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Friday, April 30, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough

For his birthday on Wednesday, Jason wanted to tackle a really tough hike. He's wanted to do this hike for a long time, but something has always hindered us from being able to do it. On Wednesday, I was determined to make his dream a reality. Sure, I was tired. Sure, the trail was rated "very strenuous," but I had been on those kinds of trails before. Plus, nothing is too much to endure for my hubby, right? If I had only known what I was getting myself into.

First of all, I think the trail was rated "very strenuous" because that's as high as the rating scale goes. It should have been rated "for fools only." I would say it was probably equivalent to a double black diamond in skiing. That trail was NOT for the faint of heart.

We started out by climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and. . .well, you get the point. Then, we got to the tough part. We had to walk on ledges barely as wide as my foot, hike under waterfalls (yes, we got wet), crawl through 2x4 openings in the rock, climb tall ladders (this was really fun since we took the dogs with us), clamber onto boulders that were at least four feet tall, oh, and watch out for snakes! We had a good time, but I can tell you right now that there isn't a muscle in my body that isn't hurting, aching, or cramped!

The funny thing was that we knew the tough trail in the loop was only supposed to be a little over four miles long. (It felt more like forty!) According to the map, after we crossed two waterfalls, we should have been at the end of the trail and the junction for the turnoff onto a much easier trail. So, after we crossed the second waterfall, we were expecting to finally be off that horrible trail, but we were in for a surprise. There weren't two waterfalls; there were more like nine! Each time we crossed a fall, we hoped we were finally at the end of the trail, but we would continue on until we came to yet another fall. After a while, it became a joke. "I wonder if this is the waterfall that marks the end of the trail." Even Jason, as tough as he is, was saying, "It's got to be here soon. We've been on this trail forever." I agreed wholeheartedly!

We finally found the end of the trail and were able to get on a trail that was wide enough for us to sit down and eat. It was nearly 3:00. (We had had breakfast at 8:30.) After a hardy lunch, we completed the last part of our loop. The first four miles had taken almost four hours. The last six miles only took two and a half hours.

That was, by far, the toughest hike I've ever been on. The funny thing is that I didn't think I could handle a hike that tough. Some of the other "very strenuous" hikes I've been on have had me crawling on my hands and knees and begging Jason to just leave me there and let me die (maybe that's a little overboard, but it's how I felt at the time). This hike was much tougher, but I made it. . .I can barely move today, but I made it!

Sometimes in life we face circumstances that are so difficult that we think we'll never get through. We literally have to fight for the strength to put one foot in front of the other and continue this race that we're on. Then, when we think we're doing okay, we run into another circumstance that is much harder than anything we've ever had to face. It's easy to get discouraged. It's easy to shake our heads and say, "I'll never make it." But, I have good news for you. God can give us the strength to hike trails and fight battles. He can give us what we need to make it through any trial we are facing.

I admit there were times on Wednesday when I thought, I just can't do this. But each time I thought that, I heard the still, small voice of God saying, "Yes, you can. I'll help you." And in that moment, I felt a renewed strength that would help me to take that next step. Sometimes, I only made it ten steps before I had to stop and rest, but that was ten steps closer to the end of the trail (which is past A LOT of waterfalls, not just two!).

When things seem too difficult, don't give up. Rest if you must, but then keep moving forward. God will give you the strength even if your trail is rated "very strenuous."

Ibuprofen, anyone?

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. - Psalm 46:1

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Childhood Dream

There is a dream I always dreamed
When I was but a girl;
A dream of true love, sweet and pure,
The truest love in all the world.

In my dream, I would see a man,
So humble yet so kind.
He was a man that was so in tune,
He seemed to read my mind.

He set me up on a pedestal,
So high I feared I might fall,
But no matter which wrong step I took,
He was with me through it all.

He gave to me all he had to give,
Even when I gave naught in return.
He showered me with gifts of love,
Even when some gifts I would spurn.

He was a man so wonderful
That only in my dreams could he exist,
For I knew that if ever I met such a man,
My heart wouldn't be able to resist.

I'm now living out my childhood dream
With the man I thought couldn't be real.
He is such a blessing to my life,
And what a strong love for him I feel!

Happy Birthday, Jason!

I Love You!

Monday, April 26, 2010

360° Life by Billy Joe Daugherty

360° LIFE explores the impact that faith can have on the Christian life. It discusses powerful topics such as overcoming fear and anxiety, hearing God's voice, giving thanks, and much more. The theme of the book is one of encouragement to Christians to keep running the race no matter what circumstances may come.

After reading the back cover of the book, I couldn't wait to get started. Sadly, the book did not live up to my expectations. I found the author to be in error on several points. He frequently used Bible verses to validate his points, but he often used the verses out of context and sometimes failed to even quote the entire verse that would completely turn the tides on his statements.

There's a lot of good material in 360° LIFE, but there's also enough error to truly confuse a weaker Christian. I think it can best be compared to rat poison - 99% good food, 1% poison.

I cannot recommend this book as I fear it will only confuse and lead astray those who are weaker in the faith. The errors in the book are woven into the message so subtly that at times, I found myself questioning what I believed and why I believed it. If you decide to read this book, be very careful. Make sure you know what you believe, and search the Scriptures to validate those beliefs. A half-truth is still a whole lie!

Click here to read chapter one.

Click here to purchase
360° LIFE

This book was reviewed as part of the Random House blog tour program. All opinions are my own.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Don't Eat the Poison

I wanted to write a cheery, encouraging post today, but God had other plans for me. My last few posts have revolved around the topic of doctrinal error, and I feel that today the Lord would have me issue a warning.

You know the old saying "a half-truth is a whole lie"? Well, that's what we're facing today. It's in our churches, our songs, our books, and our sermons. It's all part of that "feel-good Christianity/health and wealth" movement.

To hear the messages proclaimed, everything sounds good, but if you know your Bible, you'll see it for what it is -- false doctrine. It's like rat poison. Did you know that rat poison is only 1% poison? The other 99% is honest-to-goodness food. That's why the rats eat it. The same poison is killing our churches today. A small percentage of error is being taught within messages of truth. But what does the Bible say? "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

The problem is that many Christians don't see it because it is woven into the message and surrounded by truth. These false teachers are sly, yet eloquent. (Hmm, who does that remind me of?) I think that many of them knowingly deceive people because there's great profit in it. Others, I believe, are truly deceived themselves.

So, how do we, as Christians, avoid being deceived by these false doctrines? I've heard it said that the easiest way to spot a counterfeit is to truly know the original. If we want to be able to spot false doctrine, we must know the Word of God, and the only way to know it is to study it and meditate on it.

Please be careful what you read and listen to. Make sure it checks out with the Bible before you accept it as fact. Satan can't steal our salvation, but he can certainly confuse us and cause us to doubt everything we once believed.

I don't know why this topic has been so heavy on my heart lately, but I beg of you, beware of false teachers. They're everywhere, and they're on the lookout for easy prey.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. - Matthew 7:15-20

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Have a Question For You

Today's entry is a little different. I would like to get your opinion on a matter. I've been reading a book called 360° Life. I would like to quote a portion of one of the chapters and then ask you to comment back with an opinion on the quote. (I will enable the comment option on this post.) I really want to hear from you, so please take a couple of minutes to let me know what you think.

If you're wondering why all the bad things happen, remember, they are not God's doing. God is a good God. . .God is not the source of evil, accidents, or disease. . .God's will or you is good, not evil. He hasn't planned calamity or tragedy for you. Remember that the bad things that happen in this world are not the will of God for you.

Does God cause bad things to happen or does He simply allow it? Can bad things be the will of God for our lives? I would like to hear your answers to these questions and whether you agree or disagree with the above statement. If possible, please use Scripture to validate your answers.

Thanks for taking part. Be sure to check back to see what others are saying, but please keep things in the proper Christian spirit.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Collingsworth Family Violin

I had the opportunity to see The Collingsworth Family perform this live last Saturday night. The music literally moved me to tears. I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Somebody's Watching Me!

I recently watched the 2006 NQC Parade of Pianos DVD. That video was the last recording featuring Roger Bennett, former pianist of The Cathedrals and Legacy Five. I cried my eyes out as Roger stood tall, one leg in a cast, his body weak from the cancer and the medication, and with all the feeling he could muster, raised his voice in singing "It Is Well With My Soul." Roger went home to be with the Lord in March of 2007 after an 11-year battle with leukemia.

What many people don't know is that Roger was much more than just a pianist. He was also a singer, a songwriter, and quite a comedian. He was also one of my heroes of the faith -- not because of what he did, but because of why and how he did it. Roger Bennett lived his faith. He truly loved the Lord, and that love showed in everything he did. Even now, his testimony encourages me in my Christian walk and service.

Now that Roger is in Heaven, I believe he knows what an impact his life had on me and many others. On earth, however, he wouldn't have known me at all. While he was alive, he had no idea that this impressionable young lady was studying him and admiring his good attitude through life's storms.

It's a very sobering thought to think that someone may be watching me in the same way. If they are, what do they see -- a fitting role model or a sorry excuse for a Christian? It's a thought that helps keep me on my toes.

We never know who may be watching us. We never know whose lives we may influence by the way we handle difficult circumstances. Whether we like it or not, our Christian walk is on display. Wouldn't it be a pity to get to Heaven and find out that no one thought us worthy of being role models?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Tongue -- A Tool to Motivate or Annihilate

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. - James 3

In this chapter, James has a lot to say about the tongue, but I think it can be summed up very simply. The tongue, though a small member of the body, can perform great works in our lives. It has the power to heal, help, and encourage, but it also has the power to hurt, anger, and destroy. The difference is in how we use our tongues and in how well we have the tongue under control.

As a child, one thing my parents drilled into me is "Think before you speak." Before we utter any sound from our mouths, we ought to stop and ask ourselves a few questions:

1. Does this need to be said?

2. Will these words help or hurt?

3. Are these thoughts pleasing to the Lord, and therefore, thoughts that should be voiced?

4. Can I rephrase this to make it an encouragement instead of an accusation?

It's so easy to allow our tongues to get the best of us. When frustrated or stressed, we tend to say things that we later regret. Let's strive today to be more careful in how we use our tongues. The tongue is a gift from the Lord and should be used for His glory. Let's uplift instead of tear down. Let's make a special effort to keep control of our "little member." After all, a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Forget Me Not by Vicki Hinze

In Forget Me Not, Vicki Hinze spins an intricate web of romance and intrigue.

Kelly Walker lives an unusual life. Unfortunately, things are about to become even more complicated. Carjacked, beaten, and left to die, Kelly soon finds herself in the middle of an elaborate scheme. Remembering little besides her relationship with Christ, Kelly determines to hold fast to her faith in spite of her fear of the unknown.

With the help of a friend named Benjamin Brandt, Kelly stumbles down a long path to recover her memories. Little does she know that the truth of those memories will threaten to destroy everything she holds dear.

Forget Me Not can best be described as a tangled web of plots and secrets. I admit I spent most of the book trying to figure out what was going on. Just when I thought I had things figured out, a new plot twist sent my head reeling. If you enjoy a true mystery, you'll loved Hinze's new novel.

The characters are believable and well-written. While the novel is centered around a theme of faith, Hinze does an excellent job of weaving it into the story to avoid the "in-your-face" feeling. The storyline, though complex and a little far-fetched, is enjoyable and entertaining.

Forget Me Not is a must read. I guarantee that once you pick it up, you'll be enthralled until the very end!

To purchase a copy of Forget Me Not, visit

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrookMultnomah as part of a blog tour. The opinion discussed here is my own and has not been influenced in any way.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Did you know that you're special? Yes, you! So often in life, we go about our daily tasks, and we forget just how special we are. We also lose sight of the fact that God has a plan for our lives. I'm not just talking about the "big plan" like God wants you to be a teacher or God has called you to the mission field. I'm talking about the everyday plans God has for each of us. What plans? That's between you and God.

God has given each of us talents and abilities, and we are to use those talents and abilities daily to honor him and encourage others. I can hear it now -- some of you are saying, "But I can't write. I can't sing. I can't play music. I can't speak in front of people. I can't sing. I can't do anything that God can use." WRONG!!! I believe every talent and ability can be used for the glory of God.

Maybe you're an excellent organizer; God can use you. Maybe you handle money very wisely; God can use you. Maybe you're a compassionate person; God can use you. Maybe you have nothing to offer but your time; that's okay - God can use you too.

You see, the question isn't can God use you. The question is are you allowing God to use you. He has made you the person you are because He has a special and unique plan for you. Are you following that plan? Are you using your gifts to help others? Reach out and touch someone today. You'll be amazed at the change in your own life when you do.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Know He Cares for Me

Yesterday, like so many other days, I took my dogs out to their favorite trail. To be honest, at one point on the trail I had stop and look around to get my bearings. I've been on that trail probably a hundred times, but it looked so different yesterday. Just since last Thursday, everything has started to bloom, causing the trail to look completely different. It was amazing.

After a vigorous hike, we found a shaded spot near the creek and stopped for some refreshment. As I sat there, my attention was focused on all the activity around me. Squirrels darted about, digging up food from under the earth and then carrying it back to their trees. Birds flew from one perch to the next, their beaks full of worms for their young or grass for their nests. Bees of all sorts buzzed from one flower to the next spreading pollen as a part of their daily routine. As I surveyed my surroundings, my mind wandered to Matthew 6:25-34.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

If my God can take care of each of the creatures I observed yesterday (and He can), I know He can take care of me too. It may not be my way, and it may not be in my time, but He will take care of me. Therefore, I have no need to worry. . . and neither do you!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Uplifting One Another

Last Saturday, we took our youth group hiking to Moonshine Falls (no, there wasn't any moonshine there, just empty barrels). While there, we decided to take the unmarked path to Confusion Falls, a beautiful scene where two falls combine creating a fabulous cascade. Not only is the trail not marked, but it's not really even a trail at all. One simply has to know how to make his way down the mountain to get to it. Jason and I had gone down the day before, so we knew that it could be done even though the way was steep.

The problem on Saturday was that a group of the youth got ahead of us, determined to create their own path. They missed the turn off to the falls and began making their way down the steepest incline on the mountain. Having no choice but to follow them at this point, Jason and I started our descent.

Laughter and shouts covered the mountainside as one by one, many of us slipped on leaves and landed on our bottoms. After several falls, many of the youth decided to just slide down the mountain on their bottoms. One girl, however, was determined to make it down on her own two feet. She wound up, however, hanging by her shirt that was caught on a short branch of the tree she had grabbed as she was falling.

I have to admit, the sight from where I stood was hilarious. Her shirt was caught on the tree branch and pulled up over her head. Her arms and legs were flailing, and her laughter rang out across the hills. I laughed so hard that I lost my footing and found myself sitting rather quickly. I had to recover from my laughing spell before I could even attempt to stand back up.

Later, that same girl, while at Confusion Falls, fell into the river while attempting to cross a fallen log. After making sure she was alright, we all laughed with her at her misfortune. By the end of the trip, she was scraped, scratched, and bruised, but she was still smiling.

At church on Sunday, the girl's mom came up and told me what a great time the girl had had on Saturday. Then she told me that her daughter had told her about me laughing so hard that I fell myself. I immediately felt guilty. She wasn't mad at all, but I still felt that I needed to apologize. I had tried not to laugh, but the situation was just so comical. Still, my first priority should have been to her safety. She could have been seriously hurt.

That guilt caused me to examine my Christian life. When a brother or sister in Christ falls, do I stop to help him/her up? When a fellow believer needs my help, do I offer it? It's often easy to laugh at or criticize someone when they're down, but that's the last thing they need. They need love. They need acceptance. They need someone to help them up. They need encouragement. I pray that I will react well to those who take a fall. The Lord knows how often I could use a helping hand.