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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

one word

One word.  The thought baffles me.

Verbosity is my weakness (but you all knew that already).

I heard the challenge on the radio a couple of days ago.  Instead of writing out a list of goals and achievements; resolutions for the year, to choose one word.

One word to hold onto.  One word to inspire.  One word.  Only one.

So I started thinking.  I can do this, right?  Just one word, pshaw--that should be easy...right?

Ahem.  Until you start trying to narrow it down.

Words filled my mind.







All beautiful words...but they felt redundant to me.  Sure, I could use them.  But they didn't feel right.  So I prayed about it, and kept thinking and searching.  Then I saw it.

A beautiful word.  So simple.  Mundane, boring even.  But the thoughts that filled my mind when I read it whispered, "This is it."


He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
~Micah 6:8

To place one foot in front of the other.
To get somewhere.
Swift or slow, to progress.
Steady or shaking, intrepid or heart breaking.
To hold His hand and follow Him.
To take each step.  With Him.

"Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." 
~Genesis 5:24

"I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people." 
~Leviticus 26:12

"You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." 
~Deuteronomy 6:7

"When His lamp shone over my head, And by His light I walked through darkness;"  
~Job 29:3

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." 
~Psalm  23:4

"For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth."  
~Psalm 26:3

"Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name."  
~Psalm 86:11

"for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light"  
~Ephesians 5:8

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,"  
~Colossians 2:6

"so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."  
~1 Thessalonians 2:12

"but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."  
~1 John 1:7

"the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."
~1 John 2:6

"And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed;"
~Revelation 21:23-25

What do you think of this challenge--one word for the year?  
What would be a word that you would choose?

Be blessed my dear readers; Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

time is short

We near the final 24 hours of this, the year of 2013.

It's a melancholy feeling; exciting, yet a reminder of the shortness of our days.  Has another year really come and gone already?

I was reminded of the shortness of life yesterday. I was visiting with some friends, the Saint family-- the grandson of missionary, Nate Saint, Jesse Saint was telling me about his sister, Stephanie.  She was 20 years and 20 days old--twelve days older than I am today--when she died suddenly of a Cerebral hemorrhage.  No warning.  Jesse said that she had just come home from a trip the day before, feeling perfectly healthy and full of life.  The next day she was dead.

It puts things into perspective.  Any day could be our last.

Sometimes it's hard for us as young people to grasp it.  We feel like we still have our whole lifetimes ahead of us.  We still have yet to get married, have kids, watch them grow up...we have years ahead of us...right?

"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."  ~James 4:14

So what am I going to do with the remainder of my days?  Or hours?  How does one make sure that they can stand before the Father at the end and hear, "Well done..."?

Sometimes I measure the effectiveness of my life in the things I "do".  If I can do "great things for God"--build schools and hospitals (some of you may or may not get this reference, ha!), sacrifice myself as a missionary, die a martyr; if I can motivate others to great things, if I can speak with the tongues of men and of angels, if I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have faith that can move mountains...

I look back on the year at my "accomplishments".  So I sold a few books at conferences.  So I taught a writing class.  So I acted in a play.  So I coordinated an event....but do I know Jesus better than I did the year before?

What I do in an of myself is worthless.  No matter how much zeal I put into it.  No matter how "pure" my motives.  It is worth nothing apart from Christ.

What Jesus did is priceless.

Paul wrote this in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 3):

"...although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless."

Paul had everything going for him.  I'll bet his yearly Christmas letter was immaculate; lengthy with all of his amazing accomplishments! (Sorry, Momma--I had to throw that one out there :P) In the world's eyes he had it all; fame, fortune, passion, zeal for God.  He was one of those guys that mothers probably pointed out to their kids, encouraging them to grow up and be like him.

But he later realized that it was all worthless.

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

Here, Paul lists his great accomplishments--his reasons that he might boast in the world's eyes.  Then he discounts it all.  He throws it all away, burns it.  It's worthless compared to that which he now desires.

Righteousness in Jesus.

Knowing Jesus.

His resurrection.

His sufferings.

Dying with Him, so that he might live.  Really live.

But then, it comes to my favorite part:

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

First of all, it does not appear that Paul buys into to the popular idea of being completely unshakable, 100% positive, so-confident-that-nothing-can-get-in-the-way of one's salvation (the so-called "freedom in Christ" that allows Christians to continue their lives as they were prior to their salvation--but because they "said the prayer" they're going to heaven no matter what).  Instead, he admits his weakness.  And even his seeming doubt of his own faith.  "I don't consider myself as 'arrived'!" he cries.  He's human too--he knows that he's worthless in and of himself.  Without Jesus, everything that he has done is worthless.  But he has a part to play too.  He knows that faith is more than just saying a prayer.  His prize and life's goal is to pursue Jesus.  Relentlessly follow, to die, to carry a cross.  Every day.

So what does he do?

He looks toward heaven.  He lifts his hands, and opens them to the sky.

He lets go of his own ambitions.  His accomplishments.  His reputation.  His self-derived righteousness.

And he runs.  He runs with open, empty hands, yearning to fill them with Jesus.

May our ambition every year be to live every day to that end; we are ready at any moment to stand before His throne.  To be emptied of our own motives, desires, accomplishments, and to be filled with Jesus.  To run, to pursue Him.  His love.  His rest.  His voice.

And finally on that day, to hear His whisper, "Well done, good and faithful servant..." 

My dear readers, time is short.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."  Matthew 16:24

We don't know how much time we have left.

May we fill our years, days, hours--moments with thoughts of Him.
May the foundation of all works be love for Him.
My our every desire pour from our hearts for Him.
May He be our everything; the bedrock on which every ambition and accomplishment stands.

May our ambition be to know His love.  Our passion to obey Him.  Our prize to hear His voice on that day.

When I kneel down that day
Looking upon His holy face
I will remember with trembling
Every single moment, every memory

Who was I and where was I going
What kind of fruit were my actions growing
Staring at the pages
He’ll be staring at the pages of my life
Was my passion just to know Him
Did I really let it out and show Him
Staring at the pages
He’ll be staring at the pages of my life

~Pages, by Leeland

It's all about Jesus.
Not what you have done for Him.
But what He did, and how you thanked Him.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

book review: Clear Winter Nights

Chris thought he had it all going for him.  Freshly graduated from college, a beautiful fiancee, a position of leadership in a budding church plant waiting for him...  But when he discovers new truths about his father, an anxiety begins to take root.  A blackness seeps into his heart; he is too embarrassed to talk about it.  Doubt. About God, his faith, and everything he has ever known.

As his feeble grandfather, a retired pastor, recovers from a stroke, Chris goes to spend the weekend with him.  As the winter closes in, Chris and his grandfather talk.  Armed with his intellectual debates and new fashioned ideas about Christianity, bitterness fuels Chris' arguments.  But try as he might, nothing that he says can baffle the elderly, yet sharp mind of the long-time Jesus lover.

Clear Winter Nights is a story about faith and forgiveness--and what sets Jesus apart from the religions of the world.   The subtitle "Theology in Story" is an excellent description of the words that are penned within the pages of this little book.  Tough subjects even down to homosexuality are handled with grace and the solid foundation of the scriptures.

I truly enjoyed this book--I actually picked it up for the first time and finished reading it all within 24 hours!  I expected this to be one of the books that are harder to review--based on the "Theology in Story" title.  Some books that I have read do not stay true to the fictional format in which they are perceived and go into something more like a rampage of rhetoric instead of focusing on the story.  This I found was totally not the case with Clear Winter Nights.  In fact, the symbolism sprinkled throughout the book that tied into the theological discussions was absolutely beautiful; the story moved along at the perfect pace.

I was a little disappointed in the lack of the actual scriptural text presented.  Now I understood everything to be built on the scriptural foundation, Biblical principles and worldview-- and the book was obvious in pointing pack to the Bible in general, but it would have been nice if there was more tying directly back to the exact references.

Because of the topics of sex and homosexuality, I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of 16.

All in all, I loved this book!  Easy read, yet solid lessons and beautiful symbolism.  I would recommend this to anyone (saved or unsaved) aged 16 and up.  I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Want to learn more?

  • Author's Site
  • Podcast
  • More Info
  • Author Bio

  • I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for an honest review.

    Friday, December 27, 2013

    book review: The Aquifer

    A futuristic novel set in the year 2250, The Aquifer is a story about 16-year-old Luca and his rather unprecedented quest for truth. Luca is the last in the line of the Deliverers, a family instituted to go underground every year to negotiate with the legendary "Rats" for the world's rationed fresh water. Peace has reigned over the world; emotions are monitored and controlled. No one wonders, no one thinks, no one questions.  All is peace...or so they think.

    When Luca's father goes missing, Luca is forced underground.   He soon discovers the secrets that have been buried, the lives that have been corrupted, the lies that have spread.  In his absence the world changes; when he again reaches the surface he soon realizes that nothing will ever again be the same...nor would he wish it to be.

    I found this book to be very interesting, the characters compelling, the mysterious twists kept me turning pages.  There was an element of romance, but I highly appreciated the fact that it was very subtle.  There was a kiss or two, but again, subtle and not overly glorified.  The portrayal of family loyalty was great--I enjoyed Luca's admiration for both of his parents and the other relatives mentioned in the story.  

    I'm not sure if maybe it was just me, but I was disappointed in some of the communication of some of the story points and plot. Also, sometimes there were little pieces of dialogue that I did not really know to whom it belonged, and a couple of scenes in which the characters would do something and I had a hard time of understanding why.

    The spiritual symbolism in the book was okay--but also, again, confusing.  I was disappointed that the author did not mention Jesus, or even God.  There was a "Voice" that spoke to Luca--but then, Luca was not a Christian. There is mention of "Wishers" that you assume are Christians because they pray--but that is unclear; many religions pray...to false gods. 

    All in all, it was a very interesting book--beautiful prose, the characters were real, the plot was fascinating.  But still a bit confusing and fuzzy on the meaning and lessons being portrayed.  I would hesitate to recommend this book to just anyone, but I would still let my siblings that are strong in the faith read it as I know they would enjoy the story.  I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

    Find out more about the book HERE!

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

    Monday, December 23, 2013


    Can you imagine an angel appearing before you?  Blinding light, exploding presence, maybe booming voice; who could stand?

    Then, can you imagine telling him, yes?

    I previously posted an imagination piece about Gabriel's visitation to Mary.  I love reading and writing fictional renderings of biblical stories because it helps me to put the story that I may have read over and over into a different perspective.  It helps me to connect with the characters of history as the real people that they were; with feelings, hopes, dreams, passions just like us.

    So what about Mary?

    How would you have responded to the angel's message?

    In Mary's day, pregnancy while being unmarried was met with stoning.  If someone noticed that she was pregnant before she was married, she would be as good as dead.

    How do you think her family responded?  What about Joseph?  What about her dreams of being his wife, carrying his children, and making his home?  What if he did not believe her?  Would he condemn her?  Would he divorce her?

    Mary had the odds stacked against her.  And yet...

    She fell to her knees and declared herself, "...the bondslave of the Lord;"

    She opened herself up to be used by God, in spite of the world.

    She said yes, in spite of what they might say.

    She gave her hands to receive, no matter what the cost.

    She surrendered all,  and believed that God's promise would overcome.

    Mary believed the angel, she believed that the seed growing in her womb was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  She believed that He was the Promised One.  Immanuel.  God with us.  God with her.

    What about you?

    God has called each of us as His children to carry Himself for the world.  To surrender ourselves so that His presence might indwell within us.  To die to ourselves, that we might receive new life within.  To carry Him, to spread His presence, the news of His love, to make disciples.

    Are you ready to surrender everything, to give up your dreams and desires; open yourself to carry Jesus?

    Immanuel.  God with us.  God with you.

    He promises to never leave you or forsake you.  He promises to give you the desires of your heart, if you will but delight in Him.  Do you trust Him?

    God used a heart surrendered of a lowly teenage girl from the tiny country of Israel to bless the entire world with His Promised One.  If you surrender your heart, your passions, your desires, you follow in her footsteps; to carry Jesus and bless the world.

    Monday, December 16, 2013

    the angel's message

    Her hands were sweaty.  She could feel her stomach quivering, her heart racing, as she knelt, the shining being before her. Favor with God?  A baby?  The Son of God?  God, as a baby--in my womb?

    The thought thrilled and terrified her all at the same time.  "The Lord is with you."

    Then, like a punch in the stomach, her thoughts came back to earth, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"  Surely the angel must have made a mistake.  She could not have a child.  She was not married!  She sighed.  It had been a beautiful thought, it would have been nice if it were true.

    But the angel's face did not cloud in confusion.  He did not turn away from her.  No, instead, his face seemed to beam brighter.  A full smile lit across his face as though he was expecting the question.  "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God...For nothing will be impossible with God."

    Goosebumps ran up her neck.  The hair on her arms stood straight up.  Her legs felt weak.

    The sign!  Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

    God with us.

    God with us.

    God with us.

    The God of Noah, that in His righteous anger, covered the entire earth with water, destroying all life but that in the tiny rescue ship.

    The God of Moses, that, struck the Egyptians with plagues, delivered the children of Israel with a mighty hand and outstretched arm.

    The God of Elijah, throwing fire down from heaven, consuming the offering before the prophets of Baal.

    The God of the mighty warrior David.  

    The God that delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the flames.

    The God that held the lions mouths shut for Daniel.

    The God that gave Esther, the beautiful Persian queen, the courage to save her people, and protected her from harm.

    That God.  That God of judgment.  That God of power.  Strength.  Majesty.  Mercy.  Kindness.

    With us.

    In her womb.

    She put her hands to her stomach, her mind racing.  Me?  I am the virgin?  Me?  My son, God?  The Messiah?

    God is come to save us!

    Jesus.  That was the name the angel said to call Him.  Jesus.  Her Son's name.  A smile touched her lips. It was so sweet on her tongue.

    A flash filled her sight.  A vision knocked her.  Blood running down.  Cold stone.  Violent quaking.  The smell of fear.  Sweat.  Blood.  The sounds of anger.  Yelling, screaming, "Harlot!  Adulteress!"  And blackness.  Death.  The ache filled her chest and escalated into a raging fire.  Anxiety ravaged her body.

    What about Joseph, her betrothed?  When he discovers that she is with child, will he believe her that the Child is God?  That she is with child by the Holy Spirit?  Her throat burned.  Or would he order her to be stoned for adultery?

    Immanuel.  God with us.  God with her. She was called Favored One... He would protect her.  He was always faithful.  Just like He was with Noah.  With Moses.  With David.  He was with her.

    Her voice quivered, felt small, 

    "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

    The angel was gone.

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013


    Waiting is so hard.  It could be be waiting for that adorable dress to go on sale, it could be waiting for that avocado to ripen (guacamole, anyone?),  it could be waiting for that phone call, a difficult relationship that you’ve been working hard to reconcile, it could be a dream you’ve held forever…whatever it is, no level of waiting is easier than another.

    I’m stubborn.  I’m a hard nose.  I’m willing to work hard for what I want–even if it kills me.  I don’t care.  I want it, I’m willing to do what it takes to get it.  I don’t care about the pain.  The blood.  The sweat.  The tears.  Bring it on–as long as I get what I want in the end.

    But that’s not the way that God always works.

    He does not ask me to practically kill myself for what I want.  He doesn’t want sacrifice, it doesn’t matter how much blood, sweat, or tears I shed–trying to show Him how badly I want something.  He wants obedience.

    “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,”
    ~from 1 Samuel 15:22

    Sometimes I forget that what want is not necessarily what God wants for me.  Or, if it is something that I believe is within His will, I forget that He is not always working within the time schedule that I want things to occur.

    “Come on, God!  It’s time for this to happen now!”  I point to my watch, tap my toe.

    Amy, are you being faithful where I have you right now? 

    But Lord, I have been!  And I keep trying, isn’t it time that everything pays off now???

    Amy, trust Me.  Wait.  Wait upon the Lord.  Remain faithful.

    I am reminded of the scene in the movie Fireproof.  Even now, as I write this post, I am blasting the song “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller through ear buds.  So good.

    Anyway, the scene with the montage showing Caleb, how while he is waiting for the Lord to work he is simply being obedient.  No matter what the outcome appears to be, he does not waver in that which he believes the Lord has called him to.  He just waits.  He keeps pressing in on the commands of the Lord.  He waits.  He remains faithful.  Even if it means forever.

    Even if it means waiting for eternity.

    “Let us not become weary in doing good,
     for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
    ~Galatians 6:9

    “At the proper time”–in God’s time.  Even if it means til eternity.

    God’s timing is always best.  He is omniscient.  He knows the desires of your heart, He will not withhold good things from you, but He will protect you.  And because He is supreme, His will comes before yours.  Is His will first and foremost in your heart?

    “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
    On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
    To deliver their soul from death
    And to keep them alive in famine.
    Our soul waits for the Lord;
    He is our help and our shield.
    For our heart rejoices in Him,
    Because we trust in His holy name.
    Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us,
    According as we have hoped in You.
    ~Psalm 33:18-22

    What are you waiting for?  
    How can you serve the Lord while you wait?  
    Talk to God about the things on your heart that you are waiting for.  Are they from Him?  Give them up to Him, trust in His holy name, and bask in His peace as He carries them for you–and be faithful wherever He calls you in the meantime.

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    The Greatest Gift {Review and Giveaway}

    As we begin the beautiful month of December, I thought that I would share this beautiful Advent devotional with you...

    As you all probably already know, I adore Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts.  If you have not read it yet, you must get a copy and read it.  It is absolutely life changing and eye-opening.

    When I saw that Ann Voskamp had written a book for Christmas I had to read it--Christmas, Ann Voskamp, a couple of my favorite things, how could I go wrong? ;-)

    ~The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas~

    This Christmas, Ann invites readers into the rich and meaningful celebration of Christmas we all long for --- a celebration of the complete love story that's been coming for you since the very beginning.  

    In what is certain to become an instant holiday classic, Voskamp reaches back into the pages of the Old Testament to explore the lineage of Jesus -- the greatest gift --- through the majestic advent tradition of "The Jesse Tree," each day featuring its own exquisite ornament highlighting the Biblical story (free download of each of the 25 ornaments available from Voskamp's website, annvoskamp.com ).

    (Description from Amazon.com)

    Ann takes us back to the beginning--the very beginning, where humans were created in the image and likeness of God.  She unwinds the story of pain, the story of the fall.  She takes you through the dawns of evil, reveals the depths of the depravity, realizes the desperation for a Savior.

    She shows the goodness of God.  The holiness of the Maker.  The graciousness of the Father.

    I loved the way that this Advent devotional was written.  Truly beginning at the very beginning, showing the desperate need of humankind for a Savior before the miraculous event of God taking on flesh.

    The Gospel glows throughout this book.  Ann reveals and stresses through her poetic, real, and encouraging prose that Christmas was the means to usher in the true redemption.  That Jesus was born to die, to give us life.  But because He is God, the chains of death could not hold Him.  He rose again, and gave us victory.

    Christmas is beginning of the life--the promise fulfilled.  Immanuel, "God with Us".

    I highly recommend this devotional.  The sweetness of the Gospel, the holiness of such an oft commercialized event--this devotional helps it all to come into perspective.

    I adored the style of the formatting.  The graphic design, the fonts, the colors--the peaceful art appropriate to its message.

    Each devotional begins with a scriptural reading, followed by Ann's encouraging words on the particular passage.  The following remaining pages for the day feature a quote appropriate to the day's topic and a few questions for pondering with blank lines on which to write out your own thoughts.

    I am grateful to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

    And now... the moment that you have been waiting for--a Christmas giveaway!
    For this giveaway, I have two of my favorite things for the Christmas season.  Not only am I giving away a copy of Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift devotional, but I am also giving away Chris Tomlin's Glory in the Highest CD!


    One of my favorite Christmas CDs, Glory in the Highest plays like a live worship album.  The renditions of our favorite Christmas carols strike familiar, but a couple of new tunes remind us of the true reason for the season.  This album serves to usher us into the place of worship, standing in awe of God's gracious love, poured out in the form of  Himself, taking on flesh in the prone, humble form of a baby.

    Be blessed, my lovely readers--and enjoy!

    By the way, the giveaway ends Friday, December 6, 2013 at 11:59pm ET!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway