Monday, January 31, 2011

A Manifesto in Progress

winner announced at post's end ...

"L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi!" which means in Hebrew, "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!"  That's my final new year's greeting to you for 2011.

I can hardly believe this is the last day of January. Time moves along so quickly.

Later this week I'll post my reading list for February but today I thought I'd post something a little more personal I've been crafting this month. It's a work in progress, just like me. A personal manifesto of sorts.

In corporate-speak, I guess you'd say I'm writing a personal mission statement. But it's not done yet - not in final, finished, ready-to-stamp-on-a plaque-and-hang-by-my-desk form. Nonetheless, I'll go ahead and show it to you. Right now its more a series of statements of what I'm prayerfully looking for.

My Manifesto:

I want to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude, of groundedness, of enough, even while I long for the something more Christ promises.

I want to live deeply, from my head and my heart. Deep in my family and my faith. Rooted and growing.

I want to dwell vibrantly as a Christ follower in my community. As well as vibrantly in the privacy of my home and the solitude of my prayer closet.

I want to walk the earth and feel I’m an organic part of it. Not just a worker, producing for the Gross Domestic Product. Not just a consumer, buying and acquiring. Not just a Nielsen rating, waiting to be digitally entertained. But a bearer of the image – the goodness, peace and joy – of God.

I want to remember I am a hand-made part of God’s green Earth. A beating, breathing piece of humanity made from dust, carbon, water and the very breath of God. I want to remember that each person I encounter is as well, and be to them a tangible representation of a soul walking in tandem with Christ at the intersection of body and spirit.

I carry His creative impulse, and I want to nurture that under His influence for His glory and my joy.

I want to cultivate a pure heart that is still enough, humble enough, and thankful enough to see God.

I want to grow flowers and cook dinner parties and read novels beneath a chenille throw. And I want to enter the homes of the poor, take the hand of the oppressed, and spread the miraculous blood of Jesus.

I want to raise my children to the status of grown in a way that makes them frequently long to come home.

What I’m after is a happy productive life that honors God. And I want to relish the collection of moments that will make it up. Moments that slip so quickly through the hour glass, never to be recouped, only forgotten or remembered with fondness or regrets.

I know I’m going to have to act, feel, decide and pray my way into a life like this each day – for it won’t just come. But it is possible, because the kingdom of God is here. And He dwells within me as my wellspring of life. 

That's the rough draft. Maybe none of it resonates with you, that's okay. But it's welling up in me.
Do you have a personal mission statement? If so, I'd love to read it.

 The winner of this weekend's giveaway is Jenny C. Congrats, Jenny - email me your addy!

Friday, January 28, 2011

On a Friday

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about goodness, peace and joy – like I wrote in today’s The Blessed Life  devotion – and how it not just relates to, but literally IS life in God’s kingdom (Romans 14:17).

Think about that a second.

And it’s God who brings His kingdom to us. We cannot build a tower high enough to glimpse it.

Jesus says that by keeping His commands we remain in His love, which in turn leads to our joy being complete (John 15:10-12).

In his book The Pursuit of Holiness (on my reading list for January) Jerry Bridges quotes Dr. William Hendriksen explaining how God’s love both precedes and follows our obedience. He explains that God’s love “by preceding our love … creates in us the eager desire to keep Christ’s precepts; then by following our love, it rewards us for keeping them.”

Bridges goes on to note that, “Joy not only results from a holy life, but there is also a sense in which joy helps produce a holy life.”

Think about that a second!

I’ve got a full day planned today, but I’m aiming to walk through it with peace and joy. I’m thinking that this, as much as any prayers or good deeds I may do, will elevate this ordinary Friday to the status of holy. Every Friday could be holy, not to mention happy, if lived in this way. So I'm thankful to the Giver for the opportunity to live each day with Him in His kingdom.

That's what I've been thinking - I’d love to hear what you’ve been thinking. What’s God been teaching you lately? Leave a comment about it and you’ll be entered to win the copy of It’s No Secret I’ll give away here on Monday.  Have a lovely weekend.

PS. Wednesday's book winner is Krista Barney. Congrats & email me your addy! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Choice

Welcome. You may have read my devotion about Abigail this morning - that's what I'm elaborating on here.

When I first came to Christ, I found a small "mom & pop owned" Christian bookstore not far around the corner from my house. It had been there all along, but I'd never known quite what it was. Its name, Fishers of Men, sounded like a seafood market which was odd, I thought, for a city in the mountains.

Once I understood the name's reference, I spent a lot of time and money in that shop, reading nearly every book they had. One was called All the Women of the Bible. It was a reference book of sorts, listing out each biblical woman, telling the meaning of her name and the highlights of her story. I was very taken by the story of Abigail.

Fresh off a liberal arts, state college education with plenty of steeping in feminist thought, I couldn't believe how she acted. I wasn't so impressed with how nice Abigail was, but that she was ABLE to be that nice to that man in those circumstances. I was pretty sure I couldn't have acted like Abby did had I wanted to. And, for the record, I didn't want to. I wanted her to clobber her no-good husband Nabal!

And yet I was impressed that she didn't. How could she not?

My tendency back then, and sometimes even now, is to withhold love, help, forgiveness or grace unless or until the other person deserves it. And that's a choice.

Abigail's life teaches me that I can be the kind of person - woman, wife, mother, daughter, friend - that God calls me to be despite how others around me behave. I can be who I want to be, even if that lets them off the hook in some way.

Did Nabal benefit from Abby's goodness without being deserving of those benefits? Yes. But isn't God often good to us without our deserving it? And isn't God deserving of our obedience to be kind and to love our neighbors and enemies, even if those neighbors and enemies are jerks? Yes.

And here's another one to consider, don't we deserve to be women of virtue despite how others choose to see us or treat us?


Yes, we deserve to lead God-honoring, bless-worthy lives regardless of our circumstances, income level, marriage status, physical flaws, lack of stable upbringing or anything else. We can make Abigail's choice to live well. And that's what I'm seeking to do.

Who or what helps you live well?

Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win Friday's drawing for copy of the book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know.

Choose well today!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Muse

I have a bucket full of blooming paper-whites in the window just to the left of me as I write.  The fresh flowers are heavy with scent - like an alluring promise, a beckoning aphrodisiac of spring. Even when I tune them out of my peripheral vision and concentrate on paperwork, their fragrance is inescapable.

I put them here to inspire me.  At times they do. They enrich a sense of well-being. They prompt a passionate search for inspired insights.

Other times they carry me away to future warm days. I daydream, accomplishing little that can be seen. And that's okay because I'd be doing some of that even if they weren't here scenting my thoughts.

They are my temporary muse of sorts.


–verb (used without object)
1. to think or meditate in silence, as on some subject.
2. Archaic . to gaze meditatively or wonderingly.

–verb (used with object)
3. to meditate on. 4. to comment thoughtfully or ruminate upon.

1. ( lowercase ) the genius or powers characteristic of a poet.
2. ( sometimes lowercase ) the power regarded as inspiring a poet, artist, thinker, or the like.

I'd like to say that good writers do not need muses. (Or that the only muse one needs is a deadline to meet.) But I don't believe I can accurately say that.  Can I write, or make art, without flowers in the room? Yes.  But something has to inspire me. Something has to get the proverbial ball rolling. It could be a thought, a memory, a photo, a color, a feeling I want to capture in words. Music. Creation. God's illuminated truth. Very often it's a point I want to make to the world, or one I need to make to myself. But it STARTS somewhere with something.

And when the "basket of starts" appears to dry up, it's a scary thing for an artist.

You do realize we are all artists of some type, right?

Recently a writer friend confessed she'd lost her ability to create.  She couldn't figure out where her passion for writing had gone. She asked me to pray for her. I did. I also assured her I'd lost and found mine multiple times in the past several years.

The next morning, during her quiet time with God, she found it again. Her previously barren start-basket had just a little something in the bottom again.

Reminds me of the story of the widow who'd run out of food but when she trusted God, she found He would miraculously fill her oil and flour jars just enough for each day's meal. (see I Kings 17)

Which reminds me that GOD is always THE muse.

I bet He smells heavenly too.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Classes begin

I love learning. It keeps life interesting - life should interest.

It's week two of the semester and I'm enjoying being on the other side of the classroom for a change - in the student's seat. I'm sitting in on a Psychology of Religion class at my state university this semester and so far it's fascinating. Not to mention, since I'm in the fellow-student's seat and not the teacher's, I'm free to comment however I feel led.
The prof is an excellent teacher. He is not a Christian, though his mother is a strong Southern Baptist.

The best part though, is my husband walks me to class.  He meets me in the parking lot and escorts me to the classroom door.  If you read chapter one of It's No Secret, you'll understand why this makes me giddy. I feel young.

Other professors see us in the hall and smile as we kiss goodbye at the classroom doorway.  (Note, we did not do that in chapter one's story.) So I think this class could be good for my marriage. Maybe I'll take more in the future. A creative writing class maybe. I wonder if they have university cooking classes?

Today I'm also reading some in the book of Esther. I'm doing Beth Moore's Esther study this nine weeks and have to be ready to lead tomorrow night's session. Have you done this one? We're just starting but I'm certain I'll learn loads between these pages.

I think Beth's studies are terrific. I'm also kind of partial to Jennifer Kennedy Dean's studies. Do you have a favorite? I'm guessing no one will answer this one, but ever read anything on the psychology of religion?  My inner geek wants to write a "This is Your Brain on God" book!

Off to finish my homework...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Here's to her

I was really encouraged to get this response for a woman who read my devotion Time and Again this week.  She wrote to say:

Rachel...I just read "Time and Again"...and this is the first day that I am seeing my way thru even making a resolution. It seemed like something so "useless" to do. I thought...why set myself up! But after reading what you wrote...well, that really helped me to see how it can be done, and the priorities of the attempt.

That thrilled me because, like her, I wasted too much time assuming it's useless to expect change. I've since discovered change IS possible - it just takes some slight adjustments to our status quo. Here's what I wrote back to her:

You are right, the turning of a calendar page, or the declaring of “I’m going to do _______” does extremely little to change anything in our lives or habits. So from that standpoint, why set ourselves up to expect change? BUT, if we’ll put a few things behind that declaration, as a foundation for it, we CAN see change. Things like:

  • Leaning into God, and regularly asking for his wisdom, power and grace – because we know we can’t do it alone and we refuse to expect ourselves to.
  • Allowing God to redefine our “I can’t” or our “I’ve never been able to,” with “In God all things are possible” and “I will seek Him first and let Him empower the rest in me.”
  • Narrowing our focus (down from a list of 47 things we want to be different) to just one or two things to concentrate on this year.
  • Determining small, specific changes that will build over time into noticeable results – and then make those changes.

I hope you, like this new friend and I, are moving forward into 2011 in wisdom and confidence, knowing that change is possible but it rarely happens magically overnight. And I hope that you are making choices that will build into positive change. After all, to do something we've never done before, we have to be someone we've never been before. 

So here's to THAT girl!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Commit Your Plans

So what is it you are hoping will change for you in 2011?  What's the goal you've outwardly set or inwardly longed for?

And what reality has to be redefined for you to see that come to pass in the space of the next 12 months?

Francis Frangipane writes, "Humans are cocooned, insulated against change by the familiar. When we work all day only to come home, watch television, then collapse in bed, our lifestyle becomes a chain of bondage. These things may not necessarily trap us in sin as much as they keep us from God."

My pastor is fond of saying, "In order to do what we've never done before, we have to be someone we've never been before." So what kind of person do you need to be in 2011?  And what does that mean you have to do today to get there?

For the last 5 or so years our church has done New Year's resolutions a little differently. We've individually chosen one word to focus on for the entire year. Just one word to encapsulate what it is - after giving it some prayer and careful thought - that we are aiming at. It's sort of a one word goal/lens/reminder/prayer.

Maybe you'd like to try that too.  Maybe you already heard my pastor, Mike Ashcraft, talking about it last week on K-Love when Lysa T. was guest hosting, and you've already picked your word.  For more info on that go to our site  And if you've chosen a word, I'd love to hear what it is!

Regardless of if you've made a resolution, or chosen a word, or just cried on your pillow begging God to help you make some changes ... let me ask you again, what do you have to do today to see that mountain move and your desired outcome come to pass? 

And more importantly, how will you commit those plans unto the Lord, and plug into His power to accomplish them?

That, my friends, is more than just food for thought - more than a cinnamonon bun and cup of decaf - it's training in godliness. Speaking of food for thought though, I'm off to the university for the first day of class this morning in the new course The Psychology of Religion.  Hum ... should be interesting!

Blessings ~ Rachel

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Organized for 2011

The start of every year I start hunting the calendar asiles for a new planner. I'm not a planner-kind-of-gal by nature ... I'm more of a let-me-live-a-productive-but-unstructured-kind-of-life gal.  But given that I have a family, four part-time jobs, events I attend, volunteer positions and a semblence of a social life, well, my memory needs some back up.

A lot of back up actually.

I keep wishing I could get with the current century and run my life electronically. I tried Google calenders three years ago, but it wasn't pretty enough for me. I'm very visual. A couple years before that I tried; that didn't last long. At one point last year I tried Nobze - it's fantastic online software, but I couldn't keep with it for the full 3 month free-trial period so I didn't subscribe. 

After multiple tries at electronic online organizing, I have to admit I'm a paper and pencil person.

This year I've come to accept something else about myself: calenders that seperate time into little squares and rectangles don't work for me either. At all. I must be too fluid, visual, creative, rebellious or something.

I can't tell you how many paper calenders, daytimers and planners I've tried and abandoned.  Seriously, calender companies love me.  I'm their favorite kind of customer.

What I really need is a personal assistant to be my calender, sounding board, and general external brain hard drive. I'm still praying for her to move in next door to me and offer to work for lattes.  Until then I've found a paper and pencil system that I think has the potentional to hold me together in 2011.

Amanda at Ahhh Designs created these super cute calendar-planner template pages you can download and print out to create a system taliored to your needs. I now have sylish, colorful pages for planning projects, mapping goals, planning blog posts, plus yearly, monthly and daily calender pages and more. 

I inserted them in a 3 ring portfolio and added tabs to create sections.

And the best part is that my daily pages are not a grid of hourly time frames, but big open spaces to allow me to jot, write, list, and draw all over the page.

I paid $8 for the full package but many of them are available for free at her site. It's only been 2 weeks, but I'm loving it so far. Feel free to ask me in March or May if it's still working for me. 

And feel free to tell me if you were planning to move to a beach town and find a fun, rewarding part-time job that pays in laughs, lattes and about all the books you'd ever want to read - I can so hook you up!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day

I haven't forgotten about showing you my new 2011 calender system. Marybeth Whalen saw it this weekend and agreed it's both functional and cute. She called me on Friday to say she'd be speaking just a couple hours away, and could I come join her for a little girlfriends' getaway afterwards? I was practically dragging my suitcase from the closet before she'd finished the question.

So I'm going to show it to you tomorrow, and give you the links to make your own. Today, however, I'm taking a southern snow day! A couple inches of snow fell this morning - enough to cancel school, attempt sledding on a nearby "hill," and accept the neighbor's challenge to a snow ball fight.

While waiting for my fingers to thaw, I'll be having chicken noodle soup and finishing the novel Snow Day while under a blanket.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Writing about Writing

Despite the fact that I am a published writer and a working editor, I don't talk about writing much here. It seems like the majority of authors write about writing on their sites. I guess that makes sense, but then again their sites seem more geared to other writers than to their readers.

Not criticizing that fact, just pointing out one of the reasons I've shied away from posting much about writing. The blogosphere seems a bit crowded already.

There's another reason though. I have an internal governor that points out to me things that could easily become idols in my life. (It's both handy and annoying.) Writing is one of those possible idols.

Why? Because I truly enjoying writing (when it's going well). I love the process. Plus, there's a measure of glory in it for the writer, when she does it well.  Not to mention the "writer's life" has long been glorified by our culture.

  So I could become quite caught up in the writing life, and most people would find that totally acceptable given my profession. But I'm not so sure God would.

I know my God is a jealous God, in the sense that He is perfectly willing to take away things that I make idols of.  I don't say that with paranoia - I live and enjoy my life and craft.  But this truth remains firmly planted in my subconscious, reminding me and checking me.

And so, I've not spent a lot of time musing or writing about writing here.

However, this year I'm sensing a relaxing of the internal governor in this area. Maybe because I've got a lot of writing projects ahead and God knows I need to keep my mind on, and further hone, my craft to steward those opportunities well. 

Or maybe, after years of living with this check in my spirit, God has effectively dismantled the few bricks I'd drug together to form an alter to words, creativity, and sitting in coffee shops with paper and laptop.

So with that said, you can expect me to post some on writing this year. Not about the rules of grammar so much as about the creative process. More muse than mechanics. Not about where to get published so much as where to get motivatied.  And how to get past your worst critic, who lives in your own home and walks around in your own shoes.

So I pray those future posts contain words that are helpful to us both - whether or not you write at all - as we seek to live satisfying lives using our gifts and passions to nourish others and please God.

Speaking of tapping into the creative - here's why Donald Miller suspects people today are less creative.

Off to write today, then to hear Marybeth Whalen speak tonight.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Partial Reading List

Here's a list of books I'm either starting, continuing in, or completing month-by-month in 2011.  I call this a partial list because I know I'll forget to list a few!

I read books for a variety of reasons.  Some for professional development. Some for faith development. Some as part of the selection committee for She Reads. Some in conjunction with my job at the university.  Some as part of a book club. Some as research for my writing projects.  And some in conjunction with upcoming sermon series as I work with my pastor on messages at my local church. And of course, a few just for fun. 

If you know of a good book to recommend - leave me a comment.


Think by John Piper
Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst
Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath
Snow Day by Billy Coffey
The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges (free audio download this month)

I'm also doing Beth Moore's study on Esther with a small group.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Fresh Year

Happy New Year!  Another year of the Lord (A.D.) is upon us.  What are you planning for 2011?

I absolutely adore the week between Christmas and New Year's. It feels like bonus time to me. Bonus time to wrap up the previous year and prepare for the coming year. And that's precisely what I've been doing ... in between celebrating my daughter's birthday, gathering with the Olsen gals to make cupcakes, a family trip to the library, taking down Christmas decor, two trips to the mall with my daughter, remodelling the kid's bathroom (Rick has done most of that), and planting some amarylis and paper whites. 

I also spent some time shopping for a new calendar and planner.  Do you use one?  Have you found one that really works for you?  Do tell me your system - I really want to know!  This week I'll show you the planner/calender system I've been setting up for 2011. And I'll give you a link to follow if you want to create one yourself too.

I'm not quite done with it yet, so I'm all ears for how you plan and organize your days.  Seen any good posts on this?  Send me their way. 

Enjoy the first day of this fresh, new year.