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Archive for the ‘Tours’ Category

Mike Dellosso’s debut novel, The Hunted, is sure to scare your pants off – which is why I haven’t decided if I’m actually brave enough to read it. Oh, I’ve heard wonderful things about it – from everyone I know who has read it – but it’s precisely Mike’s skill of storytelling and bringing a thriller to life that leave me a little uncertain. My husband is currently reading the book, so I’ll wait to see what he advises.

In the meantime, I was thinking about what to post as a part of the tour, and I thought I’d try something different. You can read wonderful interviews with Mike at other stops along the tour. You can also read the first chapter of the book here.

But since we’re talking about scary stories – I want to hear yours. What’s been one of the scariest (in a terrifying or humorous sense) thing you’ve ever experienced?

For me, one crazy scary event occurred just after my senior year of high school. A girlfriend and I were driving home around midnight from a neighboring city. We turned off of the interstate onto a darker, more secluded highway. As we chatted about the evening, we noticed an empty car on the side of the road and even remarked about the oddity of its presence. A couple hundred yards beyond the car, I saw something. I instinctively began to slow down, and asked my friend, “Did you just see what I saw?” She solemnly nodded her head as we rolled to a stop, confirming that I had indeed just seen a body lying on the side of the road! We sat, suspended in time and in disbelief. As two young women, we weren’t sure of the safe action to take. We had heard that gangs in the area, as a part of initiation, would lie on the side of the road until someone stopped. When someone would finally get out to check on the person, other gang members would jump out of a hiding spot and attack the person.

And yet, if the person lying on the side of the road needed our help . . .

No other cars were in sight.

So I finally pulled out my bag phone (yes, bag phone!) and dialed 911. I spoke to the dispatch agent and told him everything I knew. Then I called my dad. As soon as I heard his voice, the tears began to flow. He reassured me we did the right thing, and told us to wait in the car until help arrived. Fortunately, the first two cars to finally stop carried two medical professionals. We drove back to the scene and let them know help was on the way. Turns out the body was that of an older woman who was in diabetic shock. The other passenger with her had gone for help, but in desperation she had climbed out of the car and started walking herself. Someone else stopped and had a bottle of orange juice in her car. Everything was going to be okay.

But it sure was scary!

So now I want to hear about your scary moments! Here are a few guidelines:

1) Write your post about a scary moment (truly terrifying or take a humorous spin)

2) Link back to this post: https://blogtourspot.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/the-hunted-blog-tour/ and let me know when your post is up.

3) Invite 5 more people to participate.

Think of it as telling ghost stories around the campfire!

I’m tagging Marcus, Alyssa, Llama Momma, Kellie, BJ and Ben. (I know, that’s six!) Mike is experiencing his own scary story that you can read about here. If I didn’t tag you and you want to participate too, just let me know when your post is up!

And don’t forget to check out The Hunted!

Scary Story Posts:

Gina talks about her CSI adventures in New York
Kellie shares about a plane hijacking experience
Julie‘s creepy experience being stalked
Marie‘s recounts near death experience
MEH tells about her experience with the Oklahoma City bombing
Mike‘s chilling tale about “the voice”
Terri also shares about a stalking experience
Chera shares about her spring break trip and Big Papa
BJ talks about scary secrets
Darcie talks about Golden Grahams
Megan tells about a traumatic experience with a hope-filled ending
Carol talks about a scary childhood game that was more than a game

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It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book’s FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

Rob Parsons

and his book:

Bringing Home the Prodigals

Authentic ( April 1, 2008 )

MY REVIEW:
When I first began reading Rob Parson’s Bringing Home the Prodigals, I wasn’t sure how pertinent the information would be for me since I currently was not struggling with any prodigals in my life. I hoped I’d never need the information in this book, but read it anyway for good measure (and since I’d signed up to be a part of the blog tour).

I was pleasantly surprised to come away with quite a bit from this book. Parson attempts to cover many different angles to the concern for prodigals – from those who love them, to those who are them, to the Church who should embrace them. In some ways, I would have preferred three separate books which addressed the different angles in more depth. However, for someone like me who originally even questioned the relevance of the book to his or her life, Parsons’ approach proved to be beneficial.

Here are a few snapshots I highlighted:

  • The incredible things is not that Jesus ate with sinners – you’d expect the one who came to save the lost to do that. No, the incredible thing is that the sinners ate with Jesus.
  • And as if parenting wasn’t hard enough anyway, modern society practically forces us to see our children’s lives as a judgment on whether or not we have been successful.
  • You and I cannot bring up godly children; it is not our responsibility – it is too heavy a burden. We are called instead to live godly lives.
  • . . . we must forgive even when there is no evidence that they may change. What is the alternative to forgiveness? It is rejection. And rejection often brings with it isolation, bitterness, and a pushing even further away of those we are trying to draw back.
  • Forgiveness is not Disney World. Forgiveness finds itself in the real world of deep hurts, dashed hopes, and broken promises.
  • They (our children) watch the way we deal with each other (within the church) and draw from that a view of how God deals with us.
  • (the sting of the elder brother’s tale is). . . the awful condemnation of those who are so concerned with their own piety that they miss the breathless grace of God to the prodigals: those for whom the rules are more important than the forgiveness.

I especially appreciated Parson’s desire for the church body to be a place that welcomes prodigals with a ring and a party. His concern about the church’s role in unintentionally creating prodigals through its judgments and critical spirit resonates with me and some of my thoughts about community.

I’m sure parents and loved ones of prodigals will find encouragement in this book, though I wonder if they will find the depth that they need to walk through such a difficult place. But then again, perhaps that’s not even the point of the book since Parsons often points out that the church needs to step up and become involved. For me, this book was a great reminder of our role in the church body, and how we can serve both parents (or loved ones) of prodigals and prodigals themselves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rob Parsons, a lawyer by profession, has subsequently become a wellknown author and speaker on family issues. Drawing from his own experiences of family life, and often joined by his wife Dianne, he has addressed over 500,000 people in facetoface events. In 1988, Rob launched Care for the Family, a registered charity motivated by Christian compassion. The resources and support offered are available to everyone, of any faith or none.

Visit him at his website.

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter One

Always Leave a Light On

Sometimes God ambushes us: it happened to me on March 14, 1998. I had been invited to speak at the National Exhibition Center in the UK to thousands of people who had gathered to pray for the return of their prodigals. I had prepared a message based on the timeless parable of the lost son, and it was folded securely in the inside pocket of my jacket. I believed I was ready to deliver God’s word.

I have been at many Christian events over the years, but I have never experienced the wave of emotion that filled the auditorium that day. The organizers had seated my wife, Dianne, and me on the platform, and as I gazed out at that vast audience, I couldn’t help but wonder what stories lay behind the prayers.

Somewhere, no doubt, was a woman whose husband had once led a church and been a faithful husband and father until the night he told her the four things that so many Christian men tell their wives when they leave them for another woman: “We were so young when we got married we hardly knew what we were doing— I doubt we ever really loved each other”; “In the long run this will be better for you”; “One day you’ll realize this is best for the kids,” and “I’ve prayed about this, and it’s OK with God.”

And somewhere there was a father who had told his tiny daughter Bible stories. She had picked one each night from the huge children’s Bible they kept on the shelf in her bedroom. They had said prayers together, and he had always been touched that, from her youngest days, she had prayed for others more than herself. But as he prayed in the auditorium that day, he thought of her later teenage years and the gradual disinterest in anything to do with God. A great sobbing convulsed his body as he remembered the night he found the drugs in her bedroom and, finally, the day she left, cursing both him and God.

These people had gathered, every one of them with a prodigal on their hearts: friends, brothers, husbands, wives, and sometimes in a strange reversal of the parable, mothers and fathers—but mostly children.

But that great arena did not hold only people praying. In the very front was a huge wooden cross. Its shadow seemed to reach over the whole crowd. During the day, people were invited to write the name of their prodigal on a small card, bring it to the front, and lay it at the foot of the cross. I watched them as they came: young people bringing the names of school friends, married couples holding hands as they laid down the names of children, friends walking together clutching cards, and often the elderly, shuffling forward and bending slowly as they lay the names of those they loved at the cross.

After an hour or so one of the organizers asked me if I would leave the platform and stand by the cross to pray with some of those who were coming forward. Of course I agreed and made my way to the floor of the arena and to the cross. That’s when God ambushed me. What occurred in the next two minutes changed my life forever and was the impetus that was to take the message of “Bringing Home the Prodigals” around the world.

When I reached the cross there were tens of thousands of names there. They were written on cards that were spilling off the little table at the foot of the cross and onto the floor. I picked up and read some of them: “Jack” “Milly” “Bring Charles home, Lord.” It seemed to me that the pain of the world lay at the foot of that cross. I thank God for what he has done in the lives of our two children, but at that time Dianne and I had heavy hearts for them, and I remember laying Katie’s name at the foot of the cross and Lloyd’s name next to hers. And then I started to cry. I could not stop.

As I wept, God laid a message about prodigals on my heart that I first preached later that day. It was not the neat, nicely wrapped-up one with all the answers—that was in my pocket. It was a message forged from brokenness and a sense of utter dependence on God. As I finished speaking that day, I remember thinking that one day I would put it into a book.

But life for all of us is busy and the book was never started. And then one day, as part of some routine tests, the doctors found a possible abnormality with one of my kidneys. They feared it was a tumor. I had about ten days to wait for the results of the tests that would determine what the problem was.

On one of those days I found myself ambling along a London street. It was a wonderful spring morning; on such days, London is at its best. The air was crisp, the sky blue, and behind me the sun shone off Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Chapel as I made my way past Churchill’s War Rooms and into St. James’ Park.

The park was almost deserted, and the pigeons, squirrels, and I looked at each other as if there was little else of interest. Never does life become as precious as when you think it may be suddenly shortened. I began to think about things that really mattered to me. The message of the prodigals came to my mind, and I knew I had to get that book written. I started it that week. A few days later the test results came and were favorable: I did not have a tumor—just an over-sized kidney that I’d probably had all my life. A few months later the book was written. But that was only the beginning.

One day the people who had invited me to preach at their day of prayer in the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham in the UK called to ask me to meet with them. They said God had told them to pass on to me the mantle of the burden for prodigals that they had carried for so many years. We began to visit the denominational leaders to see if the message resonated with them. Without exception—whether it was the Salvation Army, the Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, or even the Archbishop of Canterbury himself—the response was the same: “This is a God-given word for today. We support you in it.”

Over the following few years in auditoriums all across the United Kingdom, more than fifty thousand people have experienced a Bringing Home the Prodigals event. Even now in my mind’s eye, I can picture them listening to the message and bringing the names of their prodigals to the foot of the cross. We began to hear the most remarkable stories of prodigals coming back to God.

Since then we have been taking Bringing Home the Prodigals all over the world. I have watched people stream forward to lay the names of their prodigals at the cross in Costa Rica, Uganda, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and North America. This little book contains the heart of the message of Bringing Home the Prodigals I believe God has laid on my heart. I warn you now; it is a simple message. Most of us feel we know the parable so well that there is hardly anything new we could learn. Maybe this is true, but God wants to remind us of what we knew in our hearts all along—and somehow forgot.

I wrote part of the book in a small conference center on the Gower coast near Swansea, Wales. It is not far from where Dylan Thomas wrote “Under Milk Wood.” The building is set on a hill, and the view from my window was unspeakably beautiful, running across fields, then woods, and finally ending at the sea in the great sweep of the bay. One morning I took a break from writing and stood outside the house gazing into the distance at the breakers hitting the beach. After a few minutes I was joined by a priest. He had on the traditional long black cassock, had a flowing grey beard, and wore what my kids used to call “Jesus sandals.” He had been leading a discussion in one of the seminar rooms and said he had “just come out to get a little air whilst they ponder a couple of theological teasers I’ve set them.”

We began chatting and he asked me what I was doing. When I told him I was writing a book about prodigals, he told me a most moving story. Let me try to capture his words as I remember them:

In a village near here, is a large old house. An elderly lady lives there alone and every night, as darkness falls, she puts a light on in the attic. Her son left home twenty-five years ago, rather like the prodigal in the parable, but she has never given up the hope that one day he will come home. We all know the house well, and although the bulb must occasionally need replacing, none of us have ever seen that house without a light on. It is for her son.

The theme of “leaving a light on” has become a recurring one in the letters and emails I have received from all over the world from those who wait for a prodigal’s return. Shortly after one of the Bringing Home the Prodigals events, a woman wrote to me. She told me that her daughter had walked out of their home when she was eighteen years old. She had turned her back not only on her mother and father, but on the God she had once loved. “My daughter didn’t get in touch, and we didn’t know whether she was alive or dead,” the woman wrote. She went on to tell me that every night, as she and her husband turned off the lights before they went to bed, she would always say to him, “Leave the porch light on.” And every Christmas, she would put a little Christmas tree in the front of the house, its lights shining, just as she used to when her daughter was at home.

After six years, her daughter suddenly came home—and not just to her mother and father, but to God. When she did, she told her mother a remarkable story: “Mom, I so often wanted to come home, but I was too ashamed. Sometimes, in the early hours of the morning, I would drive my car onto your street and just sit there. I used to gaze at the houses and every one of them was dark apart from our house: you always left a light on. And at Christmas I would do the same: just sit there in the darkness and look at the Christmas tree you had put outside—I knew it was for me.”

I have never been able to get that mother out of my mind. She seems to me to symbolize the hopes, fears, and prayers of millions across the world whose hearts are breaking for their prodigals. But this is not just a message for them; in fact Bringing Home the Prodigals is not just about praying for our prodigals to come home. It is about asking us to consider the characters of our local churches. Is it possible that by our attitudes, our concern with rules and regulations that are not on God’s heart, or by our ingrained spirit of the elder brother (or sister!) we have made it easy for some to leave? Perhaps we have kept them out of mind while they are gone and tragically made it harder for them to return. Could it be that inadvertently we have “created” prodigals?

This is a theme that should catch the imagination of all who care about evangelism. The truth is, most of us know ten people who may have never been to church whom we’d like to invite to an evangelistic service—but we all know a hundred prodigals. The numbers are enormous. When the prodigals come home we are going to have to pull down our old church buildings and use aircraft hangers. If you care about church growth, then care about this message. There is nothing as frustrating as seeing people come to Christ through the front door of the church and losing others in almost the same proportion out the door in the back.

All over the world I have cried with parents for their prodigals. There is no more fervent prayer in homes today than, “Father, bring our prodigal home.” I have concentrated in this book on those who have children, of whatever age, who are prodigals, but of course there are many kinds of prodigals—brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and friends. I hope with all my heart that for whomever you are concerned, you will find something here to encourage you and keep the flames of hope alight.

This book is not written principally to give advice, although I will share with you the lessons I have learned from many whose hearts have cried out to God for those they love. My hope is that it will be a book that will release us from false guilt, bring us hope, and above all, lead us to prayer. At the end of every chapter is a prayer and reflection; each one is written by someone who has cried for a prodigal and who has come to believe that, ultimately, God is our only hope. At the very end of the book we will each bring our prodigals to the cross of Christ.

And we should not pray just for our prodigals, but for ourselves as well. We can pray that we will catch the Father’s heart for the prodigals—the outrageous grace of the One who, even as we stumble down the long road home, runs to throw a robe on our back, put a ring on our finger, and put shoes on our feet. And if we do change, if we can catch something of that father-heart of God, then it may be that, in his great mercy, he will touch the lives of thousands of our prodigals—and bring them home.

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I’ll admit it: I was skeptical that I would actually like the book. Even though I’m coordinating the tour for Sherri, and knew she was a great writer, I wasn’t sure I’d actually enjoy Leave it to Chance purely from the standpoint that I’m not a huge “Christian Fiction” (much less romance!) reader. The genre evokes a stereotypical (although often true!) judgment that the book will be cheesy and preachy. The characters often spend too much time in forced situations or conversations, just so the author can weave in the “Christian” part. Blech!

(aside: Let me say I am a growing fan of Christian fiction, as more authors are placing a higher priority on writing a good novel than on having their “message” heard. Hooray!)

So when I received Leave it to Chance in the mail on Saturday afternoon, I planned to skim through the book so I could write my post. To my surprise and delight, I couldn’t put it down! Although a few elements of the story are pretty convenient (eg the protagonist in the book inherits a horse, but she’s terrified of horses as a result of a childhood trauma), and the ending is a little predictable, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. Sherri skillfully painted a picture of the effects of divorce on not just young children, but an entire circle of people. I thought her characters had real conversations and were completely believable as real people. I appreciate that Sherri doesn’t try too hard to make her book a “Christian” book. Her writing made me laugh and cry, and stay up way too late.

It’s been quite a while since I read a book I couldn’t put down. (Yes, I did finish it late last night). Leave a comment on this post, and you could win your own free copy. I’ll draw a name randomly on Friday at 3pm CST. If you don’t win, I still recommend checking Leave it to Chance out.

Check out Sherri’s website and read her encouraging blog here.

For all the blog stops on the tour, visit here.

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It’s May 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book’s FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and their book:

Multnomah Books (April 15, 2008)

ABOUT THE AUTHORs:

Alex and Brett Harris founded TheRebelution.com in August 2005 and today at age 19 are the most popular Christian teen writers on the Web. The twins are frequent contributors to Focus on the Family’s Boundless webzine, serve as the main speakers for the Rebelution Tour conferences, and have been featured in WORLD magazine, Breakaway, The Old Schoolhouse, and the New York Daily News. Sons of homeschool pioneer Gregg Harris and younger brothers of best-selling author Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), Alex and Brett live near Portland, Oregon.

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

MOST PEOPLE DON’T…
A different kind of teen book

Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it to last.

Well, we do.

This is a different kind of teen book. Check online or walk through your local bookstore. You’ll find plenty of books written by fortysomethings who, like, totally understand what it’s like being a teenager. You’ll find a lot of cheap throwaway
books for teens because young people today aren’t supposed to care about books or see any reason to keep them around. And you’ll find a wide selection of books where you never have to read anything twice—because the message is dumbed-down. Like, just for you.

What you’re holding in your hands right now is a challenging book for teens by teens who believe our generation is ready for a change. Ready for something that doesn’t promise a whole new life if you’ll just buy the right pair of jeans or use the right kind of deodorant. We believe our generation is ready to rethink what teens are capable of doing and becoming. And we’ve noticed that once wrong ideas are debunked
and cleared away, our generation is quick to choose a better way, even if it’s also more difficult.

We’re nineteen-year-old twin brothers, born and raised in Oregon, taught at home by our parents, and striving to follow Christ as best we can. We’ve made more than our share of mistakes. And although we don’t think “average teenagers” exist, there is nothing all that extraordinary about us personally.

Still, we’ve had some extraordinary experiences. At age sixteen, we interned at the Alabama Supreme Court. At seventeen, we served as grass-roots directors for four statewide political campaigns. At eighteen, we authored the most popular Christian teen blog on the web. We’ve been able to speak to thousands of teens and their parents at conferences in the United States and internationally and to reach millions
online. But if our teen years have been different than most, it’s not because we’re somehow better than other teens, but because we’ve been motivated by a simple but very big idea. It’s an idea you’re going to encounter for yourself in the pages
ahead.

We’ve seen this idea transform “average” teenagers into world-changers able to accomplish incredible things. And they started by simply being willing to break the mold of what society thinks teens are capable of.

So even though the story starts with us, this book really isn’t about us, and we would never want it to be. It’s about something God is doing in the hearts and minds of our generation. It’s about an idea. It’s about rebelling against low expectations. It’s about a movement that is changing the attitudes and actions of teens around the world. And we want you to be part of it.

This book invites you to explore some radical questions:

• Is it possible that even though teens today have more freedom than any other generation in history, we’re actually missing out on some of the best years of our
lives?

• Is it possible that what our culture says about the purpose and potential of the teen years is a lie and that we are its victims?

• Is it possible that our teen years give us a once-in-alifetime opportunity for huge accomplishments—as individuals and as a generation?

• And finally, what would our lives look like if we set out on a different path entirely—a path that required more effort but promised a lot more reward?

We describe that alternative path with three simple words: “do hard things.”

If you’re like most people, your first reaction to the phrase “do hard things” runs along the lines of, “Hard? Uh-oh. Guys, I just remembered that I’m supposed to be somewhere else. Like, right now.”

We understand this reaction. It reminds us of a story we like to tell about a group of monks. Yep, monks.

On the outskirts of a small town in Germany is the imaginary abbey of Dundelhoff. This small stone monastery is home to a particularly strict sect of Dundress monks, who have each vowed to live a life of continual self-denial and discomfort.

Instead of wearing comfy T-shirts and well-worn jeans like most people, these monks wear either itchy shirts made from goat hair or cold chain mail worn directly over bare skin. Instead of soft mattresses, pillows, and warm blankets, they sleep on the cold stone floors of the abbey. You might have read somewhere that monks are fabulous cooks? Well, not these monks. They eat colorless, tasteless sludge—once a day. They only drink lukewarm water.

We could go on, but you get the picture. No matter what decision they face, Dundress monks always choose the more difficult option, the one that provides the least physical comfort, holds the least appeal, offers the least fun. Why? Because they believe that the more miserable they are, the holier they are; and the holier they are, the happier God is.

So these miserable monks must be poster boys for “do hard things.” Right?

Wrong!

We’re not plotting to make your life miserable. We’re not recommending that you do any and every difficult thing. For example, we’re not telling you to rob a bank, jump off a cliff, climb Half Dome with your bare hands, or stand on your head for twenty-four hours straight. We are not telling you to do pointless (or stupid) hard things just because they’re hard. And if you’re a Christian, we’re certainly not telling you that if you work harder or make yourself uncomfortable on purpose, God will love you more. He will never—could never—love you any more than He does right now.

So that’s what we’re not doing. What we are doing is challenging you to grab hold of a more exciting option for your teen years than the one portrayed as normal in society today. This option has somehow gotten lost in our culture, and most people don’t even know it. In the pages ahead, you’re going to meet young people just like you who have rediscovered this better way—a way to reach higher, dream bigger, grow
stronger, love and honor God, live with more joy—and quit wasting their lives.

In Do Hard Things, we not only say there is a better way to do the teen years, we show you how we and thousands of other teens are doing it right now and how you can as well.

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My Take:

I have skimmed through the first half of this book, and I add my recommendation to the host of impressive endorsements these young authors have received. I am excited about the idea of raising the bar on expectations of teenagers. While I never completed an internship for a state Supreme Court or spoke at conferences across the United States and in Japan, I was a teenager who dreamed big. Fortunately, my parents placed high expectations on me (not in a negative, unreasonable way), and for the most part, I lived up to them. As I now raise my daughter, it bothers me that we expect so little from our youth. I don’t want her to grow up in that type of culture. I’m excited to see where this Rebelution goes. Parents, youth workers, teens – pick up a copy of this book and let me know what you think. In fact, leave a comment on my blog by 5:00pm CST on April 20th and I’ll draw a winner for a FREE COPY (sorry, US mailing addresses only).

Official Summary:

With over 10 million hits to their website TheRebelution.com, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to “do hard things” for the glory of God.

Written when they were 18 years old, Do Hard Things is the Harris twins’ revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential. Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.

Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of revolution already in progress challenges the next generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.

About the Authors:

Alex and Brett Harris founded TheRebelution.com in August 2005 and today at age 19 are the most popular Christian teen writers on the Web. The twins are frequent contributors to Focus on the Family’s Boundless webzine, serve as the main speakers for the Rebelution Tour conferences, and have been featured in WORLD magazine, Breakaway, The Old Schoolhouse, and the New York Daily News. Sons of homeschool pioneer Gregg Harris and younger brothers of best-selling author Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), Alex and Brett live near Portland, Oregon.

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A Handbook for Discovering God’s Will by Gordon S. Jackson


It’a April 15th, but this has nothing to do with taxes! It is time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book’s FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:
and his book:

NavPress Publishing Group (March 26, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

GORDON JACKSON is a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. He has worked at Whitworth as a journalism professor and college administrator since 1983. Originally from South Africa, where he worked as a journalist, he is a frequent speaker for churches and other groups. Dr. Jackson has spoken to scores of church, Sunday school, educational, and civic groups on a wide range of topics. In the past few years, he has also served as a consultant for church groups and Christian educational institutions in Uganda, Lebanon and Egypt.

He is also the author of:

Destination Unknown
Never Scratch a Tiger with a Short Stick and Other Quotes for Leaders

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Introduction

Choosing Well: Living Out God’s Will

Most of the time in our attempt to follow Christ, we already know perfectly well what God’s will is and what He expects of us. It is to continue the work He’s already given us, precisely where we are, according to the guidelines for godly living we know from Scripture.

But there come moments when we face major decisions, crossroads in our journey where the signposts aren’t as legible or well-lit as we would like. We face hard choices. Should I attend this college or that one? Should I switch jobs? Am I truly being called to full-time ministry, or am I just bored with my current vocation? Is this the person God would have me marry? Should I move to a new city or stay put?

Some decisions we’ve anticipated for a long while, for example what to do upon graduating from college. Others are thrust upon us suddenly, perhaps an opportunity that comes out of the blue. Yet others can brew or stew slowly over time, such as a growing sense of disillusionment and frustration with our current job.

Situations like these ultimately demand some kind of decision. Assuming we seek to honor God in all areas of our lives—education, family life, career, ministry—we want to make a godly choice. But how? Clearly, guidance is a difficult area for Christians.

Scores of books on the topic have appeared over the past several decades demonstrating the ongoing quest for counsel on this issue. This book is intended to assist you in thinking through questions about guidance more incisively and, if you heed the shared wisdom handed down from two thousand years of our faith, to help you make wiser, more thoughtful, and more godly choices. The generalizations presented here are distilled from the wisdom of numerous thoughtful writers on this topic. In essence, the thoughts in this book are not new. The hope, however, is that their presentation and format will make these ideas more accessible and easier to understand and apply in your life. (A note on citations: For the most part, I’ve tried to avoid cluttering your reading by limiting the endnotes to some lesser-known authors for whom you may want to know the source.)

It’s plain that those who follow Christ could use ongoing help in this area. “In our quest for God’s guidance,” said J. I. Packer, British theologian and scholar, “we become our own worst enemies, and our mistakes attest to our nuttiness in this area.” This book is an attempt to head off some of those self-defeating tendencies and minimize the nuttiness. In doing so, this book differs from other writings on guidance in two ways. The first is its emphasis. This volume assumes what other authors carefully and painstakingly identify: the ample scriptural evidence that God guides those who genuinely seek His will and that He desires only the best for His children. So the assumption here is that you don’t need to be persuaded that God is both able and eager to guide us.

The second difference lies in this book’s approach. Most other books on this subject offer systematic, chapter-length expositions on the nature of guidance and its relationship to vital living as a Christian. By contrast, the approach here is far more hands-on, identifying practical problem areas, possible stumbling blocks, areas of confusion, and any other aspects of guidance that can lead to confusion and mistakes. What follows is a series of thoughts on topics about guidance. Each topic, summarized as a principle or key concept, serves as a stepping-stone through what often can be a mental and spiritual swamp for Christians seeking God’s will and direction.

All the topics are built around a foundational section called The Big Five—and Beyond. This is the assumption repeated by many writers that guidance is normally the product of five elements:

1. Scriptural guidelines
2. Prayer
3. The advice of other Christians
4. The circumstances we face
5. A sense of inner peace about our decision

It is typically the combination of these five ingredients that helps lead us toward sound, godly decisions.

Something else that holds together the sixty-two principles in this book is the understanding that guidance is a process that involves carefully thinking through and incorporating The Big Five, as well as other issues pertinent to your situation. Following this introduction is A Guidance Road Map—a set of common questions about guidance, along with the topics that are likely to help you most with each question. Please read The Big Five—and Beyond before dipping into other topics. Without the context it provides, the other sections will be less helpful.

The sixty-two topics, and the principles on which they are based, are presented as generalizations. As such, they need to be seen as part of the broader whole. What’s more, these principles don’t have to be read in order. After reading The Big Five, feel free to browse through the book and pick and choose among the issues that most interest you. Or you can scan the alphabetical list of topics at the back of the book and find subjects of particular concern to you.

As you read the pages ahead, please be aware of the following assumptions that are woven through the array of principles:

+ You take seriously your commitment to follow Christ and seek to live a God-pleasing life. In other words, you earnestly seek God’s will for your life, not His seal of approval for what you plan to do anyway.

+ You take seriously the authority of Scripture and are willing to apply its guidelines to all areas of your life.

+ You already are convinced that God is able and willing to guide you in all aspects of your walk with Him, and you accept that He will do so on His terms and with His timing.

+ You take seriously your God-given ability to think through whatever guidance issues you face.

It’s important to note a truly astonishing fact: We claim as part of our faith not only that the Lord of the universe sent His Son to die for us and redeem us from our sins but also that His interest and love for us continue day by day. Like the most loving of parents, God Himself seeks to guide and direct every facet of our lives.

Two reality checks also need mentioning. The first is that living our lives in a God-directed manner is never easy. Living as we do with a sinful nature, it is extremely difficult to do what we know we should and to avoid what we know we shouldn’t do. Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). If living the day-by-day dimension of following Christ is difficult, it’s no easier when we face those extraordinary moments when tough choices must be made. Søren Kierkegaard, nineteenth-century Danish philosopher and theologian, said, “It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But . . . it must be lived forwards.”

As we grapple with trying to understand God’s guidance in our lives, we often recognize His leading only as we look back. But we must make difficult choices while living life in forward mode. No book on guidance can completely answer anyone’s questions; we each need to answer those ourselves. The ideas outlined in this book are only tools, and they are worthless apart from your commitment to seeking God’s will and your willingness to struggle through issues.

The second reality worth noting concerns our limitations in understanding how God moves in our lives. It is the height of presumption to think that any book can prescribe how God may choose to reveal Himself to us. The only absolute we can be sure of in this regard is that God will not guide us in a way that is contrary to His nature.

A final thought on how God directs our lives: While those who follow Christ agree that God is keenly interested in our lives, they differ on the degree to which He has a “perfect plan” mapped out for each of us. Some contend that God has a carefully worked-out blueprint for our lives: His guidance helps us discover that perfect will, and His Holy Spirit helps us live it out. Other Christians see this approach as artificially narrow. God, they believe, is not boxed into some lockstep, foreordained approach to how our lives unfold. God’s grace, power, and imagination surely transcend whatever mistakes we make or sins we commit, which would presumably otherwise relegate us to a “second best” plan. Rather, God is always able to offer constant, uninhibited love and direction, regardless of how far we might have fallen from His standards in the past.

If the issue of a “perfect plan” is important to you, understand that the bias of this book is clearly toward the latter position. God’s boundless grace in dealing with us makes Him love us no less when we choose something other than His best at any given moment. Yes, God’s discipline may follow our poor choices. But for the Christian who is wholeheartedly seeking God’s will, He presents us with far more of a buffet table of legitimate options than some stiflingly healthy yet tasteless diet. A. W. Tozer, a well-known teacher and writer, said, “The man or woman who is wholly or joyously surrendered to Christ can’t make a wrong choice—any choice will be the right one.”

That remark captures the spirit with which this book is written: that ours is a God of freedom whose guidance we can seek with confidence and enthusiasm. He’s a God of infinite love who enthusiastically champions our case and seeks our best. He is the architect wanting to help us build holy lives, lived to the full (see John 10:10). Yet we sometimes regard Him as the county planning officer who’s looking for every weakness in our plans, smugly catching yet another way we’ve fallen short of the building code. God is not a stickler; rather, He’s the architect who brings our possibilities to reality for our benefit and for His pleasure.

This book is an attempt to assist you as you invite God, the ultimate architect, to help you build your life in keeping with His overall design to make us holy persons. From the foundations to the finishing touches, He is eager to help at each step. The pages that follow are intended to help you build your own house of faith that shall last through eternity.

1

The Big Five—and Beyond

Every quest for guidance should be shaped by scriptural guidelines, prayer, the advice of other Christians, the circumstances we face, and an overall sense that this course is what God wants.

It’s the big picture that counts. A recurring theme found in books on guidance is that you need to look at the big picture as a whole when making major decisions concerning God’s will. Far from basing our decision entirely on a chance remark made in last Sunday’s sermon or on an obscure verse in 2 Kings, God expects us to use all the vehicles He’s made available for our decision making. That’s why it’s important to consider each of The Big Five factors and see how they mesh together as we consider our decision. Again, these five factors are:

1. Scriptural guidelines
2. Prayer
3. The advice of other Christians
4. The circumstances we face
5. A sense of inner peace about our decision

Until you’ve got a thumbs-up on each of the five, you’re probably not ready to make a decision. If, for example, you’re seriously considering a career change, but your spouse or closest friends are advising you against it, you need to check your thinking. Or if you’ve been invited to go on a short-term mission trip and the first four points check out just fine, yet you’ve still got a nagging feeling that something isn’t right, once again it may be best to hold off on your decision and give it further thought.

If you were leaving later today for a trip abroad, you’d make sure you’d taken care of your passport, airline ticket, health insurance, luggage, and spending money. If you were heading for the airport and realized you’d left your passport at home, it’s unlikely you would keep going and say, “Well, four out of five isn’t bad.”

Similarly, you’re probably asking for trouble by heading into a decision without a check mark against each of The Big Five. Is it possible that the advice from your spouse or friends is wrong, or that you’re confusing a lack of inner peace about a decision with plain old nervousness? Of course. The point here isn’t that missing one of these five checkpoints means you shouldn’t go ahead; it simply means there’s a warning light on the dashboard and you’re well advised to take a second look at what’s happening. Or, to switch metaphors, if these five principles don’t line up neatly like lights on a runway, you need to question seriously whether you’re ready to come in for a landing.

Sometimes those landing lights don’t line up neatly, or one warning light keeps flickering on the dash—and yet a major decision still looms. Remember, guidance is seldom a simple, clear-cut process. The words of C. S. Lewis provide a helpful reminder of the many ways God can speak to us: “I don’t doubt that the Holy Spirit guides your decisions from within when you make them with the intention of pleasing God. The error would be to think that he speaks only within, whereas in reality he speaks also through Scripture, the church, Christian friends, books, etc.”

Because working toward the decisions God would have us make can be complex and can lead to ambiguous answers, it’s necessary to dig deeper into our understanding of The Big Five. The separate entries of The Big Five are not of equal importance. The simple flowchart that follows shows that scriptural principles are the starting point. But they’re only the starting point. Each of these five principles merits careful attention. The next step is to examine any of the five elements that merits special attention in your situation. (These topics are addressed in the pages that follow.) Alternatively, you may want to turn directly to other individual topics that speak to your needs. The Guidance Road Map on page 17 will help you do that.

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If you missed any of Brenda Nixon’s blog tour, you can read the summaries here and then check out the participating blogs.

Trish and Brenda talked about building self-esteem in our kids and discipline.

Mary asked Brenda for five pieces of advice in being a successful speaker. Brenda’s answer? Continuing education, understanding networking, joining a speaker’s group, paying your dues, and starting small.

Jennifer included encouragement for parents as a part of her New Habits for the New Year series at 5 Minutes for Mom. She also talked with Brenda about how to stop beating ourselves up for our shortcomings on her personal blog, Snapshot.

On Spaghettipie, Brenda talked about how our role as parents is a high calling.

Melodee talked with Brenda about her life as a writer and speaker.

Brenda shared with Gina about temperaments and building relationships with our kids. They also talked with about writing and balancing writing and parenting on Gina’s personal blog.

Beth reveals Brenda’s “General Parenting Philosophy” on her blog.

Tanya also talked with Brenda about temperaments and how understanding them affects your parenting.

Valerie posted a discussion about how to effectively discipline our children.

Deena interviewed Brenda about parenting teenagers.

Jenn picked Brenda’s brain about how and why she ended up where she is today as a writer.

Kellie asked Brenda to talk about building self-esteem and dealing with blows to our children’s self-esteem.

Melonie and Brenda discussed how to discipline our children, especially without raising our voices.

Katherine ended our tour with an extremely active discussion between Brenda and her readers.

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