Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Finding Peace In Troubled Times by William Moss

Peace is perhaps the most elusive, miraculous phenomenon in the human experience. From the kindergarteners arguing on the playground to the world powers storing up technologically advanced weapons, we clearly struggle to coexist peacefully with each other. Yet for all our efforts to generate peace between people, we often overlook the importance of finding peace within ourselves. Though we long for this inner peace, our world full of war, famine, bank collapses, pandemics, and day-to-day struggles has discouraged us from even trying to find it.



In his new book, Finding Inner Peace During Troubled Times, author William Moss shows readers that inner peace is indeed attainable in the person and presence of Jesus. As a high-powered businessman and a key political decision-maker, Moss has faced his share of daily distractions. For over a decade, he has studied and practiced the lost art of Christian meditation. “I believe God wants us to find peace and will show us the way, if we are willing to accept it. But for many, the peace of God is elusive. They are not sure how to accept it or where to begin in their pursuit of it,” says Moss. “There are many difficulties, distractions, and hardships that stand in the way of our inner peace. Sometimes these are due to our circumstances. Other times it is our sin or the attitudes of our hearts that stand between us and the inner peace we crave. Through prayer and meditation we can transcend all the distractions and difficulties of our days if we live by the Spirit and put God’s love and presence first.”


Many believers are wary of any form of meditation because of its association with Eastern religions. These Christians might be surprised to learn that meditation was regarded as a key spiritual discipline throughout church history. Eastern meditation focuses on emptying the mind completely. Christians find inner peace by filling their minds—with scripture and with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Another fundamental difference is the motivation behind the meditation. Peace, like life, is a gift from God that is for His glory—and it is meant to be shared. For those who are in Christ, meditation is not about practicing the kind of self-focus that precludes people from being involved in the solutions of the many problems that confront them. It is communion with God through the Holy Spirit. It is letting go of anger, worry, and fear and taking on the loving, serving character of Christ instead.


Finding Inner Peace During Troubled Times uses key scriptures to demonstrate God’s gift of peace to every believer. This slender book encourages readers to be intentional about pursuing that peace, even including a simple, step-by-step example of Christian meditation. This is a perfect book to take anywhere you go, put in your purse, backpack or briefcase and refer to throughout the day.

This is a very short book, 26 pages, but the author packs some valuable insights into it on how to achieve inner peace. Though is may sound like some kind of self-help book, it is Bible-based, and he uses Scripture verses throughout it. In addition, there are also places to write thoughts and prayers. Though I thought the book could have been expanded on and more written, it is a nice little book for people seeking peace.

About the author:


Born in Wyoming 1920, William Moss grew up in the oil fields of Odessa, Texas. After graduating from Baylor University and serving in the U.S. Air Corps during World War II, Moss embarked on a career that would involve oil and gas exploration, ranching, securities, motion pictures, television, charities, and religious organizations.


As he gained business experience, Moss quickly gained recognition as a visionary and wise leader. His business expertise extends far beyond the field of oil and gas. He has overseen the organization and operation of over 15 companies and taken a leadership role in many civic, spiritual, and educational endeavors.

Moss was a member of the Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Investment Committee, and a member of the Executive Committee for the American University, Washington, D.C. He was a member of the Southern Methodist University Foundation for Business Administration and was appointed to the Executive Advisory Board of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. He founded the William Moss Institute, a charitable and educational organization at the American University.



Finding Inner Peace During Troubled Times is available from the Barnabas Agency.

Thanks to B&B Media for the review copy.

Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports by Shirl J Hoffman

Like most Americans, Christians love sports. They love team rivalries, the sports analogy/ sermon illustration, the thrill of playing, Christian celebrity athletes and even the church-hosted Super Bowl party complete with a five-minute half-time devotional. These are sacred institutions in Christian life; their prominence is seldom questioned. Yet, since 77 percent of evangelicals believe that the mass media is “hostile to their moral and spiritual values,” one wonders why evangelicals haven’t also sensed that hostility in media-bloated competitive sport contests. Christians frequently voice criticism about violence in video games, but violence in sports such as football and hockey, which involves their children more intimately and dangerously, is rarely examined.



Author Shirl Hoffman, Ed. D, believes it’s time for Christians to ask the hard questions. “The institution of sport has been so intricately woven into the fabric of our culture, and thus into the Christian culture, that criticism of sport or suggestions that sports be given a closer look often are viewed as cranky complaints by prigs who don’t know good fun when they see it,” Hoffman says. “The person who dares to ask whether the competitive ethic as celebrated in modern sports might conflict in important ways with the Christian worldview risks being labeled a ‘sport hater’.” In his new book, Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports, Hoffman draws attention to both the pitfalls and the spiritual opportunities missed by the carte blanche acceptance of current sports culture by Christians, particularly evangelicals.

This is NOT an anti-sports book. The author does address very well the issues of sports and the church and their effect on each other. I am a bit biased against sports, with good reason, but do feel the author did a great job on getting his points across without slamming sports and saying that Christians should have nothing to do with it. In fact, he says the opposite, but that the church does need to give sports their proper place, and the way Christians play sports should be different than non-Christians. It seems too many Christians leave their Christianity outside of the game, and even in sports, we should be Christ-like.

It has been said that sports is the god of America, and that may be true, though anything that is before God in our life can be a god. Reading this book would be helpful to anyone who is serving God and loves sports. Again, the book is not an attack on sports, but instead shows where sports needs to be in our lives as Christians.

About the author:

Shirl J. Hoffman, Ed.D is Professor Emeritus of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he served as head of the department for 10 years. He has served at all levels of education, beginning his career as a physical education teacher in White Plains, New York, before moving on to positions as head basketball coach at Westchester Community College (NY). After completing his graduate work at Teachers College, Columbia University, he served successively as professor at The King’s College (NY) and at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He taught at the University of Pittsburgh for 13 years where he was director of graduate studies in physical education, moving to University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1985. He has an extraordinarily broad background in the field spanning motor learning and performance, sociology of sports and sport philosophy

Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports is available from Baylor University Press.

Thanks to B&B Media for the review copy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn & Janette Oke

(This review is a bit later than I intended. Since this is book two, I picked up a copy of book one on Amazon  - for 7 cents! and read it first.

In first-century Judea, the followers of the Way have burgeoned into a vibrant, growing community that cannot be ignored. Jerusalem is in turmoil as its religious leaders on one side, and their Roman rulers on the other, conspire to stamp out the fledgling Church. And Abigail, who thought she had finally found home and safety, is caught between the opposing forces.



Two suitors desire the lovely Abigail's hand in marriage. Ezra, a successful Hebrew merchant and widower with important connections among the Sanhedrin, is looking for a mother for his children. The Roman soldier Linux is fascinated by her winsome charm and possibly could offer the sanctuary--maybe even the love--for which she yearns. But her heart has been captured by neither of these. Will her faith and courage survive a heartbreak beyond comprehension as the followers face a gathering storm of persecution they never could have foreseen?


A glimmer of hope beckons Abigail forward.

The Hidden Flame is the second book in the Acts of Faith series. The first book, The Centurion's Wife,  starts out in the days following Jesus' crucifixion and follows His followers up through His ascension. The second book picks up where it left off and continues following the early church and the apostles. In addition to some fictional characters, there are also real Biblical people such as Peter, John, Stephen, and even Saul (Paul) in the story. One person who does not appear in the book is Jesus, which I found interesting. He is mentioned and talked about of course, but the authors never have a scene with him in, which I actually liked - for maybe Jesus shouldn't be fictionalized at all.

Davis & Bunn have done an excellent job of staying true to the Biblical story, and drawing on it to give new insights into what the days of the early church was like. They cover Annanias and Sapphira's dishonest dealings and their horrible penalty, and even the stoning of Stephen. I enjoyed this book, and the one that came before it, and appreciated the glimpse it gave me into what life might have been like for the earliest followers of Jesus. We so often glamorize it and envy them, but they didn't have it all that easy.

Read an excerpt here.

About the authors:

Davis Bunn is an award-winning novelist whose audience spans reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings. He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write. Visit Davis' Web site at http://www.davisbunn.com/.


Janette Oke (pronounced "oak") pioneered inspirational fiction and is the leading author in the category today. Love Comes Softly, her first novel, has sold over one million copies. Janette is now the bestselling author of over 70 books, 32 of which have been translated into fourteen languages. Her books have sold over 22 million copies.


Janette receives fan mail from all over the world and answers each letter personally. She received the 1992 President's Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for her significant contribution to Christian fiction, the 1999 CBA Life Impact Award and has been awarded the Gold Medallion Award for fiction. Janette and her husband, Edward, have four grown children and enjoy their many grandchildren. They make their home in Canada.

The Hidden Flame is available from Bethany House Publishers.

Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the review copy.

Value Fiction Blog Tour

This blog tour spotlights Waterbrook/Multnomah's Value Fiction line: previously published books that have been reprinted and given new covers and low prices of $6.99. Participants in this blog tour were given two random titles. Up first, is Yesterday's Promise by Linda Chaikin. It is the second book in a series.

He fought to seek his fortune.


Would he lose a greater treasure: the love he left behind?

As the son of the squire of Grimston Way, aristocrat Rogan Chantry has fought hard to win his independence from Sir Julien Bley and the British South Africa Company. Now, his pursuit of a mysterious deposit of gold, marked on a map willed to him by his murdered uncle, Henry Chantry, is challenged by a new complication: the impending British colonization of South Africa. Can Sir Rogan find the gold in the midst of escalating tensions among the native tribesmen, the missionaries sent to win them, and the new colonists?


Meanwhile, Evy Varley, the woman Rogan loves back in England, is headed for a brave yet dangerous confrontation with Henry’s killer–but at what price? With so much against Rogan and Evy, a reunion seems improbable, if not impossible. Can yesterday’s promise hold them faithful to the hope of future freedom and a victorious love?
About the author:


Linda Lee Chaikin has written numerous best-selling and award-winning books and series, including the Silk series (Heart of India Trilogy), A Day to Remember series, The Empire Builders, Royal Pavilion Trilogy, Arabian Winds Trilogy, The Buccaneers Trilogy, and For Whom the Stars Shine, a finalist for the Christy Award. She and her husband make their home in Northern California.

Next up, Secrets, by Robin Jones Gunn, first in a series.

Jessica ran from her past...but can she hide from love?



Jessica Morgan wants desperately to forget the past and begin a new life. She chooses a small, peaceful town tucked away in Oregon’s Willamette Valley as the place to start over—Glenbrooke. Once there, Jessica conceals her identity from the intriguing personalities she meets—including the compassionate paramedic who desires to protect her and the jealous woman who wants nothing more than to destroy her.


Will Jessica’s deceit ruin all hope for the future? Or will she find a deeper peace that allows her to stop hiding the truth from those who love her most of all?


This heartwarming bestseller, book one in the Glenbrooke series, introduces the fascinating people of Glenbrooke in a compelling tale of romance and spiritual truth.

I read this book when it first came out several years ago, and though it is romance, thoroughly enjoyed it and the books that followed in the series. They are the only books I ever read by Gunn, since she writes books geared for women, but she has a delightful writing style, and comes up with likable and colorful characters. If you have never read the Glenbrooke Series, I recommend that you do.

About the author:

Robin Jones Gunn is the much-loved award-winning author of the Glenbrooke, Sisterchicks(R), Christy Miller, and Sierra Jensen series, with more than three million books sold worldwide. Robin lives with her family near Portland, Oregon.

Secrets & Yesterday's Promise are both available at WaterbrookMultnomah.com.

Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for the review copies.


Double Trouble by Susan May Warren

With one solved case under her belt, PJ Sugar is ready to dive into her career as a private investigator. Or at least a PI’s assistant until she can prove herself to Jeremy Kane, her new boss. Suddenly PJ’s seeing crime everywhere. But is it just in her head, or can she trust her instincts? When she takes on her first official case—house-sitting for a witness in protective custody—Jeremy assures her there’s no danger involved. But it soon becomes clear that there is someone after the witness . . . and now they’re after PJ, too.

This is the second book in a series, and I felt like I was jumping into the middle of the story - should have read the first book first. I still enjoyed the book though. Not only is it a good mystery, it also is a humorous story. Though more geared for women, I got into the story and probably liked the book as well as a woman reading it would. :-)

The characters in the book were real, likable, and amusing. If you have never read a book by Susan May Warren, this series would be a great place to start, but I would recommend reading the first book, Nothing But Trouble, first.

About the author:

Susan May Warren served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. Susan and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota and is a the author of several novellas and many novels with Tyndale House Publishers, including Happily Ever After, the American Christian Fiction Romance Writers' 2004 Book of the Year and a 2003 Christy Award finalist. Other books in that series include Tying the Knot and The Perfect Match. Following that, Susan wrote Team Hope, a three-book romantic-adventure series about a team of search-and-rescue workers. Reclaiming Nick, Taming Rafe, and Finding Stefanie comprise Susan's romantic Noble Legacy series set in Montana. Visit Susan's Web site at www.susanmaywarren.com.


Double Trouble is available from Tyndale Publishing.
 
Thanks to Litfuse for the review copy.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith - and giveaway

What price must she pay for true love?

Her days marked by turmoil and faded dreams, Abigail has resigned herself to a life with a man she does not love. But when circumstances offer her a second chance at happiness with the handsome David, she takes a leap of faith to join his wandering tribe. Still, her struggles are far from over. How can she share his love with the other women he insists on marrying?

Abigail follows the bestselling Michal and continues Jill Eileen Smith's rich story of David's wives.

I enjoy some Biblical fiction, and there is some that I do not. This book falls into the first category. I've always enjoyed reading about King David, and there is a lot written about him. One story that always caught my attention was the story of Abigail. The woman who took food to David and his men to save her household from David's wrath. Her wicked husband died from a heart attack, and she becomes one of David's wives.

I feel that the author, Jill Eileen Smith, did an excellent job of staying true to the Biblical narrative. Any Biblical fiction author has to add to and embellish the story, and she did in this book, but it did only add to the story. She also addressed the issues of multiple wives in a great way also. I highly enjoyed reading the book, and look forward to reading more in this series. And though this is the second book in The Wives of King David series - preceded by Michal - these books stand alone and can be read in any order.

About the author:

Jill Eileen Smith has more than twenty years of writing experience, and her writing has garnered acclaim in several contests. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill is the author of the bestselling Michal and lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

The giveaway:

The author has graciously agreed to give away a book, and this giveaway is a bit different. The winner has a choice - you can either pick this book, Abigail, or the first book in the series, Michal. To enter, comment by saying which book you would pick if you win. And these books can stand alone and can be read in any order.

I will pick a winner 10 days from today, on March 3, using Random.org.

U.S. entries only.

Available February 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Thanks to Revell for the review copy, and to the author for doing a giveaway.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Electronic Book Readers - my take

The Kindle, Nook, Ipad, and other electronic book readers are all the rage right now. My best friends don't have one, but want one. Me? Nah, no thanks.

I will admit the idea is somewhat cool, but I am a book lover. Not just someone who likes to read - I love books. There is a difference. Of course, I like to read the books too. Back when I actually had my own place and had bookshelves full of books, not packed away in boxes in a storage shed, I loved to sit on the floor, and pull a few books off of the shelf and look through them. Some had really cool/exciting endings that I liked to read again, or other parts in the book. Some are books with severak stories in, and I would turn the page to a favorite story or ancedote.

All of that is lost with an EBR. You can't feel the book, smell the book. OK, that might sound weird, but books do have a smell, especially if you've had them a long time.

I really can't come up with a reson to have an ERB. Convenience? How so? I have never, ever, been anywhere that I couldn't have just as easily taken a few books along than an EBR. Yeah, I know, you can store so many more books on one. So what. When I go on vacation for a week to the ocean, I usually take 10-12 books along, and they easily slide in under a seat or somewhere. I read fast, but even I wouldn't read 100 books on a week's vacation. 10-12 - yeah, I've done it.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I like to see and hold what I pay for. Music is the same way. Oh, I will download a song or two here and there, but if it is any artist I listen to much at all, and buy a whole CD of, I want the CD. I want to see it, feel it, read the song lyrics, and not just have it on my computer and Ipod. I do enjoy my Ipod, but 99% of what is on it, I have the actual CDs of and can stick in my car. And it is convenient to carry around a small item that fits in my pocket, but holds close to 5000 songs. Beats carrying a boombox and a ton of CDs - but I still like having the CDs.

Back to the EBR - it just isn't for me. One of my friends said you could buy the book and the electronic one - uh, no. I have never had that kind of money that I could afford two copies of a book, even if one were electronic, so for me, give me a book. A real paper book that I can feel in my hands. That I can phsyically turn the pages, and not click a little arrow or something. Is the EBR here to stay? I don't know, but if they depend on me to stay afloat, they won't last another day. Here is a toast to real, physical books!

Five Minutes In The Bible For Men by Bob Barnes

With valuable encouragement from the Bible, bestselling author Bob Barnes provides five-minute thoughts from the Scriptures to give men strength on their way. It shows them how to help one another grow in grace by how they build each other up with their words and hold one another to a high standard, turning to God’s Word to guide them daily.


Bob shares that men need other men in their lives to hold them accountable. They aren’t built to be without relationships with one another. Most importantly, real men really need God.

Perfect for the on-the-go, busy man, five-minute devotions may be all he needs to encourage him as he begins and finishes each day.

This isn't a year-long devotional, nor is it dated, so it can be started any time. I liked what I read of it. The author writes clear and concise devotionals with a short prayer and action at the end, and a space to write your thoughts under "reflections." I have looked through many devotionals for men, and this is one of the better. Barnes addresses everything from finances to friends to prayer. A great devotional for men.

First chapter here.

About the author:

Bob Barnes and his wife, Emilie, are the founders of More Hours in My Day time-management seminars and coauthors of Simple Secrets Couples Should Know and 15-Minute Devotions for Couples. Bob is also the coauthor and author of more than 25 books including Five Minutes in the Bible for Men, 5 Minute Bible Workouts for Men, and What Makes a Man Feel Loved.


Five Minutes For Men In The Bible is available from Harvest House Publishing.
 
Thanks to Harvest House for the review copy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Perfect People

One of my friends mentioned this song, so I looked it up, and like it. It goes well with what I have been trying to say in my "wearing masks" blog posts.

Perfect People by Natalie Grant


Never let 'em see you when you're breaking
Never let 'em see you when you fall
That's how we live and that's how we try
Tell the world you've got it all together
Never let them see what's underneath
Cover it up with a crooked smile
But it only lasts for a little while

[CHORUS:]

There's no such thing as perfect people
There's no such thing as a perfect life
So come as you are, broken and scarred
Lift up your heart and be amazed
And be changed by a perfect God


Suddenly it's like a weight is lifted
When you hear the words that you are loved
He knows where you are and where you've been
And you never have to go there again

[CHORUS]

Who lived and died to give new life
To heal our imperfections
So look up and see out let grace be enough

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kids

Disclaimer: I am in no way putting down or criticizing people who are unable to have children in this blog post.

I ran across a facebook group recently that really irritates me. It is called "Happy Childfree", and they describe themselves as "Childfreedom is choosing not to create or raise any children. It's about wanting to devote our lives to other objectives. For some that is their careers, for others their hobbies. Most childfree people recognize that parenting is a stressful, time-consuming and often... thankless job, and we'd rather do something else with our lives."

I'm not married, thought I want to be. Life just hasn't worked out the way I wanted it to. But... I love kids. If I were married, I'd have as many as I could afford to provide for. I do have 3 nieces and 3 nephews who I think the world of, and I dare say that I love them as much as many parents love their own children, and more than some do.

This groups has sparked a debate/argument between myself and a friend. She thinks it is fine and normal for people - and even Christians - to not want kids. At all. Ever. I think it is selfish (look at the description of the group above) and is the philosophy that has spawned the abortion industry - people not wanting kids, getting pregnant, and aborting the baby. I also believe it is going against what God wants if you can have children, and won't. I have seen couples who wanted careers, vacations, fun - all that, and felt kids would get in the way of what they wanted to do, so they opted not to have children. Some may say that is for the best, but I disagree. Sure, there are people unfit to be parents, but kids are great! We should have them, and the more the merrier.

I have argued up and down with her, and give up. She actually told me people can have selfish reasons for wanting kids. I have, however, decided to blog about it and see what God has to say about it.

Psalm 127: 3-5: Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

John 16:21: When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

Genesis 1:28: Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  ( I don't believe this command was just for Adam and Eve, but for all of us)

Genesis 8:17: Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth (spoken to Noah, but again, something for all mankind)

Matthew 18: 1-3: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

I am convinced that God loves kids. That His main purpose for marriage is procreation. And yes, some people are unable to have children, or even marry, but those who can, should. I am thankful that my two sisters are not part of this "happy childless" group, for though some might say I am selfish, I love being an uncle, and I am uncle to 6  of  the greatest kids in the world: Stephanie (14), Allison (11), Caitlin (9), Josiah (8), Benjamin (5), and Nathan (3). These 6 have brought so much joy and enjoyment to our family, I cannot imagine life without them.







So........ celebrate life, family, and kids. And you "happy childfree" people - be glad your parents weren't "happy childfree"

And I can handle polite comments disgreeing with me, but if your blogger profile is private, I will not publish your comment.

The Pastor's Wife by Jennifer AlLee


This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



The Pastor's Wife
Abingdon Press (February 2010)
by



Jennifer AlLee






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California and for the first 10 years of her life lived over a mortuary one block from Hollywood and Vine. An avid reader and writer, she completed her first novel in high school. That manuscript is now safely tucked away, never again to see the light of day. Her first inspirational romance, The Love of His Brother, was released in November 2007 by Five Star Publisher.



Besides being a writer, she is a wife and mom. Living in Las Vegas, Nevada, her husband and teenage son have learned how to enjoy the fabulous buffets there without severely impacting their waistlines. God is good!





ABOUT THE BOOK



Maura Sullivan never intended to set foot in Granger, Ohio, again. But when circumstances force her to return, she must face all the disappointments she tried so hard to leave behind: a husband who ignored her, a congregation she couldn't please, and a God who took away everything she ever loved.



Nick Shepherd thought he had put the past behind him, until the day his estranged wife walked back into town. Intending only to help Maura through her crisis of faith, Nick finds his feelings for her never died. Now, he must admit the mistakes he made, how he hurt his wife, and find a way to give and receive forgiveness.



As God works in both of their lives, Nick and Maura start to believe they can repair their broken relationship and reunite as man and wife. But Maura has one more secret to tell Nick before they can move forward. It's what ultimately drove her to leave him three years earlier, and the one thing that can destroy the fragile trust they've built.

My thoughts:

A very enjoyable read. I liked the characters and plot, and though fictional, it would be a great book for pastors and their wives to read as a reminder not to let ministry get in the way of their life and marriage.

If you would like to read the first Chapter of The Pastor's Wife , go HERE

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More on wearing masks

I blogged earlier this month about "the masquerade party", an attempt on my part to use satire to show how we Christians wear masks. One of my friends just commented with this:  I've been thinking about this for a while without commenting. I'm still not commenting, I'm questioning. What would a church look like if none of us wear our masks? How would we change the way we talk to others and about ourselves? Does no masks mean no secrets? Does it mean saying just what you think? Does it mean being who God created you to be and living as He redeemed you to live? I'm seriously asking.

I do not claim to be an expert on anything. Far from it in fact, but putting satire aside, I decided to talk a little more about wearing masks.

I am not advocating no secrets or just saying what we think. We need to use wisdom in what we share at church, or in private. However, I am afraid in so many of our churches that people are afraid to be real, open, and honest. Ever have a service where there was an altar service and even though you were a Christian, felt the need to go up and pray, but hesitated because you were afraid what people would think? Ever wanted to speak up and ask for prayer and admit you were really discouraged or struggling, but didn't, because you feared people might not think so highly of you?

I believe that all too many Christians are struggling. It may be a habitual sin that they are afraid would shock the church, doubts, mountains that seem insurmountable - but to appear weak, might appear un-Christian, so they paste a smile on their face and sit in their pew, even though they may be dying inside.

And this whole family of God thing plays into it also. We sing it at church - "when one has a heartache, we all share the tears" and "you will notice we say brother and sister 'round here......" and so forth - yet we are so afraid to be real with each other. If no one ever lets it be known that they have a heart ache/problem, how is anyone to share the tears? Or is that the way we want it to be? Go to church and get our weekly worship done, and pray that no one pushes us out of our comfort zone. That no one adds to our already too-long prayer list.

And yet, you don't want  the whole church on their feet crying about how hard they have it - a happy medium is needed. If a person thinks they are the only one having a battle, a mountain, a struggle - it can be downright discouraging. I find it encouraging when I know someone else has a struggle or doubts. Makes me realize maybe I'm not out on a limb all by myself.

If we could go back to the days of the early church, I think we'd all be shocked. I believe that they really knew what the family of God was about. People were added to the church daily, and if you read what Paul wrote, some of them were dealing with some pretty big stuff. I seriously doubt there were too many masks being worn then, so when did we decide it was so necessary?

About four years ago, I was privileged for a week to be among a group of people who were not afraid to be real. For the most part, they all were dealing with the same thing, and it was freeing to be there. I wish I could paint a word picture of the worship that went up. It was truly amazing, and I truly think one big reason was no one there had to hide who they were. What they struggled with. They played a music video there of an artist I don't normally listen to, but this song had some pretty powerful words for a mask-wearer, or even former mask-wearers. The crowd actually "went wild" when it was played. The song was "Hide" by Joy Williams. Check out the lyrics:

To anyone who hides behind a smile

To anyone who holds their pain inside
To anyone who thinks they're not good enough
To anyone who feels unworthy of love
To anyone who ever closed the door
Closed their eyes and locked themselves away


You don't have to hide
You don't have to hide anymore
You don't have to face this on your own
You don't have to hide anymore


So come out, come out, come out wherever you are
To anyone who's tryin' to cover up their scars
To anyone who's ever made a big mistake
We've all been there, so don't be ashamed
Come out, come out and join the rest of us
You've been alone for way too long


And if you feel like no one understands
Come to the One with scars on His hands
'Cause He knows where you are, where you've been
His scars will heal you if you let Him

Pretty cool song, huh? I've put a youtube video of the song at the end of this post, so check it out if you like Contemporary Christian music.

We have some extremes in the church world. Some churches teach that we sin every day in thought, word, and deed. Some teach that once you become a Christian, no matter what sin you do, you will go to Heaven. Others believe you can live above sin, and that you can fall from grace. Others yet belive that sinning should be rare, but Christians are going to mess up and do it occasionally. I am not going to debate all that, but I will say that I am afraid some of us may have such a high standard set that when some people are having a hard time measuring up, whether it be a "besetting sin", or some issue that isn't sin-related at all, but is weighing us down - that we are afraid to let it be known.

James 5:16 says "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." My church/denomination isn't big into healing - we believe if it is God's will, He will do it, but we don't have healing services. However, occasionally someone will ask if they can be anointed and prayed over to be healed. I will never forget in the church I grew up in, when that would happen, the pastor would quote that verse, and then a few people would speak up and name a fault they had. They were always "nice" problems. Need more patience, need to pray more. No one ever had a major fault to confess. Does that mean no one had any? I seriously doubt it. They just didn't want to let them be known.

So to answer the question I was asked: not wearing masks means feeling free to admit when we are struggling, or have a sin we are having a hard time overcoming - without being ostracized, judged, and gossiped about. Not necessarily airing all your dirty laundry for the whole church to see, and saying everything you think, but being able to be honest and real about some struggles, doubts, etc. And to be honest, I have yet to find the church where I can do that, and maybe I never will. But maybe someday, if God so leads, I can be a bit more open about my struggles, doubts, and the mountains that seem to loom on every side of me, and by doing so, encourage someone else.

Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner

If you’ve ever had the opening bars of a song transport you back in time or remind you of a pivotal spiritual moment, Matthew Paul Turner’s honest—and frequently hilarious—musings will strike a chord. Straight-forward and amusing, Hear No Evil is Turner’s “life soundtrack,” a compilation of engaging personal stories about how music—and music’s ability to transform—has played a key role in his spiritual life.

What I liked about the book:


I really enjoyed the author's style of writing. He is an interesting writer, and humorous. I could relate to his story. I grew up in a church where all too many people think drums are of the devil, and any music that has drums is likewise - so I can appreciate his story in that regard.

Turner starts back when he was four years old, and talks about how is view of music, and the styles he listened to, changed over the years. He gives a fascinating look at the music industry, and Nashville specifically. He also addresses what it really means to be Christian, and had some interesting takes on different denominations and beliefs. Overall, I really did enjoy the book - a great read.

What I didn't like:

Though I enjoyed a lot of the book, I get the idea that Turner advocates pushing the envelope on Christianity - getting by with as much as you can. He relates an incident of making out with his girlfriend at a Christian college in which she had "practically ripped" his shirt off of him as if that is the norm for Christians. Other things like his Christian friends who smoke, have premarital sex - and he and his Christian friends going to a bar where Christian singers go to smoke and drink - if he disapproves of that all, it didn't come through in the book. He also related about an accountability group he was in while in a Christian college, and discussed a problem they all had with solo sex - I felt it was out of place in a book of this type.

He does raise some interesting points and thought in the book, and as I stated, it is an interesting read.

About the author:

Matthew Paul Turner is a blogger, speaker and author of The Coffeehouse Gospel, Provocative Faith, Beatitude: Relearning Jesus, the What You Didn’t Learn from Your Parents About… series, and several other popular books. He has written for Relevant, HomeLife, Christian Single magazines and was the former editor of CCM magazine. Matthew and his wife, Jessica, live in Nashville, Tennessee. He can be found online at http://www.matthewpaulturner.com/.


To learn more about this book, or to purchase, go to RandomHouse.com.
Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for the review copy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Enemies Among Us by Bob Hamer

When undercover FBI agent Matt Hogan totals three vehicles in an out-of-policy Beverly Hills pursuit of a fleeing Arab drug runner, he incurs the wrath of the Bureau hierarchy. To avoid an almost certain suspension, he accepts a new assignment tracking terrorist cell groups while posing as a volunteer at a nonprofit charity. What he doesn't know is the ripples of danger from this case will threaten not only his life but the safety and security of the entire nation.

This is a "free" book review. I did not receive this book to review, but enjoyed it, and since it falls under men's fiction, decided to give it a little shout out.

This is the kind of book I love. It has terrorist plots, undercover FBI work, great plot, and likable and believeable characters. Woven within the plot was also a strong Christian message. I really liked the main character, and hope the author does more books with him as the central character/hero of the story.

The story was made all the more believable and enjoyable for me knowing that the author is a former FBI agent who also did his share of undercover work. I highly recommend this book by a new fiction author, and though you women might enjoy it, I would recommend it more for men.

And one last thing I'd like to add: this book was curse-free and clean. I had a Christian fiction author defend curses and some other inappropriate content in a book of this style by saying in this type of book you have to have that - you do not have to, and this author proves that.

First chapter here.

About the author:

Bob Hamer spent twenty-six years as a "street agent" for the FBI, many of them in an undercover capacity. In assignments lasting anywhere from a day to more than three years, he successfully posed as a drug dealer, contract killer, fence, pedophile, degenerate gambler, weapons dealer, and white-collar criminal.


Bob worked undercover against such diverse groups as La Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, Mexican Mafia, Russian Mafia, Asian organized crime groups, and Los Angeles-based street gangs. His successful infiltration of NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) resulted in the arrest of what one defendant called eight members of the "inner circle."

He received numerous awards throughout his career including the FBI Director’s Award for Distinguished Service, four United States Attorney Awards for Distinguished Service, and numerous letters of commendation including one from then U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Now retired, he is a member of the Writers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of Canada and has written for TV. He also worked as the technical advisor for The Inside and Angela's Eyes and has consulted for Law & Order: SVU and Sleeper Cell. He appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Sean Hannity Show, Laura Ingraham, and other national and local TV and radio programs to discuss his role in the NAMBLA investigation.

In 2009, The Last Undercover was named as the Fifteenth Annual San Diego Book Awards Association, Best Memoir, General Interest.

A Marine Corps veteran and law school graduate, he is married and has two children.

Enemies Among Us is available from Fidelis Books, an imprint of Broadman & Holman Publishing.

Swinging On A Star by Janice Thompson

There's a fine line between ambitious and crazy.


Bella's just not sure where it is.


Bella Rossi's life is nearing perfection. Not only does she have the perfect guy, but she's also running a successful wedding-planning business and is about to plan its most ambitious wedding yet--a Renaissance-themed fairy tale come true, complete with period costumes and foods, horse-drawn carriages, and even a castle. There's only one hitch. The best man just happens to be Hollywood's hottest and most eligible bachelor, and he's showing an interest in Bella. Oh, and did we mention he's staying at her house to avoid the paparazzi?


With all the pressure surrounding this wedding, Bella's not sure she's going to make it through. Add her starstruck sister and her feuding aunt and uncle, and you've got a recipe for disaster--and a lot of laughs.

Janice Thompson has done it again. She has written a book that keeps you sitting on th edge of your seat. This book has Bella planing a medieval-style wedding. Throw in a crazy parrot, a naughty Yorkie-Poo, a movie star, a night in jail, and three singing sisters, and you have got a riot. Simply entertaining! Excellent book!

About the author:

Janice Thompson is a seasoned romance author and native Texan. An experienced wedding coordinator herself, Thompson brings alive in her books the everyday drama and humor of getting married. She is the author of Fools Rush In and Swinging on a Star. She lives in Texas.



Available January 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
 
Thanks to Revell Publishing for the review copy, and thanks to my sister, Vicki, for reviewing the book. She enjoyed the first one so much, I had her do this one also.

Love Finds You In Bridal Veil, Oregon


This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon



Summerside Press (January 1, 2010)
by



Miralee Ferrell






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



In October 2007 Kregel Publications published The Other Daughter with excellent reviews. The Romantic Times Review magazine gave it Four out of Four and a half stars, with a very strong review. Two different major motion picture studios are currently considering the book as a possible family movie, and my second book in the series (Past Shadows) is on my publishers desk being reviewed for a possible contract offer now.



In February of 2009, Love Finds You in Last Chance, California was published by Summerside Press



And Finding Jeena will release in April 2010 from Kregel Publications.



Miralee Ferrell lives in Washington with Allen, her husband of more than 37 years, ans has two grown children. She serves on staff at her local church ans is actively involved in ministry to women.



ABOUT THE BOOK



Against a backdrop of thievery and murder in Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon, a historic logging community, a schoolteacher is torn between the memories of a distant love and the man who could be her future.



Sixteen-year-old Margaret Garvey had given her heart to Nathaniel Cooper the night he disappeared from town. Four years later, just as she's giving love a second chance with Andrew, a handsome logger, Nathaniel suddenly returns. He steams back into Bridal Veil on a riverboat to work at the nearby sawmill to town with a devastating secret.



While grappling with the betrayal of those she trusted most, Margaret risks her reputation and position by harboring two troubled runaways who might be involved in the murder of a local man.



When disaster strikes the town and threatens the welfare of its citizens, Margaret will be faced with the most important choice of her life.



If you would like to read the first chapter of Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon, go HERE

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My visit to the hospital

Last night, I deveoped a bad pain in my side. It wouldn't go away, so I quickly researched on the internet. Great - most likely my appendix. Something that definitely needs attention. Emergency room, here I come....

I drove to the nearest hospital, wincing with the pain. Walking into the emergency room, I groaned inwardly. The room was pretty full. I walked over to the admissions window, and waited until the woman seated there looked up. Before I could speak, she asked "What is your ailment?" "I think it's my appendix. I.." She brusquely intterupted me. " Find a seat and fill these papers out." With that, she was back to reading the novel in her hands. I sighed, and found a seat beside a man clutching a hand that was wrapped with a blood-soaked cloth. "Hey man, how long have you been waiting?" He shifted pain-filled eyes to me. "Going on two hours, and this is ridiculous!' He launched into a tirade against the hospital, so I began filling out my paperwork.

A few pages later, I walked up and handed my paperwork to the novel-reading woman at the window. Without looking at it, she tossed it onto a tall stack of papers, and went back to her novel. "Ma'am, do you have any idea of how long the wait will be?" She looked up with annoyance. "Nope", and went back to her novel. I walked back and sat beside Mr. Bleeding Hand again, and looked around the waiting room.

Everyone looked irritated, and most looked like they were in pain. There was a young man in his early 20's who looked like he had been in an accident. His face and arms had several cuts and lacerations, which he kept dabbing at with a rag that looked like it had seen better days. From the blood spots on the floor, he wasn't succeeding at getting all the blood.

Beside him, sat an older man, clutching his chest and beathing sporadically. A woman that I assumed was his wife, sat on his other side, holding onto his arm and looking worried. Next to her sat a woman holding a small child who was crying his eyes out. Even from where I sat, I could see bruises all over the poor kid on any skin revealed. My perusual of the room halted as a well-dressed woman walked in. She viewed the room with disdain and walked rapidly to the admissions window. Novel-reader looked up. "Your ailment?" The other woman looked at her haughtily. "None." I watched with amazement as the admissions clerk laid down her book, and looked with interest at the woman. "Great. The doctor will see you immediately. Go down the hall and go into room #4, second door on the left." I watched aghast as the woman marched down the hall leaving a room of hurt and sick people. What on earth?!

Shaking my head in disbelief, I continued looking around the room. Yikes! My eyes fell on a teenaged boy with an obvious broken leg. The fractured bone was sticking out through his skin. His face was contorted in pain. A couple I assumed was his parents flanked him on each side rubbing his shoulders, while shooting frantic glances at the admissions window. As I watched, the father walked to the window, but was turned away with a brusque "you must wait your turn." I watched the family with sympathy until the pain worsened in my side, reminding me of why I was there.

A noise at the door drew my attention. A large family walked in the door and headed for the admissions window. I quickly counted. One, two, three, four, five children. Who takes their whole family to the emergency room. My heart sank. Could a whole family be that sick? But they all acted and looked healthy. I listened intently as Linda (I had finally learned her name) looked up. "Alright, who has what ailments?" The father announced louldy (and proudly, I thought) "No one is sick. We are all 100% healthy!" Linda looked extremely pleased, and paused for a moment. "Ok, go down the hall to room #7 - it is our family-sized room. The doctor will see your family right away." I couldn't believe it. Was I in the twilight zone or something? This didn't make a bit of sense.

Evidently the parents of the kid with the broken leg didn't think so either, for he headed for the admissions desk again. "Listen uh, Linda - my son is in extreme pain, and we have been sitting here for an hour while you keep ushering in perfectly healthy people. I demand that you have a doctor see him immediately!" Linda looked at him with disinterest. "Go find your seat sir." And went back to her book. Or tried to. The irritated father reached in, yanked the book from her hands and threw it over his shoulder. "Now listen to me you useless, stupid woman......" That was as far as got, as two large men in suits approached him. "Is there a problem, sir?" Looking relieved to finally get some attention, he quickly explained the situation - "My son has a bad leg break, and I see all these healthy people going back to see the doctor. Why won't they admit my son?!" The two men exchanged a look, and the older one spoke. "Sir, I would advise coming back when your son is healthy. You can wait over there, or go home and come back later." The father looked dazed and angry. "Come back when he is better? What are you, a lunatic? This is a hospital!" He muttered a few curse words. Everyone watched in amazement as the two goons grabbed him and escorted him from the building.

I sat puzzled - and worried. If they wouldn't see the boy with the broken leg, surely I had no chance. What kind of hospital refused to see sick and hurting people? The man beside me with the bleeding hand stood to his feet. "I'm outta here man. I've been coming to this church for two years, and no one ever wants anything to do with me. My sins aren't "nice" sins, so they ignore me and focus on the "perfect" people. The ones who have it all together, and look just right." Wait, this was a church? Not a hospital? I looked around again. I saw no illness, no broken leg, no blood. I did see empty eyes, broken lives, people hurting from wounds that no one could see. And the ache in my side? I realized it was in my heart. An ache that hurt worse as I realized that I was another broken life that the church had no time for.

I looked at the people in the waiting room with new eyes. That wasn't a young man with a broken leg. It was a young confused guy with his male lover at his side. They seemed to be the most avoided. And that wasn't a young woman with a baby. She was a used woman with needle tracks all over her arms. I looked at the guy standing by me. His hand wasn't bleeding, but in one hand he held a can of beer, clearly not his first, and was that a porn magazine sticking out of his back pocket?

I grabbed my jacket and stood also. "You know what pal? You're right. I don't want to be here. I don't fit. Let's go have some fun and forget about this church thing." Besides, looked like he needed a driver. As my new friend led the way, I looked around with disgust. Maybe I should try that hospital - I mean church - on the other side of town. Maybe next Sunday......

 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mark 2:17 NKJV

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hunter's Moon by Don Hoesel



This week, the




Christian Fiction Blog Alliance




is introducing




Hunter's Moon




Bethany House (February 1, 2010)




by




Don Hoesel




(My thoughts at the end)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:







Don Hoesel was born and raised in Buffalo, NY but calls Spring Hill, TN home. He works as a Communications Department supervisor for a Medicare carrier in Nashville, TN. He has a BA in Mass Communication from Taylor University and has published short fiction in Relief Journal.



Don and hopes to one day sell enough books to just say that he's a writer. You can help with that by buying whatever his newest novel happens to be.



He lives in Spring Hill with his wife and two children.







ABOUT THE BOOK





Every family has secrets. Few will go as far as the Baxters to keep them. Bestselling novelist CJ Baxter has made a career out of writing hard-hitting stories ripped from his own life. Still there's one story from his past he's never told. One secret that's remained buried for decades. Now, seventeen years after swearing he'd never return, CJ is headed back to Adelia, NY. His life in Tennessee has fallen to pieces, his grandfather is dying, and CJ can no longer run from the past. With Graham Baxter, CJ's brother, running for Senate, a black sheep digging up old family secrets is the last thing the family and campaign can afford. CJ soon discovers that blood may be thicker than water, but it's no match for power and money. There are wounds even time cannot heal.





If you would like to read the first chapter of Hunter's Moon, go HERE

My thoughts:

This book really sounded good - and looked good. I loved thc cover. I was disappointed in the book, however. First, the main character. I was a good ways into the book before I discovered that unfortunately he was a Christian. He assaulted a book critic with a book, broke into his estranged wife's house, then fled to his hometown to avoid arrest warants. He cursed - a lot, though none of the words were printed - he drank - a lot - hung around at the bar, drinking enough on at least one occasion to not drive, and gambled regularly - poker for money. And seemed to hang around his former girlfriend - now marrried - too much.

There wasn't a redemptive element in the book. The main charater's family was bizarre and had weird behaviors. CJ (main character) seemed to stir up trouble everywhere he went, and acted far from what a Christian should.

I thought the book was suspense, but there was none until the very end.

I have read books where the main character was "flawed" in some way, but if they had sinful behaviors, they worked on them and it was not portrayed as normal for a Christian - but this book, though fiction, paints a pathetic portrayal of a Christian - and I have to say that is my main disappointment in the book. For being Christian fiction, it was very weak in the Christianity it portrayed. Not a book I would recommend.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ransomed by Els Van Hierden, and a giveaway

Book description:

Russia, 2003—with the collapse of communism, hundreds of thousands of orphans reside in orphanages and on the street. In search of purpose after the death of his children, David Valensky has left a successful career in a U.S. firm to establish a street ministry in Perm, Russia. During his outreach to orphanages he meets Karina Svetlana, an introverted, morose orphanage director. David’s attempts to reach her with the Gospel fail as she carefully guards the secrets of her dark past.


Meanwhile, Jared and Vanessa Williams travel from Canada to Russia to adopt a son, only to lose their child to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Disillusioned, they return to home with shattered hopes and damaged faith.


David’s misunderstood outreach to Karina costs him his position, sending him home to face his sick mother and a past he has not made peace with. When he is invited to return to his ministry in Russia, a young boy’s suicide opens up a deadly secret within the shelter. Karina is still desperate for God’s healing. Jared and Vanessa make a second attempt at adoption. Will one four-year-old be the answer to their prayers? And will Karina finally accept the answer to her bitterness—the healing power of God’s love?

My thoughts:

This is an excellent book. Well-written, good plot, great and likable characters, and a loud and clear message of redemption.

The author not only tells a great story in Ransomed, but she also gives a realistic look at what the orphanages are like in Russia, along with a insider's view of what goes on during the adoption process, having adopted five children from Russia herself. I was pulled into the story, and found myself wishing I could adopt some of the Russian orphans myself. I believe a really good story can do that - pull you in, tug at your heart strings, and cause you to want to change the world, as the hero and heroine of this story does - at least their part of the world.

Though fictional, this is a very believeable story, and shows how God can - and still does - work in people's lives, and that no matter how badly things may be going, He can still make it all turn out right, and ransom even the most unlikely sinner.
I very highly recommend this book - a great read, by a first time author - and a great Christian message. And who knows, if you read it, you may end up adopting some kid who needs parents, or jumping a plane to Russia to work with orphans.

About the author:
 
Els Van Hierden has a message of encouragement for anyone who has ever considered adopting a child internationally or getting involved in missions. She has personal experience in the journeys involved in both. She and her husband Edward adopted their fifth child from Russia in 2006. From this very personal experience, Els has crafted a compelling novel. Els has a heart for suffering children, having been active in the pro-life movement and missions for many years. Her family traveled to Romania for five weeks in April, 2008, to work with an orphanage organization. Els and her husband have been involved with FamilyLife Canada.
 
 Els is also involved in her local church, working with the teens as well as teaching Sunday school. She currently owns and operates an equestrian centre in Southern Alberta, where they board about forty horses. A Certified Equine Therapist by profession, Els teaches anatomy and sports therapy. Their children range in ages from six to sixteen. Her first book is especially close to her heart as it deals with the passion of her life; redemption and healing through Jesus Christ.
 
Giveaway:
 
The author has very graciously agreed to give a copy of her book, Ransomed away. U.S. entries only. Drawing will be 10 days from today, February 16, using Random.org. To enter, leave a comment.
 
Ransomed is available for purchase from Winepress Publising, and the author's website.

All the profits for the book go to LifeLine Haiti until the end of February and after that it will go to Children's Camps International.
 
Thanks to Winepress Publishing for the review copy, and to Els Van Hierden for doing the giveaway.

Snowstorm 2010

We got a whopping 20 inches of snow last night. When I went to bed, we had 9 inches, and woke up to 11 more!

In the show below, that is a lilac bush hanging over the driveway. My dad had to knock the snow off of it so the branches would go back up and he could plow there


The shot below has the road in front of the house in it - a busy, main road - covered with several inches of snow.
My buried car
 
 
we had to shovel a path to the shed where the tractor is, and shovel a place for the doors to open
 
Two pictures of my car. There was so much snow on it, I used my shovel - which is plastic - to shovel the snow off of the car. The shot on the left is the partially shoveled hood.
 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Masquerade Party

I went to a masquerade party a few days ago. It was pretty cool. I made sure I had my mask in place before I joined the rest of the party goers, so I wouldn't stick out. It wouldn't do to go to a masquerade party and be without a mask - you'd stick out like the proverbial sore thumb!

As I found a seat and waited for the party to start, I looked around and admired the masks of my fellow party goers. I was impressed, and secretly wondered if my mask would measure up to the rest of the party goers. There were some really fancy masks, and I could tell a lot of thought had been put into some of them. I let my eyes drift from person to person. Mask to mask. Oh boy -  a person without a mask - well a kid actually. And another kid, and another. Why did all these kids come without masks?! Didn't anyone tell them they were to wear one? My eyes sought out the teenagers I knew were present. Good. They had their masks on. But why didn't the smaller kids? I didn't get it.

As I puzzled over that, the song leader stepped up to the pulpit and announced what page to turn to in the hymnal. Wait a minute. Song leader? Hymnal? I realized with shock that this wasn't a masquerade party at all! It was a worship service at my church! I started to remove my mask, feeling pretty embarrassed, but as I reached for it, I noticed that no one else was removing theirs. What a dilemma to be in. I knew I shouldn't be wearing a mask in church, but everyone else was. I sighed, then decided to leave it on so I wouldn't stick out. I still puzzled about the smaller children though - how could they be so smart as to not wear a mask in church, while the adults, who are supposed to be so much smarter and more intelligent, sat there with their masks on, oblivious to the fact that one does not wear masks in church.

Or do they? And what are under those masks?

Obviously if you have read this far, you know I am being satirical, or just weird. Maybe weird. But I am striving to make a point. All too often Christians do wear masks. No, not a plastic, rubber, or what else masks are made of - we wear emotional and spiritual masks.

That couple sitting in the pew across the aisle. They smile and look pious, but no one knows that their marriage is falling apart, slowly but surely. The young woman on the other side - she cries every night, wondering if she will ever find someone to love. The young husband sittig in front of her - his mind drifts to the images he had been viewing on his computer the night before, worrying if he remembered to clear his computer's history. The teenager on the back seat - as he sings with the congregation, he contemplates which way would be best to take his own life. No one cares. He's so tired of being bullied and beaten down. The middle aged woman toward the front - she has been having a lot of doubts lately. About God, her own salvation - yet she fears being "un-Christianized" if she voices her doubts, so she smiles and straightens her mask.

I was talking to my pal Steven last night, and mentioned a book I just reviewed by Warren Wiersbe, Be Authentic. It is a commentary on Genesis chapters 25-50, and I told him I was going to pass it on to my brother-in-law who is a pastor, as he may be able to use it. Steven asked me in jest, "why, don't you want to be authentic?" I laughed and made the statement that if I were authentic, no one would like me.

Is that why so many people in the church wear masks? Are they afraid that if they take the mask off and be authentic - and honest - that people would look down on them? Un-Christianize them? Maybe not even want to be around them?

I am afraid the church is all to guilty of two sins - and I am not excusing myself from at least the one - judging and gossiping. Could it be that we feel it necessary to wear our masks and cover up our problems because we fear being judged and talked about? Or because we fear we are beyond help?

Several years ago, Bill & Gloria Gaither wrote a great song. We sing it occasionally at church - The Family of God. I've been thinking of that song some in the last several months, and it may sound terrible to make such a statement, but I can't help it - I'm blunt and outspoken - if this is the family of God, I want some new siblings. Siblings who really care.

I made a statement on my blog several months ago, and someone from my church commented. I think highly of him, and am not knocking him for his comment at all - I'm sure the majority of people feel as he does. It was something to the effect that he would never ask someone at church how they are doing spiritually - or anything like that - for he wouldn't want someone asking him that.

When we sit in our padded pews (well, ours are padded) - singing the songs, listening to the message - I believe that many would be horrifed and shocked if they could see under the masks of their fellow church goers.

I've thought about taking my mask off. Of reaching up, ripping it off, and throwing it to the side - but I won't. I've let a few people see under it, and oh, they say they will pray for me, pat me on the back, but they move to the other side of the church. I've heard others at church make statements that ripped me apart - what they think of the person under my mask - not knowing that my mask is covering that. If they saw under my mask, they wouldn't pray for me. They would pull their righteous robes around them and adjust their own mask, and shove me out of their sight.

Now someone might say I'm bitter. I'm not. Disppointed? Yes. In the church, and its people. Yet, as I view my disappointment, I realize I'm no different or better than those who disappoint. I've been too critical, been guilty of not reaching out, of not praying for someone whose mask has slipped, or fallen compltely off. No, I just reached up to make sure my own mask was in place, and kept walking.

What is the answer? I'm not sure. I do know that some day, all masks will be torn off. Our weaknesses, sins, shortcomings and struggles will be laid out for all to see, unless they are under the blood.

I guess what matters most, is that we are authentic before God. That when we come before Him, we toss our mask to the side. For if He is all that His Word says He is, He won't turn aside in disgust, judge, nor will He go tell someone else. Instead, He will love and forgive. And just maybe, He will give us the courage to lay our mask aside and walk forth without it.