Monday, July 30, 2007

And Now I Present . . .

Mary E. DeMuth was the lady in the photo that I posted yesterday. She is a follower of Jesus and is blessed with a wonderful gift for writing. Both fiction and nonfiction.

As shown above, her most recent book is entitled Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture. When Mary was asked during an interview about why she decided to write this particular book in light of the numerous parenting books that are already on the market, she said,

I always struggle when I write a parenting book because I feel so darned small and weak. I don’t parent perfectly. But, we did live through two and half years in France, the hotbed of hyper-postmodernity. We had to learn how to parent our kids in that culture. It occurred to me that the things we learned would be helpful to American parents too.

In Authentic Parenting, she explains how parents can help their children prepare for the world outside their door. Yet, she does this without falling into the trite, formulaic x-number-of-steps approach. Instead, she unpacks the stories from her family's time in France, relaying their triumphs as well as their failures. And while she is unpacking their stories, she effortlessly weaves in Scripture and its application to today's culture as she urges parents to do the following:

**Talk to your kids. Listen. Share your story.

**Dare to believe that God has much to teach you through your kids. Be humble enough to learn from them.

**Create a haven for your kids, an oasis in your home that protects, supports, and gives kids space to be themselves. Take seriously the mandate that you are responsible for the soul-nurturing of your children.

**Teach your children to joyfully engage their world, while holding tightly to Jesus’ hand. Teaching this comes primarily from modeling it in your own life. Do you engage your neighbors? Are you more interested in God’s kingdom than your own?

**Admit your failures openly with your children, showing how much you need Jesus to live your daily life.

Throughout the book, I love how Mary doesn't come across as the know-it-all who has all the answers for parenting. Her book does not aim to present the "perfect parent to-do list." Instead, as the book's title aptly states, the advice that Mary shares is that of Authentic Parenting. And yet, I was amazed at how many of the practical ways that Mary provided for parents to use with their children would benefit individuals who don't have children by allowing them to draw closer to Christ in their own spiritual walk.

At its core, Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture is timely, relevant, practical, and encouraging. And because of those qualities, the book will enlighten all who read it.

If you'd like to learn more about Mary E. DeMuth and her other works, visit her crazy blog here. And for some other views on the book, check out the other blogs participating on the Authentic Parenting Tour this week. For a complete listing of the blogs participating in the six week tour, visit here.
Abundant Blessings
Actual Unretouched Photo
Bluebonnet in the Snow
child of divorce/child of god
Good Word Editing
Ripples and Reflections
So Many Books...So Little Time
The Point
Tiffany Colter
Toni V. Lee

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Setting the Stage

Who is the lady in the picture?

She’s an author who “oozes Jesus” as one of my friends so aptly put it. And after reading this author’s new book, as well as her daily blog for the past four months, I’d have to agree.

Did I forget to mention her name? No, I purposely withheld it and the name of her new book so that you’d return tomorrow for answers. See you then!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Called To Pray

My mentor gave me a copy of a sermon that Max Lucado delivered entitled “Esther: Called to Pray.” Using stories from the biblical book of Esther, it focuses on how God brings people into our lives and places us in situations so that we will take the opportunity to pray. Lucado states,

You thought you got that new job because you deserved a promotion. I’m telling you, you got that new job because God wants you to stay there and pray for those people. You thought you were moved into that neighborhood because it was the best house you could find. I’m telling you that you are an assigned missionary to that neighborhood to pray for those people. You thought you were given that fourth grade class to teach just because the other teacher got sick and you got to be the substitute. Wrong! You were sent to that class because those 26 children need somebody to pray over them. You thought you were given this nation because you just happened to follow a certain lineage of a certain generation. Wrong! God has assigned you and He has assigned me to be prayer warriors for this nation, to intercede.

And I would go as far as to say this, church, that a day that passes that you don’t invite God’s kingdom to come into your world is a day wasted. . . . What God is doing is He is offering us the privilege of being a part of His strategy. When we come before Him and we say, “I don’t know how You’re going to do it, but please do it. Your ways are not my ways and I’m not going to complain at Your timing, though I would like to have it real soon. But I want Your will in this matter.”

Lucado’s words spoke to me because, as I've written before, I’ve struggled with understanding why God brings people into my path.

For instance, today was our clerk’s last day. Our clerks always work for just a year, and then they go out to spread their wings. It is a difficult transition for me because I have enjoyed working with each of the five clerks we’ve had thus far. Each one has brought a different vibe to our pod. And at the end of each year, I’m sad to see the clerk go. It takes me a while to adjust to the new clerks who arrive each September.

But through this sermon, I have been reminded that God keeps me in my job, in my house, and in my church and brings new people to my path for me to pray for them. That’s something that is so do-able. I just need to be obedient and do it.

Think about where you are and who you can pray for. After all, we are ALL called to pray. And when God’s people pray, anything is possible.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sinful Weeds

With all the rain that we’ve had this summer, I haven’t had many chances to go outside and work in my flower beds to get the weed population under control. There was a brief break in the clouds a few days ago, and I took that opportunity to take back over my flower beds from the grip of all the evil weeds.

I’m reminded each time that I tend my “garden” that there are so many similarities with my spiritual life. As I struggle to pull out a weed whose roots have grown deep into the rock-hard Texas clay, I recognize that this is akin to what happens when I fail to identify a sin in its early stage and uproot it; it takes a firm grip and is harder to get rid of it. Instead of a quick pull, I have to work really hard and exert a lot of effort, possibly even get out some tools, in order to extricate it. It’s kind of a painful, and often dirty, process that usually takes a while.

And one reason for that might be that I’m not tending the garden or my spiritual life as often as I should. If I spent more time in God‘s Word, maybe I’d recognize the sin more quickly; just like if I spent more time in the garden, maybe I’d recognize the weeds more quickly before they could sink their roots down deep. Maybe I’d even take some preventive steps to thwart the sinful weeds from growing in the first place, like praying for God to protect me from going down paths that lead to sin.

“Lord, I pray that you would help me tend my spiritual garden often, that you would keep me on the alert for the sinful weeds that I’m prone to, and that you would help me to keep the soil in my spiritual garden open to growing beautiful flowers instead of sinful weeds.”

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Works in Progress

Maybe you've been wondering what I've been up to since I haven't been posting as frequently. Well, I haven't stopped writing. Quite the contrary. I've been working on a few different things.

  • For one, I have a fiction piece that I've been working on for my writers' group. You can read that assignment here.
  • In a little over a week, I'll give you a glimpse into a new book (by a local Christian author) that just released and will be making a stop here as part of its blog tour.
  • And about a month from now, I hope to have a piece written about my dad.

In the interim, I'll still post some of my devotional blogs, but I also wanted to whet your appetite for what's to come. I hope you'll stop back by again soon!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Childlike Anticipation

It doesn’t take Christmas for me to be filled with childlike anticipation. Though that feeling is usually centered around times with gifts. And gift giving to be more specific.

I have this trait/disorder of not being able to wait to give a gift. As soon as I buy a gift, I want to give it. But having family and friends who live more than a few hours’ drive away, it just isn’t feasible for me to be able to give them their gifts immediately. And the postal service can only go so far in one day unless you shell out the big bucks for the overnite ponies.

So I’ve come up with a new little habit. After I ship the package, I wait a few minutes, and then I get the urge to call to see if the package has made it. You’d think I’d be able to resist the urge. Surely as much as I’ve waited for other things in my life I could wait to hear from the recipient. But, I don’t.

Case in point: My sister’s birthday is tomorrow. I shipped her gift via Priority Mail on Friday morning. I knew her gift would arrive yesterday barring any mishandling or (gasp) loss of the package. And so I called. Not once, but twice yesterday to see if she’d gotten it. She hadn’t even made it home, and so I spoiled the surprise (not that she was getting a birthday present but that it was arriving that day). Spoiling the surprise doesn’t dissuade me from making the calls. I just need to know that the gift has arrived.

I’m sure that there are probably support groups out there for this little disorder that I suffer from. But, I don’t want to be cured. Instead, I’d rather have this childlike anticipation transfer over into other areas of my life. Like my spiritual walk.

What would it be like to apply that childlike anticipation to waiting for Jesus’s triumphant return? Or looking forward to Heaven? Or even just looking forward each day to what God might do in, around, and through me?

I don’t know, so I guess I’ll just have to try it.

In the meantime, happy birthday to my awesome sister!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Drowning Out The Noise

As I was driving today, I noticed that I was driving right next to a train and didn’t even hear it. The radio in my car wasn’t blaring, but it was enough to cover up the sounds of the train. As I thought about this, I saw some similarities between drowning out the noise of life and living in a cocoon, protected from the burdens in other people’s lives.

I think I was more acutely aware of this today because last night I read a chapter in The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan that talked about paying attention to the details of life. Buchanan encourages readers to restore Sabbath, and one of the practices that he describes to experience Sabbath rest is to stop to find what’s missing. He urges readers, “See it all. Like Adam, name it.”

God’s creation inspires me, but I often don’t let it. I can’t hear the birds singing in the morning because I’ve got the radio on while I’m getting ready for work. I don’t hear the children in the neighborhood playing in the evenings because I have the television on. I can’t hear the locusts at night because I turn on a sound conditioner to cover up the endless barking of the next-door neighbor’s dog. And by drowning out God’s creation, I’m often removing the opportunity to hear from God.

All of the man-made sounds that I’m replacing God’s sounds with are merely imitations. These imitations keep me distracted. And by staying distracted, I don’t have to deal with things in my life, like the emptiness that comes from unmet desires. But counterfeit imitations only suffice for so long. And then I crave the real thing.

Tonight, now that I’m out of the cocoon, I’m looking forward to spending time with a family who is going through a difficult time after the father was injured in a fall last week. And now that I’ve had it with artificial sounds for a while, I’m looking forward to the real sounds of a Texas summer night.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Breaking Through The Cocoon


I bumped into something a little unfamiliar this past week. It was clingy and sticky, and at first I didn’t know what it was. Then I realized that it was a cocoon. One that I had somehow built up around myself. Thankfully, it must have been made of some shoddy material because when I bumped it, it cracked. At that point, it started letting in a wave of emotions that I hadn’t been allowing myself feel.

The cascade of sorrows and joys that came through amazed me. They had all been held back by my own choosing to supposedly save myself the time and the energy of delving into others’ lives and bearing their burdens, as well as their joys. It’s sad to admit that sometimes I get so selfish with my time, but I do. I don’t know if it is a result of feeling emotions so deeply that I’d rather not feel them at all or what the real reason for this particular cocoon was. Any reason I devise would merely be an excuse. After all, Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

I pray that having broken through this cocoon, I’ll be a better friend. One who is willing to give of my time to lend a listening ear, some encouragement, or a round of applause if the occasion warrants it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Do You Believe In Miracles?

I wasn't planning to post tonight. But that was before I stopped by my friend Kelly's blog and watched the amazing video that she put together to celebrate her daughter Kate's third birthday. It is a reminder of all that Kate has survived during her three short years.

Kate's story is nothing less than a miracle. She was born 14 weeks early and weighed less than two pounds. I followed her progress from afar as she would take the proverbial "two steps forward and one step" back during the 86 days that she spent in the hospital finishing the development and growth that should have occurred in the womb. She was feisty and defied the odds.

Tomorrow, she will turn three. And someday she's going to give Ina a run for her money as Kate will no doubt be hosting her own cooking show on the Food Network. She's got a passion for cooking, and I hope to taste her creations soon!

If you have a chance, click on the video link above. You'll be reminded that God has definitely not retired from the business of working miracles.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Willing to Receive

Yesterday, before I slayed the beast, I had an interesting experience. I tried to take lunch to a family whose son was in the hospital here. I made several phone calls to the hospital before I was put through to the family. Then, when I asked if I could bring them lunch, they said that they would just eat in the cafeteria at the hospital.

I was taken aback. I had really wanted to be able to love on this family whose son normally gets medical treatment in Minnesota. I kept racking my brain to figure out how I could have changed my approach so that they would have accepted my offer to help. I ultimately decided that I just needed to show them some grace and understand that they are going through a difficult time.

Later in the evening, the friend who had introduced me to the above family said that she had seen them and that they had apologized to her for not accepting my offer. They didn’t know why they had so quickly refused an offer of help.

When it comes down to it, though, it’s just human nature.

How many times have I done the same thing? How many times has someone offered to help me, and I’ve rejected the offer of help so that I could do things on my own? I’m sure that I couldn’t even remember or count all those rejections that I have handed out.

Ultimately, we all want to do life on our own. We want to be independent. Yet, most people have an innate desire to help others. And so this creates an interesting juxtaposition: How can people ever give of their time and talents if everyone wants to live independently? Obviously we can’t. At some point, we need to be vulnerable and accept the offers of help from others and be willing to receive help from God as well.

“Lord, please continue to show me opportunities to help others, and help me identify those areas in my life in which I am trying to do things apart from You. I do not want to lead a life that looks like a “do-it-herself” job, which does not glorify You.”

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Slaying the Beast

Have you ever found yourself saying, “If only I had . . .” or “If only so & so would . . . ”? I know I’m guilty of this. There always seems to be that one “thing” that I can’t have or at least that I can’t have YET. And I know I’m not the only one. Some of the “if only’s” that I know my friends are facing right now are as follows:

If only I was debt free.
If only depression/alcoholism didn’t run in our family.
If only we could afford a house.
If only a family member wasn’t battling cancer.
If only we could get pregnant.
If only I didn’t have to work and could stay home with my children.
If only my in-laws treated me better.
If only I had a loving spouse.
If only our marriage would be reconciled.
If only a friend or family member would accept Christ as his/her personal Savior.
If only I could get published.
If only I had time to workout.
If only I could afford to take a vacation.
If only I was pain free.

The “if only” that I’ve had at the top of my personal list lately is “If only I could slay ‘the beast,’” which is the nickname that I’ve given to a project that I’ve been working on for several months now. I had hoped to finish it before I went on vacation, but I just couldn’t wrap it up. Then, my first week back from vacation, I decided to work on some smaller projects in order to prove to myself that I could still do my job, which I had started to question. With those smaller projects behind me, I returned to the beast and told myself that it had to be conquered by tonight.

“The beast” started out to be very straight-forward. There was a lot to read, but I didn’t think it would be nearly as bad as it has been. It had gotten to the point that it was unwieldy and seemed so much bigger than my skill set. I just couldn’t seem to tame it. Until now. A draft is done. It isn’t the page-turner that I’d like for it to be, but it is ready for another set of eyes to pierce through it.

Throughout this time, I’ve been postponing my joy in anticipation of finishing this project. And yet, there’s been so much that I could have been joyful about throughout the process. For instance, I feel like I’ve identified some tasks that were taking me longer than necessary and have found some ways to make those tasks more efficient when I take on the next project. I’ve learned more succinct ways of phrasing things. And, I’ve been reminded daily of how I must depend on God for His help and wisdom.

I see this pattern often in my life. I wait for something big--an "if only"--to happen. I’m content for a while, and then a new “if only” makes its way to the forefront of my mind, and I postpone my joy in anticipation of fulfillment of the new “if only” criterion. It’s like a little child who asks for “just one thing” only to return and ask for another “just one thing” a few moments later because the previous toy or whatever is no longer satisfying.

By doing this, I’m not accepting that right where I am is God’s “Plan A” (as my friend calls it) for my life. I am doubting that this is God’s best for me. That He wants me to be right where I am right now to fulfill His purpose. And that I don’t need to rush things.

I wish that by writing this, I’d somehow be immune to going through another “if only” rollercoaster ride. But I know it’s not that simple. Instead, I’ll need to be on the alert for it and remind myself that the One Thing that my soul is really searching for is available right now; I don’t have to wait for it.

“Enough” by Chris Tomlin
All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You are my reward worth living for
And still more awesome than I know

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You’re my sacrifice
Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
You’re the coming King You are everything
And still more awesome than I know

More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know
More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me

Friday, July 6, 2007

Tell Me Who You Walk With

Tonight as I was driving home later than normal from work, I caught the middle of a call-in show on the radio. The call-in theme for the evening was about morals or lessons that have been passed down from other generations. One caller that I heard shared a Spanish proverb that her mother used to tell her: “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres,” which literally translated means, “Tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Having lived in Texas all my life, I’m a little surprised that I’ve never heard this saying before. I like the saying because it’s simple (i.e., easy to remember) and can have much life application. The caller said that her mother used it to encourage her to choose her friends wisely because she did not want her to hang out with bad influences who would, in turn, have a negative effect on her character.

Immediately after hearing her story, I thought about how I would answer, “Tell me who you walk with.” A lot of family and friends came to mind. But then I envisioned answering, “I walk with God,” and that painted such a beautiful picture. It took me back to two old hymns:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
. . . .
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
(Listen at

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
(Listen at

I hope that you can envision yourself walking with God daily. I can’t think of a better Person to reflect or to be connected with.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Sacrifice for Freedom

With today being Independence Day, I can’t help but take some time to reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made to purchase my freedom. I am sure that at some point today the newscasters will talk about the number of soldiers who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. But by simply giving a number or death toll, I think it de-personalizes or de-personifies the situation. Each life has been given to obtain so much more than a number can ever signify.

So many men and women have fought valiantly and exchanged their lives so that I can live in a country known as “the land of opportunity.” A place where I don’t have to be fearful of a dictator’s crazy whims, suicide bombers, or land mines. A country in which women have the opportunity to obtain an education, to vote, and to be anything they want to be. A nation in which I am free to worship as I choose.

And this nation is a nation under God. One who intimately knows the depths of sacrifice because He gave His only Son to remove my sins and yours. As a result, you and I are free from the destructive impact of sinful behavior and have the freedom to communicate openly with Him and to experience true freedom that can only come from God.

So on this Independence Day, I thank all those who have served and are currently serving in the military (especially Bryan and Matt who serve in the USAF and Daniel who serves in the US Navy) for your willingness to sacrifice your life for the freedom that we have. And to You, oh Lord, please help us not to take any of our freedom for granted. Continue to protect this great nation, and help us as a nation to remember Your sacrifice.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Burning the Escape Routes

Two weeks ago our pastor preached on Galatians 4:8-20, and I’m still meditating on some of the challenges that he posed to us. He closed his sermon with the story of the Spanish explorer Cortés, who reportedly ordered his soldiers to burn the ships once they arrived in Mexico so that they would not be tempted to return to the country that they came from. Our pastor challenged us to identify what old ways of life we return to time and again to comfort us instead of leaning on God’s grace.

This is a particularly tough issue for me because I have a checklist mentality. I love knowing the rules. And by knowing the rules, I can plan out what needs to be done and can put that on a list. Then, when I complete the task, I get to check it off and can see what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day.

But faith isn’t supposed to be treated like that. It’s not about being good, though out of my love for Christ I should desire to lead a good life. It’s not about praying a certain number of times a day, though I should desire to communicate with my Savior often. It’s not about giving a certain amount of money, though I should want to honor God by giving back a portion of what He has entrusted me with.

Instead, faith is about a relationship with Jesus Christ. And carrying on that relationship, like any relationship, can be difficult at times. There aren’t any particular guidelines to follow, so it may feel a bit awkward or aimless at times. It may be hard to know exactly what He’s saying to me. It may be difficult to discern whether He’s leading me in a certain direction.

And so, I may be tempted to run. Not necessarily away completely, but to run back to my old ways of doing things. And so I get out the checklists, make decisions on my own, and do what makes sense to me in an effort to live by the rules of society and, in essence, create my own yardstick for measuring my Kingdom productiveness, my “goodness,” or my spiritual walk.

It is this escape route that I need to burn. I need to cultivate a heart that doesn’t want to go back to doing things on my own but instead wants to allow God to pour out His grace all over me.

What’s your escape route? Are you willing to strike up your match, burn that route, and cling to grace? As author John Ortberg said, “The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort.” Are you ready to risk losing your escape route in order to grow? Let me know your thoughts on this.