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Monday, April 30, 2012

Virtual Book Tour: An Interview with Stan Starsky

Look and feel great deliciously....

 Would you like your family to eat more wholesome foods and get more vitamins, micro-nutrients, fiber and minerals while avoiding processed sugar, gluten without taking supplements? Wouldn’t it be nice to find an exciting and interesting way to eat more healthy?

If you answered "yes" to the above then my promise to you is that eating healthy snacks can be interesting, fun and easy. I present to you the “Peace Love and Snacks” healthy snack cookbook. And this not just about sneaking in a few vegetables into a cookie recipe – which actually is a great strategy. This goes a little deeper than that.

All of the recipes are are gluten free and contain no processed sugar and no white flour. Sometimes honey is used as a sweetener, however, there is also a granola process that utilizes no honey at all – only fruit, oats and nuts and it has tested very well.

Imagine feeling great about what you have made, using wholesome ingredients. Time to take revenge against junk food and enjoy delicious easy to make snack food recipes. You will find some truly unique and new recipes that your family will enjoy.

Dana:  You know how I feel about healthy eating.  Yes, I enjoy my chocolate cake, but I also long for recipes for wholesome foods that taste great.  With that being said, it is my joy and privilege to have Stan Starsky here with us today to talk about his new book, Peace, Love and Snacks.  Stan, what compelled you to write a healthy snack cookbook?

Stan:  I felt it was time to take revenge against junk food...And as much as I like to eat healthy I find that eating snacks like apples and bananas can get pretty boring.  However, most of the recipes that I found on the Internet for so called healthy snacks contained large amounts of processed sugar...So in a quest to eat healthier snacks, I began making my own granola bars.  Soon I was making healthy dips and I eventually came up with a wide range of original snack ideas.  I also came up with a lot of ways to eat apples and bananas that are interesting and taste great. 

Dana:  That's fantastic, and you're right, there are a lot of recipes out there with loads of sugar and processed sweeteners.  Now, do you have a background in nutrition, or is healthy eating more of a self-taught process for you?

Stan:   Actually I have an economics background but to prepare for the book I conducted interviews with registered dietitians and I learned a lot from these conversations.  I also continue to conduct these interviews. 

Dana:  I've looked at your book, Stan, and I can tell you've certainly done your homework.  For our readers who haven't had the chance to purchase your book, could you tell us what kind of recipes your cookbook contains?

Stan:   Great question...Well it has granola recipes, dip recipes, nut recipes and some snack combinations that I don't think that anyone has ever heard of before.  I tried to come up with some truly original recipes like a dairy free rice pudding recipe, an unusual broccoli salad and mouth watering fruit and nut combinations.  In addition, all of the recipes contain no processed sugar, no artificial flavors and no gluten.

Dana:  That certainly sounds like a winner to me.  Your snacks sound like they would appeal to adults and children alike, and as you mentioned earlier, even so-called "health food" is often packed full of artificial and potentially harmful ingredients.  I feel much better eating something when I know exactly what's in it, but I can't help but wonder how time-consuming and difficult it is to make your own snacks.  What kind of equipment and/or appliances do these recipes require?

Stan:  You really need to have a food processor or you could just use a hammer and simply smash some of the ingredients against the floor.  If you have shag carpeting you may find this method to be a bit more challenging.  Other than a food processor, you really just need the basic stuff like a bowl, a pot, a spoon and a knife.

Dana:  Well, that doesn't sound too bad, but I know many people have other justifications for not eating healthy.  How would you respond to people who argue that healthy eating is just too expensive?  

Stan:  First of all, I don't believe in arguing and I won't tolerate it. . .This may come as no surprise considering I wrote a book called "Peace Love and Snacks".  It does seem like healthy food is more expensive.  However, it is usually the prepared healthy food that is more costly.  For example, an apple or banana compared to the cost of a candy bar is actually less expensive.  In reference to organic food, there is no denying that eating organic is more expensive.  For me, I just feel so much better when eating a healthy diet that paying a little more is well worth the  investment in my health...This was not much of an argument, but like I said earlier I am not into arguing.

Dana:  I agree with you, Stan.  When you eat healthy, you just feel better all day long.  When I eat the things I know I should eat, I feel more energized, focused and motivated, while eating processed or junk foods leaves me feeling sluggish and moody.  If you could give people one word of advice about living a healthy lifestyle, what would it be?

Stan:  Actually, I am by no means an expert but what I have learned from the registered dietitians that I have interviewed is that the really basic advice might be the most important. such as eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, exercising on a regular basis and sleep.  I know this is not very exciting or new.  However, to help you with variety when it comes to healthy snacks, I think I can help and you can pick up a copy for half price here:

Dana:  Thanks, Stan.  It's good to know there are some new and exciting ways to eat healthy.

If you're tired of feeling down and out, maybe it's time to change your diet.  It doesn't have to be time-consuming or costly.  Pick up Stan's book today for half-price and begin your journey to a new, healthier you! If you'd like to hear more about Peace, Love and Snacks, follow Stan's tour using the schedule below:


April 26 - Introduction at VBT Cafe' Blog
April 30 - Interviewed at A Word Fitly Spoken
May 2 - Interviewed at BK Walker Books Etc.
May 4 - Interviewed by Margaret West
May 6 - Review & Giveaway at Books, Books, and More Books
May 7 - Interviewed at MK McClintock's Blog
May 9 - Review & Giveaway at Authors by Authors
May 11 - Guest Blogging at Mass Musings
May 12 - Guest Blogging at AZ Publishing Services
May 15 -Guest Blogging with Cindy Vine

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Retrain the Brain

Several posts back I talked about my dislike for trailblazing.  Hiking?  Love it!  Trailblazing?  Not so much.  But I've recently discovered that I need to step outside of my comfort zone and do some major trailblazing through my mind.  You're probably wondering what in the world I'm talking about, right?  Let me see if I can explain.

Think of your brain as a forest.  There are many trees, flowers, plants and various other resources.  We know them as thoughts, feelings, signals, etc.  To reach (or access) any of these resources, we must go down the trail that leads to the desired resource.  As with forest trails, some of our minds' trails are used frequently and are well-marked and easy to follow.  Others, however, are not traveled as frequently and become a little harder to spot and maneuver.  Does that make sense?

In my own mind, the trails leading to fear, worry, discouragement, anger, bitterness, frustration and negative thoughts are well-marked and unfortunately, well-trodden.  In fact, they are so obvious that I often find myself traveling down them without even realizing how I got there.  There are other trails that are covered with debris and cobwebs -- trails for which I must search if I am to travel them.  These trails include those leading to happiness, contentment, positive thinking, self-discipline and a host of other good traits.  Somehow, over the years, I've allowed those trails to become overgrown.  And because of their state of disarray, I've found it easier and more convenient to walk on the paths that are well-blazed.  After all, why make more work for myself, right?

Over the past couple of months, the Lord has been dealing with me about several things in my life that are not as they should be.  Nothing major, mind you, but things that bring me shame, nonetheless.  For example, the healthy living I started last year only lasted until a major crisis hit.  Then, I ran back to my comfort food, and I've been holding on to it every since.  That kind of stuff.  Stuff that won't mean a thing to you, but it certainly means a lot to me.

And do you want to know why these things are out of sorts?  Because my thinking is out of sorts.  By frequenting the familiar pathways in my brain, I'm allowing all the wrong things to dictate my thoughts, feeling and actions.  The comfortable place says, "I just can't do this."  The hidden paths say, "I can do ALL things through Christ because He gives me strength."  Time and time again, I'm heeding all the wrong advice when I know the right advice is in there somewhere.  So, it's time to retrain the brain.  It's time to blaze some new trails and to take back some of the ones that have been overgrown.  It's time to quit being so concerned with being comfortable and instead concern myself with following the Lord's will.  Out with the old and in with the new!

And the best place to start is with God's Word.  The more I fill my brain with His promises, the less room there will be for Satan's lies.  With God's Word in my heart, I'll have a much easier time controlling my thoughts and actions. 

Now, if you'll excuse the shameless plug, I've been using my book, There's a Verse for That, to aid me in my Scripture memorization and thought retraining.  There's a Verse for That is a compilation of verses taken straight from the Bible but divided into categories such as Afraid, Confused, Sad, Worried, etc.  With easy reference, I can flip open to the chapter dealing with my current state and read what God has to say about it.  There are no devotions, no comments, no fluff.  It's portions of God's Word and nothing more.  If you're going through the process of memorizing Scripture, or you, too, are striving to retrain your brain, I guarantee you There's a Verse for That will be a valuable resource.  Pick up your copy today for as little as $1.99.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

God's Answer Loud and Clear

Recently I've been struggling with making everything fit into my extremely busy schedule.  Between writing, blogging, marketing, teaching (both a college class and a Sunday School class), playing the piano for church, singing special music and/or with the choir, keeping up with housework and grocery shopping, doing favors for friends and loved ones, exercising and trying to make a little time for Jason and the dogs, I've found myself running like a hamster on the wheel.  I'm running as fast as my little legs can carry me, but I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere.

This is not the first time I've been in this situation, so I knew what I needed to do.  It was time to sit down and once again evaluate my life and my priorities.  Which of these things has the Lord called me to do? Which of these things do I need to do, and which ones can be delegated to someone else?   Which of these things do I enjoy doing?  Which of these things causes me the most stress?  And lastly, which of these things am I merely doing out of a sense of duty or obligation?

In the end, I had some definite "yes, this is the Lord's will for my life" deeds, a couple of "maybe I need to learn to say 'no' more often" deeds and one "I don't think I'm supposed to be doing this".   The last one was playing the piano for church.  You see, when we joined Bible Baptist 12 years ago, I had no intention of becoming the pianist.  In fact, when I first started playing, it was as a "fill-in" pianist.  Somehow over the years, I became the full-time pianist.  The bad part is that I'm very limited in what I can play.  There are certain keys I'm unable to play in.  I can't transpose music on the fly.  I can play by ear to a small extent, but don't expect me to just pick up a song and play along with you. . . especially if I've never heard it.  Because of these limitations, playing the piano is often very stressful for me.  In addition to the stress of playing congregational and choir numbers, I'm also required to come up with at least three offertories each week.

So, you see, playing the piano for me does not just involve sitting down during the service and plunking out the song.  I have to practice and prepare.  I have to be there early and stay late.  I have a part in nearly every play or program and am obligated to attend every practice for said play or program.  In short, it's another part-time job, and one that I felt I was doing for all the wrong reasons.  In fact, this is how I described the situation to Jason:

I enjoy playing the piano for myself because it relaxes me, but I don't ever get to do that anymore.  What little time I have to play is spent practicing for church.  I don't know that I ever felt called to play the piano at church.  I just happened to be there when the church needed a pianist, and I've been stuck there ever since.  I feel like the only reason I'm doing it is out of duty and because no one else will step up and take over.  I don't feel that's a good reason to keep doing something, so I'm thinking about giving it up.  I'd like to just sit back and enjoy the service for once.  I'd like to have time before and after the service to chat with people instead of having to rush up to the piano and get my music ready.  Yep, I don't think this is God's will.

Jason didn't agree.  He urged me to pray about the situation and to keep playing until I knew for sure one way or another what God's will was.  I agreed to do that much.  That very night, the wife of our choir director called to ask me about learning and playing a new song for the choir.  After listening to the song and seeing the sheet music, I had to inform her that it was beyond my present ability.  Sure, I could learn it eventually, but I just don't have the time to invest in it right now (nor did I want to).  I felt bad (as I usually do when I feel like I'm limiting our music program), and I took it as a sign that God was confirming my suspicion that I was outside His will in the regard of playing the piano for church.  That is, until Sunday morning.

Our preacher's message hit me right between the eyes.  He spoke of being weary in well doing.  He talked of becoming so tired and overwhelmed that we no longer remember or realize why we're doing the things we do.  He went on to talk about doing things out of duty or obligation and how sometimes those thoughts are Satan's way of pulling us out of the will of God.  The main point of the message was about asking God to anoint us with fresh oil each and every day so that we don't get burned out.  By the end of the message, I knew I had my answer.  Honestly, it wasn't the answer I wanted, but I know it was the answer I needed.

So, I've decided to keep playing the piano at church, but I'm not playing for Bible Baptist Church; I'm playing for the Lord.  I'm playing to bring honor and glory to His name.  With His help and with the anointing of fresh oil, I trust that the position will be less stressful and more joyful.  And who knows, He may even provide the time and energy for me to improve my skills.

Have you grown weary in well-doing?  Are you tired, frustrated and discouraged?  Do you find yourself wondering why you're doing what you're doing and if you're still in the Lord's will?  If so, ask the Lord for His direction, and while you're waiting for the answer, continue to do what you're doing.  Believe me, He'll make the answer loud and clear.  And then, no matter what answer you receive, follow His will.  You won't be sorry!

Monday, April 23, 2012

What Are You Whining About?

I've mentioned before how I walk my two dogs separately.  To walk them together is a bit like walking the tortoise and the hare.  Tippy, my 11-year-old beagle, is content to mosey along at a snail's pace, sniffing every leaf, pebble and blade of grass.  Mitch, my shepherd, is like the energizer bunny.  (Get it -- hare, bunny!  Ha!  Not funny?  Sorry, I didn't get much sleep last night.)  Anyway, he only has only speed -- the speed of light.  So, to save myself from the stress and aggravation of fighting to walk them together, I opt instead to take Mitch for a two-mile walk/jog and then Tippy for a 1/2-mile to one-mile saunter.

I make it a point to always walk Mitch first because he is much more adamant about getting out the door.  But I'm always amazed at Tippy's behavior while I'm out with Mitch.  I can hear her whining before Mitch and I have left the yard.  She whines.  She cries.  She scratches at the door.  She makes pitiful sounds like none you've ever heard.  And by the time I get back with Mitch, she's exhausted herself with her tantrum.  As soon as I open the door, however, she marches out the door and sticks out her neck for me to attach the leash.  She knows what's coming.  She knows she's going to get to walk as soon as I'm done with Mitch.  So why does she throw such a fit?

As I pondered that thought this morning, I was assaulted by the realization that I act the very same way with my heavenly Father.  When things don't go the way I think they should go, I pitch a fit.  I whine.  I cry.  I make pitiful noises.  Don't I know that God's going to take care of me?  Hasn't He displayed His faithfulness to me over and over again?  Like Tippy, instead of anticipating the journey, I work myself into a frenzy about not getting things my way in my timing.  Then, when the time for the blessing arrives, I'm too worn out to truly enjoy it.  Oh me, oh my!

We have a joke in our family that the word "wait" is the worst of the four-letter words.  Mitch doesn't like to wait.  Tippy doesn't like to wait.  Jason does pretty well in that area, but I could certainly use some improvement.  And like Tippy, I need to learn to wait patiently.  Her fussing doesn't make me walk Mitch any faster (not that I could go any faster if I tried).  Likewise, my fussing doesn't rush God.  It simply prompts Him to remind me AGAIN, "Just hold on, child. You'll get your turn."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wield the Shield

Mitch displayed some peculiar behavior on our walk yesterday.  We were nearing the completion of our two-mile walk/run when he halted his pull on the leash and instead chose to circle back and walk beside me.  Mitch never walks beside me.  He's always as far ahead as the leash will allow him to go.  As if that behavior wasn't strange enough, he kept looking off to his right as if he were searching for something.  I followed the direction of his gaze but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. 

As we trudged up the hill on our street, he continued to walk on my right, constantly surveying the area to his right.  Then it clicked.  The day before when we had walked the same route, there was a small dog on the the front stoop of one of the houses on our right.  At that time, Mitch had seemed unconcerned with the dog, but I think that was probably because Jason was walking with us.  This time, I was alone and defenseless (or so Mitch thought), so he did as he always does when he feels I'm in danger and positioned himself between me and the threat.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen Mitch do this.  The unusual thing yesterday was that the dog wasn't there on the stoop, but Mitch remembered it being there the day before.  He was ready for trouble should trouble arise.  If, for some reason, he can't position himself between me and the threat, he goes wild.  He barks, growls and struggles to make a way to shield me from danger.  It's really sweet, and I have to tell you, it makes me feel pretty safe.  If you want to get to me, you have to get past my 95-lb shepherd first.  Any takers?  No?  Big surprise!

Do you realize that God does for us what Mitch does for me?  He positions Himself between us and our foes.  Over and over again, the Bible tells us that the Lord is our shield.  Where do you place a shield?  Between you and the danger.  God is our shield, and He is willing to stand between us and our trouble.

The problem many times is that we won't let him.  You see, too many times we stroll out the door in the mornings and leave our shield behind.  Difficulties?  No problem; I can handle it.  Troubles?  I can take care of that.  Fiery darts?  Annoying, but no big deal.  But before very long, we realize we can't handle it after all.  Things go awry.  Frustration sets in.  Our plans crumble before our very eyes, and we find ourselves questioning, "Where are you, God?  Why are you letting this happen to me?"  DUH!  Where is God?  Wherever we left Him. Why isn't He helping?  Maybe because we said we didn't need or want His help.  A shield is of no use if it's not wielded.

I could fight with Mitch every time he tried to protect me, but why would I want to?  Don't I want his protection?  Of course, just as I want the Lord's protection.  So why won't I let Him stand between me and the threat?  Why don't I wield my Shield? 

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. - Psalm 28:7

Friday, April 13, 2012

One More Time

From time to time, our pastor allows the other preachers in the church the chance to fill the pulpit for a service. The past three preachers have all preached from different Bible passages, but each message revolved around a central theme: trials. I believe each of these messages was from God. Why? Because I don't ever remember a time where so many people were hurting and discouraged. Right now, I know of people suffering from financial problems, marital problems, health problems, problems with their children, and on and on. In fact, I can't think of anyone I know who's not facing some sort of trial right now.

After hearing these three messages on trials, I looked back over the posts that God had given me recently. Guess what I found. That same central theme. In fact, I had noticed the theme earlier. While talking to my friend who is a faithful reader of my blog, I confided in her that I felt the posts were from God but that at times, I felt like I was whining. Oh, poor pitiful me. Look what's wrong in my life now! Her response was that she didn't feel that way at all. She expressed that the posts were an encouragement to her because it reminded her that she wasn't the only one suffering and that she wasn't alone in this fight.

While doing my Bible reading this morning, I came across this verse:

For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. - II Corinthians 7:5

Without were fightings, within were fears. Sound familiar? Sound like your life? God knows. He understands. That's why He's sending us hope and encouragement through messages, songs, and devotions. Through them, He's reminding us that these things are temporary and they are for our best. He's also reminding us that we're not alone. We have Him, and we have others who are walking through the same trials we are. They say, "Misery loves company," but I think this goes beyond that. God doesn't want us to be miserable together. He wants us to help each other, to encourage each other, and to share what strength we have left.

One more thing! Don't forget that sometimes the encouragers need encouragement too. Lend a helping hand or a kind word to someone today. We all need it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Falling Backwards

I recently came across a skit that I'd like to share with you.

(Jesus and a Christian are standing center stage.)

Christian: Jesus, I think I've finally figured out what my problem is.

Jesus: Oh, really? And what's that?

Christian: I just don't trust you. I mean, I want to trust you, but I just can't. I don't know how.

Jesus: I can help you with that. Let's try a little exercise.

Christian: Okay! That'll be great.

Jesus: Turn around and face that wall, and I'll stand back here behind you.

(Christian obeys.)

Jesus: Now, fall backwards.

Christian: What? You mean just let go and fall backwards? You're going to catch me, right?

Jesus: You don't need to worry about that. You just need to do your part. Do what I've asked you to do. Fall backwards.

(After much delay, Christian finally leans back and walks backwards into the waiting arms of Jesus.)

Christian: There, i did it! I fell.

Jesus: No, you didn't. You walked, and you were turned around and looking the entire time. Let's try this again. Face the wall. Now, fall backwards. Don't walk. Don't look. Just fall. Trust me. That's what this whole exercise is about.

(Again, after much delay, Christian falls backwards. Jesus catches him and stands him back on his feet.)

Christian: I did it! I trust you now. It's amazing. I know that you're there for me. Thanks, Jesus.

Jesus: Wait! We're not finished yet.

Christian: We're not?

Jesus: No, that was just stage one, and you did very well. But now it's time to move on to stage two.

Christian: Stage two?

Jesus: Yes! In this stage, I want you to face me.

Christian: Well, okay. That sounds easier than what I did just a minute ago, but I trust you. Here goes.

(Christian faces Jesus and begins falling forward. Jesus catches him.)

Jesus: Wait a minute! I didn't tell you what to do yet.

Christian: Oh, sorry. I'll wait for your instructions. After all, I trust you.

Jesus: Good. That's good. Now, are you ready?

Christian: I'm ready.

Jesus: Okay, face me. That's good. Now, fall backwards.

When I saw this skit, I saw myself. It's so easy for me to trust the Lord when I see Him waiting there to catch me. It's easy to trust when I know where the help will come from. It's easy when I see how things will work out. However, things get difficult when the answer is a mystery. When I have bills to pay and there's no money in the bank, I find it hard to trust. When God tells me to stay home and write when I know I could make better money going out and getting a "real job," I find it hard to trust. When it looks like everything is going wrong and God is nowhere to be found, I find it hard to trust. These are the times when my faith is really being tested. Sure, I can fall backwards knowing that God is there to catch me. But that's not really faith, is it? Faith is believing in the unseen. Faith is being able to fall backwards when I can't see anyone behind me to catch me. No safety nets. No parachutes. No plan B. Just faith! How are you at falling backwards?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nick Vujicic - Are you going to finish strong?

Wow! This was such a blessing to me. I literally had tears streaming down my face. I hope it will bless you as much as it did me!

Nick Vujicic is 26 years old. He was born without arms or legs and given no medical reason for this condition. Here is his testimony:

Faced with countless challenges and obstacles, God has given me the strength to surmount what others might call impossible. Along with that, the Lord has placed within me an unquenchable passion to share this same hope and genuine love that I've personally experienced with more than two million people all over the globe.

Traveling extensively to over 19 nations, I've been extremely humbled by the continuous opportunities that the Lord has given me to share my testimony along with the hope that I have in Jesus with people in so many nations and situations. My greatest joy in this life is to introduce Jesus to those I meet and tell them of His great desire to get to know them personally by allowing Him to become their Lord and Savior.

One of my favorite scriptures from the Bible is Psalm 139:17-18 that says, "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand."

God has used me to let people know in countless schools, churches, prisons, orphanages, hospitals, stadiums and in face-to-face encounters with individuals how very precious they are to God. Secondly, it's my pleasure to assure them that God does have a plan for their lives that is purposeful. For God took my life, one that others might disregard as having any significance and filled me with His purpose and showed me His plans to move hearts and lives toward Him. Understanding this, though faced with struggles, you can overcome too.

Be encouraged today as you read this promise from the Lord found in Jeremiah 29:11 of the Bible, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Bend in the Road by David Jeremiah

Sometimes I feel as if my life's road is nothing but bends.  It's like driving up a mountain--there isn't a straight stretch to be found.  On the contrary, I swerve from one side to the other as life throws one curve after another.  At times, I shrug my shoulders and tell myself, "Such is life."  But at other times, all I can do is weep.  Discouragement sets in and with it, a weariness that seeps into my soul, draining me of the strength to carry on. 

Thank the Lord for the book of Psalms.  From the very first word "blessed" (which means happy), the book promises strength for today and hope for tomorrow.  In his book, A Bend in the Road, Pastor David Jeremiah highlights some of the key Psalms that deal with sorrow, disappointment and the means by which to find peace in trying times.  His stories are heart-felt, and his teaching, while thorough and profound, is easy to read and understand.  The main focus of the book is truths he learned while facing his biggest bend in the road:  cancer.  But whether or not you've battled the awful disease, the book is full of life-changing lessons, no matter what bend you may be facing.

Believe it or not, I was blessed enough to find this book, along with another David Jeremiah book, at a local thrift store. I couldn't wait to start reading it, and once I began, I felt compelled to read it daily.  I broke the chapters into sections (which was easy to do given the layout of each chapter) and read one section each morning with my daily Bible reading.  My prayers and thoughts for the remainder of the day were then focused on the morning's lesson.  While I wanted to just sit down and read the entire book straight through, I knew I would be able to digest more if I took one section at a time.  It took longer to read that way, but each reading time was filled with encouragement and provoked in me feelings of hope and peace.  I was truly sorry to reach the end of the book.

Whether you are currently facing, have faced or will face a bend in the road of life, this book is a guaranteed blessing.  The message is true and taken directly from the Word of God.  There is hope.  There is more to life than the bends in the road.  You can live a life of joy.  Allow Dr. David Jeremiah to lead you through the Word of God and show you how!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Trailblazing Through Life

If you've followed my blog any length of time or read any of my books, you know that I love to hike.  I hate bugs, and I'm scared of snakes, but for some reason, hiking is one of my favorite things to do.  Though physically strenuous, for me it is mentally, emotionally and spiritually refreshing.  It helps me to relax and focus.  And I have to admit, it feels good knowing how many calories I'm burning in the process.  (That means I can eat more chocolate.  Hehehe!)

But one part of hiking that I don't care for is trailblazing.  Trailblazing is the process of creating a path where one doesn't exist.  It is the equivalent of "going where no man has gone before".  Well, maybe not quite that dramatic, but you get the idea.  There is no set trail, no map, no markers.  Nothing.  I do not like this process.  First off, I'm terrible with directions.  Without a trail, I don't even know in which direction I'm heading.  Second, the absence of a trail means the presence of trees, brush, briars and other obstacles.  On the few occasions we've been trailblazing, I came out of the woods scratched, bruised and looking like some form of dirt monster.  Not my cup of tea!  Nope!  Give me a trail.  Easy or difficult--it doesn't matter.  But please give me a plain path!

(I feel I must let you know that this post has just taken an unexpected turn.  I had another point in mind, but the Lord just turned my thoughts in another direction, and who am I to argue with Him?)  

As I typed the sentence prior to the parenthetical insert, I was reminded of a verse from one of my favorite Psalms:  Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. (Psalm 27:11)

Do you ever feel like you're trailblazing through life?  You've turned from side to side, and yet there seems to be no "right way" to go.  As you wander through the brush and bramble, you cry out, "Lord, lead me in a plain path.  Show me the way!"  It's difficult.  It's tiring.  It's frustrating.  But it's also optional.  Yes, that's right.  Trailblazing through life is our choice.  God always provides a way out (I Corinthians 10:13).  We may not see it because our focus is off, but it's there.  Or, maybe we do see it, but we don't want to go that way so we decide to trailblaze instead.  Oh, me!

The few times that Jason and I decided to trailblaze, it was just that--a decision.  There were other paths we could have taken.  We could have taken the clearly-marked trails.  But no, we decided to go our own way.  It was our decision, so it didn't make much sense for me to complain afterward (or during, for that matter).  The same is true in our daily walk.  If we make a conscious effort to go our own way, is it right for us to complain to God about the mess we're in?  Is it fitting for us to accuse Him of not providing for us or not guiding us?  No, but we do it anyway.

But here's the great part--God still loves us, and He still cares.  He wants what is best for us.  Even when we've gone off the path, He gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) guides us back to where we're supposed to be.  He helps us get back on track, and He leads us back to the safety of His arms.

You know the worst part about trailblazing?  It's not the dirt and grime.  It's not the lack of direction.  It's not the many obstacles.  No, the worst part is that we have to walk single-file.  There simply isn't room or the means to walk side-by-side when trailblazing through the woods.  On the path, however, there are always sections where Jason and I can walk hand in hand.  The path of life is the same.  We can trailblaze alone, or we can walk down the marked path, hand in hand with our Lord.  The choice seems so obvious.  Why do we complicate it?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Out of Sorts

Sunday morning, as I was preparing to brush my teeth, I turned toward the bedroom to speak to Jason.  As I turned back toward the sink, my neck locked.  Pain gripped my entire body, and for a few minutes, all I could see were stars.  I stumbled to the bed and lay down, hoping to alleviate the pain coursing through my neck, back and head.  Jason spent the next several minutes rubbing and stretching my neck, trying to ease the ache.  It helped, but only momentarily.

I spent the next four days in excruciating pain, barely able to move my head and neck.  Needless to say, little work was accomplished.  And as always, with my body out of sorts, my attitude was quick to follow its lead.  "Why does this stuff always happen to me?"  "Lord, how can I serve you when I'm in so much pain?'  "Why can't life ever be easy?  Why is it always so complicated just to make it through a single day?"  Sob, sob, sob.

Truthfully, by Tuesday, I was sobbing.  I don't know about you, but the week that our mortgage is due is a very tight week financially.  All of our major bills seem to come at the end and very beginning of the month, leaving no money for our mortgage which is due the first week of each month.  (For those of you keeping track, that's this week!)  I had been watching our finances.  Once again, it was going to be close, but it looked like we were going to just squeak by.  Then, the unthinkable happened!  Our website renewal, which was supposed to be processed on the 17th of April, went through on the 2nd.  One hundred twenty-five dollars was withdrawn from our checking account to pay for the renewal.

I went into a major panic!  There was no way we could pay the mortgage now without going into the red.  I contacted the hosting company, and we went back and forth all day.  Their response was "Well, to ensure you don't lose any hosting time, we start the process 15 days early."  To be honest, that may have been in the fine print somewhere, but I don't remember seeing it.  I was mad, but more than anything, I was scared.  I prayed.  I cried.  And I prayed some more.  From my viewpoint, I didn't see any way to fix the situation.  After hours of going back and forth with the hosting company, the best I could get was a reimbursement, but I knew that would be too late.  Oh, me of little faith!

I don't know why--maybe out of morbid curiosity, I don't know--but I checked our bank balance this morning.  I could not believe my eyes.  The hosting fee had gone through.  Mortgage had gone through.  And there was still money in the account.  HUH????  By God's grace and through His miracle, my tax return had also gone through ahead of the two bills.  Please note, I filed my taxes last Tuesday.  It was supposed to take a minimum of two weeks to get the return.  God did it in one.  God provided where I didn't see a way.  He took care of me even though I doubted Him.  And as always, He passed by at the right time.  Today, I'm basking in a miracle!  I may be tired.  I may be achy.  And things may not be the way I would have them.  But God loves me, and He's watching out for me.  That alone should put a spring in my step.

Has God been good to you?  Why don't you tell someone about it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Christian Magic Tricks

What a unique way to try to reach the world (especially children)! I know some are against "magic" in any form saying that it is a type or sorcery or witchcraft, but I respectfully disagree. I am all for what this fellow is doing and wish him the best.