I Blog For Books

23 November 2012

What Am I Here For?

Ten years ago, Rick Warren had millions of people searching for the answer to that question in his amazing book The Purpose Driven Life. Touted by Publishers Weekly as the "bestselling non-fiction hardback in history", Zondervan has released an expanded edition of this explosive book in celebration of its anniversary.

Designed to be read over a period of 40 days, The Purpose Driven Life starts off by putting the reader in a reflective mode. Is it not worth 40 days of your life to find the purpose God has for you? Warren mentions several significant 40 day periods mentioned in the Bible (Noah and the rain, Moses on Mount Sinai, David and Goliath, and the transformation of the city of Nineveh), and encourages the reader to take this book a chapter at a time. What is there to be said that has not already been said over the past 10 years? The expanded edition includes video introductions to each of the 42 chapters by author Rick Warren, audio lessons at the end of each chapter that offer more than 30 hours of additional teaching by Rick Warren, two new chapters that cover the most common barriers to living a purpose driven life, and access to an online community offering discussions, feedback, and support.

This book has the potential to change your life - if you absorb its content and take it in the context in which it was written. You have to WANT a change to happen, and you have to be willing to accept that change. Approaching the possibility of change with an open heart, an open mind, and faith in Christ to lead you in the direction that He would have you go will lead you down paths you may have never considered possible. Are you willing to lead a purpose driven life?

If you took the challenge at any time during the past ten years, how do you feel about that challenge today? Are you willing to revisit the challenge? Transform your life - live with purpose.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

15 November 2012

Grace


Given the opportunity to receive books in exchange for writing a review is a book-a-holic's dream. As a fan of the writings of Max Lucado, I was more than excited to have the opportunity to read his newest release, Grace. When I received my copy in the mail, I sat down and started to read ... I had barely started the book when I realized that this book, while written in the easy conversationalist style of the other Max Lucado books I've read in the past, was speaking to me in a way that nothing I have recently read has done.
As you can see from the cover image, the smaller print underneath the title reads "More than we deserve   Greater than we imagine."
 
What do you think of when you hear the word grace? The examples used in the book (grace period, grace note, fall from grace) are familiar. Grace, to me, means that I am blessed indeed. Grace means that God gives to me - as Max outlines on the cover - far more than I deserve. "Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off," on page 8. Moving over to page 23, we see grace further defined as God-given "when it causes indignation ... alarm ... longing ... concern ... readiness to see justice done" (2 COR 7:11 NIV). I agree with that statement! It's a wake up call, God patting you on the shoulder saying "Wake up and pay attention!"
 
Moving further into the book, on page 98, Max explains sustaining grace far better than I would have been able to do. "Sustaining grace meets us at our point of need and equips us with courage, wisdom, and strength. It surprises us in the middle of our personal transatlantic flights with ample resources of faith. Sustaining grace promises not the absence of struggle, but the presence of God." In that final sentence, it is made vividly clear to me just how boundless God's grace is. It does not promise that we will have no struggle, but that God will be with us always. What power in those words!
 
Delve into Grace. Let the beauty of Max Lucado's words envelop you. Be thankful for God's grace and realize how blessed you truly are. The reader's guide by Kate Etue at the end of the book goes over each chapter, offering scripture review and questions to further expand your study of grace. It is suitable for a book group, or individual study.
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
 
 
 
 

01 November 2012

Healing Is A Choice by Stephen Arterburn

As a nurse, the title of this book curiously called out to me. A choice? Interesting. And so the journey began.

Some months ago, I received the book Healing Is A Choice by Stephen Arterburn. The cover entices you with the statements "Ten decisions that will transform your life and ten lies that can prevent you from making them". Intrigued and curious, I began to read ...

From the preface of this edition, the book spoke to me in ways I never dreamed possible. "I knew God hated divorce, but I did not fully understand many of the reasons until I went through it myself. The pain of it all is more intense than I ever imagined, and that pain lasts much longer than I had expected. It is not totally out of my system yet, even years later. It lingers deep in my heart, and no matter how effectively I grieve, I suspect that there will be some painful residue for the rest of my life." Can the author read my mind?? I didn't know what to think already, and I had not yet started chapter one!!

This book delves deep, hits home, and encourages you to ask sometimes painful questions of yourself. Answering them honestly will be one of the best things you can do to help put yourself on the road to true healing. This is not a one-time read -- I think it is going to be, at least for me, a reference work that I turn to for answers. Not only are the questions designed to make you think, but the examples and stories provided can sometimes have the effect of making you look over your shoulder to see if someone is reading your mind!

Read this book. Take his words as they are meant, to help you unlock the healing potential within. "There is no excuse good enough to lead a life less than you were called by God to lead." How true. Thank you, Stephen Arterburn, for that reminder.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
Note: I received a copy of this book for free from Booksneeze and loaned it to a friend who has yet to return it. I bought another copy because it meant that much to me! Well worth the read!

13 October 2012

How Does It Feel?

In 1965, Bob Dylan penned a song that, to this day, is considered one of the greatest rock songs ever written. Instead of the happiness that seems to permeate the music most relate to the sixties sound, its words are angry and sarcastic. Dylan jeers at Miss Lonely's fall from her ivory tower, asking repeatedly "how does it feel?"

I love music. When I have to do something that I do not particularly want to do, such as clean the house, I tend to turn on (and turn up) the music. Our cable provider has a channel that plays a mix of 60s music, and I felt like that would be a good fit tonight. Suddenly I hear a familiar intro and the in- your-face, unmistakable voice of Bob Dylan asking "How Does It Feel?"


How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
 
 
The harmonica, the guitar, the organ: none of these can disguise the power in these simple words.
 
Do you ever feel like this? I can't say that I do quite as much as I used to, but there have been days when I have felt EXACTLY like this! I have had days (weeks, even) when I just wondered why on earth I was even here. There have been dark times. Times when I wondered if it was worth getting out of bed in the morning ... what was the purpose? There have been days in the past when I felt as if I had no home ... even though I have never, and I do mean truly NEVER, been without a home in my life. I had so much to be thankful for, why was I acting so sullen and silly? I had family, friends, and did not want for much of anything. Even in the leanest of times, I never had to go without.
 
Tonight, this song made me think about something that the past few years has been teaching me: without Jesus as a focus in my life, I am without a home. Oh sure, I have a roof over my head and a bed to lie in every night. I have a vehicle to drive, I earned an education, and I have a job. Factually speaking, the only one of these that I have ever been without is a job, and that was by choice.
 
Further on in the song, Dylan asks Miss Lonely
 
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
 
What better description of the pathway of your life when you realize that Satan gives you nothing, only takes? Without Jesus, you are on your own. He is the direction home, to heaven. Jesus is everywhere ... even in the lyrics of a classic Bob Dylan song.
 
Jesus, thank you for opening my ears to hear what you were speaking to me tonight. Please help me to listen always, and to never underestimate your ability to make yourself known. Help me be the words that someone hears to bring them closer to you.
 
"So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale."~Daniel 10:8 NIV
 
 
 


17 September 2012

What Do You Believe?

Working night shift can play havoc with one's schedule. For many night shifters, "normal" is sleeping most of the day and staying up all night.  I have found, even with cable, there is often nothing of interest on television in the middle of the night - especially if you're not in the market for a fitness program/diet/amazing hair product/kitchen tool/pillow. Tonight, I found a show on the Science Channel titled "Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?"  featuring Stephen Hawking. A world renowned theoretical physicist, Hawking has won many awards and is widely regarded as an expert in his field. Professor Hawking, however, is reported to be an atheist.

I decided to turn on the show, and see what was presented. While I consider myself open-minded, I also will freely admit that I do not agree with the scientific explanations of how the earth, the universe, and the human race came to be. I believe that God created the heavens and the earth, and that God created man. I don't necessarily think that Adam could be put down on Main Street USA without some significant adjustments (clothing, for starters), but I believe that Adam and Eve, made by God, were human.

This is not the first show that I have watched (or attempted to watch) that offered a non-Biblical explanation for the creation of the universe. My other viewing choice was a show on the Military Channel that offered an asteroid as the explanation for Sodom and Gomorrah. While I did not necessarily believe that either, it was presented in an interesting fashion. The topic of creation and the presence or absence of God is always one that will bring about a discussion. The depth and intensity of the discussion depends on the beliefs (or non-belief) of those involved.

I believe in God. I do not have to see Him to know that he exists. He lives in those who believe and profess Him. I believe that Heaven is real and Hell is a place that I don't want to go. I believe in miracles. I try very hard to live so that others can see Him in me. I do not always succeed, and some days are a struggle, but I have faith that He will continue to guide me as long as I trust in Him.

Father, I ask that you help me to grow my faith and teach others of you. Help me to profess you in all that I do.

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see ... By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible."~Hebrews 11:1, 3

16 July 2012

Saturday, We Searched for Seashells

No matter what you may have read, no matter what you have learned in a classroom, no matter what you think you know - the creeping dissolution that is Alzheimer's is extremely difficult to deal with. When the disease affects someone you love, it becomes a frightening abyss on whose edge you teeter, often without a safety net. There are good days, sometimes there are good moments. There are not-so-good days, and terrifying moments. When your loved one denies that anything is wrong, it can feel as if you are swimming upstream in molasses weighed down by fear.

I suspected something was wrong shortly after the accident in the fall of 2010 - the one where she apparently pulled into the path of an oncoming vehicle while attempting to cross the circle one morning. I began to notice memory lapses, minor things at first: forgetting a word when telling a story or asking a question. Minor confusion and slight forgetfulness were attributed to the accident, the painful and slow-to-heal break of her collarbone and the fact that she was off work for over four months. Once she was back to work, everything was fine! It wasn't, but that was the delusion that we allowed ourselves.

2011 was a difficult year for her, in many ways. Her great-granddaughter went back to NY. In early August, a difference of opinion caused her to leave the job that she had held for more than fourteen years. Why did she leave? We don't really know - it's doubtful that we ever will know the real reason. Her story? 'They' stated that she had to learn to mix paint and she didn't want to. An ultimatum was issued and she refused ... deciding instead that it was time to quit ... and she walked out the door. While on a short trip home for the family reunion in September 2011, my husband and I asked her to come to Louisiana and visit for a while. It was then that I realized just how much she had truly changed.

My extremely and almost fiercely independent mother had suddenly become dependent. She lived with us for almost 6 months -- and not once during that time did she drive herself anywhere. If Rob or I didn't take her, she stayed at our house, venturing outside only to walk Max or to get the mail. If we didn't turn the tv on and find something that she wanted to watch, she would leave it off, sitting in silence for hours working puzzles, reading, or talking to the dog. She did not cook meals, she used the microwave or snacked. She almost obsessively washed the dishes, not wanting even a single piece of silverware to sit in the sink. When we arrived home from work, we got a complete report on how many times she had to clean up after the dog. I changed my habits, making certain that I cooked before going to work so I could fix her a plate to make sure that she ate. On my days off, we went around town, to make sure that she got out of the house. After we returned from NY in early March, she started saying that she wanted to go home because she had stuff to do. I fretted, stressed, worried, delayed ... and finally gave in. 

I took her home in April. She drives her own car around town, visits friends, goes to church. She makes noises about traveling to visit family members (my sister in Kentucky, her sister in North Carolina), but thankfully has not done so. She sits in her recliner, working puzzles and watching tv. I don't think that she's slept in her bed in months, instead dozing off or sleeping in the recliner. She putters around the house, finding places to put the latest sale item that she just had to buy. She talks animatedly and frequently ... about the past. She did not recognize her own sister, and we wonder how many other people she no longer recognizes. She gets angry if you correct her when she makes a mistake, and will drop or change the subject, refusing to talk about the error.

This weekend, my sister and I both came home. My daughter and grandbabies were down for a visit, and she wanted to go see mama before heading back to NY. It was stressful, infuriating, and scary. Cheryl and I had decided that we were going to take a day trip to the beach. She hadn't been in years, and my youngest niece had never been, so to PC Beach we headed. We talked mama into going with us, and she dressed in her shirt, jeans, socks and shoes. She fussed most of the way down there, stating that she hadn't lost anything at the beach and that she should have stayed at home. She told us how they used to bring their own drinking water when visiting Uncle Delmas and Aunt Fronie, because they lived in Panama and their water was awful. And that you shouldn't make tea from that water because it would taste so very bad. She fussed about the smell, the wind, the water, and the sand. When I walked toward the pier to take pictures, she followed. When I bent over to pick up a shell, she asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was collecting shells, and showed her the tiny but perfect one that I had found. 

Suddenly, she had a purpose! Whenever she saw me pick up a shell, she would look intensely at the surrounding sand to make sure that she could find some too. She got excited when they were different colors. She blew the sand off every single shell that she picked up. And for a few minutes, she forgot that she didn't want to be at the beach. She was happy helping me pick up shells. 

Every day is progressively more difficult. I cannot even begin to fathom what it must be like for her ... the confusion, the struggle. God, please give us the strength to help her through this. The task ahead of us is not an easy one, and we are going to need all the help you can give us.

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother', which is the first commandment with a promise, 'so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."~Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV

06 March 2012

and the hits just keep on comin' ...

So anyway. Last night was the first night back at work after two weeks off. It's usually difficult, for most of us anyway, to come back to work after that many days off at one time. I headed to work, however, with a positive attitude. There were ups and downs, but all in all, not a bad shift. Imagine my surprise when a chance encounter unveils the "good meeting" (held while I was gone) and its results. I can't decide whether to be insulted or thankful.

I hope that I put on the happy face. You know which one I mean. The one that says, "yeah, I expected as much and it validated every single thing I was thinking, and ohbytheway, thanks so much for the slap in the face. Let's do this again, shall we?" The news, however, is a double-edged sword. I do not in any way begrudge part of the change that was made. Change is good, for it keeps things from becoming static. Change is a growth process, for nearly everyone involved. This particular change just happened to come without warning, and was delivered in such a way that I felt insulted. I was left with doubts about not only my skills and rapport with my team members, but was left with the crushing doubt of wondering if the rapport I thought we had achieved was only a figment of my own undeniably over-active imagination.

So how do I handle this situation? Do I confront them? Confrontation in the workplace, as a general rule, is NOT a good thing. Someone inevitably gets hurt and it makes for a strained working environment. Swallowing the issue doesn't always work either. The person (in this case - me) who holds their tongue builds up a pool of bitterness and resentment, and can end up lashing out at an inopportune time. And I have learned all too well the negative effects of speaking before you think, or speaking before you think things through. No matter how hard you try, you cannot unsay hurtful things. 

I am hurt right now. Hurt because not one of my coworkers saw fit to even hint at what was coming. Apparently it was their idea. At least that's what I was told. And therein lies the rub. That's what I was told. As in nearly everything in life, there are two sides to a story. Do I want to try and uncover the other side? There is a chance that it is exactly as was said. That might make things worse. Do I really want to know what my coworkers think of me?Or do I just let it go? As earlier posts over the past weeks have shown, I obviously have a problem with letting go. I'm going to fret over this. So much so that the vicious circle of thought running through my head on the way home was a repeat refrain of the pity party I had all those months ago when I changed shifts and began working with a new team.  What that enlightening and self-defeating phrase kept telling me to remember was that "these are the people you work with. They are not your friends." 

While I don't want to think those kinds of thoughts, I can't help it. And I know what will happen, because internally, it has already begun. I will withdraw until I make myself miserable. Oh wait. That's already here. I will temper what I say, because I feel as if it does not matter and I don't want to make things worse than they already are. I will remind myself that although we are a team, I'm not really a part of it, but an add-on that came later and never quite made first string. If that is so, oh well. I'm a survivor, and this too shall pass. 

Dear God, today I am adrift in a leaking lifeboat with neither paddle nor life jacket. I am surrounded by treacherous waters. No shore is in sight. The beacon from the lighthouse flickers, and fades with each rotation. Can I cling to its steady strength, or will it, too, leave me shattered and alone?

"You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely." ~Psalm 59:17 NIV

05 March 2012

Out of the Depths

What do you do when, no matter how hard you try to focus on something else, you keep returning to a place/time/happening of your past? Agonizing over what was done and how things could be different if only you had done/said/thought/acted in some way differently than you did ... no matter how many years have gone by? What does it say about you when you are having a hard time focusing on what IS and enjoying what you have because you constantly compare it to what WAS and what you had?

There are probably as many quips, quotes, and words of wisdom are there are circumstances to which you can apply them.  Sometimes, however, no matter how often you try to smile and put a happy face on things, it just doesn't happen. You want to cry, scream, throw things, yell at the world ... or is it that you want to yell at yourself? To beat yourself up over something that you have done ... are you beating yourself up over your past? You are not alone.

Right now, I cannot even find the words to express how I am feeling. I feel anger (at myself), remorse (for the pain that I caused) and regret (for what was lost). No distraction technique is working. How do you explain these feelings? How do you work through them? I feel as if I've been thrown into the deep end of an endless pool with no float device. And no, I can't swim.

I am finding no peace tonight, not even in the praise music that has been soothing me recently. The Bible is giving me no peace. I am not resting. Putting on the happy face is stressing me to the point that I want to run away from home, a rather ridiculous point of view for a woman in her mid 40s. When I consider such an action, I remind myself of the realities of the situation: I just returned from a two week vacation. I don't have the time to take off even if I had somewhere to go. I have responsibilities.

What else have  I noticed? I have noticed that pain has become a constant, instead of a "most of the time." Headaches are coming more frequently, and have started to become more intense. While I don't deny that pain can have a physical cause, I think these recent exacerbations are stress driven and emotion related. I need to let go.

I need to let go, and let God deal with it. He did not put me in this position, but He will not desert me here. I need to trust, to have faith, to believe that He can and will show me an improvement -- that He has a plan. I know He does, for I truly believe that I would not be here if He didn't. Sometimes ... and this is one of those times ... I need reminding of what I have. Not what I had, for the choices made were my own (wrong though they were), but what I have.

God, today I am feeling ungrateful and peevish. Please forgive me for my stubborn refusal to let go of the pain. Help me to see that I need you to work through this. Help me move forward to the future that you have planned for me.

"My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart ... LORD, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior." ~ Psalms 38:7-8, 21-22 NIV

04 February 2012

Letting Go of Regret

Why is it so hard to stop beating ourselves up over the past? Are we doomed to relive our past over and over, wondering what could have been if we'd made one different decision? What if one thing had been done differently? Where would we be? Would we have accomplished more? Been happier? Had fewer regrets?

Living in the past is unhealthy. I don't have to be a psychologist or a psychiatrist to know this. I live it. The simple fact is that life moves on, whether we want it to or not. Constantly burying our minds in the past is a recipe for disaster. Instead of wondering "what if", I need to focus on what is. Why is that so hard to do?

When I look at the immediate future, I am angry at myself. I am where I am because of choices that I made, and I've come a long way. When I think about my past, I am angry at myself, regretting decisions that put me down roads I would much rather not have traveled. It has not been all bad, and there is no need for me to even intimate that it has. Decisions were made, I was able to meet some wonderful people that I still call friends. Decisions were made that generated encounters with people I hope I never see again. Thinking about past choices is enough to make the acid rise and make me think that a day spent in the bed with the covers over my head might be a good idea. I can't turn back the clock, I can only make the best of today, and every day that comes after.

Over the past few weeks, I have once more turned to music for comfort. These days, I am finding comfort in contemporary Christian music, a genre that I have never before spent much time exploring. There are days that the words to Casting Crowns' "Who Am I?" simply resonate through me. WHO AM I? 

The answer? HIS. God has claimed me, loves me unconditionally, and forgives me. I have to give my past to Him, and stop looking back. I cannot undo the past, I cannot change it. What I can change is today, and I can change my future by decisions that I make today, and decisions that I make in the tomorrows that are to come. 

I am
a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still you
Hear me when I'm calling
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling
And you told me who I am
I am YOURS ... 

Many thanks to Mark Hall of Casting Crowns for writing down these words that were laid on his heart. I thank my friend Myra for posting this video several months ago, and my friend Erinn for turning my music search in the right direction. All I can do is take one step at a time, one day at a time. I pray for strength, wisdom, and guidance.

Jesus, I'm letting go. Again. I'm depending on your strength to help me, to guide me, so that I can get to where I need to be. Thank you for hearing me, for catching me and gently setting me back upon my path.

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

 

07 January 2012

Better Than Sweet Tea

I have often heard that southerners have sweet tea in their veins. Sweet tea is like any beverage, I suppose, in that it can be an acquired taste. I remember living in Colorado and not being able to get sweet tea in some of the restaurants - and having the servers point out that there was sugar on the table. Obviously, they didn't know how to make sweet tea! 

Late in the summer of 2010, I was diagnosed with diabetes. My gut reaction to this news was "Oh no! No more of my favorite things (sugar, chocolate, carbs)." I happened to be on the road traveling to Alabama when I received the news. What was my immediate response? Pull in to the nearest McDonald's and order some Mickey D's Sweet Tea!

Over the past year, I have learned that moderation is the key. While I have been less than strict about following a diet, monitoring my blood sugar,  or even particularly watching what I eat and drink - my A1C had remained the same as the original test. Imagine my surprise, three days ago, to receive the results of my lab work and find out that my A1C had jumped up nearly 1 full point from the last reading! As you may imagine, I do not look forward to next week's check-up at the doctor's office. 

Reading in John chapter 4, my mind immediately went on its own little tangent comparing the refreshing taste of water and the delicious nectar known as sweet tea. How, you may ask, does my mind make such comparisons? I try to see God everywhere, and in every thing. It may sound crazy, but it works for me. However, I digress. Heading in to work the other night, I stopped to get something to eat before my shift. Popeye's sounded good to me, so after ordering the delectable fried goodness along with a large cup of ice cold sweet tea, I sat down for a few moments of peace before work. The strangest thing happened. By my second piece of chicken, the hot and crispy chicken skin had lost its appeal, appearing in my  mind as fried fat. The french fries, so tasty, seemed congealed. The biscuit, hot and fluffy only moments earlier, seemed cold and leaden. The tea that flowed so sweetly was suddenly leaving an aftertaste, and not one that was pleasant. What happened to my meal? My mind was rejecting the physical. Instead of eating what I needed for healthy physical nourishment, I chose to eat what I wanted and ignore the consequences.  

I think the same thing happens when we ignore spiritual nourishment. Our bodies begin to crave something healthy, and so does our spirit. The more I delve into the Word of God, the more I want to know. The quest for spiritual nourishment is growing, as I continue to seek Him in every thing that I do. As with my diet, my journey will be fraught with trials and stumbling blocks. What I know for certain is that He is with me, every single step of the way. There will be times, as the beloved poem states, that He will carry me.  I have to trust Him, I will trust Him. With the love and support of family and friends, the journey will continue.

Lord, I ask that you continue to walk beside me. Make me a beacon, make me your servant. Help me to live so that I am a witness for you in every way.

Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."~John 6:35 NIV


03 January 2012

Feed the Body, Nourish the Soul.

What did you have for dinner? Did you enjoy the last meal that you ate? How many times a day do you eat?Why do you eat? Seemingly silly questions, but designed to make you think. Now dig a little deeper. What did you do to nourish your soul? Do you nourish your soul?Why, or why not?

Beautifully written words, passionately performed music, a breathtaking sunrise. These nourish my soul. I have found that as I get older, spiritual nourishment becomes more and more important. As we get busier, I think that it becomes even more vital to make sure that we are healthy - both physically and spiritually. How do we increase our spiritual health?

One of my goals for this year was to read through the Bible. Joining forces with others who share the same desire will help me to accomplish that goal. I am reading, and want to read, for understanding. Understanding more about God through reading the Bible fills a need deep within. Reading and studying His word is like a cool drink of water on a hot summer day; it nourishes, refreshes, and satisfies.  


Having been a voracious reader since childhood, I find my reading direction now changing. I am searching for answers, formulating questions, and trying to amass as much information as I can. My main reading source is the Bible, we are reading chapters daily on our quest to read through the Bible this year. The version of the Bible I am currently using is the New International Version of the Zondervan Life Application Study Bible. I am only three days in, and have already taken pages of notes on the four chapters we have read. The study guide in this Bible has been an excellent brainstorm source for digging deeper. I feel this incredible desire to learn and learn. There is so much I want to know, and this is feeding my soul!


Healthy nourishment for your soul is as important as food is to the feeding of your body. God, I ask that you continue to guide my search for nourishment, and help me to uncover the answers that I seek. I thank you for directing me on this path to recovering my spiritual health.


"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'"~John 4:13-14 NIV


 

02 January 2012

You Can't Just Talk the Talk

We've heard the expression "You Can't Just Talk the Talk, You Have to Walk the Walk," but what does that mean in the journey to know and understand Jesus? When I walked down that church aisle so very many years ago, pulled by something that I didn't fully understand, but knowing that it was where I needed to be, I made a public declaration of faith. Have I lived that faith, truly?

I wish I could stand proudly and say that I have. I wish I could shout from the rooftops and speak volumes on the subject of how my life was transformed and the fact that I've never since looked back. The reality is far less appealing. The child that I was grew into the teenager that I became, still walking in faith. I was not - nor will I ever be on this earth - perfect, but I was pretty much the dorky good kid. I minded my mama and daddy, listened to and respected my elders, went to church, and tried to be a good person. Church was not a place to go to see and be seen, it was the place where we learned about the Lord. I rebelled, at times arguing with the fact that we went to church while mama and daddy (and later, my stepdad) didn't always go. Did being an adult mean that you didn't have to go to church?

When I left home at the grand old age of 20 and got married, I didn't go to church. My husband proclaimed to believe, but the entire time I knew him he only stepped foot inside a church when someone got married or buried. Did I witness to Him, share the story of the gospel and how Jesus had made a change in me? Of course not. I was a young adult and I believed and that was all that mattered. Life changes, things happen. Next thing I know, I'm a young divorcee with a child. When I began dating again, I fell in love and married a man who didn't believe in God. How did I reconcile that with my own belief? Did I witness to him? Of course not. Religion became the subject on which we agreed to disagree. As our children were born, the decision was made to allow them to make their own choice when it came to religion. They knew that their father was a non-believer and that their mother did believe. Did I witness to them, share the story of Jesus, and take them to church? No. Why? I still don't have the answer to that question, even though my children are now adults.

Life changes, things happen. Without going through details that I try daily to forget, suffice it to say that we've now fast-forwarded several years. There was another marriage, and another. My husband believes in God, but does not attend church, and hasn't for a very long time. He was born and raised Catholic, which is a faith that I do not profess to understand, having been born and raised in the Baptist church. This, however, is not a discourse on which denomination is best. What this is, in its convoluted way, is a story of a woman brought up in faith, who proclaims to believe, who talks the talk, but hasn't walked the walk in so many years that it is as if I am starting all over as a new Christian. The one thing that I know without fail, without doubt, is that my God loves me. Just as I am, flaws and all. He doesn't expect me to be perfect, He expects me to be me.

What I know to be true, today, is that the last few months have brought the realization that something is missing in my life. It is not about what I have - for I am blessed indeed with great children, a husband that loves me, and a family that always believes in me. I have a home, a rewarding job, and good friends. It is about finding myself in the faith that has never left me, through all the ups and downs of my life. It's not about talking the talk, it's about walking the walk. Am I ready?

I am. This isn't about finding "the church," it's about finding a church home. It is about being with other believers, talking and communing with those who have a true interest in living for Christ. It is about getting up every day, secure in the fact that life on this earth is but a drop in the bucket compared to the beauty of the eternity that awaits me when I get to Heaven. It is about being strong when Satan tries to dissuade me from my path, and placing my trust in Jesus. It is about knowing, believing, and living my faith. It's not always going to be easy, but with Him, I will prevail.

God, I am so unworthy, but I offer myself to you. Make me into the woman that you knew I would be before I was even created. I am clay and you are the potter. Make me into your vessel, fill me with your love, and help me to pour out the blessings as I share my faith in you.

"He must become greater, I must become less."~John 3:30, NIV






01 January 2012

Without Him, I Am Nothing

Happy New Year! Today is January 1, 2012, and the date marks the beginning of several things. It is, of course, the start of a new year. Growing up in the late 60s and 70s, 2000 seemed so very far away ... A few days ago, a friend posted a link on Facebook for anyone who might be interested in reading through the Bible in 2012. It caught my attention for more than one reason. Because I am a voracious reader, I thought "why not?" Because I haven't read the Bible completely through in more years than I care to think about, I thought "this might be a good way to start a new year." Because it offered the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with a group of people who were searching for the same solace, I thought "let's do this!" 

We started our reading with one chapter, and not, as you may think, at the beginning of the Bible. Instead of beginning "at the beginning," we are opening our minds and hearts with the book of John, chapter 1. Only 51 verses, yet it packs a powerful punch. Take a moment and think about the first verse:  

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.~John 1:1

What does that say to you? To me, it says that God was, God is, and God always will be. What a source of comfort! Two verses later, in John 1:3, we see that

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

I am already seeing why we started with this book. Because of God, we are! The Life Application Study Bible goes into further explanations of most of the verses, and the explanation for this verse stopped me cold. Remember that you exist only because God made you, and you have special gifts only because God gave them to you. With God you are something valuable and unique; apart from God you are nothing, and if you try to live without him, you will be abandoning the purpose for which you were made.

Imagine that! I am here for a purpose, determined by God. If I work for His glory, I will find my purpose. Without Him, I am nothing. If we believe, we become children of God. Once we believe and decide to follow God, we are truly reborn. What an amazing beginning for a year-long journey. I am humbled, and strengthened. Without him, I am nothing. With Him, I have everything.  

While the beginning of a year brings resolutions for many (often discarded before January is over), I challenge each of us -- myself included -- to make but one resolution: put God first in 2012.

God, I thank you yet again for the blessings that I have been given. Today marks a new year, a new beginning, and another chance to fulfill the promise that you gave me. I ask for your guidance as this year unfolds. Allow me to become what you know I can be, what you want me to be..

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.~Isaiah 40:8 NIV