Tuesday, May 31, 2011

31 Days of Power: A Book Review

In a world of so much sin and suffering, it would be foolish to ignore or deny the presence of the Evil One-- Satan. Always lurking, always scheming. Whispering lies, waving temptations…he’ll do anything to keep us from Jesus or to lead us away. He’s real and he’s smart and he’s scary.

Yet in the same way that it’s foolish to ignore him, it’s also foolish to focus too much on him. He is NOT the ‘opposite’ of God. He’s just a fallen angel—who shrinks at the very name of our powerful God.

Today I finished 31 Days of Power: Learning to Live in Spiritual Victory, by Ruth Myers with Warren Myers. I’m excited and grateful to Waterbrook / Multnomah publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book for them! And thank you to Kandace at Moments and Memories, where I heard about the Blogging for Books program. :)

The Overall: 31 Days of Power is a perfectly chosen title because the book is all about focusing on God’s power to overcome evil in our everyday lives. It’s a 158-page devotional with the first half divided into just-the-right-size daily readings written as prayers of praise to God. Based on Bible verses, each day extols and magnifies God with joy and thanksgiving—reminding us that because of Him, we can be victorious over Satan, the world, and the sin in our own hearts and lives. The second half of the book is more instructional, discussing spiritual warfare today as well as Jesus’ encounters with Satan in Scripture.

Favorite Quotes: “When we blame Satan for all (or even most) of what goes wrong in a fallen world, we may too easily overlook God’s sovereignty.”

“Satan is subtle and sly. If he can’t get us into some obvious evil or heresy, he’ll try to allure us into whatever is the next worst- or the next or the next…He tries to sidetrack us into some sort of ‘good’ primary focus other than Christ.”

“But I worship You as the strongest Strong One. You are the Lord of hosts—of vast spiritual armies, infinitely greater than Satan and his legions of evil spirits. Thank You that praising and worshiping You stimulates my faith and makes my spiritual enemies cringe in defeat.”

The Nitty-Gritty: I disagreed with some of the underlying theology in the book, especially in the second half. The teaching and personal interpretation of some of the Scripture and of spiritual warfare today did not quite fit with what I believe in the Catholic Faith.

What Sticks Out: The devotional half of the book was so unique to me. I loved the uplifting reminders of God’s power. With it being written in first person and as prayers of praise, I became the voice and these became my prayers. While I try to incorporate praise into my time with the Lord, reading this book made me realize that I often praise Him for His love, mercy, and creation but not as often for His might and power. Praising God for those latter traits more often really opened my eyes and swelled my heart with more trust, awe, and gratitude to this powerful God of strength and victory.

Something Extra: I loved the way it incorporated praying for others! Spaces are provided to write in names as you pray for Christ’s victory over any sin or captivity in their own lives. Very beautiful and powerful to lift them up by name to the Lord.

[I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. These are my original and honest comments about the book.]

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thoughts After the Storms

We stood mesmerized as we watched the approaching black sky. The tornado sirens wailed in the distance. Torrents of rain pelted the ground, creating miniature rivers as the raindrops chased each other down the slope of the parking lot. A “Code Gray” was announced over the loudspeaker and patients were guided to the basement of the clinic to wait until the weather warnings were lifted for our town.

People crowded in the hallways of the lower level, corralling their kids, bent over their smart phones or glued to the weather channels on TV. Rumors crackled across the room like the lightening across the sky outside. Waiting. Watching. Wondering.

Then the warning lifted. The “Clear” was called out.

And we went home.

On my drive back, the radio appropriately played Casting Crown’s “Praise You in This Storm.” (For real.)

I thought about those who didn’t get an “All Clear” this past week. Who didn’t get to drive home because they no longer had a home to go to. Those whose town or homes had crumbled to the ground in a moment—or worse, whose hearts crumbled at the loss of loved ones in the recent tornadoes.

Such loss. I struggle to wrap my mind around it. Any type of loss can be devastating…but to lose everything…in an instant.

Tragedies like this nudge me (and sometimes knock me over the head) to be grateful. To have a greater awareness of the blessing of each breath, each day, even each material blessing. Life on earth is fragile and unpredictable, but may that fact only lead us to a deeper gratitude for and hope of a life in heaven.

That which is seen is fleeting, but that which is unseen is certain. What a paradox.

As I imagine myself in their shoes…to waking up without a home, a grocery store, a workplace—everything that creates and colors my little world…I find myself thinking about what really defines my life. Do I become too attached to the outer circumstances of my life? To routines, activities, creature comforts?

If it was all taken away in an instant, would I still bless the Lord “who gives and takes away,” as Job did (Job 1:21)?

Maybe I don’t want to know the answer…but maybe I should. And while I’m soul-searching, I’ll lift up my prayers for those who are living the reality of having everything taken away…

Lord Jesus, loving Friend and Healer, I lift up these dear people to you. Hear our prayer for these brothers and sisters who are reeling from such tragedy. Hold them and embrace them in their grief. Walk beside them as they take one step at a time in recovering and rebuilding. We ask you to pour out comfort, strength and hope into their lives throughout this time. Amen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

“Don’t try to solve our entire future in one day. We can’t. Just focus on making right decisions for right reasons today. God will show us the way.” (emphasis mine)

-Abby’s husband Doug in Unplanned, The dramatic true story of a former Planned Parenthood leader’s eye-opening journey across the life line, by Abby Johnson with Cindy Lambert

This was an amazing book, people. I was glued to it and finished it much sooner than I typically finish non-fiction. What a stirring, insightful, incredible story.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My first 5K: cross it off the bucket list!

Getting a little nervous..."look at all the real runners!"

Let's do some stretches.

My friend from church and her son-- so brave in the fight against childhood cancer. How special to be a part of their fundraiser.

I made it!!

Loved running with my girls R. and K.! (Even though you beat me!)

High fives all around! When's the next one?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"It is the sweet, simple
things of life which are
the real ones after all."

- Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, May 16, 2011


One step at a time. Sometimes each step seems so slow, so cautious. Other times I jump ahead without sufficient thought for where my feet will land.

Time passes and I’m afraid I’m not keeping up with its pace.

Slow down and be still.

Step out in faith and move forward.

Wise words of advice.

But how can I do both?

Bends in the road. Broken bridges. Paths that seem to go in circles. Backtracking. Fog and storms.


Have I strayed from the right path? Have my choices and mistakes caused me to lose my way?

But maybe these trials on the path aren’t an indication that I’m lost…

What if the paths that go in circles are teaching me habits and patterns in my life that need to change?

What if the broken bridges teach me to be brave and wade through the deep water I'd rather avoid?

What if the bends in the road teach me patience and hope and trust—learning to believe in beauty that I cannot see?

What if all these things that make me wonder if I’ve lost my way...are teaching me to look not at the path, but at the One I’m following?

Maybe they aren’t signs that I’ve strayed, but simply part of what makes this journey my own.

The bends and hills and valleys are unique to my journey, my story. God knows them, sees them, and uses them for my good (Romans 8:28). He doesn't expect my journey to look like someone else's.

But He does ask me to trust Him with every step I take. To look to Him when I feel I don't know the way--because He IS the Way (John 14:6).

And someday I’ll look back, "praising thee, O Lord, as we recall the events of our sojourn" (Wisdom of Solomon 19:9-10, paraphrased).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sometimes the Patient Teaches the Nurse

She was in her wheelchair that day, not because she couldn’t walk…

But because it was hard to breathe.

The tiny wisps of what used to be hair were covered with a bright brink bandanna.

Her clothes hung loosely on a body that has lost too much weight.

All because of lung cancer.

She smiled when I called her name. When I asked her how she was doing, she didn’t just say the common “fine,” but she didn’t complain either. Just answered honestly and matter-of-factly.

We chatted pleasantly throughout her visit to see the cardiologist. She neither avoided nor dwelt on her cancer. As I wrote down the names of her many medications, she made a joke about them. “Just to lighten your day,” she chuckled.

I looked up into her sparkling eyes and laughed along with this delightful woman, but internally her comment blew me away.

This woman…

Who had endured a two-hour round trip each day, for 30 days, to have radiation treatments. Treatments that would harm her in order to help her.

Who lost weight from being unable to eat, telling me once again in her humble, straightforward manner, that “you never know how much you like to eat until you can’t.”

Who told me she was thankful-- because at least the cancer hadn’t spread to her brain or bones. That she was optimistic about her cancer and the treatments. She was choosing hope.

This beautiful woman…

Who had every reason to think of herself, to be in need of comfort and cheer…

Was thinking of others and choosing to lighten my day.

There are amazing, inspiring people in this world.

I know. Because I met one today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily
do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.
If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness."

— St. Thérèse de Lisieux

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Of Mums and Mistakes

My mums are growing.

This may seem a very ordinary fact, but it’s actually quite the contrary.

Being the trial and error novice gardener that I am, I’ve committed many gardening faux pas in the past (and present!).

Last year, I bought a pot of chrysanthemums in the late summer, planted them in a chipped pot from my mom, and enjoyed their vibrant beauty all fall. Knowing they were perennial and could come up the following year if they survived the winter, I happily carried the pot into the garage.
My well-meaning mind thought that this would keep them from freezing temperatures—a good thing, no?

Except that it’s dark in the garage. And there’s no rain or snow (i.e. water, which all plants need, of course).

So when spring was on its way this year, I excitedly dragged out the pot--utterly oblivious to my mishap--and proudly placed the container of brittle, brown stems on our deck.

My friends laughed. And proceeded to tell me all the reasons the mums were dead and would not grow again this year.

I stuck up for the poor dead dry flowers and staunchly defended them, saying I was sure that new growth would come. (Though I secretly had my doubts.)

Halfheartedly, I kept the pot on the deck. Day after day we had rain, rain and more rain—perhaps the benevolent sky was making up for my lack of care throughout the winter. I cut the dead stems away from the roots. And waited. Unsure of what to expect.

Until the other day when I saw three new shoots of green. Tiny mum leaves unfolding to bask in the sunlight. You have to look closely, but there is growth.

And I am absolutely delighted.

I love that the cycles and seasons of nature so often can reflect the cycles and season in our own lives. They become symbols of hope, joy, resilience. Even Jesus used them as examples and parables (like the lilies of the field-- Matthew 6:28).

The mums, too, hold meaning for me. By reminding me that God uses our mistakes—they are not beyond His power. The darkness, the dryness, the dead areas of our lives can be overcome. Despite doubt—and drought!—He can bring growth...and maybe not only despite them, but because of them. We may have to look closely….and it may not be in the timing we’d like…but it will come.

Because this is the God who knows all about making things new.

And bringing life from death.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

April Girls' Night: Health Night!

April Girls' Night: Health Night!

We enjoyed a salad bar potluck,
a walk around the neighborhood,
a dance workout DVD,
and a strength training workout led by our awesome Kari.

Too much fun, girls! You're such a blessing!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.”

-From the Vatican's statement on the death of Osama bin Laden

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

After Easter Thoughts

It's been a beautiful break since Easter, peeps. (Easter--peeps--get it?...okay, it's a bit much, I know.)

But I'm happy to be back to blogging again. And working on a new look for the springtime--a work in progress.

It's been a crazy week of joy and sorrow, beauty and devastation...in the midst of rejoicing in our Savior's rising, we mourn and pray with those who have lost so much in the storms and tornadoes. And we sober at the thought of the death of a man who caused so much evil, yet was still a human created and loved by God.

I think about my 1 year old nephew L. on his first egg hunt.

And seeing my uncle's truck parked in the cemetary to visit my cousin on Easter Sunday.

I remember the older couple in church--the man in a wheelchair, his wife with an afghan covering her lap--sharing a hymnal as they sang alleluias.

These events make up what we call life. It's not always how we want it. We don't always understand it. Sometimes you have to look really hard to find the beauty. Sometimes you don't even have the strength to look.

But this Son of God who rose from the dead--who did what seemed impossible in a hopeless situation-- gives meaning to this life. A reason to hope. And a reason to rejoice. Somehow. No matter what.