Shaken (a review)

Shaken, by Tim Tebow and contributor A.J. Gregory, is a multi-faceted book that offers more than a few surprises.

One of those surprises is that this book, Tebow’s latest, is far less about the game of football than would be expected from one written by a Heisman Trophy winner, 1st-round draft pick, and former NFL player.

Instead, Tebow focuses on the emotional and spiritual impact of the game, particularly the devastating lows — being traded by the Broncos to the Jets, only to be cut after one year; being cut by the Patriots after training camp; and again being cut after training camp a year later by the Eagles.

Tebow is refreshingly open about the effect of these disappointments. He admits that he struggled emotionally, questioning himself and his dream. In short, he is candid in explaining that his failure to be successful in the NFL shook him.

However, that failure did not shake Tebow’s faith. And it is that unwavering faith and the lessons he learned from his professional struggles that form the core of this book.

Tebow explains how, despite all the media scrutiny and relentless discussions of why he’d failed, as well as the widespread speculation about his professional future, he never lost sight of who he was and what was truly important to him. He in turn explains, in a warm and engaging style, how the reader can share that same confidence in who they are no matter what life throws his or her way.

Shaken is not just for the football or sports fan. Rather, it is for every person who has faced disappointment, who has run into seemingly-insurmountable obstacles, and whose dreams have been broken.

In fact, it is a book for anyone and everyone.

I was provided a free copy of this book in return for my honest review, which I have provided here. Shaken is published by WaterBrook and released today (October 25, 2016)

 

Who Has My Vote

“I’ve been following all the election coverage,” a friend said to me late last week, “and it’s all such a mess. What personalities! And the issues. So complex and so many. What issues do you think are most important?”

I explained that I vote according to one thing only, and that is absolutely true. Before I explain what that one thing is, though, I want to share a little backstory.

In May 1976, I celebrated my 18th birthday, knowing that in just 6 months I would cast a ballot in a U.S. Presidential election. My parents had always taught me that with rights came responsibility, so I was determined to be an informed voter and to make a wise decision.

As a result, I watched television and read newspapers, but there was so much to wade through that I finally made a chart that showed how each candidate — Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford — stood on each issue and then chose the one with whom I agreed on the majority of issues. They both seemed quietly dignified, one in a somewhat more sophisticated sort of way, so to my way of thinking, their personalities weren’t an issue.

I did the same thing — Carter and Ronald Reagan that time around — 4 years later. In that election, personality was an issue. Both men were genial and personable yet stern and serious when the issue called for it; however, Reagan was the more charismatic of the two. While I don’t remember specifically, I would imagine that my 22-year-old self was at least slightly influenced by that.

But eventually — I don’t remember exactly which election — I changed my strategy in two ways.

First, I stopped considering the candidates’ personalities and demeanor for the simple reason that they do not matter. Disagree with me? History abounds with examples, but consider just one.

Harry Truman was considered by many outside rural and small-town — and particularly by the “movers and shakers” and the media — to be a crude country bumpkin, unfit to be President of the United States. At the same time in history, Adolph Hitler was consistently acknowledged, even by his critics and those who were plotting his downfall, as charismatic and polished. Compare their personalities; compare their actions and “accomplishments”.

Second, I stopped comparing the candidates’ positions to how I stood on an issue. I continued making a chart of each candidate’s stands, but instead of comparing theirs with my own beliefs, I compared them only with God’s position.

By the way, I would love to say that the two — God’s position and my own — were always the exact same. But I must admit that sometimes I get distracted by the gray areas; in reality, though, truth is not relevant and murky. Real Truth never changes and is  absolute.

Some issues were easy. God’s Word is very clear in regard to the sanctity of life and, despite what some might say, same-sex relationships (yes, the New Testament does address this issue).

Other issues were not so clear. I read passages and cross-references, looked up what original Greek words were used and what those words meant, and tried as best I could to draw from all that information a bottom line, for want of better word.

There was no reason to look at any one specific issue because no one specific issue was more important in and of itself. Rather, what was important, to me at least, was which candidate’s views were most closely aligned with God’s view. .

That hasn’t changed.

This year,  like every 4 years since I changed my strategy, one candidate stands out. His or her positions — as indicated by their actions and their own words — on the various issues are aligned with Godly standards far more consistently than the other candidates’. And that is the only thing that I consider when I cast my ballot.

Who is that candidate? Rather than tell you, I hope you will do your own research and that, when you discard all the chatter and focus only on the candidates’ words and actions, you will have a clearer picture of where each stands in regard to Biblical truths.

An even greater hope is that on November 8 you will cast your vote for the candidate whose beliefs are most closely aligned with those truths.

I truly believe our country is at a very significant crossroad and that it is crucial that we elect a President who will put us on the right path, the Godly path.

I also believe that “not voting” is not an option. Our citizenship provides us countless benefits, but it also places on us responsibilities, the greatest of which is to vote. It is, in my opinion, irresponsible and even immoral to fail to vote for any other reason than absolute physical inability.

I realize this is a controversial issue, and I of course realize that many will disagree with what I’ve said here. Please share your own thoughts, even if you disagree — but do so respectfully. Thank you!

Feeding the Sheep

“Rio de Janeiro Mission Trip meeting on Tuesday, September 6, at 6:30 in room . . . . ”

Those words greeted me when I opened my church bulletin Saturday evening, and I was instantly intrigued. I served on a missionary team to Mexico in the Spring of 2005, and I’ve wanted to serve again, but illness, moving, moving again, etc, has prevented me from doing that.

Then I saw the date of the trip; because it will take place while I’m on sabbatical, I could serve without taking off from work like I did last time.  But Rio de Janeiro? That destination raises more than a few concerns.

I shared on Facebook my intention to attend the informational meeting and learn more about the trip. In the ensuing discussion, and from others I’ve been a part of, I know some people, even Christians, are less-than-enthusiastic about foreign mission trips. Over and again, I hear the same 3 concerns, objections even.

There are plenty of places right here in the U.S. where churches and individuals can serve.

That is, without a doubt, the number one objection to short-term foreign mission trips that I hear.

There certainly are plenty of areas, plenty of people here in the U.S. who are in need of help. You only need to watch one story on a local or national news program or read one article in the newspaper to know the truth of that statement.

But there’s another very simple truth that applies here. It’s not an either-or proposition. It’s not a matter of we can do only domestic or foreign short-term mission work.

If all the able-bodied U.S. Christians spent even a fraction of their time on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, or even yearly) serving the needs of others, I’m pretty confident that we could handle many of the issues that can be addressed by individuals or volunteer groups. Don’t believe me?

84.8% of Americans are over 12 years old. According to self-reporting and government statistics, 19% are disabled, but for only 9% does the disability impair their ability to function — work, do life tasks. Considering the 2016 population of 324,118,787 and only considering those over age 12, gives us 274,852,731 people, of which 250,115,986 are physically and mentally capable of some sort of work.

Look at that! A volunteer pool of over 250 million people!! Just imagine what we could accomplish. I can’t imagine that we would actually have enough projects for that many people, which leads me to the point that  volunteerism isn’t an issue of domestic OR foreign service.

If those who are not comfortable, don’t have the means — physically, financially, or otherwise — or don’t feel led to serve outside the country volunteer in some way to address domestic needs, that would leave foreign volunteerism to those who feel led to that and who have the means to do so.

Wait, some will say, the fact is that not all of the 250+ million able people are serving. Therefore, those who can serve should serve domestically. I disagree. I can’t worry about those who don’t.

Instead, I hope that those who don’t currently volunteer in any way and who are irritated by the fact that some Americans serve internationally will gain a “Well, I’ll show you” attitude, stop talking about what should be done by others, and start doing what can be done by them!

A majority of those people and groups who are more than happy to receive help from volunteers are able-bodied and have the means to do the work themselves. They choose not to. Doing things for them that they could do for themselves isn’t making a difference; rather, it’s perpetuating the problem-situation.

I have to admit that, to a large degree, I agree with that statement. Two points to consider, though. If you are a Christian and are looking at this from a Biblical perspective, God repeatedly instructs us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, etc. He does not instruct us to first figure out why they are hungry or poor and only help those who can’t help themselves. (By the way “God helps those who help themselves” does not come from the Bible; it comes from Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac).

On a practical level, that last sentence — that helping those choose not to help themselves brings no lasting positive change — has merit in my eyes.

As a result, I am first careful as to where and how I choose to volunteer. Second, when I serve, I diligently put out of my mind any thoughts as to whether those I am serving really *need* assistance. I figure that if God led me to serve in this capacity, I’ll trust Him that it’s where I should be.

It’s not safe. I have a wife/husband, children, parents, etc. who depend on me. I cannot go somewhere that would put my life at risk or expose me to a dangerous illness that I would then bring back home.

Zika. Ebola. Drug cartels. ISIS. Those and other words can strike fear in the hearts of people considering foreign travel. As a widow and single mom, I understand that fear. I’ve read the horrible story of Kayla Mueller, US aid worker captured by ISIS, repeatedly raped and tortured, and finally murdered. I certainly don’t want to endure anything remotely similar.

Of course, I can’t tell anyone else what to do, but my plan is to approach any foreign mission opportunity with an open mind; learn as much as I can about the target country, those around it, and the risk of danger from unbiased, reputable sources; pray diligently, seeking God’s guidance; and then decide.

If I feel God is telling me to go, despite a very real concern on my or my children’s part for my safety, I hope that I would still obey. But I would take every precaution to ensure my safety and health both before and during the mission trip.

So . . . am I going to Rio de Janeiro? I have no idea. I’m going to pray about this and attend the informational meeting Tuesday night.

Perhaps there will be a very clear need for a person with my talents and skills to perform tasks behind the scenes, here at home. Perhaps there will be a very clear need for people like me to travel to Brazil. Who knows now where God will lead me?

I’ll keep you posted!

Have you ever served on a foreign mission team? Or a mission team that served here in the U.S.? I’d love to hear about your experience and thoughts and hope you will comment below.

Have you dreamed of serving on a mission team? What’s holding you back? Please feel free to share via a comment. 

 

A New Path (Five Minute Friday)

I’m very excited to again this week join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. Week after week, these women produce insightful and inspiring posts based on a word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com). My timer is set for 5 minutes; let’s see where the word “path” takes me.

Confession may be good for the soul, but it’s embarrassing for many of us, including myself.

Pride and fear keep me from sharing honestly sometimes, particularly if the sharing is going to make me vulnerable or expose failure on my part. So, I confess, I am often succumb to pride and fear.

But today, I’m shucking off both to share that I have in some ways been on the wrong path for quite some time.

I’ve spent a large part of my life going my own way, following the path that seemed right to me, that I believed would allow me to have the things I thought I needed, the things I wanted — usually not for me, but for my loved ones.

Big mistake.

In other areas of my life, I’ve been on the right path, but along the way I found a really comfortable spot — a carpet of grass bathed in sunshine, warm but with a gentle breeze, the sound of a nearby gurgling creek, and no bugs or flying insects. And I’ve stayed put.

Much of that staying-put time, I’ve been content sharing my comfortable spot with others. When alone, I’ve reached into my tote and pulled out some beloved time-passers.

And there, in my comfortable spot, I’ve waited for things to come to me.

Another big mistake.

In recent months — and certainly more so in recent weeks — I’ve become less and less satisfied here in my comfortable spot. I’ve been looking around me.

I’ve spent a little time looking at the path behind me, the path that brought me this far, but primarily I’ve been looking the other direction.

And the more I look, the more I realize that I don’t want to stay on the path I’d been traveling. But I don’t want to stay in my comfortable spot, either.

I can see the first few yards of a couple of paths. I even hear the voices of different people in my life off in the distance, down each one.

But I can’t see where any of those paths go. Not exactly. Beautiful vegetation and a bit of a haze keeps me from seeing very far at all.

That’s a bit scary.

Even scarier is that, after those few yards, I can’t see the paths themselves. I don’t know the terrain of any of them. I don’t know what obstacles I’ll find along the way. I don’t know how each path twists and turns or how many forks I’ll encounter that lead me to further choices in path.

That’s also scary.

But it’s time. It’s far past time, in fact, for me to stand up, ignore my grumbling muscles and the “don’t go” voices in my head and the fear. It’s time for me to follow a new path.

Goodness, but these first steps are hard.

But oh so exciting, too!

T-minus 425.834 Days and Counting

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I wish I had a dollar for every time the sentiment that fear is the greatest obstacle to change or to living the life you want has popped up in a book I’m reading or in a meme on Facebook or has been uttered in a conference workshop or keynote address.

I’m fairly certain I read one variation or another at least 100 times as I devoured just one book — Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Reboot Your Life!

As I’ve read and listened, I’ve been . . .

encouraged by “I did this and so can you”

cautioned by “time is fleeting, life is short, regrets are ugly things”

and even bullied by “if you really trust God, you’ll take the leap and trust                Him to catch you.”

Through it all, I’ve vacillated on the continuum of uncertainty.

Sometimes, I’m somewhat certain I can make the monumental vocational leap I dream of. Equally often, I’m pretty certain that doing so would be a huge misstep . . . or mis-leap.

Never, though, have I felt confident I can do it, that I can walk away from the thing I once loved but that has changed so drastically I hardly recognize it to do what I’ve dreamed almost my entire life of doing.

I know what’s holding me back, what fears keep me continuing down the path I’m already on.

I simply haven’t been able to overcome those fears.

For years, I’ve read or heard countless testimonies of people who finally pushed through their fear by burning bridges. There was the unhappy ad executive who walked into his boss’ office one day and gave his 6-month notice and the couple that put everything they needed and used in one room of their house, invited homeless people into their home to take whatever they wanted for free, and then downsized to a tiny house they built with their own  two hands.

I chuckled at the story of the woman with 6 sizes of full sets of clothing to fall back on when her latest diet failed. She boxed up all but the smallest size and drove 4 hours to drop off the boxes of at a resale shop that raises money for a battered-women and children’s shelter. She said she considered a town only 2 hours away but was fairly certain a 2-hour drive wasn’t enough to make her overcome the urge to go back and re-buy all her clothes. She was pretty confident that a 4-hour drive each way would do the trick.

Two weeks ago, I decided to burn a bridge.

I did it the very next day.

Only two people — my son and my daughter — are aware that there was a bridge burning the afternoon of August 19.

Truth be told, the bridge is burned, but there’s a rowboat on the shore I can use in a pinch. But I’m trying really hard to forget that rowboat exists, to remember that there’s a way to circumvent that burned-out bridge.

And so, the bridge has been burned, and I’m ignoring the row boat. How much time do I have to prepare for the actual leap?

14 months.

425.834 days.

Here we go!

 

 

Civility be Darned, Shower-Style

When I got married just over 30 years ago, two individuals offered to throw a shower. I appreciated their thoughtfulness, provided the asked-for guest list for one of them, and only asked that the hostess not go to too much trouble or expense. The same thing happened again when I was expecting my son and later my daughter.

I wasn’t doing anything special; that’s how things were done then. Brides and mothers-to-be were thankful to have a shower and behaved accordingly. We gathered in the church fellowship hall or someone’s living room, enjoyed cake and punch, played a few silly games, and opened gifts.

I witnessed similar situations as friends married and had children over the years, but somewhere along the lines, something has gone horribly wrong.

In the past couple of weeks, in fact, I’ve heard story after story of what can only be termed “total brat” brides, expectant mothers, and couples.

Types of women and details here are true, but they are mixed around to protect the privacy of the women who shared the information.

One bride-to-be informed her future sister-in-law (to whom she barely speaks and occasionally ridicules to her face) by text that future sister-in-law “must” throw a shower at a specific day and time. She dictated the menu (a keg and Buffalo Wild Wings were on the list), the source and style of invitations, the venue, and the guest list of 37 couples (yes, that’s a potential of 74 guests). The future sister-in-law, a college student with little money, responded that she would love to do this but simply did not have the resources. The respondent text read, “Find it”.

One young couple wants the wedding of their dreams at the expense of others. Those who received an invitation to the wedding also received their “assignment” — what food or beverage they are expect to bring to the reception. The invitee I spoke to was instructed to bring “two bottles of dry wine” from a specific winery.  Another friend invited to the same wedding was instructed to bring “a crock-pot with pulled pork”.

This young couple didn’t want to leave anything to chance; the invitation insert stated that the food or beverage assignment was “in addition to our wedding gift”.

Mothers-to-be are getting in on the game as well. One young mother, expectant with her 3rd child, told her best friend that she needed to host not one, but two, showers — one for her “first tier” friends, the other for the “second tier”. Of course, she had specific requirements for each shower. Heads up to those in the second tier — your refreshments and the venue are not nearly as nice as those for the first tier friends.

These are just a few of the stories I’ve been told — and invitations I’ve actually seen — since the topic first came up several weeks ago when a future sister-in-law shared her story.

The problem is clear. Self-entitled, selfish young men and women have been taught from birth on to behave in this manner.

The solutions are also clear. If you’re the proposed hostess, decline as gracefully as you can. If family peace dictate you hostess the event, hold your ground as best you can and ask anyone who says you must give in to every demand to co-hostess with you. If none of those work, develop some sort of temporary illness or move away . . . far away.

If you receive such an invitation, decline.

Happy Birthday to You! (a review)

What a joy it is to review Happy Birthday to You! — written by Michelle Medlock Adams and illustrated by Sandra Rodriquez — on this particular date. You see, today is my son’s 30th birthday!

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“Happy Birthday to You” is a delightful book and the perfect birthday gift for the little ones in your life.

Several things are, to me, especially impressive. First, author Michelle Medlock Adams provides text that is upbeat and cheerful, and the rhyme scheme is carried throughout the book in a way that creates a very smooth flow and that keeps the listener’s attention. I especially loved the final page, in which the focus shifts from the party with guests, cake, and all the normal trimmings to the mention of a “prayer of thanks” for the birthday boy/girl and the line “I’m so proud of who you are”. What a great closing!

The artwork is also outstanding. Bright, cheerful colors abound, and they are used in a way that (like the text) creates a smooth flow from page to page. The human characters and animals are adorable, and the facial expressions are well done. Each scene is interesting and complex enough to keep a child’s attention time after time; at the same time, the scenes are not so complex as to be too “busy”. Very nicely done by Sandra Rodriguez!

However, because “the proof is in the pudding”, I read this book to 5 toddlers (one at a time). Each one asked me to read it again . . . and again . . . and again. Each smiled, giggled, and laughed as I read, and each one pointed at various things on the page as I turned them.

They also loved pressing the button — 2 laughed at the song; the other 3 smiled and sang along (as best they could :)).

I also asked the mom of each of the 5 to loan me a photo of their toddler, and I inserted that in the sleeve on the last page. When I turned to the last page, each child was so surprised to see their own picture right there in the book, and they were obviously delighted to be a part of the book.

Then I handed the book to each child. It was a good fit for their small hands, and the pages are thick enough that they were able to turn them without difficulty.

It is interesting to note that none of the 5 children I shared “Happy Birthday to You!” was actually celebrating a birthday. That didn’t make a bit of difference to them, so I’m sure any child that receives this book will enjoy it far after their birthday is past.

I will definitely be ordering multiple copies of this book — one for each of my 5 reviewer-helpers and several more to have on hand for gifts!

(I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have provided above)

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