"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween & Book Review

Michael as a Ninja
Halloween 2007
5 years old

Tonight I am planning to go with my sister and Michael as he goes trick or treating. He is going to be Batman the Dark Knight, but I don't have a picture of that yet. I included this cute ninja Mike picture from last year instead. :-)

Finished reading Standing With Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State written by American Jew, David Brog. He discusses Christian Zionism's roots, love, devotion and good works for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. I can say that I understand the Christian Zionist's mindset and reasons since they are based on the Bible. I still have a huge problem with how the Palestinians have been treated. I have longer notes about this book in my Gmail storage under the "Israel" label. I may write more about this here later.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chase the Lion -- chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5 -- Guaranteed Uncertainty

The chapter began with a quote from Oswald Chamber. Really think about this:

"To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways; we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation."

The author suggests, "you have to do something counterintuitive if you want to reach your God-given potential and fulfill your God-given destiny. Sometimes you have to run away from security and chase uncertainty." (e.g. Abraham, Noah, Jonathan) (pg. 81)

"Lion chasers challenge the status quo. . . . [They] are often considered crazy, but they are able to do these things because they aren't afraid of uncertainty. They don't need to know what is coming next because they know that God knows. They don't need explanations for every disappointment because they know God has a plan. Lion chasers refuse to settle down because they want to experience every divine twist and turn that God has in store for them." (pg. 82)

"Stop spending all your energy making plans for God, and start seeking God." (pg. 100) -- think of Pentecost where the people prayed and waited on God

"So if life is infinitely uncertain and God is infinitely complex, then all we can do is accept our finitude and embrace uncertainty. . . . Faith doesn't reduce uncertainty. Faith embraces uncertainty. . . . Complications are often a byproduct of blessing." -- Marriage, children, wealth, success - all these complicate life. (pg. 85)

The author reflects, "The longer I live, the more I think that spiritual maturity is less about figuring out the future and more about moment-by-moment sensitivity to the Spirit of God. . . . I just don't think spiritual maturity results in higher degrees of predictability." (pg. 86)

Mark suggests we are control freaks who "want a complete itinerary with everything mapped out. . . .But faith involves a loss of control [and] the loss of certainty." (pg. 87)

"Following Christ reduces spiritual uncertainty, but it doesn't reduce circumstantial uncertainty." (pg. 100)

"Our confidence is contingent upon the character of God. . . . Some of your experiences won't make sense this side of eternity, but lion chasers know that God is connecting the dots in ways they can't comprehend. Lion chasers are humble enough to let God call the shots and brave enough to follow where He leads." (pg. 98-99)

Chapter 6 -- Playing It Safe Is Risky

"Good is often the enemy of great. . . . Faith is renouncing lesser goods for something greater. And it always involves a calculated risk. I'm convinced that the only thing between you and your destiny is one small act of courage." (pg. 106)

About stepping out in faith, the author says we most always second-guess ourselves. Did Jesus really tell me to do this? We "stop focusing on Jesus and start focusing on the wind and the waves." (pg. 112)

"Most of us want absolute certainty before we step out in faith. We love 100-percent money-back guarantees. But the problem with that is this: It takes faith out of the equation. There is no such thing as risk-free faith. And you can't experience success without risking failure." (pg. 114)

Lots of food for thought!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Today my dad is 61 ... wow!

Just wanted to say "Happy Birthday" to my Papa! :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I got tagged . . . Random things about me

A friend tagged me on Facebook today. Here are the instructions and what I wrote. I figured I'd post it here as well. Doing this made me think back to some of my favorite memories. Yes, my life is oh-so-exciting, eh?

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits or goals about you. At the end choose 16 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, its because I want to know more about you :-)

1. I am the oldest of four children. The next oldest is my brother who is just 16 months younger than I. The "baby" is almost 13 years younger and in between Daniel and David is a sister, Stephanie, who is almost 7 years younger than I am. Daniel and I used to play like we were brothers growing up. When Steph came along, she joined our "brotherhood" for short time. Then Daniel and I grew out of it, and I was a sister again.

2. For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed talking to people who are not from my area. Whether they were merely Yankees or genuine foreigners, I have always enjoyed talking about cultural/regional differences and languages/accents. It's just one of my thrills in life, I reckon. When we went to New York City a few years ago, I wanted to know from which Asian country this particular group of tourists came. We were on a ferry at the time. Unfortunately, they were not the look-around-and-make- eye-contact variety although I tried and tried to get someone to look my way so I could begin a conversation. FINALLY a short man looked up and saw me so I smiled and asked "where are y'all from?" China! Ahhhh, he then practiced his English on me and asked how he was doing with it. So cute.

3. One of my favorite memories from my teen years is being a page in Raleigh. Although I was scared about going, my dad insisted that I go and I ended up loving it! In fact, the next few years, I went to Raleigh as much as I could each summer. I even lived with Representative Peggy Wilson for a couple of weeks and went with her to a reception then Governor Jim Martin held at the governor's mansion for the GOP members. (Rep. Wilson didn't have time to drop me off at her apartment so she said to come along as Gov. Martin wouldn't mind.)

4. I was a page the week of July 4th. In celebration, they wanted a few pages to each read one of the Bill of Rights in front of the NC House of Representatives. I read one of them and afterwards Rep. Bill Hurley (D-Cumberland County) came up to me and said his mom was a Fuqua. After checking the family tree once I got home, I found out we had the same ggg-grandfather.

5. Somewhere I have a picture of me from my sophomore year of high school when I went with a couple of my teachers and some juniors to the Republican National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. We had a great time and met the Republic of Georgia's President (?) who was meeting with Representative Howard Coble at that time. I have an official Washington picture of our group and those foreigners as well. (I like foreigners.)

6. The most common spelling of my name is with a "z," but since mine is really short for Susanna, mine is spelled with an "s." Although my name is often misspelled because of this, what I like about the "s" spelling is that my name begins how Jesus ends. And I have "usa" in there as well. Two "things" that I love: Jesus and the USA.

7. In high school, I played basketball and had many lovely nicknames because my basketball coach loved nicknaming me. *ahem* He also taught me how to drive and when he saw my dad coming out of the school building upon our return to the school, Mr. B got out of the car and kissed the ground and said "thank you, God!" trying to make my dad think I was a terrible driver. (You just had to know Mr. B.)

8. I usually buy 10 to 20 lbs of carrots every 10 days or so. This week I got a little crazy and bought 28 lbs. People who see my cart full of carrots often ask if I have a horse. No, just a juicer that loves carrots.

9. While at ACC one of my teachers, Division Chairman Byron Robinson, once asked me to see him in his office. He gave me a Gideon New Testament and asked if I ever thought about becoming a pastor.

10. On my first posture performance in freshman speech (high school), I made an E minus. My dad's reaction was, "An E minus? I've never even heard of an E minus." Thankfully I improved a lot and made an A on my Robert E. Lee speech later that year.(Actually it may have been an A- because I went over and had points subtracted for that.)

11. When I went to the WILDS with my high school, each morning we had to tidy our room before we all met for flag raising. The girls in my room woke up late (because we stayed up past lights out talking and laughing and eating) so we were scrambling to get ready. I personally emptied the trash can three times in an effort to clean the room, but still our room was messy and the five of us were punished by picking grass off the steps. I still remember we passed the time by singing "I've been working on the railroad" and other tunes.

12. With few exceptions, I hate talking on the telephone. I much prefer face-to-face talks with my friends or keeping in touch by e-mailing or instant messaging or posting on blogs and group forums.

13. I've always been interested in names. Years ago this interest lead me to Babycenter.com where I ended up meeting a great group of ladies who have remained dear friends. Never knew I could grow to love people I never met before until then.

14. I love my dear nephew Michael. I often go to McDonald's with him where we hang out sometimes for hours. We have made many friends there over the last couple of years. It's great to go there and know the workers' names. By the way, most of them call me "Susie." (I think they got that from Michael.)

15. About two years ago I prayed for God to help me see people with compassion and love. Since then He brought people into my life that others may find undesirable, but I have learned to care for them deeply. I am very thankful for what God has taught me through them.

16. At a time when I was a bit disenchanted with some things about Christianity, God used devout Muslims to make His Son more precious to me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Muslims, Christians, Jesus -- Book Review

Muslims, Christians, Jesus by Carl Medearis is one of the best books I read this year because it speaks to my growing love and compassion for Muslims that I feel God has given me since meeting my Syrian friends last year. I found this at the same bookstore near where I found another of the best books I read this year, The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross which I wrote about a few months ago. Both authors have a tender, loving attitude towards Muslims and they do not demonize the lot of them as many in the West have done. In fact, they demonize none of them.

In the forward of this book, Floyd McClung wrote that "The problem with the war on terrorism is that it can put us on the defensive. God is looking for people who will go out on a grace offensive, people who forgive and reach out in love." (pg. 10) This is my desire. Perhaps if I had been directly affected by 9/11 -- had a loved one killed -- I'd feel differently, but right now I do not. Instead of lumping all Muslims into the category of terrorists, I want to reach out to them with grace and love. Why not seek to understand their perspective instead of seeking to take our anger and revenge out on them for the sins of others? Are we any better than the 9/11 terrorists if we kill innocent people in our quest to keep terrorists off our soil? Some would justify that that is the price of war. True, but is it right? Does it make us morally superior?

Anyway...this is supposed to be a book review not a political statement. :-)

Carl Medearis tells us that he is "only a follower of Jesus who loves Muslims" and then says his book was written to "give you some information to help you befriend a Muslim and practical tips on how to live a life that's truly Good News to a Muslim." (pg. 18) Sounds like a winner to me!

There is way more good stuff in this book that I can possibly share. I highlighted a lot and then that still left a great deal that could have been highlighted. But then the whole book would have been pink! Pages that I noted:

Page 16 when Carl realized "I love these people," and that it was not his love that kept him serving in the Middle East, but God's love for them.

Page 33 -- "The most important thing we can do as followers of Jesus is to do just that. Follow him. Jesus himself is the Good News. . . . Jesus had compassion for people, and he valued the same quality in his disciples, even above personal sacrifice."

Carl reminds us often in his book -- point people to Jesus. Everything else is secondary.

Page 130 -- "For the spiritual person there can be no apathy." and "By choosing an attitude of love and compassion towards people we don't understand, and toward an intimidatingly unknown religion, we not only see fear and suspicion diminish, we begin to build bridges. Bridges that lead to Jesus, the Prince of Peace."

Page 131-- from Mother Teresa -- "I never think in terms of a crowd, but of individual persons. ... I believe in the personal touch of one to one."

Carl tells us to build true friendships, point people to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit do His job.

Page 145 -- "I have discovered that when I fear God, there is no room in my heart to be afraid of men. When I fear God, I don't care about a loss of reputation or a fear of the future. I am secure. This allows me to be non-defensive, gentle, and above all, Christ-focused."

Page 145 -- "I pray that you too can find Jesus in the eyes and heart of your Muslim friend; that you can see him as a child searching for his father; and that you can take him by the hand and walk the journey of life and faith together -- one step at a time."

Page 178 -- I loved the story about Carl's "unfair advantage."

This book was great. Carl just encourages us to find common ground with our Muslim friends, not to debate the differences, but simply point them to Jesus' teachings. Carl gives great illustrations, good advice and interesting information made easy to understand.

I greatly enjoyed this book!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chase the Lion -- chapter 4

I'm back to reading this lion book after taking a few days off to read something else while Andrew finished this one. He enjoyed it greatly!

Chapter 4 -- The Art of Reframing

Some thoughts . . .

"Opportunities often look like insurmountable obstacles. . . . to take advantage of these opportunities, we have to learn to see problems in a new way -- God's way. Then our biggest problems may just start looking like our greatest opportunities." (pg. 61)

The author suggests we need to "rethink prayer" by reminding us that often our prayers are aimed at problem reduction. (Yeah!) He writes, "Many of our prayers are misguided. We pray for comfort instead of character. We pray for an easy way out instead of the strength to make it through. We pray for no pain, when the results would be no gain. We pray that God will keep us out of pits and away from lions. But if God answered our prayer, it would rob us of our greatest opportunities. . . .Maybe we should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants us to get out of those difficult circumstances." (pg. 64)

Is the problem our circumstances or our perspective of them? God sees the big picture clearly while we see as one "looking through a peephole. So why do we assume that what we pray for is always what's best for us? If we could see what God sees, we would pray very different prayers." (pg. 65)

When we focus on our problems, we tend to get down and frustrated. At those times the author suggested we "zoom out" through worship. "Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what is right with God. Reframing problems is about shifting focus. You stop focusing on what's wrong with your circumstances. And you start focusing on what's right with God." (pg. 67) Of course a great Biblical example is Paul and Silas who were praising God after being beaten and thrown into jail for preaching about Jesus.

"One of the purest forms of worship is praising God even when you don't feel like it, because it proves that your worship isn't circumstantial."


Every day we are free to choose our attitudes! "Basically [there] are two types of people in the world: complainers and worshipers. And there isn't much circumstantial difference between the two. Complainers will always find something to complain about. Worshipers will always find something to praise God about." (pg. 69)

I want to be in the worshiping group!

I loved this thought: "The circumstances you complain about become chains that imprison you. And worship is the way out. Worship reframes our problems and refocuses our lives. It helps us get through the bad days by reminding us of how good God is. And when you are worshipful, your eyes are more open to notice the miracles that are happening all around you all the time. One way or the other, your focus determines your reality. The outcome of your life will be determined by your outlook on life." (pg. 70)

The author concluded this chapter reminding us that adversity is often a blessing in disguise and how the people God often uses the most have been through a lot of hard times. God uses our pain in order that we can help others. And when we go through adversity, we can come out stronger in the end.

Not that I want a lot of adversity, but I do want to be used by God. Hmmm. Like we have a choice about how much adversity comes at us in life! I want to see things through God's perspective and worship Him instead of grumbling about my problems. The world needs fewer complainers so I might as well begin with me!

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving thanks.
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his ;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Daring Chloe -- book review

I took a break from reading nonfiction books and just read a "fun" book that my mom got at the library. It's very chick lit and good for quick, light reading. I did find the title to fit in with the current theme of my life. It's Daring Chloe by Laura Jensen Walker. That whole "chase the lion" thing with facing your fear goes along with "daring" a bit, don't you think?

This book tells about Chloe and the Paperback Book Club's adventures. It was cute, and there was even something from page 102 that spoke to me despite most of the book being "fluff" compared to the other books I've read this year. (No offense. I actually LOVE these kinds of books and is mostly all I read for YEARS!) Here is what caught my attention: Chloe was thinking of a painting she'd seen and how it touched her . . .

"How incredible that something done over a hundred years ago could still touch people today. Will I ever do anything that will touch people a hundred years from now?"

I really have no lofty thoughts that I will leave behind something so memorable as a painting or sculpture or even a cross-stitched piece, but this thought of Chloe's DID make me wonder if I were storing up earthly treasure or heavenly treasure.

My preacher often asks us this question:

One hundred years from now, where will you be?

And I want to add this:

Where will your loved ones be? Where will your neighbors be? Where will the world's other inhabitants be?

It's not like our new cars, fashionable clothes and pretty houses are going to mean much to us at that point. But people's souls? Ahhh, that will matter. They last for eternity.

So anyway...that's my short review on that book! Now I'm back to reading the non-fluffy books even though God spoke to me even among the fluff. :-)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


1 Thessalonians 2:8
We felt so strongly about you that we were determined to share with you not only the Good News of God but also our lives. That's how dear you were to us!

I was skimming blogs yesterday when this verse came to my attention. I loved it!


I am reminded of a guest speaker who was at my church several weeks back. He said something that stuck with me: "Waste time on relationships."

Application for me: Invest in people. Get to know them. Listen to them. Try to understand them. Love them - unconditionally.

Store up heavenly treasure not all this stuff that's going to rust and burn.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chase the Lion -- chapter 3

Unlearning Your Fears

A few thoughts/quotes that stood out from this chapter . . .

This from Sarah who was fearful of going to Ethiopia on a mission trip with her church:

There were a million reasons why I shouldn't go. I'm not an evangelist. I don't have any special talents. I don't have three thousand dollars lying around. I've never been west of the Mississippi River, much less out of the Western Hemisphere. I'm not a physically ambitious person. I can't survive without electricity or running water. But I only needed one reason to go: I was called (pg. 42).

The author put in his blog: "Don't accumulate possessions; accumulate experiences!"

"So here's my advice: Don't let mental lions keep you from experiencing everything God has to offer. The greatest breakthroughs in your life will happen when you push through the fear. The defining moments will double as the scariest decisions. But you've got to face those fears and begin the process of unlearning them." (pg. 43)

"Half of learning is learning. The other half of learning is unlearning." In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus often said, "You have heard that it was said . . ." and then "But I tell you . . ." We often have to unlearn bad teachings and unlearn our fears by learning the truth. "Half of spiritual growth is learning what we don't know. The other half is unlearning what we do know. And it is the failure to unlearn irrational fears and misconceptions that keeps us from becoming who God wants us to be." (pg. 44,45)

"Faith is unlearning the senseless worries and misguided beliefs that keep us captive. . . . Faith is rewriting the human brain. Neurologically speaking, that is what we do when we study Scripture. We are literally upgrading our minds by downloading the mind of Christ" (pg. 45).

"Think of your fears as mental lions. If we don't learn to chase those fears, they can keep us at bay for the rest of our lives. . . . Our Heavenly Father helps us unlearn the fears that would cause us to pass up so much fulfillment and fruitfulness -- because He loves us and wants the best for us. First John 4:18 describes the end goal of our relationship with God: 'There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.' The goal of love is fearlessness! As we grow in a love relationship with God, we unlearn the fears that paralyze us and neutralize us spiritually. That is the essence of faith." (pg. 48)

The author asks this question: "Are you living your life in a way that is worth telling stories about?" and then comments that "Too many of us pray as if God's primary objective is to keep us from getting scared. But the goal of life is not the elimination of fear. The goal is to muster the moral courage to chase lions. . . . The church has turned into a bunker where we seek shelter when we're actually called to storm the gates of hell." (pg. 56,57)


The Lemon Tree (book review) -- Israel/Palestine Issues

A friend who is now working with people in the West Bank and Jerusalem recently recommended The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan so I went to the library and checked it out. The author portrayed this region's recent history in such a way -- and with human faces -- that, at times, I found myself imagining that I lived there and experienced those events for myself. Many times I was struck with how sad the situation was and how little I knew about it previously. The author gave me a much better understanding of both sides as he presented Dalia Eshkenazi's story of how she came from Bulgaria with her Jewish family and ended up living in the Khairi house and Bashir Khairi's story of how he came to be part of the resistance, fighting for the Palestinians' right of return after his family was expelled from al-Ramla. The two met when Bashir went to visit the house his family had left when he was six, and Dalia, a young woman at that time, allowed Bashir and his cousins to tour it. A friendship formed and the two kept in touch somewhat despite nearly a quarter of Bashir's life being spent in Israeli prisons. It was interesting to hear these two discuss their points of view. Two things that stand out from those talks -- one from Bashir when he politely asked Dalia why she and the other Jews could not simply go back where they came from (meaning Europe). The other from Dalia when she pointed out that the longing for the land that the Palestinians taught their children was similar to what the Jews felt towards their ancient land for the centuries that they were in exile.

From this book I saw how Arab nations turned on Arabs. I was amazed when I read how King Hussein from Jordan asked for Israeli air support in its fight against the Palestinians (aided by the Syrians) when the Palestinian guerrillas fought the Jordanians on "Black September" (Palestinian word for that event.) Shocking was when I read how Ariel Sharon allowed
Lebanese Christian Phalangist militiamen into two Palestinian refugee camps where men, women and children were killed during a quest for revenge. The book said Israel even "launched night flares to illuminate the militias' search" (pg. 204)! Just from this one incident, I better understand why my Arab friends sat in disbelief and anger when United States President George W. Bush referred to Sharon earlier this year by saying: "My only regret is that one of Israel's greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He's a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon." Bush got the "warrior" part right, but "man of peace" for the one critics dubbed "the Butcher of Beirut"? Hmmm.

I digress. Some other time I may share more of my thoughts concerning this current Israel, but for now, let me finish by sharing some other things from the book.

I learned about the formation of several Palestinian resistant groups including the PLO and Hamas which is often in the news when we hear about terrorist organizations on this side of the world.

A few ideas and notable quotes that stood out to me in this book include the following:

"Arthur Ruppin, a founder of Brit Shalom, declared: 'I have no doubt that Zionism will be heading toward a catastrophe if it will not find common ground with the Arabs.' The spiritual father of coexistence was Martin Buber, the great religious philosopher from Vienna, who had long advocated a binational state based in part on 'the love for their homeland that the two peoples share.'" (pg. 84)

"For the Sabra, the Holocaust survivors often represented the shame of Jews going like sheep to the slaughter . . . the phrase Never again was not only a promise by Jews not to repeat the past; it indicated a desire, rooted in shame, to distance themselves from the image of the victim." These Holocaust survivors were referred to as "difficult human matter," "human dust," and "an agricultural worker charged with turning [them] into productive farmers advised colleagues: 'We must understand who we are working with . . . a community of rejects, of pathetic and helpless people.' [Emphasis in original.]" (pg. 119) Perhaps and hopefully, these things were said as mere observations of the sad state of the Holocaust survivors and wasn't intended in a derogatory manner. It is hard to tell tone of voice from the written word. I am giving David Ben-Gurion and the others the benefit of the doubt.

From exile in the West Bank, "Fathers demand their sons seek the safety of higher education in Cairo or London; one son, a young man named Bassam Abu-Sharif, asked his father: 'What is a PhD when we have no country?' He did not want to be 'an eternal foreigner, a landless, homeless, stateless, shamed, despised Palestinian refugee.' Later Bassam told his father, 'I would rather be in prison in my own country than be a free man in exile. I would rather be dead.'" (pg. 142) Speaking of that: "In the eighteen years following the Israeli occupation in June 1967, an estimated 250,000 Palestinians -- or 40 per cent of the adult male population -- had seen the inside of an Israeli jail." (pg. 181)

"At the core of Dalia's faith was the conviction that personal dialogue was the key to transformation . . . 'If national interest comes before our common humanity,' Dalia said, 'then there is no hope for redemption, there is no hope for healing, there is no hope for transformation, there is no hope for anything!'" (pg. 176)

From 1987-88 events -- "Five weeks earlier, Gaza and then the West Bank had exploded in demonstrations against Israel's rule. For twenty years, Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled territories had seen nearly every aspect of public life dictated by an occupying force. Israelis determined school curriculum, ran the civil and military courts, oversaw health care and social services, established occupation taxes, and decided which proposed businesses would receive operation permits. Though the Israelis had allowed the formation of some civil institutions, including trade unions and charities, by the mid-1980s the 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza seethed under occupation. Israelis controlled the land the Palestinians lived on and guarded access to the streams and aquifiers running through and beneath it. They could arrest and imprison Gazans or West Bankers under shifting laws and military regulations not subject to public review. For twenty years, resentment and resistances had built up, and by late 1987, it had reached a point of explosion." (pg. 192-3)

Dalia's reflections of the house she lived in with her parents was very interesting. She wrote an open letter to Bashir that was published in the paper so Israelis could read it as well. She included how "it was very painful for me, as a young woman 20 years ago, to wake up to a few then well hidden facts. For example, we were all led to believe that the Arab population of Ramla and Lod had run away before the advancing Israeli army in 1948, leaving everything behind in a rushed and cowardly escape. This belief reassured us. It was meant to prevent guilt and remorse. But after 1967, I met not only you, but also an Israeli Jew who had personally participated in the expulsion from Ramla and Lod. He told me the story as he had experienced it, and as Yitzhak Rabin later confirmed in his memoirs." Dalia mused, "My love for my country ... was losing its innocence .. some change in perspective was beginning to take place in me." (pg. 200-1)

One time when Bashir and his family came to visit Dalia while she was in the hospital on bed rest, her husband, Yehezkel, made this interesting statement: "Why do you think Israelis are afraid of you? We are not as afraid of the entire Syrian army with all its weaponry as we are of you. Why do you think that is? . . . Because you are the only ones who have a legitimate grievance against us. And deep down, even those who deny it know it. That makes us very uncomfortable and uneasy in dealing with you. Because our homes are your homes, you become a real threat." (pg. 211)

OK.... I think this is plenty long for a book review!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chase the Lion -- got the book -- chapters 1 & 2

Got my new book the other day, and I think it's one I will want to write about after every couple of chapters so that I can remember the message of the book after I finish it. This is the book I referenced in my "Chase the Lion" post, and the actual book title is In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. The cover also reads: "How to survive and thrive when opportunity roars." The style is upbeat and humorous, but there are several thought-provoking things throughout! Well, I've only read 2 chapters, but so far, there are many things that have stuck out to me. Nothing earth-shatteringly NEW perhaps, but just reminders of things I may have forgotten or failed to realize in my years of being a Christian. I wanted to write some of those things now so I can review them later. Here goes!

By the way the title and inspiration for this book comes from this passage in II Samuel 23:

20 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab's best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. 21 And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed him with his own spear.

Chapter 1 - Locking Eyes with Your Lion

After discussing the sin of commission vs. the sin of omission that I pointed out in my previous post about this book, the author, Mark Batterson, asked this question:

"Is anyone else tired of reactive Christianity that is more known for what it's against than what it's for? We've become far too defensive. We've become far too passive. Lion chasers are proactive. They know that playing it safe is risky. Lion chasers are always on the look out for God-ordained opportunities. Maybe we've measured spiritual maturity the wrong way. Maybe following Christ isn't supposed to be as safe or as civilized as we've been led to believe. Maybe Christ was more dangerous and uncivilized than our Sunday-school flannelgraphs portrayed. Maybe God is raising up a generation of lion chasers" (pg. 15,16).

In the points to remember section, I noted these:

"Goodness is not the absence of badness. You can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right. Our calling is much higher than simply running away from what's wrong. We're called to chase lions - look for opportunities in our problems and obstacles, and take risks to reach for God's best."

"When we don't have the guts to step out in faith and chase lions, then God is robbed of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him." --- Do you agree? Hmmm.

Chapter 2 - The Odd Thing About Odds

After discussing the story of Gideon, the author says,

"Too often our prayers revolve around asking God to reduce the odds in our lives. We want everything in our favor. But maybe God wants to stack the odds against us so we can experience a miracle of divine proportions. Maybe faith is trusting God no matter how impossible the odds are. Maybe our impossible situations are opportunities to experience a new dimension of God's glory" (pg. 24).

The author says our view of God determines what we will become. Our "internal picture of God determines how [we] see everything else. Most of our problems are not circumstantial. Most of our problems are perceptual. Our biggest problems can be traced back to an inadequate understanding of who God is. Our problems seem really big because our God seems really small. In fact, we reduce God to the size of our biggest problem. . . . A low view of God and a high view of God are the difference between scaredy-cats and lion chasers. Scaredy-cats are filled with fear because their God is so small. Lion chasers know that their best thought about God on their best day falls infinitely short of how great God really is" (pg. 28). -- WOW!!!!!! This reminds me a bit of something my pastor has instilled in us: "Don't tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big your God is!" Believe it or not, I have been doing this! Ha, ha...yes, I talk to my problems these days! :-D

"You can have a sense of destiny because you know that God has considered every contingency in your life, and He always has your best interest at heart. And that sense of destiny, rooted in the sovereignty of God, helps you pray the unthinkable and attempt the impossible" (pg. 30).

After discussing the ax head floating and mentioning the first miracle of Jesus where He turned water into wine at a wedding, the author makes this observation:

"God is great not just because nothing is too big for Him. God is great because nothing is too small for Him either."

Wow! Read that again if you want. :-) Have you ever felt you were praying for something, but then felt guilty because really it seemed so insignificant compared to all the major problems in the world? It's so wonderful to realize that God cares even about the small things!

It honestly doesn't matter how many Moabites you're facing. It doesn't matter how tall the Egyptian giant is. And the size of a lion isn't really the issue. The issue is this:

How big is your God? (pg. 34)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Experiencing God -- last chapters

I finally finished this book yesterday! It's not that it was so boring that it took weeks to read. Rather lots of good stuff was presented and I felt I really need to read it slowly to "absorb" it all. Now I need to review my notes because I seem to forget stuff so easily! I am glad I took notes on every chapter in this book and recorded those here. A short summary of this book would not have been good enough. Now I will record my notes on those final 3 chapters.

Chapter 17 -- Joining God Requires Major Adjustments

"When God speaks to you, revealing what He is about to do, the revelation is your invitation to adjust your life to Him. Once you have adjusted your life to Him, His purposes, and His ways, you are in a position to obey. Adjustments prepare you for obedience. You cannot continue life as usual or stay where you are, and go with God at the same time." (pg. 147)

The author gives a few Scriptural examples such as Noah not being able to go about his usual activities while building the ark, David having to leave his sheep to become king, Abram being unable to stay in his homeland in order to father a nation in Canaan and the apostles having to leave their vocations (fishing, tax collecting) in order to follow Jesus.

"Enormous changes had to be made! Some had to leave family and country. Others had to drop prejudices [Jonah] and change preferences. Others had to leave behind life goals, ideals and desires. Everything had to be yielded to God and the entire life adjusted to Him." (pg. 148) Even Jesus adjusted His life in order to accomplish God's work. He left the splendor of Heaven and took on the form of a human in order to die for our sins!

The rich young ruler wanted eternal life, but he refused to adjust. He loved money more than he loved God. "Many people may face some of the same struggle today. Prosperity and the love of the things of the world may tempt you to refuse to adjust you life to God. The love for money and things can become a substitute for a love relationship with God." (pg. 149)

The author said God can require adjustments in many ways including circumstances, relationships, thinking, commitments, actions and beliefs.

Keep in mind these things concerning adjustments:

1. Absolute surrender -- God wants to be Lord of your life

2. Total dependence on God -- "The adjustment requires moving from doing work for God according to your abilities, your gifts, your likes and dislikes, and your goals to being totally dependent on God and His working and His resources." (pg. 151) See Scripture to see how we are dependent on God -- John 15:5, I Cor. 5:10, Gal. 2:20, Isa. 14:24, Isa. 41:10, Isa. 46:9-11.

3. Waiting on the Lord --"You may think of waiting as passive, inactive time. Waiting on the Lord is anything but inactive. While you wait on Him, you will be praying with a passion to know Him, His purposes, and His ways. You will be watching circumstances and asking God to interpret them by revealing to you His perspective. You will be sharing with other believers to find out what God is saying to them. As you wait on the Lord, you will be very active in asking, seeking and knocking . . . While you wait, continue doing the last thing God told you to do. In waiting you are shifting the responsibility of the outcome to God -- where it belongs. . . . Waiting on Him is always worth the wait. His timing and His ways are always right. You must depend on Him to guide you in His way and His timing to accomplish His purpose." (pg. 152)

Chapter 18 -- Joining God Requires Obedience

According to the author, what you do is your "moment of truth" re: obedience. What you do will:

1. Reveal what you believe about Him.
2. Determine whether you will experience His mighty work in you and through you.
3. Determine whether you will come to know Him more intimately. (pg. 157)

The author discusses the importance and cost of obedience. He told how our obedience is often costly to us and those around us. Also our obedience often leads to opposition and misunderstandings. One example given was when Jesus was crucified His mother's heart was broken. I suppose even if she knew He would rise again and this was what His purpose was ... STILL! Who likes to see her child suffer the way Jesus did for us?

There are adjustments we need to make in prayer. Following a God-centered approach to prayer "would be to let God lead you to pray according to His will ... Believe that what He has led you to pray, He Himself will bring to pass. Then continue praying in faith and watching for it to come to pass." (pg. 162)

The author reminds us that while God often does give second chances, disobedience is costly. A couple of examples: David's sin cost the life of his infant son while Jonah's disobedience nearly cost him his life!

Chapter 19 -- God Accomplishes His Work

Oftentimes we want a sign from God before we do something, but the author shows us from Exodus 3:12 that "God's affirmation that He had sent Moses was going to come after Moses obeyed, not before." (pg. 166)

What? You mean we have to do something by faith!! (Okay, that was just me talking...I like signs to come before! :-) )

The author discusses what to do if it seems a door closes. "When you begin to follow and circumstances seem to close doors of opportunity, go back to the Lord and clarify what God said. Better yet, always try to make sure on the front end of a sense of call exactly what God is saying. He most often is not calling you to a task only, but to a relationship." (pg. 168)

What he said to someone who thought the door closed: "Then I said, 'Keep that sense of call in place. Because one door closed, don't assume that the assignment is over. Watch to see how the God who called you is going to implement what He said. When God speaks a word of direction, He will bring it to pass. Be very careful that you do not let circumstances cancel what God said.'" (pg. 168)

And with that, I conclude my notes, but definitely not my thoughts! Wow! I have so much to consider from what I've read and learned in this book. I am so thankful I "crossed paths" with this book and was lead to read it. I was reluctant when I saw Andrew had brought it from his parents' house, but then decided, "Eh, why not read it?" I'm glad I did!

Now I will go rest my weary wrists from typing all this. I think a walk and talk with God is in order.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Feelings or Faith?

"What you do, rather than what you say you believe, reveals what you really believe about God."

Read that statement again. Slowly.

Just yesterday I wrote these words while writing a review of a chapter in the book I am reading (see previous post). It seems here lately I have been reading and talking a lot about walking by faith. Either I've been reminded by others or I have been reminding others. So now comes the time for SUSANNE to live by faith and not just talk or read about it.

This morning I got some unexpected news that saddened me instantly. I think any normal human in my situation would have reacted the same. For several minutes - maybe an hour - I felt so many emotions ranging from despair to fear to frustration to sadness and confusion. I questioned my motives, my pride, how I needed to respond to someone, how I needed to fight if necessary. I had my emotional questioning time . . . and then I went for a walk so I could talk to my God.

As I prayed, He brought to mind all the things I have been studying and teaching lately about living by faith or by sight. Is it enough for me to just say that you have to have faith, and then not live it? I want to tell you how the Lord encouraged me.

I remembered the words from Scripture about God fighting the battle for His people. I realize that I do not have to have the answers to refute every single point. I am not a great debater. I am not the convincer. In fact, I don't want to be. My God has promised that the battle is not mine; it's His. I am not the one who draws men to God; He does. I do not reveal to men that Jesus is the Son of God; He does that, too.

What a load off of me!

Naturally I want God to work in one way and take care of this situation. But I learned something from my walk -- even if God doesn't answer in the way that I want, I can trust Him still.

I am not going to live by my emotions and only say I walk by faith. With God's help, I will walk by faith. I will please God by that. He is worthy of my faith because He has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again. I rejoice in my relationship with Him, and I know HE will work everything out to glorify Himself. This is not about Susanne being happy or getting the glory.

This is all about Him.

I am choosing to live by faith. God is faithful. And the just will live by faith.

Thank You, Lord, for encouraging me by your Word. You are a faithful God worthy of our trust and devotion. I pray for You to work in this situation and bring honor and glory to Yourself. You alone are worthy of praise! Thank You for loving and caring for me and saving me. In Christ's name . . . Amen.

Hebrews 12:1-3

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (emphasis mine)

Philippians 1:6
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

My hope is in the Lord. He has made me glad. I rejoice in the Lord always.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Experiencing God -- chapter 16

God's Invitation Leads to a Crisis of Belief

"Faith is confidence that what God promised or said will come to pass. Sight is an opposite of faith. If you can see clearly how something can be accomplished, more than likely faith is not required." (pg. 135)

When God lets you know what He wants to do through you, it will be something only God can do. What you believe about Him will determine what you do. If you have faith in the God who called you, you will obey Him; and He will bring to pass what He has purposed to do. If you lack faith, you will not do what He wants. This is disobedience.

Jesus questioned those around Him, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Jesus frequently rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith and unbelief. Their unbelief revealed that they really had not come to know who He was. Thus, they did not know what He could do. (pg. 136)

In the Bible you will see how God asked people to do something in faith. The task was always bigger than they were. HIS presence was required. When we are given a task by God, but then think "Oh, I can't do that. It's impossible," then we are limiting what GOD can do through us. When God speaks, He reveals what He wants to do through us. We aren't supposed to see if our talents and abilities match the assignment. He works in and through us to accomplish His purposes. Don't be self-centered. Be God-centered. "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God, all things are possible" (Mark 10:27).

Sometimes people say that God won't give them an assignment that they cannot do. The author points out that if he senses God is giving him an assignment that he probably can handle, then that assignment probably is not from God. In the Bible, God always gave God-sized assignments. "They are always beyond what people can do because He wants to demonstrate His nature, His strength, His provision, and His kindness to His people and a watching world." (pg. 138)

God wants people to know Him and when He works through us, He wants people to see Himself. If all people see is what I can do then they won't see God. This is why God often gives tasks that only He can do through us. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world. If the world sees us and sees only a dedicated group of people serving God, we are not attempting anything that only God can do.

True faith requires action!
The disciples were caught in the middle of a storm on the sea. Jesus rebuked them, not for their human tendency to fear, but for their failure to recognize His presence, protection and power (Matthew 8:23-27). In this case their actions revealed their unbelief rather than their faith. When the storms of life overtake us like this storm overtook the disciples, we often respond as if God does not exist or does not care.

When a centurion sought Jesus' help to heal his servant, he said, "Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed (Matt. 8:8). Jesus commended the centurion's faith in His authority and power, and He healed the servant because of the faith of his master (Matt. 8:5-13).

In each of these biblical examples, what the people did indicated to Jesus what kind of faith they had or did not have. What you do, rather than what you say you believe, reveals what you really believe about God. (pgs. 143,144).

Great chapter! Reminds me to chase those lions!