Thursday, May 28, 2009

Forgiveness

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I’m so delinquent in updating this blog, please forgive me. Somewhere between the chaotic activity that occurs in a home during the first days after the end of school and what I’m trying to accomplish with the eight ministries I’m working with, not to mention the paying jobs the Lord has blessed me with, I’ve simply not found time to write for this blog.

So let me hammer out a few words right now:

Sunday our lesson was based on this great verse, Colossians 3:12-13, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

This spoke powerfully to me because I have been weak recently when it comes to having complaints against others. Without going into too much detail, let me just say we’ve all known a neighbor who may borrow a cup of sugar and then replace it with a pound, just as we’ve known those neighbors who may borrow a pound of sugar but never return to you so much as a teaspoon. I’ve been dividing these people into two groups: those I’d gladly loan more sugar to, and those for whom I wouldn’t answer the door.

In other words, I’ve been unforgiving of my debtors.

Jill has called me out on this a number of times, she is much sweeter than I am, but I’ve been stubborn and unwilling to stop considering some people as gracious, and others as, well, something else.

So that Sunday as I sat there reading the verse in the bulletin, and remembering much of what I’ve recently read in the book of John, I realized the sin of my ways and have resolved to open my door to whomever knocks. Yes, even if they want to borrow another pound of sugar, or need another favor which I suspect won’t be reciprocated, because I was reminded that God forgave us even though we crucified his Son. How can I, then, withhold grace over a paltry pound of sugar?

Of course I mean this figuratively, insert anything or any gesture in place of sugar and you get the same thing. Some people appreciate what you do and others don’t. But just as God forgives us again and again even though we prance around unappreciative of His blessings or disobedient of His word, we are called to forgive everyone.

It’s a tall order, but you can’t sing in harmony with the Heavenly choir if you don’t commit yourself to doing it. I’m trying. Please keep my efforts in your prayers.

I’ve been collecting great stories recently so please continue to check back. Soon I’ll have posts up about my afternoon spent with World Relief, an organization that helps relocate political and religious refugees, a conversation with pastor who was driven out of Bhutan because he converted from Hinduism to Christianity, an afternoon spent in the local food pantry, an investment fund that gives to Christian ministries, and much more.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, May 25, 2009

GRACE

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I’m on the road all day tomorrow so am posting an article I wrote recently for my other blog, http://www.touchedbyservice.blogspot.com/. It’s about an organization run by a friend of mine from way back. Cheryl and I knew each other 30 years ago, and are now reunited around a cause worthy of your thoughtful prayers:

A few months ago I began to hear people talking about an organization called Street GRACE. Curious about Street GRACE, I began to dig around to find out what the organization does. It didn’t take long to realize just what an important mission the organization has undertaken – to eradicate the commercial sexual exploitation of children (referred to as CSEC) in Atlanta.

I asked myself if there really was such a problem in our capital city. Sadly, I discovered, there is.

In 2000, Fulton County Chief Juvenile Court Judge Nina Hickson was appalled as she presided over the 1,000th case of child prostitution that had come before her. Later, the issue of child prostitution was brought to the attention of Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin. In 2005, the mayor commissioned a report now known as "Hidden in Plain View" which revealed to a broader audience the pervasiveness of commercial sexual exploitation in Atlanta.

It is estimated between two hundred and three hundred young girls are exploited in Georgia each month with the majority of those atrocities occurring here in Atlanta. When I read that statistic I remembered hearing on the news a few years ago about a young girl who was forced into prostitution on the streets just a few blocks from where I was working at the time. I was deeply disturbed by that situation, but apparently not deeply enough for I soon forgot about that young girl as I became distracted again by the trappings and events of my charmed life.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I, father of a beloved daughter, was not outraged enough to do something about the terrible problem of CSEC. I became even more embarrassed about my apathy when I learned that the Executive Director of Street GRACE, Cheryl DeLuca-Johnson, a woman outraged enough to do something about CSEC, was a close friend of mine during my college years. I had to admit to her that I’d been made aware of the problem but had chosen to do nothing about it.

I sat down with Cheryl recently to learn more about Street GRACE.

Greg: Tell me what Street GRACE does and how someone can help to achieve its goals?

Cheryl: Street GRACE is a non-denominational alliance of churches dedicated to eradicating the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Atlanta. That’s the long way of saying we are combating the rape of children for profit. Atlanta consistently lands on the Top 10 list of places where child prostitution is a significant problem. What we don’t know is how big the problem really is; we aren’t yet including boy victims in our data. Street GRACE was formed to bring an end to this problem before it grows to even larger proportions.

Greg: And how are you hoping to accomplish that?

Cheryl: We are focused on a number of strategic areas. The first is awareness. We are trying to form a Speakers Bureau of people from different walks of life, businessmen, mothers, students, health professionals, who we will train to become advocates speaking out about our cause. So many people don’t know about the problem of CSEC. We need people who are willing to help us expand our reach so that more people will become stirred to tackle CSEC.

Secondly, we are working to establish a prayer network throughout the city. We need people praying for the children as well as the predator, for they are lost, too. We want to blanket the city in prayer twenty-four seven to ask God to protect these children. We need help establishing this network.

Third, we are working to mobilize churches. If you are a member of a church which is interested in our mission but not yet involved with Street GRACE, we want to come alongside you to help get your church involved. We hope to have one hundred churches as members of Street GRACE by the end of 2010. Corporately, we will bring hands and feet to the issue and demand the attention of the powers that are most capable of ending CSEC in Atlanta.

Fourth, we need volunteers who are willing to work with at risk children and in risk neighborhoods, and others who will mentor children through after school programs and one-on-one youth mentoring. Of course we want to rescue child victims, but we also want to intervene and prevent victimization by introducing caring adults into the lives of children at risk. If all we do is rescue young girls off the street, we only create a void that other girls will be forced to fill.

Greg: What does it mean to mobilize churches?

Cheryl: Church mobilization means to bring awareness of CSEC to Believers so that they might take up the fight for justice for these children. We encourage church members to write letters and sign the petition in support of Senate Bill 91, an important piece of legislation which will create a five dollar surcharge paid by patrons of adult entertainment facilities, money that will go directly toward the support of rescued children. We hope to have at least 100,000 people to sign the petition; we want to make it uncomfortable for anyone to ignore our cause (visit http://www.weurgeyou.com/ to sign the petition).

Greg: Some people think they must have personal experience in order to be an effective advocate for a cause. Would you address that concern?

Cheryl: One doesn’t need to first have experienced an injustice in order to recognize where an injustice exists and then rise up in outcry against it. If you have a heart for children you can be an effective advocate for our cause. We will coach you on how to use your gifts to combat CSEC; all you have to do is let us know you want to help.

Greg: So you can use people of all different skill sets, not just those willing to walk the halls of the capital or work one-on-one with a child.

Cheryl: If you have a heart for children, we will find a meaningful way to use your time and talents. Street GRACE was formed just over a year ago. We started out small and unknown and are now growing in size and credibility, yet we have a lot of work to do before the next legislative session (January). We need all the volunteers we can get to help us fulfill our mission.


When our meeting ended Cheryl went on to another one and I drove home, taking with me a list of things I had agreed to do for Street GRACE. Even if she weren’t an old friend, I simply couldn’t sit across the table from Cheryl DeLuca-Johnson and remain apathetic about CSEC. Because since that day when I first heard about CSEC, I have also heard Jesus’ call for justice and mercy for the least and oppressed.

I just couldn’t say No. Can you?

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Friday, May 22, 2009

36,000 feet

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

You’ve heard me whine before about how I wish my blogs had lots of traffic each day. It’s the curse of being a writer - we want to be read. Now and then I am reminded that in my case the measure of worth of my words isn’t how many people read my posts. Rather, it is what results after someone has read what I’ve written. To that point, I received a note yesterday that was my Emmy, Oscar and Grammy:

“We applied for a grant from Perimeter's Kingdom Investments. Their board met last Friday, and it just so happened that one of the board members had read your blog about Good Samaritan. He shared with the others how he was moved by our story. Well, we got the grant, so I am writing to say thanks, and to share the good news.”

So you see (this message really is for me) sometimes having only one person read what you’ve written is enough.

My good cyber friend Ginny sends me words of encouragement regularly. I’m so grateful for her, knowing she will help me when I become perplexed during my journey. Here’s what she had to say recently:

“As you read (the Bible), remember that each book is there to serve a purpose, whether it be historical, poetry, praise and/or lament, prophecy, instruction. Also, remember that scholars have dedicated lifetimes to the study of the scriptures. There will always be things that puzzle the mind, but then that simply reflects on the massiveness and infinity of our God and the finite limitedness of our minds. We simply cannot fully comprehend all there is to know of God.

There are many things that we know without a doubt. God, in his perfection, created us. Because we all have sinned, we stand in need of a savior. By His sacrifice and incomprehensible suffering on the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sin. Through his conquering of sin by dying and then being raised, we are made perfect, clean, and pure in spirit before God’s eyes. We are to share the love of Jesus. One day each of us will die, i.e., our bodies will die but our souls, our true being, will be with the Lord for eternity.”

Well that just about sums it up nicely, doesn’t it?

In a plane nearly five hours yesterday, I finshed reading Esther, John, and began Acts. I loved John - straightforward and poetic at the same time. Interestingly, on each leg of the trip the passenger next to me saw what Iwas reading and wanted to talk about the Bible. Ironic, isn't it, how planes and God keep intersecting in my life. He is everywhere, even at 36,000 feet.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Timing

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I finished reading Nehemiah yesterday and will soon begin reading Esther. I was bored with Nehemiah at first, thinking it was another book of lists of names and jobs, but eventually realized it was much more than that. It is the story of how a city (or a family or an individual) can be restored in spite of what wretchedness led to its initial destruction. What a great promise that is to all of us, that we can fall way from God and into decline and decay, but also be restored to Him of we would only choose to honor and obey Him. It’s a message to me about how to better manage myself and lead my family.

It seems I’m coming to that conclusion over and over again – the Bible is the ultimate how-to guide. If only I had been more focused earlier in my life, if only I had the desire back then to follow His word as faithfully as I do now. I would have left a lot less mess in my wake.

Another Philippians verse was references in Sunday’s service that still rings in my ears, 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” My, oh my, that so clearly points out my most egregious sin. I spent years exalting myself. I have such shame for my former conduct, when I nearly always acted out of selfish ambition and vain conceit, nearly always with little thought for those I might injure along the way.

So often I tell Jill I wish I had met her sooner, but then in the next breath I tell her I’m so glad I didn’t. I sincerely believe she wouldn’t have been able to love me if she had known me when I was so stiff-necked and cruel of heart. Why God blessed me in the way that He did with the timing of my introduction to the woman who would become my wife I don’t know, but I’m so grateful that He did. Had I met her sooner, I’m sure I would have lost her. Thank you, God, you’re awesome!

Moving on: Cameron and I spent Saturday morning together. We had breakfast, saw the King Tut exhibit, ate pizza for lunch, and talked about his summer plans. Our list of things to do keep growing; it’s great for me because he wants to do a number of things I was never able to talk the girls into doing with me. Who knew I would have such a fine time with a twelve year old boy?

It’s going to be busy around here the remainder of the week. Cameron and I are hanging out this afternoon, his last day of school, I’m meeting with a filmmaker this morning to discuss working together on a project about the growing ranks of homeless people in Atlanta, I’m spending the day in Dallas with a client on Thursday (gotta fit the paying gigs in between the ministry gigs!), and Friday I’m visiting with the Atlanta affiliate of World Relief to learn about what we are doing for the refugees now living in Atlanta. And then add all this: I owe two stories to the blog I write for the church, I’ve been asked to begin writing periodically for the church bulletin, I have some photography work to complete for a ministry brochure, and I need to cut the grass! So I hope you will forgive me that I’m posting less than five days a week now, and I hope you’ll agree that actually doing His work is better than sitting around thinking about it.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, May 18, 2009

He Listens

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

This past Sunday our Lead Pastor spoke about Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I’m five and one-half months into my year of becoming closer to God, and although I’m certainly closer to Him than I’ve ever been, I sometimes still wonder if I am pleasing Him. Specifically, I worry that my prayers may not be pleasing to Him. Occasionally I fall asleep before finishing my prayers, and although I finish praying when I wake up in the morning, I can’t help but think that I’m being lazy by crawling into bed before I begin praying. Maybe I should get on my knees to pray; perhaps then I won’t fall asleep.

And I do get anxious at times, as when asking for something for myself. I boldly and earnestly ask God for things for others all the time, but I feel guilty when my request is for my benefit. How dare I ask?

And to make matters worse, I fear I am not thankful enough when I pray. Often I make my requests first and then remember to be thankful, but too often all I say is “thanks for everything,” which seems so much like an afterthought, or I say thanks for the same things over and over again, i.e., for my family, my wife, my health, my salvation. I worry I do not rejoice enough for all the things I am blessed with, with the so many things that go right and turn out well in my life.

And yet as I write this, I, once again, remember something else our Lead Pastor told us – it isn’t performance that gets you into Heaven. I can never be “good enough” to earn a place in Heaven. Rather, it is only by His immense mercy and grace, mercy and grace which are extended to me even though I will always fall short of His hopes and expectations for me, that I will have eternal life.

And after I’ve remembered that, a wave of thanksgiving does come over me, for I am immeasurably thankful that in spite of myself, I can never disappoint Him so greatly that He would close the door on me.

So I will pray tonight, both for myself and many others, and I will ask for many things. And I will not only remember to express my thankfulness for my blessings and answered prayers, I will be thankful in the moments as I am praying. Thankful that even with my flaws, my errors, my missteps, omissions and blunders, He still listens to me.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rabble Rouser

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

Man, the more I read the Bible, the more questions I have. I’ve now gotten through Ezra and will begin Nehemiah this weekend, and I’m nearly finished reading John. It is in John where my questions are raised. For example: the question I asked in Monday’s post about people rising from the grave, and now, John 9:41, “Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

Does that mean people who never knew God, either because they have never been exposed to Him (they live in the jungles along the Amazon) or they are unable to comprehend Him (babies and the mentally/intellectually challenged), and, therefore, because they did not know Him they could not reject Him, are not guilty of sin? Surely they sin, but are they held to blame if they knew no better? Is that what it means?

I cannot answer my question, it is beyond my understanding. But I can say that because I have knowledge, I know Him, I am not blind to Him and His work, I am guilty of my sin. Therefore I have a choice – to bow to the LORD, ask for forgiveness and try to turn away from my sins, or turn away from Him and sin with unrepentant abandon. I cannot do the latter, and I hope you can’t either.

On another note, I had coffee with a friend yesterday to discuss the book business and before long faith and church participation came up. She said she was a bit of a rebel in the church, stirring things up where she believed more attention needed to be focused and where too little of God’s work was being done. I think she was feeling unsure about being known as a rebel, but I encouraged her to embrace the reputation. After all, Jesus was the ultimate rabble rouser, shaking up everything, everywhere he went!

Cameron and I are spending the morning together again tomorrow; we plan to visit the King Tut exhibit and have pizza. It should be a good day.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Raging Waters

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I really like sermons that are based on action stories in the Bible, stories that seem improbable and miraculous but which have a deeper meaning waiting to be revealed. This past Sunday I enjoyed such a sermon. It was about the crossing of the Jordon River in the book of Joshua.

I remember reading this story, Joshua 3:7-17, earlier this year in the course of my daily reading. God directed Joshua to have the priests carry the ark of the covenant across the river and to lead the people of Israel to a new land. It was indeed a miracle that the river stopped flowing and the people were able to cross the river on dry land. I read it and understood that God was making sure the people knew that Joshua had His favor in the same way that Moses did.

What I didn’t pay much attention to was the verse a few lines down the page, 3:24, which says “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

Our lesson was more about this one verse than the story itself. Our Teacher concluded that God puts us in impossible situations at times so that, if we have faith in Him, we will see His power and understand his immense desire and ability to help us, if only we ask Him to. And so that if we go forward against the impossible in His name and strengthened by our faith in Him, others might witness our acts and be stirred to believe in Him.

The lesson ended in what I like to call “the take away,” the one sentence that ties it all together and stays with me for days and weeks later. The Teacher said, “If your highest priority is to keep you feet dry, you will never see the faithfulness of God.”

In other words, when God leads us to the edge of raging waters, it is our opportunity to bring glory to Him by choosing to let our faith take us through the water. To turn away from the raging water is to show how little faith we have in our Lord. This makes a lot of sense to me.

As I was making notes during the service I was reminded of a fountain in the lobby of In Touch Ministries, the Charles Stanley organization I sometimes visit. On the fountain it is inscribed: Do as God says and leave the consequences to Him.

It’s true, isn’t it? If we fail to act boldly and with faith, we also fail to see the greatness of our Creator.

I know now that should I be standing on the edge of raging waters, I will pray, and then step in. I no longer worry about keeping my feet dry.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Not so Boring

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

Here’s something I wrote for the church blog yesterday:

“On a few Sunday mornings while reading the program as I’ve waited for the service to begin, I have seen requests for adult men and women to consider becoming mentors for fatherless or motherless youth in our church. Although I have my hands full attending to the needs and wishes of two daughters, something about the youth mentoring ministry kept tugging at my heart.

I don’t have a son and wasn’t sure if I, experienced as I am with dollhouses, Easy Bake ovens and seemingly endless shopping excursions, as well as being quite knowledgeable about matching colors to every imaginable shade of pink and rotating shoes for each coming season, am adequately equipped to mentor a young boy. It has been over thirty-five years since I could accurately be called a young boy, and so many of the things I did for fun back then are no longer in vogue. People just don’t play Tiddlywinks anymore.

Yet one afternoon I found myself in a room talking with Hal Clark of Perimeter’s Youth Mentoring Ministry about becoming a mentor. Ten days later, Hal introduced me to an eleven year old boy, and within the hour I became his mentor.

Only a month has passed since I met this young boy, and in spite of my advanced age, inexperience with boys, and BORING personality (or so assert the girls in my home), he and I are getting along wonderfully.

His twelfth birthday was just this past Saturday and I had promised to spend half a day with him. We began our morning with conversation and breakfast at Chick-fil-A, then went to the Bricks to play basketball, pool, ping-pong, and air hockey, then ran off to Monkey Joe’s for some monkey business, and finally to lunch for his favorite cuisine, Chinese food. This was the first time we had planned to be so active so I let my protégé bring a friend along with us in case I became too winded to play (I didn’t, but I did sweat a lot trying to keep up with them).

During lunch this friend turned to the birthday boy said something to the effect of “your counselor sure is nice.” To my delight, my protégé corrected him right away. “He’s not my counselor, he’s my friend,” he said.

I couldn’t help but grin; I may not be so boring after all.

I’ve committed to mentoring my protégé for one year, but I’m hopeful our relationship will last much longer than that. There is much we want to do together: see the Gwinnett Braves play, go fishing, go-cart racing, hike in the woods, fix his bike, learn to play the guitar, putt-putt, and more. Maybe you can tell – I think I’m getting as much out of this relationship as he is.

I believe that is just what God had in mind for both of us.”

I read, or more truthfully, skimmed 1 and 2 Chronicles last night. Seeing that I’ve already read those stories I didn’t think it necessary to read in detail another version of the comings and goings of David and Solomon. If you think I’ve made a mistake doing so, please advise me.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Questions

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

Thanks to everyone who purchased or recommended one of my books for a Mother’s Day gift! I really appreciate your support!

OK, it’s going to be a heavy Monday morning. I’m reading John and have already been confronted with one of the great questions that has poked at me since the days of undergraduate college, when I was taking a World Religions class (Gosh, that was no less than 29 years ago!). It was in John 5:28-29 that I found it again: “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise and live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

So here’s the question, or more accurately, the questions: When a believer dies, does his spirit go on to Heaven ahead of his body, or remain with the body until the Day of Judgment? If the spirit goes to Heaven at the time of our death, why do we even care about our body if we are already with God? When someone dies, why do we say “he’s in Heaven now,” if the spirit does not go to Heaven at the time of death? Do non-believers’ spirits remain dormant with the body until the Day of Judgment, or go to Hell ahead of the body?

And the toughest questions of them all: the verse says those who have done good will rise and live,” not “those who have been saved”. Does that mean those who have not been saved before death but who were good people acting in Christ-pleasing ways may also go to Heaven? Or is it implied that “done good” can only mean to have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior?

My head’s spinning, how about yours?

I had coffee with a friend of mine last Friday morning and asked him these questions. His first answer was that if I planned to keep asking these kind of questions, I needed to submit them in advance so that he could prepare himself for our discussion. OK, that’s fair. But then he said something interesting. He pointed out that I am trapped in thinking of time along a worldly continuum, from one moment to the next, but that since God is the author of time, time bends to His will, much as a plot bends to my will as the author of a story. In other words, I shouldn’t worry about the when part, but only about whether I was living as if I wanted to live again, or if I didn’t care that I might be condemned.

That didn’t really answer my questions but it sure put things in a different, and more important, I think, perspective.

If you have thoughts on this string of questions, I’d love for you to share them with me.

On another note, Cameron and I spent Saturday morning together. We began at Chick-fil-a for breakfast, then played basketball, pool, ping-pong, air hockey, then went to Monkey Joe’s to climb and jump in inflatables, then to lunch for Chinese food, and finally to my house to meet Jill and Princess. Recognizing it was his birthday, I let him bring a friend along in case I became winded (I didn’t, but I did sweat a lot trying to keep up with them). During lunch his friend said something to the effect of “your counselor sure is nice.” To my delight, Cameron corrected him right away. “He’s not my counselor, he’s friend,” he said. I couldn’t help but grin.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

And now we cut to a commercial...

Check out the YouTube slideshow HarperOne made for my newest book, Mom's Little Angel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peutFweMdiw

The photos appear in the book in Black and White but are in color on YouTube; a nice treat!

...and...

Starting tomorrow Sourcebooks will host it’s first ever Twitter Book Give-Away Contest! If you have a twitter account, you can follow us @Sourcebooks or by going to www.twitter.com/sourcebooks .

When: The first contest will begin tomorrow, May 8th at 2pm CT!

How: You need to be the 10th person to Tweet your choice of three titles (Thank you, Mom, Why a Son Needs a Mom, and Why a Daughter Needs a Mom by Gregory Lang, perfect for Mother’s Day gifts) so go to the link below to see all of the details!

Where: Go to http://bit.ly/1FSZ8O to see these titles and choose your book! But remember, you have to wait until Friday at 2pm CT to begin!

More Give-Aways to Come All Summer Long

Sourcebooks will have a Twitter Book Give-Away Contest every Friday during the month of May and feature our most-loved titles that honor mothers. And throughout the summer we will have a different Twitter contest featuring Father’s Day titles and much more! So follow us on Twitter to stay in-the-know regarding our contests and more.

Want to Sign Up for Twitter?

Want to participate in the contests but don’t have a Twitter account yet? It’s easy! Just go to http://www.twitter.com/ and create an account. Then visit www.twitter.com/sourcebooks and just click “follow” under our name.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Making Noise

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

It has been one of those string of days again – both girls home at the same time (Meagan came home from UGA to study for finals) running me around like their personal servant (I doubt I’d have it any other way) and our quarterly (literally) visit to the emergency room with Linley. Funny, it seems we’ve had a number of good conversations while sitting on a gurney waiting for a doctor to come into the room (nothing was broken, just a soft tissue injury).

I’ve taken to carrying one of my two Bibles with me when I know I’m going to have to wait; I pass the time reading. Yesterday as Linley and I sat I finished Luke and began to read John, and I came across one of my favorite verses, John 3:21, “but he that practices the truth comes to the light, that his works may be manifested that they have been wrought in God.”

I took the opportunity to chat with her about this verse. We agreed that it is indeed so much better for one to act Christian rather than just think Christian thoughts, as I had done for so many years. And we agreed that the Gospels are so much more enjoyable to read than most of the Old Testament. Perhaps it is because, as I read in John, that Moses was made to bring the laws, but Jesus was made to bring the message of mercy and grace to the entire world.

Why does that distinction speak to me? I guess because I’ve spent so many years as a rule breaker, a sinner, and if not for mercy and grace I’d have no reason for hope. I like hope.

As you know I’ve been on the radio a few times this week and more slots are being scheduled as we speak: two today, two tomorrow, and a long segment Sunday morning. The other day a DJ asked me what I do in between writing books. Before I realized it, I was talking about the ministries in which I serve. And last night during dinner a neighbor asked Jill and I about our church and the next thing you know we were having a theology discussion. So there you have it – on the radio, in the ER, and at the dining table – God showing up. Very cool.

At one time I thought to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” meant to sing in the choir. I’m a terrible singer, won’t even do it in the shower, much less in church. So I’ve felt a little guilty for years that I don’t belt out the Gospel standards along with everyone else, but just recently I’ve absolved myself of that guilt. I think now that just talking about God when the opportunity arises is my joyful noise.

Mentoring update: Cameron and I getting along quite well. In fact I’m picking him up from school today and we’ll spend a little time together before I take him home, and on Saturday, his birthday, we have about four hours of activity planned. He’s asked if he can bring two friends along with us, and of course I said Yes. I’d like to think that means he isn’t embarrassed by me, maybe even that he wants to show off his mentor. I sure hope it doesn’t mean he’s already bored with me!

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Sign

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I finished reading 2 Kings last night before going to bed, and am eager to begin Chronicles later today. If I’m not mistaken, those two books are about the spiritual renewal of Israel; hopefully a more uplifting message.

The issue of spiritual renewal has been on my mind recently. In my current old age and effort to read the Bible, I’ve come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian. In my youth I thought it meant to behave myself, and in doing so, save my unrighteous butt from eternal damnation. But now I see that to live as a Christian is more than about saving my butt (actually, I can’t save myself, only God can do that, but you get what I mean in this illustration), it is also about - and maybe even more so - reaching non-believers and showing them a path to salvation.

So as I’ve given myself to the ministries I support, read the Bible as often as I can, pray and talk to God, I’ve also wondered if my conduct has affected anyone beyond the temporal gratitude they may feel after receiving the benefit of my gestures. The reason for my question is a selfish one, I know, but I’ve simply wanted a little feedback, to know with certainty that I’m accomplishing what God has asked me to do.

I’ve been afraid to ask God for a sign, believing to do so was to make it about me and not about Him, but then again he knows my mind and heart and even though I haven’t uttered a word of request for a sign, He’s heard me.

Lat night I put aside my Bible, turned out the lights and climbed the stairs to my office to check email one last time before crawling into bed alongside Jill. I found this:

Dear Mr. Lang,

I'm Rina from Indonesia, I'm 24 years old and working as journalist for design magazine. But I'm more comfortable to call me as writer :)

I wanna thank u so much. I'm so blessed by ur article 'Jesus is Rock Star'. Perhaps I needed to let u know how I could find ur article. I got it from Mr. Google. I, without any expectation, just typed Jesus is rock star and I got ur blog on top. I feel I'm blessed because ur writing is like talking to me and reminding me that Jesus accepts me as I am. At time I write the email to you, my mind is disturbed by many words that accumulate to one thing. That I'm not acceptable because I'm woman with tattoo on her back, it's cross tattoo though. Your writing strengthens me that Jesus loves me no matter what happen to me. I realize that my tattoo could be a mistake but not my life.

Thank you for the enlightenment, Mr. Lang. :)

Oh yes, do you have any advise for me how to be a 'kingdom' woman. Sumtimes I feel that I'm too stubborn.

Looking forward to your reply :)

Rina.

Wow, what a sign, and what a blessing technology really is if it can cause me to be of service to someone on the other side of the world. Thank you God for answering me, for loving me, and for using me as I’ve invited you to do.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!