December 29, 2015

Review: Do More Better

I always considered myself to be a reasonably organized and productive person. Many years ago, while working in the PR department of a Christian college, I was introduced to a jam-up time management system. I loosely followed and adapted it for the rest of my working-outside-the-home career. But almost twenty years ago, when I became a stay-at-home and sometime part-time work-at-home mom, all of that organization (and the accompanying productivity) seemed to fly out the window.

In hindsight, I don't think the problem was so much a lack of organization or productivity. It was likely more a lack of understanding of my new role and priorities. What's more, my working environment and responsibilities had been fairly controlled and regular. Predictable even. This new career field, not so much.

It wasn't so much that I lacked structure (although I probably did). A new system wasn't the immediate answer.
What I needed was a clearer understanding of my role and responsibilities as a wife and mother. And, because the dual jobs of wife and mother are somewhat fluid, I'm still working on that.

Do More Better by Tim Challies is helping.

Before going into the nuts and bolts of organizing life, Challies walks you through evaluating your life. The goal isn't just to do more, to get more done. It's to get more of the right things done.
Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others, and the glory of God. Productivity calls you to direct your whole life at this great goal of bringing glory to God by doing good for others.

 I like that. I'm good at being busy, but, "Busyness is a tricksy little fish." It's easy to fool ourselves into thinking we're productive for the Kingdom just because we're busy. The difficult thing is to figure out what God wants us to do for the Kingdom in our little circle and focus on being productive there. "God calls you to be productive for His sake, not your own."

This book is readable, at only 120 pages. It's practical, walking you through not only determining your priorities, but setting up systems to carry them out. It's biblical, helping you see your to-do list from God's perspective (and reminding you that "Only God gets his to-do list done.").

I've read the book through, and now I look forward to the harder work of implementing what I've learned. (One way I'm doing this is by participating in 10 Days of Productivity. Care to join me?)

I requested and received a copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review. This post contains affiliate links.

December 13, 2015

Dear Wormwood {The Oh Hellos}

Some of my young friends have been talking about a new album from The Oh Hellos. I wasn't familiar with this group, but thought I'd give them a try (especially since I found out how much I'm enjoying Josh Garrel's new album, Home, and I'm thinking he wasn't especially writing for my demographic, either).

I liked many of the songs right away; others are growing on me. The musical style is interesting, and the lyrics are thoughtful and poetic. At the moment, the title track is probably my favorite.

A few years ago, our family read-aloud book was The Screwtape Letters. Jeff made it more fun by giving Screwtape a very austere and ominous voice. (Of course, sometimes he called it The Ducktape Letters and read excerpts in a redneck voice, too. Just part of the package.) It's a great book to read as a family when you have tweens and teens.

Back to The Oh Hellos. When I saw the album was titled Dear Wormwood, I was intrigued. When I heard the song itself, I was drawn in. And when I read the lyrics, I was hooked. I'm a sucker for complex, well-developed music blended well with thoughtful lyrics. It's a powerful song. Listen and enjoy.

When I was a child, I didn't hear a single word you said
The things I was afraid of, they were all confined beneath my bed
But the years have been long, and you have taught me well to hide away
The things that I believed in, you've taught me to call them all escapes

I know who you are now

There before the threshold, I saw a brighter world beyond myself
And in my hour of weakness, you were there to see my courage fail
For the years have been long, and you have taught me well to sit and wait
Planning without acting, steadily becoming what I hate

I know who you are now

I have always known you, you have always been there in my mind
But now I understand you, and I will not be part of your designs

I know who I am now
And all that you've made of me
I know who you are now
And I name you my enemy

I know who I am now
I know who I want to be
I want to be more than this devil inside of me

 This post contains affiliate links.

December 8, 2015

This and that 12/8/15

Photo: The Jungle Photo; alterations by princapecos

Tim Challies recently posted this 2016 reading challenge, and it looks interesting. I've tried reading challenges before but found it difficult to keep up. I think I'm going to try doing this one as a bit of a scavenger hunt. That'll help balance out my reading, and I think it will be fun to see how many checkmarks I have by the end of the year. That's the plan, anyway! (And I loved that this checklist was a topic of conversation at our ladies' Christmas party last night.)

Speaking of Tim Challies, he's just released a book on productivity that I've added to my ever growing wishlist... then he tweeted that he'd send a review copy to bloggers! It'll be a Kindle e-book version, so the real book will still be on my wishlist (because I'm pretty sure this is one I'll be marking up and coming back to. Be sure to check out Do More Better and watch for my review here.

I saw a great quote on Twitter this week: "Wise women know that it is one thing to make themselves attractive and another to make themselves look seductive." (Which reminds me of another book on my wishlist. I want an copy signed by the authors, who are friends of mine, but the $2.99 Kindle price is tempting right now.)

I'm enjoying some fun Christmas giveaways these days. I've followed the blog of Jones Design Company for several years now (she has a fresh, fun style and is so creative). I'm following her on Instagram now, and she and her creative blogger friends have lots of freebies for the twelve days of Christmas -- pretty printables, wallpapers, and holiday helps.

If you (or friends or family) have small children, here's one other giveaway for you. Sally Lloyd-Jones is giving away a collection of her books for children. These are beautifully illustrated and written -- I wish we'd had these when my kids were younger! (And yes, I did enter the giveaway, not just because I'm a sucker for a lovely book but also to share with little visitors to our home.)

 If you like the graphic on the graphic on this page, I've made into a computer wallpaper that I'd be happy to share. Just let me know and I'll be happy to send it to you! Enjoy the Christmas season -- find the joy!

December 4, 2015

Dancing with our daughters

A friend recently shared a podcast on Facebook with these questions: “This REALLY spoke to my heart today. Are we raising our daughters to think of marriage as plan A; career/education as plan B? Is this biblical thinking?” She followed up by asking me (and several other women) for our thoughts on it. I thought I’d share my response here, in hopes it might spark some conversation and encourage some of you.

Jen, I’m not sure if/when I’ll have time to listen to that podcast, so I don't know what direction they went with it. But I can share my own thoughts on this topic with you.

First, the term “Plan B” in this scenario has always rubbed me the wrong way, at least since I came into an understanding of God’s sovereignty. While I do believe in being prudent, this makes it sound as though God has given a young woman a desire to be a stay-at-home-wife/mom, yet she may need to venture outside of this plan just in case God doesn’t come through. That may not be what is intended, but it kind of comes across that way.

So here’s what I think. If a young lady has a God-given desire to be a stay-at-home-wife/mom, encourage that. As you encourage that, knowing that fulfillment of that desire may be deferred indefinitely, also encourage her to pursue development of her God-given gifts and abilities. If she has a creative bent, help her to explore many different expressions of that bent. If she is good with children, either formally teaching or informally caring/nurturing them, help her to explore that. This young lady may be interested in science, math, mountaineering, literature – help her to explore. This exploration may or may not include college or formal training. All the while, continue to also train her in the home arts, as they’ll likely be needed whatever path she follows. I think (and I’ve probably been guilty of this) some parents are afraid that if their daughter pursues a college degree or the like, she will desire to become a career woman and abandon any thought of being a SAHM for their grandchildren. For homeschoolers, especially, this can have very scary implications!

Here’s what these parents are forgetting. This beautiful young woman is a masterpiece of our Creator. He made her, He numbers her days, He holds her. Only He can direct her heart. We are stewards of the gift of our children, but as they get older, our stewarding influence must lessen and they must begin to steward their own lives. This is hard. I hate to break it to the parents of toddlers out there, but raising young adults is the hardest work you’ll ever do. It’s probably not as hard physically, but it is much harder emotionally and spiritually. It’s heart work, and it’s a dance. I don’t know that I’ll ever figure out all the steps to this dance (the rhythm changes so often!). But I’m thankful to know Who has all of these steps planned out.

I am case in point.

When I was in high school, I set some lofty goals for myself. I had a strong aversion to any kind of secretarial work. I wanted to be Vice President of a corporation (with a male secretary, no less). I worked to earn a full-ride scholarship to a university in my state. I was on my way.

But then God intervened in the form of a great humbling and a God-chasing young man.

As I worked my way through my freshman year, it was such a struggle. College coursework didn’t come as easily to me as high school, but it was also harder to put my heart into it. Much of it seemed irrelevant to me, and some was downright offensive (such as the pornographic film played for my health class). But I buckled down and persevered. In December, that young man shared with our church that he was feeling a calling to full-time ministry and, in February, we were engaged. I struggled through that second semester, explored changing my major from marketing to… what? In the end, I pursued a backward transfer to a local community college with the end goal of completing an Associate’s degree (which I did do, after we were married). It was very humbling, and it took God changing my heart for me to relinquish my plan to follow His.

Guess what job I held during our engagement? Yup. I became a secretary. At my church (best job I ever had). Guess what job I held while Jeff was pursuing seminary degrees? Yup. Secretary again.

It wasn’t really until we began thinking about having a second child that I felt a real yearning to be a stay-at-home-wife/mom. God has provided a way for me to follow this new career (in some really amazing ways, actually). And those secretarial skills have served me well in not only assisting my husband in his work, but have also helped me earn income through several work-from-home jobs over the years.

You know, for many of my growing up years, my mother was a SAHM. In fact, she was the penultimate SAHM, a real Proverbs 31 woman – cooked from scratch, made clothes for us, made our home feel like home. She did occasionally work outside the home as well; even then, we knew that her focus remained on us, her family. When my heart was turned homeward, I had a great example to follow. The Lord had provided that, as well.

Talk with your daughter, model for your daughter, release her to explore, and trust God with her steps. Dance with her and enjoy this season of life.

November 27, 2015

Death to Life

It's November, and I'm surrounded by
death and decay.
As the leaves hit the ground
and begin to brown and crisp,
it occurs to me that
fall is a picture of the fall
of man.

All through the bleak winter the trees will
point and reach.
When they stretch heavenward,
it's as though they are crying
out to God for new life.
They yearn for something beyond
the bleak.

And in the spring their buds will
burst forth brightly.
Unbeknownst to the trees,
God was already stirring life
within them, irresistible.
Soul's spring is impossible without
our God.


November 23, 2015

This and that 11/23/15

See those little hands? Those little hands (which belong to my youngest, Jared) will be 17 years old in just one week. Unbelievable. I took this picture back in 2009 during our family's annual pumpkin farm trip.

The ladies over at girltalk are currently sharing a blog series on emotions. Are emotions good or bad? Do I stifle them or just let it all out? This is such an important topic for us as women to deal with and to teach our children. It's also a timely one because, let's face it, as much as we all love the holiday season, it can also be stressful and emotional. I hope you'll take a look. And if you're a blog reader, girltalk is one worth following.

I saw this on Twitter the other day and loved it so much I asked for the source.

Turns out, it's from a new book by Jon Bloom that Desiring God is sharing for free (e-book versions). The book is titled, Don't Follow Your Heart. Sounds like it might be a nice complement to the GirlTalk blog series, eh? I've added it to my reading stack.

And if this is the year you're adding an e-reader to your toolbag, Amazon has some great deals on several Kindle styles through November 30th. Reading paper books is still my favorite way of reading, but I do enjoy my the Paperwhite that I've swiped from my hubby as a way to read free books, as well for reading in bed (it's backlit!). (Speaking of Amazon, if you're not an Amazon Prime member, this is a great season to join. Try it free for thirty days -- great for fast, free shipping on Christmas gifts -- using this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.)

Thanksgiving Day will mark two months since we left Georgia to head to our new adventure in Virginia. In light of both of those events,  I wanted to share this (from my new-to-me chalkboard wall, which is a whole lot of fun):

 Happy Thanksgiving!

(This post contains affiliate links. This just means that if you purchase through these links, you won't pay a dime more, but I receive a small commission to support my book addiction.)

November 5, 2015

An unrelenting friendship

I mentioned that I was reading this book. It's been very encouraging. More to come, but I did want to share this little gem of a quote with you.

Good to remember.

November 2, 2015

This and that 11/2/15

We're settling in to our new Virginia home and enjoying a beautiful autumn. Last week, Jared and I traveled with some other homeschoolers to visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home near Charlottesville. It was beautiful and educational, but most of all it was a great chance to get to know some folks a bit better.

Most evenings, Jeff's been reading aloud to us from To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy hearing him read, and the story has really sucked us in. On my own, I'm reading Everyday Grace: Infusing All of Your Relationships with the Love of Jesus. I won two copies (yes, TWO -- possible giveaway in the near future!) of this a few months ago, but hadn't had a chance to dig in yet. It's been an encouragement so far. And I just finished G.K. Chesterton's Man Alive, which was an odd, yet somehow endearing, story.

I miss a great many things about New Mexico -- dear friends, beautiful scenery, being closer to some of my family. And good Mexican food. So I'm super excited to find that good green chile is available through Amazon. Believe it or not, I first found it at a Kroger in Middle Georgia, but my stockpile is bound to run out eventually.

I've been cleaning my kitchen sink for more years than I care to count, but I recently started taking a more natural approach. I'm mixing about a cup of baking soda with a few drops each of lemon and clove oil and putting the mixture in a shaker. Then, after I do the dishes each evening, I sprinkle a bit of this monkey dust in the sink, add just one drop of dishwashing detergent, give it a quick scrub and rinse well. If I need to do a little extra disinfecting (like if I've been washing chicken), I'll spritz the sink with a diluted vinegar and scrub a bit more. Naturally clean and smells great!

If you'd like more homemaking tips, the Ultimate Bundle folks have brought back their Ultimate Homemaking Bundle for a quick flash sale (ends midnight ET on November 3, 2015). This bundle is an amazing mix of e-books, e-courses, printables, and free goodies (more than $900 worth) for just $29.97. Grab a bundle quick before it goes away! Click the graphic below for more details on what's included.

I hope you take time to look for opportunities to be thankful this month!

{This post contains affiliate links.}

October 28, 2015

Death to Life, or Why I Love the Fall

It's my first October in Virginia, and this desert-raised girl has been eagerly anticipating the fall color. Almost overnight, the leaves have exploded into brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows.

I love the fall. Winter, not so much. But spring? Spring is my favorite.

It seems a bit morbid to love watching the process of leaves dying. And then, depending on the length of seasons where you live, you get to sit in that death for weeks or months. Winter has its own beauty, but it can also be dark and desolate, cold and bitter. Sometimes it seems endless.

But then spring always comes. Spring displays the brilliancy of life, new life, fresh life. Cast against our memory of the stark bleakness of winter, spring's hues seem even brighter and more lively.

As I looked out on the beauty of fall in my yard this morning, I was reminded of the verses from Sunday's sermon, particularly, Colossians 1:5a:
because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
 I love fall. And I hope that when it comes my time to die, I am able to die as beautifully as the leaves of a maple or aspen, all the the glory of God. If I do, it will be because I'm anticipating a glorious spring, the ultimate spring of heaven.

As Jeff told us Sunday, who or what we hope in will define how we think and live. Does my hope of heaven have any bearing on how I live? My future heavenly home should define and give meaning to my life and the way I live. For now, I need God's help to live in that anticipation each day, to allow that hope laid up for me in heaven to inform my heart and behavior.

Who or what do you hope in? How does this shape your daily life?

* (Sorry, summer. Our many years together in the Phoenix area and the Deep South have left us with a love/hate relationship.)

October 2, 2015

Exercising trust

We pray for sanctification and then are afraid God will sanctify us by stripping us of our idols and feel distressed lest we can not have them and Him too. (Elizabeth Prentiss in letter her dearest friend, from The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss)

One day, I'm going to write a post about how calm and peaceful my life is. How we're just trolling along, enjoying a season of rest.

This isn't that day.

Once again, this has been a season (and year) of significant transitions: some complete, some happening how, and others yet to come. This has been a summer of challenges, of hardships, of blessings. It's been a summer of holding on to the important, letting go of the fleeting, and learning to recognize the difference.

It's been a season of trusting.

Trusting in God's timing when plans are unavoidably delayed.

Trusting in God's grace when burdens are heavy and I'm soul-weary.

Trusting in God's strength when I'm physically, emotionally, spiritually worn down.

Trusting in God's providence when I'm near the end of my resources, humanly speaking.

I wish that trust was my default mode. But perhaps that's why God has me exercising that muscle so much lately -- it needs strengthening, it needs to be more defined. The beauty of exercising one muscle, though, is that other muscles usually have to be involved, also. My trust muscle benefits from the strength of my belief, hope, faith, steadfastness muscles... or suffers from their weakness. And those muscles are further strengthened when my trust muscle is exerted.

...train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:7b-10 ESV)

When we think of our heroes of the faith, those who seem to have (or had) strong and stable trust intact, we might think of the Apostle Paul, Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Eric Liddell, Adoniram Judson, and so many others. How did they develop such steadfast trust? They weren't born with it, any more than you or I. Each of them share in common a life of hardship, of regularly being faced with opportunities to exercise trust, strengthening their trust more and more along the way.

A steadfast heart isn't a dead heart; it's a heart that's pulsating with a vibrant, dynamic faith, God-centered thought, and redeemed emotions that bring life and color to every experience. (Elyse Fitzpatrick, A Steadfast Heart, page 110)

Our family has just transitioned to Williamsburg, Virginia. It's been a bit of a long transition, with bumps along the way. We've left behind family (two of our children, Jeff's parents, and extended family) and many friends. As part of the process of this transition, we've done all we know to do to be good stewards and to walk in God's will. We've researched, discussed, planned, consulted, and we've prayed. We've done all of these things before each transition we've made... and frankly, we've not always experienced the outcome we hoped for. In fact, we've faced some really difficult, really ugly situations in spite of our due diligence. It was hard. Sometimes it's still hard. Yet God has been good to give us glimpses of His purposes -- some of them, anyway -- in the midst of the hard and the ugly. These glimpses help me to gaze upon Him, to be reminded of His character in ways that help me continue to trust.


He is all of this and so much more.


September 20, 2015

The Battle

There's a battle raging
Somewhere between the heavens and the depths.
It's a battle to the finish, to the death.
I'm fighting for you, always,
Always fighting.
And when it seems that right and wrong,
Guilt and innocence,
Truth and lies,
Are muddled and bloodied in this cloud of war,
I'm still fighting for you, always,
Always fighting.
Sometimes weakened by the blows,
Even those from friendly fire,
I'll carry you even on my knees,
Whatever it takes.
When you have no will to fight,
I will fight for you because
You matter.
You are beautiful.
You are by Design.
And you are infinitely, wholly loved.
So I will fight.
I'm fighting for you, always,
Always fighting.
Always fighting. For you.

Early this morning, with someone I deeply love on my heart, I wrote these words in hopes they would encourage.

[Photo:  Misty morning over Navajo Lake, Northern New Mexico, October 2014]

June 13, 2015

This and that 06|13|15

Jeff and I have enjoyed watching this in fits and spurts. I always ask him, "Is this one going to be sad?" And he always says yes. Full disclosure: Jeff chooses to watch documentaries during his downtime. I'm a bit less cerebral, with this being my current viewing choice (purely as inspiration and entertainment; I'm not inclined to tackle any major reno projects). Both of these have been available to stream via Netflix.

We're having this for dinner tonight. It's a favorite standby of mine, even in summer, and this time I had leftover grill pan chicken to speed it up even more. Tip: Don't skip the homemade chips. And I always add cubed avocado and a dollop of sour cream to my bowl. ( Note: I used some of the leftover grill pan chicken in these last night for another hit.) I love it when a meal plan comes together.

This post made me smile, nod, and share it with my husband. Summary: preachers, man up!

I've enjoyed photography ever since I took some classes during high school. I've never had an expensive camera; I've used this one for the last decade or so (and used it to take the photo above), but -- like most people -- I tend to depend on my iPhone since it's generally with me. Amateur that I am, I'm always up for improvement! I just downloaded the two free ebooks below and really like what they have to offer. "Guide to Photo Composition" offers some simple, easy-to-remember tips that can make a big difference. "Mastering Lightroom" is comprehensive and makes me want to play with Adobe... I downloaded in case that becomes possible in the future!

What are you taking pictures of this summer? And are you posting them on Instagram?

This post contains affiliate links.

June 10, 2015

A window, not a portrait.

I watched a video this morning. It challenged me, convicted me, comforted me, called out to me.

I watched a video this morning. And I read my Bible.

God Wrote a Book from Desiring God on Vimeo.

June 6, 2015

This and that 06|06|15

I finally finished this book (for me, a not-so-daily devotional), and I'm still working on this one and this one.  But when I need lighter reading, I find I'm enjoying this one quite a lot. I found it at my favorite local bookshop, which always has an interesting variety of preowned reads.

We wrapped up school about a week ago, but I'm already thinking about next year. I recently learned of Trello, a cool (and free!) visual organizational tool to help me file ideas and plan for these last two years (!) of homeschooling. (Try it out, then share it with your friends to earn free months of their premium service -- be sure to watch the short tutorials, it'll make much more sense.) I also started using Pocket on my phone and laptop in an effort to stop filling up my inbox with things I see on Twitter or other places but want to read later.

I'm thinking of leading my son through an informal writing workshop this summer (or fall), so many articles on writing have caught my eye. While I'm not sure my highschooler will really go for this, I'm all in.

This was pretty much my favorite response to the Jenner media lovefest:

Is it just me, or is summer laundry so much better than winter laundry? Laundry has never been my favorite job, but smaller laundry is better in my book. (True story: a friend who knew I disliked folding whites and towels offered to call my hubby with a deep doctrinal question on laundry day because he often unconsciously folds while talking on the phone. Now that's a real friend.)

Besides laundry, what are you up to this summer?

May 14, 2015

I've been salvaged

Image source: (text graphics mine)

Yet another gem from this book.

I've been salvaged. In fact, I'm salvaged and restored every day as I go through this continuing cycle of sin and repentance that we call life.

It's a wondrous thing that we are not left on the dung heap, that God sees us as we are yet condescends to make us more like His Son.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 5:6-11 ESV)

April 25, 2015

Gazing at Christ

I mentioned on Instagram earlier this week that God seems to have me in the school of grace right now, which is a very good place to be.

In some of my recent reading (yes, I'm still savoring this book), I came across a couple of really good quotes (beyond the Piper quote above) that I wanted to share. Maybe they will challenge and encourage you as they did me.

Perspective is what makes the spirit soar like an eagle even when the body is raged by accident, disease and age. (Randy Alcorn)

I'm so aware of how quickly my perspective can become skewed. I shun suffering as much as the next person, yet it's been seemingly everpresent over the past six months. I have to remind myself to, as a young friend says, "shift my perspective -- off of myself and onto my Savior."

I want to stay in the habit of 'glancing' at my problems and 'gazing' at my Lord. (Joni Eareckson Tada)

What a clear description of a grace-filled focus. What am I glancing at, and what am I gazing at?

When my gaze is focused straight ahead at my gracious, merciful Savior, it's such much easier to limit my problems to just a glance. (Of course, the opposite is just as true.)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV, emphasis mine)

How do we maintain that focus, that perspective? For me, in the midst of these months of church issues, health issues, family issues, I have been so encouraged by the believers around me. This starts with my husband (my greatest encourager) and family, and extends to my heavenly family of believers. I'm thankful that Christianity is not an individual enterprise; I'd fade quickly without this band of brothers and sisters (Galatians 6:2, 9). While this is just one way I'm helped, it's truly a tangible way of feeling Christ's love and hearing His gospel when other believers pray for me, speak truth to me, and just love me. I'm very grateful for Christ's provision of His Church in difficult times.

(Some of my friends might recognize the area in the photograph above, taken a couple of years ago. I always enjoyed the view when we crossed the Ohio River from Indiana into Louisville, Kentucky, even on gloomy days.)

April 11, 2015

Review: Honest Evangelism

Image source: (text graphics mine)

It happened twenty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Away on a business trip, I went out to dinner with a few coworkers. Table talk mostly revolved around company business, especially the convention we were working, until Melissa* suddenly dropped the question, "Do you guys ever just feel empty inside?" Awkward silence.

Honestly, I don't remember how the conversation went after that, probably because I was sitting there thinking, "I should say something. I don't know what to say. I have answers, but I don't know how to do this in this context."

I'd completed evangelism classes (LES, CWT), learned the Roman Road, and grew up on The Four Spiritual Laws and Chick Tracts. So why did I feel so inadequate, maybe even unwilling, to walk through this wide-open door?

Rico Tice answered that for me in  Honest Evangelism: How to talk about Jesus even when it's tough:
 I know there's a painline that needs to be crossed if I tell someone the gospel; but I want to stay the comfortable side of the painline. Of course I do! I think that's the main reason we don't do evangelism.
That's it: I wasn't willing to cross that painline. I've since repented of my selfishness and have prayed that the Lord would help Melissa see not only the reason for her emptiness but His amazingly merciful remedy. But I still have a painline. I appreciate this book's help in not only identifying that for me, but also in motivating me to risk the pain.

Tice packs good content into this short, reader-friendly book. The first half (chapters 1-4) tells us why we don't evangelize... and why we should. Reassuringly, Tice clarifies responsibilities, reminding of a truth I know but sometimes live like I've forgotten:
We talk about Christ. God opens blind eyes... You communicate the message--and then you pray that he would do the miracle.
What a comfort it is to know God is sovereign in all.

The second half of the book tells us how we can evangelize... but without giving a script. In Chapter 4, Tice empathizes with my feeling that some people seem to have more of a bent toward upfront, straightforward evangelism toward everyone they meet. And then there's me. But he also reminds me that God put people in my path, my life, my circles and family, people who need the gospel:
It's no accident that you know the people you do. It's no accident that they're in your path. They need the gospel. You know the gospel. God wants them to hear the gospel. And that transforms how I look at my life. It makes it really exciting. If I'm sitting on a train and there's someone opposite me, God has put them there. He's not far from them, because I know him and I'm sitting opposite them. Now that transforms whether I'll bother to try to start a conversation with them. It'll transform what I am to talk about with them. And it'll transform how I pray for my day ahead; I'll be praying for energy and love to make the most of every divine appointment that god has already written into my schedule.
Chapter 5 provides some practical discussion about what to say in a gospel conversation, any gospel conversation. No script, just some practical and simple markers to help you point the discussion down the right road. Chapter 6 gives us permission to be ourselves as we pursue these gospel opportunities. Tice gives examples of gospel-sharers from Scripture, all very different in personality and approach, but all eager participants in God's work of evangelism.

Chapters 7 and 8 discuss the recent changes in spiritual climate and encourage us toward two responses, both key to any believer who has been moved to cross the painline. And I found two quotes included in the closing chapter to be especially poignant and pointed:
The whole life of man until he is converted to Christ is a ruinous labyrinth of wanderings, harassed and helpless. (John Calvin)
Let me never fancy that I have zeal until my heart overflows with love to every human being. (Henry Martin)
What a great summation of our call to evangelize. Honest Evangelism can help you identify what's behind your painline, as well as how to cross it... and why you should.

Lord, help me clearly see the plight of those lost ones you've brought near me, and help me love them enough to share your good news. 

*not her real name

Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on and Goodreads. This post contains affiliate links. 

April 8, 2015

This and that

Perspective is a funny thing. I took this photo because I was drawn to the colors and textures. But that wavy tan texture? It's pollen in rainwater on the driveway, because this is Georgia and it's spring.

My friend, Lori, has a house full of sweet, beautiful girls. Her recent post is a great challenge and encouragement for mothers of daughters... and sons.

Moving and downsizing have forced me to simplify and streamline, and that's good, but Megan's post reminded me that one woman's (seeming) clutter is another woman's evidence of a joyful life.

This post was very timely for me, as I've just finished this book (and should post a review later this week).

I've been making this banana bread recipe for a few years now, and it's always a hit. I've added blueberries at times, too, which Jeff liked. (I just got this as a sort of gift, and it makes mixing a dream!)

Baseball season starts up in just two days. It'll be strange watching the Braves this year; so many new players to get to know, and it's always weird to see "our guys" playing against us.

(This post includes affiliate links)

March 28, 2015

He will hold me fast

Photo source: (graphics mine)

After a bit of a hiatus due to life events, I'm back into this book. I'm not really one for devotionals (that said, I really liked this one), but Alcorn does such a good job of bringing deep, penetrating truths in small portions, just right for marinating in during the day.

Today, I was struck by this:
We are not the cosmic center -- God is. He holds the universe, each of us, in His gravity. When we make ourselves the center of gravity, we attempt to hold God in orbit around us. Then we draw false conclusions, including, whenever we don't get our way, it must mean God isn't really there. (Randy Alcorn)
Ouch. I do that. I make myself -- my pain, my desires, my happiness -- the center of gravity. Or rather, I create for myself the illusion that I'm the center, demanding that God orbit Himself and everything else around me and my needs. And the inevitable fall which occurs when His gravity does its job rocks my little world. Yet, even in my falling, He holds me fast. I needed that reminder today.
When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail,
He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold
Through life's fearful path;
For my love is often cold;
He must hold me fast.

Those He saves are His delight,
Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in his holy sight,
He will hold me fast.
He'll not let my soul be lost;
His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost,
He will hold me fast.

For my life He bled and died,
Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied;
He will hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life,
He will hold me fast.
'Till our faith is turned to sight,
When He comes at last!

He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.

(Words for verses 1, 2, and 4 by Ada Habershon. You should listen to this lovely arrangement [#18] by Matt Merker, who also wrote verse 3.)

February 25, 2015

The Word vs Sin

Today's reading in this book led me to yet another great quote... and this graphic. Enjoy! 

(Photo Credit: The Jungle Photo; text added by princapecos)

February 24, 2015

For God's Glory and Everyone's Good

(Note: This post includes affiliate links. Should you choose to click through to Amazon and make a purchase -- even something other than this book -- you won't be charged a penny extra, but I receive a small commission to put toward feeding my book addiction. So click away, with my thanks!)

I've been enjoying a meandering journey through Randy Alcorn's little devotional, Seeing the Unseen: A Daily Dose of Eternal Perspective. For each day's reading, Alcorn chooses a topic to write on, but also includes related Scripture and excellent quotes from others. And for those who'd like to dig a bit deeper, he also provides a link to a related article on his own website.

The Piper quote above was both poignant and significant -- as Piper quotes tend to be. Other quotes I've enjoyed lately include:
The Christian is a person who makes it easy for others to believe in God. (Robert Murray M'Cheyne)
Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent. (John of the Cross)
Imagination is a God-given gift, but if it is fed dirt by the eye, it will be dirty. All sin, not least sexual sin, begins with the imagination. Therefore, what fees the imagination is of maximum importance in the pursuit of Kingdom righteousness. (D.A. Carson)
Lord, make me as holy as it is possible for a saved sinner to be. (Robert Murray M'Cheyne)
I'm trying to read in this several times a week, then I like to journal something from Alcorn's writing that was meaningful to me, as well as one of the quotes that I found helpful (you may occasionally see these journal pages if you follow me on Instagram). My hope is that my journal will provide a helpful resource for later, especially as I'm reading the Kindle version of Seeing the Unseen.

If you're looking for a good devotional, you might give this one a whirl. Amazon currently offers it free for Kindle, but it's available in hardcover, as well -- perfect for gift-giving.