Sunday, October 31, 2010

The short version

I'm wearing my glasses and the screen is blurry so this will be the short version (to be expanded upon later) and may not be spelled half way right. This is the random stuff.

Friday night:
Had to flip back and forth through radio stations to hear the Rangers win their way into the World Series. We pulled into Oklahoma City just in time to watch the celebration.

Saturday:
Saw the last of the sunflowers and bought wheat snacks (think taste like corn nuts) as we entered Kansas. Went to the Oz museum in Wamego. Dad's big thing was to eat Kansas City BBQ. It was the greasiest, grossest thing ever and I thought I was going to be sick. I never want BBQ again.

Sunday:
Found the bridges of Madison County and rushed into John Wayne's birthplace gift shop so Mom could by a shot glass. Fastest Dad drove anywhere the whole time since it was about to close. Let me just say because of all the pig raising in Iowa, the whole state smells.

Monday:
Went to the national farm toy museum. They painted GI Joe figures to look like Indians. That was kind of funny. Went to the Field of Dreams because if you build it, they really will come. We did. Too bad the corn was already cut down. We went far enough into Wisconsin to find a cheese store and stumbled upon the home of Ulysses S. Grant.

Tuesday:
Walked our tails off in Chicago. I'm just now able to stand without shooting pain. Didn't get to do the Ledge at the Skydeck at Willis Tower because the Midwest was having winds equal to a inland hurricane and I guess the building was swaying too much. We had even convinced Dad to at least go up since he wouldn't do it last time we went. He either A) said that after he heard someone say it was closed or B) had a little talk with Jesus and prayed for wind. We saw the Lion King, but I wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked since my legs were throbbing the whole time we were in cramped seats. I loved the hyena costumes.

Wednesday:
The Skydeck was still closed. Extremely Windy City. Instead, we went to Navy Pier and took an architectural tour of the river. Since the ESPN Zone was closed down, we had Chicago style pizza in the room and watched the Rangers stink it up in game 1 of the World Series.

Thursday:
We wondered through the boyhood home town of Ronald Reagan. When I get the pictures printed, I hope we can tell the difference between John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. Dad was desperate to see Antique Archeology in Le Claire, IA, but they were closed for taping. We stayed in that town 2 1/2 hours and kept driving by to see if Dad could get a glimpse at Danielle.

Friday:
We spent half the day in Pella, IA which is a Dutch community. I bought the girls wooden shoes and we toured a windmill.

Saturday:
Because we didn't want to come back through Kansas, we stayed in Joplin, MO Friday night and drove within 60 miles of Branson (by way of the crow) and came through Arkansas. Dad did speed through Dallas so we could get home to watch World Series Game 3.

I will post pictures, but I'm too lazy at the moment. Something to look forward to!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Upcoming reviews

I ran out of time to pre-post the reviews I planned to post this week. What else is new? I promise these reviews are upcoming.

I got this one to review from Tyndale.



Pursuit of Justice (Call of Duty)

I read the first one of these a couple of years ago, and found the other two on Amazon really cheap with free shipping, so finally got them. Patience won out in the end. I laughed so hard through them all!

Miss Match (Lauren Holbrook Series, Book 1)Rematch (Lauren Holbrook Series, Book 2)Match Point (Lauren Holbrook Series, Book 3)

I worked on the third one in this series, then went back and got the other two. Really cute - and funny.

Saving Sailor: A NovelTaking Tuscany: A NovelHeading Home: A Novel

What I'm reading on vacation:

Safe Haven




Cool Beans: A Maya Davis Novel (Maya Davis Series)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Read the first chapter of A Million Ways to Die

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:


A Million Ways to Die: The Only Way to Live

David C. Cook (October 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Rick James is a graduate of Syracuse University (BFA) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.Div.). He has served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for more than twenty-one years and is currently responsible for writing, producing, and marketing ministry resources to staff and students. He also serves as an adjunct to Research & Development as well as a major conference speaker. Rick has written most of the ministry’s recent material including Bible study and discipleship curriculum, devotionals, books, magazines, apologetics, and evangelistic tools. A Million Ways to Die is his third project which has been published outside of Campus Crusade. Rick and his wife, Katie, have three children and live in West Chester, Pennsylvania.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702049
ISBN-13: 978-1434702043

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Better Off Dead


As the story goes, in 1972, a young Egyptian businessman lost his wristwatch, valued at roughly $11,000. That’s some wristwatch. It’s amazing that anyone who found it in the rough-and-tumble city of Cairo would have attempted to return it, and it’s shocking who did.


The city of Cairo has its own unique version of poverty called the Garbage City: a city in the sense that an ant farm is a city. The population of this slum lies somewhere between fifteen and thirty thousand people, though no one really knows for sure. Its name comes from the fact that it is both a garbage dump and home for the city’s garbage workers. Each morning at dawn some seven thousand garbage collectors on horse carts leave for Cairo, where they collect the many tons of garbage left behind by the city’s seventeen million waste-producing citizens. After their day’s work they return to the Garbage City, bringing the trash back to their homes, sorting out what’s useful, and living in and among what isn’t. In Muslim countries there are certain religious restrictions on sifting through refuse, so the inhabitants of the Garbage City are either nonreligious or of some kind of Christian heritage, typically Coptic. These are the poorest of the poor—outcasts among outcasts.


As you can imagine, it would be unthinkable to have such a valuable timepiece returned by a member of Garbage City. Yet when the wealthy businessman lost his watch, an old garbageman dressed in rags returned it, saying, “My Christ told me to be honest until death.”


Because of this act of obedience-faith-death-insanity, the Egyptian businessman later told a reporter, “I didn’t know Christ at the time, but I told [the garbageman] that I saw Christ in him. I told [him], ‘Because of what you have done and your great example, I will worship the Christ you are worshiping.’”


The man, true to his word, studied the Bible and grew in his faith. Soon he and his wife began ministering to Egypt’s physically and spiritually poor, leading thousands to Christ. In 1978, he was ordained by the Coptic Orthodox Church and is now known as Father Sama’an. Father Sama’an leads the largest church of believers in the entire Middle East; each week some ten thousand believers meet together in a large cave outside the Garbage City.


For this garbageman, returning the watch was not martyrdom, but it certainly was a kind of death. I’m sure everything in him wanted to keep that watch—everything except his heart, which wanted to keep Christ.1


In John 12:24 Jesus states that “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Beginning with his own death, what Jesus is describing here is the secret ingredient of kingdom growth. Death. Death is the fertilizer, the turf builder. The kingdom sprouts out of our daily choices to “die to ourselves.” You plant an $11,000 Rolex in the dirt and out of it grows the largest church in the Middle East. Our willingness to die to ourselves and carry our crosses every day indicates the mechanism of personal transformation and evangelistic growth.


This is not mysticism, poetics, or philosophical abstraction. This is reality. It’s as daily and as tangible as doing the dishes for someone when you don’t feel like doing the dishes for someone. Every act of dying, done in faith, generates life in some way whether we see it, recognize it, or simply take it by faith. And how do we spot the many possible ways that life might emerge through our little deaths? We can find these opportunities in just about anything our flesh tries to resist.


A COSMIC RESTRUCTURING


In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote a book titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In it Kuhn describes a fundamental change in basic assumptions, something so significant that it creates a whole new paradigm. Most people don’t remember the book, but for the last fifty years we have been haunted by the phrase Kuhn coined, the ubiquitous “paradigm shift.”


Since then, anything and everything has become a “paradigm shift.” The Gillette Trac II razor was a new paradigm that “revolutionized” shaving; the Clapper changed our paradigm for turning off lights; the Chia Pet changed our gardening paradigm.


Many, many, paradigms; lots and lots of shifting.


Virginia Woolf famously wrote, “On or about December 1910, human character changed.”2 She was heralding a paradigm shift, but as the phrase “paradigm shift” had yet to be invented, she simply uttered the aforementioned phrase.


Woolf referred to the advent of postmodernism, modern claims to the title notwithstanding. Why 1910? In 1910 Einstein debuted his theories of relativity; Nietzsche expounded his philosophy of perspectivism; Picasso painted the multi-perspective cubist masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; and writers like Joyce, Stein, Proust, and Woolf began shattering the objective narrative of literature. Relativism and subjectivism were blooming everywhere.


This truly was a paradigm shift, challenging commonly held notions of objective truth and reality. We certainly don’t view the world the same as those who lived before the turn of the twentieth century or, for that matter, give our children names like Rutledge or dress them like Howard Taft.


There have been many paradigm shifts, real, claimed, and imagined. Even now we are attempting to wrap our minds around globalization, learning to see the flatness of the earth. But no idea, concept, philosophy, or paradigm can deliver on Woolf’s claim. Human nature didn’t change on, about, or anywhere near 1910—only our thoughts about it did. Our paradigm shifted. Reality didn’t budge. What Jesus brought to this world was not simply a new paradigm. Rather, circa 33 AD the very nature of life and death changed, not simply our thoughts about it.


Of course there are a million new paradigms, perspectives, and thoughts that flow from this fact, but this is not a new way of seeing reality. This is a new reality, a total cosmic restructuring.


THE WILD WEST


Here in America we see the new life of the gospel more clearly than most—at least we seem to see more of it. It’s difficult to drive down the freeway or turn on the radio or TV without seeing or hearing an offer for this new and everlasting life. Most American non-believers know at least someone who’s experienced this new life and are, therefore, privy to a personal demonstration. Not so elsewhere.


We are also witnesses of the societal implications of this new life. We can see where politics, human rights, freedoms, social conscience, education, and medicine have been touched by the Christian view of life. Christians might assume there are social implications to the gospel, but if they were to live in a Muslim country, they certainly wouldn’t observe any.


Yet as much as our philosophy on life has been enriched by a Christian worldview, our understanding and apprehension of death has diminished. We live in one of the few places in the world where Christians aren’t persecuted (generally speaking), and martyrdom is as likely as contracting malaria or Ebola. Add to this the unprecedented historical anomaly that since the beginning of recorded time, no people—except this current generation—have ever lived with a mind-set that ninety years of age is the horizon of human life. Not even remotely. Through wealth, medicine, technology, food, and cosmetics, we think of and relate to death in the abstract, as something requiring life insurance. This perspective is alien to Scripture, and it’s alien to the majority of humanity.


And yet the symbol of our faith is a man nailed to a cross. It could have been something happier, like the yellow Walmart smiley face, but it’s not. More than lepers and mustard seeds, death is the dominant New Testament metaphor for the Christian life. We were dead in our transgressions, and death was at work in us, but then Jesus died for us; now we are dead to sin but alive to God, and we must die daily (though we will never die); and yet we look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and on and on, as if Sylvia Plath had some hand in the writing.


And all this is just on the level of illustrations and metaphors. If we were to look at the New Testament from a historical or narrative perspective, it’s immediately striking that all the main characters die. We get to know Paul a bit through his letters, but even as he writes, he’s in prison awaiting execution. It seems like we’re just starting to connect with Peter when he’s crucified, and by the end of Christianity’s opening season, John’s the only one remaining of the original cast.


What happens in the New Testament?


Everyone dies.


To those of us living in a civilized superpower, all this talk about death is strangely foreign—something primitive, something out of National Geographic like foot binding, neck stretching, or packing a gourd into the lower lip like a pinch of Skoal.


My daughter is doing missions work in East Asia this summer, and the cultural difference that has struck her the most is the mentality that one simply leaves something—a rat, a cow, a person, whatever—where it dies. It’s like in the rural South, where folks leave their car or tractor to rust in the spot it stopped working. I’m not saying this is a healthy view of death or that throwing a body into the Ganges River is more biblical than hosting an extravagant celebration-of-life ceremony. My point is that death is much more integrated into the fabric of life in almost every other place on the planet—and everyplace else in Scripture.


While we may not need to be tutored on the abundant life of the gospel, we need to be reacquainted with its more than abundant death. But don’t let this scare you; death isn’t quite the same since Christ consumed it. It’s been tamed and domesticated—it’s the bee without the sting. We no longer serve it—it serves us.


REBRANDING


When I think of Bayer aspirin, I think of families, happy babies, the smell of Vicks VapoRub, staying home from school, and watching I Love Lucy reruns. This is quite remarkable considering the fact that the seemingly benign corporation was, at one time, part of the German pharmaceutical company I. G. Farben. Farben was disbanded in 1952 for its close association with the Nazi Party and active participation in war crimes. Farben had manufactured the gas for Nazi gas chambers and was the chief supplier of the toxic gas Zyklon B. Today, Bayer is obviously a different company, a company that seeks to save lives, not exterminate them. But can you imagine the task set before the PR and marketing departments to re-brand and reshape our perceptions of this company? To help us see it as a source of life and not death?


This, I’m afraid, is what we’re up against here. Death has earned quite a bad name for itself—and, I might add, it’s well deserved. What Madison Avenue delivery could possibly change our perspective and make us want to die? Could we say that it’s been reformulated; that it’s not the cold, tasteless, soggy mush we remember; that it’s new and improved; that it’s a heart-healthy, cholesterol-friendly, high-fiber, reduced-fat version of death; that it comes with an extra scoop of raisins in every box?


As you can tell, re-branding death is beyond my powers of persuasion. But it is not beyond the power of Scripture, which makes an outrageous marketing claim: that just as green is the new black, and small is the new big, death is the new life. And this, as you’ll see, is not just a catchy jingle.


DEATH: NOW THE LEADING CAUSE OF LIFE


Hebrews tells us that Jesus suffered death so that by the grace of God He might “taste death for everyone.” The writer of Hebrews defaults to what appears to be Scripture’s metaphor of choice when speaking of death and resurrection—digestion. I will try to follow suit in reviewing the events of Jesus’ resurrection.


There are food chains everywhere in nature: The grasshopper eats the grass; the rat eats the grasshopper; the snake eats the rat; and the hawk eats the snake. What’s true of all food chains is that hawks and people and lions don’t really occupy the top rung. Death is, in fact, at the top of the food chain; death devours everything but is devoured by nothing.


The resurrection changed this. When Jesus rose from the dead, death was “swallowed up in victory” and “swallowed up by life.”


Throughout His ministry, Jesus warned of and predicted the dramatic change coming to the natural order: “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). Jonah, if you remember, was swallowed but not digested.


As Jesus was placed inside the open mouth of the tomb, He entered through the jaws of death. Picture “the cords of the grave coiled around [him]” (Ps. 18:5), wrangling him down like a tongue. “The grave enlarges its appetite and opens its mouth” (Isa. 5:14). Death ingests Him, sliding lower and lower to the “lowest pit, in the darkest depths,” to the very bowels of death.


But the Holy One cannot be digested, for “his body will not see decay” (Ps. 16:10). Regurgitation is the only option for that which is inedible. The Son is spit out just as the whale “vomited” Jonah back to the living. The stone rolls back, the mouth of the grave opens, and death forfeits its meal. Death cannot eat life. The empty tomb is death with its teeth kicked out.


In communion, our symbolic celebration of this victory, we swallow Christ (His body and blood), just as His life swallows us. We drink His blood, represented by wine, a fermented drink that was extracted from death and decomposition.


When Scripture declares that death has been swallowed by life, it is declaring a massive reversal of the natural order. Apart from Christ we deteriorate, body and soul. Death picks away at us little by little until the day its appetite swells to consume us whole.


As believers we experience the reverse: “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Cor. 4:11). The Christian life is a progressive march, not to death but to resurrection, where Christ slowly transforms us until the day His resurrection consumes us whole. Christ’s resurrection power animates the life of the believer so that our trials and sufferings are continuously being consumed, metabolized, and transformed into new life. Resurrection—not death—is the reigning power within us so that “though outwardly we are wasting away … inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). The hands of time are moving backward, and the sands in the hourglass pouring upward.


If all this sounds too flowery and poetic, here it is a bit more bluntly: The indwelling of God’s Spirit turned our life into a piñata. Now, the more you beat the thing, the more Christ’s life showers out. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). If life is on the inside, there’s everything to be gained by having our lives turned inside out.


DEATH: NOW AVAILABLE IN FUN SIZE


With the best of intentions, preachers and teachers continue to attempt to inspire us to see the importance and relevance of death to the Christian life. We’ve heard countless stories of persecuted brothers and sisters around the world as well as tales of missionary heroics and sacrifice.


I can recall a sermon I gave once, a sermon laced with quotes from the journal of David Brainerd. Brainerd was a missionary to the Delaware Indians during the eighteenth century. He lived in the wilderness and slept on the ground, all the while dying of tuberculosis. Brainerd was Superman. Brainerd would preach, cough up his lungs, pass out, and then get up and preach another sermon. I tried to cast vision for a cross-bearing commitment to Christ, but it didn’t work. “Remember David Brainerd” had the relevance of “Remember the Alamo” and the triviality of “Remember the Titans.” Those listening to my message shared as much in common with the lifestyle of David Brainerd as they did with the lifestyle of Madonna.


It felt like I was a parent telling his child to eat all the food on his plate because there are children starving in other parts of the world. Has this ever prompted a single child to mop up the remains of his dinner? It seems like this argument should work, but the gap is so big and the cultural distance so far that it cannot be mentally crossed. Now, if you could scrape your plate into a box and next-day ship it to the starving children, well that would be different, wouldn’t it? That would bridge the gap.


I think this is why our stories of martyrs and missionaries sometimes fail to motivate. What we are doing, in effect, is inflating the concept of death, sacrifice, and martyrdom, making them as big, as bold, and as graphic as possible in hopes of shocking people awake. But see, it does the opposite. The more horrible the stories, the more gruesome the deaths, the more courageous the martyrs, the more sacrificial the evangelists—the less like us these martyrs seem. We end up creating more distance between us and them, between us and death.


In focusing on these concepts as macro-events, as monumental moments of extinction, termination, and glory, we wrongly elevate these people as a superior class of Christians.


The creation of a Christian upper class automatically places us in a lower bracket, and we assume the discipleship requirements of such a bracket to be far less. With the lowering of expectations comes the lowering of ambition. Who can compete with a super martyr? They’re the pros, and we can only hope to caddy for them. This makes what should be the normative life of cross-bearing seem unattainable, something for an elite class of ancient Christians, super leaders, and third-world believers.


The Scriptures do not attempt to inflate the concept of death. Rather, they seek to show its relevance to our daily lives and spiritual growth. The Scriptures challenge our cramped and claustrophobic view of the grave and lead us to see death as a process, inviting us to embrace it in its many varieties: death to self, death to the world, death to our pride, and so on. The Scriptures democratize death, requiring everyone to carry a cross and be a martyr. The Bible focuses on the concept, the practice, and the process—the small d of death—far more than on the capitol D of Death—death as termination.


The small d of death is critical to every Christian. While we may never die in our attempts to witness, our reputation might. Everyone has an ego, and the death of pride is a martyrdom to be shared by every Christian. Everyone can experience the death of a dream, a job, a hope, a relationship, an ego, or a reputation. We must all die to ourselves. There is no need to push or shove or wait in line; we will all get a chance to die.


This expanded meaning of death is clearly what’s meant by the Scripture’s rather elastic use of the concept, as we are admonished to “take up our cross,” “die to sin,” “die to the world,” and so many other deaths beyond the funeral variety. The death envisioned is not a single tombstone, it’s Arlington cemetery—row upon row of graves. To see the smaller, daily opportunities to die is as important as seeing the daily tokens of God’s love and faithfulness that He bestows on us.


DEATH: OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME


While neither God nor Scripture ignores or downplays the pain of our suffering and trials, they are unwavering in presenting it to us as an opportunity to be embraced, not a threat from which to hide. A thoughtful examination of a passage in 2 Corinthians explains why: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Cor. 4:10–12).


Let me rephrase this passage with explanation, expansion, and commentary so you can see the concepts in another way:


I endure many hardships. But I think of my trials like “little deaths” because I see how God resurrects, or brings life out of, them. You, Corinthians, are the ones who benefit from this, so I don’t mind if God uses my life and faith as an engine to convert those deaths into life. In fact, once you realize that trials are fuel, or firewood, to be burned and transformed into life, you no longer run from them; you embrace them. This is why I rejoice in the severity of my trials, persevere in them, and embrace them by faith. I never think, “Oh, no … another trial.” I actually think, “Bring it on; it’s just more logs for the fire.”


It is no doubt human nature to avoid pain; it’s definitely my nature. I dare you to spring out of bed every morning like it were Christmas Day, anticipating what new deaths lie ahead and how God will transform them into life. It’s not a normal way of looking at life, but then again neither is returning from a torture session “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).


If Mr. Thomas Kuhn were still alive, I believe he would call this a paradigm shift, a fundamentally different way of viewing life. In fact, when a perspective is so mind-altering and counterintuitive, we do not call it insight, but insanity. It’s not just a different way of thinking, it’s too different—odd different. Apart from faith, James’ sentiment, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2), would have to be seen as gibberish, as would the affections expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he said, “Can you sense that I have now a terrible longing for my own suffering?”


However, when you begin to view death as an opportunity for more and greater life, here and now, as well as in the age to come, it changes everything. It reorients us entirely.


In the past year I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel with something like ten thousand college students, with several hundred of those coming to Christ. This outreach to universities was launched from a book I wrote titled Jesus Without Religion. I can’t prove this, but I don’t think the fruitfulness of the book is necessarily tied to the book itself.


The book took me six months to write, and the very day after completing it, my computer crashed. As it turned out, the “heads” on the hard drive were cracked, and nothing was salvageable. This, at least, is what the repairman told me; I know nothing of the heads, hands, or feet of a hard drive, nothing of basic hard drive anatomy at all. This would have been the perfect time to pull out the backup copy that I’d saved—if there had been a backup copy. But I had nothing; the book was gone, dead and buried, its remains sprinkled throughout the cyber universe—from pixels it came and to pixels it returned.


Yet this perspective of death presented in Scripture ultimately led me to a sense of anticipation. Here, in the teaching of Jesus and the disciples, death (the death of a hope, dream, goal, or six months worth of work) doesn’t mean dead—it means the opportunity for resurrection.28 A MILLION WAYS TO DIE


To give thanks and praise in such circumstances is one way in which death is transformed into life. The blackened logs of death consumed by faith’s flame are transformed into wisps of praise drifting upward. Death is a consumable fuel for life, and any experience of death can yield spiritual life if it is embraced by faith. Giving thanks and praise is simply one method of transference.



I do not remember if I gave thanks. I might have sworn. But after regaining my spiritual equilibrium, I did start on page one, with word one, and with considerable anticipation that God would use the resurrected rewrite like Lazarus, drawing many to Himself.


I can’t prove the connection in this particular case, but I know it’s there. I know it’s God’s resurrection power working through a corpse. (Though in my enthusiasm for the metaphor, I have just called my book a corpse, which can’t be good for future sales).


It certainly makes sense to me why an unbeliever would run from death. But for a believer, to run from death is, in reality, to run from life. This is why we embrace death and consider it pure joy in whatever form we encounter it. Death is no longer a dead end or detour to life; it’s a fuel stop. Death, like gasoline, is combusted and converted into mileage, enabling us to get to our destination—the light and life of the great city glowing over the horizon.


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. A Million Ways to Die by Rick James. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The World Series?

Dear Texas Rangers,

You really shouldn't have pitched both the Darren O's and all their friends in the bullpen last Friday night against the Yankees. You had a five run lead for goodness sakes.

But, nooooo. You lost that game and thus the four game sweep of the series. There was no need in extending southern hospitality to those Yankees and letting them win one at home.

Then, after getting us all excited with three straight wins, there was that monstrosity yesterday while most of us were at work trying to follow along. Just because I couldn't watch didn't mean that you had to lose for my sake. After all, you won the first two in Tampa Bay while Christi had her radio up loud at the office. You just had to go and make it interesting by letting the series go 3-2.

Well, let me tell you right now. I don't need more interesting in my life. Less stress people! Less stress!

So now, I'm headed off on vacation, and I very much hope you wrap this series up so that I can watch you play in the World Series on the big screen TV at the ESPN Zone in Chicago one night. However, we're going to have to speed to Oklahoma City tomorrow evening to see the end of the game because you didn't get this taken care of before now.

Now win!

Sincerely,
Audra

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

City of Tranquil Light


Author Bo Caldwell shares an inspired story
of a young couple whose marriage and faith
are put to the test in Revolutionary China

“Bo Caldwell arouses the hope, even the conviction,
that beyond darkness of all kinds lies a heavenly city—
a city of tranquil light.” ~ The Christian Century

Bo Caldwell’s 2001 debut novel, The Distant Land of My Father, set in historic China and based on the story of her uncle, was a critical and commercial success—a national bestseller that was loved by critics, booksellers, and readers in equal measure. In 2002 Caldwell turned to the story of her maternal grandparents who were missionaries in China in the early 1900s. For years her mother had urged her to write about them and when she dove into the research she found their lives full of conflict, danger, and heartbreak, as well as joy and fulfillment. But life, in the form of a cancer diagnosis, kept her from her writing desk until 2006. When she returned, she completed City of Tranquil Light (Henry Holt and Company), a searing love story of a man and a woman, their God, and the country they jointly loved and a deeply researched and page-turning portrait of a country in utter turmoil.

At the center of the novel are Will and Katherine, two Mennonite missionaries from the heartland who have come to China because they feel called by God to serve the poor and spread the Good News. But this is more than a missionary story; it is really the portrait of a marriage set against the backdrop of a radically shifting nation that is plunging into revolution.

“City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell is a wonderful novel
set in China in the early years of the 20th century....
Funny, exciting and heartbreakingly sad,
it showcases the power of the gospel.” ~ World Magazine

A novel based on her grandparents wasn’t Caldwell’s idea. “I’m embarrassed to say that before I had dismissed my grandparents’ lives as too dull and simplistic. But as I reread my grandfather’s memoir and began to ask my mom about my grandparents, I learned how wrong I’d been.” As she began to see her grandparents as her mother had seen them, and to read the biographies and autobiographies of other American missionaries in China, Caldwell found similar stories. “I saw a pattern emerge in the later lives of many of these men and women. Most eventually returned to the United States, usually to be near their children (now grown) and grandchildren, but also because of illness or frailty. I was moved by the contrast between their lives in China and their later lives in the U.S. After enduring decades of war, famine, illness, personal danger, and great hostility toward their work, these people settled safely in the suburbs where they walked in rose gardens and played with their grandchildren and lived out their days. I was struck by the sacrifice that must have been involved in leaving the people and work that had been at the center of their lives, even with the reward of the comforts of modern life. I also began to feel that missionaries often get a bad rap in fiction. While there were certainly those who exploited the people they had come to serve, there were also many who poured out their lives for strangers and for their faith. And I wanted to tell their story.”

That story is one of marriage, of leaving one home and finding another, and of faith. “When I began the novel, I tried to understand my grandfather’s faith and to present it accurately,” says Caldwell. “I tried to see the world through his eyes.” Once Caldwell returned to writing, she returned as a different person. The combination of sobriety and a serious illness had affected her faith deeply, and she was no longer writing about her grandparents’ faith. She was writing about her own.

“[City of Tranquil Light is] a tale of enduring love between this couple,
their love for China and its people, and their love for their God.”
~ Library Journal

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell
Henry Holt and Company - September 28, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9228-8 – hardcover - $25.00

For review copy and interview information, contact:
Audra Jennings - 800-927-0517 x104

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's Your Call - take a sneak peek

Thank you 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 (October 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Gary Barkalow has served the last seven years as part of the leadership team with Ransomed Heart Ministries and recently began a new ministry, The Noble Heart, helping men and women understand their calling. He has previously served as the director of Legislative and Cultural Affairs and director of Staff Development with Focus on the Family and as vice president of Athletes in Action, the athletic branch of Campus Crusade for Christ. Gary and his wife, Leigh, reside in Colorado Springs with their four children.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764397
ISBN-13: 978-1434764393

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Weightiness of Your Life



Calling is the most comprehensive reorientation and the most profound motivation in human experience.

—Os Guinness


The truth is, I was jealous.


I was watching a nature show about lions in Africa. It was an amazing production following a lion’s life from birth through adulthood. I watched the lion as a cub rolling in the grass, wrestling with his siblings, pouncing on his father, being groomed by his mother. As the cub got older, I watched him on his initial hunts—finding some success but mostly failure. In later life, he found a mate and had his own cubs. His days consisted of guiltlessly resting in the shade in the heat of the day, confidently hunting for food, and valiantly defending his family from predators. Something about the simple clarity of his life and his sense of “being”—untouched by the nagging questions of “who am I?” and “what should I be doing with my life?”—stirred something along the lines of jealousy in me. It wasn’t necessarily a simple life I wanted, but rather his simple clarity. He was just being what he was … a lion.


Can you relate to my jealousy? You know you’re created to be something, to do something, to contribute something, but it’s so hard to figure out what that something is.


In C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia we read of a great prince imprisoned by a witch’s sorcery. Under her spell, Prince Rilian would lose all recollection of who he was and where he came from—“While I was enchanted I could not remember my true self.”1 During his brief moments of clarity (though the witch told him that those moments were actually times of insanity), the prince would be involuntarily bound to a chair until he would come back into his “right mind,” which he later described as a “heavy, tangled, cold, clammy web of evil magic.”2


I believe this is how life feels for most of us; we’re lost in a fog of confusion and dullness with only brief moments of clarity and desire that seem so hard to hold on to. And when we are able to capture those moments that have a ring of authenticity about them, we quickly start to doubt their legitimacy. Could we be under some web of evil magic? Some spell?


We live in a time that is brutal on a person’s search for purpose or place in the world. The world of science tells us (with a voice of reason and certainty) that, whatever we feel—be it pleasure, despair, anger, lightness, heaviness, or even a sense of meaning—these emotions are just a series of chemical reactions in our brain to some outside stimuli. Beauty, purpose, meaning, romance, pleasure, and even God are nothing more than by-products of chemical reactions. Science tells us there is no meaning or transcendent purpose in life, only the random reaction of one thing to another. As philosopher and Nobel Prize winner Henri Bergson believed,


Since the Renaissance, modern science has gradually extended its causal explanations to one phenomenon after another, psychological and biological as well as the purely physical, accounting even for life and consciousness in purely physical or chemical terms. Creative novelty, human purpose, and

freedom have often been disregarded.3


Then we have society, largely encountered through laws and media, which tells us that any sense of purpose or meaning outside the realm of economic or scientific advancement is unhelpful and dangerous. Laws portray society’s desire to separate faith from any type of cultural influence. And most movies, TV shows, and news reports show religious conviction as ignorant and the source of hatred, suffering, and war—or, at best, ineffective for positively changing the world.


And what about the church? In the past, the church held an elitist view of people and their callings, where only a few were chosen to do something sacred. These select few could be easily recognized by their religious title, position, or clothing. If you did not have the desire or opportunity to do something within the church, your life’s work was not of eternal consequence. Your expected position in life was simply to subject yourself to the church’s teaching and direction, with your highest goal being to live a moral life and to support the church’s vision and institutions. But I want to state clearly: There is no “elite” group in the body of Christ.


More recently the church has adopted a utilitarian view of man, focusing on usefulness. There is much to be done for the kingdom of God, so we need to be a servant, to be dutiful, to do whatever needs to be done. And thus the commonly heard expression: “I just want to be used by God.” When you attach this phrase to another relationship such as a friend or pastor, or a situation such as a work environment or marriage, something surfaces in our hearts revealing how unhealthy or undignified this way of thinking really is. This life on earth and your relationship to God are about so much more than your usefulness.


And lately the church has added on a stewardship view of life, the thought being that God has given us something to contribute to His kingdom work, something by which we will be scrutinized and judged. The unstated goal here is not to get in trouble on our job evaluation. I believe God has instead given us something glorious to bring to this world that has to do with joy and intimacy with Him, not a forthcoming job evaluation.


Everybody’s Question


Several years ago I ran across an article in USA Today in which adults were surveyed as to what they “would ask a god or supreme being if they could get a direct and immediate answer.” The largest percentage (34 percent) of adults said they would ask, “What is my purpose in life?” Second (19 percent) and third (16 percent) to that question were, “Will I have life after death?” and “Why do bad things happen?”4


That most commonly asked question is very telling. It demonstrates that we were created for a specific purpose. As C. S. Lewis said, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe, and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know that it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”5 So the question we are all asking—“Is there a specific purpose or calling for my life?”—is self-answering: YES!


The Barna Research Group concluded a nationwide survey with these words: “One of the most stunning outcomes was that born again Christians and non-Christians were equally likely to be seeking meaning and purpose in life.”6 Barna was also amazed that so many born-again Christians were puzzled as to their purpose in life: “One of the primary values of the Christian faith is to settle the issue of meaning and purpose in life. The Bible endorses people’s individual uniqueness but also provides a clear understanding of the meaning of life—that being to know, love and serve God with all of your heart, mind and strength.”7


The question of purpose, meaning, and place is universal to every human heart. The answer that your life does have purpose or meaning is not enough. Instead the answer begs another question, “What specific, irreplaceable purpose does my life play?” Coming to faith does not settle the issue of meaning and purpose in life. As Pulitzer Prize winner Russell Baker said,


There is a hunger in us…for assurance that our lives have not been merely successful, but valuable—that

we have accomplished something grander than just another well-heeled [well-off], loudly publicized

journey from the diaper to the shroud. In short, that our lives have been consequential.8


The truth is that we are here to do something, a contribution that only each one of us can make. There is an outcome that hinges on us and therefore a fear that we might miss it—our moment, our part, our potential, our purpose, and our life. This is not some peculiar fear experienced only by a certain generation or culture or religion. I believe it is a fear born out of a desire written on every human heart, a desire for meaning, to know that my existence matters to someone and something. In short, that I’m good for something.


The hunger or desire to find and live the life that we have been given, to live a life that is consequential, is good and noble. Scripture says, “[God] will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness” (Rom. 2:7–8 NLT). There is a life of glory, honor, and immortality that God offers and that we are meant to seek. But it will take God’s help for us to find and live the life we were created to live.


Now with God’s help I shall become myself.

—Søren Kierkegaard


Too Easy, Too Hard


We have been raised in the modern scientific era, where our culture has tried to reduce life down to its essence, to a fundamental formula to explain and replicate everything. This is as true for calling as it is for health, finances, relationships, and parenting. As a result, most of us settle for describing our personality or “strengths” in terms of letters like “High D” or “ISTJ” or as an animal like “Golden Retriever.”


As is often the case, this has spilled over into the church. We can now state our spiritual gift(s) because we’ve used an assessment tool or been given a prophetic word by someone “in the know.” It all seems so authoritative and affirming. But as many of us have discovered our “passions,” we’ve realized an absence of joy. We experience a sense of guilt for feeling so little about the list of what the “truly spiritual” should care most deeply about. It all just feels so foggy. If it’s really so easy to find our calling or purpose, why does it feel so hard? Why don’t these methods work, really work?


The Myth of Understanding


Unfortunately, we have equated understanding with attainment. In the academic world, you learn the required material and attain your degree. But life is not always academic; it’s often much deeper. Understanding the components of a good marriage does not make one. Understanding the principles of money management does not keep you out of debt. Understanding the techniques of a good golf swing does not get you closer to the green. Understanding the practices of healthy living does not keep you healthy. In the same way, understanding your complexities or propensities will not necessarily usher you into a meaningful, purposeful life.


There is a depth—what I call a weightiness—to your life that cannot be released or entered into by way of testing, analysis, goal setting, or determination. Understanding alone, or as the primary approach, cannot do the job. Have you found this to be true? Have you tried some of the tests, indicators, surveys, formulas, and processes that have been offered in the last several decades, but here you are, reading yet another book, hoping for some meaningful clarity and purposeful movement toward your calling in life?


Most of the various twentysomethings I have met with over the years have been disheartened, if not immobilized, by the expectation that after graduation they should know exactly who they are and what place they have in this world. Some have been assaulted with Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Fearfully, shamefully not knowing who they are or what is being required of them, these beautiful young people take on the life scripts that others have handed them, defining what they should do and how they should live their lives. A friend moved to Washington DC to take a public policy job on the recommendation of an older man because the man spoke with a confidence and excitement about what my friend could accomplish for the kingdom of God. The job and the environment literally almost took my friend’s life—emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.


Or, like a hiker lost in the wilderness with a GPS unit, there are those of us a little older who’ve attempted to find our place in life using the coordinates of salary, position, and advancement. After several years in the military in a rather prestigious job, Ted felt that something needed to change vocationally. Having retired, he then felt pressure to quickly find the “right place” for the next season of his life. However, having little knowledge of who he truly was, even though he had been given a great deal of personal assessment (outplacement) data, he had no idea in what direction he should go. Ted accepted a position with a large international company that offered him a fast-track program to a top position with a high salary. After years of relocating from one city to another, doing work he did not enjoy or value, Ted resigned and once again sought to find the “right place” that would lead to the fulfillment of his calling in life. He realized that he was searching for guidance using the wrong coordinates.


When Jesus referred to something being “given” (Luke 12:48) to us, was He referring simply to assets? Assets like education, training, money, possessions, skills, and influence—things that for the most part can be acquired? Or could He have been referring to something much deeper, something more weighty, that God offers us?


Misleading Coordinates


Years ago I took my kids out camping in a part of the Colorado wilderness. One morning we set out to reach a high point that we could see from our campsite. After an hour or so of hiking and climbing we reached the summit and took in the spectacular vistas. Then, before starting back, we visually located our campsite and identified several landmarks to guide us back on our descent. What I did not realize at the time was that the rock outcroppings I was using as markers were inadequate for guiding us to our destination. Though they were part of the landscape, they were not specific enough to our campsite. Walking toward these markers actually distanced us from our destination.


In the same way, there have been two misleading ideas by which people have tried to navigate, ideas that have taken them off course in the pursuit of their calling. The first is that your calling or purpose is to find the right job (paid) or position (unpaid). This idea is treacherous for a couple of reasons. For one, this puts your calling in the hands of another (i.e., some level of corporate, church, or nonprofit leadership). Over my years of working in the nonprofit ministry realm, I have had many individuals tell me they were called to a position in my area. In other words, I was the gatekeeper to the fulfillment of their purpose in life. Now if I had the power to give them their calling by offering them a job, then it was just as true that I had the power to take it away. How can something be required or asked of you that you do not have influence over? Your calling or purpose is not determined by the mood or opinions of those in authority, or by the job market, or by the current economic situation. I have heard too many people use these circumstances as excuses for living small, unfulfilled lives.


Your calling cannot be fully contained and fulfilled by a job or position. How could the weight of your life be defined by a list of functions or tasks? In almost all jobs, after a while you kind of “get the job down” to the point that you can do it without thinking, most often halfheartedly. The purpose or calling of your life will require all of you—a wholeheartedness.


While I was managing a gymnastic center in Southern California, I had a locksmith come in to fix one of the doors. Halfway through his repair work I asked him if he enjoyed his work. He said, “No, I could train a monkey to do what I do.” He hated the fact that his job really didn’t require much of him, at least not anymore. It wasn’t lost on me that a locksmith, someone usually with “the keys,” had come to a place of complaining, discontentment, a loss of creativity, and distraction (always looking elsewhere). He was locked out of the life he wanted to live—which is where many of us end up living.


Second, if finding your calling is tied to finding the right job or position, your calling would be limited to the extent of that work. In a typical job, your life’s purpose would be limited to forty hours a week.

Or if you believed your calling was to a position such as a Sunday school teacher, your calling would be limited to perhaps one hour a week. What do you do then with your life’s purpose the remaining hours of the week? Does your life not count during those “off” hours? Is your life split somewhere between the mundane and the sacred?


While some have been misdirected by the idea that finding their calling is finding the right job, others have been sidelined by the belief that their calling is to be like Jesus. After all, the Bible says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Just what exactly does it mean to be like Jesus? For many people, being like Jesus is simply being moral. Is that all Jesus was—moral? Was that the purpose of His life on earth? There was far more to Jesus’ life than being sinless. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Jesus came with a mission, a purpose—to bring life to others. In His first public statement about the mission of His life, He read from Isaiah 61: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for

the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.… [And they will become] oaks of righteousness … for the display of his splendor” (vv. 1, 3). Jesus’ life, as well as yours, is not about the absence of something (sin), but rather the presence of something (a splendor or weightiness).


So are we to be like Jesus? Absolutely! But His morality is not to be our goal. As the apostle Paul said, “I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Phil. 3:12 NLT). Jesus was a man of purpose and passion, and we are to be transformed into His image: “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored” (Rom 8:29 MSG). Your calling is much more than moral behavior.


Sagely Perspective


Counselor and author Richard Leider asked senior citizens over a twenty-five-year span how they would live their lives differently. Across the board, the older adults say the same things:


First, they say that if they could live their lives over again, they would be more reflective. They got so caught up in the doing … that they lost sight of the meaning.… Second, they would take more risks.… Almost all of them said that they felt most alive when they took risks.… Third … they would understand what really gave them fulfillment … doing something that contributes to life, adding value to life beyond yourself.9


These responses remind me of Moses’ prayer: “Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise” (Ps. 90:12 NCV).


Reflection


There is a direction, theme, purpose, and orchestration to our lives that we must recognize and understand if we are to discern the lives we were created to live. It is important that we periodically disengage from our daily busyness and examine our lives. If we are to truly “see” and “hear” our lives, we must get away from all the ambient light and noise, as we would if we were seriously studying the stars.


Oswald Chambers wrote, “Looking back we see the presence of an amazing design, which, if we are born of God, we will credit to God. We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never allow that the haphazard is anything less than God’s appointed order, and be ready to discover the Divine designs anywhere.”10


We must cultivate the spiritual discipline of reflection, seeing God’s choreography in our lives.


Risk


We all desire a life that requires something from us, not just our “showing up.” It’s exhilarating to attempt something that is risky, uncertain, and important. I have heard it said that the most spectacular

vistas require traveling the roughest, most dangerous trails. And so it is with our lives—to reach the most beautiful, authentic, fulfilling places in life will require some risk. A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.


Theodore Roosevelt said,


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive

to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.11


Fulfillment


All of us instinctually want to know that there is meaning to our lives and that we add meaning for those around us—that we are living a life of consequence and transcendence. Elton Trueblood wrote, “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.” We want to live for something more than ourselves. Meaning and fulfillment are only experienced as our lives, in some way, touch another person. Those who live solely for themselves—their needs, their happiness, their comfort and protection—will suffer a claustrophobia of the heart, the acute discomfort of living in a story far too small. A person’s heart is as large as the things he loves.


So, possessing a calling (a weighty purpose in life) is not just for a few—the “elite.” It is the design and destiny of every person. If there was not great meaning to our lives, we would not be asking questions

about our calling. A life of calling is by no means limited to the categories that we have been given: church, missionary, public office, the “professions.” Nor could our calling be fully contained, utilized,

or fulfilled in a job or position. The calling on our lives is as broad, as large, as grand as the story we are living in. The creative scope of our calling is, as Dallas Willard put it, to live as a “co-worker with God in the creative enterprise of life on earth.” Our calling is about something deeper, something more profound and pervasive than any assessment, test, or indicator could ever fully touch or grasp.


I believe most of you reading this are with me so far. But here is where the questions arise: How do I navigate these unfriendly, confusing waters of calling and purpose? What coordinates should I use? How do I become my true self? How do I find my passion and purpose? I want to invite you to come along with me as we walk forward with the intent to live out the answer to the question we’re all asking—what am I doing here?


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. It’s Your Call by Gary Barkalow. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

So much to do and all I really want to do is take a nap

This is going to have to be a quick post because I really need to get ready to go back to church in a few minutes. In spite of everything I need to do, I really just want to take a nap.

I did make myself go to the outlet mall for a few things I needed for my trip (leaving Friday hallelujah) and get enough groceries to make it through the week before I took my nap. I had to give it up last Sunday and might the next two, so...

But, here's what I should have been doing:
  • Dust my house. I keep putting that off.
  • Wash and dry some laundry. I have about half of it done.
  • Hang up clothes instead of toting them from my bed to the love seat every morning/night. I wish these were clothes that I just planned to pack. No such luck.
  • Fold towels - I tend to just pick them one by one out of the dryer until I have to dry another load of clothes or the clean towel basket in my room where the end up when I need the dryer.
  • Do some book reviews on books I read weeks ago so that they can post while I'm away.
  • Some work stuff, so I'll be half way in control next week before I leave.
  • Start the dishwasher.
Part of that will have to be done after church. But, I have to be finished in time to watch Sister Wives. I expect drama tonight from the previews. I think wife #4 is causing a shake-up to the system.

Oh, and I need to put up this bag of Cheetos I was muching on. My stomach was growling, so I ate some M&M's, then I needed something salty. My keys probalby have orange finger prints.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Great for your children - for any time of year


Introduce Scripture to Your Child with
The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook

David C Cook’s The Baby Bible Storybook series offers a set of interactive teaching tools for parents to use with their children, from birth to three years old. The latest addition to this series, The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook, makes the birth of Jesus relevant for very young children through the use of colorful pictures, basic prayer and worship, and fun physical activities. It is never too early to introduce the truth of God’s Word to children, and the Christmas Storybook will enhance a child’s earliest experience of this very special family celebration.

Simple actions such as pointing to a specific facial feature or hand claps enable parents to have fun with their child while telling the Christmas story. Each story is brief and well-suited for short attention spans, and the small size of the books is perfect for little hands. Actions that accompany the story combine with simple vocabulary to make this series even more appropriate for very young children. Christmas Storybook introduces the idea of prayer and worship as part of the child’s daily life while also allowing parents to share the powerful truth of

Christmas Storybook would make a wonderful gift for new parents or serve as a memorable birthday or shower gift. This book would also be appropriate for use in church nurseries or church day-care facilities by creating teachable moments that are centered around events found in the Bible. Other titles in this series include:
  • Baby Bible Stories About Jesus
  • Baby Bible 1, 2, 3
  • Baby Bible ABC’s
  • Baby Bible Animals
  • Baby Bible Sing and Pray
  • Baby Bible Storybook for Boys
  • Baby Bible Storybook for Girls
Teaching Bible stories can be a vital part of your infant’s early years with The Baby Bible Storybook series from David C Cook. The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook will soon become a favorite activity to be included in any family’s Christmas celebration.

The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook by Robin Currie
David C Cook/October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0368-9/board book/$9.99
For review copy and interview information, contact:
Karen Davis - 800-927-0517 x109

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thank you for your good heart

Evidently, I did my good deed for the day. I went out to check my mail, and laying at the curb by the mailbox was someone's debit card. I'm pretty guilty of not knowing my neighbors. I do know the name of the guy that lives on the other side of my wall which is actually sort of an accomplishment. I've lived here for over seven years, and he's the only neighbor that I've shared walls with here that I can say that about.

I tried to look up the name in the phone book to see if I could pin point if it was anyone around, and called the only entry in town that it seemed it could be as it wasn't a popular last name. Evidently this lady is pretty popular though because I got the wrong number. I was told lots of people try calling there for her. I apologized, but explained my reason for calling. "At least you're honest about it. Don't you go giving it to anyone that might use it."

Next call was the landlord. "The only person I know it could be would be one of Joe's women," she says. She actually only knows about Joe's women because I was guilty of telling her about his women. I don't think Joe's home right now, so I skipped going over there.

So, I call the number on the back of the card. As I'm doing so, I think, "OK, if this card was stolen and used, and then I pick it up, am I at some point going to be investigated?" Maybe it's because I've been reading a book about an FBI agent that I think that.

Have I ever told you how much I hate automated phone systems? Well, I do. After pushing "0" from my touch tone phone about 10 times, I finally get a, what was the term for it, online banker? That sounds like an Internet term, but anyway. Let's just say, there's no button to push for being a decent human, trying to report a found debit card lying in the street.

Have you watch the new TV show "Outsourced" where all of the people at the call center are from India? Well "Andrew Smith" or whatever his name actually was is not taking his calls from Alabama, that's for sure. I explain my reason for calling. Shock. "Thank you for your good heart," he replies. They did take my name, but not my phone number if I come under investigation. "So, do I cut this card up now?" "You can do that."

"Thank you for your good heart," he again says as we end the call. I'm glad that someone contends that I have a good heart. In a short text conversation with a counselor friend of mine, I asked him if he wanted to take on my issue of hatred. I'm pretty sure he made up an excuse to not go further into that with me.

But going back to the good heart thing, does it really take someone with a good heart to report a found debit card? ...Sorry had to answer the phone there for a minute, but you didn't realize I paused in my thinking. My cell phone was ringing, someone from the American Cancer Fund or maybe it was the heart fund. I don't know, I interrupted them with the question, "how did you get my cell phone number?" They promptly apologized and took my number off the list. Maybe that's further proof of my not good heart.

Anyway, back to reporting a lost card, is it really that shocking that people would actually do that? Maybe this world is really more out of whack than I thought. Or maybe people would just cut it up and figure that it was the person that lost it's problem to just call and report it stolen.

That's my train of thought of the night. Do with it what you will.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Mark of Love


The Mend Mark tells a powerful story...
...in two words

Have you been “Marked?” The Mend Mark is a mission, a movement, an entire revolution. It is a bracelet meant to remind its wearers of Christ’s love and sacrifice, and its message is the passion of its creator, Hunter Harrison.

The Mend Mark is an innovative and distinctive bracelet that is designed to reflect the scars and nail holes of Jesus. When worn, the band resembles the deep holes of the nail driven into the wrists of Jesus during his crucifixion. By bringing the story of Jesus’ life and death to constant awareness by wearing a bracelet, Mend Mark is meant to powerfully remind wearers of the ultimate act of love Jesus made for all of humankind.

Harrison’s mission is to remind all to remember Christ’s love in both his life and death. But more than only a poignant recollection, the Mend Mark is meant to inspire and motivate wearers to live a life of service. Harrison strives to bring people together around the simplicity and power of love as lived by Jesus. But this is no example of passive love. The Mend Mark calls individuals in all walks of life to love with a profound sincerity and commitment great enough to change a neighborhood, a community, a world.

Harrison leads this call to love and sacrifice by example and joins hands with each Mend Mark bracelet purchaser to take the first step in global change. A portion of each bracelet sold goes to support Living Water International, an organization combating the clean water crisis victimizing over one billion people worldwide. Each $5,000 given will result in one well drilled, providing a community with clean water.

But wearers should be prepared to be seen. Unique in its design, the Mend Mark is sure to be noticed and gives wearers an opportunity to share the story of the profound love of Jesus for each and every person. “It was important to me that the design was simple and generic enough that the observer had to ask about it to know what it meant. But I also wanted it to appear distinctive enough that it sparked curiosity,” reveals creator Hunter Harrison. “I wanted it to require the wearer of the product to engage in conversation about the love of Christ (and hopefully show that love to others) instead of just letting the product talk for them.”

Launched in late 2009 after a year and a half of packaging, material, and design development by Harrison, the bracelet has been sold across the United States, Canada, and the UK and has been featured in retail stores as well. The Mend Mark bracelet movement has grown to further fame after being worn during performances by American Idol winner Lee Dewyze, Idol runner up Siobhan Magnus, Decifer Down, Israel Houghton & New Breed, Pillar, and Finding Favour, to name a few. Says Harrison, “I want it to be more than just another bracelet; I want it to represent a movement.” Based on the way things are going, a movement is exactly what it is becoming.

Available at www.mendmark.com - $9.99

Become a fan of Mend Mark on Facebook – Follow Mend Mark on Twitter

For more information, contact:
Audra Jennings - 800-927-0517 x104

Monday, October 11, 2010

Can we just skip Monday next week?

I was going to bring you an Elphaba moment, but my scanner decided it didn't want to scan it tonight. Who can blame it. It's Monday. My day started off a bit like that, but not interesting enough to further expound on. I am sooooo sleepy that I may lay down on the couch and let Dancing with the Stars put me to sleep. That's how bored I am with it, especially this season.  And I'm always exhausted on Monday nights.

Two weeks from now, I will be arriving in a certain city, somewhere in the US. If I would bite the bullet and buy and iPhone or Blackberry Torch before I go, I could do a daily update on my activities. But I'm cheap and indecisive. Besides, I hear you shouldn't do such things to alert people that you are away. (I guess I just gave that away, huh?) I'm debating the apps of the iPhone vs. the keyboard of the Blackberry. That's what it really comes down to. I also am thinking to go against the masses.

As if I didn't already question the sanity of vacationing with my parents, I voiced such to them tonight. Mainly because they were debating whether or not a potato was rotten and needed to be thrown away. Dear Readers, start praying for me now.

My whole computer is cranky, and I'm having trouble blogging. I give up. I think I'll just go to bed now - at 7:47.