Memorial Day

Special days

Memorial Day 2016

So thankful for those who have laid down their lives for our country.

Laudable Linkage

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to share noteworthy reads recently found around the Web. Hope you’ll find some of them interesting as well.

How the Lonely, Invisible, and Unnoticed Can Glorify God.

Taking the Risk With Christian Community.

Ten Reasons Why the Church Gathers.

Don’t Always Follow Your Conscience.

The Bare Essentials: What I Tell My Daughters About Modesty.

The Story of a Male-identifying Little Girl Who Didn’t Transition. “When we begin to tell boys that they must act ‘this’ way, and that girls should act ‘that’ way, and that if they don’t, they are transgender;  we put children in these tiny boxes that create confusion, frustration, and sometimes, lifelong psychological and emotional damage.”

Me, the Lord, Pizza, and Celiac Disease.

A Call For Plodding Bloggers.

The Backside Blessings of Blogging.

Brown Sugar Toast, a new-to-me blog by Christa Threlfall, has been running a series titled Dwelling Richly: An Interview Series on Studying the Bible in which she interviews various women about their time with the Word of God. I’ve just come into it recently, but I have enjoyed catching up with a few from women I know (Claudia Barba) or know of (Mardi Collier, Pat Berg, Jen Wilkin) as well as others I don’t know.

Alicia Reagan, the friend of a friend, shared this video of the new movie “Me Before You,” the trailer of which looks pretty cute, but the ending is horrible and a step backwards for disabled people. Sherry discussed the book here.

And finally, I thought this was really cute: a day in the life of a panda zookeeper. I guess it doesn’t pay to rake leaves with pandas around.:) Love how roly-poly they are.

friday fave five spring

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

This has been a fairly uneventful week. Which is nice, because uneventful weeks are relatively more peaceful. But now I am trying to remember what happened that I can comment on.:)

1. Progress on the fence. Last week my husband had two panels up: as of Thursday afternoon, he had finished eight. Due to some rain and other responsibilities, he wasn’t able to work on it much Saturday, so most of that has been done in the evenings after he gets off work. I’m not sure how many there are all together. So thankful for my hard-working husband.


I mentioned last week that he had found this (or at least, the pieces of it) on Craig’s list. When he first went out to look at them, he told me that they were tan. I had only seen vinyl fencing in white before and was afraid tan might make them look old. But they were such a good deal, we decided to get them and then we could paint them later if we wanted to. They turned out to be kind of a sandy, just off-white color. I really like that, because sometimes the sun hits it in full force, and I think the white would be blinding – or at least glaring. At some point we want to put some bushes and plants at intervals.

2. My hydrangea bush has never put out this many blossoms before. Lovely! And I like that they are different colors.


3. Time with my little grandson. I know I have said that before.:) But time spent with him makes up my favorite parts of every week. Those who know me well will appreciate that I especially love when he climbs up beside me and says, “Book! Book!”

4. A family open to experimental recipes. I tried cabbage rolls for the first time this week (this recipe), and they were ok, but a little bland. That one was nice in that it was a stovetop recipe. I’d like to try this one which has some different flavorings, but it will have to wait til cooler weather – it’s already too hot to have the oven on for 75 minutes. Somewhere I saw a crockpot version that I might have to try as well. My son wasn’t sure if he’d like the cabbage, but he gave it a try and did.

5. Take-out meals. I know, I have mentioned them several times as well. But I love the combination of not having to decide what’s for dinner, having someone else cook it, and not having clean-up. We got take-out from my husband’s favorite Asian place Saturday evening, which almost always has enough for leftovers for lunch another day – another favorite of take-out. And then, this isn’t take-out exactly, but it was made by someone else: my son and daughter-in-law brought over some homemade enchiladas left from a dinner they had hosted the night before to us for lunch on Saturday – yummy! Better than take-out!

Happy Friday!

Renewing the MindI first became aware of The Renewing of the Mind Project by Barb Raveling through my friend Kim’s blog. She had also introduced me to two of Barb’s other books which I reviewed together last year: I Deserve a Donut (And Other Lies That Make You Eat) and Taste For Truth: A 30 Day Weight Loss Bible Study.

Barb begins with her testimony of the joy she found when she became a believer in Christ and the changes He worked in her heart and life. After a while, though, she “left her first love” and began skipping her quiet times with her Bible and prayer. She’d make resolutions and minor changes, but the same bad habits kept resurfacing. She knew only God could change her, and she prayed for that and waited, but nothing really happened. Finally she realized Romans 12:1-2 about being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” had an expectation for her. It is God who does the changing, not our self-will or self efforts, but He does expect us to learn the truth He has given us in His Word and apply it.

She expands on this in Chapter 3, “Just Say ‘No’ to Sin?” She brings up God’s commands to the Israelites to walk around the walls of Jericho a certain number of times for a certain number of days. She points out that it was definitely God who brought the walls down, yet He required this action and obedience on their part. She notes that though Jesus won the “ultimate victory…conquered sin through His death and resurrection, and we’re already new creatures if we’re His children through faith (2 Corinthians 5:15-21, Romans 6:4-11),” there are still things He “tells us to do after we’re saved, if we want to be transformed” (p. 13). Things like “Fight with spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18); “Take your thoughts captive to the truth” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5);  Abide in Jesus (John 15:1-5); Abide in God’s Word (John 8:31-32); Walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25)” (p. 13), among others.

Do you see what an active role God asks us to play in the transformation process?…[This] list requires all kinds of effort. But there is a problem: the word effort is a no-no in the church today. People mistakenly think that if we talk about effort, suddenly we’re not believing in salvation by grace through faith, and we’re going all legalistic. Nothing could be further from the truth (p. 13).

Barb shares a couple of clarifications:

Don’t make the mistake of thinking [transformation] is the easy three-step plan to fix up your life. It’s not. Instead, it’s a way of life. A continual taking off lies and putting on truth in order to break free from our sins, bad habits, and negative emotions so we can love God and others better (p. 6)

We’re not starting from a point of having to measure up to be acceptable to God. We’re starting from a point of already being accepted by God if we’re His children through faith (Ephesians 2:4-9). This gives us a secure foundation. We can rest in His love and walk hand in hand with Him, working on this project together (p. 7).

[God] sees things right now in your life that He’d like to change. Not because He’s a demanding perfectionist who’s disgusted with you. But because He’s a loving Father who cares about you and also about the people you interact with each day. So as you look at your weaknesses, look at them from the comfort and safety of your Father’s arms. knowing that He’s looking at them with you, but through eyes of grace and love and a desire to help (p. 8).

She shares another motive for transformation: God wants us to “lay down our lives to love God and others well. The more we stay stuck in our sins and negative emotions like worry, anger, and insecurity, the harder it is to do that” (p. 14).

Some years ago, after being distressed with an angry response of mine, I looked up several verses on anger, typed them up in a neat list, and saved them to a file. That helped while I was working on them, but making lists in themselves doesn’t renew my mind. Barb describes the process like this: “The renewing of the mind is an active time of fellowship with God…but [it] is more than just reading the Word. It’s mulling over the Word, meditating on the Word, memorizing the Word, and allowing the Word to transform us” (pp. 15-16). It is “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

When we’re in the midst of temptation, everything within us is screaming to just give in and do it! We’re believing lies right and left–so many lies that there’s no way we can say no to temptation in our own strength. We desperately need to go to God for help so we can see the situation from His perspective. Because when we see it from His point of view, we’ll actually want to obey Him. The truth is, Satan and the lies of this world are so convincing that unless we go to God again and again to discuss life with Him, we won’t have much of a chance of living the way He asks us to live. If we want to be victorious over our habits and emotions, we need to take time to renew our minds (p. 17).

Barb goes on to discuss ways to meditate on the Scripture, using it in fighting sin and in prayer, and a concept she calls truth journaling, a way of putting out your thoughts one by one and then applying truth to them. Sometimes it is easier to evaluate our thoughts when we can take them out of their swirl in our brain and get them down in black and white, and applying the truth to them in that way helps to reinforce truth. She walks the reader through renewing our minds to deal with negative emotions, stop a bad habit, start a good one, or accomplish a goal.

The rest of the book is divided into different headings (emotions, stopping a habit, etc.) and then subdivided into specific areas (loneliness, insecurity, entitlement, failure, pride, frustration, stress, “I’ll start tomorrow,” and many, many more.) Under each specific emotion, habit, or thought, she has a list of questions, things you might need to accept or confess, Bible verses, and tips. For instance, some questions under the Entitlement heading are:

Why do feel like you deserve your habit in this particular situation?

Do you think God agrees? Why or why not?

What usually happens when you live by your rights and feelings in this area of your life?

Would your life be better if you gave up your rights and held life and your habit with open hands?

Are boundaries easy to follow or do you usually have to give up something to follow them?

What will your life look like in a few months if you consistently follow your boundaries?

Then she lists several Bible verses applicable to this subject. She ends with these tips:

It’s hard to break free from our habits because we hear the message everywhere we go: Life should be fair. You shouldn’t have to suffer. You deserve the good life. So when something bad or unfair is going on in our lives, we automatically reach for our habits.

The best way to break free from entitlement habiting is to adopt a biblical perspective of life. God never said, “You deserve the good life.” Instead, He said, “If you want to follow me, you have to give up everything” (Matthew 19:16-22, Matthew 16:21-28).

When we hold our habits tightly with clenched fists, we’re basically saying, “I deserve this, God, and I am not willing to give it up!”

God replies, “Your habit will never make you happy. Come to me and I’ll give you the abundant life.”

The more we hold our habits with open hands, willing to give up all things for God, the more content we’ll be. If you want to gain victory over entitlement habiting, learn to hold your habits–and your “right to the good life”–with open hands (pp. 186-187).

Of course, Barb isn’t saying that if you just answer these questions, read or even memorize the verses, and read the tips, then, Voila! You’re done! You’ve conquered! You’ll no longer have trouble with that habit! No, as she said in an earlier quote, it’s a way of life. When we’re tempted, when we’ve failed, when we think we have pretty good reasons for what we want to do or feel, when we’re going into a situation where we know we’ll have trouble – these are all situations, among others, where we need to go to God’s Word and renew our minds to think like He does.

A few more quotes that stood out to me:

[Boundaries] cramp our style, but you know what? Our style needs to be cramped. Because there are consequences to doing “what we want when we want” with our habits. Just think of your own habit. What happens when you do it as much as you want to do it? Do you live a wonderful, peace-filled life, thanking God every day for your habits? Or do you live a stressful, regretful life, full of the consequences of too much habit? (pp 60-61).

Is God enough to satisfy you even if you don’t get what you want? (p. 131).

Will breaking your boundaries make you feel better?…Will it solve your problems? Will it create new problems or make the situation worse in some way? What do your boundaries protect you from? Do you need that protection today? (p. 183).

The key to gaining victory over reward habiting is to remember that boundaries make our lives better, not worse. And if boundaries makes our lives better, then breaking them is a punishment — not a reward (p. 206).

Her mention of boundaries in these quotes refers to whatever specific guidelines we set up to curb a habit – say, for instance, we’re not going to eat sweets after dinner, or open Facebook until we’ve had devotions, or whatever. “The minute we set boundaries, our first impulse is to break them. Since we feel guilty about breaking them, our minds frantically (and secretly) try to come up with some justification of why in this situation, it’s okay to break our boundaries” (p. 202). There may be some times to legitimately break our boundaries, but we need to be honest with ourselves and not just make excuses and remember why we set the boundary in the first place.

As you can surmise, I found this book immensely helpful, hopeful, and encouraging. I love Barb’s direct, practical, straightforward style and her emphasis on the power of the Word of God and not a “formula” to help us change to be more like our God. She has a website here: the “Renewing of the Mind tools” tab expands on some of the principles in the book.

(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

PP&CGPride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway might sound like a Southern version of Jane Austen’s novel, and indeed it is. Set in the present-day South, it is not a point for point retelling – there are a few differences in characters and plot. But if you’re thinking of P&P while reading it, you’ll recognize a number of plot points and people. This book is the first in Hathaway’s “Jane Austen Takes the South” series. I had read the second book, Emma, Mr. Knightly, and Chili Slaw Dogs, first and then backtracked to read this one.

In this story, Shelby Roswell appreciates history, from old houses to old diaries. In fact, she is a professor of history specializing in the Civil War era working to become tenured. She had written a book with hopes of it propelling her toward her goal, but eminent Civil War expert and writer Ransom Fielding wrote a scathing review of it for a national magazine. And now he’s a visiting guest professor at her college for an entire year. She hopes to avoid him, but at their first meeting, they clash big time, and publicly at that. They each push all the wrong buttons in the other, yet find qualities attractive in each other.

Ransom is, of course, devastatingly handsome, sure of himself, and seemingly a little stuffy at first. He lost both a wife and child, leaving him bitter against God and determined to guard his heart from ever loving another woman.

Of course, following P&P, you know where this is going to go, but it is fun to see how it gets there. Jane from P&P is replaced by Shelby’s roommate, Rebecca, English professor and Jane Austen expert. Ransom’s aunt Margaret Greathouse represents the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Shelby’s family represents Elizabeth’s in a laid-back father, marriage-minded mother, and silly sisters. Mr. Collins and Wickham are combined in a David Bishop.

I’ve seen a couple of reviewers refer to this volume as more preachy than the second book, but I’d have to ask what they mean by “preachy.” To me, a preachy Christian fiction book is more a “lesson” thinly veiled as a story and may entail finger-wagging and implied “You ought…” advice to the reader. I saw none of that here. As I wrote in Why Read Christian Fiction?, you’d expect in this genre to see professing Christian characters doing Christian things like reading their Bibles and trying to figure out how to apply their faith to everyday life. I do find that here in a natural, uncontrived way, such as when Shelby, after a heated encounter with Ransom, wonders why she has a hard time with putting into practice the verse she had read that morning about being swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath when she is around him (though actually it’s not just around him – she tends to blurt things out before speaking to nearly everyone) and, when they finally talk about his wife and child, and she advises him in ways to deal with it. That’s perfectly normal. The author seemed to go the other way in the second book – I remember wondering why it was called Christian fiction when there wasn’t really anything distinctly Christian in it that I could recall. Perhaps she did so in response to criticism in this book, but I’d rather have Christianity displayed as it is here rather than being so subtle it is unobservable.

There were a couple of plot points that didn’t quite make sense to me, but overall the writing was fine. There were a couple of sections I felt didn’t need to be there: for instance, when Shelby is holding her cousin’s baby while talking to Ransom, the baby keeps putting its fist in her cleavage. Sure, babies do things like that, but in a book there was really no reason to draw attention (ours or Ransom’s) to her cleavage. And one character is framed with a fake video of a fake sexual encounter. Sure, there is scandal in P&P when Lizzie’s sister runs off with Wickham, but we are told very little about it. This book doesn’t go into all the specifics of the tape but mentions more than necessary – and I felt the conflict and tension this incident was supposed to create could have been handled in a different way. I’ve seen a couple of reviewers mention a swear word in the book, but I don’t remember any, and I am usually sensitive to that.

But I thought the theme that “love changes us” was nicely brought out, and I enjoyed the ways it changed Ransom and Shelby. And the Austen connections were fun, too.

(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

As Jenny’s parents drove her to her birthday celebration at Disney World, she sat in her car seat bouncing a helium balloon. Her uncle had stopped by that morning to tell her happy birthday and surprise her with a balloon, and she insisting on bringing it to the theme park. Her parents had looked at each other, shrugged “Why not?” and consented. Jenny talked to her balloon, giggled, tapped it against the window, the seat beside her, and anything she could reach.

Her dad pulled into the parking lot and maneuvered the car into a spot. Her mom turned around and said, “Jenny, if you let go of your balloon, it will float up into the sky and we won’t be able to get it back. It will be too hard to hold it for a long time, so we’ll tie it around your wrist, okay? If you get tired of it, we can tie it to the stroller.” Jenny nodded enthusiastically.

She sat very still as her mother tied the balloon ribbon loosely around her wrist. Her parents allowed her to walk rather than sit in her stroller, knowing that soon enough she’d be tired and want to ride. As Jenny’s mother took her hand, she bounced her other hand up and down to make the balloon dance. But she couldn’t see it up so high and control it as well as when she held it, so she pulled her hand from her mother’s grasp and started fumbling with the balloon ribbon to get it off her wrist and hold the balloon herself. Her mother saw what she was doing, plus they had a rule about holding mommy’s hand in parking lots. “Jenny, you need to take my hand. And don’t pull the string off or the balloon will float…” Before she could even finish, Jenny had gotten the ribbon off her wrist, but didn’t have enough of a grasp of it to keep it from sliding between her fingers. The balloon floated out of her reach, and she cried, “Balloon! Balloon!” Her dad tried to catch it, but he couldn’t quite reach it. The three of them watched despondently as the balloon caught the breeze and floated farther and farther up and away. Jenny’s mother knelt down beside her daughter. “I’m so sorry, honey. But that’s what balloons do. Next time we’ll figure out a better way to hold it.” Her mother thought to herself, next time we won’t bring a balloon on an outing. To try to distract Jenny from her loss, her mom began talking about the party and pleasures to come. “Jenny, let’s go on in to Disney World. Your friends are waiting, we have birthday cake and presents, and then rides, and maybe we’ll even see Minnie Mouse!” But Jenny was too distraught. With all the thrills of the theme park and a birthday party ahead, she sat down in the parking lot, crying for her lost balloon.


The above is a fictional story, but I think it somewhat displays a spiritual truth. There are many good gifts from God in this life, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying them. But we get too caught up in them, grasping them, distracted by them, and forget that they were always meant to be momentary. We’re saddened when we experience loss or when something in life no longer satisfies. That’s normal. But it’s a reminder that this life is not all there is. Eternal life, for those who know the Lord, will be so much more than anything we have here, even anything we can imagine.

“Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot


(Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays, Woman to Woman, Telling His Story, Works For Me Wednesdays, Wise Woman, Thought-Provoking Thursday)

friday fave five spring

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

After a busy weekend, the rest of the week hasn’t been quite as productive as I had hoped, but it has been a good one. Here are some of the best parts:

1. Lunch with a friend last Friday. Enjoyed a great conversation and time away.

2. Bagels. I’d only had one bagel in my life before, and I was not impressed: it was on an airplane, and the outside of it was so hard, I couldn’t bite into it. I had to pull out the soft bread inside of it to eat it. Jason told me not to judge all bagels by an airplane bagel. So when my friend wanted to meet at Einstein Bros Bagels, I wasn’t so sure at first, but then decided this would be a good opportunity to give bagels another try. I ordered pizza bagels, thinking that if the crust was a little firm, it wouldn’t be too bad. But they were very soft and very good! Nice to have a new food option!

3. Fencing. I’ve mentioned before having to take down a row of diseased trees bordering the back of our property. We wanted to replace them with a fence, and my husband found a great deal on fencing on Craig’s list and picked it up last Saturday. He has two panels up already.

4. Delicious weather. It’s been my favorite kind of weather most of this week – sunny and cool. I’m treasuring up the coolness, knowing before long it will be hot and humid out there.

5. A productive Saturday. I had a marathon grocery shopping expedition in the morning and then spent the afternoon catching up on “Amazing Race” episodes on the Tivo while ironing. While ironing and grocery shopping aren’t favorite things to do, there is a sense of satisfaction getting them done.

Happy Friday!


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