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

11.29.2010

11.24.2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

What Are You Thankful For Today?


Since today is my husband's birthday, it's appropriate to say I'm thankful for nearly 21 years of marriage to my best friend. He's truly a treasure from God and a man who is very patient with my shortcomings. I'm also thankful for our two sons who will be off to college faster than we can blink!
Me and my guys
How about you? Please share your gratitude in the comments section below. And have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

11.23.2010

Swagbucks- A Practical Way to Earn Internet Cash


I Love Swagbucks!
I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical when I first heard of Swagbucks. In fact, I ignored the information for a long time. But recently, I received another invitation to join and I decided to check it out. Turns out, it really does work!

I joined just a month ago and I've already earned enough points to cash in for $15 in Amazon gift cards. Considering I'm earning those points by doing something I already do on the web, shopping and searching, I think it's super. And this week, they've added even more ways to earn points. Haven't checked it out? Here's a link to get you started.

I've found the best way for earning points is using the toolbar which I installed using the link on the Swagbucks Website. The great news is that the toolbar has not increased the spam in my inbox or raised any spybot red flags. The toolbar has a search box similar to Google and Yahoo and just by using that for my regular internet searches, I receive points randomly throughout the day.

The other way I have earned points is by shopping. Most of my favorite retailers are listed on the Swagbucks site. Just as it works with your frequent flyer miles for an airline, if I begin my online shopping by clicking on the retailer on the Swagbuck's site, I will earn 2 swagbucks points for every dollar I spend. 

The special offers also provide points. For example, I earned 500 points for a $18 purchase on Vista Print because it was a special offer. And just this week, Swagbucks added a coupon feature. There are coupons to print and take to the store and users will receive 10 points per coupon when they are redeemed. 

There are many other ways to earn points including daily polls, surveys, watching videos similar to something like YouTube and much more.

I'm thrilled to earn bucks for what I've already been doing on the web. How about you? Ready to try it? Follow any of the text links or pictures in this post to get you connected to Swagbucks

Search & Win
Have questions about how it works? Just leave a comment and I'd be happy to try to answer them or point you to the page on the website that answers your question.

11.19.2010

Considering Our Creator


When I Consider

Have you ever wondered why the earth wasn’t square and plain like a big box? What if it was more like a giant racquetball court or a gymnasium? Just six boring walls. Imagine a flat and two-dimensional world with little color or variety. No flowers. No trees. No hills or mountains. Could it have been this way? Sure. God could have created anything he wanted. But that isn’t what he did.

Sunset at Denver International Airport
Instead, he created geography that blows my mind. I’ve flown over the Rocky Mountains at sunset and driven to the top of Mount Baker in the state of Washington. I’ve been to Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. I’ve traveled the shores of Lake Superior and hiked the trails along swift rivers and peaceful streams. Not one acre of land is exactly like another and the contrast in the contour of mountains and valleys is almost more than I can fathom sometimes.

It isn’t just the magnificent formations that grip my thoughts. I’m amazed at the fine detail that God didn’t overlook even in my own back yard. As I meander my garden I see intricate flowers and a glorious display of color. As hummingbirds buzz around me and the blossoms bend and sway in a strong breeze, I can’t help but wonder, “God, how and why did you create this world with such attention to detail?” 

Those are the moments when my heart sings with the words of David in Psalm 8. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers…what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” It makes sense that David would say, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,” when he stopped to consider what God created. When I stop to think about why God didn’t create a giant racquetball court of a world, I can see several reasons, as if my little mind could even begin to understand the mind of God.

I think one reason he created the world with immeasurable beauty and awe is that it reflects his own beauty and awe. I’ve traveled so little in my lifetime, yet I’ve seen enough to make me realize that it must surely be a tiny sample of the glory of God.

In addition to reflecting his own glory in his creation, I think God created the earth the way it is simply because he enjoyed creating it. As an artist, I thoroughly enjoy the process of creating and designing a work of art. I can almost imagine God forming the world like a potter forms clay and splashing it with color in flowers and trees. His artistry shows in thunder and lightning, snow and rain, sun and blue skies. I imagine his satisfaction when he stepped back and he “saw all that he had made and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). As a gardener, I understand his delight when he “planted a garden in the east, in Eden…and the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Genesis 2:8-9).

He made it pleasing to our eyes too, not just his own. Surely, he created it for our enjoyment. For the sense of peace and joy we receive when we spend time hiking in the beauty of rocky hills, canoeing the wilderness, flying into a sunset in an airplane, and resting by the side of a peaceful lake.
As if all of these weren’t reason enough, I think God created this world in such a way that not one human being could say, “I did this.” If the world were flat and square, we’d have less reason to believe in a creator. We wouldn’t be blown away enough. We’d believe that a random accident created the box. Although many still refuse to believe in God the Creator, I find it impossible to believe that a random accident made life sustaining water, photosynthesis for oxygen, and vast amounts of plants, animals and fruits for food. How could our round earth spin on a perfect axis, orbit the sun, and change seasons in order without a perfect creator?

As I consider the wonder of creation, I can’t help but think that if God created something so splendid in seven days, what will heaven be like?

Reprinted from Michelle's "Habits for Quality Living" column in the September 2010 issue of Wisconsin Christian News.

11.16.2010

Kate-The Princess Bride

Just this morning, Prince William of Wales announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton. There's nothing to stir the imagination of women around the world like a royal wedding. I remember watching Charles and Diana's wedding in 1981. Regular broadcasting set aside, 750 million viewers watched the timid bride in a puffy dress so big it nearly swallowed her up in ruffles as she wed the prince. I was 12 years old, young enough to still dream of what it would be like to be a princess myself.

With William second in line to the throne, his bride will be next in line as queen, and rumors of a pending engagement has had the press all a buzz for weeks. Now that it's official, speculation begins about how lavish the affair will be. She's already wearing the engagement ring his father gave to his mother so many years ago. But what I find most romantic and fascinating about the whole princess story, is that she's a commoner. Although her parents' wealth hardly qualifies them as lower class, they aren't royalty. Which means, Kate has no title.

Many will criticize her lack of a pedigree, but others will defend that true love won out over a title. Some reports call her an unfit princess, claiming she's not really in love with William. But however others look at it, somewhere in me, today's announcement woke up my inner 12-year-old and I can't help but delight in the fairy tale story of a middle class girl who swept the heart of the prince.


11.15.2010

New Book by Andrea Boeshaar

Book Review Uncertain Heart

Andrea Boeshaar is on a roll. Book two in the Seasons of Redemption series is even better than book one! Uncertain Heart is the story of Sarah McCabe, a sister to the McCabe brothers from book one. Sarah is tired of life in rural Missouri and she wants some adventure, so she accepts a position as governess to a wealthy captain in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Here Sarah learns to fend for herself and she also learns to take the faith she learned as a child and translate it to actions and decisions as an adult.

Sarah finds herself in a wealthy culture that is nothing like her simple roots. It doesn’t take long for Sarah to get her emotions caught in between two men—her captivating wealthy widower employer Brian, and his honorable and trustworthy business assistant Richard. Sarah’s innocence leads her to potentially compromising situations, but Richard and his faith-filled loving family provide a refuge for her, if she doesn’t overlook what she has with them.

I enjoyed the historical side of this novel, even though I’m usually not a huge fan of historical romance. I also enjoyed the nurturing side of Sarah that comes out when she interacts with the four children in her care. She’s charming enough to soften the crusty German housekeeper as well. The story is well-written with a good balance of humor, adventure, faith and entertainment.

If I had to find something I didn’t like about the book, I guess it would be related to Sarah’s actions in the relationships between the two men. Perhaps fewer stolen kisses and skipping her boldness in initiating more than one kiss would have protected the sweet innocence she portrayed. Also, at one point I wanted to take her over my knee and spank her for provoking a ridiculous number of arguments with Richard.

All of that said, I was pleased with several unexpected events that kept the plot lively. After reading the sample chapter for book three, I’m even more eager to read that book because of an unexpected twist in the continuing plot. Boeshaar also does a great job of weaving faith into the story without making it cheesy.

I highly recommend this series to readers.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publicist, Glass Road PR, for review purposes. I was not obligated to write a favorable review and my review is both objective and honest.
About the Author

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar has been married for more than 30 years. She and her husband, Daniel, have three adult sons, daughters-in-law, and two precious grandchildren. Andrea's educational background includes the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, where she studied in English, and Alverno College where she studied in Professional Communications and Business Management. Read the rest of Andrea's bio at www.andreaboeshaar.com.

11.12.2010

Workplace Gossip- Guest Blog Post

Have you ever asked questions like these? My coworker loves to gossip about the rest of the staff behind their backs. How do I deal with it when she wants to unload the dirt on me? What if I’m the subject of her chitchat?

See what author Rosemary Flaaten has to say in the following guest blog post. Then check out my review of A Woman and Her Workplace.

Workplace Gossip
by Rosemary Flaaten

Gossip is a nemesis that runs rampant in workplaces. A tantalizing snippet of information or a morsel of exaggerated juicy news goes a long way to spice up a humdrum work environment. But, left unchecked, it creates a toxic environment that will suck the health out of workplace relationships.

The effects of gossip can only be felt when they are passed from one coworker to another. When your gossiping coworker starts to share with you the latest bit of office gossip, it is best to simply stop it. Interrupt her monologue and say “I really don’t want to hear this about this person. I don’t want to get drawn into gossip”. You’re not slamming her behavior; you are simply setting boundaries on your involvement. Chances are she will be surprised and may even mutter something like “Well, you’re no fun.” or sarcastically exclaim, “Aren’t you all high and mighty.We’ll give you the Miss Perfect award.”

Unfortunately, you may find that your unwillingness to participate in her gossip circle may make you the brunt of her gossip. But, know that doing the right thing is always the best rule. Perhaps your courage to stand up and stop being engaged in the gossip will make a positive impact on the workplace environment.

Jesus had a great deal to say about how to get along with the people in our lives who are our enemies – people who gossip about us and even slander our character. Jesus evidenced for us the value of speaking the truth in love but He went even further to give us relational pointers that will reverse the toxic nature of gossip. C.S. Lewis referred to the topsy‐turvy nature of God’s kingdom and these four points from Luke 6:27‐28 are indeed counter‐cultural:

1.    Love your enemies ‐ If loving your coworkers is too high of a hurdle to stride, use the work care instead. Caring for this coworker means that you will not force your convictions on her; you will forgive her for the offensives she has made against you and you will take pleasure in only the truth about her. If this seems impossible – you’re right, it is, on our own. We must open our heart to God and allow His love to flow into us so that we can become the conduit of Love to those people who desire evil against us.

2.    Do good to those who hate you – Kindness disarms hostility. Find ways to show kindness to her, even while she continues to gossip or slander you. Raise the bar. You have the opportunity to bring kindness and benevolence into the workplace.

3.    Bless those who curse you – blessings involves desiring good things to happen to and for others. Blessing is the antithesis of retaliation. When given a chance to say something unkind about someone who has been spreading gossip, choose to find something good to say about them. Follow the adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

4.    Pray for those who mistreat you – As Christ hung on the cross, he prayed for those who had orchestrated his crucifixion. Praying allows God to transplant our bruised heart with a supple heart that turns our focus to God rather than the mistreatment we have received by the words of others. True heart change will occur when we start praying.

 It is never our responsibility to try to change the gossiping habit of our coworkers. We are simply responsible for our behavior. Deciding that we will not even be a receiver of gossip will break the cycle. Being on the receiving end will necessitate a decision between retaliation and love. Treating our enemies the way we would want to be treated is living out the Golden Rule.

Rosemary Flaaten’s successful book,
A Woman and Her Relationships helps women process their outside-of work relationships, so now she’s delving into these 9-5 relationships in A Woman and Her Workplace. Her Relationships book won The Word Guild Award, which is Canada's top Christian literary honor. A dynamic speaker—Rosemary challenges women of all professions to view their work as a calling and their workplaces as opportunities to live out Christ’s love. Rosemary lives with her husband and three children in Calgary, Canada.

11.11.2010

New Book for Working Women

Read all the way to the end to find out how you can win a special gift basket including this book...
Book Review of A Woman and Her Workplace

If we spend more than 40 hours each week with the people at work, why is it there are so few books dedicated to improving work relationships? In A Woman and Her Workplace, Rosemary Flaaten approaches the subject from a biblical perspective. It isn’t so much about conflict resolution as it is about examining our own attitudes to see where we can improve. She focuses on topics such as humility, forgiveness and grace, honesty, team building, and leadership.

Each chapter contains a practical story example of a woman who demonstrates the struggle which Flaaten will address in the chapter.  I liked these examples because it made the ideas more practical and real. Flaaten boils everything down to one biblical concept—love. However, since we won’t typically find it appropriate to tell our co-workers that we love them as we would for family members, we need to use a different approach in showing that we care. I see another biblical thread through the book as well—the golden rule. Flaaten teaches that we should put others first and treat them as we’d want to be treated.

At the end of each chapter, the author has included a list of verses to study and questions for reflection. I could see this section used as personal Bible study, but it would also make a great after hours Bible study for female co-workers who share a desire to improve their office interaction. Although it isn’t likely that most people in an office will share beliefs, it would work well for ministry based organizations and churches with a larger staff. This book offers solid advice on learning to work well together. The author has woven the story of Esther throughout the book, comparing the reader to a modern-day Esther in a section at the end of each chapter called “The Esther Connection.”
A Woman and Her Workplace: Building Healthy Relationships from 9 to 5
The author is thorough in the topics she covers. She’s even included a chapter addressing interactions with men, appropriateness of mannerisms, and sexual integrity. The writing is organized and well thought. It’s practical, useful, and biblical.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author’s publicist, KCW Communications for review purposes. My opinions are objective and unbiased.

About the Author
 

 
ROSEMARY FLAATEN’S successful book, A Woman and Her Relationships helps women process their outside-of-work relationships, so now she’s delving into these 9-5 relationships. She writes from a fully equipped life-experience toolkit. In it we find her varied work experience, a counseling and educational background, and a deep love for God as well as a passion to help others. Her Relationships book won The Word Guild Award, which is Canada's top Christian literary honor. A dynamic speaker—Rosemary challenges women of all professions to view their work as a calling and their workplaces as opportunities to live out Christ’s love. Rosemary lives with her husband and three children in Calgary, Canada.
 
Basket Give-Away!

GRAND PRIZE:  
Give your desk a facelift
—transform your desk and your relationships!
  • An autographed copy of
    A Woman and Her Workplace
  • Hard cover journal
  • 40 piece stationary set
  • Handbag styled refillable note dispenser
  • Photo frame
  • Stainless steel travel mug
  • Mini stapler, pen, pencil and highlighter
  
HOW CAN YOU GET ENTERED TO WIN?
 Comment below (on the blog post, please- E-mail comments do not count), and tell me why you'd like a copy of this book. On November 19, I'll draw the name of one reader and send that name in to KCW Communications for entry into the grand prize drawing. That person will also win my copy of the book. Please make sure I'm able to contact you in the event that you win. (Please note:My copy of the book was damaged in the mail, and therefore pages are bent. However, you'll still get the great benefit of reading the book.)
 

11.09.2010

New Book by Chris Fabry

Book Review - Almost Heaven

This was the first book by Chris Fabry that I’ve ever read, although I’ve been familiar with his work with Focus on the Family and with the Left Behind kids series. I really enjoyed the book.

Almost Heaven
is the story of Billy Allman, a man with a big heart and a small ego. The world needs more Billy Allman’s. The story takes place in West Virginia, and Fabry does a great job of setting the scene. Although I’m from the Midwest, the story transported me to the hills and I felt like I was right there hearing Billy’s mandolin and driving the dirt roads. Billy is certainly eccentric and he’s seen his share of heartache. But this is a story of redemption and of how God heals old wounds. God used Billy in a big way to touch the lives of many people, but Billy doesn’t seem to realize just how much he is appreciated. Almost Heaven  is a fictionalized story based on the real life of a man named Billy Allman who had a radio station in West Virginia.

I’m inspired by this story in that it shows how God uses people who others might cast aside to accomplish that He wants to accomplish. It’s humbling. I’m also moved by the depth of hurt that so many people carry buried deep inside. I think many who have been abused in their past will find hope and healing in the stories of the characters in this book.

Chris Fabry knows how to weave a story that draws in a reader with just the right balance of drama, description, and emotion. The one thing that I didn’t like quite as much about this book was the dual story. Let me explain. Most chapters in the story are told first person by Billy. But interspersed are chapters written from the first person view of Malachi, Billy’s guardian angel. A change in font distinguishes the point of view of each of these characters. I thought that Malachi’s story actually interrupted Billy’s story too much. I’d have enjoyed the book just as much, if not more, without Malachi’s story.

The chapters written from Malachi’s point of view were flat and the description was more telling than showing. Whereas, the chapters written from Billy’s perspective shone. It didn’t matter to me that Malachi intervened sometimes. I could have lived with simply knowing that Billy sensed something supernatural took over that he couldn’t explain. I give this book four stars despite my disappointment with the parts about the angel. I give the main story a 5 and the sub-story a 3, so I’ll average them. I also issue the disclaimer that some parts of the story are too mature for young readers because they tackle sensitive issues.

The end of the book contains a sample chapter from another book, and I found it so intriguing that I can’t wait to read it. It spins off Billy’s story and focuses on another character from this book.


Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publicist, Glass Road PR, for review purposes. I was not obligated to write a favorable review and my review is both objective and honest.

About the Author
Chris Fabry and his wife Andrea are the parents of nine children. Chris says:
"I'm also a writer. I began writing early in my life, but I didn't come back to this until much later. I've published more than 60 books since 1995, many of them fiction for younger readers. I collaborated with Jerry B. Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye on the children's series Left Behind: The Kids. My two novels for adults, Dogwood and June Bug, are published by Tyndale House Publishers. Dogwood received the 2009 Christy Award in the Contemporary Standalone category."

See the rest of Chris's personal story on his website, www.chrisfabry.com .

11.01.2010

Inspiration Monday

We had the privilege of attending the Wisconsin Music Association Honors Band concert this past week. Our son Dallas was a member of the band and it was such a great experience for him and for all of us. For the Monday inspirational photo, I'm featuring a picture from inside the Overture Center in Madison, WI as the band was warming up for the concert (no photos were allowed during the concert). Can you imagine how fun it would be to perform in such a place?
Think of the experiences you've had that were "once in a lifetime" opportunities. Have you ever stopped to thank God and appreciate those experiences for how they shaped your life?

You'll find more photos of our experience on my Shutterfly page.

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