6 Books that Impacted My Life in 2018

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 

Tom’s humility, selflessness and faith is a picture of the glory of God if there ever was one! This story gives me faith that trampled hearts can finish strong.

Waking the Dead by John Eldredge

A child of God is grafted into God. The fact that a child of God’s heart is good is a key topic throughout scripture. This book helped me understand how to live this belief out in the visible world.

Do Over by John Acuff

Acuff explains how to invest in a ‘career savings account’ made up of equal parts relationships, character, new skills and hustle, and offers a refreshing way to evaluate your career or a career change without money being the main factor.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

Basically, all is lost, just as I suspected.

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

A great example of characterisation, similar to Charles Dickens. I will never forget Joseph Poorgrass’ awkwardness, or the way Oaks combed his hair “like mace ’round a nutmeg, or seaweed on a rock after the eb.”

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Stress-inducing, but the part I was boosted by was the idea that it is not normal to live in debt.

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What were your favorite reads of the year?

 

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Don’t You Give Up On A Miracle

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Little Green Journal Entry

“I dreamed last night that I was apprehended by a tall teenage thug, built and styled like a wrestler. I was walking down a stairwell in New York City, and he opened the street door, about to climb up. We stood face to face. My heart was pounding. I don’t remember exactly what kind of struggle we had in my dream, but I remember feeling a clear urgency that my life was in danger. In our struggle, my body stood tense and alert, but my spirit was never scared.

After a long struggle, he gave up fighting and sadly drew off his shirt to show me inch-wide, two-foot whip scars across his back. “Satan did this to me.” he said, eyes downcast. Before he could say more, three of his thug friends came, and all four pushed past me, ran up the stairs and slammed the door. I heard music pound and I knew something dark was going on up there that I could not go against alone. 

I stood at the bottom of the stairs, deeply sad, thinking about those awful scars. Why would he run up the stairs towards an enchanter who whipped him?

The next scene of my dream showed my parents, Ben, Arthur and me in the prayer room of our church, interceding together. 

My eyes shot open after this scene. My breath puffed white in the moonlight, but inside my sleeping bag, my skin was damp and clammy. I fumbled for my watch and pushed the button. 2:55 a.m.

My heart was still racing–every nerve on full alert. I switched my headlamp on red and reached for my tiny Bible, asking God to give me clarity about what my dream meant through his Word.

The first words I set eyes on were these, from Mark:

‘And he went into all the 10 towns, telling everyone he met what God had done for him.’ 

I backtracked. This was the deliverance story of Legion, a man possessed by demons, who everyone else had given up on. Who Jesus set 100% free!

I prayed for a long time in my tent, and drifted back into a calm sleep. 


 

It is incredibly uncommon for me to dream, much less remember it vividly.

This was not a dream.

This was a prophetic vision about Precious One, a real person who my heart had been crying for. I needed to hold on to this prophecy in the days to come, when Precious One verbally agreed with Satan’s lies, when I replayed the sad, sad scene of Precious One trying to destroy their own life.

“And he went into all the 10 towns, telling everyone he met what God had done for him.”

COMPLETE RESTORATION.

Yes! This will be true for Precious One, and soon!


From Luke 4, TPT

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been raised, he went into the synagogue, as he always did on the Sabbath day. When he came to the front to read the Scriptures, they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus unrolled the scroll and read where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, freedom for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.”

After he read this he rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the minister, and sat down. Everyone stared at Jesus, wondering what he was about to say.  Then he added, “These Scriptures came true today in front of you.”


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BELIEVE what your eyes have seen, child. Believe what your eyes will one day see. Our God is a god of miracles.

Greater things are still to come. 

 

Canoe Lake, and War

It was 1 p.m. on a reckless fall day, and a thunderstorm was brewing in the west. Charcoal clouds piled ever darker and higher above the forest, and the wind pushed my canoe away from the cloud, vigorously, as did the waves. “Get away! Go back into the wilderness, back to where you came from. You are not a part of this lake. You don’t belong here,” scolded the smack of the waves.

The sun agreed, boring down on our bare arms and faces, cracking our lips.

Jenny didn’t look up. She was kneeling in the bow of the canoe, curls flying, shoulders bent, face set south-west. Rythmically, she pulled, never stopping, never changing position. I could see her arm and shoulder muscles rippling and knew they were shouting just as loudly as mine, “Rest! We have nothing left! Do you mean to kill is all, human?”

We’d been paddling Canoe Lake for over three hours now–just this same two-mile lake.

There were docks along the way, little stillnesses in the churning wet, that belonged to swanky vacation cottages on the mainland. I stared at one of these as we struggled to pass it. Our progress was so faint, it seemed we were sitting still.

I wrestled with my paddle at the stern, straining to keep the canoe pointed into the waves instead of sideways between them.

I couldn’t always do it.

“Switch!” I called, and Jenny’s momentum instantly joined mine. “You’re rocking this,” she shouted back. “You too!”

You know, in the middle of a pitching lake, life choices are pretty simple. It’s, ‘Keep the canoe from capsizing and make it across the lake.’ or ‘Stop trying and wash up at the shore you started from.’ That’s it. No other options.

We had no anchor, no pause button.

We believed that the showers, food, and ride back to the USA, all waiting for us at the south end of Canoe Lake, were worth fighting for, so we didn’t stop until we got there.

And by hook or by crook, we made it.

Our enemy in the war for man’s soul is like this lake, in some ways.

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War cannot be paused part way thru. A pause sweeps you right back to where you started.

What are you fighting for?

Do you actually believe it will be worth all the pain and struggle you’ve invested? Do you believe in the goal, enough that you refuse to quit until you touch it?

Would it help us win if we believed and acted in agreement with God’s promises before they feel true, and just simply because they ARE?

In Which I Say a Bad Word

“!?&#! Hold my hand, baby!” My niece stretched her hand towards me agreeably and I boosted her up the rock slab, farther away from the precipice. She was tilting her face, totally oblivious to my racing heart or my visions of her receiving (not her first) broken bone. “Holy craft? What holy craft?”

I tried to keep my mouth very, very straight.

Pride: decapitated.

Using low-class language around children is something I cannot stand, so I was feeling about as important as an inchworm at that moment. A brown inchworm, at that, not even a cool lime-green one.

Time to apologise.

But then I lost my cool again, when the three exhausted little mountain climbers didn’t know how to manage their melting Italian ice. I waged a war with shame and sorrow for days, because of the impatient moments I had with those precious babies.

 

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I’m a messed-up person.

Are you messed up too? Do you ever think, “Self, how could you do that? How? You are a monster, and that’s a fact.”

Impatient moments are like indicators on a dashboard. A gift from God actually, like a dashboard warning light is a gift to those of us who don’t take time for routine car maintenance.

Low oil level! Time to visit the mechanic shop!

Low river-of-life levels! Time to stop flying solo! Time to go to Jesus and repent, learn, rest and receive.

“Ugh, bad timing. I have no time for a shop visit, Jesus.” I whined.

“If you want to have time for one, you do.”

So I didn’t do laundry, didn’t deposit my checks, didn’t go shopping, didn’t make dinner for my neighbor (I found out later her refrigerator was already packed. Thanks, Jesus!), didn’t clean, didn’t weed, didn’t trim the yard, didn’t shave my legs… Basically, didn’t do all the good things nice, responsible women Must Always Do.

Scandalous!

But…

I had time to feast. And I was starving.

Listen to these words the Lord gave his kiddos after miraculously making them a free nation:

I have removed your backbreaking burdens
   and have freed your hands from the hard labor and toil.
You called out to me in your time of trouble and I rescued you.
   I came down from the realm of the secret place of thunder,
   where mysteries hide.
   I came down to save you.
   I tested your hearts at the place where there was no water to drink,
   the place of your bitter argument with me.


Listen to me, my dear people.
   For I’m warning you, and you’d better listen well!
   For I hold something against you.

Don’t ever be guilty of worshiping any other god but me.
I am your only God, the living God.
   Wasn’t I the one who broke the strongholds over you
   and raised you up out of bondage?
   Open your mouth with a mighty decree;
   I will fulfill it now, you’ll see!
   The words that you speak, so shall it be!

 

But my people still wouldn’t listen;
   my princely people would not yield to me.
So I lifted my grace from off of their lives and I surrendered them
   to the stubbornness of their hearts.
   For they were living according to their own selfish fantasies.
O that my people would once and for all listen to me
   and walk faithfully in my footsteps, following my ways.
Then and only then will I conquer your every foe
   and tell every one of them, ‘You must go!’
Those who hate my ways will cringe before me
   and their punishment will be eternal.
But I will feed you with my spiritual bread.
   You will feast and be satisfied with me,
   feeding on my revelation-truth like honey
   dripping from the cliffs of the high place.”

You are not meant to single-handedly save the day, friend! You are designed to be a partner. A helper. You might not like the sound of this one, but you are meant to be a follower.

You know Esther, that 10/10 who married an unrighteous king and risked her head for her people? She followed her uncle’s advice. She was backed up by an entire nation’s prayers. She walked after God, in faith.

Deborah, that warrior-prophetess? She spoke God’s words. “The Eternal God of Israel commands you…” “The Eternal has decreed…”

Don’t be guilty of worshipping the gods of I Was Made For Hard Work So Grrr, Let’s Do This

or of I Have Got To Hustle My Act Together Before All Is Lost, heaven-warrior. Approval traps have 100 names, but they’re all bent on robbing your joy and sanity. You’ll find your heart saying far worse things than ‘holy craft’.

Truth is, Jesus has got what it takes to save the day without your help. Right now, he just wants to be with you. “Come to me!”- that’s what he is always saying.

You’ve got to be with Jesus if you want him to feed you. After you eat your fill, you’ll have the courage to follow his unpredictable ways. He’s not from this kingdom, so his reasoning takes some getting used to. But if you are his follower… then follow!

If he leads you away from your Good & Proper Things and towards his heart, just go with it.

The world will remember your words of life far longer than your 24-hour stubble.

Night

When the mountains have tucked the sun snugly to bed under a thick wool coverlet of blackest black, the moon rises, and takes matters into her own hands.

First one star joins her, then another, and as their band grows they sing a silent song of rest, and safety.

The frogs hear the song, and take part with their deepest and best bass, the crickets tune their fiddles and join in, the coyotes sing the bridge, and at that signal, laughing squads of lightning bugs take flight, dancing out and out and out until the meadow matches the sky.

A mischievous paradox links hands with the quiet air, brushing my face with warm  swaths of day-old grasses that had just begun to ferment under the sun, and snuffs of dizzily sweet locust, and surprising shiver swirls wherever my skin is bare to remind me of why the mountain creatures are tucked down warm into their nests.

“Be at peace, and sleep,” sings the night song. No response can be expected from the mountains, for the rise of the stars has buried them even more deeply under their inky coverlet.

“Come away with us, and dance!” cry the lovesick fireflies.

“Follow me,” whispers a moonbeam, twinkling distractingly on silent paths of white, “I will show you things no one else shall see.”

A bat zooms by, feasting. An owl shouts for his wife but she doesn’t hear him because she is busy shouting for someone else. Baby whitetail flicks his tail, and nudges his mother’s belly. Mr. Opposum sneaks out of his oak tree and takes a back way, hoping his neighbor will not follow him to the stawberry bed, because he wants all the strawberries AND all the grubs for himself.

The stars sing on. The crickets play on.  Fireflies dance on.

Night.

How can anyone leave this scene, and go to sleep?

Something About Heaven Vision

Sometimes folks give me really great compliments. Compliments like, “I’ve learned a lot from you.” And they are more than twice my age.

Sometimes I do really stupid things. Like promising things I actually can’t follow through on, or getting annoyed because someone is wasting my time.

Sometimes I stare at the trees for a bit, trying to decide if I am a wonderful person, or a monster.

Jesus sent some words to me one of these times. He said, “I have given you these treasures in an earthen vessel.” 

It’s amazing how he explains things so well to me. It made perfect sense, with just that simple explanation.

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This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar—to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us. We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours.

We Don’t Get To Be Here Long

Bu-BUMP, bu-BUMP, goes the blood in my jugular vein, as if my blood vessels are a track and the blood cells are thoroughbreds, surging towards the finish line. I stomp the accelerator and turn the wheel into the mat of blackberry vines, very aware that my body is being forced back into the seat as we climb. A grumble of mud and stones, a scrape, and we slide gracefully on to the mossy space below the yellow beeches. It is 23° but my cheeks are hot. “Thank you, Jesus!” I squeak, and Harley pants and yawns loudly, as she does every time we live through a moment of terror.

Fear stomps on my lungs every time I think of driving up that lane. Some of you will shake your heads and sigh, and some of you will understand.

The only reason I began driving to the top of my dirt lane at all is because my father showed me how and then said, “It’s your turn.” I hate being wimpy in front of him after he shows me how to do something. It’s like saying, “You are a liar, Dad.”

The only reason I made it to the top of my dirt lane the second time, and the 202nd time, was because once you start going up, you can’t stop. Stopping is actually dangerous. Driving up just feels dangerous.

Once I had to jump start my car in a black parking lot, all alone. Slump-backed in the rain, I shivered and prayed for 32 minutes before finally connecting the clamps. My hand would go towards the battery, and then jerk away.

I’ve learned recently that dream-chasers fall into two categories: Tryers and Doers.

Tryers have options. They can say, “I am trying for my lifeguard certification. I’m training 14 hours a week, but I honestly doubt I will pass the test.” They never sign up for the test, because they don’t think they will pass it. Reasons, reasons, reasons…. all very valid and unable to be explained away.

Doers do not have options. They say, “I will refuse to be comfortable until I have set up a new way of life. By hook or by crook, I will get there, and no delay.”

The thing with trying, is that you are never truly a failure. If you set out to TRY, you can rationalize success either way. You will stand in the parking lot, in the dark rain, wasting time because you are trying to jump the car but you must first evaluate all the dangers.

If you set out to DO, there is only one way to win. You will put your foot to the accelerator, knowing once you begin you will not be ‘safe’ until you reach the goal.

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You do the thing, and no delay, because you refuse to say, “You are a liar, Dad.”

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I know I am.

 

 

What If He Asks You To Remove Your Shoes?

Have you ever raced across hot sand? I have, and what’s more, something prickly shared its bounty with me. To remove all the thorns from my foot was a significant challenge.

Imagine strolling into work one day and then stopping dead in your tracks because your tools are totally engulfed in fire. They aren’t being burned up, mind you, just surrounded by crackling flames.

Now imagine that you hear your name being called, but you see no one. So you move closer. And then you realize it is God talking, and he starts explaining your life mission to you.

My friend, Zvek, and I sometimes discuss our life missions. We are both nearing 30, so we say we have just a few more years to complete our training and get our acts together. Jesus started his ministry at 30, and we are high achievers.

So Moses–that slave baby turned prince turned fugative–do you know about him? Well, he thought he had his act together when he reached middle age. He was still a fugative, sure, but he had a family and a job. Life was as steady and predictable as it had ever been. But one day he drove his herds near the mountain of God. That was the day it all went down.

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Moses sees a bush on fire, right there at the foot of the mountain of God. Weird, right? Fire in a desert is abnormal, that’s a fact, so Moses has to take a closer look. A voice calls his name, and he recognises it as God’s voice. “Moses!” God says, “Take off your shoes. This is a holy place.”

Now, reader, please remember that Moses wasn’t standing on a wave-smoothed beach. He was in the middle of a dry, rocky, thorny, burning hot (110°) climate. Scorpions and venomous snakes live here. Would you like to walk across this terrain barefoot?

Moses wants to know what God is up to more than he wants to preserve the lifespan of his feet. He tosses his shoes, follows God’s voice, and finds out his life mission, right there by a bush that is in flames… but not a bit damaged!

That bush, reader, let’s think about that bush for a minute. It was ON FIRE, the quickest death–the worst danger a bush could know–and yet, safe. Untouched. A humble bush, used for something incredible, a living picture of the language of a world close at hand, now, but also very far away. Let’s think about this for a bit. What could it mean?

Getting back to Moses before he vanishes from sight, let’s go over the steps he’s taken today.

1. He chose to travel to the mountain of God. Proximity to holy places.

2. He saw something near the mountain of God that was unusual. It reminded him of one of God’s names: Consuming Fire, and he went towards it, thinking, “Could it be that God is on the move?” Curiosity. Eyes wide open. Understanding of God’s attributes. Action.

3. God called Moses’ name, and he said, “Here I am.” Choosing relationship over being a spectator.

4. Barefoot on burning, thorn-studded sand. A walk past the snake and the scorpion’s dens. “I’d rather be in pain and near you than whole and far away”. Speaking “I will” instead of “I need”.

A refiner’s fire NEVER consumes the gold, reader. Believe it.

Know who God is. Walk in faith.

Always be curious.

My Best Reads of 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird  and its sequel, Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee

Adventure, laughs, suspense, history and characters whose beliefs will walk with you the rest of your life. Read these when you need a reminder that there once were and probably still are folks with deep-rooted manners and even deeper-rooted morals.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

A nail-biter, with humor and warmth. I can’t say much about this short story, because the plot is too well-crafted to risk spoiling.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

A gory and thought-provoking prediction of the future, published in 1932. Deeply depressing.

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

A timid, wounded girl fights her enemies under the teaching of two silent companions. Best listened to when night hiking through bear-infested woods.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Miracles and heartbreak; a narrative of one of the Sudan’s Lost Boys. Read this when you need incentive to re-evaluate your life values.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

A suspense story full of unforgettable quotes. Read this when you need financial inspiration.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin

A good read when your brain feels consistently overloaded.

The Paradigm by Jonathan Cahn

A biblical scholar’s view of recent USA history. A good companion when your brain needs to get up and go for a brisk run.

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry

Case studies by a child psychiatrist. An atheistic explanation of the medical and scientific effect specific trauma cases have engraved into young lives. Read when your mind is strong enough to process and filter gritty subjects.

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

An entertaining and inspiring approach to etiquette–if you believe polite behavior starts in the mind and heart, then you will love the angle of this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to be a Better Friend

Jo, my oldest sister, used to spit-shine my face on the way to church, back in the days when all 8 of us used to cram into our wood-paneled 7-passenger van. The spit-shining wasn’t painful but I hated the feeling when she took her fingernail to my eyelashes. At five years old, I had much to learn about proper etiquette. Such as face-washing.

A few decades later, I still have much to learn about etiquette and general self-improvement. I named 2017 ‘The Year of Realizing I Am A Horrible Person’

After that, I read a handful of self-help books and prayed to the Lord for change. Soon I realized that becoming a better person can be as easy as teaching yourself to say a few new words. Here are five habits I am grafting into my world:

Know your priorities.


Sit down in a quiet place, and write a list of things you care about more than anything else in the world. Number those things in order of importance. Look at this list often, and compare it to where your time is spent. If 60% of your time is taken by your third-most-important priority, it is time for a change of direction!

You will be glad for the skill of evaluating your priorities when five Very Important People ask you to do something for/with them on the same day, which also happens to be the day you blew a tire, discovered a humongous bill in the mail and accidentally deleted all of your cell phone contacts. Know your priorities and you will be prepared for days of Not-So-Present-Brain.

Don’t open a message unless you have time to immediately respond to it.


Text, email, private message and voicemail all come with the same disclaimer: ‘If you open me at a red light, telling yourself, “I will reply as soon as I get home”, you shall thereafter just narrowly escape collision with an overturned cucumber truck, slosh hot coffee down your pant and into your right boot, encounter a freak hail storm, and by the time you reach home have completely forgotten what the message said or that you received one at all.’

Teach yourself to be self-controlled enough to reach an appropriate time slot before opening messages. Even if you only have a minute to reply to a lengthy email, you can say, “Got it! I’ll share my response on such-and-such a day.”, and then write it in your schedule to send a full response on that day.

Learn to say, “I’ll think about it.”


Immediate gratification is not normal, or healthy. Similarly, expecting your brain to always configure a great decision at the drop of a hat is not to be expected. If someone asks you a question and you can’t quickly form a sure-fire answer, just admit that you need some time to think about it.

This is especially helpful when making plans. Saying, “I need to think about this before I respond.”, will give you space to evaluate your priorities before agreeing to dedicate time to something.

Show up at special events.


If you are invited to a graduation, shower, wedding, or other milestone event, make every effort to attend.

This exact event will never reoccur again, and it was an honor for you to be added to the guest list. Despite what anyone says, your friend will notice that you loved him/her enough to show up with your support. The host/hostess will be thrilled that another person showed up to eat the cheese-stuffed dates it took them three hours to make. You’ll meet people you’d have never set eyes on otherwise.

The perfect powder on the mountains will come again. Hunting season will come again. No one cares that you don’t have a perfect dress to wear.

Just go. And if you can’t, RSVP immediately. A tree died for that little RSVP card–throwing it away would be ungrateful.

Replace social media with pie.


Social media relationships require zero investment; a hand-delivered pie is a joy forever. Take a minute to send a text just because. Call someone you said you’d pray for and say, “Hey, my lunch break only lasts ten more minutes but I wanted to spend them praying for you.” Invite people to join in on things that are a part of your normal routine.

People need people. And people want to know you, even if you are five and forgot to wash your face this morning.

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