Saturday, September 29, 2007

Book Review: Dinner With A Perfect Stranger

To prepare for author David Gregory’s upcoming visit to our church, earlier this week I read his book entitled Dinner With A Perfect Stranger. In a quick-read encompassing only 100 pages, Gregory spins a fictional tale of a businessman who accepts an invitation to have dinner with Jesus. Throughout the dinner, Jesus answers pressing questions from the businessman about how other religions fail to address some of the deepest needs and desires found in every human. And amidst those answers, the gospel is presented in a simple, direct way.

This book's creative presentation of the gospel message would be a great gift for a friend who needs a gentle nudging towards making a decision to accept Christ as his/her Savior. And for those who have already accepted Christ, this book is a reminder that Christ wants to converse with you daily.

Thankfully, we all have a personal invitation to dine with Christ. Have you accepted your invitation?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who Are You Today, Lord?

Last week during my small group, we talked about being Truth-centered. Our discussion guide challenged us to describe how we see God. As we each gave our answers, a common theme arose: how we see God on a particular day depends on what we need Him for. For instance, when I am feeling beaten down and low on energy, I see God as my Sustainer. (Isaiah 46:4) When I am in a budget crunch, I see God as my Provider. When I am feeling scared because of some random noise in the middle of the night, I see God as my Protector. And so on.

It kind of feels gross to limit God like that--to define God by MY standard or need instead of as He truly is. After all, God can do all of those tasks ALL THE TIME. Plus, He is so much more. He is holy, righteous, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent; He is the Alpha and Omega, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator, Redeemer, Savior, and Truth. The list is endless. But hopefully you get the picture.

So why, even after reading Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, do I still limit who you are, Lord? Help my small mindedness to embrace Your amazing magnificence. Help me to worship You for who You are instead of who I need You to be. You are so much more.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Book Review: Potter Springs

Earlier this week, I raved about Britta Coleman - the teacher. Now, I want to rave about Britta Coleman - the author.

Britta’s award-winning debut novel, entitled Potter Springs, presents a love story filled with broken characters searching for a second chance, searching for grace. Set mainly in small-town Texas, the novel’s main characters convey their desires to be known, rescued, and loved with such authenticity that they reach out to the reader in a subtle, endearing, “we could be friends” kind of way.

Great characters aren’t accidents; they come to life through great writing. And here, the writing is superb. The words pour eloquently off the pages straight into the reader's heart.

In writing this novel, Britta did not leave her deeply grounded faith at the door; instead, it is obvious on every page. The message of grace resounds, and thankfully, it resounds to a larger audience because Britta sought to publish Potter Springs with its redeeming message in the mainstream marketplace. Thus, this enjoyable page-turner will have you believing that “being lost is a good way to start getting found.”

(And for all the Aggies: Britta included a few fun Aggie references in the novel.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"All Circuits Are Busy"

Have you ever felt like your brain might run out of storage space? Like you might need to upgrade your mental hard drive? I felt that way this weekend after attending my first writers’ conference--the North Texas Christian Writers’ Conference.

All day Friday and Saturday, I had the opportunity to take classes from fantastic authors who shared their insight on how to improve, how to get published, and how to stay motivated. The word “overwhelming” comes to mind as I think back on all the information that I tried to absorb, and am still trying to process, in addition to all the neat people that I met.

I think one person in particular sent my mind into my mental overload (the good kind): award-winning author Britta Coleman. I lurked about on her blog prior to the conference and looked forward to the four classes that she was scheduled to teach. Britta shattered any stereotype that great writers aren’t always great teachers. She gave us practical tools to use when writers’ block hits, told us what her journey to publication entailed, and made me believe for the first time that I might actually be able to write fiction. But more importantly, she urged us to expand our vision by encouraging us to read books outside our worldview. I have a lot of work to do in that area and now have a list of at least ten books that I want to read. Britta’s book Potter Springs is at the top of the stack, and I hope to post a book review soon.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to navigate all this new territory by myself; my friend TJ acted as my guide throughout the conference. TJ graciously allowed me to ride with her to the conference and to room with her, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to pick her brain on writing, leading a small group, running a household with four children, reading for pleasure, and shopping. It was my honor and privilege to get to cheer her on as she received first place in the non-fiction articles category of the writing contest held in conjunction with the conference.

After all that learnin’, I was mentally exhausted when I returned home Saturday evening. But my weekend activities didn’t stop there. On Sunday afternoon, my small group threw a baby shower for one of our members, and I met with my writers’ group that evening to continue work on our Advent devotionals. Last night served as errand night, and so tonight is the first night I have had to download.

I am looking forward to having time to recharge, reflect, and get re-centered in the days ahead. And as I do, I’ll be pondering how to expand my worldview and how to be in the world, not of it. I know that’s no easy task. Any thoughts on that?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nice Matters Award

My fun friend BJ, whom I have yet to meet but know from her fantastic writing, sent me the Nice Matters Award!

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you've been awarded please pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award."

I award the Nice Matters Award to the following deserving blogs/bloggers:

Who's In Your Self-Portrait?

“Live out your God-created identity.” (Matthew 5:48 - The Message)

After recently visiting an art exhibit at which self-portraits were on display, I wondered what the self-portrait of a writer might look like. I knew that my beginner’s ability would not allow me to create a self-portrait that captured my outward appearance in the same detail as a photograph. So I anticipated using words to paint a picture of who I am--inside and out.

I sat down at my computer and stared at the blank canvas before me. I found words to describe my heart for the hurting and put them on the canvas; I typed words that describe my relational roles; and I included words that encapsulate what I do at my job and how I use my gifts and talents. I continued listing words until I thought the self-portrait looked complete. Upon standing back and glancing over the finished work, I noticed a pattern: my self-portrait included numerous titles.

After seeing all those titles, I questioned: “What would I look like without my titles?”

For example, if I lost my job, how would I describe myself? Would I be humble enough to admit that I was unemployed?

If I lost all of my family and friends and was no longer a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, sister-in-law, or friend, how would I describe myself?

And if God chose to strip me of my talents and hobbies, would I know who I am?

Simply the thought of being stripped of all those titles made me feel naked, empty, and worthless. I wanted to cling to the original self-portrait and possessed no desire to recreate a self-portrait depicting me after the radical “titlectomy.”

But I know that I should not feel that way. I sensed that if Paul was present, he would repeat to me what he told the Corinthians:

Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that. Yeast, too, is a “small thing,” but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this “yeast.” Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let’s live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread—simple, genuine, unpretentious. (1 Corinthians 5:6 - The Message)

In order to follow Paul’s advice and live detached from the titles that act as yeast in my life, I must recognize that those titles were never meant to satisfy me. By relying on titles to fulfill me, I am squeezing God out of the picture. I am making the self-portrait entirely about me and the empty, earthly titles that I temporarily hold. Such a self-portrait cannot be viewed as attractive because it has squeezed out the Light from which colors reflect.

However, if I allow the Light of the World to define me, rather than the world, the ultimate self-portrait can be revealed: one that contains a reflection of my Maker, who disregarded all titles and chose to refer to Himself as “I AM.”

“Precious Father, I struggle with allowing my identity in You to be enough and often turn to earthly titles for fulfillment. Help me to live out my God-created identity so that my self-portrait is a reflection of You. Amen.”

Sunday, September 9, 2007


The two-lane road meanders through the southern part of the city, connecting neighborhoods to the southern hospital district. The posted speed limit of forty-five miles an hour feels a bit much as the road curves around a few bends. The road, normally not very busy on a Sunday morning, usually allows quiet contemplation. But not this morning.

Within seconds after making one of the curves, I caught sight of a male driver in a red Ford pick-up truck heading straight at me. In the brief instant that we made eye contact, he gave no indication that he knew that he was in the wrong lane or that he was fearful. I immediately laid on the horn and jumped a curb in an attempt to lessen the blow. When he got to approximately four feet in front of my vehicle, he swerved out of the way. While I was still shaking, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw that he never even put on his brakes and instead kept going as if nothing had happened.

As I replayed that scene to capture it in words, I felt the breath being sucked out of me. I have no idea whether that driver was on a quest to scare people this morning; if so, mission accomplished. I was still quite shaken when I arrived at church. I kept thanking God, knowing that He had spared me from pain, spending my life in a wheelchair, and possibly even death.

How many times in my life has God spared me from pain or death? I’m sure that any guess I conjured up would be on the low side. Today’s events were no different than the many times before when God has come to my rescue, except that this time I had a front-row seat. I watched the action-packed drama play out right in front of my bumper.

When I arrived back at my house after church, I recognized the magnitude of the words that I say to my dog every day when I leave, “See you later, Annie. GOD WILLING.”

“Thank You, Lord, for being my Rescuer and for sparing me from pain. Thank You for allowing me to see how sweet having a quiet afternoon at home can be in light of this morning’s events. Thank You for giving me a renewed focus to wisely use the time that You have given me on this earth. Amen.”