Monday, March 26, 2012

Mindful Mondays: Waiting to Arrive

If you haven’t figured this out yet, I have a serious geek streak.
I loved Calculus and I think Chemistry and Physics jokes are hilarious. I have several friends who make the guys on The Big Bang Theory seem normal.

And if that wasn’t enough, I love fantasy and science fiction.

I could watch Star Wars, Firefly, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings on a continuous loop.

In the story world of The Matrix, earth has been taken over by machines and they have enslaved the human race. Every now and then, someone is “freed” to live in the real world.

The real world is grimy and messy. They eat gruel and wear rags.

But when they enter the matrix? They are so cool.

Black leather. Trench coats. Sunglasses.

It turns out that when they enter the matrix, their bodies remain in the real world. But their minds project a digital image, and that’s what is seen.

Hang in there, I’m getting to the point.

Because I do the same thing.

I stand in front of my mirror and see all my flaws. I see the body that carried three babies and the shadows under eyes that spend far too little time closed.

But as soon as I get away from the mirror I’m incapable of seeing myself accurately. My “digital projection” is a Size 6 with perfect hair. She also wears cute clothes and I don’t mind telling you that I wish she was real!

I do the same thing when it comes to my heart.

I sit in church and I’m overwhelmed with my own sin and the enormity of God’s grace. I worship and proclaim “You’re all I want—You’re all I need—You are all my heart desires—you’re everything to me.”

But as soon as I get back into the real world . . . I want what I want and I want it now. My sin doesn’t seem all that bad. And I act like God’s grace is something I deserve.

The real world is grimy and messy.

I am grimy and messy.

And if I stay away from the mirror of God’s word, I can carry on, blissfully ignorant of the flaws in the real me.

But when I take a look, I see pettiness, pride, doubt, and anger. It’s not cute and I wish it wasn’t real.

Wishing never changed anything. But repentance—turning away from me and turning to Him—is the way we make progress in the Christian life.

I used to think that someday I would arrive—that I would mess up less often, so I wouldn’t need to repent as much.

But the opposite is true.

The more I grow, the more I see my sin, so the more I repent, so the more I grow, so the more I see my sin, so the more I repent…and on it goes.

Tim Keller says it this way…"The more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance of Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions of your sin."

It’s been huge for me—to see repentance in this way.

What about you? Are you still waiting to arrive and frustrated by how far your real self is from the one you try to project—from the one you truly want to be?

Could I invite you to remember that you are beloved? You are accepted. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make God love you less.

Whatever it is…repent. Turn away from yourself.

Turn back to Him.

You’ll find joy waiting.

Psalm 51:10, 12 ~ Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…Restore unto me the Joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (ESV)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday :: Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

I'm a big fan of digging into the Word.

But I'm also a mom of three. There are some days where the only things I dig into are mounds of laundry, piles of toys, and heaps of diapers.

So, am I off the hook? Does God understand?

Yes and no.

Does He understand? Absolutely. Am I off the hook? Absolutely not!

I know in my own life, the busier I am, the more desperate my need for time with my Father. And the crazier the schedule, the more I crave His presence.

But it hasn't always been that way.

It's easy to buy into the lie that we are too busy. Or that if we don't have thirty minutes, there's no point in starting. And if your life is anything like mine, you're lucky if you get three minutes to yourself during daylight hours.

So, what can you do? What if you want to spend more time with God, but you don't know where to start?

A few months ago, I joined the ranks of the thousands of people who use the Jesus Calling devotional as a part of their private worship. And I love it.

While I don't believe that this or any devotional can or should take the place of a more in depth study of the Word, it's a wonderful launch pad.

The devotions are short. Most are no more than a couple of paragraphs...which means no excuses.

I don't know anyone who doesn't have time to read two paragraphs before breakfast. Even people with crying babies and hormonal teenagers can squeeze this into their routine.

The devotions are written from Jesus' point of view. Now before that freaks you out, please keep in mind that the author, Sarah Young, makes it clear in the introduction that she is not implying that these devotions are inspired. Simply that she wrote down what she felt the Lord was saying to her.

They are intensely personal. And they resonate with me because they mirror some of my own conversations with the Lord.

I see these devotions as an appetizer for the main course.

Are there times when I run all day on the appetizer? Yep. It's not ideal. But it does make me hungry for more.

I also like to use this devotional as a "dessert" that I enjoy before diving into the chaos of the morning, or sometimes as a "snack" in the middle of the day when I need a time of refreshment and refocus. I don't read it every day, but it's been fun to see how often the devotions, and even more often the Scripture, is exactly what I need, precisely when I need it.

So what about you? Do you struggle to "find time" to spend with God? Are you reading a chapter to check it off your list, or are you listening for what He wants to talk to you about? Do you use the Jesus Calling devotional? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Bethany Kaczmarek
Congratulations Bethany!!!

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Count it all joy?

I joined a gym last week.

As I perused the group fitness schedule, I noticed a class called Intense Fit. My body said NO WAY but my brain pointed out that the handout specifically said the class was for “all levels” so it couldn’t be that bad.

My body is still ticked that my brain won that argument.

I knew trouble was brewing when the instructor sent us to run three laps as a warm up.

Three laps? As a warm up?

I got through the laps and found myself leaning against a wall with two people who looked like they’d been out for a leisurely stroll. (I was trying not to humiliate myself by gasping for air).

One says in a perky voice, “My butt was sore after last week’s class.” To which the other says, “Really? That’s great!”

Folks, they were dead serious.

I survived the first half of the class, albeit with a new and profound hatred of burpees, and as we transitioned to the upper body portion, the instructor congratulated me on hanging in there. She said I was doing great. (She was being kind, but I’m pretty sure she was wondering how long it would take the EMTs to arrive when I passed out).

As we neared the end of the class, the instructor commented that we were finishing a few minutes early. Some helpful person near the front said something, and next thing I know, we’re jumping around doing some sort of air jacks.

Well, some people were jumping.

I was doing an approximation of a hop.

And rebuking myself for the un-Christian thoughts I was having toward that lunatic who couldn’t keep her mouth shut.

I managed to stay upright as I left, although I did lean on the handrails as I eased down the stairs. Before I got to my car, the ache set in. By the next morning, I hurt in places I didn’t know I had.

The thing is, I know this is good for me. I’m packing an extra 50—and I don’t mean IQ points. Something’s gotta give—preferably my waistline.

While I can’t say (yet) that I’m enjoying the process, some of those people were. They were laughing. And smiling. They did everything the instructor asked—and sometimes did things to make it harder than it had to be.

Keep in mind, they don’t enjoy the pain . . . But they are joyful in the midst of it.


Because they believe the effort will produce results—the kind of results they are willing to suffer for a while in order to achieve.

It’s given me a new appreciation for what James is talking about when he says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Some translations say “endurance” or “patience” instead of “steadfastness” but I kind of like “steadfastness.” As I wobbled out of the class, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to finish an hour of Intense Fit and stand strong, ready for another round.

When James says we should “count it all joy” it doesn’t mean “enjoy the agony”. It means that joy, in the middle of suffering, is possible. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I think I see how it could happen.

You have to believe—to your very core—that what you are going through will produce a result and that the result will be worthwhile.

What’s the result?

James 1:4 ~ And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)

That sounds nice.

This is even better.

James 1:12 ~ Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. (ESV)

You may be neck deep in a real life version of Intense Fit. You may have thought it was almost over, just to have someone crank up the heat. You may be staggering around in the aftermath of a brutal struggle.

If you listen, I believe you’ll hear God whispering, “You’re doing great, sweetheart. Hang in there. It’s worth it.”

I Peter 1:6-7 ~ In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (ESV)

I’d love to hear from you. Have you been there? Have you watched someone else live a life characterized by joy despite intense difficulties? Take a moment and encourage all of us in the comments!

Are you taking the Joy Dare with me? A thankful heart is a joyful heart!

March 19

3 Gifts Eaten: Birthday cake, breakfast casserole, a perfectly crisp apple
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review :: Firethorn by Ronie Kendig

Do not, under any circumstances, no matter how tempted you not open this book if you have anything urgent on your to-do list.
  • If you have to do laundry or you'll be going to a meeting in gym clothes.
  • If you have to buy groceries or everyone will be eating cereal for supper.
  • If you have a presentation to prepare handouts for (um...maybe that just applies to me)!

    You have been warned.

    If you (not that I would know from experience), decide to "just read the first chapter" you will still be reading an hour later, and then the rationalizations will begin.
  • No one will care if I'm in gym clothes.
  • Cereal is full of "healthy whole grains" and "fortified with extra vitamins" so it's a healthy dinner option!
  • Who needs handouts?'s that good!

Firethorn is the fourth and final (say it isn't so!!!) book in the Discarded Heroes series by Ronie Kendig. And all the characters you have come to know and love from the first three books are back...well, except for the ones who didn't make it...but there will be no spoilers from me!

Firethorn can stand on its own, but I think you'll enjoy it best if you read the books in order...Nightshade, Digitalis, Wolfsbane, then Firethorn. (I *might* have a touch of OCD. You may be able to read them in whatever order you choose. That would drive me batty, but if that works for you, feel free)!

The Discarded Heroes series follows the missions of an elite black-ops group - Nightshade.

Nightshade is made up of men from a variety of special forces groups. All of whom served their country with honor, only to be "discarded" by unscrupulous politicians and people more interested in preserving power than uncovering truth.

Until one man sees their potential, and recruits them.

As you read the series, you meet the entire team, stress over their dangerous missions, and watch several of them fall in love.

In Firethorn, someone has uncovered their identities and is determined to destroy them and their families. When most of Nightshade is captured and the rest of the team is driven underground, their founder hires one feisty operative to find them, free them from their captors, and reunite the team.

And that feisty operative? Her name is Kazi Faron and she's good. Really good. She's also got a bit of an attitude problem, dark secrets, and a staggering insistence on doing things on her own. I think you'll like her.

Griffin "Legend" Riddell sure does. Well, most of the time.

If they can learn to work together, they may be able to save the team...and each other.

* * * * * * * * * *

Doesn't it sound amazing! Don't you want to read it? Guess what? You can!

***UPDATED 3/20/2012***

Ronie was kind enough to send me a copy of Firethorn to review and GIVE AWAY.

Ronie shot me an email this morning! I'm so excited!! She's going to send the winner of the giveaway an AUTOGRAPHED copy!!
(And this means I get to keep my copy *yeah*!!)

You can enter up to FOUR times. Here's how...

1. Subscribe to Out of the Boat. It's easy. There's a link at the bottom of this post. You'll get nothing from me but my blog posts, delivered to your email.
2. Share this post on Facebook.
3. Share this post on Twitter.
4. Pin this post on Pinterest! (My latest addiction) :-)

I can't always tell if someone has shared a post on Facebook or Twitter, and I don't want you to miss out! Leave a comment here - with at least your first name and last initial - that says, "I subscribed" or "I posted on Facebook and Twitter" or "I pinned it" so I know how many times to enter you in the drawing!

The deadline to enter is 3PM (EDT) on Wednesday, March 21st, and the winner will be announced on Thursday, March 22nd here (in the comments) and on Facebook and Twitter.

Good luck!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Does God Care When We Suffer?

Last week, we asked a tough question...Does God care when we suffer?

Because He knows everything that is and was and will be, maybe He is able to view our suffering with a dispassionate air.

Maybe not.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

In John 9, we read the story of the man born blind. A man, Jesus tells us, who had endured a lifetime of suffering so God would be glorified.

Then John 11 opens with these words…”Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany…”

Do you know the story?

I know you think you do…but do you really?

From this and other accounts in the gospels, it’s clear that over the course of His ministry, Jesus had developed a bond with three siblings from Bethany—Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

So much so that when Lazarus became ill, the sisters sent word to Jesus. They didn’t say, “come” or “help”—they simply apprised Him of the situation.

“Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

When the message reached Jesus, did He drop everything and race to Bethany? No.

Did He heal from afar? I mean, we know He can. But no.

His response is eerily similar to what He said in Chapter 9. “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Here we go again. (I don’t know about you, but by this point, if I see God is going to be glorified through something, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like it.)

The next verses…well…read them for yourself.

John 11:5-6 - Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. (ESV)


He loved them…so He waited a few days?


Does that sound like love to you?

I know…I know…you already know how it ends.

But imagine if you didn’t.

Imagine if you were Lazarus. You know they’ve sent word to Jesus. But you hurt. You know Jesus can heal. And you know He loves you. He’ll make the pain go away. Right?

We don’t know how long Lazarus was ill. We do know that by the time Jesus decided to travel to Bethany, he was dead.

And by the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, he’d been dead for four days.

Imagine if you were Mary or Martha.

Your brother is dead. And you know the message got to Jesus in time. Imagine the turmoil in your heart as you grieve.

Finally, a murmur from the mourners. Jesus approaches.

When they see Him, both Mary and Martha say the same thing. “Lord, if you’d been here my brother wouldn’t have died.”

Some people find fault with them for this question.

I think those people haven’t used their imaginations, um, ever. It’s easy to be pious when you know what God is up to.

They did not know. Jesus hadn’t pulled them to the side and let them in on the plan. The disciples knew, but even they didn’t know what they knew.

What happens next is extraordinary.

Jesus sees Mary weeping. He sees the mourners weeping. And the Bible tells us that He was deeply moved in His spirit and troubled. And then…

Jesus wept.

Why? He was the only One there who had a clue! He knew Lazarus would be wrapping his sisters in a bear hug in about five minutes. What possible reason did He have to cry about anything?

Jesus told us in other parts of John that He did nothing but the will of the Father…that includes crying over the death of a friend.

When Jesus wept, He gave us a glimpse into the heart of our Father.

He wept over their suffering. Wept over their pain. Wept over their confusion. Wept over their fear.

He was fully God. And fully human.

He knows what it feels like to grieve.

When the current of life is raging and pulling you under, He feels your desperation. When death approaches, He understands your fear.

Yes, He sees the big picture. Yes, He’s in control. But He isn’t indifferent to your pain.

When you wonder if any of it matters to the Almighty, remember this…

God wept.

God knows.

God cares.


Are you taking the Joy Dare with me? It's not too's so worth it!

March 12
A gift in wind ~ Geese flying high and loud
A gift in water ~ A long, hot shower
A gift in white ~ Cream in my coffee...yum!

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Five Favorite Romantic Suspense Authors

A few weeks ago we talked about the seven things readers can do to support their favorite authors.

But there was one item I left off the list...on purpose!

One of the best things a reader can do to support their favorite authors is ...

Tell everybody about their books!

Every now and then, I'm going to use our Thursdays to introduce you to authors I love. And we're going to start with a genre that is near and dear to my heart.

I was a reader long before becoming a writer. I love to read just about anything (no horror, please!), but one of my favorite genres is Romantic Suspense. Here (in alphabetical order) are five of my favs...

  • Irene Hannon - The Heroes of Quantico series was fantastic! We meet three members of the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team and, of course, some lovely women who cross their path. The Guardians of Justice series is next on my reading list.

  • Ronie Kendig - I snagged Ronie's Dead Reckoning as a freebie on Kindle. And read it in record time. Her Discarded Heroes series is a great mix of special ops and romance. Look for my review of the fourth book in the series, Firethorn, next week. (Oh - and I'll be giving away my review copy!)

  • DiAnn Mills - DiAnn is currently (as in you've got until March 12th to enter) running a giveaway for her newest book, The Chase, on Goodreads. It looks so good, I would enter repeatedly if I could get by with it. Her Call of Duty series had heroines as varied as a CIA agent in hiding, an FBI agent with a secret past, and a border patrol agent grieving the murder of her husband. (DiAnn also writes exciting historical fiction!).

So . . . tell me . . . do you read romantic suspense? Have you read anything by my favorite authors? Do you have a favorite to share with me? I'd love to know what you're reading right now!

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Monday, March 5, 2012

When the Miraculous Becomes Mundane

When you grow up in church, it’s so easy for the stories of Jesus to become—well—boring. After so much repetition, we lose our sense of wonder.

The miraculous becomes mundane.

When the wedding runs out of wine, we aren’t concerned. We know Jesus makes great wine. When the crowds are hungry, we aren’t worried about them. We know Jesus is going to multiply the loaves and fishes. And when the storm is raging, we don’t get too fussed about the disciples. After all, we know Jesus is going to calm the sea.

But what if we didn’t know? Would we read the stories differently?

It’s with this awareness of my own tendency to be underwhelmed that I’ve approached the gospels in recent months. And there are a few chapters in the Gospel of John that I’ve seen with fresh eyes.

It begins in Chapter 9 with a blind man. As the story unfolds, we see the disciples ask Jesus, “Who sinned? This man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”

The answer is astonishing.

Jesus flat out tells them that no one sinned, but this guy had been born blind so the works of God might be displayed in him.

Nice story. Right?

Um…sure…unless you’re the guy who was born blind. The guy who’d been begging for who knows how long in order to survive. The guy who had no reason to believe anything would ever change.

Ever thought about it from his perspective?

You may not realize it, but you have.

When suffering enters our life, we don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know how long it will last. We don’t know how the story ends. We are hurting, and we have no reason to believe anything will ever change.

It's easy, during the darkest nights, to wonder if God even cares. To question His love. To doubt his compassion.

As He reads our story, does He skim over the hard parts because He already knows how it’s going to end?

Or does He feel our fear, our pain, our grief?

I would contend that when God sees the valleys coming up in our story, He takes a deep breath and then He walks right into them with us.

It is miraculous. And it is never mundane.

Next Monday, we'll explore why I believe this.
Until then, remember…you are never alone.


The Joy Dare continues....I need to update my blog page, but in my personal journal I've counted over 400 gifts since November...join me?

Three gifts favorite pen; a fabulous series by a great author; k-cups on clearance!

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Review::Unleash the Writer Within by Cecil Murphey

For my first guest post at The Write Conversation (my first guest post ever!) I reviewed a talk given by Cec Murphey at our local Cross Way Christian Supply. I was impressed by his approachable manner and his willingness to share his writing knowledge with us.

He’s written more than 120 books and they’ve sold millions of copies. So when he turned his attention to writing a book for writers, it would be reasonable to expect him to provide us with a treasure trove of technique. A masterpiece of method. A page-by-page plan for writing a best seller.
But that's not what he did.
He did something far better...
To read the rest of the post, I'm over at The Write Conversation today. Please come by and say hello!