Monday, January 30, 2012

don't let this happen to you--hire a copy editor!

Can you spot the typo in this recent ad from the Daily Inter Lake?

Typos happen...but they can also make you and your business look unprofessional.  Typos can make people question whether you really do know your stuff (even though you do!).  Typos can make a potential customer fail to take you as seriously as they should.

I can help!  I work as a freelance copywriter and I take on a variety of projects.  I can provide you with a free quote for services that meet your communication needs.  You can find more information on my background as a writer here.  My email address is:

multitudes on monday (121-125)

This week I am thankful for:

121. How well writing has been going this month.  I started the new year with the thought of really investing in doing even more with my writing and growing an even larger audience.  Thanks be to God, doors continue to open.  No, I haven't "made it" as a writer yet, but I sure am enjoying the journey.

122. The joys of really good cinema.  Recently, I've seen movies that moved me profoundly, spoke to me, and enriched my life: The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Midnight in Paris.  All of these had something very special to say and I am the richer for having experienced them.  God is a creative and awesome God in giving people such wonderful artistic gifts.

123. Kisses and face pats from my little daughter.

124. The joy of watching my husband teach my daughter so many valuable things.  He is so patient with her and excellent at coming up with new things to teach her about her world.  She hangs on his every word.

125. Good friends, to whom I can pour out my heart.  Friends who have time for me.  What a gift!

What are you thankful for today?

why i won't be boycotting starbucks

On January 25, Starbucks posted the following status to Facebook: “We are proud to support Marriage Equality legislation in the Washington State Legislature.”  Of course, some conservative Christians raised brouhaha over this statement and the comments in response to Starbucks are still coming in.  For example, one commenter said: “I will be taking my dollars elsewhere because of this support - and I do love my Starbucks. But I do have the right in this country to choose how I spend my money. And I choose to not spend it with a company supporting something I do not.”  A few months ago, it became apparent that Starbucks matched employee gifts to Planned Parenthood and at that time also many Christians declared that they would no longer buy coffee from Starbucks. 

But I do not count myself among the boycotters. 

Unlike my more liberal friends, I don’t agree with Starbucks’ expenditures.  It’s not how I would spend my money and I don’t appreciate these causes.  I don’t support Marriage Equality legislation (although I am certainly far more concerned about the redefinition of marriage within the church—which I expect to be set apart for God— than in the State—which I expect to act like the world).  I definitely don’t support the mission and work of Planned Parenthood.  Although there are caring people who work there, I do not trust the organization itself to truly do what is best for women. 

If I don’t like Starbucks’ money going to these causes, then why have I failed to jump on the boycott bandwagon?

Well, first of all, I believe boycotts should be more than a knee-jerk reaction.  Because our decisions directly impact someone’s business, we should stop and think hard before we boycott.  We should think about the message we send by our boycott.  (Are we contributing to the “intolerant bigots” view of Christians today?)  We should think also about what other companies are contributing to the causes of which we disapprove.  For example, there is a list of the other companies who are part of the Washington United for Marriage Business Coalition, a pro-gay marriage group.  The list is long and although many of the companies are local businesses in Washington, there are a number of prominent national businesses as well.  I believe each should be scrutinized equally when it comes to potential boycotts.  Are you prepared to drop your insurance company (American Family Insurance)?  Are you willing to start using another search engine (Google)?  Plan to change your computer’s operating system (Microsoft)?  Unless you are willing to consider these choices, you are simply succumbing to a herd mentality, doing the “trendy Christian thing.”  We live in a world where it’s cool to boycott Starbucks in some Christian circles, but if we are not consistent, we run the risk of simply coming across as hateful and making very little impact.  (Note: There is a similar list of companies that currently match employee's gifts to Planned Parenthood here.  Starbucks is not listed on that list but is listed here; I have been unable to substantiate whether or not they are still providing these matching funds.)  

Sooner or later though, we come to realize that all businesses and all money are tainted with sin.  If we dig deep enough in most companies, we will find something we don’t like, something of which we disapprove.  Yes, there may be times when we feel conscience-bound to boycott a business (and if God is calling you to do that, by all means do!).  There may be times when we feel so uncomfortable with a certain group’s business practices that we decide to shop elsewhere.  But we should think and pray carefully before we haul off with an angry boycott. 

Yes, sin is serious.  Yes, Christians are concerned with turning away from sin.  But we also have to think about how our tactics make our message come across.  Are we giving off a haughty attitude or are we portraying the Biblical understanding of sin?  Sin is something we are all complicit in.  Sin is something we all need a Savior to deliver us from.  And that Savior did come, because He loved us enough to give up His life for us.  So, the story begins with sin, but it ends with a Savior. 

Where is the Savior in the angry boycott language?  Is our communication style making it harder for people to see Jesus?  Rather than boycotting a business for having different values than our own, maybe it would make sense for each Christian to become friends with someone who believes vastly differently than they do.  Maybe in gently sharing God’s love and care for their friend, an open heart to Biblical truth may result.  Christian disciples are not made by placards, slogans, and boycotts.  Christian disciples are made through the Word, the Holy Spirit and the power of personal relationships with Christians.  And Christians who are plugged into the Scriptures and Christian community fundamentally begin to change from the inside out.

We shouldn’t expect Starbucks—or Google—to have Biblical values.  But maybe we can all befriend and care about Starbucks one barista at a time.  The way Jesus would.  And maybe those individuals can be changed to see the world the way God does. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

teaching your kids about God: devotions together

A couple of weeks ago, I began a series of occasional posts on that most important of responsibilities we have been given as a parent: teaching our kids about God.  The first post focused on how play-acting can be a helpful teaching technique with kids.  Today, I want to talk about the benefits having devotion time together, side by side.

Years ago, I remember reading a wonderful article in Discipleship Journal about how we go through seasons of life in relation to our devotional times.  The time a single college student has to spend in the Word, prayer, and worship is different from the time a young mom or dad with small children has to spend.  There are so many seasons and stages of life and we ought not hold ourselves to the standard of a previous stage of life.  The important thing is simply to be in the Bible to the best of our ability in the stage of life we are in.

Some of my mommy friends and I were recently discussing that we all struggle to even start having a devotion time because we feel we cannot get into it with the depth that we would like, the depth that we have had in the past.  The feeling that easily arises is, "Why start?"  But what we fail to recognize is that consistency is the key, not perfection.  To be in the Word regularly, even if all we can manage is a few minutes, is better than a once-monthly, stressed-out cram session.  After all, we can always add to a consistent routine.  There is room to grow, but at least there is a foundation.

What does this have to do with teaching our kids about faith, you ask?  Well, when I was growing up, my mom made a point of having me see her read God's Word.  I think, remembering that from a child's perspective, I held her up to a high standard that said somehow she managed to go in depth in the little kid years.  And so when when I couldn't figure out how to do this, I felt like a failure.  I talked to her recently about this and it seems it was more challenging than I remembered.  I began to realize that what really matters is just that I read God's Word and that my daughter sees me reading and valuing God's Word. 

About a week ago, we started a new routine at our house: Mommy and Burrito devotions together in the morning.  It all started at Burrito's initiation.  I went into her room to get her up and found her in her rocking chair with a children's Bible.  "I'm listening to God's Word," she told me.  My heart was warmed and since I was behind on my Bible reading (again), I ran and grabbed my Bible and study guide, plopped down on the floor and took this God-given opportunity. 

I caught up with my Bible reading that day and the experience was so precious that every day since then I have gone in, gotten her changed and had devotion with her.  I read my Bible.  She pages through a children's Bible of her choice.  Yes, she peppers me with whispered questions.  "Who's this, Mommy?...Is this Jesus?...What are they doing?...Are you all done with your reading?"  Sometimes I try to read the same sentence in my Bible many times before I finish it.  But we are learning a routine together and gaining mutual accountability.  We are valuing God's Word together.  Sometimes we share with each other what we are "reading."  Opportunities for teaching arise right and left.  When I finish my reading, I read her a Bible story or two.  Then we fold our hands and pray together.  We ask God's blessing on the day and we give thanks for the answers to prayer.  It's simple and it's beautiful. 

I think we will be having devotions together for a long time.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

fun winter day activity: molasses-on-snow candy

Molasses drizzled on fresh, clean snow.
Burrito and I have been trying to come up with fun winter's day activities.  We have been reading the wonderful series of children's picture books based on the original Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (for example: A Little Prairie House (Little House)).  The pictures are beautiful and the stories are just the way I remember.  It's been wonderful to share those memories with her.  We recently read Christmas in the Big Woods (Little House) and Burrito was fascinated by the molasses-on-snow candy that Laura and Mary made.  When it snowed heavy and thick this week, she suggested that we make the candy.  So, I dug out The Little House Cookbook and looked up the recipe.  It's very simple: 1 cup of molasses, plus 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  You prepare pans of snow and set them outside to be ready when the mixture gets hot.  You mix and heat the molasses and brown sugar until it boils and then turn it down to medium heat.  You heat the mixtures until it is 245 degrees, stirring frequently to be sure not to burn it.  Then, you bring in your pans of snow, drizzle the mixture across the top (I used a measuring cup with a pour spout so that Burrito could pour too), and let the candy harden.  When it has cooled and hardened, you break the candy into bite-sized pieces.

The finished product!
A couple of tips: if you drip the molasses mixture anywhere, it will make a terrible mess!  Be prepared to use some elbow grease and some vinegar to scrub it off.  Secondly, if you keep the candy in too warm a place, it will slowly melt back down to liquid.  So, eat what you want and eat it fast!:-)  Delish!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review Friday, Part 2: Life, In Spite of Me

I picked up Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice by Kristen Jane Anderson because stories of people who have overcome serious depression resonate with me.  I have battled depression and anxiety at least since my teenage years and greatly appreciate stories of those who have survived and even triumphed through these illnesses.

Kristen Anderson suffered a series of deep emotional wounds and losses as a teenager.  She had several family and friend deaths occur, including the loss of a friend to suicide.  Shortly thereafter, she attended a party with a boy she liked and was raped.  No one knew that this had happened.  Her despair began to deepen and deepen, until one night she went for a walk and impulsively threw herself on the train tracks, intending to kill herself and end the pain.  Instead, the train ran her over and severed both of her legs.  She was profoundly wounded.  She shouldn’t have survived, but she did.  Thus began a long journey back through physical and emotional rehab, spiritual transformation, and deep inner healing. 

Kristen believes that God had a plan in all of the pain that she experienced.  According to her account, she was only a nominal Christian prior to the accident.  This crisis became a moment of reckoning, forcing her to re-evaluate everything and come to a personal relationship with Christ.  As a Lutheran Christian, I frequently found myself questioning the way the theology was articulated (did she really have no faith, or did her faith simply deepen with the accident?), but I had to remind myself that God clearly has done a work in this young woman’s life, a work that led to the healing of her broken soul, a deepened faith in Jesus, and a ministry of encouragement to others who are without hope.  I appreciated her vulnerability in sharing her story and the clear transformation God made in her life. 

For those without hope and those who are tempted to end it all, this book could be just the encouragement they need to keep going.

3 stars out of 5

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group .  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review Friday, Part 1: Heaven is for Real for Kids

This week, I have two book reviews for you.  Be on the lookout for the second one tomorrow.

You can hardly be a mommy or a member of a church without having heard of the book Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.  Countless numbers of my friends have told me “it was AWESOME” or “I couldn’t put it down.”  I still have the adult version of the book in my “to read” stack (which is a bit of a skyscraper, truth be told).  But this week, I at least got to read the picture book version, Heaven is for Real for Kids: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd and Sonja Burpo. 

I read the Kindle version of this book.  My Kindle is admittedly not the best to use for picture books, due to its black and white screen.  However, the pictures were still beautiful and detailed. 

In case you have been living under a rock, the story details how Colton Burpo had a vision of heaven (or visited heaven?) at the age of four during a serious illness which hospitalized him.  I appreciated that the book didn’t go into whether Colton died or not, thereby avoiding a can of worms for a parent to explain.  The book is careful to avoid scary parts of the story and instead focuses on the hope that Christians have.  It expresses this in simple words that are easy for a child to understand.  I really appreciated that the book also included a Bible passage on every page as Colton recounts his vision of heaven.

For people who are looking for big revelations about heaven that they’ve never heard before, this book may be a bit of a disappointment.  There is nothing really new here (and that’s probably a good thing).  All—or virtually all—of Colton’s vision is Biblical.  As the book points out in the Q and A section, a few people in the Bible also got to see (or visit?) heaven, so it is not outrageous for a believer today to have such an experience.  From what I’ve heard about the expanded adult version of the book, Colton had never been told much of the things he saw prior to his vision.  So, maybe the fact that there is nothing new here is simply a testament to the truth of the hope that we have in Christ.  There was a part of me (always the skeptic!) that felt it was a little too convenient how closely the book clung to interpretations of Biblical passages.  Was this truly all new to Colton or had he heard it somewhere?

Either way, we are all encouraged to have the faith of a child and Colton demonstrates that for us.  This book is a helpful resource to teach your children about heaven, with good pictures and not too many words per page.  Many of the Bible verses included would be good memory verses. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

why "The Descendants" meant so much to me

The Descendants won big at the Golden Globes this weekend, taking home the Best Picture, Drama award, as well as Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama award for George Clooney.  In addition, young actress Shailene Woodley was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture award.  All these Hollywood honors are wonderful, but I think the real test of a great film is its ability to touch our hearts, to connect with us in a universal, lasting way.  When we walk away from a film, a validated and more insightful person, we have seen a truly great film.

I saw The Descendants about a week before the Golden Globes and it touched my heart profoundly.  It is the story of Matt King, whose wife has just had a water-skiing accident that leaves her in a coma.  Shortly after this accident, Matt's teenage daughter, Alexandra, reveals to him that his wife has been having an affair.  Matt has hardly been the ideal husband, with little time for his family, but the revelation hits him with shocking impact.  He still loves his wife, despite his poor track record as a husband.  Around this same time, the doctors give Matt the terrible news that his wife is never going to wake up from her coma.  This news is made particularly devastating because Matt knows that now he will never have a time to mend his relationship with his wife; neither will have a chance to make amends.  The central question of the film now becomes: how do you find closure in circumstances that seem to resist any possibility of real closure?  How can you end a relationship forever when there is so much left unsaid and undone? 

I understand this central dilemma.  When my father got cancer, I was in college and what followed was a prolonged, seven-year battle with the disease that would ultimately kill him.  He died two years ago.  My dad was a complicated man.  He loved God above all.  I know he loved me and my brother.  He also could sometimes be stubborn and difficult and carry around baggage from the past.  There were elephants in the room in our relationship.  There were unspoken secrets at time.  I loved my dad very much, but there were some conversations I always wanted to have with him, but could never muster the courage to have. 

We are taught that we ought to wrap everything up with a bow when someone is dying.  We are to have perfect closure, everything clean and neat.  But, for the most part, I don't think death is really like that.  I think that we all end our lives with regrets, despite the slogans that we are trying to live life with none.  There is always the sense of what might have been.  The Descendants merely heightens this reality.  It is a profoundly helpful film for the grieving because it shows us the truth of what grief is like and how we might find a realistic kind of closure so that we might move forward in our lives, never forgetting our loved one, but able to continue living with hope.

Another central theme of The Descendants is appreciating what has been given to us, here and now.  Matt King serves as trustee of a large chunk of land in Hawaii, where his ancestors have dwelt for generations.  He alone may say yay or nay to the upcoming sale and division of this property.  Yes, the sale will make all the descendants a lot of money, but King must grapple with the fact that the inheritance his ancestors have left to him may find its true value not in money, but in the connections and beauty that it provides.  The land is a metaphor for what King still has left in his relationship with his daughters.  In the beginning of the film, he calls himself "the back-up parent."  Just as his relationship with his wife has been wanting, so has his relationship with his two daughters.  But as the three grapple with the hard realities of grief--including their anger, sadness, and finally acceptance--they are drawn closer together.  The false mask of indifference that they have all been wearing is shattered.  The journey to a more authentic relationship is painful, but the bond that they all form through the suffering is quietly hinted at in the closing frames of the film.

The idea that there can be a real healing as we move into the future, a healing which acknowledges the past, which gives it dignity and truth, a healing which is not perfect, but which also gives us permission to move forward...this moved me so much as I watched this film.  I appreciated that the reality of grief in its nothing-like-picture-perfect truth was portrayed so well.  And for the first time in a while, I found myself able to cry about my loss of Dad, connecting to the pain of the death of one loved so well and in such a complicated way.  Finally, this film gave us a beautiful picture of forgiveness, in the final monologue of George Clooney to his coma-ridden, dying wife.  The bringing together of his anger and his love for her in that final speech was masterful. 

I think that over the years, I will watch this film over and over again.  It connects me to the truth of grief, which must be felt in order to be healed, and to the possibility of hope. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

multitudes on monday (116-120)

Today I am thankful for:

116. Thick snow, gently falling on the all-too-brown earth.

117. A chance to worship together with both my husband and daughter this weekend.

118. All of the open doors that God has given me to do more editing lately.  What a joy to be able to earn some money doing what I love!

119. My Kindle, which I love more every day.  What a joy to be able to read and mark up so many wonderful books--often for free!

120. That my daughter is learning to play well by herself.

What are YOU thankful for today?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review Friday: Why Men Hate Going to Church

A female friend of mine summarized Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow this way: “Love to hate that book.”  Having just read the revised 2011 version, I think this perfectly encapsulates what it is like as a woman to read this book.  There is no question that its message is deeply needed in the Christian church, where in nearly every congregation women outnumber men, where men (particularly younger, masculine men) look at church as irrelevant and boring, and where the undeniable feminizing influence on the church (and even on the perception of Jesus) has been felt for decades—maybe even a couple centuries.  As Murrow points out, statistically fathers have the largest influence on whether or not their children will continue in the Christian faith in which they were raised.  So, in the need for the message of this book, I love it.  However, it is difficult to hear (as a woman) that the way I have been doing ministry is sometimes counter-productive to men’s growth in faith, and therefore to the growth of the whole church. 

Murrow does not criticize women in leadership per se (although he does suggest that too many women up front in a church communicates to men that there is no place for them).  I did appreciate that in his final chapter, he gives a great example of how a female pastor has created a church culture that reaches men perhaps better than any other church he has witnessed.  Women can do this, but it takes more effort and it takes sometimes being willing to step out of the spot-light in order that a brother in Christ may have the opportunity to grow in leadership and as a role model to other men.

In college, I took an intensely interesting class in cultural anthropology in which I studied how a group or culture operates as a holistic system.  Reading this book reminded me of that class.  Like it or not, the way Murrow describes how men think and act is reality.  Can men be challenged in many areas?  Yes, of course they can, just as women can.  But you have to start with where they are.  This is no different really from the growth of seeker-sensitive ministries that seek to “become all things to all men that they might in all ways save some.”  Still, just as seeker-sensitive ministries can do, I found myself wondering if orienting ourselves to the way men think and act simply because it is reality can at times sacrifice some of the message.  For example, if a church focuses overly on numbers, achievement, power, glory as oftentimes appeals to men, then where is the word of the Apostle Paul, who reminds us that Christ’s power is present in our weakness?  Where is the power of the cross?  Where is the surrender of self that the Lordship of Christ to which we are called?

Still, with that said, sensitivity to and understanding of the culture of men is important.  Only if we understand how a man thinks and operates can we decide intentionally when to depart from their culture.  Instead of departing from a man’s culture by default and concluding that Christianity is fundamentally feminine, we can analyze our assumptions and better communicate with the men for whom Christ also died.

Murrow begins his book with this insight:
One Sunday I was sitting in church, half-listening to the sermon, when my wandering mind recalled a quote from a business guru: “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.”
Like the business guru, Murrow contends that the Church has been setting itself up for failure in its attempts to reach men.  It covers its walls with quilting and its tables with doilies, sings emotional songs, puts women up front, emphasizes touchy-feely stuff and academics (skills in which women excel) instead of doing (in which men excel), wastes time, fails to take risks, doesn’t get things accomplished.  It is set up to be a field of frustration for men.  Murrow goes on to say,
Men don’t hate God or Christ or the Bible or Christianity.  They hate a system that’s perfectly designed to reach someone else.  A system that makes them feel unneeded.  A system that exalts the gifts they simply do not possess.

One of the most helpful insights in the book for me related to the language used of our relationship with Jesus.  Murrow helpfully points out that terms like “personal relationship with Jesus,” “Jesus, I’m so in love with you,” “passion for Christ,” “passion for other men,” and the like are squirm-worthy for men.  They enter church convinced that it is a feminine place anyway and then we (unintentionally) throw homo-erotic imagery at them.  Murrow rightly states that this language is not in fact Biblical.  It is a construct that we place on the Scriptures.  We are nowhere told to fall in love with Jesus.  Yes, the Church is called the Bride of Christ, but this is as a whole, not in terms of individuals.  Murrow rightly criticizes the “Jesus is my Boyfriend” praise songs that have been circulating throughout the Church for years.  He points out that men are often more drawn to hymns with a driving, marching beat.  And he adds that while women may be drawn to the immanence of God, men are more often drawn to the transcendence of God. 

Also helpful was Murrow’s contrasting of Lion-Jesus with Lamb-Jesus.  He says the latter image has become dominant in the church of today, but that in Scripture “Lion-Jesus isn’t the exception; he’s the rule.”  Murrow also helpfully distinguishes from the terminology Jesus used for believers—Kingdom of God—and the default language the Church has taken on—Family of God.  He points out that once the dominant and only image we use for the Church is Family, we become hesitant to risk, confront or change.  Instead of God’s will and mission being the goal, harmony at all cost becomes the goal.  Finally, very helpful were Murrow’s suggestions for how to make small changes in the worship service in order that it might communicate better with men (such as using humor or remembering that men are visual learners).

In summary, this is a really important book and I think every person in ministry (including lay leaders) should read it.  Will I accept every statement the author makes wholesale?  No, but he has given me a lot to think about and digest.  He has changed my perspective on what it is like to be a man in the Church.  And because of that, I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

teaching your kids about God: play-acting

I may have been brought up in the Church and I may have been to seminary and Bible school, but I still have moments when I tremble before the awesome responsibility of teaching my daughter about God.  It is intimidating to think of the effect it can have in her life if I "get it wrong."  It is scary to think of how to explain faith in a way she can understand.  And it is easy to let faith teaching fall by the wayside in the midst of life's busyness.  I struggle with all those same challenges, just like all of you do.  So, from time to time, I'd like to share with you ideas that have worked for our family and helped us to pass on our faith.

The first idea I'd like to share with you is play-acting!  My daughter is a fairly dramatic young lady.  We regularly act out parts of fairy tales, particularly Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.  One day, as we were working through Truth in the Tinsel and trying to learn the Christmas story, it occurred to me that we could act it out.  We fell into it so naturally.  I would be the Angel appearing to Mary (my daughter) and saying, "Do not be afraid, Mary!"  Mary would end by saying, "I'll do whatever God wants."  Or I would be Joseph, taking Mary to look for a place to stay in Bethlehem, but finding all the "hotel rooms" full, and then praising Mary for her strength in the midst of adversity.  Or Mary would rock a baby doll Jesus and sing to him.  Or Mary and Joseph would run away from Herod and go to Egypt.  Suddenly, my daughter was really getting into it!  And she was learning the story and learning faith lessons from the characters.  She wasn't having a faith lesson forced on her.  She was learning it organically.  Now, she pleads not only to play Princess, but also to play Mary and Joseph!

So, now we have moved on to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace.  It is a great faith lesson for following God and refusing to bow down to idols.  Burrito loves to pretend to be the 3 faithful men and come out of the furnace saying, "I didn't even get smoke on my clothes!"  She loves to proclaim to the King that she "won't sing the Bunny Song" (a la Veggie Tales).

So...want to get started with your own play-acting?  Don't worry...costumes and props are not even needed!  That's the great thing about kids; they can imagine all that stuff.  Just get out your children's Bible and pick a good story.  Read it several times with your child.  Then, start an improv of the story, together with your child.  Use modern day words to get the meaning across.  Let your child choose which character they want to play.  As you act out the story, let lessons emerge naturally.  Let creativity flourish!  Remind yourself that the people of the Bible were real people, like you and me.  I promise you will be inspired!

Monday, January 9, 2012

multitudes on monday (111-115)

Here's what I'm giving thanks for this week:

111. That when my knee dislocated twice recently, it popped right back in.

112. For hubby's opportunity to get involved in some fun local activities and make some new friends.

113. For a couple of nights of sleep with no sleep aid this week...first time in about 6 weeks!

114. For a daughter who wakes up peppy!

115. For more writing opportunities and more motivation for writing.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review Friday: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

At the close of December, I finished one of the best books I've read all year: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.  I picked up this book because I had heard it was an unbelievable survival story, as well as one of the best-reviewed nonfiction books of the year.

Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American Olympic runner turned U.S. airman in World War II's Pacific theater, endures countless debilitating catastrophes and attacks on his mind, body and soul.  Any one of these events would kill an ordinary person.

First off, Zamperini, on an air run in a shaky, dilapidated plane, crashes into the Pacific Ocean.  He survives with only two other airmen from his crew.  They endure at sea for 47 days with nothing to eat but a few bites of chocolate and whatever they can catch and eat raw, and nothing to drink except a small amount of stowed-away water and rain.  It seems impossible that two of the three survive, drifting thousands of miles across shark-infested ocean, enduring strafing Japanese bombers, until they finally drift onto dry land...only to be captured and placed in a concentration camp.

When he is captured, Zamperini is already wasting away from hunger and thirst, but his troubles are only beginning.  Hillenbrand documents the long-term abuse that Zamperini suffers under a sadistic prison guard known as "The Bird."  Despite the horrifying situation into which he was placed, however, somehow Louis is still able to keep going, enduring hunger, beatings, torture, emotional distress, illness.

Yet, what really breaks this "Unbroken" man is his rescue and return home.  Once the years of stress, abuse, and deprivation are over, he finds his mind fighting against him.  Louis suffers from PTSD and alcohol abuse.  He marries impulsively and it is a disaster.  He can't seem to pull his life together.  He is a broken man at last.

This is where Zamperini's story takes an unexpected (for me) turn to faith.  Because I did not know, prior to reading this book, that his healing was to come through conversion to faith in Christ, the full impact of that healing hit me powerfully.  I was brought to tears.  This man who had endured so much, only to be broken psychologically, was put back together again in Christ.

This was the most spiritually significant story that I have read in years, particularly from a secular publisher.  I found myself wondering if God allowed Zamperini to endure so many trials in order to draw a stubborn man to faith.  God has unusual ways of wooing us at times.

This book starts off a bit slow, particularly for those without technical knowledge related to airplanes and other elements of warfare.  However, it quickly turns into an intensely riveting personal story.  Although I enjoy reading history books for personal enrichment, I often find myself taking a long time to finish them.  This book was the exception.  I read it fast, unable to put it down.  Highly recommended.

Monday, January 2, 2012

multitudes on monday (106-110)

It's the first Multitudes post of the year!

106. The past month has been rich with wonderful memories, but also trying because I have been battling insomnia again.  And yet, even in the sometimes fog of sleeplessness, God's mercies are new every morning!  He sustains me when I have had a rough night and He fills me with joy when I sleep well.

107. My daughter's growing kindness and compassion.  When she came in to my room this morning, the first thing she said to me was, "Did you have a bad night, Mom?"  And I was happy to tell her I hadn't!

108. Wonderful family time playing board games with Christopher and Burrito this weekend.

109. The people in my life who "speak a word in season," a word of encouragement.

110. A great pep talk from my Mom this weekend.

Thanks be to God!

Most Popular Posts of the Year: #1 One Year Anniversary of Dad's Death

For the next few days, I will be posting 10 most popular Flathead Mama posts of the year.  I would like to invite you to take this chance to catch up on a good buzz-worthy post that you may missed.  Please also drop a comment on the original post.  I'd love to continue the conversation.  If you found a post particularly useful to you, I'd love your help to get the word out about Flathead Mama: copy and paste the link and post to your Facebook page, Twitter about it, or post to a Pinterest profile.  

Thanks and enjoy!
I know at least one person who would be really excited about the top post of the Dad.  He died in February 24, 2009 and on the first anniversary of his death last year, I posted the text of my eulogy for him at his memorial service.  This turned out to be the top post of the year!

My Dad would have been very impressed about this.  People all of the world who we didn't even know were reading his story.  Dad loved to talk and he loved attention (it's true).  He also loved Jesus and would have enjoyed the chance to share his story with lots of people.

People found my blog many, many times this year by searching for "first anniversary of father's death." It was by far the most common search item leading people to Flathead Mama. This told me something important.  It told me that all of us feel a little lost on the anniversary of our loved one's death, especially the first anniversary.  There is no societal ritual for us to engage in.  There's no script for our remembrance.  By the time the first year has rolled around, we are rather alone in our grief.  People have begun to move on with their lives, and they have begun to assume that we have moved on too.  But the truth is that the grieving process is on-going.  It never really stops.  It just becomes more internal, more settled deep down inside.

The people who found my blog this year may not have left a comment or said hello, but I hope that they found some comfort in my post about Dad.  I hope that they felt that we are all in this together, this journey of grieving.  I hope they felt a little less alone.

Most Popular Posts of the Year: #2 The Angry Trout and Trout Chowder

For the next few days, I will be posting 10 most popular Flathead Mama posts of the year.  I would like to invite you to take this chance to catch up on a good buzz-worthy post that you may missed.  Please also drop a comment on the original post.  I'd love to continue the conversation.  If you found a post particularly useful to you, I'd love your help to get the word out about Flathead Mama: copy and paste the link and post to your Facebook page, Twitter about it, or post to a Pinterest profile.  

Thanks and enjoy!
My favorite restaurant in the world is The Angry Trout in Grand Marais, Minnesota.  When we lived within a one or two days' drive, we would make a yearly pilgrimage!  My review of this amazing establishment is the #2 post of the year.
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