Thursday, December 30, 2010


Well, it's officially January and so we are off and running with the book club! As a reminder we are reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen this month. You can send your comments/thoughts/opinions/whatever to me at (or various other ways you have to reach me) and I'll combine them for one big post at the end of the month. No daily reading plan, no pressure. Finish it by the end of the month or finish it tonight. (A few of you have said you want to read, but don't want to comment-no problem!). I'll announce February's book tomorrow. For all you how read me the riot act (kidding-sort of) about picking a book NOT on kindle, you'll be happy to know the next several are......wait for it......ON KINDLE! Goodness, so much pressure to be the host of an on-line book club :)

Welcome! Love reading with YOU!

Forever Reign

I'm loving this song by Hillsong right now. I'm carrying it into the new year on my IPod and into my heart. Happy New Year's!

Forever Reign
You are good, you are good
When there's nothing good in me
You are love, you are love
On display for all to see

You are light, you are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, you are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, you are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, you are true
Even in my wondering

You are joy, you are joy
You're the reason that I sing
You are life, you are life
In you death has lost its sting

Oh, I'm running to your arms
I'm running to your arms
The riches of your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to your embrace
Light of the world forever reign
You are more, you are more
Than my words will ever say

You are Lord, you are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, you are here
In your prescence I'm made whole
You are God, you are God
Of all else I'm letting go

Oh, I'm running to your arms
I'm running to your arms
The riches of your love
Will always be enough
Nothing comares to your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My Resolution

I never, never, never make new year's resolutions because how fun is it to wake up January 3rd and realize ALREADY you didn't keep them??? Yeah, not. But, this year I'm making a few because I don't see any way around it.

You'll remember that recently I took 40 days for a time-out with the Lord.....Concentrated time with Him, refocusing our relationship, a trip back to the basics of how I fell in love with Him in the first place (right after He loved me first). It was SO good. No pressure. No agenda. Just time to reconnect-and we did. It brought to the forefront just how important it is to make Him not just A priority.....THE priority. I found it just amazing how much smoother my life ran when I gave it to Him. Almost like He can do a better job. Now there's a thought.

So, this year

-I'm NOT going to read through the Bible in a year (although I have before and it's a great goal)
-I'm NOT going to commit to praying 4 hours a day (but I hope in my on going quest to pray without ceasing it adds up to much more than that)
-I'm NOT going to promise myself that I will meditate x number of hours or be still x number of minutes because some days my life is noisy and sometimes I am.
-I'm NOT going to commit to memorizing x number of Scriptures because all I can think right now is that repeating "Yes, Jesus loves me" enough times that I truly believe it enough to live it might change more for this heart.
-I'm NOT going to promise myself I'll settle on a church by x date because I might tomorrow....and I might not. And either way might be fine.
-I'm NOT going to use humanity as an excuse but I am going to remember that Jesus is the Savior and Brenda is the one who needed rescuing (and still does many days!).

-I'm resolving to stick with Jesus this year-the Author and Finisher of my faith.
-I'm resolving to make Him THE priority.
-I'm resolving to look closely at my life and Examine the Spiritual Value of Everything (thx Meredith)
-I'm resolving to make time for Him believing that a single MOMENT in His presence has the power to change everything......especially me.

And I'm praying with everything I have that by December 31, 2011 I have more of Jesus and Jesus has much more of me. I'm praying that, while sailing the waters of faith, Jesus would not be along for the ride, but Captain of this ship. And that this passenger would be all His.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New year-new devotionals

Brand new year coming up! I love a new year-a new calender, a fresh start, a new beginning. January 1st always feels like a clean kitchen with the windows open on a spring day to me. My kitchen doesn't have windows, but you get the idea :) I think it's important to "stock the shelves" spiritually when beginning a new year. My reading list is set and included are these 3 devotionals that I will be using interchangeably. This book is quick, easy, to the point and super fun. Easy to read, great stories and I love that every day is different. Who doesn't love a devotional thought for the day from the likes of Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Tom Sawyer, and many others? Plus? It's CHEAP! $8. Get it.

My first 90 days of the year will be spent with Beth Moore in this study of the life of Paul. Also available in this series are Jesus, David, and John. All 90 day journeys. All beautiful books. This is part of her personal reflections series. Quality.

And I am super excited about this one. Love C.S. Lewis, love the Chronicles of Narnia, Love Aslan. So fabulous. I can't wait to read a little bit of Narnia all year long.
That's it for me this year in the devotional world. What are you reading?

Monday, December 27, 2010

My favorite Gifts

I think the joy of Christmas (besides Jesus-OF COURSE) is finding the PERFECT gift. This year I either made or had made almost every gift. Enjoyed it so much I'm going to do it again next year and if I'm smart start before 12/1! I also got some great gifts this year. The Jeep is getting detailed THIS week! It's long overdue and I'm so happy it's going to be CLEAN!
What? You already knew I heart Starbucks? Humph. Fine. I happened to have gotten enough Starbucks $$$ to fuel my addiction for a few weeks. LOVE!!!!!

Gift certificate for a whole day of THIS. Yes please and can I go right now? I'm breaking it up into several trips to the spa..................AHHHHHHHH! If I can work my magic I'll be having a 90 minute extra hot stone massage this week :)

$$$ for 3 trips this year! I love/need something to look forward to. 1st up in January headed to see 2 my favorite people in Portland, Oregon and Baltimore.......all in the same week! Other 2 trips TBA (as soon as the best friend and I make a decision).

And as a Merry Christmas to me I'm redoing my office in my house. This life is in desperate need of a place of serenity starting NOW and it's turning out PERFECT!

Here's the fun day bed.

And this is officially the "I've already been read" bookcase. Also known as the books my friends steal when they come to visit :)

Speaking of reading-super fun gift from the grandmother who is the only person I know who loves to read as much as I do. This is a reading pyramid. And now I officially want to stay curled up in my comfy feather bed and read for a week......can I?Philosophy is my 2nd favorite company right behind Starbucks. SO excited to get their holiday collection and the huge bottles of the Pure Grace add to my collection. Every bottle has a quote......seriously. Amazing products.

And maybe more than any other year I've been on this Earth I'm thankful for the gift of Jesus. I couldn't stop thinking in these weeks about Emmanuel and how thankful I am that He is with us, with me every step of the way. I just want to sit by the manger and as soon as my unworthiness fades enough just whisper to a Savior humanized....."You didn't have to......but I'm so glad you did. Thank you." The best gift of all.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

You're not Catholic

I've (mostly) tried to leave my quest for dedication to one denomination off the blog. The dearest people in my life range quite devotedly from Southern Baptist to Roman Catholic and everywhere in between. And on any given day you can find me.....somewhere in between.

I'll argue with you to the death that I am a saved, Spirit filled, baptized child of the One true God and still all people really want to know is, "What church do you go to?" So tempting to give a crazy, off the wall answer like......well, I won't even go there.

I grew up Baptist, went to a Methodist university, went to the Methodist church.....twice, went to a Christian church for a year, went to a Charismatic church for 3 years and returned for a brief siesta in the Baptist church in recent years. Mixed in were several life changing, relationship with God altering, eternal moments at the Monastery worshipping with the monks mostly in complete silence. Add to that praying the Daily Office in my own life and with an amazing community of believers on-line and it's not hard to see why I've perhaps confused myself. Which, among other reasons, is why I have referred to me at least 3 times just this week as spiritually schizophrenic.

The constant bzzzzz in my head in the past 6 months has been, "gottafindachurchgottafindachurchgottafindachurchgottafindachurch" and not for lack of trying.....I have not. I HATE being the visitor at church after years of being so involved. I hate starting with, "Hi. I'm Brenda." during visiting time thinking I'm probably not even going to come back to this church! I much prefer the "at least someone already knows my NAME for crying out loud" scenario. Glass half empty-----I know.

I have to wait for my feelings to catch up with my mind and my heart sometimes and this decision has been no exception. I've visited some amazing churches and felt like a visitor. I've enjoyed watching other people belong to their congregations and left thinking, "that was....nice." But, each time leaving with a feeling more like "let me out" and not so much "can I play too?"

Enter Christmas Eve service. My friends say all the time I need a t-shirt that says, "I play with the high church on holidays." Guilty. I love the high church. I love the liturgy and the music and an order of service. I can't help it. Something (Someone?) draws me to that style of worship. So, last night at the midnight service at the Catholic Church I just needed a moment with the Lord. We needed to connect.....big time. My friends and I decided to sit apart from each other so we could focus (trust me) so I sat by myself in the back amidst at least 200 people.

Maybe because it was so late. Maybe because the service was so stunningly beautiful. Maybe because the connection was there. It took me a moment to put a finger on that feeling.........Peace. You'll have to trust me that peace and church have not been connected in recent months and my brain took awhile to connect that. It was so comforting. I left with tears streaming down my face and my friends who have walked this road with me this year left in tears too. (Everyone should have a friend that will cry with them.....mho). I left from there and went to work enveloped in peace that can only come from The Lord for hours.

Which may have left me even more confused, because as my friends insist on pointing out almost seriously, "You're not Catholic."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

This Christmas........
May you feel the joy that comes from anticipation fully realized.
May you remember that the hope of the whole world does fit into a lowly stable.
May you feel hugged and loved by those in your life and ultimately by a Father who has you wrapped around his tiny baby in the manger finger.
May you count your blessings until filled to the brim you have to help another.
May you know the peace that comes from knowing the true meaning of Christmas.
May He be your everything this Christmas and always.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Question on my soul's table

Here's the question on my soul's table these days.

How does one balance solitude with busyness without finding loneliness as the outcome?

The shift from the need to fill a life to the desire to break away from it is overwhelmingly evident in my heart. In this season I find the need to be alone with God more valuable than my next breath and perhaps more necessary. I'm aware that He is drawing me closer to Him so that more of His heart fits into mine. A priceless season, a precious gift from the giver of all good things.

It is difficult to find solitude, even alone. Filled to the brim my mind almost always requires several minutes (or more) to reprocess things that cannot be changed and run through one thing or another over and over again. Alone does not necessarily equal solitude or sanctuary.

I've created space in my schedule and space in my home to be a more willing conduit of this experience that will take me far into the new year. It seems ridiculous to have to schedule soul connected time with my Creator; to have to pencil in the very reason for my existence and my ultimate end. But, I know, that without intentional moments set aside just for Him something more pressing (?) will quickly fill available time. And I'll be left again, another day, longing for Him while He was willingly, arms wide open, waiting for me.

We are called to be set apart. We are called to be in community. And we are called to be in the world and not of it. Simultaneously. If we teeter too far in any one direction veering from these 3 keeping balanced we are left frustrated, discouraged, and often times feeling alone. It's delicate and perhaps near impossible to master.

So, I'm starting at the beginning taking an inventory of what my soul needs in this place at this time. I'm evaluating where my relationship with the Lord is currently and where I want to be one day with Him. I'm taking note of what is working, what needs healing, what questions need answers and what things I just need to let go.

I feel often like I'm sitting on one side of the scales and Jesus is on the other. Sometimes I'm way off balance to the point that I can barely see Him. Other times I catch a glimpse amidst this life I'm living. But it's not enough. I want to be so on track with what He's doing that I can look Him in the eye and hear him saying to this heart, "I've got you." To trust Him infinitely and love Him unconditionally. To not just find balance, but to let Him keep the balance. Always.

So the question remains.......How?

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Max Lucado Life Lessons Bible - Review

First of all we know I'm opinionated about Bible translations (guilty). Max Lucado put out his first Bible several years ago in the New Century Translation which let's just say isn't my favorite. I was relieved that he has released his latest offering in the NKJV. Good plan. It's a beautiful addition to those who love his work. The content is timely, the notes are edifying and the Bible is exceptional. It's simply an easy to use and understand study Bible with personal applications all through it. I find Max Lucado's take on life to be incredibly comforting in the rough spots and I can see myself picking this Bible up on those occasions. For hurting friends, for new believers, for people who just need to know He is near-this is the Bible I would recommend, give and gift. A truly beautiful Bible.

*For Thomas Nelson

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Book Club Returns!!

I'm glad we took a break from the book club, but a lot of people have asked me if I would start one again after the first of the year. Wish-granted! I think we will do it the same way. I'll introduce the next book when reviewing the current month. You can follow along via twitter/facebook/or e-mail. Send a comment when you feel like it and I'll incorporate all of them in the final post. Sound good???

OKAY! Here's the first book! Some of you have already read it again! I've read it several times and always learn something new. I've had 3 people specifically ask me to do this title so......this will be for January! We'll review it the last day and I'll give you the February title the first week of January.
Got questions? Got Comments??? Let me know!!
Twitter BrendaAKeller
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jenny B. Jones Save the Date

Let's be serious-I really prefer long mystery books where everyone is dead in chapter 1. I know....I'm twisted like that. However, I've had to make an exception in recent years with the likes of Jenny B. Jones and Kristen Billerbeck. I can no longer say, "I don't read chick lit ever" and "If someone falls in love and no one dies I'm out." To the extent that I may have made a special trip to the offices of Thomas Nelson during my last trip to Nashville to ask politely (read beg embarrassingly) my sweet friend Shanda for this book. And when she claimed it was still on her nightstand I may or may not have begged other people in fiction that I now know for a coveted copy. Ahem.....

All that to say I ended up with 2 copies and my best friend did not have to rob my house in the middle of the night of said book when I wasn't through with it.

It's DELIGHTFUL! The characters blew me away. I wasn't sure about the ending until the last chapter. I love the delicate way God was woven into the story and how his grace was evident in how the stories unfolded. I love the common theme of helping others and the gentle reminders that how we build into the lives of those around us matters. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion and fell in love with even the minor characters. When I turned the last page I didn't want it to my book that's literary perfection.

Out this February all I can say is......You need to save the date and pre-order your copy TODAY!

Great job Jenny......I loved it!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unto Us

I'm so thankful to live in a time after Jesus came to save the world from sin. I love the Old Testament, but one - I'm not so big on killing animals for any reason and two - I don't do a great job of keeping up with my sin as it is. I suppose growing up in that culture would have provided a better understanding of traditions and sacrifices. It is interesting to study, but I think it would have been awfully difficult to live.

Most of the Old Testament does not make me wish I had been there. I love the stories of Esther and Deborah and Jeremiah and David and on and on and on, but the circumstances surrounding what made them famous would not have been terribly enjoyable.

As the New Testament opens though, I really wish I had been there. And if I could have I think I would have chosen to be an occupant in the Inn. I like to think the night would have just felt, well, different. Maybe the stars were brighter. Maybe the air outside was filled with anticipation no one could explain. Maybe as Jesus took His first breath on the planet He had come to save, the demons physically shuddered and evil lost some ground. He was here.

Maybe as the other occupants of the Inn went for the continental breakfast (?) the next morning they heard the soft whimper of a newborn baby and stopped to say hello. Did they see something eternal in his eyes? Sure he looked like any other baby, but was there something about Him that drew people inspite of themselves? Was Mary even then wondering how someone so human could protect, nurture and care for someone so divine?

I love this time of year. This is His season. This is when those of us who have loved Him all year stop to remember that the gift in the manger still lives within those of us who believe. We worship Him as one who has come and is coming again. Bethlehem is as much a heart place as a geographical location for the family of God.

Worship at the Manger: All glory to the One who came, who died and is coming again to take us Home.

Unto us is born.......A Savior.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Conversations with me at yoga

In my ongoing quest for serenity and better focus-I love yoga. Usually I only have to remind myself to focus about 30 times in the hour I'm there, but last week there was ZERO paying attention for moi. Here's the conversation I caught myself having with myself........

"Those pants are cute.
I want pink yoga pants.
(change position)
Wait. I have those pants.
In black.
Where did I get them?
Belks. I love Belks.
I need to get that red sweater from Belks. OOOoo and the black necklace.
(change position)
I have the capri version too.
They ARE comfortable.
Did they have pink? I don't remember pink.
Both of the pairs I have are black with the white swirly thingy on them.
They are cute in black.
(change position)
Where is my hair tie?
Who does yoga with long hair without a hair tie?
When is my hair appointment?
I'm going to keep my hair dark for winter (change positions)
I think it's Friday. I can't go Friday. But maybe I will.
Is it too long?
Maybe I spend too much money on my hair.
(change position)
And maybe I need a pedicure-red with gold swirls for Christmas!
But the Gold is SO hard to get off.
(change position)."

And the quest continues........

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My favorite Bibles of 2010

90% of the time I use one NASB Bible for personal reading and studying, but this year I have added these 2 to my collection. Loving them both.

I want to have been friends with C.S. Lewis. This Bible has great quotes too......bonus!
Personally I'm not a huge fan of the NLT (don't send me e-mails, just a personal preference), but I love this Bible. I've used it through Advent so far. This edition has great full cover artwork, contemporary and historical writings, prayers, hymns, poems, and space to write your own thoughts. Beautifully designed.

Books I'm giving this Christmas

Big surprise that I give books for Christmas right?? People always ask me which ones I'm giving and here they are!

I love Jan Karon and I want to live in Mitford. This book is a gift and wonderful addition to those who love this series.
Joel Rosenberg does it again with the 12th Imam. Action packed, currently relevant and a total page turner. What's not to love?

I think grasping the Grace of God is foundational in establishing trust with our Creator and Friend. This is a beautiful book.

I just love this book. It is on it's way to many friends in difficult times.

One of my favorite books of the year. Beautiful essays written by a beautiful heart. It's a different book and done so well.

I just love this book. It's headed to my friends who share a love of great heels and the perfect scarf.

This book is changing my prayer life every day. One of those books that seems like, but couldn't possibly have been written just for me.

An amazing journey of grace, forgiveness, healing, and sorrow. Best biography I read all year.

I'm a big fan of Lisa Bevere. This is her latest book. Wake up and change your world?? Yes please.

This is a true story that gave me such insight into the Muslim faith. Fascinating.

Sherri Rose Shepherd is amazing. This book is simple, profound ideas to help our temples.

I'm in the middle of this book. Great concept. Well written. One I may have to read again.

And that's the list so far!! What books are you giving this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So cute

The Praise Baby Collection in music and DVD have long been favorites of those with small children. This book is a perfect accompaniment to those resources. Such an adorable board book with they lyrics from the song I could Sing of Your love forever. It's a sweet book, durable, and great for children 1-36 months.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Then sings my soul-A book review

I was surprised how much I liked this book. I know a few of the more popular stories behind hymns, but had no idea the depths of so many. I love nothing more than watching God bring beauty from tragedy, joy from sorrow, and a closer relationship with Him out of the struggling of our hearts. This book is captivating. It's meant to be a daily devotional, but I couldn't help but flip to the next song, the next story, the next page. Completely fabulous!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Put your feet down

The week gone by was supposed to be a serene week. It was, after all, the first week of Advent. I wanted it to be peaceful, quiet with extra time to listen and be still. Probably should have counted serenity out when I decided to run 4 miles on the treadmill Monday after recovering from a sprained Achilles tendon. Mix in a big bout with the Flu Thursday/Friday and there were no extra prayers said except "Save me from THIS-NOW!!"

Everywhere I walked in my house this week I noticed there were things I needed to be doing.
Light bulbs needed changed in rooms I never enter - WHY?
I need weed eater string and gas for the lawn mower
I need to change the air filters
sweep the back porch oh and the front porch
my house needs pressured washed
and I really need to take the spring wreath off the front door (it's 70 degrees-who cares)
I need to sell some furniture, move some furniture, and re-do some furniture (in my spare time)
the dogs need a bath and Odyssey needs his annual shots
My closet looks like a war zone and I haven't been in one of the guest bedrooms in so long someone might be living in there.
The whole house needs a good cleaning
The garage needs cleaned
the cabinets need repainted
the windows need washed
The dishwasher needs emptied from last week
bills need to be paid and a huge increase in taxes needs to be figured out

And I really just wanted a latte and a book and the couch.........for awhile.

Life has been coming at me 100 mph. Uphill financial battles, weird health stuff, questions people need answers to that I don't have, decisions I really need to make and the list goes on. I feel like someone pushed me in the pool and I forgot how to swim.

Which is exactly what I told the Lord the other day. "I can't breathe. I'm drowning in this current of craziness." And you know what He said? "Put your feet down. My foundation is strong and my arms are holding you."

And though nothing externally had changed.......I could breathe.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pick a Denomination

The whole denomination thing makes me laugh, mainly because I can't pick one. Apparently you are only supposed to be one. Yeah I don't want to. I referred to myself last night as 1/8th baptist. I could be 1/8th anything depending on the day.

I grew up baptist, spent a period of time in the Christian church, the Charismatic church, back to the Baptist church with life changing encounters with the high church mixed in. I pray gut level honest prayers created by my own heart and couldn't live without the Daily Office. I love the free flowing move of the Spirit and the predictable comfort of an excellent liturgy.

I feel right at home with traditional christian churches, people running down the isles of the charismatic church, and with the monks worshipping at the Abbey. My heart has connected to one over the others from time to time, but I could never just pick one. Maybe because the One at the center of any worship is unchanging. Just sayin.

Being bored the other day (dangerous) I got into an argument with someone about this very topic. She insisted that the Christian/Protestant churches were going to Heaven and the rest were in danger of the fiery end. I suggested that PERHAPS true faith came more from a foundational decision to accept Christ as a personal savior and less about whether one is a member of a particular denomination. She would hear none of it. I also, while I was at it, may have suggested that not everyone in the member book of a christian church was automatically granted access beyond the pearly gates. Also received surprisingly not well.

I love this season of my life. I have such wonderful friends who are Baptist, Charismatic, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, and any other number of belief systems. And as far as I can tell we are all in love with a very big God who perhaps also cannot pick one denomination.

One of the things I adore most about Him.

Day 39

I don't know how I expected to feel at this point in my 40 day journey with the Lord, but I find myself fighting serious anxiety. It's not as if after 40 days Jesus and I will go our separate ways. It's not like after this period is over Jesus and I will be through growing, learning, seeking. It's not as if my journey ends here, and yet somehow a part of it has unexpectedly come and gone.

Gone are the days when Jesus was a suggestion. Gone are the days when Jesus was an activity. Gone are the days when spirituality was something.

Here are the days when Jesus is everything. Here are the days when all other things revolve around and filter through the One thing. And I'm praying with all that is in me that these days are here to stay.

Falling madly in love with a Savior who is madly in love with me will forever develop outside my understanding. And yet, is not love the center of all things? A love for Him, a love for His people, and a love for my own life.

I was anxious to begin this journey and now I'm anxious to end it. I'm afraid when I wake up tomorrow things will somehow be different. Life will be not as meaningful and my faith not as real. Ridiculous.

Perhaps the greatest lesson learned in these 40 days is that my relationship with Him is precious to the point everything else dulls by comparison. He. Is. Everything.