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Weathering the Wind

The wind has been ferocious today. I'm not sure exactly what all the clunking and thumping on the outside of the house and the roof is, but I'm thankful to be inside. I'm also thankful we had the dying tree removed from our yard over the summer. Nearby, some residents have lost power multiple times tonight, but ours has only flickered.

As I listen to the wind howl and roar, I'm reminded of the power of the weather. Despite the four walls surrounding me, in many ways I'm still at the mercy of the wind. At a moment's notice, it could gust hard enough to compromise the structure of my home. As I watch the words scroll across the bottom of the television screen, it's clear that I'm not alone tonight. Others are at the mercy of the weather too. In counties south of me, they're waiting out a tornado watch. And north of me, a sinkhole caused by the rain prompted a warning to local residents about the dam on the river. It could blow any time.

More than anything, this wind reminds me of the power of God. He's not only more powerful than the storm, but He's our shelter in the storm. I'm reminded of the lyrics of the old hymn by Vernon J. Charlesworth, " A Shelter in the Time of Storm."
The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
A shade by day, defense by night,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes afright,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
The raging storms may round us beat,
A Shelter in the time of storm
We’ll never leave our safe retreat,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our Helper ever near,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
Tonight, as I drift to sleep to the sound of the wind, I'm clinging to the promise that God is my refuge, no matter what situation threatens my soul. I'm also meditating on the words of Psalm 91,

 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
       will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 
 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
       my God, in whom I trust."



Do you ever feel like everyday life is just too much? Perhaps your calendar looks like mine. I'm guessing yours is even more crowded most of the time.

Some days, I wonder why I don't go insane. Yesterday was one of those. After a morning appointment at the courthouse with the housing commission, I chowed down a quick sandwich and yogurt and then raced off to parent teacher conferences at school. Then I drove faster than I allow my teenagers to drive to get back home for my three afternoon piano students. Before the last one was even buckled into her mom's van, I was grabbing my purse and Bible to head in for women's Bible study. After that, I taught one more piano lesson and then whipped up some eggs and a pancake for an 8:00 supper before making my weekly Monday night phone call to the other music coordinator from church to plan worship for Sunday. When the rest of my family got home, they cleaned out the leftovers and made up some ramen noodles for a side dish. Confession: I don't cook on Mondays! And if that makes you think I'm a terrible wife, I'm perfectly okay with that.

I'm not a fan of Mondays because what I just described is how they typically go. I'm so thankful that I chose to relax on Sunday afternoon this week in preparation for Monday. I took a two hour nap with the Bears and Vikings game for background noise. Then I propped my feet up on the armrest of my chair and read a book. When the guys came in from hunting, we enjoyed a family movie together. By 10:00, I was conked out again.

If it weren't for the days when I take a sabbath rest, I'd never survive a typical week. Some Sundays are just as crazy as my Mondays and I miss that rest time. Of course, I never get an entire day off (even Sunday morning I'm up early for music team), but any amount of dedicated rest time is priceless.

Do you make time to rest and refresh? How do you recharge when your calendar is packed with obligations and activity? If you don't, I encourage you to schedule some time to relax. Soon!


Photo of the Week

I thought I would get a head start on my Monday photo of the week and post it on the weekend instead. Last Saturday, Dallas and I got up before the sunrise so that we could shoot some of his senior pictures over at Arrowhead Bible Camp. As a result, I captured some shots that I would have missed if I had slept in.

If you haven't take the time to watch the sun come up in a while, I highly recommend it!


Transforming Church in Rural America

Shannon O’Dell wants to change the way rural congregations do church. When he arrived in Arkansas, he had a congregation of 31 people. Now, the church has over 2000 people on multiple campuses. Most rural churches are tradition oriented and not change oriented. Drawing from his own experience at what was renamed Brand New Church (BNC), O’Dell challenges churches to be ministry minded and focused on reaching people—even some people who make conservative believers uncomfortable.

I received a copy of “Transforming Church in Rural America: Breaking All the Rurals” from the publisher through O’Dell offers some common sense ideas with practical examples that contrast with how most churches operate. He isn’t afraid to break the rules, or “break the rurals” as he refers to it. Using the acrostic V.A.L.U.E., he helps the reader see the value of vision, attitude, leadership, understanding, and excellence. He also gives practical steps to transformation for those going through a change.

The author offers a lot of free helps for the reader to save some of the steps that his church went through. For example, they saved their research from the bylaws of various churches and has those available for download for churches researching constitutions to write their own. Throughout the book there are also links to video clips available on his website. I had technical problems at first but after a Java update, I did get most of the videos to play. Refreshing the page whenever I received an error message seemed to work too.

Shannon O’Dell has thought this out well and has given many good examples from his own church. There are a few things that caught me off guard a little, despite my progressive attitude towards change. First, some people will be taken back by his casual use of words like “dang” and “sucks”. He’s of a new generation and some will not like this. O’Dell is confident, but in a few places he comes across as a bit arrogant. This too might hinder some from seeing the good ideas that fill this book. He doesn’t address how to honor the people who are hanging on to tradition while still moving forward. He implies that letting them get mad and leave is a simple solution to growing. I’d like to see him address how to make it work without making them walk.

Finally, I wasn’t on board with his pastoral driven style of leadership. I think there is a compromise between congregational leadership and top down leadership. Although O’Dell does talk about replacing committees with teams, he still places almost total authority in the hands of the pastor. Even when it comes to building projects, he suggests that the pastor should be in charge. This can rob people of using their gifts, especially if there is a contractor or expert in the church who knows much more about building or finances. He says his system won't work with a pastor who is a control freak, but it seems that this style of leadership would be the very thing that produces control freaks.

All in all, this is a book to stimulate ideas. Churches will find changes that they can attempt in their own congregations as well as some things that they will disagree with. No church is perfect. O’Dell has had his share of staff troubles and ministry problems too. But the idea that rural church needs to be shaken up is relevant and timely. This book is a launching place. A lot more had to happen behind the scenes for Brand New Church to get where it is today.

In Chapter 7, there are is a problem with paragraph spacing that the publisher must have missed. This isn’t the author’s problem, but it’s something I’ll mention to the publisher.

I had the opportunity to review this book compliments of the publisher through the review program. My reviews are objective and honest.


She Touched Me Last

My grandma Ruby went to be with Jesus this morning. We had a little game that we always  played. We called it "Touched You Last". Whenever we'd say goodbye, we try to touch the other last. As she got older, it wasn't too difficult for me to win the game by touching her and running away to hop in the car. When we saw each other last just weeks ago, she chased me in her wheelchair and I let her win. She touched me last. 

When I think about it, it wasn't just with her hands that she touched me last. She touched me with her faith and her love and that imprint will stay with me forever. I'll never forget how she supported my dream of being a writer or how eager she was to hear about our ministry at camp. I loved having discussions about faith with her. She reminded me often that she prayed for our family on Thursdays. She had a long list of loved ones for whom she prayed and she divided that list into days of the week.

I'm so thankful my children have had 16 and 18 years of knowing their great grandma. She's touched them too. I'll miss her, but I'm grateful that God took her home without a long time of suffering.

Think about how many people we have the opportunity to touch. Whether we realize it or not, our influence matters to someone else. l don't want any opportunity to go to waste.


Book Feature Thursday

For today's book feature, I'd like to introduce you to a book that's closer to my heart than many of the books I've feature before. That's because I wrote one of the chapters! Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers just hit the shelves this week. This book would make a great gift.

There are 101 stories in the book, and it's divided into themes which makes it easy to find a devotional that fits what the reader is going through. Or, it could be used as a daily devotional book, going cover to cover over several months. Each devotional story includes a prayer at the end and a theme scripture verse. The foreword to the book is written by Lisa Whelchel (of Facts of Life and Women of Faith fame) who says, "this devotional is just what the doctor ordered. It is tailor-made for you at this busy season of your life."

Themes include:
  • Treasured Moments
  • God's Guiding Hand
  • Loving Through the Years
  • In the Beginning
  • Lessons from our Kids
  • Comfort Through Prayer
  • Help from Above
  • Surrendering Our Worries
  • Whispers of Wisdom
  • Giving Them Wings
  • Celebrating Our Families
Be sure to check out my story on page 247, "Worry or Pray".


10 Ways to Be Prepared to Waste Time

Over the past few days, I've had several opportunities to waste time. No, I'm not talking about the mindless wasting of time vegging in front of the television. I'm talking about those moments when I'm waiting for someone else. Sometimes it's a waiting room, and other times it's when we're on hold on the telephone. Sometimes I have just 10 minutes between my piano students, which isn't enough time to start a big project. When I prepare for wasted time, it doesn't feel as wasted.

If you're looking for practical ways that you can be prepared to waste time constructively, here are ten to get you started.

Ten Ways to Be Prepared to Waste Time

    Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers: 101 Daily Devotions to Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire Mothers
  1. Make a time-wasting tote bag where you put things (Magazines, newsletters, newspapers, etc.) that you want to look at when you have a few minutes. Then make a habit of taking that bag with you whenever you leave for an appointment.
  2. Keep a book in your purse, tote bag or in your car. Bring that in to the waiting room with you.
  3. Take the latest issue of a magazine with you whenever you leave the house. In a few minutes here and there, you'll be able to read several articles. You can mark where you leave off by folding a page and easily pick up where you leave off.
  4. Play games on your Kindle, cell phone, or iTouch. I just discovered free word games for my Kindle and I love it! A Kindle has so many options for killing time and you only need to carry one thing with you (compared to big books).
  5. Pre-address note card envelopes to people to whom you'd write letters or notes of encouragement if you had more time. Place a blank card inside each envelope and then take those envelopes with you for waiting room time. Keep them near the Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6" Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally - Latest Generationphone at home for time spent on hold. 
  6. Keep a mini notebook in your bag and when you get a few extra minutes waiting, catch up on your to-do list. Plan out the rest of your day so that when your waiting time and appointment is finished, you can make good use of your time.
  7. Take up a handiwork hobby like knit or crochet. Most knit or crochet projects can be done in small increments, which is perfect for those waiting moments. Plus, you can still talk while you are working.
  8. Pay bills. Whether you have ten minutes to waste on hold on the phone, or you're in the doctor's waiting room, why not catch up on those bills. All you need with you is the checkbook and a few stamps and you can mail them on your way out of the clinic.
  9. Clean up your e-mail inbox. If you're at home, the time spent on hold is perfect for sorting old e-mails and cleaning up your inbox. If you're out and about, clean up the old messages in your cell phone.
  10. Listen to music or books on CD. It's easy to download a book on CD to your MP3 player. Then, you can listen in those moments stuck in traffic or in a waiting room. Many new cars have places for you to plug your player in. My new Kindle also plays Apple iPod touch 8 GB (2nd Generation--with iPhone OS 3.1 Software Installed) [OLD MODEL]MP3's so I can listen and read at the same time.
I find that if I plan ahead and have something to do, I'm less irritated if people are late. I'm not so restless if my doctor is running behind, or I have time in between appointments. It feels good when I know that even ten or fifteen minutes can be productive time.

What tips do you have for wasting time? Share your ideas in the comments below.


Decisions, Decisions

I wouldn't trade places with my son for anything. That would mean I'd be trying to decide where to go to college and what to do with my life. Although he can do whatever he wants, every option has it's pros and cons. And every options is equally appealing. 

This past week, my son and I went on an overnight college visit, met with professors and admissions people, and came away with many confirmations, but just as many new questions. Making decisions can be tough! But as I think about how wonderful it would be to be carefree, able to study and read without family responsibilities, and hindered only by time and finances, something inside me wonders if maybe I would trade places with him. But only for a week or so.

At least I've already figured out what I want to be when I grow up. For the most part, at least. 

Are you facing a decision that affects the rest of your life? Maybe you have too many good options and no clear direction. What do you do when you're wrestling with a big decision? What would you tell an 18-year-old who wishes someone else could just make the decision for him?


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