Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A New Creation Dawns

Eternally amazed at His grace,
I yearn for the day I gaze at His face.
Warmth and love took the place,
Where the old once stood cold.
God's love lives bold.
But, at what cost was I sold?
Sin drove each nail.
As it bore into skin, a face drew pail.
With each breath labored, to no avail.
Death would be conquered just not yet.
Sorrow, pain, anguish, regret.
Where is our Hope?
Where did He go?
Three days in waiting.
Grief wasn't anticipating.
A new dawn was emerging.
The Son again shining.
A new creation born for believing.
In one breath, everything changed.
"For He is risen!"


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Changing Seasons

     Isaiah 40:8--- The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

     As I sit here on my couch in the middle of summer, I am reminded of autumn. There is a cool breeze blowing through the screen door while the leaves are filtering through the day's last light, shadows dancing across the floor. I much prefer this temperate weather than endure the scorching heat of summer or the bone-piercing cold of winter. As summer approached I was already awaiting the arrival of cooler weather. Ironically, I live in the High Desert where both extremes are not uncommon. Here it is where I ponder.
      You see, the seasons are always changing. There isn't a day that passes that will never come again. Time moves forwards whether we like it or not. Sometimes that is a very wonderful thought, to know whatever hardships you are enduring will pass. Time seems very relevant in the hard times, wishing it would only hurry up. In fact, there are moments that stand still forever etched in our memories. When a loved one passes on our world stops spinning, all the while everyone goes on without us. Or when we are faced with unemployment or heartache, time crawls torturing our souls.
      Then on the other hand, our wedding days were enjoyed not long enough. The jubilant moment our child was placed in our arms for the very first time was one we only wish could be replayed, relived. Those are the seasons in life that come and go in the blink of an eye. Those are the times I wish I could push the pause button and savor each delectable morsel slowly, intensely, selfishly.
     Time is a funny thing. Have you ever had the pleasure to watch a toddler's gears turn trying to make sense of this thing called time? Their grasp of minutes, hours and days is amusing. Months and years for them are even more mind-boggling and all the more hilarious to watch while they grasp at such an abstract concept. My youngest son loves to say that he hasn't done this or that for 14 years. No kidding. He is only seven. It is his way of saying he hasn't done that in a long time.
     Yet, it is our wonderful Creator who created time in the Beginning.  Genesis 1:14 reads, "And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years,..." Day and night serve us well. We rise up as dawn welcomes us every morning. The evening readies us for sleep. Our food sources depend upon time and seasons, weather and moments. Even those days move forward. Frankly, we need every season for this earth to sustain us, just as people need to move through seasons to experience life as God wills it to occur. We become fuller, more understanding, empathetic souls for it. Only as I bring an awareness to the moment can I attempt to live it fully for everything that it is worth.
     As things continually change I can count on the one constant in our world, our God and His Word. He is unchanging. When our world seems to flash before my eyes leaving me dizzy and imbalanced I am steadied by God's immutable, eternal character, His very being. Come what may, God never changes and that we can always depend upon.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Capturing the Moment for His Glory

     Every time I feel like things are settling, it seems God stirs things up. It can be little things or the large looming clouds that pour out but, it is always unexpected. Really by now, I would imagine I would know God's ways. Then again, if that was the case my God wouldn't be nearly as big as He truly is. I love Isaiah 55:8-9 for just this very reason. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." God is so immense and glorious I will never know and understand all of His ways. That is a good thing.
     However, it is hard to wait upon Him at times. Let's face it, we are not born patient. Just when I think I have patience nailed down, a situation arises and all of my patience is thrown to the wind and I am on pins and needles. And that is when Isaiah 46:10 works its way into my heart. "He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
     The first half of this verse is often quoted.  I do have to be still and listen for His voice. The second half is just as reassuring to me. It is in knowing that it is God who is to be exalted and lifted up, not me. So, all my impatience is a vain attempt to lift my own wants up. God knows what is best for me and how I work into His plan. If He wants me to wait for events to unfold as He sees fit that bodes well for me. He is an omnipotent, omniscient God. It is in accepting my place in humility and acknowledging Christ as Lord that my soul finds rest.
     I wonder how many times impatience has dampened my mood. How many minutes have been misused because I was caught up in selfishness? Oh, there are many moments I wish I could redeem and use them for His glory. When we exalt our Lord finding rest, we will find joy. Our hearts will be calmed in the storm and we can savor the moment for what God created it to be. Just as every moment has potential, we do too. Yet, if we are wasting the moment, are we not wasting our potential as well to  become the full creations He has so tenderly cared for? That is a sobering question to ponder.
    There is nothing more that I want to do but, live for my Lord praising Him for all He is. We can praise Him as we rise and welcome His tender mercies (see Lamentations 3:22-23). As we live out each moment, we can breathe out small prayers and thanksgiving. We can love others as He loves us without hindrance, just pure love flowing out of our very being. Finally, as we lay our heads upon our pillows we can thank God for carrying us through another day and letting us breathe another breath. Every breath is a gift even if we don't know yet the potential it may unleash. In turn, we can live each moment as an offering to God.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: An Enjoyable Mystery

Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of Blood and Bone: A Novel by Don Hoesel in exchange for an honest review.
     Blood and Bone takes the reader across the world alongside Dr. Jack Hawthorne and his wife, Espy. Thirteen years ago, they held in their hands the bones of the prophet, Elisha, burying them in Australia. With the burial, the couple had hoped they had hidden their old life of antiquities and hunting trading it in for the life of a suburban family. Much to their surprise, one call changes their pace of life and sends them on the fast track of the hunting trail once again.
     Between having a CIA agent and a secret society in charge of protecting the bones on their tail, their very lives are in peril. During a two-week journey that leads them to several cities on five different continents they find themselves seeking refuge in dark corners, all the while looking for the bones. Jack and Espy need these bones in exchange for their two sons.
      This book is certainly different from my usual reading fare. It was a nice change of pace, once I finally was drawn into the book. The first chapter was slow going. By page 75 though, I was hooked. For all the twists and turns Blood and Bone keeps the reader's attention. Some parts I found a little confusing as the scene quickly changed and read over them to make sure I was keeping up with the turn of events. I guess every mystery needs exhilarating, heart-quickening exchanges between characters.
     I use to be a fan of the Alex Cross series, although the obscene language was bothersome. In fact, that is why I don't read them anymore. The language in Blood and Bone is pleasant and yet, the emotions that Hoesel wanted to portray come clearly off the page. When Jack is seething with anger, you get the gist. There are a few gruesome scenes but, nothing I couldn't stomach. If the thought of skeletons bother you, then this mystery is not for you. I appreciated the history behind the story.
     Blood and Bone is a bit far-fetched but, intriguing. If you are fan of mysteries or history, then this book is recommended. If you are looking for something different, then it might be for you as well. The best portion is towards the end. It makes you question: Who or what is your God?


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book Review: Listening to Negative Emotions

BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Runaway Emotions: Why You Feel the Way You Do and What God Wants You to Do About It by Jeff Schreve in exchange for an honest review.
     We all experience the highs and lows of life sending us on an emotional roller coaster at times. Yet, many ignore the negative emotions and can suffer the consequences. But, what if there is a better way? What if we were to listen to our emotions and see them as an alarm sounding letting us know something is off?
     Author Jeff Schreve surmises that much and more in Runaway Emotions. God has given us a wide gamut of emotions to experience from the positive to the negative. Every human has needs that need to be met. When these needs are unmet than our emotional health becomes misaligned.  Schreve observes that those emotions are indicating a problem. For example, embarrassment is letting you know that your sense of self-worth is low. When we realize that our worth is in Christ our sense of self is secure and unshakable. In kind, the reader will work through loneliness, frustration, worry, anger, guilt, discontentment and depression. These emotions all have one main thing in common: they all lead us to God.
     I was impressed with the content of the book. He uses a sensible approach. It is biblically-based, yet is very personable and compassionate. The author validates the emotions we all go through without going so far to say we are spiritually sick or incompetent. Although, our spiritual health is certainly connected to our emotional health. I have found some books on mental health to be callous and critical of the suffering. Kudos to Schreve for having heart and allowing others to as well.
     Unfortunately, I have suffered some of these emotions and ailments intensely. However, I have seen the light of Christ and can validate the presented material. It is one of those books I could have utilized myself many times over in the past. The great part is now I can utilize it as a help to encourage others who are suffering, for none of our suffering is in vain.
     Runaway Emotions could make a nice gift for someone you know is suffering if you are in a great place with that person. Emotions are so personal that I would use caution placing this book in an other's hands. It would be prudent to read through it yourself first. If you are the one suffering, grab the book and delve in. Pray for strength and guidance and use Runaway Emotions as a jumping off point to begin your emotional healing.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review: Good to Know Prequel

Bethany House Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story by Dee Henderson in exchange for an honest review.
     I have never read a book in the O'Malley series by Henderson, but that is soon going to change. I am familiar with the author a bit and was excited to read anything by her. This small prequel introduces Jennifer O'Malley. She is an orphan who found a family amongst other abandoned children. Maintaining a strong tie to her happenstance family she finds her identity within that unit. Jennifer, is a well-renown children's physician in Texas, far removed from her hometown of Chicago. Here her life unfolds.
     Tom Peterson, a fellow physician, slowly walks into Jennifer's heart. Apprehensive to give her heart to another, Jennifer has to warm up to the idea of love from Tom and Jesus. Jennifer sees the light shining within Tom and allows him to introduce her to the Almighty God. It is in the acknowledgement there may be something to Tom's life, something she doesn't have, that Jennifer begins to yearn for herself.
     Dee Henderson does a phenomenal job of developing Jennifer. Her character possesses inhibitions that we all possess in one way or another.  I wanted to get to know this character more as Jennifer went on. She is written with a transparency that is refreshing and real. Past issues and events make up the person she is now. The story line moves along well enough to hold my attention.
      I highly recommend Henderson fans and readers of the O'Malley series to grab Jennifer. It is 154 pages long (or short- call it what you will) and holds a complexity and richness within. Apparently, I found a new series that is vying for my attention soon.