Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: Sacred Marriage - What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

The subtitle says it all: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? According to author Gary Thomas, if we cultivate that attitude, we are better able to bear—and learn from—the daily exchanges that cause us anguish. He writes: “This book sees marriage the way medieval writers saw the monastery: as a setting full of opportunities to foster spiritual growth and service to God.”

According to Thomas, when you become disenchanted with your spouse, marriage offers you the unique opportunity to work on your own issues such as selfishness and self control. Marriage also allows you to model God’s ministry of reconciliation. We can learn to love by holding our tongues, admitting faults and apologizing to each other. I liked the way Thomas included illustrations from his own marriage throughout the book.

Thomas reminds readers that Jesus went against the culture of the day by lifting up women and keeping them in his inner circle of confidantes. Referencing I Peter 3:7, Thomas reminds men to make a special effort to be a good husband because if they fail, their prayers are hindered. He encourages them to think of God as their father-in-law.

Instead of dwelling on the negatives of marriage, Thomas encourages couples to view marriage as an entryway to sanctification and to counter negatives with positives. In other words, if a wife has been ciritical of her husband, she should instead encourage and praise him.

He writes: “The stronger we grow as spouses, persevering and pressing further into our marriage, the more we’ll develop the very character traits we need to become mature believers.” Just as God built a history with Israel through their ups and downs, so we need to build a history as a married couple, and as we embrace struggles, we build character.

In various chapters, Thomas examines various aspects of marriage, the spiritual, the sexual, serving one another. I loved this statement: “Christianity does not direct us to focus on finding the right person; it calls us to become the right person.”

Questions for Discussion and Reflection conclude the book along with detailed notes. With 14 chapters, it could be used for a Sunday school or small group study. A six-session participant’s guide with DVD is also available. Thomas’ website is and offers the participant’s guide as a free resource. 

Whether you’re married five days or 50 years, this book will inspire you to become the spouse God has called you to be.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Review: Chasing Daylight--How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life

By Eugene O’Kelly with Andrew Postman

Eugene O’Kelly was CEO of a major American firm when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 53. He immediately decided to approach death as he had life—with careful planning. This led him to leave his job and to choose a medical protocol that would allow him to make the most of the little time he had left. He died three and a half months after his diagnosis.

Rather than focusing on what might be, O’Kelly decided he would live in the moment, enjoying its beauty. He would not think about the past or the future. Instead, he would experience “perfect moments” and “perfect days,” periods of time that might previously have gone unnoticed in the busyness of daily routines but that now gave him a great deal of pleasure. Sunsets, conversations, outings.

O’Kelly also made a point of saying good-bye to his family, friends and colleagues one by one, telling them what they had meant to him and how they had enriched his life. As the title indicates, the way O’Kelly dealt with his impending death transformed his life in surprising ways.

I enjoyed the book because it reminded me that all of our lives are “terminal” and that too often we forfeit everyday beauty and pleasure by rushing about and not paying attention to each moment. Instead, we need to determine what is important to us and tend to it.

The book is published by McGraw-Hill; with only 179 pages, it’s an easy but thought-provoking read and is also available in audio.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Our Words Make a Difference

Dear Friends,

Every Wednesday they trooped in after school, 12 to 20-some kids—hungry, sweaty, pulsing with energy. They devoured cookies and gulped down drinks. They were the elementary children of my neighborhood, and they joined my two boys for Good News Club, an after-school Bible club.

Last week I spoke at a women’s meeting at a church, and a woman introduced herself as one of those Good News Club kids. She said I had led her to the Lord back in the 1970s, and today she is active in the children’s ministry of her church. I could have cried. Sometimes we wonder if what we do or say makes a difference to anyone, and then we find that it does. In a big way.

In time a neighbor provided the snack for our Good News Club and a friend told the missionary story and led singing. Ministry is always a team effort. We listened to the children’s memorized verses, played games and told them stories of Jesus healing, teaching, loving. We tried to love the kids in the same way He loved.

At first we met in our living room. But as our group grew, we decided it was time to build what in those days we called a “rec” room in the basement, “rec” being short for recreation. I can still see the gold/brown patterned rug and hear the slightly off-key piano, a piece from my childhood home so large we had to cut out the bottom two steps to drop it onto the basement floor. My living room furniture was forever grateful when we moved club to the rec room.

Those were the days when teachers placed figures with flocking on the back onto flannel-board backgrounds as they told the Bible story. Sometimes I’d let one of the kids place the figures. They liked that. Ministry need not be high tech to be effective.

Week after week the kids came, from fall to spring, just like they went to school. What drew them? The other kids? The fun of competing to learn Bible verses and play games? The cookies and Kool Aid? I don’t know. But I do know we all long for love and community, and that is what we offered the kids—a place to hang out that included open arms and open hearts. Oh, I sometimes groused at them if they were unruly. But for the most part we got along just fine. And we were all a little richer for our time together.

I learned how to manage children, tell Bible stories and lead children to Christ. They learned to listen, to obey and to sit still for 40 minutes or so. It was a win-win situation, a microcosm of the church that I hope they all belong to all these years later.

A few years ago a former high school student came to me at a church supper and thanked me for encouraging her to join the yearbook staff when I served as advisor. She was a good student, and of course, I wanted her on my staff. I had no idea that she was just too shy to volunteer.

Our words count. They may make a huge difference in someone’s life. And faithful ministry—be in in Sunday school, choir, public school or through a myriad of other opportunities—gets the job done. God can very well get the job done without us, but he invites us to get in the game. He invites us to join with His people to tell and teach and share the good news that Christ has come. Let’s not turn down any invitations to play. Whose life might you touch with an encouraging word?

Have a blessed day!


"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." Galatians 6:9

To comment on how a word you've spoken made a difference in someone's life, click on the link below. And feel free to share this post if you feel it would bless and encourage your friends in Christian service.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: Is This the End?

Full Title: People are asking . . . Is This the End? Signs of God’s Providence in a Disturbing new World.

Dr. David Jeremiah understands our culture, and he has a way of boiling complicated issues down to the crux of the matter. Part One of the book looks at current issues such as the “anything goes” culture, immigration, the increase of intolerance and the apathy of America. In Part Two, Jeremiah documents the rise of ISIS and the resurgence of Russia before sharing his insight on the rapture and tribulation. I appreciated the interesting case studies he included throughout the book to prove his points.

Persecution, according to Jeremiah, produces godliness and suffering offers rewards.  He writes: “God can use your courage in little things to accomplish bigger things.” He discusses the hope of Christians along with the Christian’s responsibilities. I appreciated his overview of revivals that have touched nations down through the years and his thorough explanation of the history and growing isolation of Israel.

I sometimes find it confusing to reconcile compassion with law and order, so I found Jeremiah’s view on immigration very insightful. No matter where you stand politically, this book will shed the light of God’s Word on current affairs. A good, easily understandable read for anyone interested in making sense of our world today.

Monday, January 2, 2017

C'mon Over for a Progressive Dinner Party!

Dear Friends,

Last Tuesday, my Friends of the Heart, Kim and Janine, along with hubbies, Matt and Dave, joined Bill and me for a Progressive Dinner. We wanted to see each other’s decorated homes and taste each other’s goodies. After reading this, you just may want to try it yourself (with some friends, of course).

Janine served the most delicious salad. Her home is always ready for a House Beautiful photographer. Not a spatula out of place. (Well, that night there was a refrigerator sitting in the middle of her kitchen; repairman scheduled.) But Janine organizes every toothpick and paper clip. Empty counters, except for a display of objects made by her father through the years—a woodcutting of the Nativity, a “love” plaque, a lantern. Her home is elegant, to say the least.

Kim served prime rib with mushroom/spinach stuffing--your choice of AuJus, gravy or horseradish dressing. We feasted on roasted potatoes with artichokes, roasted Brussel sprouts and green beans vinaigrette. Check out those aprons! Matt too enjoys cooking. Paraphrasing the last sentence of the story of the Samaritan woman, I told Kim, “We no longer believe because of what you said. Now we have tasted for ourselves, and you really are a gourmet cook.”

Now for her décor: Her enclosed porch hosts a huge metal Santa Claus and sleigh along with eight (not tiny) reindeer, all outlined with lights. Her father used to display the piece on the roof of his barn; that’s how big it is.

Each corner of her home would be a “picker’s” delight. She adds a string of lights to teddy bears and sleighs and even cabbage graters to create picture-perfect Christmas displays. On the kitchen counter, a hot chocolate bar. On the porch, a slate with “Santa, I’ve been a good boy. Chandler.” And photographs—old (Matt as a boy), new (grandson Chandler) and everyone in between. Just gorgeous, to say the least.

Finally, I served peach pie with ice cream; Dave claims it’s the best pie he’s ever eaten. Just sayin’. At first I thought I’d make a few desserts to offer choices. Nope. Too much work. Everyone would be full until they reached our house anyway.

As far as décor, my home is a scaled-down version of what used to be. I no longer get out the Santas, and (don’t tell anyone) I carry away the artificial tree fully decorated from one year to the next. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Conversation ranged from Matt’s new work assignment to my husband’s years as an Air Force radar repairman in the 50’s. We had fun posing before a tripod to remember our evening.

So I hope I’ve given you an idea of something to do to hold the winter doldrums at bay. I am convinced, we can’t call each other friends unless we share the hospitality of our homes. And friends are one of the greatest blessings God gives us. Let’s keep in touch with them often in 2017.

Have a Blessed and Happy New Year, Friend!


Upcoming events:

January 17, 6:30 – Shirley speaking at Women’s Ministry meeting, Grace Community Church, Herndon.

Woodcutting by Janine's father, Jack Feaster