Saturday, March 31, 2012

Feeling Exhausted?

Do you find yourself overwhelmed or do you constantly have that sense you are running behind? 
Does your "to do" list remain untouched day after day
only to cause you a feeling of guilt every time you look at it?
Are your home finances a wreck?

Right now I am listening to Crystal Paine at in her new audiobook The Money Saving Mom's Budget.  She offers some great tips for whipping your home (and life) into shape.  I'll be posting my review early next week  Come back and check it out!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gardening Update

  A while back I decided to try out this idea I saw here.  What could be more frugal than planting your seeds into milk jugs?  And the beauty of this system is that you have your own mini greenhouses thereby allowing you to plant soooo much earlier than normal.  You can even plant when there is snow on the ground outside -- although if you live in an area like us - you never saw any significant snow this winter anyway.

I decided to start with broccoli and later also planted some tomatoes. 

Are you feeling a little skeptical?  I was too, but next week I'll post pictures of how my plants are doing.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review for Randy Singer’s The Last Plea Bargain and Giveaway!

                With his latest legal thriller, Randy Singer has written a genuine page-turner that is hard to put down. He does a masterful job of developing the core characters in the story, and demonstrating their progression as the novel moves along. 

                The story centers around Jamie Brock, an assistant DA who, because of her idealistic view of the justice system, refuses to give plea bargains to criminals. A problem arises though when Caleb Tate, a top-notch criminal defense attorney, is accused of murdering his wife and trying to cover it up. As a ploy to clog up the justice system, Tate convinces an entire prison system to refuse plea bargains of any kind, forcing prosecutors and public defenders to go to trial with every single criminal case. This story line, combined with some intense subplots that surround the man on death row for the murder of Jamie’s mother, a few conflicted personalities with questionable integrity, and a nice twist all combine to keep the reader engaged and guessing throughout. 

                Jamie is brought face to face with some of her deepest convictions and beliefs and is forced to look at her entire life in a fresh way that, with the help of her minister brother, pushes her towards the faith that she had previous turned away from. It is a story of redemption and triumph of good over evil, but if you think that makes for a predictable story, you’d better pay close attention, because those in need of redemption and those in need to exposure are not always who they at first glance may seem!

                While book contains some advanced technology and complicated legal issues, it is not science fiction. With the perfect set of circumstances, it is possible that the events Singer portrays could be played out in the real world- yet another factor that makes the book so riveting. 

               With all the positives, Singer has two glaring, but minor weaknesses. First, he wraps up the story much too quickly. Everything builds up to a climax and the story ends a few pages later. It is almost a let down, but not quite. Second, the romantic subplot in the story flips like a coin and comes across almost like a bad romance novel. Because of everything else going on, there isn’t much space to develop the love interest, so when the rug gets pulled out, it seems somewhat fake and oversimplified. However, these two criticisms should not be allowed to take away from what in all other aspects is a fantastic book from a well respected Christian author. 

I give it 4.75 out of 5 stars….almost perfect, but with a little room for improvement!

I received a free copy of this book (ARC) from Tyndale publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 Check out the book trailer here.

Now for the giveaway. . .

Some of you may be wanting to get your hands on this book and let me share how you can do that.  

Simply post a comment below stating why you would like to win a copy of this book between now and midnight on Sunday.  Then one person will be randomly selected to receive a certificate to be redeemed at their local Christian bookstore (or if no store is available, through Tyndale - instructions will be on the back of the certificate).  Plus the winner will also receive a bookplate signed by Randy to put in their book once they get it.  If you win, you will be contacted by email so that I can forward your name and address to Tyndale.  They will send the certificate to you via the mail.  (Sorry this giveaway is limited to the United States only.)

So go ahead, comment below as to why you would like a copy Randy Singer's newest book, The Last Plea Bargain. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easiest Homemade Pizza Night Ever

 What can I say?  I married a guy who loves pizza.  But when we moved to this very rural part of Indiana, our delivery options sort of went out the window. 

So now we make it ourselves and have made it a family tradition every Sunday night.  It works out great because the hubby is always starving after church in the evening (and after a busy day of preaching and stuff) - he just wants to kick back.

So what I do is throw the ingredients into the bread machine before we leave for the Sunday night service and voila - when we get back home the pizza dough is ready. 

Now, you may be thinking - I don't have a bread machine nor do I want to spend the money on one.  They are usually pretty easy to pick up at a thrift store, if you know what you are looking for.  If the machine can be plugged in and turns on that is a good sign.  Then it needs to have the metal "basket" (as I like to call it - see the handle below) which is removable.  The last piece is that small (but very important) paddle that actually mixes the dough you will find in the bottom of the metal "basket."  I found mine at a thrift store for $8 and I am so glad I took the risk, since at the time I knew nothing about bread machines.

 Here is the recipe I use for my pizza dough made in a bread machine.  I wish I could give credit, but I have no idea where it is from since I have had it copied on a recipe card for a while.  So follow this simple tutorial and you'll be making your own pizza in no time.
3/4 C warm water
1 T oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 T sugar
1 T dry milk powder
2 1/4 C bread flour (you can also use all-purpose flour)
1 tsp active dry yeast

 Put everything in your bread machine (or in the order recommended by the manufacturer of your bread machine) in the order you see listed above.  Select Dough cycle.  When it is done, it should look like this.

 Pull it out and this is where you can show off your pizza twirling skills.  If you lack that skill, like me, you can just do your best to fight with the dough until it gets to the shape you need it to be to look nice on your pizza pan (or if you happen to have one of those awesome pizza stones, then use that).  I also like to throw out some cornmeal to keep things from getting to sticky (same concept as using flour to roll out other kinds of dough).

Next I spoon on some sauce.  Use the amount that looks good to you.  One observation that I have had is that you need more sauce when you have made a crust with bread flour.  Now I am not a pizza connoisseur like my husband, but that is the only significant difference I have noticed between using bread flour and all-purpose flour in the dough.

 Here is the recipe I use for my pizza sauce.  I don't put everything in - just what I have on hand.  I have to say this is my favorite recipe, probably because it starts with just a little can of tomato paste.

Now top that with some mozzarella cheese and pepperoni or whatever toppings you would like.  If you haven't noticed, we do not branch out too much.  But, by all means, be creative and come up with some yummy topping combinations.

 Now before you throw that delicious looking pizza into the oven (which by the way, needs to be preheating at 350 degrees) I will throw in my little plug for Aldi.  No, I do not work for them, but I just have to say I love this little grinder (is anyone else addicted to spice grinders?)  I like to put this on our pizza before putting it in the oven.

 Then let it bake for about 25- 30 minutes. 

And that is it --ENJOY . . . and think about starting your own little family tradition!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coming Soon - Randy Singer Blog tour and giveaway!

Randy Singer

I am so excited to be a part of the blog tour for Randy Singer's newest book The Last Plea Bargain!  You don't want to miss out on the book review, written by my hubby, which I will be posting on Thursday.

Plus you will have the chance to enter a giveaway for a FREE copy of the book so you can read it and see what all the excitement is about.  Again, you will have to wait until Thursday for that.  But while you are waiting, check out this interview with Randy.  If you like legal drama type fiction - then you won't want to miss this and he even gives readers a sneak peak at what he is working on.

 Randy, you bring a unique perspective to your writing because you are also an attorney and a pastor. How do you juggle these three things and still have a life?

Who said I had a life?

But seriously, it helps that these three things all draw on common skill sets. For example, principles of powerful story-telling are important for a pastor, lawyer and (obviously) writer. I’m a little ADHD and like being able to go from one thing to another. It’s like crop rotation—keeps things fresh. And, to be honest, writing is more like relaxation for me than a job. It gives me a break from the pressures of the other “real life” jobs and lets me go into a world where I get to control things! (aka “God complex”)

On the practical side, there are three principles that help me juggle. One, I try to stay focused on the big stuff. It’s not that I do the little stuff second, I try not to do the little stuff at all. Second, I stay focused on what I can do well and let others worry about the stuff that is out of my control. And third, I’ve learned to get comfortable with the fact that I will always have stuff in each of these areas that does not get done. As long as the ball is moving forward, I’m satisfied with that.

Ultimately, I thank God that, in His grace, He allows me to do three separate things that I love. My prayer is that I might bring glory to Him in all three arenas.  

The Last Plea Bargain is loosely based on a case you tried. Can you briefly share with us some of the details of that case and why it is special to you?

In 2002, Donna Somerville was indicted for the murder of her husband, Hamilton Somerville, Jr., in Orange County, Virginia. Hamilton Somerville was heir to the DuPont fortune. The prosecution alleged that Donna Somerville had poisoned her husband with a lethal cocktail of hospice drugs and the case drew national media attention, including a front-page story in Vanity Fair and a Lifetime movie, Widow on the Hill. Donna Somerville was found not guilty in the criminal case in 2004, but I represented the daughters of Hamilton Somerville in a wrongful death civil case against their step-mother which had a very different outcome. That litigation, and the tension between seeking justice and extending forgiveness, played a large role in the writing of The Last Plea Bargain.
 Your main character, Jamie Brock, originally appeared in your novel, False Witness. Why did you decide to bring her back, and will we see more of Jamie in the future?

Readers will often ask me whether I’m going to bring back one character or another. I make a mental list of the characters mentioned the most often, realizing that those characters must have resonated with the readers in some way. Jamie is mentioned a lot. In addition, in False Witness, we saw her as an idealistic and persistent law student. Given her intriguing backstory and motivation for going to law school (her mother was killed in a home invasion and Jamie wanted to become a prosecutor), I thought it would be fun to follow her as she matured into a tenacious but conflicted prosecutor.  

Jamie takes a pretty hard stance against plea bargaining. How rampant is plea bargaining in the legal system and is it necessary?

Most people don’t realize that about 90% of the criminal cases in our country are disposed of by plea bargains. A plea bargain is when the defendant pleads guilty to a crime, frequently in exchange for a lighter penalty.

This book asks the question: What if the defendants in a certain jurisdiction banded together and decided not to plea bargain, insisting on a full jury trial for every case? It would overwhelm the system. There wouldn’t be enough prosecutors or public defenders or available court dates. Even the defendants who lost would be able to claim ineffective assistance of counsel or the lack of a speedy trial on appeal. The system would be thrown into chaos.

That’s what happens in The Last Plea Bargain. Jamie Brock is staring down defendants who have found a way to wreak havoc with the system. Who is willing to compromise? Who will blink first?   

  While plea bargaining is part of the overall plot, at the heart of the book are the issues of justice and mercy. How does Jamie learn to balance those two?

Justice without mercy is legalism. Mercy without justice is license. Only when we realize the need for justice tempered with mercy do we have a fair and equitable result.

It takes courage to pursue justice. You have to stare evil in the face and demand accountability. It is easier to let evil have its day. So, if we cling only to mercy, then there is nothing to stop the advance of true evil. We live in a constant state of spiritual warfare. And God is a God of justice. We should be irate at injustice in the world and willing to risk our own lives to stop it.

But passionately seeking justice is just one step away from vengeance. And Scripture tells us not to take revenge into our own hands. Romans 12:19. Instead, we should leave room for God’s wrath, not trying to overcome evil with evil but overcoming evil with good. Romans 12:20-21.

How do we draw this line? I believe a lot of it has to do with motivation. Are we mad because somebody hurt us or disrespected us? Chances are, that’s vengeance. On the other hand, are we striving for justice for others, or devoting ourselves to a just cause? Chances are, that’s seeking justice.

    What do you hope readers walk away with after reading this book?

First, I want readers to be entertained. If the story isn’t compelling, nothing else matters. So my primary goal is that readers will find it impossible to put the book down and, when they turn the last page, shoot me an email asking how long it will be until I finish another.

Second, I want to present readers, in the context of story, with compelling characters on both sides of the death penalty debate, so that readers might draw their own conclusions. And third, I want readers to walk with my characters down that thin line that separates the lust for revenge from the hunger for justice. And…hopefully, to learn which side of the line they might be walking on.
Okay, Randy, what’s next?

I’m working on my next book tentatively entitled Rule of Law. It will come out next spring. It’s the story of another flawed protagonist. He is a former college quarterback who got caught up in a point-shaving scandal, served time in prison, and then went to law school and became a lawyer. He finally gets his first job but ends up at a firm where somebody is killing off all the firm’s lawyers, one-by-one (even lawyers who try to leave the firm). It’s a story about loyalty and trust, honor and betrayal.

At the same time, I’m working on a longer-term project (one that’s been on my desk for a long time) which will give readers a front-row seat to the two most important trials ever—the trial of Christ and the trial of Paul in front of Nero. The story is told from the perspective of Theophilus, Paul’s court-appointed advocate, and may be the most important book I’ve ever attempted.

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today? Part 7

You Shall Not Commit Adultery

            The seventh commandment is going to address an area that our nation would rather we left alone. In fact, there are those in the church who would probably prefer that we not speak too loudly on this issue. It is here that people will begin to look at Scripture as antiquated, outdated, old-fashioned, and out of touch with modern society. However, before you begin making arguments for your child, parent, neighbor, friend, relative, coworker or yourself for why your behavior in opposition to this commandment has been completely justified, let me make a quick point.

            The unchanging nature of a Holy God. We have stated from the beginning of this study that the ten commandments, while given to Israel, reflect the moral nature of God, and are therefore relevant for all peoples and times. See, God is the Creator of the universe, and therefore He determines what is to be considered as moral and appropriate for His creatures (of which we are). The problem that many people fall into is this trap of looking at how society is, and trying to reconcile scripture to it. That is backwards. God sets the standard, and when it is a moral standard, it never changes. So, how do we define adultery? Narrowly, adultery is cheating on a spouse or causing someone else to cheat on their spouse. However, the word adultery overlaps significantly with the word often translated as “fornication” in English, which is used to point to sex between two unmarried people. Jesus also helps redefine the word in Matthew 5 when He states that to even look at a woman with lust is to commit a form of adultery with her. At the heart of this commandment is the idea that sex is a beautiful thing created by a Holy God, but it is only beautiful when used in the way that HE designed it. Outside of that usage it becomes dangerous, sinful, and dirty.

            The lies that we’ve bought into. There is no hiding the fact that our country has drastically decayed in the area of morality as defined by God. To enter marriage as a virgin is to be a social outcast, abnormal, and weird. It is amazing how our society has declared the immoral pagan to be “normal and healthy” in his sexuality, and the chaste virgin who is pure before God to be “strange, and somehow perverse.” This is a complete reversal of God’s plan! How did we get here?
  • The “it’s a private matter between consenting adults” lie. Satan has convinced people that sex is natural, fun, and harmless- and it is when kept within the boundaries of marriage! But we’ve taken it outside of marriage, and because of “private” decisions between “consenting” adults, unwanted babies are being murdered by the thousands, and taxpayers are helping raise an entire population of children who have no father figure and live in poverty. Many of these kids will grow up and mimic the patterns that their parents set for them, or worse, join gangs or turn to other illicit means of finding community and family. This leads to greater demands on our wallets as taxpayers. If I’m paying for it, I don’t care what anyone says, this is NOT a private matter!
  • The “why would you buy without taking a test drive” lie. I have heard this one over and over again, as if sexual performance was the determining factor as to whether a couple is compatible or not. I have a huge issue with this on a number of practical levels. First, God created sex for marriage. The plan is that two people enter a marriage relationship with nothing to compare their sexual experience there to. No test drive needed. Why does someone test drive a car? To compare it with all the other cars he has driven. If he has never driven another car, a test drive of only one car is pointless because there is no point of comparison. THIS IS GOD’S PLAN!!! Man’s plan has resulted in people heading into marriage with scars and enormous emotional, and sometimes physical, baggage as a result of their sexual history (oh, Satan didn’t tell you about that part?).
            Why do we buy into the lies? Well, there are a number of reasons, but at the end of the day, SIN IS FUN!! Sex is pleasurable (there is a reason some have called it God’s greatest gift to marriage!). Don’t let anyone tell you that the sin itself is so horrible that no one in their right mind would do it. That’s simply not true. Immorality is fun, and lust is fun, that’s why Jesus had to warn against it. Think about also how our society has manipulated and twisted our thinking. People don’t really use the word “adultery” anymore. We use less judgmental terms like “affair” or “sleeping together” or maybe even “cohabitation.” And because sin is fun, people charge headlong into it when it is socially acceptable! But we’re missing something. See, sin IS fun, but the end of the road is not. Broken homes, uncontrolled urges, emotional trauma, single parent homes, STDs, pornography addictions, shame, humiliation, and all the other results of immorality are bad, but what is the worst result? I Corinthians 6:9 lists (among others) adulterers, fornicators, and adulterers as groups of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God. See, if someone makes sexual sin a pattern in his life, he is showing his rebellion against God, and God says that there is no place for that person in Heaven. That is a steep price to pay for something that can be done with God’s blessing inside marriage!

            A refocus for Christians. Okay, I don’t know you, and I don’t know your past. Maybe you entered marriage as a virgin, maybe you’re not married yet, or maybe you’ve had a background that has violated every law that God has against sexual sin. Let me lay something out for you. God has set the bar high, and here is HIS standard: you enter marriage a virgin, and you enjoy the pleasures of a sexual relationship with one and only one person for the rest of your life (barring the death of a spouse). You guard your body and keep it only for that person. But God takes it even higher….He wants us to guard our minds and keep them for that one person as well. No pornography or trips down the magazine aisle in the grocery store with all the scantily clad women or men. No wondering what it would be like to be with someone who…. (was skinnier, larger, younger, older, richer, etc). No imagining who you would pursue if something happened to your spouse. No giving another man or woman the opportunity to lust after you (this is why modesty is SO important- your body is your spouses and no one else’s!). So, all the reasons given above for why sexual immorality isn’t a good idea are valid, but they pale in light of the greatest reason of all: God says don’t do it!!! To willingly violate God’s command is to contradict His nature and demonstrate that we are not acting as His children, but as children of Satan!  
            What about those who have fallen? First, understand that God forgives. Sin must be confessed, repented of, and handed over to Him. Sins prior to marriage should be discussed with a spouse- there is no room in marriage for secrets. Don’t let Satan convince you that because of what you’ve done that you are beyond forgiveness….that is a lie that has clinched the eternal fate of thousands. Don’t let your flesh convince you that it’s okay to look as long as you don’t touch….that is a lie that has destroyed the effectiveness of thousands of Christians and rendered them useless to God. Get forgiveness for what you have done, and move forward seeking victory. Realize that sexual purity will be a life-long struggle, but it is a struggle well worth the effort, when we stand before our Lord with clear conscience and a pure heart!

I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog (by leaving a comment below) or my email: God Bless!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today? Part 6

You Shall Not Murder
            As we continue our series working through how the ten commandments relate to Christians today, we come to a command that -- considering its relative length (one word plus a negative particle in the Hebrew), has had much ink spilt over its application. While I will not seek to add a new opinion to the deluge of thoughts that are already out there, I will try to handle the text appropriately and in light of the greater context of the Bible as a whole. 

            A bloody history. It took mankind all of one generation to violate one of the most precious reflections of God’s moral character: the killing of an “image bearer” by another image bearer in cold blood. Cain, the first human being to ever be born in the natural sense, murdered his brother Abel (Gen. 4). From that point mankind descended into such degradation and perversity that Almighty God decided the only legitimate course of action was to purge the earth and start over. Upon Noah and his family’s emergence from the Ark, God gave them a few commands, one of which stood as a stark reminder of the value and importance of human life. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6, ESV). Here we have the institution of human government in its most basic form. Human life is so precious to God (even sinful, nasty, pagan human life), that He places a huge punishment on those who take it!

            A long line of misinterpretation. For centuries, theologians, pastors, and lay-level Christians have struggled with balancing the teaching of Scripture in this area. Some have yelled, “contradiction” and see the command to not kill as being in direct opposition to Gen. 9:6, which not only authorizes, but mandates the death of human beings. Others have taken the command of Exodus 20 in another direction, applying it to all life whatsoever, whether it be dogs, cats, or even mosquitoes and house flies! Still others seek to apply it to armed conflict, and rather than wading through the implications of what is and what is not murder, they simply state that all war killing is murder and avoid the argument all together. I would contend that all of the above are misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the Biblical teaching.

            A closer look at the Book. When we dive into this essentially two word command, we come in contact with a Hebrew word that carries a wide range of ideas, all related to killing. The word is ratsach, and carries the idea of “to murder, slay or kill” which can be accidental, premeditated, done as the Old Testament role of the “avenger,” or what we would today call a “crime of passion” in which someone simply loses their temper, lashes out, and kills someone. The question that must be asked is, “does every occurrence of a specific word in any language carry with it every single possible meaning?” The answer is a resounding “NO!” The same applies in English. If I tell my wife that I am going to “run over to the church,” the word “run” can carry a variety of different meanings. In most contexts, what I mean is that I need to go over to the church for some purpose. However, if I am wearing my running clothes and shoes, I may be literally saying that I need to run to the church! Context determines which acceptable meaning of a word is appropriate in any one sentence. The same applies here. Based on the command of Genesis 9:6, the situations laid out in Exodus 21, as well as a host of other inferences and commands throughout scripture, I would define the “murder” of Exodus 20:13 as just that- murder. Anytime someone intentionally takes the life of another person outside of the stipulations laid out for capital punishment in Scripture (not necessarily as laid out by specific governmental systems), or in self-defense, they have committed murder.

            What does that look like today? Even though we all have in-laws, neighbors, or fellow church members who drive us crazy, I doubt anyone needs to be reminded that knocking them off is simply out of the question when it comes to God’s rulebook! However, there are some ways in which God’s command concerning the value of life applies to our society that might strike closer to home.

            Abortion. If life begins at conception (I believe it does), or even at implantation, as some argue, our nation has been guilty of murdering millions of human lives over the years. It is very easy to dismiss the “abortion” issue as political, but that is placing emphasis in the wrong area. The only reason that abortion has become such a hot button political issue is because it matters so much to those who value life (and to those who don’t value life!). Politicians do not harp on issues that do not generate support. This is not about taking away a woman’s rights.  It is about protecting life. The child being formed inside a womb has the same rights that the mother has who conceived him. God will not hold a nation or church guiltless who violates His moral law.
            Suicide. To take one’s own life is a form of murder. If murder is the premeditated taking of the life of an image bearer without Biblical justification, then to commit suicide is to commit self-murder. Apart from all arguments about “quality of life” and whether someone should have the right to end their own life comes this simple but hard truth: God is the Author and Taker of life. To assume that role as a human being is to assume the role of God and usurp the authority that should be reserved for Him alone.

            War. Much has been made among Christians about what constitutes a “just” war. I believe that it is safe to say that not every conflict that the United States has engaged in has been “just” in the Biblical sense of the term. While I only really see self-defense as a genuine justification for war in Scripture (with coming to the defense of another as falling into that category), I don’t see many other reasons for going to war that God would endorse. It would be my contention that to attack another nation through invasion is to commit murder on a grand scale (see Nazi Germany and its WWII allies). While some of the United States’ wars have been questionable, and aspects of some of them may have fallen into this category, my purpose here is not to lay a guilt trip on anyone who has served in our armed forces at any point in our nation’s history. It is rather to encourage every young man and woman who would consider enlisting to “count the cost” and understand that should they be asked to enter a war that is not just, there is no excuse before God for taking life wrongfully. No man will be able to stand before God and state that he was “just following orders.” The decision to kill must be weighed with much consideration and prayer!

            A Note on the Positive Side. Could I encourage you in this area? Maybe you have an abortion in your past. Maybe some things happened to you as a veteran that you’re not proud of. Understand that no sin is outside of the forgiveness and mercy of the Divine Lawgiver. When sin is claimed and repented of, forgiveness and grace are offered. What you did in a panic when that pregnancy test came back positive can be wiped from the slate and made right with a Holy God. There are always consequences from sin, but the guilt and judgment that come from having violated one of God’s moral laws can be wiped clean! Please contact me for more information on this! For others who have not taken life….share with others the value that God places on human life! Teach you children and anyone who will listen about how important they are to God. In a world of first person shooters and movies filled with meaningless killing, we have dropped the importance of life to an all time historical low. But that can change! If we will attune our thinking to God’s thinking, we will see the world, including His prize creation, with the same eyes that He see it with: fallen, broken, sinful, but well worth preserving and redeeming!

I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog (by leaving a comment below) or my email: God Bless!!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Quieting a Noisy Soul Study: Week 3

So we do not lose heart.  
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.   
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things seen but to the things that are unseen.  
For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

I am really enjoying this study through Jim Bergs study called Quieting a Noisy Soul: Overcoming Guilt, Anxiety, Anger, and Despair.  This week's session focused mainly on a broad overview of the Biblical way to handle the stress (or "pressures" as Berg calls it) we encounter.

Have you ever noticed how some days go better than others because of how we started.  If I get up (preferably before my toddler), have my quiet time reading the Bible and praying and preparing - I am better able to handle the day.

If I lay in bed until the absolute last second, race to get ready, and run out the door to wherever I need to go (you fill-in-the-blank --- work, appointment, school) I am more likely to "snap" when something seemingly minor happens.

I call this the "duh" chapter. I say that not because it is easy, but because we all know to do these things he lists, we just don't always do them.

  • we need to properly take care of our bodies through diet and exercise
  • our relationships with both God and others are vital
A person who subsists on junk food, avoids physical activity, neglects their walk with God, and squanders precious relationships with others, should not be surprised when they are unable to handle the pressures of life.

This is just basic stuff, but we have to get the basics and build that foundation before we (or the person you may be counseling) can face the bigger, more challenging stuff such as will be covered later in this study.

*I am in no way associated with Jim Berg or Journeyforth Press, and am receiving absolutely no compensation for my review of these materials.  The thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are completely my own.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review: Every Woman's Battle by Shannon Ethridge

Shannon Ethridge's book Every Woman's Battle: Discovering God's Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment is just one of the Every Man Series you have no doubt seen or heard about.  The book contains 12 chapters broken up into 3 parts and a workbook in the back for further study.  Basing much of the work off her own struggle for sexual purity, she brings out several key points in her book that I particularly liked.
  • men are not the only ones involved in a battle for sexual integrity
  • women may not struggle with pornography to the same degree as men, but some explicit romance novels leave them just as guilty
  • women need to guard their minds and emotions from leading them down a path into an affair
  • allowing ourselves to compare our husbands with the other men around is a dangerous practice
  • women need to set up boundaries to help protect their marriage
  • God desires a close, personal relationship with every believer - and that is ultimate fulfillment
 While she had many more "good points," I found it difficult to follow her line of reasoning throughout the book as a whole.  I often disagreed with her and sometimes felt her concepts were more pragmatic than Biblical (and maybe even contradicting herself in parts of the book, though not intending to).

 She wrote in one part of the book about steps to take after realizing you have fallen into an emotional affair.  As part of the steps, she never makes it a necessity to confess the sin to your husband.  However, later in the book she seems to make it clear that this is a necessary step, at least when confessing sinful relationships that happened before you were married.  Again, she never laid the Biblical foundation at the beginning, so it is no wonder that things get a little confusing.

One chapter of the book entitled "Retreating with the Lord" started out good, and she encouraged women to get away periodically just to spend time alone with God.  But then I just felt she went too far.  She spoke of "dating" Jesus and gave examples of people setting up a table for 4 and having dinner with all the members of the trinity.  She mentioned laying in bed and imagining having Jesus "stroking my hair."  I don't want to offend anyone who may be able to relate to this, but I just found this weird a little too much for me.  

 I do believe this is a topic that needs more attention.  I was hoping this would be a good book for a group study, which I think is the intent of the book, but I was very disappointed.  Considering how wildly popular this series is -- I may be in the minority.

3 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program through Waterbrook Multnomah Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today? Part 5

 Honor your Father and Mother
            Not many Christians debate the validity of the fifth commandment, especially since Paul reaffirms it in Ephesians chapter six. The question that arises in debate is, “how do we do this?” Believe me- inquiring minds want to know, especially since this is, as Paul puts it, “the first command with promise.” In Ephesians six, Paul slightly modifies the promise contained in the Old Testament to a promise of a long and blessed life. Now, who doesn’t want that? So, let’s talk about honor.

            The nature of the command. There is something very interesting in looking at this commandment, or I guess we should say that there is something very interesting missing from the command: qualifications. Yes, in a world of loopholes, qualifying statements, and plausible deniability, we find a timeless command with no qualifications placed on it. We are to honor our parents…..period. 

Are all parents worthy of honor? No. In fact, some parents are despicable, abusive, violent, molesters, and disgusting examples of what God intended parents to be. And yet we are to honor them. How exactly, do we do that? The word “honor” carries the idea of “lifting up” or “giving a high place to.” This is what we do with the people who occupy the role of parents in our lives. For as long as they live, we are to “hold them up” or honor them. We will look at specific responsibilities in a minute, but let’s further address those parents who are “dishonorable.” 

Sin is nasty and devastating, and can leave scars on children who grow up seeing it expressed in one of its more debilitating forms. If that was your home situation, please understand that I am in no way suggesting that you submit yourself to any form of abuse or harm. However, there is a two step process of showing honor to parents who are not deserving of it. First, you must forgive. Even though that parent may reject your forgiveness (and therefore not be reconciled with you), you must in effect release your right to retribution before God. Many people confuse forgiveness and reconciliation. You can forgive your parents, but reconciliation does not happen until they repent and accept that forgiveness. Second, you seek to show honor to them in whatever ways you can. For one woman, this is simply sending her mother flowers on Mother’s Day. For others, it might be maintaining the best possible relationship without exposing yourself and your current family (spouse, children, etc) to ungodly behavior. In all situations it means not slandering your parents or taking every possible opportunity to make sure everyone knows what kind of home you grew up in. This kind of behavior usually comes from sinful motivations, and is not honoring.

            The role of the parents. Parents, did you know that you play a huge role in how your children will later respond to you? Our society is falling apart, largely because the American family is falling apart. There is little respect for authority anymore, and that starts in the home with the parents. Parents, you MUST teach your children how to honor you, and use that as a model for honoring all legitimate authority in their lives! I see this frequently in sports teams, workplaces, and churches: children who are not disciplined and taught to honor their parents do not show proper honor and respect for outside authority, and do not honor their parents when they are grown. This must change! We as parents need to constantly, consistently, and lovingly (NEVER out of anger) discipline our kids and teach them the proper role of authority figures in their lives. The words of their teachers, coaches, pastors (and so on) should be law providing they are not contrary to scriptural or parental teaching. This is an area that requires a great deal of time and effort, but we must make that commitment if our families, churches and nation are to thrive and grow!

            The role of the young child. For young children in the home, your role is pretty straightforward: obey your parents with a proper attitude. You may disagree with them (especially you teens!!!), and you may think that their rules are dumb. Guess what, God did not ordain the child as the arbiter of valid and invalid rules! He simply expects you to say “yes mom” or “yes dad” and follow with an attitude that is honoring to Him! No one says you have to have the same rules and guidelines in your own family that your parents had in theirs! But, if you sow dishonor while under your parent’s authority, you will reap it in your own life.  Now, as in all situations, I am never advocating the abuse of children. If a situation is truly abusive, then steps need to be taken to remedy the situation, whether the solution is legal charges or simply removal from the home.

            The role of the older child. Every child eventually transitions from under the authority of their parents into a role of starting his own family unit, but still honoring the parents. The time that this happens is a little different for each person. Definitely, once a young person moves out of the home, he or she is on his own and must learn to make his own decisions. If a young man or woman lives with his parents for a period of time in young adulthood, it is important that parents help them transition in their relationship. There will always be guidelines that must be followed under the parents’ roof, but the relationship must mature from complete obedience to more of a mentorship type situation. From that time on, the command to honor takes on a different appearance. Things like seeking wisdom and advice from parents, making sure their needs are met, watching out for them, and making sure they play an active role in the lives of their grandkids are all ways that we honor our parents. 

The question arises, what about when they are elderly? I believe that the decision about care for an elderly parent must be made carefully, prayerfully, and with all possible information handy. Those who put their parents in a nursing home because they would be too much of an inconvenience are not showing honor to their parents. Instead, the medical needs of the parent should be assessed, as well as their desires and level of functionality. Their safety must be taken into consideration. If the decision is made to put the parent in a facility, care should be taken that the parent is not neglected, and is made to feel as much as possible part of family life. Having a wife who has worked in an assisted living situation, I can testify that institutional care can be a huge blessing to a family in the right situation. When a parent is receiving all their medical care and daily maintenance, the children are free to take mom or dad out for family events, dinners and such, without the stress of performing medical treatments and functions at home. This helps them to do more as a family and make mom or dads remaining years good ones. The opposite can also be true. Mom or dad is left as an afterthought in a home without visitors or phone calls. This must be avoided. 

            A final thought. The fifth commandment is unique. It contains something that no other commandment does: an ending point. It only applies during the lives of your parents. That places extra importance on it for genuine believers who may not be honoring their parents like they should. If this is the case, repent, seek their forgiveness, and make the most of the time you have remaining! If your parents are passed away and you have major regrets, seek the Lord’s forgiveness, and move on! There is never a good reason for a true believer who has sought forgiveness for sin to live in guilt from that sin! Let’s seek to honor our imperfect parents as we hope that our children will one day honor their imperfect parents!

I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog (by leaving a comment below) or my email: God Bless!!!
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