Dec 19

BOOK REVIEW: Songs from the Heart

Psalms

Still need a gift idea for your avid reader? Need it quick? An ebook might be the perfect answer.

Tim Riordan’s Songs from the Heart (Meeting with God in the Psalms) is an awesome study for the Bible student in your life.

I enjoy reading the Psalms, but never with the same passion as some of my friends. Then one line in Riordan’s book made me understand what I’d been missing. Riordan said, “while many books [of the Bible] speak about God, the Psalms speak to God.” Now, the idea of praying Psalms and using them in my personal worship time, makes more sense.

After a sweet fictional story about how Jews might have used the Psalms in everyday life, Riordan shared interesting history about the authorship and poetic structure of the Psalms. Then he went into application, taking 33 specific Psalms and sharing how they might enrich our relationship with God. Several well thought out questions at the end of each chapter encourage further meditation and application.

Riordan’s writing style is just the right balance of scholar and approachable friend, making the book easy to read, yet weighty enough to satisfy the Bible student in us. I will definitely read the Psalms with renewed enthusiasm, looking for ways they might help me speak to God when my own words seem inadequate and looking for new insights into deepening my worship.

Dec 15

FOR FAITH: Oz and I—Being Profound

OZ AND I image copy

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Oswald Chambers continues to whack me upside the head and make me pay attention to something God seems to want me to work on. Recently in his devotional Utmost for His Highest, Oz stated:

Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow aspects of life are not ordained by God; they are ordained by Him equally as much as the profound. We sometimes refuse to be shallow, not out of our deep devotion to God but because we wish to impress other people with the fact that we are not shallow. This is a sure sign of spiritual pride.

Sometimes I worry about trying to be profound. I love writing Bible studies. I love how God reveals things I could never come up with on my own. I love sharing those revelations and bits of insight with others.

But I worry I will come across as, “Hey, look how profound I am.” Because, everyone who knows me knows the truth: I ain’t profound. At all.

Oz further reminded me that the shallow things in life are just as important as the profound. “Even the ocean has a shore.” Jesus walked the earth. He came as a babe. Even he had to crawl before he could toddle and walk before he could run.

So it is with our faith. In some areas of my life I can’t even crawl. In other areas I’m running but I get tired or I’m off course or my form isn’t good.

The point is that whatever we do, we should do it as for the Lord.  (Colossians 3:23, Colossians 3:17, Ephesians 6:7; also Proverbs 16:3) Even the shallow stuff in life.

And while we are doing our best, we should strive to take no one seriously except God, because, Oz reminds us, “You may find that the first person you must be critical with, as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself.”

Ouch! Thanks for another whack upside the head Oz!

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From the devotional dated November 22, My Utmost for Your Highest by Oswald Chambers.

Dec 12

FOR FAITH: Life as a Hobbit

Image from multiverse.blogspot.com

I’m a hobbit. Evidently.

A few years ago I entered an enchanted age. An ancient age. Sixty. Something magical happened. The hair on my legs disappeared. All that remained were stragglers covering my toes.

From which I conclude I’m a hobbit.

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I decided to adopt other hobbit characteristics. As Gandalf the Grey said:

“Hobbits really are amazing creatures…You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.”

I’m not 100 but some days it feels like it. And if I look at my toes and think hobbit thoughts, perhaps I will consider that God made me to be an amazing creature, too. I too want to surprise others in a good way. Especially in a pinch.

Since J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as Christian novels, I like to think about ways I can relate the characters to me.

I want to be loved like Arwen. I am loved by the God of the universe.

I want to be heroic like Eowyn. I can lean on Jesus for strength and courage.

Aragon was heir to the throne. I too am royalty—the daughter of the King.

But some days I’m crotchety like Gimli. Some days I’m self-centered like Gollum. Some days I look like an Orc. Other days I feel ancient as Treebeard.

On those days I’ll try to remember my hobbit-ishness. Amazing and surprising. I even have hobbit feet to prove it.

And guys—lest you feel left out in the aging-not-so-gracefully department, your gender tends to discover that all the hair you lose on top of your head, decides to shoot out your ears.

God sure has a sense of humor for all of us. Thank you, Jesus!

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What character do you most identify with from Lord of the Rings?

Dec 08

FOR FAITH: Isaiah 40:31

 

Isaiah 40 31

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)


This becomes everyone’s favorite Bible verse at one time or another in life.

I realize these feathers are definitely not eagle feathers.

I like to imagine they belong to a chicken.

That imagining makes the suggestion that meself is the chicken and that fortunately, even us chickens get to nestle under God’s wings and take on His power to soar.

 

*Please feel free to share these verses set into images anywhere you like. Copy them. Paste them. Link them. Print them out and hang them on your fridge. Be blessed. Bless others.

Dec 05

FOR FAITH: Praying Names

NameI love praying that people will live the meaning of their names. I used to post four names and prayers here each month. Folks stopped suggesting names to me though, so for some reason I stopped posting them.

Now that we’re heading toward Christmas, I wanted to pick one and pray that all of us—yup, even you guys—may learn to live the meaning of this name. Mary.

The following is an excerpt from I am Mary (my latest study in the series With Faith Like Hers). I pray that all of us will learn to allow God to make good out of bad situations, be a refuge for people who are struggling with bitterness and live above our own circumstances, walking above the bitter seas with Jesus holding our hand.

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MARY cover PURPLE jpeg

The name Mary means sea of bitterness. Not just a little bitter; not bitterness in general. A whole sea of bitterness. I imagine that sea of bitterness is made up of tears. Why would a woman named Mary even want to live the meaning of that name?

Living the meaning of the name Mary can remind us that God can make good out of even bad situations. We can be a refuge for other people who are struggling or who are presently bitter in their own lives.

Also, just as Jesus walked on water, living the meaning of the name Mary can remind us that through the power of Jesus, we can walk above the sea of bitterness in our own lives. We may have it hard. We may not see any way out or around our troubles, but just as Jesus called out to Peter in the boat and just as Peter walked out in faith, we too can walk above that sea of bitterness. And unlike Peter, we can keep walking—through the power of Jesus. The challenge is to first step out in faith and then keep stepping forward toward Jesus.

When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple on the eighth day after He was born, Simeon told Mary she would know tears. Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her heart.

Yes, Jesus belonged to God. Jesus was God. But Jesus was Mary’s son, too. He was her baby boy—the little guy who smiled at her and cooed. She held His hands when He took His first step. He brought her dandelions He had picked in the field. And then, she stood at the foot of the cross and watched as His naked body hung there to die.

Mary must have shed a sea of tears.

But Mary’s tears were tears of grief; not tears of bitterness. She loved and trusted God that much. Tears of grief were evidence of her love. Tears of grief were tears God could heal. So she must have shed them freely for the little boy, grown man, God in human form, Jesus.

Mary’s tears were tears for her personal loss. What Jesus accomplished through His sacrifice though allowed everyone—not just Mary, but including her—to walk above the sea of bitterness in their lives, if they but come to the cross, call His name, and step out of the boat.

The point of why it is a good thing to live the meaning of the name Mary is that it shows the world the power of God in you to rise above circumstances. However deep that sea of bitterness is, living the meaning of the name means you don’t sink beneath the bitterness but have the power through Jesus to escape the bitterness, rise above it and quench your thirst with His sweet-tasting living water.

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Lord, I pray we will always remember that although things in life may be bitter, we are loved by a God who understands bitterness and can make good come out of every bad thing. I pray also that we will be a refuge for others who are trying to heal from their own bitterness; that we will be a healing sea for them. I pray that we will recall how you rose to walk on water at the Sea of Galilee. I pray that we will see that as an example that we, too—through the power of Jesus—can walk above our personal sea of bitterness and live in you and you in us. Amen.

Dec 01

FOR FAITH: 2 Timothy 1:7

 

2 Timothy 1 7

I love Paul’s letters to Timothy. His encouragement still encourages us 2000 years later. Like this verse.

2 Timothy 1:7

Nov 28

FOR READERS: A Christmas Promise

promiseNeed a sweet read to start the Christmas season? Don’t have a lot of time to sit in a chair? Try A Christmas Promise (A Christmas Holiday Extravaganza), by Tamera Lynn Kraft. It’s a short little novella about a family in the 1700s who share the Gospel with a tribe of Lenape Indians.
This novella gives the reader a lovely idea of what life was like back then. It is filled with interesting Christian traditions enjoyed by the group of Moravian Christians, which had its origins in Eastern Europe as an offshoot of Orthodox Christianity, becoming—some sources claim—the first Protestant church.
The interesting Christmas traditions of the Love Feast, decorating a “tree” (basically a wooden frame with cut evergreen boughs placed upon it) with hand written Scriptural verses and candles, and the various sweet treats eaten on Christmas day, enhance the simple story of trust in God’s promises. The characters are well developed and Kraft’s writing is strong.
There are multiple books with the title, A Christmas Promise but only one by Tamera Lynn Kraft. The cover is neatly tied with a red ribbon on top. It’s also just $.99 on Kindle, which makes it a nice little Christmas-time gift for yourself to enjoy.

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After you’ve read it, click on the tab “Carol’s Book Club” and tell us what you thought? What was your favorite character? Most touching moment? How did the book encourage your faith?

Nov 24

FOR FAITH: Giving Thanks

Philippians 4 6

Appropriate this Thanksgiving week.

 Appropriate for every other day, too.

Nov 21

FOR FAITH: Clear Direction…Sometimes

compassSometimes we ask God for clear direction. And sometimes He gives it.

Jim and I have wanted to sell our house, downsize and move to Idaho. We started this process by listing our house for sale in 2008. Then the housing market collapsed. We followed the market down for a few months and then concluded that the time to sell was not right.

We waited for the housing market to recover and then listed our house for sale again in 2011. We found a buyer, opened escrow and started packing. A week later, the buyers backed out. A week after that, our daughter and son-in-law asked if they could move in for a year, to save up to buy a home of their own.

The time to sell was evidently still not right.

The year came to an end. The kids started house hunting. We started sprucing up the place intending to list again but once more the kids asked for a bit longer. The market for them was still not right.

Last month, they bought a home of their own. This month our son was given the go ahead to move to Idaho and open a geology office. He’ll be gone before the end of the year.

All kids will be gone soon. And one kid will live in the state we intended to move to. Clear direction?

The house is on the market again. Maybe it’ll sell this time. Or maybe God will have a new idea. Either way, His will is perfect.

We have loved having our grown up wonderful adult kids live with us. We would have missed all that fun if we had determined to follow our own plans, instead of recognizing God’s clear direction.

Whatever God’s plan is…it’ll be awesome. Because God is awesome!

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Has there been a time in your life when God seemed to say “no” or “not yet” to your plan and the result was better than if you had plowed ahead?

 

 

Nov 17

FOR FAITH: The Lord’s Prayer

Lords prayerJesus taught us how to pray.

Even when we don’t know how to begin or what to say, we always have this one.

It’s always appropriate.

God always hears it.

Always understands it.

Then searches our hearts to find those prayers that sit unable to be put into words that human ears can hear.

Thank you, Jesus.

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