Of funerals and letting go

CSLewisQuote_purpleI went to two funerals yesterday, and I’m working on a third (my own).

The first one was through the pages of a book – the true story of a little girl whose family loved her very much. A tragic accident cut short her very full and vibrant 5-year-old existence.

The second one was in the church where I grew up – the true story of a good man who lived long and prospered. He was 86, and I grew up with his sons.

The third one … well, we’ll get to that. First I want to talk about Maria Sue Chapman and Roy Glenn Provence and the marks they made on the world.

ChoosingToSee_coverIn the book I was reading yesterday morning, written by Maria’s mom, Mary Beth Chapman (wife of contemporary Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman), we get to know Maria as a giggly, silly, princess of a girl who loved to laugh and dance, climb the monkey bars, swing, and play with her big brother Will. Her mom paints a full picture of Maria, from the moment Steven laid eyes on her in China to the day they said goodbye to her five years later.

Excerpts from Maria’s funeral, as well as the hours and days immediately after the accident, show that the Chapman family and friends – while grieving – believed God to be sovereign, loving and full of grace, mercy and hope.

Even in the midst of wondering why the accident had to happen, the family’s aim was to honor their sweet girl and bring glory to God through her death, by witnessing to the fact of His goodness and our need to turn to Jesus as Savior.

In the middle of my grieving with the Chapman family, I had to put the book down to get ready for another funeral. (Click here to read my review of the book on my other blog.)

Fast forward a couple of hours to Pleasant Valley Missionary Baptist Church.

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Roy Glenn Provence, 1929-2016

Roy Provence, by all accounts, lived a full and prosperous life.

Was he rich? Not in worldly possessions. He certainly made a decent living and provided for his family, but his real riches were evidenced by his loving wife, children and extended family, a boatload of friends and the mark he made on the world by serving the Lord through his church and his daily life. All you had to do was look around the sanctuary yesterday to see the impact he had on all of us.

Roy’s son Keith, the youngest, was my high school classmate. The night before Roy died, he asked Keith to sing at the funeral.

And Keith, while grieving, stood at the front of the sanctuary, guitar in hand, and carried out one of his dad’s final requests:

Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why.
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

Roy knew Jesus, and he led his family to know and serve Jesus, too. God’s presence was evident in that place yesterday, for we know – as Roy’s oldest son, Ron, preached – that Roy was with Jesus and that Jesus was among us.

We grieve for Roy, we hurt for his family, but we are not without hope.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

In Jesus, we have hope. We have peace, mercy and joy, even as we grieve the loss of a beloved one.

We know that Roy is in a better place. No more pain, sorrow or suffering. He is rejoicing with Jesus!

We miss Roy, but – if the Provences are anything like my family after we lost my dad, and I know they are – we wouldn’t ask for him back for a second. For we are the ones who see only this side of heaven. Roy has crossed over into the arms of his Savior. There is no better place to be, my friends.

So … I bet you were curious about the third thing.

My own funeral – the true story of a recovering perfectionist.

Perfectionist tendencies don’t die easily. I tend to struggle, strive, question, beat myself up, beat others up (unfortunately) and generally plow through life on my own power.

Trouble is, my own power doesn’t get me very far. It doesn’t help me to be very gracious or loving – to me, to others, to my Savior. It means I design my life according to my own plans and schemes.

Pitiful, eh?

So I need help.

The summer I graduated from college, I spent a bit of time with my Uncle Bill in Yuma, Ariz. He gave me a book that I’ve come to consider the best daily devotional book I’ve ever read: My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. (I’ve found so much wisdom – and conviction – in the pages of this little book that I’ve given it to several people as gifts over the years.)

The Jan. 15 reading (coincidentally, my friend Keith’s birthday) talks about a “white funeral.”

“There must be a ‘white funeral,’ a death with only one resurrection – a resurrection into the life of Jesus Christ. Nothing can defeat a life like this. It has oneness with God for only one purpose – to be a witness for Him.”

I’ve spent a good amount of time striving. For the past few years, I’ve struggled, questioned, researched, agonized, fretted and strategized over how I could serve the Lord and be a witness to Him through my writing, my career and my everyday life.

My writing serves a twofold purpose: 1) to help bring extra income to my family (and by extra I mean eliminate the paycheck-to-paycheck existence) while allowing us to bless others with our abundance, and 2) to be a witness to my Savior’s goodness, kindness and mercy.

Most of my striving in this area has been figuring out a way to make both of those goals mesh: to tell stories authentically, to be honest and transparent about my life (the good and the bad) and to draw people in without coming across as greedy and selfish (because of the ways I might earn money through blogging: sponsored posts, affiliate links and the like).

Bottom line: If I had to choose one, it would be Jesus.

My relationship with Him makes everything else possible. If I didn’t have Him, I would have no hope, no joy, no peace.

And probably no friends. (Maybe my dogs. Maybe.)

While my outward life may not always look like the picture of Jesus’ love and mercy, He is there with me. He goes ahead of me, behind me and beside me. Sometimes He carries me on His back. (He certainly carried the burden of my sin on the Cross.) Jesus has saved me from myself more times than I can count.

And while you may not be able to tell it, my No. 1 goal is to bring others to know Him, too, despite my foibles and fumbles, my feeble attempts to be like Him.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NLT).

There is no other name under heaven that deserves honor and glory except the name of Jesus. I know this to be true.

So I strive, I strain, I struggle, I plot and I plan.

And all of it is in vain.

For, as Oswald Chambers says, “Death means you stop being. You must agree with God and stop being the intensely striving kind of Christian you have been. We avoid the cemetery and continually refuse our own death. It will not happen by striving, but by yielding to death. It is dying – being ‘baptized into His death’ (Romans 6:3).”

As Mary Beth Chapman discovered – after Rambo-ing through most of her life – God is good, He has a plan, and His plans are not always the same as our plans:

“Real success in the kingdom of God is not about being strong and looking good and knowing all the right answers. It’s about continually yielding oneself to Jesus and determining to take purposeful little steps of obedience, and the ragged reality that it’s all about God and His grace at work in us.”

These people – Maria Sue Chapman and her family, Roy Provence and his family – have all witnessed to me of the grace, mercy and love of Jesus.

As King David cried out to God for rescue from physical foes, I cry out to Him for rescue from my own enemies of perfectionism, weak faith, reliance on self … of the times I’ve failed to be a witness to His goodness and faithfulness.

Psalm61.3purpleI’m having a white funeral. My death to self won’t be an easy one, but don’t worry: The God of Israel will be my rear guard.

What about you? Do you need to have a white funeral?

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Blogging from A-Z – C.S. Lewis

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “L.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

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ScrewtapeLettersOriginalCover
First edition dust wrapper of “The Screwtape Letters.” Photo copyright is believed to belong to the publisher, Geoffrey Bles, or the cover artist. My use of the image falls under the “fair use” section of U.S. copyright law.

 

When the world lost renowned author, speaker and university professor C.S. Lewis, the event was barely a blip on the newswire in the United States.

Nov. 22, 1963

As England mourned the beloved creator of Narnia, Perelandra and Glome, the world was reeling from the shock and devastation of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination an ocean away.

(A third momentous death that day: philosopher and author Aldous Huxley’s – also overshadowed by the JFK tragedy.)

I was six days shy of my first birthday on this date, and it would be a quarter-century before I discovered the pleasures and intellectual stimulation of Clive Staples Lewis (known to close friends as “Jack”) and his unique way of expressing theological truths.

I can’t explain exactly why Lewis’ words resonate so deeply in my soul. They just do.

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Clive Staples Lewis

Maybe it’s because he was an atheist-turned-Christian; for me, that gives his words greater weight than those of someone who has never really wrestled with faith issues. Lewis once called himself “the most reluctant convert of all time.” But, despite doubts, he weighed the evidence and came out on the side of God and the resurrected Jesus.

(I, too, struggle in my quest for truth; things don’t always make sense. But I keep seeking, and when I seek, I find. Lewis is one of the ways I find.)

But it’s also because he had a unique way of making complex ideas seem simple, using analogies from the everyday, the common. (A modern-day equivalent is Tim Keller. Apologists like Lewis and Keller help me work through my questions.)

In my opinion, my first Lewis book is still his best. The first time I read it, in my mid-20s, I found Mere Christianity to be complex and deep yet simple, albeit a bit intimidating. I read it again last year and found it to be profoundly wonderful, still complex and yet straightforward and simple all at the same time. (I wish I had his way of making this sound sensible.)

My second Lewis book – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Book 1 in “The Chronicles of Narnia”) – was equally wonderful but in a completely different way. The Narnia books have entranced not only me but millions of readers throughout the decades.

His way of expressing theological ideas engaged even young fiction lovers, with whom he corresponded:

“As to Aslan’s other name, well I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in this world who (1.) Arrived at the same time as Father Christmas. (2.) Said he was the son of the Great Emperor. (3.) Gave himself up for someone else’s fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people. (4.) Came to life again. (5.) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb (see the end of the Dawn Treader). Don’t you really know His name in this world? Think it over and let me know your answer!” 

– C.S. Lewis, in response to an 11-year-old girl who had sent him her
drawings and a letter of appreciation for the first three Chronicles of Narnia

Although these two books are perhaps his best sellers, Lewis wrote many others. I haven’t read them all, I confess. A few weeks ago, a longtime friend gave me a copy of Till We Have Faces, which I had never attempted to read. (I wish I had read it before writing this post.) My friend had such an odd reaction, and she was sure that I, too, would think the book extremely strange. So it sits on my nightstand, waiting its turn; I can’t wait to dig in.

Lewis also wrote about his conversion to Christianity (Surprised by Joy, [joy was a topic that came up frequently in his writings]), marriage late in life to Joy Davidman, Joy’s death (A Grief Observed) and heaven and hell (The Great Divorce). Another favorite of mine: The Screwtape Letters, a fictional account of correspondence between veteran demon Uncle Screwtape and his demon-in-training nephew Wormwood.

A movie, Shadowlands, chronicles Lewis and Davidman’s relationship and her death; the theatrical release stars Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger; the PBS version features Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom.

Here are links to Lewis’ works:

And then there’s this exciting recent news of a discovered letter.

Two other books of note (not penned by Lewis but inspired by him) – one fiction and one nonfiction:

  • A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Vanauken and his wife, “Davy,” were friends and correspondents of Lewis’, and this book details the couple’s life and love, Davy’s death and some of the letters between them and Lewis. You won’t always agree with their choices, but you’ll gain something from this beautiful book.

Note that I’ve linked you to CSLewis.com for many of the books. I’m sure you can find most or all of them at lower prices at a mainstream bookseller such as Amazon. The choice is yours.

Happy reading!

UPDATE: After I published this post, I discovered that my friend Lois at Waxing Gibbous had also written about C.S. Lewis today. And it’s not even his birthday! (She wrote about Narnia. Check it out.)

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Tomorrow: M is for music.

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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Blogging from A-Z – God, politics and the Ten Commandments

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “G.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

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The Ten Commandments

I’m about to say something that might be considered sacrilege in some parts (including these here parts I live in – namely, the Bible Belt):

I don’t think erecting a Ten Commandments monument on government property is a great idea.

But Arkansas is headed there.

State Senate Bill 939, passed last week by the Senate and the House and sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson for his signature, will allow for the placement of a stone monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Arkansas Capitol.

“There are many historical monuments around the Capitol, and we’re just giving room to another one that has significant historical value,” said state Rep. Kim Hammer, as quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. (Hammer is one of the bill’s 42 sponsors.)

I think that’s an oversimplification of the issue, and I think, as Christians talking about public issues, we tend to do that – oversimplify things – in an effort to make all things seem equal. But sometimes it means we want things to be equal for us.

Have we thought this through?

All things being equal, I’d agree with the state lawmakers who want the monument in public. I am a Christian who practices her faith daily (or at least I try to), and I believe that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on two stone tablets, lo those many centuries ago. I’d even agree that the Commandments have “significant historical value,” as Hammer stated.

And I even agree with what SB939 states: everything from “The courts of the United States of America and of various 29 states frequently cite the Ten Commandments in published decisions” to “God has ordained civil government.” But I’m not sure that this …

“The placement of the monument under this section shall not be construed to mean that the State of Arkansas favors any particular religion or denomination over others.”

… is enough to convince the naysayers – or me.

Because not all things are equal, and not everyone in the good ol’ U S of A is a Christian. And significant historical value? I have to wonder if that was truly the sponsors’ motive. Hammer’s justification seems disingenuous. That’s usually the type of argument we come up with when we think our real argument will fall flat.

And maybe if the monument had been placed a century ago, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But it wasn’t, and we are.

So, as Christians, when we use an argument like “significant historical value” as a way to justify our position but what we really mean is that we want you to shut up and get out of our way, we lose an opportunity to connect, to really engage, with those we purport to want to reach with the Good News of the gospel. In fact, we shut the door in their faces.

I believe Christians are commanded to preach the Good News, and one of those ways is public declaration of our faith without shame or apology. But when it comes to displays of our beliefs on public property, I think we’re opening a can of worms we may not want opened.

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photo courtesy of all-free-download.com

Our country was founded on the basis of religious freedom for everyone.

So if Christians place a Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds, what’s to stop a Muslim, a Hindu, a Wiccan, an atheist or anyone else whose beliefs with which I differ from placing a monument on that same state government property?

Nothing, in my opinion. Except maybe a passel of lawsuits and a bunch of acrimony. And a lot of lost time, money and goodwill. A bunch of slammed doors.

Is that what we want?

Is that what we as followers of Jesus Christ are looking for? To win some argument so that “our” form of government can dictate how others believe?

Like we could even come close to doing that. (As those liberals are fond of saying 🙂 you can’t legislate morality.)

I am all for defending religious liberty, but I’m also all for common sense.

I believe that each time we argue about a religious display on government property, or some other religious “liberty” that, in reality, is a way to force our beliefs down someone else’s throat, we’re placing one more wedge between “us” (Christ followers) and “them” (those we purport to try to reach with the Good News). Sometimes I think we just want to win.

But if we set up this monument, I think the best we can hope for is a tie.

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I feel the need to add a few personal thoughts:
  • I was extremely nervous about posting this. I’m not sure who will read it, and I am not looking to offend anyone or stir up a fight. I’ve always tried to stay away from controversial topics on this blog, so this is the first time I’ve written anything like this. (So, a little anxious.)
  • I could be wrong. Everything I stated above is my opinion, though, and I’m blessed to live in a country where stating an opinion is allowed.
  • I’m willing to change my mind if someone makes a persuasive counter-argument. Although I’ve made some definite statements on one side of the issue, there are a few topics I feel more strongly about than this one and am willing to argue more vehemently about. This one isn’t a hill I’m willing to die on.
  • I welcome others’ opinions. I really do. If you agree or disagree with my views on this topic, please feel free to post a comment. I ask only one thing: BE POLITE AND RESPECTFUL. I respect your right to disagree with me; please respect everyone else’s right to do the same.
  • I’m married to an atheist, who’s also a fellow “former journalist,” and I trust his judgment. I asked him to read this before I published it – not so he’d agree with me but so that he could tell me whether my writing contained gaps in logic. (I’m not a professional debater, folks; I’m just a gal with opinions.)
  • I prayed about this before posting. I can do nothing without the power of prayer to back me up.
  • Thank you for reading.

For further reading on this topic:

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Tomorrow: H is for home.

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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Blogging from A-Z – Easter … everlasting life

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “E.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

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Isaiah53Quote

It seems wrong to be in the middle of a monthlong blogging challenge that excludes Sundays … when one of those Sundays is Easter.

And, if I had planned ahead, you would be reading this on Easter Sunday instead of the day after.

But, come to think of it, Easter is all about what happened After.

“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day” (Luke 24:6-7, NLT).

In fact, the central theme of the Christian faith is about what happened after Jesus was crucified.

In his Easter sermon, my pastor quoted a favorite pastor and author, Tim Keller:

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”

There’s not much more to say than that. It sums it up. If Jesus had stayed in the grave, there would be nothing to hope for, nothing to live for, nothing to die for.

Nothing to talk about.

What you can hope for – trust in – is eternal life with Jesus Christ:

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, English Standard Version).

If you would like to know more about having an everlasting relationship with Jesus and need to talk to someone about it, feel free to email me here:

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I want to leave you with two things:

 

Rejoice with me today, for …

HE IS RISEN!

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Follow me on twitter: OakleySuzyT

Tomorrow: F is for ??? (I don’t remember – I thought of the topic at work and left my list there!). Stay tuned.

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It’s all in how you CHOOSE to look at it

“I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I could’ve gotten – because it made everything else possible.”

– Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton

By the time Saturday morning arrived, I was beyond ready for my pity party. My teammates – fellow fundraisers for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge program – were about to run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon without me.

In fact, by the time I got up at 6 a.m., most of them were probably more than half-finished – it was 7 a.m. in Florida, and the race started at 5:30.

I had signed up for the race in the spring, and this was going to be my second half-marathon, after having withdrawn from a similar event in 2013 because of health problems.

I had been oh-so-excited to receive this note from my team manager a few weeks later:

TeamChallengeMickeyWelcome_croppedIt accompanied my training shirt – the one that was going to see me through weeks and weeks of long runs as I prepared for the Disney half.

TeamChallengeTrainingShirtI hadn’t planned to “do another Team Challenge race in 2014.” The previous year had been so challenging – healthwise, financially and emotionally – that Bruce and I decided I needed the break from long-distance training and the pressure of fundraising.

The fundraising is the hard part. The running, not so much. (I love the running part!)

But when the Disney half opportunity came up in late spring, the email made it so tempting:

“Our alumni are the first to know – Team Challenge has a BRAND NEW event. We’re headed to the happiest place on earth on January 10, 2015 for the SOLD OUT Walt Disney World Half Marathon! As an alum, you have the opportunity to get one of the TC entries before they’re open to the general public!”

This hit me on so many levels: “first to know” (I’m special); “alum” (I’m part of a select group); “SOLD OUT” (an opportunity too great to pass up!); Disney (a hugely popular race series, not to mention family destination).

So I signed up.

I began training and fundraising, and soon my shirt and the special note from Mickey arrived. 🙂

But this was about the same time that I also decided it was time to tell my doc about my increasingly worrisome blood pressure problems. Before my heart surgery in September 2013 (the reason I withdrew from the previous Team Challenge half-marathon), my BP had always been slightly below normal. Since the surgery, it had been high – the opposite of what one would expect after the surgery.

So we began the task of regulating it with medicine. I was hoping the doc would suggest something else, but that’s what we tried. We tweaked the medication all summer, with me monitoring and logging the BP readings taken at home (and continuing to train for the half), until one day, at a follow-up appointment in November, my doctor issued this plea:

“I wish you wouldn’t run any long distances until we get it stabilized.”

(Not her first time to admonish me about distance races.)

If Bruce hadn’t been at that appointment with me, and agreed with the doctor, I might have balked. But he is NOT AT ALL conservative about running. Annoyingly not.

So I agreed.

I withdrew from another Team Challenge event.

Fast forward to yesterday. (Although I had stopped participating in the weekly conference calls, I had remained on the team’s Facebook group – wisely or unwisely – and I continued to get team updates, travel info and training tips.) By the end of the week, the Facebook updates were at a fever pitch. Teammates were EXCITED, as expected. They posted travel plans, arrivals, where-to-meet plans, race expo updates, pasta party pics, post-race meet-ups, and on and on. Photos like this:

TeamChallengeNationalTeamWDW_01102015If I’d been there I would have done the same thing. I would have been ALL up in it, complete with tweets, posts, text messages to friends, calls to Mom – the works. But I wasn’t.

So by Saturday I had worked myself up to a sad mess.

I am happy – truly happy – for my teammates (most of whom I’ve never even met, except in video conference calls and on social media). They had a great time and – let’s not forget: They (we) raised $150,000 toward curing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. With this ONE event, two-dozen people raised $150,000. (My part of that, before I withdrew, was about $3,600.) I helped bring us $150,000 closer to curing my husband’s disease. (That doesn’t count the other Team Challenge teams that raised money during Disney; I don’t know their totals.)

Sometimes I forget the big picture when I’m feeling left out.

But, finally, I remembered to do what I’m supposed to do at all times (even when life isn’t an immediate mess):

PRAY

The pithy bumper sticker says: “When in doubt, pray.”

The Bible says: “Pray without ceasing.”

Putting my pity party on hold to pray helped me remember some things from my reading plan earlier in the day:

Those who are inclined toward God – who love him and want to do his will – will hear the voice of wisdom and respond. Those who have little depth and no desire for God – who can’t see beyond themselves and the present moment – will hear the voice of folly and respond. Two voices, two kinds of hearts; as a result, two drastically different journeys. (From Once a Day 31 Days of Wisdom.)

I want to have a heart that inclines itself to God, not to folly. Not to self-pity, or resenting the success or happiness of others. A HEART FOR GOD.

By the time I ran across this 10-minute video, my attitude was starting to shape up. Please take the time to watch it, even if you don’t remember Scott Hamilton from his glory days, even if you’re not into figure skating. Scott was an athletic superstar when testicular cancer sidelined him. Then, later, a brain tumor. And he lost his mom to cancer.

“I think I’m probably more known for my health problems now than for anything I ever did on skates,” he said. Scott could have let cancer stop him dead in his tracks.

BUT HE SAW THE BIGGER PICTURE.

Watching this video, just 10 minutes and 27 seconds of someone else’s journey, put my “problem” in perspective.

Now that you’ve watched it, and considered your own journey, what attitude will you choose? What will your life be about? It’s all a choice.

“She died of cancer, and I survived. What’s my purpose now?”

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Songs to make your heart happy

It’s no secret that I love Christmas music. Heck, I just love music, period. I listen to everything from country to rap (if it has positive lyrics) to opera. Just about anything can get me singing along, tapping my toes or even dancing around the room.

I’ve been listening to Michael W. Smith’s new Christmas album since it came out several weeks ago. It features duets with country and other artists, including his longtime pal Amy Grant (and even one with her husband, Vince Gill).

I have Michael’s first Christmas album, which is 25 years old, and all three of Amy’s Christmas albums. (I totally missed Michael’s 1998 and 2007 albums. Where was I??? The only thing I can remember is that those are the years of Bruce’s two biggest Crohn’s flare-ups, including the year we got married. I guess I was a bit distracted.)

The thing I like about Michael and Amy’s Christmas albums is that they include not only traditional songs (with their own unique spin) but original or lesser-known music that makes my heart soar (orchestras, full choirs and instrument solos are plentiful). There are tender songs such as Amy’s “Breath of Heaven” and the hauntingly beautiful “Gabriel’s Oboe” (a version of this song was featured in one of my favorite movies, The Mission); Michael’s “Lux Venit” (co-written with Amy) and “Christ the Messiah,” both with choirs; and the gentle “Welcome to Our World” (both artists).

At least one album from each artist includes a song with bagpipes, which I personally love, although my dad always considered them noise (like listening to a “mashed duck”): Amy has “Highland Cathedral,” and Michael includes “A Highland Carol.” Beautiful, both.

But enough going on about Amy and Smitty. To the songs I wanted to share with you today:

The first two are from Michael’s 2014 album, “The Spirit of Christmas.” These are “lyric videos” – the only versions I could include here legally – although I do find the lyrics on screen distracting from the beauty of the music. To get the full force, close your eyes and listen to the soaring music. (Don’t worry – you’ll be able to understand the words; this isn’t Bob Dylan.) And if you want to go back and catch the lyrics visually as you listen, click and listen a second time. This particular album features mostly country singers, with the exception of Audrey Smith (Smitty’s granddaughter), Michael McDonald (the Doobie Brothers) and U2 lead singer Bono (another of my favorites), with a whispered take on “The Darkest Night.”

It’s all good!

This one, “All is Well,” features Carrie Underwood. Close those eyes and listen (after you click, of course).

And this one, “Almost There” – about Mary’s long journey to give birth to our Lord and Savior – features Amy Grant.

Switching gears a bit, I thought I’d throw in a third one, which is not a Christmas song at all, but I received a link to it (and two others by Crowder) in an email today from Capitol Christian Music Group. Called “This I Know,” it’s really good, especially if you like hillbilly music! And if you don’t, still give it a try. You don’t even have to close your eyes.

I had trouble deciding which of the three Crowder songs to share here. Seriously, I went back and forth for a few minutes before deciding to share the above video on this page. They’re all good in different ways. So if you visit YouTube, also listen to the inviting “Come as You Are” and the toe-tapping “Ain’t No Grave.” You won’t be sorry.

Finally, I’m giving a shout-out to my friend Lois over at Waxing Gibbous, who more or less inspired this little sing-a-long with her Song of the Month feature. Her latest is a song by The Martins, “This is the Promise” (also not a Christmas song), and it’s beautiful.

Which of these did you like best? Leave us a comment below.

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These boots are made for talkin’ – or ‘A Practical Girl’s Guide to Having Some Fun’

SuzysNewBoots12-13-14I’ve lived in Arkansas umpteen years and never had a pair of cowboy boots – never even tried on a pair, never really wanted any. But now I have a pair, y’all! (You’ll have to keep reading to find out which ones I chose.)

Why the turnaround? For one thing, cowboy boots have become quite a fashion item in the past couple of years, and I’ve seen some really cute boots lately – the variety of designs has really exploded. Some of my blogger friends got free pairs a couple of years ago by promoting a particular Arkansas-based retailer with a giveaway on their blogs, but even then I wasn’t that interested, except that I liked the idea of helping a local business.

Given enough time, however, I have been known to come around and get on a particular fashion bandwagon. (Remember stonewashed jeans in the 1980s? It took me years to own a pair [why would you want to buy something brand new that looks worn out?]. Platform shoes? A couple of years.) Often, by the time I’ve come around the trendy item is no longer “the” thing to wear. I just don’t want to be known as someone who does something just because everyone else is.

But cowboy boots are different. Cowboy boots, which started as more function than fashion, have been around for ages. Click here for a bit of boot history, which even mentions red boots! (Yeah, leave it to me to turn a happy Christmas tale into a history lesson about boots and those lovable Huns.)

My dad wore cowboy boots and always considered them the most comfortable shoes he owned. I never understood that – I always thought they would be stiff and hot – but he owned several pairs in his lifetime, and since he had back problems dating to before I was born, I figured there must be something to it.

Dad died in 1997 (Dec. 23, to be exact), and cowboy boot styles have evolved quite a bit since his day. So my mind started to open just a bit on the topic of girls (this girl, in particular) wearing cowboy boots.

DSC02819In October this year, I went to my cousin Nathan’s wedding, and the entire wedding party (from the bride on down the tiny little girls in their frilly dresses and denim vests and jackets) was wearing cowboy boots. It was an outdoor wedding (sort of – the weather was cool and drizzly, so they put up a big tent), and it was kinda country. Classy country, though. Not ritzy but cozy, homey and fun. Tiny white lights, handmade quilts, homemade soups, cornbread, pies. (Someone in our party may have had two pieces of the pecan pie, but I’m not telling.)

SONY DSCI was totally caught up in the beauty and fun of that day (probably the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever had the privilege of attending), and before it was over I said to Bruce, “I know what I want for my birthday: a pair of red cowboy boots.” (To my recollection, there were no red boots in the wedding party, but I just really like red.)

My birthday was in late November (Black Friday this year), but I didn’t get the boots. (Don’t blame Bruce – this wasn’t a gift he could just surprise me with, and I’m way too practical to spend that kind of money on a birthday gift for myself.) I had more or less talked myself out of boots, mainly because of the price tag.

All my life I’ve been accused of being “too practical.” (I’m thinking of you, Southern California car salesman who tried to sell me a red Mazda Miata when I was shopping for my first post-college vehicle.)

I’m originally a California girl, and I still consider that my home state. But, really, I have two homes. I refer to myself as a CalifArkansan (don’t try to say that too fast). I’m somewhat of a city girl but do enjoy me some country music, a mess of fried catfish (that one took me years) and a good dog (or two). I’m what Donny and Marie would refer to as “a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.”

So I just couldn’t stop thinking about cowboy boots (specifically, red cowboy boots), and I knew this wasn’t going to be just an impulse purchase. Maybe not a practical purchase, but, hey, a girl’s gotta go off the rails every once in a while, right?

Fast forward to Saturday morning, Dec. 13. I woke up thinking I didn’t want to spend the day catching up on Quicken and other household necessities. No, reconciling bank statements would not be the order of the day. I’ve been working a lot of overtime lately, and weekends have been for catching up at home – I always feel behind. But OT = a little extra cash, right? It was time for a day off.

Cue the red-boot fantasy.

I called Mom and said, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to stop by Western Trails, but we’re always too busy getting to or from Little Rock to drop in. Wanna go?” (There was no mention of boots – only the thought of getting out and visiting a store from which I had seen some neat jewelry and cute outfits.)

Mom, who is always in favor of shaking me out of practical mode, was game. So by midday, she and I – with Bruce as our chauffeur – set out for Pleasant Plains, about 15 miles south of Batesville.

The experience couldn’t have been more fun. (And for a gal who hates to shop, that’s saying a lot.)

When we entered the store, we had to take a moment to browse the pretty silver jewelry, which is the first thing that catches your eye when you walk in. Then we checked out the clothing section for about two minutes. But that wasn’t why I came. I was a girl on a mission:

To the boots!

The sales clerk showed me a few red pairs, and a few non-red boots also caught my eye. I tried on three pairs of red, but then someone, maybe Bruce, pointed out a pair of light brown boots with red accents. Red stitching and red crosses. I really liked them, but hadn’t I come for all-red boots. Nevertheless, they were worth a try, as they were really great-looking boots. I was still wearing one red boot on the left, so I tried the brown boot on the right.

Now, here’s a thing I love about a small-town store: As I walked around in two unmatched boots, everyone in the store gave an opinion – even folks I didn’t ask!

A guy near the dressing room, where his wife was trying on clothes, pointed and said, “That one. Definitely that one.” (Not the red one.)

Eight or nine people gave their opinions, and not a single one voted for red.

When I protested to each one that I came for RED boots, several folks (including the store owner) said, “Get both!”

Ha! Don’t I wish?

So … can you guess which ones I left with?

I left wearing the brown ones with the red crosses. No, they aren’t the red boots I set out on a mission to buy, but they are beautiful boots. And my mission is much bigger than red cowboy boots.

You see, crosses have a special meaning for me.

MrSmith_imageBruce and I don’t spend a lot on Christmas gifts. We give his son cash, my mom Mary Kay (I sell it, she wears it, so she insists that’s all she needs), my brother’s family small gifts of appreciation and affection, and each other some small token of what our life together is like. Last year (or maybe year before last), our gift to one another was a $6.99 DVD of one of our favorite movies starring a favorite actor: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” with Jimmy Stewart. (Not a Christmas movie, FYI, but one with plenty of heart.)

Even though we’re from different faith backgrounds, we both understand that the meaning of Christmas is not in obtaining stuff. We give charitably throughout the year – a lot less than we would like, but nevertheless with hearts that want to help those less fortunate. And we make Christmas a time in which we keep in mind that it’s about giving rather than accumulating.

So, for me, it’s hard to justify spending $200-plus on a pair of boots that I don’t need but merely want.

Having a new pair of cowboy boots won’t give me eternal happiness. But it’s OK to have them. And the red crosses are my reminder never to take my blessings for granted. They came at a cost.

Having red crosses on my boots is a symbol of what Christ did for us. He left the privileges of heaven to become human. Messy, exhausting, hard. Humanity.

Jesus came to save us from our own messes, our self-centeredness, our difficult moments … seasons … of humanity. He came to show us what humanity really could be, even in the smallest of moments. That handful of brown-boot-voting folks in Western Trails showed me a small glimpse of what humanity was meant to be: Giving. Connecting. Family, even – if only for a few moments. I may never see most of those instant friends again, but in those few minutes in the store, they gave me their own brand of Christmas spirit.

As we remember my dad’s home-going on Dec. 23, 1997, I get more sentimental each year. I miss him. But he’s exactly where he belongs: with his Savior and King.

After we left the store Saturday, I said to Mom, “I wish my daddy could see me in my new cowboy boots – I think he’d like them.”

She agreed.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

If you would like to know more about Jesus and His purpose for your one and only life, please contact me. You can post in the comments and I’ll follow up with you privately. Or click here.

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We’re all in this together

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“The most important thing I learned [from running] is that there is only one runner in this race, and that is me.” – George Sheehan
Comparison can be deadly.

It’s to blame for all sorts of bad stuff.

Trust me, I know. In general, I’ve wasted time comparing myself to others’:

  • Abilities.
  • Personalities.
  • Talents.
  • Looks
  • Intelligence.
  • “Success” (as the world defines it).
  • Fill in the blank ________________.

We tend to assume we’d be happier if we had that person’s sunny personality, sense of style, talent, bank balance, great job, beautiful house, smart kids, well-trained pet … you know what I’m talking about.

Whatever is wrong in my life, I think it can be solved by changing some external aspect of it. (It’s probably why I get my hair highlighted every few months, why I have too many shoes, why my house-clutter bothers me so much.)

But running – and all the challenges and triumphs that come with it – has taught me a few things about comparison. So much of what is running for me involves other people. I not only run with people, I read books, magazines and websites about running, I listen to podcasts about running (resource list below), and – perhaps most importantly – I live with a runner whose passion for the sport rivals that of any elite runner I’ve ever watched, read about or listened to.

Comparing yourself to others (runners, writers, singers, entrepreneurs) can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can draw inspiration from their triumphs and their ability to articulate what the activity has meant to them and what they’ve learned from it.

After my heart surgery last year, I ran across this quote from Olympic marathoner and all-around-awesome runner chick Shalane Flanagan, and I pinned it to the wall of my cubicle at work:

ShalaneQuoteHeadUpHeartStrong
“Keep your head up, keep your heart strong” – Shalane Flanagan

(Until then, I had it all wrong: I thought it was, “Keep your head down; keep looking for loose change!” 🙂 )

Comparison has its pluses, but, for the most part, it simply ties us up in knots. Try running a mile all twisted up and see how far you get! Or write a blog post (letter to the editor, business memo, whatever) and see if it moves anyone to positive action. More likely, your readers will be so distracted by how hard you were trying that they miss the message.

At the very least, comparison is unproductive. It keeps us from reaching our goals, from fulfilling our purpose.

And what are we really trying to accomplish with comparisons? If you’re like me, you want to move forward in life, to progress, to change, to grow, to become an all-around better person. I want to MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.

I will continue to learn from others’ successes and failures so that I’ll be more likely to succeed, less likely to fail.

But my own individual success (and how I define it) depends largely on my uniqueness. On being the person the Creator of the universe made me. On depending on Him and trusting the plan He has for my life (using HIS criteria for success). He’s interested in my interests – He hasn’t written a cookie cutter Plan for Suzy that will crumble if I stir in my own ingredients, infuse it with my individuality or use my own tools to make it all come together.

He is the author of my success, my joy and my ultimate purpose. He gave me those tools, talents and interests.

“Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath” (Deuteronomy 8:18, Holy Bible, New Living Translation).

An antidote to the paralysis of comparison is gratitude. Listen here to Deena Kastor, former Arkansas Razorback, Olympian and holder of several world records, who says:

“When I’ve traveled and run with people around [the world], I just try to adopt their greatest strengths, and I have so many people to thank for that.”

She’s about to publish a book, and she said she could spend 300 pages just thanking people.

Here are a few things I’m grateful that God gave me:

  1. Strong legs (even though I’m a slow runner and have a bum knee that nudges me even slower sometimes).
  2. A strong heart, physically (especially now that I’ve had repairs done!).
  3. A strong heart, figuratively (He keeps me singing!).
  4. A fabulous running community in my small town.
  5. A great husband who loves to run and loves to share his vast knowledge of the sport – and whose (sometimes annoying) enthusiasm for running inevitably rubs off on people! He volunteers as a cross-country coach at the high school just because he stinkin’ loves to run and loves to teach others to love it. He also gets called upon often to help folks in the community who want to put on fundraising walks and runs, and he gives of his time generously (sometimes too generously, I think, but still). I am so blessed to have Bruce Oakley in my life.
  6. A cause to run for. I train with and raise money for Team Challenge of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, because I want to wipe the poo out of Bruce’s disease. Even though I hate the fundraising part (asking for money), I love the idea that I will be a part of the someday-cure. And they don’t care how fast I run. My teammates and I share the dream of curing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and that’s what binds us together.
  7. A desire and a modicum of … dare we say … talent in writing. (Passion and persistence more than raw talent, I would say.) My desire is to influence others to become the people God created them to be – to fulfill their purpose on this earth and to find joy in the journey … just as I’m learning to do, step by sometimes-faltering step.
  8. Courage. I grew up extremely, backwardly shy. (My poor mom.) But through a lot of prayer and determination, I’ve come out of my shell, stopped thinking about myself so much, and consider myself “recovering” (still working on it but much progress has been made). I step out and reach out when I’m uncomfortable sometimes. Only when I draw strength from the Lord can I do that. And, every time I do it, I gain strength for the next time. (It’s not about me, after all.) Some folks who’ve known me for just a few years would never believe I was shy!
  9. An awesome family. They don’t always understand me, but they put up with me – and even love me. Go figure!
  10. The ability to persevere. Even though I’ll never win the Pulitzer for my writing, will never have my photographs published in National Geographic and more than likely (I mean, like, a 99.99 percent probability) will never win a first-place trophy in a running event, I keep at it. You see, I believe all those pithy quotes about how challenges make us stronger. (I’m living proof.) Like this one, which is not pithy but insightful:

“I think anything is possible, and running has certainly taught me, time and time again, that, even when we fall short of our goals, sometimes those lessons are the greatest for us to grow stronger on the other end. So I embrace challenges as if they were a gift to a stronger side of me. … Sometimes it takes a challenge or a hurdle in the way to make us refocus and figure out how to grow” – Deena Kastor.

I believe in the God of the universe, and I believe He has a supreme purpose for my life. My desire is to show all those in my sphere of influence that He has a purpose for their lives, too. And it’s a purpose that will give them joy and courage, if they grasp His hand along the journey.

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” – Isaiah 40:31, NLT.

The George Sheehan quote at the top of this post could be misinterpreted as “Every man for himself.” But what it really means is that comparison will keep you from finishing, or at least finishing well. And we all want to finish well, don’t we?

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” – II Timothy 4:7-8, NLT.

The journey is easier in community. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re competing with them – and not in a good way. Community is best when we’re looking out for one another’s interests, when we see each other as partners, when we hold one another up. It’s one of my favorite things about the running community, one of my favorite things about my church family.

Life is hard, but it can be easier with friends. Running the race together is so much more fun.

McDougallQuoteRunningbewitheachother500
“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other … but to be with each other.” – Christopher McDougall

“Hey, whadya say we both be independent together, huh?”

– Hermey the Dentist, in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

__________________________________________________________

RESOURCES FOR RUNNING, AND FOR RUNNING THIS MARATHON CALLED LIFE:

  • Runner Academy and Everyday Runners podcasts (very inspirational, motivational and informative, whether you’re a novice or a long-time runner). Find both here.
  • Runner’s World magazine. Lots of good info, stories and columns. My favorite: Marc Parent’s “The Newbie Chronicles.” He makes me laugh. Enough said.
  • Motivational quotes from Runner’s World.
  • White River Roadrunners club. If you live in north-central Arkansas or even southern Missouri, check us out.
  • Women Run Arkansas. We have more than 50 Women Can Run/Walk clinics around Arkansas every spring. Only 10 weeks from couch to 5k! Coach Bruce and I have made some great friends through WRA.
  • The Holy Bible, via BibleGateway.

What motivates you? Post a comment and let us know.

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Of loss and hope

Me with Uncle John, circa 1967, Kerman, Calif. The boy on the left is our neighbor; the woman on the right is John's first wife.
Me with Uncle John, circa 1967, Kerman, Calif. The boy is our neighbor; the woman is John’s first wife.

I’ve been losing a lot of sleep lately.

As I write this late at night, having gotten out of bed after just a few minutes to look at old family photographs, I’m thinking of two people in particular:

  1. My Uncle John, who passed away not 20 minutes ago, finally surrendering to the cancer that was diagnosed just four months ago.
  2. My Grandma Tressie, who would have celebrated her 98th birthday today had ALS not taken her life much too soon.

Yesterday, one of my co-workers sent an All Employees email announcing her intent to partake in the “ice bucket challenge” phenomenon that has been sweeping the nation. (It seems to have started as a grass-roots effort to raise money for research and a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The challenge “went viral” and has raised millions of dollars in an incredibly short time.) Tammy is bravely and generously doing her part to support the cause. Before a day had passed, however, two others in my workplace had answered the challenge – our COO and CFO will feel the love, too. A couple of twisted employees 🙂 will earn the right (through their donations) to douse them with ice water, too!

But, even as these two diseases have leaped onto my radar in recent weeks, I’ve been raising money for my own cause: curing Crohn’s disease.

I don’t want my husband to die of it someday.

Indirectly, peripherally, it’s why I don’t sleep.

I don’t sleep because there are so many diseases to cure, so much suffering to alleviate. Can I do it? Can I fix the world’s problems, cure its diseases, carry clean drinking water to suffering African children, stop wars and riots and child abuse, end the maltreatment of unwanted pets that are dumped along the highway?

No. Not on my own.

Jesus said the poor will always be with us. (Deuteronomy 15:11, Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:6-9, John 12:7-8, New Living Translation.)

Does that mean I shouldn’t try?

No!

The Lord also said we’re to care for those less fortunate. (Proverbs 22:9 and dozens of other verses.)

And, lest I catch myself thinking that I, myself, am one of those less fortunate, I have to remind myself to count my blessings. I have to GIVE when opportunities arise. Despite a few minor health problems, I am BLESSED. Compared to many people, I have it easy. I have hope.

Will my few dollars make a difference in the world? Maybe not.

But just maybe they will.

How can I not give? How can I not try?

When Jesus admonished His disciples about the poor, He told them to “give generously … not grudgingly.”

He gave His one and only life. How can I not give of my abundance?

Will you consider giving?

This isn’t a pitch for my Crohn’s disease fundraising efforts. It’s a pitch to get you to see why Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than to receive. You don’t believe it until you do it. And when you do it, it feels right.

So come on.

Whether it’s for Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, heart disease, cancer or some other unpronounceable sickness someone is raising funds for, they all could use our help.

Stick your neck out, stand under a bucket of ice water, hammer some nails, do the chicken dance, donate your coin jar – whatever you need to do – just GIVE.

Give someone hope.

You’ll be glad you did.

  • Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Team Challenge program.
  • Your favorite charity ______________.

And I couldn’t end this without making one final pitch:

My Uncle John and my Grandma Tressie both knew the Lord. We know they’re in the arms of Jesus and no longer suffering. If you don’t have the assurance of eternal salvation – if you’ve never given lordship of your life to Jesus, please come talk to me or find a pastor or a Christian friend who can help you find your way to salvation. It is the most important decision you’ll ever make, and it matters for eternity. Don’t  put it off. He gives HOPE.

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Book review: ‘The Well-Balanced World Changer’

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

– E.M. Forster, as quoted in ‘The Well-Balanced World Changer’

WorldChangerBookCoverChristianbookCROPPED

I finished a book last night that took me a few months to read – not because I’m a slow reader (although I am) or that my life is too busy (again, guilty) but because I needed to spend time reflecting on each and every chapter. And I went back and read some chapters a second time. As I said this morning on Facebook, the book is filled with encouragement, insight and wisdom – so much so that I not only read some chapters twice but I highlighted lots of passages. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

The book – The Well-Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide for Staying Sane while Doing Good by Sarah Cunningham (see links below) – is broken into 10 sections, with several short chapters in each. Every single chapter had something profound to say to me. The author was speaking my language.

To say that the book is strictly about “changing the world” is to do it an injustice. For me, it’s more about changing myself from within, of aligning myself with God’s purposes in the world. After all, to make a better world you have to start with yourself.

The author’s words of wisdom resonate on so many levels. She talks about relationships, motivations, disillusionment (a good thing!), compassion, commitment, vision, juggling stuff, setting priorities, being vulnerable, being confident, taking risks, making lemonade out of lemons – or peaches (she tells a story about a professor applying to colleges who sent out his resume with a typo: War and Peach). About perseverance, putting criticism in perspective, figuring out what matters (“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago.” – E. Joseph Cossman) – too many topics to name here.

Each section and each chapter starts with an inspirational or thought-provoking quote. The author found some really awesome quotes – with ideas I’ve been trying to incorporate as I work on gaining confidence in my writing (and other areas of life). Like this one:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

And this:

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams

And these two:

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” – Richard Bach

“It’s always too early to quit.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Yes, yes, YES!

These are the section titles, followed by the opening quotes:

  1. Worth & Success. “The world has not seen what God will do through one man who is totally yielded to God” (D.L. Moody).
  2. Health & Balance. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer” (Harriet Tubman).
  3. Peace & Perseverance. “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world” (Robin Williams).
  4. Risk & Control.  “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world” (Archimedes).
  5. Alignment & Relationships. “You realize you can’t change the world but it shouldn’t stop you from trying” (Kevin Johnson).
  6. Plans & Priorities. “It is more rewarding to watch money change the world than watch it accumulate” (Gloria Steinem).
  7. Passion & Identity. “I wanted to change the world but I have found the only thing one can be sure of is changing oneself” (Aldous Huxley).
  8. Desires & Frustrations. “Anger is like gasoline. If you spray it around and somebody lights a match, you’ve got an inferno. But if we can put our anger inside an engine it can drive us forward” (Scilla Elworthy).
  9. Faith & Expectations. “Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, ‘We kept charity overhead low.’ We want it to read that we changed the world” (Dan Pallotta).
  10. Humility & Perspective. “A neighbor is a far better and cheaper alternative to government services” (Jennifer Pahlka).

Those section titles alone won’t make you want to rush out and buy the book – they’re a bit prosaic. But the chapters’ contents flesh out the ideas in such a way that you’ll want to keep reading once you start.

This book, plus a sermon my pastor preached in late January, prompted me to get off my duff and enroll in a certification program to become a wellness coach. That sermon sealed the deal for me. It was the day I realized that all my “research and prayer” about whether to do it had reached fruition. That I needed to “paint or get off the ladder,” as my former pastor would say. So I enrolled in the program the next day.

I take my last online course this Tuesday, and in three weeks Bruce and I will head to Colorado, where I’ll finish my training on-site. After that, a final exam and I’ll be one step closer to my version of changing the world.

As I told my co-worker last week, at 51 I’m in the second half of my life. I don’t want to waste any time on things that aren’t of eternal significance. The field is ripe for the harvest. Slowly but surely, I’m being transformed into what I hope is a useful servant in God’s kingdom work – His mission for us as Christ followers.

Good preaching by my pastor plus the excellent book The Well-Balanced World Changer are helping me be bold, have confidence in my dreams and in my almighty God, and work toward my life’s purpose.

If you are similarly called (and I believe we all are), read this book. I purchased the Amazon Kindle version for $8.09, but you can order hard copies starting at $6.84 at Amazon.com or an ebook for $7.99 at Christianbook.com.

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