Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Autumn

The Autumn
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1833)

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, —
Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come — as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind — view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill —
In spring, the sky encircled them —
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.

Litmus Test

"If you want a good litmus test of your spiritual growth, simply examine the nature and quality of your relationships with others. Are you more loving, more compassionate, more patient, more understanding, more caring, more giving, more forgiving than you were a year ago? If you cannot answer these kinds of questions in the affirmative and, especially, if others cannot answer them in the affirmative about you, then you need to examine carefully the nature of your spiritual life and growth." (page 42)

Invitation to a Journey by M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Got Issues?

I had the pleasure of reviewing Nicole Unice's great book She's Got Issues back in July. Tyndale House Publishers then gave me the opportunity of reviewing the companion DVD Group Study. So glad they did.

I consider myself a connoisseur of DVD Bible Studies. I have lead a bi-weekly women's Bible Study for the past five years. We have enjoyed Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer, Ann Graham Lotz, Angela Thomas, and Jennifer Rothchild. So I reviewed this new DVD study through that lens.

I have to say, I loved it. I can't wait to schedule this one for our women's group.

I really liked the format. The first 10 minutes of the video lesson is an interview with one women who has struggled with that lesson's topic (control, insecurity, comparison, fear, anger or unforgiveness). Then the group is encouraged to privately journal on some provided question prompts. Then Nicole teaches on the topic for about 15 minutes. Finally there are great discussion questions to allow for everyone in the study to get involved and share.

Nicole's style to really easy to watch and listen to. In fact, I would love to have lunch with her!

The topics in this DVD are relevant and the teaching has good 'meat on the bone'. I am pretty tough on women's studies that are what I call, too fluffy. This isn't one of them. While the teaching is brief by Beth Moore standards it's solid. Plus these issues require discussion so the extra time is great. Ideally the study should be about 1.5 hours a session to get the most from the DVD and discussion.

So this one gets a big thumbs up from me.

(Tyndale House provided this DVD to me in exchange for an unbiased review.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From the Library of C.S. Lewis

Okay, what is not to love about a book that gives us C.S. Lewis' favorite "Selections from Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey." The Library of C.S. Lewis is a nearly 400-page compilation of some of the greatest writers through the centuries, those writers who influenced Clive.

James Stuart Bell (who wrote his master's thesis on Lewis and compiled all the selections) wrote in the introduction, "To truly understand Lewis and his works we need to get behind his role as Christian apologist to his interest in philosophy and literature, in reason and romanticism. Lewis was not a one-dimensional reader. His eclectic tastes ranged over a wide variety of genres and time periods."

That explains the wonderful breadth of writers and excerpts featured in the book. What I loved is the sampling one gets of such a great variety of writers and thinkers. At the end of each excerpt is a paragraph bio on the writer...providing an opportunity to seek out complete works to read. I also loved that you can pick and choose what to read -- it is not a linear book but rather one arranged by topic. In fact, it would be great to enjoy an excerpt each day versus reading it all through at once.

The book is organized into 18 categories:
"Follow After Agape": God's Love
"You Have Transfixed My Heart:" Our Love of God
"How Dearly You Have Paid for Me": The Life and Sacrifice of Christ
"I Will Seek You": Knowing God
"Mutually Christ's": Community and Loving Others
"Constantly Dying": Self and Soul
"The Lack of the Divine": Sin and Temptation
"Fatherly and Forgiving Goodness": Grace and Redemption
"You Shall Find Your Ground in God": Suffering
"Inexpressible Sweetness": Prayer and Contemplation
"The Eyes of Your Heart": Faith
"Divine Influence": Living a Devout Life
"The Most Pleasing Sacrifice to God": Obedience and Will
"Worthy to Receive More": Humility
"A Peculiar Joy": Truth, Apologetics, and Christianity
"Fine Fabling": Fantasy and Imagination
"Borne on the Gusts of Genius": Creation, Poetry, and Writers
"The Gleaming of Divine Brightness": Heaven, Death, and Immortality

If you enjoy reading a variety of authors, you will appreciate and savor the selections in this book.

(Note: WaterBrook Press provide me this book in exchange for an unbiased review.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Well-Watered Roots

I have been deep watering my trees over the past several weeks. The drought in our area (as in much of the U.S.) has me concerned for the health of my array of foliage. While we are cresting into fall and even anticipating some rain later today (for which I am very grateful), I could not help but think about how like my trees I am. Seasons of drought require rain. May I be planted by the waters.
Jeremiah 17:7-8
Amplified Bible (AMP)
[Most] blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence the Lord is. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.
Common English Bible (CEB)
Happy are those who trust in the Lord, who rely on the Lord. They will be like trees planted by the streams, whose roots reach down to the water. They won’t fear drought when it comes; their leaves will remain green. They won’t be stressed in the time of drought or fail to bear fruit.
Lexham English Bible (LEB)
Blessed be the person who trusts in Yahweh, and Yahweh is his trust. For he will be like a tree planted by water, and to the stream it sends its roots, and it will not fear when heat comes, and its leaves will be luxuriant, and in the year of drought it will not be anxious, and it will not cease from the bearing of fruit.

The Message (MSG)
But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers - never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; sut its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.
New International Version (NIV)
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
New Living Translation (NLT)
But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I am brave (and so are you!)

Thank you Stephanie Ackerman for my new etsy acquisition...a 5"x3" mixed media magnet with an important reminder message. I love it!

Two Great Books (Part Two)

So the other book that I've thoroughly enjoyed of late is Empty Promises by Pete Wilson. You may remember Pete from a review I wrote on his previous book Plan B on what to do when life doesn't turn out the way you'd planned. When I had the opportunity to review his latest book I jumped at the opportunity. And it did not disappoint. The subtitle of the book is most telling: "The truth about you, your desires, and the lies you're believing." Just makes you want to turn right to the first page, doesn't it?! But do it! The introduction from Rick Warren summarized the book well: "We make the mistake of looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places. That's what this book is about. It uncovers the idols we create in our own hearts when we fail to look to God to meet our deepest needs. These idols of pleasure, prestige, passion, position, popularity, performance, and possessions inevitably betray us and let us down. They are...Empty Promises."
Pete defines idolatry in the opening chapters: "idolatry is when I look to something that does not have God's power to give me what only God has the power and authority to give" (pg. 5).... The real question for any of us is this: Which idol is God's biggest rival in your life?" (pg. 16).... Honestly ask yourself:
  • What occupies my mind? What do I spend time daydreaming about?
  • Who or what do I tend to be jealous of?
  • What do I spend most of my time doing?
  • Where does the majority of my money go?" (pg. 21).
Pete then begins to address some of the most "popular" idols in our day in the ensuing chapters: achievement, approval, power, money, religion, beauty, and dreams (aspirations).
Not surprisingly he reminds us that "what we worship shapes who we are" (pg.156).
The truth of what Pete wrote was often too close to home, but I want to live a bold and examined life. Empty Promises gave me some excellent food to chew on for a while.
(Note: Thomas Nelson provided a complimentary copy of the book for an unbiased review)

Two Great Books (Part One)

I have been  a delinquent blogger this month. The first week of the month I was heads down on four talks for a women's retreat up in Glenwood Springs. It was my first time teaching four lessons in 48 hours. To say I was exhausted when it was over is the understatement. Then I proceeded to get sick for two weeks which also included an emergency CT scan to rule out appendicitus. Oh, it's been a fun month!

But I've done some reading that I haven't told you about. One book I read as research for the retreat teaching and the other is one I received from a publisher to review. So here you go.

Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee is a treasure I can't believe I haven't read before. I picked it up since I was teaching on running away. Before I read the book a mere week before the retreat I had formed a conclusion based on study that the way to stop running away from God, problems, people, was to learn to walk by faith and then to stand (Ephesian 6). But Watchman Nee's brilliant little (only 67 pages) book on Ephesians had me adding in sitting as the critical foundation of it all.

For those of you not familiar with Nee (1903-1972), he is one of the leaders of the indigenous church in China independent of foreign misionary organizations. He was also a prolific writer. He was arrested in 1952 and imprisoned for his faith until his death in 1972.

Two excerpts to whet your appetite:

"Only those who can sit can stand. Our power for standing, as for walking, lies first in our having first been made to sit together with Christ. The Christian's  walk and warfare alike derive their strength from his position there. If he is not sitting  before God he cannot hope to stand before teh enemy." (pg. 44)

"God never asks us to do anything we can do. He asks us to live a life which we can never live and to do a work which we can never do. Yet, by his grace, we are living it and doing it. The life we life is the life of Christ lived in  the power of God, and the work we do isteh work of Christ carried on  through us by his Spirit whom we obey." (pg. 58)

You'll be able top read this book in one sitting...but you'll want to savor it.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Power of Words

It's been one year since I was thrust into ranks of the unemployed. Honestly, it wasn't something I wanted (geez, who does!), but per usual I have had a great year in spite of it.

From the moment the words were delivered by a Weber Shandwick President and a New York-based human resources Vice President (yes, they needed to fly in and do it as a pair apparently), I had an unworldly confidence that what was happening was ordered by One who has my best interest in mind. She meant it for harm, but another would use it for good.

But words hurt. It was personal. She wanted me gone.

To be fair, I have also been the one to deliver those words to people I deeply respected and valued, and to those frankly I couldn't wait to see leave the organization. I suspect there are people today that still bear me ill-will for firing or laying them off.


One year later I learned again the power of words. I have loved my part-time consulting business. I love my career again. Being layed off reconnected me to what I do very well and what I thoroughly enjoy doing. But I need to work a bit more than I am, so I reached out to former colleagues and clients (and some current colleagues and clients!), humbled myself (yikes), and asked for some Linkedin recommendations to help me in securing some additional business.

Wow. I was humbled to ask for help, but I have been more humbled by the words written. Never underestimate the power of words to recalibrate something deep within us.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. - Proverbs 16:24

Thank you friends who wrote such amazing words. Thank you for reminding me the power of words.