Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sugar Free times Three

Three years ago today was the last time I had sugar. This includes all natural, processed and refined varieties of the poisonous bits. And it most definitely includes corn syrup. Have you seen those commercials? Make me nuts!

I also strictly limit aspartame, splenda and other artificial sweeteners. I gave up sugar initially for health reasons and as it turns out, that's reason enough. I used to get sick 4-5 times a year. I've had the flu once and one cold in the last three years. I find myself not on the sugar roller coaster of a buzz then collapsing. It was a great decision for this life.

Since people always ask, I'll tell you. I do use organic evaporated cane juice like what's found in Kashi and truvia/stevia. But that's it.

I can honestly say I never, ever crave it anymore. I have myself so brainwashed you would have to hold me down and force me to eat a cookie. Sugar is so bad for your immune system, weight gain, emotional stuff and overall quality of health.

I never try to make people leave sugar completely. It has to be a decision you're ready for and able to do cold turkey (imo). But, everyone can cut back sugar somewhere and be healthier. And PLEASE get rid of chemical sweeteners. Your cells will thank you.

Happy Three Year Sugar Free Anniversary to ME!

One of the best decisions I've ever made.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yoga makes me want to throw up

I started a yoga practice with a teacher. For 12 weeks I learned the basics of yoga, proper alignment of several poses, and how to breathe. Her wisdom was invaluable. In the last two months I've moved my yoga practice home. There aren't yoga classes where I live. The teacher options are limited at best. And even though I gained a lot from her, we quickly came to the end of what she could teach me.

So, I created sacred space in my home. I have a room dedicated to prayer, meditation, yoga, etc. I treat yoga like going to the gym and schedule time in the mornings and evenings. Generally I enjoy it, but lately not so much. I was fairly warned that the further I got into the practice, especially focusing on difficult areas, the harder it would be. Her exact words were "The issues will show up in the tissues."

It's like cheap therapy. And it makes me want to throw up. And I can't stop doing it.


The Pigeon Pose makes me want to cry every single time.
The Camel Pose makes me nauseated.
The regular back bend makes me panicky.
Child's pose makes me nervous.

On a positive note:
Side Plank makes me feel like I can conquer the world even alone.
The warrior sequences are my favorite.
The Cobra pose makes me simultaneously happy and peaceful.

I love the book Yoga as Medicine by Timothy McCall. In it he says, "Yoga is strong medicine, but it is slow medicine. Don't expect overnight cures. Unlike most drugs or surgery, which often gradually diminish in effectiveness, yoga builds on itself, becoming more effective over time. And unlike other types of medicine, yoga can benefit the healthy as well as the sick."

I'm finding yoga is bringing up the healthy and the not so much parts of who I am, who I was, and who I want to be. It's an interesting journey and if I had to guess I'd say it's not over.

But, so far, I haven't thrown up.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Several years ago I walked through a season where Heaven seemed entirely too far away to be helpful. It grated my nerves when people would talk about "up there" or "in the heavens." Mars seemed closer. I don't want a God who is a bazillion miles away and unreachable by human means. Oh, yes, right, I know, the Holy Spirit dwells within. Got it. But, I want them all close by.

We miss something by lumping the trinity into one being. They are separate and at least my relationship with each part, individualized. In short - God the Father, Holiness, Jesus, Friend, Holy Spirit, Guidance and Peace.

So, during that season, I decided Heaven was not somewhere far above the clouds. Heaven was just another demention not seen with human eyes. Like putting on 3D glasses, they're right next to us all the time. We just can't see. They operate in another realm, but they're not far away.

Now before you diagnose me schizophrenic and lock me up, I don't think it's that weird. In fact, it's comforting. Maybe it's just me, but those moments when God feels closer than my next breath confirms my theory. Those times good and bad where my soul aches, I remember I'm connected to something so much bigger than me.

I need a God who can come to this life before another tear falls.

I need to know when my human eyes close for the last time on this Earth, the eyes of my soul will see Him, instantly, face to face. And I'll wonder why I never "saw" Him before.

In my ongoing quest to be completely honest with God, I've been praying about some big things this week. Hard things. Questions without obvious answers. One night last week I was rattling off the list of things I needed Him to do when I literally stopped mid sentence. And I prayed, "I don't really need any of those things. What I need is You to be closer."

And God appeared like a genie in a bottle and granted me three wishes. No, not really. But, I knew He was there and that He cared about all the things that concern me. He delights in answering my prayers in accordance with His perfect will. He's comfortable with my questions, understanding of my humanity, and patient with my determination.

He's a God who comes running when His children call and ask Him to come closer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Choose Him

"May the beloved of the LORD dwell in security by Him,
who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders."
Deut. 33:12

The prayer on my heart this morning as I woke up was this. "God, I choose You above all else today." It almost took my breath away. Obviously it was from Him. It doesn't usually occur to me to make Him my everything until life has me pinned to the floor in a choke hold. So much comfort to this heart at that moment. All I have to be is His. I'm at the mercy sometimes of the rest of life, the waves that come and the events of the day, but I belong to Him.

So, today I choose Him above all else.

I choose Him over uncertainty.

I choose Him over discouragement.

I even choose Him over hope.

I choose Him over happiness.

I choose Him whether there's a choice to be made or not.

I choose Him. His ways. His kingdom. His plan. I'm committed to following that plan to the best that I am able. In this year, in this month, in the week, in this day. . . . . in this life.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Call Away - A Book Review

Brenda Warner, wife of famed football star Kurt Warner, steps to center stage to tell her own story in this compelling memoir. Her life is layered with hurt and happiness, pain and joy and the grace of God. She tells of her time as a marine, a nurse, being divorced and remarried, two miscarriages, a baby who suffered brain damage and blindness from a fall, her time on food stamps and the problems that evolve from too much money. She relates to people wherever they are. Her story is interesting, but dragged in a few places. The pictures are beautiful. Overall, it's a great read.

*For Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Confess your sins just not to me

I like to consider myself a person people can (and do!) talk to about anything. I was in the grocery store recently, just trying to buy some mangoes, when a lady came out of nowhere and told me her newly divorced, had an affair, now afraid God hates her, story. I looked down. Nope. I wasn't wearing my "Tell me all your secrets out loud!" T-Shirt. So, I listened. I'm not really that friendly. I never initiate conversations in public unless you're at Petsmart too with a cute puppy. Then we're BFF.

She hugged me and said, "Thank you so much." Ahh....sure! And she left. It was so surreal that I forgot my mangoes! Darn it!

I come from a church tradition that basically made fun of organized confession. Why say out loud what Jesus is perfectly capable of hearing from your prayer closet? Made sense to me because I didn't know any better. And I did. I confessed my sins, but never publicly. Not that I had big sins, but oh right, that doesn't matter.

Easter this past year was a bandage being ripped off my spiritual life so the healing could begin. I'm not sure that season will ever mean as much to me as it did this year. It seemed especially fitting that Easter was so late. I felt like I was experiencing every slow, painful, step to the cross. It was equally miserable and wonderful.

My church hears confessions at Easter. My first thought? Thanks, but no thanks. Then they just kept mentioning it until I finally agreed. That's a post for another day, but it was nothing and everything like I'd hoped.

This is the first season of my life in a church tradition that practices confession (in the pew) at every service. At first I found it a little much. Are we really saying all that on Sunday AND Wednesday? How much sin could I really have accumulated in 3 days? (OUCH! Was that the Holy Spirit kicking me in the head? Yes, yes it was). Now I'm not really sure what I did without it. I so look forward to those quiet repentant moments. It helps me keep short accounts and continually restores my relationship with God.

And it's so powerful. There's something so humbling about kneeling with 100 other people and repeating the same confession. There's something freeing about saying out loud, "I have sinned." Not, "Hey, God do you know what THEY did?" but, "I have sinned. . . .in what I've done and what I've failed to do." I probably need that reminder more than twice a week.

I take my confessions to God, once a year to the leadership of my church, and occasionally out loud to those I trust the most to speak truth into this life. It makes me feel crazy vulnerable, but even more free. We learn through confession that frailty is the great equalizer of the human condition.

The truth will set you free. In church, in your prayer closet, at Starbucks with a friend, and maybe even in the produce isle at Publix.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Top 10 Secrets of Serenity

One day last week, I walked into work at the store just in time to see the cutest three year old with ringlet curls throwing a major fit. I'm talking all out on the floor, dress over her head, screaming at the top of her lungs, complete with fake tears, fit.

The mother looked at me like, "Don't judge me." I wasn't. Looked perfectly reasonable to me. She knelt by her kicking side and said, "Honey? What is it?"

She whimpered. Sat up with hair everywhere and a huge crooked pink bow and said, "Nothing. And everything!"

I laughed because, perhaps for totally different reasons, I felt exactly the same way. I may not have been throwing myself on the floor. My hair may have been hot ironed into submission. But, I got it - nothing, and everything. Pretty wise, kid.

The topic of how to find serenity keeps coming up. It's always amusing that people ask me. How would I know?? Peace does not come naturally to this life, but I will say it's far easier to find than it was several years ago.

I go into "fix it" mode when things don't feel right. Sometimes it's a big something. Sometimes it's just an off week. Sometimes I can pin point why I feel kind of yucky and sometimes I can't. Either way, I keep having this same conversation, so, these are the things that I find helpful.

1. Extra sleep. Sometimes the best thing for a busy brain is to shut it off. Medicate if necessary.

2. Eating well. During weird seasons I eat nothing fried, very few carbs, easily digestible food. I have a note on my refrigerator that says, "Eat kind" to help me remember. I find making soup from scratch, even in 90 degree weather, very therapeutic.

3. Forward motion. Feeling stuck, well, sucks. So, I make myself walk. Sometimes far, sometimes not, but at least a little bit every day. There's something wonderful psychologically about putting one foot in front of the other, even if you don't feel like it.

4. Music. I surround myself with my favorite music and keep it playing wherever I am.

5. Prayer. Sometimes the season of "nothing and everything" is wrong is a hard place for prayer. Silent prayer is a great practice, but, if you need words, I love the New Zealand book of prayers. I also have the Psalms on my iPod and listen to them a lot while I sleep.

6. Breathing/Yoga. The stressful seasons invite short, shallow, frantic breaths. Deep breathing is intentional and a natural stress reliever. I combine breathing techniques with my yoga practice early in the morning and in the evening.

7. Comfy clothes. Maybe this one seems a little ridiculous, but I'm a big believer that soft fabrics and comfy clothes invite a nurturing feeling of security. I sometimes barely get in the door at night before I've traded heels and work clothes for yoga pants and my favorite t-shirt that's crazy soft.

8. Creativity. Sometimes I just need my mind to do something else for awhile. Currently, I'm halfway through decoupaging a huge bookcase.

9. Space. I'm fortunate to have an entire room of my house devoted to serenity. It only has a bookcase, yoga mats, my favorite chair, peaceful music, and candles. It's my favorite place. If you don't have a whole room to devote, make a corner, a closet, whatever, a haven where you can just be for awhile.

10. Sharing. Sometimes the same stuff circles around in the same mind until it's just exhausting. And although I don't advocate telling everyone everything, it's healthy to have a few friends who will listen to you ugly cry, call you out when you really should just get over it, and resume all normal parameters of friendship the next day without making you feel stupid. I have a ton of people who surround this life, but honestly only about one, at the most two who I include in seasons of tears, confusion and frustration. My opinion? Fair weather only community of any kind isn't true community.

To some extent, I practice all of these in one way or another all the time. They help me find and maintain peace. And, most of the time, they keep me from throwing a royal fit when nothing and everything is wrong.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Come to Me

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

I believe when God promised to be with us always, He absolutely meant it. I believe in a spiritual sense, He never leaves our sides and never turns His eyes away.

But, I hate those dark nights when everything I stood on in the good times is crumbling at my feet. It's like Bible verses I memorized come screaming back to mind, mocking my doubting, faithless existence. Yesterday, the verse Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever raced through my mind. It may or may not have sounded snarky in my head. Goodness? HA! Mercy? Sign me up for more of that.

It was a perfectly explainable bad night brought on by a whole bunch of craziness. The details aren't important and the reasons seem a little dumb post high speed come apart. I feel sure somewhere in my soul God was trying to whisper, "Come to Me," while I, kicking and screaming, wondered, "Where are You!?!"

Arguing with the Almighty. One of my many spiritual gifts.

My favorite characteristic about God is, He doesn't hold a grudge. This morning I woke up and did what I should have done last night. I went to Him. I poured out all the confusion and frustration on the One who not only can handle it, He asks for it. Two hours later I believed the nudging, "Peace Be Still." Are the uncertainties miraculously solved? Noooooooo. Do all my questions now have answers? Nope. Am I in a much better place to face the path today? Yes.

Thankful today that even when life is messy, even when tears won't stop, even when spiritual perfection is nowhere near attainable, He still says.....

"Come to Me."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Women of Faith IMAGINE Weekend!

A huge thank you to @ThomasNelson and @booksneeze for sending me to @womenoffaith last weekend to witness their latest conference, Imagine. Based off Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.
Laura Story is in the spotlight lately with her latest CD, Blessings. She is a worship leader at Perimeter church in Atlanta and so gifted. I believe that the greatest work comes out of broken places, and walking through a brain tumor with her husband has deepened her faith and her music.
Steve Arterburn is the president of New Life Ministries and founder of Women of Faith. He spoke several times Friday offering great insight into the human condition with compassion and humor.
Sheila Walsh has been one of my favorite people since she released her book Honestly several years ago. I have a special appreciation for people who are diagnosed with clinical depression, still on medication, have a history of suicidal thoughts, have been admitted to a mental hospital, and now have arrived in the place God has been calling them to all along. Sheila Walsh is honest and hilarious. My favorite quote from the weekend was by her, "You aren't responsible to get yourself Home."
Natalie Grant is an award winning Christian musician and the mom of three girls. Her voice is heaven sent and her lyrics inspiring. My favorite Natalie Grant song includes this quote, "But the promise was when everything fell, we'd be held."
Mary Mary is the gospel addition to The Women of Faith team. I'm not as familiar with their music, but they were good.
Luci Swindoll is 78 years old, but you won't find that out by looking at her. She's the sister of Charles Swindoll and can hold her own next to his fabulous Bible teaching. She has a rich life story deepened by her love of God and His people.
Lisa Harper is so funny. I may just have a crazy love for her because she is hilarious, beautiful, loves God with everything and isn't married. Proving (again) that you actually can be single and living out God's plan for your life. She's inspiring and personal. Her book Stumbling Into Grace was life changing for me. Definitely the best thing to happen to Women of Faith in a long time.
Angie Smith is known as being the wife of lead singer Todd Smith of the group Selah. But, she can also hold her own. She told her heartbreaking story of losing their daughter soon after birth and gently recalled how God had been there every step of the way. She's the newest addition to Women of Faith and I found her unpolished speaking very refreshing.

It was a great weekend and it's not too late to join Women of Faith in an arena near you. Do your faith a favor and register here today!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


My dog Shine is a rescue pup. She has a torn meniscus in her knee thanks to being kicked by her previous "owner." She had heart worms when she arrived at Hotel Brenda. She was scared to death of everything, but her eyes radiated a glow that spoke to me, "I want to love you, but I'm so afraid."

We set to work making her feel at home. My other two dogs quickly gave her the message, "Look. Nothing you can do is going to make her hurt you. Go ahead, pee on the floor. She'll look at you and say NO, but she won't hurt you." It took awhile, but Shine eventually got the message - she was safe here.

It's weird though how fear will creep back in when you least expect it. Last night I was taking a shower and Shine was fast asleep beside the tub. I was laughing at her because she was howling and moving her feet air running. I reached out to get a washcloth and a drop of water fell on her head.

She froze. The worst sound I've ever heard came from her soul. The best I can describe it is fear, panic and desperation mixed into a tiny painful sound. She covered her head with a paw and tried to get all 70 pounds of her into a ball. Meanwhile I'm saying, "Shine. It's okay. It's me. I love you." She didn't open her eyes long enough to see.

So, I did what I had to do. I climbed out of the shower soaking wet with conditioner still in my hair, grabbed a towel, and sat beside her on the floor. I physically opened her eyes and said, "Hi friend." She melted as her breathing slowed. I pulled her into my lap and held her for at least 30 minutes. Honestly, my hair needed the extra conditioning anyway.

But, as I went to sleep last night I realized I'm exactly in that place with the Lord. Old fears have crept in lately and are leaving me spiritually paralyzed. I understand that place of waiting for the drop of water to fall and then freaking out completely. I'm not so good at putting on a great spiritual front. I've found it's more helpful to just be there, wherever that is at the moment. Settle in and dig deep. I try to lean hard on what I know to be true. At the end of the day, I believe in a God bigger than my fears.

And sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is pray, "I want to love You and trust You with all of me, but I'm so afraid."

And I feel His sweet peace open the eyes of my soul and whisper, "Hi friend. It's okay. It's Me. I love you."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Don't Check Your Brains at the Door - Book Review

It's fair to say that everyone interested in faith has questions. Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler's latest book Don't Check Your Brains at the Door is an answer book for teens. Loaded with information about false religions and what to do with your faith, it would be invaluable for youth workers in a church setting who get a lot of questions.

I will say it's very traditional. It's also very surface level. I don't think this book is enough on it's own. It's good information and teens especially could benefit from it. It's okay.

*For Thomas Nelson

What I'm Reading This Week

What are YOU reading?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Bone House - A Book Review

True story-I'm not a science fiction fan. I have no intention of imagining other worlds when I have enough trouble with the one I inhabit. I love Narnia, but after that my sci-fi love decreases to zero. The Bone House is the second book in the Skin Map series. I didn't read the first one, but found the introduction helpful in explaining lead characters and scenerios. The recap is perfect and brought me right up to speed to where this book continues. It has a TON of characters. I debated keeping a list at several points mainly because I wasn't familiar with their role in book one. It's incredibly detailed and an interesting story if you're into science fiction. If you're not, I'd skip it. The audience is definitely limited, but the writing is good and so is the story. Appropriate for teens and up.

*For Thomas Nelson

Thursday, August 11, 2011

God's Love Letters to You

The message of God's love has been coming at this life from every angle in recent days. It's a sweet season of remembering that nothing I do or don't do changes the way I'm viewed from eternity's perspective. He loves me. Period. Larry Crabb presents this devotional in a 40 day format drawing from his recent book 66 Love Letters. It's a great devotional. Short. Easy to read. Interesting. I read it straight through and loved reading it like that. I'm planning to go back and actually spend 40 days with it soon. Beautiful. It reminds me a little bit of Jesus Calling (my all time favorite). It would make a great gift for someone who is struggling.

*For Thomas Nelson

Thankful Thursday

The same God who said at the dawn of creation,
still whispers to the dark places of my life,
"Let There Be Light."

"Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you."
Isaiah 60:1

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Smack Dab - A Book Review

To say Brennen Manning has changed my spiritual life for the better over the years is the understatement of the century. I have a tear soaked copy of Abba's Child that stays by my bed. I related in more ways that I would have liked to when I read The Ragamuffin Gospel. He's one of the few authors I can honestly say I love everything he's written.

What a gift that he has co-authored a children's book! This book is beautiful. The artwork is bright and all the children look so happy. I find, even as an adult, God's love and judgement difficult to balance. Sometimes I need to take myself less seriously and just remember, He loves me.

Some of my favorite lines:
"He strolled along at a pace that old dogs and little children seemed to like."
"Ana looked at them lovingly and said, 'Every good thing comes from smack-dab in the middle of Abba's heart.'" AMEN to that.

Manning's books have always left me feeling loved by God and this book is no exception.

Get it for the kids you love and while you're at it, get it for you.

*For Thomas Nelson

A Place Called Blessing - A Book Review

I needed to go to bed last night before midnight so I shouldn't have started this book. I read it for hours straight through. Where hurting ends and love begins is the perfect subtitle. It's fiction. And it isn't. Telling the story of Josh, a child who made a mistake at age 6 and was forever labeled in the foster system as unlovable. When he meets Anna and Mike, he doesn't know what to do with their friendship and love. They insist on meeting him time and again with unconditional love. This book was like coming home and a great reminder to love everyone with the love of Christ no matter how they initially present themselves. Beautiful book.

*For Thomas Nelson

Living the Liturgy - Playing Monk

Living the Liturgy Part One
Living the Liturgy Part Two

Arriving at The Abbey of Gethsemani felt like a giant wave of peace perfectly mixed with a panic attack. Something in my soul whispered as I passed through the gates, "Be careful. You'll never be the same from here." I couldn't explain it then, and I still can't completely, but it was true.

I checked into my room at the retreat house, sat on the bed and thought, "now what?" One certainly does not go to an Abbey to be entertained. I left to wander around.

I came to these gates, sat on the ground, leaned against the chapel and willed myself to be right there in that moment. God Alone. I prayed, "God. It's you alone who brought me to this place. I don't understand why and I'm a little freaked out, but I'm here trusting there's a reason. Speak to me in these days. Make room in my heart. Move everything else until my life is Yours alone. I surrender to You even if it makes no sense to me."

I walked into the visitor center where a monk warmly greeted me and offered a schedule. He didn't seem weird. He was the most genuine person I had ever encountered. We spoke for a few minutes about what brought me to the Abbey and what I wanted to find there. He said, "Praying that all your searching finds answers in God alone." Chills. I thanked him and he said, "Well, it's getting late. Better get to prayer. I'll walk with you." Getting late? I looked at my watch. It was 6:00 p.m.

I honestly had never encountered The Daily Office. I had never heard anyone in 20 years chant a prayer of any kind. It was quiet. Very quiet. The ceilings were high. Very high. And it was breathtakingly beautiful. I took my seat with other retreat like people who did not seem nervous. So, I decided I wouldn't be either.

I spent the next 20 minutes mesmerized. Monks came in laughing and talking, but once they took their seats, palpable reverence echoed through the walls. The lights went down and my heart was racing. No doubt. God was there.

Every word seemed to plant itself firmly in my heart. Hyper focused, I couldn't listen hard enough. I was thankful for the darkness. It wasn't long before tears were streaming down my face. What was this beautiful mix of words ushering my soul into the throne room of God? I knew it was ancient, but it made me feel brand new.

. . .To Be Continued

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Living the Liturgy - What Was I Doing?

Living the Liturgy - Part One

After learning about the Abbey of Gethsemani, I tried to ignore it for a few weeks. It didn't make any sense. Why would I go to a monastery? I'm not Catholic. I don't like quiet. Oh, and I'm a GIRL! But, the feeling persisted until I finally looked up and said, "FINE." God must delight in my immediate obedience.

I called to schedule an hour visit and the monk on the phone wisely asked, "Do you think an hour will quench your curiosity?" Busted. "Try a weekend." He suggested I stay at the Merton Institute about a mile down the road, but said they typically have a 6 month waiting list. (YES!). Feeling pretty confident, I called the Institute to schedule a weekend in the fall sure I could come up with a reason to cancel before then.

The lady on the phone said, "Oh, it must be meant to be! I just had a cancellation! Can you come tomorrow?"

I flipped my calendar to the next day and saw I was completely free. Big sigh.


"Great! We will see you tomorrow!! Come early and stay late, ok?" I found her chipper personality a bit unsettling. Weren't they supposed to be calm?

I reached for my suitcase and stopped. I didn't even know what to wear to a monastery. What was I doing?

.....To Be Continued

It Couldn't Just Happen - A Book Review

In my opinion, evolution is totally bunk. Okay, maybe not totally, but if we're taking a poll, then for the next upgrade can we get rid of cellulite? That would be great. Lawrence Richards is renowned for providing wonderful information on all levels. The book It Couldn't Just Happen is targeted toward children to help explain creation. I'd suggest it's valuable for any age. Bright colors and interesting topics invite you to turn the page. The little "Just for Fun" sections invite readers to explore the information further. This book and the series would be excellent additions to a home school curriculum. Great book!

*For Thomas Nelson

Cherished - A Book Review

I love the escape of fiction. It's helpful for me to mix preferably hilarious fiction with serious books on a regular basis. I do not limit any of my reading to the Christian market, although religious fiction has improved considerably in recent years. Kim Cash Tate returns with her second work with Cherished. This is the story of two very different women coming together to forge a friendship out of uncertainty. Identifying with the characters was easy and the story was interesting. Kim's future is bright in the world of fiction and this title is proof. Enjoy this book and then go back and pick up her first novel Faithful.

*For Thomas Nelson

Monday, August 8, 2011

Living the Liturgy

Today I'm beginning a series on Living the Liturgy. As someone relatively new to the liturgical tradition, I want to remember it's meaning from the very beginning. I don't want to forget how it grabbed my soul and refused to let go from the first "The Lord be with you."

I didn't mean to fall in love with the liturgical tradition. I grew up Baptist, attended a Methodist University, went to the Methodist church (twice), the Christian Church and the Charismatic church somewhat regularly during my four year stay in Wilmore, Kentucky.

My Junior year, I needed a credit to fulfill an elective and let's face it, it wasn't going to be racquetball. Having heard good things about the "Study the Bible" class including no homework, a teacher who loved the Lord on a personal, not just academic level, and simple tests, I said, "sign me up!"

The professor radiated Christ. She believed and accepted the Gospel, but more than that, she loved the Author in ways that made me leave class thinking, "I want to know Jesus like that."

She mentioned one day loving The Abbey of Gethsemani, a monastery not far from Asbury where she had taken several retreats.

You know those moments in life when you hear something and your soul stands up, raises it's hand, and said, "I'm RIGHT here!!!" Very bizarre. I don't remember ever thinking about a monastery before that moment, but suddenly I had to know more about it. I left class that day thinking, "I have to go there. Soon." '

And I did.

To Be Continued. . . .

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week

Happy Reading!

Stained Glass Hearts - A Book Review

I tend to take reading (and everything else) a bit too seriously so I'm always thankful when a book like this one falls into my life. Stained Glass Hearts by women of faith speaker Patsy Clairmont is like a breath of fresh air. Her writing is like reading an e-mail from a great friend hoping for lots more reply backs to the conversation. It's not my preferred type of book, but her honesty was so good for my soul. Here's a few of my favorite parts.

I was reminded that all God's people have glass hearts. Even dads. We aren't alone in our fragile design.

The trip toward stability took me through jungles of emotions, pits of despair, ledges of fear, deserts of loneliness, wind shears of relationship, and white churning waves of anger.

And we need the help of others on the journey, those who have and are working on their own stuff. We weren't meant to recover alone.

I knew whenever I needed to talk, she would listen; and when I needed input she would gently advise. A trusted friend who is tracking with you in her availability and her prayers is a stabilizing force.

There's no doubt about it: prayers and people matter.

The quiet gives me opportunity to sort myself out in God's presence. That's when I stop any pretending and excusing. The stillness gives me space for confession and petitions. I open the stained glass window of my soul. My heart finds centered-ness in God's grace.


*For Thomas Nelson

Friday, August 5, 2011

Love You More - A Book Review

To be fair, I'm not adopting a child so this book technically isn't for me. I agreed to read it anyway because I have several friends who have children from other countries and I think adoption is just plain wonderful. This book started out okay, but it got really long in the middle. I wanted to read about her story and it's in there. It's just intermingled with a lot of other stuff that does and doesn't fit. It's choppy in several places. I like the concept of the book and I think the title is sweet. But, there are better books readily available on the topic that are much better.

*For Thomas Nelson

Peace Be With You - A Book Review

Do you love a book that you want to stay up all night to finish? Me too. Peace Be With You by David Carlson may not look like a suspense novel, but I couldn't wait to turn the page. Admittedly, I love the monastic tradition. My spiritual life has been turned upside down by visits to these sacred spaces.

This book is timely. Monastic wisdom for a terror filled world? Yes. And Amen.

I love the basis of the book. "I consequently began this project with only two questions in mind. First, how did monks, nuns, and retreatants respond when first learning of 9/11? And second, how have they continued to respond to our world of violence and terror, given their spiritual resources and training?"

I could honestly just quote the whole book. It's that good. It's made me think about what it means to love my enemies and how it looks for a Christian to respond to hatred in our world today. It refueled my love for monastic traditions and the appreciation I have for those surrendering their very lives to people of prayer and peace.

*For Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

With - A Book Review

With (great title) by Skye Jethani, the editor of Leadership Journal, is a book about discovering how we relate to God. He spends a chapter each discussing what it means to live 1. Life over God, 2. Life under God, 3. Life from God, 4. Life for God, 5. Life with God.

1. Life Under God. The life under God approach is doomed to fail. As much as we might want to control God, history has proven that He is notoriously uncooperative.

2. Life Over God. Life over God effectively cuts out the middleman and gives us direct control over our lives.

3. Life From God. God exists to supply what we need. We value what God can do for us but not God himself.

4. Life for God. God's gifts are a blessing and his work is important, but neither can or should replace God himself as our focus.

5. Life with God. Life with God is different because it's goal is not to use God; it's goal is God.

It's a great book and made me think so much about my relationship with God. I think it's fair to say we all find ourselves in all of these places in our lives. It was a great reminder that we serve a relational God who wants to be with us, too.

*For Thomas Nelson