Thursday, April 17, 2014

OK so at my Encounter weekend, God also showed me that I need to be VERY careful of what I allow into my head and heart in the forms of entertainment. That means getting rid of a tv show that has a clairvoyant in it (as a bad guy but still). That means not reading the celebrity magazines I do enjoy. That means deleting some songs off of our iTunes (luckily I have a whole list of new lovely ones to add). That also means being cautious of movies I watch AND that I allow my children to watch. I am the adult, the parent, their practical protector here on earth. They are NOT my children but HIS children that He has allowed me to parent.

SO I will be more careful of things I allow myself to promote and review on the blog, too. So I give you the sneak peek into Dolphin Tale 2 (the first movie was released in 2011). I hope you enjoy it; looks like a super cute film (and I love Morgan Freeman).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Encountering God: Part 3

Another tale from Women's Encounter and what God told me there. Read Parts 1 and 2 if you missed them.

My legalism lead to self-righteous judgmental hypocrisy. Well, that lead to pride (perhaps pride lead to all of those but it circled back around). One thing we were told before we left was to share our testimonies (not necessarily our conversion stories but what God has told us recently). A testimony is a witness of God - of His work.

I have known for a looooooong time that I have troubles sharing with others about the Good News of Jesus Christ. I have prayed about it. I have read books on evangelism (which is fancy terms for telling that Christ died for your sins - and mine - upon a cross, paying our debt of sin so that we can reunite with God in Spirit and later in heaven).

I do a great job in my head of playing out conversations. They get insane in there; things people would NEVER say to me come out in my head. I am my own worst condemner. Well, this affects my sharing the Word of God and the way to eternal salvation (fancy terms for not spending all time in hell but rather all time with the Lord of the Universe, God).

Basically, I get scared. I know the truth about how to live forever with God, the one who loves us a LOT. Many do not know. I keep this truth from them. How mean! I say I love God's people but how much do you have to hate a person to keep this kind of truth from them?!?!

What, exactly, am I scared of?

- being embarrassed
- being yelled at or having someone be mad at me
- losing my social standing (do I sound self-righteous yet?)
- slightly being hit
- losing my friends

So I have allowed humans, who are not God and do not have any real power, to control me. I'm sitting here, just aghast at how stupid that is. God, who made the universe, has power and demands fear (respect kind of fear, not scared kind of fear). Yet I have not feared the Creator but the created.

Father, forgive me. 

So at Encounter, I heard from God. For the first time in forever (anyone singing Frozen yet?)..... I heard Him. I heard Him talk to me in His silent voice (if you've never heard from God that may sound crazy but it's not, I promise). Here is what He told me:

"What is more important: your friendship with them or Mine?"

What is my friendship going to do for anyone?
Make them less lonely for 40 years or so vs. God's friendship which will make them never alone for all time.
Uhh...I'm kind of drawing a blank here. My friendship has no power. I cannot save anyone. Salvation is a personal matter between God and each such-and-such-number of million of His children.

I can't save you. I can't protect you from hell. I can't give you money (I mean any that makes a real difference). I can't give you children (unless your name is Big A and even then that is God's work). I can't make anyone fall in love with you (very  much like the Genie in Aladdin). I cannot make your job better or different. I can't make you graduate (I can edit papers well, so I can help in that sense) from high school or college or law school or seminary or clown college. I cannot even love you the best.

So my disobeying God's command to GO and share His Word has hurt only you and others I haven't shared the gospel with. I am so sorry for my selfishness. Please forgive me. I do love you and I want you to know the One who loves you more than anyone else can.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hope Runs book launch week

I'm in the midst of reading Hope Runs by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Sammy Ikua Gachaqua. The book launches this week so I'm hurrying to be able to share my review this week! However, with the book launch comes all sorts of neat offers that I wanted to share with you.

I've copied all of this from Claire's website so please if you want to visit, do so here. Here are the details on the book launch incentives and goodies you can win!

And if you order this week you’ll get not only $150 in freebies, but you’ll also be entered to win over $1,000 in prizes. (Just keep reading…)
The book, as I’ve said, is not the book many folks expected me to write. It’s not a book about business, productivity, or technology book. Not at all.
Hope Runs is a joint memoir with my Kenyan foster son, all about the strange journey we’ve taken together. From meeting him in his orphanage in 2006, to spending a year living in his orphanage and starting a non-profit organization, to ultimately bringing him to the United States five years ago, it’s a joint story of our now-intertwined lives. It’s a story we’re proud of, and a story we hope you enjoy.
Here’s a video overview:

We’re excited for you to buy the book. So excited that we’re offering a ton of freebies and a chance to win a bunch of great prizes.
Here’s the deal:
Buy ONE book this week:
  • We’ll send you more than $150 in bonuses.
  • You’ll also be entered to win over $1,000 in prizes.
Sweet, no?
Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 7.44.04 PM
FREEBIES
Order now, and you’ll get ALL of the following FREE bonuses:
  • A 50% discount to the Blog to Business online class.
  • A 50% off discount to the online class: Share to Sell.
  • A bunch of free ebooks by me and others (see the full list below).
FREE ebooks
  • The Present Principle: Seven Steps to Life in the Now
  • Lead by Morning: 365 Days of the Present Principle
  • How to Be Social: A Social Media Manifesto
  • How to Be a Morning Person
  • Simple Email Success: A Short Happy Guide to Email Mastery
  • How to Fundraise on Social Media
  • How to Set Up a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog: A Guide to Starting Your Own Blog in 9 Minutes or Less
  • How to Travel the World for Less than it Costs to Stay Home: Taking Your Life on the Road at a Price You Can Afford
  • How to Work Smarter, Not Harder: On Getting Out of the Grind and Getting More Done
  • Make Better Decisions: How to Think Less and Decide More

PRIZES
By purchasing you’ll also be entering to win one of the following:
  • Four $100 Amazon gift cards
  • Ten $10 gift cards to Starbucks
  • 1 $100 donation to Hope Runs in your name
  • Four free passes to the Twitter for Good online class
How can you get your bonuses and enter for the prizes?
  1. Order Hope Runs at one of your favorite retailers. (See a full list of retailers here.)
  2. Send the receipt to hoperunsbookreceipt (at) gmail.com and we’ll respond with the information of how to get access to your bonuses. We’ll then notify you via email next Tuesday, April 21, if you’ve won a prize!
So order the book! So far it's pretty awesome. In the foreward, it says this book is like a glimpse into a conversation. I agree. I'm enjoying learning about Sammy and Claire and can't wait to share all that I think of this. 

Encountering God: Part 2

Bear with me as I share with you all that God showed me at Encounter. I don't know how many posts this will take!

God also showed me that, spiraling from my legalism, I have become self-righteous and judgmental. I have become a hypocrite. Again, a Pharisee (so thankful for spell-check because I can never seem to get this right on the first typing). Those that the Lord and John the Baptist had some pretty strong words about. *sigh*

I have looked down on those who have less.
Romans 11:9-10 says,
"Likewise, David said,
   'Let their bountiful table become a snare,
    a trap that makes them think all is well.
  Let their blessings cause them to stumble,
    and let them get what they deserve.'"

I'm not even rich (in worldly standards), so imagine if I had more physical blessings how blinded I'd have been. Maybe you are rich and you are intimate with Christ, but beware your comforts. Sometimes in America we are so rich, we are blind to our riches and, worse yet, blind to the One who blessed us.

I have judged those in my church and outside of my church.
I have condemned my unbelieving family members in my heart, lost hope for them.
I was "hoity-toity" (my mom loves this phrase and I know no other way to say it...nope, a snob).
I thought myself better than. Not the best but better than. Ugh.

I hope you can understand my disgust with these sings. I laid them at the foot of the cross this weekend. I am no longer that person. I have found freedom from this self-made prison.

Galatians 5:1
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery."

I have loved and lived for Christ for 10 years almost now. I have been free for that long. Yet I built my own yoke of slavery. Never again. I am free.

I am also free to apologize if you have ever, EVER felt judged, condemned, looked down upon, or felt less than because of me. I am so sorry. Please please do not look poorly upon the Lord or any of his other followers because of my sins. Christ does not condemn you. He does not look down upon you. You are his child (whether you acknowledge that or not)! He LOVES you enough that He sent his Son to bear the burden of your sins (and mine which we all have "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God") so that you could believe that and find reconciliation (fancy word for reunite) with Your Heavenly Father, God. He loves you and you can't screw up so badly that He won't. God is love and cannot change who He is.

I pray you can find this same freedom! See Encountering God: Part 1.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Encountering God: Part 1

I went this past weekend to this mysterious event called Women's Encounter down near Augusta, KS. I wasn't really excited to go because I couldn't really get out of anyone what would happen there. No schedule. No checklist (not even for packing really other than a tip to bring a sweater). No account of "oh you do this first and then this happens...." Nothing.

Have you noticed I like lists? Checklists, to-do lists, honey-do lists, instructions, guidelines, plans. That's me: Miss Type A personality. Which is really weird considering I'm not that great at organizing things (seriously, you should see our closets). Anyway.

I went because Big A came home from a Bible study and said we should sign up. Ok. Done.

However, once things got rolling down at Wheat State Camp, I understood the mystery. It's not mysterious to scare anyone or to keep secrets (there is no Kool-Aid) but because when you are off-guard, sometimes that is when God can really talk to you. You're not looking forward to what is coming next (seriously I didn't even know when lights out would be!). You can't look ahead and things...oh I can't wait for such and such time - because that could be 10 minutes from now or 3 hours.

But getting away from my daily lists of all sorts really allowed me to relax. And once I was relaxed God spoke to me. It has been so long I can't remember the last time I heard His voice (which is silent so not sure if that makes sense lol but I heard Him).

He spoke to me about my legalism (me? with the lists? no way!). I've tried very hard to not be the person I was or do the things I did prior to my commitment to Christ in 2004. In that good effort, I have become a Pharisee. Me.

I've made up rules about prayer, about exercise, about eating, about entertainment, about childrearing, about marriage, about friendship, about evangelism, about everything. I've made these rules that, to me, superseded God's grace for me. I didn't do it for salvation, I've always known that a lifetime commitment to Christ is THE way to heaven, to reconciliation with God. I know that but I also knew that Christians are called to be set apart. I just forgot that there's grace in that. We are still to be IN this world, just not OF this world. And all my legalism, rule-making won't make God pleased with me any more than He ever has been.

Let me let you in on a little secret....shhhh...just kidding, tell the world this:

THERE ARE NO HOLY POINTS!

God is not like me. He does not have checklists of how many times you've read your Bible cover-to-cover. He does not have it marked off how many chapters you have read today or yesterday or will tomorrow. He does not keep track of the verses you have memorized or how often you are at church. He does not keep track of calories or weight (I'm fairly certain "calorie" is not in the Bible although I have not checked). He does not care how many date nights you have with your husband or wife, how many times you've read the Bible cover-to-cover for your children or how many Steve Green songs they can sing from rote. He does not keep track of how many syllables your prayers are or how long you pray or if you use prayer sticks or cards or if it's on your knees, standing, sitting, laying, dancing, jumping. And on and on.

HE WANTS YOUR HEART! Those things are not bad in and of themselves. Nope, they're good actually (although the calories and weight can have physical affects). But I learned through Encounter and Angie Smith's book "Chasing God" (which I'll hopefully sit down to write my review of this week) that MOTIVATION MATTERS.

WHY are you reading your Bible cover-to-cover? WHY are you reading your Bible at all? WHY are you memorizing verses? WHY do you attend church/small group/Encounter/Women of Faith/Sunday School/etc? WHY are you watching your weight or exercising? WHY are you dating your husband or wife? WHY are you reading the Word to your children and singing Steve Green/whoever songs with them? WHY do you pray?

Do you do these things to gain holy points? Do you do these things to meet a standard of your own making or someone else's? Do you do these things to look good? To feel good? To make God smile? Guess what?! HE LOVES YOU ANYWAY!

He wants you do pray, to read His Word, to meet with other believers, to be united with your husband or wife, to have self-control over your eating habits and other areas. He wants you do teach your children about Him and His love! He wants you to hide verses in your heart! He just doesn't care how you do it (well, I'm sure He does care how but there is FREEDOM and GRACE in the HOW). He wants you do these good and noble things because YOU LOVE HIM!

Pray because you love to talk with Him. Read because you want to hear His Word. Meet with others to encourage them and be encouraged. Be intimate and serve your spouse to show a reflection of Christ's love for the church. Share your faith because you love God's people and want what's best for them (NOT to condemn them. In Christ there is no condemnation. Sure changes probably will be made but those are for God to share with them; you share Him). Eat food and exercise because your body is His holy temple. Teach your children (and if you don't have children, others' children) about Him so that they will love Him and find freedom from sin. Memorize verses so that you can shield yourself from the enemy's fiery darts.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic (book review)

I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for stories about people overcoming disabilities, sicknesses, etc for God's glory. This is why I wanted to read Nick Vujicic's book "Unstoppable."

I think I'd seen him on daytime tv once but hadn't paid much attention; otherwise, I've never seen any of his YouTube videos or heard much about him. I saw what I saw on the cover - a man surfing with no arms and no legs.

Yet, through this book, I learned that he is so much more than what he isn't. Vujicic is a man after God's own heart - and he wants you to be too (unless you're a woman, then he wants you to be a woman after God's own heart, of course!). I just love the premise of this book: to not let circumstances stop our mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the pages, Vujicic talked a LOT about finding your passion. I've been soul-searching and praying and talking about this very thing! I don't 100% know my passion. It used to be to teach English literature and while I still love to read, I have no real desire at this moment to teach it to high schoolers. While I love my storytime job and kiddos, I don't know if that's my passion.

One thing Vujicic said is that sometimes you don't always like what God is calling you to do at first. That's hard! We live in a very demanding society where if you don't like what you get, you can take it back and order again! But "When God calls you to do something, you may not understand or be enthusiastic at first. But you should always be passionate about HIm, which means you'll do anything for Him." I'm at a point in my life where I am willing to do anything for the Lord and I am trying so hard to listen for His voice to point me in the right direction on a multitude of things for our family!

I love that Vujicic said to "ask God to be the One to define the purpose of your life for your life." You can't follow other people's passions - at least not for long. God created us all to be different and that means our passions are different. There is no room for herd-mentality in pursuing our passions! Sometimes pursuing our purpose means putting aside our selfishness for God's glory. And "denying self interests...is not an easy or natural thing for most people." Talk about preaching to me! I have noticed in the last few months (possibly longer?) how selfish I've been with my time, my wants, everything. And I hate that. I want to be a selfless person to show God's love to others, so my children can learn to be selfless, too!

At the end of the book, Vujicic got to meet with Reverend Billy Graham (wouldn't that be amazing?). Graham told him about some of the regrets from his life and this just got me to thinking about what things I wouldn't want to regret at the end. They line up with Graham's regrets of not spending more time with family, not having memorized more Scripture, and not spending more time at the "feet of Jesus, telling HIm how much he loves Him." I don't want to get to the end of the race only to regret not spending time on the most important things: God and family.

I want to fully engage in my life today and tomorrow and so on. I want to put God first, spending the time I need to memorize, pray, listen, read, and just be with Him. Look to Him for answers instead of talking (or complaining/whining) about them. Read His word so that I can learn it and hide it in my heart so that when I need an answer I can pull it from His "mouth" rather than my own desires or emotions. And I want to be here for my family, fully engaged at traveling the road of faith, showing my kids what my faith looks like in action.

While this book seemed a little scatterbrained, jumping from various topics and back, it centered around God's purpose and not letting circumstances be an obstacle from sharing the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ with those you're around - whether on a large or small platform. I'm excited to put what I've read to use in my life by making some really hard decisions in the coming weeks.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Redstar Shades (review + gift code information for you)

I am not too picky about sunglasses, my last 4 pairs were either won on blogs or from Dollar General. I'd like nicer sunglasses but I just hate to pay for them. It seems frivolous, which is why I'm excited to share this deal for you from Redstar.

This is going to sound too good to be true, but I am assured it's true. If you go to the Redstar Shades website and enter this code-  MTA14 - you will get a $500 gift certificate good toward any pair of sunglasses on their website. All you must do is pay shipping and handling.

I received a pair of sunglasses from Redstar to try out. I picked these blue beauties. I haven't taken any pictures of myself in them...or any pictures at all lately. Eek!
all images from Redstar website

I like sunglasses in varying colors so now I've had red, white, and blue. These are marked at $150 but, to be honest, they don't seem that high quality. Maybe I just don't know my sunglasses well (duh, I shop at Dollar General for them) but these don't seem any better quality than my DG shades. However, I do like the color and how well they do shade my eyes. I also appreciate the fit. I tend to get headaches when I wear sunglasses too long and I haven't had this problem with these so maybe these are made for big-headed folks like myself.

Others that I think are cute are these yellow ones, but I already had a pair for running so I didn't get them. But I think they're awesome if you like "look at me!" sunglasses. I do.

all images from Redstar website
Or maybe you like aviators - I've always wanted a pair but they just look silly on me. But these green ones rock!

They have normal colored ones, too. Don't worry! I have a pair similar to these; I love wraparounds when I run to keep the sun out from all angles.

So go check out RedStar Shades. Use the gift code (remember, you ONLY pay shipping and handling). Enjoy and let me know if you use it!


Disclaimer: Links in this post are affiliate links. Void where prohibited.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Noah featurette 2

There is a lot of discussion, we'll say, around the internet about the movie, "Noah," coming out March 28, 2014. I know this movie has taken much artistic interpretation but most biblical movies do to some extent (I think this one looks like it's to a large extent).

However, I pray this film brings about conversation. Conversation about Noah that leads to conversation about Jesus. To His grace, sacrifice, and unfailing love. To lives transformed by this amazing love and mercy enacted toward us.

Here's a little featurette about what some faith leaders think of this new film. I don't necessarily agree with everything said in this featurette, just like I won't agree with everything in this film (or the Divergent film I saw last night....), but I think it's interesting and can also be good fodder for discussion.




Monday, March 17, 2014

Eat Like Jesus by Andrew L. Hoy (book review)

I was asked to review "Eat Like Jesus" by Andrew L. Hoy and thought it was an interesting premise: basically, should Christians still keep a kosher diet? I'm not a theologian nor have I been a Christian for a very long time (about 10 years), so please keep this in mind. I have not studied the Bible in Greek or Hebrew so I cannot talk to Bible translations but I believe those who do translate the Bible do so out of a love for our Savior and they spend pain-staking hours upon this job, doing the best they can.

I started out very interested in this book, got confused a few chapters in, and ended the book a little disgruntled. Hoy uses some words that even I, a word nerd, didn't know and a lot of jargon that I couldn't follow.

He seems to tear apart the NIV translation of the Bible (which I read sometimes but the Bible I mainly use is NLT) except when it works to his advantage. He digs deeper into translations, going back to Greek and Hebrew, in order to prove points. Hoy said that "Eve was tricked into eating the forbidden fruit of Genesis chapters 2 and 3 - by half-truths and out-of-context citations," and I just felt the whole time that this was the premise of the book - half-truths and out-of-context, confusing citations. He did have a few translations of his own included in the book and they fit his premise well. However, who is to say his translations are correct and all other English translations are wrong? I'm not.

Hoy also used books that are not in my Bible like Enoch and Jasher (who??), so that made his points seem less reliable to me (he talked more about Cain and Abel's diet than are depicted in my Bible). Are his points valid? I'm not sure. I actually asked a pastor at our church to read through this because he is more knowledgeable about translations, which this book relies on heavily.

But it seems to be a story of he-said, he-said. How do I know which "teacher" to trust? Toward the end of the book, the author talked about the forbidden fruit of Eden and how "a healthy-looking apple can serve as food and lodging for a worm or other parasite. Such is the case with dispensational [traditional] teaching. After all, much dispensational teaching looks great on the surface, but in the end, the flesh of such fruit is unclean and worm-infested to the very core." Unfortunately, this could be the very case of this book - a nice idea but leading me (us) astray from the gospel. Not that Hoy ever said you had to eat kosher to end up in heaven; I believe he believes that Christ's sacrifice on the cross for our sins is what will save our souls. But I just have to ask - what laws do you follow then? You don't get to pick and choose! Either Christ broke us free from this burden as I believe is suggested (but deeply refuted by the author in this book) in the New Testament or you follow all laws, even about stoning children who disrespect their parents and women being unclean during their menses.

So at the end, I am still not sure if we should be eating a kosher diet (which the only thing I really know anything about kosher is that you don't eat pig meat of any kind, even bacon, which really would be healthier because pork is so fatty).

There were some diatribes in this (rants, if you will) about some things that seem to be far out - how horrible it is that depictions of Noah's Ark only show sets of two animals when, in fact, there were some animals that came by "sevensies" (to quote What's in the Bible?). He seems to think that most people don't know this, which is probably true, but there is a verse that says they came two by two into the ark, so most people probably get their "bad" theology from this verse rather than depictions of this. This sentence really was unnecessary and not humorous because it comes out as bitter, not witty:
"Green eggs are fine to eat, but green ham must be rejected as a work of fiction - not even remotely suitable for a child's entertainment."
Don't mess with Dr. Seuss.

Not to say this book is not without merit. We should question things like keeping kosher because just because the world doesn't follow this diet, doesn't mean we shouldn't. But we should search Scripture for ourselves to find the answers instead of looking for symbols and signs that aren't there. That's where I begin and end my search, in Scripture.

Disclaimer: I received two copies of this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own, even though others may or may not agree.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Noah the movie vs. Noah in the Bible

As I'm showing the Noah movie featurettes on my blog, I had to ask myself how I felt about the movie. Any time there is a feature film of a Biblical story there are bound to be artistic interpretation. Is it Biblical to show the stories if they take liberation with the characters or events?

My Bible study came across Philippians 1:15-18 during our time this week together.

"It's true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News [this is Paul talking]. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn't matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice."

I second Paul's words. I never figured this movie would be entirely biblical, but if it makes one person say to themselves, 'hmmmm good movie. I wonder what the Bible really says," and they open their Bible to find the passages and that leads them to reading more of their Bible and leads them to Christ, then this movie is worth it.

My attention was brought to this op-ed published yesterday by USA Today. Geoffrey Morin, head of communications for The American Bible Society, wrote this piece titled, "NOAH spurs debate pitting art vs. Bible." It's about this very thing. Read the article and let me know what you think. Should filmmakers be able to take liberty of such sacred works or should they stick to the facts?

in case you missed something