Sunday, July 31, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #5, Day #1

My Pink Princess Slippers. Colossians 3:1-10 was a lengthy passage to study on day one, but what a beautiful set of verses to build our identity on. Our hearts and minds should be concerned with heavenly things because we are positioned with Christ – at the right hand of the Father. There is so much that we need to resolve to put to death in our lives: bad language, immoral behavior, idolatry and more.

As royalty (we are sons and daughters of the King of the Universe), shouldn’t our primary concern be those things that our kingdom is all about? This lesson led to a conversation with Jesus in which I confessed that I am not usually concerned with heavenly things. My concerns are selfish: my own health, my family, how we will spend our time together. Shouldn’t I be more concerned with the kingdom impact of my illness? But no, I just want to receive the good news from my doctor that the prescribed treatment did what it was supposed to do and there is no cancer in my body. Shouldn’t I be more concerned that my doctor receive the Good News from me?

Being a princess isn’t about ball gowns, a perfect appearance and a handsome prince to marry. It’s a great responsibility that I don’t handle very well. I pray for a change in outlook and behavior that will make my Father proud of me.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Can We Talk – Video Session #5 – A New Road

Priscilla talked about the roads that we have traveled that we’re not so proud of. She shared her experience of dread when she approached an exit that previously led her to some very bad choices. But as she passed the exit, the Lord made it clear to her that those choices were in the past. That she was traveling a new road. The Lord makes all things new – including us.

I expect that this will be a week of breaking down strongholds. Hallelujah! Who are we in Christ? As Christians, the Lord has put us on a new road. It’s a road beyond our pain and mistakes. It’s a rewarding road. It’s a road that defines us in Christ. I can’t wait to travel it this week! It will involve conversing with God about the specific road He has for me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bible Study: Encouragement For The Persecuted - 1 Thessalonians - Chapter 1


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. At the time of its writing, early 2009, things are looking pretty bleak with the economy and unemployment among other things. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. Stay strong. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor 1 Thessalonians Chapter 1. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



This first letter to the Thessalonians was written by the apostle Paul during his 2nd missionary journey, 49-51 AD. The Thessalonians were a group made up of mostly gentile converts who were persecuted by the local synagogue because they were losing members to the new faith.

1 – See Acts 7:1-9 for an illustration of the trouble encountered in Thessalonica.

1:1 – Paul, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy were traveling and ministering together. In Acts 15:22, it is explained that Silas was chosen by the Jerusalem council to join Paul and Barnabas in ministry. Timothy joined them in Acts 16:1 in Derbe. With whom do you minister? Why?

1:2 – Why do you think Paul was thankful for the Thessalonians? According to Ephesians 5:20, we are supposed to thank God for all things. Paul certainly lived by this. For whom do you pray and constantly thank God for their part in your life? Do they know how well you esteem them?

1:3 – Paul noticed the good things the Thessalonians did. Not rituals or practices that were debated at this time like circumcision (see Galatians 5:6). Instead, he noticed their faith, their love, their hope in Christ. These characteristics lead to good works (see James 2:14-26). Do you tend to notice the good that others do, or the bad? How can you make a point of encouraging someone by reminding them about the good that they do? After you encourage, pay attention. I believe you will notice that person acting in the faith that you have noticed.

I can say for a fact that the encouragement of others has definitely pushed me forward in ministry. I would never be writing this if that first person didn’t encourage me to facilitate my first Bible study discussion group.

1:4 – We were chosen by God before the creation of the world. See Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 3:12, and 2 Thessalonians 2:13.

1:5 – How have you seen the gospel come in power in the Holy Spirit? With whom have you shared this testimony?

The power is the message of salvation, the gospel, according to Romans 1:16. The power of the Spirit gives us hope. See Romans 5:13.

1:6 – What suffering did the Thessalonians face? Re-read Acts 17:1-9. Have you experienced persecution because of your faith? If so, how has it affected your joy? If not, do you know someone who has been persecuted? How is their joy?

1:7 – Macedonia and Achaia were the two Roman provinces of Greece at the time. Paul was actually attacked in Achaia in Acts 18:12. It was significant that the Thessalonians would be an example to these people. To whom are you an example?

1:8 – The Thessalonians’ faith had an affect on people in Macedonia and Achaia. How far reaching is your faith?

Do you think Paul’s compliments encouraged these people who were being persecuted for their faith to continue stepping out and taking risks to share their faith? Would it encourage you?

1:9 – The Thessalonians turned from idolatry to serve God. This testimony was given by others about them. What will those who know you testify about you?

1:10 – See Romans 1:18 for some insight into God’s wrath. Paul is talking about the wait for Jesus’ second coming. Refuting false teaching about this subject becomes the purpose of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.


Each chapter of these letters to the Thessalonians teaches much about how to pray for yourself and others. How have you learned to pray today?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #4, Day #5

Trusting God When Bad Things Happen. Habakkuk 3:17-19 reminded me that times may get tough, but I have victory in Jesus Who is my strength and makes my feet steady on the path. What a simple, powerful truth. I will trust Him and lean on Him every day.

This lesson was accompanied by an incredible quote from Charles Spurgeon that basically says we should be joyful wherever God leads us because He is too wise to err and too good to be unkind. This is a truth that I want to remember when bad things happen.

REVIEW: Surrender the Dawn by MaryLu Tyndall

M.L. Tyndall’s “Surrender the Dawn” is a wonderful read filled with lots of seafaring action, suspense and intrigue, romance and the struggle to believe in God because of tragedy. Cassandra is trying to provide for her family: her mother and two sisters. Taking their last bit of money, she wants to invest in a privateer but no one will take on a woman investor. Luke Heaton just won a ship gambling. It is a broken-down vessel that needs lots of work and he has no money to fix her up or he would endeavor to become a privateer. Destiny brings these two together and it seems to be a perfect business arrangement.

Cassandra has a difficult time trusting Luke because he is a drunk, a gambler and a womanizer. She is also wounded spiritually by her father’s death. But Luke actually makes strides in changing his ways and has some success as a privateer. And it doesn’t hurt that her heart flutters whenever she sees him or hears his name. So, when her money is stolen, Luke saves the day once again, endearing himself even further.

Luke, on the other hand, feels that he is worthless. He feels responsible for his parents’ deaths. He believes that he is so far beneath Cassandra that he shouldn’t even entertain thoughts of a future with her. But he can’t get her out of his mind. When his circumstances change for the worst, he struggles mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Will both come to terms with the fact that their struggles should bring them closer to God? I absolutely loved how this story is intertwined with the previous novel in the series. Although this can be read as a standalone novel, it is more enjoyable when you already know the supporting characters. Also, the dramatization of the inspiration for the Star Spangled Banner brought tears to my eyes. The plot led me to discover deeper ideas that I used in prayer as well. So, I am praying that Jesus will continue to give M.L. Tyndall ideas for books and that her writing will reach people for Christ.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #4, Day #4

God’s Protection When I Am Intimidated. Jeremiah 1:17-19. Have you noticed that, when God assigns the task, it is ALWAYS bigger than you? This scripture reading led me to confess my fear of huge assignments. It also brought me to a place where I thanked the Lord for His presence and strength and power. I also thanked Him for using me at all. I know that the assignments He has planned for us in the future will appear bigger and bigger as He grows my faith, and I pray that my fear and intimidation will decrease and my trust in Him will increase and engage sooner each time.

I know He will be faithful to this prayer. In fact, He already has. He is giving me opportunities each day to share Him with others, and this assignment is growing increasingly pleasurable where it used to be daunting.

REVIEW: Undercover Pursuit by Susan May Warren

The third installment in the “Missions of Mercy” series, “Undercover Pursuit”, is an incredibly enjoyable reading experience! I laughed out loud at the situation as the book opened and became instantly invested in these characters. SMW has a gift for drawing her readers into her novels. The prose is so well written that it plays like a movie in my imagination in complete Technicolor and Surround Sound!

Luke Dekker, another operative with Stryker International, is on a mission to protect a CIA informant. Scarlett Hanson is on a mission to get her sister married to her former crush. When Luke meets Scarlett, he assumes that she is his date, and an agent sent to protect his informant. Scarlett knew her sister would try to set her up with someone during the wedding, but never imagined he’d be as amazing as Luke! This comical case of mistaken identity quickly takes a serious turn when the terrorists suspect that something isn’t quite right.

This novel is an amazing roller-coaster ride that you will not want to put down! Start it early on a lazy day, and you can probably read it in one sitting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #4, Day #3

Yesterday’s study topic was so incredible, and when I saw the heading for the next set of scriptures (God Uses Unseen Supernatural Sources to Provide Protection), I chose another set of scriptures from there to begin today. What I learned from 2 Kings 6:14-17 is that the protection God provides is more numerous and powerful than the enemy we can see. God’s protection is also more powerful than the enemy we can’t see.

This powerful study time led me to pray that He would open my eyes to His power at work and that I would have a spiritual awareness of the vast army that is guarding me.

False Sense of Security. Isaiah 30:1-5 brought sin and rebellion right into my face! Praise God! I want to trust in Him alone, not things and people. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that He put gifted doctors in my path on this journey through cancer. And I do believe that He works through them – and treatment. But HE GETS ALL THE CREDIT FOR HEALING. After all, if it isn’t His will, healing will not come no matter what the doctors do or prescribe. Praise Jesus!

I am so thankful for this study. It has helped me to confront so much negativity in my life in such a short time. Normally I can go through a ten-week study and only tackle one or two things that need to change in me. But I think that this study, which is all you and the Word and the Lord, engages the student in such a way that you can’t help but be changed by God.

My prayer time was a conversation about judgment. There will come a time when I stand before the Lord to give an account of every careless word I’ve spoken and He will wipe away every tear. Here is what I wrote in my journal: “I don’t want the last tears He wipes from my eyes to be tears of humiliation and disgrace, but rather tears of joy at being in His presence.”

REVIEW: Mission: Out of Control by Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren has outdone herself with the second novel in the “Missions of Mercy” series, “Mission: Out of Control”. Brody “Wick” Wickham, former Green Beret and friend and teammate of Chet Stryker is going crazy on mandatory R&R after a mission. So, he takes a job as a bodyguard to make a few extra bucks that will save his parents’ home and send his little brother to college. How hard could it be to guard a Senator’s daughter on a trip through Europe?

Veronica Wagner is not your typical politician’s daughter. Her alter-ego, Vonya, is a singing, mosh pit diving entertainer getting ready for a tour in Europe. What her bodyguard doesn’t know is that she has an agenda besides rehearsing and performing. She is also gathering data for the CIA in exchange for the agents working to release a child she befriended from a terrorist camp.

This is an action-packed novel that can be read almost in one sitting – the pages turn that fast! The suspenseful story sparks the imagination. The characters are heroic and larger than life. Susan May Warren has penned another wonderful read that touches the heart, mind and soul.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #4, Day #2

God Protects Even In Times Of Hardship. Psalm 23:4-5. A familiar passage, but one definitely worthy of revisiting again and again. Is God’s presence enough protection? It should be. His presence is assured when we belong to Him. And when we belong to Him, the victory is assured as well. We WILL be with Him for eternity if we are His.

He has lavished so much blessing upon me. Blessing I certainly don’t deserve, but He wants to give me because I am His precious daughter. He is with me. Everyday. He is not an absentee Father, but a living active participant in the lives of all of His children. Hallelujah!

Psalm 33:18-22. In those times when I am afraid, I need to remember that I am to fear God alone. I also need to remind myself of Who He is by praying His attributes that I’ve learned from scripture back to Him.

REVIEW: Point of No Return by Susan May Warren

“Point of No Return” is an incredible new novel by Susan May Warren. This wonderful “Missions of Mercy” series picks up where the author’s “Mission: Russia” series left off. Mae Lund is on a mission. Her nephew, Josh, has disappeared from a mission camp in the eastern European country of Georgia. Mae needs help, and the only person who comes to mind is Chet Stryker, an old flame who broke her heart.

Chet is on a mission of his own: to find and return a missing woman to her people so that an arranged marriage can come to pass. So what if the mission takes him back to Georgia, where he is a fugitive marked for death by a terrorist. So what if the memories of his time there 20 years ago still haunt him. So what if the missing woman is the sister of the woman he loved and killed. So what if he finds himself working alongside Mae and they have a history. But what if he really isn’t over the beautiful, intelligent, reckless pilot?

This outstanding novel must be devoured. Exotic locations, strong female characters and hunky male heroes flesh out the intellectual and intricate plot peppered with romance and Christian principles make this an absolute MUST for your summer reading list. Warren’s pen drips with intrigue and suspense. She is truly a force to be reckoned with.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #4, Day #1

The Hedge That Protects. Psalm 118:6. This is a wonderful scripture to begin the week with! I love that, since there is a fair amount of reading to introduce the topic on day one, this study is designed with only one scripture to study on that first day. And this is a powerful verse, fully capable of standing up on its own.

The concept is simple: God is on my side so I won’t be afraid. What can man do to me? God is absolutely my protection! I’m not saying that life in relationship with Jesus is without pain. I have had my fair share of that. But I know that everything that touches my life, BECAUSE I BELONG TO CHRIST, HAS BEEN SIFTED THROUGH HIS FINGERS. He is with me at every turn. Hallelujah! And I would much rather be in pain WITHIN His will than to be in pain without it! I apologize for my tangent on pain, but in my prayer time, I spoke to God about what I am afraid of, and it turns out to be pain. So, I sought a way to make my suffering more bearable.

Not only do I have the assurance of my salvation. I also have the promise that my sufferings will be limited because my life is the duration of vapor (according to James). Hallelujah! I continue to be amazed at how Jesus stands before us (and leads the way) as we confront the things in us that He wants to purge to make us more like Him. He is incredible!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Can We Talk – Video Session #4 – The Hedge That Protects

Priscilla uses an illustration about her children and the local swimming pool and arm floaties to talk about how God protects His people. After swimming with the floaties for awhile, her youngest son grew in confidence and wanted the arm floaties removed. When Priscilla complied and the boy jumped back into the water, he struggled without the flotation devices and became frustrated because he really couldn’t swim on his own.

I am so like that little boy! What do I REALLY trust in? My savings accounts? My home alarm system? My seat belt and airbags? Or my God? WOW! Another powerful question that promises to be a powerful week of study and prayer. What makes me feel so secure that I remove the arm floaties that God has provided for me?

This week, I am supposed to have a conversation with God about the things I trust. I can already feel the pain of conviction coming.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bible Study: Coming Out Of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 40


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Exodus Chapter 40. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



40:1 – the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month.

40:3 – the ark of the Testimony was put in place and the curtain shielding it.

40:4 – the table was put into place with everything on it and all its articles. Then the lampstand was put into place and its lamps were set up.

40:5 – the altar of incense was set up in front of the ark of the Testimony and the curtain entrance to the tent of meeting was set up.

40:6 – the altar of burnt offering was set up.

40:7 – the basin was set up and filled with water.

40:8 – the courtyard curtains were put up.

40:9 – the anointing oil was used to anoint the tabernacle and everything in it.

40:10 – the altar of burnt offering and its utensils were anointed.

40:11 – the basin and its stand were anointed.

40:12 – Aaron and his sons were washed with water.

40:13 – Aaron was dressed and anointed.

40:14 – Aaron’s sons were dressed in tunics.

40:17-33 – Moses set up the tabernacle completely. Imagine what the Holy Place would look like based on the description of the furniture and the curtains. Remember that there are lamps burning. Take a moment to savor the sights, smells, sound and feel of this room! Why don’t you jot down in your journal a few things that impact you about what you experienced.

40:17 – What significance does this date have? The tabernacle was completed one year after the Israelites left Egypt.

40:34-38 – Do you watch and wait on the Lord as Israel did? How can you do this better? Write a prayer of commitment to God promising to wait on Him either with a big decision or in daily life. Be specific.


What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #3, Day #5

Breaking the Cycle. This is the lesson I need! Thank you, Jesus!!! 2 Kings 18:3-7 not only helped me to prayerfully identify two very specific idols in my life, it led me to pray that the Lord would teach me to cling to Him in the good times. It’s easy to hold onto God in the hard times, when you’re suffering and in pain and need Him desperately. But when the suffering has ended, we tend to loosen our grip on Him. Now that chemotherapy is over, I don’t want to let up even a little bit on the grip I have on Him.

I learned that, to cut down these idols in my life, I must “take each thought captive”. As thoughts pop into my head regarding these subjects, I must IMMEDIATELY focus on Christ and push the thought out of my head.

What a powerful time of study and prayer. I will definitely study more on this topic.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #3, Day #4

Consequences of idolatry. Romans 1:21-32. Wow! What a quiet time! This passage showed me the domino-effect that begins with idolatry and travels through pain and consequences to wickedness and sin to disobedience and rebellion and ultimately leading to death!

I never saw idolatry as dangerous as it truly is before today! And it is something that can easily be engaged in almost without realizing it. In fact, I realized that cancer has become an idol in my life. So my prayer time with the Lord this morning was full of tears and longing to focus on Him and smash this and other idols in my life. I begged the Lord to teach me how to truly live like it doesn’t matter what the results of my post-chemo tests are because He is in control REGARDLESS!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #3, Day #3

Secret Idols. Ouch. My study of Ezekiel 8:9-12 prompted a conversation with the Lord on the way to work about recognizing things that I allow to take His place in my life. It branched into a discussion of sinful things that “lurk” in the dark places of my heart, hiding from the light, deliberately looking for an opportunity to catch me by surprise and POUNCE! It reminded me of the scripture that teaches us that the enemy is prowling around for us like a lion, waiting for the moment to attack us.

I prayed that I would not become the enemy’s prey. I asked that God would make me alert so that I would not fall into any traps or be caught by surprise. It made me realize that, if I stay close to Jesus, His light will illuminate everything in my path and the enemy will have no place to hide. So I am coming to You, Lord, to ask that You would fill me with tenacity to spend time with You and maintain that connection. Give me a hunger and a thirst for more of You. In Christ’s wonderful name. Amen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #3, Day #2

Human Heroes. What a great quiet time I had with the Lord, today in Exodus 32:1-4! This is a two-fold lesson that led to a two-fold prayer on the way to work this morning. My prayer was that the Lord would keep me from idolizing others, and keep me focusing on Him. I also asked that He would keep me from becoming an idol to anyone else and that I would actively point others to Him.

The discussion evolved into my asking how I should handle situations where someone compliments my performance. I know some people who say “I’m glad you were blessed”, but it sounds arrogant. Is it wrong to say “thank you”? Or is that taking credit from God? Or should I say, “Thank you. It was an honor to be able to serve you/the Lord in this way”?

What a productive lesson and wonderful interaction in prayer.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #3, Day #1

Who is the Lord? Is Jesus really the Lord of my life? Or have I given that prominent position to someone or something less deserving? Today’s study of Psalm 24 was a challenge. Not only was I applying the 5 Ps to the most verses (10), the material is truly convicting.

Do I glorify God as I should? As He deserves? I want to live to glorify Him. I want to make choices to glorify Him. This is a difficult subject for which to choose a “Plan and Pin” action. I decided to start small. I am already in the Word every day, so I need to take it a step further. So, I will apply what I learn from His Word more often so that I start to resemble Christ.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Can We Talk – Video Session #3 – Who Is The Lord?

A story about Priscilla’s niece, who became upset when she received a dime as she attempted to collect nickels, really drove home a spiritual truth: How often do we hang onto what we’ve grown used to when God is trying to present us with something more valuable? I anticipate that this will be a painful, but worthwhile week of study and prayer as I confront the things that I’ve allowed to capture my attention when I should have been giving it to Jesus!

This week, I will be dialoguing with God about what I value.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bible Study: Coming Out of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 39


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Exodus Chapter 39. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…


39:1-31 – Which piece of priestly clothing inspires you? Can you picture people dressed this way in the time of Jesus?

39:32-33 – During the inspection of the tabernacle, “How Moses’ heart must have pounded! He knew above all others that if he missed the tiniest deviation from God’s command and allowed a defective piece to be carried into the sanctuary, it could mean death for all of them.” (A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place – Beth Moore)

39:33 – Moses inspects the tent, furnishings, clasps, frames crossbars, posts and bases.

39:34 – Moses inspects the ram skins, sea cow hides and shielding curtain.

39:35 – Moses inspects the ark of the Testimony, its poles and atonement cover.

39:36 – Moses inspects the table, its articles, the bread of the Presence.

39:37 – Moses inspects the gold lampstand, its accessories, and the oil for its light.

39:38 – Moses inspects the gold altar, the anointing oil, the fragrant incense, and the curtain for the entrance to the tent.

39:39 – Moses inspects the bronze altar, its grating, poles and utensils, the basin and its stand.

39:40 – Moses inspects the curtains of the courtyard, poles and bases, the curtain for the courtyard entrance, ropes and tent pegs, the furnishings for the tabernacle.

39:41 – Moses inspects the woven garments for ministering, the sacred garments for the priests.

39:43 – Moses blessed them – barak – to bend the knee. Moses saluted the people by dropping to his knees.


What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #2, Day #5

What a powerful lesson! Before I even finished the 5 Ps on the first set of scriptures, I was having a heart-to-Heart conversation with the Lord about my relationships with both believers and unbelievers. I candidly expressed my desire to honor Him with the relationships in my life, and my inability to determine whether some of those individuals really are believers. I also know that I don’t always act like a believing disciple of Christ, but I never want to be mistaken for a non-believer.

This subject of relationships is one of longsuffering contemplation for me. Shortly after I became a Christian, I moved across the country with my family and made “friends” during my senior year of high school, but none of those relationships lasted. I have accumulated several friends over the years who I know I can ask for prayer and they will, but I don’t see them. We seem to rally around each other when the physical and spiritual battle intensifies and we need support.

Lord, I want You to be the Orchestrator of the relationships that You desire in my life. I ask that You mold my heart and give me discernment so there is no doubt that these are relationships You have ordained. I lay this area of my life open to You, Father. Prepare me in the meantime to be the partner that You want me to be in this relationship. Then, in Your perfect time, make it happen. In Jesus’ name, I ask this. Amen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #2, Day #4

This was a timely lesson for the times in which we live. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 spoke to God’s desires for my finances this morning. After examining these verses under the 5 Ps method, I couldn’t help but conclude that I haven’t been living up to God’s expectations for my life in this area.

Why am I collecting “stuff”? It’s not like I’m building a collection as an investment. Okay, I admit it. The stuff I collect is movies on DVD. These things keep me house-bound in a chair when I should be out walking my dog, playing Frisbee golf or hiking with my family or doing anything else that will help me drop some pounds and get healthy!

This was not where I expected to be convicted, today. God truly does move in mysterious ways.

We’ve had a great discussion about this, and we are going to do something about this right away!

Someone to Watch Over Me by Michelle Stimpson

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Someone to Watch Over Me

Dafina; 1 Original edition (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Michelle Stimpson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Michelle Stimpson is an author, a speaker, and an educator who received her Bachelor of Science degree from Jarvis Christian College in 1994. She earned a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2002. She has had the pleasure of teaching elementary, middle, and high school as well as training adults.

In addition to her work in the field of education, Michelle ministers through writing and public speaking. Her works include the highly acclaimed Boaz Brown, Divas of Damascus Road (National Bestseller), and Last Temptation. She has published several short stories for high school students through her educational publishing company, Right Track Academic Support Services, at www.wegottaread.com.

Michelle serves in the Discerning Hearts women's ministry at her home church, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. She also ministers to women through her online newsletter: www.womengrowinginchrist.com.

Michelle tours annually with the Anointed Authors on Tour. She regularly speaks at special events and writing workshops sponsored churches, schools, book clubs and other great organizations.

Michelle lives near Dallas with her husband, their two teenage children, and one crazy dog.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Tori Henderson is on the fast track in her marketing career in Houston, but her romantic life is slow as molasses and her relationship with Christ is nonexistent. When her beloved Aunt Dottie falls ill, Tori travels back to tiny Bayford to care for her. But when Tori arrives, she's faced with more than she bargained for, including Dottie's struggling local store, a host of bad memories, and a troubled little step-cousin, DeAndre. Worse, the nearest Starbucks is twenty miles away...

Just as Tori is feeling overwhelmed, she re-connects with her old crush, the pastor's son, Jacob, who is every bit as handsome as to remembers. As the church rallies for Aunt Dottie's recovery, Tori realizes that she came to Bayford to give, but she just might receive more than she dreamed was ever possible for her.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.00
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Dafina; 1 Original edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0758246889
ISBN-13: 978-0758246882

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


I crossed my fingers in hopes they would name me Top Quarterly Producer for my department. I mean, every single one of my clients had experienced website traffic and sales above the projected estimates, and I had even received two letters from pleased customers. “Tori’s expertise made all the difference in our product launch,” one had commented. “We’ll be using NetMarketing Results for a long time to come!” Planning and implementing online marketing campaigns came with its own sense of fulfillment. After all, depending on who you asked, the Web pushes America’s economy even more than a good old-fashioned mall.

But even as we stood around the conference room waiting for the announcement, I felt queasy. What if they didn’t name me? One look around the room sparked another dose of apprehension.

Lexa Fielder was recently hired, yet she’d already managed to land a pretty impressive list of new customers for the company, though it was rumored she did quite a bit of work on her back.

Brian Wallace was one of the older marketing representatives, but he still had a few tricks up his sleeve. Every once in a while, he pulled off a last-minute record-breaking month for one of his clients and caught management’s eyes.

There were only four eyes I wanted to catch, and all of them belonged to Preston Haverty. Okay, he really only had two eyes, but he did wear a set of insistently thick glasses that took on life of their own at the center of his slight facial features. Every time I saw him, I felt like I was in a scene from The Emperor’s Clothes. Like, why won’t somebody tell Preston that those glasses are ridiculous and we do have technology to free us from such spectacles? Probably the same reason no one talks to Donald Trump about that comb-over.

Anyway, Preston was good people, glasses and all. I appreciated his “hands off” management style – he didn’t really care where or how we worked, so long as we got the job done. I only hoped that I’d done a good enough job to add to my collection of blue and green plaques given to outstanding employees. Lexa and Brian aside, I appreciated being appreciated. And God knows I’d put in enough woman-hours to earn this recognition.

“And February’s project manager of the month is…”—Preston announced as everyone in the room beat a drum roll on either the 16-foot table or some spot on the surrounding walls—“Tori Henderson!”

My cheekbones rose so high I could barely see in front of me. Is that what it’s like to be Miss America? Everybody applauding, confetti flying, the runners-up on the sideline clapping wildly to distract themselves from their jealousy and impending mental meltdowns after the show?

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that serious, but I sure felt like a pageant queen. My fellow co-workers, probably twenty-five people or so, cheered me on as I walked toward the front end of the table to receive my plaque. “Good job, Tori!” “You go, girl!” Their affirmations swelled inside me, feeding my self-esteem. If only my mother could see me now. Then maybe she’d forget about 1996.

I shook Mr. Haverty’s hand and posed for the obligatory picture. In that moment, I wished I’d worn a lighter-colored suit. Black always made me look like a beanpole. Gave no testament of all my hours at the gym and the donuts I’d passed on to keep the red line on my scale below one hundred and twenty-five.

I wasn’t going to pass on the sweets today, though. Jacquelyn, the lead secretary, retrieved a towering pink-and-white buttercream frosting cake and brought it forward now to celebrate my achievement.

Preston offered, “Tori, you get the first piece.”

“Get some meat on those bones, girl,” from Clara, the Webmaster.

But the mention of meat and the sight of the cake suddenly made me nauseous. To appease the group, I took the first piece. Then Jacquelyn got busy cutting and distributing pieces as everyone stood around milking the moment before having to return to work.

I sat in one of the comfy leather chairs and took and ate a bite of my celebratory sweetness. Almost instantly, my stomach disagreed with my actions. My hand flew to my abdomen, lightly stroking the panel of my suit. People were so busy devouring the cake they didn’t notice me catching my breath. Whew!

I pushed the plate away from me, as though the pink mass had the power to jump onto my fork and into my mouth. This was clearly not the cake for me. I thought for a moment about how long it had been since I ate something so densely packed with sugar. Maybe this was like red meat—once you stop consuming it, one backslidden bite tears you up inside.

No, that’s not it. I’d eaten a candy bar the previous week, before my monthly visitor arrived. Renegade cramps? I rubbed my palm against the aggravated area again. No. The pain was too high in my torso for female problems. This had to be some kind of bug. Whatever it was, it didn’t like strawberry cake so, I quietly tossed my piece in the trash on the way back to my desk.

An hour later, I felt like I could throw up so I sat perfectly still at my desk because…well…any movement of my torso sparked a pain in my side that might trigger this upchuck. I just didn’t feel like I wanted to go through the process of throwing up. I would never tell anyone this, but I find vomiting an altogether traumatic experience. Such a nasty feeling in one’s throat. And the aftertaste, and the gagging sounds. Not to mention getting a close-up look at the toilet seat. It’s just not humanlike and should be avoided at all costs, in my opinion.

Thank God I made it all the way to my apartment before I finally had to look at the inside of a porcelain throne, only this time I hadn’t even eaten anything. Bile spewed out of me, but the pain in my side was probably up to 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Now that I’d done the unthinkable and temporarily lost all self-respect, perhaps my body would relent. I could only hope the worst of whatever this was had passed (albeit out of the wrong end).

I managed to thoroughly brush my teeth and gargle a great number of times, assuring myself it was safe to swallow my own spit again. The image staring back at me in the mirror was normally me after a good workout—kinky twists dampened slightly at the base by my sweat, light brown face glowing in the accomplishment of burning hundreds of calories. Today, however, my sagging eyelids told the story of a woman who’d…vomited. I tried smiling, elevating my cheekbones even higher. No use. Maybe my mother was right when she’d told me, “You’re not that pretty, Tori, but you can keep yourself skinny and, when you turn fifteen, I’ll let you wear makeup. Fourteen if you’re really ugly by then.”

I closed my eyes and pressed fingers onto my temples, reminding myself that people told me I was cute all the time. One time, I went to this women’s empowerment event my client was hosting and I won a T-shirt that read I’M BEAUTIFUL with some Bible verse on it about being beautifully and wonderfully made. I wore that shirt to Wal-Mart and a total stranger walked up to me and said, “I agree.” So why did the only voice ringing now belong to my ever-beautiful, timeless Margie Carolyn James who bragged of still being carded at age 40?

My side still ached enough for me to call off the evening’s kickboxing class. Good thing Kevin was out of town working. He probably would have called me a wimp and dared me to run at least two miles. And I probably would have at least attempted to make him eat his words, despite the pain now radiating through my stomach.

After downing a dose of Advil, I trudged to my bedroom, changed into a night shirt and gently lay across the bed. I didn’t have the energy to answer my landline when it rang. I could only listen for the message.

“Hey, I’m gonna layover tonight. My flight comes in at seven, I leave out again tomorrow morning at eight. See ya.”

I was hoping that by the time he got home, I would have awakened from a refreshing nap, totally healed and ready to finish up some of the work I’d had to bring home with me in light the unproductive afternoon I endured. Yet when Kevin returned, he found me hunched over the toilet seat again.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing? Uuuuck!” The wretching produced another plop of bile into the commode.

“Are you okay?”

“Perfect.”

“What’s going on?”

“I’m pregnant,” I quipped, though the hint of mockery escaped my tone thanks to the reverberating bowl.

“Oh my God, Tori, you’re kidding, right? You know how I feel about kids,” he yelled. “How could you—”

“Stop freaking out. I’m joking.”

He balled up his fist and exhaled into the hole. “Don’t give me a heart attack.”

“I ate some cake today at work and got sick.”

He backed out into the hallway. “Let me know if you need me.”

I rested an elbow on the toilet seat and looked up at Kevin. Six foot one looks even taller from my bathroom floor perspective. His deep sandy skin contrasted perfectly with his ivory teeth and hazel eyes which, according to him, had won over many women back in the day. I wasn’t one of those eye-color crazy girls, but I was definitely a sucker for track star legs, and Kevin had those for miles and miles. Watching him unveil those limbs when he undressed was definitely the greatest benefit of moving into his condo eighteen months earlier. Well, the legs and the free rent. And the sex, when my mind cooperated.

Kevin was the modern, metrosexual type when it came to clothes, but he had some pretty old-fashioned ideas about finances. Who was I to argue with him? He paid the major bills. I handled groceries, the housekeeper, dry cleaning, and all things communication-related since I needed high-speed everything for my job. I often wondered if he was just being chivalrous or if he never obligated me to a substantial bill because he still thought of the condo as his place.

At first glance, our living quarters resembled a bachelor pad. Simple furniture, mix-and-match bath towels. Not one picture of us on display, though I had plenty on my computer and stored on my camera waiting to be downloaded someday.

Either way, I’m no fool. Thanks to our financial arrangement, I had a growing stash of rainy-day money I’d earmarked to start my own business after an early retirement.

My stash was chump change compared to Kevin’s anyway. I’d seen a few of his paystubs lying around the condo from his work in telecommunications sales. Made my college degree seem like a huge scam to keep the masses from getting rich, maybe.

Thoughts of my master plan to retire well and get rich later compelled me to hoist myself from the floor to a semi-standing position and shuffle back to bed. Sick or well, I needed to get some work done.

Kevin did check on me, but only be default as he changed into his running clothes.

There went those strong, milk chocolate legs again.

“I’m going for a jog at the track. Might head over to Cameron’s after to watch the game.”

I gave my best big-brown-doe-eyes routine. “But you’re leaving again first thing in the morning. Can’t we spend time together?”

He held up a cross with his fingers. “I don’t want to catch whatever this is you’ve got. You looked pretty distraught in that bathroom there a minute ago.”

“Thanks so much, Kevin.”

“Any time, any time,” he smirked. “I do feel bad for you, if that helps.”

“It doesn’t.”

“You need me to get you anything while I’m out?”

“A new stomach.”

“No can do, babe. How about Pepto-Bismol or Sprite? That’s what my mom used to give me when I was sick,” he recommended.

I scrunched my face. “Didn’t your mom also make you swallow Vicks VapoRub?”

“Yeah,” he supported the madness, “makes you cough the cold up. Worked every time. If you’re getting a virus, you might want to give it a shot.”

My stomach lurched at the thought. “No. I don’t want anything else coming up out of me tonight. Just…call and check on me.”

He detoured to my side before walking out of the room. A gentle kiss to my forehead was his first affectionate gesture since he’d walked into the place, despite more than a week’s passing since we’d seen each other last. I suppose it would have been hard for him to kiss me since I was engulfed in the commode earlier. Still, I wanted him to rub my back or something. What I really wanted was for him to stay home and…I don’t know, watch me suffer. Hover like they do when women are giving birth in those old movies. Put a damp towel on my forehead and encourage me, “You can do it! You can do it, Tori!”

Who was I kidding? Kevin would hire a birthing coach before he’d subject himself to my labor. Not that I’d ever find myself in a position to give birth so long as Kevin stubbornly refused to father a child. I held hope, however, that things would change after a few of his friends settled down. Sometimes guys are the only ones who can convince other guys to grow up. It’s a sick reality.

I decided to put the suffering out of my head for a moment. The Advil had taken the edge off the pain, so I carefully reached onto the floor and pulled my laptop bag onto the bed. The sweet challenge of work carried me into a trance that dulled the pain for a while.

I tapped on the mouse to wake my computer and then resumed toggling between the open programs on my computer desktop, making sure my client’s newsletter matched the updated blog content precisely. Next to update their social media networks with useful information about the company’s new products.

With reviewing several press releases still on my agenda, I really didn’t want to stop working. But the pain in my midsection returned with new vigor, biting into my concentration. I powered down my computer for the night and made my way back to the restroom for another bout with bile and a double-dose of Advil.

If the pain wasn’t any better by tomorrow, I’d have to miss a little work so I could visit the doctor.

Kevin rolled in a little after eleven to assess me again. He slipped a hand beneath the comforter and rubbed my backside. “You all right now?”

“No,” I groaned.

He nibbled on my ear, a sure indication of his intentions. “Mind if I make you feel better?”

“That won’t help.”

“Marvin Gaye says sexual healing is the best thing for you.”

“Marvin Gaye never felt this bad. Besides, I might have germs.”

Kevin tried again, lapping my neck with his tongue. “I don’t care. I miss you.”

Now he doesn’t care about the germs.

His hand moved around to my stomach, warranting a stern reaction. “Kevin, I cannot do this tonight. Move your hand.”

He jumped up from the bed. “Fine. Fine. I understand. I’ll be on the couch.”



Here is my review of this refreshing novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Michelle Stimpson and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Someone to Watch Over Me" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

Michelle Stimpson’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” is the touching tale of Tori Henderson, a young urban woman who finds herself outside of her comfort zone as she cares for the ailing aunt she desperately loves. Tori experiences the rude re-awakening to small-town life. Her past creeps up on her, too. Reunions with a childhood crush and a young cousin offer both opportunity and challenge to change the lives of all involved.

Stimpson drew me into her story with the very first paragraphs where I mentally wrapped my own arms around 15 year-old Tori to protect her from her step-father’s heartlessly chilling ambition. Tori’s tale is one of love and pain and sacrifice. It is a work of fiction with Jesus at the heart. I was amazed at the flesh on these characters and how quickly I felt invested in them. This novel is an emotional confrontation of the past that beautifully weaves the story to its refreshing and rejuvenating conclusion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #2, Day #3

What a powerful quiet time, today! First, I looked at Mark 6:30-32 regarding getting rid of busyness. What a wonderful lesson to remember that Jesus wants us to rest with Him after ministering to others. I took a couple of lessons away from this passage: we need to discuss our ministry experience with Jesus and we need to physically step into the boat so that He can take us to the secluded place of rest.

I am at such a juncture right now. I’ve recently completed chemotherapy. I am no longer ministering to my chemo nurses or my phlebotomists on a weekly basis. I don’t have news to report to my prayer partners every week. I am not encountering patients in the treatment center. So, my ministry of prayer and encouragement in those venues has ended for now. Another prayer ministry has opened since one of my Sunday school Sisters has had heart surgery. Yet another ministry of encouragement in my workplace (being the poster child for undergoing cancer treatment with a smile) is alive and well.

I need to be obedient and continue in the active ministries that the Lord has given me. I also need to be obedient and let go of the inactive ministry and spend some time with Jesus to replenish what I poured out for others. Amazing. But what does that boat look like? A different place. Maybe a park or a coffee shop. Anyplace I won’t encounter the hustle-bustle of people and activity. I am planning such an outing for this weekend.

A second lesson from Revelation 2:2-4 brought home the point that being spiritual isn’t enough in my activity for Jesus. During my study time, I was confronted by a recent goal to lose weight. I spent time analyzing why I was making this a goal. To look good? To honor God by caring for my temple? To be healthier? Yes, yes and yes. But not in that order. I discovered that I can spiritualize what I want to achieve and say I’m doing it to honor God, but my real motive is selfish.

To actually be something I do for Christ, my heart must be right. Ouch! This realization has prompted WONDERFUL conversation with God, today. I need to spend time with Him for Him to change my heart and soak His Word into the depths of me. That is the only way to have the right motive behind my actions.

Transform me, Lord.

I plan to have a third quiet time with Jesus over lunch and Matthew 14:22-23. This is the second time I am choosing to spend time in scripture instead of a Christian fiction novel over lunch. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for this to become a habit?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #2, Day #2

Today’s scriptures are challenging. I feel like I took the easy route of studying Re-Organizing My Priorities with Luke 5:4-6, 8-10. But these verses brought forth a wonderful picture of obedience to Christ that I’ve studied many times, but never saw quite this way before.

The conclusion that I drew from these verses is that Jesus reveals to us what He wants us to do. We can choose to obey or not. If we do obey, we will be blown away by what He is capable of accomplishing through us. We will be humbled to be a part of His work and we will make an eternal difference.

This is my prayer today: to be part of His work, regardless of what that is. Whether it’s the same thing I’ve done for Him over the last days or weeks, or whether He wants to change things up and put me somewhere new. I want people to see Jesus, not me. I am just grasping His robe and hanging on for the ride.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #2, Day #1

Jeremiah 18:3-6. I love these verses of scripture. The Lord is pictured as a potter. We are the clay. As He molds us on the wheel and we become flawed, He molds us into something else.

I feel as if my life has been through several edits. Sometimes, this can be a painful or frightening process. I have learned that we cause the pain or fear ourselves because we are not following in God’s footprints, but are rather forging ahead, blazing the trail where He never intended us to go.

There have been good edits, too. Cross-country moves, changes in career and church affiliation. The difference between the scary changes and the good changes have been how tightly I have a grip on His robe as He walks the path before me and I simply follow Him.

That has been my cancer journey in a nutshell: hanging onto His robe and following Him. There was nowhere else to go. I am praying that I won’t let go now that chemo is done, but that I will continue to cling tightly to my Savior so that I won’t stray from the path He has prepared for me.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Can We Talk – Video Session #2 – Life: The Edited Version

Using the illustration of growing prize-winning tomatoes, Priscilla introduced the topic for week two of study: God’s priorities. Growing a prize-winning life requires removal of last year’s weeds and pruning.

Jesus did the Father’s will AND NOTHING ELSE. Do we want to live like Jesus did? He lived a weeded and pruned life. He didn’t pour into the unnecessary.

This week, I will be conversing with God about His plans and priorities for my life.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Prayer Walk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength and Discipline by Janet Holm McHenry

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!






Today's Wild Card author is:










and the book:






PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, and Discipline





WaterBrook Press; 1st edition (March 20, 2001)

***Special thanks to Laura Tucker, WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity for sending me a review copy.***





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Janet Holm McHenry is the author of numerous books, including Daily PrayerWalk and PrayerStreaming. A high-school English, journalism, and creative writing teacher, she is the mother of four adult children. Janet has been prayerwalking for more than thirteen years and is the leader of her church’s prayer ministry. Find out more about the author at www.janetmchenry.com.


Visit the author's website.






SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Ask any busy, overworked woman what her goals are for this year, and spiritual, mental and physical health are likely to be at the top of her list. Yet physical health and spiritual growth often take a backseat to the urgent demands of grocery shopping and bill paying, time with family and friends and long hours at the office. Thirteen years ago author Janet Holm McHenry suffered from depression, weight gain and exhaustion. Then she began a prayerwalk routine that not only transformed her life but also profoundly impacted the lives of those around her. Learn about the simple practice that changed her life in PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength & Discipline. This tenth-anniversary edition includes an epilogue letter from the author, a 30-day prayer and fitness challenge, a guide to organizing a community prayerwalk and a Bible study and discussion guide. Perfect for the overwhelmed mom, the business woman on the go, or anyone wanting physical and spiritual renewal, PrayerWalk includes heartfelt, genuine glimpses into the author’s journey as well as practical advice on everything from walking shoes and stretches to how and what to pray and finding a prayerwalk partner.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; 1st edition (March 20, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781578563760
ISBN-13: 978-1578563760
ASIN: 1578563763

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:






Introduction

“You know I’m an ordinary Christian woman, God. But I’d like to become more disciplined, to have a consistent daily prayer time. I’d like to lose some weight and to be a little more fit. And…and…oh, this sounds crazy after everything I’ve just said, but I’d like to be content with my life.”

This was my prayer two years ago. All of those requests and more have been realized in my life, all because of one thing: prayer-walking. Virtually overnight I changed from a woman who couldn’t get out of bed to—Okay, I’m going to be brutally honest with you, dear reader. I am still an ordinary Christian woman. I probably look like the person in your high school class who was voted Most Likely to Become Your Kids’ English Teacher, thirty years later. That’s because that’s exactly who I am! Let’s just say you won’t find my face and body on the cover of an exercise video. But God has truly changed me, and I am convinced it’s because I now spend an hour or more five days a week praying as I walk. I call it prayerwalking—spending time with God in adoration and intercession as I walk the streets and highways of my community.

Stop right now! I know what you’re thinking: I don’t have a free hour for prayer and exercise. Hey, I don’t either. It’s true. If you were to examine my life, you’d see I don’t have the time. I work fulltime—teaching English, no less, which most secondary teachers agree is the most demanding position because of the mountains of writing assignments to grade. Craig and I have four children, with one still young enough to need Mommy’s nearly constant attention. All have been active in sports, lessons, and other activities. I have a part-time business as a writer, I teach Sunday school, and I have very little housekeeping help. But I am making time for prayerwalking—an hour or more daily—because God has used it to transform me. I wrote this book to tell you, from my heart, how and why I started prayerwalking and the reasons I believe that if you make time for prayerwalking, God will change you as well.

Besides reading my personal story, you’ll learn how you can pray more like Christ—our Personal Trainer in prayerwalking—and how prayerwalking can energize your prayer life. Prayerwalking has changed how I view my time and priorities, and I’ll help you find time in your life for this new discipline. I’ll also show you why walking while you pray is a good idea, and I’ll provide a wealth of walking tips that can help prevent soreness before you head off on your own.

Join me as I share my story.
Chapter One: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It

Oh, that d word: discipline. I’ve never liked it, personally. We have met on occasion—with diets, short runs on exercise programs, and a prayer journal attempt or two. But life interfered with our acquaintance, and routines always fell by the wayside. Discipline implied torture, restriction, sameness. I mean, remember piano scales? Up and down, up and down. You never got anywhere, it appeared to me. Discipline simply stifled my spontaneity. Why, if I were committed to various routines of discipline, I couldn’t visit a friend or take my daughter shopping or watch the ducks flying the wrong way.

I Was a Mess

Just two years ago I was falling apart. I bit my fingernails to their nubs with worry about finances (we had two kids in college). My weight was taxing my back, and my knees were giving way as I walked down stairs. I was force-feeding my soul with a few daily devotionals, but my prayer life was about zilch. Each night I gulped down a couple of St. John’s Wort tablets to combat depression. I ate too much, I was tired all the time, and I felt as if I were a few days behind on every list of my life—from my load of essays at school to my laundry at home. I was an undisciplined mess.

I knew what I needed. I needed to exercise to get my strength back again. Could I exercise in the morning? I didn’t really have time—I usually shut off the alarm around six each morning, exhausted, and turned over for an extra half-hour of rest, then rushed through my morning routine and headed to school an hour later. How could I give up even more sleep for exercise? With kids’ sports schedules and lessons, faculty meetings, and few consistent baby-sitters, regular exercise after I taught school all day was impossible. There had been spells in my life when I was more active—aerobics and weightlifting classes, swimming laps at the pool. But classes always end, and our community pool is only open during the summer months. Besides, I didn’t want to leave my kids once I was home from work.

I also needed to pray—at length—to give over the worries of my life to God. A book I read many years ago that still pierces me is Could You Not Tarry One Hour? by Larry Lea. Tarry an hour? It seemed like a Grand Canyon leap of time in my going-going-gone schedule. However, seeking God, interceding for others, and staying in his presence were becoming the deepest desires of my heart. I truly wanted to strengthen my relationship with the Lord of the universe by spending more alone time with him—without the phone ringing, without the kids interrupting, without the washing machine calling my name.

I’ve read over thirty books on prayer. Every single one recommends praying in the early morning hours. I had tried that over the years—getting up earlier than the family and creating my own prayer closet of sorts. Minutes into the routine, my head was usually flopping. You have probably guessed that I’m not a morning person. Actually, I’m not a night person either. I tell my high school students that most days I have one good hour—lunch hour (which is really only forty minutes for me)—and that afterward I’m ready for a nap. It’s true!

However, I did stick to an early morning routine once. I thought of praying while I exercised, and for several months I propped my Bible on my NordicTrack and prayed through the Bible in the wee hours. That actually worked until my knees began to trouble me. Then the routine and I went our separate ways. My NordicTrack is now a great clothesline and keeps watch (wash?) in my office over my usually messy desk.

Two in One

I needed a workable plan, a resolution. I believe in New Year’s resolutions, but my new year starts in September, when I return to teaching. All summer long I sleep a little later and mosey through my household chores and writing tasks. It’s a leisurely pace. When school starts, I begin living by ringing bells again, so it makes sense to make my resolutions then.

When Labor Day passed that year, I felt pulled to become the woman of discipline I had never been. My past history could not have been a solid résumé for my success: Every day of my life seemingly had begun a new diet or a new exercise routine or a new prayer practice. Somehow my resolve that Sunday night in September felt different. I would do it this time. I would get up an hour earlier and tarry with God. Well, maybe tarry was not quite the right word because I had decided to spend my hour prayer-walking. I would walk for an hour, praying at the same time— meeting two sincere desires of my heart with one activity.

I loved the idea of doing two things at once. As a working mom, I always make multitasking a personal objective. Every morning I read the newspaper literally upside down as I lean over and blow dry my hair. I open my mail on the way home from the post office. I grade papers while listening to my daughter read at night. Although I may not be a model of organization, I love efficiency! Prayerwalking seemed a perfect solution to the two largest missing links in my life.

I had never before considered walking alone in the dark, early morning hours. The problem isn’t that it’s unsafe. In our town of just over a thousand people in a mountain valley in Cal i fornia, many not only leave their homes unlocked but keep their car keys in their ignitions. No, I’d not considered walking on Main Street because it didn’t have sidewalks and because huge logging trucks sweep through on their way to the lumber mill. However, a few days before I made my resolution, brand-new sidewalks sculpted of brick and cement and brand-new lighting made our few blocks of downtown look like a fairy tale town. Elsewhere people walk in their local mall before opening hours. We have no mall in our town, but I decided that our half-dozen blocks of twinkly-lit Main Street would be my mall—my prayerwalking course.

Beating “The List”

At 5:20 the next morning I woke up moments before the alarm, turned it off, and rolled over. The List began speaking to me. “You’re too tired; give yourself a few more minutes in bed.” “It’s probably too cold; why don’t you walk this afternoon when the sun is out?” “Remember all those dogs? They’re waiting for you!” “Bogeymen hide in the bushes!” “Your knee hurts; you’d better wait until you’re in better shape.” The List battered me for a few minutes until I remembered: I had not only made a physical-fitness resolution; I had also made a spiritual-fitness resolution.

Right then I realized that discipline involved another d word: decision. I could decide to be disciplined. I soon discovered that the decision to become disciplined had to be made daily (yet another d word.). Every single day I prayerwalked would be another decision, another step, toward discipline. That first day was no easier, no harder than any other. It was just a decision: Would I be a disciplined woman, for my own benefit, for the benefit of my family, and for the glory of God? I could not fix the physical and emotional pains of my life, but I could decide to meet God each morning while I walked.

After all, he wanted to be my Personal Trainer for becoming a woman of prayer, strength, and discipline. Some people have walking buddies. Others, like Oprah, pay someone to cheer them through a workout. I knew that in this new calling, prayerwalking, the Lord would be waiting at 5:30 on the front steps of my house, ready to hear my praise and petitions and to guide my steps—not only for the next hour but for the whole day ahead. How could I stay in bed when God was waiting for me? I got up! The first victory was won!

During my first months of prayerwalking I was too afraid I’d wimp out and jump back into bed if I undressed, so I pulled on lined nylon pants and a heavy sweatshirt right over my pajamas. As it grew colder, I added a coat, a double-layered knit hat, a woolen scarf, and gloves. Frost is our mountain manna about nine months of the year, and I’ve never liked being cold. I look pretty funny when I walk, but it’s no fashion show at that hour, and I stay warm. Yes, it took a friend of mine several months to realize it was I walking early in the morning—he thought I was a guy with all the heavy clothes on.

I started out slowly. Although my enthusiasm was high, I knew that if I overdid my first days, I could risk injury and discouragement. I strolled down Main Street, then picked up the pace a bit. That first day I walked a mile and a half in a half-hour. I increased the distance over the next weeks until I was consistently walking three miles in an hour. (Now I walk five miles in less than an hour and a half—fives times a week.)

Changed!

I had thought that I’d be alone with God that early morning hour. At first I devoted the entire hour to prayers for my husband, Craig, and for our four children, Rebekah and Justin, both away at college, and Joshua and Bethany, who are still at home. But one morning a couple of weeks into my prayerwalking changed all that. As I approached Toddler Towers, our local day-care center, two cars drove up from opposite directions and parked, almost in sync. In one I recognized my friend Cheryl, ready to open the home-awayfrom-home for a couple dozen little ones. Emerging from the other, a young father swept up his curly-haired little girl, still in jammies and holding her blankie, and handed his sleepy package to Cheryl. I was okay until the bundle said, “Bye, Daddy. Love you.” When I heard those words, the immenseness of my prayer job hit me. My prayerwalk was not just for my family and myself, but also for the many others I would encounter on Main Street. I began to cry—bawl is a better word. I cried and prayed for all the little children and their mommies and daddies, as well as the day-care workers who would mother and teach the children that day.

On subsequent days my Personal Trainer opened my eyes to other needs along my path, and I added new prayers. As I passed my church, just a half-block off Main Street, I prayed for our board members, who were desperately seeking direction. I prayed for the other two churches in town, which had their own struggles. I prayed for the owners of the businesses I passed each day, the principals and teachers at our three schools, the commuters leaving early for hour-away Reno, and the men heading for the day shift at the lumber mill. I added the city council members and the county supervisors and other government workers. Soon I discovered a sober truth: I didn’t have enough time to pray for all the needs.

The experience was not only sobering but had another effect.

One morning about two months after I began prayerwalking, my younger son, Joshua, then thirteen, came into the kitchen and said, “What are you doing, Mom?”

I looked down at the counter and back at him. Maybe he didn’t have his contacts in. “Making peanut butter sandwiches?”

“No, Mom,” he said accusingly, “you were singing.” He walked away, shaking his head.

He was right. I was singing. I, the one whose usual morning words were only Get up…I said get up…Get up or you’ll be late— and other variations on the same theme—was singing. God had been filling my soul while I prayerwalked, and I couldn’t hold it in anymore. It occurred to me that my entire countenance—in fact, my entire outlook on life—had changed. Prayerwalking an hour each weekday had transformed my life—in just a couple of short months.

On an ordinary morning I made the decision to prayerwalk. On an ordinary morning you could do the same and thus change your life in similarly dramatic ways. Walk with me. Walk with me over city streets, small town paths, and country roads. Let me show you how one daily decision can make a difference for our world. Walk with me through joys and sorrows, through hopes and fears, through laughter and tears. Let me show you how talking with God each day will be better than extra sleep. Decide to seek a healthier lifestyle, and let me prove that “discipline” can actually feel good. Join me and our Personal Trainer…and prayerwalk your way to physical and spiritual strength.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Acknowledgments

Introduction
Part 1 Becoming a Woman of Strength and Discipline

1. If I Can Do It, You Can Do It

2. Spiritual Endorphins

3. Making Time

4. Why Walk?

5. Reducing Aches and Pains

6. PrayerWalk Partners
Part 2 Becoming a Woman of Prayer

7. Prayer Tips from My Personal Trainer

8. “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

9. Take a Walk with Me

10. Eyes Wide Open

11. A Sacrifice of Tears

12. Faces of Answered Prayer
Epilogue: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Study Guide

Resources on Walking

Thirty-Day PrayWalk Challenge

Appendix: How to Organize a Community PrayerWalk Event

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Notes Excerpted from PrayerWalk by Janet Holm McHenry, Copyright © 2001 by Janet Holm McHenry. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.



Here is my review of this wonderful guide:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Janet Holm McHenry and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Prayer Walk: Becoming A Woman of Prayer, Strength and Discipline" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

“Prayer Walk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength and Discipline” by Janet Holm McHenry is an incredibly refreshing read. Exactly what I needed during this season of my life when I knew I needed to strengthen my prayer life and become more consistent in many things.

The included study guide contains a list of questions designed for discussion about each chapter of the book. There is also a list of walking resources reviewed by the author with explanations of what she did and didn’t like about each book. There is also a 30-day prayer walk challenge and insight into how to organize a community prayer walk event. This updated version of the book really sparkles and will appeal to those who want to get in shape both physically and spiritually.

Bible Study: Coming Out Of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 38


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Exodus Chapter 38. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…


38:1-7 – This is the obedient response to God’s instruction to build the altar of burnt offering in 27:1-8. See Matthew 23:16-19.

38:1 – see 27:1.

38:2 – see 27:2.

38:8 – The basin for washing being made from mirrors of highly polished brass plundered from the Egyptians is to fulfill God’s request in 30:17-21. It is fitting that the item used to make it represented vanity since its purpose is to cleanse the priest. “It was a beautiful Old Testament expression of dying to self…The purpose is clear: before we can truly come before God for cleansing, we must examine ourselves to discover how we’ve erred.” (A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place – Beth Moore)

38:21-31 – Who is Bezalel? To whom is he related? Where have you heard of that relative before? (Hint, this relative gave Moses a lift during a battle.)


What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #1, Day #5

Nine pages of journaling marks my time with the Lord today. Psalm 103:1-6 was the scripture used to speak to me about the power of words in my relationship with God.

After getting into Position, Poring and Paraphrasing took some time, but yielded good results. I was able to draw good scriptural principles from my paraphrase. Posing questions was also fruitful. But trying to plan and pin an action from such a huge study was rather time consuming and required much effort to narrow things down to one or two do-able activities. In this case, those turned out to be knowing God’s Word so that I can obey it. This will lead to the second activity of remembering God’s benefits. Meeting with the Lord daily is the only way to accomplish this.

Does a Plan and Pin activity count if I’ve already Planned it for some other study?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

REVIEW: Pirate of my Heart by Jamie Carie

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Jamie Carie and her publisher for sending me an electronic copy of "Pirate of my Heart" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity.

“Pirate of my Heart” by Jamie Carie is an enjoyable romantic adventure. Lady Kendra Townsend is in quite a predicament. Her uncle has ruined her family financially with his gambling. Now Kendra finds herself answering to him because of her father’s untimely death. Choosing to travel to America to live with relatives she has never met rather than agree to a marriage she doesn’t want, Kendra finds herself aboard the Angelina with the handsome American Captain, Dorian Colburn.

Dorian is furious at the prospect of a passenger. But first mate, John, has seen to all of the arrangements so Captain Colburn moves into his best friend’s quarters. But Lady Kendra isn’t a typical woman. She is beautiful, intelligent and unselfish. As Dorian’s heart betrays him by letting the Lady enter, this confirmed bachelor fears admitting his feelings.

The sparks begin to fly when Kendra and Dorian meet. The intrigue continues as Lady Kendra becomes acquainted with her Aunt and Uncle in America and she is introduced to American society. Further plots surface as an unsavory friend of Kendra’s uncle pursues courtship. Perhaps Dorian will take a risk on love when Kendra’s life is at stake?

This is an enjoyable summer read with well-written romance, substantial characters and an intricately woven plot. I will recommend this emotionally provocative novel to my reading group friends.

Can We Talk – Homework Week #1, Day #4

Well, I won’t say that the 5 Ps are mastered, yet, but they are getting a bit easier. “Positioning” yourself to hear from God is crucial. If you have distractions, you’ll be tempted to rush through your time with God. Go to a quiet room, park, sit in the car in your driveway if you must, but get by yourself with God.

I also realize that the most intensive part of the effort is “Poring and Paraphrasing”. Take the time to meditate on the verse and read it several times before you write anything down. Strong poring and paraphrasing is a necessary foundation for building the remaining Ps into something life-changing.
I am so excited that the principles seem to be rising to the surface of the scripture verses rather than me having to exercise much effort to “Pull (them) Out”. Actually, if I spend enough time on the pore and paraphrase, the principles jump right out at me. Hallelujah!

We must “Pose” the tough questions if we really want to have a life-changing experience. Taking scripture personally is key. We know our pet peeves and the areas of our lives that need improvement. We need to ask those hard-hitting, below-the-belt questions to get us conversing with God about the areas where we’ve been held captive, not living in the freedom that Christ’s sacrifice purchased for us. Today, I tackled how I confront “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2-5) and how my words encourage and provide solace to others. This was definitely an area I needed to discuss with Jesus!

Again, “Plan and Pin” led to an immediate discussion with God during which I not only asked Him to make my words encouraging, but I also asked that He would teach me His Word so that I would be prepared to confront anything that is against what His Word says.

Today I even opted to work the 5 Ps through another set of scriptures over lunch instead of reading a really enjoyable Christian fiction book.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #1, Day #3

Today’s scriptures concentrated on the affect of my words on my children (Deuteronomy 6:6-6) and my husband (1 Peter 3:1-2). Again, using the 5 Ps technique of studying the scripture brought a couple of things to light in these verses that I remember reading, but never placed much importance on them. Today, those things popped right off the page and prompted me to pray that God would do a work in me that would make Him and His Word an obvious characteristic me that would be noticeable to others.

I also asked the Lord to make respect and purity the default language I speak to my husband.

Once again, I have a list of scriptures that I didn’t get through. I will use these verses if I want to revisit this subject matter again. Actually, since the homework is spread out over five days, that leaves two days for me to choose scriptures from these lists to study during my quiet time. Then, on day seven, I will also watch the video to introduce the next week’s study topic.

Carla McDougal's Reflecting Him


Here is my review of this amazing Bible Study:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Carla McDougal and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Reflecting Him" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

Carla McDougal’s “Reflecting Him” is a beautiful ten-week women’s Bible study on making Christ integral to every part of your daily life. As the clay in the hand of the Potter, we reflect Him as His creation. The weekly lessons are driven home in a five-day homework format that is not too taxing on a busy woman’s schedule.

This would be a terrific study to do in your personal quiet time with the Lord, with your women’s ministry or a group of gals at work. “Reflecting Him” will bring the student to a new level in their prayer lives and how they live for Christ.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #1, Day #2

I think I am cured – (at least in one area)! In my quiet time with God this morning, I only got through the first set of scriptures. And HE IS SPEAKING VOLUMES! I pray that I will no longer be held captive to “finishing my homework” over hearing God speak.

The “5 Ps” were a bit easier to work through today. James 1:19, 26 (words reveal the truth about your character) were a couple of rich verses to apply this study technique. I was impacted to not only listen more and speak less, but to put forth much more effort to avoid being offended or angered. Who snuck that part into the verse? I’ve never read that before.

“Plan and Pin” led to another immediate conversation with God about my words. In general, I am a good listener and slow to speak. Sometimes to the detriment of a situation. I am reminded of Edmund Burke’s quote: “All that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” I don’t want to be the reason for evil to triumph, so I asked that the Lord would help me to find a balance in this area. I prayed that He would put His words into my mouth and teach me when to speak. I also asked for a filter for my ears so that I wouldn’t hear anything that would cause me to become offended or angry. I prayed that I wouldn’t be offended or angered by others’ behavior, either.

Since I only got through one set of scriptures this morning, I now have a list of other scriptures to study in the future. I am also choosing to memorize James 1:19.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #1, Day #1

This was a difficult day. It was a challenge to work through the 5 Ps. Thankfully, there was only the one set of scriptures to work through. I’ve already confessed that I have a tough time pulling the principles from scripture. Well, my “5 Ps” were pretty weak. “Positioning” worked out well. I went outside and enjoyed the sunshine and a cool breeze of God’s creation as those in my household began to wake up and begin their day. My problem started with “Pore and Paraphrase”. James 3:8-11, which was chosen to reveal the power of words in our personal lives, was tough to paraphrase because I saw these verses as pretty straight-forward. Since the Paraphrase was weak, the “Pull Out” was weak. “Pose” the question seemed to bring me back on track, though. I did ask myself a couple of pointed questions that brought into the light my recent behavior that was not glorifying God – especially since chemotherapy has been loosening my tongue a bit.

“Plan and Pin” prompted an immediate conversation with God asking Him to bring forth words of healing and encouragement from my mouth. I asked the Lord to get to the root of the problem with my mouth: my mind and heart. I prayed that He would change my heart and mind to better reflect His own and that those changes would have a profound effect on what comes forth from my tongue.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Can We Talk – Video Session #1 – Fire Starter

This is going to be a wonderful summer study! This video session is almost 25 minutes long because it familiarizes the student to the “5 Ps of Hearing God Through Scripture” in addition to introducing the topic for the first week of study: the tongue.

I anticipate that God will speak powerfully this week. Many of us have made great strides with God’s help to tame the tongue. Priscilla takes the illustration of a raging fire to a new level. She made me see that, although we may have put out the visible flames, there may be hidden fires doing damage in places where I can’t see it. My goal for this week will be to allow the Holy Spirit to put my tongue in check.

The Lord has already revealed an area of weakness in me where He is planning to do some work. I am task-oriented, so I am one of those people who MUST finish her homework. Sadly, I believe that I have missed out on so much relationship with God because of this. Rather than resting on a set of verses, I have rushed through to finish homework. What a messed up set of priorities! I look forward to the Lord changing me in this area.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Bible Study: Coming Out of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 37


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Exodus Chapter 37. Then return here and leave comments about your own revelations…



What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?