Saturday, July 31, 2010

I really don't know if I can answer your question

I wish I had kept a running list of some of the questions I was asked this week. On a regular basis, I tend to be the person people come to in order to get answers to their questions. I'm hoping it's because I'm knowledgeable rather than a smart aleck or a know it all.

This week, so of the questions were more on the quirky side and were from people outside of my usual circle of inquisitors.

One night, I answered my phone at home with a simple "hello". The question that followed was, "is this the dollar store?"

"Uh, no, it's not." I'm pretty sure if my house indeed was the dollar store, I would have answered, "Dollar Store."

OK, that story right there is probably just funnier if I told you out loud.

My favorite question went something like this:

"My name is Mary Doe at Holy Memorial Church and we collected socks at our VBS last month. Where should I send the socks that were collected?"

Actually, I didn't answer that question. I forwarded it on to a client that my best guess is that was intended for. The only thing that I can figure out is that my name was posted on a blog in relationship to Operation Kid-to-Kid and instead of making the blankets that were this year's service project, they collected socks.

I really have no clue where this woman needs to send her socks.

If I could have remembered the other questions that I was asked, I guess it would make this post more interesting. But, it's Saturday night, and I'm sort of brain dead. Hmm.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Read the first chapter of John: Get to Know the Savior


Thanks to all who participated in today's blog tour!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, for The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


A man who has given his life to a deep examination of the Word of God, Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher, former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago and the author of more than 150 books. For over thirty years, millions have come to rely on the timeless wisdom of Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s “Be” Commentary series. Dr. Wiersbe’s commentary and insights on Scripture have helped readers understand and apply God’s Word with the goal of life transformation. Dubbed by many as the “pastor’s pastor,” Dr. Wiersbe skillfully weaves Scripture with historical explanations and thought-provoking questions, communicating the Word in such a way that the masses grasp its relevance for today.

Dr. Warren Wiersbe’s commentaries and his world-renowned knowledge of God’s Word can now be enjoyed in a format that allows everyone to enjoy spending time getting to know the Savior. David C Cook plans to release additional volumes in the Wiersbe Bible Study Series over the next few years.

Product Details:

List Price: $8.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765075
ISBN-13: 978-1434765079

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Lesson 1

God in the Flesh

(JOHN 1—2)

Before you begin …

• Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.

• Read John 1—2. This lesson references chapters 1–2 in Be Alive. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.


Getting Started


From the Commentary


Much as our words reveal to others our hearts and minds, so Jesus Christ is God’s “Word” to reveal His heart and mind to us. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). A word is composed of letters, and Jesus Christ is “Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 1:11), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. According to Hebrews 1:1–3, Jesus Christ is God’s last Word to mankind, for He is the climax of divine revelation.

—Be Alive, page 20


1. As you read John 1:1–2, what stands out to you about the description of

“the Word”? What does it mean that the Word was “with” God? That the

Word “was” God? How does this opening contrast with that of the other

three gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? What does this tell us

about John, the writer of this gospel?


More to Consider: Why do you think John refers to Jesus as “the Son

of God” so many times in his gospel? (See John 1:34, 49; 3:18; 5:25;

10:36; 11:4, 27; 19:7; 20:31.)


2. Choose one verse or phrase from John 1—2 that stands out to you.

This could be something you’re intrigued by, something that makes you

uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with

you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here.


Going Deeper


From the Commentary


Life is a key theme in John’s gospel; it is used thirty-six times. What are the essentials for human life? There are at least four: light (if the sun went out, everything would die), air, water, and food. Jesus is all of these! He is the Light of Life and the Light of the World (John 8:12). He is the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). By His Holy Spirit, He gives us the “breath of life” (John 3:8; 20:22), as well as the Water of Life (John 4:10, 13–14; 7:37–39). Finally, Jesus is the Living Bread of Life that came down from heaven (John 6:35ff.). He not only has life and gives life, but He is life (John 14:6).

—Be Alive, page 22


3. As you go through the gospel of John, underline the references to “life.” Why do you think John’s gospel touches on this theme so frequently? How do the themes of “light” and “life” relate to one another in John 1?


From the Commentary


John the Baptist is one of the most important persons in the New Testament. He is mentioned at least eighty-nine times. John had the special privilege of introducing Jesus to the nation of Israel. He also had the difficult task of preparing the nation to receive its Messiah. He called them to repent of their sins and to prove that repentance by being baptized and then living changed lives. John summarized what John the Baptist had to say about Jesus Christ (John 1:15–18).

—Be Alive, page 24


4. What is significant about the gospel writer’s mention of John the Baptist (John 1:6–28)? Why would this have been important to the early believers?


From Today’s World


Although the skepticism of the modern age has diminished their impact, self-proclaimed modern “prophets” continue to speak about the end of the world (or other events) as if they have exclusive insight into “insider information” from a source they often claim is God Himself. Some gain a following as people clamor for wisdom about why the world is in its current state. Whether out of fear or frustration, they look to the so-called prophets for answers.


5. Why are people so fascinated (whether they agree or disagree) with modern prophets? Do you agree that people today are more skeptical about prophets and their reliability? Why or why not? How does today’s culture compare to the culture in which John the Baptist appeared? What does this suggest about the role of prophecy in modern Christianity?


From the Commentary


The people of Israel were familiar with lambs for the sacrifices. At Passover, each family had to have a lamb, and during the year, two lambs a day were sacrificed at the temple altar, plus all the other lambs brought for personal sacrifices. Those lambs were brought by people to people, but here is God’s Lamb, given by God to humankind! Those lambs could not take away sin, but the Lamb of God can take away sin. Those lambs were for Israel alone, but this Lamb would shed His blood for the whole world!

—Be Alive, pages 27–28


6. How might John’s Jewish followers have responded when he announced Jesus as the “Lamb of God”? Why is John the Baptist’s testimony important? How does John’s description of the “Spirit” compare to the coming of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the book of Acts? What does this teach us about the Holy Spirit?


From the Commentary


“We have found the Messiah!” was the witness Andrew gave to Simon. Messiah is a Hebrew word that means “anointed,” and the Greek equivalent is “Christ.” To the Jews, it was the same as “Son of God” (see Matt. 26:63–64; Mark 14:61–62; Luke 22:67–70). In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed and thereby set apart for special service. Kings were especially called “God’s anointed” (1 Sam. 26:11; Ps. 89:20); so, when the Jews spoke about their Messiah, they were thinking of the king who would come to deliver them and establish the kingdom. There was some confusion among the Jewish teachers as to what the Messiah would do. Some saw Him as a suffering sacrifice (as in Isa. 53), while others saw a splendid king (as in Isa. 9 and 11). Jesus had to explain even to His own followers that the cross had to come before the crown, that He must suffer before He could enter into His glory (Luke 24:13–35).

—Be Alive, page 29


7. Why were the Jews expecting the Messiah to appear as a king? What does this tell us about the culture and circumstance of the Jews at the time? How might the Jewish leaders have received the pronouncement of Jesus as the Messiah? There had been others who claimed messiahship prior to Jesus’ arrival. What argument does John make in chapter 1 to support the fact that Jesus is the One they’ve been waiting for?


From the Commentary


“The third day” means three days after the call of Nathanael (John 1:45–51). Since that was the fourth day

of the week recorded in John (John 1:19, 29, 35, 43), the wedding took place on “the seventh day” of this “new creation week.” Throughout his gospel, John makes it clear that Jesus was on a divine schedule, obeying the will of the Father. Jewish tradition required that virgins be married on a Wednesday, while widows were married on a Thursday. Being the “seventh day” of John’s special week, Jesus would be expected to rest, just as God rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:1–3). But sin had interrupted God’s Sabbath rest, and it was necessary for both the Father and the Son to work (John 5:17; 9:4). In fact, John recorded two specific miracles that Jesus deliberately performed on Sabbath days (John 5; 9). At this wedding, we see Jesus in three different roles: the Guest, the Son, and the Host.

—Be Alive, pages 35–36


8. Read John 2:1–11. Why do you think the Scriptures record this as Jesus’ first miracle? What is the significance of turning water into wine? Of the timing of the miracle?


More to Consider: Moses’ first miracle was a plague—turning water into blood (Ex. 7:19ff.), which speaks of judgment. How does Jesus’ first miracle speak of grace?


From the Commentary


Jesus revealed His zeal for God first of all by cleansing the temple (John 2:13–17). The priests had established a lucrative business of exchanging foreign money for Jewish currency and also selling the animals needed for the sacrifices. No doubt, this “religious market” began as a convenience for the Jews who came long distances to worship in the temple, but in due time the “convenience” became a business, not a ministry. The tragedy is that this business was carried on in the court of the Gentiles in the temple, the place where the Jews should have been meeting the Gentiles and telling them about the one true God. Any Gentile searching for truth would not likely find it among the religious merchants in the temple.

—Be Alive, page 41


9. Why was Jesus so upset about the money changers? (See John 2:12–16.) What is significant about Jesus’ comment in verse 19? How does this foreshadowing help us to see God’s divine timetable for Jesus’ earthly work?


From the Commentary


While in Jerusalem for the Passover, Jesus performed miracles that are not given in detail in any of the Gospels. It must have been these signs that especially attracted Nicodemus (John 3:2). Because of the miracles, many people professed to believe in Him, but Jesus did not accept their profession. No matter what the people themselves said or others said about them. He did not accept human testimony.

—Be Alive, page 44


10. Why didn’t Jesus accept human testimony? What does John mean when he writes, “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (2:25)? What does this say about Jesus’ feelings toward those who followed Him because of His miracles?


Looking Inward


Take a moment to reflect on all that you’ve explored thus far in this study of John 1—2. Review your notes and answers and think about how each of these things matters in your life today.


Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all, be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don’t press for people to speak if they’re uncomfortable doing so.


11. How do you respond to the different descriptions of Jesus in John 1 (the Word, the Lamb, the Son of God)? In what ways does the father/son imagery connect with you? Why is it important for you to know Jesus was God’s Son and not just a prophet sent to preach good news?


12. In what ways do you see your own life as a “light” to those around you? How have others been light to you? What are some ways you’ve struggled to be a light to others? How can the picture of Jesus as the light inspire you to be a light to others?


13. What sort of “Messiah” do you think you’d be hoping for if you were among the Jewish people before and during Jesus’ time? In what ways might you have been pleasantly surprised by the way the Messiah arrived? In what ways might you have been disappointed? How do you see the Messiah’s role in your life today? In what ways is Jesus’ role like that of a king? Of a servant?


Going Forward


14. Think of one or two things that you have learned that you’d like to work on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It’s better to work on one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don’t try). Do you want to know more about John’s description of Jesus as “the Word”? Do you want to better understand the Jews’ expectation about the Messiah? Be specific. Go back through John 1—2 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.


Real-Life Application Ideas: John the Baptist contrasts his method of baptism with Jesus’ in 1:26–34. How well do you know your church’s stance on water baptism? Learn what your church teaches on this

important topic. Consider what baptism has meant to you. Or, if you haven’t yet been baptized, consider talking with your pastor about being baptized.


Seeking Help


15. Write a prayer below (or simply pray one in silence), inviting God to work on your mind and heart in those areas you’ve previously noted. Be honest about your desires and fears.


Notes for Small Groups:

• Look for ways to put into practice the things you wrote in the Going Forward section. Talk with other group members about your ideas and commit to being accountable to one another.

• During the coming week, ask the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal truth to you from what you’ve read and studied.

• Before you start the next lesson, read John 3—4. For more in-depth lesson preparation, read chapters

3–4, “A Matter of Life and Death” and “The Bad Samaritan,” in Be Alive.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A little too ironic...

...yeah, I really do think. It's like raaaaiiinnnnnn...

Whoops! Sorry, you really don't want to hear me sing.

Now, if everyone will behave themselves, I will tell a little story. I haven't told a little story like this in the past year since a certain relative started calling my cousins to find out what story I told. Stories like this got my blog going, so in other words, feel free to laugh, just don't go talking to my family!

Since my mom's aunt, Eula Mae, is about to move to Frisco to be near her daughter, my grandmother decided all of her family needed to come to town and over to my parents' house on Sunday. That's really jumping ahead of the story other than to say that Grandmother was in town.

Our preacher, Sam, starts the sermon off with a story as preachers tend to do. His story was about a the Christmas after he graduated from preaching school. His aunt always gave money for Christmas. That year, Sam and his wife really could have used the money, he said. But, when it came time to open presents, everyone got money except for Sam.  Sam received a pecan shell sculpture of the last supper dipped in copper that ended up at a garage sale after sitting in a box for a while.

I'm thinking... oh, good grief... been there, wish I had the money. I've had the same experience before.  With the person sitting to my left. The person who finds this story funny and is laughing right out loud with the rest of the audience. I look my mom's way. She leans in towards me. I just shake my head and look ahead.

So, later, I tell Aunt Susan about the story, except she's already heard it. From Grandmother because she found it so funny. I said, "but Susan, you didn't have to sit next to her during the story. Do you know how hard that was?" She said she could imagine.

About 15 minutes or so later, we were all siting in the living room. Grandmother walks in something behind her back. Oh, no. This can't be good.

Grandmother says, "I went to this estate sale, and I just bought one thing - for Ricky."

Oh, no. Dad is the recipient.

"They had this tin that has a retired bear on it, sitting in his recliner watching TV."

Oh, no. This is almost as bad as the politically soap on a rope that one Christmas. Especially since he had just been talking about how he had not had the TV on during the day since he'd been retired.

"And when I brought it back over to Eula Mae's, someone pointed out it had a coin slot in the top so we can take a collection."

I guess someone didn't get the point of the sermon that morning. OK, so the real point was really more about grace than bad choices in gift giving. It was a bit ironic though.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It takes Sweat, Blood and Tears

Thanks to everyone who participated in today's tour!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, for The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Xan Hood is an author and speaker ministering to young men between the ages of 18 and 25. He is the co-founder and co-director of Training Ground in Colorado Springs where he disciples young men through their program in work, wilderness, and worship (http://www.trainingground.com/). He has also written for New Man magazine and Discipleship Journal. Xan began working with young men in Tennessee and in youth groups in Nashville and Knoxville. He and his wife live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with their first child.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766810
ISBN-13: 978-1434766816

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


GEAR

You would be amused to see me, broad sombrero hat, fringe and beaded buckskin shirt, horse hide chaparajos or riding trousers, and cowhide boots, with braided bridle and silver spurs.

Theodore Roosevelt


I had always heard that Theodore Roosevelt was a tough, hardy “man’s man” sort of guy: a hunter, outdoorsman, activist, soldier, explorer, naturalist, and “rough rider.” But it wasn’t always so. Much like me, he was raised a refined, tame city boy, a member of a wealthy, powerful family with political influence. He was a sickly, asthmatic youngster who at the age of twenty-three still appeared boyish and underdeveloped. Both the press and his fellow New York state

assemblymen made light of his high-pitched voice and “dandified” clothing, calling him names like “Jane-Dandy” and “Punkin-Lily.”2 He was what we now refer to as a “pretty boy.”


It seems Theodore knew he needed to escape the confines of the city, to be tested and initiated beyond his Jane-Dandy world. There was only one direction to go: west.


“At age twenty-five, on his "first trip to the Dakota badlands in 1883, Roosevelt purchased a ranch, bought a herd of cattle, hired ranch hands, and, spending considerable time there, began to develop his Western image.”4 It is said he took rides “of seventy miles or more in a day, hunting hikes of fourteen to sixteen hours, stretches in the saddle in roundups of as long as forty hours,” pushing himself physically and mentally.5


Within two weeks of moving to Colorado, I drove up alone to the Orvis store in Denver to purchase a complete set of official Orvis gear: waders, boots, vest, and a fly rod. I had come to the West to bond with earth, wind, and rivers that I could fly-fish—and to find God. The fishing needed to be done in official Orvis gear—only the best.


You see, coming from a town of status and wealth, the type of gear you chose was very important. It needed to function, but it also needed to make you look good so you could feel good while looking good.


In my eyes Orvis was the status symbol of real and serious fly fishermen, the hallmark of class. I stocked up on floatant, little boxes, nippers, and line—all Orvis products and logos, of course. I paid with a new credit card and walked out.


While Theodore would become a great, brave man, his first attempts out West were about as comical as my own. It is written that he “began to construct a new physical image around appropriately virile Western decorations and settings.” These photographs show him posing “in a fringed buckskin outfit, complete with hunting cap, moccasins, cartridge belt, silver dagger, and rifle.”6 In a letter to his sister back East, he bragged, “I now look like a regular cowboy dandy, with all my equipments finished in the most expensive style.”


Though he looks like a young man in a Halloween costume, something much deeper than child’s play was occurring. A rich city boy was exploring another side of himself. The costumes, however foolish they appeared at the time, were a part of this becoming and would, in time, become him.


I was also searching for a new image, one more closely connected with nature. In his book Iron John, Robert Bly writes, “Some say that the man’s task in the first half of his life is to become bonded to matter: to learn a craft, become friends with wood, earth, wind, or fire.”8 I had yet to experience that. Ralph Lauren Polo shirts and a posh lifestyle were simply not enough. And while it’s likely that neither of us could have verbalized it at the time, Theodore and I were learning that a man had to find something away from all of it. I think his fringed buckskin and my Orvis gear were safe compromises between the worlds we were straddling.


A week after I bought my Orvis gear, I drove about an hour away to the South Platte River. An Internet search revealed that I could quickly access it from the road. On my way I stopped at a little fly shop in Woodland Park, Colorado. A retired-looking man had blessed my obvious naïveté but left the teaching to a sheet of paper, diagrammed for a nymph-dropper rig. He made a few fly suggestions and sent me on my way with the paper and a pat on the back. It was time to become Brad Pitt: Orvis-endorsed, perched on a rock, waiting for a fish.


I arrived on the water’s edge at about 2 p.m. Like a warrior dressing for battle, I donned my Orvis gear and set to work on the nymph-dropper rig. About an hour later, after clamping on weights, indicator, and tying two flies onto the razor-thin line, it looked like I’d tied my grandmother’s collection of jewelry to a string. I stood in the middle of the river, flung the line out, and whipped it back and forth, feeling good and enjoying the four count rhythm.


Though I filled the hours with flipping and whipping, I could not seem to hook a fish. Were they in the rapids? The calm water? Should I cast upstream or downstream? The paper didn’t say. It didn’t help that every few minutes I would get caught on a branch, or grass or algae would get on the flies, tangling them with knots. It was getting dark, and I was getting lonely and frustrated at Orvis, God, and myself.



But there came a last minute hope: I remembered Dan Allender telling a story at a leadership conference about going fly-fishing with his son. As an unsuccessful day of fishing came to a close, he told his son they needed to call it a day. But his son kept fishing, and then, on the fifth and final cast, as all hope was fading like the sun—BAM!—a massive trout on his fly rod. It was a miracle. Dan concluded his speech with this lesson: “God is the God of the fifth cast … He comes through in the end.”


And so I began my count. Okay, Lord, I prayed. This is for You. Help me fish. Catch me a trout. One cast … nothing. Second cast … nothing. Third cast … nothing. Cast again … nothing. God of the fifth cast … not for me. Eleventh? Nope. I kept going. God of the seventeenth cast … God of the twenty-second cast …


Before long, darkness covered me, and I could no longer see my orange indicator. It was over. There would be no fish that day.


I stood all alone in the middle of the river, holding my empty net. There wasn’t a soul in sight—not a fish, not even God. It was haunting. I demanded an explanation. Where are the fish? Where are You? Just one, God. All I wanted was one. One simple fish would have made this day worth it.


Would God not give a man dressed in Orvis a fish if he asked?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What is it that you gotta have?


Thanks to everyone who participated in today's tour!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis of The B&B Media Groupfor sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Dr. Gregg Jantz is the founder of The Center—A Place of Hope and the best-selling author (with Ann McMurray) of 25 books including Hope, Help, and Healing for Eating Disorders. His center is a leading healthcare facility in the Seattle, Washington area and specializes in whole-person care serving clients internationally.



Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766241
ISBN-13: 978-1434766243

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


A Toddler’s Tale

These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction. (Isa. 30:9)


Who hasn’t viewed an irate toddler in a store, yelling at the top of his tiny lungs, demanding the object of his heart’s desire? In the mind of that boy, he needs the candy, the toy, the bag, the box, or whatever. In

his mind, what he wants is what he needs.


Recently, I found myself in the grocery store at the end of a long day, needing to pick up milk on my way home from work. I was tired, distracted, and just wanted to be home. It turns out I wasn’t the only unhappy person in that store. A couple of aisles over, a little girl began keening loudly. I admit, grocery stores are incubators of human nature that I find irresistible, so—milk temporarily forgotten—I walked over to observe.


Usually I’m most interested in how the adult in the situation deals with the child. Believe me, over the years I’ve seen a variety of styles—some that have made me smile and some that have made me cringe. This time, however, I was focused on the child. This two-year-old was gesturing desperately, fingers extended, at some object just out of reach. The important thing to me wasn’t what she was looking at, but rather how she was seeing it. In her mind, the object wasn’t a mere want—it had become a need. When her mother denied it to her, she became absolutely bereft, carrying on in a way only a despondent, denied toddler can.


As I made my way to the dairy section, through the checkout line, and back into my car, I kept thinking about how this kind of behavior is typical of small children. But I had to ask myself—do we ever really get over that?


Fast-forward into adulthood and you’ll find the same thing: wants masquerading as needs. When we were two, we cried out to a parent to fill our heartfelt desires; as adults we endeavor to fill them ourselves. Once a desire has been categorized as a need, we’re pretty resourceful at finding a way to fill it—even when our methods are addictive, damaging, or hurtful. In our current credit-card-toting, get-it-now-but-pay-for-it-later society, we’re about as happy with the words no and not now as that bawling two-year-old.


Add to that our concept of “rights.” Once we’ve identified a desire as a need, we tend to demand the right to fill that need. Deep down, we seem to acknowledge that a desire doesn’t quite meet the level of a basic need. Desires can be selfish, but a need is always a moral necessity. Once our desire gets translated into a need, it becomes a necessity in our lives; we’re pretty militant about getting that newly defined need met.


This leads me to a question: Are you ready to take a deep, hard look at your own self-identified needs? I’ve found generally people haven’t really done any sort of intentional, directed work in this area. Mainly, they have a vaguely articulated sense of what they consider needs in their lives. Sometimes the only true way to determine how you really look at a particular aspect of your life—as a desire or as a need—is through your behaviors and your willingness or unwillingness to change. We’re willing to change, postpone, modify, or even relinquish a desire; we tend to take an over-my-dead-body approach to anything we think is a need.


Lest you think this book is only going to be about what you think or I think, I want to establish the overriding theme we’ll be using, which doesn’t come from you or me. The theme of this book comes from Jesus, speaking to a crowd of people very much like us, with desires and needs and a difficult time differentiating between the two. They were just as apt to run after desires masquerading as needs. In Matthew 6:31–33, Jesus said, “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Even if we don’t have a good handle on what our needs are, God does. And not only is He God, He’s also our Father. And as a father, He’s generous. He knows our needs, and He has a plan to supply them—and much more as well.


Background Noise

Have you ever experienced the sheer relief that silence brings? There are days, with two rambunctious boys in my house, when the noise reaches an incredible decibel. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to be

right there in the mix with them. But there’s something about the calm and serenity silence brings. There are times silence is just what my jangled senses need to be still and hear God.


In some ways, all of the excessities of life come with their own noise. They fill up our lives but leave no room for silence and contemplation, for rest and relief. God, when He fills us up, does so through a whisper, through the breath of the Spirit. A little of God goes a lot further than a great deal of anything else. King David put it this way in Psalm 84:10: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” When we feed on God, we diminish our compulsion to binge on anything else. Just as a toddler must trust a parent to know how to supply true needs, we, as children of God, must look to our heavenly Father to do the same. Our challenge is to approach God, our Father, with the faith and trust of a child.


The Bottom Line from Job

There is a story in the Old Testament book of Job about a man who faced this question of what is a desire and what is a need. This man, Job, is literally stripped of all of the things that made up his life. It is not an easy book to read or understand, but it’s very instructive in determining desires verses needs.


At the beginning of the book God and Satan have a discussion about Job, and God agrees to allow Satan to test Job’s commitment to God. In the first test, God allows Satan to take away all of Job’s possessions, including his children, but doesn’t allow him to harm Job physically. In the course of a single day, all of Job’s livestock, sheep, camels, servants, and children are killed or taken away from him. At the end of this single day, Job still praises God.


Not to be deterred, Satan comes again and this time asks to remove Job’s health from him. God agrees but says Satan may not take his life. Satan promptly strikes Job with painful boils from head to foot.


God establishes the bottom line with Satan where Job is concerned. Throughout the book of Job, no matter what else happens to him, Job has his physical needs met enough for him to continue to live. Job’s desires for understanding, vindication, relief, and restoration have to wait. With nearly everything taken away from him, it becomes clearer to see what constitutes a true need. In our own lives, we need that kind of clarity.


Unraveling Needs and Wants

It can be very difficult to determine what you consider a desire and a need in your life. When asked, you may give what you think should be the right answer instead of the truth. You may admit, reluctantly, that you don’t really need your morning coffee. However, when faced with the choice of being late to work because the line at the Starbucks is eight cars deep or going without your morning beverage … well … “It’s just work.” You may concede that your late-night snack of cookies and ice cream is not really a need, but you’ll leave your house at 9:47 at night with a coat over your pajamas to drive to the store in

order to replenish your Ben & Jerry’s.


Desires are things you want; you can do without them, but you still want them. Life goes on in their absence, but having them would certainly enhance it. Needs, however, have a greater sense of urgency.

A desire deferred is inconvenient, even uncomfortable, but a need denied is depravation. So, how can we trust that what we define as a need is really a need? And how can we be honest about what category our perceived needs actually fall into?


It’s difficult for us to put ourselves in Job’s position because of the extreme devastation of what Job initially experiences. So let’s go for something a little bit easier. I’d like you to take a moment and think about life on a desert island. I’m not really thinking of the Swiss Family Robinson type of island. If you’ve seen the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks, this is the picture I’m working toward. I want you to picture yourself stranded on a desert island, in the middle of nowhere, with very few resources. You need to survive—yes, survival is a bona fide need. So, what do you need to survive? (Because you’re on the planet, assume you’ve got something to breathe so you can move past that most primal need of life, oxygen.) Write down your top three needs:


What I would need in order to survive

1.

2.

3.


If I were to answer this question myself, I’d say water, food, and shelter are my primary needs. Actually, these are pretty much what Jesus mentioned in the Matthew 6 passage. He put it as what to eat, what to drink, and what to wear. (Clothing is really a form of shelter, so I’m going to accept the similarity.) Those are pretty basic. In fact, outside of this prosperous nation of ours, a good deal of the human population spends a large portion of their time and energy searching after these basic needs. Go too long without water and you die of thirst. Go too long without food and you die of hunger. Go too long without shelter and you die of exposure. Needs can be determined by how essential they are to sustaining life.


Ahhhh, there’s the dilemma, isn’t it? When we consider what is essential to life, we aren’t always talking about physical life, are we? We have an emotional, relational, and spiritual life to go with this physical one. So, go back and relabel your needs list as “My Physical Needs.”


Now, I want you to come up with at least three needs under each of the other categories.


My Emotional Needs:

1.

2.

3.


My Relational Needs:

1.

2.

3.


My Spiritual Needs:

1.

2.

3.



Under emotional needs, you might have such things as optimism, hope, joy. Relational needs might include things like acceptance, affirmation, forgiveness. And for spiritual needs, perhaps you listed things like faith, trust, praise. I share these with you not to say that these are definitive answers, but to give you an idea of the types of things you could choose. Again, I find that many people have never done this type of inventory, let alone put intentional thought into dealing with these types of questions.


Going back to our desert-island exercise, we’ve already established what our physical needs are, but, as Jesus said in Luke 4:4, referencing Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man does not live on bread alone.” So, let’s say you’ve got your physical needs taken care of. You’ve got food to eat, water to drink, and shelter from the elements. What other three things would you personally want (or desire) to survive on that island?


What I would want in order to survive:

1.

2.

3.


After thinking about it myself, here’s what I’d want: a Bible, a purpose, and a chance of escape. Even though we’ve categorized these as wants (or desires), they’re still pretty important. I doubt any of you

would seriously put lattes and ice cream on this list. When reduced to choices of these kinds, those behaviors are pretty easy to label.


Short of being stranded on a desert island or experiencing a Jobtype catastrophe, it can be difficult to stop long enough to make sense of our busy lives. That’s what this book is designed to help you do. In the next chapter, we’re going to start by looking at the most common ways I’ve seen over my twenty-five years in counseling that people try to fill themselves up. These ways all have a similar “if some is good, more is better” deception, leading to compulsive, impulsive behavior.


Next, we’re going to begin to identify our real needs because every person who engages in excessive behavior has a true need at the core of that behavior. By discovering what those core needs are, we can detach the power of the need from the excess of the behavior and begin meeting the need in a positive, healing way. Finally, we’ll look at the gifts God gives us to meet our true needs. We’ll bring the words of Jesus from Matthew 6 full circle and learn how to live with our needs fulfilled as we seek His kingdom and His righteousness.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Furniture finally in place

My new furniture arrived two weeks ago. Last weekend I finally got it all in place. I never did tell you about the night it finally arrived.

The delivery people that Jenny and I arranged to bring our furntiture were set to bring it on Tuesday - the first day the warehouse was open to get Jenny's furniture after we bought it on Saturday. Around noon, Jenny made the first call to see when they were coming. Between 3-6 they say. "We'll call when we're headed your way."

OK. At 5, we could stand it no more. Jenny called again. "You have to udnerstand ma'am, there's traffic and..." I call the store to see if they can tell if either my order from the store hers from the warehouse have been picked up. NOPE!

I call the guy, "ma'am, you have to understand there is traffic and... We're pulling into the store parking lot right now. We'll call you when we are headed your way."

More time passes. We call again - still stuck in line at the warehouse they say. I finally convince Jenny to come on over so we can wait it out together. At 8 PM, they finally call to say they are headed our way. After 9 PM, they finally arrived. Yeah, that's worse than the cable guy and his window of time. RIDICULOUS!!! And they had a cargo van pulling a box trailer. Not even a real moving van. Jenny voiced her "I wouldn't recommend these people to my enemies" complaint to the store, but I refrained even though I shouldn't have. The guy gave me some business cards to pass along to my friends.

So, the following Saturday, my dad came over to help me get a cabinet, then my entertainment center out of my living room. My neighbor had a bathroom flood a week before, so I realized my carpet had been wet when I started clearing things out the weekend I bought the furniture, getting ready for it's arrival. When we moved it out, the particle board entertainment center was very wet on the bottom, rotted and covered with green, black and white mold and mildew. The carpet was also nasty. The spot has since been spot cleaned by both me and Rainbow, but I'm still not convinced it took care of the problem.

With all of that, it took a week to get the furniture all arranged the way I wanted it. I still have some stuff that was sitting on top of the entertainment center (and in it for that matter) that needs to be boxed up for a garage sale. It's sitting on my dining room table still.

Here are some pictures of my old furniture in my living room. The latest arrangement was a little bit different than here. In fact, this was a couple of years ago (when I thought I was going to buy a house) and the computer was in the other room. I thought something was missing in this picture! I got my computer desk as a consolation purchase when the house thing didn't work out.




And here is the current arrangement with my new furniture.




Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New blogger in the family?

My nine year old niece, Paige, recently got her own email address. This adds to the comedic factor of my life because reading her emails is hilarious.

Paige and Peyton have been in Wyoming with their mom and various family members this past week. While they have been away, Paige has been sending daily updates of their time away. It reminds me a lot of my own scrapbook entries or the stories I would tell while blogging. Becuase I havne't been up to much lately, I'll share Paige's tales with you.

To update you on the cast of Paige's emails, their aunt Courtney was up there for a few days. Their other grandparents have been up there part of the time. Their step-father (Steve) and his daughter and husband are also mentioned in some of the entries. 

(All entries are copied and pasted from the originals, complete with their original spelling. Paige's emails in blue, my commentary in red.)

Monday of vacation

Well yesterday went a little wild at the airport, well as soon as we got there and got on a plane. We went Dallas to Tulsa to Denver on the same palane then got kicked off going Denver to Salt Lake because it was full flight. Dallas to Tulsa I sat between hairy talks alot and scary with an accent Tusla to Denver throwup girl then at 4:45 we were of to Salt Lake. We checked one of our bags but beet it to the airport. We were going to stay at a hotel but ended up renting a car and driving 3 hours to Edna, Wyoming and spent the night at the house that was Monday of our vacatoin you will get a update everyday.



Hugs and Kisses, Paige

I'm counting my many blessings not to have been on those Southwest Airlines flights. Whew! The only person I ever remember flying next to was a guy who wore his Dulce and Gabbana sunglasses the entire flight because I think he was hung over or just trying to be as flaming as he had to be to be wearing D&G sunglasses. I take that back. I remember a rather chatty flight next to someone, but I can't talk about that.
 
Tuesday of vacation
 
Courtney, Mommy, and Pepe had cereal for breakfast {I had nothing}. We got up and went to Jackson Hole about 30 minutes away, then we dropped off the rental car at the Jackson Hole airport. After that we ate at Mountain High Pizza Pie and had what do you know pizza!!!! The 2nd funnest place was the Alpine slide and went mini golfing witch was on the place were we skied the year before the snow cover all of it it up after that me court and pepe went to see Despicable Me it was soooo good while mommy went shopping for groceries then went back home and Steve got home at 1:30.



Hugs and Kisses from Wyoming
 
The "I had nothing" is so Paige. The child eats chicken, rolls, french toast and maybe hamburgers if it's just meat and cheese. I can't believe of all words to spell correctly, she spelled despicable. That is spelled right isn't it?
 
Wednesday of Vacatoin
 
Well today was a lakey day we were at lakes all day. First we went to a little lake and skipped rocks that was fun! Then we went on a little hike up a mountain.After that we went to another lake and had a picnic on the tail end of the truck and then went home.Around 3:45 we went to the grocery store and the hardware store and went home played monopoly and stayed up really late. As you know Granna and Paw-Pawl in the middle of the night in Amarillo a drunk driver hit them but they were o.k. all the airbags went of so there really sore all of our toys games and there suitcases it was all o.k. except the deer lamp and the car the whole driver side is banged up glass is everywhere the suspect ( drunk driver) will have handcuffs on sooner or later. They got everything out and are renting a car and are on there way. Wow someone is defiantly watching over us!



Hugs and Misses, Paige

Thankfully they were definitely and defiantly being watched over. I love Paige! :)
Thursday of Vacatoin

Well since the wreck it was a do nothing day first thing we just road around in the jeep then I stayed home while they went to get lunch That night we went to a lake in Alpine. Peyton Steve Mom and Court got in and Steve and Peyton were racing who could go farther well Pepe fell in the water with clothes so she sat on the picnic table with only pantees rapped up in a blanket then we roasted weenies and marshmallow's had had a fire after Pepe's shirt dried she ran around in shirt and pantees I thought it would be fun to throw a marshmallow around then it ended up being marshmallow ball and shovel bat! Granna and Paw-pawl got home at 3:30A.M. Court left at 6:00A.M



Hugs and Wishes, Paige
 
Well, after two days it's "vacatoin". Peyton tends to race people everywhere, and it always ends in a fall. The weekend before at my parents' house she busted her knee trying to race Paige (who wasn't racing Peyton) to the car, and she thought she broke it.
 
Friday of Vacatoin
 
Today first we went to the Teton mountains and went on a tram and went to the tip top of the mountain then I had a world famous cinnamon sugar waffle it was awesomly good. There was a little bit of snow and Peyton throw a snowball in my eyeafter that we put are feet in the Jenny Lake and then went to Jackon and ate ice cream well my first ice cream was 4.ft tall then dropped the top of it on the concrete but got it filled up then went home and played Pictionary.



XOXOXO,Paige

Thank goodness the child ate something! I was afraid she was going to wither away. She'll eat waffles. I forgot to mention that. And it had to be plain vanilla soft serve ice cream. At four foot tall, it's no wonder it fell off.
Saturday of vacation
 
As soon as we got up we got ready to go rafting first we got fitted for jackets strapped the raft on the top of the truck and started to raft about 1 hr. down the river we stopped to have a little picnic then we hit some rapids and Peyton liked them until we hit the Big Kahuna and Peyton got water up her nose then didn't like it so much after that we got off around 5:00 then we went home and played pictionary and Amanda and Arthur got here around 10:00



Hugs and Kisses,Paigey-bob
 
Paigey-bob?
Sunday of Vacatoin
 
Today we went to Yellowstone National Park and our first stop was Flagg Ranch to eat then we went to some mud pots at the mud pots. On our way to the upper and lower falls there was Buffalo's everywhere and me Pepe sang no no don't lick the buffalo!!!!!! Then all these cars had stopped on the side of the road so so did we and got out the binoculars and there was a grizzly bear and her three cubs on the other side of the river it was the coolest thing I've ever seen!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The upper and lower fall s was the most scarreist thing i had ever seen we had to climb so high I almost past out. Then we were headed to Old Faithfull and there was a Antalope the water that came out of Old Faithfull was so high the sign sayed it was 190 ft. tall that was pretty cool to then we ate at Old Faithfull Inn and got home at 12:20.



Hugs and Wishes, Paige

I can so see her almost passing out! I can only imagine them singing the licking the buffalo song. I'll have to tell you about that song in a minute.
 Me to Paige:

 
The question is... were all verses of the buffalo song sung during this trip? Because, "where, oh, where is the bear?" seems extremely appropriate in this situation as well.


Soon, soon, I'll see you soon! Tell Earl I miss her too!


Audra


(PS - I've never gotten to see Old Faithful. I'm kind of jealous.)

Paige back to me:

Everybody sayes hi and you grammal and pops need to go on ya'll next vacation



PS I've been watching american's got talent and so you think you can dance


I haven't heard from her today - I think she is on the way home. She cracks me up!


OK, I have to now share the buffalo song she refers to. This is my bad aunt influence on the children. About 7 years ago, I went with my parents to Gatlinburg, TN. We stayed up in the cabin in the mountains, and as we drove winding roads around the mountains, Dad was always talking about wanting to see a bear. "While I'm up here, I want to see a bear," he kept going on and on.

So, I'd been in the car too long, and even as an adult, I can get a bit goofy in the car. I start singing a little droaning ditty, "Where, oh, where is the bear? Where, oh where is the bear?" This instantly has my mother groaning for me to stop. My dad finds it funny which is all the encouragement I needed for a second verse. "Soon, soon, we'll see a racoon. Soon, soon, we'll see a racoon."

Well, our wildlife search was pretty futile. It resulted in, "Earl, Earl, there's a squirrel! Earl, Earl, there's a squirrel!"

I taught Peyton this song one day in the car, and told her that after going to South Dakota, I added a new verse, "Whoa, Whoa, there's a buffalo." Peyton decided to change the verse, and for some reason, as a then five year old, she turns it into, "don't lick the buffalo." I told her I didn't have to worry about that because the buffalo I saw were gross.

So, as much as Paige and Peyton usually bicker, it tickles my heart to know that the sisters sang a duo of  "no, no, don't lick the buffalo." As much as Peyton loves to sing my stupid little song, I'm sure she drove her family crazy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Read the first chapter of God Knows My Name by Beth Redman


Thanks to all who participated in today's tour!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook (July 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist for The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Beth Redman is an evangelist, songwriter, singer, and author of several books, including Soul Sister and Beautiful. She is also the co-author, along with her husband Matt, of the book Blessed Be Your Name. Recently, Beth and Matt received the Dove Award for the Worship Song of the Year for “Blessed Be Your Name,” which they wrote together. Their combined song-writing skills also produced the popular worship songs “Let My Words Be Few,” “Facedown,” and “You Never Let Go.” The Redmans and their five children live in Atlanta where they serve as part of a team leading Passion City Church with pastors Louie and Shelley Giglio.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403650
ISBN-13: 978-0781403658

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Our parents are often broken people wearing big learner’s plates, like drivers in training, when we arrive in their world. We shouldn’t judge them harshly, but sometimes the parents we need to love us the most can hurt us and let us down.


As a mum, I take it very personally and get a little feisty when my daughter, Maisey-Ella, is bullied or mistreated. I consider it outrageous when I know someone has hurt her, and I find it hard not to intervene.

My husband has told me on many occasions, “You can’t give little girls evil looks, Beth!” My daughter is, quite simply, utterly gorgeous inside and out. Of course she is not perfect, but the problem all of us face is that the world is not going to like us, love us, or be on our side all of the time. Some days we will be misunderstood, blamed, and rejected. But in our home, when Maisey-Ella returns from a miserable day at school, two pairs of loving arms wait for her. Arms that without question are available to wipe away any tear, and hearts of love that speak gentle words of acceptance, reassurance, and a promise that no matter what … we love you, beautiful girl, and we are for you.


Every single human being needs the comfort and reassurance that on the days the tears fall—even if the “world” rejects us—the people who really know us (warts and all) will be there for us. Those people are our parents, our family. Sometimes, though, our family isn’t there.


However, God is an ever-present, all-loving, all-forgiving, amazing Father in heaven. He can override imperfect parenting, soothe any broken spirit, and free any bound-up heart.


I want to tell you my story.


I want to share an amazing story of restoration, a story of the hope that we all have and the truth that I pray will fill you with joy, freedom, and power! I’m not pointing the finger at anyone or trying to make anyone look bad. I simply want to shout out that God heals, restores, has plans for you, and utterly adores you! If we can truly breathe in that truth, we become free to live, free to give, and free to love and accept both others and ourselves. Then, as you breathe that truth out into a hurting and broken world that desperately needs this message of God the Father’s heart for us, God is glorified, and lives are changed and transformed by Him.


My mum was a true saint when I was growing up, and my closest friend. She brought me to church and taught me about God. In public my dad seemed the perfect father, but in private he struggled with anger … and we suffered terrible violence. In my very late teens my parents separated. I don’t think we should place our parents’ mistakes or faults under the microscope and blame them for all our problems and baggage. God teaches us to forgive, and He gives us the grace to do so. He enables us to rise above the harshest of circumstances and to begin again. He rewrites generations of brokenness to give us an incredible hope and future with Jesus.


But I want to tell this story because I believe in a God who restores, and through His power I have seen reconciliation and healing occur in the most broken of families. I know it is possible, and I have always prayed for that with my own father. However, it takes more than just a miracle for that to happen—it also requires the openness and humility of all involved. Since my parents divorced, my dad and I have had sporadic contact. Throughout that time I found it impossible and even destructive to have a normal father-daughter relationship, so I have walked carefully and lived my adult life without him.



During my pregnancy with our third child, I began to have some worrying symptoms, and after the baby’s birth, doctors began to test me for suspected liver disease. The specialist I was seeing told me that, before my liver biopsy, he needed to know as much about my medical background as possible. He asked me to contact all my living relatives and find out if anyone in the family had ever had liver problems. I contacted each family member and very nervously sent an email to my dad. He wrote back immediately, and still to this day I cannot believe his parting words.


He wrote that, yes, there was liver disease in the family, and also cancer, and he hoped I had both.


“Beth,” he wrote, “you deserve to suffer, because suffering would make someone as egotistical and vile as you a better person.”


Wow.


He also threw in some awful comments about Matt and our children that need not be repeated. The email ended with him telling me I was cut out of his will and he had instructed his solicitor never to disclose his death or where he would be buried. While I was waiting for news of my liver condition, my earthly father had just cursed me and condemned my life.


God made us to love and to be loved. My earthly dad knew me, rejected me, and also detested me. Could anything be more painful?


I could hardly breathe. I phoned Matt and read him the email. I called my mum and my best friend, Anna. Inside I was crying out, Someone tell me I am loved! Please take away the pain of this horrific rejection—the words had gone so deep it felt as though my inmost parts were bleeding. I was desperate for a deeper love, validation, and acceptance. No human words could soothe me.


I put down the phone and gasped for air.


I cried out to my God … my true, amazing Father, my heavenly, forever Father, the One who knows all my failures and shortcomings and yet has never ever rejected me. He wrote my name on the palms of His hands and He stretched out His arms, and as He was viciously nailed to a cross, He separated me from my sin forever and loved me enough to die unjustly. He walked a journey of horrific agony—pleading, being taunted—and He carried my cross, my death, my past, and my sin. His love was enough as He cried out, “It is finished!” So now death and pain, brokenness and rejection, where are your sting? Everything I ever need in life is now accessible and available to me through His death.


Our God is a God who saves and who accepts and who can heal us completely. His love outweighed the words of a wounded man whose own life was so broken that he knew only how to crush others. I faced up to the pain of the situation, but at the same time knew a beautiful and powerful revelation that spoke louder than all of those other words: Though my father may forsake me, my God will never reject me. Though my earthly dad may try to erase me from his life, I shall never be forgotten. In that moment I knew a deep and permanent truth covering over the whole of my life: that God knows my name.


My Father in heaven adores me, has plans to prosper me and supernatural arms to hold me. He is with me by His Spirit every time a situation threatens to overwhelm and whenever I want to hide away and give in to the insecure, evil thoughts that come knocking. My God would never reject or forget me. He did not forget me in my time of need. From heaven He called out to me reminding me that I am His! Because He made me, He knows me, and He loves me! I am His forever. God spoke to me powerfully from His Word:


Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and

have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See,

I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

(Isa. 49:15–16)


You are known by name by the Living God, the loving heavenly Father. He made you, He redeemed you, He hears you, and never ever will He forget you. Hallelujah!


In this book I want to share with you some of the powerful ways that God helped me overrule such a massive rejection with His glorious eternal truth. I hope this can help you in your own life and enable you to help others.


Isaiah 43:1–4 says this:


But now, this is what the LORD says—

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.


When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.


For I am the LORD, your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.…


Since you are precious and honored in my sight,

and because I love you.”


In this passage, there are several truths for us to grasp, which I want to break down and look at one by one in this chapter.


God Knows Your Name


“I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isa. 43:1)


A name is given and considered. A name imparts meaning, value, identity, and significance. Your name was chosen specifically, and especially, for you. A name gives both humanity and dignity to a person. The Enemy would have you live a nameless existence—feeling anonymous, illegitimate, unknown, unimportant, inglorious, and unfit to be named. Nineteenth-century London was a time of such material, emotional, and spiritual poverty that “children were so utterly uncared for that some were even without names, and were known to each other by nicknames.”


In direct contrast, God says that He has a name for us. Where we feel worthless and insignificant He bestows worth and significance upon us when He calls us by name and chooses us for His glory.


Anyone expecting a child has flipped through baby-name books, looking at the meanings and origins of names and thinking about how they sound. I’ve found names I loved and then been dismayed to find out they meant something like harlot, wench, or crooked nose!


Someone recently told me of a child who had been named Jezebel Harlot! That’s a pretty negative connotation to speak over a child every time she is called. Ideally, a name needs to suit the person carrying it. When my husband suggested that we name our third child “Rocco Redman,” I thought he had gone a bit mad! Normally my husband’s track record in making decisions is spot on. There really is no point arguing with Mr. Matthew Redman because over the years I have found he is nearly always right. However, on this occasion, I wasn’t so sure.


I wanted our third child to be called Benjamin, but Matt got the older children on board—and in the end I came to peace with the fact that if he was anything like his dad and his brother and sister, he would easily live up to something as strong and bold as Rocco! The name means “rest,” and so far he has turned out to be the most relaxed, peaceful, deep-sleeping, and gentle-spirited boy… and he has the confidence and joy required to be Rocco Redman. In new environments, his name still causes a little reaction, but it is so perfect for him, and I love that every time I write or call him by his full name, Rocco Benjamin Courage, I am affirming and speaking rest, sonship, bravery, and boldness over him.


In the same way, your Father God named you as precious, chosen, and beloved. You may not be named Rocco, but when God calls you, He speaks over you His truth, freedom, and life. Your part is to make a good choice—to continually believe and live under those things He named you and never to seek to hide behind another name. Many of us each day live under other labels that the Enemy has given us from past or present experiences—unwanted, failure, doubter, ugly, unlovely, needy, drama queen, mistake, disgrace, shamed, forgotten, and many more lies.


Those thoughts and feelings cannot possibly originate from God—for He is the giver of good and perfect gifts, and the God of all comfort. Those negative impressions of yourself and the words my own dad wrote in his email to me originate from the Enemy—who we know to be a dirty liar.


Perhaps you think your problems and insecurities are too great to overcome. By the kindness and mercy of God in my own life, I can assure you that this is not the case. I was abused physically, put down verbally, and rejected. I suffered humiliation many times and sadly began to act out how I felt about myself. In public I felt wretchedly insecure. I couldn’t go out with friends without feeling self-conscious and unimportant. I hated myself inside and out.


Then Jesus called my name. And everything changed. I hardly recognize the person I was back then. Our names may conjure up memories, but not always truth. I know that ultimately I am defined not by what others think of me when they hear my name, or what my earthly father says about me. Instead, the authority and compassion of the God who called my name define me. He loves, He shapes, He convicts, and He lavishes us with affirmation.


It’s time we heard His voice the loudest.


God Made Me


This is what the LORD says—

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who formed you, O Israel. (Isa. 43:1)



Part of understanding the depths of God’s knowledge of us lies in grasping the importance of the fact that He made us.


Psalm 139:13–14 puts it beautifully:


For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.


I praise you because I am fearfully and

wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.


The phrase inmost being is literally translated “kidneys.” In Hebrew idiom this meant the innermost center of the emotions and the moral sensitivity of a person’s heart.2 Here we see that God does not just know us as a casual acquaintance or simply acknowledge our existence, marvelous though that would be for the God of heaven to do such a thing. Rather, He knows who we are right down to the final detail. God knows how you work, how you think, what makes you happy, what makes you sad. He knows the last time you cried, and what you cried about. He knows what you would like for your birthday, and He actually cares about it too. The amazing thing is you don’t actually have to tell Him all of this. He just knows, because He made you, He sees you, He hears you, and He loves you. He knows you better than you know yourself.


He knows what you need before a word is even spoken from your mouth or articulated in your heart.


God Speaks Worth Over Me


“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” (Isa. 43:4)


The first thing God said when He looked at His creation was, “It is good.” The very fact that God made you means you are wonderful!


The psalmist declares: “Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:14). Yet God didn’t just make you, then say, “What a great job,” and leave you on a shelf. No, He pursues a relationship

with you, He gives His life for you, that He may know you daily, deeply, and eternally.


Just before we were married, Matt received an invitation from Buckingham Palace. When Matt read the guest list he was a little intimidated. Top sports personalities, journalists, and film stars— and my fiancé! When he eventually met the Queen, along with Prince Charles, Matt performed a fumbled bow and stood back in shock. That was the Queen!


He couldn’t believe he had been chosen to hold out his hand and meet her majesty face-to-face. Somehow Matt had been deemed worthy of a moment with the Queen and her son, and he felt truly humbled. What a privilege!


Yet the truth is that there is a higher honor—a more amazing invitation that lies open for all of us. God in heaven; the Lord of all creation; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of your pastor and your friends who are missionaries abroad; the God of Corrie ten Boom and Martin Luther; the Author of life; the Beginning and the End—He extends the hand of friendship to you! Just as Matt was invited to stand alongside celebrities and dignitaries before the Queen at Buckingham Palace, so too are we invited to stand before the God of heaven and earth as an equal alongside great heroes of the faith … and not just to meet Him but to know Him! He speaks His love and your worth loudly over you today.


Listen closely: Isaiah 61:3 says that He bestows on us “a crown of beauty instead of ashes,” and Psalm 103:4 says that God “redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.”


Anyone wearing a crown holds her head up high. She does not have an identity problem. She has been given honor and dignity.


God speaks worth over you. He declares His love for you. You are precious in His sight. Just like when I speak rest, sonship, and courage over my child, every time God calls your name He speaks worth and

value over you. He knows you intimately because He made you, and He loves you completely.


God Hears Me


“I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isa. 43:3)


It is a fundamental human need to be heard and understood. In fact, if we feel that we are not heard, we feel a vast sense of loneliness and emptiness. If we are not heard, we do not feel understood, and if

we do not feel understood, we will not feel known. The whole point about God knowing our names, and about Him making us, is that He knows us. When we discover that we are known and understood by a friend, it can be profoundly moving. Sometimes a really good friend may understand us better than we understand ourselves.


Tom Marshall, in his book Right Relationships, says that no one can survive for long unless “we feel that somebody understands us, somebody knows what we are feeling and somebody appreciates our real desires and intentions.”3 And yet, however powerful being known and understood by a friend or your partner can be, no one can know you better or understand you more than God Himself.


Psalm 139:1–4 puts it magnificently:


O LORD, you have searched me

and you know me.


You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.


You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.


Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.



Some people might find this depth of understanding quite frightening—and indeed there is always a risk attached to loving and being loved, knowing and being known. God knows us completely and utterly. Our thoughts, feelings, and emotions are an open book to God. He sees what we do, and He hears what we say even before we say it, or even when we’re not talking to Him! He knows what you are doing and why you are doing it. More importantly, He knows your dreams, your ambitions, and your longings. But how can we know for ourselves that God really knows us in our inmost being, completely and utterly?


We know that we are known because He hears us.


When we know that God hears us, it transforms us from being fearful, doubting God’s love, mercy, and goodness, into people who can be certain of His love for us. When God spoke to me through that song on my iPod, through the beautiful words of Isaiah 49, I knew that He had heard my cry—and He stepped in very powerfully at that moment, speaking His Word of life over me.


God was faithful to me through His real, tangible words of truth. I had a choice. I knew I did not have to believe my earthly father’s words. My heavenly Father had seen my pain and had answered me in a deeply personal way from His Word.


God Has Not Forgotten Me


“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” (Isa. 43:2)


Sometimes we can know the truth of God in our minds, but not let it sink into our hearts. Or perhaps we have experienced a time of spiritual dryness, a time of suffering, or a time of God’s silence. During these times, it can feel like God has forgotten us. This can be frightening and even cause us to question the truth and reality of God.


A friend recently told me that her current situation makes her feel as though she was five years old again and her father has forgotten to pick her up from school. That is a very real and deeply unsettling feeling, and it can shake our faith and our trust in God to the core. My situation is telling me You are not here and You are not coming. Where are You, God? Yet the true extent of God’s care and concern for us is breathtaking:


“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7)


God is not like your earthly father. Difficult circumstances do not mean He has failed or abandoned you. He has not left you at the school gate. God does not forget the child He made. He has not put you to one side while He is busy with other people. He is not bored with you, and He did not leave you midproject. He adores you. In fact, He promises (and God is incapable of breaking a promise) in

Joshua 1:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He continually watches over you. “He [takes] great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).


God is continually at pains to remind us not to be afraid, because He is with us. If He is with us, how can He forget us?


If you feel forgotten, I want to encourage you to believe the Word of God when He says, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).


Call out to the Lord, and He will answer you. Wait patiently for the Lord, for He will turn to you and hear your cry. God loves you, He hears you, He speaks to you, and He will rescue you. Amen!


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. God Knows My Name by Beth Redman. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 16, 2010

In a Heartbeat by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy


Thanks to everyone who participated in today's tour!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:

Henry Holt and Co. (July 13, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist for The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


A Memphis, Tennessee native, Leigh Anne was raised by her devout Christian mother and tough-as-nails U.S. Marshall father, a JFK appointee who served the administration in its efforts to racially integrate schools in the Deep South. She attended Briarcrest Christian School and went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi, “Ole Miss,” with a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design. There Leigh Anne met Sean Tuohy, her husband of 27 years. Both were active and ambitious college students. Leigh Anne was a cheerleader, campus favorite, homecoming maid, and active member of her sorority; Sean became a record-breaking SEC basketball champion and still holds several SEC assist records. Drafted by the NBA’s New Jersey Nets in 1982, he opted to continue his career overseas before returning to the U.S. to be with his father in his final days. He became a successful entrepreneur, building a company that now owns and operates 70 fast food restaurants, including Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s franchises. The Tuohys are the proud parents of daughter Collins and sons Michael Oher and Sean Jr.

Visit their website.


Product Details:

List Price: $24.00
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (July 13, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805093389
ISBN-13: 978-0805093384

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

The Popcorn Theory

LEIGH ANNE and SEAN

We all begin on the same page and we're all going to end on the same page.—Sean Tuohy

After many years of getting and spending, of being broke, then rich, then almost broke again, of cashing in and paying up, and—let's face it—hoping to die with the most toys, we're convinced that it's better to give than receive. Some folks call that philanthropy. But we aren't the fancy types. We don't always have enough starch in our shirts and our household is about as formal as a sandbox. Instead, we live by a more informal notion, which we call the Popcorn Theory.

It goes like this: "You can't help everyone. But you can try to help the hot ones who pop right up in front of your face."

The Popcorn Theory is about noticing others. It starts with recognizing a fellow soul by the roadside as kindred, even if he doesn't seem to belong in your gated community and, at six foot five and over three hundred pounds, is the biggest piece of popcorn you ever saw. It's about acknowledging that person's potential and value. It's about seeing him, instead of looking past him.

"Like with popcorn, you don't know which kernel's gonna pop," Sean likes to say. "But the hot ones just show up. It's not hard to spot 'em."

Except, that first day we almost drove right by him.

It was a raw autumn morning in late November 2002, the day before Thanksgiving. A light dusting of snow had just fallen, which we in Memphis, Tennessee—being Southerners—considered a blizzard. Ice draped the roof gutters and the sky was dull and blanched, a waste-colored day.

We were on our way out to breakfast. He was trudging down the street in nothing but a T-shirt and shorts, his arms wrapped in a sad knot, his breath visible in the cold.

We glanced at him, briefly. Then we did what comes too easily to all of us. To be honest—gut-punch honest—we kept on driving and passed him by. Past the occasional patches of snow that lay on the yards like sheets half pulled back. Past the stubbled lawns and the freeze-cracked sidewalks.

But, as we left him behind, a thought tugged at Leigh Anne's consciousness. It was as faint as the wind, as indistinct as the chittering of birds.

"Turn around," Leigh Anne said.

With that, our lives changed in a heartbeat.

If you are among the millions of people who saw the movie The Blind Side, or read the book it was based on, then you know what happened next. You know how a wealthy suburban couple pulled over and spoke to young, rootless Michael Oher. How Michael was a ward of the state, his mother an addict, his father murdered. How he ran away from twenty foster homes and passed through eleven schools before he met us. How he eventually became a second son to us and earned a football scholarship to the University of Mississippi, where he made the Chancellor's Honor Roll. How he then went on to stardom in the National Football League. How an Academy Award–nominated film was made about our family, and how Sandra Bullock won her first Oscar for her portrayal of Leigh Anne.

You probably think you know everything about us, our whole story. Actually, you only know part of it. Don't get us wrong. Our friend Michael Lewis, the author of The Blind Side, wrote a wonderful book that deserved to be a bestseller. (Most of his books sell big. We haven't read all of them, but if you see him, tell him we did.) Our friend Sandra Bullock is a brilliant actress and her star turn in the movie, all nerve and bluntness, was perfect. (Leigh Anne doesn't actually wear skirts that tight, but it's a minor point.) Compared to our real lives, though, the book and movie were just sketches.

For instance, people ask all the time: "Is Leigh Anne Tuohy really like that?"

Our friends are quick to answer: "It's worse. The movie could only get an hour and a half of her in."

The truth is, childbirth is easier to explain than our story. So in this book we'd like to introduce our family properly, tell you how we saw events through our own eyes, and deliver our message in our own voices.

It's a message about giving. We often say that our son Michael gave us much more than we gave him. That confuses people: how is it possible that a homeless kid could give anything to wealthy parents who already had two perfect children? It's possible because in every exchange with Michael, we came out on the better end. We gave him a home—and he gave us back a stronger and more centered family. We gave him advice and support—and he gave us back a deeper awareness of the world. We gave him love as a boy—and he gave us back a man to be proud of. Each thing we gave to him has been returned to us multiplied.

But before any of that could happen, something else had to happen first. A fundamental precondition had to be met.

We had to notice him. We had to see him.

At this point we should pause to explain why a couple of well-heeled suburbanites would go out to breakfast on a weekday morning. The answer is that we don't cook. Or, to be more specific, Leigh Anne doesn't cook. As Sean likes to tell people, "My wife believes that if somebody else cooked it, and we bring it home and eat it, that's ‘home cooking.' "

Our son Sean Junior, who we call S.J. for short, claims that our conversations about meals always consist of the following exchange:

"What's for dinner?"

"Whatever you pick up."

S.J. also likes to tell the story of our Kroger's supermarket card. A while back the local grocery started a program: for every fifty bucks spent at Kroger's, four dollars would go to the school or charity of your choice. After about a year, our grand contribution to the team, based on the amount of food we purchased, came to just seven dollars. The only things we ever bought were Diet Coke and Gatorade.

Actually, we almost didn't even have a kitchen in our house. Several years ago we moved into a lovely home in the upper-crust River Oaks section of Memphis, thanks to our dual success in business—Leigh Anne as an interior designer, Sean as an entrepreneur in the fast-food business. Due to the growth of Leigh Anne's firm, Flair I Interiors, and Sean's company, RGT Management—which over the years has acquired more than eighty Taco Bells, Pizza Huts, and Long John Silver's—we were fortunate enough to be able to buy and remodel a beautiful four-bedroom, cream-brick manor on a bucolic street called Shady Grove Lane.

Leigh Anne handled the remodeling discussions with the architect, who then drew up some plans. When she showed the blueprints to the rest of the family, we all stared at them for a long moment.

"Where's the kitchen?" Sean said to Leigh Anne.

Meaningful pause.

"I don't plan on cooking."

Longer pause.

"All right," Sean replied patiently, "let's approach this from the practical side. What if we ever want to sell the house? Who would buy a house with no kitchen?"

Stubborn, emphatic pause.

"I don't plan on selling the house."

Eventually, we struck a compromise: a small passageway lined with bookshelves was converted into a galley kitchen. Sean likes to show it off to visitors by spreading his arms out in the tiny space. "See this?" he'll say. "This was a negotiation."

Even now, it's immaculate because it's so seldom used. As our daughter, Collins, tells her friends, "It's like a hospital operating room."

S.J. enjoys throwing open the refrigerator door to show visitors what's inside: nothing but bottles. We have drinks. We have sauces. We have condiments, ketchup, and mustard. We have seasonings, stuff to put on food. But no actual food.

By now you may have gathered that our family is a little . . . odd.

So that's why we were out driving that morning. We were on our way to get some home cooking.

That day in the car when we spotted Michael, ambling slowly along a tidy cement walk and past a series of wrought iron gates behind which peeked the tall gables of grand homes, we each had the same fleeting thought. We wondered, inwardly, what a black kid was doing in that neighborhood at nine thirty in the morning. Frankly, he was out of place. In that part of town, it's a little unusual to see someone walking on foot, much less a very tall, very large, dark-complexioned person in shorts.

"He looks like a fish out of water," Leigh Anne said aloud, peering through the windshield.

Memphis, of course, has a long and tortured racial history. But if you live in River Oaks—a stately, wholly white enclave—it's easy to avert your eyes from the city's race and class divisions, or ignore them altogether. Thick-chimneyed Mock Tudors and faux French chateaus are tucked behind whitewashed brick walls. The subdivisions have European names like Normandy Court and they exude affluence and seclusion. They are sheltered by old oaks and pines and heavy hedges and protected by thick garden walls. There's no concertina wire, but you get the idea.

As we passed Michael, Sean recognized him. He was the "new kid" everyone was talking about at Briarcrest Christian School.

The pleasant, redbrick high school where we sent our children was just four blocks from our house. Briarcrest had been founded in 1973 as a response to the court-ordered racial integration of the Memphis City Schools, when the flight of white parents had resulted in a burgeoning of small, private, reassuringly homogenous halls of education. Most of the kids at Briarcrest came from the same neighborhoods and their families enjoyed the same income levels.

But, to its credit, Briarcrest had begun to seek out and admit minority children, partly out of a philanthropic impulse, partly in the interest of giving its affluent students fuller exposure to the actual world around them. Michael was one of these minority kids—he'd only just arrived and he stuck out like a sore thumb.

As it happens, Michael was the same age and in the same class as our daughter, Collins. One day she had encountered him on the staircase on her way to anatomy. He was going up and she was going down, and he took up the entire passageway. She had to back up so he could get past her. She remembers thinking, "That's the largest person I've ever seen."

The next day she introduced herself to him. He just said, "Hey." She didn't get many words out of him in their first few encounters.

Sean had also noticed him at Briarcrest, where he volunteered in the afternoons as a basketball coach. It was his habit to drop by the school during his lunch break and he had spotted Michael in the gym, sitting in the bleachers watching some kids play ball. One afternoon Sean spoke with Michael briefly, and he came home talking about the huge new kid who had great hands and feet to go along with his size. Sean saw right away that Michael might be a real asset to the Briarcrest athletic teams.

As we left Michael in the rearview mirror that November morning, the two of us had a brief conversation.

"That's the new kid at Briarcrest I told you about," Sean said.

"What's he doing out here this time of day?" Leigh Anne asked. "School's not in session."

"I don't know."

And that was it. No question about it, we intended to keep driving. We were more concerned with breakfast. Actually, we were preoccupied with food in general, given that it was the day before Thanksgiving. We wouldn't be cooking ourselves, of course, but the previous evening we had spent a couple of hours helping Leigh Anne's mother—who would be hosting the family meal extravaganza—dice and chop.

Later on, we learned that Thanksgiving didn't mean much to Michael. Neither did Christmas, or his birthday. These days weren't for celebrating, quite the opposite. They were bleak, neutral days that only reminded him of want. "I went through a lot of those days with nothing," he told us. "A holiday was just another date to me."

We glided down the street in our BMW, a plush and comfortable silver cloud, fine with the world. But then it began to sleet, and that's when the thought whispered to Leigh Anne.

Why doesn't he have long pants on in November?

The thought grew until it forced itself into her throat and demanded to be spoken aloud.

"Turn around."

"What? Why?"

"Go back and let's see what he's doing here."

"Maybe he's going to the school."

"That's all fine, Sean, but why does he only have a T-shirt and shorts on in this weather?"

"I don't have a clue."

"TURN AROUND."

Anyone who has heard Leigh Anne Tuohy speak in that tone invariably does what he is told. Sean promptly U-turned the car right in the middle of the street, as ordered.

One of the things Mister Tuohy understands after twenty-eight years of marriage is how not to aggravate Missus Tuohy. Another thing he understands is how aggressive she is when a kid has needs—aggressive being a polite term for borderline obnoxious. Kids drive her crazy, because whatever is wrong in their lives is not their fault. Just by looking at Michael, Leigh Anne could tell that he had never hurt a soul. And he was shivering.

We pulled up beside him and Sean rolled down the driver's side window with an electric hum.

"Hey, Michael, what are you doing over here today?"

Slowly, Michael folded himself in half and bent down to the window. His expression was placid, gentle eyed. His voice when he spoke was mellow, deep chested, and surprisingly beautiful. He had a voice like a cello.

"I'm going to shoot hoops."

"Well, the gym's not open."

To Leigh Anne, leaning across from the passenger seat, it was immediately apparent that Michael was disappointed. He had an "Oh, no" kind of look. It was obvious to her that he now had no mission, no plan—and no place else to go.

"They got heat there," Michael said uncertainly.

He was going to the school because it was warm.

"Let us take you home," Leigh Anne said.

"Oh, no, no, no," he replied, with something like alarm. "I'm okay, I don't need anything."

"Well," said Leigh Anne, "why don't you at least let us take you back up to the bus stop where you got off. When does another express come by?"

"I don't know," he said.

After another minute of conversation, Michael clearly realized how persistent Leigh Anne intended to be. We simply weren't going to leave him standing there in the sleet in a T-shirt. Finally, he agreed to let us drive him to another bus stop and he climbed in the car.

There was hardly any talk as we drove. A little basketball chitchat, nothing more. What was going through our heads? Not much. All these years later, Leigh Anne is the only one of us who can recall having a specific thought that day. The first thing she thought was, "This kid needs some clothes." It was apparent that he didn't own any cold-weather garments. Next, she thought, "I wonder who would know what size he wears?" But she couldn't bring herself to ask him any questions. We didn't know anything about him or his life and we didn't want to patronize him.

We arrived at the bus stop and let Michael out. He waved good-bye. That was it, the end of the first encounter. It was nothing, and everything.

The following Monday, when school was back in session, Leigh Anne went over to Briarcrest and began asking some questions. Who was this kid? Where did he live? Where were his parents?

No one had any firm answers. The counselors knew next to nothing about him, except that he had been brought to the school in September by a youth basketball coach named Tony Henderson, with whom he had spent a few nights. Henderson had persuaded the Briarcrest administration to enroll Michael as a hardship case, on academic probation.

Leigh Anne dropped by the gym and queried Briarcrest basketball coach John Harrington, who said, "I don't know that much about him yet, but I do think he probably is lacking in clothes." Leigh Anne said, "Will you ask him if he will let me take him shopping?" John said he would approach Michael and let us know. That night John called Leigh Anne to say that Michael had agreed to let her buy him some things.

The next day, as Michael climbed into the car after basketball practice, Leigh Anne began to grapple with the scale of his potential needs. For starters, he was such a big kid that she had no idea where to look for sizes that would fit him. Surveying him, she said, "Okay. Where are we going? Do you know where we could get you some clothes?"

Michael looked back at her with an impatient, adolescent expression, like she'd just said something stupid. He sort of snorted, "Yeahhh."

"Well, I certainly can't take you to Macy's," she shot back, "so point me in the right direction."

That was the first small seed of a rapport and it grew from there. In the months ahead, our relationship with Michael would develop with a lot of sarcastic back-and-forth, and a lot of teasing, which was what we did in our home. Michael learned pretty quickly that in the Tuohy household you can say just about anything and not get in trouble.

In the weeks that followed, Michael began spending more and more time hanging around the house. But he wasn't the only one. We had supported and cared for plenty of kids besides Michael. (We still do.) A lot of them were athletes looking for a way up and out through sports, kids who were on the margin financially or academically. We had a natural sympathy for them; earlier in our lives, as we will explain, we had had much less ourselves. Besides Michael, there was a boy in the band and a young girl on the softball team. We wanted our home to be open to them and to all of our children's friends. Our house was like a hive: kids came over to share our takeout, or to be tutored by Sean, or just to play video games with S.J. Michael was different only in that he had greater needs. Truth be told, he needed more than any kid we had ever met.

But if there is a fundamental misapprehension about Michael, it's that he needed saving. As we got to know him during those first few weeks, we discovered that underneath his shyness, his foot shuffling, and his head ducking, he had a tremendous will to determine the course of his own life. If he initially seemed forlorn, and searching, that was because he felt guarded and out of place because of what he'd been through. But buried under his skin, like rock under soil, was a deep confidence, a sense of his own capacities. You saw flashes of it when he would cut his eyes up at you and smile. In that instant, you could see all that he had inside of him, as if the landscape of his mind had just been lit up by lightning.

Eventually, we came to understand that Michael was almost always the smartest person in the room. It just took a while for all of us to realize it. If anything, he was almost too sharp for his own good. As Sean would sometimes joke, "He thinks he could perform surgery with a butter knife." Miss Sue Mitchell, his academic tutor in high school and college, once said, "If Michael and I are ever in a car wreck together, please do not let him operate on me. Because he thinks he can."

The point is, Michael was always going to find a way to make it out of his situation—and nobody was going to be more responsible for his success than he was. He knew what he wanted and he found ways to attain it. "I knew there had to be something better," he said later. "I'd say, ‚ÄòMan, there has to be something else. I just have to better myself.' "

Michael came to us this great, sweet, bright kid, ready-made for success. All we did was give him a few tools and step out of the way. We allowed him to become who he was supposed to be. He was such a self-made man, in fact, that when he later saw the portrayal of himself as a boy in the movie, he said, "I was never like that." He didn't like seeing himself as he was. He argued that he never had trouble meeting people and looking them in the eye, and he all but insisted that he was born with a 3.5 grade point average. To him, none of his past happened. What he is now is what happened. Sometimes we argue with him—in all honesty, it's still hard for us to know how to treat his past—but then we let it go. His childhood is his own property. He would probably not be the success he is without the ability to transcend his past. He simply refuses to let it catch his sleeve and drag him backward.

A couple of weeks after we picked Michael up and took him to the bus stop, he spent the night on our couch for the first time. At that point he was drifting from household to household, dividing his nights between three or four different families from Briarcrest. He occasionally spent nights with a young assistant football coach named Matt Saunders. He also spent a lot of nights with a classmate named Quinterio Franklin, who lived out in Mississippi about thirty-five miles away.

When Michael stayed with us, he slept on a sofa in our game room, a broad, many-windowed space that reflects the Tuohy love of toys. It's got three different flat-screen TVs, a Pop-A-Shot basketball machine, an Xbox rig, and a view of the swimming pool outside. It's also got a large L-shaped sectional couch.

The running family joke is that Leigh Anne took Michael into her heart the first time she saw how neatly he folded everything. He treated that sofa as if it were the property of the U.S. military. After his first night with us, we all stared at the blanket folded and cornered in a neat bundle and at the sheets he had so crisply squared.

"Instant love," S.J. remarked.

No one else in the household would have done such a thing. Except for Leigh Anne, of course. The rest of us are all wrecks—which is why we need her.

Collins's room during high school was so messy that it drove Leigh Anne to distraction. Collins lived in piles. You could see the Monday pile, the Tuesday pile, and the Wednesday pile. There was the formal-wear pile and the semiformal pile. Leigh Anne would take videos of the room and show it to visitors, in hopes of embarrassing Collins into cleaning up the mess. When that didn't work, Leigh Anne would scream, "I'm going to throw her out of the house!" Finally, Collins would clean her room . . . and a couple days later, you'd see the piles on the floor again.

For all the chaos and yelling, it was apparent to any outsider who walked into the Tuohy household that we were a close family—if a functionally dysfunctional one. We didn't come home to the smell of fresh-cooked meals every night but we laughed a lot. We didn't have many Dr. Phil moments, either. We were moving too fast. Our lives were simply too hectic—who's got time for serious conflict?

Michael's first impressions of the cast of characters in our house were pretty vivid. Here's what he saw in each of us.

Leigh Anne: a former cheerleader, and five foot two of plainspoken will. She wanted to get things done and usually what she wanted to get done needed doing. If anyone tried to stop her, she'd take his arm off and walk down the street with it. She had a shiny exterior, glittering and bejeweled, that covered for tenderness. She cried on Sunday at Grace Evangelical Church when Pastor Jimmy Young read her mother's favorite scriptures or called for her father's favorite hymn, "Up from the Grave He Rose." But that didn't mean you wanted to mess with her.

"I'm all about loving and giving," Leigh Anne would say, "but I'm going to kick your butt if you do something you're not supposed to do."

Sean: gently sarcastic in tone and in manner, he pretended to be the minority partner. "I get a 49 percent vote," he'd say. In reality, he was probably the strongest person in the family. Sometimes others in the family seemed almost to ignore him, but when there was a crisis, everybody ran right to him. He oversaw dozens of fast-food franchises and he was also a broadcaster for the Memphis Grizzlies, the local NBA team. He was short on time and big on results. He refused to read the instructions to anything—he just went from A to D and didn't want to know what steps B and C were.

Collins: picture a luminous changeling with waist-length hair—and biceps. Collins—or Collie-Bell, as others in the family liked to call her—managed to be all things at once, gorgeous and athletic, sweet and a smarty-pants. She was the member of the family to whom everything came effortlessly. Before Michael arrived she was the best athlete in the house. She would master a sport, become bored, and move on. She was a gymnastics prodigy and later one of the best swimmers in the city. She triple-jumped and then won a state championship in the pole vault.

Sean Junior: An antic child, with a thick slab of black hair falling over his eyes and speech that came all in a rush. Of everyone in the family, he was the most perceptive and attuned to others. He had a strange, hyperkinetic mind; he was a king of the universe at Xbox, and he made straight As though he hardly cracked a book. Somehow, against all odds, he was also self-assured. The youngest in a frenzied household, he was always being left behind but never seemed to mind it. His good humor was bottomless. When he played basketball for a local boys club team that was made up completely of black kids, except for him, his teammates nicknamed him "Spot."

The family came and went at all hours and seemed to live completely in the moment. Sean would need five clean suits for a road trip because in addition to overseeing his restaurants, he was traveling all over the country doing his broadcasting for the Grizzlies. Collins couldn't find her pole vault gear in all the piles, Leigh Anne was juggling decorating jobs, and S.J. needed a ride somewhere. The merry-go-round never stopped—or even slowed down.

Then Michael came along. It didn't take long for him to understand what we were all saying to him: "If you want to jump into this frying pan with us, let's go!"

There was never a moment when Michael formally joined our family. It just happened. Monday became Tuesday and Tuesday became Wednesday. He'd stop by the house to hang out between classes and practices, which became hanging out to study, which became spending the night, which became staying for three nights, which became staying for a month. All of a sudden six months had gone by. At some point we realized that Michael had been living with us for a long time. It just evolved into what it was.

At first we were just too busy to stop and think about what was happening. It was only later that we understood that a mutual awakening had taken place and began to measure the size of the awkward gaps we confronted, between privileged and poor, between black and white. And only then did we begin to bridge these gaps as a family.

One of the questions we're asked most frequently is, how were Collins, S.J., and Michael able to accept one another as brothers and sister without resentment? We're not exactly sure, except that they were born good-natured, and we didn't ruin them. For some reason, our three kids aren't sitting on some psychiatrist's couch saying, "I got screwed." How did that happen? We don't know. But we do know that the three of them cared for each other as much as anybody.

One possible answer is that we all laughed a lot. Another is that Collins and S.J. were open to Michael because they hadn't been raised in total privilege and prosperity. When they were younger, they saw us struggle economically, so they grew up with some sense for how hard we worked and how fortunate they were. We also tried hard not to sequester them socially—because when you're socially sequestered, you're susceptible to stereotypes and to viewing a lot of people as "others." We never wanted our kids to view anyone as an "other."

Not long before we met Michael, we sent Collins to a program called Bridge Builders. It's a weeklong seminar during which schoolchildren from the dead opposite ends of the city are placed in dormitory rooms on the University of Memphis campus and required to get to know each other. The program is run by a Memphis nonprofit foundation called Bridges, which for eighty years has been fostering racial and social justice through a variety of community initiatives. They mentor local "peacemakers" and help young dropouts get their equivalency degrees and find jobs. "Changing Memphis One Life at a Time" is the program's slogan.

For five days, Collins—who was then a sophomore in high school—roomed with a girl from Raleigh-Egypt High School on the other side of town. Raleigh-Egypt was the opposite of Briarcrest socially and economically; it had a mixed student body and its share of problems. On one occasion, for instance, a student had slapped a teacher.

None of the kids in the program were allowed to use cell phones except in an emergency. Communication with friends on the outside was strictly forbidden, so all the kids had was each other. Through a series of encounters and counselor-led seminars, Bridge Builders knocked down social barriers and forced the kids to lean on one another. At first Collins and her roommate were all about checking out each other's hair. But as they got better acquainted, they discovered they were separated by—and curious about—some of the simplest things.

One exercise in particular made a lasting impression on Collins. A counselor gathered about fifteen or twenty kids together in a room, lined them up single-file, and turned out the lights. In the dark, the counselor asked them to close their eyes and listen to a series of questions. The students were to respond to the questions simply by taking a step to the left or right. If the answer to the question was yes, they were to step to the right. If the answer was no, they had to step to the left.

"Are you going to get a car when you're sixteen?"

Collins heard shuffling in the dark. She took a step to the right.

"Do your parents have jobs?"

More shuffling. Collins took another step to the right.

"Do you have two parents?"

Still more shuffling. Collins again moved to the right.

After a few more questions, the counselor said, "Open your eyes."

The lights flickered on.

Collins stared around the room. Almost all of the kids were on opposite sides of the room. They had been pushed to either one wall or the other by their family's circumstances. Just a few kids stood in the center.

Collins thought, "So this is why we're the way we are."

If the message you take from our experience is that a rich white family tried to save a black kid, then you will totally miss our story's meaning. It has nothing to do with where we were from, how we lived, or how much money we had. It's not important what color we were, whether we had glasses or didn't have glasses, or what kind of shoes we wore. All of that is irrelevant. Some people have tried to make it relevant—but they emphasize the wrong thing.

It so happened that when we first met him, Michael was a black, sixteen-year-old male. But those words are just adjectives that describe the person we tried to help and ultimately came to love. Making him a part of the family was an unconscious act, and it happened in a heartbeat.

It's equally true, however, that the outlook on life that allowed us to open our hearts and home to Michael was developed over the course of our lifetimes. If the impulse was sudden, the two of us had been thinking for several years about our philosophy of giving.

One of our deepest beliefs is beautifully captured in the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, or 2 Corinthians. The seventh verse of the ninth chapter of 2 Corinthians reads: "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." After many years of attending church together, and helping to found one of the fastest-growing congregations in Memphis, Grace Evangelical, we came to believe that a cheerful, spontaneous offering, no matter how small, could be increased and made powerful by God. Our faith helped us understand that it was up to us to be generous and make ourselves available to be used by others.

We also became convinced that in order to really give, we had to get our hearts right. We had to learn that it was important to let go of any particular agenda. What were we hoping to achieve when we gave? We knew that it couldn't be "We're looking to go out and help a fourteen-year-old Hispanic boy today."

So many people we knew wanted to make a difference and yet they waited for a really important cause to come along. Or they waited for their big bonus check to come in. They said to themselves: "I want to save Africa." Or: "I want to save the American Indian." They had an agenda. But why is it necessary to have an agenda? Because it relieves our conscience? Or makes us look good to our bosses? Or makes us feel good about ourselves? Because it makes us more appealing to the congregation? Or gives us more points on our Visa card? Or means that the United Way is going to give us a plaque?

The more we thought about the nature of true charity, the more we realized that there's a paradox in Americans' general attitudes toward giving: as a citizenry we are at once charitable and stingy. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, 89 percent of American households give to charity. Sounds impressive, but think about this: on average, we donate just 1.9 percent of our household income. To be frank, that's miserly. Especially considering how enriched some of us are, that percentage is well below what it should be. And by biblical standards—as most Christians would undoubtedly agree—it's downright shameful.

As we reflected on our own ways of giving, we came to see that we often approached charity too formally. Giving shouldn't always be a prescribed ritual or ceremony; it doesn't need to be accompanied by properly stamped paperwork. If we worried less about the procedures and methods of giving and concentrated more on a giving state of mind, we might have more to offer than we knew.

It pained us to realize that we too often failed at the simplest kind of giving. While we were waiting for a great cause, or focused on an agenda, we chose not to notice someone standing right in front of us. We looked right past the woman in the grocery store taking things out of her basket because she was short on cash or the elderly disabled man in line at CVS.

Ultimately, we agreed that by embracing a smaller and more cheerful kind of giving, we might ease a lot of everyday problems. It took several years but slowly, informally, we found ourselves arriving at a simple conclusion: it wasn't important to do something great.

Instead, we decided to take this approach: do small things with great love. If we could do that, little opportunities to give might grow beyond our wildest dreams.

And that's exactly what happened when Michael walked into our lives. We didn't set out to take in a homeless kid. We just gave him a ride. He was the ultimate example of the Popcorn Theory.

Too often we think we lack the means to improve someone's lot. We're wrong. The Popcorn Theory doesn't oblige all of us to write impressively large checks or take in every hungry child with a face like a flame. It only requires that we perceive the person standing right in front of us.

Not long ago we heard the following story from a U.S. senator we met during a trip to Washington for an Adoption Coalition convention. There is a little-known congressional program that awards internships to young people who have aged out of the foster care system. These are kids who were never adopted and are no longer eligible for state support. They have no families and few prospects. The internship program is a way to give a few of them a decent professional start.

This senator we met during the convention employed one such young man as an intern. One morning the senator breezed in for a meeting and discovered that his intern was already in the office, reorganizing the entire mailroom. The senator said to the intern, "This is amazing—the mailroom has never looked so clean. You did a great job."

A few minutes later the senator decided to get a cup of coffee. As he passed by the mailroom, he glanced through the plate-glass window and saw that the intern had tears streaming down his face. The senator stopped short, wondering what could have upset him.

He returned to the mailroom and said, "Son, are you okay?"

"Yes," the intern answered quietly, wiping his tears away.

"Did I say something to offend you?"

"No, sir."

"Well, what's wrong?"

After a short silence, the young man said, "That's the first time in my life anyone's told me that I did something good."

A bit of attention and a kind word—that's how little it takes to affect someone's life for the better.

Thousands of people failed to notice Michael Oher, his quality and his promise. Every day, as he walked the long blocks from the bus stop to school, they drove right past him. Now, Michael was hard to miss. But nobody seemed to have noticed him. Nobody ever stopped to ask, "Where are you going?" Nobody even offered him a ride.

After we met Michael, we became very conscious of his old bus stop. Leigh Anne is a power walker who does five miles a day and, from that Thanksgiving on, whenever she strode up to that bus stop she always took note of the people who were waiting for a bus and stopped to speak to them. Sometimes she just said, "How is your day?" Or she paused to ask a few questions and find out more about them. There was an orthopedic clinic nearby and some of them were on their way to get medical care. (We never even knew the clinic was there.) Others were on their way to work at a Chick-fil-A on the nearby commercial strip. (We'd never thought about how they got to work.) Most of them were taken aback when Leigh Anne stopped for conversation. They got a look on their faces that said, "People don't usually talk to me in this part of town."

Try an experiment. At some point in the next twenty-four hours you're going to come across someone who seems of no consequence. Ask yourself if you see value in this person. It might be a young woman in a restaurant clearing off the tables. It might be the young man who parks your car in a garage. It might be someone standing on the curb at a red light or waiting at a bus stop. Pay attention to how you respond. You will glance at them, barely, and you will place some type of value on them. (You're lying if you say you don't.) You will pass right by them and if you give them a second thought, it will be this: you're better than they are.

By the time Michael was seventeen or eighteen, he might have completely fallen through the cracks, unnoticed by anyone. After all, who cared where Michael slept, what he ate, what he wore, or where he went? To be brutal about it, who really cared whether he lived or died?

Even after Michael made it to the NFL, people still didn't seem to value him, to see him, as clearly as they should have. For instance, when Sandra Bullock went on the Late Show with David Letterman, she had an exchange with Letterman that struck all of us. No doubt he didn't mean anything by it, but Letterman kept referring to "that boy in the movie." You could tell it got to Sandra. She finally said, "You mean Michael."

To us, the astonishing commercial success of The Blind Side is rooted in a kind of self-examination. Michael's story causes all of us to search our souls and it shows us how we too easily ignore, debase, and devalue each other. The experience of watching the movie is kind of like hearing a sermon when you've screwed up and suddenly the sermon seems directed right at you. But the movie also touches the part of us that wants to be better, that yearns to treat each other as family. The story it tells is a reaffirmation of the way we want to feel about who we are and the way we want our country to be.

We're often asked, wasn't it a risk to take Michael into your home? You know what? You take a bigger risk every day of your life. When you get in your car and drive across a bridge, you take a risk. You don't know if your tires are going to blow out, or if the bridge's pilings are going to hold up, or if there's a drunk driver coming at you from the other end of the bridge. But you don't stop and think about it, do you? You don't get up every morning and kick each of your tires. You don't stare at the bridge and say, "Yeah, I think it'll hold me." You go right ahead and cross that bridge without giving it a thought.

Everybody takes risks, every day. You just don't realize that's what you're doing. For us, loving Michael was like that. We just crossed the bridge without thinking about it. And the way we see it, these are the kinds of risks that all of us need to take more of.

This is not to say that we don't have problems or make mistakes. It's not like we give everything away and go around wearing sackcloth, either. Like most people, we spend too much money on too many things, from golf clubs to David Yurman earrings. All you have to do is take a look at Collins's Louis Vuitton MacBook cover—Michael bought it for her—or check out the four cars in our garage, including young S.J.'s Dodge Challenger—Michael bought it for him—to know that.

Moreover, we're the first to admit that we weren't always the most generous givers ourselves and also that our views about giving were strongly influenced by others, starting with our parents. In the chapters to come, we'll show you how giving was passed down as a legacy to us and how we're trying to pass it to our children.

As you'll see, we have our flaws. You could even say that we have major issues. But, in the end, we're like every family. We have our disagreements and our insensitivities. We don't always like how other members of the family behave. We fight. We make up. And we get over it.

That's what families do.

Excerpted from In A Heartbeat by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy
Copyright 2010 by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy
Published in 2010 by Henry Holt and Company
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.