Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Remarkable Ordinary - A Book Review

The Remarkable Ordinary - How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life by Frederick Buechner
Product Details

The Remarkable Ordinary is based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures, where Buechner explains how to stop, look, and listen to your life. The book is organized into three parts.

In Part 1 Stop, Look, and Listen For God, Buechner uses art and faith to teach us how to pay attention to greatness in and amongst the ordinary. He says, "To love your neighbor is to see your neighbor. To see somebody, really to see somebody, you have to love somebody. You have to see people the way Rembrandt saw the old lady, not just a face that comes at you the way a dry leaf blows at you down the path like all the other dry leaves, but in a way that you realize the face is something the likes of which you have never seen before and will never see again. To love somebody we must see that person's face, and once in a while we do. Usually it is because something jolts us into seeing it."

In Part 2, Listening for God in the Stories We Tell, Buechner tells his own stories and yet, we somehow remember our own stories as we read. In one anecdote he tells about a time he was giving a lecture on his spiritual autobiography. After he was done, an Episcopal clergyman stood up to introduce Maya Angelou and said, "Ms. Angelou will now get up and tell you her story, and it will be a very different story from the one that you have just heard from Frederick Buechner." As he said that, Maya Angelou, who was sitting in the front row and shaking her head from side to side, got up and she said he was wrong. She said, "I have exactly the same story to tell as Frederick Buechner." Although we all come from different experiences, we are all created in the image of God and we have the same stories to tell.

The last part of the book, Telling the Truth contains more stories about Buechner's life and how those situations helped him to find remarkableness in the ordinary and to love those around us well.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it for anyone who wants to explore ways to find extraordinary in the every day life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Handlebar Marketing as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Crazy, Holy Grace - A Book Review

A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory by Frederick Buechner

Product Details

     This was the first book I have read of Buechner's (pronounced Beekner if you don't know) so I wasn't sure what to expect. However, in looking him up on Facebook, I found that many people I respect like his author page so I was excited to give it a read. While this is a short book, it has a lot of meat to it. 
     In this book Buechner uses the pain and grief he experienced from his father's suicide to explore how wounds can be healed. In the midst of the grief and pain God may seem far away or perhaps not present at all. One of my favorite passages in this book says, "You can never be sure you're gong to find a pearl in the depths; you find monsters in the depths. But it seems to me that what you do find in the depths is yourself and each other, and even God is present, there in the depths as well as in the heights." Isn't that what life is about? Finding ourselves, each other and God in the depths as well as the heights? This statement brought to mind the many people in my life that have walked through the depths with me and made me so grateful for their presence.It also was a reminder of times God felt far away or even absent, yet on the other side of the depths I could see God's grace that sustained me. Buechner says that loss will come to all of us, but we are not alone. Crazy and unreal as it may sometimes seem, God's holy, healing grace is always present and available if we are still enough to receive it. 
     Another thing I gleaned from this book is the idea of using your experiences in the depths to come alongside another person and walking out their own grief. Buechner suggests that our grief is not wasted when we can use it to help others.
     I enjoyed reading A Crazy, Holy Grace and am anxious to read more of Buechner's books. In fact, I was sent this book and another of his books in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am not obligated to give this a positive review, but I did enjoy it and would definitely recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Handlebar Marketing as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, June 27, 2016

Eternal Salvation Movie Review

Every once in a while I am contacted by someone to review a book on my blog and because I love books, I am happy to do this. A while back I was asked if I would review a movie by FishFlix. I enjoy supporting Christian media and watching movies with faith themes so I agreed. I'm so glad I did! 

Eternal Salvation is about Jonathan, who has built a successful career working for an investment banking firm. He has done whatever it takes to get ahead in this competitive industry and has quite the reputation for success. While in his prime, Jonathan has a brain aneurysm that leaves him comatose. After he wakes up and begins the long road of recovery, Jonathan begins seeing that there may be more to life than he thought and that perhaps winning at any cost wasn't the way he wanted to do business. Jonathan finds a friend in the last person he would have expected and they journey together to help him discover what is important in life.

If I were to pick this movie up and judge it by the front cover, I probably wouldn't give it much thought. It's hard to tell what it is about or that it is anything that would interest me. I am certainly glad I gave it a chance. This is a great movie for a movie night within your small group or even just to watch at home. It is certainly family friendly, although it wouldn't appeal to young children. Eternal Salvation kept my attention throughout the entire movie and I found myself investing in these characters emotionally, caring about what happened to them. I thought the acting was good and the message was powerful. I would highly recommend this movie and its message. I am looking forward to viewing other movies from FishFlix, as they are high quality entertainment.

                                                     Christian Movies
If you are interested in Eternal Salvation, or other movies by FishFlix, I encourage you to visit their website HERE.

I received this movie at no cost in exchange for an honest review. I am not obligated to give it a positive rating, but I am highly recommending it because I enjoyed it and think you will too!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Divided House

I have received texts and Facebook messages all day asking how General Conference is going and what the mood and attitude is like out here today. I'll be honest. It's been a tough day. This morning Bishop Ough made a statement on behalf of the Council of Bishops regarding the Church's division over human sexuality. If you didn't see it, you can watch it here.

While it should have been common sense to me that the bishops don't necessarily know what to do with this nor do they agree on what should happen, it hadn't really occurred to me before. It was an unsettling revelation and I think the tension was felt throughout the convention center. A motion came to the floor requesting the Council of Bishops meet and come back to our General Conference with some sort of guidance on how we as a church proceed and work through our division. Our bishops are our spiritual leaders and to think that they don't have answers either leaves us feeling at a loss. Their advice would not be something as a body are bound to, we are earnestly seeking a way forward within the denomination.

So if I had to sum up how I feel right now it would be unsettled. I'm not sure how we as a church can find unity or come to any kind of agreement. I pray we do. I pray that our bishops will bring wise counsel in the morning and we can find a way forward through this to love one another through these differences.

During one of our breaks this afternoon I spent some time in the quiet of the prayer room, walking the labyrinth and praying at some of the other stations for the Holy Spirit to envelop this place and give peace and wisdom. My prayer is that we can see each other through the eyes of Jesus and love as he loves.

We will see what tomorrow holds. I'm nervous and unsettled tonight as I go to bed. God is here, He is with us and my prayer is that we will keep our eyes focused on Him and keep the main thing the main thing.
John Wesley said, "Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.” While this doesn't seem like a small difference, I know we serve a mighty big God. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Does It Matter?

I am serving on the General Administration Legislative Committee. A large part of what my sub-committee is dealing with is Plan UMC Revised. For those that don’t know, Plan UMC was a plan to restructure agencies within the United Methodist Church. It was adopted at the 2012 General Conference and then ruled unconstitutional afterward by the Judicial Council. When a revised plan was submitted for GC2016, the Council of Bishops asked for a declaratory ruling from the Judicial Council to determine whether or not it would be constitutional. This was to prevent the same situation as four years ago when so much time was spent on something that couldn’t be implemented.
When our sub-committee met yesterday, we moved fairly quickly to suggest adoption or rejection of petitions that were not related to Plan UMC. I was elected secretary of our sub-committee, which means that I am responsible for writing the recommendations of our sub-committee to the larger committee. Our sub-committee could take several actions: recommend approval of a petition, recommend rejection of a petition, or amend a petition and recommend approval. Once a petition goes to the larger committee, if it is approved it moves on to the entire General Conference for a vote. If the petition is rejected, it dies in committee. This are still ways it could get back to GC for a vote, but I’m not going into that here.
Today our job was a bit more tedious. We began to dig into Plan UMC Revised and its constitutionality. There are so many different opinions around the table about what needs to happen as we seek to streamline the structure of the church. It seems we have had a lot of discussion but not come to any kind of consensus or resolution. We still have some time to work on this, but it has felt like we were spinning our wheels this afternoon.
A few minutes ago we went out for a 20-minute break. While on break, I went to the prayer room to clear my head and talk to God. As I walked the prayer labyrinth, I began to pray for clarity and really ask God what He wants for His Church. These are some questions and thoughts I had:
God, You are the Creator of the Church. Does it matter to You how we structure the Church? Is what we are doing making a difference in kingdom building? How does this restructuring make disciples? God, You created us. Created us to worship You and we are called to make disciples. Agencies like the General Committee on Race and Religion and General Committee on Status and Role of Women do make a big difference to many people in the world. Because of our structure, and these agencies are a part of that, we are a connection that reaches people all over the world to further build God’s kingdom. We are called to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. A change in structure to redistribute resources is a part of being good stewards.
As I walked to the center of the labyrinth, my prayer was simply this: Jesus, be present. Jesus, be the center of all we say and do and guide our time together so that what we do matters for building your kingdom.

Many times when people hear of my involvement in the General Church or within our annual conference they say things like “That sounds boring,” or “I have no interest in getting into all of that political stuff.” For me though, it is so much more than church politics. It is about a structure that reaches around the world, providing resources and showing love to God’s people. It is about doing the most good with what God has given us and in doing so making the greatest impact. Does this committee work matter? It may not be something recognized in our local churches but I think it does matter and the impact is far reaching.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Peace When Life Gets Crazy

Y'all, sometimes the going gets tough around here. I'm not gonna lie. It's been one of those weeks. I'm trying to get ready to be gone for 2 weeks, Hubby's back is out and he is in a lot of pain, I got a call yesterday that Prince had thrown up at school and I needed to come get him and Princess is mad that she has to go to school without Prince this morning. When I opened the freezer to get ice for my water bottle an exploded glass root beer bottle that Prince forgot he put in there fell out on my foot and shattered everywhere. Oh, and my washing machine quit this morning. UGH! Did I mention I'm about to be gone for 2 weeks?! You can't make this stuff up!

Yep. It's been a challenging week. There are times when I would have crawled back into bed and just cried, feeling completely defeated. There are many times when I would have hollered and yelled at Princess to suck it up and threatened her within an inch of her life. This morning I managed to remain calm.

This morning I took deep breaths, counted to 10 and used my essential oils. I cleaned up the sticky root beer mess in the freezer and on the floor and dug the piece of glass out of my foot. Yes, Princess did go to school and no, she wasn't happy about it, but I didn't lose my cool through any of this. I would like to think that this is because I am a really awesome mom and I just decided to stop yelling one day. I would like to think that this is because I have perfected that whole self control thing and it was just that easy. I know that it's not. What I do know is that I have been spiritually armoring up for the stress that comes with leaving my kids and for a trip that will be exhausting. I have been intentional with my Bible study and my prayer time, spending time in quiet to listen for God and to allow Him to calm my spirit. I regularly invite the Holy Spirit in and ask Him to take over and make me over. The difference is my connection with Him. When I allow God to work and trust that He is going to move in and through me, I am a completely different person. It's not anything I can do in my own strength.

This isn't a post to brag that I have it all together. There are many times when I don't do this. I fail miserably and I worry and try to accomplish things in my own strength. During those times I am a stressed out, yelling, crying mama. It doesn't work out so well for me. It's really a post for me to see the difference so next time when I mess up I can remember the difference and turn things right again. It's also meant as a word of encouragement for those mamas who may be in the same boat, feeling like they just can't anymore. Yes you can! You just can't do it alone, and the good news is that you don't have to. Take a deep breath and ask God to be your strength and give you peace.

Click here to hear my favorite song at the moment...Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli.

Friday, April 29, 2016

On Taking a Sabbath Day

Sabbath, a day of rest. When I hear of other people taking a sabbath I recognize its importance and in fact, I encourage it. The last few weeks and months have been busy and even at night my dreams have been occupied with all I have coming up so I haven't really rested. Hubby and close friends have encouraged me to take some time and I always have a million excuses of why I can't. Most of those excuses have to do with my unwillingness to allow other people to step in and help. After all, I'm supposed to be Supermom, Superwife, Superpreschool director, Supereverything. Right?!

Finally, after feeling completely overwhelmed at the beginning of this week, I decided that I had to make the time to rest and take a sabbath. So on Wednesday, as part of my preparation for the upcoming General Conference, I took a sabbath day. I needed to get my head clear and my heart in sync with God. With the sunroof open and the windows down, I headed out to the beach. On my way there, I sang at the top of my lungs...some praise and worship and some oh so spiritual Jimmy Buffet and Zac Brown Band. With one hand on the wheel and the other out the window dancing in the wind, I enjoyed the ride. Isn't that what we are supposed to do in life? Enjoy the ride? Sometimes I forget that.

Playalinda Beach is a sacred place for me. I always feel closer to God with sand between my toes and the sounds of the surf. Walking over the boardwalk, that first glimpse of waves with the sun glistening on the water, I take a deep breath and smell and taste the salt. This is heaven. With only one other family on the beach, I could spread out my sheet and just be. I had invited a friend to join me and she was on her way. Until she arrived, it was just God and me. I took deep cleansing breaths and felt the stress melt away. By the time my friend got there, I was ready for fellowship. We laid there talking about life experiences...things that mattered and things that didn't. We laughed, we commiserated, we enjoyed being together. We had such a good time that we lost track of time and I almost made her late picking up her kids!

It was a good day. I came home in a very different frame of mind. I felt rested, connected and put together for the first time in a while. I don't know what took me so long to do this, but I will learn to listen to my soul the next time and make the time.