Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Karen, Life Is Not Fair!

My scripture text today will be coming from Matthew 20:1-16.  One of the most resounding things in my memory is my mother telling me, “Karen, life isn’t fair.” I have carried that with me throughout life. The only thing I can say about it is that she was right. Life doesn’t seem to be fair. In fact it seems to be quite the opposite of fair. I have been turned down for jobs because I was of the wrong ethnicity. I have been denied a promotion because I was the wrong gender. I have often been denied employment because I was under qualified. Sadly I have also been denied employment because I was over qualified. That one really didn’t make any sense at all.  I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced life this way. I know that there are some of you who have been turned down for a loan because the loan officer had a bad day and didn’t want to deal with you long enough to finance you. I know there are cell phone owners here who have been charged for a little thing called roaming when you didn’t think it was just but you couldn’t argue your case enough to get it removed. There may be someone here today who was accused of something and felt the consequences just so an example could have been made of somebody by your boss. The thing you noticed is that even though you are working and doing the best you could the slacker across the way got off without even a confrontation.  I am sure that I am not the only person in this room who as a kid with a sibling thought my parents treated me unfairly at times in comparison to the treatment my brother got. I know I am not the only sister who received my brother’s spanking. I guess it is a good thing that my brother does not have the opportunity to tell you about all of my spankings he received because as for now it makes me look better.  The cold fact is that life isn’t fair. The more we try to please someone the more we stand to be let down. People are human in that they have their own way of viewing situations. They can have a “skewed” view of reality that keeps them from seeing all sides of reality. They can have their own opinions which may immediately charge the man in a conflict between a man and a woman or to vote for the white guy in a battle between races. Truly and undeniably we are unfair people living in an unfair world.   The good news however is that God is fair. If we will learn to hold on to Him, even when we don’t understand the path He is taking, it will turn out alright in the end.

God is a God of Grace. That is something we simply cannot understand as humans. God can see the big picture, he is omniscient, and that is something we can only dream about. God is just in his generosity which is a trait we don’t possess.

While on a trip to Switzerland, an America businessman was watching a Swiss clockmaker carving the case of an ornate cuckoo clock. As the businessman watched the clockmaker carve out the case, he was astounded at his slow rate of progress. The businessman finally said, “My good man, you’ll never make much money that way.” “Sir,” the clockmaker replied, “I’m not making money, I’m making cuckoo clocks.”  Notice the difference in the two men’s goals. The businessman was after the pay check and the clock maker was after the joy of a job well done.

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.   About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ’You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.  He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ’Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ’Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ’You also go and work in my vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ’Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ’These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ’and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ’Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Notice: These guys hired to a new job each day.

- Those first hired worked hard for about 11 hours, had endured the heat of the desert all day and they were paid one denarius

-Those last hired worked for about one hour, had lazily stood around in the marketplace all day and they too were paid one denarius

-The vineyard owner owned the vineyard, all the wealth for the day’s pay was at his disposal and he had grace for the guys hired last but was just and fair to the all day guys.

This not just a story about some guy in a vineyard. Notice verse 1.   "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…”

-God is the land owner, those hired in the morning are like the old saints, those hired at the end of the day are like those who are saved at the last minute (Death-bed confessions)

We may not find it fair but God is just and he calls this fair.  We are not graceful but God is full of grace. In his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” Phillip Yancey points out that part of our problem is in the nature of grace itself. Grace is scandalous. It’s hard to accept, hard to believe, and hard to receive. Grace shocks us in what it offers. It is truly not of this world. It frightens us with what it does for sinners.  Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them. We would save the not-so-bad. God starts with prostitutes and then works downward from there. Grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver. It is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and hardly appreciate it. That’s why God alone gets the glory in your salvation. Jesus did all the work when he died on the cross.

TWO things I hope we can take from this message today....

1. We should be grateful of this grace. We didn’t deserve it. It really is unfair because we deserve Hell but God has chosen to show us His grace.

2. We should follow God’s example and show grace to our neighbor.

-when someone else gets a break at work assume they need it

-when someone doesn’t get caught just remember the times you didn’t

-when someone gets off easy just pray for them that they will respect it

DON’T WISH PAIN ON PEOPLE FOR THE SAKE OF FAIRNESS…pray for grace for them.  It will make you feel a whole lot better...and it won't hurt them either.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Buried Beneath The Words

Buried Beneath the Words
About The Book:  Words! Words! Words!  Words all over the place. Accusing, blaming, and degrading words are the worst of all. After hearing those words over and over again, we begin to feel the weight of them threatening to crush the very life out of us.
Buried Beneath the Words cleverly shares a true life story about the different ways someone can end up buried beneath the weight of negative words. Then it shares a Christian course for how God’s word can revive us. By putting the advice given within these pages into practice, you will experience an awakening of the real you—the you that has been buried way too long.  Learn more and purchase a copy at Betel’s website.
About The Author: Betel Arnold is a Certified Christian Life Coach, her passion is to reach out to women with compassion, empathy and encouragement. She is the creator, co-producer, and co-host of Simply Talking, a local public television show addressing issues drawn from our daily lives to deeper questions that come from our personal tragedies. Betel has learned to integrate her roles as wife, mother, inspirational speaker and family advocate. It is Betel’s personal life experiences of overcoming adversity where she was able to find the inspiration and inner strength to do the impossible. She inspires others to overcome the challenges that keep us from moving forward in our lives and achieving our goals. Betel Arnold has embraced her life’s conviction to help women become all that God has called them to be.
My Thoughts On The Book:  I am a high school English teacher and a natural born lover of words I could not wait to get my hands on this book.  One thing I have noticed in my twenty-five years in the classroom is that my students and some of the adults in my life use words to hurt each other.  Growing up as a sufferer of low self-esteem I knew the power words could have on me.  I loved reading how Betel Arnold confronted her own issues and it was very empowering to find that one does not have to be bound to this life style.  This book is a mixture of stories, helpful scriptures, song lyrics and is just the book for someone who struggles thinking they are not good enough for God to love them.  Thank you Betel for speaking out about a topic that often goes without being addressed.  Loved this book and plan to add it to my library for future reference!
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse and their Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Thank you so very much for allowing me this opportunity.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hey God! I NEED a Do-Over!

My Scripture Today Comes From Matthew 18:21-35

I have to be honest with you all…..There have been a few times in my life where I’ve wanted a do-over.
• The time I wrote an “anonymous” love note to a Harold Smith in junior high, only to have him figure it out and tell all of my classmates.  I could have died. 
• The time I locked my knees in my wedding ceremony and almost fainted.
• The time I wore heels for the first time and caught my choir robe on one and fell down three flights of stairs at church and landed right in front of a boy I was trying hard to impress.  Yeah…I impressed him alright!

These are just a few of my many embarrassing moments that I’d like to have a second chance at. But what about the more important times in our lives when we’ve messed up.  You know….
• Maybe someone has  fallen into an adulterous relationship, bringing disastrous consequences upon the family.
• Maybe someone broke promises to God that they would break a nasty habit.
• Maybe anger has gotten us into trouble again at work or at home.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just yell “do-over” and get a chance to do it again? If everything that happened in your life was written on a white board, wouldn’t it be great if you could just walk up and erase the board, and make it clean again?  Well guess what Midway….
I’ve got good news for you. My God specializes in do-overs.
• He can take a broken life and set it straight again.
• He can take a hopeless situation and infuse it with hope.
• He can offer perfect love and forgiveness to people who have broken their promises over and over.
• He is the God of the do-over.

No matter what has happened in your past, Jesus Christ can make you new – he can give you a do-over.  If you doubt it, listen again to Matthew 18:21-22…..these are scriptures that show us loud and clear…. God’s heart of forgiveness:
”Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”   Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Luke 17:3-5 tells us…..“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

I don’t know about you….but I find I must  chime in with the apostles, “Increase our faith!”   I absolutely cannot fathom that type of forgiveness. We can understand forgiving someone 7 times. But 77 times? Or 7 times in one day? Come on! But this is God’s heart. God heart is so wide and so loving that he can and does forgive everyone who comes to him asking for his forgiveness. And he doesn’t keep track of how many times it has happened, either.

If I were required to forgive someone multiple times in one day, I can tell you that by the end of the day I might be mouthing words of forgiveness, but my attitude would not be so great. The amazing thing about God is that even though he knows in the most intimate detail how we fail him – he is still so happy when we come back to him. How do we know this?

In Luke chapter 15, you can read 3 stories, placed back to back to back for emphasis, that communicate the grace-full heart of God. In stories about a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a wayward, rebellious child, there is one picture that stands out: the image of God as jumping-up-and-down-happy over the return of one of his children to his care.

Let me read the first 2 of those stories from the Bible:
Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Both of these stories end the same way: there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. I think that is true when they repent for the first time and submit their life to the Lordship of Jesus, but it is also true when a sinner repents for the 2nd or 4th or 15th or 100th time. That’s because God is a God of do-overs.

After these two stories about the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus goes into one of his more famous parables, hitting home the message that God is a god of do-overs in a powerful way. Over the years there have been many retellings of this parable, but my favorite is one I discovered in a wonderful book by Philip Yancey called “What’s So Amazing About Grace”. I’d like to share it with you now:

Read p 49-51 in the chapter “The Lovesick Father”
“Welcome home.” If you need a do-over for any reason in your life, you need to hear those words. “Welcome home.”

Is. 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.

Though the church in general is viewed as a judgmental place full of “holier than thou” hypocrites, here at Midway I have found that we welcome home anyone who needs a do-over. Welcome home.

If you are willing to repent – there is a do-over waiting for you. A fresh start. Yes, it’s true that there may still be consequences of sin from your past – but it need not control your future. You can be set free from having to stay in that place – you can start anew.  In this very room….at this very moment….there are people who have failed God and other people in many ways. But as a body of believers we have discovered that we can be made new in Jesus Christ.

The cost for such renewal is quite simple: humility. In order to experience a do-over and the new life that Jesus Christ can bring into your life, you will have to humbly admit you’ve messed things up. And then you’ve got to be willing to come back to his ways.

This can be a long journey for some or a quick step for others. But it is the key.  Is. 57:15 For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.  Need a do-over? There is no time like the present.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Christ-Centered Wedding

Product Details
About The Book: How Do I Keep the Focus Where It Belongs?  Wedding planning has spawned a major industry. The average cost of the occasion now exceeds $25,000, and societal pressure to create the “perfect day” is so strong that even Christian couples forget what God originally intended for the sacred marriage ceremony. While paying attention to the good fun that follows that special proposal (the dress, the flowers, the cake, the gatherings, etc.), A Christ-Centered Wedding first serves as a guide to believers who want their wedding to portray the relationship of Christ with the church and to reflect the gospel to all in attendance. From the start, this thoughtful book looks to the Creator of weddings for guidance in planning by emphasizing the sacrificial love of the Savior more than the modern world’s idealistic view of romantic love. There are chapters filled with practical information about everything from pre-marital counseling and choosing a wedding location to other resources like a planning checklist and timeline, music suggestions, guidance on potential issues of conflict, a listing of traditional financial responsibilities, sample vows, and other great ideas from couples who have successfully put together a Christ-centered wedding.
About The Authors:  Catherine Strode Parks writes from home in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, Erik, and their two young children. She is the co-author of A Christ-Centered Wedding (B&H) and blogs at  Linda Strode is a pastor's wife and has been involved in multiple aspects of wedding planning over the years.  She survived the bridesmaid fashion horrors of the 70's and 80's and has quite a few photo souvenirs to prove it.  Linda and her husband, Tom,  live in Fredricksburg, VA,
My Thoughts On The Book:  For my reader friends who know me, No! I am not planning my wedding and all my children are married.  As a pastor/pastor's wife I thought this book would be something good for our library.  As a pastor's wife I am occasionally asked to serve as the Wedding Director.  This is not a job I take lightly.  I want all my young couples to start out grounded in Christ. I desire for young couples to steer away from the glitz and glamour of the wedding ceremony towards God.  This book is a lifesaver.  I loved how the book was divided up into short, easy chapters covering everything there is to cover on a wedding.  The authors left no stone unturned.  When my daughter married she and her husband lived out this book.  I do not remember ever attending a more Christ-centered wedding in my life.  They made a commitment to Christ and have now followed it to the mission field, working in orphanages in Moldova.  The money you spend on a wedding does not matter....what does is the commitment to Christ the couples have.  I LOVED THIS BOOK!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Shelton Interactive, as part of their Book Review Blogger 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

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Here And Now

The Here and Now

About The Book:  An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.  This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.  Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking--and a must-read novel of the year.  "This gripping story is set in a world unlike any other and inhabited by beautifully imagined characters that stay with you long after the last page. As always, Brashares expertly captures the wonder of love’s enduring power.” – Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars
About The Author:  Ann Brashares is the bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Girls in Pants, Forever in Blue, The Last Summer (of You and Me), and My Name is Memory.
My Thoughts On The Book:  I have read many of Ann Brashares books.  I teach high school and have recommended many of them to my student readers with no problem.  I wish I could say the same about this book.  It was all I could do to finish it!  I had to look several times to make sure this WAS EVEN an Ann Brashares book.  When I read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants I felt as if I knew everyone of the characters personally.  I did not feel that way this time.  The characters to me were boring...plain and simple.  I enjoy reading time travel books.  I am a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series....but  just could not sink my teeth into this one.  I did loan it to one of my avid student readers so we could discuss the book and we both agreed after reading that there was nothing to really discuss.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley Publicity Group  in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Thank you for allowing me this opportunity.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New England's Scariest Stories and Urban Legends

New England's Scariest Stories and  Urban Legends

About the Book:  Journey through New England’s darkest places and read 22 of its scariest stories and urban legends. Explore mysterious cryptids like the Dover Demon, Pigman, the Sea Serpent of Gloucester, the Dublin Lake Monster, and the Derry Fairy. Meet Champ, the legendary lake monster of Lake Champlain, and a fisherman who found himself thirty feet from the beast. See the grave of Midnight Mary and the Desert of Maine, and judge for yourself if their curses are real. Try to walk with the Leather Man and wonder why he chooses to walk alone. Visit The House of the Seven Gables and The Shunned House, both famous in literature, and learn of ghosts that still linger there. Cross Emily’s Bridge in Vermont, creep over the alleged vampire Mercy Brown’s grave in Rhode Island, and more. New England promises to scare you!
About The Author(s)/Illustrator:  Cathy McManus is a lifelong Mainer. When not busy working as a computer technician; she spends much of her free time wandering cemeteries and old houses throughout New England. She's an avid researcher and photographer. Summer Paradis is a native New Englander. When not working in the paranormal, she is employed as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist.  Wayne Bud Ridsdel has had a passion for art since he was a child, He completed seven years of study at Wakefield Art College in Yorkshire, UK. His career has been diverse and he has held positions in advertising design, point of sale advertising, print and graphic design.
My Thoughts On This Book:  As a fan of folklorist, Kathryn Tucker Windham and her 13 Ghosts series I thought this would be something along that line.  I enjoyed the stories for the most part.  I did not enjoy the way the book was put together.  It seemed like it was just thrown together.  I love to plan trips around odd things of interest.  My daughter and I have visited a few of these New England sites and really enjoyed ourselves so I was hoping for something more.  It was a good read, but not one that left me sitting on the edge of my seat.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley Publicity Group and Schiffer Publishing,  in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Thank you for allowing me this opportunity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Hodge Podging

Happy Hodgepodge! It's a big day in the Wednesday Hodgepodge. Come and join in with us by hopping over to Joyce's blog and linking up after you share your answers to her questions.

 1. On Thursday we pause to remember a dark day in history-9/11. Will you mark it in some special way?  I have a special Bell Ringer assignment for my Spanish classes on 9/11.  I will prayer for the families of the ones who did not survive.  This time of year always makes me a little sadder because life as we knew it ceased to exist. 

2. Do you ever/still...listen to an actual radio? Watch a videotape (VCR)? Look up a number in a telephone book? Refer to an actual paper map while traveling? Set an alarm on an alarm clock as opposed to your phone?
 I love listening to the radio especially when I am cleaning house.  I do still look up numbers in a phone book.  I set an actual alarm clock each night and never travel without my map....even though we use GPS.  I don't trust it 100%.  I still have VCR tapes to watch. 

3. Is it ever a good idea to discuss religion and politics with people you don't know?

I check out the emotional stability of the crowd first....but as a rule I do not.

4. What's a dish you haven't eaten all summer, but come September find yourself craving? Have you made it yet this month?

I am with Joyce and have to say Chili.  I never make or eat chili in the summertime, but come September and football season and the slow fade to fall, I crave chili. Haven't made it yet, but I will before September is over. I also want some potato soup and good old fashioned vegetable soup.  I love the foods of fall.

5. What's something you know nothing about?
Rocket science!

6. September is Classical Music Month? Do you like classical music? If so, what's your favorite piece?

I love classical music.  My favorites are:  Canon in D and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy....the Wedding March would be another. 

7. What's the oldest thing you own?

Frank's great grandmother's earrings and my grandfathers tater bug mandolin.. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

God Bless You All and have a wonderful hump day!