Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Live Well, Live Wisely

I love Christmas...it truly is my favorite time of year.  The singular focus of God coming near in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ...well, I would do better to wonder over that gift all year long! 
But, almost as good, to me, is this week.  The afterglow of Christmas...usually involving a little time off and some time with family, and no return to the hectic pace of life just yet.  It's a time of reflection.  I'm not really one to make "New Years' Resolutions", but I do love the idea of a fresh start, a new beginning.  God knows I need one quite often.  There are many processes that God has begun in my heart to transform me into who He wants me to be.  His Word is my guide in that process, and this passage is another reminder for me from James 3 (The Message).

"1-2Don't be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you'd have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.
 3-5A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
 5-6It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
 7-10This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
 10-12My friends, this can't go on. A spring doesn't gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don't bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don't bear apples, do they? You're not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?
 13-16Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here's what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn't wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn't wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn't wisdom. It's the furthest thing from wisdom—it's animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you're trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others' throats.
 17-18Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Panera is here!!!

If I have talked to you anytime recently, you probably don't even need to read this, because I have been talking non-stop about this...I am soooo excited that our Panera is open now!  And it's not just because they have great food.  They are SHARING their great food with us at Light and Life!  Yes, it's true...after months of checking the website daily for the status of our request, we were approved for their Operation Dough-Nation, where we receive their daily leftovers every Saturday night.  YEAH!!!
So, this past Saturday was our first pick-up, and Makenzie went along with me after our (AWESOME) dinner theatre production at church, "It's a Wonderful Life".  We arrived and told them the reason we were there, and then they offered us a drink and something to eat while we waited!  I love this place!  So while Makenzie gobbled up her cinnamon roll, I watched as they began to load up the leftover bagels.  I'm thinking to myself...that's a lot of bagels.  Then they started boxing up all the pastries, and I'm thinking to myself...that's a lot of pastries.  Then they just got garbage bags for all the loaves of bread, and I'm beginning to worry if I have enough room for it all!  As they come out front to load up all the special holiday breads and cookies, I'm loading up the car and realizing that I have left no room for my daughter in our SUV, and I'm trying to decide what must stay and what must go...You'll be glad to know that Makenzie did make it into the car (by sitting in Jonathan's carseat).
What a feast we had Sunday morning!!!   And even after Sunday afternoon's dessert buffet, we still had quite a bit left over to take to Sojourner Truth Ministries to feed the homeless this week.  So YEAH!!!  Panera is here!!!!

Coming soon...the book I'm working on now...Love at Last Sight...and I'm loving it!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The American Patriot's Almanac

Daily Reading on America is the subtitle of this book, and that's exactly what you get...365 stories from history.  Now for those of you who only studied history because you had to in order to make it through school, this may not be the book for you...but then it may be!  I read through these stories that I had probably heard...with familiar names like Abigail Adams, Frederick Douglass, and Nathan Hale...but I had forgotten how inspiring their stories are, or maybe I never even appreciated them when I was younger. 
Each month also has an extra section of information including such topics as the flag, historical documents, quotes, songs and movies, and a great section on the influence that faith has had on our country. 
If you are weary of seeing our history rewritten to support a secular, Godless worldview, or if you simply enjoy rediscovering the stories that have built our great nation, then you will really enjoy this book.  I plan to read it with my children in order to help them develop an appreciation for history and the freedom and privilege that we enjoy as Americans.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Gospel According to Jesus

Had some great reading to take to the beach recently...The Grace of God I just reviewed, and The Gospel According to Jesus by Chris Seay.  This book took a little bit longer to get through as it was less storytelling and more thoughtful examination.  This pastor/writer often takes on the project of finding truth in less obvious places, as in his previous works "The Gospel According to Lost" and "The Gospel According to Tony Soprano", so it would seem that finding Jesus' Gospel would be a great deal easier.  The idea for this work actually came from another project he worked on, "The Voice",  a new Bible translation.  When the writers came to translating the word "righteousness", they found that the Church had a misunderstanding of the word, having to do more with piety and morality than with how they defined it: "God's restorative justice".  It took me a while to wrap my brain around that definition, and thoughtful reflection is not a strength for me, but it was a struggle worth having.  There is dialogue at the end of each chapter with people like Mark Batterson, Dan Kimball and Gabe Lyons, which help flesh out some of the ideas. "God restores us so that we might become agents of restoration", says Alan Hirsch.  It's all about living out the Gospel...not just playing Church, but being the Church.  While I think the primary audience for this book will be those who consider themselves avid students of the Bible, more casual readers may get lost.  If you are like me and can become frustrated with prolonged theological discussion, then this book will be a challenge.  But in the end, I enjoyed the challenge, and I think my understanding of the Gospel according to Jesus has been enriched as a result.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Grace of God

Before I begin this review, I must confess my bias…I am a huge Andy Stanley fan.  Almost ten years ago, JJ and I went to a conference at his church in Alpharetta, Georgia and "discovered" him.  Ever since then, we have soaked up every opportunity  to learn from him through his books and sermons.  He is a gifted communicator that is able to take topics that you have heard countless sermons on and somehow give fresh insight every time.  I was sure that The Grace of God would be no exception.  So to say I was eager for the opportunity to get my hands on this book before its release is a huge understatement.
So on with the review!  The topic of The Grace of God seems like a topic too broad to cover in only 217 pages…I mean, where do you start?!  Well, I'm so glad Andy Stanley chose to start at the very beginning.  When speaking or writing on the topic of grace, authors and speakers often skip straight to stories of the New Testament where the redemption of mankind unfolds in the person of Jesus.  But Andy starts instead with the gritty stories from the Old Testament, showing that “from the very beginning God has responded to the sin of humanity with…well…amazing grace.”  He writes of the many facets of God’s grace, by retelling the stories of Abraham, Judah, Rahab, David, and Jonah, then moving on to the New Testament stories of Matthew, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and the Prodigal Son.  And while many of these stories were familiar, he still manages to shine a light on something fresh and show how amazing God’s grace truly is.   And throughout each story, the constant theme is that of the God of all creation reaching out to fallen man with a love that defies logic.  And then he challenges the church in a chapter titled "Commissioned for Grace", and cites Acts 15:19, reminding us that we "should not make it difficult for people who are turning to God".  When confronted with the Grace of God, the only appropriate response is to celebrate what He has done and to demonstrate His grace to others.  All of these stories are really God's story, where His love is not earned, but given...not because of anything you've done, but simply because of who He is...how could we not want to share that?  For that is the gospel!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lost, then Found

A few nights ago we were getting the kids ready for bed, which is often a long process due to the many distractions along the way.  While Caleb was finishing things in the bathroom, I was practicing a song for church the next day, then looking at childrens' church curriculum online (see, I'm the one distracted!).  Makenzie comes to me and asks, "Where is Caleb?"  I tell her he's probably already in bed...she goes to check...he's not there...and we begin to look for him...casually, at first, because we expect to find him quickly.  But, 20 minutes later, I am in a panic!  We have looked everywhere in the house, 3 times at least, and I'm starting to look in ridiculous places like the washing machine and the refrigerator.  I've begun calling the neighbors, I'm screeching out his name in this panicked (LOUD) voice, and JJ is outside searching outside with a flashlight...no Caleb!  At that point, I'm not even sure how it happened, but I went to the sofa and found him, buried under (and completely concealed by) pillows, fast asleep (even though JJ had even tapped on those pillows as he looked under the sofa earlier)!
I don't know if you've ever experienced anything like that, but it makes you profoundly aware of what matters.  Suddenly, there was nothing else.  Music for Sunday, children's curriculum, teeth brushing, or anything else was of no importance with my child missing!  My mind was racing through all the things that could have happened to him.  And then the relief that flooded over me when he was found!  Again, nothing else mattered!  My child was safe and in my arms! 
After the drama calmed down, and all was determined to be fine, it seemed silly that we were in such a panic and he was just asleep on the sofa the whole time.  But I see now that it was probably good for me.  Look at Luke 15, where you find the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.  Can you grasp the intensity with which they look for that which is lost?  I sure can now!  I want to carry that same intensity around with me each day, that same love that God has for all of His children.  And so many of his children are just like Caleb was...asleep.  Even, like my favorite Keith Green song, "Asleep in the Light".  They are numb to the voices calling to them, and the only thing that can wake them up is someone's loving touch. 
And don't think that everyone will understand why you have that intensity...do you think the 99 sheep liked it when the shepherd left to find the one?  The older brother was angry that his father was welcoming the prodigal son.  But we have to remember that we once were lost, and through God's Amazing Grace, now we are found.  My prayer is that though some may be blind, through God's Amazing grace, they may see.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Love and Respect

Today I get to review my first book!  I signed up for a great program through Thomas Nelson publishers, called Book Sneeze, where I am provided a book for free, then I review it on my blog.  Yesterday I received Love and Respect for a Lifetime, which is the gift book version of the well-known book on marriage by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect.  I have wanted to read this original version for years, but, for various reasons, have never gotten to it.  So I was excited to see this as one of the choices for my book review.
Because this is a gift book, it was a very quick and enjoyable read.  The pictures and artistry of the words are very attractive, and the writing format primarily consists of little snippets of wisdom as exerpts from the original book.  Initially, it was a lot of reiteration of the main theme...women absolutely need love and men absolutely need respect...stated in many different ways, with the emphasis being on the differences between men and women.  But after the first 30 or 40 pages, we begin to get some practical application:
     "Using Ephesians 5:33, I explain the Crazy Cycle this way:  When a wife feels unloved, she reacts in a    way that feels disrespectful to her husband, and when a husband feels disrespected, he reacts in ways that feel unloving to his wife.  This dynamic spins, and the relationship can get crazy!"
He reminds us that "my response is my responsibility".  That each time we interact with our spouse, we make a choice in how we respond.  And if we choose to draw strength from our relationship with Christ, we will not expect our spouse to meet our every emotional need.
My only criticism is that it left me wanting more.  But it is a gift book, so that is probably the intention.  For those who are not big readers, it gets the ideas out there in a quick, easy-to-read format.  But for those who like to read, the original will probably be more satisfying.
Now I can't wait for the next book!!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Being known

It is so hard to believe we are coming up on a year here in Williamsport, PA!  It has been a VERY full year...full of all of the joys and pain that transitions bring.  Those little joys are why I actually enjoy settling into new places....I love discovering all there is to know about a new place and finding my favorites:   Eder's ice cream, Tony's Deli, Wegmans, Venice Pizza, TJMaxx, the farmers market, and, of course, Lycoming Physical Therapy (check out our new website: http://lycomingpt.com/home).  
 And with new places also comes new people, and with new people comes more joys and pain of transition;  navigating that treacherous world of developing new friendships.  We're in a whole new place where no one knows us and the fear of rejection is always there, so everything is all awkward and junior-high-like again.  You know, when you go to the grocery store in sweatpants with no make-up and your hair all a mess, and you see someone you know, then you walk away and wonder if the person thinks less of you because you look like a slob.  Or you have people over to your house, and you want everything to be just right, but it never is.  Once someone really knows you, you don't worry about those things...but as relationships are just forming, first impressions make such a difference! 
How wonderful it is to be known!  Psalm 139:1-6 says
"1 O LORD, you have searched me
       and you know me.
 2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
       you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
       you are familiar with all my ways.
 4 Before a word is on my tongue
       you know it completely, O LORD.
 5 You hem me in—behind and before;
       you have laid your hand upon me.
 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
       too lofty for me to attain."

He sees us as we really are: no makeup, hair a mess, dressed in rags, with our house dirty and disorganized, and He even know all of our thoughts!  And He still accepts us as His children, loves us beyond what we can even imagine, and even delights in us!
Zep. 3:17 says "The LORD your God is with you,
                        he is mighty to save.
                        He will take great delight in you,
                        he will quiet you with his love,
                        he will rejoice over you with singing."

Such knowledge truly is too wonderful for me.  I don't think I really can grasp that...the God of all creation rejoicing over me?  I think I will let that take over my thoughts today instead of worrying about first impressions.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My blog

For my  few friends and family who will read this, stop laughing...
I know I said I would never blog...I mean, are there really any other people who want to read my commentary on life anyway?  Well, maybe not.  So why the blog?  Here's why...
I feel compelled, more and more each day, to build up my brothers and sisters in Christ in this world that continually tears us down.  The blog title "E429" comes from Ephesians 4:29, and was something my college friends and I would say to each other anytime we would be tempted to say things that would be hurtful or damaging...kind of like your mother's "If you can't say anything good,don't say anything at all." So this may be more like a journal for me, and no one else will read it, but if you do, you have my commitment that my posts will be intended to encourage and to "benefit those who listen".  There will be book reviews, because I love to read.  There will be stories about my children, because they teach me even more than my books.  And above all, I will attempt to search for Truth and Wisdom as I unpack what the Holy Spirit reveals through God's Word and life experiences.