September 30, 2008

One Crimson Thread

From every experience, interaction and emotion we weave threads into the fabrics of our lives. From which we craft a “wardrobe” for every occasion. A bright pink sash of joy. A breezy cotton tee of comfort. A scratchy burlap sweater of suffering. A thread-bare vest of regret. A tattered shirt of self-sufficiency. We cling to old favorites—which often aren’t the most comfortable. We layer just in case. And often we change with frequency to rival a super model.

With our kids away this weekend Dan and I were blessed with a rare treat to spend 24 hours alone together. From start to finish, I should have crafted a comfy blanket of love and stayed bundled inside.

At least the weekend started that way.

On Saturday night we enjoyed a long overdue date and saw the movie, Fireproof. (Side note: This is a must-see movie for anyone who’s married or thinking of getting married. It’s honest, raw, wrenching and beautiful. Rarely have I seen a film delve so deeply and truthfully into the one relationship that’s the greatest gift from God yet receives the greatest heat in our lives—our marriages. Fireproof presents the gospel message in a moving and incredibly relevant way. Since the divorce rate among Christians and non-Christians is virtually the same, Fireproof’s message is universally necessary.)

After the movie we caught a late dinner, but because of the distractions from the Penn State game on the TV and a waiter who wanted to rush us out so he could go home, Dan and I didn’t reconnect as I’d hoped.

I wove in a few strands of regret.

On Sunday morning we attended a Mission Sunday service at a nearby church. They’d invited members of our church’s Dominican Republic missionary team, including my hubby, to participate in the service. Maybe it was worshipping in a new church. Maybe it the familiar hymns of my youth. Maybe it was listening to Dan and our good friend share their moving testimonies. Maybe it was the young people who spoke of a new life in Jesus because of a mission trip they attended this summer. But God moved in that place among those people—and among me. I sensed His presence in a way I’d been craving for some time.

A shawl of godliness cloaked my shoulders.

I was lost in my own thoughts, relishing the God moment, as Dan and I drove to his sister’s house to pick up our son. Part way into the hour-long drive my husband realized we’d forgotten to bring our nephew’s birthday present. The same one he’d forgotten to take with him the day before.

I calmly replied, “No, it should be in here. You put it in the car earlier.” (I’d seen him take the present into the garage to put into the car.)

“Oh, I thought it was trash, so I threw it away," he responded.

Trash? A gift bag with a card and tissue paper and a present inside is trash?

In the blink of an eye, anger shredded the godliness that enveloped me. How could he be so careless? And this wasn’t the first time something like this happened. I’m ashamed of the angry words that came from my mouth.

I simmered for the most of the ride, eventually and reluctantly accepting the olive branch my husband offered. Inside I wondered: how had I gone from marveling at God in one moment to freaking out at my husband the next? I felt like a big fat Christian hypocrite and a horrible example.

Threads of guilt intertwined with the anger.

After a brief chat with my SIL and BIL, we gathered our son and headed home. We weren’t 10 minutes into the trip on the rural winding roads before we saw cars stopped ahead. An accident had just occurred. It was bad. Bumpers, tires, metal and glass littered the asphalt. A mangled car jutted into our lane. Others rested at odd angles. But what caught my eye most of all was a body lying completely motionless on the grass—a few feet from my side of the car. We didn’t know if the man was alive or dead. A visibly upset woman was with him and told us an ambulance was on the way. My husband got out to see if he could help. I stayed in the car with our upset son and prayed.

The police and EMTs arrived moments later so we cleared the way and let them do their jobs. On the ride home Dan told me the man was alive, barely, and another person was trapped in the car.

Swatches of sadness covered us.

When we somberly arrived to pick up our daughter from her youth group retreat, I hoped to weave some strands of joy into my increasingly tattered tapestry. Instead we were greeted by a sullen teenager whose sum total of describing the weekend was, “It was fine.” The evening went downhill from there.

By the time bedtime arrived I was ready to hit the restart button. This was supposed to be such a great weekend. I surveyed the frayed edges and torn garments strewn about and wondered what happened.

I thought of the apostle Paul, “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.”(Romans 7:19-20, NLT) It’s such a conundrum. Despite our best intentions, the power of sin is so great.

Life had happened and I'd focused on feelings not faith. But feelings lie, they’re fickle, they rely on our external circumstances and they put ME at the center of it all. So humbly I gathered my homemade rags and brought them to the only One who could salvage the mess.

Forgive me Jesus for once again choosing my wardrobe over yours.

Like Paul said, we want to do right but we don’t. And the enemy is ever-present offering supplies and ideas for the handiwork of our own making.

But God loves us so much he sent Jesus, the master Tailor, to provide better garments. Righteous ones. Yes it takes time. And yes we make mistakes along the way. But when we humbly offer it all He takes our worthless, fraying remnants and crafts them into a quilt of glory. And grace.

And He stitches it all together with one crimson thread.

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” ~Isaiah 61:10

September 26, 2008

Running the Race — Part 2

In case you’ve been wondering...I did it. Yesterday’s spin class went much better than last week’s. I arrived only five minutes late and didn’t feel like I needed CPR when it was over. I’m making progress!

That’s the thing with fitness. We have to work at it to achieve it and keep working to maintain it. It doesn’t matter how much we spend on fancy footwear, exercise equipment or gym memberships, we might feel better for having them, but if they remain unused we’re no fitter than when we started. And no amount of positive affirmations can change that fact.

For the last several months I’ve been inspired by my friend Susan at Runner Mom. Susan’s a trail runner. Susan doesn’t just talk about loving to run or wanting to run. She runs. A lot. She even makes it seem like fun. Currently she’s training for the San Antonio triathlon. (You go, girl!) Her eyes are fixed on her goal and every day she works toward achieving it.

Do you know each of us is in training for a race? Hebrews 12:1-3 sets the scene:

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Before I went to the gym class last week, I thought I was in decent shape. The spin class showed me otherwise. Likewise the Bible offers an examination of our souls that reveals our true condition: we’re spiritually out-of-shape. Inside we might feel like we’re a pretty good and moral person.

But goodness is not the goal. Godliness is.

What holds us back is sin. And no amount of effort on our parts can rid it from our lives. Only Jesus can.

Yes, the journey is difficult. We often lose track of the course marked out for us and run one of our own making. We get distracted by the day-to-day, bogged down with worries, lulled into complacency, satisfied with mediocrity and ensnared by the world. But in the pages of God’s word we find a training manual to teach us and a coach to guide us.

To reach the finish line we must run the race. No one else can do it for us. Just like I made a choice to go to the gym, every day we make choices to train or not. Will we attend Sunday worship? Will we pray, participate in a Bible study or read the Bible? Will we encourage a fellow believer, reach out to someone in need or offer forgiveness? Will we choose our way or God’s?

We don’t need to work to achieve our salvation; in fact there is nothing we can do to earn it. But when we become believers, just like my friend Susan we’re training for a long distance race that requires determination, focus and perseverance. Our spiritual muscles go flabby if we don’t keep them fit.

Isn’t it awesome we don’t have to go it alone? Through our brothers and sisters in Christ, God gives us training partners who encourage us, cheer us on, offer a hand up when we’re down, guide us, hold us accountable, refresh our spirits and make the journey much more fun.

I know the training partners God has blessed me with are the sweetest part of my journey so far. Thank you for being there!

Together let us throw off everything that gets in our way, let us run with perseverance and let us fix our eyes on Jesus.

I hope these passages from The Message give you the shot of adrenaline you need today:

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

September 25, 2008

Running the Race -- Part 1 of 2

The kids are off to school and the house is quiet. A perfect setting to write, except for one little thing—in one hour I’ve mentally committed to go to a spin class at my gym. If I delay, procrastinate or get distracted I’ll miss it…again.

There was a time only a few years ago when neither rain, nor shine nor black of night could keep me from spin class—or exercise commitments. I was focused, motivated and dedicated. I followed a daily training schedule—increasing my endurance, monitoring my heart rate and logging some serious time on my bike. During the weekend I might spend an entire day “in the saddle.”

Why? Because I was in training.

My goal: complete a century, 100-mile bike rides, for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (TnT). With my TnT team, which included my husband, I've ridden through the deserts of New Mexico (at altitude), around Lake Tahoe (again at altitude), throughout coastal Maryland, and all through Bucks, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Lehigh counties. I don’t know how many miles we logged but it has to be thousands.

Riding for my patient heroes and raising money for cancer was definitely one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. But along the way I discovered I don’t love cycling such long distances very all. Plus as a mom with young kids, I found it challenging to balance the training requirments with family responsibilities. So after a few intense years, I gave it up. I rode off into the proverbial sunset and in time returned to a sport I really love—tennis.

But tennis time interfered with gym time so season by season most of the fitness I trained so hard for went away. Since June I’ve been sidelined from tennis because of an injury so now my once-intense fitness schedule has been reduced to brisk walks with my dog. (Who, by the way, is very happy with this arrangement!)

The funny thing is, inside I feel energetic and fit. I think if I wanted I could jump back on my bike and ride, certainly not 100, but at least 25 miles.

Well, last week I went to the gym for the first time in months. I procrastinated to get out of the house but made it to spin class, albeit ten minutes late. I jumped on a bike and joined right in. In no time at all beads of sweat ran down my face. Each gasp of air burned in my throat. My leg muscles quivered. I glanced at the clock anxious to see if we were almost done. Six minutes had elapsed. I couldn't believe I was in this much distress already. There was a time I used to “win” spin class (OK, I might be a bit competitive) and now I struggled to finish!

It didn’t matter how confidently my inner voice had comforted me with feelings of energy and strength. The hard cold truth is: I am out of shape.

Oh, it's time for class. Gotta’ go…

September 22, 2008

A View Through Sarah Palin's Glasses

Since I write a Christian blog and not a political one, I’ve refrained from politicizing my message. But as I’ve written before, if you look hard enough you can find Jesus in the most unlikely places.

So many news stories clamor for our attention right now: the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the latest institutional casualties in our shaky financial markets and of course the upcoming presidential election.

But one person receiving a lion’s share of the spotlight is Sarah Palin. Since the end of August when John McCain announced the Alaskan governor as his running mate “Sarah Who?” has become a household name. Already she’s been spoofed on Saturday Night Live. As testament to her popularity I searched her name in Google and received 22 MILLION results. That’s more hits than Al Gore who supposedly invented the Internet! There’s no doubt this hockey mom is a one-woman media storm.

But in the midst of the hubbub, there’s one news item you may have missed. In fact, a mini-economic crisis is upon us—and Sarah Palin is at the center of it.

The cause of it all? Her glasses.

Republican, Democrat or independent there’s one issue regarding the vice presidential nominee on which the majority agrees. We love her glasses! I suppose not since Ben Franklin invented bifocals have spectacles captured our fancies so.

Women (and even men) are flocking to their opticians in search of Governor Palin’s Kawasaki 704 series designer specs. In less than two weeks the Japanese company that manufactures the $375 frames received 9,000 global orders. That’s more than they normally produce in a year! I’m no economic analyst but there’s no way supply can meet demand. Backorders abound. According to the Wall Street Journal, manufacturing has shifted to a 24-hour production cycle.

Of course I write tongue-in-cheek, but upon closer examination there might be more here than meets the eye.

According to Gov. Palin’s optician she selected her now-famous frames from hundreds of choices. (I’ve worn glasses almost my entire life and know what a difficult decision this is!) After much searching she selected just the right pair for her—and the rest, as they say, is history.

Once the thrill of the moment passes and sticker shock sets in I imagine many of those flocking to buy Sarah Palin’s frames will regret their purchase. Something about their new glasses will be “off.” Maybe the frames won’t flatter their face shape or size, match their personality, or complement their coloring or hairstyle. Why? Because eyeglasses simply aren’t an off-the-shelf purchase. One size does not fit all. Even Gov. Palin’s glasses were custom-made specifically for her.

Sometimes we do this with our faith. We see movers and shakers in our church, bible study or favorite ministry who appear to have it all going on. They glow under the spotlight and we think they must certainly know or have something we don’t because…well…just look at them. So we not only admire their godly ways, we try to emulate them as well—to “wear” their faith. We might try to copy how they pray or how they have devotions or worship or talk, and so on. But when we do, something doesn’t fit quite right.

That’s because nothing is more one-of-a-kind than our walk with the Lord. While we can learn from our Christian brothers and sisters, we can’t mimic elements of their walk to accessorize our own. To do so is to lose sight of what God wants from us more than anything. Our hearts. He wants us to love Him with a sincere faith that’s custom-fit to our own unique personality, passion, experiences and gifts. Regardless of how popular or trendy it may be in the eyes of the world.

Have you been borrowing someone else’s faith? Do you want to be custom-fit with a prescription of your own? Do you need to fine-tune the one you have? Go to the Jesus, the One who gives sight to the blind. And when He says, “What do you want me to do for you?” respond, “I want to see.” (Mark 10:51)

As popular as they are today, Sarah Palin’s glasses will soon be yesterday’s news. Time will tell whether she will follow their fate. As much of our attention is fixed on who will lead our country come January, let’s remember politicians come and go. In one year, one decade, one century our focus will shift continually from one to the next.

But there is one leader who HAS, DOES and WILL stand the test of time.


As we set our sights on the future, let’s never forget on whom we need to fix our gaze.

By the way, if you add up all the Google hits for all four presidential and vice presidential nominees, both Clintons, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington COMBINED, Jesus still comes out ahead.

September 18, 2008

To Believe or Not to Believe?

Thank you all of you who commented and emailed me yesterday. It was nice to "meet" some of you for the first time and hear from friends I didn't know were reading.

Yesterday I touched on the responsibility I, and really all of us, have as Christians to use the gifts God has given us to honor Him and point others to Jesus.

To that end I wanted to share something based on a book I read the other day.

Many people believe Jesus was either a great teacher or wise prophet but they can’t accept He is the Son of God. They think Christians are out of their minds and that no thinking person could see things otherwise. They poke holes in the Christian faith and argue against it. Bystanders follow the vocal minority and discard or discredit Christianity as myth or fallacy without ever investigating its message. This describes my point of view for many, many years.

Josh McDowell was also such a person—until he accepted a challenge to rigorously and intellectually examine the claims of Jesus. And he found his supposedly well-formed arguments didn’t hold up. His quest resulted in the book, More than a Carpenter. Here’s an excerpt:

Jesus claimed to be God, and to him it was of fundamental importance that men and women believed him to be who he was. Either we believe him or we don’t. He didn’t leave any wiggle room for in-between, watered-down alternatives. One who claimed what Jesus claimed about himself couldn’t be a good moral man or prophet. That option isn’t open to us, and Jesus never intended it to be.”

As C.S. Lewis, a former agnostic, wrote in Mere Christianity, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”

“You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His fee and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He as not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Lord, liar or lunatic? Jesus didn’t leave us any choice.

Are you skeptical about the claims of Jesus? Do you accept Him, but still have doubts? Or would you like to be able to concretely explain why you have the hope in Jesus you do? Check out More than a Carpenter, The Case for Faith or an Alpha course near you.

September 16, 2008

Living (and Writing) on Purpose

If you know me and I asked you to use a handful of adjectives to describe me, “chatty” would most likely not be one you’d come up with. Because I'm not. I tend to be quiet and reflective. I prefer one-on-one chats to large group conversations. And I’m perfectly content to listen to and observe a conversation instead of dominating it. I suspect my blog reflects that part of my personality.

In the world of blogging, “chatty” is good. If you’re unfamiliar with this blogging stuff, you probably wouldn’t believe the number of moms, both Christian and not, who spend their days "chatting" in the blogosphere with others like them. (When I was a young mom craving connections this probably would have appealed to me.) Anyway it’s pretty clear the chattier blogs are more “popular.” It seems they attract a larger audience and receive lots of comments. And chatty or not, comments are the life blood of any blogger!

Sometimes, seeing all of this “popularity” and the numbers of comments others receive makes me feel overlooked and left out. Like the one not picked for the team or asked to the dance. And it’s discouraging, at times, to spend so much time writing an entry it seems hardly anyone reads.
But when my thoughts go in this direction, I give myself a whack on the head to recall why I blog. It’s not to become a popular blogger, seek out friendships or write about the details of my day-to-day life as a mom (not that I can imagine anyone being the least bit interested!). It’s to honor God with the insights and writing ability He’s given me. I'm still finding my way, and while it's not my purpose I have met some lovely people in the process.

About three weeks ago I installed a free program that tracks traffic to my blog. With it I can see how many people visit my site, how long they stay, how many pages they view and more. And you know what? I was shocked to find out—many more people view my blog than I imagined. (If you’re reading this, thank you!)

And coolest of all, a world map geographically pinpoints my blog’s visitors. (Don’t worry; it doesn’t reveal your name, address or any personal information!) The web is truly worldwide and in 21 days I’ve had visitors from all over the United States, plus South Africa, Taiwan, Australia, Philippines, Pakistan, Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, England and Brazil. Sitting at my desk, in almost complete anonymity, my words have traveled to six out of seven continents (and I don’t even think they have the internet in Antarctica)!

It’s amazing! (Although some of those visits were from people looking for something completely unrelated, like a person in Pakistan who Googled “free awesome god karaoke.”)

I’ll admit my selfish side was happy to see my words going further than I’d thought. But once the thrill of virtual world travel wore off, I realized a greater sense of responsibility to not only write well, but also to share the Good News. Because I really don’t know who might land on the steps of my blog. And each of you with a web-presence has this same opportunity

To that end I wanted to share something based on a book I was reading yesterday.
To be continued...

Check back tomorrow for part two. And one more thing...please do a girl a favor and leave a comment and say, "Hi!" Seeing you as a dot on a map is great, but “meeting” you is so much better! :-)

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September 12, 2008

Stepping into the Ring

In honor of the Women of Faith Conference in Philadelphia this weekend and as a message of love and hope to my friends (and your friends) who have cancer, I wanted to share this powerful video by dramatist Nicole Johnson. I saw her perform this skit two years ago and in a stadium of 50,000 women there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

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September 9, 2008


In my opinion, Penn State on a football Saturday is as close to heaven on earth as exists...anywhere! Maybe it’s the 100,000+ blue and white clad fans that crowd the streets of state college and fields outside Beaver Stadium for the pre-game festivities. Or the beautiful Penn State campus. Or the world-class Blue Band with their march into the stadium and game-determining flip of the drum major. Or the Nittany Lion who riles up the enthusiastic fans and keeps them eating out of his paw for the entire game; Or watching one of the best college football teams ever, coached by a living legend—Joe Paterno.

It’s probably a combination of all this and more. Tradition. History. Competition. Pride. Community. Penn State’s got it. No matter how many times I visit Happy Valley I’m choked up by it all.

And I didn’t even attend Penn State! My introduction to all things blue and white occurred when I met my husband who’s a proud PSU grad.

This past weekend my sister and her friend flew up to join us for a football weekend. It was such fun to introduce the newbies to State and visit all the “must-see” sights. My husband reveled in his role as ambassador of his old stomping grounds. He was a font of knowledge, providing an endless stream of interesting details and tidbits. (Although, how he remembers which window belonged to the dorm room he lived in for one semester 25 years ago or how many books are in the library, yet can’t remember which of our kids likes ham sandwiches for lunch and which turkey, is beyond me! But I digress…) And of course our visit was topped off by a spectacular win…Go State!

But the real treat of the weekend was visiting my husband’s favorite watering hole, The Phyrst. Empirically there’s nothing alluring about this small, dark, grungy basement pub. But the Phyrst is a Penn State tradition complete with table wars, PSU cheers and singing—lots of singing! On Saturday nights one can witness another PSU living legend: The Phyrst Phamily Band. This five-piece band plays American/Irish folk music and has been a PSU staple since the early 1970s.

We sat at our table and waited. Soon enough the Physrt Phamily took the stage and we were all swept up in the excitement and revelry. At one point, my husband leaned over and pointed to the graying band member playing some sort of washboard/horn/tambourine thing-y slung over his shoulders.

“That’s Graham Spanier,” he said.

“You mean the man playing the washboard is Penn State’s president?” I asked, amazed.

“Yep. That’s him.”

I couldn’t believe it. The quiet, unassuming guy on stage playing a silly musical contraption in a sweaty, loud bar late on a Saturday night was the President of one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious universities. Didn’t he have an ivy-covered house to retreat to? Shouldn’t he be rubbing elbows with academic muckety-muks or authoring a journal article? Wasn’t he concerned about his distinguished reputation?

And when they introduced the band members he was introduced as simply, “Graham.” Not Dr. Graham Spanier, University President, holder of many degrees, distinguished researcher and scholar, or all-around important and powerful guy. No, he was just Graham. A regular guy who likes to connect with kids, entertain alumni and play music. If my husband hadn’t pointed him out, I would have never known who he was.

And it was there, watching Graham Spanier play in the Phyrst Phamily band, that I thought of Jesus.

Jesus was certainly a “credentialed” man. He was after all God’s son and Savior of all mankind. The Jewish people expected the Messiah to arrive with glory and pomp and circumstance. He'd establish a kingdom on earth. They probably expected he'd live the royal, insulated life of a king or high priest.

But Jesus didn’t wield His power, toss about His credentials or hobnob with the elite. Frankly, He didn’t do much that people expected the Messiah would do.

Instead He befriended commoners like fishermen, tax collectors and widows. And reached out to undesirables like prostitutes, Gentiles, Samaritans and lepers. I imagine if there were colleges at the time, you’d find him on campus with the students.

But Jesus wasn’t just a cool dude who mixed it up with the common folk. He wasn’t just a great teacher or miraculous healer. He was, and is, God incarnate. The Creator of the universe. The One who was there “in the beginning” and will be there in the end.

Out of an act of love too great for us to fathom, He was born a helpless baby and died as a criminal nailed to a cross. In between he lived among His people. He chose to love up close instead of rule from afar. To relinquish power instead of claim it. To serve instead of be served. To teach instead of dominate. To redeem instead of condemn.

If we lived in Jesus’ day and saw a crowd by the lake, one of us might lean over to the other and say, “See the man over there? That’s Jesus.”

And we'd respond amazed, “You mean the one with the dirty sandals and tattered tunic? The one with the fisherman, talking to Gentiles? He’s the One who’s been prophesied—the Messiah?”

“Yep. That’s Him.”

Sometimes all it takes is someone to point Him out.

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September 8, 2008

Aw, Thanks!

I’m honored and flattered to receive my first blog award from Shane at Heart Reflections.

Thanks, Shane! Be sure to check out her blog. She's a thoughtful, inspiring writer.

I visited the blogs of the others who Shane awarded and was honored to be included among such godly, eloquent women.

Now it’s my turn to pass on the award to some of my favorite blogs:
~ Mary DeMuth @ Relevant Blog
~ Elaine @ Peace for the Journey
~ Chanda @ Thursday’s Child
~ Susan @ Runner Mom
~ Cheryl @ Cheryl’s R&R
~ Debbie @ Utterly Chaotic

Some of them are serious, some are lighter, but all are written by wonderful Christian women. Click over and pay them a visit.

Here are the rules for the award.

Plus…Here’s a shout out to some of my new writer friends who are thinking about starting their own blogs. I won’t name names, but you know who you are. I’m waiting for you!

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September 4, 2008

The Makings of a Best Seller - Part 2 of 2

Thanks for stopping back. Today's post is a continuation of my last one, The Makings of a Best Seller - Part 1. You can scroll down to read that first or click here.

The truth is we are spiritually famished. But with so many enticing choices from which to choose, we can’t always discern the healthy food from the junk.

As Christians, it’s clear where we find our spiritual food. In John 6, Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (v. 35) Even those with a passing knowledge of the Bible are familiar with this verse. Yet, knowing that Jesus is the bread of life and being filled by Him are two very different things.

When we were infants we relied on our parents for everything. They sat us in a high chair and spoon-fed us baby food. They carried us from place to place. But in time we started to crawl, then toddle. Eventually we learned to walk without falling, run on the playground, ride a bike, cross the street safely and even climb a mountain.

Our lives as believers are like this. We start as baby Christians, relying on our pastors to spoon-feed us the gospel. Maybe we crawl to church or toddle to Bible study, but all the while we expect others to guide us, teach us and cut the Scriptures into palatable, bit-sized chunks. But God doesn’t want us remain spiritual toddlers. He wants us to grow and mature, “attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13)

For if we don’t grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, what version of truth becomes our anchor? How can we separate the fancy rhetoric that tickles our ears from godly teaching that feeds our souls? It’s probably not by the numbers of people gathering around to hear the message.

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim 4:3-4)

I'm not suggesting, even for a moment, Christians should only read books on some “approved” reading list. Censorship is ridiculous. But with so many ideologies and philosophies competing for our attention, if we’re not grounded in Scripture, what is our basis for discernment? How do we separate the wheat from the chaff? The banquet feast from spiritual fast food? The real Messiah from false prophets?

By all accounts, Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor who penned the best-selling, The Last Lecture, was a remarkable man who lived life to its fullest. He accomplished more in 47 years than most of us will in a hundred. The New York Times ran his obituary a few weeks ago which concluded, “Dr. Pausch gave practical advice in his lecture, avoiding spiritual and religious matters. He did, however, mention that he experienced a near-deathbed conversion: he switched and bought a Macintosh computer.”

How incredibly sad someone so gifted, so accomplished and so influential missed the very point of it all. And how tragic that millions of readers have turned to him looking for answers. And are left looking at themselves.

Despite thousands of best-sellers saying otherwise, there is no inside knowledge, never-revealed-before secret or quick fix that holds the keys to a better, improved us. The idea that we possess, within ourselves, the power to transform our lives is a myth. Life transforming change can only be found in one place: Jesus.

And it’s all detailed in the best selling book of ALL TIME: the Bible.

Meet Jesus in its pages. Grow in grace. And find an anchor to keep from being “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching...” (Eph. 4:14)

Read all you want, just make sure you know where real truth lies.

September 2, 2008

The Makings of a Best Seller - Part 1 of 2

Since it's back-to-school time and our minds are back on academics, I'm writing on a "heavier" topic than I've dealt with in a while. This is part one of two.

“...until we all...become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:13-14

If I asked you to name your favorite hobbies, I bet one your answers would be “reading.” The sales of and Barnes and Noble testify to the fact that Americans love to read. Today book clubs are practically a requirement for any suburban mom’s resume. A glance at the NY Times Bestseller lists paints a picture of what we’re reading. And it’s not just fiction that captures our fancies, but non-fiction too.

Judging by the non-fiction best-seller lists we’re looking for others who’ll help us make some aspect of “us” better. We want improved bodies, finances, careers, dinner menus, children, pets, relationships and most of all, improved selves.

Presently, best-selling advice books include The Secret, (the law of attraction as a key to getting what you want), The Last Lecture, (thoughts on “seizing every moment”), The Power of Now, (a guide to personal growth and spiritual enlightenment) and Soul Wisdom, (how to harness the power of the soul for healing and personal transformation).

It's obvious: we’re hungry. We’re searching for that “thing”; that philosophy; that path which leads to a secret door in ourselves we always felt existed but could never find. We hold out hope this time we’ll discover the answer we’ve been looking for.

In the book Eat, Pray, Love, which has been on the best-seller list for 83 weeks, the author takes a year-long journey in an effort to heal herself from deep emotional and spiritual pain. Traveling to Italy, India and Indonesia, she searches for a balm to soothe her soul. Along the way, instead of ascribing to any one religion or philosophy, she takes her favorite bits from the many beliefs, teachings and philosophies she encounters and concocts her own spiritual soup.

The book spawned two Oprah shows and propelled the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, into the role of self-help guru offering a short-cut to spiritual truth. Thousands of devotees, mostly women, ascribe to her “teachings.” Many have even retraced the steps of her trip.

Many reading this post have read Gilbert's book. Is hers the truth we're looking for?

There is no doubt, we're spiritually famished, but with so many enticing choices from which to choose, it's not always easy to discern the healthy food from the junk.

As Christians, it’s clear where we find our spiritual food. In John 6, Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (v. 35) Even those with a passing knowledge of the Bible are familiar with this verse. Yet, knowing that Jesus is the bread of life and being filled by Him are two very different things. be continued.