Monday, March 9, 2015


Recently I had the opportunity to review Michelle Cushatt's book Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life. In a nutshell, Undone is a heart and soul baring memoir of Cushatt's journey through cancer and then changing life circumstances in her family. Some memoirs offer a pull back the curtains glimpse into an author's life. However, Cushatt gives a door-wide open entry into her life.

Undone begins with a life-changing phone call from her doctor with the words "Michelle, it's not good" after which she "fell completely apart." From that point on, Cushatt interweaves stories from her life, Bible stories and teaching, and her current reality to emphasize the truth that if you believe what you say you believe, everything is going to work out. Some stories are funny and others are serious, but each one reminds the reader that God uses and works through imperfect people. One particularly humorous story encourages readers that authenticity and vulnerability minister more than perfect put-togetherness. Throughout the book, readers are reminded messy is the beginning of extraordinary as Cushatt shares openly of a painful divorce and substance abuse.

Throughout Undone, Cushatt's theme is "God showed up bigger" and that he provides enough for one day at a time. My notes from this book are filled with poignant quotes and one-liners that pointed me back to God's grace and forgiveness. The reminders that life is meant to be lived, not to feel guilty of letting some things go, and that the battle is God's, not mine, will remain with me long after reading this book. Many women will enjoy reading Undone on their own. Others may benefit from reading this book in community and using it as a springboard to openly share their own mess and how God is making something beautiful in their life. While not designed as a book to study, a discussion guide to help facilitate women sharing their own experiences would be helpful.

Statement of Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book simply by requesting it on the author's blog in return for a fair and honest review.

P.S. I enjoyed Cushatt's reference to the CIY conference where she committed to full-time ministry as I have served as a youth sponsor at CIY several times and am blessed to minister to and with many individuals who have been impacted for eternity through the ministry of CIY.

My trip to Africa!

Yesterday at our church my teammates and I presented on our recent trip to a country in west Africa. It hardly seems real that just a month ago I was frantically packing to go to Africa and that due to February being a short month, it was just two weeks ago that we returned from our trip. While I had hoped to post about my adventures earlier, sufficient time has now passed that I have bee able to reflect on what I learned.

This was my first trip out of the country and I was leaving my family at home. However, I didn't have any concerns about the trip and had a peace that everything was going to be fine. The amazing thing was that we had a very smooth trip and I wouldn't change a thing. Our flights going and coming were very smooth with no delays. Our food was great (we ate like kings!) and our accommodations were wonderful. I really could not have asked for a smoother trip. The best part though was being able to see first hand how God is working in the country we visited.

I had first became acquainted with the missionaries we visited while they studied at the university where I am employed. I had read their newsletter and their Facebook posts, prayed for them, and considered myself knowledgeable of the work they were doing. But seeing their work firsthand completely blew me away! It was amazing to worship in the first church they planted and know that a mere 15 years ago no one in that locale had heard the name of Jesus. Yet today, 9 different people groups worship together. They have actively established new churches and our evangelizing others in their tribes. Hearing the stories firsthand of the sacrifices they have made and the hardships they are experiencing as a result of their decision to follow Christ was sobering and a huge reality check for me. When they follow Christ, they are literally leaving their families, traditions, and customs and have frequently paid dearly for doing so. Yet these men and women have such joy and excitement and are willing to do whatever it takes to share the Gospel with others in their people groups. I look forward to the day in the future when these people groups move from the unreached to the reached column on the Joshua Project and knowing that I shook hands with the first believers in these groups who were instrumental in reaching their people for Christ.

I'm still processing my trip and these experiences and I will continue to do so for some time. We are blessed to live in a country where following Christ is in many ways easy. We have so much, are so blessed, and don't experience the persecution and difficulties common in other parts of the world. However, those same blessings and how easy we have it often causes us to become complacent in our faith. We can't afford to be complacent any longer. The enemy has such a visible hold over the country I visited yet has an equally strong invisible hold over our lives because it is so easy to put off until tomorrow what ought to be done today.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Finding Freedom in Doing God's Will

"Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free."--A. W. Tozer The Pursuit of God.

This quote appeared as part of a larger section on my perpetual desk calendar this past week. The portion printed above has been gnawing at my brain all week. Like many individuals, I frequently succumb to bouts of what if, should have done, could have done, should do, or could do. For me, these questions frequently center around choices I have made about my children, their education, my working outside the home, and what I can alter from this point forward. These are all areas where individuals and families make a variety of choices depending on their own circumstances which have no one right or wrong answer. I've recently been wrestling with some of these issues again--particularly in light of other recent life experiences and changing priorities.

This quote has helped to bring focus and clarity to some of the questions with which I've been wrestling. While I can't say they have all been answered, these words are a great reminder that the will of God must be the primary focus for a believer. While knowing God's will is not always easy, I can know without any hesitation that time spent teaching and training my children and others in the Word, feeding my own soul on the riches of scripture and God's presence, helping to promote God's desire of having worshipers from every language and people group is always the right thing to do. And that has indeed been a very freeing realization.

Love Your Bible

At first glance, the title Love Your Bible may strike the casual browser as odd. They may be inclined to think “Of course I love my Bible!” or “Don’t all believers love their Bible?” However, in this brief book Gary Neal Hansen brings to life the words of Psalm 119:97 “O, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long!”

While some readers may have heard of lectio divina, others may not be familiar with this ancient practice. Hansen beings with a brief history of lectio divina and its role in Christian history. Of particular interest is the fact that Benedictine monks were required to spend 2 hours a day practicing this discipline and four hours during the winter. As very few of us today have the opportunity to commit that many hours to this practice, Hansen spends the remainder of this book breaking down the steps of lectio divina for today’s readers. A single chapter is devoted to each of lectio divina’s four parts. Throughout the book Hansen uses examples from Psalm 1:1 to help the reader practice the steps.

Readers will gain much by reading through the entire book once rather quickly to obtain the full breadth of the book and to become familiar with lectio divina. After this first brief reading, readers can engage in a second slower reading in which they practice this discipline. To obtain the most from this resource, you simply cannot just read the words on the page but must put them into practice. Fortunately, this book is slim enough to keep with your Bible, perhaps tucked into your Bible cover, to refer to often.

At the end of Love Your Bible, Hansen suggests that readers could practice lectio divina on a single verse of the Psalms each day which would take roughly six years. This suggestion may sound ludicrous to our fast paced, speed of light society, yet following this suggestion will profit those who accept it in the long run.

Hopefully you are now wondering "Where can I get a copy of this book?" Well, I'm glad you asked. This book is available on Amazon in a print copy as seen in the picture above. Or you can obtain this book as a FREE download via author Gary Neal Hansen's blog. And, I have a copy I can give away. Comment below indicating why you would like a free signed copy of this book and how you would use it in ministry.

I received a complimentary download of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Going to Africa!

When 2015 dawned a few weeks ago, I had high hopes with my goals and had planned to document my progress with regular posts on my blog. Alas, my plans did not go as hoped. I should of realized that while my goals are solid and worthwhile, working on those while also preparing for my trip to Africa was too ambitious although I did manage to read several books.

So my time the past few weeks has been spent primarily on preparing for my trip which is now just over a mere 24 hours away. I have spent a great deal of time praying, reading books about the country to which I'm traveling, and doing on-line training with other team members. I also spent time obtaining necessary supplies both for myself and to take to our missionary friends. This week my task has been putting all of the items into my carry-on luggage and making sure my luggage is within the required weight limit. It has been quite exciting and humbling to watch as God has provided for the financial needs of our team and most excitedly worked with individuals on three continents to obtain our visa!

While I'm gone I'm not certain how often I will post on the blog, if at all. I certainly plan to prepare a larger post-trip account of my travels upon my return.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Week 1 Review and Week 2 Plan

So, since yesterday I finally posted my goals for this year, today's post will report on my week 1 successes and failures and my plan for the week ahead. I will be honest in that week 1 was definitely a mixed bag.

Week 1 Review:

House: My ultimate decluttering goal fell to the wayside this week. Too many evening activities combined with multiple other issues resulted in a whole lot of nothing being accomplished.

Health: This week I was reminded that if I am going to exercise I have to make the effort to get up and do it first thing in the morning. Alas, I was unsuccessful.

Family: I was much more successful in this area. On Monday, Stephen and I played several games together. On Friday, Sarah and I went out to eat and then watched a movie together while the boys were out doing their own thing.

Spiritual Life: The One Year Bible and I are zipping right along. Operation World has been a bit more spotty, but I'm working on it. The first book of the Bible in my study Search the Scriptures is the book of Luke. I completed background reading and study.

Learning: I rediscovered this week that a lack of opportunity to read even just a little bit on a daily basis results in crankiness and frustration. So, Friday and Saturday I indulged by reading Standing at the Horizon by Doris Morris, a local author.

Beyond my stated goals above, I had the privilege this week of completing the Hour of Code with the 7th and 8th graders at my my children's elementary school. We have to reschedule the 3-6th grade due to a weather-related school closure.

Week 2 Plan:

House:This week my plan is to tackle the entry way. Hopefully, I can obtain cooperation from all family members in relocating their shoes and other possessions. If that goes smoothly, the kitchen is up next on my list.

Health: As I indicated, this past week I didn't hit my four sessions of exercise. My plan is to get up before the rest of the family to enjoy some time with the treadmill or a favorite exercise video. Doing this along with intentional eating should result in good readings this week.

Family: This week is my husband's birthday so even though we had a birthday luncheon today along with the children, I'm planning a date night and/or a date lunch this week. Hopefully, we can manage both.

Spiritual Life: I will continue reading The One Year Bible in the mornings. While I certainly pray every day, this week I'm planning to book-end the beginning and end of my day with concentrated prayer time. I'm planning to spend time with Luke during at least three evenings.

Learning: I'll finish reading the book More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger this week. My other non-fiction reading is predominantly focused on my upcoming mission trip right now. I plan to mix in some frivolous fiction reading as well.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 Goals

I spent my days off around Christmas, like many others, reviewing 2014 and thinking about what I want to accomplish during 2015 and the years to come. While doing so I utilized a variety of resources I had collected at various times from numerous bloggers including Living Well Spending Less, The Peaceful Mom, and The Passion Planner. I had hoped to publish my goals last week, but life interfered with that happening.

Using The Peaceful Mom's Inspired Word of the Day and Joyful Life Planner I selected GENEROSITY for My Inspired Word of the Year. The dictionary defines generosity as 1. readiness or liberality in giving and 2. freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character. I want to be generous with my time, talents, money, and possessions to others, my family, and my self. The definition reminded me that being generous includes my thoughts and being non-judgmental and affirming to others. I considered several other words but found that generosity will allow me to pursue the other words or qualities I want to embody as well. Practicing generosity will provide more joy and peace, require me to be present to those around me, and mean less for me so that I can give more to others.

Both The Peaceful Mom and Living Well Spending Less provided resources to help readers contemplate the past year, envision their dreams for the years to come, and focuse their goals. I enjoyed working through the suggested exercises of envisioning life in five years and creating an inspiration board, life portrait, and other exercises. While doing multiple exercises may seem a bit overboard, these resources helped to confirm my plans. The Passion Planner took a bit of a different focus in asking to users to envision what you would like to do in three months, one year, three years, and a lifetime and then return to the list to pick the one thing under each heading "that would have the MOST positive impact in your life." This slight twist helped me to focus on both immediate and long-term goals. So below are my 2015 goals:

House: I will minimize (AKA declutter) our possessions significantly. The house will be clean enough to be able to have feel comfortable having friends over which is my three month goal.

Health: I struggle with several health issues as I like to eat and enjoy tasty foods. I will control my diabetes by eating healthy and taking my medicine. I will exercise at least 4 times a week. I have a certain weight goal in mind which is my one year goal.

Family: I will spend one on one time with each family member at least once each month. We will also continue to spend time as a family pursuing activities together both inside and outside of the house.

Spiritual life: This year I am using the One Year Bible to read through God's Word and praying with Operation World, Patterns of Prayer, and other resources I've collected and found. I also located my copy of Search the Scriptures and am embarking on it's three year study through the Bible plan for my three plus year goal. I envision it may take four years though after I subtract time for mission trips, vacations, conferences, and other times where a more in-depth daily study is not possible.

Learning: I like to read and learn so of course a reading goal has to be on my list. This year I plan to read, or re-read, classic literature as well as read non-fiction on a variety of topics. I also like to indulge in just for fun fiction reading as well which I find is important for my well-being. Goodreads challenged me to set a reading goal for 2015 so I optimistically set my goal as 52 books.

Lifetime goal:Using The Passion Planner, one of my lifetime goal's is to visit all 50 states and each continent.

Each month will see more specific short-term goals of how I am going to fulfill these goals as well as reports on how I am meeting or missing the mark on each one. I must admit my first week back to work was tough in accomplishing everything but that's another day's post.

2015 Adventures: Besides the goals listed above, 2015 is going to be a year of adventures. In February I am traveling to a country in West Africa for a mission trip. While there we will be learning about the country, encouraging our partners who live and minister in that country, and praying for a specific unreached people group. As this trip is coming up very quickly, much of my time these next few weeks is devoted to preparing for the trip and having everything set up for my family for while I'm gone.