Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Women of Faith's REJOICE cd Review: A keeper

After my trip to the gym today, I came home to a surprise in my mailbox! I received a copy of Women of Faith’s REJOICE CD to review! Sweet. I popped it into my laptop on the kitchen counter and my girls and I listened to it while we ate lunch.
Women of Faith did a good job compiling a collection of worship songs that touch the hearts of listeners from all generations. I also love adding a few set of worship songs to my playlist. According to my own rating scale, I give the REJOICE CD “keeper” status. 
Thanks BookSneeze for sending me this free copy in exchange for an honest review! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Violinist
A little known fact about violinists: in order to hear themselves stand distinct from their orchestra colleagues, they unintentionally tend to tune their instruments slightly sharp or flat in comparison to the other violinists nearby. 
Let me explain. As an orchestra warms up and tunes before a performance begins. The best violinist, known as the first chair or concertmaster, plays her open A string once. The rest of orchestra hears this pitch and adjusts their instruments to match. Concertmaster plays her A again and orchestra joins her forming the sound of one note and one giant instrument. Finally, the concertmaster hands the perfectly tuned orchestra over to the conductor and the show begins. This is the ideal situation. 
However, inexperienced violinists have a hard time making this happen sometimes. The same musicians that can tune any violin in a matter of seconds, struggle. Additionally,  the instrumentalist that can hear a short sound stroked from a violin and judge the pitch correct or incorrect every time, has a hard time adjusting her own sounds to blend perfectly with a group. This is not the ideal situation.
Unintentional out-of-tune violins can be found in orchestras because, as a violinist, you are trained to hear a clear sound with your left ear- the side of your head that the instrument is held on. The left ear hears a very loud and distinct sound during practices, lessons, and small group rehearsals. Each violin has it own sound, much like vocalists singing the same note but with distinction. But, when playing with the orchestra, the sounds of all other instruments make it hard to hear the same violin, even though it is just inches from the ear. So without meaning to, often these violinists alter their pitch so slightly it probably isn’t even noticed by the untrained ear. However, someone that has heard an open A string played for years can tell when one- even among a dozen or more- is out of tune. Out of sync with the rest. 
Thinking about this today made me wince a little because I see it now in light of spiritual things. Without meaning to, this inexperienced violinist must adjust my step, ways, practices just slightly so I can hear myself. Since I can’t hear myself clearly it must mean I am perfectly in tune with my colleagues, right?  Jesus said that his ways were not our ways and his thoughts were not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9) I observe two things here. 
  1. I struggle to trust that I am in sync with God when I can’t hear/see/feel Him close.
  2. I am not naturally drawn to doing things someone else’s way, adjusting my step/speed/direction in order to align myself with another. 
You know what this sounds like? Pride. (The reoccurring issue in my life!) “God, I can’t hear myself because of all the chaos around me. So, I think I’ll adjust something. Yes! There we go, I can hear myself again. Everything’s ok now” Or try this one on for size: “God, I just want to hear what I sound like alongside everyone else. I just have to make sure I have that rhythm right. As long as I can hear myself and I can control it all, I’ll get it done right.” Sound familiar? 
Jesus asks us to walk with him and to stay in stride and instep with him. We aren’t to run ahead, lag behind or wander off. Our feet are to hit the ground so in-sync with his, that only one step is heard. It’s hard to do though. It’s hard to remember that his speed and direction is the best when everything is shifting around us. It’s tough to slow to his desired pace when our eyes catch glimpses of the lengthy to-do list. And it’s challenging to  head in the direction he is going, when someone in need is down the road the other way. But, thankfully, Jesus doesn’t ask us to set the pace, chose the stride length, or navigate the course. He simply wants us to obey, to align ourselves with his purposes and plans, to “gel” with his will. 
As long as our violins are tuned to his perfect A-or our spirit is in line with His spirt; then we can rest in perfect peace that we are “in-tune” with what he has asked us to do. We don’t have to use our limited wisdom to adjust our pitch just enough to double check. We can work as unit of one with him. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Book Review: What Are You Waiting For? By Dannah Gresh: Keeper/Pass-Along

Dannah Gresh seemed to catch the heart of young women perfectly in her candid work, What Are You Waiting For?- The one thing no one ever tells you about sex. She gracefully answers questions I hear being asked over and over again by young women. Gresh so clearly grabs the issues and targets the pinnings of the female heart; it’s as if she is sitting across the cafe table and offers to share her best kept secrets. She captured the issues and questions perfectly. Gresh didn’t back down from the hard or popular questions; nor did she shy away from telling her own story of confusion. 
From the perspective of a college campus missionary, this book is handy go-to book for the women I spend time with. It is an easy read, so it won’t take much time to consume. On certain pages, small boxes of extra information were popped in, which gave the book almost a magazine feel. Gresh kept the life changing information from getting heavy and burdensome by sticking to the point and keeping it simple. She wasn’t wordy. 
I found two memorable and noteworthy things in this book. First, I LOVED her explanation of yada and shokab. Very good and meaty information. Second, I connected with her story of Lauren (on page 151) so easily- because it is my story, or better  yet- mine and my husbands story. I’ll give you a summary: Lauren met Kevin in college and he told her that he wanted to wait to kiss his bride for the first time on his wedding day. Lauren laughed. Kevin explained that he had fallen before and knew his limitations. He wanted to be the guy that protected girls, especially the girl he most loved. That meant he had to take kissing off the table because it was too much for him. So, his rule was no kissing until I do. Of course, the girl he married was Lauren. The author was present at their wedding and she witnessed, along with a fe hundred others, Kevin and Lauren’s first kiss. “What power was in that kiss. It was ecstasy and forgiveness. Knowing and discovering. It was sexy and holy. It was a faithful beginning.” (pg. 152)
From my own rating scale, I’d give this book “Keeper” AND “Pass Along” status. I give it  a keeper grade because I want to keep the title around to refer women back to it, but I also give it a Pass-Along, because I know other leaders that work with women that I feel should also read it so they can refer young ladies to Gresh. 
Nice work Dannah Gresh, nice work. 

You can get your own copy Here
Moltnomah provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 9, 2011

One of the best biscuit recipes ever.

Baking Powder Biscuits
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2/3 cup shortening (I’ve used spreadable butter, crisco, butter)
1 1/3 cup milk
(you might need a little more milk to make it cohesive enough to shape)
  1. Heat oven to 425˚. If you have cast iron skillets, put about a tablespoon of shortening each in 3 10-inch skillets and place in the oven to heat while preparing the dough. I use a 10 1/2-inch, an 8 1/2-inch, and a 6-inch skillet because that's what I have. If you don't have any cast iron skillets, grease a large cookie sheet and set aside. Or, use the cast iron skillet and a cookie sheet if you haven't enough skillets.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. Cut in shortening until mixture is like coarse corn meal (if some pea-size chunks remain, that's okay). Add milk, stirring it in quickly with a fork, to form a soft dough. (If a large portion of the dough is still crumbly and not dough-like, add a tablespoon or so more of milk.)
  3. Turn dough out onto lightly-floured surface; knead about 1/2 minute. Roll 1/2 inch thick, or slightly taller; cut with 2-inch cutter dipped in flour (I use both a 2-inch and a 1 1/2-inch cutter). Place fairly close together in the skillets or on the cookie sheet (not right next to each other, maybe between 1/4 and 1/2 inch; (ou can also brush the tops with melted butter if you like) bake about 12 minutes. Serve hot.

Book Review: Thin Places by Mary DeMuth

I recently got myself a copy of Mary DeMuth’s Thin Places. I stumbled on her site last fall sometime while doing research for my own writings. She has written a book about parenting for people who were not raised as Christians, but want to raise their kids with a godly heritage. I found that topic intriguing. But I was even more fascinated with the idea of reading her memoir. The cover of the book is what caught my attention. A small little girl- maybe 5 or 6 years old- covering her face, wearing well-worn clothes and dirty knees. My heart connected with this little girl for some reason and I needed to know why. 
Within a few paragraphs, I knew that I needed to finish the book as soon as possible. As a reader, I was now a part of her story and I needed/wanted/had to see it end with God getting glory for what had been done to this little child. My heart broke for Mary....but I knew the image I saw of her as an adult on the website and her facebook page....I knew she made it out ok. I just needed/wanted/had to know the how’s-when’s-if’s as fast as possible. 
I quickly absorbed her story and kept thinking the same thoughts throughout....”wow, I bet if ****** could verbalize her story in a succinct way, it might sound like this”.....”I wonder what **** would think of this story, is this what she felt as a child”...”If I could only get my hands on their necks, justice.....”..... “how many other kids-RIGHT NOW, THIS MOMENT- are dealing with this same thing-does God see them? Will he heal them too? Will the kid-hurters receive the judgement their due?” 
I wanted to throw the book across the room and nail the kid-hurters in the eye. I wanted to scream and cry for little Mary- and grown up Mary. 
As far as writing technique- fabulous. When thinking about adding depth to my understanding of the wideness of God’s mercy- done. This book is a keeper for me. I will recommend this story to many, many people. But, with caution. I have a short list in mind of those that I think would benefit from seeing/reading a story of success, but I have encouraged them to set aside a time to read it from cover to cover. The story has the potential to scare, hurt or anger some that are super close to Mary’s because of her vivid portrayal of moments in her life. 
The title- Thin Places- was perfectly chosen for the book. DeMuth sees moments in her life where she knew Jesus was really close as thin places. The veil between the spiritual world and our world gets thinner than normal when one of God’s kids needs Him. 
From my own book rating scale:
*Buying another copy for a friend
*Pass it along to someone else
*Waste of money/shelf space
I give DeMuth’s This Places “Buying another copy for a friend” rating!