Friday, February 27, 2009

Traveling Light by Max Lucado

Lucado, Max. Traveling Light. Thomas Nelson: 2001

This is an older book, certainly not in need of a review. But, I was so touched by this book.

It is a commentary on Psalm 23. Each chapter covers a phrase of the chapter for a total of 18 chapters. I read a chapter a night, although one could easily read it much faster. I would be willing to say it could easily be read in one or two sittings. But I savored each chapter the way one would savor a really good piece of chocolate. I read a chapter, set it aside, and spent the next day pondering and absorbing it. Each chapter reads like a mini-sermon with personal stories from Lucado, commentary on the text, and application for everyday life.

I was struck by each chapter and how it ministered to me as I read it. I have long since memorized the 23rd Psalm but never had it taken on so much meaning. I suppose I had never really stopped to thing about the awesome message being conveyed through those simple words, "The Lord is my Shepherd..."

The final chapter or rather the conclusion brought me to tears as Lucado summed up the scripture as a whole. It became so clear that God has an insurmountable love for us and is conveying it to us in the simplest terms. Yet despite all that, it is hard to understand that level of unconditional love.

In my quest to lead a positive life with a positive attitude, this book is a must-read for me. I took away a great deal of comfort in the Grace of God.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Question of the Week #7 & 8

How behind am I on the Question of the Week from Operation Actually Read Bible. I think at least several. I am going to answer this weeks and last weeks and the rest will be left in the comments section at OARB.

Question of the Week #7:

Do you like listening to sermons? Have you ever subscribed to sermon podcasts? Have you ever listened to sermons on the radio? Do you have any favorites? What resources (if any) have you found on the web that you'd like to share?

I'm so excited to have a chance to answer this very question. My home church is Pin Oaks Christian Fellowship. If you are in McKinney/Anna area, then I invite you to visit. Otherwise, you can listen to us live every Sunday morning. We have been working on this for several weeks and have about worked out the kinks. I think you can view older broadcasts from previous Sunday's but don't hold me to that. I am not sure how that works.

I haven't actually watched a broadcast yet, but when I miss church or when I am working in the nursery, I get a copy of the sermon on CD and listen during the week.

Prior to our previous pastor moving to Brazil to be a missionary, we also had past sermons going back years on the website. Unfortunately, one of the requirements for becoming a missionary had something to do with taking down the sermons. But I would download at least one or two sermons a week and listen to them. This was great while my baby was too small for me to get more than one hand free for very long.

I also love the program E-Sword. It is free to download and has a lot of great resources right at your fingertips from concordances to various translations.

Question of the Week #8

Do you participate in Lent? Do you give up anything for Lent? If so, what? Why? What do you hope to gain from Lent this year? I don't know if 'gain' is the right word...what I'm asking is what are your goals this year, what are you hoping to accomplish or learn? Do you think that Lent is important? Or not so much?

No, I don't participate in Lent. I always think that I might, but then don't. I have known people who do participate in Lent and it wasn't necessarily part of their church's tradition. It is not part of my church's tradition and has never been a part of my family's tradition.

I had a friend once who participated in Lent. Every year she prayed about what she should give up, and this one year it was bread. Why bread? She explained that she loved to eat and savored bread at her meals. By giving up bread, she would be reminded how much she was blessed. She said each time she thought about whatever it was that she gave up she would take the opportunity to pray. Through her Lenten traditions she learned more about herself and gained a closer relationship with God. She was reminded to put God first and not let things get in the way of your relationship with him.

It was a great lesson; one that I have yet to try myself, but maybe someday. That is definitely an attitude I want to have.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Great Eight by Scott Hamilton

Hamilton, Scott. The Great Eight. Thomas Nelson: 2008

Nuggets, nuggets, nuggets. Reading The Great Eight is like panning for gold and getting fourteen karat nugget after nugget. Each page has a piece of gold to carry away and enlist as a life lesson.

Scott Hamilton, the world famous figure skater, shares his life stories as evidence of the importance of leading a positive life. He’s battled cancer not once but twice and still believes in the value of living with a positive attitude.

The Great Eight are Hamilton’s eight principles for leading a happy life, when you have every reason to be miserable. He talks about the importance of falling and getting back up, trusting God in every situation, turning negative situations into positive ones, communicating with others and making your feelings known, thinking positive, laughing, and smiling, putting others first before yourself, not being afraid of the unknown and learning a new routine, and finally learning to stand in the spotlight.

These eight have a lot of similarities to Cury's Think and Make It Happen. The difference is that Hamilton has lived the life and doesn't feel the need to convince you that he knows what he is talking about. Anyone who has seen the man perform or even interviewed can see he lives what he is writing about. That being said, it was so refreshing when in the last chapter Hamilton admitted that he too finds it difficult to live a happy life and focus on the positive. As he shared his own disappointment, I felt renewed in my own quest to live a happy and positive life.

Hamilton is honest, open, and inspiring. His Great Eight are within grasp of any person who sets their sights on living a happy life, even when they have every reason to be miserable.

Here are just a few of the nuggets that I tucked away in my jewel box:

Happiness is unique to you. You have to find what that is--and then know that you will definitely start falling down. (p.16)

Happiness is a fundamental, spiritual commitment to dedicating yourself to the things in life that bring you the most joy. (p.18)

When you start looking at everything that happens in your life as a God scheduled opportunity, it is amazing how it not only brightens your outlook, but how it infuses you with a greater sense of purpose, direction, and confidence. (p. 24)

I looked at what I believed to be curses as blessings, and now I realize that the ability to do so makes one a champion more than landing a perfect lutz does. (p.56)

It wasn't the circumstances that defined me, but my response to them. (p.56)

In life, when we knock the proverbial snow off our butts (getting rid of the evidence) and move forward with a smile, we have already succeeded. A smile not only tells everyone else you're fine, but also convinces you that you aren't going to dwell on the mistake. (p.98)

True happiness doesn't happen until you accept your flaws. (p.114)

We are always in the season of change, and with each change of season comes a new level of awareness and maturity and perspective. (p.149)

An Avalanche of Grand Proportions

What began as one simple event, that of my husband's car accident, has become an avalanche of events. Each day following my husband's accident has dawned with a new challenge. Three events have occurred all within days of each other challenging my new quest to think positive and focus more on the good in life and the good in others.

For privacy reasons, I can't go into details regarding those events, suffice to say they have taken up every waking moment of my day. I haven't had time to do any of the things that I have come to enjoy these last few months, reading, Bible reading, blog following, or writing of any kind.

After each event I broke down and asked why me. I focused on all things negative and had a good cry, then reminded myself of the lessons I have been learning from others. Focus on the beauty in life; There is a blessing in all this; and Think positive and smile like Kristi Yamaguchi.

The first lesson is from Think and Make It Happen. I am still working on instilling the principles in my life. The second and third are from Scott Hamilton's The Great Eight. I will be posting the review next.

Being positive is easier said than done. There almost has to be a mantra in your head to constantly remind you of the quest to be positive. Negative events are occurring on a daily basis challenging our way of life as we know it. And, we are almost constantly bombarded with negative statements. People reminding us of past faults, or judging our current actions and determining them failures. Then there is our own mind doing all the same things.

We can look at the negative in two ways. We can agree that we are failures, wonder why God has allowed us to be in such a situation, and succumb to the attacks from the world and Satan. Or, we can say that God is with us always (Psalm 23), and that we have a great deal to learn from the situation.

While car accidents and health problems are never good, we can learn a great deal from them. While cataclysmic circumstances are never rewarding, we can gain great blessings from them. The key is waiting and thinking positive as Scott Hamilton says, even when we have every right not to.

I am the first to admit that I have no patience! But, I am attempting to learn to have patience. Max Lucado wrote in Traveling Light that God gives us the strength for today only. And patience falls in that category. We shouldn't try to be patient for the entire year all in one day. We should take each moment at a time.

I will also gladly admit when others point out my failures, I crumble and believe every word. It is not till later that I realize the lack of truth in the statements. I have to dialogue with myself and ask myself, what do these people know about me, and the answer is always very little. If one person truly knows another person then they would never project such statements onto that person but instead would uplift that person with positive statements.

Thinking positive. Living a positive life. Being positive regardless of the situation. That is my quest. And quest is the right word for it because like the knights of old this is an adventure of grand proportions with great treasure waiting in the end.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Call No Policewife Wants to Get

On Tuesday night, I got the call a policewife never wants to hear. Fortunately, my husband was coherent enough to make the call himself.

He had been in a severe accident and spun head-on into a brick wall. Surprisingly enough, I was calm and able to think through my plans. This is highly unusual for me. Typically, I panic and can't think straight.

Before throwing things into the diaper bag, I said a prayer and called my mom to pray with me. We prayed for healing and I prayed for no paralyzation.

I was ready to rush out the door to the hospital in 15 minutes flat, but bad weather was rolling in complete with tornado watches and warnings, and my husband's fellow officers didn't want me driving in the weather. So they sent a squad car to pick me up. I was very grateful!

Once we were at the hospital, I found my husband lying flat on his back in a neckbrace. They had already run x-rays and a catscan and were waiting to run an MRI. My brother-in-law, also a police officer, was already there as was his wife. There were also several other officers who work with my husband coming and going from his ER exam room. All were so helpful and were constantly offering to assist me with anything I might need or want. They also kept the mood light.

If you have never been around police officers, then it is hard to explain their humor. Suffice to say the more dramatic or morbid the scene or topic the more humor they can find in it. And this was no different. My husband was talking and joking around with them which put my mind at ease.

The MRI was going to be a long wait or so we thought, the nurses and doctors made some calls and the MRI tech came in at 1 am with her two kids, 6 and 10 years-old, in tow to do the MRI. The next obstacle was finding someone to read the MRI at such a late hour, but the nurses thought they could find someone. About an hour or hour and a half later, they too came through. The doctor read the MRI and discovered a bone spur from the C6 vertebrae. This sent a shot through me as he explained that one wrong move and my husband could be paralyzed. He ordered a neuro-surgeon to consult before releasing my husband.

At 3 a.m., Snugglebug and I headed to my in-law's home to spend the night. Another officer supplied transportation and was very gracious. My husband saw the surgeon the next morning, first thing, and the surgeon advised that my husband take it easy. He didn't think the bone spur would be an immediate problem but suggested surgery sooner rather than later. At 10 a.m., my husband was released from the ER and was brought to his parent's home via squad car.

Through all this, the other police officers were more than gracious. I was so grateful to have such wonderful people surrounding my husband on a daily basis. Today, my husband is home. He is taking some time off from work till he sees the surgeon again. Snugglebug and I are looking forward to having him home with us. And I have a new found sense of gratitude for him and for our family as a whole.

I am also very grateful that in our five and a half years of marriage, this is the first call I have recieved of such urgency. I am also glad to know how I will react should such a call come in again. You never really know how you will react. As a policewife, you prepare yourself for such a call, but everynight before bed, I pray for his safety and that God will bring him home again. I am thankful that God answers prayers before they are even needed!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Acting Debut

We are supposed to be getting rain this afternoon, severe thunderstorms even. So when Snugglebug woke from an out-of-the-ordinary morning nap, we ran to Brookshires to pick up a few items and most importantly, to order his birthday cake.

It was a quick run, and I didn't bother to put on make-up and just pulled my frizzy hair back with a scrunchy and some clips. I did change my stay-at-home only shirt but kept the same hole in the knee jeans.

At the store, we put in our cake order (Nemo for my fish lover), and I proceeded to the frozen food aisle to pick up some veggies for a lunch stir-fry. On my way to the next section, I spotted a TV camerman in the dairy section filming butter of all things. As I past by, another man, not the cameraman but still involved somehow, stopped me and asked, "Can I ask you something?" "I suppose," I answered sheepishly. "Can we get you on film?"

You can imagine what was going through my mind. I certainly wasn't camera worthy. I explained my situation and my reluctance, but he said that it would only be my hands taking the butter off the shelf and placing it in the basket. I made him promise that's all it was, and he said it was.

So, the cameraman showed me where to stand and the butter to take off the shelf and how to place it in the basket. It took two takes but I think I got it right. I don't know if it really was just my hands but I hope so. I asked what the film was for and the non-camerman said it was for a company meeting for Rite-Valu, Brookshire's store brand. That made me feel a little better.

At least, the focus won't be on my make-up-less face. But, somehow, I doubt this will be my "big break," or my "discovery."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thoughts on Genesis, Part II

This is part II of my thoughts and questions on Genesis. If you have answers or a theory to my questions, let me know.

Chapter 25--Jacob and Esau were fighting from the day they were concieved. Talk about sybling rivalry. It would be interesting to know more about their childhood but the scripture jumps straight to adulthood and the exchange of the birthright.

Which brings me to my first question...What is the difference between a birthright and a blessing? Esau complains of losing both so they can't be one and the same.

Ch. 26: 19-22--Isaac finds water in several different places and each time it is disputed and he moves on. Isaac knew it wasn't worth fighting over the water because God was going to take care of him and bless him so he let those who claimed the water have it and he continued to search elsewhere. What a great example of conflict resolution! We should know that God is on our side and not worry about fighting a battle that is not ours to fight. God will take care of us as long as we are obedient to him.

Ch. 26: 34-35--Esau marries two Hittite women and verse 35 says "And they were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebecca." This is another place that I am curious about events and more interested in how they as the inlaws handled the grief. But I am certainly not saying something should be added to the scripture. It is what it is because God planned it that way.

Ch. 27-28--Jacob, the deciever, deceives his brother and in turn (Chapter 29) is then deceived by Laban. Also, certainly makes a person think about reaping his own actions.

Ch. 28: 10-22--Jacob's dream at Bethel--Jacob has a dream about a stairway reaching from earth to Heaven and angels going up and down. In the dream, God reaffirms the promise He made to Abraham and Isaac. "I will give you and your descendents the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south."

I think it is interesting that God doesn't just stop with his promise with one generation. He keeps coming back and reminding each person of His promises. He doesn't let them forget that He has great plans for the descendents of Israel.

Another question: What is the symbolic meaning of the stairway and the angels traveling back and forth on the stairway? Surely, this has more meaning than simply being an introductory to God's promise reminder.

Ch. 30--I did not realize that Leah and Rebekah were not the only two women giving birth to Jacob's children. He actually had 2 wives and 2 concubines who were the servants of the wives. Leah had 6 sons; Bilhah (Rachel's servant) had 2 sons; Zilpah (Leah's servant) had 2 sons; and Rebekah had 2 sons. Just one of the many things I didn't know before reading ALL of Genesis.

Ch. 30-31--God blesses Jacob despite Laban's efforts to keep him from being so blessed. I read this as God will bless us in spite of our enemies attempts to keep us down.

Ch. 32--Jacob Wrestles with God--I'm not sure why God wrestles with Jacob. Can anyone shed light on this fact? Again this is an area of symbolism that I know has great meaning but I just don't understand.

Ch. 33--Esau could have harboured a grudge against Jacob and killed him, his flocks, and his family. But instead, Esau welcomed his brother with open arms. He had forgiven his brother and was happy to see him. He had every reason not to forgive him, yet he did.

Ch 34--Dinah--I really don't have any insight into Dinah's story. Again this is where more depth is needed.

Ch. 37--Joseph's dreams--Without Joseph's dreams, his brothers would have never sold him into slavery. If he had never been sold into slavery, then he would not have saved his family from starving during the famine. God was at work early on.

Ch. 38--Judah and Tamar--I seem to recall a sermon long ago about this story but can't remember any of it. This is another story that I would love to have some serious insight. So much time is taken telling the story of Tamar that I am interested to know the purpose.

Ch. 41--Pharoh's dreams--Joseph interpret's not only Pharoh's dreams but also the dreams of the baker and the cup barer. I wonder if we have dreamers today and interpreters of those dreams. Jospeh obviously had a gift from God for interpreting the dreams. Does this gift exist today?

Ch, 42-45--Joseph's brothers go to Egypt--Again we see the example of forgiveness. Joseph tests his brothers to determine their true hearts and in the end, sees they have changed. But, whether they had changed or not, he had already forgiven them. Again when he had every right to hold a grudge, he didn't. He forgave them and welcomed them with open arms. This story reminds me a lot of the prodigal son.

Ch. 49--Jacob blesses his children before he dies-- I came to the conclusion that we too should bless our children before we die.

Ch. 50--Jacob reassures his brothers--Once again we see forgiveness as the theme. Forgiveness is not a one time act. It must be given over and over again.

Well, those are my thoughts. That took a lot longer than I thought to type it all up, so I may be bit more brief with Exodus. If you have thoughts or answers to my questions, feel free to email me!!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Snugglebug's Book Review

I was going to post the rest of my notes on Genesis but I really don't have time. This day just flew by. I had a photography class this morning and spent the afternoon getting glasses for my one-year old. Well, in a week he'll be one. He looks so cute. Young Readers will have some new photos for his birthday next week with his new glasses.

Speaking of Snugglebug, he has two book reviews up at Young Readers. Alphabet Animals is quickly becoming a favorite. He chose it tonight over Horray for Fish. That's huge for us! Horray for fish has been a favorite for months now.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thoughts on Genesis, Part I

As I mentioned yesterday, I have finished reading Genesis. I learned so much reading each and every chapter. I've never read every chapter of Genesis. I also used the study guide in Max Lucado's series. It was excellent!

So, after reading the entire book, here are my thoughts and a few questions. Feel free to email me if you know the answers to my questions.

Creation of Man--Chapter 1: God created man in His image meaning what? He gave man what He (God) already had Himself: an eternal soul, the ability to love, and free choice. The animals God created were not given all three of these things thus not created in His image. I always imagined God looking in a mirror and giving Adam his nose and Jesus hair, and maybe he did, but I think it was quite likely more characteristics of the heart than physical being.

Creation of Eve--Chapter 2: Eve was created from part of Adam. She was literally part of him thus becoming two pieces of the same puzzle. And to use a very overused phrase: She completes him.

The Flood--Chapter 6:4 "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown."

This is very criptic to me. Who were the Nephilim and who were the "sons of God"? One theory says the Nephilim were giants. Another says they and the "sons of God" were angels who decided to walk the earth with the humans. Honestly, I don't know enough to know or even have an opinion.

The Flood--Chapter 7: As pointed out by Lucado, if Noah was obedient enough to build an ark when he'd never seen rain imagine how obedient he was in the little things. I can also imagine that he took great care to teach his children about God and not following the ways of the world.

Chapter 11: 4-25: Each generation after Shem lives fewer years. Shem lives to be 500 years old and 7 generations later, Nahor lived only 119.

Chapter 18: Abraham is visited by three visitors. He addresses one of the visitors as Lord. This could be because the person is highly respected or because he recognizes the person as God in human form. In verse 27, he acknowledges that he is speaking far too frankly, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord." I am led to believe that he not only recognized the Lord as God but also had a close enough relationship with him to feel he could speak his heart to him. This is an amazing relationship. To be able to walk and talk with the Lord God is an awesome thing. What an example of the relationship we should have with God.

Chapter 22: Abraham had faith that God would follow through on his promise so he followed God's instructions to sacrifice his only son. Isaac had faith in not only his father but also in God and followed without knowing why and without asking questions. We should have the same faith. We should follow God's lead without asking questions and with the knowledge that God will bless us and take care of us in the end. God provided an angel to stop Abraham's hand and a Ram to replace Isaac, and I am sure Abraham had not imagined that this would be the way God would take care of his son. I am not lost on the similarities between Christ and Isaac, but that is a sermon heard more than once in the pulpit.

Chapter 23:17: Abraham insisted on buying the land so there would be no dispute later. We know all too well how the Israelite land is disputed today so the wisdom of Abraham's decision.

Chapter 24: Rebekah was Isaac's first cousin. hmmmm

24:47: "Then I put a ring in her nose...." OUCH!!! Why did it have to be the nose?! Why not the ear or on the finger.

I'll post my thoughts on chapters 25-52 tomorrow.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Read Through the Bible: Question of the Week #5

What do you do in the in-between times? Those times when you are in-between-Bibles or in-between-books of the Bible, or in-between Bible studies. Do you ever feel a bit lost, a bit unsure of where to go next? what to read or study next? It's not that you don't want to read--you do--it's just you may be a bit indecisive OR you may be a bit overwhelmed with all the choices.
Ah, yes, I do have those indecisive inbetween times. The last time was when I finished Ephesians before Christmas. I wanted to study John next but the book is so long and so deep it just intimidated me. I had purchased a study guide but it didn't go in depth enough. It only scratched the surface of the book of John. Since the holidays were approaching I just didn't study at all.
Once January rolled around, I started anew with the Read Through the Bible challenge. I just finished Genesis and it is an easy decision to roll on into Exodus. After that, we'll see if I stay in the Old Testament or go back to the New Testament.
I don't really have a method to get out of those indecisive moments. I guess I just wait for inspiration.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Freezing and Vacuum Sealing

I have mentioned freezing food quite frequently and wanted to share my favorite gadgets for keeping those meals from getting freezer burn.

Reynolds has a motorized vacuum sealer called the Handi-Vac. Ziploc aslo has a sealer simply called the Ziploc Vacuum. I have both and they both work very well. I have found food lasts up to twice as long as it would if frozen in normal freezer bags.

The only catch is that each brand has its own set of bags that must be used with the sealer.

The Reynolds Handi-Vac is powered by a battery. With the press of the button, the device pulls out the air. The Reynolds starter kit cost $7.48 and comes with 3 quart bags. A refill of quart bags will cost you $2.84 for 14 bags.

The Ziploc Vacuum is a hand pump. It has a powerful suction and is much quieter. The Ziploc starter kit costs $1.50 and comes with 3 quart bags. Refills cost $2.68 for 12 quart bags.

I prefer the Ziploc Vacuum simply because it is quieter. My son is a light sleeper and the only time I can spend freezing my meals is while he is sleeping. The Reynold's Handi-Vac is way too loud for our house. But, both sealer systems work very well. I have been very pleased with the results. Recently, I found a loaf of homemade bread in the back of the freezer. Usually, bread is consumed within a month but this had been in there for almost three months. It looked and tasted just like fresh bread.

I use the vacuum sealers for everything but soups. They don't work too well with soups. They tend to pull the juice out instead of the air.