Thursday, January 31, 2008


How do you make a decision when it feels like all options are positives? I’m taking into consideration prayer and wise counsel, but when it comes down to it…how do you choose?

Some decisions are easy. I will always choose Chick-Fil-A over almost any other fast food establishment. I will generally choose to go to bed before midnight. I will always choose to eat lunch. I’ve never been one of those people who just “forgot to eat.”

I’ve been reading in Genesis again. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob each teach me something new every time I study their stories. My most recent read thru took me straight to Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28:15 where God says to Jacob, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” I recognize that Jacob had an incredible direct encounter with God and that the promise given to the Patriarchs was very specific. However, I also recognize that as a believer I am indwelt with the Holy Spirit and have received the incredible promise that the Spirit of Truth will be with me until I make it home to God’s Kingdom of Glory. In the meantime, I am comforted by that thought and no longer worry or fear over my choices and decisions. Instead, I am slowly seeing everything as pure adventure and opportunity. I love the fact that I could be anywhere in the world 8 months from now, but that also puts a drag on the side of me who wants to plan out the subsequent months that follow January 2008. So, do I say yes to the September opportunity or hold out for the challenge that keeps coming to the surface? Yes and yes? I wish.

“God had made Abraham a father of many nations (Genesis 17:5) before Abraham had glimpsed a single descendant. Beloved, I wonder what God has already made you. Things that perhaps you’ve not even glimpsed, Believe God! Give him your entire being and walk one step at a time before His knowing gaze and with His sufficient strength.” (Beth Moore)

One step at a time. Sounds like a good plan to me. I’m so encouraged to know that the Lord will continue to provide opportunities to grow and learn as long as I have days to live. So whether I’m in Arizona, Abilene, or Africa next September (I know, crazy) – I know that He will not leave me until He has done what He promised to do in me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Saltwater Book Club

Continuing on the subject of books, I'd like to recommend a few of my favorites to you.

The Secret Life of Bees: is one of those books that makes you angry. Angry because it's so great, you wish you had written it first. Lily Owens is growing up in South Carolina in the volatile summer of 1964. After running away from her father, she ends up staying with three sisters- August, June, and May- who make honey. Beautifully written, this book will stay with you long after you've finished reading it.

"The bees came the summer of 1964, the summer I turned fourteen and my life went spinning off into a whole new orbit, and I mean whole new orbit. Looking back on it now, I want to say the bees were sent to me. I want to say they showed up like the angel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary, setting events in motion I could never have guessed. I know it is presumptuous to compare my small life to hers, but I have reason to believe she wouldn't mind; I will get to that. Right now it's enough to say that despite everything that happened that summer, I remain tender toward the bees."

The O'Malley Chronicles: This series is probably the best work of Christian fiction I have ever read. The stories concern the O'Malley siblings, a group of seven orphans who "adopted" each other as siblings. They all have exciting careers- a hostage negotiator, a firefighter, a paramedic, etc.- that are the basis for each book. In addition, each book contains the issues that each O'Malley has with Christianity and their struggle to believe. The books are suspenseful, well-written, and bring up very interesting questions about the Lord. I highly recommend all of these books.

"Shari's words echoed again. He wanted to be able to cross the hesitation and trust enough to pray, but he felt mute the closer he came to that line. He had believed and prayed for his mom and she had died. It wasn't logical, but thinking about praying for Jennifer brought a resonating fear that, in doing so, he would lose her too. The emotion wasn't rational. But it was powerful."
Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man: is a terribly hilarious book. Written by one of my favorite authors, Fannie Flagg, Daisy Fay is about a young girl growing up in the deep South in the 1950's. Told from Daisy's sassy point of view, the story meanders through anecdotes about her eccentric father, the girls at her Junior Debutante meetings, and, of course, her encounter with a "miracle man." If you're looking for a light and funny read, definitely look into this one.

"Hello there... my name is Daisy Fay Harper and I was eleven years old yesterday. My grandmother Pettibone won the jackpot at the VFW Bingo and bought me a typewriter for my birthday. She wants me to practice typing so when I grow up, I can be a secretary, but my cat, Felix, who is pregnant, threw up on it and ruined it, which is OK with me. I don't know what is the matter with Grandma. I told her a hundred times I want to be a tree surgeon or a blacksmith."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Paradigm Shift

Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception – what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms – what you believe. Just because you believe something firmly doesn’t make it true. Be willing to reexamine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even then, you don’t want to trust them more than me.”

This is just one of the passages from The Shack by William P. Young that I have marked up and reread several times in the past few days. This is the book that I discussed in the previous post. This small novel, only 248 pages, has been quite a journey for me…one that is continuing to change my perceptions and examine truth. I admit that I do often cry when I read something that is emotionally stirring. I can’t remember ever reading something that caused me to cry from joy, sadness, peace, and gratitude all at the same time.

The book follows the story of one man’s journey into true relationship with the Triune God. I’m not sure how to describe it without giving away the plot twists and turns that lie within the pages. Somewhere around page 90 I almost gave up, I found elements too much for my mind to try and shift. I think more than anything, this book has opened my eyes to see where I have allowed my own humanity to define our infinite God.

Blaise Pascal once said, “God made man in his own image and man returned the compliment.” Oh how sad and true that statement really is in my own life.

Here’s what you will find on the back cover of the book:

Mackenzie Allen Philip’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.

I cannot guarantee that you will like this book. I wasn’t sure how I would respond to seeing each of the persons of the Trinity as a living, breathing, and speaking character. But with gusto and bravery, William P. Young gently carries the reader into fellowship with the Creator.

For more information on the book check out

This is not a revolution that will overthrow anything, or if it does, it will do so in ways we could never contrive in advance. Instead it will be the quiet daily powers of dying and serving and loving and laughing, of simple tenderness and unseen kindness, because if anything matters, then everything matters. And one day, when all is revealed, every one of us will bow our knee and confess…that Jesus is the Lord of all Creation.”
William P. Young

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Freeing Reading

I am halfway through a book that is challenging me more than any other book aside from the Bible. It is not a theological commentary, nor is it a classic from a church forefather. This book is a novel.

I had heard the title mentioned before by several people. The word has started getting out. I don’t know what I agree with or disagree with, but that’s the beauty of fiction. This world that I’m reading has come from the mind of a fellow human being infused with the creativity indwelt by the ultimate Creator.

I flew to Austin on Sunday evening and between waiting at my gate and the actual flight, I finished both pieces of reading material. I knew that I needed to remedy the situation for the flight home, so I asked for some suggestions. Cassie picked this book off of her shelf and said “I still can’t stop thinking about this book.” So, I made the trek to Barnes and Noble the next day. I started the book once I was seated on the plane. By page 60 I was crying. By page 100 I was in shock. The following chapters were laced with truth, laughter, terror, challenges, and a full out emotional roller coaster.

I’m sure I will finish the book tonight. I haven’t stopped thinking about it today, and the way it has made me open up my little mind. It has blown wide the ways in which I have simply made God "the best version of me." At one point mid-flight I shut the book, turned out the overhead light, leaned back in my chair, and wept in awe that the Almighty loves spite of everything. More to come soon. I promise.

Friday, January 18, 2008

More YouTube Must-Sees

A few videos you may enjoy....

The Oscar Movie

The only movie you ever need to see.


Love these kids. "We're doin' business here."

Evil Eye

I never knew a little baby could act that well!

The Ultimate Music Video

You know you love it!

The Candyman Can

I really do worry about this kid....

The Arctic Tern

Hilarious clip from "Whose Line is it Anyway." I laugh every time!

10 Things I Hate About the Commandments [WARNING: adult language]

Great parody of teen movies.

Pippi in the Candy Story

Just weird enough to be awesome!

Facebook Infomercial

"Let Facebook change and take over your life!"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Obsession Confession

I'm not sure why I've chosen to write an entry involving obsessions. If anything, I tend to obsess over making decisions and trying to think them into being more important than they really are. But as far as being obsessed with one specific thing, that’s just really not me.

Sports Fanatics: I have many friends and family members who fall into this category. I don’t even know if I would use the word “fall" to describe them. Shall we say, dive headfirst into passionately loving their teams? I enjoy watching a good game. I thoroughly enjoy wearing a Mav’s jersey into work just to throw the entire Sun’s loving organization into a complete upheaval. Don’t even get me started on my LSU and A&M loving fanatics…err…friends. Sports are fun but not the obsession for me.

Music lovers: I love all types of music. I’ve even paid a hefty price to see a few of my favorites in concert. I know some background information about a few groups, but I can name very few lead singers. Are you getting the theme here? Few. I know what I like to listen to and I know when I want to change the radio station.

Movie Buffs: I cannot compete. My brother and sister know more and love more about this topic than anyone I know. I do love to be swept away in a great film, but I don’t own the biographies on my favorites, nor will you find me memorizing the 1965 Academy Award winner for best picture. Occasionally I can help you fill in the question about the actress on the crossword puzzle, but other than that…I’m probably a disappointment to my cinema devouring siblings.

Losties, Dwight, and Alias Club: I get to throw in something here! I have seen most episodes of LOST, The Office, and Alias. I cannot tell you the first names of all the actors, or even all of the characters. I try not to pick up many shows on T.V. because I don’t have a DVR and thus seeing every episode of anything is pretty close to impossible. Those three shows are about the only things I get disappointed about not being able to see because of a prior commitment. Read-a-holics: I am obsessed with good writers, or at least their work. I really can’t tell you that much about an actual author…I don’t do my homework in that regard. I’ve gone through phases in this area, but tend to keep coming back to C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, and Jane Austen. This must surely say something about me, and not just that I work at a church and…gasp…enjoy reading about the boy who lived…to be a wizard. [see previous blog entry below]

What can I say? I don’t remember dates, don’t shop for brands, can’t remember stats, and don’t recall an award winner the next year. I think I’m ok with that. My interests are as varied and broad and as they come. So “the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, or desire” may change from day to day. I racked my brain and came up with my meager list. Funny, I could come up with my obsessive dislikes quite quickly. I know for sure that not all of the Baldwins should be qualified as actors, Nickelback should not be played out of any radio near me, and that 20 people at one table in a restaurant is not a good idea. Did I mention I'm not really crazy about the Baldwins?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The True Message of Harry Potter

There are several random things that I am passionate about. Raising awareness on the tragic effects of cigarette smoke would definitely be one. Ensuring that people know the identity of certain famous classic movie actors is another. And a third is defending the reputation of one Harry Potter.
It seems like you can’t go anywhere or read anything today without still stumbling upon something in attack of or in support of the Harry Potter series. Almost everyone has a side, and every side has been presented numerous times. But at the same time, I feel like I really need to say something on the subject, and let you read what I have found regarding the battle of Harry Potter.

Far too many well-meaning individuals have taken it upon themselves to make it their personal crusade to eradicate the works of J.K. Rowling from the bookshelves of the world. The problem with this is that too many are acting out of ignorance. They have read that James Dobson of Focus on the Family tells them not to read the books, so they keep them from their children. They hear their friends talking about them and they assume that the books are evil. The strength in the Harry Potter smear campaign comes from the fact that too many of James Dobson’s followers take his word as law, or their church’s views as their own, with no personal investigation. If these fearful “crusaders” would take the time to read the books themselves and spend some actual time in prayer, they might come to a very different conclusion.

Laura Mallory, an American mother and ordained minister, has made it her cause to take down J.K. Rowling and see the removal of the Harry Potter books from school libraries. She has made it her personal quest to the extent that she has been to court numerous times over the novels and is, perhaps, the most famous Potter detractor. The home page of her web site has a quote from John Hagee that states, “The whole purpose of the Potter books is to desensitize readers and introduce them to the occult.”

This quote is absolutely mind-blowing to me, and surely to many other educated readers. Steven C. Scheer, Harry Potter-defender and author of Hollywood Values, states on his web site that he believes the issue of protecting the books is “well worth a bit of our time and energy.” He goes on to address the unfounded claims of Harry Potter critics regarding the immorality of the books, asserting that, “To see evil where there is none is a terrible thing, a kind of evil in itself.”

Scheer makes a valid point, and not only addresses the unsubstantiated assertions of the Potter attackers, but also tackles the issue at hand, which is the fact that their attempts to find iniquity where there is none is wasteful, baseless, and harmful. Scheer continues, “We can't make words mean whatever we want them to mean. We need to cooperate with the author, for example, to see what he or she is up to, and not jump to conclusions prematurely.”

This is exactly what is being done by the ignorant critics of the books as they seize passages from the books out of context and make assumptions about the content and meaning of the stories. Harry Potter-opposer William J. Schnoebelen believes that “[The Potter books] tickle the desire to become 'little gods' and fill the child's head with violence, blood sacrifice and a world view which is decidedly anti-Christian.” I personally don't know of any children whose brains have been tickled by Harry Potter "blood sacrifices," but if I come across them I will be sure to let Mr. Schnoebelen know.

Obscure connections to the occult can be made to almost anything, apparently including even the dates on which the Potter books have been released. For instance, Pastor David J. Meyer believes there is meaning in the fact that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released on a certain day in July. To you and I it is just another summer day, but to Meyer it is an evil date. Meyers says, "July 8th was also the 18th day (three sixes in numerology) from the witches’ sabat of midsummer. July 8th was also the 13th day from the signing of the United Religions Charter in San Francisco." It takes a lot of searching, research, and energy to make a connection like that. Does he honestly believe that J.K. Rowling would be able to orchestrate a release like that, even if she really was evil and had wanted to do that? Furthermore, he must be one of the only people to have made such a connection, and I certainly know that there isn't a third-grader out there who has noticed the book release dates and been converted to the occult because of it.

Someone wishing to find evil in a story may very well find it. A well-researched individual could possibly make connections between the most innocent of stories with the most wicked beliefs. Take the Wizard of Oz for instance. In the same way that people have misconstrued and destroyed the uplifting message of Harry Potter, one could twist around and shamefully damage the message of this other wonderful children’s story. The Wizard of Oz contains (obviously) a wizard, and not only that, but also three witches, numerous spells and incantations, talking animals, and strange occurrences. But that’s not what the stories are about, are they? Diane L. Durante agrees, stating, “The Wizard of Oz… is set in a land inhabited by witches, Munchkins and talking trees--but it really is about Dorothy's, and her friends', determination to attain difficult goals.” In the same way, the story of Harry Potter may take place in a school of wizardry, but is about the students and their struggles, laughter, hopes, and fears.

Indeed, there are a number of popular books, shows, and movies that also have magical elements to them, but Harry Potter remains the sticking point. Harry Potter detractor John Andrew Murray believes that these influences are corrupting the youth of America. He says, "With the growing popularity of youth-oriented TV shows on witchcraft -- 'Sabrina, the Teenage Witch;' 'Charmed;' ' Buffy the Vampire Slayer' -- a generation of children is becoming desensitized to the occult. But with Hollywood's help, Harry Potter will likely surpass all these influences, potentially reaping some grave spiritual consequences."

In his genius book Looking For God in Harry Potter, John Granger goes to work logically and biblically taking apart the claims and beliefs of the Harry Potter attackers. He addresses this fear of the aforementioned media and the occult, saying, “People who track the occult for a living explain that despite Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter, membership in these groups in Europe and the United States is minuscule and has been in decline over the last decade.” He goes on to state that “Concern that the books might “lay the foundation” for occult practice is misplaced, however well intentioned and understandable, because it fails to recognize that Potter magic is not demonic.”

Indeed, a common misconception about Harry Potter is that anyone who reads them (particularly young, impressionable children) will surely rush off to join an occult or find a book to teach them exactly what Harry, Ron, and Hermione are doing at Hogwarts. But that’s just not the way it is in these novels. Granger gently maintains that “the magic in Harry Potter is no more likely to encourage real-life witchcraft than time-travel in science fiction novels encourages readers to seek passage to previous centuries.”

An alternative to the belief that Harry Potter is destroying the Christian faith is that the books are actually affirming it. John Granger asserts, “Because of all the sound and fury in the popular media and coming from many pulpits, it may seem incredible to you that Harry Potter is not contrary to Christian faith but a series of books nurturing faith.”

Surely this would come as a blow to the many detractors of the works of J.K. Rowling, and a disgraceful idea to those who have fought so hard to keep Harry away from their children. But consider Granger’s words: “The Harry Potter novels, the best-selling books in publishing history, touch our hearts because they contain themes, imagery, and engaging stories that echo the Great Story we are wired to receive and respond to.”

Maybe the reason the books are so amazingly popular is that they touch on an unfilled hole in the hearts of the readers that don’t know the Lord, and because they warm the hearts of believers and connect us to our God.

Granger certainly believes this. He unabashedly asserts this faith in what can draw us closer to the Father. “I am convinced that the fundamental reason for the astonishing popularity of the Harry Potter novels is their ability to meet a spiritual longing for some experience of the truths of life, love, and death taught by Christianity but denied by secular culture. Human beings are designed for Christ, whether they know it or not.”

Rowling certainly wove her beautiful novels with the amazing tapestry of the Great Story in mind. And if we would allow her to explain the imagery and meaning behind it, we might find that the stories do indeed fit in with a Christian worldview. Consider her explanation in her interview with Time Magazine. “In the last book Harry discovers on his parents' graves a Bible verse that, Rowling says, is the theme for the entire series. It's a passage from I Corinthians in which Paul discusses Jesus' Resurrection: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Late in '08

There's nothing like a bit of a break to help. I suppose this is better late than never. Good thing posting daily wasn't my resolution. I think I've been asked 5-6 times thus far as to what exactly my resolution might be. I've considered exercise, coffee restriction, a cease to hitting the snooze alarm more than twice a morning...and have resolved to simply enjoy each day as is. (Of course I cannot deny that I will be trying to go to the gym in the morning and hope to not hit the snooze at all.)

Happy New Year!