Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What I've Been Reading: A Review & Update

Back in January not only did I decide to jump on the one word bandwagon, I also joined in with many others who set a book-reading goal for the year. My personal goal was to read 52 books in 2013, just 1 book per week. As you can see from the list below, I'm a bit shy for being more than halfway through the year. But that's OK. My goal is still the same, and I've got 21 1/2 weeks yet to go. :)

Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Illusion by Frank Peretti
Neuromancer by William Gibson
The Chance by Karen Kingsbury
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Sovereign by Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee
The Harbinger by Jonathon Cahn
Inferno by Dan Brown (not finished yet)
World War Z by Max Brooks (not finished yet)
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (not finished yet)
Frame 232 by Wil Mar (not finished yet)

Most of these books have been enjoyable to read, though a few of them have given me grief. Illusion took such a long time to read simply because I couldn't get into the book. Old-school Peretti was fast-paced and well-written. That was not the case with Illusion. The story line was interesting but a bit far-fetched and the plot just dragged on and on and on.

Neuromancer was another difficult book to read. If you're a sci-fi fan, especially of the Matrix variety, you will probably love this book. I, on the other hand, did not. My personal opinion was that it would have made a better movie. Which is probably why I like and enjoy the Matrix series.

Frame 232, while I have not yet finished it, has really captured my attention. If anything, it has triggered my curiosity with the whole JFK assassination and conspiracy theories that go along with it. If you've not heard of it, Frame 232 by Wil Mara is a fictional account of the daughter - Sheila Baker - of the famed "Babushka Lady" who discovers the film her mother shot during the JFK assassination that uncovers a long kept secret of that fateful day. Upon discovery of the film, Sheila contacts millionaire sleuth Jason Hammond for help. Together, they seek to uncover the truth behind one of the most tragic events the US has ever witnessed.

Though I'm not quite done reading Frame 232, I can tell you that it has been hard for me to put down. I picked it up a couple of days ago and read long into the night, reading more than half. If it hadn't been for work and other obligations, I'd be finished by now.

Frame 232 is intriguing because the author takes a real-life tragic situation with real people and says what if? What if the "Babushka Lady" truly did take a video of the assassination that day but hid it in fear for herself and her family's life? What if one day the video was discovered and the people who had a hand in the assassination were still alive? 

Not only does the author ask these questions, he answers them in a fairly good storytelling way. The story is fast-paced, with a lot of action and history weaved together. The characters are well-developed, and you grow to like them along the way, cheering them on to the end.

If anything, it's an easy read that gives a bit of a history lesson. I give it a thumbs up. :)

Author Wil Mara was asked a few questions about Frame 232:
1. What inspired you to write a novel around the assassination of President John F.
Kennedy?  
I have always been fascinated by the assassination, which, obviously, was one of the most pivotal and enigmatic events in American history. And when I heard about the ‘Babushka Lady’---one of the few people in Dealey Plaza that day who remains unidentified---and the possibility that she may have filmed the shooting, an idea came to mind that seemed too good to disregard. 
2. How much research did you do for this project?  
An unbelievable amount. I spoke with assassination experts, read literally hundreds and books and articles, pored over countless photos...you name it. My goal was to write a fictional story around the established facts rather than alter the facts to serve the story. Thus, I had to know pretty much everything. I ended up loading my brain with more data than I really needed...but I didn’t mind. 

3. How has your research informed your own theory of what happened during the JFK
assassination? 
My personal theory, prosaic though it may be, is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. If you want to be convinced, get your hands on a fairly rare book called Lee, which was written by his brother, Robert. Once you understand the mind behind the eyes that looked through that rifle scope, you will be convinced.

I was given an advanced copy of Frame 232 by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Choosing To Be Fruity


In case you haven't noticed, I took a little break from blogging the past couple of weeks. Not for any real reason except that I chose not to blog. I chose to do something else on Monday nights. Nothing exciting, just something different.

The past two weeks have really given me time to think and reflect. This past week especially as I've had a lot of alone time. 

While I've had no grand revelations or anything of the sort, the time alone has been good for me. It has given me opportunity to do things I've not done in a while or at all. For instance, inviting my mom over for dinner and spending quality time with her. Or like making Indian food for dinner this evening.

The time alone has given me plenty to think about, especially about my choices. A lot about what I write about in these "Manic Monday" posts is about choosing to find the good and positive things around us on Mondays (or any day, really). For the most part, I follow my own advice - I consistently try to see the beauty that surrounds me.

But there is more to choice than simply finding the beautiful in life.

The Bible describes what the life of a spirit-filled Jesus follower looks like in several different passages. Galatians 5:22-23 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives the picture of one who loves, is kind, gentle, patient, faithful, good. Someone who doesn't get easily angered or keep a long list of wrongs.

This person should be consistently choosing to be...

selfless

kind

patient

gentle

faithful

good

All things (and more) I've failed to choose over and over again. Especially in the relationships that matter most to me. 

And that makes me sad.

Yet I want this realization to make me more than sad! I want my heart to be broken so that I no longer continue making selfish choices. I want the Holy Spirit to fill me so full of Him that I ooze patience, kindness, and goodness. That love is the center of all that I am.

Funny thing is, I have to choose to allow the Holy Spirit to work in me. Each and every day as situations arise, it's my choice how I'll respond. Just as fruit cannot grow without first being planted, then watered, and even pruned, neither can I produce the fruit of the Spirit until I've been planted and given the ability to grow.

So today I choose to once again allow the Holy Spirit to work in me. To respond with kindness and goodness rather than anger. To be patient even when my patience is running thin. To forgive and forget, or at least, not throw it back in someone's face.

Do you think allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your life is a choice? If so, how has He been working in your life lately? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tragedy into Triumph



Mondays suck.
 

Today is no different. 

Work was crazy busy. 

My husband is sick but he's on the mend. 

Then there's the awful devastation in Oklahoma that's all over the news. 

Pain and suffering in the world makes my heart ache. It causes me to doubt and question. My mind reels at the possibility that a good God allows so much evil in this world. 

Despite the doubt, beyond the questions, there is hope. 

Hope that God is there, His own heart aching with the families in Oklahoma. As they grieve and mourn, so does He. 

Hope that when they pray for comfort and strength, He offers Himself. 

Hope that He will turn tragedy into triumph. 

Hope that someday soon, He will make something beautiful out of the rubble. 

On this terrible Monday, my heart and prayers go out to the families in Oklahoma. Will you join me?






Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Motivation


Mondays suck.

We all know it.

And no one is truly ever happy about it.

But let's not dwell on it. Let's not allow one crappy day to ruin the rest of the week for us. In fact, let's change our thoughts and not allow the fact that it's Monday ruin the entire day for us.

Yes, it really can be that simple. If we allow it.

It's all about perspective. 

You and I, we have the ability to change things.

This evening I stumbled across this quote and I want to share it with you. It's so simple but so true. And it's what I've been trying to remind myself this past year as I've embraced each and every "manic Monday."

Photo found at Monday Morning Motivation
What do you do on Monday mornings to make the day better?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bless the Lord


Hello Monday.

In my part of the world, it's been a dreary day. The clouds have kept the sun in hiding and have caused raindrops to fall from the sky instead. Not to mention the temperature took a bit of a drop. Nothing drastic, but enough to make it a bit chilly.

Nevertheless, today I'm reminded of something my mentor from years ago used to say. The psalmist would often say in scripture, "Bless the Lord, oh my soul." Deonn would say to me that what the psalmist was really doing was saying, "Soul, bless the Lord!" You see, the psalmist went through a lot of crap in his time. He was hated by the king who often tried to kill him, so he had to hide out in caves and stuff. His soul went through dark, troubling times. My guess is that he didn't feel like blessing the Lord. Cursing him, on the other hand, may have been a better fit. Rather than doing so, he commanded his soul to bless the Lord. 

Life's circumstances make me want to cuss. And sometimes I do. From my inability to pay the electric bill because I just don't quite have enough that week or the constant arguments my husband and I seem to find ourselves in. No way I'm blessing the Lord. Much like the psalmist, sometimes I have to tell myself to find the blessing in the midst of the darkness. 

Even when I don't feel like it, the choice is clear - bless the Lord. You know why? Because sometimes blessing comes through raindrops. (Yeah, I just stole a lyric from a song I don't even really like. But there's truth to it!) 

I've said it once and I'll continue to say it. It is your choice - my choice - to find the good, the beautiful, the positive things in life. Even in the midst of the darkest day of your life, there is something good to be found.

Have you ever had to tell your soul, "bless the Lord"?

Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Your Choice



Mondays are hard. 

For me (and probably you as well) it's the hardest day to get out of bed. It's a struggle to get back in the swing of things at work. No doubt it feels like the longest day of the week. 

Mondays just feel like one giant muddy dark pit where all I can do is stare towards the sky, wondering how to get to the light. As I struggle to climb out of the pit, my arms and legs tire quickly and my breathing becomes labored. A couple of times it seems I'm making progress only to slip on some mud and slide back to the bottom.

Thankfully, Mondays aren't completely hopeless. Once I finally find a way to climb out of the pit, Mondays usually turns out to be a pretty decent days. Especially when I remember that it is my choice as to how I'm going to respond to my circumstances.

Do I always make the right choice? Heck no. There are some Mondays (and other days as well) where I forget that it's my choice as to how I'm going to respond. Many times I get caught up in the drama of it all and choose to argue with my husband, or complain about having to clean the house yet again, or pay bills, or whatever it is that day that sets me off. There are too many times where I forget that there are many other, more positive, ways to respond to the crap life throws at me.

I can choose to be kind rather than hateful.

I can choose to be grateful rather than complain.

I can choose to be positive rather than negative.

I can choose to find the good, beautiful things throughout the day and focus on them.

Like this image I captured right after leaving my office this afternoon. When I took a moment to breathe, to look at God's beautiful creation, all the tension from the day slipped away and my spirit was filled with peace. My circumstances didn't necessarily change, but my attitude and focus changed.

Today, let me encourage you to make a different choice. Choose to change your attitude and focus from the things that will bring you down. Instead, focus on the good, the beautiful, the positive things in your life. Trust me, it's not easy, but it will make a difference in your day.

How can I pray for you today as you seek to make a more positive choice?


Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Easy Way

Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner. My transgressions are many, far too many to name. There is nothing good in me.

Return to me, for I have redeemed you.

*****

At the beginning of this year, I chose a word. One word that I would focus on all year long. It really wasn't a word that I chose so much as I felt God whisper to my heart.

Return.

Return to what?

Return to Me.

Return to my first love, cliche as it may sound. 

This morning I chose to sit in my office and read for a while. I sat with one of my old, worn Bibles. One that has writing in the margins, scriptures underlined and circled, and all kinds of memories. It's one from a different time in my life, one where I was excited to read and learn and grow in wisdom and understanding. To spend time with the love of my life, getting to know Him and allowing Him to change me, mold me, shape me into the woman I am meant to be.

As I opened the crinkled pages to a portion of scripture I've read many times, I listened to God speak to the Israelites, His chosen people. He recalled their shortcomings, their wickedness, and their idolatry. He then recounted how He had formed them, created them in their mother's wombs. And then He whispered to them the same thing He whispered to me, "return." 

I wonder how the Israelites felt as they heard God whisper. Did they wonder at His grace and mercy? Did they weep with joy at the sound of His voice, knowing all their sins were pardoned? Or did they scoff, kicking their feet in the dust, dismissing Him altogether?

This morning, as I ponder God's words to the Israelites, and to me, it's easy to scoff. It's easy to say, but God, you don't know who I am or what I've done. 

Really?

As ridiculous as it sounds, yes. The human heart - this human heart, especially - finds it much more difficult to lay down my pride and open my heart to Him. To His redeeming grace. To let the tears of joy flow, knowing all is forgiven.  Because to truly experience what it means to return to Him, I have to let go of everything that is holding me back from Him. All the stuff I'm holding on to must be dropped at His feet so that I can embrace Him. 

And letting go is hard.

Yet He continues to whisper. He speaks to my heart and tells me He loves me with an everlasting love. 

With those words I know He will wait. He will be patient and loving and kind, ever prodding at me to let go of whatever is holding me back. But always with love. Everlasting love.

Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt God whispering to you but you found it hard to let go?