Saturday, July 30, 2011

We must not speak of this

I had planned to clean my house while I was off this week, but I had not intended to be so thorough or for it to take days. I will never catch up with all the laundry.

This week, I have not ventured outside the city limits, much less anywhere interesting or entertaining. I've been to Walmart twice which is two times too many.

I turned on the computer here at home for the first time since Monday, so I've not gotten pictures ordered or printed up until now, much less catch up on the book reviews I had intended to do.

My hair is as clean as it has ever been (and hopefully free of unspeakable bug remains) although the ridiculous that I have put on it has given me an oily face and zits. And my hair smells like mouthwash even after shampooing twice.

Other than the wake up text on Monday, at least I have been able to sleep late this week. And I shed some most needed tears on demand because that's always fun.

I just ask that anyone I talk too that reads this not ask me about this week by phone, email or in person. I needed something different than what I got, but cannot dwell on it. And I am trying to block out thoughts of how many emails await me. The good thing about this week is that I have not looked at work email since Sunday. Be proud of me for that.

Let's just not speak of any of it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The First Day on a Path to Better Living

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:


40 Days to Better Living--Optimal Health

Barbour Books (July 1, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


From the time Scott Morris was just a teenager, he knew he would do two things with his future—serve God and work with people. Growing up in Atlanta, he felt drawn to the Church and at the same time drawn to help others, even from a very young age. It was naturally intrinsic, then, that after completing his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia he went on to receive his M.Div. from Yale University and finally his M.D. at Emory University in 1983.

After completing his residency in family practice, Morris arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1986 without knowing a soul, but determined to begin a health care ministry for the working poor. He promptly knocked on the doors of St. John’s Methodist Church and Methodist Hospital in Memphis inviting them to help, and then found an old house to refurbish and renovate. By the next year, the Church Health Center opened with one doctor—Dr. Scott Morris—and one nurse. They saw twelve patients the first day and Morris began living his mission to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and spirits.

From the beginning, Morris saw each and every patient as a whole person, knowing that without giving careful attention to both the body and soul the person would not be truly well.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Many of us would admit to being a little out of balance these days. We all want to feel happier, healthier, and more vibrantly alive. What if in just 40 days we could reach a new level of wellness and balance that we’ve never experienced before? In 40 Days to Better Living: Optimal Health (Barbour Publishing, July 2011), Dr. Scott Morris, founder of Church Health Center, the largest faith-based clinic of its type in the United States, offers a straightforward and successful plan to get there.

The first in a series of striking full color health and wellness books by Dr. Morris and the Church Health Center staff, 40 Days to Better Living: Optimal Health confirms and clarifies what many of us already suspect: living the life we’ve always wanted must go deeper than a diet and exercise program and an occasional attempt to “do better.” Morris is convinced that to achieve the highest degree of wellness requires a multi-dimensional approach and a concentrated effort to be healthy in both body and spirit. He believes, “True health is grounded in the spiritual life that embraces the physical bodies God gives us.” Morris adds, “Instead of the absence of disease, I see health as the presence of those elements that lead us to joy and love, and that drive us closer to God. Finding balance by nurturing our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs is essential to the real health of the whole person.”

40 Days to Better Living: Optimal Health offers clear, manageable steps to life-changing attitudes and actions in a context of understanding and grace for all people at all points on the journey to optimal health. With plenty of practical advice, spiritual encouragement, and real stories of those who have found a better life, this simple and skillfully crafted book inspires readers to customize their own path to wellness by using the 7-Step Model for Healthy Living as a guide:

· Nutrition: pursuing smarter food choices and eating habits

· Friends and family: giving and receiving support through relationships

· Emotional life: understanding feelings and managing stress to better care for yourself

· Work: appreciating your skills, talents, and gifts

· Movement: discovering ways to enjoy physical activity

· Medical care: partnering with health care providers to optimize medical care

· Faith life: building a relationship with God, neighbors, and self

Product Details:

List Price: $7.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (July 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616262648
ISBN-13: 978-1616262648

AND NOW...THE FIRST PAGES (CLICK ON PAGES TO SEE THEM BETTER):

















Thursday, July 28, 2011

A look into the Mirror Ball

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, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Matt Redman has been leading worship full-time since the age of 20. His journey has taken him to countries such as South Africa, Japan, India, Australia, Germany, Uganda, Croatia and the Czech Republic. He has worked with many church plants and is currently involved with St Peters, a new church planted out of HTB in London. His early compositions include "The Heart of Worship," "Better Is One Day" and "Once Again." More recent songs have included "Blessed Be Your Name" and "You Never Let Go" (both written with his wife, Beth). Redman is also the author of three books which all center on the theme of worship: The Unquenchable Worshipper, Facedown and Blessed Be Your Name (co-authored with Beth). Plus he has compiled two other books: The Heart of Worship Files and Inside-Out Worship. Redman and his wife currently live on the south coast of England with their five children.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

God's Light Shines Through the Smallest Prism

Matt Redman invites readers to reflect God's dazzling radiance.

When God shines upon His church, we become a dazzling testimony to His awesome radiance. You may feel ineffective. You might have lost confidence in your ability to shine. You may think you are too small or inconsequential to ever be of any value in the kingdom of God. But no matter at all—for, in the end, it is all a matter of light. His light. The life of worship never begins with you. It starts and ends with Jesus. In his newest book, Mirror Ball: Living a Life that Reflects God's Radiance, worship leader and songwriter Matt Redman reminds us that even when we feel insufficient to reflect God's glory, God can show through us as light radiates through a prism. Living in this truth will transform how we view our words, our relationships and our daily lives.

Passion is not only that which gets us up in the morning; it helps us see it through to the end of the day. And for anyone who has truly encountered the wonder of the cross, it soon becomes a way of life. If you're looking for a heightened way to tell God you love Him, the very best way has little to do with stringing poetic sentences together. It involves a life laid down in service and adoration. The concrete evidence of whether worship has lived or died in us will always be our lives. We sing our songs with good intent, but in the end our lives must become the evidence.

In and of ourselves we have no light. But in His bright and shining light we are transformed and begin to radiate the glories of our God to the world around us. You may be feeling totally inadequate for that task. But if so, you have simply forgotten the most important part of the equation. It is not about you and your best efforts. It is the light, power and love of Christ illuminating our fragile lives.

Through story, Scripture and practical inspiration, Redman encourages his readers to remember that, however inadequate they may feel to live out this passion, God will work in and through them. After all, the same God who said "let there be light" has made His light to shine in their hearts, illuminating their lives and the lives of those around them.





Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (July 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781405785
ISBN-13: 978-0781405782

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1

The Passion of the Christian


It’s New Year’s Eve in downtown Nashville, and things are getting crazy. There’s a mood of fun and festivity everywhere you look. And inside the biggest arena of all, two of the most popular country acts in the nation lead thousands of fans in a celebration of the end of one year and the beginning of the next. The music cranks up loud and the shouts of the audience respond in kind. The truth is, people love to party.

That night in Tennessee, we arrived to prepare for the Passion college gathering. Over the next few evenings the same arena would fill again, and we’d start a party of a different kind. No less volume

or excitement—hopefully more—but a whole different reason for letting out those shouts of joy. If people can get that excited over December becoming January, what on earth does it look like when over twenty thousand college students get their hearts and heads around the glory and grace of God? What does it sound like when we find ourselves caught up in the epic story of the One who came to this earth, endured the cross, and made a way home for us—all in the name of love and rescue? As loud and as fun as those New Year celebrations might be, shouldn’t they become just the faintest whisper when compared with the thunderous shouts and applause that accompany the praise of the King of all heaven? In the words of the old worship hymn, “Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.”
I once met a man who’d survived a shark attack by screaming so loudly that he burst blood vessels in his neck. His ear-piercing cries gave the shark so much of a headache that it gave up the attack and swam away. Where did such a loud scream come from? It came from deep inside him—from the very depths of who he was, crying out for mercy and survival.
So on the last night of the Passion student gathering that year, my good friend Louie Giglio, the founder of Passion, decided we were going to throw the party to end all parties. No low-key affair with some semiloud music and a halfhearted whoop or two—but a full-on, turn-it-up-loud celebration of the Son of God. The point being that if we truly live in the light of Christ and all that He has accomplished, there’s a time to be a little bit outrageous in our gathered response to Him.
The day of the worship-fueled party arrived, and things were beginning to happen inside the arena. People hung extra lights and prepared song lists, and everything looked good for some extreme celebration. Apart from one thing, that is. Louie had been excitedly talking about a mirror-ball moment, which he’d planned for a while. At just the right time, during a joyful worship song, he planned to lower this thing, shine some lights on it, and give a little extra visually creative expression to these full-on celebrations. The first time I heard about the mirror ball, it sounded like a good idea—until I entered the arena, that is. Hanging above the center of the stage was a tiny spherical object, and as I strained my eyes to see it, I thought the object certainly looked like a mirror ball. But I was sure this couldn’t be Louie’s mirror ball: It was tiny—the kind of thing I’d seen every year from the age of seven at my school disco. Yet—I looked around—there didn’t seem to be any other mirror balls hanging up there. And so I had to conclude that this must be the one he was talking about. Quite frankly, I was worried. I decided that we were headed for the biggest anticlimax in the history of Christian worship gatherings. Louie had told everyone on the team about this great disco-ball moment that would help lead us in our joyful worship celebrations—when, as far as I could tell, it was going to be a moment of laughter for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be a good friend and warn him—but he was so pumped about his little mirror ball, I just didn’t have the heart.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The evening was wonderful. The thousands of students assembling that night to worship Jesus arrived in silence—as we’d been encouraged to do to prepare our hearts for gathered worship. Through songs and sounds and moments of ancient liturgy, we went to the cross. There we recalled the most amazing act of obedience and sacrifice this world has ever seen. We paused for a while, and I was reminded once again that God makes worshippers out of wonderers. As our hearts breathed in afresh the mystery of grace, we exhaled reverent awe and thanksgiving in response. The soul-gripping mystery of Calvary fueled the fires of our praise, and remembrance led us to rejoicing. Next, we began to turn up the volume a notch or two, with heartfelt songs of devotion resounding intensely around the room. In Scripture, Jesus Himself said that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks—and as we stood there in amazement at the grace and glory of God, sounds of joyful thanksgiving tried to find a way out of our hearts.
And then the moment arrived. Mirror ball time. Down from the ceiling came the world’s smallest disco ball. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry … or get my binoculars out to actually see the thing.
However, in one bright, shining moment, all of my fears died. Powerful beams of light hit the face of the ball, and suddenly, in every corner of that massive arena, radiance shone all around. Light filled the room. It seemed to glow on every face and shine on every inch of floor, wall, and ceiling. A huge arena filled with light—by way of a tiny little mirror ball. And people partied. In that moment, focusing on the glory of the Savior and celebrating His victories, we shouted for joy and danced with abandon.

It turns out that in all my doubting and questioning of Louie’s mirror ball, I’d seriously underestimated the most important factor—the power and brilliance of the beams of light that shone upon it.
In the end, it was all a matter of light.

When it comes to a life of worship and mission, the very same rules apply. In and of ourselves we have no light. But in His bright and shining light we are transformed—and begin to radiate the glories of our God to the world around us. You may be feeling totally inadequate, far from ready for that task. But if so, you have forgotten the most important part of the equation. It is not about you and your best efforts. It is about the light, power, and love of Christ illuminating our fragile lives. As Scripture reminds us, the same God who said, “Let there be light,” has made His light to shine in our hearts.

When God shines upon His church, we become a dazzling testimony to His awesome radiance. You may feel ineffective. You might have lost confidence in your ability to shine. You may think you are too small or inconsequential to ever be of any value in the kingdom of God. But no matter at all—for, in the end, it’s all a matter of light. His light. The life of worship never begins with you. It starts and ends with Jesus.
Back to Nashville for a moment. I left the arena that night inspired by the shouts and the songs that had been poured out in that place. But the mirror ball left a really big impression. It reminded me of our ultimate call as we live on this earth—to shine all around for the glory of God.

Then another thought hit me: So often we equate passion with volume and energy, and surely that can play an important part. But when it comes to true passion, ultimately those things are just the tip of the iceberg—the part most on display. However, God looks beneath the surface, searching our hearts. Yes, God does call us to sing. He calls us to sing loudly, boldly, joyfully, and reverently before Him. Just check out the exhortations in so many of the psalms for evidence. God loves a shout of praise or a joyful noise brought in His name. These things are great and important ways of expressing the explosive celebrations happening in our hearts. But to complete the integrity of these offerings, God is looking for a people who will take their passion to the next level and begin to shine His light in their everyday lives. A people who will stand in the light of who He is and reflect His wonders for all the world to see. We see the light. We celebrate the light. And we send the light.


Lives Laid Down

Lives of passion step outside the normal and rational and give all they have gladly and generously. I love this definition of passion being made popular by Louie: “Passion is the degree of difficulty we are willing to endure to achieve the goal.” Defined in this way, passion becomes a life laid down in extravagant surrender—thoughts, words, and deeds thrown wholeheartedly into the mix even when it costs us something. Or indeed, costs us everything.

This definition also brings us right back to the cross. The passion of Jesus shows us the most heightened example we will ever see of “the degree of difficulty we are willing to endure to achieve the goal.” At Calvary we encounter the Savior of the world—who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross and scorned all of its shame. He underwent agonies we could never imagine. If we were to look at the cross simply through the lens of physical torture it would be grueling enough in and of itself. The cross was one of the most gruesome and painful forms of capital punishment this world has ever seen.

Yet this was no ordinary crucifixion. For here was the Son of God—He who was pure and faultless—becoming stained by our sin and shame. The One so accustomed to the peace and joy of heaven encountered the depths of earthly shame, suffering, and pain. He had no sin and instead became sin for us. He who existed in close communion with the Father felt the cruelty and dark loneliness of Gethsemane and Calvary. Add all of these factors together, and you are left with a cross that is not only physically heavy to carry—but one that is unfathomably heavy to bear in spiritual, emotional, and psychological terms. Yet Christ did so. And, astonishingly, He chose to do so. That is the ultimate display of passion.
Be assured, Jesus was not eager to face the agonies of that place. We do not find Him bubbling over with anticipation—completely the opposite. On the eve of His death, the Savior cries out:

“Abba, Father … everything is possible for you. Take

this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you

will.” (Mark 14:36)

A passionate obedience to the Father and an unwavering commitment to His mission see Jesus through the loneliness of Gethsemane and to the cross. This really is the passion of the Christ. And the passion of the worshipper must take on the very same characteristics.

The Scriptures are full of worship songs and devotional music—and in the right place, music can play such a wonderful and unique role in our worship. It’s part of how we’ve been made and a wonderful way to express our devotion to God together. Eugene Peterson writes:
Song and dance are the result of an excess energy.

When we are normal we talk, when we are dying we

whisper, but when there is more in us than we contain

we sing. When we are healthy we walk, when

we are decrepit we shuffle, but when we are beyond

ourselves with vitality we dance.


But passionate worship is never a matter of merely getting the words and tune right or raising a loud shout. The true test of our passion for God will always be our lives. If I’m looking for a heightened way to tell God I love Him, the very best way has very little to do with stringing poetic sentences together. It involves a life laid down in service and adoration. The concrete evidence of whether our worship has lived or died in us will always be our lives. We may sing our songs with good intentions, but in the end our lives must become the evidence.
Singing is easy. The proof is always in the living. Or even the dying. Will the music in our hearts subside when the going gets tough? Will we be distracted or discouraged from our cause when the conditions aren’t favorable? Will the fireworks of our excited hearts come to nothing more than a momentary spark that fizzles out, never to be seen again? Or could we prove the flames of our passion even in the furnace of difficulty, inconvenience, and endurance?

Passion is not only that which gets us up in the morning—it helps us see it through to the end of the day. Passion finishes what it begins and makes good on its promise of running the race with perseverance and turning good intentions into fulfilled dreams. Passion is always more than a party. It’s a story of guts and glory, pain and purpose. And for anyone who has truly encountered the wonder of the cross, it soon becomes a way of life.


Copyright 2011 Matt Redman. Mirror Ball published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce in any way. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What not to do on vacation

I distinctly remember sitting in Mrs. Goodman's 5th grade class when the school nurse came in to talk to the class. The subject caused everyone in the class to timidly raise their hand to their head and scratch. A topic that has had my head itch everytime it has come up in the 23 years since.

You know exactly what I am talking about and I don't even have to say the word. And I would venture to say that your head is itching right now.

I get three weeks of vacation a year. In April, I spent a week at home avoiding cleaning my house and not much more. I think I took a few naps. It was very uneventful as best I recall.

This weekend, I spent some time trying to get some work done that really could not wait until I got back. I even skipped my Sunday nap in order to get it done and cutoff any work for 7 days once I got that stuff done. Well mid-afternoon, one of my neighbors backed into the AT&T service box and down went my internet and phone service. After church, I had to plug in the laptop at my parents house to get some emails sent. Not the most convenient. #1 thing not to do on vacation = work.

That was OK though. The girls called to meet them so they could come spend the night over here. I did try to reach the phone service department to talk to a human, but that was a waste. #2 thing not to do on vacation= try to reach a human via any 800 number.

I threatened Paige and Peyton with bodily harm if they got mr up early. Scratch that. At 8:05, I got a text message from some one at work. (See #1) #3 leave your volume on your cell phone on.

I read the text, put the phone back where it was, rolled over (sort of considering the seven year old lump in my bed) and tried to go back to sleep. At 9:00, my cell phone rang (see #3). My landlord called about the exterminator coming later this week and needing tobclear out all the cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms. I planned to clean house this week, but not that much. #4 should be clean your house.

Later because of my itching neck, I took at Benadryl and fell asleep during a movie. Paige threw a pillow at me jarring me awake and then proceeded to laugh at me everytime she looked me. #5 take Benadryl and a nap in Paige's presence.

Then I watched the ridiculous Bachelorette. If I were in my right mind, that would be #6.

Last night before going to bed, I turned my phone to silent. When I woke up, I turned the volume on. Two minutes later, my phone chirped a text. Someone else from the office. (See #1 and #3.)

I had a few errands I needed to run, including visiting my Mom's office to get my car registered. Though relatively painless, we all know that isn't considered vacation fun. Wait, it was a pain because I had to go around the block 3 times to find a parking space. Call that #7 - going to the courthouse.

I needed to get a ring checked as a part of a warranty thing at Zales, so I went out to the "mall" which should be a never do, vacation or not, so I give that #8.

Then, I needed some groceries, so since I was almost out there, I went to Walmart. Going there is against my religion. #9 is going to Walmart. There, I had another #1 and #3.

#10 ought to be take a vacation in July because today was the muggiest day we have had. Walking outside = sweat.

I met a friend for lunch which was a good thing until my phone rang. This was not a #1 and #3 problem. this time.

I answer my phone, and my brother says off the bat, "you are going to want to wash everything the girls slept on."

Well, that solves the itching mystery once and for all.

Did you know that as hot it is that the nasty birds take baths in swimming pools and spread diseases and lice?

My parents thought I was just being tacky when I said in passing that my head had been itching ever since I went swimming at his house. (The first time I have been in a pool for like 3 years.) Dear Mom and Dad, I was not being mean towards my brother, I was making a statement. Today, he told me I could have gotten them in the pool. I wish they had heard him say it. At least they acknowledge that I had mentioned it.

I went to CVS, went to my parents house to spray the couch which is the only place that I have sat or the girls have been in the past several weeks there. My house = another story. #11 = treat your house for lice.

Dad came over to help me spray down my living room furniture with all its purple pillows and mattress. I sprayed all the furinture twice after that as well as the mattress once he left. He also took pillows and my bedding to wash. I had plenty to wash here. Including clean clothes that had been on my bed and love seat.

I dusted down everything in my room and vacccumed the bedroom while the bedding was all stripped (will have to do that to the living room tomorrow). See #4.

Once my mom got home, we had to do my hair. #12 - get the head treatment. I almost got nauseated from inhaling the pesticide on my head. I have typed all this on my Blackberry because I have on clean PJs and clean sheets and I leary of sitting or laying my head anywhere.

Tomorrow, in addition to going to the laudromat where they hopefully have a washer big enough for my comforter, I am getting my hairstylist to check to see if my mom did a good job (with her blessing since she said she did not know what she was looking for), and cleaning the rest of my house to get ready for the exterminator.

This may be one of thosae vacations where I needs a vacation to recover from my vacation. Jenny was supposed to come over to watch a movie tonight. So much for that.

And my head still itches.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A look inside Tombstones and Banana Trees

Thanks to everyone who took part 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, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Medad Birungi grew up in the war-torn country of Uganda in the 1960’s. He was born to a hateful father. And, after years of abuse, his father abandoned him, along with his mother and siblings, on the side of the road when he was only six years old. His life became increasingly difficult—his poverty increased, his hope evaporated and his future was nothing but decay. For the first twenty years of his life, he lived on a staple diet of anger and bitterness.

But God had his hand on Birungi’s life, and it would change beyond all recognition. Everything that was made ugly by pain and anger was turned to beauty by one incredibly simple yet revolutionary act: forgiveness. Though he started as a boy who begged to die by the side of the road, becoming a teenager angry enough to kill then a man broken and searching, he is now a testimony to God’s transforming power.

Currently Birungi is the coordinator for missions, evangelism and church planting in the Anglican Diocese of Kampala. He also lectures at the Kyambogo University. But one of his greatest passions is the charitable organization that he founded, World Shine Ministries. He is a father of nine children (five biological and four adopted). He and his wife Connie live with their children in Uganda.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A Revolution of Forgiveness

Medad Birungi faced pain few imagine yet speaks of forgiveness all can experience

“My story changed beyond all recognition. Everything that was made ugly by pain and anger was turned to beauty by one simple, revolutionary thing—forgiveness.” Medad Birungi was once a boy who begged to die by the side of the road, a teenager angry enough to kill, a man broken and searching, yet today he is a testimony to God’s transforming power. In his life story, Tombstones and Banana Trees: A True Story of Revolutionary Forgiveness, Birungi charts his outrageous journey through suffering, abuse, despair and revenge to unexpected forgiveness and healing.


Birungi grew up with a violent father in the war-torn country of Uganda in the 1960’s. His childhood was scarred by extreme poverty, cruel suffering and unbearable sorrow that few of us can even imagine. Yet from that trauma came the lessons that we can all appreciate: the impoverishment of life without Christ, the redemption of the cross and the revolutionary power of forgiveness. His story deals in nothing less than pure, God-given transformation. Tombstones and Banana Trees has the dual quality of being both uniquely individual yet universally relevant, holding together the grandest of themes and the most intimate of testimonies. Birungi’s life is so comprehensively renewed that any reader sharing in his journey will feel the impact.

Through his story of healing, Birungi calls readers to find healing for their own emotional scars. He reminds them that when they forgive others they are doing something truly radical—changing relationships, communities and countries. They are welcoming God into the hidden corners of the human soul, where real revolution begins, inspiring others to start again and work for reconciliation. Birungi is “fascinated by forgiveness, drawn to it, compelled by it and delighted when anyone wants to join me. That is what revolutionary forgiveness becomes after a while—a passion. It draws us in, yet it does not overrule us. We must still make the choice to overcome our reservations.”

Tombstones and Banana Trees will take readers back to their own tombs and funerals and help them ask how God might turn them into new births and celebrations. Their eyes will be opened to the revolutionary change that God Himself has in store for all.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (July 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781405025
ISBN-13: 978-0781405027

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



The Power of the Family


Life is good and I laugh a lot. You need to know that about me before we make a start. You need to know that I think of myself as being blessed with so much of God’s grace—far more than I deserve.

You need to know that as I look at my life I see there is much that is beautiful and much that is good. You need to know all this because what comes next will probably remove the smile from your eyes.

This is a book about revolutionary forgiveness. And in order to write about forgiveness, you must have something to forgive. For there to be change, you must have something to leave behind. In order to know healing, you must first have received a wound.

I did not think I would ever experience such sorrow or despair as the day my father beat me down from the pickup trucks and abandoned us—my mother, my sisters, my brothers, and me—by the side of the road at Kashumuruzi. We had no food, no possessions, and no hope of a future. All we had was the smell of diesel from the aging pickup trucks loaded with possessions, retreating down the road possessions that, just minutes previously, had been our own.

All we could hear was the sound of rejoicing that came from the hands and mouths of the rest of my father’s wives and their children as they jeered from the trucks. All we could see were the villagers

slowly peeling away from the scene and returning to their tasks, now that the drama that had entertained them was over. All I knew was that my mother, my sisters, my brothers, and I were weeping into the dirt, hoping life would end soon.

I did not think life would ever get worse than this. I did not think there was worse to come.

Yet there was. Far worse. But those are other stories for later pages. Right now I need to explain about the road and the pickup trucks, and in order to do that, I must tell you about that day.

It had started the way many mornings did. I woke up to the sound of singing carried in and out of my home on the wind, like sunlight playing in and out of the clouds. The music was coming from the church or the school on the other side of the valley. They always started early. I had never really belonged to either of them.

I was a typical six-year-old boy from a typical village in western Uganda. I had no need for shoes, was naked from the waist down, and was beginning to be aware of making the transition from infant to child. That meant I was becoming more adventurous, starting to move away from the compound where we lived, and finding out what was on offer in the land that surrounded it. Out beyond the pressed, swept earth, I was learning how to use my hands to make things out of the broad leaves of the banana trees that flooded the valley where we lived. I would use the broadest, thickest ones as mats on which I would sledge down the muddied slopes toward the stream. The rocks added the element of danger, and our scarred and bruised buttocks were the scorecards, clearly showing how often our games ended in pain. Thinner leaves I would use to make slippers for my feet. They only ever lasted a day, but I felt like a man when I wore them.

I was getting stronger. That meant I was starting to join in with the older children in the twice-daily trips down to the stream to collect water. My clay pot was small, but even five liters was heavy enough to make the task of carrying it a challenge. Especially when there were consequences to arriving back at home with a less-thankfull load.

Our home was halfway up a steep hill at the north end of a wide open valley. Two generations ago there had been nothing in the area but forest; a sprawling forest that, if you saw it from the other side of the valley, looked like an ocean churned up by a storm. Up close you could see that the sides of the steep hills had created land at the bottom that was dark, musty, and alive with insects that fed on the rotting vegetation. That is what our village is called: Rwanjogori. It means maggots.

Why would anyone want to live in a place like this? Ask my grandfather—he was the one who first settled here, clearing back the forest and building the first home halfway up the hill away from the maggots that ruled the earth at the bottom. He had discovered it when he was looking for places to hide the cattle he stole from distant farms. He was the son of Bukumuura, son of Karumuna, of Bituura, of Ruhiiga, of Ngirane, of Kasigi, of Muntu. Every one of these men was a renowned polygamist, especially Ruhiiga, who had thirty-six wives. My grandfather’s name was Kasabaraara—and it means “one who grinds people who sleep in your house.” Yes, my grandfather was given the name of a killer and became a professional thief who colonized a land in which nobody would have dreamed of living. They say it is hard to get a clean bird from a dirty nest, that true change is difficult when you come from a difficult family background. I know there have been times in my life when I have wished the maggots would return and consume me for themselves.

The day my father abandoned us had started typically. The sound of children singing, cups of millet porridge to drink, a quick trip down the hill to collect the water that flowed out of the ground

when you poked it with a stick. But after that things changed. It was moving day, and we were leaving Rwanjogori forever.Or so we thought.

My father had been friendly ever since he had returned home after his year-and-a-half disappearance—which itself is another story that we will get to in good time. Of course, his warm smiles and happy chatter could not fool us, and we remained suspicious—even six-year-old me. But my father was full of talk of great plans and big changes, all told with wide eyes and grand gestures made by hands

that commanded the air. It did not take long for him to convince us that our overcrowding was a problem for which he had the perfect solution.

In Uganda, as in much of Africa, a home is made up of three elements: your house, the area immediately around it—often called your compound—and the land that you farm. My father owned a

large slice of land that ran down from the top of the hill, flowing through to the valley below as it flattened out. His father had planted hundreds of banana trees, some with black trunks that offered

matoke, or plantain, as you might call it—a savory type of banana high in carbohydrates, cooked and served with a groundnut sauce or red beans. The green-trunked banana trees grow smaller fruit, but

these little bananas are sweet and delicious. You have never tasted a real banana until you have pulled a handful from a tree and allowed their sugary sweetness to delight your taste buds.

Our house was made of mud that had been stuck onto a sturdy wooden frame. The walls were thick and the roof was thatched with dried grass from a nearby marsh. Because my mother was my father’s first wife, our house was the biggest, with three rooms: a bedroom for my parents, another for my sisters, and a main living area in which my brothers and I slept and where we all ate when it was too wet or cold outside.

Our compound stretched around our house, and in it could be found our goats, maybe the odd cow, a dog or two, as well as the charcoal fire where my mother would cook. The earth was hard and dark, flattened by the feet of so many people living there. A few meters along from our house was another, slightly smaller. In it were my father’s second wife and their children. Farther on still was another house and another wife and more children. And then another.

You could call our overcrowding a form of domestic congestion or an “overextended family,” but whichever words you use, the truth was simple: My father had taken too many wives. My mother was his first, but as his anger rose along with his drinking, so too did the number of wives. In one year he married five other women, and by the end of his life he had fathered a total of thirty-two children: twenty-six girls and six boys. So, yes, there were too many of us. Too many wives fighting for his attention, too many children desperate for a father, too many mouths left hungry by too little land. “I know how our poverty will be wiped clean,” said my father one day. On his travels away from us he had found a large piece of land, two hundred miles west, where we could all live in plenty. Each wife would have five acres of land, more than enough to feed us and keep hunger away.

So he had sold our home and the land we had been squeezed into. On the morning of our planned departure, every able body was loaded up with possessions and sent off down the hill, past the spring, through the banana trees, and out onto the valley bottom, passing by the unmarked boundary that signaled the edge of my father’s land. Once out on the valley floor we then carried our sleeping mats, cooking pots, animal skins, water jars, and low tables down the track for another mile to the village of Kashumuruzi.

Kashumuruzi was an exciting place. It was the link with the outside world. Where Rwanjogori was home to only a few families and nothing else, Kashumuruzi was different. Not only did it have a trading post—a shop that sold everything from home-brewed beer to pots and cloth—but its houses and compounds were all stuck on one side of a main road that, in one direction, ran to the distant local capital of Kabale, while the other way pointed to the waterfall of Kisiizi and, beyond that, the new land my father was taking us to.

At this time in my life I was not poor. True, all those extra wives and children had put a strain on our resources, so the move was something we all welcomed, even if we did so cautiously. But my father was a dealer in animal skins, and he was good at his job. He was a charismatic, attractive man. People listened when he spoke and readied themselves to follow when he led. We had status.

So there we were, sitting at the side of the road, our possessions piled high beneath the tall tree that gave a little shade in the gathering heat. It was a big day in the life of the local villages, and as the trucks arrived, so too did a small crowd of onlookers. My father spoke to the drivers as soon as they arrived, gave them instructions about where we were going and how to load the possessions. This was a side of him I had not seen much of before: commanding authority from other adults who seemed to lower their eyes and obey him quickly. I was used to seeing my siblings or my mother hurrying to obey his commands, avoiding eye contact and hoping to avoid his rage, but not other men. With the bystanders he was different: He seemed unusually happy, as if he was enjoying being the center of the show, like a magician preparing for a grand finale, smiling to himself at the knowledge that what was coming was sure to leave an impression for years to come on the minds of those watching.

We loaded everything we had onto the pickup trucks and then climbed on. We might not have been poor, but we were certainly not wealthy enough for me to have been in the back of a pickup truck before. We were certainly not that wealthy. As we prepared to drive through villages and even towns—yes, there would be towns on the journey!—I was excited beyond words, a six-year-old boy about to experience the most thrilling thing of all, on display for all to see as we made our way to our new life. To my mind this was already a very good day, what with all the excitement of carrying things down from our home and having so many people gathering to watch us. And it was about to get even better.

My mother was a kind woman, and a wise one too. She was also a woman of prayer. She knew how to pick her battles, and she had ushered my sisters and me up into the final pickup truck. Let the other wives fight for the status of riding in the first one with our father in the cab. It was probably best to keep a low profile anyway: My father had been acting strangely around my mother, my siblings, and me for months.

Before the engines started, my father got out and made his way back down the line. He stopped by our truck and looked at each of us in turn; my mother, me, my sisters, and my two brothers. Those wide eyes that had been sparkling and dancing for days were suddenly different. Darker. Narrowed. I did not want to look into them. “All of you,” he said. “Get down.”

I could not move. I had received so many beatings and scoldings from my father that panic was never far from my heart whenever he addressed me. Usually I would run or fight, but this time I remained still, frozen.

“You have been a problem to me. You fought against me, and I cannot migrate with problems.” He quickly stepped around the back of the vehicle, reached into the brush behind the tall tree, and pulled out a stick. He wielded the six-foot flexible weapon with skill, bringing it stinging through the air, lashing us across our cowed backs .I do not know whether I fell, jumped, or was pushed down from the truck, but it did not take long before we were facing the dirt, surrounding our mother, crying.

The beatings hurt, but they were nothing new. My father knew how to hurt us, and there had been plenty of occasions in the past when he had inflicted pain on us in cruel ways that left scars visible even today. But these beatings at the side of the road were not the main event; they were a warm-up to something big. He was merely tenderizing the meat so that we were truly ready for the fire to follow.

It had been six months since my father had returned from his self-imposed exile, and every day he had been back at home with us he had kept a particular bucket close by. Each morning he had filled it with ash from the fire, and my mother had always asked him, “What do you want this ash for?” He only ever gave the same reply: “One day you will see.”
As we crouched there, huddled around our mother, the tree towering above us, the hill stretching back behind, the trucks to our side, the road at our feet, and an increasingly large crowd watching from the other side, my father dropped his stick and reached down for the bucket that he had also hidden in the brush behind the tree. Suddenly he was not a raging father or a stick-wielding disciplinarian. He was an actor, playing to the crowd opposite, his body half turned so they could all see the bucket of ash swinging in his hand, hovering over our heads. His voice, loud and formal, rang across the road as he announced to everyone: “I am leaving my children with their inheritance.” With that he tipped the bucket upside down, the great cloud of ash getting caught on the wind before much of it settled on our bodies.
“My children,” he said, standing above us with an empty bucket swinging in his hand, “I am not leaving you with cows or property or anything else. This ash is your inheritance. And just as it has been blown away, may you, too, be blown away with your mother!”

I do not know precisely what happened after that. I saw my father’s feet carry him away, heard a truck door slam and three engines cough out their lungs like waking monsters that patrol a small boy’s nightmares. As the vehicles pulled away, his remaining wives and their children began to sing and drum their songs of celebration. They had our property. They had left us behind. They sounded happy.

We, meanwhile, started to weep. All of us—my mother, my three sisters, my two brothers, James and Robert, and I—wept with the pain of humiliation, of fear, of shock. But as the noise of the trucks

and the victorious wives diminished, another noise broke throughour sobs. The onlookers were laughing, cheering, and shouting their own abuses at us.
“Be careful, women: She will steal your own husbands! She’s a bad woman—she cannot be trusted.”

“Their time has come at last! She thought she was so superior all those years.”
“Typical Rwandese. Typical Tutsi: always bringing trouble with them.”
I was too young to understand all of their words, but I knew we were alone now.

My mother had fled neighboring Rwanda some years earlier, escaping the start of what would be a continuing campaign of genocide against her native Tutsi people at the hands of the Hutu. We had no family left to depend on, nowhere left to go. And now that our father had so publicly rejected us, we were utterly and completely alone. We were like dead dogs at the side of the road, devoid of rights, denied dignity, and completely worthless. The only difference was that we were still breathing. But what good was that doing us? In that moment it would have been better had we died right there and then.

Those trucks were carrying whatever was left of my own happiness. I was six years old—old enough to know that, as the oldest male in that heap of wretched bodies, it was my duty to do something to help us get out of the horror. For my father had taught me one lesson as he had brought his stick down fast upon me: When a man is consumed by anger and hatred, he can change the lives of those around him in an instant. Anger can rage like a volcanic eruption.

As our tears fell to the ground, it was as if they turned to blood. If you have ever been to Africa, you will understand what I mean when I say this. The soil in Africa is rich and red, stained by time and struggles. On this day, it was made darker by the tears of a small boy who wished he had enough anger and hatred within him to change the lives of his mother and siblings in an instant.

I wished things would change at that moment. I wished I did not have to look at the feet of the few villagers who remained nearby to watch us in our shame. Those feet seemed to taunt me, with their cracks and scars deeper and broader than my own. They had carried their owners through many struggles over many years. What hope could I have of surviving? What hope did I have of holding on to life? I could not even stay on a truck.

There is a saying that was written down by an African: “Time and bad conditions do not favor beauty.” It is true. For some of us, growing up in Africa has brought suffering and hardship, right up close, time after time. Life has been robbed of its beauty.

Yet is that really so different from the American family that is crippled by debt and held back by too many jobs that pay too little money? Or what about the child from the European inner city who grows up with his nose pressed against the window of privilege and opulence—who sees the cars and the money and the ease of living— and knows he can never achieve such wealth for himself? Africa does not have a monopoly on time and bad conditions, any more than the West has a monopoly on health and happiness. Beauty can be taken from us all.

My father had tried hard to take the beauty out of my life. As we crouched on the roadside, ash in our hair, tears leaving trails though the dust on our faces, we must have looked like the ugliest people on earth. Who would want us? Who would care for us? Who would rescue such miserable people? Surely we had been left to die. We were rejected, abandoned, disowned, and cursed. Our security, our self-worth, and our significance were crushed.

Eventually there were no more tears. We begged the ground to take us right there and then, but it did not. At that moment I wanted to die. I did not want any more of this life where one man could cause so much pain. I wanted the earth to become my tomb

If our lives are seen as stories, then this was the start of the chapter of bitterness that became my staple diet for twenty years. The poverty got worse, hope evaporated, the future was nothing but decay.

But my story did not stay that way forever. It changed beyond all recognition. Everything that was made ugly by pain and anger was turned to beauty by one incredibly simple yet unbelievably revolutionary thing: forgiveness.

These pages that you hold in your hand will show how a boy who begged to die by the side of the road grew to become a man who was able to forgive. These pages will take you and me back to our tombs

and our funerals and ask how God might turn them into maternity wards and celebrations. These pages, I hope, will open your eyes to the change that God Himself has in store for you.

Even today I remember that time at the roadside, beneath the tree, and wonder what God saw. Of course I know He saw our pain and our rejection. He saw the hatred that spilled over from our father and would continue to infect the lives of others in the village. He saw the rapid descent in our fortunes, from a family with a future to a collection of outcasts with no power, no voice, no potential.

But I also think He saw us stay with our mother. He saw us hold on tight to one another, remaining by one another, our tears and cries flowing together. It was a small step, and it did not feel as though there were any other choices on offer, but there is power in unity, power in the family. My father migrated and rejected, abandoned, disowned, and cursed us. But not Jesus. He is a caring God who stays closer than anyone else.

Our time at that tree by the side of the road did not last forever. Soon God brought a kind man to rescue us. Years later He would guide people to bring messages about His steadfast love to us in the midst of other periods of pain. And even after that, as an adult, I would one day descend from a bus at this very spot, my life having changed forever, forgiveness staging its dramatic revolution in every fiber of my body.

In time, everything would be different.

Copyright 2011 Medad Birungi. Tombstones and Banana Trees published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce in any way. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mr. Kind of Creepy

Dear Mr. Whatever Your Name Is (you have a one name on one website and two on another),

When I found that you had checked out my profile on one singles website, I was somewhat intrigued by the fact that you were close to my age and only 20 miles away. However, I didn't like the mystery that all your profile said was "recently single" and you had no photo. I was wishing you would add some information.

And when I can tell you revisited my profile, I thought, "OK, maybe he is interested."

When you joined another site and started winking at my profile, I logged on to see who sent the "wink". I see that it is you by a different name, yet the same age and from the same small down. I thought, "ah hah!" even though you still had not filled out your profile and still had no picture.

As I continued to get winks I thought you might have stalker tendencies. You now have two similar names on this website and both are winking at me. Now, I am wondering if you are forgetful in that you don't remember your password so had to create another log-in or if you are just plain creepy.

I applaud you for adding more information to your profile. However, your 2 previous marriages and 3 children give me pause.

Really though, I'm wondering why you don't post a photo of yourself. What exactly are you trying to hide? I mean, have you looked at the other people on these sites? I promise you can't be worse than the guy who posted his picture with a booger hanging in his nose that wrote to me years ago.

Here's a little tidbit for you. I just have a free membership on both of these sites and have no intention of paying money to you to ask these questions. I've decided I am just not into paying money at this point.

If you want to find me, it's really not that difficult. There are only so many Churches of Christ in Corsicana. You could scout them out on any given Sunday.

My log-in name has my first name as a part of it, if you were to attend church in your own town on any given Sunday (you say you go once or twice a month), most of the people in your town know me. You could ask around if you are really interested. My brother is known to show up over there on occasion as well, though you probably don't want to ask him any questions.

One of my co-workers lives in the same town you do. She doesn't know who you might be. I think I might be better off not finding out.

Audra

P.S. You might want to do something about that eye twitch.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perhaps a hug would do

I would like to go on a major hissy fit, screaming, beat-up something rant right now. Really, really, really bad. Complete with tears and kicking and flailing and wailing. I'm so frustrated and at my wit's end that I don't even want to talk about it.

Maybe I just need a hug.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Scenes from Atlanta

Just some pictures from last week that I didn't upload from my phone. I don't wander too far from home without my camera.







Saturday, July 16, 2011

What's a Marriott?

Paige and Peyton are with their mom this week on a trip to Wyoming. Paige is sending daily updates which are hilarious. A couple of days ago, she said she saw a Marriott up close. Well, I don't know that I was too impressed by seeing a hotel up close.

My mom asked her what a Marriott was. Evidently, how ever she spelled marmot got caught by spell check. So, I shall share with you a picture of Marriott the Marmot.


This just reminds me that I didn't see a squirrel in Atlanta to take a picture of. And I always take pictures of squirrels when I go on a trip. I took pictures of marmots in South Dakota a few years ago.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My brain is a little fuzzy

My plans never seem to pan out. I planned on blogging from ICRS, but my wireless connection has been wacky in the hotel and the time it takes to negotiate requires more patience than I have.

I got to see a some of a performance by Committed, the winners of the Sing-Off yesterday. They were good, but they would have been even better with a better sound system.

Here are a couple of pictures from my phone yesterday, including the Duggar bus.





Saturday, July 9, 2011

A glimpse of Atlanta

Before ICRS gets in full swing, we had a little time to see the sights right around us. I will have to try to tell the funniest story sometime.




Wednesday, July 6, 2011

40 Days to Better Living



Feel Better. Look Better. Live Better.
A 40-Day Adventure to Achieve a
Balanced Life and Better Health

Many of us would admit to being a little out of balance these days. We all want to feel happier, healthier, and more vibrantly alive. What if in just 40 days we could reach a new level of wellness and balance that we've never experienced before? In 40 Days to Better Living: Optimal Health (Barbour Publishing, July 2011), Dr. Scott Morris, founder of Church Health Center, the largest faith-based clinic of its type in the United States, offers a straightforward and successful plan to get there.

The first in a series of striking full color health and wellness books by Dr. Morris and the Church Health Center staff, 40 Days to Better Living: Optimal Health confirms and clarifies what many of us already suspect: living the life we've always wanted must go deeper than a diet and exercise program and an occasional attempt to "do better." Morris is convinced that to achieve the highest degree of wellness requires a multi-dimensional approach and a concentrated effort to be healthy in both body and spirit. He believes, "True health is grounded in the spiritual life that embraces the physical bodies God gives us."
Morris adds, "Instead of the absence of disease, I see health as the presence of those elements that lead us to joy and love, and that drive us closer to God. Finding balance by nurturing our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs is essential to the real health of the whole person."


40 Days to Better Living: Optimal Health offers clear, manageable steps to life-changing attitudes and actions in a context of understanding and grace for all people at all points on the journey to optimal health. With plenty of practical advice, spiritual encouragement, and real stories of those who have found a better life, this simple and skillfully crafted book inspires readers to customize their own path to wellness by using the 7-Step Model for Healthy Living as a guide: 
  • Nutrition: pursuing smarter food choices and eating habits
  • Friends and family: giving and receiving support through relationships
  • Emotional life: understanding feelings and managing stress to better care for yourself
  • Work: appreciating your skills, talents, and gifts
  • Movement: discovering ways to enjoy physical activity
  • Medical care: partnering with health care providers to optimize medical care
  • Faith life: building a relationship with God, neighbors, and self
Along with tips from the Model for Healthy Living, the easy-to-read format features a Morning Reflection and an Evening Wrap-Up as well as a place for documenting plans, progress, and perspectives. Targeted scriptures and prayers that undergird the focus of each day's message make this compact book an excellent choice for a daily devotional.

Seeking balance in all things is a worthy goal. 40 Days to Better Living: Optimal Health is a perfect place to begin the search. Subsequent titles in the Better Living series will be released bi-monthly and address key health topics including hypertension, diabetes, depression, weight management, stress management, aging, and addiction. All promise substantial support to those who are ready for a newer, better way of living—body and spirit.

40 Days to Better Living: Optimal Health
by Dr. Scott Morris and the Church Health Center
Barbour Publishing/July 2011
ISBN: 9781616262648/176 pages/paperback/$7.99

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


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

God’s Light Shines Through the Smallest Prism



Matt Redman invites readers
to reflect God’s dazzling radiance.

“When God shines upon His church, we become a dazzling testimony to His awesome radiance. You may feel ineffective. You might have lost confidence in your ability to shine. You may think you are too small or inconsequential to ever be of any value in the kingdom of God. But no matter at all—for, in the end, it is all a matter of light. His light. The life of worship never begins with you. It starts and ends with Jesus. In his newest book, Mirror Ball: Living a Life that Reflects God’s Radiance, worship leader and songwriter Matt Redman reminds us that even when we feel insufficient to reflect God’s glory, God can show through us as light radiates through a prism. Living in this truth will transform how we view our words, our relationships and our daily lives.

Passion is not only that which gets us up in the morning; it helps us see it through to the end of the day. And for anyone who has truly encountered the wonder of the cross, it soon becomes a way of life. If you’re looking for a heightened way to tell God you love Him, the very best way has little to do with stringing poetic sentences together. It involves a life laid down in service and adoration. The concrete evidence of whether worship has lived or died in us will always be our lives. We sing our songs with good intent, but in the end our lives must become the evidence.

In and of ourselves we have no light. But in His bright and shining light we are transformed and begin to radiate the glories of our God to the world around us. You may be feeling totally inadequate for that task. But if so, you have simply forgotten the most important part of the equation. It is not about you and your best efforts. It is the light, power and love of Christ illuminating our fragile lives.

Through story, Scripture and practical inspiration, Redman encourages his readers to remember that, however inadequate they may feel to live out this passion, God will work in and through them. After all, the same God who said “let there be light” has made His light to shine in their hearts, illuminating their lives and the lives of those around them.

About the Author: Matt Redman has been leading worship full-time since the age of 20. His journey has taken him to countries such as South Africa, Japan, India, Australia, Germany, Uganda, Croatia and the Czech Republic. He has worked with many church plants and is currently involved with St Peters, a new church planted out of HTB in London. His early compositions include “The Heart of Worship,” “Better Is One Day” and “Once Again.” More recent songs have included “Blessed Be Your Name” and “You Never Let Go” (both written with his wife, Beth). Redman is also the author of three books which all center on the theme of worship: The Unquenchable Worshipper, Facedown and Blessed Be Your Name (co-authored with Beth). Plus he has compiled two other books: The Heart of Worship Files and Inside-Out Worship. Redman and his wife currently live on the south coast of England with their five children.

Mirror Ball: Living a Life that Reflects God’s Radiance
by Matt Redman
David C Cook/July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0578-2/192 pages/paperback/$12.99

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



Monday, July 4, 2011

A Revolution of Forgiveness


Medad Birungi faced pain few imagine
yet speaks of forgiveness all can experience

“My story changed beyond all recognition. Everything that was made ugly by pain and anger was turned to beauty by one simple, revolutionary thing—forgiveness.” Medad Birungi was once a boy who begged to die by the side of the road, a teenager angry enough to kill, a man broken and searching, yet today he is a testimony to God’s transforming power. In his life story, Tombstones and Banana Trees: A True Story of Revolutionary Forgiveness, Birungi charts his outrageous journey through suffering, abuse, despair and revenge to unexpected forgiveness and healing.

Birungi grew up with a violent father in the war-torn country of Uganda in the 1960’s. His childhood was scarred by extreme poverty, cruel suffering and unbearable sorrow that few of us can even imagine. Yet from that trauma came the lessons that we can all appreciate: the impoverishment of life without Christ, the redemption of the cross and the revolutionary power of forgiveness. His story deals in nothing less than pure, God-given transformation. Tombstones and Banana Trees has the dual quality of being both uniquely individual yet universally relevant, holding together the grandest of themes and the most intimate of testimonies. Birungi’s life is so comprehensively renewed that any reader sharing in his journey will feel the impact.

Through his story of healing, Birungi calls readers to find healing for their own emotional scars. He reminds them that when they forgive others they are doing something truly radical—changing relationships, communities and countries. They are welcoming God into the hidden corners of the human soul, where real revolution begins, inspiring others to start again and work for reconciliation. Birungi is “fascinated by forgiveness, drawn to it, compelled by it and delighted when anyone wants to join me. That is what revolutionary forgiveness becomes after a while—a passion. It draws us in, yet it does not overrule us. We must still make the choice to overcome our reservations.”

Tombstones and Banana Trees will take readers back to their own tombs and funerals and help them ask how God might turn them into new births and celebrations. Their eyes will be opened to the revolutionary change that God Himself has in store for all.

Tombstones and Banana Trees: A True Story of Revolutionary Forgiveness
by Medad Birungi with Craig Borlase
David C Cook/July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0502-7/208 pages/paperback/$14.99


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

Bloggers may request a review copy
by filling out the form below.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Don't say I didn't warn you

I'm working on sending out an excerpt this morning, and came across this from Greg Laurie's Let God Change Your Life (David C Cook, July 2011. Just wanted to share this:

Consider these goofy but real warning labels. A cardboard sunshade for windshields had this warning: “Do not drive with sun shield in place.” This warning came with a hair dryer: “Do not use while sleeping.” An electric rotary tool included the caution, “This product not intended for use as a dental drill.” A warning on a bathroom heater stated, “This product is not to be used in bathrooms.” A manual for a microwave oven contained this warning: “Do not use for drying pets.” This statement was found on a box of rat poison: “Warning: has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.” A warning label on children’s cough medicine cautions, “Do not drive or operate machinery.” A string of Christmas lights was intended “For indoor or outdoor use only.” A child-sized Superman costume came with this warning: “Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.” A sign at a railroad station declared, “Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be prosecuted.” A shipment of hammers came with the notice, “May be harmful if swallowed.” And a bottle of sleeping pills forewarned, “May cause drowsiness.”


Think of the people who tried to blow dry their hair while they were asleep, swallow a hammer, or fly because they wore S on their chests. If only they had read the directions and warning labels first!