Update: We have winners! Congratulations to LINDSAY BAKER (God is Able) and DAYNA AVERY (Whispers of Hope). I’m so, so happy for you both! Thanks, everybody, for commenting, and have a super happy Thanksgiving!
Well, hello, dear reader. Long time, no blog! Let me make it up to you with two new books by two fantastic authors:
And FYI, I just typed that last line standing up, because I got so excited.
I’ll tell you a little about each book, and then you can tell me which one you’d like to win.
First, in God Is Able, Priscilla Shirer unpacks Ephesians 3:20-21. She says that when we come against a hardship or obstacle in life, we wonder if God can really handle it. But whatever “it” is, she says, God is able. With humor, humility, and her insightful biblical wisdom, Shirer teaches two verses that can change “it” all.
I read God Is Able yesterday–all day–and let me tell you, I needed it. My current list of impossible “its” is quite long, but Shirer’s words restored my confidence in a God who is able to do “above and beyond all that I ask or think.” Indeed, nothing is impossible with God. Nothing. He is able!
Secondly, Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore leads readers through ten weeks of devotional prayer. Each entry has a devotion by Mrs. Beth and journal space to write prayers in the P.R.A.I.S.E. acrostic: Praise, Repentance, Acknowledgement, Intercession, Supplication, and Equipping.
I’ve only read one entry so far (this morning), but I look forward to using this tool and growing in devotional prayer over the next ten weeks. To be honest, ever since school started, I’ve struggled to find an ideal time for Bible study and prayer, because of our new routine. Whispers of Hope is the help and nudge I need. Both of these books, really, were so timely for me, and I pray that God will use them for you as He has for me.
Which brings us to the fun part: the giveaway! The publisher is letting me give one copy of each book. In the comments, just tell me your name, which book you prefer (you can even say “Either,” and I’ll pick for you ), and a way to contact you. I’ll leave the comments open until noon (CST) this Wednesday, November 27, when I’ll do a Random Integer drawing. How fun to win a new book in time for Christmas, or have a great new devotional to start 2014!
Good luck, everybody, and I’ll see you in the comments!
Our family is beyond excited about the latest movie version of Les Miserables. We already have our tickets to see it on Christmas Day, and in the meantime we can’t get enough clips and trailers on YouTube.
(Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream”? I mean! My lands.)
Andy and I have seen the Les Miserables musical twice—once here in Los Angeles, and once in Cincinnati, when we were newly married. Andy suggested that I read the book in the weeks before that show, and what a challenge it was for me! Not just because it’s one of the longest novels ever written, but because of its conflict between law and grace. I’m all justice and little mercy, I’m afraid—black and white, right and wrong, more Inspector Javert than the redeemed Valjean.
When Javert sings, “Honest work, just reward—that is how to please the Lord,” I nod in agreement. In fact, the whole idea of grace is hard for me. I often withhold grace from others, and I refuse to accept it for myself. I don’t want to need grace, really. I’d rather just be perfect, and have my best be good enough.
Which also means, unfortunately, that I prefer most everyone around me be perfect, too.
Being Javert is hard work! And exhausting. And—brace yourself for this surprise—I’m not perfect. No matter how hard I try, I desperately need grace for my wicked thoughts and ugly heart. Here’s the question that haunts me lately: with such an aversion to grace, can I really know Jesus at all? If I’m still earning and striving, judging and snubbing, what have I in common with Christ? After all, the entire Christmas story is this: the Son of God took on flesh and embodied both grace and truth. He fulfilled every bit of the black and white, right and wrong law, but he was also every bit grace, and “from the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:14-18).
One blessing after another! Lord, that sounds a whole lot better than the exhaustion of perfection. Enough striving like Javert, who lived in bondage even though he wasn’t a prisoner. Let me be like Valjean, who knew his lack, and lived in the fullness of grace. Oh, thank You for grace, God! Let me fall on it, and trust in it, and hope in it. And thank You for Jesus, who came to bring the fullness of grace to Javerts and Valjeans alike. Amen.
To wrap up 2012, may I recommend three great books to start off your 2013? A better blogger would post about these one at a time, maybe even over a few weeks, so as not to overwhelm her readers. But I am not a better blogger, so brace yourselves for a book dump.
Book #1 to add to your Christmas wish list…Grace by Max Lucado. I love John 1:16, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another,” and Lucado’s book is an exploration of the “grace upon grace” that is ours in Christ. With his trademark lyrical prose, Max Lucado discusses “God’s tumbling, rumbling reservoir of strength and protection. It comes at us not occasionally or miserly but constantly and aggressively, wave upon wave. We’ve barely regained our balance from one breaker, and then, bam, here comes another.” I finished the book determined to live in grace–to enjoy it, rest in it, and offer it to others, because of God’s grace toward me.
Book #2 is Mended, by Angie Smith. I have already written about Angie’s other books, I Will Carry You and What Women Fear. I love her heart, humor, and wisdom. In Mended, Angie expands several devotional posts from her blog into book form. The result is 31 beautiful lessons, each weaving scripture into daily life and ending with practical application. Mended will leave you inspired to, as Angie writes, “go and tell the story of a love so beautiful that it broke in order for you to be rebuilt.”
And finally, Book #3: Undaunted, by Christine Caine. I’d heard of Mrs. Caine, but didn’t know her story until reading it here. Undaunted tells how Christine overcame fear and a painful past to become a woman who lives by faith in freedom. This book is more than just an autobiography, though. It’s also an inspiration to others to follow God’s call on their lives. Caine’s insights proved very timely for me, and I closed its pages ready to live undaunted, for His glory.
There you go! Three book recommendations to start your year off well. In 2013, may we experience God’s grace, be mended by His unfailing love, and walk undaunted into whatever He calls us to do!
BTW and FYI… I received the book, GRACE, free from the nice folks at Thomas Nelson Publishers, for their BookSneeze program. They didn’t make me say good things, but I’m a good rule-keeper, so I thought I’d let you know for the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” and all that jazz. RME, SMH, LOL, and T2YL!
Last summer, a few friends and I studied through Kelly Minter’s book, Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break. (I highly recommend it and all her studies, by the way. Not that you asked. But there you go.) Of the many insights Kelly taught, one was simply this: the name Nehemiah means “Yahweh has comforted.”
How great is that? To remember, every time you said your name, that the Lord comforts you!
So today, dear reader, let’s take a minute to swap stories. In the comments below (click on the word “Comments” just beneath the title of this post), tell about a time when the Lord has comforted you. Maybe in the middle of a heartache, He spoke to you through His word, or encouraged you through someone else. Maybe you faced a health scare or a problem at work, and He made His comforting presence known. Whatever it is–short story or long, recently or years ago–let’s hear it! Let’s comfort one another with the comfort we’ve received from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Just read a neat book by Jose Luis Navajo–Mondays with My Old Pastor. Desperate and discouraged, Navajo, a Spanish pastor, is ready to quit the ministry. At his wife’s suggestion, he decides to meet with his “old” pastor, a retired minister and man of tremendous faith. Their weekly conversations are just the help Navajo needs to reignite his passion and remind him of his first Love. The seasoned pastor’s wisdom and insights in Mondays will “refresh the hearts” (Philemon 7) of pastors and ministry workers who need it. I know it encouraged me!
From the book:
“Life doesn’t start when you’re twenty, or when you’re forty. Life starts at Calvary. And that’s where fruitful service begins as well. Let the cross be so present in you that it becomes your way of life and your rest.”
“We who serve God often confuse success with victory….Success is a term from the business world. Victory is a term used for combat. We are not involved in a business, but rather a war.”
“Don’t focus on what astonishes, but rather what transforms. Don’t let yourself be impressed by fireworks that surprise people for fifteen minutes and then leave them tarnished. Look for something deeper. Don’t make it your goal to amaze your audience. Don’t rest until you are sure that your ministry crosses the frontier of the soul and touches the spirit, the place where change is accomplished.”
“Anxiety is able to keep us awake all night, but faith is a marvelous pillow.”
“Sit every day at the feet of Christ, and then tell the world what you have seen.”
“Doing things right is not the same as doing the right things….An efficient servant is the one who knows how to do things right. An effective servant is the one who knows how to do the right things.”
BTW and FYI…
I received this book free from the nice folks at Thomas Nelson Publishers, for their BookSneeze program. They didn’t make me say good things, but I’m a good rule-keeper, so I thought I’d better let you know for the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” and all that jazz.
RME, SMH, LOL, and T2YL!
Got this in my inbox the other night. It may be my favorite email ever. (Click on it to make it a little larger.)
What’s better than reading something so powerful that it makes your breath catch, and you have to put your hand over your heart and pray?
Watching your son have the same experience.
What’s better than teaching him your faith, day after day for 13 years?
Watching that faith become his.
I love you, Nathan, and that’s my favorite part of the book, too. I’m so proud of you, son. Always love Jesus. He is everything.
Recently, I read Pete Wilson’s newest book, Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing. The pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Wilson unpacks several deceptions we buy in our search for fulfillment. He calls it idolatry—“looking to something that does not have God’s power to give me what only God has the power and authority to give”—and he says that our idols prove to be nothing more than empty promises.
But, God has more. He offers “a life that is far sweeter and more satisfying than anything we can even imagine. That’s the good life that ‘God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9). The good life that requires us to listen deeply for what we really want and to look beyond empty promises to the One who can fulfill our deepest desires.”
Empty Promises proved very timely for me, because many of the idols Wilson discusses—achievement, approval, power, religion, chasing a dream, and more—are frequent battles for me. Thankfully, Wilson explains that the way to fulfillment is, in a word, worship. I must “replace a false god with the real One,” because “it’s only when we open our hearts to truly worship our Creator that we are set free to release the small gods who pretend to wield such power.”
With transparency, wisdom, and practical steps, Empty Promises uncovers our idols, reveals our hearts’ truest longings, and points us toward our deepest satisfaction. Hungry for God’s ‘good life’? Find the way there in Pete Wilson’s Empty Promises.
BTW and FYI…
I received this book free from the nice folks at Thomas Nelson Publishers, for their BookSneeze program. They didn’t make me say good things, but I’m a good rule-keeper, so I thought I’d better let you know for the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” and all that jazz.
RME, SMH, LOL, and T2YL!
Beach weddings are beautiful, and a ceremony Andy performed there a few years back was no exception. Rather than a unity candle, the bride had chosen “unity sand.” She poured one color of sand into a jar, while her groom poured another. The result was pretty, layered colors of sand.
But, as the couple filled their jar during the ceremony, the bride frowned. Andy whispered, “What’s wrong?”
“It doesn’t look right,” she whispered back.
“It looks pretty!” he encouraged.
She whispered again, “It…it doesn’t look like the picture!”
Andy grinned, and replied with a wink, “Welcome to marriage.”
Andy and I celebrate 15 years of marriage today…15 years of laughter and tears, of inside jokes and arguments and friendship. Fifteen years of life that hasn’t always looked like the picture. But, it’s our picture—our masterpiece that God paints each day, to show His love to a watching world.
That’s what marriage is, really—a picture of Christ’s love for His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33). In their book Real Marriage, Mark and Grace Driscoll repeat this refrain: “…for the glory of God and the good of your spouse.” They mean, for instance, that I must respect my husband to glorify God and benefit Andy. Likewise, Andy loves me, not because I’m easy to love—I’m so very not!—but for God’s glory and my good.
The goal of a Christ-centered marriage isn’t perfection, because—welcome to marriage!—life doesn’t look like the picture! Rather, the goal is simply to let God paint a faithful, unconditional portrait of His faithful, unconditional love. “For the glory of God, and the good of my marriage.”—That’s the picture!
First, a book! Congratulations to Leigh Ann for winning a copy of Tracey Bianchi’s book, Mom Connection: Creating Vibrant Relationships in the Midst of Motherhood, published by MOPS. “In this witty, encouraging book, Tracey Bianchi shows us how to cultivate deeper friendships that challenge us to grow, create healthy, life-giving rhythms for our families, and connect and give back to the wider world beyond our doors.” Yay, Leigh Ann! Hope you enjoy the book!
And secondly, a blessing! A few years back, I came across this excerpt by Mary Jean Irion. It’s “a mother’s reflection as she combed her seven-year-old daughter’s hair after a bath,” and I completely love it. Hope it blesses you!
Comb and dry, comb and dry. “Soon I won’t be able to do this any more,” you say to yourself, knowing that the little straight bob must inevitably yield to grown-up coiffures and ugly curlers. What will she be like at fourteen? Where will her hair be blowing then? And sixteen and eighteen—you suppose boys will love to watch her hair blow as you do now. And some of them will feel it on their faces, and one of them will marry her, and her hair will be perfect under the veil, and there will be her hair spread out on his pillow…oh, you hate him a little and wonder where he is at this moment and whether he’ll be good to her….They will grow old together…the gold-brown hair will be gray, and you will be gone, and then she will be gone…this very hair that now your fingers smooth…All the tears of the world swim for a second in your eyes as you snatch the plug out of the socket suddenly and gather her into your arms, burying your face in the warm hairs as if you could seal this moment against all time.
“…she may well perish with the shame of having such a mother.”
–Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
Oh, moms. We try, don’t we? I’ve never met a mother who didn’t try—who didn’t want the best for her kids.
Try as we may, we aren’t perfect. Every year on this blog, in honor of Mother’s Day, we share our shortcomings. Mother’s Day Confessions are a lighthearted look at our motherhood mess-ups. No pretense or pretending here! Confess with me, and then, let’s celebrate our day by resting in God’s grace. He is always enough, even when we aren’t! (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Mother’s Day Confessions — 2012
- One evening, I stood in the hall between my kids’ bedrooms and complimented Nathan on his clean room. “It’s so clean, I could do cartwheels in there!” Then, with a look at the girls’ room, I added, “…But this room is much less conducive to cartwheels.” The girls burst into tears, I apologized profusely, and everyone went to bed feeling terrible.
- I didn’t pay attention to a change in Molly’s ballet schedule, and I dropped her off at the studio an hour late. She called in tears. “I don’t know what happened but this isn’t my class and these aren’t my friends so can you please come GET ME?!”
- I don’t tuck my kids in bed anymore. In fact, most often, they come tell me good night…because I’m already in bed.
- My most frequent answer to Nathan’s homeschooling questions this year was, “No idea. Google it.”
- One night, I missed a three-inch step off my friend’s front porch. I flung my arms out, trying to regain my balance in the slow-motion fall. In the process, I punched Molly in the nose and glasses. Then I grabbed her by the shirt collar, and nearly pulled her down with me. I more than doubly outweigh her, and yet, I apparently expected her to catch me.
- Driving home, I saw an old wooden rocking chair on the side of the road. After trying for ten minutes to get it into our little car, I made Nathan carry it all the way to our house. Through our entire neighborhood. While his friends rode circles around him on their bikes, and he blushed with embarrassment.
- Speaking of that rocking chair, you may remember this story about a confrontation with our HOA. Now, here’s the rest of the story. After a tender moment in prayer for our enemies, as Nathan headed back outside to play, I offered this Christlike advice: “…and if she ever talks to you like that again, just say, ‘Lady, who peed in your Cheerios?’”
- “You’re probably the only mom who makes every devotion be about sex, Mom.” (Hey, YOU read James 1:15 and tell me that isn’t a sex ed class waiting to happen.)
- “Mom, can we PLEASE wash my sheets? These STILL have blood on them from when I got that bloody nose, like, a LONG time ago.”
- Anne: “How do fish have babies?” Me: “The mom fish lays eggs, and the dad fish squirts man juice on ‘em.”
Okay, your turn! Leave your confessions in the comments, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Mom Connection: Creating Vibrant Relationship in the Midst of Motherhood, by Tracey Bianchi, new from MOPS! I’ll do a random drawing at noon on Tuesday, May 15, when I’ll post more about the book. Good luck, and Happy Mother’s Day!