Saturday, September 30, 2006

Gossip



Well, I can hardly close out my series on the tongue without addressing gossip, can I?

L.L. Barkat shared an excellent story this week at her blog, Seedlings in Stone. I am printing this part of the post in entirety, instead of just linking, because you must read it. But please check out the blog. It's short, clean, and wise.
I was reminded that such "small" talk is insidious, with this story from Judith Kunst's The Burning Word...

A man who had slandered a rabbi went to repent and repair the damage. "'What must I do to repair my sin?' he asked. The rabbi instructed him to get a pillow, rip it open and spread its feathers on the wind, and then return to him. The man quickly did as he was told. Upon his return, the rabbi said, 'There is one task remaining: go find and collect all the feathers, and bring them to me.' The man gasped, 'That's impossible!' And the rabbi replied, 'Yes. It is as impossible for you to re-gather those feathers as it is for you to repair the harm that your slander has worked on me...'" (pp. 116-117)
excerpt from Seedlings in Stone
Honestly, it is not a topic that I feel qualified to teach on, being mired right in the middle of it oftentimes. What I would like to do is to share a bit of what God's word has to say on the topic:

You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother's son. Psalms 50:20

You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! Psalms 52:4

A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28

Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20

Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.
I Timothy 5:13

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Personal updates: I've been okay with my Poison Tongue this month, especially involving using a nice tone over a harsh one, and not saying things that probably just shouldn't be said.

But gossip. . . . I really need to pray for conviction to be able to discuss valid issues with my husband or with others who are involved in a troubling situation, without falling into gossip. Prayer is the key in being convicted about a wrong before it comes out, or stopping it in its tracks. There are many ways I've heard to determine information from gossip: Would you say the same thing in front of that person? Is what you are saying true? I'm quite sure that some things that fall in the second category, and perhaps the first, still need not be said at all. Talking (gossiping) about something gives just gives further weight to it.

How have you experienced gossip, either from you or about you? How do you avoid speaking or listening to gossip? Did any of these verses speak personally to you? If you have thoughts about this topic, or any of your experiences with the tongue, link up. Those who linked last week are still up (as they will be for the whole month). If you address this issue again this week, you can link more than once. Feel free to use the banner, and please link back here or to the original Snapshots of Change post, which has an index of each topic covered.

Catcher in the Rye Review

I mentioned here in my intro post about banned books week, about wishing that I had been sheltered from some reading that I did as a teen, and many of the comments on that post explained why people take up the role of book banner in their own homes. If you didn't get to read the comments, go back and check out what my wise readers had to say (when blogger let them). As an exploration of this week, I committed to reading the Catcher in the Rye, since it's still one of the most challenged books and also considered a classic.

I would not recommend the Catcher in the Rye. The language is awful, and to be honest, I think it's just sort of a rambling, jumbled memoir of a few days in the life of an adolescent boy. It was pretty boring. However, by the end, I was a little charmed by Holden Caulfield, and I think therein lies the beauty of the book. One can be reminded that no matter how self-confident or arrogant a boy seems, no matter how much he is striving for maturity, that inside there is a lot of love and consideration for others and a desire to just hang out with his little sister. Some of his charm was expressed through his love of books, which I found amusing and accurate:
What I like best is a book that's at least funny once in a while. . . What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though. I wouldn't mind calling this Isak Dinesen up. And Ring Lardner, except that D.B. told me he's dead (p. 25).
This book is on the top 10 all-time challenged book for sexual content, offensive language, and being unsuited to age group. I have to say that when I looked it up online at my library to see if it was available, they had copies in both the young adult section (which is on a different floor from the children's section) and the adult section. As far as being unsuited to the age group, although I would not want it assigned to a child in a high school class, the content, other than the prolific use of profanity, is mild compared to what most teens experience in the media that surrounds them on a daily basis. I found the sexual content to be much less than most teens have seen on a sitcom or a PG-13 movie, but it was published in 1945, so it was probably quite revolutionary at the time.

I obviously don't agree with the ALA on their complete intellectual freedom stance, which actually calls age/grade level changes censorship. As I said in this post, as a society, we protect children from certain things, by rating video games, music, movies and even having a parental rating system for television shows. I don't think that books should be judged any differently.

Edited to add the link left in the comments by Mental Multivitamin, a teacher who has taught the book in high school and college, on the defense of why Catcher in the Rye is a good book to teach to high schoolers. It's an opposing viewpoint, but I found it interesting and even agreed with it for the most part. Check it out.

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My Fall Reading Challenge: one down, 6 in progress (that sounds crazy).

Friday, September 29, 2006

I am a Writer!

Yes, I said it.

No, no, I'm not announcing some fantastic book contract or alerting you to an upcoming publication, but it's become increasingly obvious to me that I am thinking and acting like a writer. Since undertaking this blog, which I started primarily to see if I had what it took to get serious about writing, I haven't been able to stop the flow ideas. I can't quench my desire to get those ideas out of my head and onto paper or my hard drive. I have notebooks in my purse and in every room in my house to make sure I capture that idea when it comes. I have countless drafts in blogger, thoughts jotted in journals, and titles saved in Word. The distinction between thinking I could or should write, and actually being a writer became clear recently while I was reading the first chapter of Jack Heffron's book, The Writer's Idea Workshop.
When I hear people talk at length about their idea, I find myself thinking, "You talk too much for a writin' man." There can be several reasons why they talk about the idea. First, if they talk about it, they don't have to go through the headache of committing it to paper. Immediate gratification! My advice--to you, often not to them--is not to talk about the idea until it has a life of its own on the page (page 7).
Now lest anyone who reads this begins to think I'm a quiet, introspective woman of few words, let me assure you that the words flow as freely from my mouth as they do from my keyboard. But the impulse to write sometimes harnesses those words. I can make an offhand comment to a friend and think, "I feel a blog coming on." So, in order to quiet that voice in my head, I write. I wake up a bit earlier in the morning and sometimes stay up a little later at night so that I can make time to capture an idea and turn it into something meaningful. Some other hobbies and interests have fallen by the wayside as I take time to develop this one.

Yes, I'd love one day to be a published writer, but whether I get published or not, I will continue to enjoy writing in my journals and on this blog. I will continue to read books that remind me that I enjoy what writing adds to my life. I will continue to refine and perfect the craft. I will continue being a writer.

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This was written for the first Carnival of Christian Writers, which will appear the last Monday of every month at Writer. . . Interrupted. If you are interested in participating, see the guidelines at the link for more information.

Playing It Safe

At Amanda's school, the third and fourth graders are offered an opportunity to be on the school paper, a before-school activity that produces four newspapers a year--real newspapers on real newsprint. Ever since she was a first grader and the third grader across the street was on the paper, she has said, "I hope that I can do that when I'm in third grade." Of course, it was one of the things that the parents of new third graders were asking about at the open house curriculum night. The teacher told us that it's a lottery, and only twenty third graders and thirty fourth graders are chosen from the many who apply. She had apparently been preparing her students with this news as well.

This year, they have added a few other activities as well including a third grade chorus that meets before school. The forms came home and we were to rank our choices in order. Amanda was all of a sudden very excited about chorus. "I think that would be fun," she kept saying. "But don't you want to be on the Post?" I asked. "Well, sort of, but I like to sing, too." I was fairly certain that I knew the problem. "Are you afraid to pick the newspaper in case you don't get it?" I finally encouraged her that it was worth taking a risk to put the Post in the number one spot. If she wasn't selected, she would almost certainly be picked for chorus, but since this was a unique opportunity, she should go for it. She agreed and we sent in the forms and waited for the news on which activity she would be asked to participate in.

There was a meeting on Thursday morning for the parents of those on the paper. The note had said that we would be told if we were not selected. So, on Tuesday night I told Amanda that I thought maybe she had been picked and she would find out at school on Wednesday for sure. "I wonder which teachers I could interview or who I could write about? There are a lot of interesting people at my school." Then she added, "It's a lot more fun to think about when you know you are going to be on it." Yes, knowing for certain that a dream is becoming a reality does make it more fun to speculate.

In talking with her last weekend about her choices, and studying God's word and hearing some wonderful Bible teaching Tuesday morning, it hit me: I play it safe, too. I might not reach for the brass ring, knowing that I can just stoop down and easily pick the bronze one up off the ground. I play it safe with my prayers. My faith is strong, and especially after enduring some difficult circumstances, my trust in God's sovereignty and His plan for my life is unwavering. So, instead of praying for the miracle, I cower behind the fact that "He knows what's best for me." Instead of asking for complete healing of a seemingly hopeless situation, I ask that the person would be granted peace to deal with whatever the outcome and that their faith would carry them. I truly believe in God's ability to do the big things: heal a "terminal" illness, provide direction in a hopeless situation, give peace when there is no hope left.

I have faith, but I just don't stretch it. See, if I go out on the limb, and put all of my faith eggs in one basket, God might say no. That doesn't make him any less God, any less Right, any less Sovereign. It doesn't mean He loves me any less. It just means "no." But if I've asked--if I've pleaded for a miracle--and that miracle doesn't come, will my faith be shaken? What happens when those faith eggs get cracked, broken or they begin to rot? I have become mindful of my cautious prayers and I am trying to be bold. I am trying to ask for the yes, while risking the no.

Amanda was not one of the thirty selected for the newspaper. I wanted her to be able to explore that skill and interest. Yes, I even prayed that she would be selected (um, if it's the best thing for our family this year, Lord). I'm taking her to chorus this morning, and she's happy to be going. I'm glad that I encouraged her to try for the newspaper. Sometimes we have to be open to dream a little. Our hopes might be fulfilled now, or we might have to wait a little longer, or our dreams might change under God's guiding hand. But not to dream at all, because we're playing it safe? How sad is that?

Thanks to the CWO quote prompt from last week, and specifically this post by Laurel Wreath for bringing the dreams component to all of these jumbled thoughts that I was trying to gel together.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Banned Books

September 23 - 30 is banned book awareness week. The ALA (American Library Association) website has some interesting information on why books are challenged or banned (and the difference between the two terms). Their information about banned books is here. Of all the books challenged by far the most cited reason is that they are "sexually explicit." I have to say that I agree certainly that these books should not be assigned in class. A movie that has a steamy love scene will earn an R rating. Those sex scenes are nothing compared to sexually explicit writing in novels, even something as "mainstream" as Danielle Steele. A child who is under 17 is not allowed to buy a ticket to an R rated movie. That is because the movie contains material that should be filtered for a child. I think it's perfectly reasonable for me to expect as a parent that a book containing a graphic sex scene or even explicit sex talk would not be expected reading for my child in high school, no matter the literary merits.

I've read some of these books. I read the Judy Blume books in high school, like Forever, which is still on the top 10 most-challenged list because of sexual content. I honestly wish now that I had somehow been protected from that exposure. But did I check out that book in the school or public library? Did I buy it in the Young Adult section in the local bookstore? No. It was passed around from friend to friend. In honor of being aware of banned books, I'm reading The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger, because I've never read it, and it is still one of the most challenged books, and is considered by many to be a "classic." I want to get my own take on it. I will report my review of this book, as well as my thoughts on some of the other popularly banned or challenged books later this week.

As a mother, my initial thought is one of thanksgiving that certain books might not be made available to children, say in an elementary or even a junior high library, or certainly assigned as Junior High or High School reading for a class. There are books that I don't want my daughter to read (at 8 years old and able to read at a higher level than that). There are books that I probably won't want her to read in high school. There are books that I avoid reading myself for certain reasons. But honestly, I think that books are windows--sometimes to different codes of conduct, involving drug use or sexual promiscuity; sometimes to different times, when offensive racial slurs were used freely because of a different accepted standard of thought; sometimes to completely fictitious worlds that transport us to a make believe place and time with an entirely new code of conduct. I think that by supporting the banning of books, we are in some way trying to pass off our parental charge. It is my responsibility to know what my daughter is reading and know about the books that her friends read and talk about. It is not the duty of the library system or bookstores to prevent these books from being circulated at all.

What do you think of banning books?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Visit with Author Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth on Writing

Have you always wanted to write?

Yes. Since my second grade teacher told my mother that she thought I was a creative writer, I’ve wanted to write. I kept a diary since the sixth grade. Though I was an English major, I didn’t start writing seriously until my first daughter was born. I wrote for ten years in obscurity before my writing career took a turn for the better.

Who are your literary heroes?


I love Harper Lee. I only wish she’d written more. Leif Enger, who wrote Peace Like a River, greatly inspired me to write visually and artistically. I love Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees, how you could almost taste her characters. I’m fascinated and intimidated by J.R.R. Tolkein—how he managed to create an entire world with several languages is way beyond my literary prowess.

I know that many of us bloggers struggle at giving ourselves that writer name. I try to claim it freely, but it's still hard, because I think that most of us think that being published somehow earns you the title. You are a published writer, in many genres and areas (newspapers, fiction, nonfiction), but you are also a blogger. How are the two similar and how are they different for you, in process, feedback, self-evaluation, level of reward etc?

Some writers feel that blogging takes away from their work. I view it differently. I see it as an enhancement. I blog every few days, using the blog as a warm-up to my writing for the day. What I love about blogging is the immediate feedback from readers—something that sometimes takes a YEAR in terms of books. So I can write something, get immediate response and readership, and feel like I’ve communicated. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. Blogging is writing, and as long as you don’t let it take over your other writing commitments, it’s a useful tool both for practicing and marketing.


Mary DeMuth on her newest book, Wishing on Dandelions

This book deals with difficult subject matter: childhood sexual abuse and its residual affects. How did this book emerge?

My passion is to write about redemption through the avenue of story. I started the first book, Watching the Tree Limbs, in a flurry. In my mind I saw the streets of Burl and a girl who didn’t know where she came from. Because my personal story involves different instances of sexual abuse, I wanted to write a story that showed the reader how God could intersect an abuse-victim’s life and make a difference.

So, are you Maranatha?

In some ways yes, some no. Like Maranatha, I felt like God had transformed my life in such a radical way (like her name change from Mara—bitter—to Maranatha—Come Lord Jesus). Like Maranatha, I endured sexual abuse, but I was much younger when it happened. Like Maranatha, I wondered if I had been marked, that every sexual predator could “tell” I was a ready victim. I wrestled through relationships in my teens with Maranatha’s twin feelings of revulsion and attraction. But, she is not me in many other ways. She is more independent. She has no parents. She lives in an entirely different culture. She is less ambitious. She has the privilege of many wiser people to mentor her through life.

What made you choose East Texas as the setting for both novels?


The South fascinates me. I grew up in the Northwest. When my last child was born, my husband was transferred to East Texas to start a department in a hospital. Because I was a stay-at-home mom and home schooling, I didn’t have much else to do there except to observe small town southern culture. Because I didn’t grow up in that culture, my senses were heightened and I eventually began to really appreciate the differences.

Childhood sexual abuse is not talked about very often, and seldom covered in novels. What made you decide to write about it?


For that very reason. The more victims are quiet, the less healing they will receive. The more we talk about it, bringing heinous acts to the light, the better able we are to know we are not alone. I wrote this book so other abuse victims would feel validated and heard. And to offer hope.


In the midst of dealing with hard topics that don't have easy answers, why do you end your books with hope?

Because hope is essential to Jesus’ Gospel. Even when things are bleak, there is always hope—if not in this life, then in the next. I’m not interested, however, in presenting hope in a superfluous way. I don’t want to tie up every story thread neatly. The truth is, life is tragic and difficult and bewildering, but God intersects that life and brings hope.


What do you want your reader to take away from Wishing on Dandelions?

That redemption of a broken life takes time. We’re all on a journey of healing. Sometimes it’s slow going, but if we can endure through the dark times, God will bring us to new places of growth. I want the images and characters to stay with a reader for a long time.

Maranatha aged quite a bit between the first and second novels. Will we see more of her in future books?


Not at the present moment, though I have another Maranatha book in my head, with a chapter written to boot. That depends solely on the publisher. (Perhaps we could start a “Let Maranatha Live for One More Book” campaign!)

Mary's Books:

Watching the Tree Limbs--My review

Wishing on Dandelions--My Review

Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God--Not officially reviewed, but praised by me here. I couldn't say it any better, and wholeheartedly agree with the review at Callapidder Days.

Building the Christian Family You Never Had--I didn't formally review it, but I made application in this post.

Mary's Blogs:


Relevantblog


Pioneer Parenting

Classic Works for Me


Click banner for all the best ideas this week.

This week, Shannon decided to do a "best of" Classic Works for Me Wednesday, where we could all link up to our best post. So, if you've never clicked over and surfed the links, today might be a great day to do it.

I had a hard time deciding, but one that people tended to like when I posted it there in August, and one that I like and often share with people in real life (who usually like it) is the Love Journal. So if you missed it the first time around, check it out. Maybe you will like it, too. . . .

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Romans: Nature


For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

God's creation speaks to us. When I see spring wildflowers,


I am filled with awe in His creation.


A colorful sunrise, a fresh blanket of snow, or the changing leaves of fall


all strike me with His thoughtfulness to give us a beautiful, as well as functional world.


What can I learn about God from nature? I can see His majesty, His power, His beauty.


I can see the order and uniqueness in creation--the detail of a flower, a tiny insect, the purpose of rain and sunshine.


I can experience peace for a moment, on a beautiful day, looking at a beautiful view, but I can only receive eternal peace from the God of the Bible, through His son Jesus Christ.


What can't I learn about God from nature?

I can't really experience His love. I can't learn about my spiritual gifts and blessing promised to me in the Bible. I can't learn about my call to serve Him. I can't learn about the revelation of His son Jesus Christ.


Experience creation. Be thankful for the beauty, be amazed by the perfection. But be sure to experience the Creator who made it for our enjoyment and use.


Index of Romans posts

Monday, September 25, 2006

Destination: Portland, Oregon



My husband and I lived in Portland, Oregon for three years. We knew that it was not a permanent move, so we soaked up as much of the town and the area as we could. I hope that I offer the best of both worlds as both a resident and a tourist, since we viewed each Saturday as a new mini-vacation and an opportunity to explore the region. I think that Portland would make a great girls' trip (friends or multi-generational family trip), a couple's getaway, or a family trip. I hope to visit there again to show Amanda her birthplace and the places we enjoyed toting her around as an infant and toddler. Don't think a visit is in your near future? Perhaps you will still enjoy a virutal tour, by clicking the links, reading history, and looking at the pictures, or taking advantage of some of the buying opportunities that will give you a taste of the Rose City.

When to Go

Yes, it's true, it does rain a lot in Portland. From October to June, you are likely to get some rain. In fact, from November to March, it is likely that you will see mostly rain. However, if you don't mind a little damp cold, the Fall is beautiful and the rain is mostly harmless, coming down throughout the day in a light drizzle. I didn't worry about walking around as long as I had my rainjacket with hood. That said, from mid-July through most of September, you are guaranteed no humidity or rain, long hours of daylight and highs in the 80's to lower 90's (and warmer on occasion).

Food

With all the cool and rainy weather, it's no wonder that the whole coffeehouse craze started in the Northwest. Whether it's Seattle's Best, Starbucks, or Coffee People, there will be someone to serve you on every corner (and maybe three choices on one corner) to get the chill out of your bones. This article explains some of the differences in personality of each spot and recommends some independent coffee houses as well.

The Northwest has excellent Thai. Our favorite spot was Thai Orchid. The Burnside location is convenient, but doesn't have much atmosphere. If that is crucial to your dining experience, try Beau Thai, which also serves great food. Beware about Thai food--if they say, hot, it's hot (and this is from a jalapeno popping Texan).

The downtown McCormick and Schmick's is where it all started. They specialize in fresh seafood, and specifically dungeness crab is a Portland speciality. The atmosphere sets the mood for a nice dinner out. If you like a little more lively spot, try Jake's, more of a Portland landmark, but with the same high standards. Try the crab cakes--no filler! For dessert, if they have the three berry cobbler, you must try it. Want a virtual experience? McCormick and Schmick's began branching out around the time we left Portland. We've been to a couple in different cities, and the atmosphere is much the same, giving us a taste of Portland. Check to see if there is a location in your area.

Activities and Sights

Washington Park
The International Rose Test Garden is best seen from May to September, during which time free tours are given daily by volunteers. Additionally, at the site you can download a pdf self-guided tour. If you visit, you will see 6800 rose bushes and 557 varieties. Washington Park is also home to a great playground (which is even handicapped accessible), the Japanese Gardens (which was beautiful but not very stroller accessible and not worth the $8 per person admission in my opinion), and the Oregon Zoo. My husband and I love to visit zoos if we have an extra day in a town. It's a nice way to have an educational visit and spend time out of doors if the weather so permits. Portland's zoo is beautiful. The Max rail system (see below) has a Washington square stop that would get you to all of these areas. If you live in an area without mass transit, a little ride can be a part of the fun, especially for the kids.

Shopping
I am not a shopaholic, and in fact my dad doesn't think that shopping should be any part of a travel experience, beyond buying souveniers and local specialities, because "you can shop at home." As a busy mom, I've come to appreciate the opportunity that a lightly scheduled trip affords for shopping. So, whether you fall in that camp, or you just incorporate shopping into any experience that you have, Portland offers much to the shopper. For one thing, there is no sales tax in Portland. So if you've been eyeing an expensive jacket or pair of shoes, you could save enough in sales tax to buy your dinner. The Portland area has two outlet malls, Columbia Gorge, and Woodburn, both an easy drive of under an hour (in opposite directions). Portland is home to the headquarters of Nike, so a visit to Niketown in downtown Portland, to play or shop, might be in order.

NW 23rd/Nob Hill
is a funky area on the outskirts of downtown. You could spend a morning strolling here, visiting bohemian boutiques and having some lunch. This link explains the area as well as many other fashion finds.

Powell's City of Books on West Burnside, downtown, bills itself as a booklover's paradise, and the largest new and used bookstore in the world, carrying more than a million volumes on their shelves. This is one of the places I miss most in Portland, and when I visit, I will definitely leave room in my suitcase to return with books from Powell's. One unique feature is that they shelve books together by title, so unlike other bookstores where these listings could be in three different sections, you would find a hardback copy, paperback copy, and a used copy of a particular book on the same shelf. I love bookstores and have visited many, but I'm not sure that any have compared with the City of Books experience. These people love their books. Their website is similar in feel to the stores, and I would indeed describe it as a virtual booklover's paradise, featuring new and used books on the same page as well. Do you want a monthly virtual visit to the mecca of all bookstores? Try subscribing to their email newsletter. I enjoyed it in Portland, and have continued to enjoy the author interviews, bestselling lists, employee recommendations, and articles from FUP. Store Cat, in a typical offbeat Portland fashion. Each month, one new subscriber wins $100 in free books. There's no spam, and once you sign up for this newsletter, you can also look at others, specifically addressing kids' books, used books (available in store or online), review a day, and more.




Getting Around
You could drive around all of these places, but if you do stay downtown, many of these sights would be a quick stroll or short taxi ride away. Additionally, the Portland Max light rail system is pretty thorough, even from the airport. Because the freeway system is easy to navigate, you could easily stay in Beaverton or other areas of NW or SW Portland (each address is signified by the quadrant of town it's located in, making it easy to get oriented), where you could probably find a less expensive chain, but I always love staying downtown in cities when I can for the extra dose of city charm and personality.

Are you or someone you love a train freak? Check out the light rail link. There are many pictures and explanations of train speeds and routes and lines that could boggle your mind and put you in mass transit heaven.

Side Trips

I could literally (and might) write an entire article about a driving trip within the Pacific Northwest, but here are a couple of easy day trips (or even half day) within an hour or so of Portland.

The Columbia River Gorge offers wonderful fall foliage and scenic drives. Don't miss Multnomah Falls, the second highest year round waterfall in the U.S. (at 620 feet). Stop off at Rasmussen Farms to buy some freshly picked fruit. Want a virtual experience? Order fruit boxes for yourself or as a gift. The spring cherries are excellent.

Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast is a nice little town. There are shops, art galleries, ice cream shops (which is imperative to any vacation that we take). This site has many pictures for a virtual experience, including a sunset webcam (on the galleries page). Haystack rock makes for a beautiful coastline. I will say that as many times as we visited the "beach," we never went swimming. In fact, even in the heat of summer, it was so windy and cool that we usually wore a jacket.

The Oregon ski mountains are not large and covered with lifts, but due to the wet conditions, they have a fantastic base, and it is an absolutely beautiful skiing experience. Check out Timberline, including a webcam and updated conditions. The lodge there is an old-fashioned ski lodge, with roaring fireplace that is a great place to relax after a drive up to see the snow.

Your Opinions
Have you been to Portland or do you live there? What are memorable Portland experiences for you?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Boxcar Children

I have always enjoyed reading with my kids as well as reading some children's or young adult fiction for my own enjoyment. I have really enjoyed sharing some of my old favorites with Amanda, as well as new discoveries, but just recently as we were deciding on our next read-aloud, she suggested the book that we should share, "Let's read the Boxcar Children, the first one. You are always asking questions about the children who live in a boxcar and how they got there, and now you'll be able to find out!"

Reading along with her as the guide has been a delight. Most chapters end with a kind of suspense that pulls the reader along. Amanda, having the upper hand of knowledge since she has read the book already, loves to ask me, "So, what do you think will happen?" She has been proud to share it with me and lead in the discovery of these new characters.

This is a great story, and I can see why the series is one of my daughter's favorites. I don't know how the stories written latercompare with the first eighteen which Gertrude Chandler wrote herself, but I find many things to admire about this book:
  • the glorification and positive spin on chores and responsibilities
  • the love and care that the siblings show for each other
  • a healthy dose of imagination and suspended reality as the kids live alone and take care of themselves.

Ms. Chandler herself once wrote to her fans, "Perhaps you know that the original Boxcar Children raised a storm of protest from librarians who thought the children were having too good a time without any parental control! That is exactly why children like it! Most of my own childhood exploits, such as living in a freight car, received very little cooperation from my parents."

As I was searching for some information about Gertrude Chandler, I came across this page on

edHelper.com that has some great unit information on this book and the series. It would be great supplemental work for use at home or in a homeschooling unit.

I also used this source for Ms. Chandler's
biographical information.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Romans: My Righteousness



When I mentioned in The Call that I should probably share my testimony of faith sometime, Heather at Graced by Christ mentioned her new Friday feature on faith and said that this Friday she was asking people to share their testimonies and link so that others could read them.

I thought that this was perfect timing, and as I continue my study of Romans, Paul is writing about the power of the gospel for salvation in Romans 1:16-17.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for everyone who believes: first for the Jew, and then for the Gentile. For in the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, "The righteous will live by faith."
Righteous simply means a rightness before God--being able to stand unashamed because of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross.

As we were studying Romans, my Bible teacher reminded us, "My testimony is not what I have done for God, but what God has done for me." Amen to that. I am righteous, but not because of my own goodness, or even my lack of sin, or my abundance of good works, but because of the righteousness that God revealed, through his son Jesus. Romans 10:3 - 4 explains this,
Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
When I was growing up, I attended church sporadically, but almost always when we visited my grandmother who was more devout. I didn't have a large knowledge of the Bible growing up, but even still I remember knowing that there was a God, and praying to Him, knowing also, I guess, that He wants to hear my prayers (which is the start of a relationship). By the time I was in junior high school, we began regularly attending a church. As a part of a confirmation class, I took some classes and began learning more about the Bible and Jesus. I joined the church, and was baptized with a sprinkle at age 13. Although I was learning more about Jesus, I wasn't following him personally. There was no relationship, no lordship which would have brought about change in my actions or thought processes (the "living by faith" mentioned in verse 17, or the "obedience that comes from faith" from verse 5).

In college, I met a dear friend, whose faith shone. It was practical, it was real, and it was uncompromising. I began attending her church's college group, RUF, and it was there that I began to hear about the choice involved in following Jesus. We must choose to align our ways of thinking with his. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Sometime during my freshman year, my transformation began to take place. It was still a process. There was still no flash of a lightbulb or giant a-ha. It just seemed as if all the pieces that God orchestrated were finally falling into place. By my junior year, I was more solidly entrenched in God's ways, yet still living in sin in other areas.

I ended up attending a Baptist church with my husband-to-be (although that wasn't firmly decided at the time). When I joined the Baptist church, I had a hard time with "having" to be baptized by immersion. I understood the reason that the Baptist's desired a Believer's baptism, as opposed to an infant baptism (although I think that there is scriptural support for doing it both ways, for different reasons), but I struggled with that pridefully. I thought that I entered into my faith relationship when I was confirmed and sprinkled, but it has only been in the last five or six years when I really thought about my testimony that I realize that my true relationship began much later--around nineteen or so.

I also firmly believe that my testimony is ongoing. Ongoing about God's work in my life. He has guided me through rough times, He has been my peace, He has been my shepherd, leading me places I never thought I'd go (physically as well as in service). It's not about me. It's about Him. I am thankful for the gift of salvation that He offered to all of us in His son Jesus, and I am thankful that I didn't let pride get in the way of me accepting it. I'm glad that I didn't have to wait until I was completely on the right path to let Him in. I always think of it as a path or a journey--steps towards something--but what is interesting is that in regards to me being accepted by God--it's immediate. I am righteous, because Jesus has put an end to that law (having to try to live without sin). Thank you, Lord, for that perfect provision. . . .

Next in the series: Romans: Nature



This week I've also seen Lauren's idea to have a blog tour of testimonies on October 1. You can post and link that day, or if you have previously published one on your blog, you can link to an old post. Regarding her Friday feature, Heather explains specifically what your testimony is and why you should write it out if you never have.

Let's not be ashamed. If you haven't told the story of God's work in you, please do.

Index of Romans posts

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Be Careful with Words



"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon." -- Robert Cromier


This is true, to an extent. However, with blogging, the temptation to write something quickly, without too much thought or research, and then push a button, is strong. Yes, I can delete or correct or edit hastily published words, but that doesn't erase them. Someone has likely already read them, thought about them, and perhaps even acted on them. If we are writing about matters of faith, we should be careful. If I feel like I want to vent, I should be careful. The venting might make me feel better, but how does it reflect upon me as a child of God? Saltwater stings.
James 1: 9 -11 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

James 1:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

No, it's not brain surgery, but words matter, whether they are words shared over a cup of coffee with a friend, around your dinner table at home, or as the written word. So, as bloggers, specifically dealing with matters of faith, we are teachers if we are publishing that kind of information. Where else does the teacher label apply? Are you a parent? Do you interact with children--nieces and nephews, boy or girl scouts, students in a classroom? Indeed, then you are a teacher, and perhaps even a role model. I honestly do not think that we know the full effect of what may be casual words, as I posted here recently.

In 7th grade, I had an English teacher, Ms. Voitle. One of the things that she warned us about was becoming comma happy in our writing. Each time I write a long sentence, as I often do, I wonder if a comma is really warranted. Her voice still rings in my head. What if the words which I carried with me were different? What if she had been careless with her words and advice, perhaps chastising me for being a horrible writer with no potential to do anything?

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Update on last week: No sooner than I had published the post last week about the Poison Tongue, I yelled at Amanda, with a mean tone. Now maybe she deserved correction (for going out on the wet deck in her socks, before school), but she didn't deserve to be yelled at. It's something I struggle with--correcting lovingly. I also noticed a couple of times using a tone a bit too harsh for my toddler as well. I am generally more forgiving of him (having fewer expectations than for an 8 year old), but I need to watch that harsh tone creeping in. I think that I could have devoted more prayer to the subject, and so mid-week, I began memorizing the verse so that I would be medidating on it throughout the day and it would be in my head and heart (and hopefully as a blockade in my throat).

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Have you thought about how you are using your tongue this week? Do your words or your tongue poison those around you? Are you careful with your words, or do you frequently share without thinking of who it might hurt, or how it reflects upon the state of your heart? Do you intentionally try to guide or teach others, and if so, are you careful with those words? Is cursing a problem for you?

What Color Green are You?

You Are Olive Green

You are the most real of all the green shades. You're always true to yourself.
For you, authenticity and honesty are very important... both in others and yourself.
You are grounded and secure. It takes a lot to shake you.
People see you as dependable, probably the most dependable person they know.


I saw this quiz over at Jenn's Nook. She was Olive Green, too. I don't know about her, but it was pretty spot on for me, except for maybe being the most dependable person that someone knows. I am reasonable and reliable, but I definitely don't live up to that superlative.

What about you?

My Fall Reading List


Ever since Katrina announced this idea, I've been really excited about it. I've put a lot of thought into as well. I wrote about why making this list appealed to me so much earlier this week, if you'd like to check out What I Read and Why. Here is my rather ambitious list, and why I chose each book:


Fiction:

Wishing on Dandelions
is the follow up to Watching the Tree limbs, which I reviewed recently.

Catcher in the Rye--I will be reading this because I never have, and it's always one of those books you hear about.

a Jane Austen book, other than Pride and Prejudice, to be determined by availability (or swaying in the comments here), but I was thinking of Mansfield Park.


Elizabeth I, The Royal Diaries--This Young Adult series of books seems right up my alley. I have been curious about this and the Dear America series, so I picked out one that looked interesting to me. I love learning about a historical period through fiction when it's well written and interesting and accurate. So, we'll see if this fits the bill.


The Known World-- I think this is kind of heavy (and long), so I might leave it for last. My friend lent me this book. We read a couple of books this summer that the other had read, and it was nice to be able to discuss them. In fact, Laura, at Here and Now, commented and linked to a couple of posts she had recently enjoyed about why you should read what your friends (and children) read. Interesting, and worth noting.

Arms of Deliverance is a novel set in World War II. I have recently been offered the chance to review it, and can't wait to check it out, and I want to get to it soon, so I'm adding it to my list.

Another book that I think I will be reviewing is Lisa Samson's Straight Up, so hopefully I will get it in as well.


Non-fiction reads:

Eat, Play and Be Healthy--I love reading up on nutrition, as it inspires me to eat better. This book is specifically about kid's nutrition, so I can't wait to find out how the whole family can improve our nutrition.

The Greatest Generation
--I have started this (barely), but I really want to finish it. I've enjoyed what I've read, but it's the kind of book that could sit on my nightstand a while without some prompting.


Generation Next Parenting looks like a quick and fun read.


The Birth Order Book
--When I was at the library looking for some books, I came across this one. I've heard good things about Kevin Leman's parenting books, but have never read them, and I have always been fascinated by birth order and personality. I probably shouldn't add this to my list, but I can't wait to dig in (in fact, I DID dig in and am now 100 pages into it already).


And two books from my recent Amazon order:

The Whole Truth--another nutrition (and recipe) book, written by Andrea Beamer, of the Top Chef fame.

Page after Page
--a book on writing that looks interesting and helpful. I enjoyed studying up about the craft of writing this summer. I would like to always have some book like this on my nightstand to keep growing.


With Amanda:

Freddy Goes to Florida--we discovered Freddy at an overstock bookstore when we bought Freddy Goes to the North Pole. It was a delightful, old-fashioned, funny book with social commentary that I appreciated and colorful and humorous language that we both appreciated. I was happy to find this book and many others by Walter Brooks in our library last week, so we will start it soon as our next read aloud.



With Kyle:

I have been lax in reading to him lately, so I was glad when Katrina specifically encouraged us to include books in the challenge that we'd like to read to our children. There is a great series of books that I read to Amanda. It really helped her grasp mathematical concepts and reading without me purposefully teaching them. They are called My First Steps to Reading and My First Steps into Math, by Jane Belk Moncure.

I think that I will focus on two letters and one number a month, so we can maybe get through First Steps into Math number books one through three, and My First Steps into Reading letter books A - F. The My First Steps into Reading are expensive, as I found as I was looking for a link. I think that I ordered them through a Scholastic club (indeed--here is the link), and then I bought the number ones at a used bookstore for $1 each. These books all have the library binding, and will last for generations. I found a great deal on the whole letter set here, but if you ever come across these at a library sale, used bookstore, or garage sale, buy them, and after searching amazon, you will also see that the club is a great deal. Okay, off my soapbox now. . . .


In summary--eight fiction books, including the one I'm reading with Amanda, and six non-fiction. I will have to do a lot of reading to finish all of these, but they were all books I wanted to target. I'll probably review some of them as I go along and give an overall report at the end of the challenge. I imagine that I will end up reading at least seven of the fiction, and perhaps four or five of the nonfiction?

Would you like to join us? Go over to Katrina's and link your list so we can all share the book love. You don't have to be as boringly detailed as I was. I can't wait to check out the other lists myself.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fall into a FREE New Blog Design

Bluebird Blogs is having a drawing for a FREE blog design. Susie is the one that did my blog, and I have been so pleased with it. Look at her gallery. She manages to give everyone a unique look.

Information on how to enter:
- Send an email with your name and blog address to bluebirdblogs@gmail.com.
- Your name will be entered into the drawing.
- Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm EST on Friday 9/22/06.

*Bonus* - Mention this contest in a post on your blog and receive 5 extra entries into the drawing!

The winner will be announced on Bluebird Blogs on the morning of Saturday, September 23rd, 2006 .

Good luck to everyone!

Changing Bad Habits

I have started a new feature that is helping me focus on areas in my life that need change. This month I am working on controlling my tongue. If you'd like to join me, click here to find out more. Here are some things that I keep in mind when I am working on changing a bad habit or even trying to be transformed from the inside out.


1. Pray each day. You know what your triggers are. Ask God to make you aware of them, and to make your sin detestable to you. Along with this, because you will be heightening your awareness of the area you are targeting, ask for forgiveness, both from God, and from the people that you wrong. I know that I yell less now than I used to. However, the effects are more bracing to me now. As God moves you to that place of discomfort over a particular sin, seize the opportunity to let Him change you. Do not be mired in your sin or in your guilt over your sin (Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1).


2. Find scriptures that address the area that you want to change. Sometimes I go looking for the scriptures when I am working on a certain change, but often the scriptures find me and point out that sin that I need to forsake. Reading Proverbs is often like a hammer over the head regarding areas that need change. Can you read this verse from Proverbs 21:9 and not respond by trying to be sweeter and more agreeable? "Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." Additionally, you can read books addressing the area in which you are struggling which might help give you pointers or inspire you to keep working towards conquering that habit.


3. Get accountability. Tell those around you that you are trying to change. If my husband knows that I am dieting, I think twice before eating a huge bowl of ice cream in front of him. When I am having a particularly bad day or week with my kids, I can confess my sin to my daughter, and ask for her to lovingly point out to me when I am harsh or angry with her. This may seem tough, or as if it would encourage disrespect, but it usually doesn't. I have to make sure that I have a teachable and humble heart (by practicing number one and number two) so that I don't lash out when she rightly points out my sin.

Head over to Rocks in My Dryer to find more tips to make your life easier or better:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sacred and Ordinary

"No distinction was made between the sacred and the everydayƂ…their life was all one piece. It was all sacred and all ordinary." ~Sue Bender
When I read this quote prompt, I liked it, but I didn't think I had anything to say about it. But then, just today, I came across this at Let Me Be a Woman. I hope you will read the whole post about Hospitality, but what stood out to me is how we often avoid inviting someone over to our home if everything isn't perfect because we wonder, "What will she think of me?" Her conclusions cut to the heart of what hospitality is really about, showing love to others, while we presuppose their love towards us. She writes,
The result of all this inner questioning was the realization that within the family of believers, love should be presupposed. We had invited them over in the first place to love and serve them, not to impress them or seek their admiration for ourselves or our home. With these thoughts, and the expression of them to Nick, the atmosphere in the house shifted and peace reigned once again. Instead of vacuuming under the couch, cushions were fluffed for their backs and baby toys were laid out for our youngest guest. Instead of washing out the refrigerator's vegetable bins, ice supplies were checked and the coffee pot set up.
The reason that her thoughts on hospitality rang so true to me, is that I had almost the exact experience this weekend. Our church publishes birthdays of our members each week in the bulletin, presumably so that we can show love to one another on our special day. Sunday morning I noticed that my friend's birthday was on Monday. I immediately thought, "I should have her over for lunch sometime this week." Of course that led to thoughts of my schedule, where I already had plans on Tuesday and Friday. "Well, I could see if she has plans tomorrow. . . . although I don't know if I have time to get to the store. "

When I think of blending the sacred and the ordinary, I can't help but think of the scripture in Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." The Lord commands me in John 13:34, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." So, if I'm providing hospitality in order to please men, I must make sure that my house is spotless. I should prepare a multi-course lunch of new and gourmet recipes. I should wait until I can sufficiently prepare before issuing an invitation.

My friend came over on Monday. She expressed her thanks a couple of times and said that she felt so special. She didn't care if my house was in ship shape. She didn't care that I served her a salad made from things on hand and brownies from a box. She just loved the love.


In Other Words was hosted this week at Holy Experience. Click here to read others' thoughts on this quote.

Destination. . . .

I like to travel. And unlike many of you who like to travel, but don't do it as much as you would like to, we usually do travel--some sort of family vacation each year (like to Cape Cod), a husband and wife weekend getaway when we can squeeze it in (which is harder now that we don't live in Houston with family, but we've still managed a couple of nights away), and a longer vacation retreat for the two of us at least every two years. In my profile here on blogger, I listed travel as one of the things that I enjoy and would write about. Someone found my blog recently through my travel interest listed on my technorati profile, and I realized that I haven't really written all that much about my experiences on the road.

I have a few ideas brewing, so I will be sharing some destination pieces with you, and maybe some travel memoir or guide book reviews as well. My goal in these pieces will be to give information to someone who might actually be traveling to that place, or perhaps to plant a seed that it would be a wonderful place to visit. I will share the kind of things that I look for when I am planning a trip: cost, types and availability of lodging (and areas to target or avoid), activities for the audience (family trip versus couple's getaway), and food recommendations (of course).

But what I thought might be particularly interesting is to sort of create a virtual traveling experience, by sharing some sites that have fun information on the area that you could explore on your computer, if not on foot.

I don't know if I'm the only one who enjoys the process of reading up about a trip almost as much as taking the trip. I enjoy reading about places--their culture and way of life--in guidebooks, but also as they are represented in nonfiction, in novels set in that location and even online reviews. If there's anyone else out there who enjoys that kind of information like I do, I would hope you would find these future pieces interesting. If not, I'll only be posting on that a couple of times a month, so if you don't like it, you can just hit "mark read," or skip right down the page, and that's okay with me.

9/2006 Portland, Oregon

Next up: New York City

Monday, September 18, 2006

What I Read and Why

Ever since Katrina announced her Fall into Reading Challenge, I have thought about the books I want to read and why. I buy a good bit of Christian nonfiction, and I also enjoy some historical or travel nonfiction, and other informational books, but these are generally started, read somewhat avidly as they interest me, and then sort of put aside, not for lack of interest, but simply because it's harder to read than a mindless magazine, a short blog, or a fiction pageturner. So I hope that by naming these books that I really want to read, I will make sure that I get through them before pursuing whatever else ends up in my hands. I am excited about making time for intentional reading this fall. The amount that I read tends to rise and fall with my level of activity, other interests, or just the fact that I have, or don't have, a good book on my nightstand. In thinking about the list I wanted to create for the challenge, I've analyzed why I enjoy reading, why it's a worthy use of my time, and why I should select books carefully.

  • It relaxes me. Unlike other hobbies or self-indulgant pleasures like reading and writing blogs or watching TV or talking on the phone, reading relaxes me, and stimulates me at the same time, while I am sitting still, focusing on nothing else but the written word.
  • It educates me. Whether it's reading a novel about the kind of character I will never be (a single man in law enforcement, living in Florida, for example), a travel memoir for a place I may never visit, or a nonfiction parenting or discipleship book, reading expands my horizons.
  • It fuels my creativity. I've found that my writing goes hand in hand with my reading. Good writing, or different writing and books, plants seeds in my head that sometimes come out on paper.
At first I thought that I would focus mostly on the nonfiction that I have started, but not finished, or the books that have been sitting on my shelf that I've really wanted to read. I've been sort of in between novels for the last week or so, and I realized that when I'm not deeply engrossed in a good fiction read, I read less overall. Seems contradictory, but I think it's true. So, with that said, I'm going to be sure I have plenty of fiction on my list.

I will post my list Thursday, and I would love to read yours, too. Her idea and challenge are here.

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What about blogs and carnivals?

I have heard several mention that making a commitment to read will bring them back to it, instead of just browsing on the web. I agree that sometimes reading blogs cuts into reading pages, but I do love to read blogs that encourage me, uplift me or challenge me as a believer, or make me laugh. I also am inspired in my own writing by reading honest, relevant and well-written blog posts.

I have participated in another Carnival of Family Life this week. I enjoy reading carnivals because occasionally I find a new blog that I want to add to my daily or weekly list, or I can enjoy reading certain blogs on the certain weeks that they particpate in a carnival. Kailani was very creative in putting together the entries, so if you are looking for some good reads, click here.

Outside


There's something freeing about playing outdoors.
Something out there that beckons and lures
Us to leave the dark and the closed up inside
And venture outside and soak up the light.

In outside play there's no batteries to use
Like inside fun where electronics exude
The frenzy of mental stimulation
And playing without imagination.

Outside we can run and take big breaths,
As our cheeks get flushed and our brows sweat.
We can scream and use our outside voices
Bike or climb? So many choices. . . .

The leaves are turning, but the air is mild
So I long for the outdoors like a sun-browned child.

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I wrote this yesterday while my third grader played outside with her friend--imagining horses, and Super Twins, and picking raspberries, and riding scooters, and just sitting under a tree. Ever since Spring, my toddler has also longed to be outside, to ride his little car, blow bubbles or draw with sidewalk chalk, or just run in the driveway. Even I absolutely love to sit on my front porch with my laptop. There is something fresh and clean about it that makes me feel as if I'm making the most of my day. The table on my sunny back deck is a favorite place to read or work on Bible studies.

Fall is coming soon here in New England. That will usher in Winter, which is supposed to be cold this year. The days outside will be reserved for sledding and playing in the snow on those days when it does snow, and taking advantage of a sunny day here and there.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Romans: The Call

I think that each of us have felt a call to something at some point in our lives. Someone's occupation, especially one which lies very close their heart, is called their calling. I think of certain occupations such healthcare, teaching, or professional sports, and even avocations like volunteer service with the elderly, motherhood, and homeschooling. In many of these instances, people will tell you that they always knew that they were meant to pursue that particular thing.

But how do we know when we are getting the call? How do we respond?

How do you know if someone wants you to do something? You often get a call on the phone, asking you to meet them for lunch, to help with a certain project, or to babysit their child. You respond by doing it, or not doing it. With God's call, it's often different. I've heard some fantastic stories of God bringing certain people into certain situations repeatedly so that there was no doubt that He was calling them--into a faith relationship with Himself. But oftentimes it's not that obvious, especially if you aren't receptive.

Paul was called by God on the road to Damascus, when he was still a persecuting Pharisee named Saul. It was certainly one of those fantastic stories (Acts 9). He speaks with the authority of experience. Because of that, his words about his call are sure and certain (emphasis mine).
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—-the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7

Look back at the things that Paul said that he was called to or for:
1. to be an apostle (to carry the message of Christ into the world)
2. to call others into an obedient faith relationship with Jesus

Then he reminds those in Rome (and also us thousands of years later) of their calling:
1. called to belong to Jesus Christ
2. called to be saints (a general term for a member of the Christian faith)

I have felt several very distinct calls in my life as well. I have felt a call from the Lord to change sinful habits. As I looked over the list of "calls" mentioned in these versus, I wondered if this fit in with the kind of call that Paul is talking about. I think it fits into two places--he calls people into the obedience that comes from faith. Additionally, since I belong to Jesus Christ, I am conforming more and more to His likeness as a part of that calling.

I have also felt the call into service or ministry several times. I don't remember a specific call to faith, because my testimony of coming to faith (which I guess I should share sometime) was more a process as opposed to a blinding light as Paul experienced, but I hope that some of you do remember that call to faith. Perhaps it was those circumstances mentioned above, of continuing to cross paths with people who loved the Lord. Maybe it was the thumping in your chest that was hard to ignore when you heard about Jesus--at Sunday School, a church service, or from a friend. Maybe you are feeling that thumping now, because you are unsure if you have ever entered into a relationship of faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. Yes, you know who Jesus is, you love Him, but are you submitting to His Lordship in your life?

Paul definitely submitted. He left his former life behind. He gave up power, position, old relationships, and his home and his way of life. He surrendered all. What is God calling you to right now? His call does require a response. Is He calling you to take the step into a relationship of faith with Him (for more info on that read this post) ? Perhaps He's calling you into something outside your comfort zone--a new service, a new friendship, or a new level of commitment to Him. Do you trust Him enough to say yes?

Keep reading in Romans chapter 1 if you want to study more before I address my next topic.

Next up: Romans: My Righteousness

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Romans can seem very "doctrine-y." Sometimes differing denominational practice doesn't seem to add up, like the issue of predestination (where God has already chosen beforehand who will come to know and follow Him) and free will (meaning that we have total choice). I will try not to teach from one particular viewpoint, but based on this text that we are studying. I challenge you to try to put your own suppositions aside as you study along. Instead of evaluating whether or not your ingrained knowledge matches up with what we are reading in the Bible, determine if what you assume to be true matches up with what the Bible actually says. If you disagree, I am up for a respectful differing of opinion or questions or clarifications (in the comment section).

Index of Romans posts