Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Present Perfect" by Greg Boyd

I've recently read the book, Present Perfect, by Gregory A. Boyd. Greg is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., and founder and president of Christus Victor Ministries. He was a professor of theology at Bethel College (St. Paul, Minn.) for sixteen years where he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor.  Greg is a national and international speaker and author or coauthor of  eighteen books prior to Present Perfect.

My first exposure to Greg was reading his book, God at War. I cannot tell you how he expanded my thinking, so I enthusiastically agreed to review Present Perfect, which released in 2010. I have not been disappointed.

After receiving a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher for review, I quickly dove in, however I discovered I could not rush through this one. It's very easy to read, but I had to take my time. I just missed the days of Greg's blog tour, but I don't regret spending a few extra days in this book. This book is life-changing and I will read it many times again.

Present Perfect focuses on the awareness of God's presence in the present moment. Greg draws from three authors: Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Jean-Pierre de Caussade and Frank Laubach. The first two were seventeenth-century monks. I remember reading Brother Lawrence's book, The Practice of the Presence of God, in college in the early 80's. It had a lasting impact on my life. Recently, literally the day before I began Present Perfect, I finished the book The Sacrement of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. I had no idea Greg's book would be about the same concept, nor that he would draw from de Caussade's book.

The basic premise is to become aware of God's presence and love in each present moment. This awareness brings Christ's life and love into our lives and conforms us into His image. I cannot think of any other discipline in the Christian's life that could have such an impact on the Christian, the Church or the world. It's true it must become a discipline, then a practice, then a habit, but little by little we are made into the image of Christ. We're aware of His love for us and others as we practice His presence in the present moment.

My husband is a pastor. He's already read the book and we will recommend it to our church. See for yourself. Check out Greg's website and other comments about Present Perfect, released by Zondervan 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Planning, Expectation & Joy

Why is it we expect life to turn out just like we planned?

Has that ever happened? Is it realistic to even hope? I don't think so. Yet we plan our life's biggest events believing they will turn out just exactly as we planned. And when they don't? Of course, we're crushed.

I have weddings on my mind right now. My son will be getting married this Fall and my friend's son is getting married in a couple of weeks. I also have the opportunity to observe other brides-to-be since I work in a college. Most brides are. . . well, beautiful of course. . . but before the actual day, they can become spinning, green monsters with five eyes, thirty-six hands and at least three mouths with which to bark orders. Not my daughter-in-law-to-be, of course, she's actually quite relaxed about the whole thing. At least from what I can tell from a few thousand miles and five months away.

Girls typically plan their wedding in their head from the time they first played house or Barbie. We know the colors, the dress-style, the location, even the weather conditions. No, we never stopped to consider that there might be some things in our planning that were beyond our control. In our fantasy world, it was all in our control.

Thus the problem when the actual moment arrives in our life. Why aren't things going as planned? Why doesn't everyone know what I want? Why don't we have enough money for all of it? And why can't the weather cooperate? In our fantasy, Aunt So & So never wore a Hawaiian-print pants suit that clashed with our color scheme. Our nephew never knocked over the punch and Uncle Here-We-Go-Again didn't get plastered at the open bar.

It's not just at weddings that we have these unrealistic expectations about life. Almost any event that we know about ahead of time, anything that takes planning, we expect to be perfect--according to our plan.

And what happens when it doesn't go according to plan?

Even our life, itself, never goes according to our plan or expectation. We never planned to marry an abusive person. Or, we never planned to get divorced or have someone close to us pass away early in life. We never thought we'd still be earning such a low income and be unable to buy a house at 40. We never expected to have a child with a handicap.

What about smaller expectations, a little closer to home, maybe? I never thought I'd still be struggling with this food addiction by this age. I never thought I'd react like my parents did. I thought I would've accomplished so much more for God by now.

Expectations like these can lead to discouragement or something more severe.

Planning is vital, don't get me wrong. We need to plan. And we need expectations too, but hey, we're not yet in Heaven and we're not yet perfect. Life will NOT go as planned, you can plan on it, so leave yourself some emotional latitude. When you've laid out your plans and done your best to follow them; when you've given your all and still it didn't turn out the way you wanted it to, then take a step back. Breathe God's fresh air. Allow Him to be sovereign. His plans are not our plans. He can take the mess you think you have and work it all out for good--even for the best.

All this to say: Make your plans and follow them. Then enjoy the ride, bumps and all. Weddings, marriages, coordinated events, jobs and life will be so much more fun if you do. Don't stress over the little things. Focus on your blessings. Enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Crossing Oceans

Nothing deepens a stream like a good rain . . . or makes it harder to cross. Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But life has a way of upending even the best-laid plans. Now, years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank-toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter.

As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love to change everything—to heal old hurts, to bring new beginnings . . . even to overcome the impossible.

Crossing Oceans, by Gina Holmes Waters, published by Tyndale, officially released May 2010. It is a captivating tale of life and death. Crossing Oceans inspires insight beyond petty differences into eternity. With that kind of vision we gain a better perspective and learn what love really means.

Here's what others have said about Crossing Oceans:

“Beautiful and heartfelt.”
Charles Martin, NYT bestselling author of Where the River Ends

“Poignant and unforgettable, CROSSING OCEANS will break your heart — and then put the pieces back together again. This is an uplifting and inspiring tale that reminds us to live every day as if it’s our last.”
Tess Gerritsen, NYT Best-selling author .

“Moving, heart-rending and poignant, a stunning debut. Holmes returns us to what matters in a too-short life—what it really is to come home.”
Tosca Lee, Author of Havah & Demon: A Memoir

“Gina Holmes explores the beauty, tenderness and tenacity of mother-love in Crossing Oceans with marvelous skill and insight. An outstanding debut from a gifted storyteller. Bravo!
Susan Meissner, Author of The Shape of Mercy