Content from this blog has moved to www.michellerayburn.com.

5.27.2010

One Mistake Away from Killing Someone

As I finished reading the latest book that I'm reviewing, I was struck by how many times in my life I've been one mistake away from killing someone. When I worked as a registered nurse, my decisions could change a life. I recall one time when I broke a rib on a patient when I started CPR only to discover she had a pulse after all. It made me afraid for the many decisions I'd be forced to make on the fly as a nurse. I often wondered, "What if I kill someone thinking I'm doing the right thing?"

I recall a time in the car when I leaned over to assist my gagging one-year-old (whose car seat I had illegally in the front seat). I nearly rear-ended a parked semi truck. In those pre-airbag days, I'd likely have killed both of us, but I swerved in time and then struggled to regain control of my skidding car. I've met people who weren't quite so fortunate. Without intending to, their decision or their mistake cost someone else their life. It's a sobering thought when I realize I could just as easily been one of those people. These thoughts traveled through my mind as I read Almost Forever by Deborah Raney. 

My Review of Almost Forever

I can’t imagine what it would be like to do something accidentally that causes the death of someone. What if that someone was 5 members of a fire department, including your own husband? In Almost Forever, Bryn Hennesey believes she might be responsible for the fire that took the lives of her husband and four of his comrades. In addition to grieving the loss of her husband, Bryn must figure out if she was negligent when the homeless shelter burned down while she was on duty.

Author Deborah Raney knows how to capture a reader and touch the emotions; and she brings her reader into the story in such a way that I couldn’t help asking myself what I would do if I were Bryn. I felt the raw emotion of grief and the self-doubt about a budding friendship with a husband who lost his wife in the same fire. I understood her dilemma over needing a listening ear but wondering what people would think about their friendship so soon after the loss.

Raney writes well and I enjoyed the story very much. If I had one disappointment with the book, it was that it was a little too predictable on several aspects of the plot. However, the author did a marvelous job of incorporating scriptural truth without it standing out or seeming pasted in. That’s commendable when so much of Christian fiction doesn’t do that well. The message of grace and the emphasis on telling the truth despite the consequences were both solid and convicting.

I’d definitely recommend Deborah Raney for any reader who hasn’t already checked her out.

Note: In exchange for my fair and honest review, I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publicist.
About the Author

The award-winning, best-selling author of over twenty novels, Deborah Raney always delivers poignant stories of what it means to wrestle with the realities of a world in chaos...and emerge triumphant.

Her books have received the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her novel, A Vow To Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title.

Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in Kansas. They are new empty nesters with four grown children and two precious grandsons, all of whom live much too far away.

 What About You?

Has an unexpected tragedy cause you to deep grief? Are you grieving about a mistake that you made? You can experience grace! Feel free to contact Michelle by e-mail if you'd like someone to pray for you. Or leave a comment below and share your experience.

5.23.2010

What Frustrates Your Pastor?

How close is your pastor to burnout? Or how far past it is he? Do you know what frustrates him? Perhaps you've never stopped to think about what your pastor and his wife need to keep them going in ministry. I'll admit that I spend more time thinking about my own needs and how my church meets them than I do about what my pastor needs. I just finished reading a review copy of a book that made me think.

Statistics from the book: 

~ 80% of pastors believe being in pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families

~ 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started

~ 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once per month

~ Only 1 of every 10 pastors will actually retire as a minister in some form

The publicist says:
Being a pastor is hard, no doubt about it. Burnout is all too common. After serving 30+ years as a pastor, Dr. Charles Stone had enough. He went in search of the killer of ministry. Working with The Barna Group, LifeWay Research, and Christianity Today's NationalChristianPoll.com, he surveyed over 1,900 pastors and 1,000 non-pastors.
He found not one, but FIVE killers and he's calling them out in FIVE MINISTRY KILLERS and How to Defeat Them: Help for Frustrated Pastors.
 
5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them
My Review

According to the research included in 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, 80% of pastors and 84/% of their spouses are discouraged or are dealing with depression (p. 33). The author also says that Focus on the Family estimates that 1500 pastors leave their assignments each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention within their local congregations (p. 43). Those are serious statistics.

In 5 Ministry Killers, Author Charles Stone has set out to examine the statistics, to evaluate the reports of the condition of those in ministry, and to provide help for frustrated pastors. He presents the information to pastors, but it’s packaged in such a way that lay people would gain much from reading the book as well. The author presents a convincing argument for the need to encourage pastors and help them renew their enthusiasm for ministry.

The book is based on sound research from multiple sources and the author approaches the topic from the trenches. I found this refreshing since he’s been there and understands that which he writes about. In a few cases, I thought maybe his experiences were a little too emotionally raw in that he comes across a little cynical, or mad. However, considering how few people really understand their pastor or his frustration, these feelings are understandable. He assumes that all 12-15% of pastors who said they had no struggles were in denial and clueless (p.55), however, I find it possible that not every pastor is frustrated. Still, the idea makes the reader want to explore a little and find out what truly does frustrate his or her own pastor.

Stone challenges the reader to think, spells out the problem, and then offers four clear steps for dealing with ministry frustration. The 5 ministry killers are mentioned in the introduction and then in Chapter 4, but then the author says, “I don’t unpack this in a linear fashion…Rather, I’ve sprinkled them throughout the book” (p. 11). I’m a little more linear in my thinking, so I would have liked to have seen a little more attention given to clearly unpacking the 5 ministry killers since that was the title of the book.

Does your pastor need this book? Most likely, yes. Why not give a copy as a gift? (see how you can win a copy below)

Note: In exchange for my fair and honest review, I received a free copy of this book from the publicist.
About the Author

Meet Dr. Charles Stone: The pastor of Ginger Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, Dr. Stone presents the Truth of God's Word to about 1,200 congregants each weekend. He has served in ministry over thirty years and, together with his daughter, is author of Daughters Gone Wild - Dads Gone Crazy.

To watch a video of Dr. Stone discussing his new release from Bethany House, FIVE MINISTRY KILLERS and How to Defeat Them - Help for Frustrated Pastors, simply click on his image to the right.

 Win a Free Copy of This Book

Are you a pastor who would love to read this book? Are you a church member who would like to encourage your pastor with a copy of the book?

Five Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them: Help for Frustrated Pastors--Including New Research From the Barna GroupLeave a comment on this post (at www.faithcreativitylife.com not via e-mail to me) and tell me why you'd like to be entered in the drawing to win a copy.

On May 31, I'll randomly choose one name from the list of comments and send the winner an e-mail to get mailing info. Please be sure I have a means of e-mailing you. (Example: michelle at michellerayburn dot com.)

5.19.2010

Yard Sale Adventures

Creativity Meets Everyday Life

I love it when I find an opportunity for my creative side to blend with everyday life, including family relationships. So often, as a mom of teen boys, my creative pursuits are something I have to do solo. They aren't into sewing. They aren't into creating scrapbooks, although they do like looking at them. They don't fully appreciate the benefit of a great chick flick. So it makes it a little more difficult to find ways to bond and spend time with them. But we do have one thing we both enjoy. 

We love to go to thrift sales and garage sales. They look for movies and books and I look for trash to treasure decorating ideas, craft supplies, and home decor. It's the perfect blend for spending time! You can probably imagine how excited we all were when I blocked out a weekend on the calendar to head over to the Twin Cities for the Woodbury, MN annual city wide garage sales. We spent Friday and Saturday putting on the miles as we explored the city with a map and a list of sales. 

We stayed at a budget hotel on Friday night and as we were loading up to get started on sales Saturday morning, we found another opportunity to bond. I noticed that the air compressor in the back of the van kept running, indicating air was leaking somewhere from the air shocks. It wasn't a serious safety issue, but I didn't want to burn out the compressor as we drove around all day. 

One benefit of having teen boys is that I have traveling mechanics. With my hubby on the other end of my cell phone talking to one son under the car attempting to fix the leak with a wad of gum and a band-aid, we had plenty to laugh about. But I'll admit there was a lot of tension in the process, mostly on my part. I'm not so great with mechanical delays. Still, in the end, we laughed and we were on our way.

We brought home some bargains, and a lot of free stuff my scavengers couldn't pass up, including a roll-away cot missing some important middle leg extensions. If their friends who stay over have swaybacks, it isn't my fault. I found some projects that satisfied my creative side. But most importantly, I enjoyed the time with my boys. Dad might take them to the Boundary Waters to bond, but I take them to the city.

What ways have you found to spend time with your family? I'd love for you to share your experience in the comments below.

5.12.2010

They Almost Always Come Home

Have you ever been at a difficult place in your relationship with your spouse? Perhaps wondering if it really mattered to you if your relationship survived?

For today's book review, I have the privilege of recommending a book from an author I know well. She's one of my dearest friends, and I'm so thrilled to recommend her debut novel They Almost Always Come Home.

In They Almost Always Come Home, debut author Cynthia Ruchti puts to pen and paper what many women don’t dare say aloud. Libby’s story lets the reader into the thought process of a woman who wonders if her husband’s delayed return from a Canadian wilderness trip means he’s left her or if he’s lost, or worse, dead.

Libby gives a voice to every woman who has ever wondered if her marriage was worth saving, wondered if her husband cared, and wondered if she wanted him to care. She’s the woman so lost in the darkness of grief and emotional pain that she hasn’t considered her husband’s dreams or fully embraced her own. As Libby, her best friend, and her father-in-law canoe and portage their way through the wilderness in search of Greg, Libby finds her way through the spiritual wilderness she’s drifted in for so long.

They Almost Always Come Home has just the right balance of serious moments, heartfelt emotion, witty dialogue, and humor. Ruchti has a fresh style and voice as a writer. The story is told in first person present tense, so it’s easy for the reader to feel part of the action as it happens. The book has enough mystery to keep the reader hooked from the first page to the last, with a few surprises most readers will never suspect.

There is nothing predictable or formulaic about this book and that places it above so much of the fiction on the market. If Ruchti continues to deliver fresh fiction packed with hope and real faith, she’ll have loyal readers for a long time.

5.07.2010

Review: Chronological Guide to the Bible

Today, I want to share a new resource with you that I highly recommend. I you're looking for a way to expand your Bible study and give you a historical perspective on the Bible, you'll love this book!

Book Review
Chronological Guide to The Bible

Reading the Bible in chronological order of when events happened versus reading it in the canonical order can give the reader a new perspective on scripture. But it can be difficult to find a chronological Bible with just the right features and in a preferred translation. Some include commentary, others don’t.  Enter the Chronological Guide to the Bible: Explore God’s Word in Historical Order. It’s a guide written by 13 contributors that can be used with any translation of the Bible.

 The authors are clear in acknowledging that there are other possible arrangements to the chronological order of the Bible since some books do not give enough information to determine exactly when they were written. In a chronological Bible, the books are rearranged for reading cover to cover. This guide includes a reading guide with passages listed in order and it accompanies the readers’ own Bible. It includes little check boxes next to each passage in case the reader wants to read through the entire Bible in order or it can be used to read scripture from specific eras. The authors divide the Bible into nine epochs of time.


The book is attractive in full color with images on every other page. I’m impressed by the amount of information included. Each epoch section in the book includes a visual time line showing when events happened as well as a “time capsule” listing significant events. There is background story about books of the Bible that relate to the culture of the time. There are outlines of each book and commentary on main themes in each epoch that read like mini historical articles. The top of each page lists the historical century for each epoch, making it easy to find information. It’s packed with information and a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to study the Bible in more detail.The only thing I suggest could have been added to the book is a single page list of the chronological order for a quick checklist for reading. This would save the reader some searching through the book.

I received a free review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers in exchange for my fair and honest review.  

For more information about this book, see the Thomas Nelson site.

5.04.2010

Lightning, God's Fireworks Display

The other night, we had quite the lightning show in the sky. As the storm rolled in, my son and I stood on the porch watching the flashes and streaks in the sky. It was amazing! I got out my camera and shot over 50 pictures, but the flashes were so fast that I was able to capture only three streaks of lightning. 

It was like watching the fireworks on the 4th of July, but these weren't set off with a torch on a heap of gunpowder. These were natural. Unpredictable, Powerful. It reminded me that God's power isn't defined the way we define power. It reminded me of how awesome he is.

As I looked through the pictures, I thought of two of my favorite worship songs. Chris Tomlin sings in "How Great is Our God": 
The splendor of a King,
clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice,
all the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light,
and darkness tries to hide
it trembles at his voice
 
And in another song titled "Indescribable", he sings:

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
 
It's storm season, so next time it storms, watch that display of power in the heavens and remember how great our God is! Yes, he is amazing. He is indescribable.

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