Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Miss Potter

MOVIE REVIEW
This little-known movie starring Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, and Emily Watson released in 2007. I always jump at the chance to see movies about literature/literary figures, and Miss Potter does not disappoint.

"Because you are fond of fairy tales," Beatrix Potter wrote to one of her favorite children in 1901, "I have made you a story all for yourself, a new one that nobody has read before." Now, more than 100 years later, Miss Potter has a new story to tell. More fairy tale than factual biopic, this movie is rife with all the delightful magic of one of Beatrix Potter's stories: lovable characters, gorgeous settings, strong period details, and an aura of enchantment.

Beatrix Potter, born into wealth, fought the disapproval of her high-society parents to do something so "crass" as publish a book. In addition, she fell in love with her publisher, Norman Warne. While Miss Potter jumps through Beatrix's life too quickly at times (it actually took Potter more than eight years to get published), nuanced and charming performances keep this movie engaging. Miss Potter makes for great family entertainment, which is hard to come by these days. Only a veiled sexual reference and a comedic moment of tipsiness are cause for caution. Understand, however, that Miss Potter is not "The Tale of Peter Rabbit." Creative animation techniques add a whimsical touch to Potter's drawings and are a fitting tribute to her endearing illustrations, but this live-action movie focuses most on Beatrix's story. Miss Potter is rated PG for brief mild language.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo

BOOK REVIEW
Written by a Wesleyan pastor from Nebraska, Heaven Is For Real is the story of four year old Colton's visit to heaven during an emergency appendectomy.  In it, Colton describes how he met a sister that his mother had miscarried, as well as his great-grandfather, who died 30 years before Colton was born.  Colton also tells his parents exactly where in the hospital each of them was while he was in the surgery.  None of these had been told to him previously.

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical when I decided to read the book because there are several books that have been written about out of body experiences that never seem to be quite believable.  However, this book was nothing like that.  When Colton tells his parents that the angels sang to him at the hospital, they embark on a journey of questions - over the course of several months - to figure out exactly what Colton experienced.  They phrased their questions in a way to avoid asking questions that would lead Colton to answer in a specific way, and didn't try to help him come up with the words to say in response.

As a person who works with preschoolers on a regular basis, I know that, while imaginative, this age group is not usually able to keep the details straight, especially when revisiting a topic after a period of time.  When discussing heaven, Colton is not only able to do this, but does so consistently.  This would indicate that he's talking based on a memory rather than a made-up story.  His frankness and matter-of-fact attitude also contribute to the credibility of his experience.

My favorite part of the book surrounds the game that came out of Colton's attempts to describe what Jesus looks like.  The family started pointing out pictures and Colton would say what wasn't right about it.  The eyes were the wrong color, the hair wasn't right and so on.  Then one day, Colton's dad reads an article about a little girl who also claimed to have had the same type of experience -also at age four- and had painted several pictures of what she had seen.  One of the pictures was of Jesus, so he called Colton into the office and showed him her painting and asked the usual question "What's wrong with this one?" and Colton said "Nothing."  Reading that, I got instant goosebumps.

The book is a quick read, due largely to the fact that you won't want to put it down until you're finished.  However, it is also a book that once you've read it, you'll want to go back and study it.  It will give you something to think about, that's for sure.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Man With The Cross

Last week we went to a larger city to walk around the mall and have some lunch. We also had an errand to run while we were there. This was on Tuesday. Tuesday turned out to be what my oldest child coined as the weirdest day ever.

It all started with the car ride there. It takes about twenty five minutes to get there so we have plenty of time to sing along with the radio or sing whatever happens to pop into our heads at the time. For me on this day it was the iCarly theme song. For my daughter on this day it was The Facts of Life theme song. This was at the same time in the car. My daughter looks over at me and I glance at her and she says “ Really mom? You are singing iCarly?” To which I respond something to the effect of, “Well I don't particular think the show is as great as The Facts of Life but you have to admit, the song is catchy.” It seems that it was a bit odd that I would be singing a song from her generation and she one from mine.

We arrive at the mall and everything goes along just fine. Although we did at one point have a conversation as to why we would not be eating our lunch in the snack shop at Target. The town we went to is packed with restaurants we don't have in the town we live closest to. I suppose to be fair we don't have a Target or a Target snack shop either, but I didn't drive almost a half an hour to eat in a snack shop. I didn't drive a half an hour to eat at Taco Bell either but after all the indecision and arguing over where we would eat, I gave up and gave in. Going against everything I had been taught as a child. My mother had a rule that if and when we went to another town with more choices, you could never eat at a place you had back home. A rule I strongly support and try to live by.

Lunch went along fine we got our errand run across town and were driving back to the mall to pick up a book that my daughter decided was worthy of spending her money on when what should we see? Walking down the highway on the side of the road there was a man carrying a cross. This was not a small cross one can hold in one's hand. This was a huge cross carried over his shoulder. This was very much a “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) kind of cross. This man had a tree of a cross he was carrying down the side of the road. We looked and we looked again, and we even looked again. I said, “well that gives new meaning to it don't you think?” All the kids could say was, “wow.” We had never seen anything like it. I have often wondered where he was going. How often he got stopped on his journey. What he said when asked what he was doing. I wonder how far he walked.

I'm not sure what he was doing. I'm not sure about the load he was carrying figuratively or physically. I only know that since that day I have wondered how big and heavy the cross each of us would have to carry. If some of us would have crosses that would be so weighed down we wouldn't be able to make it an inch much less down an entire highway by the side of the road. I have even had the thought that maybe no one else noticed it in their rush to and fro the places they were in a hurry to get to. I am only certain that I saw it because my children saw it too, for in this day and age it could have been a mirage to see such a sight. I wonder if he was asked to do it or if he volunteered.

I wonder what your thoughts would have been had you seen the man with the cross that day. Would you take up your cross and follow Him? I have been reading my One Year bible and my Daily Guidepost this year. I pray and long to do His will every day in everything I do. Even when I'm doing everyone's laundry or mopping the floor I tell myself that I am not doing it for those who won't help clean it, I'm doing it for God because this is what I've been called to do. I then feel better and know that I'm in the exact place that I'm supposed to be in this time of my life. But I wondered after seeing the man with the cross, what he knew that I didn't. What journey of discovery was he on that led him to where he was that summer day. I suppose it's not for me to know. All I know is this: I don't know where he was going, and I know not his load. But the sight of the man carrying the cross alongside the highway is one I won't soon forget.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Music Never Got Saved...

I was just thinking recently about how I have changed as a Christ-follower over the course of my life… I had certain opinions as a high school and college student that have evolved and changed over the years. The very first thing I think of when I reflect on how I’ve changed deals with my opinion on “secular” music: I remember, in high school, making fun of my Christian friends for listening to anything ‘secular.’ In fact, I remember very clearly watching a U2 video with one of my friends and making fun of Bono… making fun of the lyrics… even making fun of my friend, who was clearly demented for watching this weird group perform.

It wasn’t really until college that I began to appreciate the fact that God could teach me lessons and truths… even from the ‘heathen side’ of the music industry. I daresay that God has revealed Himself to me more through the music of U2 then He ever did through Geoff Moore and the Distance or groups similar to them… (I’ll explain later) I remember encountering resistance when I initially started listening to various groups that didn’t sell their CD’s in the Family Bookstore.

I remember, when I was a Junior in college, being asked to turn off U2 while working the front desk at old Williams Hall at IWU, because a girl who was in the lobby had made a commitment to not listen to any secular music. It was then that I got a taste of my own ‘high school medicine.’ Christians who went out of their way to make other Christians feel bad or lesser because they hadn’t committed to the same standards of ‘holiness.’ Or worse yet, Christians who went out of their way to force other Christians to commit to their personal standards of ‘holiness.’

Here’s the thing that infuriated me most about that girl in the lobby that day: She was the one to make the commitment, right? Shouldn’t she have been the one to leave? Why punish everyone else for a commitment you made? When I fast for a day… I don’t force my family, or my co-workers, or ANYONE… to NOT eat as long as I’m not eating. I am not condemning her decision to make the commitment… that is honorable if it helps her become a better lover of God and people… but I was angry that she tried to force her commitment on ME.

Ok, I really got off on a rant about that. The main issue is that my take on music has changed drastically. Labels like ‘secular’ and ‘Christian’ really don’t mean much to me anymore. As the worship pastor at my home said once in a sermon about worship: “Music either honors God or it doesn’t honor God… but just a word: Music never got saved…” I loved that statement: Why do we call it ‘Christian’? It never got saved.

Mind you, there is plenty of garbage out there… plenty of it. There is good music with terribly offensive lyrics. We should avoid that. On the flip side, many of the ‘Christian’ groups are putting out music that isn’t very good, along with lyrics that aren’t even close to being thought-provoking…

I guess I’ve learned to look for the music that is authentic and thought-provoking. Some people might take offense if they heard the U2 song entitled ‘Wake Up, Dead Man.’ Here’s a sample for you:

Jesus, I'm waiting here, boss
I know you're looking out for us
But maybe your hands aren't free
Your father, he made the world in seven
He's in charge of Heaven
Will you put a word in for me

Wake up, wake up dead man
Wake up, wake up dead man

Jesus, were you just around the corner
Did you think to try and warn her
Or are you working on something new
Is there an order in all of this disorder
Is it like a tape recorder
Can we rewind it just once more

Wake up, wake up dead man
Wake up, wake up dead man

If I had heard this in high school… I would have flipped my lid. Now, I look at it and realize: This is how real people think. If you are in the midst of deep pain and hurt… an honest response is: God, where are you in all of this? Wake up! Hear me!

If you disagree with me… as a last resort, I would point you towards the Psalms: Check out Psalm 10:1 “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Or how about Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” Statements like this are riddled throughout the Psalms. I value the honesty found there. We should just admit that sometimes we have questions. There’s no shame in that. I’ve also found out something about God: Sometimes He answers our questions... sometimes He doesn’t… but he ALWAYS hears them… and He never shies away from them… there is no question that scares Him.

That’s just one example of how listening to ‘secular’ music has helped me understand a certain truth about God. My take on music has changed drastically since high school… and I’m really, really glad. I’m not sure how much I would have gleaned from only listening to certain cheesy ‘Christian’ lyrics that aren’t always honest, authentic, or even realistic…

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Revolt of 2020 by Dr. Patrick Johnston


BOOK REVIEW
I am generally a reader of historical fiction, but my dad asked me to read this book, so I decided to give it a try even though it is not my normal favored genre. I was actually surprised by the fact that the content was more captivating than I expected it to be. Even though it is outside my pleasure reading mindset, I very much enjoyed reading the book and even felt challenged by it. That's not too bad for a work of fiction, is it?

The Revolt of 2020 by Dr. Patrick Johnston is a futuristic novel which takes it plot from social, political and spiritual issues that have plagued our nation for decades. Abortion, assisted suicide and homosexuality are themes that run throughout the book. The main characters in this novel (which, incidentally is the first of a trilogy) are pro-life to the extreme, and their intensity of approach takes them to the front steps of abortion clinics and protest rallies across the nation. These Christian fundamentalist protagonists are contrasted with extreme left, socialist characters throughout the book which makes for an intense storyline.

When the building in which the President of the United States is speaking is suddenly blown up during an explosion at a Reproductive Rights rally, the plot takes a turn that causes these protagonists to become public enemy #1 in a situation in which they are presumed guilty even though there is no evidence of their involvement. The Vice President is sworn into office as the new President of the country, and it becomes clear that her socialist regime is ready to take over the country.

Throughout the novel you will find plot twists that involve possible state secession, hostile government take-overs, unjust laws passed for the benefit of the masses resulting in the removal of rights for the individual, rioting, arrests, and more. Does any of that sound familiar? Prophetic maybe? 

While this novel is fiction, it clearly takes its roots in possible future events. I found myself wondering how much of this could and would come true for our country. I found myself challenged and wondering what my role should be in the fight to protect the unborn citizens of our country. Have I been too passive in my approach? Have I done enough? Have any of us done enough?

Obviously, you can tell that this book will make you think. It will do this while captivating you with the twists and turns. I won't say that everything in the novel is 100% believable or that I agree with some of the intentional stereotyping of characters that is thrown about here and there, but I found the book to be interesting and thought-provoking. If you read it, drop me a comment so that I can hear what you have to say!

As far as I know, this book is not yet available in book stores, but you can find it at Amazon.com by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Divine Disgruntlement

First off, I checked with the dictionary, and disgruntlement is actually a word.  I didn't want someone to be so bothered by the title that the rest of the post is lost in pondering the validity of a word - because I know if it were me, that's what would happen.

My definition of "divine disgruntlement" is this - an inexplicable turn of events that causes the status quo to change so that one is more likely to say "yes" to something that would otherwise never have been given any thought.  This definition would also fit the dictionary entries for "Kristin's current life situation."  Allow me to explain.

During the month of April, I was offered and accepted, the opportunity to head up the preschool ministry at Waterline.  I absolutely adore the preschool age group and have enjoyed every moment I have spent with the kids.  However, here lately, I'd been feeling quite out of the loop.  I started the month of May super psyched at the direction Waterline's Family Minsitry was going to be heading and thrilled that I'd get to have a hand in shaping the direction.  I lost a few volunteers along the way due to reasons that caused me to roll my eyes, but I was ok with.  The thing about leading preschoolers is that the attitude has to be right, and I'd rather be super short staffed than have volunteers who aren't passionate about preschool kids.

At the end of May I went on vacation, and missed a ministry team meeting. This was not unexpected; I had already stated when the meeting date was set that I was going to be out of state. June then started the disgruntlement. I didn't get an email with any meeting details.  I missed the next meeting because I forgot it was taking place, and didn't get a reminder until about 10 minutes beforehand.  The reminder noted that we were to have read the first two chapters of a book to be able to discuss it.  I hadn't read the book, didn't even know where the book might have been to even skim the chapters, and would have been so late to the meeting that I didn't go.  The next email I got was to discuss what food to bring to the training session that was coming up.  No info on when or where.  I didn't get those details until the rest of the church did - the Friday before the training date. 

I started to tell my husband that the lack of communication was alarming to me because May saw more communication go through the Family Ministry team than February-April combined.  Suddenly, I was out of the loop, and rather annoyed about it. I also didn't really have the "want-to" to be the one to initiate the contact regarding what I had missed.  The night of the email with the necessary details, I went over to a friend's house to help figure out what was going wrong with our label printing process, and while working on that, totally destroyed it.  That prompted me to have to call my pastor's wife to ask if she had the original documents she used to set up the label printing process.  She hooked me up with the necessary information, then said "When we hang up, can you please call John's phone? He has something he'd like to talk to you about."  (Side note: after working on the project at home, I determined that I hadn't messed anything up at all, just did one thing out of order and didn't realize it which caused it to appear like I had messed it up.  Aren't computers wonderful?)

What John wanted to say floored me.  He asked me to join the finance team at the church.  Don't get me wrong, I feel as though I have the right qualifications...a bachelor's degree in accounting (soon to have an information systems major added), and an MBA with emphases in management and accounting.  What floored me even after the inital offer was my first thought: "I can't help with the church finances and run the preschool room at the same time."  I promised to pray for 3 days about it, although the moment John mentioned it, I knew it was what I was to be doing to serve the church.  I letJohn know I am accepting the offer on the stipulation that I not also be the preschool director, but that I can remain as a bi-weekly volunteer, because I LOVE those kids.  They energize me, even when they're throwing punches at each other.  I would never have thought that I would be willing to instantly turn that position over, but I will be doing just that.

To think that all I needed was to miss a couple meetings, and feel out of the loop for about three weeks, for something major to change.  Well, all that, and a big case of divine disgruntlement.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes

BOOK REVIEW
I have a problem. Actually I'm not sure it's an actual problem. I guess I will just spit it out. I live in the YA section of the book store. Most recently I read Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. I wasn't sure how this book would be. It was a free book on the nook from the Barnes and Noble website. Sometimes the free books aren't very good, but sometimes like in this case you are pleasantly surprised.

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes follows Ginny as she backpacks through Europe. Her aunt has sent her thirteen blue envelopes with instructions to only open one at a time. She has to complete the first task before she can open the next envelope and find out where she is to go next on her journey.

I found this book to be quite exciting. I couldn't wait to see where we would be going next. As always when I read a book, I feel as though I am there. I am going to all of these places with her. We started out in New York at her aunt's former apartment. We then journey to London with only the things that can be carried in a backpack. We get to visit Scotland, Denmark, Amsterdam, Paris, and Greece. We meet a lot of new people along the way and get a new crush.

I think most of all we grow. Ginny is seventeen years old and traveling alone in foreign countries. She learns about her aunt's life as well as her own. Perhaps that's why I enjoy the YA section so much. It reminds me that we are all growing. We are all on an adventure. Maybe we aren't all backpacking across Europe, but to be sure, this thing we call life. Is a great adventure.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mackinac Island

Isolated by the cool, deep waters of Lake Huron, quieted by a simpler way of life, nothing moves faster than a well-oiled bike or one of the many horse and carriages. As a kid I was always fascinated by Mackinac Island: a small island tucked among the great dark waves just east of the Mackinac Bridge that caters to tourists in Northern Michigan during the summertime. No cars are allowed on the island. Residents and visitors alike must rely on walking, bikes or horses to get where they're going. Like many tourist destinations, Mackinac Island is not immune to its share of gift shops and tourist traps, but it's the purer way of life on the island that's embedded in my mind from many childhood visits, not the countless plastic toys that I collected from my trips.

Trips to the island always began with a short drive from my parent's cottage to the dock for the Shepler's Ferry boats in Mackinaw City. Even in the middle of the summer, the wind coming off the vast water is cool and brisk on an early Michigan morning. My brother and I would stand huddled together on the bulky wooden dock trying to gather our nylon jackets more completely around our t-shirts and shorts. We stood fascinated, watching the crew of the massive ferry boat get her ready for one of her many trips to the island as she bobbed heavily in the water. With the call of “All aboard!” my brother and I urged my parents to quickly get in line so we'd get what we considered the most coveted seats. Forgetting the cold breeze, we'd dash up the stairs to the upper deck and run for the bow of the boat. For the twenty minute ride, we'd lean our faces into the rushing air as the powerful motors pushed us over the water. We squealed with delight as the boat collided with larger waves, sending sprays of water onto our numb and rosy cheeks. The boat skipped and bumped over the rolling black waves until we rounded the old lighthouse and the captain gently glided us into the still bay of Mackinac Island.

The greatest thing about Mackinac Island, is that it forces all adults to be childlike in some ways. Adults, many like young children first learning the skill, wobble and sway trying to get the hang of riding a bike instead of relying on their very convenient car. Cruise control, GPS, satellite radio and a steaming cup of coffee in the cup holder as they half pay attention to their morning commute is a completely different world than the same adult giggling on a bike teetering barely upright down the street. The island has a multitude of shops that rent bikes, all located mostly at the most populated part of the island: Main Street. Main Street overflows with bike traffic and on this crowded street is where most adults nervously test the old adage whether one really never does forget how to ride a bike. Stores on Main Street have racks to park your bikes, instead of parking spaces. Once my family and I rented our bikes we usually tried to escape this hot and crowded stretch of pavement as quickly as possible and make our way to the less populated parts of the island on a leisurely eight mile bike trail along the coast that circumnavigates the island. As kids we felt set free to be let loose on such a huge stretch of road dedicated almost solely to riding bikes. There was so much more room than the driveway we were accustomed to riding up and down! Just off from shore, we'd spend the better part of the morning riding with the wind in our hair, racing and laughing. Making our way back to Main Street we usually needed a brief retreat from the noonday sun after our long ride.

Nestled in a quiet shopping arcade in the cool, shaded lobby of the Lilac Tree Inn, away from the Main Street's long line of souvenir/junk shops, sits the oasis of The Island Bookstore. I'm not sure how old I was when I first ducked through the doors of the small shop looking for some respite from the sunshine. Instead of being bombarded by post card kiosks, mounds of fudge and plastic tom-a-hawks (along with just about any other cheap plastic trinket made in China), I was greeted by solemn, orderly rows of bookshelves, overflowing with stacks of brand new handsome hardcovers and crisp paperbacks and the inviting smell of newly printed books. In addition to the requisite copy of the movie “Somewhere in Time,” (which is about the island and filmed on the island) the Island Bookstore is always filled with fictional stories set on the island and histories about the island, including Lake Huron and the great ships that sail and have sunk in the icy waters of the great lakes. I've always loved reading, but something about the simpler way of life on the island causes me to crave the bright white pages with clear bold type with even more fervor.

Our stay usually ended with a trip to our favorite fudge store where the air always hangs heavy with the smell of boiling sugar. Noses pressed against the glass, my brother and I would make the agonizing decision of which of many flavors of fudge to choose from the dozens of choices. Package in hand, along with my book from the bookstore, my family and I would ride our bikes to the nearby beach. The beach was made of various sizes of white rocks that had been worn smooth by the powerful waves of the great lake. The stones were cool and smooth under us as we sat. The rest of the afternoon was usually spent looking for the elusive “Petoskey” stones, trying to “skip” stones across the water (an actual sport on the Island) and briefly wading into the frigid waters onto that stones that had grown slippery with dark green algae, screaming at the shock and carefully making our way back to dry sun-warmed rocks of the beach. As the sun began to lower in the sky, we'd regretfully make our way back to the boat docks. My family and I would watch the hulking black carp lumbering under the great shady dock as we waited for the boat to take us back to the mainland. The trip back always seemed much shorter than the ride to the island. I'd usually make the ride, eyes closed against the wind, and hands possessively protecting my treasure from the book store, rocked by the mammoth waves, and I dreamed of the island as the boat transported me back to the real world.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A New Scorecard

As a pastor, I’m always reading books. I try to read as much as possible about the church…new trends, what progressive churches are doing, and how the church can relate to our culture. Some folks don’t like that very much because they think people ought to relate to the church instead of the other way around but that’s a subject for another blog.

What I’ve noticed lately is that there’s a lot of talk about using a “new scorecard” in the church. In other words, the advice is to reevaluate how we measure success. I happen to agree with that because for too long we’ve been measuring the wrong things. For example, churches have measured things like how many people read their Bible each week, instead of evaluating how many lives are impacted by reading the Bible. In some ways we’ve measured how spiritually “sterile” we’ve been able to make the church by attracting other folks who are just like us. Perhaps we should be trying to spiritually diversify the church by reaching folks who aren’t quite as religious as we are, or at least as religious as we think we are. Leonard Sweet has suggested in his marvelous book, “So Beautiful” that we are making progress when we see more cigarette butts in the parking lot…not less!

As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking that perhaps those of us who call ourselves “Christ-followers” should be thinking about a new scorecard too. I’ve been trying to figure out lately how I can impact more people who are in need, instead of how I can accumulate more stuff. Instead of a newer car, I’ve been trying to figure out how I can make a car I recently received from my dad last long enough to free up enough money to employ some homeless men to do work around my house. My wife and I have seriously been thinking about downsizing, maybe to the point of selling our home and using the equity to pay cash for a very small place so that we are not tied down with debt enabling us to be able to respond to God’s call whenever and whatever it is.

I think it’s important to reevaluate what we call success. It’s important to think eternally instead of temporally. I’m trying to reinvent my personal scorecard. What about you?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Three Weeks with My Brother by Nicholas and Micah Sparks

Book Review
Three Weeks with My Brother
By Nicholas Sparks and Micah Sparks

          Sometimes, you pick up a random book and start reading it, and find that maybe it wasn’t so random after all…that is what happened with “Three Weeks”. 

          I was at my in laws and picked it up.  The kids weren’t there, I couldn’t turn their TV on and I was bored.  Knowing that I LOVED “The Notebook” I decided to pick up this story by Sparks.
          “Three Weeks” is a memoir about Nicholas and his brother Micah and their trip around the world that they took together.  Interspersed with the stories of the trip are memories of their childhood.  These stories are what drew me in from the first chapter.  Born a middle child, with an older brother and younger sister, I found my own children reflected and saw a chance to learn something about how my Elijah may feel as he grew up. 
          I learned how, even at 4 years old, Elijah is feeling the effects of being the middle child, and discerned how I may be able to start helping him now…as well as the things that I SHOULDN’T do through the years. 
          Just as I thought I had learned all that I could from this novel, Sparks’s writes about his own beginning of his novel writing career.  “The Notebook”, the book that thrust Sparks onto the national scene, was his third novel that he had written.   He talks about the struggle of writing, of finding a literary agent, and getting it picked up.  He talks about the elation of the moment he found out it was picked up by Warner Books, and doing his first interviews.  He also talks about how, during the taping of his first TV interview, he got a phone call that his Father had died in a car accident. 
          For me, as a writer, it was interesting to read about someone who is very successful write about the struggle to get there.  So many times it seems like someone is #1 overnight…but rarely do you hear about the YEARS it took to get there! 
          This is a book that will show you that family and living life to the fullest is more an important than anything.
           

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Making Love a Verb

This week my husband and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. We started dating 13 years ago. Wow! It is a date that I will always treasure, an event that will always be cherished personally; but, in this day and age, it's a somewhat monumental achievement. We live in a society that tells us, "If it's difficult and turns into work, then you're not with the right person. Start over." We want to believe in the fairy tale of love and not face the reality that sometimes it's 70% choice and 30% feeling. Conversely, we see people who have "stayed together," but they're barely sharing a life let alone sharing their hearts. In my current Sunday school class we are studying Andy Stanley's marriage series "Staying in Love For Life." Staying in love; keeping that fluttering, humming, thrilling emotion alive and well over 20, 30, 40+ years. What a challenge!

I was particularly struck this past weekend by Andy's statement, "Make love a verb." We definitely think of love as a thing or a feeling most of the time; it's not often that I stop to consider it as an action -- What can I do today to show Rich that I love him and I'm thinking of him first? Now, the obvious thought among spouses is probably sex. But let's think of that as an expression of love and keep it separate from doing for our spouse. What can I do? I will admit that my first inclination is to cry, "But I already do almost everything anyway!" I am a stay-at-home mom, so I do the household chores, the meals, the errands;take care of, play with, and teach our two girls; I try to be involved at church; I'm starting a part-time job at a local dinner theater; and I have a home business. Just looking at that can make me tired if I let it. However, I need to keep some perspective. My husband serves us every day by going to work, working with integrity, and being the provider for our family. We would have no means in this world and no place to live if he did not take care of us in this way. When he comes home, he focuses his attention on me and the girls, he does yard work and projects, and he takes part in our nightly routine with the girls. I could balk at the idea of adding another chore to my score-keeping list, or I could choose to be joyful about lightening my husband's load. It's all about perspective and attitude.

In Ephesians 5 Paul talks about submitting, and we love to get all up in arms about that -- don't we? However, pay particular attention to verse 21: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." It's not about inequality; it's about equality. It's not about lording a position over another; it's about following the example set by our Lord. If I am putting Richard first and he is putting me first, we can experience the true joy of trusting and serving each other. But this is not easy. In fact, it is downright excruciating sometimes. But every good thing in our lives is worth working for. I believe one of the greatest gifts that we can give our children is the example of a godly, loving marriage. I believe that is a large part of what will equip them emotionally for their own personal relationships.

So how do you do it? Where do you start? I will challenge you with the same challenge that I was given in Sunday school yesterday. Read Philippians 2:3-8. Study it. Put it into action every day this week:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 'Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!'
This seems like an insurmountable task, so do it like I'm going to do it: one day at a time, one service at a time. First comes the action, then comes the feeling. Love and joy are waiting to flood your heart and your marriage. Let's open up to it, and become a verb!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

God IS in Control!

We never understand why we go through life the way we do.  We have days where we just can't seem to get out of bed.  We have those that are so jam-packed full that when it's over we don't even remember what we did.  Death occurs to someone close to us.  Sometimes regret follows and even further we find ourselves blaming ourselves for what happened.

Maybe it's as simple as you put orange juice in your cereal.  Or perhaps you put cereal in the dog food bowl.  But it's obvious that life doesn't go the way we have it planned, does it?

I want you to know that a little over four years ago I was fired from my job.  I was basically escorted out within 30 minutes of learning about this.  I was driven home in a car that had been provided with paid insurance, gas, etc.  I had to enter my apartment.  I had to speak to my wife those words that so many dread.  While my wife held my youngest son, barely three weeks old, in her arms.  We had a house still for sale in Indiana.  We had rent to pay in Wisconsin.  We had a car payment that was way too high than we could afford.  We had close to $10,000 or more in credit card debt.  I got a little severance, but there was nothing really to move back to Indiana.  We loved Wisconsin.  We really didn't want to leave.

It came to the point within those next six months that our cupboards became bare.  Our church family stepped in and a farmer filled our freezer full with pork and beef.  But then we went through that.  One night in desperation when we had no money for food.  No money to pay bills.  I sent out an email to two very important families who are dear friends to us.  Amy and I fought hard against each other.  We tried to cling, but hated the mess we were in.  It was my fault.  The weight bore down upon my shoulders like you wouldn't believe.  But then checks came in the mail from people I had worked with.  People I wouldn't have dreamed would even consider helping me.  Bags of groceries were placed on our doorstep.  Then came a wired transfer to us from friends who really didn't have it, but who were being obedient to God.  It was the money to move back to Indiana.

We drove the truck home in the middle of the night.  We came back to a house cleaned and cupboards full from a wonderful church family.  There was a good group of people to help us unload the truck.  And then in a freak kind of accident my wife was bitten on the mouth by a dog.  Mouth full of blood...I rushed her to the hospital.  Meanwhile this same church family unloaded our entire truck.  They put us up in a hotel for two nights.  They cared for us when we might not even deserved it.  And somehow mysteriously that ER bill never made it to our mailbox.

Within a week we had found some work, but no where near enough to pay bills.  Then slowly and by the Grace of God we began the process of being restored.  Never once did we stop giving to God our tithe.  He continued to give and restore.  He continued to heal and show mercy.  And because of Him we no longer have credit card debt.  We no longer have car payments.  But more importantly, we have a stronger faith.  A stronger relationship with each other....and especially with Him.

Now...our story might seem like a drop in the bucket to what our world is going through.  To those people in Japan...Alabama....Joplin, Missouri.  The truth of the matter?  No matter where we are at in our lives.  No matter what we've been through or are now entering into.

God IS in CONTROL!  He loves us!  He loves us so much that He gave His ONE and ONLY son to die.  Jesus Christ took our place!

I want to thank The Dills for this song and video.  For it is an excellent reminder that we didn't choose Him first...He...Chose....Us!  And if we allow Him to do it...He WILL embrace us with his mighty arms of love.




Monday, June 13, 2011

Poetry From The Past

Way back when....

Okay, I don't believe I'm THAT old yet!  Anyway, when I was in high school and even into my freshman year of college, I loved writing poems.  There were weeks where I would write and write.  It seemed I would never stop.  Well, unfortunately, I haven't written a poem in four years.  So I like to go back to those days when I enjoyed writing.

Here are a few of those from long, long ago....

ALL THAT MATTERS

A tear trickles down my cheek,
As I have said the last words of my heart
There, it's over, now she knows
That's all that matters.
Just like her happiness.
If she isn't happy with me
Then I'll find someone for her.
Trouble is, what happens when I do.
Well, my friend, I found someone
He's great for her and I know it's right
If it is, how comes my heart is hurting.
Please someone stop this pain
I know that there are more fish in the sea
But, she has taken my heart
For the best swim ever imagined.
I know what is right
All that matters is what makes her happy.
If that's all that matters
Then why am I crying?  


EMPTY SCRIPTS FILLED WITH EMPTY DREAMS

It's time for me to make my exit,
This play has almost come to it's end.
Soon the curtain call will happen
And I will be tossed away
Just like the garbage from yesterday.
It's okay, I'm used to it.
Only trouble is, is this;
The two are in love, that's good.
But, their story will keep going,
While my short time is finished here.
There will be another play,
And another couple who will fall in love.
All too soon will it disappear
With me holding the empty scripts,
Having to start all over again.
Each time I feel a piece of me taken.
One day, there will be nothing left to take.



TODAY IS IMPORTANT

I am happy with what God
gave to me today,

The winter snow, the bright sky,
the open landscape.

I am happy with what God
gave to me today,

A gentle smile, a soft touch,
a simple song of beauty.

I am happy with what God
gave to me today,

A warm heart filled with bubbling joy
and even a quiet afternoon
.
And even though trials may come,
With each and every tomorrow.

I will still be happy with what God
gave to me today.

Because a tomorrow isn't important
until it becomes another today.