Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Be a blessing

I’ve been thinking a lot about blessings lately. Oh sure, we all like to be blessed, have someone unexpectedly show up to mow the lawn, take us out to dinner, or bring us a present. And we really like the blessings that come in the form of cash or checks- especially in large amounts. But somehow I don’t think that’s what God had in mind when He talked about blessing people.
I have to be careful when speaking of blessings because of the culture in which I live. The LDS church is big on blessings. Some of their members receive Patriarchal Blessings, they bless babies, they offer blessings in cases of illness. Blessings are a good thing, but I don’t know enough about the LDS church to know what exactly is meant by the term. Maybe they mean the same thing I mean, and maybe it’s something different. I don’t know, so please don’t read something that I didn’t write. Don’t hear something that I’m not saying. It’s a word. Some people use it one way, and some people use it to mean something else. Don’t get confused, don’t get upset. Just read and draw your own conclusions.
In their book The Gift of the Blessing, (Thomas Nelson, 1993) Gary Smalley and John Trent talk about the components of the Old Testament blessing. They write that the 5 elements include 1) meaningful touch, 2) spoken words which 3) express high value 4) picture a special future, and 5) entail an active commitment on the part of the person offering the blessing.  Pretty powerful stuff.
And all this because, like many other parents, I want to be able to bless my child. Don’t get me wrong, he has everything he needs, and probably most of what he wants; we do things and go places, but I want to bless him in the sense that God blessed Abraham, that Isaac blessed Jacob (instead of Esau) and like Jacob eventually blessed Ephraim, the son of Joseph.
I want him to know that he is extremely valuable in my eyes and in the eyes of the Lord. I want him to know it because I’ve put my hand on him and told him so. Teenagers often have an inflated sense of their own importance, so he may or may not need affirmation and confirmation – today. But at some point reality hits and he will realize that there’s more to life than what he thinks of himself. I want him to know that apart from what he thinks he is important.
Hopefully he’ll be able to envision the future that lies in front of him, a special future, that means he will accomplish great things, not just to make his life financially secure, but things that will have an eternal impact for someone else, things that will impact a much larger circle than just his family and friends.
It’s easy to assume that he knows I’ll be there for him; that I’ll support his decisions and his endeavors, but he knows, and you probably know,  a lot of people whose parents aren’t necessarily there for them. He’s only going to know that I am committed to him if I let him know it, if I do what it takes to tell him and show him that I’m committed to helping him grow into the person that God intends him to be: a very special person with a great future.
Special and great because God created him that way. As the Psalmist said (Ps 139:14) "fearfully and wonderfully made." 
God created a lot of other people that way too. Who do you need to bless today? Who do you need to touch and affirm? What commitment are you willing to make?
Bless someone today. Future generations will be glad you did. 

Friday, July 27, 2012


I've been a fan of Nick Vujicic since the first time I saw him on a YouTube video. Attending one of his Life Without Limits events and getting to experience his hugs made me an even bigger fan; so I was really pleased to have the opportunity to review his forthcoming book UNSTOPPABLE: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action (WaterBrook Press, 2012)
            Unstoppable is Nick’s story: born without arms or legs; fortunate enough to be born into a loving family: learning how to cope; getting through tough times (including a severe depression) and learning that God sees things differently than we do. Nick doesn’t have a faith walk – he has a faith run, and he runs better than most people with 2 legs. This book tells the story of how God is using Nick in any number of ways, and how some of Nick’s prayers (including his prayer for a wife) are being answered.  
            As I started reading, I was slightly disappointed, thinking that this was going to be another book full of “life gave me lemons – look how I made lemonade” stories. I wanted to send Nick a note telling him that he’s a fantastic speaker, and that he should write in the same style that he uses when he’s speaking publicly. Then, after a few pages, that speaking style seemed to creep in, and the emotions kicked in: tears, laughter, and a real sense of ‘this is how God works!’
            The things that bother so many of us are things that God and Nick have been able to overcome, and as Nick tells his story, it becomes more and more clear why people all over the globe find hope and comfort when Nick speaks.
            You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll start googling Nick’s name to see when he’s going to be speaking in your area.  Can you rate something a ‘6’ on a scale of ‘1 – 5’?
          For more info on this book please visit http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/workid.php?work=218361
          Nick Vujicic's website is here: http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

            I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review (and would gladly have paid for it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Our best efforts: second place to grace

There are a lot of people out there who have issues with Christianity, with the Church, and with Christians; several people have written about how unchurched people tend to look at the church; and the information presented there is a good step in the right direction.  In his book “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People: where we Have Failed Each Other and how to Reverse the Damage” (Waterbrook Multnomah, 2011, originally published 2002) Dave Burchett takes it a step further, and looks at the issues with an insider’s perspective.
            I first read this books years ago because I liked the title. But it goes far beyond that. Christians have a tendency to mess up, even after they say the sinners’ prayer, even though they attend church services regularly, go on missions trips and serve on boards and committees. Sin is a big part of who we are.  People outside the church sin in the same ways as Christians and don’t think anything of it, but just let a professing Christian act like a human being, and all bets are off.
            Burchett walks the reader through a series of problems within the “local church” (insert the name of your church here), then he moves on to how Christians often, with the best of intentions, convince their ‘targets’ to look elsewhere (things like ‘do as I say and not as I do’ attitudes, or speaking Christianese - a special language known only to those who have spent many years in a church setting. And then he asks us to take a look at how we can correct some of our self-inflicted maladies.
            All of this is done within the context of we’re human beings, we’re sinners saved by grace, we make mistakes, but we’re still Christians with good intentions. Unfortunately we (individuals and corporately as members of a local church body) don’t always get it right. But, as Burchett reminds us, God is good; grace reigns and there is hope!
            Enjoy the read! 4.5/5
The publisher provided me a free copy of the e-book in exchange for this review. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Tough Guys and Drama Queens

I’m a parent of a teenager; need I say more?  As any parent of a teenager knows, there will be days when that son or daughter that you’ve loved since day one, will be a normal human being, a tough guy, a drama queen, a hot bed of hormones, loving, defiant, and anything else you can think of. Some days all those things happen at the same time.
            For five years after college, I worked on a locked adolescent treatment unit. I figured after that experience I was ready to be a parent, and I even fooled myself into thinking that I knew all about parenting a teenager. Yeah, probably not.
            Even though this book came a few years to late for me to do the pre-teen stuff, there’s a lot of practical information in Mark Gregston’s “Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How not to Get Blindsided by your Child’s Teen Years”, (Thomas Nelson, 2012).  He starts with a session on how the culture has changed in the years since we lived our own teenage experience, moves to some things that we really should be trying to avoid, and writes several chapters on parenting techniques that work.
            Reading through the book gave me a sore neck: I kept nodding my head in agreement. I wish it because Gregston was validating my parenting skills, but it was more along the lines of YES, that makes sense! Why haven’t I been doing that?
            There are two main take-aways for me in this book. The first is that we’re not bad parents, nor do we have bad kids; but sometimes we need to re-learn how to communicate. And secondly, at each stage of their lives, we need to be training our kids to grow into the next phase. The day will come when that mercurial teenager is going to move on – as parents we want him or her to be ready for that challenge. Gregston offers lots of insight based on his years working with adolescents.
            The subtitle is a little deceiving: it doesn’t let the reader know that a lot of the communication techniques that Gregston discusses can be used within the parameters of any relationship, not just parent teen.
BookSneeze provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review. I was not required to post a favorable review. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Some days I wish I had a camera; actually I do have a camera, It's just usually not with me when it would come in handy. Of course at those Kodak moments, I usually can't do anything other than hold my breath and try not to scare something away. Besides I'm a klutz with a kamera, by the time the thing was focused, aimed, and had the right f-stop and aperture, the subject would have flown the coop.

So the camera in my mind makes memories.

I like watching hummingbirds, but I've always wondered where they come from. I know the theory, they're birds - they come from eggs. But have you ever watched a hummingbird? When do they slow down long enough to lay an egg? And how could they sit on them long enough to hatch them? (BTW if you google it,  the various experts say the eggs hatch at somewhere between 13 and 23 days- depending.)

But the other day a friend showed me a hummingbird nest. It looked like a knot on a pine tree; and I'll take my friend's word for it that there were two eggs in the nest. I couldn't see them since the bird was sitting on them. She just sat there while we looked. Wish I had had my camera with me.

And the hummingbird story gets even cooler. My water bottle is red. Hummingbirds like red. And as we were sitting at a picnic table, two of the little critters decided that they wanted a drink. I wish I had had the camera, but trying to get it focused and aimed to take the picture probably would have scared them away long before they got up close and personal with the water bottle.

But I do have the memories. Too bad you can't see the pictures on the inside of my mind!

Some days God just likes to show off. Really. After all, when was the last time you shared your water bottle with a hummingbird.  Thanks, God. That made my day.

Now if you could just teach me how to use a camera.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Pressure's Off - my review

If you read and apply the lessons found in the book The Pressure’s Off (WaterBrook, 2002, 2012) by Larry Crabb, you should see a difference in the way you interact with God. You’ve probably heard that before, and then were given a bunch of rules to follow, things to do, prayers to pray, journals to keep, and constant reminders that if you would just do this, then God will bless you beyond anything you could imagine.
I’ve tried a lot of those methods and systems, and they never worked for me. Maybe I didn’t do it right, maybe something else was going on, but they didn’t work. God didn’t reward my efforts. So I tried harder – and God still didn’t follow my rules. The job offers didn’t come, relationships soured, people died, I didn’t win the lottery. And I wondered why God wasn’t impressed enough with my efforts to reward me.
Crabb calls that the ‘Old Way’ and suggests that it won’t work because we have things backward. He suggests that all of our good works may be an attempt to use God. But he offers an alternative. His ‘New Way’ suggests that we start by growing closer to God, and in doing so we may just find the answers that we’re looking for.
It’s not an easy path to follow: we’re asked to give up control of our lives, to give up our idols (anything that comes between us and God) to turn them over to God, to grow closer to him, to follow his will, and as we grow in intimacy with God, our lives are transformed. It’s not what we do, but what God does that changes us.
Crabb’s writing style is engaging, he uses many personal examples of how to reframe things from the ‘old way’ to the ‘new way’, and simple illustrations help the reader to understand the concepts.
This updated edition contains a ‘workbook’ which should work well for individuals, accountability partners or small groups. I would recommend this book to anyone who is ready to move closer to God, and seek His will rather than just try to do enough to earn a blessing.
5 stars!
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Read the first Chapter here: