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Been There, Done That

It's been a slow week for free Kindle books, but here's something to  inspire you as you move into the weekend. Do you ever feel like God expects too much of you? Find out why God is so different from your boss, and how he knows exactly what you're going through.

Been There, Done That

Have you ever wished you could watch your boss try to do your job? Have you wondered if he or she could do everything you are expected to do? When I was a nurse I often wondered if management truly understood what it was like in the trenches. I also remember the satisfaction of receiving my husband’s empathy for my work as a stay-at-home mom after he had watched our boys for a day while I was away. We feel so much better when we know that someone in leadership empathizes with us, don’t we?

Photo from "Undercover Boss" on CBS
A while back, I watched the debut of a new reality television show called "Undercover Boss, where someone from the top of a corporation spent time undercover doing entry-level work for the same corporation. This boss drove a garbage truck, sorted trash, and pumped sewage from portable toilets. He struggled with some of the jobs and even got fired from one position when he couldn’t get the hang of picking up litter on a windy day. Through the experience, he gained a new appreciation for his employees and for what he was asking them to do. He began to see his employees as people and not machines. One of the greatest moments in the show came from watching the faces of the people with whom he’d worked undercover as he revealed his real identity to them.

Although some of the people were mortified when they discovered the “new” employee they’d worked with was really the president and CEO of the corporation, most of them were delighted to discover how his experience had enlightened him. Because he had been there with them, they’d acquired an ally who understood their struggles. Because he’d done the work, he saw how his corporate decisions affected them. And because he’d traded his business suit for their uniform, he became one of them, not just an observer. A follow-up note on the show explained how the resulting changes this president made had improved the morale and performance of company employees.

Do you ever feel as though living a life of faith is impossible—as if God asks you to do more than you are able? Does it feel like he’s out of touch with our reality? Fortunately, it isn’t so. Our God isn’t a boss who sits in a corporate office barking orders at his people. Nor is he a supervisor unsympathetic to our struggles. Instead, he went undercover and experienced life himself, right down to entry level as a newborn baby.

God the Father understood our desire to be understood, and Hebrews 2:14-18 tells us that he shared in our humanity by sending Jesus, his son, in human form. He was made like us in every way (vs. 17) and he himself suffered when he was tempted (vs. 18) so that he could help us. God didn’t throw an instruction manual at us leaving us to figure out how to live a life of faith and pursue holiness. He didn’t issue a corporate style order telling us to shape up. Instead, he gave us Jesus, who lived by example and asked us to follow him. Jesus experienced normal childhood, likely including bullies, unfair treatment, and skinned knees. 

Because Jesus stepped out of the glory of heaven and became one of us, we have hope.
Scripture tells us to hold firmly to what we believe because Jesus understands our weaknesses and faced the same testing that we did (Hebrews 4:14-15). And here is our message of hope: “Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Heb. 4:16, NLT).

The corporate president I mentioned above gave up a few days of CEO glory to help his employees see that he cared. Think about how much more Jesus gave up for our benefit, motivated not by profit, but by a deep love for his people. So then, we can be encouraged knowing that God is intimately involved in our lives, urging us on towards godliness, leading by Jesus’ humble example. He’s been there, done that. By God’s grace, we can do it too.

Reprinted from Michelle's February 2010 column in Wisconsin Christian News.


Life in An Estrogen Free Zone

I'm in the second week of the Beth Moore group Bible study on the book of Esther and it's all about being a woman. Last night, during our group discussion the topic turned towards raising girls in our society and it got me thinking. That's because I live in a virtually estrogen free zone, except for that which I supply. Life with three boys/men can get a little lopsided. But as I thought more, I realized that although I'm not raising a daughter, I am raising someone's husband and someone's father.

My boys will grow up to leave home (hopefully!!), and create families of their own. This means that the interaction in our home has everything to do with how they will treat their future wives and future daughters. It means I have a lot to do with their attitudes about women. Ironically, I had mentioned at Bible study how respectful my boys were towards women and that made me feel like a queen in my home. Sure, they make their share of messes, and they roll their eyes at my chick flicks, but they are respectful and kind. However, when I got home from Bible study, I questioned my boasting for a moment. 

I came up the basement steps from the garage and when I reached the top, I noticed a shadow under the stairway door. My husband and sons were home, so, I wasn't terrified or anything. But when I turned the doorknob, the door opened only a few inches before bumping into resistance from the other side. I heard a snicker and then a blond head popped into the six inch gap. "Did you want to get through here?" He laughed. But he didn't move.

More teasing from him. More pleading from me. But after a reprimand from his father, he finally let me through the door. Then he gave me a hug, "Just teasing you Mom."

Photo linked from
"After I just got through telling my friends what kind and respectful boys you are." I laughed.

Teasing comes with the territory in a no estrogen zone. They learned that from their father. But they've also learned not to push it too far. And I've learned that humor is a vital part of human interaction, especially for my boys.

For today's practical, everyday idea, I'd like to discuss ways that we can raise boys who treat women with love and respect. I'll share a few ideas here, and then I'd love to hear how you're raising a son, how you've raised one who is happily married, or how you've impacted young men through your work and volunteerism.
  • I wait for my sons to open doors for me, including the car door when we all go somewhere. 
  • I've asked their dad to come to my defense any time they use a disrespectful tone with me.
  • I don't let them order me around. Instead of, "Mom, I need two dozen cookies for school tomorrow," I expect them to ask, "Mom, would you be able to make two dozen cookies for me to bring to school?" That goes way back to when they would ask for more juice. "More! More!"(banging of cup) wasn't acceptable, but "May I have some more, please?" was acceptable.
  • We spend time together. They take turns going on "dates" with me once in a while, even as teens.
  • I've tried to teach them to be helpful. When I see a woman at church carrying a big box, I'll send one of them over to assist. Now, they begin to notice themselves and run to help.
Now it's your turn. How do you raise polite boys in the hopes that their wives will come and hug you someday?  

Remember your comments get you added to the January book drawing. You have 6 days yet to enter!


Muted Monday - Photo of the Week

I love taking flash pictures at night when it's snowing. Next time, I need to Photoshop the propane tank out.

1st Chapter of "Radical" for Free

Last week, I reviewed Radical by David Platt. You'll find the first chapter available as a free download from Multnomah, if you're interested in checking it out. Free Chapter One Download


Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream

Are you ready to do something Radical? David Platt wants American churchgoers to wake up and see how their prosperity is ruining the spread of the gospel. I just finished reading Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, where Platt challenges readers to consider how our culture has made us comfortable Christians rather than evangelists ready to take a risk for the gospel. We’re comfortable in our fancy churches, our padded bank accounts, and our safe little social groups with others like us. But, he reminds us that early Christians left everything to follow Christ including security, money, convenience, and family.

Platt advocates being radical, but he’s not unreasonable. He isn’t asking people to sell everything they have, leave their homes forever, or neglect their children. But he does challenge Christians to be willing to live with less and to give up some comfort for the sake of radical obedience to the call to spread the gospel. And he addresses nearly every excuse we might give.

I enjoyed the conversational style of the book and I also liked that the author was willing to be radical too. He didn’t just preach about it. He lived it. Most of what he spells out is right on with scripture. The only place where I wasn’t so sure was when he explained how all peoples have a knowledge of God. I could agree that they have a perception that there must be a supernatural power outside of themselves, as evidenced by how even pagan nations seem to set up some kind of worship system, however off-base it might be. But I couldn’t quite see that this indicated a knowledge of the one God Almighty. Other than that, I found this book to be a great scripture-based faith challenge.

The other thing I liked was that Platt ends the book with a radical challenge for readers. He asks them to commit to 5 things for a year. 1. Praying for the world. 2. Reading the whole Bible through. 3. Sacrificing money for a specific purpose. 4. Spending time in another context (giving in service in a way that spreads the gospel). 5. Committing to a local church that encourages discipleship (multiplying community).

I’ve been mulling over ways that I can implement this radical challenge in my own life. This isn’t the kind of book that you read and toss aside. The challenge keeps coming to mind as I examine my own comfortable surroundings. That’s what makes this a great book, I can’t forget the message!

Note: I received a free book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for my honest review.

About Author David Platt

Dr. David Platt is the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills, a four-thousand-member congregation in Birmingham, Alabama, comprised of world-impacting disciples who really believe that as a church they can shake the nations for God’s glory.

David’s first love in ministry is disciple making—teaching God’s Word, mentoring others, and multiplying the gospel. “I believe that God has uniquely created every one of his people to impact the world,” he says. “Some may count this view as idealistic, but I believe it is thoroughly biblical—rooted in Psalm 67:1–2, yet found in Scripture from beginning to end. God is in the business of blessing his people so that his ways and his salvation might be made known among all people.” To this end, David has traveled throughout the United States and around the world, teaching the Bible and training church leaders.

David has earned two undergraduate degrees from the University of Georgia and three advanced degrees, including a doctor of philosophy from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to coming to Brook Hills, he served the seminary as dean of chapel and assistant professor of expository preaching and apologetics and was on staff at Edgewater Baptist Church in New Orleans.

David and his wife, Heather, are Atlanta natives who made their home in New Orleans until they were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. They live with their family in Birmingham.

Additional Info

You'll find links to much more information about the book on the author's book website. There are Bible study resources and much more that go along with Radical. Check out

Tell me what you think. Is it time for American Christians to get radical? Do our comforts prevent us from being bold in sharing our faith? Remember: Your comments get your name in the January drawing.


Creatively Organized

I've been working on getting organized for the past few weeks. I just read Getting Things Done: The Are of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen at the recommendation of a friend. I checked it out at the library and then renewed it so I could continue to work through some of the ideas. 

Yesterday, I parked myself at Panera Bread for a little while to brainstorm while I had lunch so that I could get the book back to the library. Allen has a lot of good ideas in the book, but the main idea is that if you get your to-do list out of your head and onto paper, you'll stop obsessing about what you need to do all of the time. This will free up your mind for more creative pursuits. I think he's onto something. When my mind spins with all that I need to accomplish, sometimes, I get nothing done because I don't know where to begin. And my writing inspiration is all but gone when all I can think of are things I should do.

David Allen helps the reader figure out how to divide tasks into compartments such as phone calls to make, things to do at the computer, projects to do, etc. He describes several ways to set up a notebook or a file system where everything that needs to get done can get out of your head and onto a reminder list that works.

Then he also talks about how important it is to have actions steps on a to-do list, not just the end result. For example, if my to-do item is to organize my office, I would need to think of specific action steps to put on my list. Sort file cabinets. Get more manila folders. Process junk mail pile. You get the idea.

Now, for a system to work for me, it has to be functional and appealing. It's just part of my creative side. I like pretty folders and baskets, but they can be expensive. So I've discovered some ways to organize on the cheap. Here's one little thing I did. 

I needed to organize my notebook where I track piano students. I didn't want to spend money on plastic tabs, so I went to my scrapbook supplies for inspiration. I was able to use scraps of paper to come up with this.
 The little tabs are made with a punch and I had plenty of little scraps to make a bunch of cute tabs.
 I was also using the labeler that day, so it ended up in the picture.
 You just punch the tabs, fold in half, and then attach with glue or 2-sided tape. Next I'm working on my to-do notebook using tabs to separate categories. Cute and functional. Win!

Need more organizing help? Check out 8 Ways to Simplify.

All comments left on the blog this month (not via e-mail or facebook) will qualify you for the January drawing for Your Money God's Way. Multiple entries for comments on more than one post.


Has Your Family Caught One of These Viruses?

I shivered as we approached the automatic doors thinking, this is last place I want to be on a subzero night. I strode over to the check-in desk with my teenager in tow.

“May I see your insurance card?” the receptionist asked.

While she entered information into the computer, I gazed over the brimming waiting area. Coughing, sneezing, glassy-eyed and crimson-cheeked patients and their companions filled nearly every chair. The walk-in clinic in flu season promised a lengthy wait.

“Thank you. Please have a seat.”

In a medical clinic, it isn’t difficult to guess which are the sick people. We judge from their symptoms, and we avoid them. Who likes getting sick? Even at home, when someone is ill, we wash our hands more, use separate hand towels and we try not to share germs. But a bigger epidemic than influenza is sweeping our culture. This wave is more subtle than a respiratory virus, but if we look close enough, we might see that the disease has spread even to our own homes.

Listen closely to those around you. Listen to your own words. How often do you hear, “I’m too busy,” or “I can’t rest right now?” In the grocery store, we see the mother with little ones trailing behind. “Hurry up,” she says, “We’re going to be late.” This is the disease of feeling chronically short of time which leads to an ongoing sense of frustration. People with hurry sickness never have time to relax.

Hurry sickness isn’t the only culprit in the epidemic. Its near cousin is overload syndrome, a title that describes the stress that comes from having too much—too much stress, too many possessions, a crowded schedule, and an overloaded mind. The overloaded person seems to live from one crisis to another, and when a new stressor comes along, he or she goes into a meltdown. Eventually it wears down the physical body as well.

A close examination of the hurried or the overloaded person might give some clues to yet another culprit in the epidemic. Those who are always trying to keep up with the Jones, with ever-increasing debt, likely suffer from what has been coined affluenza. As our culture becomes more affluent, there is increased pressure to have more material things. Victims of affluenza frequently suffer from both hurry sickness and overload syndrome as they struggle to get ahead.

If a quick check-up reveals that you are afflicted with any of these or even all three, there is hope. Just as with viral infections, treatment and prevention are essential. Like an antibiotic for an infection, the first prescription in getting better is to deal with the worst of the problem right now. If too much stuff is bogging you down, it’s time to purge your possessions. Give to charity, auction on E-bay, have a yard sale, or take a trip to the landfill, but do whatever you need to do to free yourself of the things that are suffocating you. If hurry is your problem, ask yourself what you are doing right now that you don’t really need to do. Purge your schedule by focusing on what really matters.

Affluenza is a sneaky virus. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have it. I’m a great bargain hunter, and I love shopping at thrift stores, but that doesn’t mean that the pursuit of more stuff doesn’t affect me even in my bargain hunting. It may be difficult to deny our children a Nintendo Wii when everyone else has one; and it’s easy to fall into traps of thinking we need things that we don’t.

Once we identify solutions, it’s time to think about prevention. Just as we wash our hands to prevent the spread of colds and we immunize against the flu, it’s important that we protect our schedules and our minds from relapses. The best prevention is learning to say no. It sounds simple enough, yet it’s difficult to put into action. I struggle too, but it gets easier the more I practice. We can learn how to say no to purchases, no to new commitments, and no to more stuff—even if it is free.

We can wipe out this epidemic, at least in our own homes, by renewing our focus on godliness (Ephesians 4:19), and letting go of worldly desires. We bring emotional health and tranquility to our families by guarding our time, spending wisely, and making God-honoring choices. I think our family could use an overload syndrome booster shot.

This article, written by Michelle, appeared her "Habits for Quality Living" column in the March 2008 issue of Wisconsin Christian News.


The Power Based Life by Mike Flynt - A Review

I just finished reading a brand new book by Mike Flynt titled The Power-Based Life: Realize Your Life's Goals and Dreams by Strengthening Your Body, Mind, and Spirit and I'd like to tell you about this book. 

If you’re in need of motivation but can’t afford a life coach, Mike Flynt is a great stand-in. The Power Based Life is part pep talk. Part inspiration. And part instruction manual. Flynt’s goal is to help people realize what they were born for and then go after that. His twelve strategies help readers sort through their own strengths and potential.

Flynt covers topics such as attitude, belief, commitment, team work, time management, physical health, and much more. He draws on his own experience as a football player and often teaches from the standpoint of a sports metaphor. He was the guy who played college football at 59 years old that made the news a few years ago. In the book, he often compares life to a football game, weight training, and the dynamics of a team.

Flynt has a positive attitude about adversity and encourages readers to use every experience for growth. Some might say his book is just basic common sense, but he presents it in an organized way that serves as a great reminder to anyone who has lost sight of their dreams. He also supports his ideas with a good amount of references and plenty of scripture. Flynt stresses, based on his own example, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

I like the conversational style of the book. He talks right to the reader and even comments just as someone would if you were having a personal conversation rather than keeping up an academic style. For example, he will say something like, “Enough about me. Let’s get back to you,” after he tells a story from his experience. I liked this informal, yet very organized way of communicating.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to reevaluate and take stock of their lives. The spiritual emphasis is especially helpful and Flynt talks about how different his approach to even the game of football was after he gave his life to Christ. His goal is to help others discover their own power base, the center of personal strength that leads to a more significant and satisfying life. He’s clear that this isn’t about tapping into some new age higher power. It’s about a life centered on THE highest power, God.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers for the purpose of this review. My opinions are honest and I am not required to give a favorable review.

About the Author
Mike Flynt played football for Permian high School in Odessa, TX where he helped start a winning tradition, inspiring Friday Night Lights. In 2007, at the age of fifty-nine, Mike received national attention by returning to his college alma mater, Sul Ross State University, to play his senior year, becoming the oldest contributing member of a college football team in NCAA history. Today, Mike's company, Powerbase Fitness, LLC, helps people live better, more productive lives through strength training.


I Love a Good Bargain

I just love a good bargain. But you know what I love even more? Friends who celebrate a good bargain with me. I hope you can feel my pain when I tell you I live in a household of 3 guys. They aren't so much into celebrating good bargains.

Just to give him credit, my husband does say, "Nice job, honey," and gives me a pat on the back when I show him a great deal I got. But he's just never going to get to the point where he says, "No way! Get out of here. That is an amazing deal," followed by a high-five and a happy dance. Nor will he say, "Sweet, show me more." He's usually looking at me with that helpless, I've-got-to-get-away-from-her-before-she-talks-me-to-death look. I know, I'm a nut job. But bargains are so fun!

So, I just have to share a couple of the great deals I got on post New Years sales this week. You'll do a happy dance for me, right!

Something like the one I bought at Target
I've considered replacing our artificial Christmas tree with something that is smaller and doesn't have to be set up branch by branch. I've had it for 15 years, so when I did the math, I figured it cost me $6.18 per year for our Christmas tree. Not bad, huh? Well I was in Target and they had Christmas trees at 75% off on January 2nd and I replaced my tree for just $38.75. I figure if I can get 16 years out of this one, it would cost only $2.42 per year. Oh yeah. That's the kind of bargain I like. Plus, it was one of the kind with pinecones stuck on it, the kind I wanted. Bonus.

It's a slim tree. So it will take up less space and at least something in our house will be "slim" during the holidays.

I was also excited to replace my tacky wreath with a new one for $6.25 and pick up some gift bags for next year for 25 cents. I'd have bought Christmas cards for next year, but I had already purchased 2 years worth last year at 75% off. I decided I didn't need to become a Christmas card hoarder and passed up the deals this year.

Then, when I was checking out, I found a missing $25 gift card we'd received from our insurance company for installing a teen safe driver camera a few months ago (something my teen boys didn't find quite as exciting as I did). So, I was able to apply that to my purchases. Double bonus.

Over at Sam's Club, I tried not to squeal in delight when I found red and green plastic disposable cups for just 1.91 (down from $9.98) for 160 cups. That comes to just a little more than a penny per cup and we couldn't care less if they are red and green. I resisted the urge to purchase more than two packages. Again, hoarding crossed my mind. Those TV shows on hoarders keep people like me from getting carried away with bargains.

42 Cents
Finally, I toodled on over to Walmart and was happy to find red damask tablecloths on clearance. Last year, I bought some for our church for women's events, but we were a few short yet, so when I found them on clearance for $2.25 each, I was able to expand our stash.

Since, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't go so far as to do the happy dance for the candy canes or Christmas confetti cake mixes I got at 75% off, I'll spare you the details show a picture.

Are you feeling vicariously satisfied because of my bargains? Then I've done my job and left you with a happy sigh. Now go out and find your own deals and stop by and tell me about them. I'll dance for  you.

All comments left on January blog posts get your name entered into the book drawing. Multiple entries for comments on multiple posts.


8 Ways to Simplify in 2011

It's the first day of a new year, so why not get started with a little organization that will simplify your life this year? Here are a few tips for simplifying that I've been working on putting into place this past week.
  1. Get rid of unwanted e-mail. As I sorted through thousands, yes thousands, of old e-mails, I realized I get a lot of stuff I never read. So I went through and unsubscribed to a bunch of advertising and subscriptions I never read. Each e-mail has an unsubscribe option down at the bottom and if you click, just follow the steps to unsubscribe. In most cases, it's just one click.
  2. Commit to managing e-mails as they come in. I have folders set up for a few main activities. For example, when en e-mail comes in relating to one of my speaking commitments, it goes into the speaking folder. But now, I'm adding folders for other e-mails to save such as receipts, family reunion info, etc. The rest, I plan to process and then delete. When an e-mail comes with a file to save, just right click on the file and save it in your documents, then delete the e-mail. If a message comes in that you need to respond to in a day or two, flag the message (different programs have different flagging features) and then make a note on your to-do list to respond to flagged e-mails by Friday. If you manage them as they come in and end each day with an empty inbox, you'll feel much less overwhelmed. 
  3. Sort your home office and toss papers. Get rid of old mail, papers you don't need and stuff you haven't touched in forever. File anything that needs filing. Don't have a file system? Get started with a small file for monthly paid bills and important papers such as taxes from the previous years. It simplifies life! For example, just this past week, we were working on an application for a home equity loan to do our roof. With the file system I have, within minutes I was able to put my fingers on our home insurance statement, our property tax statement and our last 2 years taxes, as well as other pertinent info we needed.
  4. Sort your closets and give to charity. If you haven't used an article of clothing in over a year, say goodbye and let someone else benefit. Open your bathroom cabinet or linen closet. Did something fall out and hit you on the head? Then it's time to simplify and get down to what you really use.
  5. Have magazines and papers all over that you want to get around to reading? Gather them all in one basket and whenever you have a few minutes catch up on reading. I take a magazine with me when my kids have a dentist appointment, or I page through one when I'm on hold on the telephone. It's also great for grabbing when we're taking a short road trip. I use the time in the car to catch up on my reading pile.
  6.  Pare down on books and movies. You can sell used books and movies on places like Amazon and leave them up for months without a fee until they sell. Or, you can swap them for things you've been wanting to read on a place like Paperback Swap Swap Books for Free -  or Swap-A-DVD 
  7. Swap, Trade or Exchange DVDs for Free! -
  8.  Read a good book on organizing and then plan to implement at least one technique. I just read "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" by David Allen and I need to read through it once more to make a plan for implementing some great ideas.
  9. If something has always bugged you, do something about it. If you had the congestion by your front door, fix it. Think of a way to fix the problem. If your kitchen is inefficient, don't be afraid to relocate some key items to make it more convenient. If your system for keeping track of appointments doesn't work, create a new one. Make 2011 the year of efficiency so that you have more time to relax and enjoy life.
Do you have a great idea for simplifying or organizing? Share your idea in the comments. Tired of your system and need to vent your frustration? We'll help you brainstorm some solutions. All comments in January will get you entered into the January drawing for Your Money God's Way by Amie Streater  

December Book Winner

I kept a list of everyone who qualified for the December book drawing and then used to draw a winner. And the winner of  a hardcover copy of "Christmas Miracles" is....

Chris Loehmer

Congratulations Chris! I'll send you a message and you can reply with your mailing address.

Watch for details coming soon about my next book drawing.


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