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9.30.2011

Boys Will Always Find Mischief

My boys have subtle ways of making life interesting. Some time ago, they teamed up (always a recipe for trouble) and they decided to redecorate a little. They thought our family pictures displayed on the wall in the hallway lacked something, so they added a photo of their own.

Funny thing is, I didn't discover it until I was giving a guest a tour of our house. As we passed the family pictures in the hall, I did a double take.
This is how the display looks. But, what caught my eye was the little picture above the family group picture. I hadn't seen it before.
Turns out, they cropped my husband and me from another family picture, then used some sort of doodling program on the computer to edit the picture and give us more creative features than we normally have. They printed it out and borrowed one of my other frames (who knows who they covered up) and hung it up. 

When they were little, they got into the cookie jar, or scribbled crayon on the walls. They snuck out of their rooms during naps. As teens, the mischief broadens with the availability of technology.

Guess what? I left the picture there in the grouping. It says so much more about our family than the formal pictures do. It paints a vivid picture of life with my funny boys. My funny and very naughty boys.

9.29.2011

More Reflecting Him Resources from Carla McDougal

In an earlier post today, I featured a review of a Bible study by Carla McDougal. I'd like to tell you more about the resources she has available.

Q&A With Carla
  • What practical steps can believers take to be less self-focused and more God-focused?   
    • Life is not about me, but all about Him. This phrase changed my life. Prayer is the key to keeping your eyes on Jesus. The more we pray, the more God moves us to do His will and not our will! 
  • You say it’s important for believers to discover how to pray everyday prayers.  What does this mean? I heard a speaker say she would never bother God to help her find her lost keys or a good parking spot—how do you feel about that statement? 
    • I pray about everything! Jesus tells us in Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” We categorize prayers, God recognizes prayers. God wants us to bring everything to Him. Nothing is too small or too big for God! Prayer builds our faith and trust in Jesus!
  • What are some of the blessings of having an intimate life with Jesus, and how does one develop that intimacy?
    • Humbleness abounds as I realize there is nothing I can do to earn an intimate relationship with Jesus. I can only obtain it through His grace and mercy, which He gives so freely. Jesus is my all in all.

Discount Offered!
Go to Reflective Life Ministries Online Bookstore, and purchase the items mentioned here for a 10% discount. Simply use the promo code: RHBLOG1



Book Review - Reflecting Him (A Bible Study For Groups & Individuals)

Be sure to answer my question at the end of this post for your chance to be entered in a prize drawing.

Reflecting Him: Living for Jesus and Loving It is a Bible study book by Carla McDougal that takes participants through a study of living for Jesus in the day to day. This is a 10 week study with five daily lessons each week. Each week has its own theme and its own metaphor. The first week has a group lesson and then the daily lessons begin with the chapter for week 2.
Week 1: Reflections in Life (Mirror analogy) Group Session
Week 2: Created for God, by God (Clay and potter metaphor)
Week 3: Senses of the Soul (Metaphor using each of the 5 senses)
Week 4: The Power Source (Metaphor using light)
Week 5: Prayer from the Inside Out (Metaphor of rooms in a house)
Week 6: Prayer Fuels Faith (Analogy of oil drilling)
Week 7: The Control Syndrome (Using metaphor from gardening and soil)
Week 8: Roadblocks Ahead (Analogy uses road blocks, detours, etc)
Week 9: Fit for Jesus (Physical fitness analogy)
Week 10: Reflect Him (A review of all of the weeks) Group Session

Each daily assignment includes 5 elements:
  1. An introductory narrative that included story and analogy. About a page long.
  2. Scripture Excavation – this part included looking up scriptures and filling in blanks for thoughts about the scripture
  3. Hidden Treasures – Ties the weekly metaphor with the scriptures.
  4. Celebrating Treasure Gifts – This section includes a practical take-home lesson
  5. Reflection Pause- This is kind of a challenge for the day.

Daily homework includes filling in blanks and looking up verses in the Bible. Some of the verses are longer passages and some are shorter. Some readers might think 10 weeks is a little long, however, it’s nice to take some time with a study and not have to search for new group material immediately as is the case with some shorter studies.


What I Liked
The daily homework is a good length for busy people. It’s not daunting for people to stay caught up. I also think the author does a great job of balancing narrative, study, and personal application. The book covers a lot of ground and it’s a great study for a mixed group (people at different levels of spiritual maturity). The study gets to the heart of thoughts and feelings and perceptions, encouraging participants to be transparent with their thoughts—a good group bonding opportunity. I think this study would work very well as a personal study outside of a group too, and many of the questions lend themselves well to journaling.


What I Didn’t Like
Readers have to look hard to find the information for leaders. There is a small link in the front material for where leaders info can be downloaded from the web. In many ways, this study felt more like a personal study than a group study. There were more personal questions than group questions. There were a couple of places where a statement was made followed by some blank lines. It was unclear what the reader should write in those lines. The statement didn’t prompt any personal action to justify having the lines fill space. Here’s an example: “Did you notice how the blind man obeyed before he could see? That is faith!” (p 37) This was followed by 3 blank lines.


Conclusions
I liked that the metaphor for each week was incorporated well into the study, but it was hard to see how each of those fit into the overall theme from the title “Reflecting Him.” The author included many educational tidbits along with the metaphors/analogies used in book.

It’s so difficult to find a good study for a group. McDougal has done a great job of taking Bible study seriously. She’s avoided the fluff that so many studies include and stuck with the meat. As a former Bible study leader, I give her a big thumbs up for that! Reflecting Him is a great starting place for new believers and a great review for those who have grown stagnant in their faith.


Grand Prize Giveaway:
Instant Leader Kit:
Video Teaching Series
Bible Study Book
Leader Guide
Music CD
 
 Would you like a chance to win this great Bible study leaders packet from the author? Comment below and tell me what you look for in a good small group or personal Bible study. I'll draw one name on the 7th of  October and send that name on to the grand prize drawing on the 10th. Two of my readers have already been grand prize winners in similar drawings!

9.28.2011

Letting Go - Guest Post by Carla McDougal

Today, I'd like to share a guest post with you from Carla McDougal. Tomorrow, I'll give my review of Carla's book and you'll have a chance to enter the giveaway drawing.

LETTING GO
By Carla McDougal

Do you remember the last time you opened the door to your junk closet? You know, the place where you put things you don’t want left out in the open. Maybe an item is old and worn out, so you throw it in this closet. Or, possibly it’s broken, and you don’t know what to do with it.

In my Bible Study, Reflecting Him, I invite readers to take a guided tour through various rooms in our homes, and compare these areas to our spiritual lives. The first day of the tour focuses on the closet—that hidden, dark place no one enters but you. “Out of sight, out of mind” might describe those items tucked away in that small space; but couldn’t the phrase also depict the things we hide in the backs of our minds and hearts? Broken, worn out, or sinful thoughts weigh heavily on our souls, and we need to let go, so they can be replaced by God’s light of love, grace and mercy. June 23rd is National “Let It Go” Day. I encourage you to find something in your spiritual “junk closet” and let it go.
 
Do you harbor bitterness for past hurts against you? Does sin linger in the crevices of your heart and mind? Are you in need of God’s forgiveness? We are all sinners, but we can be free from the closet of sin if we confess and ask for His forgiveness. Let go, and let God shine His light on you.

Just like cleaning out the junk closet, once you let go of those spiritual messes in your life, you’ll be left with room for the new. God’s all about making things new. A new heart. A new life. A new you. It all starts with letting go of those things that fall short of His plan.

When you organize a junk closet, you might choose to use special organizers or aids to make it all work together better. Or perhaps you even hire a professional organizer. In your spiritual closet, don’t forget that you can find all the assistance you’ll ever need through the help of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

Are you ready to let God take the tour through the various rooms of your spiritual “house”? When you open the closet, what mess falls out? Give it to Him and see what happens!
CARLA MCDOUGAL is founder of Reflective Life Ministries headquartered in the Houston,
Texas area. Her true passion for her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, shines brightly, whether she is speaking or writing. She shares experiences from her own life to encourage women to live every day for Him. God is sending Carla around the world to speak to women from all walks of life—those living in the best of circumstances to those who have hit rock bottom. 
 
Carla’s book,  Reflecting Him: Living for Jesus and Loving It, pulls back the veil so you can see yourself and your Lord more clearly and reflect Him with transparency when interacting with others. This 10-week study exposes the dark corners of your life, opening your eyes and heart to what Jesus wants you to see. Carla’s refreshing authenticity and humorous style will lift you up from a heaviness you didn’t even know weighed you down. For more information on a growing number of products from Reflective Life Ministries go to: www.reflectivelifeministries.org
 
This article content is provided free of charge by the author through Kathy Carlton Willis Communications. You are welcome to place this article on your site or in your publication as long as 1) it’s used in its entirety, 2) the full bio is also used, and 3) you previously request permission through KCWC at russ@kathycarltonwillis.com. All other standard copyrights apply.

9.27.2011

Book Review - Becoming Fearless


I'm looking forward to Women of Faith in St. Paul, MN in October where I'll get to hear Michelle Aguilar speak. I just finished reading her book that's due out this weekend.

Becoming Fearless: My Ongoing Journey of Learning to Trust God

Michelle Aguilar is the winner of season six of The Biggest Loser. Now she’s documented what she discovered in her journey to losing over 100 pounds. Michelle grew up in a Christian home and her family served in ministry, but shortly after she graduated from high school her parents separated and her reality conflicted with everything she’d been taught. She learned to stuff her feelings by stuffing her face, and soon, she lost herself in the shuffle.


Through the help of Jillian and the team at Biggest Loser, Michelle went from fear to fearless, eventually becoming a Women of Faith speaker and a voice for the I Am Second movement. I enjoyed her story very much and I could see some of myself in her.

Readers should not expect this to be a how-to book. This is a memoir. It’s Michelle’s story. Many readers will see themselves in her story, but it’s still a memoir. I found the book enjoyable, and through reading Michelle’s story, I think others will be inspired to face their fears too. It’s also an encouragement for those who feel like they have lost their faith, or they are disillusioned by what they think God expects of them.

I had an advance reader copy, so I haven’t seen the photo section that will be in the middle, but I think readers will enjoy having the photos. 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Amazon for review purposes.

9.23.2011

Happy Birthday to My Boys

Nineteen years ago today, I became a mother. Seventeen years ago, I became a mother again. Having two boys born on the same day has been a fun adventure. They are best friends and they get along so well. Even as teenagers, they've been fun to raise. 

I know, that doesn't even sound normal for me to say. But raising teenagers isn't always as awful as it's cracked up to be. Every so often, you'll meet someone who says their teenagers are a delight. I'm one of them. Please don't hate me. I didn't do anything to deserve these sweet boys. I know that God gave them to me and he showed me much grace when they became teenagers.

Perhaps God's blessing reflects my own lack of patience. Sometimes I wonder if he said, "That gal has a lively temper and a low tolerance level. Give her two boys who will help her manage her weaknesses." Or maybe he said, "Her husband has his hands full already with her. Let's give him two boys as a reward."

 Of course, they aren't perfect by any means. They like to pick on their dear old mom. And sometimes, they butt heads with me. Sometimes they lick their plates when I'm not looking. And sometimes they leave their bathroom looking like a truck stop restroom for my piano student moms to use. Most of the time, their rooms are carpeted with dirty laundry (not sure why we actually put carpet down if they walk on their clothes anyway).

However God worked it out, I'm thankful for them. To all the moms who are struggling to get through the teen years, I'm praying that God give you all the strength and patience that I lack. I give you more credit than you can imagine for being such great moms!

Thanks for letting me have my little moment to celebrate my boys' birthday today.

9.16.2011

Why I Don't Ask Pat Robertson for Marriage Advice

This week, TV preacher and 700 Club host Pat Robertson got himself into a bit of hot water over some comments he made about divorce on his show. See the story at CBS News

Robertson was giving advice to a viewer whose friend was seeing another woman while his wife suffered from Alzheimer's. Imagine how my jaw dropped when I heard that Robertson essentially condoned the actions of the husband by suggesting that he should divorce her and go ahead and date another woman. 
Photo from CBN.com

His logic to write off the "til death do us part" marriage vow? Alzheimer's is a kind of death.

Really.

So if someone says their marriage essentially died because the other partner was no longer who they once were, it's okay to divorce and start over? This is rationalizing at its greatest.
Alzheimer's is a sickness. Nearly 22 years ago, I promised to marry my husband in sickness and in health. Even if he has to be cared for in a nursing home. Even if he is incapacitated. Even if he becomes mentally ill, paralyzed, or terminally ill. Marriage is marriage. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that Alzheimer's and other conditions are extremely stressful for the caregiver. And marriages are strained by unforeseen events. But that's part of taking the vow. Too many young people don't look down the road and see what could happen. Too many marriages end because one or the other partner didn't anticipate real life. 

It isn't easy. But "in sickness and in health", "forsaking all others", "til death do us part" mean something. Death is death. As in no longer breathing. If you find an Alzheimer's clause in your Bible, I want to see it. Robertson opens the door for all kinds of wishy-washy interpretation of scripture with his statements. 

In his estimation, adultery must not mean adultery either. And on his slippery slope, murder won't mean murder, and stealing won't mean stealing. Not so long as we can come up with a clever way to justify them.

In the meantime, that's why I don't take marriage advice from Pat Robertson. I don't advise that you do either.

9.13.2011

Celebrate the Little Things - It Brings Great Happiness

Sometimes, little things make me immensely happy. The other day, when I was freezing corn from the garden, I started cutting the kernels off the cobs with a big knife, but then I remembered a tool I had found at a yard sale earlier in the summer.


I found a corn cob cutter slicer stripper knife (yah, I know it has a crazy long name) for 25 cents at a garage sale. This was the best 25 cents I've ever spent. within 15 minutes, I had a big pail of blanched corn off the cob. The cutter is designed to stand on the work surface and the operator cuts from top to bottom on the cob. But I found it was just as useful to hold the cutter in one hand and the cob in the other and sort of twist and wiggle it through the cutter.

I was so happy that I had to summon my friend who is staying with us from her room so she could come to the kitchen and see my glee. At the moment, I may or may not have been somewhat delirious from sleep deprivation (this was the evening of a very long day). However, she let me do my happy dance and saved judgment of my sanity for her own thoughts.

Have you have had a moment like that where a little practical thing or a great bargain just made your day? Celebrate the little things! If you overlook even a small celebration, you might overlook a moment of happiness in the middle of life's craziness.

9.02.2011

Glancing Back into the Segregated 60's with "The Help"

Being a product of the late 60's but having no memories of the culture until the 70's when I entered grade school, I thought I'd get a dose of culture by going to see The Help last weekend. I had just finished listening to the audio book, and I just had to see the movie.

The Help (Movie Tie-In)I don't read very many books from the secular market, but this one revealed so much about American thought just 50 years ago. So much has changed and yet, so much has stayed the same. Book or movie, this is an eye-opener for anyone too young to actually remember the civil rights movement of the middle of last century. Now, I didn't grow up in the segregate south, and my mother didn't have a maid, but some of the segregated attitudes existed in people in my own community.

The Help demonstrates the depth of irony in America in the 60's. White women in their country club societies forced their black maids to use a different bathroom because they "had diseases", yet these same women lovingly cared for sweet little children who hung on their necks all day. These were the women who nursed fevers and potty trained toddlers. These were the women who raised the children while their mothers played bridge with their friends.

Ironically, these housewives raised money for starving children in Africa while the children of their own maids ate what their mothers could afford on shamefully slim wages. Ironically, these women called themselves Christians, but didn't act like Jesus.

It breaks my heart to see how a person can be forced to enter by the back door, ride in the back of a bus, and shop in a different grocery store simply because of skin color. It blows my mind that the white grocery stores would have the good produce and the black grocery stores would have the overripe cast-offs. 

It breaks my heart that women with different colors of skin couldn't be friends except for in secret or that light-skinned black children could be taken from their mothers and sent to orphanges because they'd be out of place in either black or white society. It enrages me to think of how many of those pregnancies occurred against the will of the mother in the first place.

I wonder if I could have been as brave as Skeeter Phelan (a main character from the story) with my writing. Could I have been the voice to expose the injustice? Could I have given up the only man I'd ever loved because he couldn't be affiliated with my work?

I said earlier that our country has changed a lot. But so much is still the same. I know that there were many privileged women who grew up in the south who followed the norms of culture simply because it was expected of them. There were some who knew what was happening was wrong, but they didn't have the courage to speak up and make a change.

It's a different era. We have different issues. But we have injustice in our culture just the same. Are we going to be like the women of the south and keep silent when we know something is wrong? Or will be be courageous and speak out against that which we know is wrong? We're faced with the same choice as Skeeter Phelan.What will we do?

A side note: I liked the movie because it left out a couple of incidents from the book that I didn't think were really needed to illustrate the culture. I liked the book because it didn't wrap up quite as neatly as the movie, and it had a more real feel to it. So, you see, I can't decide which is better. If you decide to do either, be aware that there is some swearing in both the movie.

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