Friday, December 1, 2017

The Wish Book . . . and the Bible

Dear Friends, 

A Montgomery Ward catalog stirred memories: When I was a girl, it was a Big Day when a catalog arrived in the mail. And these catalogs were nothing like the skinny 84-page one I just received. They were mammoth books, 2.5 to 3 inches thick. Living in the country with little access to shops, the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs came Spring and Fall and showed me the latest little girl dresses and coats.

My sisters drooled over the latest fashions. My mother longed for nifty appliances. My brothers and father? I don’t remember them ever noticing the books. But the women of the family poured over the pages, yearning and dreaming. We called these catalogs “wish books.”

Then at the end of November or the beginning of December (Christmas shopping started later in those days) came the toy catalog. Now I really got excited. I loved dolls. Every year I wanted a new doll. And my favorites were the baby dolls. “Oh, please, Santa, bring me a doll that drinks and wets. I will be such a good mother.”

Catalogs today are a dime a dozen. I send many to recycling without ever cracking the cover. Prices have gone up, and I’ve found the best way to avoid temptation is simply not to look. Besides that, I need much less. Clothes don’t wear out. My home doesn’t need one more doo-dad. Catalogs just don’t ooze magic for me like they once did.

I hope I never feel that jaded about opening the Bible. I remember how fascinating the Bible was to me when as a young adult I dedicated my life to Christ. I went to my pastor time after time asking about this passage and that passage. I wanted to understand how it all fit together. Instead of looking for the latest fashions, I wanted to find how passages applied to my latest life, the life that included a husband and kids, the life that included changes and challenges.

Of course, I still read my Bible. Every day. Without fail. But am I as excited? Am I as curious? Since I dedicated my life to Christ sitting by the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree, contemplating if my life was really honoring the Lord, the season holds special memories for me. But much as I love the lights and the Christmas shows, I want to revel in the real meaning of Christmas, the fact that Christ left heaven to come to earth where he would face earthy, sinful people, people who think far more about things we see in shops and catalogs than about Him. And then He died--so we could go to heaven. It boggles my mind.

It’s sometimes hard to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. We show Christ’s love for others as we shop, so we shop. We show God’s hospitality as we welcome families around the table, so we cook. It’s all good. But let’s remember to show our love for God by worshipping with other Christians, by donating to God’s people in need and by examining our hearts to see if we’ve really forgiven and forgotten. Those are the greatest gifts of all. And they aren’t found in catalogs.

Have a Blessed Christmas!


Upcoming engagements for Friends of the Heart:

December 2. 10 a.m. - Women's Christmas Brunch, New Buffalo, CMA, "Mary: Ordinary or Extraordinary."

February 1, 6 p.m. - David's Community Bible Church, Millersburg, "An Evening with Mary, Martha and Their Psychologist."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review: The Smear: How Shady Political Operative and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote

A sobering read, for sure. Author Sharyl Attkisson defines a smear as an effort to manipulate opinion by spreading an overblown, scandalous and damaging narrative. She opens our eyes to little known details. For instance, when we read a letter to the editor by an unknown name, it may actually have been ghostwritten by a paid agent who “rent” the use of someone’s signature.

Citing from history, Attkisson tells how both the precursor to the CIA and the Nazis spread propaganda during World War II, going so far as to influence people through songs played on the radio. Citing incidents relating to Don Imus and Glenn Beck, she tells how smear artists grasp onto a “sprinkle of truth” and blow it out of proportion until it destroys a reputation.

And there’s big money behind such efforts. Attkisson researched the connections of David Brock, head of a “media watchdog” called Media Matters. She lists 15 organizations at the same high-rise address in Washington, D. C., all with Brock connections. With names such as “Political Correction Project,” “Correct the Record” and “True Blue Media LLC, one would think these were organizations dedicated to truth. Rather, through opposition research, negative ads and other media tools, they are dedicated to causing the ruin of anyone who doesn’t agree with their ideology. Brock’s known compensation from his network totals millions of dollars annually. 

Sharyl Attkisson is a bestselling author and host of Sinclair’s national investigative television program Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson. She has covered controversies through the administrations of four presidents and received the Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting. Attkisson has reported nationally for CBS News, PBS and CNN. This imprint of HarperCollins, 2017, is not an easy read, but it will inform the way you watch the news and read your daily paper.

The book's closing line: “For now, one thing you can count on is that most every image that crosses your path has been put there for a reason. Nothing happens by accident. What you need to ask yourself isn’t so much Is it true, but Who wants me to believe it—and why?

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Sand Traps of Life

 Dear Friends,

As I watched a televised golf tournament, the rough terrain reminded me of my journey through life. From an aerial view, the fairway wound like a green ribbon by sand traps, some dropping sharply off the edge of the fairway. Landing a ball in such bunkers called for wisdom and skill on the part of golfers to get their balls back on track. At times the fairway curved at a dogleg angle; that posed a different kind of challenge.
Isn’t that just like life? We may be swinging along, having a good time, when all of a sudden our ball lands in a bunker. We face a loss, an unexpected illness, a financial setback. We experience pain, heartache, disappointment. Sometimes, like a dogleg angle, our lives curve into unexpected directions, places we do not want to go. Now what?
Those are times we can trust our creative God to act on our behalf. His ways are much different from ours. We may just want happiness for the moment, but he wants to give us joy in him for a lifetime. Our part is to submit to circumstances we cannot change and wait for God to use them for his purposes.
"This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles." Psalm 34:6 (NIV) May that be our cry.
Prayer: O God, walk with us today as circumstances stretch our faith. Remind us that you have helped us in the past and we can trust you for the future. 
Have a blessed month filled with thankfulness for God's daily blessings.



December 2, 10 a.m. - Friends of the Heart at Christmas Brunch at New Buffalo CMA Church, "Mary: Ordinary or Extraordinary?"

Book Review: War Room

                If you’ve seen the movie “The War Room” you may think you don’t need to read the book. I beg to differ. While you’ll know the end of the story, you glean so much inspiration from the book. While watching a movie, insightful comments slip right by as you’re carried into the next scene. But when you read the book, you can pause and let words sink in and inform your faith.

                The War Room is the fictional story of a real estate agent whose marriage is in trouble when she meets a client who believes in the power of prayer. That’s all I’ll say about the story, because I don’t want to spoil your reading. But this is truly inspirational reading since there is so much truth written on the pages of this novel.

                And if you’ve already read the book but not seen the movie, I encourage you to watch it. Priscilla Shirer (a Bible teacher and daughter of Tony Evans, a Christian pastor, speaker and author) plays the role of Elizabeth, the real estate agent, and does a marvelous job of it.

                I don’t read many novels, but this one packs a powerful wallop and reminds you that prayer is a powerful weapon. You’ll certainly be inspired to pray and to pray more specifically. Give it a read.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review: Senior Adult Ministry in the 21st Century

Senior Adult Ministry in the 21st Century: Step-By-Step Strategies For Reaching People Over 50

I organized a “Seniors Fellowship” for our church before I read this book. But the author, Dr. David P. Gallagher, offers many creative ideas about ministering to this group. Although written for church leadership, as a layperson, I am finding the book invaluable.

Gallagher opens with a chapter describing the broad spectrum of ages and abilities that comprise today’s senior adults. He urges churches to establish a senior adult ministry since life expectancy has climbed to 75 years of age and according to the 2000 U. S. Census, there are more than 76 million Americans age 50 or older; that’s a quarter of the population.

Benefits of a senior adult ministry include reaching entire families and helping seniors face the challenges of today’s deteriorating society by applying biblical truth to the needs of this age group. Gallagher offers help to develop a mission statement and to set goals for a ministry.

This book’s reproducible charts and checklists alone would be worth the purchase price of $17.99 retail. They can to be used to evaluate the need for a ministry and then to establish and carry out the ministry. Chapters include outreach ideas and one chapter offers help to those dealing with grief. Strong on numbered lists, Gallagher includes sections such as “23 Helpful Hints for Effective Outreach,” “5 Things to Consider Before Starting a Senior Adult Ministry” and “5 Good Things Hidden in Grief.” An Appendix offers even more tips along with top web sites for senior adult issues.

Gallagher has written extensively in the field of pastoral and adult ministry. He serves at Green Lake Conference Center, Green Lake, Wisconsin, and partners with Church Growth, Inc., Monrovia, California. I liked his style of writing. The back cover purports the book to offer the nuts and bolts of senior adult ministry, and it surely delivers on that promise.

I’ve read other helpful books on senior ministry, such as The Graying of the Church, which has 96 pages. With its charts and checklists, Senior Adult Ministry in the 21st Century, published by Wipf and Stock Publishers, offers 148 pages and contributes even to the record keeping of your ministry. It’s a solid resource for any size church that wants to bless its graying population. I will be referring to this book regularly as I lead my senior adult ministry and look for creative ways to develop outreach, activities and just general ministry.