complete in Christ.  He is faithful; He never fails us.  Is God enough for you?

Previous Songs:
Jesus Paid It All
- Lead Me
- Nothing But the Blood
- Redeemer
- Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
- Faithful One
Your Love Broke Through
Until the Whole World Hears
- Take My Life
- In Christ Alone
- Sweetly Broken
- Be Thou My Vision
- God With Us
- Offering- Christmas Version 
- How Many Kings
Give Thanks
- When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
- He Knows My Name
- Oh Lord, You're Beautiful!
- I Surrender All
- Mighty To Save
- Could I Be Called a Christian?
- Cry Out to Jesus
- Jesus, Be the Center
- God of Justice
- Love That Will Not Let Me Go
- I Will Offer Up My Life
- When It's All Been Said and Done
- Knowing You, Jesus

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Real World Parents

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Zondervan/Youth Specialties (February 23, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Mark Matlock has been working with youth pastors, students, and parents for two decades. He speaks to hundreds of thousands of students around the world each year, and presents biblical truths in ways that motivate people to change. Mark is the vice president of event content at Youth Specialties and the founder of WisdomWorks Ministries and PlanetWisdom. He’s the author of several books including The Wisdom On - series, Living a Life That Matters, Don’t Buy The Lie, Freshman, and Smart Faith. Mark lives in Texas with his wife Jade and their two children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Zondervan/Youth Specialties (February 23, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310669367
ISBN-13: 978-0310669364


What Are Real World Parents?

I have a vivid memory of being a teenager and sitting at the dinner table with my family, rolling my eyes and pretending to gag behind my dad's back.


He was trying to do family devotions with us. But my three younger brothers and I just weren't buying it.

Every four or five months my dad would hear some program on Christian radio about family devotions, and he'd come home with another new idea for making it work with our family. After all, that's what Christian families are supposed to do, right? But it just never worked in our house. It felt completely forced and unnatural.

Still, somehow all four of us Matlock boys ended up in ministry. My youngest brother, Jonathan, helped me start WisdomWorks Ministries, and now we both do pretty much the same kind of youth ministry and youth minister support through Youth Specialties. Our brother Josh is a senior pastor in Southern California, and our brother Jeremy is a missionary in Russia. And still to this day, whenever Dad tries to bring us together for Òfamily devotionsÓ during the holidays, we mock him a little. It's become a kind of tradition because it isn't genuine for who we are as a family.

Now, I'm not saying that having kids who serve in some area of ministry means you're a successful parent. The point I'm making is that all four of my dad's sons grew into men with a real passion and appreciation for God's Word--even though he couldn't get us to sit still and take the reading of the Word seriously during repeated failed attempts at family devotions.

Why? Because we knew he had a real passion and appreciation for God's Word. We saw Dad reading the Bible. We saw him struggle to apply it to his life. We saw both of our parents base their decisions on their understanding of what the Bible teaches.

Ultimately we were convinced of the worldview contained in the pages of Scripture because we saw our parents openly endorsing it, talking about it, learning from it, and living it out day after day, year after year. That was enough for us--despite the failed attempts at family devotions.

That's what this book is about. We're not interested in presenting more artificial techniques and methodology to ÒfixÓ our kids or do what Christian families are Òsupposed to do.Ó Rather we want to help you discover how to live for God in a real way, right in front of your kids, so they can't help but catch the big picture that God and his Word mean the world to us and that living for Jesus really works in the Real World.

Don't get me wrong. Not all families are built to the same specifications. We each have our own family DNA. So if family devotions fit who you are, more power to you! Organized, structured, traditional family devotions are a great tool for some families. Now that my wife, Jade, and I have two kids of our own--our son Dax is in middle school, and our daughter Skye is 10--we've tried to have a family Bible hour around the table. It kind of worked off and on when the kids were younger, but we eventually realized it wasn't a good fit for the natural rhythm of our lives. It's not who we are right now. So instead we've found ways to talk about God's Word that are a better fit for us.

As we work together through the concepts in this book, one thing we'll discover is that Real World Parents are real in the sense that they do what best fits their families, and they genuinely adjust their own lives to fit into God's story.

Is God Happy with My Family?

In the church today, there's some really good teaching on parenting. My wife and I have benefited from writers, conference speakers, and pastors who've opened God's Word and helped us connect with what it means to raise up our children in the way they should go, how to provide godly discipline, and ideas for reinforcing good behavior. But again, that's not what this book is about.

And, honestly, over the years I've been frustrated with some teaching on parenting that's built around making parents feel guilty. These teachers, authors, books, and programs build parenting models based on our common fear that we're going to mess up our kids--or that we've already messed up our kids. That's an easy road that plays on our fears and our guilt over the areas in which we struggle as parents. Then they suggest that their programs or perspectives are our final hope to Òget it rightÓ or, worse, to do it the only way God wants it done.

That's not what this book is about, either. I promise not to use your parenting fears and anxieties against you. And we all have those feelings. I know I have them. If you could spend a little time with my family, you'd quickly see that we have issues, too. Those prone to critiquing parents would have no trouble criticizing my wife and me. So, no, I'm not interested in beating up other parents in order to somehow make them feel better or more motivated in their parenting.

In fact, I'd like to communicate exactly the opposite.

In our Real World Parent seminars, held around the United States, our teachers use a self-diagnostic tool to help attendees identify what they believe God thinks of their families.

It goes something like this:

What do you think God sees when he looks at your family? Do you think God grins or grimaces? (Place an X on the line.)

God Grins God Grimaces

This can be a challenging question if you take it seriously. On one hand, those of us who've grown up in Christian churches understand the idea of God's grace. We understand that our relationship with God isn't based on our performance. God sacrificed his only Son--the Son whom God loves so deeply--to pay for our sins on a cross. And God did this long before we even knew we wanted that gift from God. Thus, we'd always check the box that says God's love is unconditional for those of us in Christ.

Still, we have trouble carrying the idea of God's grace into our parenting. We can talk ourselves into believing that failing our kids is an unforgivable sin, that God could never be pleased with us if we've been guilty of sloppy or harsh or inconsistent or selfish or fearful or overprotective or neglectful parenting.

We may wonder how God could ever look at our families and grin. And the problem is that, as parents, we sometimes forget that we're also children--that our God is our Father, and that God is more lovingly inclined to smile at us than we are to smile at our own kids. Our Father loves us, and he forgives our parenting shortcomings and our family failings.

I will say this more than once: Nothing you read in this book will make God the Father love you and your family any more than he does right now, no matter what's going on with your family today.

I made this statement at one of our Real World Parent seminars, and I noticed that one of the women began to cry. She came up to me later and explained how inferior she's felt as a mother in her local church. Her husband isn't a believer, her kids get into trouble, and she just felt like such a failure--like a second-class parent in a church where most of the other parents were both Christians, still married, and raising such ÒniceÓ children.

I tried to assure her that God's grace applies to us as parents, and that in Christ she is forgiven and fully accepted as a beloved daughter (and mom!). The idea that God loved her family right now--in its present condition--was a reality she wasn't living in. She felt she was ÒunderperformingÓ as a parent and couldn't keep up. So she said the idea that she's forgiven, accepted, and loved as a parent gave her immense comfort.

Ernest Hemingway's short story called ÒThe Capital of the WorldÓ begins with an anecdote about a man in Madrid who put an ad in the newspaper to contact his estranged son. The ad read, PACO, MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY. ALL IS FORGIVEN. PAPA. The story then describes how at noon on Tuesday, 800 young men arrived at the hotel to make peace with their fathers.

The joke was that there are lots of guys in Spain named Paco. But the other message is that wanting our dads' approval, specifically, is a universal human experience. Taking nothing away from the indispensable role of our mothers, we all long to have our fathers sign off on who we are and what we're doing.

It's what psychologists call Òfather hunger.Ó

As Christians, followers of Jesus, we have that hunger even in our roles as parents, even if we've made mistakes along the way. Our Father has forgiven us. We live in God's grace. God approves of us in Christ. And, yes, God loves us.

I want to make it perfectly clear--again--that you'll find no directives in this book that will make God love you or your family even a little bit more than he already does. God's unconditional love for your family was established long ago. It is full. It cannot grow. Romans 8:1 declares, ÒTherefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Ó And that includes Christian parents.

I hope you've heard that. But I also hope you aren't satisfied to leave your family where it is today. Because while I'm convinced that God will never love or accept you any more than he does right now, I'm also convinced that God loves you so much that he won't leave you where you are right now, either.

No matter how good or bad you believe your family is, God has plans for you that will unfold in the Real World. God will continue to move your family along in the journey he has in store for you. Which is why this book is designed to help Real World Parents understand that journey--or story--and communicate it to our kids.

ÒHow Will This Book Fix My Kids?Ó 

As long as we're talking about things this book isn't, I should mention again that in the following pages you won't find any tips or tricks or techniques to fix your children's bad behavior. (We'd probably sell more copies if that's what we were promising, but we're not.)

In my experience, books full of tips, techniques, and tricks succeed at making readers feel good for a while. They make us feel hopeful. They make us feel as though we're doing something about the problem. But they often fail in the long run because we just can't keep it up. We can't change the personalities of our families to fit the models of the new programs on an ongoing basis.

When my kids came along, though, and I started making my way through all the different kinds of Christian parenting books, I noticed that a lot of them focused on helping me raise well-behaved, well-mannered kids. And while that's an important element, there wasn't much focus on raising kids to have hearts that seek after Christ. Of course we can't force that kind of spiritual openness and connectedness with God onto our kids--but in our Real World homes, we can create environments that promote such growth.

In a sense we become gardeners tending the spiritual development of our kids. God places the spark of life in the seed. We can't control that or how the plant eventually matures. But we can make sure the soil is rich, the ground is generously watered, the weeds are kept at bay, and the opportunity for sunlight is freely available. We can raise our children in environments where having a heart for God is the norm and not the exception.

What we don't want to generate are well-behaved kids who mindlessly follow our directions without ever willfully owning the faith in Jesus that they see in us. In the long run, the goal of parenting isn't for our kids to be known for how well-behaved they are, but for how well they know and respond to God.

Part of our challenge is to communicate to our kids a worldview that supports right actions. It's true that we (and they) will be held accountable for our behavior based on God's instructions to us. But whether or not we obey those instructions has a lot to do with whether or not we really believe God's story--a biblical worldview--and whether or not we walk in God's power.

In that way, our children's behavior is kind of like the tip of an iceberg. From countless illustrations we all know that the part of the iceberg that rises above the waterline is just a fraction of its total size. As such, you could conceivably make all kinds of alterations to the exposed part of the iceberg--in other words, the outward stuff (behaviors)--without significantly altering the iceberg itself.

What we've got to get at--in our own lives and in the lives of our kids--is the 80 percent of the berg that's under the waterline. In our illustration that represents one's worldview. We believe our behavior is ultimately driven by our understanding of the way the world works, of what we believe to be true and false about the universe, of our perception of reality.

And that's what we want to focus on as Real World Parents. How can we communicate God's worldview to our kids? What story are we telling them about the universe, both intentionally and--more importantly--in the way we live with and for God over time?

Before you move on to the next chapter, ask yourself these questions: 

1. When you imagine God looking at your family, what do you think God sees? What do you believe God's desire for your family is?

2. When you look at the world your children are living in, do you believe it's better or worse compared to when you were growing up? Why?

3. Which matters more to you--that your children demonstrate good behavior, or that your children understand and believe in a biblical worldview? Why?

4. In your own life, what has mattered more in the long run--your behavior on any given day or your foundational beliefs about God and the world?

This book is not like other parenting books. It aims to encourage parents themselves to live out their faith loud and clear so that their kids will see and learn what it means to be Christ-followers. The author covered issues like decision-making, wisdom, failure, entertainment, and God's storyline vs. the world's storyline. Even though I don't agree with the author on everything, I find the book helpful and insightful. Be authentic, parents! Kids can always tell.

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