Saturday, October 25, 2014

A.D. 30, by Ted Dekker (a book review)

When I was first approached by PR agency Shelton Interactive and asked if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing a new, soon-to-be-published work by author Ted Dekker, I initially and immediately wanted to say a big, fat NO.

Granted, I had NEVER read a book by Dekker, although I’d seen the majority of his writings displayed on the shelves of township and church libraries, and local bookstores. But it was my understanding that his books were haunting, intense thrillers which are SO not my genre of choice.

However, the summary the publicist provided piqued my interest, so I decided to read and review A.D. 30, Dekker’s latest literary offering, which is due to hit the shelves on Oct. 28.

And after all my foolish apprehension and yes, I admit, a harshly judgmental attitude, I must say that I’m so glad I did! What a story!!


A.D. 30 is a fictional novel set during the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It’s the captivating story of Maviah, a young woman who is the illegitimate, outcast daughter of Rami bin Malik, a well-known and powerful sheik to the Bedouin people of Arabia. She, along with her infant son, live with her father, who has despised and rejected Maviah her entire life, and with her father’s Nabataen wife, Nashquya, the only one in the house who accepts and loves Maviah.

After a series of sorrowful occurrences and horrific, action-packed events take place in her desert hometown of Dumah, Maviah escapes the city under siege, and finds herself on a journey to Palestine, accompanied by two of her father’s best warriors, Saba and Judah. Once there, her mission is to find King Herod Antipas and form an alliance with him in order to save her father, who has been captured by an enemy tribe known as the Thamud, and the Bedouin people.

But unexpectedly, Maviah also encounters another King along the way – and quite a different King at that, who speaks of a Kingdom that is a far cry from any Maviah has ever known. His name is Jesus, or Yeshua, the Hebrew name to which He is referred throughout this book.

Each encounter she has with Yeshua, each incredible and radical teaching of His she hears, each amazing miracle she is privy to, slowly begins to change Maviah’s life dramatically. 

And finally, it is her faith and trust in Yeshua and His Way that will ultimately heal her and help her to deal with the surprise twists and dangerous turns that occur as she seeks to accomplish her all-important mission.

What I consider a ‘good read’ and a great book is generally one whose storyline causes me to carry the book with me wherever I go during the day so I can continue reading, and which keeps me reading far into the night after everyone in my family has gone to sleep. A.D. 30 is one such book. I could not put it down (although obviously, I eventually had to)!

In the micro biography on the book’s jacket, it states that Ted Dekker ‘is known for stories that combine adrenaline-laced plots with incredible confrontations between good and evil.’ I certainly found that to be true here.

Also, I absolutely love when a book enables you to experience what the characters themselves are experiencing – the physical, the mental and the emotional. The external and the internal.

And that happens for me here with A.D. 30, as Dekker paints an enormous linguistic mural, using a very fine, yet wonderfully detailed brush. His vivid, colorful descriptions and vast historical knowledge immediately swept me right into the times, the action, the excitement, the landscape and the emotions of this story.

The story itself is a little over 400 pages long, but for me, the real gem here is the 6 pages that make up the introduction that Dekker writes, entitled, ‘My Journey Into A.D. 30.’  

Here, we’re afforded a tiny glimpse into Dekker’s early life as the child of missionary parents, and how and why he came to write A.D. 30. From this portion of the intro alone, it would seem he wrote this as much for himself as he did for the benefit of other people:

‘For ten years I dreamed of entering the life of Jesus through story, not as a Jew familiar with the customs of the day, but as an outsider, because we are all outsiders today. I wanted to hear his teaching and see his power. I wanted to know what he taught about how we should live; how we might rise above all the struggles that we all face in this life, not just in the next life after we die.'

For those of us who feel or who have ever felt like an outcast -- invisible, betrayed, forgotten, unloved and abused -- A.D. 30 is also a story of hope and healing, through faith in Yeshua, one that we may be surprised to find (or not) parallel to our own life stories, although the details will obviously be vastly different. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a powerful and inspiring novel to read. Accept Dekker's invitation to 'enter this story if you like and see if you can see what Maviah saw. It may change the way you understand your Father, your Master, yourself, and your world.'



I’m so grateful and honored to have been given the opportunity to read and review A.D. 30, so many thanks go out to publicist Sara Pence at Shelton Interactive.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Change

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever ~ Hebrews 13:8

Change – it’s a part of life.

Sometimes, change blows in like a much anticipated and welcome breath of fresh air with which we joyfully fill our lungs. Like oxygen, it is life-giving.

But other times, change hits us hard and unexpectedly, like a bomb being dropped in the midst of an unsuspecting people.


It’s unwelcome, frightening, and often, it can feel chaotic and destructive. And when it happens, we may do one of two things:

we run from it
or we fight it

Every day, each of us comes face-to-face with some kind of change, brought on by our own or someone else’s choices or decisions. We can run towards that change and embrace it, or we can run away and hide from it. We can joyfully accept it, or we can fight against it in anger.

Today, if you find yourself in the midst of change that you’re unable to accept; that you didn’t ask for and don’t want; that is cause for fear, dismay or unrest in your life, may I suggest another option?

Hand it over to God in prayer, and trust Him for the outcome.


For many, this may seem like the most difficult option of all. Because for those of us who would rather live with our heads in the sand and not have to deal with the various changes that confront us, this means even though we may give them to God, we would have to give up pretending they're not there and acknowledge them. 


And for those of us who are ‘control freaks,’ who refuse to hang up our SuperHero capes and would rather ‘fight than switch,’ as the old cigarette ad used to say, surrendering the unwelcome changes in our life to God and trusting Him with the outcome, well….to say that it’s difficult is a huge understatement. 


Because we ‘hands on’ folks NEVER like to be told ‘hands off,’ no matter how many times we may sing “I Surrender All” in church.

Today, maybe you woke up and your day began innocently enough. You were deaf to the sound of an engine roaring in the distance. You were blind to the shadow hanging over you as you walked out the door or answered the phone. You just went about your business, doing what you normally do, and then


Someone dropped a bomb on you, leaving you wounded, confused and perhaps, even afraid of what the future holds for you, for your family, for your school, your neighborhood, your place of employment.

Or even, for your church.

That actually happened to me this morning. While I won't go into all the gory details, I do want to challenge you, as I am challenging myself, to believe that you are in good hands.


Because you are in God’s hands.

Acknowledge and believe that whatever changes are occurring in your life right now, they may have surprised you – but they didn’t surprise God.

He knew about them LONG before you did.  He either purposely orchestrated them, or simply allowed them to take place.

And He has a plan. Whatever changes are happening, KNOW without a doubt that God is at work in them. 

Sometimes, He gives us a heads-up and offers us a front-row seat to what He is doing. Other times, He is at work behind-the-scenes, where we can’t see Him, and His plan is unknown to us.

Either way, we need to trust Him for the outcome.

Yes, life is filled with change. Seasons change. People change. Circumstances change.

But one thing NEVER changes, and that is our Lord God and His love, grace and mercy towards His children.

And because of this, we CAN let go of all the tough and unfathomable changes that come our way, hand them over to Him, and trust that He is both present and at work in them, for our good.


‘We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves Him’ ~ Romans 8:28, CEV

Monday, September 15, 2014

Giving God 7 Days

"I want God, not my idea of God." ~ C.S. Lewis

How much do you want God? And what would you give to show Him how serious you are about wanting to know Him and about having a relationship with Him; to experience His presence in your life; to hear His voice; to feel His hand upon you, daily leading and guiding you?

Would you give God a few moments of your time? Would you give Him a day or two...or three?

In these days of ALS ice bucket challenges and gratitude challenges sweeping through social media, let me throw another challenge your way, along with this question:

Would you give God 7 days?


Starting today, Lisa Whittle, author of the book 'I Want God: Forever Changed by the Revival of Your Soul', due to hit bookstore shelves on October 1st, is offering a FREE pdf with 7 days worth of devotionals, Scripture on which to meditate, reflective questions for you to answer, and some daily steps to take to walk with God in a new way.

You don't need to 'tag' anyone nor do you need to let everyone on social media know that you've completed each day's worth of devotionals and questions -- unless you feel moved to do so. Consider this a personal journey, one between you and God. So what you do with this challenge, should you choose to accept it, is completely up to you.

Interested? Intrigued? If you care to join me and so many other women who've already committed to giving God 7 days, here's your link to the page where you can sign up (and hey -- while you're there, why not check out what other folks like Sheila Walsh, Mark Batterson and Mary DeMuth are saying about 'I Want God,' and consider pre-ordering it?):

Soul revival is coming. Mine and yours. Are you ready for it?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

God In The Bleachers

'Let your conduct be without covetousness; and be content with such things that you have; for He has said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." ' ~King James 2000 Bible

During a recent conversation, a friend shared a story from their past. It was a heartbreaking tale involving a celebratory milestone event that took place in their life; an event which no one in the family bothered to attend.

One family member dropped them off at the event location, drove away – and was not seen again until much later THE NEXT DAY.

While family members of the other young people who were involved in this joyous occasion were present in the bleachers – proudly cheering them on by name, pointing them out to those sitting around them, taking snapshot after snapshot of them – my friend’s family members were conspicuously absent from the crowd in the bleachers that evening.


Instead, they took their places on the sidewalk far beyond the seating area. For reasons known only to them, they chose to remain on the outer edge; standing on the fringe – literally and figuratively – of this child’s life, content to observe the happy goings-on through the chain link fence surrounding the field.

Years later, I could still hear the pain and the brokenness in my friend’s voice as the memory of the experience was put into words. I felt moved to encourage this dear one by reminding them that even though they didn't realize it or know it then; even though they didn't see or even know HIM at that time in their life, God was there WITH them. God was there FOR them. 

God was there in the bleachers.


Oh, friends, I have to wonder, as you sit reading this story, just how many of you can relate to it?

Maybe – with a few minor adjustments with regards to the logistics of people, locations and situations – my friend’s story

Is your story

And while the details may be different, the pain and the brokenness that comes from being rejected and overlooked; from feeling lost and forsaken is the same.

It’s real. It’s raw. It remains lodged in your heart like a hidden piece of shrapnel from a long ago battle. It’s a reminder – albeit an extremely erroneous one – that you aren’t worth someone’s time and effort. That you’re invisible. Forgotten. 

Alone.

Today, let me encourage you that this is NOT so. This is NOT truth.

You are not worthless
You are not invisible
You are not forgotten
You are not alone

Today, let me remind you that God is in the bleachers. And in the church pew.

He’s in the motel room and in the infusion room.

He’s in the prison cell and on the building ledge.

He’s at the kitchen table and the radiation table.

He's in the classroom and in the office cubicle.

Or wherever it is you find yourself RIGHT NOW; wherever it is you feel lost, rejected, unseen, forsaken.

Alone.

God sees. God hears. God knows. And God cares.

He sees you, every day and everywhere. He pursues you relentlessly and desperately. He knows your name, whispering it tenderly and constantly. He loves you unconditionally and unfailingly.

He sings over you, longing to quiet you with His love, like a mother sings to calm her wailing, thrashing child.

God is for you, not against you. He is with you – not out there somewhere in the great beyond, peering at you from behind the clouds. Or through a chain link fence.



Wherever you are – God is.

'But now, God’s Message,
    the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
    the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
    all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
    That’s how much I love you!

I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you'
~Isaiah 43:1-4, The Message





Saturday, August 9, 2014

She's So Unusual -- or What It Looks Like When A Little Old Woman Chooses To Say 'I Want God'


'We talk too much and pray too little. We worry too much and pray too little.’

I have to say that I TOTALLY agree with her statement. Not because I’m part of Lisa’s book launch team and have an advanced copy of ‘I Want God’ in my hot little hands to read and review -- and possibly to give away later -- and therefore, feel as though I HAVE to agree.

No. I agree because I’ve lived this in the past. And, truth be told (sad truth that it is), Lisa's words resonate with me all too well because I’m living this right now, in the present.

But believe me – I DON’T WANT TO LIVE THIS IN THE FUTURE.

Because talking too much and worrying too much is a pathetic and exhausting way to live. For a follower of Christ.  For anyone.

I took this photo of a tiny old woman who lives somewhere in my neighborhood. She’s as frail looking as a dragonfly’s wing. Her face is a mosaic of wrinkles. She walks so agonizingly slow, if she were in a race with a snail, I believe the snail would win. No contest.


And yet – EVERY DAY, this little babushka lady makes her slow and steady way to the church across from my house and stands at the gate for a good 20 minutes – and prays.

This is her time, and her sacred spot, where she meets and speaks with God on a daily basis. On hot days and cold days. On sunny days and cloudy days. She takes no notice of those who look at her as they pass by, some pointing and giggling. Some shake their heads at her, muttering sarcastic remarks.  Some actually just stop for a moment or two to stare at her, as if she were an oddity.

But really, in this day and age, in our society and through the eyes of the world – that’s exactly what she is. 

An oddity

Unusual

Old fashioned, even 

A woman who sets aside time EVERY DAY to bring her burdens to the Lord and unload them at His feet. 

A woman who doesn’t talk too much or worry too much, who doesn’t pray too little.

Some may argue that we can pray to God anywhere. We don’t have to stand in front of a church, or even inside of a church.

And yes -- I know that’s true. You and I can talk to God in the car on our way to work, to school, to the grocery store; while we’re doing laundry, jogging, walking the dog; as we soak in the tub, splash in our in-ground pool, sit at a table at Starbucks and sip our coffee, etc.

THEN FOR CRYIN' OUT LOUD -- WHY AREN’T WE?

Why are so many of us wasting too much time talking and texting and worrying and woe-is-me-ing? Why are so many of us playing and platforming and pouting and posting online too much? 

And praying too little?

This little old woman could do her aging, broken and no doubt hurting body a HUGE favor by staying home and praying from the confines and comfort of her living room easy chair or from her bed.


But I love the fact that she doesn’t. 

I love the fact that she wants God enough to, every day, choose to grab her cane, step out of the comfort of her home, and hobble her way down to her outdoor meeting place, where she stands on holy ground to have some Face Time with God, caring not who sees her, or what they think of or say about her.

I want to want God like that.

I want to stop talking too much and worrying too much and praying too little.

I want to be looked upon as an oddity. Old fashioned. Unusual.

Because I want God.


How about you?

(If you are tired of wanting things that are useless, don't make sense and don't last; if you want your life to be changed; if you're wondering what all this #IWantGod stuff is all about, go on over to Lisa Whittle's website or visit and follow her author's page on Facebook and Twitter



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Made Whole

"Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." ~Matthew 11:28 (King James 2000 Bible)

Several weeks ago, a dear friend sent me an email which included this picture:



The name of this sculpture is “Come Unto Me,” and it’s creator is Jerry Anderson. While the life-sized version of this statue stands on display at the Spilsbury Mortuary in Utah, serving as a comfort to grieving families there, I felt moved today to dedicate this to those who are still among the living. 

And due to age or illness, disease or injury, feel your body is wasting away and falling apart.

The sculpture's portrayal of an elderly woman’s journey (and subsequently ours as well) from the temporary to the eternal is stunning. Giving one final glance at the life she’s leaving behind, her frail and flawed body passes through the veil of death, and into the open and waiting arms of her beloved Savior, Jesus. Into her brand new life.

The joy and awe on her face and in her stance is quite evident. She has been restored, renewed! Freed from her broken body. Made whole.


Just as each of us longs to be one day.

Today, as you look and meditate upon this beautiful, engaging and powerful sculpture, my hope is that it may bring some comfort, strength and encouragement to you, dear ones -- you who live each day with pain and fatigue and discouragement as your constant companions along life’s journey.

Let it serve as a joyful reminder that there IS a better life waiting beyond the veil when you choose to accept Jesus's loving invitation to "Come unto Me."

There WILL be a day. With no more tears, pain, fears. The day we meet Jesus face-to-Face.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall n Wot perish, but have eternal life." ~John 3:16 (NIV)





Sunday, April 20, 2014

Return Rejoicing

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground.


“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men.  “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered His words. ~Luke 24:1-8



In Luke's telling of the Resurrection story, these three women come back to where the eleven remaining apostles had gathered, bringing with them their incredible announcement of the empty tomb. They woke up and went out in sorrow, but they return rejoicing.

Luke writes:

'But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened.' Luke 24:11-12

May we, as the three women did, be about the business of rejoicing and sharing our incredible news of the resurrected Christ. 

May we, like Peter, be amazed today...and every day!

For the tomb is empty! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Snapshots For His Glory -- Exodus 3:2;4-5

I am reminded today that even a common, ordinary moment in time can suddenly be transformed into a holy and sacred one.

So be on the alert at all times, keeping your eyes and your heart wide open.

Because you never know when the ordinary can suddenly become the extraordinary.


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