Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Author Richard Rohr views the spiritual life in two stages, the first stage setting the stage for the second. In early chapters he discusses the common theme of stories about heroes and heroines, concluding that once they have slain the dragon (or whatever it is they’ve done), they find a deeper, resurrected life. Then the question becomes what to do with it.

According to Rohr, sin and failure pave the way to redemption. We must learn to heal, to forgive and to move on. I found the chapter titled “Amnesia and the Big Picture” hard to understand, but a later chapter made up for it and was well worth the price of the book. In “The Bright Sadness” Rohr writes: “There is still darkness in the second half of life—in fact maybe even more. But there is now a changed capacity to hold it creatively and with less anxiety.”

Rohr believes that there is always a “bright sadness” to authentic religious art, and he likens that to life itself. He writes of withdrawing our energy from fighting evil and instead looking for things we all share in common. He suggests concentrating on the Beatitudes rather than the Ten Commandments. The “bright sadness” comes from embracing and learning from our sorrows. Our own struggles are opportunities for growth, Rohr writes, and second half of life people are needed to help others see the big picture. In our mature years, people should want to know and emulate us.

I liked this book because it helped me to see my senior years in a positive light. Rohr did not sugarcoat the challenges, but he helped me to see that I can embrace the journey as I learn to live with contradictions. It spoke of who and what I want to be and gave me hope that I can achieve maturity as a person.

Notes, a bibliography and an index complete the book. This would make a great study for a group of seniors who want to get the most out of their remaining years.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Meet a Friend of Mine: Michelle Lazurek

Let me introduce you to my friend Michelle Lazurek. We met at a Wellsboro book festival several years ago and have stayed in touch. Leafwood Publishers just released Michelle’s latest book, An Invitation to the Table: Embracing the Gift of Hospitality. Last month Bill and I visited Michelle at her home in Coudersport. In the photo you can tell she practices what she preaches, for the table behind her is set for our dinner with her and her husband Joe. I asked Michelle to respond to the following questions:   

·         What motivated you to write a book about hospitality?

I was raised Roman catholic. However, at the age of eighteen, I became a born-again Christian. Upon hearing of my conversion to a Protestant sect of the faith, my parents were livid. After two years of constant fighting and verbal sparring, my parents threw me out of my home. A couple from my church heard of this and offered for me to live at their home in exchange for watching their children. I did this until I got married 2 1/2 years later. It was through that family that I learned what hospitality truly is—a calling to forsake the luxuries and conveniences of life, essentially mess up your life—for the sake of the gospel.
·         What is something surprising that readers will discover in reading An Invitation to the Table?

Often people think hospitality is inviting your friends over to your home and bringing out the fine china, making sure your house is spic and span and showing you have it all together. In the book I give practical tips on how to incorporate hospitality into readers' already busy lives.

·         What is one way we can practice hospitality that differs from entertaining? 

In Luke 9:1-6, Jesus gives instructions to the disciples he sends out: "take nothing for the journey." Sometimes hospitality is merely handing someone a tissue, holding his/her hand or opening your home to a stranger. In essence, hospitality is meeting the physical, mental or spiritual needs of those around us, specifically our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
·         While Christians may recognize they have a spiritual gift such as teaching, do you think they are as likely to recognize they have the gift of hospitality? If not, how might they recognize it?

Hospitality is one of the most underrated spiritual gifts. Because of the amount of perceived work involved in displaying the gift, I think people are less prone to recognize it. However, when they understand that hospitality is something we are, not something we do, it becomes easier to handle. If anyone enjoys something as simple as making people feel welcome at church, or more complicated such as giving a welcome basket to a neighbor or entertaining people in their home, they more than likely have the gift; they just don't recognize it for what it is.
·         How might readers use the end of chapter “Food for Thought” and “Group Discussion questions?

I wrote those for people to go deeper into this topic. Those sections are ideal for small groups, something I have a heart for. My heart is to help Christians reach their potential by going deeper in their walk with God. Those questions, along with the additional leader section, is designed for a small group setting so people aren't just reading about hospitality, but they are practicing it as well.

·         Can you give an example of a special blessing you received through practicing hospitality?

As stated above, I was blessed to live with a family who opened their doors to me when I had nothing. When a woman called my home one winter evening and said she had nowhere to go, I couldn't help but pay that blessing forward. Although it was difficult, I learned how to embody the gift of hospitality by blessing someone else with the gift I had received.


Thanks for letting me come on your blog, Shirley. You have been a blessing to me, and I hope I am a blessing to you as well. Michelle

Please note: Michelle is a speaker, award-winning author, pastor’s wife and mother. She is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and has written for places such as Gifted for Leadership, The Upper Room and (In)Courage. Michelle teaches at various writers’ conferences, such as the Montrose Christian Writers Conference and the AWSA conference. Visit her at She would love to hear from her, and you can order her book there.

By the way, I was privileged to endorse Michelle's book and also contributed to the "Testimonies" chapter. 

Have a blessed September.


Upcoming Engagements:

10 a.m., September 10 – Friends of the Heart at Grace Bible Church, Orwigsburg, for a Secret Sister event.

Other events that may interest you if you live in the Millersburg, Pennsylvania, area:

10 a.m., September 17 - I would like to invite you to a Fall Women’s Brunch hosted by First United Methodist Church, Millersburg. Cindy Martz of Dalmatia will be speaking on “God is the Hero of my Messy Life.” Cindy has been an inspiration to me for many years, and she will surely encourage your heart. Child care is provided if requested when the reservation is made. The event will be held at the New Life Center, 346 Center Street, Millersburg, directly across from the firehouse. There is no charge; an offering will be taken. Call me at 692-2721 or e-mail me at to make a reservation for the brunch.

6:30 p.m., September 22 – You are also invited to an 8-week Women of the Word (W. O. W.) Bible study, to be held Thursday evenings at the New Life Center. We will use a video series featuring Andy Stanley on the topic of “Christian: It’s Not What You Think.” There is no charge; participants are invited but not required to cover the $11 cost of the study guide. Call me at or e-mail me (see above) to save a spot.



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Review: Examine Your Faith: Finding Truth in a World of Lies

Author Pamela Christian examines the basic tenets of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, secular thinking and Islam before presenting the case for Christianity. In the first part of her book, she addresses “Defending Truth” in light of today’s culture. She points out postmodern Americans tend to select aspects of different beliefs and practices, which leads to syncretism. Some esteem religious pluralism, claiming that no religion is superior to another. All this leads to a lack of core convictions on which to rely. We also live in a day when many believe truth is relative, so there are no hard and fast reference points for faith and conduct. She writes: “The growing popularity of tolerating contradictory points of view is precisely what is contributing to the cultural moral chaos we’re suffering today.”

Part Two of the book examines the various faiths. Part Three, titled “Deciding Truth,” makes the case for Christianity, ending with chapters that offer prophecies fulfilled concerning Jesus and evidence for the resurrection. Chapters contain footnotes to lead you to original sources.

Pamela Christian is well qualified to write this book. Known as “the Faith Doctor with Your Rx for Life,” she is a radio broadcaster, author, speaker and teacher. She holds a certificate in apologetics from Biola University and heads up Pamela Christian Ministries, dedicated to helping Christian lead the abundant life. Her ministry began in the early 1990s as teaching director for Community Bible Study, an independent, international organization. This led to invitations to speak across the country, and she has written workbooks for retreats and conferences along with books, magazines and e-books.

I liked this book because it gave me an overview of various religions without getting into too much detail. It also offers a review of why we believe what we believe. It would be a great book to give someone pondering the truths of life and faith; it clarifies the distinctiveness of Christianity while offering a good overview of other faiths, their founders and core beliefs. 

Examine Your Faith is the first of a three-book series. The second book, Renew Your Hope: Remedy for Personal Breakthroughs, won The 2015 National Indie Excellence award in its category. The third book, Revive Your Life: Rest for Your Anxious Heart, is due to be released this year.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Book Review: Lessons from the East: Finding the Future of Western Christianity in the Global Church

A thought-provoking read. Author Bob Roberts challenges us to rethink what the church is called to do. He shifts the focus from what happens inside church walls to what God wants us to accomplish outside church walls. “The message of Christ is far more than ‘ask Jesus into your heart, go to church, be a good person, and you’ll go to heaven when you die.’ It’s about being radically transformed so that we profoundly impact our communities.”

Roberts, a church planter, participates in a gathering known as the Global Collaborative Community. What he has learned from pastors around the world has motivated him to change his approach to ministry. According to Roberts, the American church is missing out on the reality of the power to Christ to change lives and communities. “Great worship services don’t change the world; empowered, impassioned disciples do.”

So he calls on Christians to follow the example of Paul as a tentmaker. Roberts sees that occupation not so much as a way to make a living but as a strategic way to impact the Roman military, sailors who needed fabric for sails, etc. So we too should be impacting others through our secular occupations.

In the global church, worshippers gather in small neighborhood cells, which Roberts calls “hot houses for discipleship.” As believers mature, they are urged to start their own cells. The question asked cell members is, “What do you hear the Spirit saying to you or to us?” The emphasis of these gatherings is on discipleship rather than fellowship.

Roberts addresses crossing the divide that separates us from other religions. He writes: “Treat (enemies) like friends, and they just might become your friends.” He recognizes three barriers that fall by the grace of God where the gospel takes root: “Races are learning to love one another, the poor are valued, and women are elevated as equals.”

Each chapter ends with “Consider This,” questions to stimulate our thinking about our own church and community, and through these questions Roberts challenges us to move from self indulgence to self sacrifice. He views each moment as a gift from God to be recognized as an opportunity to reach out. His questions would make great topics for small group discussion.

Roberts challenges readers to seek and heed the Spirit’s direction, and he ends the book with a chapter on effective prayer. End notes document his sources. Buy the book for pastors, church leaders and any Christians seeking to mature in the faith. Lessons from the East will make you think less about going to church and more about what you do when you’re going from church.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Three Steps to Healthy Eating

Dear Friends,

Life on our farm revolved around food. You planted it, picked it and canned it. Or you fed it, pastured it, butchered it and froze it. You gathered eggs and picked strawberries. You shucked sweet corn and cut rhubarb. Food surrounded you, and meals were tasty, made even more so by easy conversation that flowed around our table. We were seven.

Meals always included a meat, a potato (mashed or fried) and a vegetable from our garden—peas, red beets, corn. And dessert. Always dessert—pies, cakes, custards. Each year I sold Jell-O as a fundraiser for my elementary school, and my mother and I loved finding new flavors—peach, pistachio, whatever.

The Problem:

All that—well, not the Jell-O—probably laid the basis for a current medical problem—high cholesterol. I developed “issues” after taking statins for many years, so I’m determined to control my cholesterol with healthy eating instead of medication. At my age, I don’t eat as much, and if I fill up on pies, cakes and custards, there’s no room for apples, peaches and cantaloupes.

The Solution:

I’ve found the solution in the book Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard:

1.       Make a list of ten reasons you want to diet and read them every morning. Besides lowering my cholesterol, my reasons to diet range from “to live longer” to “to practice self control.” Then I took her suggestion a step further.

2.       Each night I jot down an overview of my gastronomical activity that day along with my exercise and how I felt in general.

3.       AND then I write down what I’m learning. So far I’ve learned: I don’t need to eat something just because someone gives it to me. I don’t need to eat something just because Bill eats it. I don’t need to eat something just because I think of it. This way of thinking helps me avoid the bad stuff.

The Process:

I’m three days into this new way of life, and I certainly ate healthfully on two of those days. I made homemade vegetable soup and ate it with toast and a small slice of bologna one night and with a salmon burger the next. The third day I had a walking taco for supper. How bad can a bag of Doritos with a bit of barbecue, lettuce, cheese, salsa and sour cream thrown in be for you? I told the server to add only half the sour cream he normally uses. I also had a fruit smoothie—made with real fruit. So even though that menu had some unhealthy elements, they didn’t add up to too much.

The Goal:

I hope the cholesterol will slip right out of my system as I walk this path to more healthful eating. I made an appointment with a new doctor in three months, and my goal is to lower my cholesterol at least 20 points by the time I meet him. Wish me luck. And if you have any suggestions to help me reach my goal, just click on the link below and leave a comment so we can earn from each other. I’m sure I’m not alone on this gastronomical journey. (Don’t you love that word? It just rolls off the tongue.)

Have a blessed day!


Upcoming Events:

August 7, 3 p.m. – Friends of the Heart at Women’s Tea, Salem U. C. C., Elizabethville. “That Face in the Mirror: Who Do You See?” (Call 362-8221 or 362-3148 for reservations)

August 21, 9:30 a.m. – Shirley teaching Sunday school at Port Royal U. M. Church.