5.31.2013

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye by Len Bailey


The ultimate detective and his ever-faithful companion are back at it again and this time they are investigating the ultimate mysteries of the Bible. Through an anonymous patron’s request and the means of a time-machine pilfered from none other that Moriarty himself, Holmes and Watson travel back through time and relive ten different Scriptural scenarios. Each one has a mystery attached whether obvious or otherwise and the answers are not as forthcoming as one would suppose. 


 Having just read an original Sherlock Holmes, I picked up this new version with much skepticism. However, within the first few paragraphs I was not disappointed in the author’s use of the familiar characters, settings and witty, well-versed dialogue. Just as in Doyle’s stories the reader is constantly trying to solve the mystery and yet at a loss compared to Holmes amazing deductive skills, I even found myself struggling to keep up with where the mysteries from the Bible would lead. I was intrigued by the author’s use of very familiar stories from Sunday school and the nuances of mystery that they held.

In this book , my two favorites come together, God’s Word and Sherlock Holmes. Who would have thought that this concept would work and keep you reading case after case. I absolutely loved every minute and highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the mystery genre.

I received this free book to review from Booksneeze.

5.29.2013

Always, Continually & In All Things

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
 Gosh I wish those instructions were for eating, or shopping, or vacationing, but unfortunately they are not. They apply most directly to my life on a day to day basis and really come into play when the going gets tough. You know those days when it feels like you've taken up residence on the dark side of the moon. Being happy is easy when life is going well. But people let me tell you, life is filled with not so good days.

I absolutely love laying in bed in the middle of the night and everyone else in my house is sound asleep and its almost like you can breathe in the contentment its so thick. Those nights don't come very often.

I've thanked God for the most ridiculous things like my newborn sleeping for ten more minutes, I've prayed that the light would turn green, I've rejoiced when McDonald's messed up my order and felt compelled to hand me a hot apple pie for my trouble. But what about when my marriage was broken, when the doctors were speaking the "C" word over my child's body, or I wasn't sure if the bills were going to get paid. Its not as easy then, is it? Those are the times that Paul's words strike home. Always, continually, in all things. Those instructions carry you through in the hard times.
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

5.28.2013

One Mean Momma

I admit it. I'm a mean mom. Its not that I set out to be that way. Last week, Zion said, "I hate you, momma, you're mean!" In this case, I just couldn't deliver what he wanted at the time, so he blamed me. I shuddered inside because he was so right and I received the admonition because of all of the many, many times nobody had the courage to name it.

When they were babies it was so easy to please my children. Feed, change, feed again. Ahh, the bliss of meeting the obvious needs of another. They grew older and thought I was the most beautiful woman on the planet, the smartest, next to daddy of course, and hadn't realized yet that I really couldn't cook. To a little kid mean consisted of not letting them eat ice cream for dinner or candy for breakfast or play in the mud and track it through the house.

Then things get complicated as they start growing opinions that are not tempered by mine, and eyes that can see things I want to shield from them. My children's needs can quickly grow beyond what I can always meet. The definition of mean begins to alter to include the cool new clothes that I didn't buy or the party they didn't get to go to. Teenagers lose all sense of reality anyway. Moms and dads realize that we have leaching zombie children living amongst us and only so many years left to produce a viable contributor to society. Teens can make choices that completely change their lives forever if not kept in check by a mean mom and dad.

I hold fast to the balance of loving my children enough to be mean to them. One day, I pray that as they are being mean to their own children they will remember me being mean to them and be encouraged that its worth it.

Proverbs 13:24 A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them.

5.26.2013

Have I Introduced You Before?

When my kids were growing up I loved listening to their prayers to God. Its is so sweet to hear the things they ask for, the things they thank Him for. I love it. Zion relishes his turn to pray for the meal and Emari is always fighting for her turn. At school during chapel time, the headmaster asks for prayer requests and we get everything from sick kittens to good grades.

We have raised our children to know the Lord, to see that He is at work in our lives at all times and through all things. What worries me as a mother is that time when they have to meet God for themselves. They hear me talk about Him and point out His work. I feel like when I was a kid and I had a really cool friend, somebody I loved hanging out with and I just knew that everybody would feel the same way about this person. And then inevitably somebody wouldn't get along and I would feel awkward and like I needed to explain my friend's motives.

I know that God has been my best friend for as far back as I can remember. He is the best friend that anyone can have. There is only good in Him and his motives are always the best. But not everybody sees Him that way.

Tony has been home about a month now from school and he came back ready to get a job and start making some money. Dad told him to hold on, that first things came first and they were going to work on getting our rental house back in shape to put up for rent once again. Now for anyone who has ever had renters, you understand that property can become a black hole sucking up your time, money and energy. This project that we thought would take two weeks max has taken up a month of our time. Tony has gone out there with his dad and worked and worked. The cool thing is that yesterday we about put the finishing touches on the house. The carpets need cleaning and the dishwasher is going to be replaced, however the hard work is done. Tony came home, took a shower and disappeared.

He came home telling us that he went by the place he used to work before he went off to school and the management is changed. There are a few that still know him, but the general manager said that they would put him on their call list. In other words, the bottom of the list. Disappointed, Tony started to leave when the owner of the restaurant walked in asking him how he was doing. Tony explained that he had come by for a job and they weren't going to be able to give him anything right now. The owner smiled and assured Tony that he would have a job. Before leaving Tony chatted with a few more of his old friends that still worked there and the new manager came up to him. He said that it looked like Tony would be hearing from them sooner than he thought. Perfect timing!

I love God's faithfulness, but even more so when it is apparent to my kids. As I watch my older kids start to wobble around on their own two feet without daddy and I standing right there to pick them up, I pray hard that they see God for all of His goodness.

5.25.2013

The Summer List

Last year the girls and I came up with an exhaustive list of all the things we wanted to do for the summer and we had so much fun that we decided to do it again! Here's our list for this year:


On our very first day of summer we unfortunately all had to go out to our rental house in Rockfish to put on the finishing touches so we can rent it again. We spent the day raking, cleaning, trimming, blah, blah, blah, sunburn, broken fingernails, sore muscles.
But...we had a picnic on the deck and for a reward on the way home Daddy bought us all snowcones! Yay! Zion didn't even make it out of the driveway before he fell asleep, but Emari didn't mind having a snowcone all to herself as you can see.


5.24.2013

School's Out For the Summer!

Except for two more weeks for our graduating Senior, the rest of us are out of school for 2 glorious months! Yesterday Emari-Melina graduated from kindergarten and today was Family Day at Renaissance Classical Christian Academy.


 I had a great year teaching this year and all three of the girls had challenges to overcome. Everybody was promoted to the next grade hallelujah and we celebrated by going out to McDonald's.


The last day of school is always bittersweet for a teacher because you know that you are so ready for vacation, but at the same time you've really grown used to seeing your students faces every day. On top of that my own babies are growing up so fast. Serena Marie begins high school in the fall, Taylor begins 7th grade, Emari will be in first grade and Zion will round it all out by starting Pre-K and then my babies will be no more. We'll save all of those emotions for this fall and revel in the awesomeness that is summertime!

5.23.2013

Book Review: Accidental Pharisees by Larry Osborne

If I were to describe my church leadership by saying they were Pharisees, you probably would never want to make my church your home. However, the group we associate with legalism and works based religion actually started out right. Over time, their zealous faith became the driving force in their pursuit of holiness and exclusivity and pride took over. The kicker is that not one Christian today would describe himself or herself as a Pharisee and yet every one of us can be an “accidental Pharisee.” In this book, Larry Osborne carefully reveals the motivation behind Pharisaical thinking. He makes the following observation:
“We’re all susceptible in different ways. The dark side of my zeal may look quite different from yours. But in the end, the pathway to becoming an accidental Pharisee always starts with the same three steps. It begins with a failure to grasp the true gravity and depths of my own sin. It’s followed by a heightened disgust for the sins of others. It’s then justified by a cut-and-paste theology that emphasizes some of the hard sayings of Jesus while pretty much ignoring those that speak of his compassion, mercy, and grace. “
I could see my own propensity to be a modern day Pharisee from the moment I picked up the book and began reading. I mean, it was scary to see myself revealed by my tendency toward cynicism in the church and thinking that my obedience to God somehow meant that I was up for preferential treatment. Those are just a few of the things the author brought to light. From taking liberties with God’s Word to suit our own devices to looking back through the Church’s past with rose colored glasses every reader will feel convicted.



I received a free copy of this book to review from Booksneeze.

5.21.2013

This Is Not A Punishment (Guest Post)

To kind of mix it up around here, I asked one of my good friends, Deanna Abraham, to share a few words with you. I have known Deanna for a long time and she is one of the coolest moms I know, besides the fact that she has raised two great kids and somehow manages to keep sane and serve the Lord at the same time.
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I have been a single mother since Jan. 2000. I ventured out on this new quest without a degree, only a high school diploma and two very small lives to care for. I found myself in unfamiliar territory. Up until this point I was impenetrable. I was hard as a rock. You couldn’t catch a tear fall from my eye because I didn’t allow myself to get hurt enough to cry. Motherhood is a game changer. My tears did not begin to fall until God decided to breakdown the rock. I can remember breaking down and crying in a grocery store line after being asked by my daughter for a 25 cent bag of chips. All I had, was all I had, no more, I didn’t have 25 extra cents. I had already searched under the seats of the car and surveyed the street as I walked into the store for stray coins. What I had was just enough, no more. Another time, my three year old son was playing around in the bathroom, being a three year old. He took the toothpaste and filled the remaining tube with water. He’s having fun but, I lost it. I didn’t have another dollar to buy another tube of toothpaste. I was totally unhinged. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have enough. I couldn’t believe that I was in this position. I am better than this. I thought to myself that this must be God punishing me for something I’ve done in my past.
As the years passed by, I deemed myself as mom and dad. I wanted, no… needed them to lack nothing. I felt guilty depriving my kids of the things that I couldn’t afford to give them and the father influence that I helped remove from their lives. I wanted to give and be everything they lacked, until God stopped me dead in my tracks. I remember being in the bathroom, I think getting ready to coach one of my daughter’s softball games, when God said it. He told me that I could never take the place of their father and that it is their adversities that will make them and turn them into whom they are going to become. It was like a ton of bricks had just hit me. I was crushed. I started to cry once again. I was trying to shield my kids from the hurts and God was allowing the hurts to mold and shape them. Instead of trying to be a father I needed to love them as only a mother can. Instead of teaching them how to be content with what they had, I allowed my pride and guilt to overwhelm me.
My kids are 19 and 17 now. Through the years God has taught me that before they were my kids, they are His. He knows the plans that he has for them. I have learned that God is very concerned about them. He has their best interests at heart, even more than I do. It is not for me to shield them from every hurt but to guide them through them, and show them how to handle the adversities that life throws at them. I can’t allow my mistakes to guide my parenting nor can I allow my pride to break me down when the bends in the road appear. I have made mistakes, my children will make mistakes. So many wonderful and powerful saints have made mistakes. My singleness is not a curse or a punishment, but an awakening. I have been blessed with the opportunity to seek God more and allow Him to be everything to my kids that I am not and can’t give them.

Jeremiah 29:11
 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."



5.19.2013

When Mama's Away...

People have been referring to me by mother for twenty years now and there's something that I have learned in those years: once you're a mom you don't take vacations anymore. I can physically leave my house and get on an airplane, drive in a car, take a train, whatever means of transportation to remove myself from the presence of my children and call it a vacation.

However, it isn't really a break, rest, time to shut off the world. You see, there's something that happens when you grow a little person inside of you and walk around that way for a few months and even though I know that doctor cut the umbilical cord for each one of my kiddos, we are forever attached. I cannot go out of town and not find myself thinking about how much they would enjoy the place where I am visiting or the food I'm eating. I miss them in a way that cannot be explained. With all that is inside me I wish I could just have fun and forget about what's going on at home.  I think about if things are all right with them. I somehow still manage to have an awesome time, but when its over I just want to get back home to my kids and give them all a big hug and kiss and make sure everything went great for them while I was out of the picture.

This weekend I've been on a beach trip with some ladies from my church and nearly all of them are moms. I'm not the only one in this dilemma. They have all been on their phones one time or another on this two day trip to check in at home with how every body is doing. Mom's are the control center of the home. Without us things don't run as smoothly. Every one knows that.

Proverbs 31:27-31 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

5.18.2013

Wave Riding

The beach...I love it. Always have, always will. Wherever I am in the world, if it has a beach, I want to go there. Raised in California, my family went to the beach year round. Winter time bundled up in sweatshirts and summer time browned by the sun, I loved every minute of it.

This morning I woke up at the beach in a condo with my first-ever-as-a-leader women's retreat. As I was brushing my teeth and asking the Lord what He wanted me to share for devotions He asked me this: "Why do you think you like the ocean so much?" I gotta be honest and say it really only took me a minute to grab hold of why even though I know without a doubt that I've never really thought about it. I love the ocean because I can stand at the edge of the water and look out into the vastness of the horizon and rest in knowing that there is so much more out there that I can't see. And when I'm brave enough to swim out past the breaking waves and reach the calm swells I can feel the power of the ocean and my lack of control of where it takes me. He had me there.

I was suddenly overtaken by the thought that that's just like me and God, how I've always been in my relationship with Him. I love the vastness and the power and the beauty. But it scares me when I can't reach down a toe and feel the sand underneath my feet or what I can't see in the water. I'm good as long as I'm in control.
 
Quite a few years back I had a really scary moment at the beach. The funny thing was it actually happened during a really scary time in my life, too. I mean it was one of those seasons in your life when you're not sure if you're gonna make it or not. So here I am out in the water and I am not a championship swimmer but I can hold my own and never had a bad experience in all of years of wave riding. Josh was surfing and I was there floating around when all of the sudden I couldn't touch. I freaked out because the waves were pulling me further and further out and I couldn't bring myself back in. I called out for Josh but over the roar of the waves he couldn't hear me. I prayed and prayed and just knew that this was it for me. I was gonna drown right there within yards of my husband and he could do nothing to save my life. I started to hyper venilate and as embarrassing as it is to share I was serious about thinking I was going to die. So, I made myself calm down, take deliberate breaths, think about the movement of my arms and legs and working with the waves and not against. God brought me in to shore. I sat there huddled in a heap and crying and thanking God for saving me and I knew it was one of those moments when He was taking the opportunity to show me that the things I was clinging to for safety were nothing compared to Him. I was undone.


I never go to the beach and stick my feet in the water without remembering that lesson. It still scares me and I don't like going out that far anymore. But I am sobered to remember that while a healthy respect of the water is not a reason to leave it all behind and never venture out again. God is powerful and all knowing and completely in control even when I think that I should be. He can be scary for me at times when I want to see what's out there and where He is pulling me to. That's where faith comes in.

Matthew 14:22-31 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,  and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

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5.17.2013

Put Your "Yes" on the Table


Curt and Hilary Alan were hotly pursuing the American dream. They had everything they wanted: new cars, big house, awesome job, great kids. They were active in their local church, loved Jesus, read their Bibles, prayed regularly. But still something was missing. They were not content. God was calling them to a different place, not just physically but spiritually as well. Before they knew it they were ridding themselves of all that they had worked so hard to possess and moving across the world to a Muslim nation in need.



The book invites you in to the lives of a typical American family who seems to have it all and yet walks away from that to heed the call of the God who gave it all for the world.  It was encouraging to read how God asked them to do the unthinkable according to our society’s standards and yet the more they gave up the more God provided for them.  Even in a foreign country, an unfamiliar culture and lacking many of the luxuries of our convenient lives they found peace and grace to walk out God’s purpose for their family. What looked to their friends and family to be a radical life change was really nothing short of obedience to the voice of the Lord. Hilary says, "Back in 2004 my family was on a fast track to gaining the world but forfeiting our lives, and we didn't even realize it. We finally "found" our life in Christ when, in obedience, we put our yes on the table and followed Him to Southeast Asia."



This is a well-written account of one family who in the midst of a world who puts so much value on success chose the narrow way of obedience and found that you can’t out-give God.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Read the first chapter of the book here. 



5.14.2013

Growing Pains

How does a momma allow her babies to grow up? Right now with Tony home for his first summer after going away to college, and Rebecca graduating from High School, I am met with so many emotions everyday. I glance from the two of them, one taller than me now and yet still my little boy and the other with words that can cut you but a smile that can heal your heart and they are still as small to me as Emari and Zion. Serena wearing makeup and Taylor hiding away in her room to read books and I’m at a loss to keep them small and sweet and hanging on my every word. Even my babies are getting older and growing by leaps and bounds. Emari moving up from kindergarten to the “real world” of schooling and Zion starting preschool this fall. Letting them grow is bittersweet. Learning to walk, run, ride a bike, swim, drive, all movements that carry them away from me, but closer to the plan that God has for them.

5.13.2013

Thumbsuckers

Five out of my six children sucked their thumbs, or fingers in Zion’s case. Each one had their own style and their own time in giving up the habit. Teachers, doctors and dentists all got their word in edgewise on how to get them to stop and why it was so bad for them. I agreed with every one of these professionals, however, I was the one living with the little people and nothing I did seemed to work. We tried incentives, hot sauce, thumb sucking deterrent syrup, gloves, threats, reminders, etc. I mean we tried it all. Bottom line each one comes out of it on their own. We have yet to have a teenager sucking his or her thumb. No offense to those that do….

As I was once more nagging Emari about not sucking her thumb at church yesterday and I would pull it out of her mouth and she would stick it back in and the process was repeated and repeated and repeated, I thought how much this was like us with the things of God. We want those things that comfort when we get tired or sad or sick. It doesn’t matter that we look ridiculous, might ruin our teeth, or are introducing germs into our system. Baby-like tendencies don’t bring sustenance and don’t display age appropriate behavior. But we don’t care. We want what makes us feel better even if it isn’t doing us any good.

Hebrews 5:12-14 In fact, by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Habits are hard to break. They make us feel good and fill a need. The bad thing is that they can sometimes take a place in our lives that only God can fill properly.

5.12.2013

On Being a Mother

I was reading something recently that said, "Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit." I couldn't agree more. However, unlike the years and mock ups I agonized over to get my tattoo, I did not approach my babies that way. I just dove in head first. Funny thing, my tattoo is actually all about my babies. Hah!

As a mother I have been pooped, peed and vomited on, hit, kicked, and bitten. My children have pushed me over the edge and pulled up the rope. They have shown me how far my body can go to bring forth new life, how wide my arms can stretch in expressing my love to them, how deep my mind can search to try and figure out a teenager.


Without them I would be skinny, rich, and smart...and utterly and completely lonely and bored. I can't possibly imagine a life lived without these six crazy lovable kiddos and their amazing daddy. Life would not be the same and neither would I.

5.10.2013

Momma


How do I even start writing a blog about the single most influential person in my life? I'm at a loss for how to begin. With Mother's Day approaching I started thinking about being a mom and how to express appreciation to my own mom and I came up with this...being a mom, heck, being a woman, is cyclical. Its like my life is this great big wheel and I'm ever moving forward into new seasons and new life experiences filled with joy and heart ache and just plain life. But at the same time a wheel is a circle itself with no real beginning or end just round and round and yet heading somewhere. Just when I think I can't take it anymore the scenery changes and there's a break in the trees and I can see everything's gonna be ok. Right now I'm constantly being smacked right in the face with all of the ways I just didn't see things that I can see now. I guess you can say my vantage point is a little more panoramic than before.

With that said daily I am wanting to grab the phone or shoot an email or buy a card and just tell my mom that she was so right and I'm so sorry. I didn't get it and I'm not dumb enough to think that I have it all figured out, but Mom thank you so much for putting up with me...

Just a few things you've taught me:

Leftovers are great but don't ever eat the same meal more than once in a month.
Ethnic food makes you feel like you've traveled the world.
Don't be afraid to try new things.
Don't sit down on a public toilet and don't put your mouth on the water fountain.
Eat where the locals eat, the worst looking dives have the best food.
Jesus takes a frown and He turns it upside down.
You can never read enough books.
Its okay to be quiet.
Black and white movies are the best movies.
Be nice to your sister (or brother).

Here's to all the times you had to hear me say, "Mom, I'm pregnant" and you did not laugh or cry (depending), for all the never ending talks about my life and my goals and my dreams. Thank you for telling me that I was selfish and rude. For rooting for me and reminding me that you were the only one who would have ever known that I was scared out of my mind when I had to speak in public. For everything behind the scenes that I have no clue that you ever did or thought or said. And thank you for praying every day for the boy who would grow up to be my husband and my kids' daddy. You did good.

5.05.2013

Gods at War by Kyle Idelman

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Man was created to bow. That is the central statement and this book pulls no punches. I, like many of you, thought I was safe. I mean, surely I’m not an idolator. That’s the stuff of the Old Testament. Or my unsaved neighbors, or that weird church in another city, or maybe that tribe in the Amazon. Definitely not me! But oh how I was wrong. 


            I received a free copy of Gods at War to review for Booksneeze with some presumptions. But not far into reading the book I knew that this was a wake up call from my complacency. I know that anything that takes the place of God in my life is in fact an idol, but somewhere I lost perspective and wasn’t seeing those things that I had allowed to encroach on the ruling seat of my own life. This book pulls back the covers and reveals those things that have remain hidden because they seem good. Things like achievement, romance, food, even family. Anything that comes before God is an idol no matter how pretty it looks or good it seems.
            Finally, when we have weeded out all the other false gods in our lives we have to pull down the most difficult one: me. It may be the hardest one to fight. We must fight the god of me everyday. But as the author restates over and over throughout the book, an idol cannot be displaced, it must be replaced. The only proper replacement is Jesus.
            I recommend this book to anyone and everyone, especially if you think it doesn’t apply to you. I can assure you that it most certainly does have relevance and application to life. The author brings correction with a gentle hand. With properly placed humor and real life stories from modern and Biblical sources you will feel compelled to look at your own life and pull down some idols.
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