Reviewing Real-Life Make-Believe

biopage_randy_grandsonsPhoto credit: Eternal Perspectives Ministries (www.epm.org).

I was asked to review an article featured in the May-June issue of Bible Study Magazine about Randy Alcorn’s writing and Bible study. The title is Real-life Make-Believe by Christy Tennant.

Alcorn is known for being both a non-fiction and fiction writer–which is impressive.  Not all writers can also create imaginary worlds. He is a best-selling author of over 30 fiction and non-fiction books, including Heaven, The Treasure Principle, The Ishbane Conspiracy and more.

As a fiction writer he claims that when he writes about God in a story, he is extra careful to make sure that the perception he gives of God is biblically based. Many a fiction writer who includes God as a character in his or her book, fails to portray God as He is in the Bible. Alcorn says, “If you’re going to put words in God’s mouth, they better be true to Scripture.” If I were to pick up a fiction book that had God as the character, I would want to know that what I was reading was an accurate depiction of His nature, character, attributes and more. And there is no better place (or I might say no other place) to find this than in God’s word.

I really appreciate how Alcorn is keeping in mind the non-believer when he writes. His hope is that if a person has never read the Bible or may not agree with the truths in the Bible, that he or she will still find biblical truth on the pages.  A story is what often opens the reader’s eye to truths he would have otherwise never seen. But the opposite is true also. If a writer conveys a non-biblical, anti-Christian worldview, than the reader’s perception of God could be jacked up and jaded forever– a mere tragedy altogether.

Personally, Alcorn relies on his wife Nanci to help him in the creative process of his writing, but also in his spiritual relationship. While they both have independant quiet times, they also come together and share truths they’re learning in Scripture. It’s like a double dose of sugar. It’s no wonder again, that his writing is biblically based because it stems from his own personal time with Christ and time studying with his wife.  

In the last sentences of  this article, Alcorn says how the study of God’s word  has shaped his writing. Christy concludes in saying, “The effects of Alcorn’s bible study are evident throughout his writing. When God’s word is at the center, so is His story.” Alcorn’s intense study of the word has been the launching pad for his writing. This can challenge all of us as Christian writers to know where we must begin in the often intimidating process of writing.

Because Alcorn has put first things first, it cannot shock us that Alcorn has become one of the greatest writers of our day.

Video Friday: Masterpiece

Ever since I can remember, my mom told me that I was a masterpiece created by God. God has fashioned us all in his image. We are beautiful because He is beautiful. Every day he is chiseling us into his image. Because of the cross, we now have healing from the stripes and death for life… as Amena beautifully articulates.

(low-res version)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZpz7rUQ5tQ&feature=PlayList&p=A7FA3C2AC87D0AF0&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=36]

Kristin’s Miracle House

at_the_gatesI just finished transcribing one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever heard (that will be included in our Bluefish 2010 Youth Series releasing in the fall). Kristin Elliott (her middle name happens to be Elizabeth- reminding me of the missionary Elisabeth Eliott) is no typical young woman.

Elizabeth grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school but desperately wanted a story of hope to give to others. At the end of her high school career, she found a lump in her leg. The lump ended up being a cancerous tumor. A life-threatening one. She was operated on and the Make A Wish foundation found out about her. They came to her house and allowed her to grant one wish. She could either meet someone (a celebrity), go somewhere, or have something (an object). She told them she wanted to build an orphanage in Africa. They were perplexed. They’d never had a request like that from anyone. They went back to their headquarters to see what they could work out.

Her desire for an orphanage went back to the need Kristin saw on a special on TV. She thought that someone needed to go to them and that she could be it. So her and her family decided to take a trip to Africa shortly after her operation. She wanted to meet the needs of those children who didn’t have a home or love. When she returned from the trip, she was rediagnosed with this dangerous form of cancer and it was now in her lungs. She was operated on again. Doctors were able to get all of the cancer out. Around that time, Make a Wish responded to her and they were able to give her their maximum amount of money (around 2k) to jump start her funds towards the orphanage in Africa.

The news then got a hold of her story and many people began donating to her wish. She raised the 60k that was needed to build the orphanage and then some. The orphanage would hold 12 orphans and 2 adults to oversee the home.

Kristin began to heal and is now cancer free.  She’s in her first year at Baylor and has had opportunities to spread the hope of Christ just as she prayed for- even though cancer may not have been her first choice.

I’m just blown away by Kristin’s heart. She experienced the most difficult trial of her life and yet she was willing to give of herself fully (reminding me so much of the life of Christ). A dream was fulfilled that she never would have imagined coming true at only 18 years old. Her legacy will certainly be marked in Zambia forever, as the house for orphans is now called Kristin’s Miracle House.

This young girl has definitely inspired me today.

Check out Kristin’s site and story here.

Getting Rid of Stuff Part 2

This Saturday, we sold so much “stuff” at  a community wide yard sale on Saturday. We did this last year and sold about $400.00 worth of stuff. For some reason this year we accumulated more stuff again and ended up selling about $300 on Saturday. The funny thing is is that my Getting Rid of Stuff post from last year receives tons of hits still to this day. I’m beginning to think that we (Americans) have an issue with stuff but what is so funny to me is how one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure.

I can’t even tell you how much “junk” I think I sold. If familiarity can breed contempt when it comes to “things” than the latter would explain it. There’s just something about wearing the same old clothes day in and day, looking at the same painting or eating out of the same dishes. You grow to hate it because you’re so tired of it- it’s just too familiar. I think this explains much of my own heart. I’m often never satisfied- I want more and I need something to fill the voids. I need the next thing. A different hairstyle, lip stick shade, outfit, piece of furniture, car, and whatever else. It’s when I get back to reality and realize that I can’t take anything with me when I leave this earth, that it all gets back into perspective. God has created me to need Him- not stuff. He’s the only one that can fill my longing heart and I’m so thankful that He does anytime I call on him for help.

Maybe next year we’ll get down to selling $200.00 worth of stuff.

The Weight of the Cross

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFvMzDlsmig]Last week, a gunman in the small town of Binghamton, New York took the lives of 13 people, including his own. The ugly darkness of evil and sin were yet again exposed to our world. And in the midst of such tragedy (around Easter), I’m compelled to look inwardly at the evil and sin in my own heart.

I often relate Easter-time to the blue-colored peeps and big chocolate bunnies hidden in grass that I found in my basket on Sunday mornings growing up. But I’m learning that Easter is everything but that. Easter is about dealing and grappling with the sin in my heart in light of the cross.

Motivated by love, Christ took on his shoulders the weight of my sin. Ever since the fall, I’ve had a major sin problem—or you could say a “thought” problem. So God, in human flesh, descended from the heavens to enter my messy world and eventually die a criminal’s death on a cross to rescue me from that sin and bondage.

Mark 7:21 says, “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery.” There it is. That sin problem disclosed again. I guess I was wrong and I’m not as perfect after all.

Christ came to heal every person’s brokenness and to restore his image within them. His wounds have healed us. Because of his resurrection, Jesus proved he wasn’t a liar or a lunatic. But that he was God. Because of his life, we now have life. And that is something worth celebrating this Easter.

Video Credit: Chad Madden: Bluefish TV

Why Chick-fil-a is the best Chain Restaurant Ever

In my opinion, no greater restaurant chain exists than Chick-fil-a. I don’t eat fast food barely at all, but if I do it’s Chick-fil-a.

They’ve probably asked you the same question at the drive-in: “How may I serve you?” Just look at that question and its contrast with “Can I take your order?” like you would experience at a Wendy’s or a Taco Bell.

I’ve always been greeted with a smile at Chick-fil-a and a readiness to refill my sweet tea. This kind of service is just unmatchable. This morning, I was running behind and grabbed a chicken biscuit from them and once again, they delivered their best and helped get my morning off to a better start. On my way to work, I started thinking about Chick-fil-a and Christianity. (as I often think about random connections while driving down the interstate).

I really want to serve those I come in contact with every day and be genuine about it. To greet them with a smile, look them in the eyes, and say their name. I want to genuinely seek to meet their needs whatever they might be. And it’s my hope that when I’m gone, a lasting mark would be made and they would know when they see me again, that I am one who seeks to serve.

S. Truett Cathy, you had it right.

Tim Hawkins wrote a song about his obsession:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsJHqstPuNo]

12-year old speaks out on abortion

Abortion. It has happened to one out of four women in the church today (yes, the church). Abortion is familiar territory in my husband’s family. Sitting on her couch one day, my relative chose to reveal the pain she still carries today 35 or so years ago. Hers was performed in the 70s when free love and free sex danced among the streets. When not much was known about abortion- just that it was a procedure.

“We [her husband] just did it not knowing what we were doing,” she told me. “I’m sick to my stomach every time I think about it. The loss is still with me knowing we have a baby in heaven.”

It felt surreal to hear about her pain– the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll it has had on her. She knows it and desires to educate others about the trauma she experienced and deals with today.

The bottom line is that God’s grace is still near. His forgiveness is real no matter what what we have done. And she knows that. But sadly, it will never take away the pain she senses every day. This video of a courageous 12 yr. old girl stirs my heart to action– especially now that I have a greater glimpse into just how deep the pain cuts.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOR1wUqvJS4]

The Greatest Gift

your-word-is-a-lampBeing a new mom, I’ve definitely been thinking about the legacy I want to leave and the kind of gifts I want to give my children. I think the greatest gift I could give to John and Jeremiah is to be a wife and mother who is consistently in God’s Word. Here’s why:

1.) God’s Word penetrates the heart- changing us. While the places you go, the people you meet, and the books you read do that too, it is His word that  is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Through the Holy Spirit, God’s word speaks to us, showing us how to walk and revealing the love story of Christ.

2.) God’s Word helps us see our sin, leading us to confession. Jonathan Edwards said, “Confession is the detergent of the soul.” While we must be careful not to be legalistic or ritualistic about confessing our offenses to God, a daily acknowledgment of our sin is critical so that it doesn’t harbor day after day. God’s word is like a mirror showing me who I really am. Helping me see the sin I don’t always see.

3.) God’s Word encourages us to be all that we can for Christ and His glory. While worship, church, prayer, and fellowship with others do that, it is His word that gives us the greater hope and perseverance to continue on in this difficult life. To glorify him with my heart, body, soul, and mind. His Word is my number one fan, helping me to press on and reminding me that I’m not crazy!

4.) God’s Word Challenges me to Selflessness and to Serving others. When I see that I am nothing a part from Christ, and that only he can make me self-less, I’m encouraged all the more to be the person I need to be for my family. I long to serve them through my actions and words. To build my house, and not tear it down with my  hands.

Growing up, my Mom was a woman who meditated on and loved the Bible. That was the greatest gift she gave to me… and to my whole family.

How has His word been a gift in your life?

Recap: Interviewing Christian Authors

img_8971img_8972img_8977This past weekend, I had the opportunity along with Marc McCartney to interview some really gifted writers at the Christian book expo here in Dallas. The questions in our interviews focused on small group ministry and what it looks like to put our faith into action. Each author answered the questions with their particular message and passion in mind. The interviews will go on SmallGroupExchange.com and RightNow.org as free video training.

On Friday, our line-up was Andy Crouch (see 1st photo), Alex & Brett Harris (2nd photo), Max Lucado (3rd photo), Sue Edwards, and Dawn Herzog Jewell. On Saturday, we interviewed JI Packer, Kevin Leman, Jimmy Dorrell, Ron Hall, Denver Moore, Steven Arterburn, and Bill and Kathy Peel.

I helped with the Friday portion. It was great to hear from Andy Crouch about his passion in creating culture rather than criticizing it. He has some great insight in his book Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling.

I got to personally interview Alex and Brett Harris. You may initially know them from their brother, Josh Harris (Author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye). These guys were exactly what I thought they would be. Full of passion for this generation of teenagers and mature beyond their years. Their book Do Hard Things and the conferences they are putting on are encouraging teens to live above culture’s expectations. It was also neat to hear that the person with the greatest impact in their life has been their parents. I definitely figured that!

Max Lucado was a joy to meet as well. When he walked in the room, he had a smile on his face and was genuinely interested in who we were and what we were doing. He talked about how God can use ordinary people for extraordinary purposes and he helped define what “missionary” means in our culture today. He remembered all of our names at the end. I think every Christian on the planet knows who Max Lucado is so it was definitely an honor for him to offer his wisdom to us.

I also loved meeting Dawn Herzog Jewell, author of Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom: Sex Trafficking, Global Prostitution, and the Gospel’s Transforming Power. She answered questions as to how people can get involved in the heavy topic of sex trafficking and how God gave her the passion to write on the topic and inform others.

I’m really excited that each of these authors will be on SmallGroupExchange.com and Rightnow.org.