Tag Archives: Ann Voskamp

What’s Irresistible to You? Chocolate? Yes. Our Faith? Yay or Nay…

Friends!  Would your friends say you have an irresistible faith?  Anybody besides me want to reply, “Come back in a bit, I’m not quite ready for that question…”

Yes, well, let me fetch some chocolate while we ponder this together…

Recently I was delighted to be part of a committee to choose books for our upcoming book club season for fall 2019-spring 2020.  Seven slots to fill seemed easy, however five for five of us arrived at the meeting with ten to fifteen suggestions, each.  We were a vision of “so many books, so little time.”

One of the many recommendations I received, I also read.  It hit me between the eyes and my poor brain is still trying to process it..  The book?  Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian The World Can’t Resist by Scott Sauls. Scott pastors Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville where I’ve been blessed to attend a women’s conference with my good buddy, Madge, who lives there.

My favorite endorsement of this book comes from Duke Keon who pastors Grace Meridian Hill in Washington, DC:  “With biblical clarity, personal transparency, and a relentlessly winsome  spirit, Scott Sauls shows us how authentic Christianity is attractive Christianity. It’s a timely and reliable road map for those seeking to restore the damaged witness and public reputation of Christians…If you want to learn how the grace of God makes us the ‘light of the world’ in all of life, read this book!”

In his Foreword in the book, Bob Goff says, “This book is an invitation for us to return to the most authentic version of our faith. It’s also an invitation to join, or create, an authentic community of people trying to go somewhere beautiful with their faith.”

Bob has just painted a picture for us of what we experience in Bible study and small groups.  That’s exactly what we aspire to do, to “go somewhere beautiful with our faith.”  I love that!

Scott begins by saying what really bugs him is how many negative reactions the word “Christian” gets.  He quotes San Francisco journalist Herb Caen who said, “The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around.”  OUCH…

Scott rattles off a dozen questions causing us readers to consider what it would look like for our love for the Lord and each other to be so contagious and so irresistible non-believers would want to know the source of our faith. His book offers some much-needed ideas and suggestions. It’s akin to an owner’s manual you’ll want to refer to often. (Scott, any fat chance you could create a pocket-size version for us???)

Scott asks,

I’m happy to report you’ll also get to laugh out loud multiple times.  Scott tells on himself and gifts us with fantastic quotes from other authors as well.  He confesses he finds “more satisfaction in the praise of people than he does in the grace of God.”  We’re all normal human beings and we simply forget the glory goes to God and belongs only to Him. This is not an easy subject matter, and Scott takes us by the hand to show us what irresistible faith looks like.

Brennan Manning says it best:

“I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” (From The Ragamuffin Gospel)

Right about the time you want to ask, “Now what?” Scott reminds us if we keep a “steady diet of God-inspired words, aided and animated by the Holy Spirit, we’ll have nurtured, healthy, and solid souls.” He lists countless classic authors, musicians, all steeped in God’s Word giving us beautiful examples and a well-built case for keeping our noses in His Word.

A new-to-me and now favorite concept we learn about is found in Chapter 4, “Practicing Transparency and Kindness.” We discover a thought from Ann Voskamp that Scott’s church has now adopted, “only speak words that make souls stronger.”

He tells us,

The staff at Christ Presbyterian Church has come to “nurture a culture of benediction.”  They begin their staff meetings “by speaking life-giving words over each other.” Can you imagine the impact on each of them when their co-workers publicly praise each other one by one? What if we tried this in our homes with our beloved family? And friends? And anyone who crosses our path?

Scott teaches us “the universal Christian job description:  all Christians are called as Christ’s ambassadors into the places where they live, work, play, and worship, with the glorious purpose of leaving people, places, and things better than they found them.”

It’s living out Colossians 3:23-24:

Now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and snag a copy of Irresistible Faith.

‘Til next time!

P.S.  While reading this book, I kept thinking to myself that Scott should connect with Christine Caine as they really remind me of each other.  They both pack a punch with mega enthusiasm causing you to want to be on their team.  How like the Lord to have Christine as one of Scott’s endorsers.  She says Scott and his wife, Patty, are friends with Christine and her husband Nick! She goes so far as to say she loves everything Scott writes.  Amen and amen…

 

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When You Flunk Generosity 101… (Inspirational Antidote from Sherry C. Leavell)

Friends! Have you ever been the recipient of a pay-it-forward scenario?  Or perhaps you started a giving chain in a McDonald’s drive-thru…

One very cold Monday morning, sportin’ a severe attitude, I had to haul myself way out east for a mole check with my dermatologist. Who wants to do that, much less on a cold Monday morning?

Further aggravating the situation, my rushing around left me no time to eat breakfast.  Horrors.

Appointment finished, I hightailed it to McDonald’s for a not-so-nutritious-but-oh-so-good bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.  Surely the unsweet tea canceled the biscuit’s calories?

Fishing a five-dollar bill out of my wallet, I pulled up to pay.

The drive-thru employee said, “The car ahead of you paid for your meal, ma’am. Have a nice day!”

Stunned, I could barely articulate, “Wow! Thank you.”

Still holding my five-dollar bill, I grabbed my breakfast and drove on.

Oh dear.  Why didn’t I give the guy my five and offer to pay for the person behind me?  I’m ashamed to say it never crossed my mind…until I pulled out of the parking lot.

I blew it.  Period.

I rationalized, “That has never happened to me before.  No wonder I couldn’t think on my feet.” Oh brother.

Later that day I picked up dinner for our friends Liz and Bill.  As I sat down at their table, I relayed my gaffe. Bill confirmed my act, “Wow, you broke the chain!”  Yes, well, that helped tremendously. We all laughed in spite of ourselves.

Oh, but then I rationalized again, “Well, at least I’m taking dinner to friends.”

Bottom line?

Grace wins.

Guilt loses.

Shame evaporates.

Lesson learned.

Enough of my saga, allow me to introduce you to the perfect antidote for when you flunk generosity 101.  My dear friend, Sherry Leavell, has just written a marvelous little book that packs a punch.  The book?

Grateful Living:  30 Days to GRATITUDE

Sherry’s written thirty short devotionals which offer help via God’s Word along with excellent questions and ideas on how to apply these Scriptures to our daily lives.  I’ve highlighted, underlined, and dog-eared many a page.

Pictured here left to right are: Yours Truly, Sherry Leavell, and Judy Russell. This was a fun rendezvous for lunch in Fort Myers, FL one day in January while our hubbies played golf.

Sherry shows us the longer we walk with the Lord, the more our gratitude grows.  She takes us on a thirty-day adventure causing us to consider, “Because Jesus paid it all, and all to Him we owe (like the hymn says), what is the best way to live that out?”

Grateful Living also includes a gratitude journal in the back with thirty spots to record small or big things you’re grateful for.  Sherry’s own experience, from a challenge thanks to Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, profoundly impacted her gratefulness.

I’ll share a few of my favorite entries, and pray you run as fast as you can to The Living Word Bookstore ( www.livingword.org ) or call the gals there to order: (502) 253-8220. You may also contact Sherry via her email:  Sherry.Leavell@gmail.com .

My first favorite entry is #16:  Life as a Bouquet. Scripture given is Psalm 86:12:

Sherry tells a story about Corrie Ten Boom and how Corrie handled receiving accolades for her books and speaking engagements. She accepted these “as if they were flowers. She would present all these compliments (flowers) to the Lord as His bouquet at the end of each day.”

I love that visual! Sherry adds, “Each success, victory and compliment can be accepted as a flower to be arranged in a lovely bouquet and handed to Jesus on a daily basis…sharing it’s Christ’s love which compels us to love others.”

I didn’t expect my toes to be stepped on, but after my faux pas at McDonald’s, clearly I still have much to learn.  In entry #17, Sherry has the gall to suggest (kidding, sorta) we are ALL missionaries.  Yikes.

She proves this by giving us Matthew 28:19,

We readers learn about a young missionary named Val who said, “I keep thinking about what you said that many folks have never met a missionary before. I feel honored and privileged that the Lord has called us to this and then provided, so it can happen. But I hope we all realize that we are all missionaries.” (Please take a moment to pray for our dear friends, Val, Clark, and Hannah Sleeth who are serving at Tenwek Hospital in Africa. www.wgm.org )

Sherry gently reminds us, “As followers of Christ, we’re ambassadors for Him…missionaries who are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ every day, everywhere, with everyone we meet.”

Not only does each entry begin with a Scripture, it also ends with a prayer.  These are so helpful as many times I can’t come up with the best take-away from a devotional and Sherry helps us do just that.

Entry #17 is the perfect example of applying the Word to our life:

Three more of my favorite entries are:  #20 – Walking Like Jesus (Glean helpful ideas to take with you the next time you walk with a friend), #22 – Seeking Answers (You won’t believe how specifically God answered one of Sherry’s prayer requests. Discover Liz Curtis Higgs’ connection in this entry. Liz is also who challenged Sherry only a year ago to write this book!), and #28 – Living the Life That is Truly Life (Uncover Sherry’s incredible bad timing with her first job, you won’t believe it! Plus grab lifelong advice from Jess and Angela Correll. www.angelacorrell.com )

Finally, here are 3 of a gazillion pearls Sherry equips us with:

Grab your own copy of Grateful Living and see which entry is your favorite!  May all of our eyes be opened to grateful living, passing Generosity 101 with flying colors.

’Til next time!

P.S.  Sherry’s first book is one you moms don’t want to miss:  A Mother’s Mission:  Thirty Thoughts for Thirty Days.

 

 

 

 

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Love and Chocolate Treats for February (Part 2 of 4)When You’re STUNNED about your Valentine’s Day Gift…

Friends! Happy Belated Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day! Please enjoy two wild tales…

FLASHBACK:  Valentine’s Day 1993…

“No babysitter for Valentine’s Day???” I whined, coupled with a proficient pout…

“Now honey…” my way-too-practical hubby began…”You know restaurants jack up their prices on Valentine’s Day, and the boys are too little to take out…”

Translation:  “Why don’t you just cook us up somethin’?

Silent thought while heaving an extra loud sigh for future Oscar potential:  “Oh boy, grocery shopping with three boys is such a trip…literally….”

Determined to create fun and education for our Valentine meal, I hunted down ingredients for everything RED:  cherry cool-aid, red spaghetti sauce, cherry jello,  red sprinkles to go on the ice cream with the not-so-red-but-filled-with-a-boatload-of-chocolate brownies.

Spreading out papers for the boys to color, my scary cooking commenced…

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Quickly into our “project”, something was not quite right.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Our oldest son, John Jr., was way too excited about helping with his brothers. They were coloring at lightening speed, wanting more and more “Valentines” to make for Daddy.

Dinner pulled together, Hubster now home and seated,  John Jr. and Gordy seated, Woody in his high-chair, the following proclamation ensued:

“Mommy!  We have a huge surprise for you! Daddy’s gotten a babysitter and everything!”

Visions of an escape to a hotel sans les enfants rolled thru’ my head….

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Fantasy interrupted, my mischievous husband said, “John Jr., why don’t you tell Mommy about her Valentine’s Day gift?”

“Mommy”, John Jr. continued with wildly excited eyes, “Daddy and I got a babysitter for Woody…

so that the four of us can go to…..

…the Truck and Tractor Pull!!!”…

Taken from www.farmmachineryshow.org Photos by Scott Henson

Taken from http://www.farmmachineryshow.org Photos by Scott Henson

“The what?”  I managed to ask…feigning interest…

“THE TRUCK AND TRACTOR PULL!!!” John Jr.  repeated, now standing, voice at high decibels.

Fabulous hotel fantasy comes to a screeching halt.

Pivotal moment in Mother/Wife Career:

Enter a God moment…”You’d better put on a sense of humor while raising these boys, being a Godly, cheery, loving  wife and mom, or you’ll never make it.” (Guessing The Lord didn’t say “or you’ll never make it”, that’s just my translation.)

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Bidding adieu to my very-sheltered-only-child background, it was time to buck up.  Riding a perpetual roller coaster comes to mind. Nevertheless, I will still praise you, Lord.

That year was a turning point for me.  Ups and downs, yes, but with a sense of humor.  Which segues beautifully into one of the funniest books on marriage I’ve read lately.

Allow me to share snippets of The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life  by Melanie Shankle.

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You’ve probably heard of Melanie.  She’s one in the same who wrote Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn. She reports receiving countless pairs of earrings after the book published.  (There’s an idea!  She said she really wanted her next book to be Louis Vuitton Purse with Matching Wallet!!!  I’m thinkin’ A Caribbean Villa…could be swell.) Check out her way popular blog at www.thebigmamablog.com.

With killer humor, Melanie shares good times and not-so-good ones with her husband, Perry.  Melanie and Perry define opposites attract.  She puts it like this:  “Perry loves the outdoors and I love air-conditioning.”

She says,  “There are days filled with laughter and compromise.  And then there are days filled with silence and anger.  But at the end of it all, you’re two people God has joined to journey through life together

… For  better or for worse.  In hunting season and in health.”

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My  wild-n-adventurous husband, John, used to ride motorcycles.  Shouts of praise he’s not riding anymore.  (At least for today.)  I poked fun at all the “accessories” a bike could have, not to mention the “gear”.  They make that in leather???

But guess what Melanie’s husband’s hobby is?  In addition to hunting, he makes homemade ammunition. You go, Perry.

In addition to humor, Melanie includes the importance of their faith.  She alludes to not following God and making bad choices prior to meeting Perry.

She and Perry met at a Bible study at Texas A &  M.  She said, “There was something about Perry that intrigued me.  He was different from other guys I’d met.  And he had a heart for God I hadn’t seen in many other guys.”

Making a list of husband qualities, Melanie realized, “What you really need is someone you’d want to be in battle next to you, someone who can make you laugh even in the tough times, someone who will encourage you to be the best  you can be…” (Sounds just like our “Balcony People” from a couple of weeks ago.  My friend Trish says her husband looks at her with “husband eyes”.  Same concept.)

Since surgery seems to be in the air at our house (we’ll go there later), I cried from laughing so hard over an incident when Perry had yet another surgery for his back.  After a night in the hospital, Melanie got Perry secured in the car for the drive home.  Spying a Chik-fil-A and craving one of their chicken biscuits, Melanie pulled into the drive-thru’ only to be informed they were no longer serving breakfast.

Seven minutes past the breakfast hour caused her to jump the curb to get out of the drive-thru’ lane.  Never mind Perry was in the passenger seat, barely twenty-four hours post-op from back surgery.  This is only the beginning…

Melanie gets Perry home and situated on the couch, somewhat still sedated.  She reports: “According to Perry, the Clemson Tigers band marched thru’ our living room to dispense his pain medication at some point that afternoon.  Which is weird, because we’re not even Clemson fans, not to mention that South Carolina is a pretty good haul from Texas.  So I took this as an indication that maybe it was time to cut back on the meds just a tad.”

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So for a guy who creates his own ammunition, hearing him suggest they try “radiant barrier paint” one day doesn’t seem so far fetched.  When Melanie asked him what he was talking about, he explained:  “It’s paint that makes a surface heat resistant.  They use it on the space shuttle, and I’m thinking about buyin’ some.”

Melanie replies, “Well, of course you are.  I’ve always said that if it’s good enough for the space shuttle, then it’s good enough for us.” 

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John and I aren’t the only ones having fun with this book!  Guess who else was caught laughing out loud reading this?  Ann Voskamp’s husband!  “The Farmer”, as she often calls him, got side-tracked while paying bills, and read some from The Antelope in the Living Room.  Picture Ann and the Farmer  howling, all the way up in Canada.

Melanie also sprinkles in a few stories about their daughter, Caroline.  She discusses leaving a legacy for Caroline and her future children.  A prayer she prays continually comes from Deuteronomy 30:6—“that the Lord would circumcise our hearts and the hearts of our descendants so that we will love God with all our heart and with all our souls.”

“That’s the legacy that’s worth working thru’ the hard times to leave for our daughter.”   She adds, “In this world that sometimes treats marriage like it’s a disposable commodity we can throw away when it no longer seems to serve our purposes, a world that whispers to us that the grass might be greener on the other side, that’s something worth keeping in mind…”  Oh, someone please shout hallelujah over that one!  May we press on…

Finally, soak in this visual:  In one particular scenario, Perry offered Melanie some inexplicable kind of grace.  She said,    “…even tho’ I thought I understood what grace looked like, I really had no idea how deep and wide the mercy of Christ is.  That he looks at us when we lay ourselves bare before him, with all our ugly truths and realities, and says, ‘And?’”

“In Psalm 103 we are told that God redeems our lives from the pit.  Verses 11-12 proclaim, ‘As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’”

Melanie adds, “I once heard someone say that those words (of Psalm 103) represent the beams of the cross—reaching all the way up to the heavens with his love and stretching out to remove our sins as far as from where the sun rises to where it sets.”  Grasping the picture???  Beautiful!!!

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I pray you’re encouraged and enlightened by these glimpses of The Antelope in the Living Room.  There’s twenty-four lovely chapters to keep you that way!!!  And don’t forget this Valentine’s week:  Marriage is fueled by fun and forgiveness.

‘Til next time!

Our chocolate treat this week comes from another Kentucky cookbook called “Splendor in the  Bluegrass” by the Junior League of Louisville.  Its’ Chocolate Chess Bars on p. 245 are not to be missed!

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I’ve Had 20,440 New Mercies, You? (With Help From Mark Batterson and Paul David Tripp)

Happy New Year, Dear Friends! January  ushers in a new year, new beginnings, and thankfully, a clean slate.  That spells relief for yours truly, how about you?

There’s a verse in the Book of Lamentations I’ve always been fond of:  Lamentations 3:22-23 says,

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The ESV says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end…”

One year, I put this verse on our family’s New Year’s card.  This past year, two of some of my favorite authors happened to write about this verse.

When things like this happen from two different authors, in two different books, written in two different years, I’ve finally realized I need to sit up and take note.

The first book that grabbed me is a wonderful devotional by Paul David Tripp called New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. I learned about this from Ann Voskamp and several of my friends are now enjoying it. My dear friend Judy Russell told me she’s reading thru’ it now for the third year.

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While I don’t know Paul Tripp personally, he seems like a no-nonsense guy loaded with passionate, challenging information centering around several verses each day.  On tackling our verse of Lamentations 3:22-23, he begins by reminding us “the battle for your heart still goes on.”

He suggests we consider how blessed we are in a twofold way:  one as recipients of God’s “steadfast, faithful, and never-failing love.”

Paul reassures us:

God will never give up on you.
He will never walk away in disgust.
He will never regret that he placed his love on you.
He will love you just as much on your worst day as he does on your best day.
This gift of love is yours forever.”

The worst day/best day point is my favorite!  Isn’t that the best news?

The second way he shows us how blessed we are is comforting:  Because we are God’s children, “we’re blessed with eternal mercies that are new every morning….fresh mercies for you today, formfitted for all the things you will face.”

Oh, and I’ve got even more good news!  Pull up a chair, a pen and some paper, and let’s do some math…

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Mark Batterson taught me this in his book, If:  Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities.

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Mark begins by confessing he has trouble remembering things.  Oh yes, I can relate. I remember phone numbers from when I lived in Lexington, thirty-five plus years ago while I forget hamburger at the grocery when we’re making tacos…

He says, especially of Scripture, if he can find a song to learn with Scripture in it, he’ll listen to it over and over and over.  One of his favorites is From the Inside Out by King and Country.

It opens with “A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains.” Sounds like our verse, doesn’t it?

Then Mark teaches us the Hebrew word for new. It’s  hadas which means “different—as in never before experienced.” Therefore, Mark relays, “Today’s mercy is different from yesterday or the day before or the day before the day before. Just as the seasonal flu vaccine changes from year to year, God’s mercy changes from day to day.  It’s a new strain of mercy.”

Here’s the math:

Jot down how old you are.
Multiply that by 365.
(I told you at the top of this post, I’ve received 20,440.  You do the math. Smile.)

That’s how many mercies YOU have received from God.  Call me crazy, but dare I say few of us have thanked Him, much less realized we’ve received that many mercies?

Good at guilt (!!!), I think, “Oh man, I’ve wasted so many.”  But hey, we all must remember God is not a God of guilt, He’s a God full of grace, readying to gift us with yet another mercy tomorrow.

May we begin tomorrow morning, before that first cup of coffee, to praise Him for another new mercy.

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Amen.

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

 

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Part 2 of 4 in the Month of Love: Love for Spouse (With Help from Lauren Chandler)

“Think I should wear my sandals in the snow???” I asked Hubster. It was 4:30 in the morning. We were loading up the car to go to the airport. Snow was pummeling our town, roads and suitcases…

Winter Road

“Sure.” Hubster answered assuredly. “We’ll be in Naples by eleven o’clock this morning. Forecast: Warm and toasty.”

Beautiful tropical beach with palm treesConfidence received, off I trotted, sportin’ my sandals, thru’ the snow, plopping down in the car. Thankful we left early, traversing the unplowed roads to the airport which were scary sketchy.

Arriving safely, we got our bags checked and whizzed thru’ security. Amazingly, all departing flights read “on time”. Starbucks in hand, John and I waited to board our 7:00 o’clock flight.

Knowing several folks on the plane, we enjoyed hearing about their destinations: Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, and we were heading to our beloved Naples as the snow poured forth from the sky. Calgon take me away….

Airplane take off

Fast forward five hours, two Starbucks, deplaning, re-boarding and two de-icings later, 100% of our plane’s passengers missed their connections.

Stress ahead road sign

Safe to say my sandaled feet possessed some frozen toes. Maybe I’ll think twice before I show off in the snow again.

How do you handle a change in your schedule? Some of our fellow passengers were none too happy. Being married almost thirty-two years has helped us in times like these.

Your love for your spouse can make or break adversity. We just made the best of it and were glad to have arrived when we did.

Cancelled or delayed flights aren’t really that big of a deal. Discovering a malignant tumor in your brain is. (More on that frightening discovery for the Chandlers in a minute…)

Allow me to introduce you to a darling young wife and Mom named Lauren Chandler. Just so happens her husband is Matt Chandler, the pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. (www.thevillagechurch.net )

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Before we get to Lauren’s book, you must know John and I discovered Matt’s preaching thanks to Campus Outreach on the University of Kentucky’s campus. (www.colex.org ) It was Campus Outreach who ministered to our two younger boys while they were at UK, inviting them to their New Year’s Conference in Nashville one year and Chattanooga another year, where Matt was one of their speakers.

Matt was all they could talk about. Soon after that, John and I were blessed to hear Matt preach at the Together for the Gospel event in Louisville at the Yum Center. (www.t4g.org) Powerfully-gifted-by-God defines Matt’s preaching.

I learned of Lauren’s book thanks to Ann Voskamp’s blog, www.aholyexperience.com. Ann wrote the forward of Lauren’s book, Steadfast Love.

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I quickly nabbed the book, knowing we readers would learn of the trial Lauren and her family endured after discovering the tumor in Matt’s brain. Much to my surprise, while Lauren shares some of their cancer journey, her writing is largely more about her steadfast love for the Lord.

This book would be great for small groups, Bible study groups, etc. as each chapter is akin to a mini-Bible study in and of itself. Lauren not only walks us thru’ Psalm 107, she includes many various Scriptures and stories from the Bible pointing us to character traits to either avoid or emulate. Other storms she’s encountered, besides Matt’s cancer, are also included, offering hope to inspire us all to press on.

You’ll never read the phrase steadfast love the same again. Your love for the Lord will grow as will your trust in Him and His Sovereignty.

When Lauren does address Matt’s brain surgery and treatments, she candidly shares they felt like the church would go on and she would be able to go on, even with their three young children, should God not heal Matt. Her stalwart faith especially at such a young age is inspiring. Her resolve reminds me of my dear friend Gwen Paten and her family’s cancer journey.

A few years ago, several of us were at a Beth Moore conference. Docs had just told Gwen her husband Mike’s cancer had spread throughout his body and he may live another two weeks at the most, but there she was praising the Lord on the front row. Those of us observing this melted into a puddle of tears.

Gwen and Lauren each are examples of Job when he said in Job 1:21 – “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (NIV)

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The Lord did indeed heal Matt, altho’ Lauren says they were told brain tumors are never truly cured. She closes with, “We put our trust not in Matt’s health, but in the Lord of steadfast love.”

If you’d like to hear Lauren tell more of her story, catch her interview on the Eric Metaxas Show. (www.metaxastalk.com) It aired January 28th and you can listen to the podcast of it.) She was a mere seventeen years old when she first met Matt!

Fun fact: Lauren and Matt are about to host a conference on marriage, based on Matt’s book The Mingling of Souls. (www.minglingofsouls.com) Lifeway recently did a story on the 10 Marital Nevers well worth your time.  You’ll get to see how Lauren’s love for Matt and their marriage is a beautiful, Godly example.

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Please join me in lifting up the Chandler family in prayer, for their ministry, their church, and their health. What they’re doing to advance the Gospel is far reaching.

“WHOEVER IS WISE, LET HIM ATTEND TO THESE THINGS; LET THEM CONSIDER THE STEADFAST LOVE OF THE LORD.” PSALM 107:42-43

A beautiful quote to close comes from Chapter Nine:

“Who is wise and understanding?  May we be counted among them. May a holy fear of the Lord lead us to lives that are free, open, and generous.  May we anchor our souls in the One whom the Scriptures reveal–in His steadfast love, not in our earthly wisdom–so that we may be immovable in the midst of the storm.”

‘Til next time!

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What Does Finishing Well Mean? One Free Gift You Can Give for Christmas…

“Good grief!” (Please repeat those two words in the spirit of Charlie Brown…) I thought I was done shopping.  I realized, much to my deep dismay, I’ve forgotten a few folks on the ole’ list. Bust…

Not to mention the fact that being Empty Nesters, it’s not like our dog can participate with us in our Advent Calendar. It’s cute, but it’s not chocolate either. Hubster and I even contemplated not putting up the tree!!! (Shhh, please do not tell our children.)

I.

DO.

DECLARE.

Well, in spite of more shopping to be done, I have some good news for us all. Last week in our Bible study, we experienced a Grand Finale from It’s Good to Be Queen: Becoming as Bold, Gracious, and Wise as the Queen of Sheba.

Hoagland Study 01b Books

Fittingly, the last chapter is entitled: “It’s Good to End Well”. Our group was blessed to have not one, but two “Visiting Queens” who graciously came to impart their wisdom: Judy Russell and Jane Summay. These special ladies are still finishing well. We received a bird’s eye view of what that looks like.

They highlighted points from Liz’ book and paralleled them with real-life scenarios. They passed out slips of paper with pertinent Scriptures we each read showing us the wisdom we keep searching for is straight out of God’s Word.

IMG_1721

Judy and Jane have been friends for nearly fifty years. Those of you who knew Russ Summay, Jane’s husband, may not realize he was an elder at Southeast Christian Church in 1966 when Bob Russell received the post of becoming Southeast’s pastor!

Judy and Jane raised their boys together. They also served together in several different ministries at church, serving alongside one another, as well as having gone to Africa on a mission trip together.

With Judy and Jane’s input, we tackled the killer question Liz poses early on in the chapter: “When you come to the end of your days, what will you be glad you invested your life in?”

Jane shared Russ’ instructions with us from right before he went to be with the Lord. He strongly suggested she not sit at home and feel sorry for herself. He asked her to please live life, to get out of the house and go somewhere with friends, and to love others. We have all witnessed her doing this and doing it very well.

These suggestions are great examples from Liz’ section, “Finishing well means living well.” We all loved hearing Colossians 1:10, “Live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way.”

Our Queens both agreed with Liz on being thankful for the little things. Judy recommended reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

One Thousand Gifts

Judy and Jane chimed in about blessings:

When our eyes are opened to the many blessings around us, it frees us from drowning in regrets. Counting blessings helps us to more easily extend grace, forgive and forget, and move on.

They also emphasized the importance of leaving a legacy of love for one another and for our Lord. Judy’s grandchildren had just been here for Thanksgiving. She said they had prayer time and devotional time with them, and they would ask to be read to or told stories. She said, “It’s up to us as parents and grandparents to be planting these seeds of faith.”

 growing plants

In the Study Guide of Liz’ book, Liz points out, “a thousand years after her death, Sheba was still being talked about, and by Jesus Himself. Another two thousand years have passed, and we are still examining her life…” Friends, we are talking three thousand years!!!

Then came questions for us all:

“In comparison, how long do you imagine your legacy will continue? Two generations? Three?” Ponder that a while!

Recently a friend’s father passed away. The most remarkable, touching scenario evolved after the funeral. While walking out of the church, this man’s great grandchildren shed many a tear. Now that’s some legacy!

So while planting seeds cost you time, there’s no price you can put on the legacy you’re building. This Christmas season, make it a point to build upon your legacy. This free gift will truly last for generations.

Isaiah 40-8Another one of many verses we enjoyed was Isaiah 40:8 –

“Grass withers and flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.”

In Liz’ video (you can watch all ten videos via www.vimeo.com/lizcurtishiggs.com) on Chapter Ten, we got to hear more thoughts on finishing well. Our friend Sherry Leavell says “finishing well” to her means:

“Not backing off,

Remaining faithful,

Going the distance and

Being intentional.”

Liz quotes Kay Arthur, who says, “We don’t get to retire during war time.” Wow.

All the queens concurred we must pray believing and trusting God knows best, in His time.

Judy brought up Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

When we finish well, our final goal should come from Mathew 25:21 where Jesus says, “….well done, good and faithful servant.”

Golden CrownLord, please  guide us to finish well. May we build upon our legacies, leaving your rich Word embedded in our children’s and grandchildren’s and if it’s your will, great grandchildren’s lives. Amen and amen.

For King & Country: The Proof of Your Love

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

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Sliver of Heaven: Coffee on the Porch (“Unafraid—Trusting God in an Unsafe World” by Susie Davis Gives Readers New Perspective)

Nobody can beat Hubster’s coffee.  Who knew I’d marry the best Barista this side of the Mississippi??? (Please don’t reveal this to Starbucks or they may recruit him.)

On vacation last week, our family rented a home near Lake Keowee in South Carolina.  (For you Clemson fans, we were only about twenty-five minutes from the stadium.)

Cloudless day on Lake Keowee

Cloudless day on Lake Keowee

I must insert this picture of LT, Lauren, a most decorative Clemson Tiger, Gordy and Woody at Mellow Mushroom in Clemson, or my friend Susan would never forgive me, avid fan that she is…)

I must insert this picture of LT, Lauren, a most decorative Clemson Tiger, Gordy and Woody at Mellow Mushroom in Clemson, or my friend Susan would never forgive me, avid fan that she is…

The home we rented has forever ruined any future family vacation (It had stellar finishes in every room that one only dreams about.) It has not one, but two porches.

One porch is screened-in with an outdoor kitchen (pardonnez-moi), while the other overlooks the golf course and mountains with lovely, sturdy rocking chairs.  Oh yes, those rockers called to us each morning.

Seated with a stack of books next to me, out comes Hubster, armed with two mugs of steaming coffee.  Mornings just don’t get any better than this!  (Surely this is a sliver of Heaven???)

Old books and cup of coffee on table

One of several books I packed for this trip, Unafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe World by Susie Davis offers comforting perspectives.   (I’m only about half way into the book, so I’ll be sharing more snippets with you in the future when I finish.)

One perspective Susie gives us readers is this simple thought:

Open your eyes tolove letters from God”.

bigstock-Fountain-pen-on-an-antique-han-54193727

Hey, God can write in any language He wants. (I happen to be a fan of the French language….)

What in the world is a love letter from God?  Anything you spy that catches your eye, STOPPING you in your tracks, causing you to instantly think of God, to literally stop and smell the coffee….even when you’re drinking coffee as John and I did each morning on the porch.

Allow me to give you a couple of examples from our trip.  Before we arrived in South Carolina, we began our adventure in Asheville, North Carolina.  We took our kiddos to The Biltmore Estate. www.biltmore.com  They’d never been, so to see it thru’ their eyes was our first love letter from God.

Biltmore

After we toured the house, we ventured into the garden.  Oh the roses! And oh, the orchids!!!  Once in the conservatory, winding our way thru’ many hibiscus trees and other multiple-bloom-filled trees, I quietly, but urgently whispered to John, “Look!!!!

Within my arm’s reach, was the tee-tiniest hummingbird, flappin’ those wings faster than you could see, tasting nectar from one bloom, after another, after another.  He was not at all concerned about us and John was able to capture him in a video on his phone!

Allens Hummingbird (selasphorus Sasin)

We joined the kids at a nearby table and that’s when I shared with them the concept of “love letters from God.”  That little hummingbird was one of many “love letters from God” during our vacation. I enjoyed jotting them down each day, akin to Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

One Thousand Gifts

Susie Davis, in Unafraid… says, “God has been leaving me love notes all my life—tangible signs of how much He loves me…saying,

I love you.

I’m thinking of you.

I’m protecting you.

I have good plans…”

Susie’s story, and how she overcame her many fears, is an only-God-can-pull-this-off-kind-of-story.  While her horrific experience from the late 70’s nearly paralyzed her, I believe we all should read her story given the scary culture in which we live.

Dear friends, we must not live in fear.

Susie recounts telling her children of all the great things the Lord has done, of all of His mighty miracles.  She calls them “God stories– so they can set their hope on God and live unafraid.”

Two of many beautiful Scriptures Susie reminds us of are:

psalm 4-8

psalm 62

Stay tuned for more pearls from this most helpful book soon! And be on the alert for love letters from our Lord.

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Friends, Travel