Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The longest New Year's Eve ever?

Yes, it just may be the longest New Year's Eve ever. I'll have to tell you why later. Let's just say, I cannot believe that it is only about 9:30 PM. If I were here at home alone, I probably would be laying in bed reading because I think they (whoever they are) have added more than one second to today because it has been a tremendously long day for me. Not a bad day, just a long day.

Happy New Year's to all!

The next blog I write will be written in 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prelude to the funny post

Evidently, I disappointed one of my readers by not making a personal post yesterday. You know, the plethora of readers that I have... Well, the people pleaser that I am... I'll blog for you Penny!

I'm going to try my best to write a humorous post tonight, but I have to admit my heart is totally in it. I was in a really lousy mood earlier and then I got downright mad about something else later on. That was about 4 hours ago, and I've cooled off somewhat. Bear with me a minute, and I'll get to the funny.

I don't often make plans for myself, but I had been looking forward to tomorrow morning. I was going to get my attitude adjusted in more ways than one since I had been in a pretty crummy mood for several days. The Barnes & Noble and Starbucks gift cards have been burning a hole in my new wallet. Since you have to go a certain distance away from Corsicana in order to use both, I was all ramped up to go buy some books that had been on my list and get a caramel frappachino. Sometimes it takes so little to make my day.

Well, something came up and threw my plans to go book shopping and frappachino sipping off until next week. I was mad at myself for building up my plans and setting myself up for disappointment because the truth is, the only person that can make you mad is yourself. It takes so little to make my day, and so little to make me disappointed. That's something I'm trying to work on among other things these days.

So, I tell myself, it will be OK. I'll be able to take Paige to the movies and get her back home in time for whatever plans Brian has for her for New Year's Eve. I wanted to leave my evening open for a potential last minute plan to ring in the New Year vs. the rarity of actually going to bed before midnight because I have a bad attitude about NYE and decided to sleep through the dropping of the ball. Jenny had a possibility bubbling that was probably going to fizzle out, or I was probably going to fizzle on her, but there was that possibility.

I had wanted to take Paige to Despereaux, but she wants to see Bedtime Stories. Just so you know, I think any movie that stars a former member of SNL falls in the category of stupid, with very few exceptions. However, it will be great because Paige and I will have our special time together.

About 30 minutes after I had called Brian to set up a time to meet him to get Paige, she called me back and said, "after we go to the movies tomorrow, we're going to spend the night at your house!" Almost speechless, I answer, "Ooooh? And who all is we?"

Brian does call back about 60 seconds after I hang up with her and asks, "you aren't doing anything tomorrow night were you? Peyton may actually want to stay at Mom and Dad's."

The honest to goodness truth is that I had no plans for tomorrow night. I was trying to be optimistic, but the truth is, I am a realist. My problem is (and believe it or not, I have a hard time time asserting it) that I hate to be told. I want to be asked.

While I agree the whole theory of "it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission" is certainly true, and I have certainly employed the theory myself, it is not always correct. Don't forgo asking permission if you never intend to ask forgiveness.

Then, I just got really mad (again at myself) that I did speak up and say, "that's fine, they can come over without a problem, but next time, it would be nice if you planned ahead a little."

Ok, so now that I have that frustration poured out for all the world to see, I'll get this posted and start to work on the funny.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Potato peelers, squirrels and socks

What do the three items named above have in common? Well, this is just a teaser for my next blog post.

In fact, the teaser may just be better than the next post itself!

The God I Don't Understand

This book releases in January - media and bloggers may email me for a review copy at ajennings@tbbmedia.com.

“Why does God do that?”
Fascinating new book reveals how to find an empowering, sustaining faith in an overwhelming fog of tough times and troubling, unanswerable questions


Why is there evil and suffering in creation? Can someone explain what the Cross really means and how what happened there saves me? What are we supposed to believe about the so-called end of the world?

There are few who can truthfully say they have never had questions about things God has done and said. Even the most beloved and devoted theological scholars and believers throughout the ages have had questions for which they’ve never found satisfying, understandable answers.

So how can you have joyful, fulfilling faith where you find no answers to these and other of life’s most puzzling questions?

Dr. Chris Wright’s revealing new book, The God I Don’t Understand (Zondervan, January 2009), tackles those questions and more. Dr. Wright is the international director of the Langham Partnership International, a consortium of trusts founded by John Stott which combines three ministries: Langham Scholars, Langham Literature, and Langham Preaching. John Stott Ministries is the member body of LPI in the United States.

With the kind of passion for which Dr. Wright has become well known, he opens his heart to non-believers, believers, and those who work in all kinds of ministry with an immediately engaging, less academic, more approachable style than many theologians. The questions on his heart are the questions on ours; his search for answers is our search as well.

In The God I Don’t Understand, Dr. Wright confronts head-on issues including:

-The mystery, offence, and defeat of evil
-The destruction of the Canaanites and why it is such a stumbling block for Christians
-The embarrassment some Christians feel about the “God of the Old Testament”
-The incomprehensibility of the Cross, the misleading ways some Christians speak of it, and what it means to set the Cross in the light of the whole biblical story—including the OT
-Why “the end of the world” is a very inadequate phrase for what the Bible teaches
-What the new creation will be like and what the future holds for believers

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland to missionary parents, the Cambridge University educated Wright has authored many books, including Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, Salvation Belongs to Our God, The Mission of God, and commentaries on Deuteronomy and Ezekiel. Dr. Wright also serves as chair of the Lausanne Committee’s Theology Working Group and as chair of the Theological Resource Panel of TEAR Fund, a leading Christian relief and development charity.

Each page offers a new, encouraging discovery as he examines every facet and nuance of some of the most puzzling questions in the Christian faith and shares with readers how to find and maintain a joyful, soul-calming faith even when no definitive answers can be found.

The God I Don’t Understand by Dr. Christopher J. H. Wright
Zondervan/January 2009
ISBN: 978-0-310-27546-6/224 pages/Hardcover/$19.99
http://www.zondervan.com/

Finding God in the Shack

This is a book that is releasing in February. We've already had a lot of requests for the book. This one should be quite popular. If you are a media outlet or a blogger and want to review the book, let me know by email ajennings@tbbmedia.com.

Finding God in The Shack examines the controversy behind a bestseller

A child is brutally murdered. Her father receives an invitation from “Papa” (God) to meet him at the very shack where this horrific event took place. Upon arrival, he is swept up in the embrace of Papa—a large, motherly, African-American woman. This most unlikely of stories, as told in William Young’s The Shack, has become a runaway bestseller, and it is easy to see why. The book brings us on a redemptive journey through the shacks of deepest pain and suffering in our lives, guided by the triune God of Christian faith. But even as lives have been transformed through this book, other readers have sternly denounced it as a hodgepodge of serious theological error, even heresy. With one pastor urging his congregation to read it and another forbidding his congregation to do so, many Christians have simply been left confused.

In his new book, Finding God in The Shack, theologian and author Randal Rauser takes readers on a fascinating journey through the pages of the story that has ignited the church’s interest in the Trinity, a doctrine that has long been locked away in seminary classrooms. “As a theologian, it is wonderful—if a bit humbling—to witness the Trinity now emerging as a topic of lively conversations at the local coffee shop, and all because of a novel,” Rauser says. “But while those conversations have not typically lacked for enthusiasm and conviction, many of them would benefit from some deeper background as to the theological issues at stake.”

As Rauser explores the intricacies of the plot, he addresses many of the book’s complex and controversial issues. In the process, he explains why God the Father is revealed as an African-American woman, defends the book’s theology of the Trinity against charges of heresy, and considers its provocative denial of a Trinitarian hierarchy. At its heart The Shack is a response to evil, and Rauser offers an honest and illuminating discussion of the book’s explanation for why God allows evil, how the atoning work of Christ offers new hope to a suffering world, and ultimately how this hope extends to all of creation.

Whether they have been inspired, challenged, or even threatened by Young’s novel, Finding God in The Shack is an essential tool for readers who want to better understand the Scriptural truths contained in the book’s message and to apply those truths to their own lives. Each chapter concludes with a set of provocative discussion questions, making Finding God in The Shack an ideal vehicle for small group discussion.

“It is true that The Shack asks some hard questions and occasionally takes positions with which we might well disagree. But surely the answer is not found in shielding people from the conversation, but rather in leading them through it,” Rauser states. “After all, it is through wrestling with new ideas that one learns to deal with the nuance and complexity that characterize an intellectually mature faith. The Shack will not answer all our questions, nor does it aspire to. But we can be thankful that it has started a great conversation.”

Finding God in The Shack by Randal Rauser
Authentic – February 2009
ISBN 978-1-606570-32-6/160 pages/$ 14.99
http://www.authenticpublishing.com/

Sunday, December 28, 2008

It's back to work tomorrow

Well, it's back to work tomorrow. After being off for basically a week, it's going to be tough to get up at a normal hour and back into a routine. I'll start posting some new PR and book stuff once I get back to add variety to this blog.

I received and B&N gift card for Christmas, so I'm going to load up on some other books and get back to reading now that I've finished some other things I had going on.

Wednesday afternoon, I'm planning on taking Paige to The Tale of Despereaux because Bolt is no longer playing in town. Poor Paigey needs some attention as she adjusts to big changes in her young life. Guess she'll be my New Year's Eve date.

I've been at home for the past few days and have seen I don't know how many episodes of House and NCIS. I'm not sure if I am thankful for USA Network's marathons or not. Some variety might have been nice.

To those of you in Texas... how'd you like that 80 degree weather on Friday? It was a little hot considering it was the day after Christmas. I should have blogged about the weather again.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Random quotes from Peyton

My niece Peyton is hilarious. She's four and a half and like any child that age, can say some of the darnedest things. Here are a few of the things she said yesterday:

"Hurry up and get your bottoms up here! I'm ready to open presents!" (Actually, she was screaming this. It was taking her daddy too long to help Julie get Layton out of the car.)

"Hey Madison, your doll came off TV." (Excitedly, after she asked where Grandma bought their dolls.)

"I'm going to pass down." (Instead of pass out while playing Twister. She's evidently not all that coordinated and limber.)

"I wish I had my cherries." (Pops gave her a jar of cherries - "the regular kind like you get in drinks." She requires extra cherries when you take her to Sonic.)

I asked her if I got her earrings with a cherry on them if she would let me switch them out. (I took her to get them pierced back in August and have yet to convince her to let me change them out for her because it might her.) She said, "if you get me Dora and Boots ones." I replied back, "really?" Noooo. "I'll let you do it tomorrow." OK, yeah, sure.

She has also earned the nickname "Bacon". If I can tell she's fibbing or telling a story or faking, I simply say, "Bacon..." and she fesses up.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nice reaction

Ok, the gifts have been unwrapped, it is time to dismantle the trees and move on to other things.

What kind of rubs me the wrong way is that for the last few days is that I have been crocheting until I got cramps in neck and my fingers were stiff in order to finish the BaqBaq blanket I had been working on for Layton. The obsessive-compulsive in me decided it had to be done last minute. And everyone showed up at my parents house when I was 5 minutes away from having it done.
So after everyone got there, the two youngest girls screamed like crazy for the HUGE stuffed horses I got them, I snuck back to finish the last few stitches to complete the blanket. I folded it, took it to the living room, but it under the tree, and Paige pointed it out when Julie walked back in from her car. Paige says, "this is Layton's present from Audra." Julie says, "Oh, that's pretty," literally looking at it maybe two seconds before stuffing it in a sack with some other stuff next to the couch. I said, "I just finished it two minutes ago."

I did take it out of the sack to take a photo of it and show Mom from across the room that I had finished it. I said, "I have to take a picture because I said on my blog I would."

I'm reminding myself that approval is nice to have, but no one owes it to me. I don't have to let approval or acceptance or appreciation be an idol. I'm not mad about it, and I'm not saying that no one liked it, I just expected a little more reaction.

I really need to end this post now. Those three Christmas trees that I put up for some unknown reason aren't taking down themselves. My goal is to have them down tonight!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I've had enough of Four Christmases

Contrary to what has been said about me before, I do not hate all movies. I just don't go to the movies a lot - it's just not my passion like it is some people's. I maybe go a few times a year. In the past 4 weeks, I've gone twice and seen the same movie twice.

The day after Thanksgiving, I met up with my friend Rakia and we saw Four Christmases because it looked funny. It was. The first time. I forgot how utterly annoying Vince Vaughn became by the end of the movie.

Well, our somewhat more recent tradition (for my parents and I) is to go watch a movie in Waxahachie and out to eat on Christmas Eve. The choice of movies was slim, and my parents had already decided they wanted to see Four Christmases. They had forgotten that I had already seen it. That was fine, no problem, I would see it again without complaint.

Man, I tell you, Vince was annoying from the get go this time.
On this Christmas Eve, I am also rushing to crochet what may or may not be a Christmas gift for my (step)nephew. Every child needs a BaqBaq blanket, I suppose. Back in October when I was on vacation and started it, I intended to get it done in time. Then, I threw it in the basket for two months and didn't pick it up. The only fortunate thing about having Christmas on Saturday or Sunday is that I have more than a snowball's chance in ____ of getting it done in time. Possibly a snowball's chance in Texas.

Wish me luck!

The pictures below are the BaqBaq blankets I finished just in the nick of time last Christmas for Paige (purple) and Peyton (yes, her favorite color is orange and the color permanently burnt my retinas). Maybe Madison will get one for Valentine's...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Game Night

I think my competitive nature is coming back a little. I must admit that I didn't like losing last night at the Parkers. I could deal with the Rummicube loss, but the slaughtering in Trivial Pursuit wounded me a bit. Part of me is convinced that I just got all of the hard questions because I couldn't answer one right for the life of me. *sigh*

A special thanks to all of the Parkers for making me feel so welcome and making Christmas candles. I burned one of the candles earlier today.

Game playing on my dad's side of the family goes back several generations on his mom's side. Dad has always told me about his grandmother always having a jigsaw puzzle out or always playing a game on the card table she had set out.

Nanny must have been her mother's daughter. Nanny loved to play games. No telling how young I was when she first taught me to play Chinese Checkers. No telling how many times she beat me by cheating. Actually, I take that back because I only caught her cheating once.

I loved to play 42 with her, but everyone else was leary of the Nanny rules of 42. To this day, there's still some things I'm not sure are right, and goodness knows what are actually rules after playing with her. One rule my dad particularly hated was playing "7s". I doubt anyone knows what that means, and I'll just have to explain that another time.

One of my last memories of her while she was still able to interact with us was taking Paige out to her house (Paige was 3 at the time), and Nanny trying to play a game with her with these Donkey cards (similar to Old Maid). It breaks my heart to think about it because she was just so weak, but still trying to play, and I knew it was one of the last times she'd be able to do so.

Christmas Eve was definitely a game playing night, so I'll miss that tomorrow.

What's funny about the other side of my family, is that one of my great-grandmothers was so against card or domino game because she considered it a form of gambling. However, her daughters did have an Ouija board. I've just given up on trying to figure that out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday encouragement

Ok, this below is the reminder I needed today. This is actually a pitch that I asked one of our clients to write last year for the holidays (I even contributed part of the ideas), and I just dug it up out of my email because I remembered it.

Encouragement for the Holiday Season
written by Jeremy Lelek of the Association of Biblical Counselors

The holiday season has emerged from the mundane redundancy of the past twelve months, ushering in a seemingly magical transformation of the social atmosphere. New colors explode in the dark of night as countless houses across the nation are adorned with festive lights. The excitement of children as they await the arrival of one, Santa Claus, permeates the air. Choruses celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ fill small towns as the local church bell provides the all-too-familiar melodies of Silent Night and Away in a Manger. Celebration is the theme of the season, and real life, with all its blemishes and pains, is brushed away into the dark corners of silence. However, if one chooses to peek into the shadows, he or she will see the harsh realities that exist and are even magnified during the Christmas season. The desired “peace on Earth” is disrupted by intrusive circumstances such as difficult family members, the death of a loved one, financial strain, isolation, and loneliness. To ignore those visited by such unwelcome strangers is to fail in living out the very spirit of this sacred season. This Christmas, be aware that all may not be bright, and that some could actually benefit from the love of the One whose life and birth we joyously celebrate at this time of year. When dealing with others or personally experiencing difficulty, consider the following:

- Difficult Family Members: Remember the sobering words of Jesus Christ who said, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who abuse you…If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:27, 32). Seek to live for the higher, more glorious purpose for which you were created. Do not fixate on how irritating or frustrating your family members may be or how they may need to change. Instead, recognize their character as a powerful context in which you can (and are called to) change in order that you may more accurately reflect Him (Romans 8:28-29). What is your primary agenda? That others suit you or that you suit the call of God?

- First Christmas Without Him or Her: Christians are exhorted in Philippians 4:13, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Believers in Jesus Christ will grieve, but their grieving should take on a different shape than the grief of nonbelievers. There is no silver-bullet to relieve the pain of loss, however, keeping Christ at the center of grief can make all the difference. Three recommendations: First, recall the precious gift of the beloved Redeemer in his giving of his own life so that death would be eternally destroyed, then offer thanks for this amazing sacrifice. Second, use the intensity of your own loss to relieve the pain of another through kind words, showing interest, or offering a loving gesture in order to “love God” and “love neighbor” (Matthew 22:37-39). Third, thank God for the good times and the precious memories.

- Financial Strain: Be a good steward of the resources God has given you. Resist seasonal and cultural pressures to overspend simply for the sake of pleasing others. Use this year to contemplate the wisdom of Paul who said, “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:12). Interpret this year as a season in which God’s hand of mercy is sparing you and your family from the vanity of commercialization, and count yourself blessed that you may peer into the deeper meaning of Christmas.

- Isolation and Loneliness: If the holidays find you spending more time alone than that to which you are accustomed, consider the following: Purpose in your heart to be focused on loving God and others this Christmas season (Matthew 22:37-39). Plan to be a blessing by doing something kind for a friend, family member, or a neighbor rather than anticipating the dread of how miserable you are going to be this Christmas. Refuse to wallow in self-pity. Schedule a time to visit a museum or take a walk in the park. Be reminded of the Creator and his eternal presence as you gaze upon the beauty of his artistry (Romans 1:19-20). When alone, be comforted by His love and presence. Take time to open the Bible and read the glorious story of redemption He has freely offered you. Worship Him!

It's Monday alright...

The good news is that our offices are only open today of this week. The bad news is that I received about 100 emails between Friday and today. The follow-thru in me just hates knowing that's waiting for me when I return to work. I know they will be here when I return, and that's the problem. That and I certainly haven't finished off those waaaaayyyy late final report letters that just keep getting pushed down the list. And I really expected that. One of my numerous problems is figuring out how to just let go.

The last few days, I've been having a really hard time coming up with funny tidbits to share. I do have a couple of things to say that I think are funny, but I'm pretty sure that someone might want to have me committed if I were to say them. There are times that my honesty these days my have people looking at me a little funny.

I am looking forward to tonight though. I'm going over to Matt and Misha's for dinner and games. Matt and Misha have a heart for adoption and taking in strays, they just didn't realize that was going to apply to taking in someone their own age.

I can hardly wait for what Matt has planned. The one thing I'm sure of is a rousing and exciting game of Clue! I must say that I have never played such a competitive and enlightening game of Clue until I played it with the Parkers. None of the three of us are good liars, first of all. Then, I feel like I'm in middle of a marriage quarrel when they start accusing of each other of holding back information and lying. It's all in good fun, of course, and is sure to be a great time.

The excitement within me is building just thinking about it. I love to play games, and Christmas time is a great time to do so.

I don't have time right now, but I'll have to write sometime about the competitiveness of playing games at Christmas time in my family. One whole blog entry needs to be devoted to playing games with Nanny. I may need a box of Kleenex by me when I do that though. Great memories, but I also get sad thinking about how much I miss playing with her.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just call me the Grinch

In an effort to make sure that I keep my blog going, I've promised myself that I am going to blog about something every day, at least just post something.

Well, I'm just not feeling it today. Call me the Grinch. That title would be fitting for any one of several reasons. Does anyone else feel a bit Grinch-ish today?

Here is one random question that I'll throw out there:

Have you ever watched the Chia pet commericials at Christmas time and actually decided to go purchase one for a loved one's Christmas? (I've never done it, but I've considered it.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Maybe you just had to be there

I don't have anything profound to blog about today, so I'll tell you about a little adventure I had today. I am totally willing to admit that this might be one of those "you had to be there" stories or at the very least, you just have to hear me tell it out loud and watch me as I tell it.

This morning, I was headed up to Lewisville (home of the Fighting Farmers) with my parents to take my Aunt Lois a fruitcake for Christmas. (Yes, some people actually do give and receive fruitcakes for Christmas, especially if you are from Corsicana, home of the world famous Collin Street Bakery fruitcake. Evidently kings and presidents receive these fruitcakes for Christmas.)

As I have stated before, Dallas drivers can be maniacs, and this guy almost ran over the car in the lane beside us, swerved in front of us and almost caused us to hit him. After my dad slammed the breaks, my mom says, "I had to go to the bathroom before, but I really need to go now."

Evidently, by saying this, she meant "take the next exit." Dad didn't get that hint, and I didn't realize this was an emergency. So, a couple of miles later, Mom repeats, "I need to go the bathroom now."

We exit off in Carollton where there is only a string of car dealerships. No gas stations, no McDonald's, nothing. We go further down the service road, mom points out a restaurant off the block, but it's too late to turn. Up ahead is a train that has traffic stopped, and there's not another place to turn before getting to the railroad track.

I know, right now you are thinking, this story has got to get better...

So, here we are stopped for a train. I say to Mom, "That looks like a visitor's center or something over there, you want to get out and walk over there, and Dad can pick us up?" Dad certainly chimes in that I'll get out of the truck with her.

Reminder, we are on the service road to I-35, stopped for a train, and my mom and I jump out of the truck. I'm wearing a new pair of shoes I bought last weekend that add to my height which I need since my jeans are a little long. They are cute shoes, but not walking shoes, and no pair of wedges should ever be considered running shoes.

We have to climb over this chain to get through this parking lot, cross one street, look in a door to see if they have a restroom, then cross back. All the while I am walking as fast as I can in these shoes that don't want to stay on while Mom has on more decent shoes and a full bladder evidently makes her walk about twice as fast as normal. I look ridiculous tailing behind trying to keep up with her. As if we don't look ridiculous enough getting out of the truck and trekking around.

We go back to this building that we pointed out to begin with and realize we are still striking out. So, across Beltline road - a 6 lane divided road is a gas station. We jaywalk - correction - jayrun across the road and Mom hauls butt to get into the gas station. I yell at Mom, "I'll stand here on the sidewalk and try to get Dad's attention because he's going to have to turn to find us if the train ends."

I end up standing on this sidewalk along this busy road. I feel like a Harry Hines road reject or something standing out on a street corner. (You may have to be from Dallas to know exactly what that means.) With nothing else to do, I watch a mouse that ends up running into this shrub. Just as Mom comes back out, I warn her about the mouse as she's walking by and the train ends. (The mouse part is random.) We watch for Dad, and of course, he doesn't see us.

It takes us forever to get back across the six lane road because of the timing of the lights and the fact that an 18-wheeler blocked the intersection. Then, we aren't exactly sure where Dad ended up. Mom is still speed walking and I swear never to wear these shoes again, but thankfully we find him without a lot of trouble.

I think I hear crickets chirping now that the story has come to an end. I warned you it wasn't profound.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's the most off the wall last minute item you've tried to shop for?

This blog post requires reader participation. Ah, c'mon, it's not like a homework assignment.

When I was in jr. high/high school, my parents own a sports store, and part of the annual tradition was working on Christmas Eve until sometime into the afternoon. Every year, we continued to be stumped about the "big ticket" item that customers were looking for in Corsicana, and why on God's green earth they would wait until Christmas Eve to look for it.

I'm talking about people looking for snow skis. Uh, Thrill Hill isn't exactly something to ski down, and uh, then there's the whole snow issue. I wish I could remember what some of the other things were, but they were always pretty significant gifts that you really weren't likely to find unless you were in a specialty shop in Dallas or something.

So, my question to you is, what have you desparately searched for at the last minute? Or maybe it wasn't even last minute. What is the one gift that you almost drove yourself crazy trying to find?

It must have been three years ago, I for some reason got obsessed with trying to locate a Spirograph because I was just absolutely convinced that Paige would enjoy it. I had one when I was young, but I don't know what happened to it. I did online searches, etc. and had to buy pieces at a time off of eBay because I did not realize how rare yet valuable Spirographs were. I say pieces because I couldn't afford a complete set off eBay. I'm telling you the online bidding wars were insane! I literally got a ziplock sandwich bag of most, but not all a set. I bought a newer almost full set (not near as good the original pieces) as well as a few more newer pieces in another auction. I was obsessed, I'm telling you.

I kept the random pieces for myself, and just last month, Paige wanted to get it out and spirograph. Guess what I found at Target this year... It's certainly less sophisticated than the original, but it is actually a full set at least. I haven't told her about my blog yet, so this shouldn't ruin her Christmas present.

So back to my question, what have you been frantic to find as a gift and who was it for?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Random Christmas memories

Maybe reminiscing about past Christmases will get me in some sort of positive holiday mood, because I'm just not into it right now.

There was a point and time when Grandmother would always read a poem or some story before we opened our Christmas gifts. This went on for a few years in a row, and we all were just not into it. So, one year, my mom and ex-Uncle Alan hid the book that Grandmother was going to read from. After they made her cry, we never had a Christmas reading again.

Another annual tradition before you get to open presents at Grandmother's house are the family pictures (unfortunately, this is still a tedious tradition because too many people own cameras to be able to hide them all). Grandmother and her children. Grandmother and each of her children. Grandmother and each of her children's families. Each family without Grandmother. Grandmother and the grandchildren. You get the picture. Well, it's not just that we go through all of this, but every year, we stand in front of the house in the same place. The earth has not started revolving in the opposite direction since last year... We are always staring into the sun, and I always have this disgusted look on my face from the sun grins.

Every year at Nanny's house, we ate on Christmas Eve at the same time and everyone always brought the same dish. Everyone lived nearby except for Aunt Linda's family, and they were always there in plenty of time. Because there were so many of us, and we all brought our own cars for some reason (even all the grandchildren as the years went by), there would be at least 15 cars parked out by the house. All that to say that you didn't necessarily come with all your family when you came, but everyone was there by time to eat. Everyone except ex-Aunt Sherry. I don't know that anyone ever ate the broccoli and rice casserole over the years because it was never there on time.

We always sang every year at Nanny's house even though there was only one good singer in the family (and Melissa was adopted - we pointed that out every year too). I can't hear one certain version of White Christmas on the radio without thinking of ex-Uncle Wyn's rendition of the song. He wasn't a terrible singer, but he had a distinctive way of singing "Five Goooollllldddeenn Rings" which was his part of the 12 days of Christmas each year. The song never was quite the same after he and Carol divorced.

Speaking of singing, Melissa's best friend Todd (the Todd from Two Doors Down) would come and sing. I never could quite figure out why Todd came to our family Christmas. I couldn't figure out why any of the visitors that would pop by would come. We were sort of a peculiar bunch to hang with if we weren't your family.

For some reason, even though are rooms were right next to each other, I remember a few Christmas' when my brother decided he just had to sleep in my room on Christmas Eve. I had this foam fold out couch in my room, and that was his place to be on Christmas Eve. I'm not talking about when he was 4-5, I'm talking about when he was 11-12. He would drive me nuts talking until I'd have to tell him to shut up and go to sleep. One year, we seriously got up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and had to see if Santa had come (um...let's just say we were old enough to...). We got up, hooked up the Nintendo (this is the year of the original with Super Mario 1 and Duck Hunt), then went back to sleep. I remember him doing that another year too when he wanted to know if he got a certain baseball bat.

I remember one year at Nanny's standing in the kitchen talking to Mark, and then we both got up and left the room. About 5 minutes later, Aunts Linda, Carol and Kay were all screaming. "WESLEY, come in here and get this mouse out of here." The trap had gone off 18 inches away from where Mark and I had just been talking.

For some reason, we all remember the year when Josh was like 5 and had an earache so we all had to spend an almost silent evening at Nanny's.

Or we joke Hunter about the year he fell out of the high chair at Grandmother's (because the four oldest grandchildren are 8-16 years older than him and that's just what we do).

Ohhhh... I almost forgot. There was the Christmas when I was about 19. I was the 5th of 10 grandchildren on one side of the family. Only the two oldest grandchildren were ever gifted enough to join the "adult table". (That's because the table already had about 14 people packed around it and you had to sit on everything from the piano bench to an old vanity stool to the stool that Nanny kept her phone on because there weren't enough chairs.) Anyway, the other 8 of us were in the living room at the card tables (because we couldn't all fit around the kitchen table that served as the children's table anymore). The point of this story is that I distinctly remember several of my cousins discussing the times that they had almost been caught by the police or sheriff's department for having illegal firearms and hunting guns in their trucks. (No, I have an Uncle Jeff, but his last name is not Foxworthy, and he's on the other side of the family.)

(In case you were wondering by all the ex- references, evidently we have several ghosts from Christmas past in our family.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is it a migraine or is God trying to beat me over the head?

I think my headache this afternoon was a little bit of both. Between the Advil, taking out my contacts and turning off the lights in my office, I my headache did start to go away, so a migraine would be the logical answer.

However, I do think God is trying to beat a message into my head these days. Evidently, I'm pretty hard headed because I'm getting hit repeatedly. The same topic keeps coming up again and again in my life recently, and I know it's not a coincidence. It's just a matter now of making sure I'm getting the message in the right way and processing it to move forward in the way that I'm supposed to.

Is anyone else feeling battered and bruised these days?

Attention firstborns

Here's a book that I read recently that I recommend to all you firstborn children out there. I can't say that the book fixed all my problems, however, I have come to realize that the obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive, perfectionist, over-worked, overwhelmed, stressed out, too hard on myself tendencies that I have actually have a LOT to do with being the oldest child.

I really thought it was just a personal problem, but this book really helped me to see that oh, my goodness, it's not just me! The descriptions hit the nail on the head in my case. The Firstborn Advantage aims to take you from being the discouraged perfectionist the the successful achiever that firstborns were born to be.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Two degrees of separation?

On Facebook, I just went to the "People You May Know Feature" and found three interesting suggestions of potential friends. Mike Huckabee, Sean Hannity and Jeremy Camp. It seems that I have several friends who are friends with each of these people.

I guess I could be Sean and Jeremy's friends too, but I kind of find it more interesting that I'm only 2 degrees of separation away.

So, my question is, am I truly only 6 degrees away from Kevin Bacon?

P.S. To two of my avid blog readers out there, when I say Jeremy Camp, what two words come to mind? Actually, more than two words come to mind... Target, eyebrow pencil sharpener, NRB, Charlotte, palm tree fronds up my nose... I think you can figure out what I'm saying here...

Review of Josh Hamilton's Beyond Belief

I had the honor of reviewing this book for Deena for her blog A Peek at My Bookshelf. Actually, I begged her for the book and she said she'd send it to me if I reviewed it for her. Ok, it was still an honor.

As you can tell, I'm quite the wordy person, so here goes my first official guest reviewing job:

When I was growing up, my family loved baseball. My dad coached baseball before he was married or had kids. My brother played. I was the scorekeeper sitting in the dugouts throughout high school and junior college. I’m a Texas girl, so that also means going to Rangers games, and watching them on TV. Being a Rangers fan is not easy folks. For those of you not from Texas and don’t realize it, I have to say that it can sometimes be downright painful. However, the 2008 had one bright spot that kept things interesting. It became fun to watch and see what one certain player would do. That player was Josh Hamilton.

When I saw that this book was going around to the blogs to be reviewed, I emailed Deena for a chance to read the book. Like many baseball fans, I had heard Josh’s story about his comeback from drug addiction to make it to Major League Baseball. But, just hearing parts of the story as told to the media in snippets, is nothing compared to reading the entire thing.

Growing up, baseball was life for Josh’s close-knit family. Eat, sleep and breathe baseball. From the time Josh was old enough to throw a ball or swing a bat, his talent was far beyond what anyone had ever witnessed for someone his age. Early on, everyone knew that Josh was “destined” for baseball greatness. That plan was right on track through his youth, and after high school, he was the first pick of the first round of the 1999 baseball draft. With a signing bonus of $3.96 million from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he was in the spotlight and well on his way.

After a couple of years in the minor leagues, Josh’s career was thrown off track. Due to an injury, Josh found himself unable to consistently play the game he loved. At the same time, he was separated from his parents for the first time after they had spent his first couple of years on the road with him. With free time, and new found freedom, Josh started finding some new interests. At first, it was just an obsession with tattoos, but after time spent in the tattoo parlor, that led to his first taste of alcohol and first run in with drugs.

What followed was four years of a powerful addiction to cocaine. Most everything depicted on TV shows related to addicts happened to Josh. His life became obsessed with the drug that ruled his life. After repeated suspensions from baseball due to failed drug tests, baseball became low on his list of priorities because of the lifestyle of his addiction. There were times where he would go to rehab, only to fall back into the grasp of addiction.

Not only did Josh lose his opportunity to play the game he loved, he almost lost his family, his marriage, his children, and barely escaped with his life.

There was a turning point, however. His Christian grandmother took him in when no one believed in him any longer. Her final threat to kick him out of her house, after he had come to her as a last resort, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Josh couldn’t handle the disappointment of losing her as well. In a desperate prayer, Josh realized that if he didn’t have Jesus in his life, he would never be able to overcome his addiction. He picked up a Bible in his grandmother’s house, flipped open to James 4:7 and found what would be the verse that would change his life: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

The path to recovery was not, and still is not easy. After two years of resisting temptation, repairing the damage that drugs did to his body, hard work, and most of all his faith, Josh returned to the game he loved. Through a series of events, Josh was able to return to the baseball field and fulfill his dreams. He finally made it to the major leagues.

In 2007, he played his first major league game as a Cincinnati Red. After being traded to the Texas Rangers for the 2008 season, Josh really made a name for himself. He caught the attention of everyone in his amazing performance during the Home Run Derby at the All-Star game.

And he made the Texas Rangers dismal season bearable to watch.

The bottom line: This book is a great story on how, through God, all things are possible. Baseball fans will love it. Even if you just like to read about people’s personal stories, this is a book you would certainly enjoy.

Life as the single child

Every post that I write myself cannot and will not have the entertainment value that I know a couple of my early readers enjoy. Sometimes I need to share what's weighing on me.

I'm working on some things in my life these days. One of the things I'm really dealing with right now is being the single child. Not the only child, the single child.

Admittedly, it's kind of getting to me right now. And it's not really the loneliness of being single that's getting to me at this point. I struggle with that too. What really is eating at me right now is my place in the family as the single child. It's not that it's a new position for me. Officially, I've held that position for about 9 years.

The single child is the one who has to go along with whatever the rest of the family does in order to keep the peace.

The single child is the one who is told when her birthday will be celebrated because it's what's convenient for everyone else, and when it's when your nieces can make it. Because after all, your birthday is not about you even for 1 day out of 365 each year.

The single child is the one that is told, we're not having Christmas until who really knows when because it's your brother's ex-wife's year to have the kids and we're not going to do anything until he gets them back three days after Christmas. (And who knows if we get to do it that day either.)

The single child is the one who tends be treated more like a child because she's around more, and doesn't have a family of her own.

The single child is the one that is expected to be around more because she has been there in the past, but is really ready to break free in some ways.

Like I said, it's not a new position. It's just weighing on me more these days. I'm sure that the fact that my brother re-married and now has primary custody of 4 children instead of 2 has something to do with it.

I don't want to sound selfish or petty or childish, but it is wrong for someone to at least recognize the fact that you are in a position through no fault of your own, and yes, it can be a cruddy position to be in?

So, next week, I'm off Tuesday-Sunday. Call me, email me, comment here - I'll come celebrate Christmas with you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why Texas, sub-freezing weather and precipitation don't mix

For anyone who doesn't live in Texas, and has ever heard the phrase "if you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait a few hours and it will change," I assure you this is true.

There was a point yesterday when I had to turn on my air conditioner because 78 degrees in the house without air circulating is just too warm. Outside it was 70+ yesterday. Then there was this morning. Let's just say that all day today, the temperature literally barely made it above freezing.

Dreaming of a white Christmas is a nice sentiment, but if it is going to snow thick and all of everything better close down. For those of you who have not experienced winter in Texas, let me give you a little lesson (becuase you know people from all over the world are reading this blog).

It's not that we never see snow in Texas. We do. We see the flakes all pretty in the air, but when it snows, it never accumulates. You see, when it snows, it's usually not quite cold enough to stick because it's like 34 degrees and melts. Or it didn't sleet before hand to make the ground cold to make it stick.

We don't have the opportunity to try driving on snow. We have to deal with driving on ice. Because when it does get below freezing, for whatever meteorological reason, we don't get snow, we get slain or sneet. What are slain and sneet, you ask? Slain is freezing rain or a cross between sleet and rain. Sneet is a cross between snow and sleet that melts then refreezes. Oh, I'm watching the news - it was actually freezing drizzle that was falling earlier. Frizzle.

And it takes oh so little frizzle, slain and sneet to make a mess. Icy patches on all the bridges and overpasses form very easily. And if you are driving in a city such as Dallas, there are lots of bridges and overpasses.

Oh, and in case you haven't heard, people in Texas drive like maniacs. This is just a fact. And traffic in the DFW area can be quite treacherous at times. So you get maniacs who are maniacs without ice on ice during a high traffic time... Let's just say that that the wrecker services and police earn their pay.

I had to go to Fort Worth this afternoon. The location I had to go to usually takes me an hour and twenty minutes, maybe an hour and half to get to. (Would have only taken me that long to get there today, but I had to stop at Target to buy some socks because the ones I had on weren't thick enough.) While I was in my appointment, it precipitated. It took me three hours to get home tonight.

It took me over an hour and half to get 12, maybe 15 miles on I-20 before I could finally exit onto 287 due to traffic, ice and accidents. At one point I was stopped, eased off my brakes and realized it was a good thing the shoulder was to my right because as I lift my foot, my back bumper slides to the right, and my front goes to the left. I get back stopped and just think to myself, "well, I guess I'm going to have to stay here with my foot on the brake and turn on my hazard lights until sometime tomorrow when the temperature rises to about 35 because I admit I don't know everything. I don't know how I'm going to get off this piece of ice." That was the first of two ice spots I know for a fact I was on during my 82 mile drive home.

I'm just glad my office is about 3 miles away and there is only one bridge I have to cross to get there (it's always nicely sanded if there is a a possibility of it freezing). It's supposed to rain, sleet, frizzle, and slain tonight. If I lived in Dallas or Ft. Worth, I would just have to call in sick.

By the way, it's supposed to be 70 degrees again on Thursday.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Sacredness of the Sunday Nap

WARNING: Those of you who really know me will read this understanding my sense of humor, and realize how funny it would be if I were telling it out loud. Those who don't know me as well (because this blog is going to attract so many people, you know), should know that I have a certain amount of sarcasm in my humor.

So, on with the story...

Anyone who really knows me knows that I set aside 2 hours every Sunday for my Sunday nap. I've done it for so long that my body says, "OK, this is Sunday, it's nap time, I'm shutting down now." I'm a night owl, so this is my time to catch up on sleep that I've missed. So every Sunday, somewhere between morning and evening church services, you will find me on my broken couch in my living room. (The couch isn't great to sit on because it sinks in the middle, but works just right for napping - ask Jenny, she's experienced the couch effect before.)

Of course, nothing of this world is actually sacred, but my nap certainly comes close.

So today, I had settled in on the couch and just fallen asleep when my phone rings. At that point, I am not getting myself off of the couch. If I answer the phone when I'm half asleep, I like most people, am not too coherent, and I tend to be a bit grouchy. For the sake of anyone who decided to call me on Sunday afternoon, I let the machine get it.

It's a co-worker calling everyone to remind them of the office Christmas party tomorrow because it had snuck up on her. "Don't forget to bring your chips and guacamole!," she adds in a cheerful voice.

I have to admit, there's no way I was going to forget the party tomorrow (maybe I would forget the guacamole when I walked out the door, but I could come back for it) because I know it's going to mean about a 3 hour work day which is both a blessing and a curse (anyone watch Monk?). Work a couple of hours, production meeting, work a little more, go to the party, possibly back to work for a little (depends on how many steals we allow in the Chinese Christmas game), leave early for an appointment that I've been ready to go to for a week.

So, I say to the machine, "yes, the guacamole" and fall back to sleep.

Fast forward to an hour later.

HHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!

That's the sound of the train about 25 yards behind my house blaring it's very loud horn as it approaches an intersection. Talk about a wake up call. I'm still not quite ready to remove myself from the couch quite yet, so I try to go back to sleep.

Then the phone rings. I think to myself, "Mother [in frustrated moments she gets called Mother], are you seriously calling me now?" Because there is already a message on the machine, the answering machine comes right on. Click.

I prepare myself because I know what comes next. The cell phone.

Yep, it starts ringing. Fine! I get up to answer the phone. Caller ID: Mom. I hear her on the other end as I flip the phone open, "She might be asleep..." You think?

"Did I wake you up?"

"Well, actually the train did, but when the phone rang, I wasn't motivated to get off the couch." (Remember, I warned that I'm grouchy when I get suddenly woken up.)

"If you're agitated, you have no reason to be. You haven't had the afternoon I've had. Pops locked the keys in the truck and we were out at the dinosaur park in Glenrose."

"Well, it's a smart thing to do to take your keys out of the car anytime you get out, even if you are just stopped for a minute."

With my obsessive-compulsive nature, I either take them out or roll the window down so that I can reach in if I do lock the door since I do it automatically. And I will point out that this is not the first time that Dad has done this. Paige was giving him grief, I'm sure since she recently had a similar experience with her dad. Anyway, for my parents and niece Paige, that ended being an all afternoon experience involving a locksmith.

And now I am fully awake. I really needed to get up at that time anyway.

So, do any of you have a "Sacred Sunday Nap"?

Desire and Deceit by Dr. Albert Mohler



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Desire and Deceit

Multnomah Books (September 16, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., has been recognized by such influential publications as Time and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals. In fact, Time.com called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

A theologian and an ordained minister, Dr. Mohler serves as the ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

In addition to his presidential duties, Dr. Mohler hosts a daily live nationwide radio program on the Salem Radio Network. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues. Called “an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large” by the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview.

Dr. Mohler served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches. He came to the presidency of Southern Seminary from service as editor of The Christian Index, the oldest of the state papers serving the Southern Baptist Convention.

A leader within the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Mohler has served in several offices including a term as chairman of the SBC Committee on Resolutions. He currently serves as chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council of Seminary Presidents. Dr. Mohler is also a frequent lecturer at universities and seminaries and currently serves on the boards of several organizations including Focus on the Family. He also serves on the Board of Reference for The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

He is married to the former Mary Kahler. They have two children: Katie and Christopher.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (September 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420803
ISBN-13: 978-1601420800

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


P R E F A C E


Sexuality is now a major fact of public life in America and around much of the world. In one sense, this is hardly new. After all, sexuality is a major part of human existence—an unavoidably complex and potentially explosive dynamic of human life. But sexuality is now a public issue—front and center in some of the biggest and most contentious debates of our times.


Sex and sexuality now drive much of our advertising, entertainment, and the cultural scripts that citizens use in common conversation. The sexual revolution of the 1960s was, in retrospect, only a signal of what was to come. By the early years of the twenty-first century, issues of sexuality were seemingly unavoidable. Elementary school students are being introduced to “family diversity” curricula, and major newspapers report on the phenomena of sexual promiscuity in homes for the aged. There seems to be virtually no part of the culture that is not dealing with sexuality in one way or another—and often with significant controversy.


Christians have a special stake and stewardship in the midst of this confusion. In the first place, Christians know that sex is both more and less important than the culture of laissez-faire sexuality can understand. Unlike the naturalistic evolutionists, Christians believe that the realities of gender and sexuality are intentional gifts of the Creator, who gave these gifts to His human creatures as both a blessing and a responsibility. Unlike the postmodern relativists, Christians cannot accept the claim that all sexual standards are mere social constructs. We believe that the Creator alone has the right to reveal His intention and commands concerning our stewardship of these gifts. Unlike the marketing geniuses and advertising gurus, we do not believe that sexuality is intended as a ploy to get attention and to create consumer demand. Unlike the pandering producers of sexualized entertainment, we do not believe that sex is primarily about laugh lines and titillation. Unlike the sexual revolutionaries of recent decades, we do not believe that sexuality is the means of liberating the self from cultural oppression.


In other words, we believe that sex is less important than many would have us believe. Human existence is not, first and foremost, about sexual pleasure and the display of sexuality. There is much more to human life, fulfillment, and joy. Sex simply cannot deliver the promises made by our hypersexualized society.


On the other hand, sex is far more important than a secular society can envision. After all, the Christian worldview reveals that sex, gender, and sexuality are ultimately all about the creature’s purpose to glorify the Creator. This frame of reference transforms the entire question and leaves the creature asking this: how do I celebrate and live out my stewardship of my sexuality and my exercise of this gift so that the Creator is most glorified? Needless to say, this is not the question driving the confusion in our sex-saturated culture.


This book is an attempt to look at many of today’s most controversial and troubling issues concerning sexuality from the perspective of biblical Christianity. Every one of us has a stake in this, and Christians are responsible for a special witness to the meaning of sex and sexuality.


And all this, we know, is not only about how we are to think about these issues, but how we are to live.


1

FROM FATHER TO SON

J. R. R. Tolkien on Sex


The astounding popularity of J. R. R. Tolkien and his writings, magnified many times over by the success of The Lord of the Rings films, has ensured that Tolkien’s fantasy world of moral meaning stands as one of the great literary achievements of our times.


In some sense, Tolkien was a man born out of time. A philologist at heart, he was most at home in the world of ancient ages, even as he witnessed the barbarism and horrors of the twentieth century. Celebrated as a popular author, he was an eloquent witness to permanent truths. His popularity on university campuses, extending from his own day right up to the present, is a powerful indication of the fact that Tolkien’s writings reach the hearts of the young and those looking for answers.


Even as Tolkien is celebrated as an author and literary figure, some of his most important messages were communicated by means of letters, and some of his most important letters were written to his sons.


Tolkien married his wife Edith in 1916, and the marriage was blessed with four children. Of the four, three were boys. John was born in 1917, Michael in 1920, and Christopher in 1924. Priscilla, the Tolkiens’ only daughter, was born in 1929. Tolkien dearly loved his children, and he left a literary legacy in the form of letters. [J. R. R. Tolkien, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000)]. Many of these letters were written to his sons, and these letters represent not only a prime example of literary quality but a treasure of Christian teaching on matters of manhood, marriage, and sex. Taken together, these letters constitute a priceless legacy, not only to the Tolkien boys, but to all those with whom the letters have been shared.


In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien’s Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons and, at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality.


“This is a fallen world,” Tolkien chided. “The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been ‘going to the bad’ all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the ‘hard spirit of concupiscence’ has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell.” This acknowledgment of human sin and the inevitable results of the Fall stands in stark contrast to the humanistic optimism that was shared by so many throughout the twentieth century. Even when the horrors of two world wars, the Holocaust, and various other evils chastened the century’s dawning optimism regarding human progress, the twentieth century gave evidence of an unshakable faith in sex and its liberating power. Tolkien would have none of this.


“The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,” Tolkien insisted. “He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones.” Thus, Tolkien advised his young son, then twenty-one, that the sexual fantasies of the twentieth century were demonic lies, intended to ensnare human beings. Sex was a trap, Tolkien warned, because human beings are capable of almost infinite rationalization in terms of sexual motives. Romantic love is not sufficient as a justification for sex, Tolkien understood.


Taking the point further, Tolkien warned his son that “friendship” between a young man and a young woman, supposedly free from sexual desire, would not long remain untroubled by sexual attraction. At least one of the partners is almost certain to be inflamed with sexual passion, Tolkien advised. This is especially true among the young, though Tolkien believed that such friendships might be possible later in life, “when sex cools down.”


As any reader of Tolkien’s works understands, Tolkien was a romantic at heart. He celebrated the fact that “in our Western culture the romantic chivalric tradition [is] still strong,” though he recognized that “the times are inimical to it.” Even so, as a concerned father, Tolkien warned Michael to avoid allowing his romantic instinct to lead him astray, fooled by “the flattery of sympathy nicely seasoned with a titillation of sex.”


Beyond this, Tolkien demonstrated a profound understanding of male sexuality and the need for boundaries and restraint. Even as he was often criticized for having an overly negative understanding of male sexuality, Tolkien presented an honest assessment of the sex drive in a fallen world. He argued that men are not naturally monogamous. “Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed’ ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh.” In his own times, Tolkien had seen the binding power of cultural custom and moral tradition recede into the historical memory. With the sexual revolution already visible on the horizon, Tolkien believed that Christianity’s revealed sex ethic would be the only force adequate to restrain the unbridled sexuality of fallen man. “Each of us could healthfully beget, in our 30 odd years of full manhood, a few hundred children, and enjoy the process,” Tolkien admonished his son. Nevertheless, the joys and satisfactions of monogamous marriage provide the only true context for sexuality without shame. Furthermore, Tolkien was confident that Christianity’s understanding of sex and marriage pointed to eternal as well as temporal pleasures.


Even as he celebrated the integrity of Christian marriage, Tolkien advised Michael that true faithfulness in marriage would require a continual exercise of the will. Even in marriage, there remains a demand for denial, he insisted. “Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him—as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.”


Tolkien traced unhappiness in marriage, especially on the part of the husband, to the church’s failure to teach these truths and to speak of marriage honestly. Those who see marriage as nothing more than the arena of ecstatic and romantic love will be disappointed, Tolkien understood. “When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along.”


With these words, Tolkien advised his middle son that marriage is an objective reality that is honorable in the eyes of God. Thus, marriage defines its own satisfactions. The integrity of Christian marriage requires a man to exercise his will even in the arena of love and to commit all of his sexual energy and passion to the honorable estate of marriage, refusing himself even the imagination of violating his marital vows.


In a letter to his friend C. S. Lewis, Tolkien advised, “Christian marriage is not a prohibition of sexual intercourse, but the correct way of sexual temperance—in fact probably the best way of getting the most satisfying sexual pleasure.” In the face of a world increasingly committed to sexual anarchy, Tolkien understood that sex must be respected as a volatile and complex gift, bearing potential for great pleasure and even greater pain.


With deep moral insight, Tolkien understood that those who give themselves most unreservedly to sexual pleasure will derive the least pleasure and fulfillment in the end. As author Joseph Pearce, one of Tolkien’s most insightful interpreters explains, sexual temperance is necessary “because man does not live on sex alone.” Temperance and restraint represent “the moderate path between prudishness and prurience, the two extremes of sexual obsession,” Pearce expands.


Explicit references to sexuality are virtually missing from Tolkien’s published works, allegories, fables, and stories. Nevertheless, sex is always in the background as part of the moral landscape. Joseph Pearce understands this clearly, arguing that Tolkien’s literary characters “are certainly not sexless in the sense of being asexual but, on the contrary, are archetypically and stereotypically sexual.” Pearce makes this claim notwithstanding the fact that there is no sexual activity or overt sexual enticement found in Tolkien’s tales.


How is this possible? In a profound employment of the moral spirit, Tolkien presented his characters in terms of honor and virtue, with heroic men demonstrating classical masculine virtues and the heroines appearing as women of honor, valor, and purity.


Nevertheless, we would be hard pressed to appreciate Tolkien’s understanding of sex, marriage, and family if we did not have considerable access into the realities of Tolkien’s family and his role as both husband and father. Tolkien’s letters, especially those written to his three sons, show the loving concern of a devoted father, as well as the rare literary gift Tolkien both possessed and employed with such power. The letter Tolkien wrote Michael in the year 1941—with the world exploding in war and civilization coming apart at its seams—is a model of fatherly concern, counsel, and instruction.


From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, Tolkien will appear to many to be both out of step and out of tune with the sexual mores of our times. Tolkien would no doubt take this as a sincere, if unintended, compliment. He knew he was out of step, and he steadfastly refused to update his morality in order to pass the muster of the moderns. Writing to Christopher, his youngest son, Tolkien explained this well: “We were born in a dark age out of due time (for us).

But there is this comfort: otherwise we should not know, or so much love, what we do love. I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.” Thanks to these letters, we have more than an inkling of what Tolkien meant.

It's Your Call by Lawrence Powell



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


It’s Your Call

Yorkshire Publishing; 1st edition (September 5, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Lawrence Powell is Pastor of Agape Family Worship Center in Rahway, New Jersey; a multi-ethnic ministry, that is home to thousands throughout the Tri-state region. In partnership with Oral Roberts University, he is also founder of Pneuma Life School of Ministry, an accredited teaching and training institute, equipping Christian men and women for missions, outreach, and church planting. Powell is a much sought-after speaker and respected Biblical teacher. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and a Master’s degree from Oral Roberts University. He resides in New Jersey with his wife Vanessa, and their three lovely children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 19.99
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Yorkshire Publishing; 1st edition (September 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0881442917
ISBN-13: 978-0881442915

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Face it. You’re the One for the Job!


“Not called” did you say? “Not heard the call,” I think you should say.

~ William Booth Founder of the Salvation Army


It was a clear sunny day and I could not have been any more than about 5 or 6 years old. I was out in the backyard playing alone in the warm summer breeze. I do not remember why I was alone, but if you ask my mother, she will say that my sister and I used to get into petty squabbles. Our peaceful times of playfulness would somehow decline into: No! Stop! Move! Get off! Mine! Ouch! Mommy! And then, we were separated…for safety purposes of course.


This particular day in the backyard was probably no different.


I had an active imagination and I did not really mind playing alone. My “imaginary friends” and I climbed onto my little blue and white, double-seat glider swing set, and I had a captive audience.

That day I was performing live in concert, making up one song after another. As I was belting out my original tunes underneath the midday blue sky, I remember hearing myself repeatedly singing these simple lyrics: “Nobody knows me well like the Lord.” Now, at the time, I did not realize the profundity of the words. After all, I was just a kid. But somehow, I remember the lyrics so vividly. As I sat there on that swing, I began to sense the presence of the Lord. Everything grew quiet and still, and then, something peculiar happened. The heavens opened up and I heard a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased!” No, no, no…I’m sorry, wrong story. That was Jesus.


No, really, I did have an unexplainable encounter with the Lord that day. It was like the old saints used to say, “Somethin’ got a hold of me.” It reminds me of the Old Testament story of the young prophet Samuel. God called him long before he knew how to distinctly recognize and respond to the voice of God (1 Samuel 3:4-9). Reflecting on that moment in the backyard, I know now with a surety, the Spirit of God was depositing a seed in me, predestined to bloom at a future time.


Encountering God


I grew up in and around the church, but early on I did not have a clear understanding of God. And I certainly was not aware that I had been divinely selected to touch nations with the message of the Gospel. But by degrees, the Holy Spirit would beckon me more and more, and over the years I came to know His voice better. I wonder, do you remember when you first sensed the majesty, power, and call of God on your life? Where were you? What were you doing? You may not have understood it at the time, and if someone asked you to explain it, you would not have been able to put into words the depth of the encounter.


It is similar to the blind man in the book of St John, who was challenged regarding the healing he received from Jesus. Although he could not explain the experience well enough to satisfy his detractors, his response was simple yet profound. “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25b NKJV). After all these years, I’ve still not found words to sufficiently express the awesomeness of an authentic God-encounter. But one thing I know, though I was blind, now I see. Take this opportunity to reflect on the moment God began to open your eyes. Remember how you felt? Now softly thank Him for altering the very course of your existence.


His presence changes you, doesn’t it? Of course it does. Any true visitation from God alters the way you see, think, and experience the world. Although the full revelation of His will does not happen immediately, once He deposits His purpose in your heart, you will never be the same again. For me, it was a process that occurred over time. I had to grow, learn, and mature before I could begin fulfilling the call of God on my life. The same is true for you. Don’t be discouraged just because you are unable to fully grasp His purpose and plan for your life right now. All you need to know is He has one.


You may not feel that you have a specific calling, and yet, you do. Or, you may not feel like you’re qualified, and experienced enough to do what He’s chosen you for, but don’t worry. He will provide you with everything you need to fulfill your life’s purpose.


Perceive the Call of God


There is a story found in Mark 8:23–25 about a blind man in Bethsaida, who was brought to Jesus by a group of people. They were begging on his behalf for healing. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town, much the way He leads you and me. He takes us by the hand when we cannot see our way clearly. That’s one thing I love about our God. He will never leave you alone, groping in darkness. He will always be there for you.


Jesus began the process of opening this blind man’s eyes. The Bible says, “And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, ‘I see men like trees, walking’” (8:23b–24 NKJV).


It’s important to recognize that there was nothing lacking in Jesus’ power, only in the man’s perspective. The very first time Jesus touched him, he miraculously received his sight. Now, Jesus had to clarify his perspective.


Sometimes, God is dealing with you and showing you things, yet, you don’t possess a clear view of His vision for your life. But if you stay in God’s presence, He will reveal His will to you. Like this blind man, your vision may be clarified in gradual stages; nevertheless, God will complete the work He has begun in you. Look at what happens in the story. “Then He put His hands on his eyes again, and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly” (8:25 NKJV). I speak victory over your life today and declare that, if you can look up with eyes of faith, God will cause you to see what you were not able to see before!


God wants you to recognize His call on your life and begin viewing things from His perspective. Are you ready? Let’s continue along the path to perceiving and understanding your calling more clearly.


As you embark upon your own journey, remember to keep your focus fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). Only He can show you who you really are. I’m not saying that there aren’t valuable books, trainings, and other resources available to assist you in enhancing your life in some way. In fact, I encourage you to be a life-long learner and seek out practical tools to help you grow and advance. Be aware though; you cannot depend upon self-help books, advice columns, and the well-meaning opinions of close friends and family members, to help you understand and fulfill your Divine calling.


Outside of God, there is no real revelation of truth. His purpose and plan is the only one that will help you live the abundant life He intends for every believer. You may wonder how can you begin truly understanding your purpose and calling. There is a clue found in the book of Ephesians 1:11. The word “purpose” in this passage of Scripture is the Greek word “prothesis,” meaning “to lay out beforehand,” much like the blueprint of a building. Thus, it conveys the exciting idea that your life has been designed with forethought, predetermination, and deliberate intention. (See also Ephesians

2:19–22.) Isn’t that wonderful to know you are no accident? You are not here by happenstance.


The Lord, the Master Architect, has created you with a specific plan in mind. No one else understands the intricacies of your design quite like the One who created the blueprint. This is precisely why positive thinking, dreaming, goal-setting, planning, and networking, without God is grossly overestimated. Remember, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1a).


Time in His Presence


God is the only legitimate source for discovering your purpose and calling. As you come honestly and humbly before the Father in pursuit of His will for your life, the Spirit will teach you all you need to know. Paul prayed to this end, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:17–18 NKJV). Please understand—the wisdom and revelation for which Paul prayed only comes through time spent in the presence of the Lord.


The more you are in His presence, the more you learn His voice. The more you learn His voice, the more you understand His will. As you grow in your understanding of God’s Word, you will begin walking out the steps He has ordered for you before the foundation of the world. You indeed have a set path and it’s your job to seek God for direction. This is something I learned early on in my personal pilgrimage. “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5 NKJV).


Growing up in the church, I remember having a sincere desire to understand the concept of spirituality and what role it played in my life. As I matured, I moved from mere curiosity to genuine interest, and finally, to a deep longing to know God more intimately. Having said that, allow me a moment of transparency. In all honesty, it was the tyranny of my “Dear Mother” that kept me in church every time the doors opened. No, I’m kidding…well, half kidding.


In the Pentecostal church I grew up in, Sunday service was an all day affair. The old saints used to sing a song that said, “Put yo’ time in. Pay day is comin’ after while.” And on Sundays, I think they meant it—literally. I often preferred going to church with my father, because at the particular Baptist church he attended, morning service began at eleven o’clock sharp and it was over at one o’clock on the dot. But don’t get me wrong, even though it was only a couple of hours, it felt more like the long, hot summer road trips we took from New Jersey to Florida each summer for vacation. During these excursions, the only question on my mind was, “Are we there yet?”


If I could have combined the excitement of my mother’s Pentecostal church with the abbreviated schedule of Daddy’s Baptist church, it would have been a near perfect worship experience!


Although I did not enjoy the excessively extended hours at Mommy’s church, I had grown quite accustomed to, and fond of, the energy and exuberance of the Pentecostal style of worship. The distinct rhythmic beating of the tambourine and drums, the syncopated sounds of the Hammond B-3 organ, and the lively demonstrations of praise, were thrilling. But I would soon discover that the thrill was far more than the music.


Little did I know then, you cannot be in the presence of the Lord and not be impacted by the experience. A transformation was taking place in me before my very eyes. God was actually molding me into a vessel of honor to be used by Him, but I did not perceive it at the time. Even as you are reading this book, God is working on you— reshaping your mentality and calling you to a new place in Him. You may not fully understand His plan at the moment, however, just as the aforementioned blind man did, you too must grab hold of His hand. Let Him lead you out of your Bethsaida into a new dimension of revelation and clarity.


Accept the Call of God


Whenever you branch out and chart a new course along the road God has laid out for you, it is natural to feel some uncertainty. It seems so tough at the time, because you are challenged to do things you have never done before. All kinds of thoughts run through your mind. You wonder if you are really capable of doing what God is challenging you to do. You know you don’t want to remain in your current position. At the same time, you feel too afraid to go to an unfamiliar place. You also do not have a single ounce of tangible evidence that God is even speaking to you. How do you get to the point of fully accepting the call of God?


Abraham, who is called the Father of Faith, would probably give you a very concise answer. It would sound something like, “Just do it.” How do you think he must have felt when God told him, “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NKJV). Sure, Abraham obeyed, but the decision certainly wasn’t an easy one. He was being pushed to embark upon a new journey, with most of the details missing. Sound familiar? You see, God knows the end from the beginning. You just have to trust Him. The most important thing is that Abraham obeyed God, accepted the call, and stepped out in faith. God expects no less of you.


You may not have all the particulars. However, God will unfold His plan as you progress along the path He’s chosen for you. If you are waiting for Him to perfectly map out the course before you respond to His call, then you’ll be left waiting forever. He develops and strengthens your faith as you walk with Him daily. But you have got to start walking.


Whether you are launching a ministry, business, career, product, service or other venture; the same is true of each. You have to start somewhere. Although you may not have all the answers, that cannot be your excuse for doing nothing. You will no doubt make some mistakes; it happens to the best of us. Still, you can’t let that stop you.


I remember one day, I got a call from my good friend, Pastor Donnie McClurkin. He is a world renowned Gospel singer, songwriter, and recording artist. On this occasion he was invited as a special guest at a White House Christmas dinner and invited me to tag along! I thought, why not? What an opportunity. I had not visited the Capitol since my ninth grade school trip. Of course, I wanted to make sure I was appropriately dressed. I asked what type of clothing I should wear and Donnie told me it was a black tie affair.


On the day of the event, I made sure I looked the part. I got a fresh hair cut. I put on my black Versace frock coat, custom-tailored shirt and pants. If I had to say so myself, it looked as if I had just fallen off the cover of a GQ Magazine. I must admit, I was feeling pretty good about going to the White House that day. When I walked, it was as if I had my own theme music playing in the background. It was that serious!


We arrived at the White House, went through the security check, and then, on to the room where the dinner was being held. Quickly, my eyes spanned the room. Then, the record scratched. My theme music abruptly stopped. And I knew…Donnie had not been given the correct information about the evening’s dress code. Everywhere I looked, the men were wearing blue and grey business suits.


At that very moment, I knew the answer to the riddle, “What’s black and white and red all over?” Me. I felt my face flush. My palms got sweaty. If I could have slid under a table without being noticed, I would have. To say that I was embarrassed, would be putting it mildly. I was utterly mortified. As I stood there in my formal wear, I expected someone to hand me a serving tray at any moment. Clearly, I looked like a resident butler, much like Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.


In that instant, I had two options. Either I could play “Cinderfella” and storm out of there like it was midnight. Or, I could laugh about it and still choose to enjoy the evening. After I got over the initial shock of it all, I chose the latter. Consequently, I met great leaders from around the country, took pictures with the President and First Lady, and no one seemed too put off by the fancy threads. Despite being overdressed, to my surprise, the evening turned out great. As the lyrics to one of Donnie’s hit songs say, “We fall down, but we get up.” If you don’t always get things right, it is not the end of the world. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and “Keep on truckin’”, like Eddie Kendricks used to say.


There may be a few missing details along your path, but don’t worry. Things will still work out. Rather than focusing on all you don’t know and how out of place you may feel, begin to see the opportunity in front of you. Surely, I could have high-tailed it out of there, but what good would that have done? It really was not that major. At least I can see that now. While it was happening, however, it appeared much more important than it actually was.


Similarly, when you are called to take on a new position, it may seem very intimidating at the time. You may not feel prepared, or qualified. Still, you have been singled out for the job, so you might as well face it. Own it. Trust me, I know it can be difficult to overcome paralyzing fear and the haunting sense of your own inadequacy; accept the job anyway. Ignore that nagging voice whispering in your ear telling you, “God didn’t say that. He’s not really speaking to you. It’s all inside your head.” Although you may not feel completely confident, trust God anyway.


Are you familiar with the story of Gideon, the fifth judge of Israel? He was challenged by God to go into battle and defeat the Midianites, on behalf of the nation of Israel (Judges 6:36–38). When Gideon received his assignment, he was ambivalent about the mission. Gideon was not sure that he should be the one leading Israel into battle. After all, of his own admission, he was the least likely choice. He could not imagine why God would hand-pick him for the job.


Gideon was by no means a great warrior and naturally he was confused about why God called him to complete a task that was way out of his league. He was very distraught about the whole thing and could not resist sharing his dilemma with God. Gideon thought that he should probably give God a heads up to help Him understand why choosing him was such a huge mistake.


He said, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15 NKJV). What did he think God was going to say? “Oh Gideon, you’re so right. What was I thinking? I had no idea about your deficiency. Whew! That was a close call.” Now, of course, God was not going to agree with Gideon’s excuses, just as He’s not going to agree with yours. Here is what God actually said, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16 NKJV).


Let me help you with something. God is not put off by your (what I call) leastlikeliness. It does not matter that you have been considered least likely to succeed, least likely to get the promotion, least likely to survive in business, or least likely to make an impact in ministry. God has called you and He is on your side. It’s time to change your attitude and your words. Yes, you are the least likely; that’s right. You are the least likely to fail, least likely to quit, and least likely to be defeated. You are more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37 NKJV).


It does not matter if you feel unqualified. Being unqualified does not disqualify you from being called by God. He is not deterred by your lack of experience and credentials. God is not limited by your natural limitations and He is in no way restricted by your restrictions. All you have to do is accept His call and He will take care of the rest. As the story continues, we learn that Gideon got cold feet before it was time to go to battle. He asked God to provide some kind of sign to let him know if He had truly called him to embark upon what seemed to be a kamikaze mission.


“So Gideon said to God, ‘If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said—look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said’” (Judges 6:36–37 NKJV). Verse 38 of that same chapter tells us, that God indeed provided the sign exactly as Gideon requested and everyone was happy, right? No. Not quite.


Actually, verse 39 shows us that Gideon still was not satisfied. He still needed more proof. He asked God for another sign. Essentially, Gideon wanted God to give him a confirmation, for his confirmation. He knew that he was in no way cut out to do what God called him to do.


God did not get frustrated with Gideon; rather, He provided him with another sign to demonstrate that He had indeed called Gideon to do His will. When God calls you, He always puts you in positions you feel woefully inadequate to occupy. Not to worry, because whomever He calls, He equips to do the job—and do it well. Israel went on to win that battle against the Midianites, because Gideon was finally obedient to the call of God.


I’m sure you can relate to the emotions he felt. You may be experiencing a situation in your life where you need God to confirm that He is indeed with you. God has strategically orchestrated this moment to let you know that He is going to complete His work through you. You do not have to fear. He is ushering you into your destiny.


God is speaking to you and He will not be silenced. He is ministering to you right now and He wants you to embrace what He is doing. His call on your life is for specific reason, a distinct purpose, and a set time. God is calling you. Trust me. He will stop at nothing to get your attention.


Think for a moment. Have you been bombarded with confirmations of God’s promises? Has He spoken to you in dreams, in visions, or through others? Be sensitive. Be open. Be prepared to fulfill the call. It is time to do what He has instructed you to do.


I know that you, like Gideon, just want to be sure. You want to “know, that you know, that you know” it is truly God. How many times and ways does God have to reveal Himself, before you will say yes to His call? When the voice of the Lord spoke to Isaiah and said, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah told God, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8 NKJV). God wants you to tell Him the same thing, “Here am I! Send me.”


When I was coming up in the Church of God In Christ, we would repeatedly say, “Yes Lord,” and “Have your way Lord,” in times of prayer and worship. That simply meant we were assuming a position of complete submission. We were giving up our own will in exchange for His. If you are going to experience God’s best, you must strive to let God have His way in every area of your life. Give Him the opportunity to speak to your heart. Remember the old hymn that says, “Have Thine own way Lord, have Thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me, after Thy will. Whilst I am waiting, yielded and still?” (Have Thine Own Way, Lord, Adelaide A. Pollard and George C. Stebbins, Hope Publishing 1907, 1935). Let God know that you willing to receive everything He has for you and open to the new dimensions to which He is calling you.


Pursue the Call of God


When I began growing in my understanding of God, I knew that His call was on my life, but I still wrestled and wondered, “Could I really be called? Me, Lawrence Powell? Could God really use me for His glory? Could I be singled out to make a difference in the world?” You may ask some of these same kinds of questions. I want to assure you the answer is yes! God has great plans for your life—much bigger than you can imagine. So big, in fact, they would overwhelm you if He revealed them all at once. You are going to have to passionately pursue the call through intense prayer and supplication.


I recall my earlier days, attending graduate school at Oral Roberts University. I was experiencing a time of tremendous spiritual growth and development in my walk with the Lord. Still, I was seeking to understand exactly how God wanted to use me. One day, while I was in my room alone, I went into my literal prayer closet for a time of deep reflection, introspection, and prayer. That day, I was intent on asking God for direction. I was so full of questions and I really needed to gain a grasp of what He was calling me to do. I began to pour my heart out to Him. I said, “God, whatever You want me to do, I’ll do, but I need to know that it’s You speaking to me.”


I diligently sought the Lord and pushed past my fears, my anxieties, and my concerns. God spoke to me and assured me of His plans for my life. However, this was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that I sought God for His direction and confirmation. You see, I had a constant battle raging in my mind that kept me feeling uneasy, uncertain, and unsure about the path I should take. But I never stopped pursuing His call, even when I didn’t understand.


Don’t worry just because you don’t completely understand everything about your purpose today. You can still apprehend what you cannot comprehend. Simply respond to God as young Samuel did by saying, “Speak, for Your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10b NKJV). This kind of act puts you in the right place to receive a word from the Lord.


Pause for a moment now and sincerely ask God to supernaturally develop your ability to discern His voice. Once you recognize His call and become more open to hearing from Him, you will realize that He wants to take you under His wing as His dear child and impart His purpose into your heart. From this day forward, become resolved as never before to pursue your calling intentionally, passionately, and relentlessly.


When it comes to going after God’s will for your life, you must possess an unquenchable thirst, unwavering perseverance, and unyielding commitment. Showing up on Sunday mornings out of

habit and mere obligation is not sufficient. Reading a few verses on a bi-monthly basis from your over-sized, large-print family Bible on the living room table won’t cut it. An occasional, “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer is not enough. Quoting, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), will hardly sustain you during your times of uncertainty.


Pursuit is the proof of desire. Thus, if you approach your quest with a nonchalant attitude, devoid of the true passion it takes to ultimately realize God’s plan for your life, you will be met with frustration. Your yearning to understand His calling must infiltrate the very core of your being and cause you to seek Him with true sincerity and fervency in prayer. As you seek God, He will reveal the mysteries of His will in a way that only He can. But you must remain steadfast. You can do it! Just the fact that you are reading this book shows that you have what it takes to overcome adversity, pursue God, and fulfill your destiny.


I cannot tell you how many times I cried out to God from the depths of my being, as I struggled to know exactly what He wanted me to do. I heard His beckoning. I sensed His will. I wanted more clarity, but the answers continually eluded me. I knew God was leading me on a path, but like the proverbial “carrot on a stick,” the answers I so desperately craved, seemed to be dangling just beyond my grasp. Yet, I could not quit. Why? The call of God penetrated the very fiber of my being. The passion to pursue His plan became like an unquenchable fire that burned deep inside the recesses of my soul.


God will ignite a burning desire in you to fulfill a higher calling. He will stir up a fire in you to fuel your faith through times of fear and ambiguity. On this journey to discover and fulfill the call of God, you may feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster, but continue to press on. Remember, when you are serious about seeking God, you are guaranteed to go through periods of uncertainty. Still, don’t be deterred. Just keep seeking Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “…he who comes to God must believe that He is, and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (NKJV).


Know that even though things may not come together all at once, God will complete the work He has begun in you. It pays to seek the Lord. Don’t give up your search to understand His call. When you seek Him, you will find Him, and when you find Him, you will find you. Then, the details of your call will be made clear.


These foundational principles are so important. Remember and rehearse what you have learned in this chapter. These principles will assist you in developing your faith during every stage of your journey. Never forget, God has indeed chosen you to complete an assignment that was laid out before the foundation of the world. As you walk with Him, He will continue to unfold His plan.