Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Apology

A wise man recently asked me if I ever get tired of apologizing (I'm always flubbing up and having to apologize). The answer is a resounding, "Yes!" But I couldn't give that answer because I knew the logical next question would be, "Then why do you keep flubbing up?" I didn't want to hear that question because it's the one I can't answer. It naturally implies that I mess up on purpose, which I don't.  But I do often mess up out of thoughtlessness and procrastination (two of my many faults). I really didn't want to have the above conversation, so I decided to skip the conversation all together and be immediately offended by the obvious implications of the initial question.

In my soul searching over the conviction I'm (stubbornly) still enduring, from this "almost" conversation, I've realized one thing for certain. As much as I do get tired of apologizing, the alternative is worse.  At least when I apologize, I'm admitting my failure.  Not apologizing would be saying that my thoughtlessness and procrastination are good, or at least acceptable things.  They are not. As long as I keep repeating the same bad behaviors, I must continue to apologize for them.

So, I will…

I am sorry for being a complete flake about my blog the past few weeks.  Since it seems I am completely incapable--at this time--of sticking to any kind of schedule, I'm scrapping it all together.  It is a goal I hope to attain.  But lately, I miss the mark more often than I hit it, so I'm erasing this mark, so to speak, so that I might concentrate more fully on some of my other marks.  I believe as I submit to God, letting him "make me good," I will use my time and energy more wisely, and this blog will rise back to the top of "the list" that He is making for my priorities.

So...

I have read two books which I intend to review here in the near future.  It may not be for a few days because I'm down to the wire on planning my daughter's 4th Birthday party.  It's a small gathering, but I'm a terrible procrastinator (as I may have mentioned), so I have a lot of work left to do.

If you are an official follower, you will, of course, be notified when these reviews are posted.  If not, I pray you will think of me from time to time and check back (or you could become an official follower, and save yourself the trouble of checking back  : )  Thank you for your patience and prayers.  I hope not to test your loyalty too far.

In Christ,

Andrea

C. S. Lewis...

Today's reading was titled, "Being Good." This is what Jack* had to say:

"[T]he Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good.  They [the other people] hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or--if they think there is not--at least they hope to deserve approval from good men.  But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him.  He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us..." (emphasis added)

~From Mere Christianity**

I love this point.  It goes to the heart of the oft-repeated excuse, "I need to straighten my life out before I try to get saved."  My advise to those people is this, You cannot straighten your life out until you get saved.  Indeed, God is the one who does it then, not you.  God is waiting patiently for you to call on him, so that he can straighten your life out and, as Jack says, make you good.

* He was called Jack from the time he was a toddler, so I call him that too : )

**This is an amazing book, and I'd urge every person--Christian or not--to read it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: Rocky Mountain Hero by Audra Harders

From the Cover:
            With a broken-down truck, miles to go and little money, single mother Melanie Hunter needs help.  It comes in the handsome form of rancher Gabe Davidson.  He’ll pay for the three-week repair job and provide lodging for her and her boy—if she’ll take coordinating the town barbecue off his busy hands.  Melanie accepts, figuring she’ll soon be on her way to her new life.  But as she gets to know the kind townspeople—and the hardworking cowboy her son adores—she realizes she’s found her home.  Now if only her Rocky Mountain Hero will ask her to stay.

            This is the debut novel of an author I’ve come to know via the Internet (and whom you will find if you look closely at my list of followers—thank you Audra).  I won an autographed copy of her book in a giveaway at Seekerville.

Liked:
  1. Gabe notices Melanie right away, and sparks fly.  “A spear of awareness shot through him…” (pg. 11) as he tried to extract her from the mud.  I’ll let you read for yourself what his distraction cost him.
  2. Ms. Harders takes clich├ęd descriptive phrases and makes them her own.  In so doing, she gives the reader a glimpse into the rugged gentleness that defines Gabe Davidson.
    1. This one simply must be shared, “A dripping T-shirt encased her slender frame like shrink wrap around a gasket” (pg. 13)    He noticed her form, as any man surely would.  But the simile here lends an innocence that is missing from the typical “wet t-shirt” description. Only a man's man would think of auto parts at a time like that. I think it’s brilliant.
    2. Gabe, noticing Melanie's lovely eyes, “…blue eyes the color of mountain columbines in full bloom and lashes as thick as the foxtails that grew around them” (pg. 11).  Is he a marshmallow under all that “cowboy,” or what? Not just blue eyes, or even "bluer than blue." This is a beautiful description.
    3. “Skin as soft as the belly of a new born foal…” (pg. 22) I’m thinking “cowboy poet” here.  This might be called the "rancher's twist" on the well-used "baby's bottom" cliche.
  3. Melanie has some good observations of her own, “He took off ahead of her and picked a trail down the mountain, his broad shoulders dipping with each confident step.  Melanie tried to watch her steps, but her gaze insisted his well-worn jeans and crisp cotton shirt were far more enticing, not to mention the wave of thick hair at his collar.”
  4. The fish cleaning scene.  I loved it, especially Gabe’s line, “After this fish.” And Melanie’s line at the very end, “Just cleaning fish…” Yeah, right!”
  5. This one may be a spoiler for some…proceed with caution. They don’t fight the attraction.  One thing that always irritates me is when the hero and/or heroine fight the growing attraction until the last minute.  Given the three-week timeline in which most of this story takes place, it would have been a natural route for the author to take.  But she didn’t! And I can’t thank her enough. Gabe allows his attraction to grow naturally, and Melanie allows herself and her son to jump into small-town life with both feet.  Both know Melanie will be leaving soon, but they decide to enjoy the time they have, knowing that if they have to they’ll live off the memories for years to come.
  6. Melanie is open to the correction of the Holy Spirit when prodded concerning her relationship with her parents.
  7. The author builds up the romantic tension to the point where I was pulling my hair out with every “almost kiss.”
  8. Nice little shout out to fellow Seekers Ruthy, Janet, Missy, Cara, and possibly Mary.  Did I miss any?
I could go on and on, but if I did this post would be entirely too long…

Disliked:
            Grace Davidson:  Well, not all of her, just her pushy-ness.  In the early scene with Melanie I found her to be a little pushy and presumptuous.  When Melanie took her words well, and managed to act positively on them, I decided to forgive her. Then later, she stuck her nose way too deep in Melanie’s business, and I was aggravated at her even though everything turned out well.  Sometimes I think God works things out in spite of our efforts rather than because of them.  This felt like one of those times to me. I was a little dissatisfied that Grace managed to “get away with” interfering.
            That said, I’ll give Grace credit for trying to do the very best thing for the people she cares about.  If it’s in Grace’s nature to be a little pushy and over-step her bounds for the good of her loved ones, then Melanie can take it as a sign that she’s well-loved by the whole Davidson family.
The following line implies that this is not a new issue for Grace and her sons: “Gabe had stood by and watched his mother orchestrate the lives of his brothers.  The result? Both were gone and had few plans on returning” (pg. 186).  Perhaps this is a bit of foreshadowing into future stories.  It gives me hope that this issue will be resolved to my satisfaction in a later book.

LOL moments:
  1. Martin Davidson, patriarch of the family reminded me of my step-dad with this line about the white rice being served for dinner, “Well, maybe we can squirt some ketchup on it and make it look better.”
  2. Hank the ranch had has this to say about surviving in the wild, “…if you don’t make good coffee, you’re a dead man, not matter how you look at it.”  I like how Hank thinks!

Overall:
            An amazing debut.  If an author gets better with each succeeding book…well, the sky is the limit for Audra Harders.  To me, one sign of a good writer is when even the things I don’t like about a story make enough sense that I can’t truly say they should be different.  That is definitely the case in Rocky Mountain Hero. I find myself impatient for the next sweet story from this wonderful new author.

*****5 stars

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

C.S. Lewis Quote of the Day

For Christmas, I recieved a book called A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. I am a huge fan of his, and I've been reading it dutifully everyday, sometimes twice.  Now and then I come across really great lines.  Jack (that's what his friends called him) certainly had a way with words (that may be the understatement of the century).  I thought I'd share the particularly good nuggets here...

"What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, 'What does it matter so long as they are contented?' We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven..." ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I would think, anyone who has raised a child through the toddler years can chuckle at the picture these words create, while realizing the somber truth of them as well.  Conviction certainly goes down easier with a spoonful of humor.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It is Finished--John 19:29-30

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Of all the Scriptures God gave me to accompany my one word – Finish – this one convicts me most.  In last week’s verse I learned that God is not glorified in unfinished tasks.  In this Scripture, I learn that God does not leave tasks unfinished.

In Psalm 69:21 David writes, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”  In John 19:29, this prophecy is fulfilled, when the soldiers offer Jesus vinegar to quench his thirst. 

I believe he knew every prophecy that had been written about him, and he knew when they were fulfilled.  It almost seems to me that he knew this was the last one and his task would be complete. Drinking this vinegar was the last thing he had to do before he “gave up the ghost.”

I’ve always liked that phrase, “gave up the ghost.” What a picturesque way to say, “He died.” But when I think about it here I realized that Jesus is the only person who ever lived who actually had the power to “give up” his life.  He knew he had FINISHED the job he came to do, and He chose that moment do die.

We’ve often heard that he could have called ten-thousand angels to remove him from that Cross.  Likewise, I believe the decision of when to die was entirely in his hands.  He could have chosen any moment before then to be relieved of his terrible pain.  But he waited, just until the job was FINISHED.  He had suffered unspeakable pain for sins not his own.  He had fulfilled all the prophecies, right down to this tiny one.  His suffering was FINISHED.  The plan to purchase man’s redemption from sin was FINISHED.  His task was FINISHED.

Jesus came to earth that first Christmas with a task ahead of him that would be the hardest and most painful any person had ever endured.  Perhaps there were moments he loved his job, when teaching little children, when his disciples truly understood his teachings. Perhaps there were times when he hated his job.  This must have been one of those times. 

Jesus did not put off his awful task or dawdle to complete it once he started.  He faced his horrible ordeal head on, and FINISHED it as quickly as he was able.  Since His great task was to buy my pardon, I am so glad he did FINISH it. I am so glad he didn’t call those angels. I am so glad he chose that moment to die and not the one before.   

I worked hard last night to clean a very messy kitchen, but as I look about I see things I left undone:  a pan not washed, a counter not wiped, a table covered with papers.  I am convicted.  I am doing a poor job of applying My One Word.  I am certainly not the finisher that Jesus was.  With his help, I know I can change that.

Later this week, please join me as I review a wonderful little debut novel, Rocky Mountain Hero, written by a new friend of mine, Audra Harders.

Friday, January 7, 2011

So, So Sorry!!

I did an okay job "Finishing" for the first part of the week.  In fact, Monday and Tuesday, I was almost unstoppable. Taking down Christmas trees, Cleaning out (horrifying) refrigerators... (as I type this I'm thinking, "Was that really this week?" It seems like ages ago.)

Wednesday I finished the book for my book review, but I didn't get the review written.  I still don't have it written.  Wednesday evening my little girl was sick, and we ended up in Urgent Care before 7:00pm.  She was okay. It was kind of a "just in case" trip.  But I've been playing catch up ever since. 

As for Flash Fiction Friday?  Well, we just didn't do it today.

I had a brainstorm, I'll write the review, and post it next Wednesday.  My book reviews will be a week behind, but I'll have plenty of time to write them without stressing about it.  And anyhow, who would notice?  Only me.

Hopefully you all aren't dealing with sick kids at home too.  It's just no fun. : (

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Heartily, as to the Lord

Have you ever stepped into clear stream or creek, thinking to wade in, only to find it deeper than it appeared?  That is what happened with this week’s Bible Study.  I thought I would just get my feet wet, but before I knew it, I found myself waist-high in the cool, refreshing Word of God.  I hope you are as inspired by it as I am.

Colossians 3:23 – And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men

When this verse first came to me in support of My One Word – FINISH, the rationale was “God is not glorified in unfinished tasks.”  If my goal is to please man, well, I might fudge a little or cut corners.  But never in a task dedicated to God. My goal became to dedicate all my tasks to the Lord.  This would lead me to FINISH them, bringing him glory. (As I type this I think of how I patted myself on the back about FINISHING my tasks Monday, and I realize that I kinda hogged all the glory. Conviction, just like a ton o’ bricks. Ouch.)

When reading this verse, I have always focused on the phrase “to the Lord,” and comforted myself with the idea that I am laying up treasures in Heaven when I do all my unpleasant tasks willingly (without complaint) and dedicate them to God. Today, I find from my study of this verse, while my traditional position is fair and accurate, as far as it goes, it stops short the true goal.

Instead of focusing on “to the Lord,” let’s focus on “heartily.” John Wesley defines “heartily” as “cheerfully, diligently.” I don’t always agree with Wesley, so let’s put him to the test. 

*Heartily –
            1. in a hearty manner
            2. with all sincerity: wholeheartedly: with zest or gusto
            3. wholly: thoroughly

 Now let’s compare…

*Cheerful –
1.  Full of good spirits: merry…ungrudging
2.  Conducive to cheer: likely to dispel gloom or worry

*Diligent –
characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort:  painstaking

Okay, in my opinion, Mr. Wesley did pretty good with this one.

Have you ever considered a task with the mindset of, "I'll do it, but I won't like it!" This is the “willingly=without complaint” attitude.  One thing I know about God is that he won’t make me do anything.  My willingness is key. 

It is key, but it is not truly enough.  If I want to squeeze out the maximum available blessing from serving God, I must serve willingly, merrily, and earnestly: in a word “heartily.” I have to do it...and like it. : )

I want to close this study with one last nugget of wisdom from the Esteemed Mr. Wesley, on being “single-hearted” in dedicating our work, all our work, to God:

“Menpleasers are soon dejected and made angry: the single-hearted are never displeased or disappointed; because they have another aim, which the good or evil treatment of those they serve cannot disappoint.”

People may not notice what we do.  They might notice and belittle us...even when we work cheerfully and diligently.  But God, knowing our hearts, will always notice and be well-pleased with our efforts.

*From Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition (1998)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"My One Word" New Year's Resolution

In a recent Seekerville blog post, I read about a website called My One Word.  This website takes a new approach to the New Year's Resolution.  Instead of making a list of things I want to change about myself, I choose a word that sort of gives a central direction to the goals I wish to set. It is one word that encompasses all of those goals and becomes the driving force behind my efforts to accomplish those goals. (Feel free to click on the link above to investigate this idea further.  They do a much better job of explaining themselves than I do.)

The process consists of:
1. Determining the kind of person you want to be when the year is over,
2. Identifying the characteristics of that person,
3. Picking a word that leads you toward those characteristics,
4. Finding and claiming a Bible verse that will help you along the way.

My One Word for 2011 is 'Finish.'

Why?  Because I hardly ever finish anythin (that's 'anything' see, I can't even finish a word). I have an image of myself standing in judgment, accounting for all the things I did in this life, realizing that, while I started a great many things, I never finished one.  Jesus did not stop short of the finish line.  I am determined that, with his help, I won't either.

Enter My One Word.

My goals are:
1.) become a better housekeeper
2.) have my first novel in "pitchable" form by the ACFW conference in September

The first thing on this list is very vague, the type of resolution that sets up well-intentioned people for failure every year.  The other is specific and  fairly measurable, so it's not bad.  The great thing about My One Word is, it works with both of them.  Becoming a better housekeeper will require me to FINISH individual daily tasks (little pieces). FINISHING my novel is going to require me to 'keep my eye on the prize' so to speak; working in small amounts daily, but always working toward a single great accomplishment (the big picture).

Okay so much for the characteristics and the word, now what about the Bible verse? Well, so far I have four.  I'm planning on studying each one out and posting what I learn here

So in the interest of being consistent, and FINISHING...here are my tentative blog plans for 2011 (help me pray they will be more successful than the last set).

Monday-Bible Study, consisting of my latest lesson on the verses God gives me that pertain to My One Word.  OR This could also be a discussion of what I learn as I participate in the My One Word homework journal, in the event that I am without a verse to discuss at any time. This post will require me to devote time each week to FINISH a study of my verse, or the homework for the MOW blog.

Wednesday-Book Review.  I have a friend who calls hers 'What I Read Wednesday.' I think that's clever, and I find myself wishing I'd thought of it first. But since I didn't, this will have to be called something lame like 'Wednesday Book Review' until I think of something better.  This post will require me to FINISH reading a book each week (not a difficult task, except that it means just one), and to FINISH writing a review of it (a bit more difficult task).

Friday-Flash Fiction.  This is a writing exercise I've shared before that I do with a couple of cyber-friends.  (They named it 'Flash Fiction Friday' [another clever alliteration] before I joined them, but since they both use this name on their blogs, I feel like I can use it too).  This post will require a committment to FINISH that short writing session each week.  You may be surprised how difficult it can be for me to carve out even five minutes to write sometimes. Then again, most of you are writers, who started out someplace near where I am now, so you might not be so surprised after all.

Also, I don't know if you've noticed it or not, but I'm pretty long-winded. So I'm also gonna work on FINISHING faster.  You know, writing shorter posts that take up less of your valuable time.

Lord willing, this is what is in store for my readers for in the coming year.