Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Courageous


I don't do a lot of movie reviews, but every now and then one comes along that I just have to tell about.  Courageous is one of those few.  Courageous is the newest film from Sherwood Pictures, the makers of Flywheel, Facing the Giants and Fireproof.  As with all their other films, the movie is an inspirational story with a Biblical message.  The main theme behind the film is how to prioritize our lives around what is most important while also addressing how to cope when catastrophe strikes.

The first thing I will tell you is to have plenty of tissues nearby.  This is a tearjerker!  Oddly enough, though, at times I found myself laughing so hard my sides hurt and jaws cramped.  Just as other Sherwood films, it's the perfect blend of comedy, tragedy, adventure and inspiration.  From the very first scene, I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation.  The story is good, clean and wholesome, making it appropriate for audiences of any age.  Some scenes do contain violence as the main characters are police officers going about their jobs, but there is no foul language, nudity or other negative features.  It is a true Christian film with a Christian message.

If nothing else, I walked away from the movie being reminded that my family is important.  In fact, they're worth fighting for and even dying for.  I was reassured by the reminder that we don't always have to understand God's plan.  We just have to have faith that He is in control.

The film is an absolute MUST SEE!  You'll won't regret it.



Monday, January 30, 2012

Good Versus Easy

I read an article yesterday about choosing the good things in life over those things that are easy.  To be honest, the article really hit home.

It's good to exercise daily, but it's easy to sit on the couch and read a book.
It's good to eat a healthy lunch, but it's easy to grab a soda and a bag of cookies.
It's good to spend time with God, but it's easy to rush into my day without giving Him a thought.
It's good to study and prepare for my lessons, but it's easy to drag out and use old material.
It's good to encourage others, but it's easy to tear others down.

Good versus easy.  The process usually involves a difficult decision and a lot of conversation with myself.  Remember in the cartoons when a character was having to make a moral or ethical decision, a little angel popped up on one shoulder and a little devil popped up on the other. The two proceeded to argue, and eventually one of them won out.  That same process (minus the physical forms of angel and devil) goes on in my mind each time I'm faced with a difficult decision.  One side of me says, "What's it going to hurt?  Yes, a salad would be a better lunch option, but you've worked hard, so you deserve that double deluxe cheeseburger with fries."  The other side of me says, "No!  You have worked hard.  That's why you don't want to blow it now.  Go with the salad.  Take care of your temple."  And as time presses on, each voice seems to get louder and louder.

I wish I could say that I always listen to the sensible voice and choose what's good over what's easy, but if I did, it would be a lie.  Too often, I choose the easy, only to regret it and wish I could go back and change my decision.  During these times, I have to remember that I can do all things through Christ because He does give me strength.  Yes, I may have messed up this time, but that doesn't mean I'll mess up next time.  And I've discovered, the more I listen to the sensible side (which is the Holy Ghost, by the way), the easier it is to drown out the voice that wants it easy.

Are you facing decisions today and torn between choosing what's good and what's easy?  If so, remember that Christ will give you the strength to make the right choose.  Give the problem to Him.  Ask for His advice.  And when He gives it, follow it.  We know the difference between what's good and what's easy.  It's not rocket science.  But knowing and doing are two different things.  It's not enough to know.  We must act.  And trust me, it won't be easy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

One-Way Journey

Wednesday finally provided a break in the cold, rainy weather we've had here in the upstate of South Carolina.  After being cooped up in the house for so many days at a time, I think the dogs and I were about to go stir-crazy.  Fortunately, the Lord worked it out to where Jason could have the day off, so we packed up the gear, hoisted the dogs into the back of our new Xterra, and headed toward Pickens County to hike to Virginia Hawkins Falls.

We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day.  The temperature was perfect.  The sun shone brightly, and a gentle breeze provided just the right amount of crispness to the air.  Being the middle of the week, the trail was deserted, so we had the entire place to ourselves.  The dogs were thrilled to be out, and I was thankful to be able to enjoy such a beautiful day with my family.

We had hiked this particular trail before, but I had forgotten that it begins with a steady uphill climb and then later descends and descends and descends.  Because of the steep descent in several areas, wooden blocks have been staked to the ground, providing narrow and uneven steps. 

After all the previous days of cold rain, my knees were already aching with arthritis.  Still, I thought some exercise would do them good.  After the hundredth step, I wasn't so sure.  To make it worse, I kept thinking, "You know, once we get to the falls, we're going to have to turn around and go back up all these steps we've just come down."  That thought had me groaning almost as much as my knees.

But when I reached the falls, all other thoughts were forgotten.  The steps weren't even a memory.  The pain in my knees seemed non-existent.  In the presence of such beauty, my mind couldn't comprehend anything else.  The toils of the journey were forgotten.

We sat at the base of the falls for a little while, and then noting the time, decided to start back.  Jason, who had been smart enough to study the map at the trailhead, pointed to where the trail continued on past the falls and commented, "I think if we continue down the trail, it will take us to a short connector trail that will lead us back to the parking lot.  We can make a loop."

We decided to give it a try.  Boy, am I glad we did!  The trail widened out into an old logging road that sloped up and down gently the entire way back.  The hike back to the Xterra was pleasant and painless.  I was so thankful we didn't have to go back the way we had come.

You know, that's the great thing about life too.  Yes, it has its ups and downs.  Sometimes our steps get weary, and those water crossings get numerous.  But through it all, it helps to keep in mind that we are on a one-way journey, and if we'll pay attention and heed God's direction, we won't have to retrace our steps.  Once we've reached our destination, it will be smooth sailing from then on.  And, as I was at the falls, we will be so awed by the beauty of Heaven and the wonder of our Savior that the toils of the journey will be forgotten.

Whatever trail you're walking today, remember it's a one-way trip.  Keep heading toward your final destination and trust that it will be worth every step.  And smile because it can only get better!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Who's Doing the Talking?

Do you talk to yourself?  I hope so.  I'd hate the think I'm the only one who carries on a conversation with myself.  I've found that the times I'm most likely to talk to myself is when I'm upset with myself over something stupid I've done.  Those conversations tend to go something like this:

"Brilliant, Dana!  That was a lovely display of stupidity."

"Dana, what's the matter with you.  What were you thinking?"

"Well, that's great, Dana.  You blew it again."

"How many times is God going to have to beat you over the head with this before you get it right?"

Yes, I know, I'm hard on myself, but it wasn't until this morning that I realized that I expected God to react the same way.  Somehow, through my warped thinking, I had it in my mind that if I react this way to my mistakes, God must do the same.  I can imagine Him up in Heaven, looking down and shaking His head.  "Yep, she blew it again!  When will she ever learn?"

But as I read through the pages of the Bible, I've discovered that my assessment of God's reactions to my mistakes is all messed up.  Sure, I may be mad at myself, but God's not mad at me.  He's grieved, but not mad.  There is a difference.  He doesn't fuss at me or get frustrated with me.  He doesn't beat me in the head and threaten to leave me to resolve my own mess.

You see, I was thinking of God as holy and just (which He is), but I had forgotten that He is also loving, compassionate and full of mercy.  I had forgotten the example of the prodigal son.  That father wasn't angry.  He didn't scold his son when he finally returned from his riotous living.  No, he displayed joy, compassion, mercy and love for the wayward child who had made his way back home.  God is the same way.  Instead of scolding, He guides.  "Yes, Dana, I know you're upset, and I understand your feelings.  Let me show you where you went astray and the events that led to your current heartache.  Then let me show you how to avoid making the same mistake the next time.  I know it's hard, child, but remember I'll be right here by your side.  We can do this."

When looking at the attributes of God, we have to be careful not to single out any one thing.  Yes, He is the Judge, but His is also a loving Father, a wise Counselor and an enduring Friend.  We can come to Him boldly with any problem, situation or concern.  He will listen.  He will understand.  He will help.  And when we fall, He will forgive.

So who's doing the talking in your life?  Are you listening to your own dialogue of criticism and accusation or God's dialogue of love?  It makes a difference in how we live each day.  It determines whether we walk through life defeated or delighted.  There are many voices calling out to us each and every day.  To whom are we listening?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Due to Rising Energy Costs. . .by Karen Scalf Linamen

In her book Due to Rising Energy Costs, the Light at the End of Tunnel Has Been Turned Off, Karen Scalf Linamen manages to address some very serious issues in a fun, lighthearted manner.  Being a huge Linamen fan, I had been wanting to read this book but had not yet purchased it when my mom gave me her copy to read.  At the time she gave me the book, I had no idea how much I was going to need it in the very near future.  But as with every Linamen book I've read, I laughed my way through the tears that fell as I related to the circumstances detailed within.

To summarize this book, I'll quote a short excerpt from the last chapter.  "I don't know about you, but I want to live above--not under--the rocks in my life.  I want to stop letting painful stuff in my life smash me down or hold me under, and start letting it take me forward.  After all, the same slab of granite can be a millstone, tombstone, or a stepping-stone.  It can crush, signal the end, or create a path.  I'm voting for the path."

The subject matter is deep enough that one chapter gives the reader plenty to meditate on.  However, the catchy (and hilarious) chapter titles make it nearly impossible to put the book down.  Her witty chapter discussing the positive traits of MacGyver had me nodding my head and saying, "Yes, I remember that episode" and "Wow!  I never thought about it like that."

By the end of the book, I was refreshed, re-energized and ready to face the gloomy circumstances that surrounded me.  While Linamen didn't extol on any new means of finding joy and peace I hadn't known before, her words served as a reminder that Jesus is the source of my song.  My circumstances do not dictate my attitude.  It's up to me how I use the slabs of granite in my life, and I choose to create stepping stones.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Worse Than a Four-Letter Word

Why do they call cuss words four-letter words?  I mean, not all cuss words are four-letter words.  A lot of them, sure, but not all.  Besides a lot of good words in the English language are four-letter words.  For example, "good" is a four-letter word, as is "four" and "word".  Am I the only one baffled by this terminology?

I guess it doesn't really matter right now though because the word I want to discuss is a three-letter word.  But be warned!  This three-letter word is dangerous.  It can wreak havoc in your life.  And unfortunately, it's used too frequently in the nasty now and now.  Okay, I'm about to tell you what it is, but before I do you may want to plug your child's ears (or perhaps the dog's).  I don't want to be a bad influence.

Ready?  The word is "but".  Yep, that's it.  It looks innocent enough, doesn't it?  Just a common little conjunction.  What harm could it possible do?  Read the following examples, and see if you can figure it out:

I know smoking is bad for me, but it makes me feel better, at least temporarily.
I know I shouldn't eat this piece of chocolate cake, but I've had a hard day.
I know this isn't the best decision, but I'm honestly just tired of trying to figure it out.
I know God's promises are true, but I really don't see Him working in this situation.
I know I have a loving wife at home, but my secretary really understands me.
I know I should read my Bible more, but I just don't have the time.

Whether the situation be big or small, the word "but" seems to somehow make our excuses permissible.  We know what's right, but we still do what's wrong.  And for some reason, we act like it's okay because we do know better.  How messed up is that?  It's not better; it's worse.  The Bible says so in James 4:17, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."  It doesn't get any clearer.  If we know to do right, and we don't do it, we're sinning against God.  No "ifs", "ands", and especially no "buts".

The Lord brought this to my attention a few weeks ago, and I've not been able to shake the lesson.  Every time I catch myself using the word "but", I force myself to go back and examine the sentence.  More times than not, I've found that I use the word to justify my fleshly desires.  Then I have to seek forgiveness and proceed with my day, doing those things that I should do and not the things that I shouldn't.  It's convicting, there's no doubt about it.  But at the same time, I feel like a new person.  I feel like I have more control over my thoughts and attitudes.  Why?  Because I'm not excusing them anymore.  I'm dealing with them appropriately.  It's actually quite refreshing.

Yes, we must watch out for those four-letter words, but some of those three-letter varieties will get us in just as much trouble.  Remember the old children's song, "Oh be careful, little mouth, what you say"?  Might it be time for us to practice what we preach?

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go walk (another four-letter word) my dogs.  I would say I'm looking forward to it, but. . .well, never mind.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

You Want Me to Do What?

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. - I Thessalonians 5:18

This verse has been on my mind a lot this past week.  We've talked before about the importance of paying attention to every word of this verse, especially the first one.  It doesn't say to give thanks "for" everything, but "in" everything.

I'm not especially thankful that our only vehicle went out in a blaze of glory (literally) and that we are now left with the unpleasant task of finding a replacement vehicle that we can purchase with the measly amount of money we're getting from the insurance company.  I'm not very thankful that I had just spent over $60 to fill the tank up with gas or that we had spent over $600 to put tires on the truck just a few months back.  I'm not terribly thankful that my two new Southern Gospel CD's that I had gotten a week earlier were destroyed in the fire.

As the week passed, however, I thought of a lot of things about the situation I am thankful for.

1. I am thankful no one was hurt.
2. I am thankful that the fire did not reach the gas tank of the truck or the propane tank fifteen feet away.
3. I am thankful we were not in the truck when it caught fire.
4. I am thankful we spotted the fire as soon as we did.
5. I am thankful we live less than a mile from the fire department.
6. I am thankful that we had not gone to our annual concert in Georgia the night before.
7. I am thankful that my brother had an extra car we could borrow while we shopped for a new one.
8. I am thankful that we had comprehensive insurance and that they gave us a fair price for our vehicle.

The more I think about it, the more things I think of for which I am thankful.  "In every thing give thanks."  It's not as difficult as it seems.  Even when the problem looks bad, it could be much worse.  I challenge you to give it a try.  Look at the situation you're facing today.  While you may not be thankful for the situation itself, find things about it for which you can be thankful.  Not only will it change your outlook, but it will also change your attitude.

Monday, January 16, 2012

We Can't Stop Now!

I recently finished another Lynn Kurland novel.  For those of you who are not aware, Lynn Kurland is my all-time favorite non-Christian author.  While I do have to tiptoe around a few cuss words here and there, her books are overall clean and most intriguing.  Most of her novels revolve around time gates in England and Scotland (which makes it really odd for me to like them since time travel gives me a headache).  Her characters, the majority of whom belong to three main family groups, bounce around through time, seeking love and adventure.  The danger I find in reading a Kurland book is that once I start, I just can't stop, and because so many of the characters are related, I'll read something in my current book that will make me want to read another book of hers to obtain all the details about something she briefly made mention of.  She definitely weaves a tantalizing web.

And she is the queen of hook endings.  You know, chapter endings like, "This was his last chance to make it home.  It was now or never.  He gathered his courage and stepped through the gate.  He made it through, but he certainly hadn't anticipated the scene before him" (my words, not Kurland's).  What?  What did he see?  Was it good or bad?  Don't leave me hanging.  And so, I find myself reading the next chapter, only to discover she does the same thing at the end of that chapter.  Four hours later, I've finished the book.  Oops!

That's just how I'm wired.  I like to know what's next.  I'm motivated by anticipation.  I can't stand to stop in the middle of a story.  And because of that, I wonder why so often in my life's story I'm so ready to throw in the towel.  "Nope, it's too hard.  This just isn't what I expected, and I don't know how to deal with it.  I quit.  I'm done!" 

What's the matter with me?  I've read enough books to know that the darkest circumstances precede the best part of the story.  When everything looks hopeless, I know that the story is about to get really good.  Things are just getting interesting.  Problems are the elements that make a great story.  I can't stop now in the midst of the storm.  I have to keep going.  I have to see how things turn out.  I need to find out how the characters overcome what appears to be a hopeless situation.  I want to be awed by the Hero who sweeps in and saves the day.  No, I can't stop now, and neither can you.  Our happily ever after is just around the corner.

And fortunately for me, no time travel is involved!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Faith Versus Fear

I was reading an article today, and I stumbled upon a familiar phrase.  The words took me back to a time long ago.  I remembered myself walking through the front door of my parent's home (which was also my home at the time).  I had just returned from work.  I stumbled to my room, weary from work and heartbroken from my recent breakup with my boyfriend of three and a half years.

As I set my belongings down, I noticed a small booklet lying open on my dresser.  It was a tiny book of religious poems.  A paper clip was holding it open to the current page.  Across the top of the page in bold print were the words, "Faith Is Stronger Than My Fears".  I read the poem and allowed the tears to flow freely.  When I could finally see clearly, I went out to hug my mom and to thank her for the encouragement.

My memory is a lot like Swiss cheese.  There are many things I simply cannot seem to remember, but that memory is so clear and vivid.  And when I stumbled across the same phrase today, I knew I had to share the poem with you, for I've saved the book of poems all these years.  That's how much it means to me!

Faith Is Stronger Than My Fears

Sometimes my cross is hard to bear
For there is darkness everywhere
And troubles pile around my door
Like autumn leaves forevermore.

The morning light seems far away
Like I am stuck in yesterday
My heart is beating like a drum
I try to pray, but words won’t come

But then the sun begins to rise
And hope is born within my eyes
A rainbow forms among my tears
For faith is stronger than my fears


P.S. - Mom, I don't know if you remember this poem or the day that you shared it with me, but I want you to know how much it has helped me throughout the years.  I love you!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Go Away!!!

I often say that there is never a dull moment around my house.  Well, this past Saturday was certainly no exception.  It started off as a pleasant day.  Jason had to work in the morning, so I spent the time curled up on the couch reading a book I received for Christmas.  After he got home, we had some lunch and then took the dogs on a hike.  The temperature was mild, but the rain came in sooner than we had anticipated, causing us to make an early departure.

We arrived home around 4:00 and settled in for a lazy afternoon.  Around 5:30, we determined we should probably bring in some firewood before the rain started in earnest.  So, we spent about 30-45 minutes splitting and stacking wood in the wood box where it would hopefully remain dry.  We piddled the rest of the evening and sat down for a late dinner around 8:30.

We had just sat down when I noticed a puff of smoke through the living room window.  Since we have a wood stove, seeing a stray puff of smoke is not unusual.  This puff, however, was accompanied by a strange orange haze.  My heart immediately beat faster.  "What is that?" I asked Jason as we both ran toward the door.

He jerked open the door, and we quickly discovered that the hood of our only vehicle was on fire.  He ran to the back of the truck to remove the gas can he had for his chainsaw and anything else that might lead to a larger catastrophe.  I ran back inside to call 9-1-1.  About twenty minutes and several little explosions later, the fire was out, and all that was left of our vehicle was a stinking pile of blackened carcass. 

The past few days have been a blur of talking with the fire chief, receiving the fire report, dealing with the insurance company, meeting with the insurance adjuster and trying to get my heart to stop pounding from all the excitement.  With all that behind us, yesterday the adjuster finally told me the news I had been waiting to hear:  "I'll schedule for the remains to be picked up tomorrow."  It was the best news I had heard in weeks!  I am tired of looking at the charred carcass.  I am tired of checking every few moments to see if anything else has caught fire.  I am sick of the smell of burnt metal and plastic.  I want it gone!  Nothing can be saved from it, so I just want it out of my sight!  As far as I'm concerned, they can't get here soon enough.  The truck is now nothing more than a source of anxiety and stress.

As I think of the relief I will have once the carnage is removed, I can't help but to think of other things in my life that might need to go with it.  Fears, doubts, worries.  They, too, are nothing more than sources of anxiety and stress, so shouldn't I be just as eager to get rid of them?

Sometimes we have no control over what comes into or goes out of our lives.  But most of the time, we do.  We decide what feelings we'll keep and which ones we'll toss.  We decide what memories to hold on to and which ones to neglect.  We decide what promises we'll cling to and which ones we think are too good to be true.  We make the decisions, and those decisions affect our daily lives and attitudes.

It's still the beginning of the new year.  We still have time to change our old ways.  Let's make every effort to get rid of the things in our lives that do nothing more than cause stress and pull us away from God.  We don't need our worries.  We don't need our negative thoughts.  We don't need our bitterness.  We don't need our pride.  Let's get rid of them and never allow them to come back.

The future is full of possibilities, and we'll be able to reach those opportunities much easier if we will first remove the stumbling blocks.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Making It Through


I came across a marvelous passage this morning while reading on another blog. I'd like to share with you what touched my heart and encouraged my soul.

"Often the Christian life is beset by dangers, and duty seems hard to perform. The imagination pictures impending ruin before and bondage or death behind. Yet the voice of God speaks clearly, Go forward. We should obey this command, even though our eyes cannot penetrate the darkness, and we feel the cold waves about our feet. The obstacles that hinder our progress will never disappear before a halting, doubting spirit. Those who defer obedience till every shadow of uncertainty disappears and there remains no risk of failure or defeat, will never obey at all. Unbelief whispers, Let us wait till the obstructions are removed, and we can see our way clearly: but faith courageously urges an advance, hoping all things, believing all things.

The cloud that was a wall of darkness to the Egyptians was to the Hebrews a great flood of light, illuminating the whole camp, and shedding brightness upon the path before them. So the dealings of Providence bring to the unbelieving, darkness and despair, while to the trusting soul they are full of light and peace. The path where God leads the way may lie through the desert or the sea, but it is a safe path."

Amen and amen!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What's the Difference?

 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. - Ecclesiastes 11:1

I've recently become aware of two different songs based on Ecclesiastes 11:1 concerning casting our bread upon the water.  One of the songs reminds me of the Biblical principle of sowing and reaping while the other hints of karma.  For this reason, the first song is a blessing to me while the other always makes me uneasy.  But as I struggled to pinpoint the source of my uneasiness, I found myself wondering, Exactly what is the difference between karma and the principle of sowing and reaping?  So, I've studied it out and would like to share my findings with you.

First off, let's define karma.  According to Dictionary.com, karma is "action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in reincarnation". According to Buddha,"whatsoever fortune or misfortune experienced is all due to some previous action". So my question is where is God during all of this?  Does He or does He not control the universe and everything contained within?  If everything in our lives is based on previous actions, then we are in control of our own lives and destinies, not God.  And that, my friend, is not Biblical.  Sometimes God allows things to happen in our lives because it's His will, nothing more.  It's not a reward for good we've done or a punishment for wrongs.  Yes, sometimes God does offer rewards and punishments, but sometimes it's just part of His plan and has nothing to do with our past circumstances or decisions.

In contrast, the teaching of sowing and reaping (or casting our bread upon the water) simply says that God rewards faithful workers and givers.  If we give our tithe, God will ensure we don't lack for anything.  If we give to the poor, He will reward us accordingly.  If we work, we'll get paid, perhaps not in money, but in other ways.  God does reward the generous and the diligent.  It's in the Bible, over and over again.  Remember the widow of Zarephath who fed the prophet Elijah with the last of her food only to discover she had just enough each time she went back to the barrel.  She gave, and her generosity was rewarded.

My husband and I recently experienced this firsthand.  We were attending a Southern Gospel concert in Tennessee over the Christmas holidays.  It was a fabulous concert with The Booth Brothers and Greater Vision, my two favorite groups.  We had two friends at church who really wanted to attend but one had a prior obligation and the other simply didn't have the money to go.  On our way to the concert, I shared with Jason, "I want to get a CD for each of them."  I knew money was tight.  I knew we really didn't have it to give.  But I also knew in my heart that it was something the Lord wanted me to do, and I couldn't wait to see the look on the ladies' faces when I handed them the CD's.  I knew it would be a blessing to them, so I followed the Lord's leading.

It was worth it to see their joy!  But the reward didn't end there.  The next week was extremely cold, and Jason pulled out his heavy coat that he hadn't worn since last winter.  We were carrying on a conversation when he begin patting his chest pocket.  His forehead creased as he struggled to unbutton the flap on the pocket.  "What is that?" he asked.  I shrugged and waited for him to pull out the offensive item, assuming it was probably a receipt or something like that.  My eyes widened as he pulled out a piece of money.  I recognized it right away, but until he unfolded it, I could only guess how much.  It was a $20 bill.  Twenty dollars--the exact amount we paid for the two extra CD's.  Because we followed the Lord's leadership, we got to be a blessing and to be blessed by seeing the joy on the faces of friends, plus we got the $20 back.  We sowed, and we reaped.  God's so good!

One last difference I would like to point out is motive.  Motive plays an important part in sowing and reaping versus karma.  Those who believe in karma do good deeds for the sole purpose of reaping reward.  Their motive is impure and selfish.  Those who follow the Biblical principle of casting their bread upon the water follow a different procedure.  They do good because it's right.  They do for others because they long to be a blessing.  They give to give, not to get.  There's a big difference!

Well, I hope I've done an adequate job in describing the difference between sowing and reaping and karma.  Do you have thoughts or opinions on the topic?  I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Don't Look Before You Leap

What do the following people have in common:  the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus at the feeding of the 5,000, the woman with the issue of blood, the disciple Peter, Christopher Columbus and Indiana Jones?  Don't worry; this isn't a test.  In fact, I won't even make you think too hard because I'll tell you the answer.  What did they have in common?  They all took a risk, a giant leap of faith.

The boy risked ridicule and embarrassment as he handed over his miniscule sack lunch as an offering to feed thousands.

The woman with the issue of blood risked rejection from Jesus and even stoning from the crowd for daring to be so bold, in her state of uncleanness (according to the customs of the day), as to touch another individual.

Peter risked his very life as he took hold of his faith and courage while stepping out of the boat to walk on the storm-tossed sea.

Columbus risked his life, the life of his crew and his entire reputation on his belief that there was no edge of the earth because the earth was, in fact, round.

Indiana Jones, in The Last Crusade, risked taking a deadly fall as he faced a vast precipice and dared to have faith that he could cross it, even when there appeared to be no bridge spanning the gap.

And while it's important to note this common ground, it is even more important to note another similarity.  They each received a blessing for the faith.

The boy had the opportunity to witness a miracle take place right before his eyes.  Not only that, but he lived the rest of his days knowing that he had had a part in that miracle.  And for all of time, his story of giving will live on through the Word of God.

The woman received not only physical healing, but I believe she also received a spiritual healing that day.  Because of her faith, she received a new life.  She was able to return to her family and friends.  She was forever changed.

Peter learned an important lesson that he would carry for the rest of his life.  Not only was he the only man (besides Christ) to walk on water, but he learned firsthand what happens when we take our eyes off the Lord and focus on our circumstances.  Through this knowledge, his ministry flourished, and he reached many for Christ, and is still reaching others today through the books of the Bible God allowed him to pen.

Christopher Columbus changed the world as it was known.  His discovery began a new era for explorers, and his name lives on in history as the greatest explorer to ever live.

As for Indiana Jones, his step of faith was rewarded with a bridge, invisible to the naked eye, upon which he traversed the canyon.  His journey led him to the Holy Grail, which he used to save the life of his father.

May I make a suggestion for the new year?  Take a risk.  Throw common sense and logic out the window.  Be willing to take a step of faith.  Tithe more than you think you can afford to.  Give to others when it appears you don't have enough for yourself.  Start that business.  Quit that job to go into full-time ministry.  Obviously, I don't advise you to do any of these things against God's will, but if He's been urging you to do something, and fear has been holding you back, I want to remind you that faith is always rewarded.  Things may not turn out the way you want, and the reaping may not take place as soon as you want, but don't give up.  Take that step of faith, and wait for God to work.

Henry Clay Trumbull put it this way: “The Lord never builds a bridge of faith except under the feet of the faith-filled traveler. If He builds the bridge a rod ahead, it would not be a bridge of faith. That which is of sight is not of faith.”  If you want to see the second step, you have to take the first.  If you want to see what God can do in your life, you have to first take that leap of faith.  I don't know what he's calling you to do today, but whatever it is, take the risk and reap the reward.  Don't try to figure it out; just do it.  Don't look; just leap!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Lucado Inspirational Reader by Max Lucado

The Lucado Inspirational Reader is a collection of excerpts from numerous books by award-winning Christian author, Max Lucado.  The excerpts are short and divided into categories such as "The Cross", "Encouragement", "Relationship with God", and so on.  The layout makes it easy for the reader to read a passage no matter the amount of time they have available.  When pressed for time, one short excerpt can be read.  For a more thorough study, an entire category can be read.  Either way, the book makes an excellent accompaniment to daily Bible reading.

I have been a fan of Max Lucado for many years now, and I have yet to find one of his books that I don't like.  While there are a few gray areas we don't necessarily agree on, I have found his books to be doctrinally sound and extremely encouraging.  His knowledge of the Bible is refreshing, and his clear, down-to-earth writing style makes each of his books a page-turner.  And even though I've already read all his books, when I saw this collection, I knew I had to have it.  I was not disappointed and enjoyed every page.

The day I received the book was a difficult day.  I opened the book and turned to the section on "Encouragement." Within half an hour, I had read the entire section.  Tears had been shed, but my heart felt immensely better, and I was ready to face the remainder of the day.  Like any good Christian author, Lucado seeks not to replace the Bible, but merely to remind the reader of what the Bible says and to direct him back to God's Word.  And to me, that's extremely important!

If you're a Lucado fan, you'll definitely want to add The Lucado Inspirational Reader to your collection.  If you've never read any works by Max Lucado, this would be a perfect place to get a taste of his beliefs and writing style.  Whatever the case, this is a must-read!


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.”

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Perfect Gift

This past Christmas, I was resolved that I would not "settle" for any gift.  I was determined to find the perfect gift for everyone on my list.  With the meager budget I had for Christmas this year, the task turned out to be quite an undertaking. 

I scoured eBay for weeks, looking for quality items that I couldn't afford elsewhere.  I wracked my brain to come up with something more original than a gift card or a card filled with money.  I wanted the recipient of each gift to know that I had put a lot of time and effort into those Christmas offerings.  Thankfully, my hard work was rewarded.  Not only were others impressed with the Christmas gifts I managed to purchase, but I even received a few "oohs" and "aahs" over the four birthday gifts I had to procure during December as well.

Do you ever wonder what was going through God's mind as He created the world?  Was He, like me, determined to not settle for anything less than exquisite?  Was He, too, looking to create the perfect gift for each of us?

Let's see here.  I'll make the sky blue.  Dana loves blue.  I'll stretch the neck of the giraffe.  That'll make Susie laugh.  How about flowers the size of a human hand?  Yeah, Tina will love that.  Babbling brooks?  Perfect for Jason.  Oh, and I can't forget about those breathtaking sunrises.  Max needs those to get his day started off right.  Colorful birds for Ed.  Mischievous cats for Christi.  Scottish terriers for Abby.  Mountains for Patrick and trees for Jamie to climb.  Yes, won't my children be pleased?

On the heels of that thought, I can't help but wonder if God lives in constant expectation of our response to His gift.  I don't know about you, but I'm more excited about giving gifts than I am receiving them.  I love to see the look of wonder or astonishment on the face of someone I love.  I'm blessed to see such an expression of joy that I don't even have to ask, "Do you like it?'  Don't you think God feels the same way?

Take a look around you.  Gaze into the blue sky.  Survey the myriad of colors.  Listen to the fluttering of bird's wings and the buzzing of the insects.  Take a deep breath of the clear, cool air.  And in the midst of your observations, listen for the whisper from the God who made it all--"Do you like it?  I made it just for you."