Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rainbows in the Midst...

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
I woke up with this scripture on my mind. I thought it apropos given the aftermath of the Allume Conference and Hurricane Sandy.

Courtesy of Kurt Wilberding

It was a blessing to be able to attend the Allume Conference and finally meet Tricia Goyer (who is an absolute sweetheart), Mary DeMuth, Sarah Markley, Sarah Mae, Jessica Heights, Christin Slade, Kelly Thorne Gore, Rachel Wojnarowski, Christy Stroud from Tyndale Publishers, Revell Publishers, Zondervan Publishers and so many other wonderful people.

We drove three hours to get to Pennsylvania, checked in and headed over to register. I was given a beautiful bag filled with goodies.

It was my first time attending this conference, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But I was definitely excited with the line up.

Darren Rowse (a.k.a. ProBlogger) and Ann Voskamp were on the top of my list. I never heard either one of them speak before.

I was really touched by what Darren Rowse shared at his key note. He didn't speak about how to make money with your blog, but more about his testimony and faith.

I enjoyed listening to Sarah Mae and Jessica Heights key notes as well. I love their hearts.

My hat goes off to Sarah, Jessica and their entire team for all their hard work and pulling off such an amazing conference. It was truly a success.

After awhile, it began to feel more like a Christian woman's conference than a blogger's conference which was refreshing.

My favorite place was the Prayer Room which was sponsored by The Seed Company.

Courtesy of Laura Gish

Isn't the prayer room beautiful? I spent my free time there to unplug, pray and write in prayer journals. The Seed Company blessed us royally.

The highlight of this conference for me was hearing Ann Voskamp speak for the first time. I never read Ann Voskamp's blog or her best selling book, One Thousand Gifts. I only heard wonderful things about her through the grapevine. Now I know what they were all talking about.

Prior to her keynote, there were two videos shown by (In)Courage and Compassion International which moved me. I love to support causes helping disadvantaged children and Compassion International does amazing work.

After the videos, Ann Voskamp began to speak and tears rolled down my face. What she spoke about pierced my heart. I was riveted and touched by her every word. What an anointed woman of God. I pray I could get a copy of her key note, because I want to hear it again. I felt God used her to confirm what He was speaking to my heart throughout the conference.

Unfortunately, I had to abruptly leave right after she spoke due to Hurricane Sandy. We left and drove home to prepare for the impending storm. I do not believe I have to reiterate how devastating this hurricane was to our city. It was truly unprecedented. Please keep us in your prayers.

I am grateful the Lord is still in control and on the throne. Despite the devastation, I chose to see rainbows in the midst of the storm. I continue to pray for all those who were affected.

Please let me know how I can pray for you today. Please leave your prayers in the comment section below.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope by Kim Tews

Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: CrossHouse Publishing
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161315027X
ISBN-13: 978-1613150276
Price: $15.95
Purchase: Amazon | BN











Description

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope is the inspiring true story of a Midwest husband and wife that become disenchanted with the relentless pursuit of the American Dream and embark on a journey that spans six countries and redefines their values and lives. The story begins in a small town in Wisconsin and weaves its way through South and Central America as the couple gathers an army of supporters and establishes an organization to save the lives of children in the end stages of starvation in eastern Guatemala. The narrative is filled with action-packed adventure and heartwarming victories as the characters face incredible odds and seemingly hopeless situations, while hundreds of volunteers join mission teams to offer help and hope through the programs of the ministry. Readers of all ages will enjoy the roller-coaster ride of emotions--from laughter to tears to sheer joy--as they realize that ordinary people can make a difference one life at a time.

Read Chapter One Here

Review

There are times when things happen in the most interesting way. For instance, how I found out about this book, Tears Water the Seeds of Hope.

I happened to be visiting a book bloggers page on Facebook, when I came across Lori Caswell's post requesting bloggers to review Tears Water the Seeds of Hope for her blog, Great Escapes Book Tours. I read the description of the book and was hooked. I wrote her a private message and expressed my interest in reviewing Tears Water the Seeds of Hope and she graciously accepted.

A couple of weeks later, I received the book in the mail directly from the author Kim Tews. I was so surprised when I opened the package. She had tied a ribbon around the book, which also had a flower on it and matched the flower on the book cover. She even wrote a lovely note on matching stationary, thanking me for being willing to read her book. I immediately saw Kim Tews heart and was touched by her kind gesture.

I was eager to begin reading the book and I finished it in four days. I couldn't get enough of this book. I simply didn't want to stop reading it. I was completely drawn in from start to finish.

Kim and Randy Tews live in Wisconsin. They are both successful real estate agents. They were living comfortably and had all they needed, except they felt a void. They began attending church and felt a calling to help the poor in Central and South America. They eventually wound up helping high risk children in Guatemala and started a program called Outreach for World Hope.

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope is about their story, from their humble beginnings to the present. Kim Tews did not sugar coat anything nor did she hold back anything. I found their story to be riveting and convicting.
I was touched and inspired by the what the Tews were doing. They took many risks and witnessed a lot of difficult situations. Quite frankly, I admired that they didn't lose their faith by all they witnessed and experienced.

I really respect the Tews, many people would have simply given up and thrown in the towel with everything they've been through. But they did not give up. They kept going by the grace of God and kept loving the children of Guatemala no matter what. Now this is what I call exemplifying the Lord with your life, which is very rare today. 

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope especially touched me because I did a short missions trip in Guatemala years ago. Everything described in this book is the truth. I know it to be true, because I was there and saw it with my own eyes. 

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope provoked, inspired and challenged me all at the same time. This book resonated with my heart's desire to help children. I hope I can return to Guatemala again one day.

In the meantime, I will continue to read and tell others about wonderful books like this one. Christians, here and around the world, who making a difference in this world.

I highly recommend this book. If you have been on a missions trip, this book will inspire you.

In conclusion, I want to thank Lori Caswell, Kim Tews and Cross House Publishing for facilitating and sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Kim Tews was raised in Madison, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in Economics. She and her husband, Randy, pursued careers in real estate before beginning mission work together in Ecuador, South America, in 2001. In 2005, they established the non-profit organization Outreach for World Hope to save the lives of starving children in eastern Guatemala. The couple lives in Verona, Wisconsin, with their three children, traveling back and forth to Guatemala frequently to facilitate the ongoing programs of Outreach for World Hope (www.outreachforworldhope.org and Facebook).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Everything by Mary DeMuth

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Date: October 16, 2012
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400203988
ISBN-13: 978-1400203987
Price: $16.99
Purchase: Amazon | BN

Sample Chapter








Description

“I don’t write this book as a condemnation or as a sermon. The last thing I want to do is provide a ‘how to be the best Christian in ten easy steps’ guide. I pen these words as a fellow struggler who is learning that what we think about God matters, how we allow Him to reign in our hearts matters, and how we obey Him in the moment matters. It all matters. Everything.”

Author and speaker Mary DeMuth has been abused, foreclosed, abandoned, and betrayed. She has been pressed and drained till it was too much . . .

But it was just enough to bring her to a place of surrender, piece by precious piece. In that surrender, she found the freedom of giving everything to God. And through Scripture, community, and the work of the Holy Spirit, she gives it all over again, every day.

In this gentle and challenging book, DeMuth describes the process and the nuances that shape us to be more like Christ. Her words are clear, vulnerable, and thought provoking, and every chapter is infused with Scripture.

Most of all, DeMuth provides personal and practical evidence that there is no greater pursuit than Christ. We must surrender everything, but it does not compare to the Everything He is, the Everything He gives.

Review

I received an advanced copy of Everything to review. I also had the privilege of endorsing this beautiful book.

I read this book on my week off from vacation back in July. God spoke to me that week through Everything. I was beyond blessed.

While I was reading about Mary DeMuth's life and experiences. I was able to put myself in her shoes. At times, I even felt we lived parallel lives.

I laughed and cried throughout this book. Everything made me think; it convicted me as well as challenged my walk with Jesus.
 
I had to ask myself the same question many times while reading this book, is Jesus my everything? If I say He is my everything, do I live as though He is?

I loved Everything and I highly recommend it.  I believe in the message and believe every Christian should read this book.

***Special Offer -- Limited Time Only***  If you’d like to receive these sweet gifts, purchase Everything October 16-23 and send the receipt to EverythingPromo@ThomasNelson.com. Check out the details here.

Mary DeMuth is an author and speaker who loves to help people lived uncaged, freedom-infused lives. She's the author of fourteen books, including six novels and her critically acclaimed memoir, Thin Places. After church planting in Southern France, Mary, her husband, and their three teenagers now live in a suburb of Dallas.

Website:    MaryDeMuth.com
Facebook: AuthorMaryDeMuth
Twitter:      MaryDeMuth

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

He said He Wanted to Kill Me

Last night I decided to go to church for prayer service. Before I was married and had kids, I lived at Times Square Church. I was there every Tuesday and Friday night and all day Sunday. I even served on the choir before someone told me they wanted to kill me.

I never told a soul. I just stepped down quietly from the choir. I mean, who in their right mind was going to stay in the choir after that? Maybe I should have stayed, but deep down, I was disillusioned.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Early one Sunday morning, I was praying alone in the choir section when I sensed a presence. I opened my eyes to find a tall male standing before me. I recognized him, he was in his choir robe like me. He said he needed to ask my forgiveness. I asked him for what (since I never had any dealings with him). He said for wanting to kill me.
 
I think I was traumatized at that moment because all I said was, I forgive you. I can’t believe that’s all I said.
Why couldn’t I have told him, “Hey dude, what did I ever do to you to warrant your wanting to kill me?” I mean, wouldn’t that have been more normal?

Eighteen years later, I think back and wish I would have had enough courage to ask him why.

I went through a whole gamut of emotions and questions. All I was doing was praying. Aren’t you suppose to feel safe in church? I did not feel safe at all. I actually never looked at church the same way again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Times Square Church greatly. It is where God brought me, put me, planted me and where I grew up in the faith. It is where I first experienced the presence of God. The preaching is phenomenal and I’ve made great friends there. Many who are now leaders or serving overseas as full time missionaries.

It’s not the church’s fault, it’s not anyone’s. However, last night, memories began to flood my mind and emotions began to well up. Yes, I forgive this man, wherever he is. The irony of it all is that I didn’t even know his name. But his face will be forever etched in my memory.

Conceptually, I understood at twenty-seven that evil was using this man as a host. But it’s still hard to grasp something like this magnitude, especially since it happened in church by a supposed brother in Christ. I couldn’t understand it, still don’t and perhaps I never will.

However, since then, I no longer close my eyes when I pray in church. I do for second or two, but then I open them again. I only pray with abandon when I’m alone and in the confines of my home.

I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience in church?  If so, please share. I would love to know I’m not alone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 19, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061999857
ISBN-13: 978-0061999857
Price: $14.99
Purchase: Amazon | BN 










Description

Caught up in grief after the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch decided to stop running and start reading. For once in her life she would put all other obligations on hold and devote herself to reading a book a day: one year of magical reading in which she found joy, healing, and wisdom.

With grace and deep insight, Sankovitch weaves together poignant family memories with the unforgettable lives of the characters she reads about. She finds a lesson in each book, ultimately realizing the ability of a good story to console, inspire, and open our lives to new places and experiences. A moving story of recovery, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is also a resonant reminder of the all-encompassing power and delight of reading.

Review

Have you ever fell in love with a book? Well, I fell in love with Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I did not want this book to end. As a matter of fact, I even stalled to finish it.

Nina Sankovitch is a beautiful writer. Every page of this book spoke to my heart. I will forever remember this exquisite and graceful memoir.

This memoir is about how Nina Sankovitch dealt with the untimely death of her sister Anne-Marie. She decided to read one book a day for an entire year. She did this as a way to grieve and heal.

Now, for a old bibliophile like me, this equates to heaven. I couldn't help but live vicariously through this inspiring memoir.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair begins with the stark reality of Anne-Marie's illness and all that it encompasses. I felt as if my heart was going to burst from sorrow. I was in tears and felt everything Nina Sankovitch described. If I could have jumped into the pages to console her and her family, I would have.

I was grateful for Nina Sankovitch's generosity in writing this poignant and transparent memoir. I felt as if I was walking alongside her on a beach and listening to the twists and turns of her life, her story. She really won my heart.

I enjoyed the progression of this memoir; the richness, nuances and color. There is beauty exuding from each page. Each chapter brought insight, wisdom and meaning.

The following quote encapsulates this memoir for me:
"I was ready--ready to sit down in my purple chair and read. For years, books had offered to me a window into how other people deal with life, its sorrows and joys and monotonies and frustrations. I would look there again for empathy, guidance, fellowship, and experience. Books would give me all that, and more." (Page 31)
I wholeheartedly agree, books do that for me too. Nina Sankovitch and I are kindred spirits for sure.

I highly recommend Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I do hope Nina Sankovitch writes another book because I definitely want to read it.

In conclusion, I want to thank Regina Eckes of HarperCollins who generously sent me a complimentary copy of this book to review.

Nina Sankovitch launched ReadAllDay.org in 2008, and at the end of her reading, she was profiled in the New York Times. She continues to review books on ReadAllDay.org and for the Huffington Post. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and four sons.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Holy Surrender

Courtesy of Creative Commons
Daniel Smith Photography
   
God woke me up at 6:00am this morning. I don't know what is happening lately, but I feel as if my heart is about to explode. Since reading books like Mary DeMuth's Everything and Seth Barnes Kingdom Journeys, something is changing in me. I can't quite put my finger on it or explain it, but it's all good.

I woke up to this song on my mind, "A Broken Spirit and a Contrite Heart". Interesting that I would wake up to this song in my head. It's not like I've been thinking about Psalm 51 which is David's prayer of repentance to God after committing adultery.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:16-17
I meditated on the above verses this morning and just wept. I have no idea why I was weeping or why my heart felt like it was going to come out of my chest. But I didn't move, I just stayed with it and worshiped God.

I have this great love for God, but if I try to explain how or why, I am at a loss for words. How does one explain the enormity of God's love? Words get in the way or become small and limiting. He is so big and vast. He is beyond beauty and grace. He's perfect and wonderful.

My logical mind wants to confine or define Him. But you can't put God in a box or explain Him. He says, I am that I Am. Simple as that. But we seem to want to complicate Him.

There are times I want to convey Him to others. I want them to see the enormity of His love. But again, I am limited. Limited by my flaws and failures.

My words don't do Him justice. I can't really translate what it is I feel for Him. My love for Him goes beyond feeling and emotions. I just know Him.

I hear Him, feel Him, see Him and love Him. He is the air I breathe and my beating heart. He is the light by day and a song by night. He is my inspiration. He is my all and all.

The constant wooing, yearning, craving and longing perpetually drawing me to Him. Sometimes I don't know whether to throw myself at His feet or scream from the highest mountain. The intensity of His love is too much for my body and heart to contain.

How do you explain love? When you love someone, you know you love them. From hence does it come?
It comes from God. The creator of the universe. He composites love. He embodies love. He creates love. He is love.

By now, you are probably wondering if I'm a flake? Nope. I'm not. I'm just sharing my love affair with you.
My intimacy and relationship with God is a big part of who I am. I am who I am because of Him. He created and formed me. He gives me life, He makes me breath, He motivates and inspires me. He makes my heart sing and speaks to me in the night. He is my constant companion and my loyal friend.

Jesus is my Everything.

So no, I don't know what exactly is happening, but I want more. I want to experience the fullness of God. The depths and heights of His love, I want to experience it all.  I don't want the rules and regulations. I don't want the stale bread of religion. I don't want to live a hum drum existence. I want to live a life of bountiful faith. I want to live fully alive.

I want to live holy surrendered in Him.

In conclusion, I want to share an awesome worship song I listened to this morning. It's called "Sweetly Broken" by Jeremy Riddle. I love the lyrics.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Insecurity, The Bully

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Do you know her? Insecurity? If you do, then you know she’s a possessed bully.

Insecurity has an uncanny way of showing up even when she's uninvited. She is obnoxious and rude. She is no friend of mine. No siree.

Insecurity annoys me to the utmost. Every time I think I’m going to beat her at her own game. She winds up winning.

What makes matters worse is that she’s always laughing at me. You know the sinister kind you hear in a horror flick. Infuriating.

I want to kick her in the butt, like “Karate Kid” or “Rocky”.

Insecurity has been bullying me all my life. Every time I would get on stage to sing, I would hear her cackling and saying, “Ha! She thinks she can sing. Watch her crack or forget her lyrics. It’s hilarious.”

I start to recite scriptures to myself to drown her out. Nothing works, I could feel my throat constrict, heart race and palms sweat. Insecurity wins again.

Insecurity always sneaks up on me unawares as I sit staring at a blank page. She howls, “You can’t write, just like you can’t sing. There are so many other talented people who can really sing, write and do everything much better than you. Haven’t you realized you don’t matter? Nobody is even remotely interested in what you have to say. Look at you, what have you accomplished in your life? You are going to be 46 years old and you’ve done nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. You know why? Because you are a loser with a capital 'L'.”

At this point, I’m either going to do "Moves like Jagger" or go "Rambo" on her. Or better yet… shoot her! Metaphorically speaking, that is. I shalt not murder. So, get thee behind me... Insecurity.

I’m sick of listening to her go on and on and on. She's incessant and never shuts up. I’m tired of her already.

I want to be free of Insecurity, once and for all, whatever the cost.


Do you struggle with insecurity? Are you ready to kick her in the butt and tell her where to go?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Oh Religion, How I Hate Thee

Courtesy of Creative Commons

No, no, I haven't thrown in the towel. I'm still a Christ follower. Jesus has nothing to do with this. He is in a class by Himself, for the obvious reasons. Jesus is Jesus. He died for me, you and the whole world. Someone who would be willing to die for the likes of me, well, let's just say, they score big time.

I have no problem with beautiful, amazing, lovely, sweet, gentle Jesus Christ. He is a rock star. I love Him, plain and simple.

What I do have a problem with is religion. The Pharisees. The arrogant, stuffy, stuck up, know-it-all, condescending, judgmental, legalistic Christians. You know the ones who have an answer to every problem, and spout a bunch of scripture at you in one breath with saliva and all... yeah, those kinds of Christians.

I don't have anything against Scripture. I love the Word of God, even when it cuts deep. Like I said, my issue is with those who call themselves Christians, but will be the first to criticize, judge and gossip about you.

Oh religion, how I hate thee... Where is the love?

I have to say, I don't love others nearly the way Christ wants me to. I realize I don't have it in me. If Jesus doesn't love through me, it ain't gonna happen.

Hollywood portrays their version of love, but that's not what biblical love is about. Love isn't about feelings or moods... it isn't about goose bumps and racing hearts.

Mature love is grounded, steady, selfless and resilient. Real love stands the test of time. [Tweet this]

Religious people don't know how to love others. All they know is how to preach scriptures, which doesn't even penetrate... because half the time, they have trouble believing in it themselves.

When the Word really buries deep in your heart, it will manifest in your life. Love will be evidenced by how you live, act, speak and treat others.

Unfortunately, there are tons of people in the pulpit who don't know how to genuinely express love toward others. They preach something they themselves don't live or practice from a real and authentic place. There is a total disconnect.

To me, this equals bondage and death. There is no life, only rote and ritual. Where is the passion?

I look to my left and to my right, and I don't see it evidenced anywhere. I just see a bunch of people filling up the pulpits and pews every Sunday. When they leave, you wouldn't even know they went to church. And if you watch closely, there is no evidence of Jesus in their life, just a bunch of empty words.

A sad state of affairs indeed, which is why we need revival.

So what's the answer? Surrender. How do we surrender? We pray and sincerely ask God to change our hearts to reflect His. We do not have the power to change ourselves. But God can and wants to. He is waiting on us to give up our "act" and come humbly to His throne.

God wants us to be real and authentic, not a bunch of actors memorizing lines on His stage called Life. [Tweet this]

I'm reading a very provoking and convicting book right now called Kingdom Journeys by Seth Barnes. This book is helping me understand why religion doesn't work. It's a dead end. God has so much more in store for us if we really take Him at His word.

I woke up this morning with this song on my mind, "Love is a Movement" by Switchfoot. The lyrics really speak to me.