Monthly Archives: March 2017

Don’t Make Me Come In There… “The Power of a Whisper” by Bill Hybels Makes You Think

Friends! I pray today finds you well and that perhaps you’re getting to experience a beautiful spring day.  It’s been a wild-n-crazy week in the Hoagland Household. (Translation: Not enough hours in the day.)

I found a post on a most helpful and interesting book by Bill Hybels which I wrote about a while ago, worthy of a reprise. Please enjoy.

Next week,  I’ve got a fun, new devotional to share with you. It will lift your spirits every day.

May you have a blessed week and hear from the Holy Spirit thanks to Bill’s great thoughts…


Ahhhh…Motherhood…. A time when you finally admit, “Never say never!”

How ‘bout a for instance?

“I’ll never be one of those Mothers who chucks a pop tart in the back seat to my child on the way to school.”  Busted.


“I’ll never plunk my child down in front of a TV and let him/her sit for hours.”  Busted.

 “I”ll never scream and yell like a  possessed person at my child.”  Yeah, right.

To this day, our boys’ favorite seemingly-possessed-style-of-parenting was me shouting “May Day!  May Day!” at the top of my lungs when something really went awry.  As if “the troops” knew I was waving a major white flag?


After years of experimentation (!!!), probably the biggest attention grabber in my mothering was lowering my voice, in a do-or-die whisper.  Whispering won out way over yelling.  Greatest fear factor:  Whispering “Don’t Make Me Come In There!”

So what exactly do you do when someone’s whispering to you?  You sit still, ears at attention, and you listen

This week I’d like to share some highlights from an intense book by Bill Hybels:  The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond.  It had me from its’ title…

Not such a gutsy gal, I prayed this book would give me some gargantuan guts. (I s’pose “Guts for God” sounds better…)

Allow me to share the wealth:


Bill begins with informing us he’s been on a fifty-year odyssey of hearing whispers from God.  Bill expounds: “Inaudible whispers at that!…My entire journey comes down to a series of unplanned promptings from heaven that have charted a course for my life even I never could have foreseen.”

Sound crazy?  Perhaps.  But…to encounter Bills’ experiences all over the world  immediately hooks and leads us, the readers, to want to learn to listen expectantly and prayerfully.

After citing Samuel’s story, how he became a prophet of God from listening to God  in I Samuel 3, Bill shares a poem one of his teachers gave him which he memorized in the second grade:

“Oh! Give me Samuel’s ear,

An open ear, O Lord,

Alive and quick to hear

Each whisper of Thy Word;

Like him to answer to Thy call

And to obey Thee first of all.” (A hymn by James Drummond Burns)

Titus 3:5 returned to Bills’ memory when he surrendered his life to Christ:  “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

Soon after that, a Christian man offered to buy Bill dinner.  Over burgers, the man asked him a show-stopping question:  “What are you going to do with your life that will last forever?…I’m just curious what you’ll do that will outlive you and all of those earthly accomplishments.”

Oh boy…that’ll make you think, huh?  My husband, John, is always saying upon his death, he just hopes he’s missed.  Not remembered so much for what he did, but because if you are missed, you have touched others’  lives.


We are forever and a day laughing at obituaries that rattle on and on and on filled with clubs and organizations people belonged to as if a resume is needed…for heaven?  I don’t think so.

Bill also reminds us of Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (ESV)

Billy Graham, in his book Day by Day, tells us what the Holy Spirit does for us:  “The Holy Spirit illuminates the minds of people, makes us yearn for God, and takes spiritual truth and makes it understandable to us.”

Billy’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, in a recent  Decision Magazine said “Learning to recognize the voice of God is critical, not only for our own peace of mind but also for developing a personal relationship with Him and for living a life pleasing to Him.”  There’s the peace found from Romans 8:6.


Well how exactly do we hear from the Spirit?  Bill gives us five filters to help us test every whisper we receive.  He says, “No matter how confusing, challenging, or unsettling a prompting may be, if it passes the following filters, I obey it every time:

Filter #1:  Is the Prompting Truly from God?

Filter #2:  Is it Scriptural?

Filter #3:  Is it Wise?

Filter #4:  Is It in Tune with Your Own Character?

Filter #5:  What do the People You Most Trust Think About it?”

The best way to learn more about these, in addition to the book, is to watch the below YouTube clip where Bill talks about this whole concept and explains the filters.  It’s only eighteen minutes long.  The testimony included will bring you to tears.

Stormie Omartian, in her book Lead Me Holy Spirit affirms the concept of being rooted in our faith:  “The Holy Spirit is the power of God flowing through you, and that puts you on solid ground, like a house built on rock.”


Last week we talked about how we want to become rooted like redwoods. All of these  authors we’ve heard from today are textbook examples of Colossians 2:6-7:  “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward:  Just go ahead with what you’ve been given.  You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him.  You’re well constructed upon him.  You know your way around the faith.  Now do what you’ve been taught.  School’s out;  quit studying the subject and start living it!  And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” (The Message)  Don’t miss those last two crucial sentences!

Look at how The Voice puts it in verse seven:  “Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundationBe strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.”

May it be with us…

‘Til next time!


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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Friends

You’re Invited to a Super Fun Book Club! Monday, 3/27 at 6:30 p.m.: “The Promise of Jesse Woods” by Chris Fabry

Friends!  Grab  as many friends as you can find and dash over to Middletown United Methodist Church next Monday, March 27th from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243

 The girls at Branches Book Club will be discussing a beautifully written novel by Chris Fabry called The Promise of Jesse Woods and you do not want to miss a minute of it! 

Because there’s a mouth-watering church picnic scene in the story, we decided we’ll be having our own potluck supper Monday night.  Please bring a side dish to share if time allows.  The main course and drinks will be provided. Just one more incentive (read “bribe” and smile) to get you and your friends coming to Book Club!

One more teaser:  Chris has graciously sent us a twenty plus minute personal message about this book, so you won’t want to miss him either!  

Every single book I’ve read of Chris’ I declare it to be my favorite, and The Promise of Jesse Woods is no exception.  What’s fun about Chris’ writing is my sweet Hubster, a/k/a John, enjoys Chris’ books too and we have a blast discussing them.  This book received the 2017 Christianity Today Book Award Merit in the fiction category.

Some of his other books have won the coveted Christy Award (Dogwood 2009, Almost Heaven 2011 and Not in the Heart 2013)  and the Christian Book Award (also Almost Heaven 2011).  Click on his website and check out all the other books Chris has written:  fiction and non-fiction. And don’t miss his daily radio show, Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. ( )

One of many endorsers of this book happens to be author Charles Martin. Many of you know how much I like his writing and you’re in his camp as well.  Charles says Chris’ book is “a tender coming-of-age story of first love, innocence lost, and the soul-freeing power of truth.”

Before we get into a few glimpses of this novel, you guys out there may be interested in at least two of Chris’ non-fiction books. My guess is you had no idea he wrote these very cool, true stories:

Coming Back Stronger—Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity by Drew Brees with Chris Fabry

The Winners Manual—for the Game of Life by Jim Tressel with Chris Fabry

(Fun sidebar:  John and I happen to have a copy of this book, signed by Tressel.  This came about when our dear friend Joe Daniels was Coach Tressel’s Quarterback Coach.  Like Tuesdays with Morrie, Jim Tressel sat at Joe Daniels’ bedside every single Tuesday while he battled cancer.  He gave a most poignant speech at Joe’s funeral.)

Back to our book:  You’ll love the characters in The Promise of Jesse Woods and feel as if you’re riding bikes down the roads of Dogwood, West Virginia with them.  You’ll sympathize with Matt whose extra pounds he’s packin’ bring him relentless teasing.

He and his family have moved to Dogwood for his Dad to be the town’s new preacher.  This makes Matt not only the new kid in town, but the Preacher’s Kid, and we all know what comes with that…

Matt quickly makes two new friends, both dragging a wagon full of baggage.  Matt’s new friend Dickie, is biracial, which brings that whole component with the story’s setting in 1972, while his other friend in the trio happens to be a girl named, Jesse Woods.  She becomes Matt’s first love which complicates matters just a tad.

In the book, Chris flips back and forth from 1984 to 1972, however you figure this out easily and read that much faster, trying to figure out where the plot will take you next.  One of the bad guys in the book will make you so mad because of how he affects so many, Matt’s Father, included.  His name even sounds like a dark cloud hovers over it:  Basil Blackwood.

At one point in the story, Matt wonders when his Father may grow a backbone no thanks to the very wicked Mr. Blackwood. Seems Mr. Blackwood minds the church’s business more than his own.

When Matt moves away to Chicago, he loses touch with these friends who’d been inseparable.  He says, “After high school I had ripped the rearview off my life.”

It’s back in Chicago where Matt gets a blast-from-the-past phone call from Dickie.  They really needed to patch things up, but the more pressing matter comes with Dickie’s announcement that their beloved Jesse is getting married in a few days.  Oh my…

Will Matt return to Dogwood?  And if he does, will he stop the wedding?  Will Jesse’s fiancée go after Matt?  Ah, my friend, you must read the book to find out!

Before we close, I’ll share just one of many beautiful quotes I’ve highlighted and dog-eared.  Matt is talking with his father who says, “Life is never easy…it may seem like it on the surface, but there’s a struggle to it all.  When Jesus told the disciples to go across the Sea of Galilee, they got in the boat and obeyed. And that was when one of the biggest storms blew up. So obeying God’s will can sometimes get you into trouble. But it’s better to follow him into a storm than to stay on the shore alone.”

One thing I always hunt for in a book is the meaning of its’ title.  You will flat fall out of your chair when you reach the meaning of The Promise of Jesse Woods.  I never saw it comin’…

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest book story and grab this book.  Even if you don’t finish it before Monday, you’ll still enjoy and be blessed by our lively discussion, fun fellowship and delicious food.

We’ll look forward to seeing you Monday night, March 27th at 6:30! 

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews

Let’s Prepare Our Hearts for Easter With Help from Liz Curtis Higgs and Her New Book: The Women of Easter—Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene

Friends!  Greetings this lovely Lenten Season!

I confess I haven’t proclaimed what I’m giving up yet even tho’ Ash Wednesday was March 1st…usually it’s chocolate and I manage to fail at keeping the promise.  Deep, I know…

My freshman year of college I gave up the elevator and walked the four flights of stairs to my room.  Deeper…

I love what my friend, Nancy Sleeth from , suggests:

Consider what you might ADD during this season to draw closer to God?”

Nancy offers the following ideas:

All  great ideas, thanks Nancy!

I have another stellar idea for you that our Tuesday Bible study group, a/k/a “Blessings on Burlington” is about to embark on to help us appreciate Easter more.  We’ll be reading Liz Curtis Higgs’ newest book, The Women of Easter—Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene.

Before I even opened the book, I need to own up to the fact I wasn’t certain who all these Marys were.  Once I dove in, I realized “Mary of Bethany” is none other than the chill-child-Mary vs. the nervous-Nellie-Martha…you know, that Mary and Martha duo.

How many times have we all said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things…” (Luke 10:41) Liz calls Martha the “first century Martha Stewart”. She kills me.

Mary of Nazareth was Jesus’ Mother and Mary Magdalene was the demon-possessed woman who Jesus healed and who became a devout follower of our Lord.  The numerous details Liz reveals within each chapter on these Marys is fascinating.

Liz tells us readers, “We’ll meet three women of Easter who poured our their lives for their beloved Teacher. .. Mary of Bethany prepared the Lord for burial by anointing Him with a priceless perfume. Mary of Nazareth, who’d watched Jesus draw His first breath, bravely watched Him breathe His last. Mary Magdalene witnessed His resurrection and proclaimed the good news to His disciples.”

Liz walks us thru’ several parts of the Bible, teaching us along the way via various translations, making us feel as if we’re right in every scene.  When Jesus raises Lazarus from the grave, you experience not only His affection for Lazarus, but the palpable grief from the sisters, Mary and Martha.

She explains what’s happening in certain passages, drawing a teaching point for us to think about, showing us how we can apply it to our life.  She also builds the tension toward what we know is coming:  the crucifixion…

Blissfully dotting the pages with her humor, we readers find this to be a relief from some of the very tough subject matter.  For example, when Liz is talking about the disciples deserting Jesus and fleeing (Matthew 26:56), she says, “It’s heartening to realize that Scripture has no parallel stories of women betraying Jesus, denying Jesus, or abandoning Jesus.”

Frederick Dale Bruner said, “They’re not like the disciple-defectors.” (!!!) Lizzie calls Jesus’ female followers “loyal from start to finish.”

Good luck getting thru’ Chapter Seven without hunting down a Kleenex or two, or ten.  Liz’ description of what Jesus endured as well as the women looking on will take your breath away.

Liz reminds us, “Lent is a time of remembering, of revisiting the familiar scenes in Scripture and discovering what God wants us to learn this year. We are not the same women we were twelve months ago. Our lives have changed and our perspectives have shifted. …His love for us has not changed, and our need for Him has not diminished.”

May we STOP… and consider what we’ve learned this past year as we refocus on the cross and the miraculous resurrection this Easter.  Liz’ book is akin to a guided tour toward the cross…and yet, praises we sing,  with an empowering ending.  Let’s celebrate!


If you live anywhere near Louisville and are nearby next Wednesday, March 22nd, don’t miss the opportunity to hear Liz speak at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church at 6:00 p.m.  She’s one of their Lenten Series speakers and will be talking about this excellent book. She’s the third of five speakers each Wednesday before Easter. For more information, visit

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews, Holidays

Lace Up Those Shoes…Let’s Go Walkin’… Part 4 of 4 of our Fitness Focus (With Help from Author Lisa Preuett)

Friends!  We’re having unusually warm weather here in Kentucky for February and now March…I pray you are, too,  wherever you are.  We need to take advantage of this and get out and breathe in some fresh air!

Lace up those walkin’ shoes and let’s hit the pavement…Walking has a gazillion benefits for us.  We’ll highlight a few and become acquainted with a new friend of mine who recently published her first book.

This  week’s featured book rounds out the finale for our fitness focus.  It’s called Embracing the Race—40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul by Lisa Preuett and would be great for men or women.  Before you say, “Oh no, I’m not a runner, this doesn’t apply to me…”, let me reassure you that all forty out of forty devotionals are for everyone out there and I’ll show you why.

I discovered Lisa’s book thanks to my friend Sherry.  I contacted Lisa and we met for tea at Heine Brothers so I could learn more about her and how her book came to be.  She also writes an excellent blog via her website:

Lisa says about her book, “Even if you’ve never run a day in your life, you’ll still gain wisdom and insight.”  She reminds us, “In the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes about our walk of faith being just like a race. So no matter where you are in your race, I pray you’ll embrace it and be encouraged…”

Before we dive into the book, you need to know part of the proceeds from this book go to benefit Water Step International ( ) Key in your zip code and several locations near you will pop up where you can donate your old shoes.  This is under the “Shoes for Water” section.  Water Step helps provide clean water in developing countries. What a great endeavor.

The format of Lisa’s devotional is time management at its’ finest:  short and sweet, loaded with equipping Scripture and life application questions. 

One of my favorite chapters asks, “Are you thoroughly equipped?”  Lisa begins  with “Shoes are to a runner what tires are to a car. Attempting to use the wrong type is damaging and utterly reckless…”


I confess I did not heed this little warning. I made a very stupid, prideful mistake.  One recent escape to Naples, Florida found me sporting a pair of very cute tennis shoes.  They’d been a gift. My fifty-something self decided these kicks, while quite flat and less cushiony than I was used to, surely made me appear “cool and younger”.  I know. I know. I know

For nine days straight, I walked and jogged in these cute shoes, logging many, many miles. By the time we boarded dear ole’ Delta to fly home, I could barely walk.  My heels protested.  The next morning, I could hardly get out of bed.  I had a screaming case of plantar fasciitis. 

Folks, nine days of “cuteness” cost me a solid year’s worth of healing.  Healing your heels ain’t so easy, nor is it any fun at all.  At all.

Desperate, I headed over for help from my sweet friends at Footworks.  They promptly scolded me, shaking their heads in dismay. Rightly so.  Tough, painful lesson learned.  Good news is they promptly fitted me in wonderfully comfortable fit-like-a-glove  pair of running shoes. ( They weren’t as wild as the below pair, but they do have a lovely shade of caribbean blue and mint green running along the sides. Footworks’ selections are plentiful.

After addressing essential equipment for running, Lisa says, “God also calls us to be thoroughly equipped…What does He call us to equip ourselves with?”

Let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to find the answer…

Lisa shows us from this verse:

We must equip ourselves with the powerful words from Scripture.  They must enter through our mind and then penetrate like deep roots to the depth of our soul.”

“We have to intentionally

PONDER them continually, and
DIGEST them through every fiber of our heart.

In doing so we will be prepared for every situation we face.”

Finding a good pair of shoes that fits you well is a financial investment.  Lisa reminds us that “Christ followers must also make an investment.  Not with money—but with our time and effort.  We must be intentional with prioritizing our lives around God’s Word…”

DON’T MISS THIS WARNING: Lisa continues,

“Neglecting time in God’s Word is an invitation for damage, disaster, and ruin.”

“Dear friend, I urge you to make the most crucial investment for your faith journey:  embrace the Word of God as the fuel that fires your very soul!”

Lisa closes each chapter with three small paragraph sections:

“READY?” – which offers excellent application questions,

“GET SET.”  – which is a Scripture to equip you to do just what the chapter suggests, AND

“GO!” – which is a beautiful prayer to keep us moving in the right direction.

Finally, let’s consider a list of benefits of walking from the folks at Tesco in the United Kingdom.  You can find dozens of similar lists from the Mayo Clinic here in the States, to just about anywhere.  I chose this list because I’m especially attached to reason #5.  Hey, we all need an incentive, coupled with a good laugh!

You can get Lisa’s book from her website. (See top of this post.) There are five options for where to get it plus you can preview ten of the devotions  for FREE before you decide if you’d like it by clicking on the Amazon link in her website.

My guess is you’re already thinking of some of your walking buddies who would like to have this devotional.  Read it together so you can be inspired together.

Let’s get out there and do some walking!

‘Til next time!

P.S.  Next week we’ll prepare our hearts for Easter with help from Liz Curtis Higgs since we’re in the Lenten season.



Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

Does Sitting on the Back of a Harley Count as Exercise? Author Sarah Huxford Helps Us Figure This Out (Part 3 of 4 on Fitness)

Friends!  Well, we’re back on our fitness series, however you’ll be relieved to know this portion is more of a workout for your marriage or relationship with a loved one. 

We had such a rough workout from CycleBar week before last, we’ll warm up slowly this week to prepare for a more rigorous workout and grand finale next week.

Allow me to introduce you to a uniquely titled book:  The Harley Chronicles—Everything I Learned About My Marriage on the Back of a Harley by Sarah Huxford.


My dear friend Judy Russell gave me this book.  Bob and Judy are good friends with Sarah and her husband, Cam.  Cam is the Senior Pastor at Compassion Christian Church in Savannah, Georgia.  Sarah is the Women’s Community Pastor.

Cam invites Bob to speak at their church often, so over the years, Judy’s gotten to know Sarah.  Surely they bonded immediately, both being pastor’s wives.

The common thread ends there, however, as Sarah’s husband took up a new hobby.  Oh yeah, a two-wheeled one, only this one comes with a motor.  While I don’t know Cam, somehow I envision him saying to Sarah, “Honey, I bought a hog.” (Sarah, I can commiserate…my husband rode Harleys and BMW’s for over fifteen years. However, you entered into this world later than we did, which seems to be a great thing for you guys!)


Sarah and Cam had just entered into a new season of their lives.  They had an empty nest.  Not only had their children flown the coop, but sadly their beloved dog, Bucky, went to Doggy Heaven.  Their newfound freedom wasn’t as exciting as they’d hoped…yet…

More-than-they-asked-for-advice was offered and the new solution to their freedom appeared in the driveway.  Meet Big Red. (See his photograph on the cover of her book.)

Sarah confesses she wasn’t too thrilled over the new member of their family, however once Cam said, “Jump on, let’s go for a ride…” The rest, as they say, was history.

I’m proud of Sarah for being so brave.  Not just for jumping on the back of the bike, but also because one should also wear proper attire,  leather being a must.  Her friends from church asked, “Who are you and what have you done with our preacher’s wife?”

The format of the book is excellent.  It offers four parts in each chapter:

1 –  Sarah candidly shares lessons she has learned from being on the back of their Harley.  You’ll crack up over some of her new discoveries.  Her learning curve is highly amusing. Her lessons are for all of us in any relationship.

2 – The lessons are followed by her “Bible Back-up”:  She does a beautiful job with this as these sections are like mini-Bible studies.  Sarah guides us thru’ verses from Genesis, Song of Solomon, Ephesians, Proverbs, 1 Corinthians, and many more.

One eye-opening exercise Sarah takes us thru’ in 1 Corinthians 13 becomes very personal when we’re told to insert our names  where the word “love” is.

Watch this little humbling exercise:

“Elizabeth is patient, Elizabeth is kind, Elizabeth does not envy, Elizabeth is not proud, Elizabeth does not dishonor others, Elizabeth is not easily angered, etc.”

Now YOU try this with YOUR name.  How do you fare??? Makes you think, huh?

Another one of many topics Sarah covers is on commitment.  She says,



She continues, “There is nothing like good old-fashioned commitment. It is undervalued in a culture like ours, in which we want things fixed fast…Cam and I are often asked what made our marriage last and endure the hard times. Our answer is usually simple. We committed to this marriage until one of us dies.”  AMEN, Sarah!

3 – Several discussion questions are included after the Bible study parts which are great for small groups or Bible study groups.

At the end of the discussion questions, Sarah recommends a  book on marriage in each chapter, so you can learn about eight additional books you may be interested in.

4 – The last part of each chapter is another favorite of mine.  Sarah includes “Biker’s Trip Stats and Passenger’s Log”.  This is like a wonderful, fascinating travelogue.  She includes the miles she and Cam rode, the highways they took, “great places to eat”, and their favorite “don’t miss this” sight seeing spots.

Map Reading

This would be wonderful not only for bikers, but for those of us who love road trips.  Sarah and Cam’s trips range from a short 25 mile trip, to longer ones, ranging from 109 miles to over 800 miles.

Let’s look at their trips:

Departure:  Savannah, GA to Tybee Island, GA

Departure:  Baneberry, TN to Fontana, NC

Don’t miss Sarah’s story about The Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap–offering a mere 318 curves in eleven miles in Chapter 3.  She has about as much affinity for it as I do, altho’ I have slayed that dragon,  yet differently than she did.  Checkout our experience from a few years ago.

Departure: Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Key West, FL

Departure: Steamboat Springs, CO to Boulder, CO

Departure:  Somers, MT to Sequim, WA

Departure:  Seattle, WA to Whistler, BC, Canada

Departure:  Lake Louise, AB, Canada to Somers, MT

This week, your exercise in our fitness series is to evaluate your marriage or your relationship with your loved one.  If you were to ride on the back of a Harley, as in being up close and personal, how would you rank your relationship?  Close?  Middle-of-the-road? Distant?  What step can you take this week to make it one notch better than it is now?

I’m praying for all of us in this endeavor.  Thanks again to Sarah, for writing such a fun, resourceful, poignant read.

Lace up your tennis shoes, for we’re hitting the pavement next week!

‘Til next time!



Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons, Travel