Thursday, June 30, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris

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:

Multnomah Books (May 17, 2011)
***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Associate, Image Books/ / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. He is the author of Why Church Matters and several books on relationships, including the run-away bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children.


Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Dug Down Deep shows a new generation of Christians why words like theology and doctrine are the “pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of knowing the living Jesus Christ.” Joshua Harris enthusiastically reminds readers that orthodoxy isn’t just for scholars. It is for anyone who longs to know and love God.





Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (May 17, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601423713
ISBN-13: 978-1601423719

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
This is the first book by Joshua Harris that I have read. I enjoyed the book , appreciated his honesty and humility, and loved his drawing (see Chapter 8). He shares about his experiences along his faith journey...the good, the bad, and the ugly. He comes to the conclusion that what we know about God is truly essential in our Christian walk. The author tries to help readers understand and realize the importance and practicality of theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy. He proceeds to dig into various Christian doctrines such as the doctrine of God (theology proper), the doctrine of Scripture, the doctrine of the person and work of Christ, the doctrine of atonement and propitiation, the doctrine of salvation, the doctine of sanctification, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and the doctrine of the church. In the last chapter, he reminds us to boldly (not arrogantly or pridefully) stand up for God's truth and at the same time, to remain humble, gentle, and gracious. A reflection and discussion guide (written by Thomas Womack) is included in the back of the book. It's useful for either your personal study or a small group study. Dug Down Deep is a down-to-earth book that digs deep into what we believe and why we believe it.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

MY RUMSPRINGA

“We’re all theologians. The question is

whether what we know about God is true.”


IT’S STRANGE TO SEE an Amish girl drunk. The pairing of a bonnet and a can of beer is awkward. If she were stumbling along with a jug of moonshine, it would at least match her long, dowdy dress. But right now she can’t worry about that. She is flat-out wasted. Welcome to rumspringa.

-

The Amish, people who belong to a Christian religious sect with roots in

Europe, practice a radical form of separation from the modern world. They live and dress with simplicity. Amish women wear bonnets and long, old fashioned dresses and never touch makeup. The men wear wide-rimmed straw hats, sport bowl cuts, and grow chin curtains—full beards with the mustaches shaved off.

My wife, Shannon, sometimes says she wants to be Amish, but I know this isn’t true. Shannon entertains her Amish fantasy when life feels too complicated or when she’s tired of doing laundry. She thinks life would be easier if she had only two dresses to choose from and both looked the same. I tell her that if she ever tried to be Amish, she would buy a pair of jeans and ditch her head covering about ten minutes into the experiment. Besides, she would never let me grow a beard like that.

Once Shannon and her girlfriend Shelley drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a weekend of furniture and quilt shopping in Amish country. They stayed at a bed-and-breakfast located next door to an Amish farm. One morning Shannon struck up a conversation with the inn’s owner, who had lived among the Amish his entire life. She asked him questions, hoping for romantic details about the simple, buggy-driven life. But instead he complained about having to pick up beer cans every weekend.

Beer cans?

“Yes,” he said, “the Amish kids leave them everywhere. ”That’s when he told her about rumspringa. The Amish believe that before a young person chooses to commit to the Amish church as an adult, he or she should have the chance to freely explore the forbidden delights of the outside world. So at age sixteen everything changes for Amish teenagers. They go from milking cows and singing hymns to living like debauched rock stars.

In the Pennsylvania Dutch language, rumspringa literally means “running around.” It’s a season of doing anything and everything you want with zero rules. During this time—which can last from a few months to several years—all the restrictions of the Amish church are lifted. Teens are free to shop at malls, have sex, wear makeup, play video games, do drugs, use cell phones, dress however they want, and buy and drive cars. But what they seem to enjoy most during rumspringa is gathering at someone’s barn, blasting music, and then drinking themselves into the ground. Every weekend, the man told Shannon, he had to clean up beer cans littered around his property following the raucous, all-night Amish parties.

When Shannon came home from her Lancaster weekend, her Amish aspirations had diminished considerably. The picture of cute little Amish girls binge drinking took the sheen off her idealistic vision of Amish life. We completed her disillusionment when we rented a documentary about the rite of rumspringa called Devil’s Playground. Filmmaker Lucy Walker spent three years befriending, interviewing, and filming Amish teens as they explored the outside world. That’s where we saw the drunk Amish girl tripping along at a barn party. We learned that most girls continue to dress Amish even as they party—as though their clothes are a lifeline back to safety while they explore life on the wild side.

In the documentary Faron, an outgoing, skinny eighteen-year-old sells and is addicted to the drug crystal meth. After Faron is busted by the cops, he turns in rival drug dealers. When his life is threatened, Faron moves back to his parents’ home and tries to start over. The Amish faith is a good religion, he says. He wants to be Amish, but his old habits keep tugging on him.

A girl named Velda struggles with depression. During rumspringa she finds the partying empty, but after joining the church she can’t imagine living the rest of her life as an Amish woman. “God talks to me in one ear, Satan in the other,” Velda says. “Part of me wants to be like my parents, but the other part wants the jeans, the haircut, to do what I want to do.”1When she fails to convince her Amish fiancĂ© to leave the church with her, she breaks off her engagement a month before the wedding and leaves the Amish faith for good. As a result Velda is shunned by her family and the entire community. Alone but determined, she begins to attend college.

Velda’s story is the exception. Eighty to 90 percent of Amish teens decide to return to the Amish church after rumspringa.2 At one point in the film, Faron insightfully comments that rumspringa is like a vaccination for Amish teens. They binge on all the worst aspects of the modern world long enough to make themselves sick of it. Then, weary and disgusted, they turn back to the comforting, familiar, and safe world of Amish life.

But as I watched, I wondered, What are they really going back to? Are they choosing God or just a safe and simple way of life?

I know what it means to wrestle with questions of faith. I know what it’s like for faith to be so mixed up with family tradition that it’s hard to distinguish between a genuine knowledge of God and comfort in a familiar way of life.

I grew up in an evangelical Christian family. One that was on the more conservative end of the spectrum. I’m the oldest of seven children. Our parents homeschooled us, raised us without television, and believed that old fashioned courtship was better than modern dating. Friends in our neighborhood probably thought our family was Amish, but that’s only because they didn’t know some of the really conservative Christian homeschool families. The truth was that our family was more culturally liberal than many homeschoolers. We watched movies, could listen to rock music (as long as it was Christian or the Beatles), and were allowed to have Star Wars and Transformers toys.

But even so, during high school I bucked my parents’ restrictions. That’s not to say my spiritual waywardness was very shocking. I doubt Amish kids would be impressed by my teenage dabbling in worldly pleasure. I never did drugs. Never got drunk. The worst things I ever did were to steal porn magazines, sneak out of the house at night with a kid from church, and date various girls behind my parents’ backs. Although my rebellion was tame in comparison, it was never virtue that held me back from sin. It was lack of opportunity. I shudder to think what I would have done with a parent sanctioned season of rumspringa.

The bottom line is that my parents’ faith wasn’t really my faith. I knew how to work the system, I knew the Christian lingo, but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was set on enjoying the moment.

Recently a friend of mine met someone who knew me in early high school. “What did she remember about me?” I asked.

“She said you were girl crazy, full of yourself, and immature,” my friend told me.

Yeah, she knew me, I thought. It wasn’t nice to hear, but I couldn’t argue.

I didn’t know or fear God. I didn’t have any driving desire to know him.

For me, the Christian faith was more about a set of moral standards than belief and trust in Jesus Christ.

During my early twenties I went through a phase of blaming the church I had attended in high school for all my spiritual deficiencies. Evangelical mega churches make good punching bags.

My reasoning went something like this: I was spiritually shallow because the pastors’ teaching had been shallow. I wasn’t fully engaged because they hadn’t done enough to grab my attention. I was a hypocrite because everyone else had been a hypocrite. I didn’t know God because they hadn’t provided enough programs. Or they hadn’t provided the right programs. Or maybe they’d had too many programs.

All I knew was that it was someone else’s fault.

Blaming the church for our problems is second only to the popular and easy course of blaming our parents for everything that’s wrong with us. But the older I get, the less I do of both. I hope that’s partly due to the wisdom that comes with age. But I’m sure it’s also because I am now both a parent and a pastor. Suddenly I have a lot more sympathy for my dad and mom and the pastors at my old church. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

At the church where I now pastor (which I love), some young adults remind me of myself when I was in high school. They are church kids who know so much about Christian religion and yet so little about God. Some are passive, completely ambivalent toward spiritual things. Others are actively straying from their faith—ticked off about their parents’ authority, bitter over a rule or guideline, and counting the minutes until they turn eighteen and can disappear. Others aren’t going anywhere, but they stay just to go through the motions. For them, church is a social group.

It’s strange being on the other side now. When I pray for specific young men and women who are wandering from God, when I stand to preach and feel powerless to change a single heart, when I sit and counsel people and it seems nothing I can say will draw them away from sin, I remember the pastors from my teenage years. I realize they must have felt like this too. They must have prayed and cried over me. They must have labored over sermons with students like me in mind.

I see now that they were doing the best they knew how. But a lot of the time, I wasn’t listening.

During high school I spent most Sunday sermons doodling, passing notes, checking out girls, and wishing I were two years older and five inches taller so a redhead named Jenny would stop thinking of me as her “little brother.” That never happened.

I mostly floated through grown-up church. Like a lot of teenagers in evangelical churches, I found my sense of identity and community in the parallel universe of the youth ministry. Our youth group was geared to being loud, fast paced, and fun. It was modeled on the massive and influential, seeker-sensitive Willow Creek Community Church located outside Chicago. The goal was simple: put on a show, get kids in the building, and let them see that Christians are cool, thus Jesus is cool. We had to prove that being a Christian is, contrary to popular opinion and even a few annoying passages of the Bible, loads of fun. Admittedly it’s not as much fun as partying and having sex but pretty fun nonetheless.

Every Wednesday night our group of four-hundred-plus students divided into teams. We competed against each other in games and won points by bringing guests. As a homeschooler, of course I was completely worthless in the “bring friends from school” category. So I tried to make up for that by working on the drama and video team. My buddy Matt and I wrote, performed, and directed skits to complement our youth pastor’s messages. Unfortunately, our idea of complementing was to deliver skits that were not even remotely connected to the message. The fact that Matt was a Brad Pitt look-alike assured that our skits were well received (at least by the girls).

The high point of my youth-group performing career came when the pastor found out I could dance and asked me to do a Michael Jackson impersonation.

The album Bad had just come out. I bought it, learned all the dance moves, and then when I performed—how do I say this humbly?—I blew everyone away. I was bad (and I mean that in the good sense of the word bad ). The crowd went absolutely nuts. The music pulsed, and girls were screaming and grabbing at me in mock adulation as I moon walked and lip-synced my way through one of the most inane pop songs ever written. I loved every minute of it.

Looking back, I’m not real proud of that performance. I would feel better about my bad moment if the sermon that night had been about the depravity of man or something else that was even slightly related. But there was no connection. It had nothing to do with anything.

For me, dancing like Michael Jackson that night has come to embody my experience in a big, evangelical, seeker-oriented youth group. It was fun, it was entertaining, it was culturally savvy (at the time), and it had very little to do with God. Sad to say, I spent more time studying Michael’s dance moves for that drama assignment than I was ever asked to invest in studying about God.

Of course, this was primarily my own fault. I was doing what I wanted to do. There were other kids in the youth group who were more mature and who grew more spiritually during their youth-group stint. And I don’t doubt the good intentions of my youth pastor. He was trying to strike the balance between getting kids to attend and teaching them.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been interested in youth group if it hadn’t been packaged in fun and games and a good band. But I still wish someone had expected more of me—of all of us.

Would I have listened? I can’t know. But I do know that a clear vision of God and the power of his Word and the purpose of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection were lost on me in the midst of all the flash and fun.

There’s a story in the Bible of a young king named Josiah, who lived about 640 years before Christ. I think Josiah could have related tome—being religious but ignorant of God. Josiah’s generation had lost God’s Word. And I don’t mean that figuratively. They literally lost God’s Word. It sounds ridiculous, but they essentially misplaced the Bible.

If you think about it, this was a pretty big deal. We’re not talking about a pair of sunglasses or a set of keys. The Creator of the universe had communicated with mankind through the prophet Moses. He gave his law. He revealed what he was like and what he wanted. He told his people what it meant for them to be his people and how they were to live. All this was dutifully recorded on a scroll. Then this scroll, which was precious beyond measure, was stored in the holy temple. But later it was misplaced. No one knows how. Maybe a clumsy priest dropped it and it rolled into a dark corner.

But here’s the really sad thing: nobody noticed it was missing. No search was made. Nobody checked under the couch. It was gone and no one cared. For decades those who wore the label “God’s people” actually had no communication with him.

They wore their priestly robes, they carried on their traditions in their beautiful temple, and they taught their messages that were so wise, so insightful, so inspirational.

But it was all a bunch of hot air—nothing but their own opinions. Empty ritual. Their robes were costumes, and their temple was an empty shell.

This story scares me because it shows that it’s possible for a whole generation to go happily about the business of religion, all the while having lost a true knowledge of God.

When we talk about knowledge of God, we’re talking about theology. Simply put, theology is the study of the nature of God—who he is and how he thinks and acts. But theology isn’t high on many people’s list of daily concerns.

My friend Curtis says that most people today think only of themselves. He calls this “me-ology.” I guess that’s true. I know it was true of me and still can be. It’s a lot easier to be an expert on what I think and feel and want than to give myself to knowing an invisible, universe-creating God.

Others view theology as something only scholars or pastors should worry about. I used to think that way. I viewed theology as an excuse for all the intellectual types in the world to add homework to Christianity.

But I’ve learned that this isn’t the case. Theology isn’t for a certain group of people. In fact, it’s impossible for anyone to escape theology. It’s everywhere. All of us are constantly “doing” theology. In other words, all of us have some idea or opinion about what God is like. Oprah does theology. The person who says, “I can’t believe in a God who sends people to hell” is doing theology.

We all have some level of knowledge. This knowledge can be much or little, informed or uninformed, true or false, but we all have some concept of God (even if it’s that he doesn’t exist). And we all base our lives on what we think God is like.

So when I was spinning around like Michael Jackson at youth group, I was a theologian. Even though I wasn’t paying attention in church. Even though I wasn’t very concerned with Jesus or pleasing him. Even though I was more preoccupied with my girlfriend and with being popular. Granted I was a really bad theologian—my thoughts about God were unclear and often ignorant. But I had a concept of God that directed how I lived.

I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God’s nature—what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him—affects every part of your life.

Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.

I know the idea of “studying” God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab or a set of ideas that we memorize like math proofs.

But studying God doesn’t have to be like that. You can study him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?

Knowledge doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood?

We’re either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he’s about, or we’re basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.

We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.

In the days of King Josiah, theology was completely messed up. This isn’t really surprising. People had lost God’s words and then quickly forgot what the true God was like.

King Josiah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. People call Jeremiah the weeping prophet, and there was a lot to weep about in those days. “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land,” Jeremiah said. “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NIV).

As people learned to love their lies about God, they lost their ability to recognize his voice. “To whom can I speak and give warning?” God asked. “Who will listen tome? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it” (Jeremiah 6:10, NIV).

People forgot God. They lost their taste for his words. They forgot what he had done for them, what he commanded of them, and what he threatened if they disobeyed. So they started inventing gods for themselves. They started borrowing ideas about God from the pagan cults. Their made-up gods let them live however they wanted. It was “me-ology” masquerading as theology.

The results were not pretty.

Messed-up theology leads to messed-up living. The nation of Judah resembled one of those skanky reality television shows where a houseful of barely dressed singles sleep around, stab each other in the back, and try to win cash. Immorality and injustice were everywhere. The rich trampled the poor. People replaced the worship of God with the worship of pagan deities that demanded religious orgies and child sacrifice. Every level of society, from marriage and the legal system to religion and politics, was corrupt.

The surprising part of Josiah’s story is that in the midst of all the distortion and corruption, he chose to seek and obey God. And he did this as a young man (probably no older than his late teens or early twenties). Scripture gives this description of Josiah: “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2, NIV).

The prophet Jeremiah called people to the same straight path of true theology and humble obedience:

Thus says the LORD:

“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

In Jeremiah’s words you see a description of King Josiah’s life. His generation was rushing past him, flooding down the easy paths of man-made religion, injustice, and immorality.

They didn’t stop to look for a different path.

They didn’t pause to consider where the easy path ended.

They didn’t ask if there was a better way.

But Josiah stopped. He stood at a crossroads, and he looked. And then he asked for something that an entire generation had neglected, even completely forgotten. He asked for the ancient paths.

What are the ancient paths? When the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah used the phrase, he was describing obedience to the Law of Moses. But today the ancient paths have been transformed by the coming of Jesus Christ. Now we see that those ancient paths ultimately led to Jesus. We have not only truth to obey but a person to trust in—a person who perfectly obeyed the Law and who died on the cross in our place.

But just as in the days of Jeremiah, the ancient paths still represent life based on a true knowledge of God—a God who is holy, a God who is just, a God who is full of mercy toward sinners. Walking in the ancient paths still means relating to God on his terms. It still means receiving and obeying his self-revelation with humility and awe.

Just as he did with Josiah and Jeremiah and every generation after them, God calls us to the ancient paths. He beckons us to return to theology that is true. He calls us, as Jeremiah called God’s people, to recommit ourselves to orthodoxy.

The word orthodoxy literally means “right opinion.” In the context of Christian faith, orthodoxy is shorthand for getting your opinion or thoughts about God right. It is teaching and beliefs based on the established, proven, cherished truths of the faith. These are the truths that don’t budge. They’re clearly taught in Scripture and affirmed in the historic creeds of the Christian faith:
There is one God who created all things.

God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Bible is God’s inerrant word to humanity.

Jesus is the virgin-born, eternal Son of God.

Jesus died as a substitute for sinners so they could be forgiven.

Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus will one day return to judge the world.

Orthodox beliefs are ones that genuine followers of Jesus have acknowledged From the beginning and then handed down through the ages. Take one of them away, and you’re left with something less than historic Christian belief.

When I watched the documentary about the Amish rite of rumspringa, what stood out to me was the way the Amish teenagers processed the decision of whether or not to join the Amish church. With few exceptions the decision seemed to have very little to do with God. They weren’t searching Scripture to see if what their church taught about the world, the human heart, and salvation was true. They weren’t wrestling with theology. I’m not implying that the Amish don’t have a genuine faith and trust in Jesus. But for the teens in the documentary, the decision was mostly a matter of choosing a culture and a lifestyle. It gave them a sense of belonging. In some cases it gave them a steady job or allowed them to marry the person they wanted.

I wonder how many evangelical church kids are like the Amish in this regard. Many of us are not theologically informed. Truth about God doesn’t define us and shape us. We have grown up in our own religious culture. And often this culture, with its own rituals and music and moral values, comes to represent Christianity far more than specific beliefs about God do.

Every new generation of Christians has to ask the question, what are we actually choosing when we choose to be Christians? Watching the stories of the Amish teenagers helped me realize that a return to orthodoxy has to be more than a return to a way of life or to cherished traditions. Of course the Christian faith leads to living in specific ways. And it does join us to a specific community. And it does involve tradition. All this is good. It’s important. But it has to be more than tradition. It has to be about a person—the historical and living person of Jesus Christ.

Orthodoxy matters because the Christian faith is not just a cultural tradition or moral code. Orthodoxy is the irreducible truths about God and his work in the world. Our faith is not just a state of mind, a mystical experience, or concepts on a page. Theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy matter because God is real, and he has acted in our world, and his actions have meaning today and for all eternity.

For many people, words like theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy are almost completely meaningless. Maybe they’re unappealing, even repellent.

Theology sounds stuffy.

Doctrine is something unkind people fight over.

And orthodoxy? Many Christians would have trouble saying what it is other than it calls to mind images of musty churches guarded by old men with comb-overs who hush and scold.

I can relate to that perspective. I’ve been there. But I’ve also discovered that my prejudice, my “theology allergy,” was unfounded.

This book is the story of how I first glimpsed the beauty of Christian theology. These pages hold the journal entries of my own spiritual journey—a journey that led to the realization that sound doctrine is at the center of loving Jesus with passion and authenticity. I want to share how I learned that orthodoxy isn’t just for old men but is for anyone who longs to behold a God who is bigger and more real and glorious than the human mind can imagine.

The irony of my story—and I suppose it often works this way—is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn’t understand that such seemingly worn-out words as theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ.

They told the story of the Person I longed to know.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DVD Review: Primal

About This DVD:

AMO DEI.
LOVE GOD.

We have a tendency to complicate Christianity. Jesus simplified it. Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

A companion to the book Primal by Pastor Mark Batterson, the Primal: DVD-Based Study takes you on a five-week journey back to the purest faith possible. With creative video segments corresponding to the sections of the book, this DVD offers Mark's personal presentation of key insights about primal faith. Each segment ends with thought-provoking questions that will help you or your group interact with the truths of Primal and apply them to life.

FEATURES
- Five video segments with on-screen discussion questions
- Printable conversation guide
- Online video trailer and behind-the-scenes footage with Mark

A more in-depth study guide of Primal for personal or group use is available in the back of the paperback edition. Additional resources available at http://www.theprimalmovement.com/.

My Thoughts and Review:
This is a five-part study DVD based on the book, Primal by Mark Batterson. I read the book and really enjoyed it. You can read my review here. I was eager to check out the DVD. The five main segments include Primal Christianity (corresponds to the first chapter of Primal), Heart (chapters 2 & 3). Soul (chapters 4 & 5), Mind (chapters 6 & 7), and Strength (chapters 8-10). Mr. Batterson shares his thoughts and experiences while asking us questions to help us take a closer look at the Great Commandment and challenge us to excel at it. What does it really mean to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength in our daily lives? According to Mark Batterson, it involves compassion, wonder, curiosity and energy. Each of the 5 segments ends with a key Bible verse and one or two questions/conversation starters. To me, this DVD is more like a super concise version of the book, just to whet your appetite :). I prefer the book and highly recommend it. However, I still enjoyed the DVD and the thought-provoking questions. It's great for small groups.
"What would happen if we peeled back the layers of tradition and institution? If we stripped away the practices, assumptions and habits in our lives that are not essential? Well, we would get down to the bedrock of Jesus’ “primal” teaching. It’s called the Great Commandment: to love the Lord with all our soul, heart, mind, and strength. Primal Christianity boils down to this one thing—being great at the Great Commandment." ~Mark Batterson


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

You can purchase this DVD here or here.

~ I received this DVD for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday's Fave Five #51

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

My Fave Five this week:-
1. Our annual Father's Day Cookout. We had a full fun family day at my father-in-law's house on Saturday. Yummy feast...playing baseball in the rain...playing Would You Rather...?...talking about all sorts of topics from politics to planes, from earthquakes to eye surgery, mission trip and more :)!

2. Free Christian book, "No Longer a Slumdog" by K.P.Yohannan (the founder of Gospel for Asia)

3. Free download of How Could a Loving God...? (Powerful Answers on Suffering and Loss) by Ken Ham

4. We had a blast playing Family Feud online. Family fun!

5. Cheesecake with a variety of berries as topping. So yummy :)!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: The Defender's Guide for Life's Toughest Questions

The Defender's Guide for Life's Toughest Questions by Ray Comfort

Got questions? Here is a book of many answers regarding the Christian faith. Ray Comfort has compiled some of life's toughest questions he has received and offered his Biblically based answers. Most of these questions were from atheists and most of the answers were aimed directly at atheists. Ray Comfort wants to equip believers with the Biblical truth and facts that they can use to defend their faith. This book covers  topics such as: Humanity: Rights and Suffering, The Bible: Biblical and Theological Issues, Science: Scientific Thought and Evolution, Philosophy: Beliefs and Worldviews, and Religion: God and Atheism. Questions about the Holocaust, Hell, Hitler, human origin, healing, and more are addressed. I really appreciate Mr. Comfort's heart for the lost and his love for our Savior. In almost every answer, he drives it home with the Gospel message, emphasizing repentance. However, I don't think his sarcastic approach (used to make a point) works effectively for everybody. One thing is certain: he doesn't sugarcoat anything. He is sincere; he even shares that he's not afraid of dying but he's afraid of the process of dying. (pp.108-115) He shows genuine concern for people's souls and their eternal destiny. He is humble; he doesn't claim to know all the answers. Yet he is confident when he gives answers based on God's Word. Mr. Comfort tells it as it is... comforting to hearers or not :).

"I can't deny the reality of the existence of God simply because I have unanswered questions. I know He exists because of the axiom of creation. I know He exists because I know Him experientially and have an all-consuming love for Him that embraces all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I'm not angered, worried, frustrated, concerned, or upset by these questions, because I love and trust Him. I know that the time will come when I find out the answers, and I don't mind waiting." (p.142)

Connect with Ray Comfort on Facebook here.
Connect with Ray Comfort on Twitter here.
Visit his websites at http://www.NeedGod.com/ , http://www.livingwaters.com/ , http://www.wayoftheMaster.com/ .
Visit his blog at http://raycomfortfood.blogspot.com/ .
Check out http://youtube.com/thewayofthemaster/ .

~ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: We Shall See God

Summary: No author in history has more material in print than Charles Spurgeon. During his lifetime, Spurgeon and his writings affected the world far and wide. Today, nearly 120 years after his death, countless people continue to have a passion for this London preacher, and more and more discover him every day. Some of Spurgeon’s most powerful sermons were those that he preached on the topic of Heaven. Up until now, however, very few of these sermons have been accessible to a mass audience. In what is sure to become an instant classic, best-selling author Randy Alcorn has compiled the most profound spiritual insights on the topic of eternity from these sermons and arranged them into an easily-accessible, highly inspirational devotional format complete with his own comments and devotional thoughts. Whether you are familiar with the works of Charles Spurgeon or not, you are in for a treat, as Alcorn invites you to sit at the feet of the Prince of Preachers and discover timeless pearls of wisdom from one of the greatest theological minds of all time.

My Thoughts and Review: This book is a treat for me, indeed! Charles Spurgeon and Randy Alcorn are two of my favorite Christian authors. I believe most Christians don't think much about heaven until they're old, dying, or losing their loved ones. But the Bible says, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." (Colossians 3:1-4) Heaven is our permanent home and we should be storing up our treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matthew 6:19-21). We Shall See God will help you set your hearts and minds on things above. Randy Alcorn selected, arranged, and edited 50 of Charles Spurgeon's Biblically insightful sermons preached on Heaven. At the end of each day/devotional section, Mr. Alcorn shares his comments. Although Charles Spurgeon suffered from chronic depression (most of his life), gout, arthritis, and liver disease, he faithfully served God and his Christ-exalting passion shone through and through. God gifted him much and he glorified God much. This is a wonderful book that helps readers ponder the hope of Heaven and shed their fear of death.

"Oh! Let us not live in this world as if we thought of staying here forever, but let us try to be like a pious Scotch minister who was very ill and, being asked by a friend whether he thought himself dying, answered, "Really, friend, I care not whether I am or not, for if I die, I shall be with God. And if I live, he will be with me." (p.54)

- You can read the first chapter here.
- Visit Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn's website) here.
- Connect with Randy Alcorn on Facebook here.
- Follow Randy Alcorn on Twitter here.

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

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday's Fave Five #50

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

My Fave Five this week:-
1. Strawberries. I like dipping strawberries in sugar or chocolate :).

2. Lyn Cote, a Christian author, posted my daughter, Alyssa's support letter on her blog titled, "A Young Woman with a Heart for God Needs Our Help". Thanks, Lyn!

3. Great quotes. "None of us has a long time here on planet Earth. It’s kind of a staging ground. It’s our split second in eternity when we have an opportunity to invest our lives, our time, our talent and our treasure to fulfill what our Lord came to do and commissioned us to do." (~Bill Bright)  "There was a day when I died; died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God." (~George Mueller) Want to live for God? You must die to self and die to the world!

4. Reading Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado and joining the Cure for the Common Life Book Discussion Group (part of the Max Lucado Book Club).

5. My Stickers Giveaway. Win 250 (customized/personalized) stickers from UPrinting.com! This giveaway ends 6/22.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Free Bowling

Summer is almost here. What kind of activities do you and your family enjoy during summer? We enjoy hiking, baseball, basketball, water balloons and squirt guns. But sometimes it gets too hot to play outside. A fun family activity we can enjoy in a cool indoor place is bowling. My husband is the best bowler in our family; the rest of us are learning :). We enjoy friendly competition. How about your family? Bowling fans? Interested in free bowling? Check out AMF's Summer Unplugged program!

BEST BOWLING DEAL
•At select AMF centers, two free games of bowling per day for kids 16 and under. (Shoe rental not included, but they’re worth paying for.)
•Time: open until 8:00PM, 7 days a week.
•Dates: Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day) through Monday, September 5 (Labor Day).
•Parents go to http://bit.ly/AMFfree to select a participating center (over 200 locations) and complete a simple registration form.
•Free game coupons emailed every Sunday starting May 29 for the following week – it’s that simple!

GREAT DEAL FOR EVERYONE OVER 17
•Share the fun and save!
•For families of registered kids, a one-time payment of $27.95 buys 2 games per day for 4 people all summer long – it’s the AMF Summer 17 Plus Pass. (Same dates and times as above.)
•Less than $7 per person for 2 games everyday all summer.
•Available online at http://bit.ly/AMFfree .

THE EXTRAS
•Kids combo meals all summer for $2.99.
•Pin decorating contest:
-Most votes on Facebook in each of 4 age divisions wins a $2500 scholarship prize
-AMF donates 25 cents per vote up to $10,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®
•Schedule of learn-to-bowl and fun competitive sessions.
 
~I participated in this campaign as a member of One2One Network and am eligible for a prize drawing.  All opinions stated in the post are my own.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stickers Giveaway

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. The winner (randomly chosen) is Jan. Congratulations! She has been notified.

Stickers are not just for kids. Adults love them, too :). They are fun to use and they can be functional. Would you like to win some roll stickers from UPrinting.com? UPrinting.com also offers free standard label templates.

Prize Details:
250 Stickers for One (1) Winner
2" x 3.5"
70lb Label Matte, Front Only Printing, 4 Business Days Turnaround
Restriction: Limited to US residents 18 years old and above only.

To enter, leave a comment here letting me know what you will use the stickers for. Please make sure you also leave your email address. The giveaway ends on Wed., June 22nd at midnight (Pacific time).

For extra entries:
~ This giveaway is sponsored by UPrinting; no monetary compensation was given and I will receive stickers  for hosting. Check out standard label templates on UPrinting.com.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

CD Review: Abide With Me--Piano and Praise

I've always enjoyed piano music and praise songs. My husband often plays piano while I sing praise and worship songs along. I was thankful to be given an opportunity to review Abide with Me--Piano and Praise featuring Phillip Keveren. The songs in this CD include:

•A New Hallelujah
•Here I Am to Worship
•Abide with Me
•Be Thou My Vision
•I Love to Tell the Story
•The Lord's My Shepherd
•We Gather Together
•Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
•God of Wonders
•Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
•O Worship the King
•Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart
•O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go
•Holy, Holy, Holy
•For the Beauty of the Earth

I enjoyed listening to this CD, a collection of 15 instrumental praise music/hymns. Mr. Phillip Keveren, a 50-year-old Christian musician, recorded this album on the Yamaha C7 grand piano. His arrangements are unique and encompass both classical style and jazz style. My favorites include Abide with Me, Be Thou My Vision, I Love to Tell the Story, The Lord's My Shepherd, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, and For the Beauty of the Earth. This CD is relaxing and worshipful; it will help you meditate upon God's love, power, and promises. It's great for a lullaby or background music, too.

Visit Discovery House Music's website at http://www.dhp.org/music/ .

~ I received a free copy of this CD from Discovery House for an exchange of my honest review. The opinions are my own.

Review: Seneca Farms Oatmeal & Fruit

I love oatmeal and I love fruit. I was so pleased to receive Seneca Farms Oatmeal & Fruit Vanilla Peach and Apple Cinnamon for review. Oatmeal and fruit...what a wonderful combination! Seneca Farms Oatmeal & Fruit is very yummy and convenient. It comes in 6-oz microwavable cups. All you have to do is heat in microwave for 45 seconds and then eat. You don't need to add water, milk, or any liquid. Two cups are self contained in one package; this is a perfect nutritious snack on the go (think hiking trips or picnics). It also tastes great when it's not heated. I fell in love with it. My kids loved it, too, even the one who doesn't like oatmeal :). It contains chunks of real fruit. We preferred Apple Cinnamon over Vanilla Peach. One of my kids said that theVanilla Peach tasted like Rice Krispies. Seneca Farms Oatmeal & Fruit has no saturated fat, no trans fat, and no cholesterol and is packed with nutrition such as potassium, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and protein. Seneca Farms products are made from fresh fruits and are Kosher certified. I'd definitely recommend this product and be looking for it at our local grocery store.

It’s not groundbreaking news that breakfast provides us and our kids with the nutrition and fuel our bodies need. And we all know that eating oatmeal and other whole grains are an essential part of a healthy diet and promote overall good health. But, busy mornings and finicky kids can make it hard to find the time to make something that is both nutritious and delicious.
Did you know that*…
■Nearly 60% of U.S. parents of children ages 3-17 admit that their child skips breakfast, with more than half of U.S. Moms wishing their child ate a more nutritious breakfast.
■58% of U.S. Moms say they skip breakfast regularly. 46% of Moms who skip breakfast say they do so because they do not have enough time to prepare or eat it.
■57% of single adults say the number one reason they skip breakfast is that they don’t have enough time to prepare it.
■While 71% of U.S. adults agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, 67% of those admit to skipping breakfast.


*Results of 2011 Children's Nutrition Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for Seneca Farms


Seneca Farms Oatmeal & Fruit – launching on April 4 at Wal-Mart – is the perfect choice for anyone who has trouble finding time for breakfast in the morning. In less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee, heat the six-ounce microwaveable cup – no milk or water necessary – in the microwave for 45 seconds. Seneca's Oatmeal &


Fruit has no trans fats or cholesterol, and is a great source of Vitamin C. Two initial flavors are being introduced – Apple Cinnamon and Vanilla Peach. More flavors (Cranberry Apple, Maple & Brown Sugar) and retailers will be added in the coming months.


Seneca Farms Oatmeal & Fruit is not only a quick and healthy breakfast option, but it is a satisfying mid-afternoon snack and it even works as part of a healthy weight loss.
          ~Information provided by Seneca Farms

Visit Seneca Farms' websites at http://www.senecafoods.com/ and http://www.seneca-farms.com/ .

~ This post was written for Family Review Network & Seneca Farms who provided the complimentary product for review in exchange for my honest opinions.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday's Fave Five #49

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

My Fave Five this week:-
1. I spent $6.70 at the library's book sale and came home with 2 bagfuls of great books, CDs, and DVDs. Thankful and excited :)!

2. I had so much fun taking senior pictures of my 17 yo daughter, Alyssa! God made her so beautiful (inside and out :)). Such a delightful blessing she is! Here are a few samples out of over 200 pictures I took.

3.We enjoyed watching a series of magnificent lightning in the sky (60+ lightning strikes). Very cool light show :)! "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge." Psalm 19:1-2

4. I'm participating in 21 Days of Prayer for Sons and I have been blogging about this prayer challenge on my homeschool-related blog, Fruitbearers. I love praying the Scriptures for my sons (and daughter).

5. Alyssa was leaping on cloud nine on Tuesday :)! It's impossible for her (and me) to express all her excitement in words. She got accepted by OM (Operation Mobilization) to serve onboard the Logos Hope for 2 months. She will leave in August to get onboard the Logos Hope in Phuket, Thailand and in October, she will leave from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to come back home. I'm so excited to see what the Lord will do in her, for her, and through her. What a mighty God we serve! (Alyssa used to sing that song out loud in public when she was a toddler :).)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Pressing into Thin Places

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:

Brown Christian Press (May 2, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


A writer and a poet, Dr. Wills is dedicated to the ministry of encouragement and helping people experience hope, wisdom, and faith in their spiritual journey.

She has written for a number of publications including The Journal of the Fort Smith Historical Society. She previously served on the board of the Arkansas Community Foundation. Dr. Wills makes her home in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Dr. Wills knows from her own experiences that life is not simple and that we all need encouraging words and reasons to hang on to hope. She offers these in abundance in this deeply personal, beautiful, and thoughtful work that summons authenticity and contemplation while soothing the dark night of the soul with kindness and truth. With transparency and refreshing gentleness, Wills tackles universal fears, disappointments, wounded relationships, and even death and beckons readers to pull aside the veil and to see into that "thin space," as the Celtics called it, where all that separates heaven and earth becomes almost transparent. She invites readers to wrestle and be comforted by assurances of God's love and goodness even in the darkness.

Pressing into Thin Places is a collection of stories from the author's personal experiences, punctuated by her poetry and infused with biblical verses and rich truths. Wills answers questions like, "How do we keep from falling into despair when pain and suffering weigh heavily upon us?" and answers honestly questions about doubt, mystery, and the experience of not knowing. Wills offers insight for bringing biblical truth to life, wisdom to cultivate a listening heart, encouragement for the downhearted, reassuring words for the faltering, and comfort and rest for those in any stage of their faith journey.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.95
ardcover: 232 pages
Publisher: Brown Christian Press (May 2, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934812994
ISBN-13: 978-1934812990

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
The world can always use more encouragers, don't you think :)? I'm thankful that Dr. Wills is one of them. In her book, Pressing into Thin Places, she shares from her own experiences what she has learned from God & His Word and she includes her beautifully crafted, Biblically insightful poetry. She covers a variety of topics common to everyday life such as death, (almost) divorce, doubts, disappointments, depression, and despair. She hopes to encourage readers to press into "thin places" (where and when you feel closest to God). The main spiritual truth the author wants you to take away from the book is: God is good and God loves us. I enjoy writing poetry and really appreciated Dr. Wills' lovely poetry. Some of my favorites are Faith in the Fire and Presumption. She also presents the Gospel message in a clear and concise way. This book offers hope and comfort to all who have weary and burdened hearts. I usually don't cry when reading books but I cried on page 178. It was a good cry; I believe I stepped into a "thin place". God is truly awesome!!!

"Life is short. Written between the lines here is joy, sorrow, and a lot we don't understand. But life is a love story between us and God, together forever with no end." (p. 47)
"Memories are lessons for tomorrow.
They are fragments of a grand mosaic.
All that is broken becomes potential
When put into perspective." (p.156)


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter 1 – Thin Places


Aaron
Oswald Chambers in his book, Christian Disciplines, says that the “unexplained things in life are more than the explained.” I recall the time I flew to Phoenix to be present for the birth of my sister’s first child. Betsy is my baby sister, fourteen years younger than I am. I mothered her from the moment she was born. She was the flower girl in my wedding and she made me promise to step on every petal she threw on the floor. I was there as Betsy gave birth to her first child, a severely brain-damaged son, a son named Aaron. A baby was born. I grieved at the stillborn joy.

I recall standing in the hospital hall, peering into the nursery with my head and hands helplessly pressed against the glass. I remember back at her room standing at the head of her bed with my hand on her head while she kept repeating, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; I will run to it and be safe.” I grieved until I was sick. I wanted a miracle and not the trial. I beat down heaven’s door until Aaron died at age four and a half.

Aaron could never see, hear, or respond to anything except pain. At times he seemed to be a bundle of blank agony. Aaron had a bushy head of uncontrollable hair, and onto that head, his parents put earphones. Aaron heard music, and Aaron heard the Bible read through twice. When Aaron died, the Gift that pressure-tested our faith went to be with his Creator and his God, where he may have been all along. I went with Ed, Betsy’s husband, to select a cemetery plot. As we went out the door, Betsy said, “Find a tree.” The Lord gave us the last tree in that Arizona cemetery.
Aaron’s life and death raised questions. My faith had been challenged. Why didn’t God heal the firstborn of an “upright” man and a praying mother? Why didn’t God protect Aaron’s birth? Why does God heal some people and not others? I was not angry at God. I just wanted to understand. In seeking to understand, I realized that somehow I wanted God to prove Himself or be more predictable. God wanted me to know that I, a fallen child with a finite mind, will never comprehend His ways. He wanted me to know that He understands me and my wobbly faith.
When we ask why or say we don’t understand, we are reminded of the Last Supper when Jesus sat before His disciples with the bread and the wine and told them a mystery. He told them to eat the bread and drink the wine because it was His body poured out for them. He did not tell them to understand or to make sense of His strange request. He said, “Take and eat.” They did not understand. There is much we do not understand. The scriptures say God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are past understanding. But God says we can know Him. He longs to know us in a personal way. He invites us to contemplate His mysteries and to experience the power of His resurrection and the full measure of His grace.






Faith is a dynamic process. The endurance and strength that comes from pressure-tested faith does not come overnight. Betsy and Ed were not okay all of a sudden because they were Christians and loved the Lord. They grieved and questioned why and to what purpose this deep and lingering pain had been part of their lives. It was by faith they testified that the Most High God was their God. It was by faith they believed that He would lead them through the wilderness to His place of certain good and He would be a light for them in their “valley of the shadow of death” (Ps 23:4 NASB). In the process, from time to time, God gave Ed and Betsy small gifts of comfort, a small song of joy.

When Aaron died, Betsy and Ed were in Arkansas visiting me. My sister Shawn called saying she was at Betsy’s house because the caregiver had called to tell her Aaron was not doing well. Shawn, a nurse, went to check on Aaron. Then she called Aaron’s doctor and Betsy. About ten minutes later, Shawn called again. “Betsy, he’s gone.” I remember clearly the primordial sounds of parental grief.

We all immediately flew to Phoenix to prepare for a funeral. After the funeral, Betsy and Ed returned to Fort Smith to pick up their van and drive back to Arizona. Along the way, they stopped to eat. Isaac, their two-year-old son, was asleep. Not wanting to wake him, they parked the car in the front of the restaurant bay of windows so they could see him when he awoke. They had just sat down when Isaac popped up and Ed went to get him.

When he got settled in the high chair, he had a strange look on his face and Betsy asked him if he was all right. He said, “I just saw brudder.” Obviously, Isaac had a dream. “What was brother doing?” Betsy asked. “He was running and singing and playing,” Isaac replied. Isaac’s dream was a comfort, a reminder of what is truly real behind the veil. Every once in a while, God draws the curtain and lets us see. He gives us reminders that though we are tethered to this earth there is another realm of reality just as real. Every once in a while, He lifts the veil. He thins the space between heaven and earth. He lets us experience the “thin place.” He helps our faith.

Storm Exposed

I

A bruised reed He will not break

And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.

—Isaiah 42:3 NASB (italics added)

II

Father,

I feel like a flickering wick in the wind

I am poor in spirit and prone to stray

But You, O Lord, bless the poor in spirit

You say that Goodness and Mercy

Follow Your sheep, even when they wander

And You call them by name, even when they are lost

And they know Your voice, even

When they know nothing else.






Your voice is like a gentle, rolling thunder

It reminds me that my heart is deceitful

And the heart is the heart of the matter.

Unlock my self-guarded, reed-bent, broken, secret places

Dismantle my walls of self-deception

Search the deep resources of my being

Control the center and the corners of my mind

Let Your light shine, shine in a humbled heart.

Shine in this one who is poor in spirit,

Who perseveres under trial and

Whose faith is pressure-tested.

Prevail when my candle is storm-exposed

Raise up the fragile reed

When I bend beneath the gale.

Remind me of what I know:

God will not break a bruised reed

Or extinguish a flickering wick

God will stand between the wick and the wind

And lift up the one who bows beneath the load

God will ignite my flame again

I will shine as a Light in the night

I will shine and bless the poor in spirit.


Thin Places

In the Celtic tradition, a “thin place” is the place where the veil that separates heaven and earth is nearly transparent. It is a place where we experience a deep sense of God’s presence in our everyday world. A thin place is where, for a moment, the spiritual world and natural world intersect. There are moments when we do feel the divine breaking through into our world. We feel unified and connected with God. It is not an intellectual knowing, it is felt in the spirit. It can be a sudden momentary awareness or profound unexplainable experience. I would like to share a few “thin place moments” with you and encourage you to have eyes to see the gifts of thin places.

The phenomenon of a place where the physical and natural everyday world merges into a thin line is well rooted in biblical history, but it was the Celts who first gave the descriptive phrase “thin place” to it. I first understood the idea of thin places when I heard a minister from Tulsa speak to a group of ear, nose, and throat surgeons in Washington, D.C. His point was that he as a minister and they as physicians were in a unique and privileged position to witness “thin places” because both the physician and the clergy dealt in the realm of life and death. He gave an indelible example of one of his experiences.
He said he had been called to the hospital to pray for a dying woman who was in a deep coma. He went in and although she would not be able to know or respond to his presence, he went over and stood at the foot of her bed and prayed for her aloud. He began, “Our Father, who art in heaven . . .” About midway through the prayer, the woman, without waking up, began to join in with him: “Give us this day our daily bread . . .” She finished the prayer and died shortly thereafter. He knew he stood on the line of a thin place.

Another example was told to my husband and me by his senior partner when his wife died. She was in the hospital and the family had been called in because her death was imminent. As Charles and his two children sat by her side, she left her body in the early morning hours. Sherard, the daughter, said to her brother, “Chuck, did you see it?” He said, “What? I did not see anything.” She then asked, “Daddy, didn’t you see it?” He said, “No, baby, I didn’t see anything.” She said, “Just as mother died, I saw a mist rise from mother’s body, float to the ceiling, and disappear.” Sherard witnessed a thin place.
Thin places come in different ways and some can be subtle. I call them “Garden of Eden moments” because they remind me of the way things must have been in the Garden of Eden when the earth was perfect and at peace. I think we have all experienced them, kind of a time of unified joy. The bounty and beauty of nature can bring such joy: a sunrise or sunset, the coming of spring, or a deep winter snow.

Moments of a unified spirit can also come within relationships. One such Garden of Eden moment came when Paul and I went to Disneyworld with our children and grandchildren. After a long day of activity at the park, we headed back to our hotel room on the bus. Paul was sitting next to me with his arm around the back of the seat touching my shoulder. Across from us were our two sons and their wives, talking quietly and content with each other. Their children were curled up, lying in their laps and cradled in the crook of their arms. For one brief moment, I experienced the way it must have been in the Garden of Eden when peace and joy ruled, when all was perfect and everything was the way it should be.
We all have moments of thin places. They are holy places if we just pay attention and let our spirits see. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said:

Earth’s crammed with heaven

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees takes off his shoes.

I believe I had a less than subtle thin place experience when I went back to graduate school. Most days, I drove seventy miles to northwest Arkansas to attend the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Early on, almost every day, I would wonder what my brain was thinking when I began this task. My brain was rusty, and besides, I was driving a stretch of mountain road that was known for death-producing accidents. I remember questioning if this had anything to do with God’s will for my life. I reasoned that I could be using my time doing something more for Him or more beneficial to others.

Then one day I was coming out of a history class and heading across campus. I was somewhat protected under my umbrella but the rain was coming down in sheets and I was wading through puddles of standing water trying to navigate to my next class. When I was almost there, I saw a young man under a tree, sitting on a bench. His umbrella was propped up beside him, and despite the shelter of the tree, he was getting soaked. His clothes were wet and he sat with his wet head in his hands, sobbing, his shoulders shaking hard.

I slowed down and sloshed across the muddy grass and went over to him. I asked, “Can I help you?” He shook his head no. I thought about just walking away, leaving him to his private moment. But I stood there a second and said, “Can I pray for you?” He nodded yes. I placed my hand on his shoulder and said a very short prayer. He never moved, never looked up. He just said, “Thank you.”





I walked off and left the young man on the bench in the pouring rain. When I arrived at my building and headed up the steps, I turned around to look at him once again. He was gone. I did not see him walking away. He was just gone. I turned and walked to my class. But I was mystified. My thoughts were, Where did he go? Then I wondered if maybe he was an angel. Then I thought, Maybe I was his angel? I did not know. All I knew was that I had experienced a special moment that had a meaning, a thin place.
As I thought about the experience, the Lord began to speak. He reminded me that His work is everywhere, and everywhere we are, in every situation, He has plans for us if we have eyes to see. God reminded me He is not just in some planned “spiritual” activity but He is in the everyday sacred mundane of our appointed days.

It is in the flatlands of our everyday routine that we need to remember our thin places. We need to be aware that God has spoken and still speaks. Remembering is one of our greatest challenges. We forget too easily.
C.S. Lewis addresses this tendency to forget in The Chronicles of Narnia. In the book The Silver Chair, Aslan, the Christ figure, sends Jill and her friend Eustace on a mission. The last words Aslan speaks to Jill as he sends her on her journey is about remembering the signs or spiritual truths and heeding a warning not to forget what she learned on the mountain:

Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly. I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.

—C. S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

We are graced with thin moments from time to time, some profound, some subtle. They sneak up on us. So let us keep our eyes open for the gifts of the thinning of the veil as we walk on the mountains. And then let us remember the truths in the flatlands and in the valleys.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: Lead Serve Love by Gregory E. Lang

Product Details
Format: Softcover
Trim Size: 5.50 x 6.40 x 0.70
Page Count: 208
Retail Price: $14.99
ISBN: 9781404190030


Book Description
Part inspiration–part application, Lead. Serve. Love. engages and challenges believers to put the gospel into action.

In Lead. Serve. Love., Gregory Lang provides a simple guide for helping the everyday person embark (or continue) their journey to live as Christ lived. There are 100 easy-to-remember, easy-to-follow three-word action sentences followed by a short, thought-provoking description of how to apply and live out the gospel message in today’s world. These practical ideas and supporting scriptures will inspire believers to become true followers of Christ.

My Thoughts and Review:
Lead Serve Love is an attractive book (oriental looking) that would make a nifty gift book. It's a collection of 100 three-word sentences that call readers into action towards being more like Christ, each followed by a short explanatory paragraph and relevant Scriptures. It aims to inspire Christians to apply God's Word  and God's way into their daily living. It's a good book for new believers or graduates. I personally did not learn anything new from it because I've already read and learned it all from the Bible (consistently applying it is another story :)). Nonetheless, I still enjoyed this easy-to-read book because I like words arranged in cool, catchy, concise ways. The author managed to select ordinary words and effectively put them into sets of three that are meaningful and Biblically based. However, some of them are somewhat overlapping and somehow redundant; for example, #25 Calm Troubled Waters, #35 Live in Peace, and #69 Strive for Harmony; #56 Use Your Gifts and #76 Do Your Share; #20 Love Your Neighbor and #79 Love Without Hesitation; #73 Forget the Past and #89 Live in Today; #40 Live as Servants and #49 Serve Each Other. Let's not miss the point of this book: Take the message and live it out each day :).
"The gospel is not for a few favored ones, but for everyone. Realize that your purpose is not your purpose, but His purpose. Give yourself fully to Him; labor for the Lord, making Him known through your words and deeds. Know--and fulfill--your purpose." (#65 Know Your Purpose, p. 134)


~I received this book free from Thomas Nelson through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

How Can We Not...

"If we can trust God for our eternal salvation, how can we not trust Him to provide for the "little" things of life?" ~M.E.Howard
Isn't that a great question :)? Compared to our eternal salvation, everything else seems so insignificant. All trials, problems, disappointments, struggles, and sufferings would be considered "little" bumps in life's journey when we look at them from an eternal perspective. Why then is it difficult for us sometimes to trust God to provide...to take care of our "little" problems? I believe it's often a matter of our perspective and focus. If our perspective is self-centered, we still want to be in control, not willing to acknowledge that God is in total control and we still only think of what we want, not what God wants. If our focus is on our situations, then we fret and get anxious and/or depressed. But when we focus on God and His attributes, we can rest in Him and leave our burdens at His feet. Personally, I don't have problem trusting in God's power and ability to provide and to solve my problems. What I usually struggle with is wondering if and when He will choose to do so. Then I need to shift my focus. I need to remind myself that God knows and wants what's best for me and I want His will, not my will to be done, including His timing, not mine. I find this quote to be a good reminder for me to let go of my "little" concerns and just trust God. Five points that might help us have the right perspective and focus when we have trouble trusting Him:

- God is in control even when things are out of control. His sovereignty rules.
- God is faithful even when we have little faith. He always keeps His promises.
- God is good all the time even when nothing good seems to be happening right now. His goodness never changes.
- God loves us no matter what we do or don't do...succeed or fail. His love never fails.
- God is omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Two hymns that help me regain the right focus are I Surrender All and Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.

"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." Psalm 37:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Lord, please give us a childlike faith that simply and completely trusts in You 100% in any situation!

You're invited to share your thoughts about this quote on your blog and then link up your post here.To learn more about "In Other Words"(what it's about, how it works, and how it originated), visit here. 


Beholding Glory
This post is also linked up at Brag on God Fridays and Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday's Fave Five #48

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

My Fave Five this week:-
1. Did you know that almost all of John Piper's books are made available online for free download? What a wonderful ministry (Desiring God)! What a blessing!

2. Listening to the Bible Answer Man (Hank Hanegraaff) online at http://www.equip.org/ .  I used to listen on the radio a long time ago. You can request a free pamphlet: Bible Answers for 5 Challenging Questions by Hank Hanegraaff  by entering the code "FREE" here.

3. You can request a free booklet: Building Blocks To A Strong Marriage by filling out the form here.

4. If anyone is interested in joining me in 21 days of prayer for sons (starting June 8th), please let me know by leaving your comment here (with your Facebook URL) and I can add you to the group led by my sweet friend/sister in Christ, Haelie Pellegrin Heard.

5. "If we can trust God for our eternal salvation, how can we not trust Him to provide for the "little" things of life?" (~M.E.Howard) I'll be hosting "In Other Words" this coming Tuesday. I'd like to invite you to share your thoughts about this quote on your blog and then link up your post on my blog on June 7th. Click here to see details :)!

A Must-See Video for Every Christian

Related Posts

Related Posts with Thumbnails