Monday, April 30, 2012

Mindful Mondays :: Are you scared?

Do you ever find a verse in the Bible that makes you do a double-take?

You read it. Then you read it again. You wonder if it really means that in the Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic or well, any language, because you just don’t see it happening.

I ran across just such a verse last summer as I read through Psalms. It’s bugged me ever since.

I lead a life that, compared to most of the world’s population, is easy. There’s plenty of food to eat, clean water to drink, and safe air to breathe. I spend most of my days in a comfortable home with appliances that wash my clothes and my dishes, cool or heat the air (sometimes both in the same day), and cook my food.

I go to sleep to the sound of a ceiling fan and an ocean waves app that runs through my husband's iPhone. And I have no reason to believe that gunshots or bombs or roving bands of terrorists will interrupt my slumber.

I live a life that is unimaginable to huge numbers of the human race.

But I still worry.

I have a generally positive outlook on life. But there are the big what ifs that make my blood run cold. What if someone I love gets sick? What if my kids don’t follow the Lord? What if they mess up their lives? What if…what if…what if...and that's where Psalm 112:7 comes in and messes with me.

"He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord."

I’ve tried to ignore this verse, but the Holy Spirit keeps bringing it up.

I asked if it’s possible that this particular psalmist suffered from a serious case of hyperbole. (Short answer - NO).

I wondered if ‘bad news’ in the Old Testament was like a hangnail or a bee sting. A quick check of Strong’s concordance shot that idea down. Turns out what the ESV renders as “bad” is a word that is more often translated as “evil”. So it’s even worse than I thought.

But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I checked the rest of the words in the verse. Turns out that word “firm” can imply a sense of readiness.

In other words, “He isn’t afraid of bad news. He’s ready for it.”


I am encouraged by one thing. There’s no glossing over the fact that some news is bad. Being a fully committed follower of God doesn’t mean we pretend all of life is a hot fudge sundae with a few strawberries thrown in for fun.

We don’t have to act like our mom’s cancer diagnosis or our dad’s job loss or our child’s rebellion is no big deal. We don’t have to paste a smile on our face and act like it’s all good.

Some news is bad.

But you do have a choice. You can live in fear of it, either before or after it arrives, or you can get ready for it.


You get to know the only One who already knows what’s headed your way. You hang out with Him. You learn from Him.

And the more you do. The more you’ll trust.

And the more you trust, the less you have to fear.


What do you plan to do this summer to get to know Jesus better? Have you thought about it? I’m working on my summer blog schedule - is there a topic you’d like me to cover? Let me know in the comments!

Are you taking the JoyDare with me? My list of graces given grows here.
April 30 ~ A gift given, made, sacrificed:: A note of encouragement, lunches for all, time

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review :: Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman

I'm a fan of a lot of things.
  • Chocolate
  • Watermelon
  • A medium-rare filet mignon
  • BLTs (Has anyone else noticed that I'm a fan of food?)
  • Clemson
  • Duke (yes, it is possible to like Clemson & Duke)
  • Anyone playing for Team U.S.A. in the Olympics
  • NCIS
  • The Big Bang Theory (the show, not the actual theory)
  • The Bourne Trilogy
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • The Star Wars Trilogy (hmm...seems I have a thing for trilogies...)
Fans are great. They root for their team. They watch their shows. They consume every imaginable variety of their favorite foods.

But there's a line somewhere between "I really like it" and "I'm so crazy about it that I'd give up/do anything for it" that most people never cross. (Those who do wind up at Star Trek conventions or show up at midnight release that last part...I've done that before. Drat.)

Anyway...if you'd asked me a few months ago if I was a fan of Jesus, I would have said, "Yes. Absolutely. Huge Fan. One of the biggest. Love that guy. He's Awesome!"

But after reading not a fan by Kyle Idleman, I have to say that I am not a fan and I'm not interested in being one.

What I am interested in is following Jesus.

I actually know a thing or two about what can happen when you do that. And folks, it's not always pretty.

And that's what not a fan is all about. It's a wake up call to people who "want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires sacrifice."

Here's what I loved.
  1. I found it very entertaining to read. There are quite a few references to and examples from pop culture that you rarely find in a "Christian" book. I think I would enjoy hanging out with Kyle Idleman. The footnotes were a hoot.
  2. I appreciated his honest approach. He's not interested in introducing you to a Jesus who is going to make all your problems go away. He's showcasing the Jesus of the Gospels who said "take up your cross and follow me."
  3. I found his examples both informative and convicting. He uses stories from his personal life, as well as "not a fan" stories at the end of each chapter to highlight his points.
  4. I thought the book was written in a very accessible style. It would be a great choice for a teenager/young adult, or a very grown up adult who doesn't love to read.
Here's what bothered me a little.
  1. He walks a fine line between grace and works, and at times, I felt he crossed a bit too far into the works category. I don't think he was trying to preach salvation by works, but I can also appreciate the fact that James (lots of works) and Galatians (lots of grace) are both true. I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable handing this book to someone who was either very new to the faith or already in bondage to legalism.
  2. There were a couple of things that I felt were actual mistakes - a few geography and Scriptural quotes that weren't quite right and that put me a bit on guard as I read.
With that said, I would still recommend not a fan. It's a good reminder of the life Christ called us to - of what it looks like to be a completely committed follower of Jesus.

Not just a fan.

So tell me....are you a fan of not a fan?

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Mindful Mondays :: Rejoice Until You're Glad

Today’s blog post was supposed to be about something different.

But that was before the day ran off the rails.

I had big plans for this day. Some writing, some housework, some exercise, some laundry.

I even made plans to get my day off on the right foot. I went to bed a little earlier than I wanted to. I set my alarm for earlier than I wanted to. And I knew how I would be tackling the day’s list as soon as my feet hit the floor.

I did not plan for my feet to hit the floor at 3:30 a.m.

Or at 4:30 a.m.

I did not expect the “quiet time” I planned for 5:45 a.m. to include a fussy baby. Or for my early bird toddler to ask to play Starfall at 6:10 a.m.

Today I feel inadequate. So very much not enough. So frustrated by a day that refuses to cooperate.

So I took my aggravation to the only One who really gets it, and what did He have to say?

“This is the day that I have made. Rejoice. And be glad in it.”

Why He made a day this messed up is beyond me. (I asked. I think He chuckled. I’m so glad He loves me even when I’m being a smarty pants).

And honestly, I still feel on the edge of a breakdown. I’m tired. The scale didn’t move as much as I had hoped it would. The bills still have to be paid. The laundry will not fold itself. The baby’s going to wake up soon and he’s still going to be cutting four teeth at once.


  • My husband thinks I’m doing a great job.
  • My kids do, too.
  • My coffee tastes just right.
  • My sins are forgiven.
  • My standing before God is not dependent on how much I do today. It isn’t even dependent on my attitude or my behavior. I’m secure because of what Jesus did for me.
  • And, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Maybe I can even rejoice until I’m glad.

Has this Monday morning got you down? Take a minute and write down a few things you’re thankful for. A few things that are good and glorious. (You can start with the fact that you are breathing if you’re having a hard time coming up with anything.) And then if you feel like it, share a few things with me in the comments. I’d love to hear about what gives you a reason to rejoice!


I've been updating the Joy Dare page. It's hard to stay grouchy when you count graces. Gladness stalks me with each line...

I'm looking for three gifts reflecting today...I'll post them when I find them...I know they are out there!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review and Giveway :: Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins

I originally reviewed Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins in August of 2010 over at The Write Conversation. I'm sharing my review with you today for one reason...I have a copy to give away! I received an additional copy recently and I'd love to see it go to someone who's been wanting to add it to their library.

You have five ways to enter and they are detailed at the bottom of this post. And yes, you are welcome to do all five to increase your chances of winning!

My review:
I thought writing a review of Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins would be easy.

Until I opened it and found the list of authors who recommended Writing for the Soul. I experienced several days of mind-numbing terror. What can I add? Let’s face it, when Francine Rivers, James Scott Bell and Angela Hunt (along with many others) say you should read the book . . . well, it won’t hurt my feelings if you stop reading now to save yourself some time and energy and go buy the book.

But, as you are a glutton for punishment and have continued reading, I’ll tell you that when I picked the book from its spot on my desk (along with my slowly growing collection of writing books) I intended to skim through it to refresh my memory and then whip up a review.

Instead, I read it straight through. And I learned more this time than I did the first two times I read it.

Writing for the Soul was the first writing book I read. I found it at my local library a week or so after completing the first draft of my first novel and a day or so after it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to learn something about writing if I was going to be a writer. (Yes, you read that right and yes, I know that I’ve gone about everything as backward as possible.)

After finishing Writing for the Soul, I faced the harsh reality that I knew nothing about writing and that my first draft was riddled with errors that would mark me for the amateur I was.

I was disappointed, but not hopeless because the solutions for many of my mistakes were contained in Writing for the Soul. This book covers a wide-range of topics, from the importance of selecting the right POV to the importance of sitting in the right chair.

Writing for the Soul is funny, the wisdom doled out in manageable slices, and the hard realities sandwiched between entertaining anecdotes from Jerry B. Jenkins’ career. This is a book I’ll read at least once a year. And I’ll pull it off the shelf for years to come anytime I need a quick refresher course or to be reminded that while writing is a sacred calling it’s also hard work—even for Jerry B. Jenkins.

Ready to enter the drawing?

You can...
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Good luck!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mindful Mondays :: Can You Hear Him?

On a hot August afternoon, a small miracle occurred at my house.

Both of my boys were asleep. At the same time.

Which is the only reason I was sitting in my recliner at 1:51 p.m.

While I don’t remember what I was doing (other than that I was sitting, which may have been all I was doing), I do remember feeling the strangest sensation.

It felt like the house trembled for several seconds. It went on long enough for me to notice, but not long enough for me to be overly concerned.

The closest thing my mind could come up with at the time was the way my old house felt whenever my washing machine got out of balance. The poor, overloaded appliance had—from time to time—made a valiant effort to jump out of the closet it lived in. And when it did, the whole house rattled until I either shifted the load or did my best to hold the thing still until the spin cycle ended.

But, the washing machine wasn’t running.

So I put it out of my mind until I received a phone call a few minutes later that explained everything.

At 1:51 p.m., a 5.9 earthquake struck Washington, D.C., and the tremors were felt all up and down the East Coast.

That afternoon, Facebook lit up with reports and two things became quite clear.

1. If you’d ever felt an earthquake before that day, then you knew exactly what it was the moment it hit. As mild as the tremors were, they were unmistakable to those who had a history with earthquakes.

2. Even if you had some earthquake experience, if you were busy at all, you missed it. Friends who live less than a mile away didn’t notice.

And, I think there’s something to be learned here.

Because God’s voice often comes as a whisper—a whisper that causes our spirits to tremble in resonance.

The problem is, more often than not, we’re too busy to notice.

This week, let’s slow down.

Let’s make some room to just be.

Let’s tune our hearts to His.

Who knows what miracles are waiting…

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review :: The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

As someone born and raised in a Christian home, married to a man who was born and raised in a Christian home, and who is currently raising my own children in a Christian home, it should come as no great surprise that my exposure to people who don't share my faith is often limited.

Add to that the fact that I live in the Bible belt and you can imagine that it is possible for me to go months - even years - without having to defend my faith to anyone.

But that doesn't mean I don't need to know how.

Because when I take a tiny step outside my sheltered existence I find a whole world of skepticism and doubt. A world full of people who are loved by God and who desperately need to know Him.

A world I'm praying for more opportunities to shine a light into.

So when I saw The Reason for God by Timothy Keller on the shelf at Barnes and Noble several months ago, I decided to add it to my to-be-read stack. I've been working my way through it ever since.

To me, it's not the kind of book you sit down and read in an evening. The chapters are broken up into 2-4 page sections that make it just right for a slow and steady pace. It is at times quite philosophical, and there are many references and quotes from both Christian and atheistic/agnostic writers, some I was familiar with and some who were new to me. My brain appreciated the chance to use some reason and logic for a change. (The reason and logic I employ on a daily basis are often lost on the toddler set I hang around with!)

In Part 1: The Leap of Doubt, Keller addresses seven of the most common objections he's encountered to Christianity. And as the pastor of a large Presbyterian church in Manhattan, he's probably heard most of them. Questions about how God could allow suffering, why God would send people to hell, how it's possible to be a person of science and a person of faith, and why we believe that there really is only one way to reconciliation with God.

In Part 2: The Reasons for Faith, he expounds on sin, the cross, the resurrection, and the nature of God as he argues in favor of a true, life-changing faith (not to be confused with adherence to religion).

While there were a few topics where I did not completely agree with his assertions, overall this book provides well thought-out, reasoned arguments for faith and Christianity. And does so in a respectful way. If you find yourself with questions of your own, or are trying to share your faith with someone who is challenging you to give reasons for what you believe, I'd recommend The Reason for God.


So what about you? Do you frequently interact with skeptics? How do you feel about answering the tough questions? Are you confident or timid when it comes to sharing your faith? I'd love hear about your experiences in the comments!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sometimes I Stink

Sometimes I stink. (Okay, I stink a lot).

Hmmm...maybe I should explain....

So far this morning, I've served hotdogs for breakfast (don't ask), returned the contents of the silverware drawer to their rightful homes (Emma was, er, displeased, by my removal of her art installation), and reheated my first cup of coffee in the microwave once, twice, three times.

In case you're wondering, this is not how I envisioned this morning.

I got up early. (And I am not a morning person)
I had a plan. (And it did not include the melodic voice of my eldest singing to me from the top of the stairs at 6:05 a.m.)
I was prepared to put my plan into action. (I'm still prepared, but...)

God clearly had a different plan.

And it made me wonder about some other women, two thousand years ago...

They got up early. Who knows if they had slept? Eyes swollen in grief. Stomachs churning in fear. Minds swirling in confusion.
They had a plan. A final act of love. To anoint the body.

Have you ever wondered what they must have expected to see? Jesus had been dead for three days. His body had been turned into bloody pulp, and that was before nails held his quivering flesh to a cross.

These women weren't expecting to find the kind of false perfection we are accustomed to when we pay our last respects. I don't know, but my guess is they expected stench, rot and decay. Maybe bugs.

So they came prepared. They had their spices and they were ready to do what needed to be done.

I doubt they ever imagined that God had a different plan.

Of course, He always had. It came as no surprise to Him that their day didn't go the way they had planned. And His plan was so much better.

So why do I fight Him? Why do I get so aggravated when my plans are thwarted?

Why can't I remember that God is not surprised?

Why do I sulk and fume, instead of accepting His change and running with joy into the day He has prepared for me?

Those women did. I wonder if spices were strewn all over their path as they sprinted away. And I wonder how my day, my children, and my world would be different if instead of spewing toxic fumes of annoyance, I would choose to leave behind a pleasant fragrance as I charge into His will for my life.

If you're thinking that sometimes you stink too, then let's fall into grace together, shall we?

(For some reason, I think grace might smell like Spring).


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

A gift held ~ hot coffee; sleepy babies
A gift hiding ~ a ripe avocado (hiding in the onions - not sure how it got there!)
A gift heard ~ "I love Baby Drew" (from James)

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012


I love the smell of sawdust.

One whiff and I feel like a young girl standing in the barn, holding the end of a board while my Daddy cuts it with a Skilsaw. I’m transported to a safe place to talk, to spill my troubles, to ask questions, to get answers.

With each deep breath, I can remember the unique smell of my Pa’s flannel shirts - a combination of sawdust, gasoline and sweat. I’m transported to Friday evenings sitting beside him watching Knight Rider. Or riding on the back of a tractor down to the mailbox, giggling all the way.

To me, sawdust smells like hard work and childhood.

To me, sawdust smells like love.

I was thinking about this recently as I walked through our new home which, at that moment, was covered in sawdust. A new home which is clearly a part of God’s plan for my life, and which, as usual, has not unfolded in the way I expected.

God’s ways are unsearchable. He plans beyond our grasp. And sometimes, He feels so far above us, so far beyond us, as to be unknowable.

But He wants us to know Him.

As I walked down the stairs, leaving footprints in the sawdust, breathing in the delicious aroma, He spoke.

“I love the smell of sawdust, too.”
I froze on the stairs.


God loves the smell of sawdust?

Really? And why would He take the time to tell me? What is He trying to reveal to me about who He is?

I’ve thought about it quite a bit over the past few weeks. Perhaps it reminds Him of long talks in a barn, holding the end of a board while Joseph made practiced cuts with a handsaw. Maybe He recalls childhood laughter with His siblings as they built towers and forts with the scraps left over from Joseph’s latest project.

Or maybe, there was a hint of sawdust in the air as He bore the cross, as the nails pierced His flesh, as He died for me.

Maybe, to Him, sawdust smells like love.

I John 4:7-10 ~ Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (ESV)

From the archives...originally posted 3/14/11

image courtesy of