Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway! :: The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge by Tony Dungy & Nathan Whitaker

Are you feeling a little blue? Post-Christmas malaise settling in? Are you thinking that there will be no more gifts for a year and you're a bummed about that?

Well, then I've got great news!

The fine folks at Tyndale House Publishers will be giving one of my blog readers a copy of Tony Dungy's latest book, The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge.

**If you don't know who Tony Dungy is then you are obviously not a football fan. And that's OK. But you should definitely click on the link above and check him out. He's a Super Bowl winning coach with a passion for God.**

The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge focuses on seven themes: Core, Family, Friends, Potential, Mission, Influence, and Faith. The devotions rotate through each of the seven themes and each devotion stands on its own.

Each day's reading begins with a passage of Scripture. Not just the reference, but the entire verse or verses, already printed on the page. I love that!

The devotion that follows ties to the verse and the theme for the day, usually with a story from either family or athletic life. Each day concludes with an Uncommon Key - a brief take away or action point based on the day's reading.

I found the devotions to be straightforward and easy to read. The devotional is geared toward men (and I think that's great!) but I found the readings to be quite applicable to me as a mom as well.

While I like the book, I like the purpose behind the book even more. Coach Dungy is challenging men - and women - to live Uncommon lives and the key to beginning that process is to spend time with God. EVERY DAY.

Check out this video from Coach Dungy as he describes the One Year Uncommon Life DAILY challenge. It's only two minutes long and well worth it.

To enter to win your free copy, just leave a comment (include your first name and last initial). I'd love to know if you're a football fan and would keep the book for yourself, or who you plan to give it to if you win! The contest is open through Friday, January 6th.

My regular blogging schedule will resume on Monday, January 2nd. I hope you've had a blessed holiday season!

The super fine print: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Joy - In Suffering

It's something we struggle with—this whole concept of suffering. We have an ingrained worldview that suggests suffering is only “fair” if it's deserved. When we know our desire is to serve God and we are still clobbered by life, we wrestle with “why me” and “this isn't fair” thoughts.
These are the time when I have often found the lives of Paul and Peter to be a source of comfort. These men served God and on a regular basis took a beating for it.

But never, before this year, have I ever realized that there's someone else who we know—know it from the very mouth of an angel—was favored by God and from the moment of that proclamation—suffered.


Think about her for a moment. A young virgin with life cruising along as planned. Getting ready to marry a great guy. Then an angel shows up and says “God thinks you're awesome and He's going to give you a remarkable gift. You get to be the mother of the Christ.”

What the angel didn't say? "Oh, by the way, you'll live the rest of your life under a cloud of scandal. And you'll have to flee the country in a few months. When He grows up, He'll traipse all over the country doing miracles. And people will talk. Oh yes, they will talk.

But none of that will compare to what's coming. There will be a day when you will watch Him beaten to a bloody pulp, groan under the weight of a cross, hang from that cross, and eventually, breathe what everyone will believe is His last breath."

We don't know how much Mary understood. We know that from day one, she'd been pondering everything. The angels, the shepherds, the star, the wise men. We know she'd been warned, when He was only a few days old, that a sword would pierce her soul. You can bet she never forgot those words.

We know from the very beginning of His public ministry that she knew He could perform miracles.

But we don't know how she coped. Did she live all of His thirty-three years wondering when it would happen? Was she ever able to look at Him—tiny baby nestled against her, chubby toddler wrestling with His brothers, gangly teen helping Joseph craft a table—and enjoy being His mom without wondering how it would all end?

Did she know that the end would be the beginning?

When she watched Him hanging there, even if she knew He would return in three days, would it have mattered? Would it have lessened the agony? Would if have prevented the tears?

I don't think so. You won't find this spelled out in Scripture, but my mother's heart tells me that on the day He died, no one hurt the way she did.

Knowing the rest of the story, we can say it was worth it. Mary undoubtedly would agree.

But in the moment, Mary suffered.

I wish the Bible gave a us picture of the reunion. The joy on Mary's face when she saw her resurrected son, her resurrected Savior. I'm sure her tears dripped onto His nail-scarred hands. Surely He held her close. Thanked her for being a great mom. Assured her that it had all been part of God's plan.

Can you see it?

He'd like to do that for us as well.

When life is hard. When the loneliness is overwhelming. When the pain won't go away. When it's all over. When nothing will ever be the same.

He is.

He knows.

His sacrifice makes Joy possible. Continuous Joy. Even in suffering. Not because we think pain is fun. But because we know there's a purpose. There's a plan.

There's a future.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Joy - Bigger than our whole world

As I've been mulling over the idea of how big God is and the miracle it is that He became flesh, I've also been thinking about how often God does things in ways that are both unexpected and incomprehensible.

I'm wondering how often I don't see God's hand because what's happening doesn't make sense to me.

I'm wondering how much Joy I miss out on because instead of resting in His plan, I'm arguing with Him about His methods or pointing out to Him that what He's doing doesn't seem like a good idea.

I could go on and on about it, but Christmas is ten days away and my guess is you don't have time for me to go on and on!

So instead I thought I'd leave you with one of my favorite passages from The Last Battle.

I love The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. (Please don't ask how many times I've read them - the answer is, "I have no idea and if we don't quit talking about it I'm going to have to start reading them again!")

At this point in the story, the characters have been fighting all around a small stable and are now inside.

Ponder this, and find the Joy!

"It seems, then," said Tirian, smiling himself, "that the Stable seen from within and the Stable seen from without are two different places."

"Yes," said the Lord Digory. "Its inside is bigger than its outside."

"Yes," said Queen Lucy. "In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."
C.S. Lewis ~ The Last Battle

Monday, December 12, 2011

Unlimited Joy

As my daughter opened birthday gifts several months ago, a sheet of paper fluttered on the edge of my sight. All I registered was that there were at least twelve steps and for a fleeting moment, I questioned my sister's sanity. What was she thinking? Why would she give Emma a gift that would be so complicated to use? I was confused because I know that Jennifer is a thoughtful gift giver and would never give Emma something that would only frustrate her.

Before I could investigate the instruction sheet further, Hetti the Hippo exploded into our living room. Squeals of delight pierced the air as the pop up tent filled the entire open space. Within seconds, the six foot long hippo was filled with laughing children.

And then it hit me. The instructions weren't for getting the tent open.

They were for cramming it back into the box.

Ten months later, that crazy hippo is still living large in Emma's room. Even when we moved, we didn't bother trying to fold her up. (That instruction sheet is long gone!)

I was thinking about this the other day as I tried—and failed—to get my mind around the idea of God becoming man. Of the Word made flesh.

Of infinity squeezed into infancy.

I can't comprehend how He did it.

It was way more complicated than getting dear ol' Hetti back in her box.

No engineer, no physicist, no biologist, no chemist, no mathematician—no human could have ever figured it out.

It was a God-sized job.

It required a God-sized idea.

But who could have imagined that a six pound baby boy could contain—could be—a God-sized miracle.

For thirty-three years, Jesus squished Himself into humanity.

And after He accomplished what He came to do, He exploded from His box.

Two thousand years later, He's still living large in the heavens.

He was. He is. He always will be.

So as we focus on the babe in a manger, let's be sure we don't try to cram God into a box. He's not that kind of God.

He's the kind of God who limited Himself so that we could be filled with unlimited Joy.

Psalm 92:4-5 ~ For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the work of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep. (ESV)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Joy - In the Moment

I'm a wife, mother, and writer. I'm a daughter, sister, and friend. I'm a reader, knitter, and scrapbooker. I'm a cook, maid, and seamstress. I'm an engineer, manager, and bookkeeper.

With all that stuff going on, you'd think I'd be fulfilled.

Nope. Not even close. More often than not, I feel anxious. Desperate. Inadequate.

My task-oriented nature struggles to stay in the moment. To focus my energy on one thing, without mentally scrambling to determine the most efficient way to check off something else at the same time.

But by refusing to do one thing at a time, I'm not doing any one thing well.

And I'm robbing myself of so much joy.

Jim Elliot is quoted as saying, “Wherever you are, be all there.” I love that. I want that to characterize my life. I think it's another key to rediscovering joy.

Because something tells me that when Jesus took on humanity, He was an “all there” kind of guy. Would you care to guess what makes me think that?

Jesus spent nine months in a womb.


Have you ever thought of the challenge that must have been? To go from omnipresence to embryo. To grow inside a body You created.

But He did it. He was all there. All God. All man. All at the same time. All miraculously contained inside Mary's swelling body. The Word that spoke the world into existence limited Himself to baby babble. The hands that carved out oceans and piled high mountains were content to bang on a pot with a wooden spoon.

Wherever He was, He was all there.

And because He became Immanuel, God with us, we have Joy. True Joy. Not fleeting happiness. Not momentary pleasure.

Eternal Joy.

So as I stand in football field length store lines or sit in gridlocked mall traffic, instead of chafing at the limitations, I'm trying to practice being all there.

I'm not always successful, but when I am, I'm discovering there's so much Joy to be found in every moment.

So what about you? Do you feel up to a Christmas challenge?

This weekend, join me. Wherever you are, be all there. Wrapping presents? Be all there. At a party? Be all there. At a Christmas program when you still have Christmas baking, shopping, cleaning, and wrapping to do? Be all there.

I think you'll find Joy there.

And when you do, please come back and tell us about it!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rediscover Joy

I used to love this time of year.

Before I grew up.

Before I discovered that buying Christmas presents on a budget is hard work.
Before I longed to be in two places at once.
Before I spent hours cleaning, preparing, shopping, wrapping.
Before I realized that all those decorations would have to be taken down in a few weeks . . . by me.
Before I had somewhere to be fifteen out of twenty-five nights.

Before Christmas became synonymous with exhaustion.

Because before . . . I would fly through the door and run to the tree. Had mom wrapped more while I was at school? Was there another gift for me?
Before . . . I would rearrange the gifts, shaking, weighing, trying to guess. Never peeking, because the anticipation was almost as much fun as whatever delight lay hidden beneath the wrapping.
Before . . . I would huddle with my sister as we planned Christmas morning. When would we get up? Would she promise to wake me if she woke up first?
Before . . . I would go to sleep listening to the twenty-four hours of Christmas music (that started on Christmas Eve instead of the day after Thanksgiving).
Before . . . the day was filled with gifts—given & received, family, food, fun.

Before . . . Christmas was synonymous with joy.

This year, I'm making an effort to re-discover the joy. My calendar isn't quite as crowded as it has been in year's past, and I'm relieved. My to-do list—well, it's insane. But I'm focusing on doing the things that need to be done and leaving off the stuff that can wait.

I've cranked up the music, downloaded a new album (Michael Bublé!), bought a few presents, and decorated the tree. At night, I'm taking a few moments to sit in the flickering light of candles and remember . . . remember what it was like . . . before the first Christmas.

Before . . . the sounds of angels in perpetual worship.
Before . . . perfect harmony with God the Father and God the Spirit.
Before . . . peace, joy, comfort.
Before . . . honor, reverence.
Before . . . glory.

But then He came.

To the sound of cattle, sheep, and donkeys
To a people in continual tension with their Roman rulers and religious leaders.
To cold, wet, hunger, pain.
To anger, gossip, slander, humiliation, misunderstanding.

To exhaustion.

To death.

As a child, I knew the real meaning of Christmas. I knew there was a baby. I knew we exchanged gifts to commemorate the Ultimate gift. But my young mind was full of Sear's Wish Books and shiny packages.

I didn't dwell on the miracle.

But for my slightly more grown up mind, I think the secret to rediscovering the joy is to rediscover the miracle.

Christmas was always about the gifts. It still is. But the Gift that brings joy these days isn't one that sits under the tree wrapped in shiny paper.

It's the One that lay in a feeding trough wrapped in rags.

Immanuel – God with us. Isaiah 7:9 ~ Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (ESV)

Join me this month as we rediscover the joy of the season.


The winner of last week's giveaway is....Vicki! Congratulations! Email me at with your contact information and the fine folks at Baker will mail My Favorite Bible to you! Thanks to everyone who participated!