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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

She likes to "dress" herself these days!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale

Chasing Francis is the story of the pilgrimage of Chase Colson, who is a pastor of a mega church asked by the church's elders to take a sabbatical after reaching the climax of his personal crisis of faith in front of his congregation.  This incident happens just days after Chase buries a nine year old girl named Iris who had fallen off her bicycle, hit her head on the curb, and never woke up.  Iris's mother is 35 year old Maggie who had only recently gotten sober.  As pastor of this mega church, he simply doesn't have the answers to why anymore.
 "I've been asking a lot of questions lately.  What if God isn't as predictable and explainable as we'd like to think?"
Chase goes on to ask his congregation:
"What if, now and then, we put the drums and guitars away, turned off the projectors, shut down the sound system, and waited quietly for God...Do we have enough faith to believe he'd appear to us as a community?"
Frustrated with "doing church" status quo, Chase travels to Florence, Italy where he spends the next several weeks with his uncle, a Franciscan priest.  Little does he know that what lies ahead of him is not just time away from ministry to "get himself together" but a personal pilgrimage of faith where along the way he encounters the life and ministry of Saint Francis of Assisi in amazing and unusual ways.

As Chase experiences these things he journals as if he is conversing with Saint Francis.  Here is an excerpt:
"I thought your fixation on poverty was part of that medieval Catholic thing - fanatical monks and ascetics beating their bodies and starving themselves in order to do penance.  But that wasn't it.  You chose a life of poverty because it created the optimal conditions for your soul to mature.  I confess that I'm a lifelong collaborator with the forces of materialism and consumerism.  Is it possible to live in America and not be?....As long as Christians and the church continue colluding with the powers of consumerism and materialism, our witness is impeded...I fed poor people and bathed a man with AIDS today.  It was a good day, Francis, a very good day."
Ian Morgan Cron, author of Chasing Francis writes the book in the genre called wisdom literature, which is a very delicate balance of fiction and nonfiction, pilgrimage and teaching.  As you read this story, you will feel as if you are on your own journey.  Mr. Cron does an excellent job of drawing you into the pilgrimage along with Chase.  You will learn much about Saint Francis as you read and you will be challenged to look differently at how you "do church" and ministry.

While I take issue with some points of doctrine and theology in this book, I feel it is a helpful tool in rethinking our "church and ministry as usual" ideas.  I came across this quote in preparing my Sunday School lesson for this past Sunday,  "A deadly disease calls for a radical remedy".  Although Saint Francis could be viewed as radical in some of his philosophies, our disease is sin and yes we need a radical remedy.  We need the radical remedy of the gospel of Jesus Christ and I think maybe Francis and Chase can help us with knowing how to take the good news to a dying world that so desperately needs Jesus.

Chasing Francis includes a study guide called "Further Reflections for the Pilgrim's Journey".  It would be perfect for personal or small group use.  This book can be purchased at
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


God Knows My Name: Never Forgotten, Forever Loved

There is something about someone remembering and calling us by our name that makes us feel special, isn't it?

I remember when our daughter started kindergarten.  She was attending a charter school in MS.  We were moving to the area for my husband to begin a ministry opportunity.  It was a little nerve wracking not only moving to a new area, but our firstborn beginning her first year of school.  We wanted to make sure we had her in a good school.  When my husband and I took her that first day, our family was met at the door by the principal of the school.  She spoke to my daughter and said, "Good morning Cecily.  Welcome to Stern!"

She called my daughter by name and I knew we had her in the right place!

Beth Redman, wife of Matt Redman, has written a book, God Knows My Name, where she reminds us that God knows all about us.  Here are the chapter titles:
  • God Knows My Name
  • God Knows My Past
  • God Shapes My Character
  • God Sees My Choices
  • God Has Not Forgotten Me
  • God Is My Helper
  • God Is My Defender
  • God Is My Restorer
Beth writes in a very friendly and conversational style.  As you read this book, you feel as if you are having sweet fellowship over lunch with a long time and trusted friend.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter "God Shapes My Character" where Beth speaks about developing a beautiful character, the place for humility in our lives,  submitting to God, trusting God with the desires of our hearts and God directing our paths:
"When we acknowledge God in all our ways, we listen to His words, obey His commands, and value His thoughts over and above our own.  We submit our desires to Him and deliberately choose to walk in His ways.  Then as the Lord sees our choices, how we choose to live, and our choice to honor Him in all we do, He will make our paths straight and bless us.  The Bible is clear that the Lord directs us in His path if we trust Him and are open to His direction.  This might surprise you, but God is better at working out our lives than we are!  He knows what we need, He knows that we are weak and frail, but He longs to bless us, in the appointed time, in His perfect way.  I have found over the years that sometimes a no is as good for my soul as a yes.  A no forces me to increase my trust.  When I am seeking Him for abundance, sometimes on reflection it seems His no was an amazing way to increase my dependence.  Trusting God does not mean simply waiting around passively for a master plan to fall into our laps.  Jesus clearly teaches us that we are to pray about everything we need, and today that may well have as much to do with decisions and career as our daily bread."
The book is easy to read and Beth is lighthearted and funny at times.  I was a little uncomfortable with the way she treated the issue of repentance, feeling her handling of it was a bit too lighthearted.  At one point she finally refers to repentance as simply telling God you are sorry.  Repentance is much more than just telling God you are sorry.

Overall the book was helpful.  There is a study guide included which would make it excellent to use in one's devotional time or in a small group study.  It can be purchased at  I received my copy from Audra Jennings with B&B Media Group in exchange for my honest review.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Birthday Celebration: Part 2

We finished up celebrating Bentley's 5th birthday today.  He requested to have his special lunch at none other than Chuck E Cheese and just had to open his presents first!
His big sister got him this plastic popcorn holder.  She has one and whenever she is eating popcorn, Bentley always mentions that he reeeeaaallly neeeeeds one!  So, now he does!!
Bentley loves going to the library on Fridays with his daddy.  Lately, he has been getting Power Ranger videos and watching them.  I picked him up this small pack from Wal-Mart.
JennaBeth (with a little help from mommy) picked these out for big brother.  He loves to play with these vehicles; especially if they have little people that go with them.  He has such a vivid imagination and it really is fun each day as I watch and listen to him play!
Bentley's Papaw Conrad (my dad) sent him this Transformer in the mail and he opened it today also.  It was just perfect, because it matches his gray and blue Corvette Transformer he got earlier this week!
 Little miss-priss had to get in on the action today also!

Bentley enjoys getting mail; so all the cards this week has thrilled his little heart.  He got a special card from his Mamaw and Papaw from Alabama with a little b-day money that is already burning a hole in his pocket!

After we got home from Chuck E Cheese, we presented him with his BIG surprise.

And then he had to try it out!

With a few adjustments in the training wheels and seat and a little practice, he'll be burning the roads up!!

Not too long after this, a sweet lady from our church showed up with this...
his first model airplane!!  It has the engine and everything!  Until Bentley gets a little older and can manage learning how to fly the plane...
it is going to hang from the corner of his room.  He thinks it is so cool to have this hanging above his bed!

"You have grown up so much over the past two years!  I am amazed at the little man you are becoming!  I don't think I can explain to you how much I love you!  It is a joy to fix you your pink milk in the mornings and hear you call your baby sister "sweet, adorable baby girl".  You are doing very well with your school work each day.  I pray you continue to love learning.  And you think the world of your big sister!!  You give her heck much of the time, but something tells me nobody better mess with her too much besides you!
I am especially thankful for the way your heart is so tender to the things of the Lord right now.  Your prayers at meal time teach me a lot about remembering to thank God for "all His powers and all the things He does for us".  You've been asking lots of questions lately about Jesus and why He died on the cross and about God and where He lives and how to get to heaven to live with Him.  Mommy prays that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in your heart and draw you into relationship with Jesus.
I'm so proud of you and thankful to God for keeping you a healthy and thriving little guy!  I can't wait to see how His plan unfolds for you!
It is an honor to be called "mom" by you!  And I pray as you watch me and daddy that you'll be lead to the One Who loves you more than we do!"

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Well, the baby boy isn't such a baby anymore!  He turned FIVE years old yesterday!  Here he is on the eve of his fifth birthday...
He has been so excited about this birthday!  Since it fell in the middle of the week like this, we plan to do his big celebrating on Saturday with a special lunch somewhere, a few more small presents and then back home for his birthday cake and his big surprise...a bike...shhhh...don't tell him!  Cecily is making his birthday cake as specially requested by Bentley.  He wants her to make him a football helmet cake...The Saints of course!  It should be really cute.

He did get a few surprises yesterday; like his "pink" milk he loves in a special transformer cup...
And he got to open his presents from his granny and pops...

He kept asking me, "How in the world did granny know I wanted these two things so bad I saw at the store?"  I told him that grannies were real smart about these kinds of things.
Can you tell how excited he is?
He did not set this little black Power Ranger down ALL DAY LONG!!!  He had spotted him and the transformer in Wal-Mart and had tugged on my arm in all the drama a little four year old boy can muster and said, "I haaaaaavvvvvveeeeee to get these for my birthday!"  Yep, grannies are smart like that aren't they?

Like I said, we'll celebrate big time on Saturday with a special lunch to none other than Chuck E Cheese.  I'll take plenty of pictures of all the excitement over the big surprise and I'll share my special prayer for Bentley.
Until then enjoy some sweet pictures of my little guy who I'm realizing is not so "little" anymore.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Heart.......

I am so glad to see Summer ended!  I have never really liked Summer time.  I don't like being hot.  I guess I'm a little spoiled that way.  But I DO LOVE the Fall season!!!  It is my favorite time of the year.  I love the colors of Fall, such as...
I don't get to see much of those Fall colors here in SW Florida and I miss seeing them.  When we lived in TN, I directed a Crisis Pregnancy Center.  In the corner as you turned into the parking lot of the center was the biggest tree I believe I have ever seen!  About mid-September, beginning of October, the leaves would look just like those in the pictures above...every shade of orange, yellow, red you can imagine.  I'd love the mornings I would get there and the air would be cool and crisp and the leaves would crunch under my feet.  Yep, absolutely one of the things I "heart" about Fall.

I also love the smells of Fall such as....
Caramel Apple and Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin soaps from Bath & Body.  I was in there just a couple of days ago purchasing a gift card for Cecily's friend who was having a birthday party and they had these on sale!  I couldn't resist!  Thanks Danielle for causing me to be in a place to be tempted!!! JK (as the kids say)!

Another thing I "heart" are...
Yankee Candles, especially the Fall scented ones!  I'm hoping maybe to squirrel away a few pennies to purchase some of their new Fall scents like the one above.  I love scented candles period, but Yankee Candles are just the best.  

On to something else I "heart"...
Books!!!  Can you tell I love to read?  That's one of the reasons I am so excited about reviewing books for publishing companies here on the blog.  The only problem is that my shelves are overflowing!  Not only is this shelf full, but....
look at my nightstand!!!  It holds a stack of books for which I need to write a review, my Bible study I'm currently doing, along with my Bible and quiet time material.  I'll just mention here that I'm presently using John Calvin's commentary on the Psalms and "Voices from the Past" which is a collection of Puritan writers devotions during my quiet time.  Both of these titles were given to me by Banner of Truth and I'll have a review of them both soon.

Another thing I "heart" is giveaways!!  As I was organizing my massive amount of books this afternoon and was having trouble finding someplace to put them all, it occurred to me that I needed to downsize in this area.  
See this stack of books by the shelf?
Over the next several weeks, I'm going to be giving these books away here on the blog.  I'll be giving away one book a week until this stack is gone!  So, visit back often if you like to read!

Finally, I "heart" Florida sunsets!!!!  
We have THE MOST BEAUTIFUL IN THE WORLD!  This picture was taken from my front yard just a couple of evenings ago.

"For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts."
Malachi 1:11
So, what are some things you "heart"?

Have a blessed rest of the weekend!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Boy Who Changed the World

Thomas Nelson Publishers has once again provided an excellent resource to parents striving to teach their children positive and life-changing values.

I was provided a copy of Andy Andrews latest children's book The Boy Who Changed the World, by Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review.  

Mr. Andrews does a delightful job of adapting the stories of Norman Borlaug, Henry Wallace, George Washington Carver and Moses Carver in this chidren's book format.  Phillip Hurst's illustrations burst with color and spark the imagination.  This book is based on Andrew's popular book The Butterfly Effect.  

My four year old son enjoys this book and the story of these "boys" changing the world has given opportunity for me to talk with my son about the affect that his actions have on others, whether they be positive or negative.  Because of the opportunity this book provides, I've been able to do that in a non-threatening, non-preachy kind of way.

This book is also an excellent way to introduce a bit of history to your younger child.  There are even downloadable school curriculum related to this book available by visiting  I'll certainly be using these resources with my son.

But perhaps the most important thing this book helps parents to teach (and a good reminder for parents themselves!) is stated best in the last few lines of the book:
"That means every little thing YOU do matters:  what you did yesterday, what you do today, and what you do tomorrow.  God made your life so important that every move you make, every action you take, matters...and not only for you or the people around you.  Everything you do matters for everyone and for all time!  When you think about it like that...WOW!  That means YOU can be the kid who changes the world!"
 So, if you are a parent or grandparent and are concerned about instilling life changing values in your children and grandchildren and going against the tide of current thought in our society that "it's all about me and what I want" then I whole heartedly recommend you get a copy of this book!  It can be purchased at by using the link below.  If you order through this link I'll get a small commission from the sale.