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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

book review: "beneath the night tree" by nicole baart

Julia not only readily admits to being a part of a patchwork family but finds comfort in it. Julia, her grandmother, son and younger brother all live on a farm in Mason, Iowa. But she can feel her world slowly starting to crumble. Her ten-year-old brother is quickly becoming a teenager, still grieving his mother walking out on him over five years ago. Her grandmother isn’t getting younger and the fact that she will one day be gone scares Julia. She loves her five-year-old son but wonders if she’s doing enough? She and her boyfriend have been dating for five years but she wants more. With him living six hours away, time together is limited. When he finally proposes, Julia wants to be excited but finds herself feeling as if something’s missing. Complicating things further is the entrance of her son’s father. She hasn’t seen him since she told him she was pregnant. What could he want? Why is he coming into her life now?

I give this book five stars! I’ve not read any other books by Baart but I’m definitely adding her to my “to read” list. She writes in such a way that I’m able to instantly identify with Julia and experience her highs and lows with her. The story moved at such a pace to keep me interested, wondering what would happen next. I really liked Parker, Daniel’s father. He was introduced in such a way that I wasn’t sure if he’d be a “bad guy” or not but his role soon became apparent. I enjoyed Baart’s sense of humor and I now want to make my own night tree :-).

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

coming up: april

March is quickly winding down and April will be here by the end of the week. I'm looking ahead to next month and what will be happening on my blog.


Book reviews:

Grandma's Attic and More Stories from Grandma's Attic by Arletta Richardson

True Courage by Steve Farrar

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter

Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs

Every Single Woman's Battle by Shannon Ethridge


I'll be having another giveaway also. I already have the books picked out but I just can't bring myself to reveal the titles just yet (though it is more than one).


I fully intend to post some recipes and share my randomness as well. It's going to be a busy month!

Monday, March 28, 2011

book review: "lady in waiting" by susan meissner

Jane Lindsay manages an antique shop in Manchester, New York. She had thought her life was going fine until her husband tells her he’s taken a job in New Hampshire…without her. He says he needs some space and some time to think. Jane struggles to understand why her husband left and what she’s to do with her life without him in it. She comes across a ring among some things to sell in her store. But this isn’t just any ring. It’s several hundred years old and she believes it might have belonged to Lady Jane Grey. What makes the ring even more interesting is that the name “Jane” is inscribed inside it. Can she and her husband work things out? And who did the ring really belong to?

I’ve not read any other books by Meissner so I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I enjoyed the book. I liked how she switched from telling Jane Lindsay’s story to the story of the ring and then back again. I was a little disappointed that more wasn’t said as to Jane’s marriage. It ends on the note that they will work things out but I would have liked more concrete proof of that – I like happy endings. Overall, a good read and I’ll definitely add her other books to my “to read” list.

I received a copy of this book from Waterbrook Press and all opinions are my own.

Click here for more info on the book. You can also rank my review on Waterbrook's Blogging for Books program by clicking below.

Friday, March 25, 2011

recipe: cookies and cream peanut butter

I found this recipe at Picky Palate and modified it just a tad. Here's the recipe with my adjustments in red:
  • 10 whole oreos (15 oreos)
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter (18 oz. jar)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips (I bought a 12 oz. bag and used 1/3 of it)
  • 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I bought a 12 oz. bag and used 2/3 of it )
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • chocolate almond bark
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
Crush oreos into small pieces (I didn't chop mine up into too small pieces - I wanted to actually taste the texture of them) and place into a large bowl. Add 2 cups peanut butter. Mix in chocolate chips. Place white chips and 2 tablespoons peanut butter into a double boiler and stir until melted (I cheated and used the microwave). Add to bowl of oreos and peanut butter. Stir just a little so you have a bit of swirls of chocolate throughout. Place peanut butter into a jar or eat from the bowl. I rolled the mixture into balls and then drizzled in chocolate. First I put it into the freezer to harden just a bit and then scooped into small balls, rolling them in powdered sugar to help me shape them. I put them in the fridge for a few hours to chill and then melted the almond bark with the shortening (it helps make the chocolate thinner and smoother). I actually poured the chocolate over the "dough" but you could dip them as well.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

book review: "the invisible world" by anthony destefano

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:

Doubleday Religion (March 15, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Anthony DeStefano, a best-selling author and businessman, was raised in New York City where he attended Stuyvesant High School. He graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University in Staten Island with a degree in Philosophy/Theology and went on to start a successful chain of electronics retail stores in New York. At the same time, he also began his writing career, writing a regular op-ed column for the Staten Island Advance.

While his business success grew, so did his love and skill for writing. In 2003, DeStefano’s first book, A Travel Guide to Heaven, was published. First released by Doubleday, the book became a bestseller and went on to be published in 16 languages and released by Random House Audio, Transworld Publishers in the United Kingdom, as well as major publishing houses in Europe, Asia, and South America. Four years later, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To was published by Doubleday, and, in 2010, This Little Prayer of Mine and Little Star, DeStefano’s highly acclaimed children’s books, were published by WaterBrook Multnomah.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The mystery of a spiritual world has intrigued us for ages. Is there a reality that exists beyond the senses? And can an invisible spiritual world actually become visible? Best-selling author Anthony DeStefano answers yes with certainty. The Invisible World: Understanding Angels, Demons, and the Spiritual Realities That Surround Us explores the existence and meaning of this unseen, yet very real world.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Religion (March 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385522231
ISBN-13: 978-0385522236



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Haunt Detector

Everybody has one. The Reverend Frank Pavone used to call it the Haunt Detector. What is it?


Very simply, it’s the little alarm that goes off in our heads whenever we detect that something mysterious or supernatural has occurred. Science fiction and horror writers have referred

to it by other names— the sixth sense, the shining. But for some reason, I’ve always liked “haunt detector” best.


We actually have all kinds of “detecting” mechanisms built into our nervous systems. They don’t have fancy scientific names, but they exist nonetheless. For instance, we all have “lie detectors.” When someone who’s not very slick tries to scam us, we’re usually able to tell just from their body language and their voice. We all have “love detectors.” We can just feel it in our bones when someone has deep feelings of attachment for us—or when they don’t. We all have “right and wrong” detectors—better known as consciences. When we do something not quite right, we know it because we feel an unmistakable pang of guilt. And, of course, we all have “sex detectors,” which let us know pretty quickly when we’re physically attracted to another person.


Well, we all have “haunt detectors,” too. And they let us know whenever something especially eerie or out of the ordinary is happening around us. You know the kind of thing. You could be

sitting around relaxing one day at home, and for no special reason you start thinking about someone. Maybe you haven’t thought about this particular person in years. Then the phone

rings; you pick it up, and, amazingly, it’s that person! Many of us have experienced this phenomenon. What is it?


I’ll never forget something that happened to my mother many years ago. It was the middle of the night and she was sleeping soundly. Suddenly she woke up and bolted upright in bed. She had heard the sound of her own mother’s voice calling out to her in a thick Italian accent: “Laura, Laura, help me.” My mother was startled and her heart was racing; she had clearly heard her name spoken. But it couldn’t be her mother calling; she lived on the other side of Brooklyn, and it was so late. My mother thought that perhaps it was just a bad dream so she went back to sleep. But the next morning she received a phone call from the hospital. Her mother had gotten up to go to the bathroom during the night and had fallen. She was in the hospital with a broken hip. For hours she had been on the floor, moaning for help. How in the world did my mother hear her?

Was it just a coincidence?


Then there are stories that are totally unexplainable. I read a newspaper account a few years ago about a four-year-old girl in upstate New York who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The whole community had been praying fervently for her. All the churches in the neighborhood—Lutheran, Evangelical, Catholic—were all united in prayer that a miracle would take place. The little girl had been through so much: she’d had more than twenty MRIs, and it was decided that the only remaining course of action was brain surgery. She wasn’t even expected to make it through the operation, but it was the only chance she had. The day of the surgery her head was shaved, her blood was taken, she was hooked up to all kinds of machines, and the team of doctors scrubbed and put on their surgical gowns. One final MRI had to be done to determine the exact location of the tumor. Just before the child was wheeled into the testing room, a sweet, pretty young nurse came in and took her hand. She told the little girl not to worry because she was “all better,” that God had “cured” her and that she would be going home soon. The little girl later said that the nurse was so nice to her and so “beautiful” that she felt all warm and peaceful inside.


When the MRI was taken, the lab technicians gasped in disbelief. No matter how hard they searched, they couldn’t locate the tumor. They took more tests, but the results were the same. The tumor was gone. No surgery was performed that day—or any day—because there was nothing to operate on. The little girl was completely healed. What happened? And who was the mysterious woman who came in and told the girl she was cured? None of the other nurses could identify her and no one ever saw her again. Was she an angel, as some in the little girl’s family believed? No one knows for sure. But everyone, from the doctors to the lab technicians to the parents to the people in the community, was aware that something incredible had taken place. Everyone’s haunt detectors went off at once.


Of course, not all mysterious experiences are as strange as this. A person’s haunt detector can begin registering at any time. You can be listening to a powerful piece of music or watching a spectacular sunset; reading a particularly moving piece of literature or worshipping at church. You can be embracing the person you love most in the world or sitting in your home, cozy and warm by the fire. Or you can just be walking down the street thinking about all the things in your life that have brought you to where you are. You can be doing any of these things, and out of nowhere a tingle will suddenly run up your spine, telling you that something more is going on than meets the eye. Something that transcends understanding.


What is it? No one really knows. But it invariably triggers a feeling deep in your soul— a feeling of desire, of yearning, of hope; hope that there is something special about life; that there is some hidden meaning and purpose to all the suffering we have to go through; that there is something beyond science, beyond the senses—something totally invisible yet totally real. In Latin, the experience is called mysterium tremendum et fascinans. And our haunt detectors can sense it.


Of course, we have to be careful when trying to discern the meaning of such feelings and phenomena. Spiritual people are sometimes too quick to attribute the cause of strange occurrences to God; they’re too hasty in coming to the conclusion that just because something seems unexplainable it must have a divine or supernatural origin. That simply isn’t the case. Many amazing things that happen in this world aren’t “miraculous” at all. It’s a fact, for example, that human beings have all kinds of natural abilities that are untapped; abilities that are only now being identified and studied by science. We’ve all heard about mothers and fathers who display superhuman strength when trying to rescue their children from harm. We’ve all seen examples of people with severe learning disabilities who are able to sit down at a piano without any formal training and play the most complicated pieces of classical music. The human brain is

an incredible organ and has many powers that still aren’t fully understood. Because of this, it’s extremely difficult for us to tell what’s natural, what’s supernatural, what’s legitimately from

God, what’s from the devil, and what’s just plain old human imagination. Practically everything that happens in life is subject to misinterpretation. That’s why it’s so dangerous to become fixated on the supernatural. Too often it leads to superstition or belief in the occult or false spirituality or even—in extreme cases—insanity.



We just can’t afford to make blind assumptions. We have to seek the expert guidance of doctors, psychologists, scientists, theologians, and church leaders. But neither can we dismiss all these remarkable experiences as mere fantasy. And that’s what many people do today. Not only do they reject what’s fanciful and frivolous— they reject everything. They throw the baby out

with the bathwater. They claim that there is no reality other than the reality of the senses, the reality of the material world. In many ways this is an even greater mistake. After all, it’s one

thing to be cautious and discerning when it comes to spiritual matters; it’s quite another to deny the existence of the spiritual realm altogether.


If we do that, we risk falling into what has been called the “superstition of materialism,” the myth that this world is made up of physical objects and nothing else; that everything in life—our thoughts, our emotions, our hopes, our ambitions, our passions, our memories, our philosophies, our politics, our beliefs in God and salvation and damnation—that all of this is purely the result of biochemical reactions and the movement of molecules in our brain. What nonsense!


We can’t reduce the whole of reality to what our senses tell us for the simple reason that our senses are notorious for lying to us. Our senses tell us that the world is fl at, yet it’s not. Our

senses tell us that the world is chaotic, yet we know that on both a micro and a macro level, it’s incredibly organized. Our senses tell us that we’re stationary, yet we’re really moving at

dizzying speeds. Right now, for instance, you’re sitting down quietly reading this book; but did you know that you’re actually traveling at twenty thousand miles per hour? That’s the rate at which the earth and the entire galaxy are racing through space. Can you feel or see that motion in any way? Of course not. It’s completely invisible to your senses. In fact, the only reason that you’re not physically hurled into orbit right now is because another invisible force—gravity—is holding you in place. There are all kinds of unseen forces and laws that govern the universe. They’re all invisible—and they’re all very real.


The most important things in life can’t be seen with the eyes. Ideas can’t be seen. Love can’t be seen. Honor can’t be seen. This isn’t a new concept. Judaism and Christianity and Islam and Buddhism and Taoism have all taught for thousands of years that the highest forms of reality are invisible. God is invisible, and he created the universe. Our souls are invisible, and they give life to our bodies. Angels are invisible, and they’re the most powerful of God’s creatures.


Are these unseen realities difficult for us to grasp? Of course. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning and we stumble out of bed to shower and dress and go to work, it’s hard for us to focus on anything so intangible as the spiritual realm. After all, how can we hope to find an invisible God when we sometimes have trouble finding the milk in the refrigerator when it’s staring us right in the face? C. S. Lewis said that human beings find it almost impossible to “believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes.” One of the great psychological obstacles to having a strong faith is the very “ordinariness” of life.


In the first chapter of The Screwtape Letters, Lewis writes about the diabolical strategy that an invisible demon uses on an old, hardened atheist. The atheist, for the first time in his life, is

starting to ask himself questions about the existence of God. The demon naturally wants to prevent this. But rather than waste his time arguing with the man about theology, the demon

plants the suggestion in the atheist’s mind to go out and have some lunch. Once in the street, the atheist sees the newspaper boy and the taxis going by and a thousand other small details. With that healthy dose of “real life” he doesn’t even bother continuing his search for God. After all, in light of all those clear, crisp, ordinary realities, how could there be any such nebulous thing as metaphysical truth?


We face the same danger. Because we’re so familiar with desks and chairs and pots and pans and cell phones and video games, it can be a real challenge for us to think about spiritual matters. Our haunt detectors can become so dulled and rusty from disuse that they hardly register any kind of invisible activity except the most extraordinary. The end result is that, although we may not become full-fledged atheists, we can actually begin behaving as if we were. Without even realizing it, a giant gap can form between what we profess to believe and how we go about acting in our everyday lives.


We all know how true this is. We say we believe in the Bible and the moral law, but then we have trouble going even a few weeks without breaking most of the Ten Commandments. We

say we believe in the power of prayer and God’s grace, but few of us actually turn to God unless we’re in some sort of a jam. We act this way partly because of human nature. But it’s also because the temptations we face seem so real, while the world of the spirit seems so hazy and unreal by comparison. In this hedonistic society of ours, in which we’re confronted every day

by thousands of images designed to appeal to our sensual appetites, it’s very easy to be seduced. When a woman who loves chocolate passes a Godiva shop and sees a window full of delicious

truffles, caramels, and other assorted treats, it’s hard for her to consider the spiritual value of fasting or the Christian belief that the body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” When a man with a healthy libido strolls down the streets of lower Manhattan on a sultry summer afternoon and is confronted by a parade of sexy, scantily clad women, it’s tough for him to think about formless beings like angels. What are visible to him at that moment—the shapely forms enticing his senses—are just too much for him to resist. The spiritual world doesn’t seem to stand a chance.


And that’s where this book comes in. What I’d like to do in the following pages is attempt to render that spiritual world a bit more clearly for you. I’d like to try to make the invisible realities

that surround us just a little more visible. My hope is that, by doing this, these realities won’t seem so unfamiliar in the future. And the more familiar they are, the easier it will be to understand them and to have absolute faith in their existence. Once you’re armed with that kind of certitude, three things will naturally happen: (1) It will be easier for you to act in sync with your moral beliefs; (2) your life will be much fuller, richer, and more exciting than you ever imagined possible; and (3) no amount of suffering—physical, mental, or emotional—will ever be able to destroy the profound inner sense of peace that you’ll experience on a daily basis.


Big promises, I know. But that’s how important this subject is.


So how does one go about making the invisible visible? Well, as I said, there’s an extraordinarily rich theology from which we can draw. The traditional Judeo- Christian view of the invisible

world has been largely displaced by a kind of fortune cookie philosophy of life that’s neither truly believable nor truly remarkable. Just browse through the New Age section of your local bookstore and you’ll see what I mean. This book is not going to be like that. It’s not going to be about vampires or gremlins or ghosts or leprechauns or psychics or poltergeists or palm readers or UFOs or fairies or the “Force.” This book is about reality— cold, hard reality.


In fact, one of the great things about the invisible realm is that you don’t have to be a “religious fanatic” or the follower of some cult to believe in it. You can be a level- headed pragmatist.

You can be a realist. You can even be a cynic. You certainly don’t have to check your brains at the door before entering this world. And you don’t have to be afraid that deep thinking is going to nullify what you learn there. Indeed, everything we’re going to talk about in this book is based on solid theology, informed by common sense and logic, and backed up by biblical scholarship and the universal teaching of the Christian church over the past two thousand years.


No less a genius than Albert Einstein once said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience in life is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: for his eyes are closed.”


Too many people go through life today with their eyes closed. They miss out on the mysterious because they’re so fixated on what they can see and smell and touch and taste and hear. They’re so steeped in the “superstition of materialism” that they’re totally blind to the existence of another world—a world that is radically different from the one they’re familiar with, but a world nonetheless.


What kind of world is it? I’ve said that this book is not about make- believe; it’s not going to be some kind of Peter Pan–style fairy tale. Yet I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that the hidden world God has created for us is more marvelous and exciting than a thousand Neverlands. It’s a world filled with miracles, a world in which all the actions you take and decisions you make have spiritual consequences—consequences that affect the lives of millions of human beings. A world in which the men and women you meet on the street are never “ordinary”—because they all have immortal, everlasting souls and are destined to be either saints in Heaven or the damned of hell. A world in which a deadly, invisible, and diabolical war has been raging for eons—a war infinitely more terrifying than any started by Hitler, Stalin, or Osama bin Laden. A world where the highest values are completely opposite those of our secular society—where weakness equals strength, sacrifice equals salvation, and suffering equals unlimited power. Finally, it’s a world in which you’re never really alone, for even when you’re by yourself watching TV or reading

a book, taking a walk or sitting at the table having breakfast, you have company— because you’re surrounded by angels. Let’s try for a few minutes to “see” this incredible world. Not

with the eyes in your head, but with the eyes in your soul. All you really have to do is take a deep breath, shake off the stresses and cares that normally consume you, find a place where you

can concentrate in quiet stillness, and do your best to keep an open mind. For just a little while, follow the biblical injunction to “walk by faith and not by sight.”


And if—as you’re reading—you happen to feel a tingle up your spine or experience the eerie sensation that something beyond your comprehension is taking place, don’t get alarmed. It’s

just your haunt detector going off—telling you that the veil that has covered God’s hidden creation from time immemorial is being pulled back ever so slightly, allowing you a chance to peek inside.


Don’t be afraid to look. Believe me—you’ll be amazed by what you see.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

book review: "nine days in heaven" by dennis and nolene prince


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

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


Today's Wild Card authors are:




and the book:


Charisma House (March 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva Publicity Coordinator, Book Group Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


Dennis Prince, after working for nine years as a lecturer in civil engineering, attended Bible college and in 1976 assisted in planting a thriving church, the Christian Resource Centre, in Melbourne, Australia. Today he concentrates on Bible teaching and writing.

Nolene Prince earned a bachelor’s degree in music, specializing in singing, and after teaching school music also attended Bible college. The Princes live in Melbourne and have three married children and three grandchildren.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Nine Days in Heaven relates the vision of twenty-five-year-old Marietta Davis more than 150 years ago, where she was shown the beauties of heaven and the horrors of hell. Told in modern language, the book contains poignant quotes from the original vision, as well as biblical teaching points and testimonials from individuals whose lives have been impacted with this vision during the past 150 years. Pull-out quotes from the original vision are included, as are short testimonials from readers whose lives have been impacted by this vision. Teaching points and biblical comments appear throughout the chapters.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616382082
ISBN-13: 978-1616382087

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Angel of Peace



“What is happening to me?”

The thought exploded in my mind as I reeled at the sight of the bottomless deep beneath me.

“Am I dreaming? Am I dead? Am I alive?” A thousand questions raced through my mind as strange unidentafiable objects floated around me. I blinked, trying to clear my vision, but it was like a wild dream, with no familiar point of reference to which I could anchor my sanity.

“Help me! Help me!” My cry erupted from my deepest being as I gazed in despair at the endless, trackless space around me and struggled in vain to return to the security of my country, my home, and my family.

A brilliant light appeared far above me. Like a giant star, its shaft of light thrust back the gloom as it steadily descended. My whole being was bathed in a glorious glow.

Gingerly I moved closer as it resolved itself into the most magnificent being I had ever seen. On her head was a crown of clustered jewels of light. In her left hand she held a simple cross. A saber of light was grasped in her right hand, and as she advanced toward me, light streamed from it and touched me.

Instantly a whole new world of sensations filled my being. Fears and uncertainties were swept away, and I was filled with an overpowering desire to go with her. Yet, paralyzed with awe and wonder, I could only stand and stare. Oddly, all my mind could think of was, “What is her name?” But as I stood there gaping, she spoke.

“So, Marietta! You would like to know who I am?” She smiled. “I am the Angel of Peace.1 I have been sent to show you what happens to humans when they leave this world. If you would like to know the answer to this question, follow me.”

My mind was racing. How did I get myself into this? What had I done to bring me to this alien place?

L


For a long time before this I had wrestled with the great questions of life. A few things had become clearer as I had tossed them over and over in my mind, and I had reached a number of simple conclusions. These were: chasing money and fine things can never make you happy; relationships can let you down (no one is perfect); and many religious traditions are unreliable.2

As I had looked around me, I could plainly see that many people were unhappy and were craving peace. I had thought long and questioned hard, trying to learn about the human soul and why it behaves as it does. The more I had thought about these things, the more I realized that I could not find the answers by myself. I passionately wanted answers, especially to the biggest question of all: “What happens to us when we die?” But I was unable to reach any satisfying conclusions. So it was, in the midst of this turmoil, that I found myself here on this strangest of strange days.



While laboring to determine the nature and tendency of the human soul . . . my vision closed to the outer world.


It had all begun slowly and gradually. I had progressively become less and less conscious of the physical things around me. My inner self seemed to become stronger and somehow more aware. The objects in the room—the walls, ceiling, and furniture—turned to shadows and finally disappeared altogether. I then found myself in this amazing new world with the extraordinary experiences it brought me.3

Since returning, I have had many people ask me what happened. I have tried hard to tell them, because that is why I was shown all these things, but I struggle over the task. There is simply no way on earth to fully describe the things beyond earth. Our words even spoil the beauty and perfection of the heavenly things that are out there.4

For human utterance mars the beauty
and perfection of heavenly speech . . .



But I must complete the task I have been given, so I will try to describe what I saw. All I ask is that you who are reading this will look beyond my woefully inadequate words and try to see something of the true power, the graphic beauty, and divine glory of the things I saw.

L


“Follow me,” said the angel, “but before you do, look back and see yourself.”

I looked far below through the dark misty space and finally made out my motionless body. Gathered around me were my worried friends calling to me and frantically shaking me, trying every possible way to wake me, but without success.

“This is the human view of life,” said my angelic guide. “Look at your family. They love you and grieve for you. Every human goes through troubles and heartbreaks, and ultimately death. But the true picture of what happens after that is hidden from them.5

“Look out there at the world’s teeming millions. They are full of hope, ambition, and troubles. Then finally, death arrives. All of them are afraid of death. It is a ruthless destroyer and cuts life short. Generations come and go, one after another in rapid succession.”

Timidly I asked a question. “I know I am young and don’t know much, but I have been thinking a lot about these things. One day all these people will die. What happens to them? Do they have a place to go to? Can you take me to them? Can I go and be with my loved ones who have already died?”

I waited for her answer. I realized how incredibly much I wanted to know it. For so long this question had haunted me, day and night. Unable to share it, I had buried it deep inside me where it went round and round, the answer always elusive. Now, unexpectedly and remarkably, this Angel of Peace stood before me, sent from the next world. I was on the brink of a monumental discovery, one that would at last settle these issues that had plagued me.


Support From
the Word of God


Angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14). There are frequent references to angels in the Bible. (See Psalm 91:11; Acts 12:7; Hebrews 13:2.)

“ ... many religious traditions are unreliable.” Marietta speaks here of powerless forms of religion. The apostle Paul warned of these in 2 Timothy 3:1–5: “ . . . having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (v. 5). Churches must demonstrate the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit—not just good works done in the name of God.

Visions are a part of the Christian experience—not always plentiful, but not rare either. Paul described a similar experience to that of Marietta in 2 Corinthians 12:2–4 (see also Acts 2:17):


I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

“... our words even spoil the beauty and perfection . . . ” Marietta’s story is not unique—a number of books record similar visions of heaven. Many of the authors make this same comment—human words cannot do justice to the splendors of heaven.

“ ... the true picture of what happens after that is hidden from them.” God’s concealment of eternal things is related to His plan for us to be free, created in His image, like Him. We have a genuine free choice to choose God or to reject Him, to choose good or choose evil. We are free from the pressure of overt promise of reward—or threat of punishment.

Monday, March 21, 2011

book review: "sand to pearls" by heidi mclaughlin


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:



Deep River (January 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Arielle Roper, Media Relations, Bring it On! Communications for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Through her ministry Heart Connection, Christian speaker and author Heidi McLaughlin embraces women with love and inspires them to walk in the knowledge that they are one of God’s most glorious creations. Her powerful, life-changing messages, whether written or spoken, draw women into a place of intimate connection with each other and with God. Her messages are rich with humor, passion and truth, and liberally sprinkled with personal stories.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Illusions of success and instant pleasure can seduce us into making poor choices. We long for fulfillment but are haggard from life’s trials and overwhelmed by what the future holds. Broken, we feel unworthy to ask God to intervene in our lives. Blinded by it all, we often overlook that God has the potential to use everything in our lives--whether good or bad.

It's time to S.T.O.P. and let God help us make bold choices to enrich our lives with freedom, fulfillment and incredible beauty!


Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 238 pages
Publisher: Deep River (January 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935265431
ISBN-13: 978-1935265436

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Introduction


As I drive to work in the mornings, I gaze at people’s face and observe their fatigued, lifeless expressions as they navigate through traffic to confront another demanding day. Often I sit across a cup of coffee with another woman and I hear her sighs of feeling lonely and overwhelmed with too many obligations and choices. Life is tough these days and many people feel trapped. We grind through our days doing the same thing again and again and hope for different results. That could be described as the roadway to insanity. We don’t know how to stop. We are on a relentless quest to know that we are loved, to know that we have value, and to feel pleasure. We will do almost anything to feel better.


We may have the illusion that:


• If I had a better career and worked harder, I would feel more fulfilled.


• When I have more money, life will be easier and I will feel more content.


• If I had a husband/boyfriend that treated me better, I would be a happier person.


• If I had had a better upbringing, I would have achieved greater success.


• My parents were overweight, poor and lazy; therefore, I will probably be like my parents.


• If I put my children into a lot of activities, I will feel like I am a good mother.


• If I had more time to myself, I would not be so tired.


And so we grab for the first thing that we think will make us happier; go and buy something we can’t afford, pursue a different relationship, take another drink, open the fridge, watch some pornography, take a trip or sit on the couch and watch endless, boring television. You and I are our own worst enemy, but we feel helpless to change. We need more than our human endeavors and wisdom to help us make choices to navigate this complicated maze of life. The Bible tells us that we have been given the mind of Christ, a supernatural authority, to unleash all the wisdom and discernment needed to make bold and good choices. Every single day God gives you and me the amazing privilege and power to choose a glorious course for our life. We can’t even begin to imagine all the blessings God wants us to have and enjoy. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-10, NIV).


I am a perfect example of how God can take our worst decisions and biggest mistakes, and turn them into a magnificent new beginning. My spiritual journey did not start until I was thirty-two. I had been a rebellious, self-centered young woman determined to show my family and the world that I was capable of making my own wise choices. But my insecurities and selfishness propelled me to make choices that forged the pathway to a pit of depression, despair, tumultuous disappointments and “almost divorce.” God, in His kindness, gently taught me how to begin to live a new life evoked by choices through the power of His Holy Spirit living in me. Few things in life create more worry, stress and anxiety than the uncertainty of our future. While you are reading this book, it doesn’t matter what stage of life you are at. God has the potential to use everything in your life, the good and bad, and turn it into beauty. It’s time to choose and live your dream; but what tomorrow holds is up to you.


I would like you to imagine sitting across from me, sharing a delicious, hot steaming drink, being honest and making ourselves vulnerable. You need to know you are not alone in your daily toil. By being authentic we can soften our hearts and enable God to connect with us so that we can hear Him speak His truth and wisdom to us. Every chapter in this book begins with my own struggles, mistakes and challenges, and then gives insight as to why and how we make our destructive choices. Of course I don’t leave you hanging and bleeding; I give you a dozen or so practical steps to empower you to make wise, bold choices that will enrich and transform your life in more beautiful ways than you can imagine. Then I end with a time of reflection and prayer. This is the place where you can allow the Holy Spirit, through the mind of Christ in you, to change your life from irritating sand into gorgeous, timeless pure pearls:


Stop and As k God To Help You Change Sand to Pearls


Begin by asking: Ask God a question.


S: Scripture verse. A verse will be available here for reflection.


T: Thanksgiving. Thank God for what He has the power to accomplish.


O: Observation. What wisdom is God unleashing for you in this verse?


P: Prayer. Ask Him. I will end each chapter praying with you because I am passionate about God transforming everything in your life into what He created you to be. I may never have met you, but I have encountered women like you for the past twenty-five years and I have witnessed God’s transforming power, changing struggles to joy—sand to pearls. I know He can because He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, Creator of all life—including yours. It’s time to make choices that will forge the pathway God has planned for you. It’s time to live your dream.



C h a p t e r 1


Obligation or Invigoration


Is That a “Should” on Your Shoulder?

Our obligation is to give meaning to life and

in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.

—Elie Wiesel, American Novelist


My fingers were slippery and sweaty, yet felt ice cold and numb. It was impossible to find the right chords on my guitar. My heart was pounding so loudly that I couldn’t hear my own voice as I tried to sing the first verse of Moses and Miriam’s victory song: that festive, praise-filled epic poem about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. I took a deep breath, took a sip of water and tried again: “I will sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted, the horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea” (Exod. 15:1, NIV).


It was no use trying to sing a victorious song when I was the one feeling like I was being hurled into a sea of resistance. My face was burning with humiliation as I desperately tried to salvage this disaster, but I couldn’t find my voice. As I glanced at the circle of women around the room, I could tell by their faces that I had failed miserably. My song was only half-finished, but I knew it was over. As I walked out of the room, a younger woman walked beside me and sweetly chirped, “Maybe God is trying to teach you something about your pride.” Now I felt like I had been hit in the stomach by a sharp-edged rock. It took my breath away. I couldn’t even answer her and walked out of the church vowing I would never go back in there again. Just weeks before, some of my new church friends had approached me and said, “Heidi, I hear that you play the guitar and sing; we would love it if you would come to our next ladies event and bless us with your music.” I had agreed to sing for these ladies, even though I knew I wasn’t qualified. In spite of my misgivings, I still felt obligated to follow through on my commitment. People had spurred me on to do it. “You really should do it, you really should at least try,” they had said. While uncertain of my singing and guitar playing, my sense of inferiority overpowered me and I was too intimidated to say no. Yet I wanted to feel like I belonged to this group of Christian women that seemed so confident and gifted in many ways. This was in the early 1980s when I first became a Christian and desperately wanted to fit in—to be like one of them. With this harsh reality of being humiliated in front of my peers, I discovered that singing and playing the guitar was not one of the gifts God had given me.


When we feel overpowered by people or our circumstances, it provokes our feelings of inferiority. It unleashes confusion, frustration, and we shortcircuit the gifts, purpose and joy God has prepared for us. We wear ourselves out pleasing people instead of God, and by doing so we deny Christ’s power in our life because we are afraid of what people will think of us. When Jesus ascended from this earth, He left us the Holy Spirit; He gave us the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16, NIV), and passed on to us His authority. Instead we struggle through life reacting to all the “shoulds” that life heaps on us, and we end up with our shoulders hunched over looking like we are carrying the weight of the world. Trying to please everyone is very exhausting; it drains us of energy and unknowingly we succumb to the authority of other people instead of Christ. The faster we go and the harder we work at trying to juggle all our responsibilities, the emptier we feel. Marcus Buckingham, the author of Find Your Strongest Life, says this about the shoulds. “Because you neglect the specific moments that strengthen you, your life gradually becomes filled up with a grab bag of activities and responsibilities. You may have a good reason for taking on each of these responsibilities—everything from ‘If I don’t do this, no one else will’ to ‘A good mother should do this’ but the outcome is that a barrage of moments with which you’ve filled your life now blankets your senses. This barrage drowns out the signals from those few moments that truly strengthen you. You start to feel empty.”1


When we operate out of our weaknesses and lack of self-worth, the slightest demands have the power to intimidate us. The word “intimidate” is an active verb that has a very negative connotation. The thesaurus describes it this way: “threaten, badger, bait, bluster, bully, coerce, constrain, cow, dispirit, subdue,” and so on.2 When we submit to these destructive words, we refute all that we have been created for, and deny the gifts and power God wants to unleash in us. God never bullies us. Instead, He wants to take an active part in our life and is interested in everything we do and who we are. Look at how He values us: “What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries” (Luke 12:6-7, MSG). Don’t be intimidated by bully talk. It’s hard for women to get up each morning and try to compare their worth against a million canaries. When they look in the mirror they can’t imagine that anyone is interested in their hair. Dr. Dobson says that the biggest struggle for women is their low selfesteem, so it is much easier to try to listen and cave in to the bully talk and earn approval by simply giving in to other people’s expectations. We need to be able to separate the bully talk and guilt induced shoulds that we are caving into. Let’s look at some of the real obligations we do need to attend to every day. We should:


• Brush our teeth.


• Eat healthy foods.


• Pay our bills on time.


• Wash our clothes.


• Show up at work on time.


• Treat each other with love and respect.


• Work on our marriages and relationships.


• Forgive.


• Love the Lord our God with our all heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.


We should do all those things that promote our physical, emotional and spiritual health. How do we know when these have turned into obligations that stagnate our soul?


My friend, Beth Hanishewski, who is a life coach, describes it this way: “I have done many things out of obligations. The funny thing is, it does not matter if it was an invitation, a plan, a favor, gift, solicitation or a guilt trip attempt. All of these situations had one thing in common—a heavy energy. The energy of obligation feels constricting and it creates anxiety and fear. I try to override these emotions in order to please someone, or worse, to look good.”3


So how do we define what we should do?


What Is That “Should” on Your Shoulder?


While I am writing this book I am also facilitating a study called One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life, written by Kerry and Chris Shook. On our group’s first evening together, one of the questions was, “What is one thing you would stop in your life right now if you knew you only had thirty days to live?” After a lively discussion, one main theme began to come into focus; stopping the life-sucking “shoulds” out of our daily activities. They are the guilt-induced obligations that we do because we are afraid that people might not like us. The discussion got even livelier as we tried to determine the obligations that we needed to let go. How do we know the difference between what to hold and what to fold?


Here is what I ask myself: “If intimidation discourages me from using the gifts God has given me, makes me feel obligated to give in to people’s demands and robs me of energy; then what wakes me up and makes me feel alive, bold and passionate? How can I use my God-given gifts to make daily impacts in people’s lives?” Here is where I need to look at the source of my moment-by-moment power.


1. Self-Power Induces Obligation


The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a great example of how deceptive and sneaky we can become when we acquiesce and do things out of obligation and needing people’s approval. In the early church in the book of Acts, at a time when all believers were of one heart and mind, people were asked to sell their houses and land and give the money to the apostles to give to others in need. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be a part of this great plan, probably to have people look favorably on them for their generosity. So they sold some property but deceived the church by holding back part of the money. They were caught and Peter confronted them. He said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God” (Acts 5:3-4, NLT).


We are especially weak when it comes to covering our hide and protecting our image. Who doesn’t want people to admire them, praise them for generosity or some noble deed? Sometimes we are afraid that if we don’t go along with the crowd, people won’t like us, we won’t fit it; and we concede to self-power. If we constantly operate out of our self-power, we will feel defeated by the constant demands of choices that we must make in our daily activities. A high percentage of women are finding it difficult to cope with the demands and choices they have to make in this exhausting twenty-first-century life, and cope by being on anti-depressants or other mind-altering drugs to give them the tenacity to carry on.


Marcus Buckingham in his book, Find Your Strongest Life, tells us that succumbing to busyness and doing more does not make us happy. “Over the last forty years women have secured for themselves greater opportunity, greater achievement, greater influence and more money. But over the same time period, they have become less happy, more anxious and more stressed; and in ever-increasing numbers they are medicating themselves for it.”4

To save our soul, you and I have to be brutally intentional about learning how to make choices by operating through God’s power.


2. God’s Power-Passion Invigorates


I get passionate and excited when I see men and women who are bold, relentless and wide awake to pursue the passions, gifts and abilities God has given them. Kerry and Chris Shook tell us in their book, One Month to Live: “We’re created as spiritual beings, and to develop spiritual energy, we have to cultivate a healthy connection to our Creator. The Bible consistently reveals that humans are created in God’s image and that we have an eternal part of us, our spirits. The most important part of our lives is our spiritual dimension, our souls… we’re created to be connected to a larger power source.”5


How do we know we are living an invigorated, passionate life that is connected to a larger power? Look at the luscious fruit. I love living in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, the heart of British Columbia. I never get tired of looking out of our kitchen window and watching the activity in the vineyards. For the past thirteen years I have been walking through these vineyards at least twice a week. In the last month I watched the vineyard workers carefully cut the lush, sweet grapes from the vines. Today my husband and I noticed that all the grapes are gone, and most of the vines have had their leaves stripped by the recent autumn winds. I also know that after the winter season is done, there will be more workers in the fields with their pruning shears trimming the vine branches back to almost nothing. Even after all these years I am amazed how the pruners remove all but the two best side shoots that grow from the stem. Over the next few months I watch how these harshly pruned branches begin to produce lush, sweet grapes. If you and I are going to bear gorgeous fruit in our lives, we have to be connected to the source of that growth. I love the way these verses explain this process: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5, NIV).


To make this power work in our life we have to pay attention to four things:


i. We have to stay attached to the vine, because it is the life source for growing the fruit. We need to be saturated by the word of God because that is the source of all our wisdom and strength, and it speaks to the mind of Christ that is within us.


ii. Without being attached to the vine, “we can do nothing.” Sure, we can be involved in a lot of activities and succumb to all the “shoulds”; but what are we accomplishing that will have eternal value?


iii. We need to be pruned regularly of our criticism, self-righteousness and immoral life so that we can continue to grow to be kinder, more compassionate, extending forgiveness and becoming more like Christ.


iv. God cuts off any branch that does not bear fruit. Ouch! I don’t really want to know what that means.


When we choose to tap into the power of God’s truth about who we are and what He can accomplish through us, it will illuminate our strengths and evoke passion. Soon a great transition begins to take place in our lives.


We move from “I should” to “I get to.” When we are passionate about something, watch out: ridiculous things begin to happen.


Change the “Shoulds” to “Ridiculous Risks”


Operating out of our God-given strengths makes us confident, passionate and bold enough to say no to the world’s screaming demands and to say yes to take some ridiculous Kingdom risks. Here is how John Bevere in his book, Breaking Intimidation, describes boldness: “Boldness comes from the virtues of power, love and soundness of mind. Boldness is not a virtue in itself. We have all known people who were brazen and bold. True boldness comes from God and is fueled by godly virtue. Boldness that is fueled by God’s character awakens the gifts in our lives.”6 Two of my favorite stories that encourage me in ridiculous boldness are of a soon-to-be king and a queen.


1. When we think of David the shepherd boy, we think of king, but also of giant killer. King Saul tried to caution David about killing a giant. “‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ Saul replied. ‘There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win. You’re only a boy’” (1 Sam. 17:33, NLT). But the size of the giant was not enough to block the view of God for this young boy when he took out his five smooth stones. He had ridiculous courage because he knew, “And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Sam. 17:47, NLT). David’s source of ridiculous power was in knowing that God ultimately fights all our battles.


2. Esther, the beautiful young Jewish woman that stole a king’s heart, is the stunning main character in one of those “sitting on the edge of your seat” intrigue and romance stories that should be made into a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s what fairy tales are made of—until a sinister plot is discovered. Queen Esther’s cousin Mordecai discovered that there was an evil man named Haman who had drawn up a letter that decreed all the Jews to be killed in that land. The dispatches said, “to destroy, kill and annihilate all of the Jews—young and old, women and little children—on a single day” (Esther 3:13, NIV). Queen Esther was also a Jewess, but how could she help? Even though she was a queen she could not approach the king without being summoned; she could be put to death. Next come three powerful factors that fuel invigoration.


i. Her cousin Mordecai reminded Queen Esther of her destiny. These people that were going to be killed were her people, her family. He reminded her how God uses us to accomplish His Kingdom work on earth when he said, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NIV, italics mine). This powerful reminder shows us that we need to be crystal clear about our purpose and set our priorities, so that we can take action and move boldly ahead.


ii. Even though Esther was a queen and shared the king’s wealth and power, she still needed God’s power. It is foolish to think that human wealth or position can make us impervious to danger. Queen Esther then replied to Mordecai, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day” (Esther 4:15-16, NIV). By calling for a fast, Queen Esther was demonstrating that she knew she needed God’s power to be ridiculously bold on this dangerous mission.


iii. The world’s motto is “save your skin and look out for number one,” but we need to decide what God wants us to accomplish on this earth and trust Him for the boldness to do it. Queen Esther knew she was laying her life on the line for this treacherous mission. Her words, “And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16, NIV) send a shiver through my spine. Queen Esther felt passionate about her purpose and mission, completely trusting God for the outcome that saved the lives of all the Jews in that country.


When I am reminded of my destiny; that I am a child of the Creator and He sent His Son to die for me and that He has a purpose for my life on this earth, at this time and place of all eternity, I can be ridiculously bold at times. Not Queen Esther style, but Heidi style:


• Traveling to Poland to teach on spiritual transformation. Only God could give me the boldness to do this.


• Speaking in Yellowknife, Yukon, and experiencing no washrooms or daylight for twenty-two hours of the day.


• Submitting manuscripts for publication. This required risk and trusting God would help me get them published.


• Asking my boss if I could reduce my work hours.


• Forgiving someone that hurt me deeply.


In order to find our own style of ridiculous boldness, we have to be clear about our purpose and priorities.


What To Keep and What To Throw Away


The Christmas season is one of the worst “should” occasions for women. For years I entered into this time of year with a love/hate relationship. The ambience in our home is enchanting when it is decorated with fresh evergreen, the room is filled with flickering candles and hundreds of white mini lights are strung on the tree and around the hearth. My family is my greatest external joy on this earth, and I cherish our times lingering by the fireplace, sipping a fragrant cider and listening to soft Christmas music. But there are parts of the Christmas season that feel torturous and I approach them with disdain. For years I had a recurring nightmare wherein the stores were closing in one hour and I still hadn’t started my Christmas shopping. Each time I woke up in a sweaty panic and realized how much there was still to do to finalize our family’s Christmas preparations. Year after year it got more expensive and complicated, and by the time the Holy Christmas Eve arrived I was grumpy, exhausted and sometimes even sick.


Years ago I started to rebel against Christmas expectations and our family has truly been diligent about working with me to simplify the season’s demands. We are all progressing; albeit slowly. In 2007, I chose to escalate the progress—significantly. I was so worn out with all the nonsensical “shoulds” of the season—all the expenses, the exhaustive decorating, shopping and wrapping—that Jack and I decided to cancel Christmas in our home that year. It was the perfect year to experiment with it because we were going to spend Christmas at my daughter’s home in Alberta. I was shocked at how liberating it was not to decorate our home, send out cards or bake. I felt like a little kid that had just been let loose in a candy shop. Christmas demands, rituals and expectations were no longer going to make me feel obligated; and it absolutely invigorated me.


I shared my delightful discovery with many women and each time I told my story their eyes got big; then a smile broke out on their face and they laughed and cheered me on. Christmas 2009, we did it again. We celebrated Christmas at our daughter’s home in Sacramento, where we spent our time walking, playing games, laughing and scouting out a great Christmas Eve service. The anticipation of being free from the Christmas expectations of outlandish spending, overeating and absurd money spent on wrapping paper and bows that end up in the garbage leaves me giddy with joy.


It’s not an easy process to decide which “shoulds” we keep and which ones we throw away. I love my friend Beth’s attitude and her method for determining her obligations:


“The first thing I do when I am asked to do anything is to check in with my body. How do I feel? Does this demand give me energy or deplete it? If, however, I am unsure and agree to this something, then I ask myself, ‘Do I regret saying yes?’ If that is the case, then there are only two choices left:


1. Go back and say no. (I may say something like this: ‘I changed my mind. Forgive me for agreeing before I gave myself the time to think it through.’)


2. Find a way to make it fun:


a. Add music. (Even house cleaning can be improved with the right music.)


b. Add intention. (What is the reward in this commitment?)


c. Add a friend. (It is amazing how even the most arduous or tedious tasks can become fun with the right company.)


While the energy of obligation is heavy and un-fun, the hallmark of invigoration is energy.”7


Steps to Finding Invigoration


Determining how to make our best choices each day is not determined by better time management or greater expertise in juggling our schedule. If you’ve ever watched a juggler, you will notice that his goal is to keep all the balls up in the air. That’s what we do when we have a loaded, frantic lifestyle that drains the life out of us; we will constantly feel obligated and not invigorated. We don’t give our best to anything; we do the least we can and then we’re on to the next thing. I believe there are a few other key factors in deciding what to do with the barrage of “shoulds”:


Know the source of your power.


Know your purpose for this season of your life.


Prepare a mission statement (See Jack’s and mine in Chapter 6).This is a very practical tool to determine what fits into your values and goals.


Ask very good questions.


a. Does it fit into my life “ for such a time as this”?

b. What is my motive for doing this?

c. What was my initial feeling when I was confronted with this task?

d. Do I have the time?

e. Will it take me away from valuable family commitments?

f. Can I afford it?

g. Is it in keeping with my strengths?

h. Does it advance my learning and keep me interested?

i. Does it energize me or deplete me?


5. Take the 10,000-foot view for some of the more complicated and challenging choices. We see things much clearer when we see life from a God angle.


a. Will this matter six months or a year from now?

b. Does it enhance my spiritual growth?

c. Is it in keeping with my values?

d. Is this part of God’s plan for my life for doing his Kingdom

work here on earth?

e. Is this wasted time or is it a gift that God is trying to give me?


The invitation to sing and play my guitar left me with a negative sense of obligation to perform. The disaster that ultimately occurred left me humiliated and depleted, but it made me realize that this was not what God had gifted me for. For the next number of years it was frustrating for me to try and discover what I had been created to do. Most days it seemed that I didn’t have a clue. Through this tumultuous journey of trying to stay true to who God created me to be, I stayed connected to God and kept asking Him, “God, what are the gifts you have given to me so that I can make a significant difference in people’s lives?” As God was preparing my bigger picture of being an author, speaker, teacher and mentor for women, I was content to do each day what God had prepared for me to do that day—love my family and love others. I learned that I needed the power of the Holy Spirit daily to give me the wisdom to separate my “shoulds” so that I could function not by feeling obligated, but by being invigorated.


Choices That Enrich Your Life


1. Realize that juggling your calendar or Blackberry is not the answer to an invigorated life. Choose to work out of values and priorities that strengthen and invigorate you.


2. Every day we have to make almost a hundred choices. Realize you can only do that day what God has prepared for that particular day. Choose to pray and give the day to God and let Him help you work it out.


3. Learn to discern between your people pleasing and God pleasing. Choose to dismiss the people pleasing and focus on what will bring value into your life and the people closest to you.


4. Sometimes we look at other people and think we will be happy and fulfilled when we do what they are doing. Choose to believe that God has made you unique and He has something different for you to do; your style, your way.


5. When you hear that you are worth more than a million canaries, do you believe how worthy you are to God? Choose to trust God that God is interested in every area of your life and that He will never take you any place where He will abandon you.


6. Have you been asked to do something ridiculous? Choose to see it through the 10,000-foot view instead of your immediate emotions.


7. You are at a time in your life where you think you should have figured out by now what God’s purpose is for you. Choose to believe

a) You may already be doing it and not even know it, or b) That

God is preparing you for it.


8. Discover those things in your life that give you energy. You may not see them as gifts God has given you because they seem so effortless. Choose to believe that God can use those gifts to have a profound impact on this world.


9. You think you are handling life successfully because you are multitasking and keeping all your events in order. Choose to believe the fact that when you multitask your IQ drops by ten points and you are giving everything a divided attention.


10. You think that having more education, a better job, and better pay will make you feel more fulfilled. Choose to believe that those are all very good things to strive for, but they will never fully complete you and make you ultimately happier.


11. You believe this is your “lot in life” and there is nothing you can do about it. Choose to believe that you can break out of any pattern by learning to do things differently. Ask God to help you be creative.


12. Interruptions are part of life. Choose to believe that what frustrates you about them is that there is no margin in your life for these interruptions that may be disguised divine opportunities.


13. Choose to live each day by seeing life as a gift, and choose to see the good in everything and everyone. Choose joy.


Stop and As k God To Help You Change Sand to Pearls


Begin by asking: God, what people-pleasing obligations deplete me?


S Scripture: “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” (Prov. 29:25, MSG).


T Thanksgiving: God I am so thankful that you will protect me and help me overcome the constant demands that this

world places on me. Thank you that you have given me the wisdom and discernment through having the mind of Christ to know when I am caving in to obligations to please people instead of You.


O Observation: It is so important for me to feel loved and accepted. It is so true that I am afraid if I don’t give in to the demands people place on me, I won’t be accepted and liked.


P Prayer: God, I realize that You have given me twenty-four precious hours each day, and that each one of those is a gift to me. Help me to treat that gift with wisdom, love and a sound mind. I need to be reminded over and over again how much I am loved, how I have more worth than a million canaries, so that I can be empowered to make decisions out of a godly boldness. Help me each day to separate my “shoulds”—the ones that need to be done, and the ones that I need to throw away. Give me the wisdom to know the difference. Thank You for all the opportunities You give me to make a difference on this earth. Help me never to miss any of those moments that may seem like an annoyance or interruption, but are in fact a gift that You are trying to give me. Thank You that You are interested in all of me, and that You have a beautiful and powerful kingdom purpose for my life. God, please help me to see the world through eyes that are invigorated, not obligated.


Amen.



My thoughts: Overall, I loved the points McLaughlin makes. However, I felt there was a bit of jumping around with each chapter - not much continuity to help them flow easier. But it didn't take away from the overall opinion. I think what spoke to me the most was learning to wait on God. Not giving in to the tendency to run ahead of Him but just wait. "You are at a time where you think you should have figured out by now what God's purpose is for you. Choose to believe a) You may already be doing it and not even know it, or b) That God is preparing you for it." I want to make the right choices that will propel me into the future God has for me!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

saturday

A lot of my posts lately have been book reviews and I wanted to break that up with a bit of my randomness. Today is an absolutely gorgeous day! The sun is shining and there's a great breeze - a nice reprieve from the clouds and rain we experienced not too long ago.
I'm in the process of pulling out my short sleeve shirts (tomorrow is the first day of Spring in case you were unaware) and I'm super pumped about flashing my sparkly toes by sporting my flip flops (I LOVE flip flops).
I'm meeting a few friends later this evening for some laser tag and looking forward to the fun that will most definitely be had. It's just an overall good day.
I have a current giveaway going on if you haven't entered and will most definitely be posting some more reviews. Finishing off this month will be Nine Days in Heaven by Dennis and Nolene Prince, Sand to Pearls by Heidi McLaughlin and The Invisible World by Anthony DeStefano though I may sneak in a few more.
Happy Saturday!

book review: "the mountains bow down" by sibella giorello

Raleigh Harmon needs a vacation. She goes on a cruise to Alaska with her mother, aunt and her aunt’s friend, needing some time away from her fiancĂ© and the life they’ll soon share. It’s not long before her vacation takes a deadly turn when a body is found hanging on the side of the ship. Raleigh quickly determines the woman was murdered – not the suicide everyone wants to believe. She has until the cruise ends to find out who’s responsible. While solving this case, she must also figure out her feelings for her fiancĂ©. She loves DeMott but does he really understand her and her job? Though DeMott may not understand her, Jack Stephanson does. As a fellow agent, Jack is called on the case to help Raleigh. She ignores his flirting but can’t deny the affect he has on her. Everyone is a suspect in this case as time begins to run out.

This is the third book in the Raleigh Harmon series. I read the second book, The Clouds Roll Away, but that’s not necessary to get into this story. There are a few references to the second book but again, it doesn’t hinder the reader. I enjoyed the book. I’ll admit I didn’t have the mystery figured out. I thought all the references to the rocks, minerals etc. was a little hard for me to stay with just because that’s not an interest of mine but the background was important in helping Raleigh with her case. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, set to release next year.

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity and all opinions are my own.
Click here for info on buying the book and here to see other blogs in the tour.

BIG NEWS: Sibella would love for you to share this great deal on your blog!
Start the series fresh with this great deal! Pick up a copy of Book 1 for your Kindle or Nook for only $2.99! The Stones Roll Away is the critically acclaimed award winner that kicked off the Raleigh Harmon series.

Sibella’s celebrating the release of The Mountains Bow Down by giving away a Cruise prize pack worth over $500.00!

One Grand Prize winner will receive:
•A $500 gift certificate toward the cruise of their choice from Vacations To Go.
•The entire set of the Raleigh Harmon series.

To enter go here!

Then tell your friends. And enter soon - the giveaway ends on 4/1! The winner will be announced at Sibella’s Raleigh Harmon Book Club Party on FB April 5th, 2011! Don’t miss the fun – prizes, books and gab!

About the Facebook Party: Join Sibella and fans of the Raleigh Harmon series on April 5th at 5:00 pm PST (6 MST, 7 CST & 8 EST) for a Facebook Book Club Party. Sibella will be giving away some fun prizes, testing your trivia skills and hosting a book chat about the Raleigh Harmon books. Please RSVP and if you have questions you'd like to chat about - leave them on the Event page.

Friday, March 18, 2011

book review: "the promises she keeps" by erin healy

Promise is ok with the fact she’ll die young; she just wants to make sure she’s not forgotten when it happens. She aspires to be a singer, a feat not normally heard of for someone with cystic fibrosis.

Chase draws trees. Lots of trees. He says he sees people as trees and hands out these pictures when he feels prompted. His twin sister Chelsea has put her life on hold to care for her autistic brother. But then he meets Promise and tries to warn her of those who wish her harm.

Porta has been told she will die within “five weeks of five days” – making her quest for immortality that much more vital. She knows there is one who will be able to aid in her search and when she sees a picture of Promise, she believes the gods have shown her favor.

All three people’s paths will cross in ways they least expect until they’re tangled together. Porta will stop at nothing to find the key to immortality. She believes Promise is that key and isn’t above murder in order to prove it. Chase tells Promise he loves her and though she doesn’t return the sentiment, he thinks she feels the same way. Promise doesn’t understand why she’s had a handful of near-death experiences of late or why she feels better than she has in a long time. Can she trust Porta or will confiding in her prove to be a fatal mistake?

I read Healy’s first solo novel, Never Let You Go, last fall and though wasn’t overly impressed, still thought it an ok read. I was hoping for something more with this book. From the first few pages, I could tell it was going to be better than her first. I was immediately pulled in, not knowing how the three main characters stories would intertwine. Though there were parts I felt didn’t quite fit with the rest of the story or could have just been taken out altogether, I enjoyed the book and quickly read the 329 pages in two days.

*I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

book review: "holiness, truth and the presence of God" by francis frangipane

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:

Charisma House (March 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Francis Frangipane is senior pastor of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which he began in 1989. Publication of Francis’ book The Three Battlegroundsin 1989 fueled demand for him as an international conference speaker. Since 1996, Pastor Frangipane has hosted a half-hour weekly television program for the Sky Angel Satellite network. Francis Frangipane is well known for his efforts in uniting thousands of church leaders in hundreds of cities around the world. The author is also a frequent guest on Christian television programs and has been profiled in several Christian magazines.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This is a book for those who are unsatisfied with their spiritual progress and willing to do something about it. It is for every believer who feels he cannot exist unless he finds the fullness of God. Frangipane describes the path toward true holiness with these words: “It is a path full of both life and death, perils and blessings. It is a path upon which you will be challenged, empowered, provoked, and crucified. But you will not be disappointed. If it is God you seek, it is God you will find.” Our goal is to seek and to find the holiness that leads us into the true presence of God. If you are faithful to your goal of Christlikeness, God will give you the grace to live in His presence. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed, you also will be revealed with Him in glory (Col. 3:3–4). And as you persist with the Almighty, the sacred fire of His presence will consume the wood, hay, and stubble of your former ways. Power such as Jesus had will reside in your innermost being. Angels will stand in awe, for your gold will be refined, your garments light, and your life holy.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616382031
ISBN-13: 978-1616382032

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Humility Precedes Holiness

The bigger I grow in God, the smaller I become.

[ Allen Bond ]

A Holy Man Is a Humble Man

Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29, kjv). The holiest, most powerful voice that ever spoke described Himself as “meek and lowly in heart.” Why begin a message on holiness with a quote concerning humility? Simply because holiness is the product of grace, and God gives grace only to the humble.

It is vital we understand that Jesus did not condemn sinners; He condemned hypocrites. A hypocrite is a person who excuses his own sin while condemning the sins of another. He is not mere “two-faced,” for even the best of us must work at single-mindedness in all instances. A hypocrite, therefore, is one who refuses to admit he is, at times, two-faced, thereby pretending a righteousness that he fails to live.

Indeed, the hypocrite does not discern his hypocrisy, for he cannot perceive flaws within himself. Rarely does he actually deal with the corruption in his heart. Since he seeks no mercy, he has no mercy to give; since he is always under God’s judgment, judging is what comes through him.

We cannot remain hypocrites and at the same time find holiness. Therefore, the first step we truly take toward sanctification is to admit we are not as holy as we would like to appear. This first step is called humility.

In our desire to know God, we must discern this about the Almighty: He resists the proud, but His grace is drawn to the humble. Humility brings grace to our need, and grace alone can change our hearts. Humility, therefore, is the substructure of transformation. It is the essence of all virtues.

At some phase in each of our lives, we all will be confronted with the impurities of our hearts. The Holy Spirit reveals our sinfulness, not to condemn us but to establish humility and deepen the knowledge of our personal need for grace. It is at this crossroad that both holy men and hypocrites are bred. Those who become holy see their need and fall prostrate before God for deliverance. Those who become hypocrites are they who, in seeing their sin, excuse it and thus remain intact. Though all men must eventually stand at this junction, few are they who embrace the voice of truth; few are they indeed who will walk humbly toward true holiness.

Therefore, sanctification starts not with rules but with the forsaking of pride. Purity begins with our determined refusal to hide from the condition of our hearts. Out of self-discovery comes forth humility, and in meekness true holiness grows.

If we are not enlightened to the depravity of our old nature, we become “Christian Pharisees,” hypocrites, full of contempt and self-righteousness. Did not our Master warn of those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18:9)? Every time we judge another Christian, we do so with an attitude of self-righteousness. Each time we criticize another church, contempt is the motive behind our words. The irony of our Christianity is that so many churches look upon each other with identical attitudes of superiority. The modern church has become overstocked with those who, thinking they were holy, have become the exact opposite of holiness because they so lack humility!

Yet the humility we seek is drawn from a well that goes deeper than the awareness of our needs. Even in times of spiritual fullness, we must delight in weakness, knowing all strength is the product of God’s grace. The humility we hope to find must go beyond the pattern of living proud lives, interrupted momentarily by intervals of self-abasement. Meekness must become our way of life. Like Jesus, we must delight in becoming “lowly in heart.” Like Jesus, His disciples are humble by choice.







Anyone Can Judge, but
Can You Save?


Hypocrites love to judge; it makes them feel superior. But it shall not be so with you. You must seek earnestly for lowliness of heart. Many zealous but proud Christians failed to reach holiness because they presumed they were called to judge others.

Jesus Christ did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Anyone can pass judgment, but can they save? Can they lay down their lives in love, intercession, and faith for the one judged? Can they target an area of need and—rather than criticizing—fast and pray, asking God to supply the very virtue they feel is lacking? And then, can they persevere in love-motivated prayer until that fallen area blooms in godliness? Such is the life Christ commands we follow!

To judge after the flesh requires but one eye and a carnal mind. On the other hand, it takes the loving faithfulness of Christ to redeem and save. One act of His love revealed through us will do more to warm cold hearts than the sum of all our pompous criticisms. Therefore, grow in love and excel in mercy, and you will have a clearer perception into the essence of holiness, for it is the nature of God, who is love.

One may argue, “But Jesus condemned sin.” Yes, and we condemn sin also, but the sin we must condemn first is the sin of judging others, for it obscures our vision from discerning sin in ourselves (Matt. 7:5). Understand this: we will never become holy by criticizing others, nor is anyone brought nearer to God through finding fault!

If we are honestly pursuing our sanctification, we will soon discover we have no time for judging others. Indeed, being in need of mercy, we will seek eagerly for opportunities to be merciful to others.

Yes, Scripture tells us that Jesus judged men in certain situations, but His motive was always to save. His love was perfectly committed to the one He judged. When our love toward another is such that we can honestly say, like Christ, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5), our powers of discernment will be likewise perfected, for it is love alone that gives us pure motives in judgment (1 John 4:16–17).

Do you still insist on finding fault? Beware, Christ’s standard of judgment is high: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). Indeed, speak out against unrighteousness, but be motivated by the love of Jesus. Remember, it is written, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In the kingdom of God, unless you are first committed to die for people, you are not permitted to judge them.

It is also important to note that the ears listening to gossip or criticism are as guilty as the mouth speaking it. Do not contribute to such sins. Instead, stop the offender from speaking and entreat him to intercede, as Jesus does, for that person or situation. Your ears are holy; do not let them come into agreement with the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10).

Remember, Christ did not condemn sinners; He condemned hypocrites. He numbered Himself with sinners—bearing our sins and sorrows (Isa. 53). This is the humility we are seeking. Indeed, holiness shines brightly through the meek and lowly of heart.