Tuesday, November 18, 2014

New Role: Book Reviewer- TRADING SECRETS and THE CHRISTMAS CAT

So a few months ago I found out from a friend, a fellow book lover, that publishing agencies accept book reviewers. I looked up Baker on the web and signed my name to the line. Within a few weeks I received an email of a list of books to choose from to read and write a review. For a book lover, this list was like Thanksgiving dinner. My eyes were certainly bigger than my stomach. Or in this case, my eyes were bigger than my brain. I did exhibit a little bit of restraint when I choose only three books to read and review by the middle of this month.

You are my shipmates accompanying me on my maiden voyage of book reviewing.

Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

The first book that I read for review is titled Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson. It is a book for the teenage audience. I found the book to be delightful, interesting and easy to read. The story centers around two young people in vastly different lifestyles. Michah, a young believer who lives as an "englischer", and Zach an Amish young man. Michah and Zach have been pen pals for over five years and as they approach the end of their teenage years they decide that they would like to meet in person. Sweet enough. Interesting enough.

The plot twister; Michah is a girl! All along Zach believes Michah to be his dear friend from the english world. He related to Michah as one guy to another guy. Upon meeting, both characters encounter strain and stress in their relationship due to the deception that Michah has allowed to go unchecked. Melody does a great job of giving words to the inner workings and thoughts of two very different young people. She keeps the reader interested and engaged throughout the entire story. I liked how the characters friendship was the main focus of the book. I appreciated that romantic interest was not highlighted throughout the story. It's a refreshing change from constant bombardment of expected romantic involvement in stories.

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

The second title that I read was The Christmas Cat also by Melody Carlson. I must start by saying that I LOVED this book! I have greatly enjoyed all of the Christmas books that Melody has written. When I saw that this title was listed as a choice for the book reviewers I jumped on it right away. However, I waited until the very last minute to read it, as I wanted to be closer to the Christmas season.

In this book we find a young man, Garrison, who has inherited the responsibility of re-homing his grandmother's six precious cats in order to take possession of his inheritance. The story is delightful and funny. As a self-proclaimed cat lover,I can picture the cats one by one. Melody did a fabulous job of character development with the human characters as well as the feline ones. I enjoyed how the cats at first were a nuisance and a source of allergic troubles to Garrison. But over time he comes to appreciate each one and even warms up to the sweet Maine Coon named Harry. This book is a fast and easy read, perfect for the winter and holiday season. It is endearing and lighthearted. Perfect for reading on a cold and wintery day with a mug of coffee and a blanket!




Monday, October 13, 2014

Repurposed: Sarah and Rahab

Since I last posted we have traveled down the road of life and faith with Sarah and Rahab. Their stories and lives have impacted me and caused me to think of the many ways that my life resembles theirs. I'm just continually amazed by how God uses the lives of His people to bring glory to Himself. And not just that, He uses their lives and their experiences to teach them something about themselves. He seeks to comfort them in their distress and in their confusion. He stands with them giving support in each area of responsibility that they have.

Let's travel back to the tents and camels of Sarah and Abraham. Sarah's default is manipulation. My first thought when opening my bible study to the week on Sarah was "I probably won't relate too much to this week's study material". Wow...was I ever wrong! I have never considered myself a manipulative person. My default is quite the opposite, run from conflict. I had a faulty assumption that manipulation was characterized by active measures to get what you want. That is just not me. But as I looked deeper into Sarah's life and past the things that she did to manipulate the fulfillment of God's promise, I saw into her heart. What I saw was a woman who didn't trust God to come through on what He said He would do. I saw a woman too focused on the physical world and the power within herself that she almost missed the blessing all together. As I studied her life and considered her situation giving thought to her pattern of default, I found myself staring into my own hazel eyes.

I am Sarah too.

God has promised that I would be blessed and I am. He has promised that my life would have significance and it does. He has promised that He will never leave me and He never has. Yet, I doubt Him time and time again. Like Thomas doubting the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, I have doubted the activity of the Lord in my life. I pridefully say "I want to see the nail scars, I want to see the wound in His side". Maybe it's not so much pride these days. I know that He has changed my heart. I think it wasn't pride for Thomas either. Jesus knew his heart also and He allowed that doubt in Thomas. When He appeared to Thomas He told him to come and see the wounds in his hands, feet, and side. He invited Thomas to come and put his hand into the areas. He commanded Thomas to not doubt but believe. And after he commands this of Thomas He says blessed are they who believe but do not see.

That is me.

Jesus understands my doubts and confusion. He meets me in the middle of them. He allows them to enter my mind so that my faith is made stronger. And He has never, ever, ever let me down. Even when I feel let down and confused by the seemingly lack of activity in my life, He is there. Sarah taught me a lot!

Now lets travel to the city of Jericho. Here we meet a woman named Rahab. She is a woman of ill-repute. Her choices in life have landed her on the doorstep of the oldest profession in the world: prostitution. Her default to life's struggles is sexual promiscuity. Although this has never been part of my story I have known many women with a promiscuous past. In my conversations with them I have found a deep brokenness resulting from giving their bodies in a way that the Lord never intended. The assumption that is made about the life of the promiscuous woman is that she has no dignity and no boundaries. I would venture to say that what lies beneath is a deep sense of shame from the deep well of sin. Our Rahab was a woman who no doubt suffered deep shame. But the amazing thing is how God attended to her need and forgave her sinful lifestyle. He allowed the two Israelite men to enter her home and business and treat her with respect and kindness. He determined that she was worth saving. There was action necessary for the survival of her family but it was not what determined her worth. God used her to bring about His plan to save not just her but all mankind for Jesus came from her line.

I am Rahab too.

I have made choices that cause the shame within to flare up. Over the years I have learned valuable lessons on how not to let shame define me but I've yet fully understood how to completely give it over to Jesus. Rahab trusts the men and in turn trusts the Lord. She makes a choice to step out with tremendous courage and her risk is acknowledged. She inherits a new identity with her leap of courage. True to their word, the two men return and take Rahab and her family to safety outside of the Israelite camp. We learn as we read further that Rahab didn't stay outside the boundaries of the camp for long. She is welcomed in as a new daughter when she marries Salmon. Before long she and Salmon welcome baby Boaz into their family. And if you are a reader of scripture, you know where Boaz comes into the picture of the story of Jesus. He is the wonderful kinsman redeemer that saves Ruth from a lifetime of widowhood. But that is another story for another week!

Rahab and Sarah. They both made choices apart from the guidance of the Lord. They both step out in faith and turn from their natural inclination to default. They both are used mightily in the plans of God. They both inherit a new identity.

Sarah the barren one becomes Sarah the mother of nations.

Rahab the prostitute becomes Rahab the princess.

I am Sarah and Rahab. A woman drawn to default. A woman drawn to manipulation. A woman seduced by the trappings of the world. I too have encountered the Lord. And in my small but great courage, I have received a new identity.

I am no longer Bethany the manipulative one, the one who runs away from pain and conflict, the one who's shame defines her.

I am Bethany, a Daughter of the King of Kings, loved and cherished, valued, chosen, and redeemed. I am a child of God who has been set free.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Repurposed: Hagar

I met Colleen six years ago. The season was Spring of 2009 and it was the weekend of my church's annual women's retreat. I was in a place of stress, confusion, transition and depression. Toward the end of the last session Colleen shared her story and it touched my heart so deeply that I was inwardly and outwardly affected. Tears that had not fallen for a very long time fell freely. God used her story to break through to me that I was never alone and wasn't currently alone. I made a commitment to my friends Robin and Sue to contact Colleen for counseling on the Monday following retreat. It was the first time that I followed through with a challenge of accountability. It was one of the best decisions that I have made in life.

The day that I made the phone call I felt fearful, timid, and unsure about contacting this woman who had shared her heart. I was afraid of opening my heart to her, exposing my hidden thoughts and guarded experiences. But I knew that I had to step out for my pain was so deep and I was hurting so bad. I knew from the first moment we met that Colleen was a safe and trustworthy person. Her background in counseling was the reason I choose to seek her counsel. But it was her vulnerability and tenderness with us and with Jesus that drew me like a moth to the flame. Over the course of time I received counsel but the sweeter gift was that I gained a treasured mentor and friend. During these six years of knowing each other I've been encouraged to trust Jesus because He is always with me. I've been challenged to surrender my heart to Him. I've been reminded of the value and importance of prayer. I've been lovingly confronted about the sinfulness of my tendency to self-pity.

God has changed my life through the friendship that I share with my sweet mentor. I have grown to know Him better and more intimately. I hope that Colleen and I will be in contact for the rest of our natural lives. But if that is not to be, I know that I will enjoy eternity with her praising Jesus forever and ever.

This fall we are going through Colleen's second bible study. She has titled it Repurposed: Do-overs, change-ups, turn-arounds, and other miracles of grace. I know Colleen's story. It is a story of tragedy, traumatization, brokenness, and deep depression. It is a story of a broken woman transformed by the love of Jesus. It is a story that points to the unwavering GRACE and FREEDOM found in JESUS alone.

As I thought about the title, Repurposed, I wondered what the study would be about. I took a guess based on our many hours of discussion that it would be about how God turns our darkness into light. On Monday night we gathered together to be introduced to this newest study in a night of fellowship. Colleen gathered the women who will teach each week and had a dinnertime discussion. They shared their hearts and introduced the women of the study.

This week we have entrenched ourselves in the life of Hagar. As I have worked through the daily lessons I have found that I am like Hagar. Her default is the victim mentatlity while her potential is her obedience, servitude, and passion for justice. Hagar was mistreated and taken advantage of. She did what she was ordered to do. I cannot imagine the confusion, fear, and utter disgust that she must have felt when told that she would be given to her mistress's husband. The resulting pregnancy would provide Sarah and Abraham with an heir. I can't even comprehend it. But I know the feeling of being used and mistreated. There have been many times over the course of my life that I have suffered. I too have struggled with the victim mentality. Remember when I said that Colleen has lovingly confronted me with my self-pity! It is my default when I don't understand life and feel pain. Hagars obedience resulted in conception. She would soon become a mother. With this realization and reality both Sarah and Hagar respond. Sarah with harhness toward her servant and Hagar with running from her problem.

I have run away as a means of escape over the course of my life. The first time I was a newly turned 16 year old. I wanted escape from the chaos that was my home. With my newfound freedom as a liscensed driver I thought that I was mature enough to make such a decision. Reflecting back now, I realize that I was not. I was a teenager in pain overwhelmed by confusion. I was searching for escape, stability and safety. Jesus had me protected in the palm of His hand that night that I left. He has protected me every day since. He was protecting me every day before. As I grew older my running away was not so literal. The sorrow of an unrealized dream has resulted in seasons of running away. I've run from my friends, I've run from my family, but I've never run from Jesus. He has been and continues to be my steadfast rock. My lighthouse.

Hagar takes matters into her own hands and decides to run. In her running, Jesus follows. As she runs she encounters the Angel of the Lord in the wilderness. Her encounter with the angel leads her to the realization that she is not alone, she is not unseen. She cannot leave the place without marking her experience. I like to think that had Hagar lived in our generation she would have been a blogger or a writer. She commemorated her experience with words. The title that would remind her that she was never alone. Beer-lahai-roi: The well of the Living One who sees me.

As I've read through this weeks work I too have been reminded that God sees me. He has seen me from before my conception. He saw me as I entered this world. He saw me as a little girl in her room afraid of the sounds of angry voices coming from the front room. He saw me as I ran out the house on the cold night in November 1991 and watched over me as I drove around heart pounding and tears streaming down my face. He saw me and protected me as I slept fitfully in my car that night. He saw me when no one else seemed to. He saw me and loved me when I desperately needed it. He saw me as I moved from my teenage years into my young adult years. He saw every day of my four years of college and knew the stress that I was under. He saw me as I entered the workforce as a college graduate with my heart naive to the coldness of the world and those within it. He saw me on the day that I lost my career and protected me from the dark thoughts that battered my mind. He saw me as I sat broken on a row in a church 50 miles from my home. He saw every tear that fell from my eyes and collected them. These past six years, Jesus has seen every day of my life. He has drawn me to himself and has assured me that I AM NOT ALONE. He sees me today and knows where I am, what I do, what I think, and how I feel.

Hagar and I both have learned a life changing lesson: that no matter what we face, Jesus sees.

I love that I get to share these experiences with Colleen. She is my friend, my mentor, and my bible study teacher. She has been and continues to be one of the sweetest blessings in my life.

This song by Kari Jobe is a perfect musical rendition of what Jesus has taught me.





Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fighting Idolism

Bel bows down, Nebo Stoops low;
their idols are borne by beasts of burden.
The images that are carried about are burdensome,
a burden for the weary.

Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all you who remain of the house of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since you were conceived,
and have carried since your birth.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:1,3-4

Idolism is a fast growing cancer. It begins with something so small. Before you are aware of it, it has metastasized into a life threatening illness. One that seeks to destroy you in every way.

When you are overtaken by idols remember that the Lord has upheld you since conception. He has carried you since your entrance into this world. He will carry you until your hair grays with age.

He made you.

He sustains you.

He carries you.

He rescues you.

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Manna for Today

Lately I have been grappling with feeling unimportant and not valued. I have let the words exit my mouth when really they should have stayed in. If I have learned anything over the past 5 years it is that I must rehearse truth to myself and others in order to combat the lies of satan.

I have failed.

No, I rephrase: I have had a setback.

I have fallen from my stable place and slipped back into the pit that menaces that I am unable to change. It is a place where satan lives. It is a place of lowness and darkness and sadness. It is a place where I am most afraid and yet most at home. I don't want to live in that place anymore. I am a conqueror. I have a Saviour who died so that I could be free from death and guilt. He died so that I could be free from the clutches of satan and his demons.
I have dreams in my life that have gone unfulfilled. I am angry, saddened, confused about the fact that they are unrealized dreams. I've entertained the thought that Jesus died for me becasue He had to not because He chose to.

Ridiculous but honest.

I can't understand why Jesus would chose singleness for me. I have spent a lifetime feeling lonely and looking forward to the day that I would have someone who would love me and me only. Someone who would want to hear what I have to say. Someone who would be excited to hear my voice.

Unrealized dreams.

I have concluded that I am not enough for these gifts. Valuable enough, pretty enough, good enough.

Rather than point my life down that dark road I must turn around and head in the direction of the Light of Life.

Today I resolve to take a step in the direction of Jesus' light by reminding myself of these essential truths about my life.

1. Jesus died to save me
"For God so loved the world (bethany) that He gave his only Son that whoever (bethany) believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16

2. The Lord made me with purpose and plans
"For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

3. Jesus' death bought my freedom
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us (bethany) free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

4. I am made new
"Therefore, if anyhone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" 2 Corinthians 5:17

5. My sins are not catalogued
"As far as the east is from the west, so far does He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

6. I am a witness to others
"The righteous are like a light shining brightly..." Proverbs 13:9a

7. I am loved
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness." Jeremiah 31:3

8. My pain is a reminder of my dependency on Jesus
"He strengthens those who are weak and tired." Isaiah 40:29

9. My life has weight and value
"For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

10. I can change
"and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:23-24

Saturday, December 14, 2013

1,000 Gifts Christmas Edition

Celebrating THE GIFT of Christ this Christmas.

I am blessed beyond what my mind can fathom. 2013 has been a year of many blessings as I've learned, and continue to learn, how to walk daily with Jesus. This path that we've been on has been marked by joys little and large. The following list is my small token of putting to computer screen what has danced across the screen of my mind and heart.

Christmas Gifts

1. Twinkle lights on the tree
2. Ornanments new and old
3. Fuzzy sock Christmas party with friends
4. Peppermint hot chocolate
5. Chilly mornings sipping hot beverages
6. Jesus in the morning
7. Jesus during the day
8. Jesus at night
9. All manner of Christmas music on Pandora
10. Gifts piling under the tree and the money with which to buy them
11. Unexpected work bonus
12. Anticipation of Kitchen Aid Mixer that is my Christmas gift to myself
13. Warmth of Zoe the kitty as she sits next to me as I sit next to Jesus each morning
14. Mailbox filling with Christmas greetings from friends and family near and far
15. The rush and bustle of the season
16. The stillness and quiet of the season
17. San Francisco trip with Sue
18. The City all lit up
19. Sight of 4 little nephews and niece bundled in new jammies
20. Lighting of my simple advent candles on Sunday nights

Sunday, March 17, 2013

1,000 Gifts

I recently read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I know that a lot of you bloggers out there have read it. And many of you have started chronicling your own list of 1,000 gifts. I've struggled with keeping my mind stayed on Jesus and his blessings over my life. I am a habitual worrier and negative thinker. I've had some victory in this area recently with the help and patience of a very good friend and mentor as well as my amazing counselor. In order to work on what is going in my mind and what I am thinking on each day, I've decided to begin counting my blessings. So, here is the beginning of my own 1,000 gifts.

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1. Zoe, who sits right next to me on the couch no matter what I am doing. Typing on my blog, reading a book, working on my bible study, or just catching a show.

2. The sound of the breeze blowing through the trees and the tinkling of my wooden windchimes.

3. Sunday mornings at Big Valley Grace.

4. Neighbors who have taken me under their wing and into their hearts.

5. Watching a friend who I love and respect so much worship her Lord, worship my Lord, worship our Lord.