Showing posts from 2009

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Merry Christmas

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust Him. (Romans 15:13)

after a long silence . . .

Happy Halloween!

Review: Talking to the Dead

Talking to the Dead, by Bonnie Grove (David C. Cook, 2009) is a hard-to-put down first novel.

Twentysomething Kate Davis can't get her husband, Kevin, out of her mind. He's dead, but he won't stop talking to her.

Is she crazy? Why can't she stop grieving? Why can't she even enter their bedroom?

Kate's efforts to deal with her grief lead her to strange outbursts that strain relationships with friends and family. She seek's help from several counselors and a paster who are less than helpful. Finally she finds a therapy group that may help and she meets Jack, a kind and unconventional pastor.

But Kevin's keeps talking and his secrets won't stay hidden. Was Kate losing her mind? Would she ever find grace and health?

This book was wonderfully crafted with psychological mysteries that ring true and surprising plot twists. I didn't want to put the book down until I knew the ending.

I'd recommend this book. Excellent.

Hidden values of obstacles

Michael Hyatt recently discussed the value of obstacles on his blog. He encouraged his readers to learn to embrace obstacles instead of resisting or resenting them. Obstacles can shape, hone, and prepare people for the tasks ahead. Obstacles can challenge and reveal our priorities and perspectives.

Great reading, good encouragement:

The Necessity of Obstacles, Part 1
The Necessity of Obstacles, Part 2

Michael Hyatt's comments on this topic remind me of what Randy Pausch said of obstacles in his Last Lecture:
"The brick walls are there for a reason... The brick walls are not there to keep us out, the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something," he said. "Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the OTHER people."Good to remember.

How about you? What obstacle do you face today? What can you learn from it?

Review: The King's Legacy by Jim Stovall

The King's Legacy: A Story of Wisdom for the Ages by Jim Stovall, David C. Cook, 2009.

This edition of The King's Legacy is the second printing, a gift edition with a presentation page. This little book by the best-selling author of The Ultimate Gift is a fast read and attractively illustrated with black and white sketches.

The introduction was friendly, thanking me for investing time in reading this book. Stovall won my attention right away when I read, "My greatest desire is that your investment of time will be richly rewarded and pay wonderful dividends for the rest of your life."

Yeah, you and me both. In this economy we can all use a few wonderful dividends.

The story sounds like a fairy tale, of sorts, but a search for wisdom has timeless value, the kind that comes with dividends.

Stovall weaves a tale of an enchanted kingdom long ago and far away, where a king decides to leave a legacy. One of his wise men suggest that a legacy of the Wisdom of the Ages would be la…

When Early was late

We've been exploring the history of the region in recent months. So, we visited a nearby Civil War site and learned more about the Battle of Monocacy, the "Battle That Saved Washington."

Some of the events of that Civil War battle inspire me.

In July 1864, Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace commanded the irregular Union forces that positioned themselves in Frederick, Md. when Lt. Gen. Jubal Early's hardened soldiers marched toward Washington, D.C. Wallace was outnumbered, but his inexperienced troops battled through the day.

Technically, the Battle of Monocacy was recorded as a Confederate victory since the Confederates eventually overran the Union forces and pushed them into a retreat to Baltimore. In a longer view, the battle helped to achieve a victory days later at Fort Stevens.

Hours mattered.

The hours that Early and his forces fought in Frederick gave General Ulysses S. Grant time to reinforce defenses around Washington, D.C. So, by the time Early's straggling and exhausted…

Thank you, Veterans

Memorial Day 2009.

We attended the National Memorial Day concert last night on the West Lawn of the Capitol. The service was stirring and my heart is still thankful.

During Memorial Day weekend, perhaps more than other days, I think about the sacrifices and service you gave to this country. You risked much, and you endured unimaginable things during times of peace (I don't believe I could get through Boot Camp) and during horrific times of war.

As a nation, we have much to be grateful for. For more than 200 years, from Revolutionary times to actions in present-day Afghanistan and Iraq, this people has depended on its citizen soldiers and those who enlisted in its Armed Forces. You have protected and defended this nation. Thank you.

I am grateful.

Thank you for the freedoms and privileges we enjoy in this country that your service made possible.

Thank you for heeding the call of duty in times of your nation's needs.

Thank you for putting yourself on the line so others you would never…

Memorial Day 2009: Commemorative events at historic sites

Through out our country's history, brave men and women served on muddy battlefields or along dusty roadsides, in silent offices, battle weary ships or noisy planes.From Revolutionary times to current events in Afghanistan and Iraq, this nation owes much to the brave men and women who've served this country well.Memorial Day weekend commemorative events are opportunities to remember.Being at a historic site during Memorial Day weekend can amplify memories and enhance the significance of this holiday.For this reason, during Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of thousands of people visit museums and monuments in the Washington, D.C. area.Today and tomorrow, the following historic sites in the Washington, D.C. area will have one or more commemorative events that are open to the public and free:National Memorial Day Concert, West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol - Sun., May 24, 8:00 - 9:30 p.m. National Symphony Orchestra, actors, dignitaries and musical artists. Co-hosted by Gary Sinise (CSI:…

Responding to a writing opportunity at

I started writing for I'm now the DC Historic Travel Examiner. Last night I posted my first article on Arlington National Cemetery since yesterday marked its 145th year. With Memorial Day approaching, this is a good time to think about those who came before us and sacrificed so we could enjoy the many freedoms we have.

If you're interested in history in the metropolitan DC area, you're welcome to visit my Web page at Let me know what you think.

Got requests?
I take requests! If there are specific areas you'd be interested in reading, drop me a line and I'll look into them. Monticello is now on my list of places to visit and research.

Want to write?
If you're interested in writing for, they still have slots for writers. Tell them I sent you.

I enjoy learning about and learning from history. We can learn much from those who've gone before us, if we would only observe and listen.

How about you? In what ways has learning abou…

Gustave Niebuhr: On "How Much Words Matter"

Religion writer Gustav Niebuhr, author of Beyond Tolerance, spoke on how much words matter at the Evangelical Press Association convention in Indianapolis, May 6-8, 2009.

This may seem a strange message to share with a banquet room filled with professional editors and writers. If anyone knows the importance of words, surely these gifted communicators would.

But even experienced communicators may need a reminder during these economic times. When long-standing institutions stop their presses, lay off employees or decide to only publish online, economic worries can cloud judgments and distort perspectives.

Encouragement to revist reasons to communicate despite obstacles and economic woes is a timely reminder for communicators in any field.

I wrote down several comments that touched my heart:
"Words carry power and can be profoundly transformative."

"Something you say or write may embed [itself] in another person's consciousness and change the way they live and act in the wor…

National days of celebration

Two national days of celebrating have just passed: Mother's Day and the National Day of Prayer. Father's Day and National Grandparents' Day are yet to come.

Mothers, fathers, grandparents and prayer are important every day of the year. Can you imagine life without any one of them?

Life without parents? Unthinkable
Without parents or grandparents, where would we be?

If we hadn't been born, maybe we'd be living with God, somehow, somewhere. But how would we enter into this life's reality without those specific individuals in our family tree who lived, loved and allowed us to exist?

Prayer gifts
Then there's prayer. Without prayer, we may not venture into life as fully or as joyfully. Prayer frees us to follow God's ways and avail ourselves of resources beyond our capabilities: love for others, including the unlovely; wisdom for all puzzles, big and small; strength for challenges; and all manner of spiritual gifts for tasks at hand.

We join our voices in prayer o…

Starting over in the 50s

A friend at church lost his bookstore business. He has to start over, knocking on doors, explaining why he needs a job.

In today's economy, it isn't easy to find a niche where someone over 50 will fit. At a liveable wage. It isn't easy if you're younger than 50 either.

"You have many marketable skills. Someone needs what you can do." He tentatively nodded his head.

"It might take a long time to find a place."

Yes, it could be a painful search. Humiliating. Humbling. I didn't say this out loud.

Pain etched my friend's face. Age discrimination is illegal. Yet it happens.

In interviews he's gone on recently people look at him and express concern he will retire in a few years.

"I don't know too many people who can retire anymore. We're going to be working until the day we die, in one way or another." He nodded. "Well, you'll need to tell them that. You'll need to sell yourself."

We sat in the foyer of the church…

Refuse to give up

But the bottom line is, most successful authors are those who simply refuse to give up.

-- Terry Burns, Hartline Literary Agency Terry Burn's statement, as part of a recent online ACFW class, hit a nerve.

"Refuse to give up" is wise advice for many endeavors. This thought ran through my head today at odd moments -- while waiting for a traffic light to turn green, while watching a toddler daintily dip a McDonald's french fry into ketchup, or while thinking in a quiet house late at night.
Keep at it. Don't give up. Refuse to give up.I hear this message on "The Biggest Loser." I enjoy watching this reality show, not so much because of the weight loss, but because of the daily, weekly and persistent process the contestants undergo. They set a goal, try, make choices, and achieve results, sometimes positive, sometimes not. They learn to master their bodies and appetites. They also must overcome self-doubt, pressure, negative thinking and the inevitable compariso…

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Lifeby Joanna Weaver, Waterbrook Press 2000.

Thought-provoking thoughts abound in this beautifully written book by Joanna Weaver, an author, pastor's wife and mother of two. Reading this book reminds me to slow down and soak in God's love and truth. Some days I hop into the whirl of activities without that cleansing peaceful time. Other days, I catch up in the evening with quiet time and a willing-to-be-quiet heart.

One night, I found myself getting tired and crabby. I sent myself to my room and settled in with another chapter from this book. Excellent remedy to send me to God's Word for cleansing and a realigned perspective.

How about you? What reminds you to seek God's quiet amid life's busyness?

Happy Earth Day

"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it." (I Cor. 10:26 NIV) That's reason enough for me to celebrate.

I'm loving the partly sunny day - not too hot, not too bright weather today.

I'm particularly grateful today for those who set aside parks and national wilderness areas. I love the sequoias; and I'm grateful people protected them so other generations could enjoy their beauty.

We see something of the beauty of God when we look at his practical art creations.

How do you contribute to the Earth's care and well-being for the good of us all? What small thing can you do to make a difference?

Photo credit: Public Domain, courtesy of p d

Courage to follow a dream

An unknown singer caught the attention of millions in a recent Britain's Got Talent audition. When Susan Boyle walked out on the stage, her appearance didn't prepare anyone for the melodious soulful sounds she created.

Susan Boyle tried out for the show. Her courage and talent inspire me to dare to reach out and be all that I can be.

Way to go, Susan. Thank you for sharing your beautiful voice with us all.

Listen to Susan Boyle.

What or who encourages you to follow your dreams?

Springtime in Indianapolis

Cherry blossoms in Indianapolis are just as beautiful as those near my home in Maryland.

Dogwoods, forsythia, dandylions... all the familiar blooms I look for in Spring are here.

Home is an open heart, thankful for the beauty of this moment.

Time to get busy

I won first prize!

Prize #1: One "The Works" edit - up to 100,000 words (up to $1,000 value)

Now I need to get busy and put words to paper!

Write Integrity Contest will be giving away prizes this Saturday

Write Integrity Editorial Services is celebrating a grand opening. In honor of this event, they are hosting a contest.

On Saturday, March 7th, Write Integrity will announce winners for the following prizes:Prize #1: One "The Works" edit - up to 100,000 words (up to $1,000 value)Prize #2: One "Conference Special" edit of your first three chapters and synopsis ($200 value)Prize #3: One Web site design - up to 5 pages - ($500 value)Prize #4: One Blog tour #2 ($350 value)Prize #5: One year free Web hosting ($95.40 value)Prize #6: One "One-Sheet" Design ($50 value)Prize #7: One Image Package ($1,000 value.) This package includes a logo design, domain name, Web site, and business card and letterhead design, and one year of free web hosting. Visit Write Integrity for more information on their contest and services.

Called to overcome

We're called to overcome. We're like salmon, swimming up the current, fighting hazards, striving to a goal just out of reach.

Some of us make it to the goal. Survivors.

Some of us just can't. There are many reasons.

We are called to overcome the things that would hold us back and suck us under. The difficult circumstances, the impossible expectations, the quicksand feelings, the hazards of life, the injustices and unkindnesses and tragedies all around -- we are called to choose life, to choose hope, to choose faith in a just and caring God who helps us.

We are called to walk in grace. And if we fall, when we fall, we are called to get up and keep going. He calls us to himself. He overcame. He calls us to overcome all that would keep us from his freedom and joy.

We are called to be like him.

What do you struggle with today? Do you hear God's call to overcome? He can help you do it.

Facebook restores terms of service during review

The New York Times website reported today that Facebook has restored its terms of service (TOC) agreement. A recent revision to the TOC extended Facebook's rights to unseemly limits, provoking outrage. This turn around is in response to numerous complaints and concerns from people around the world.

Facebook announced it will consider public concerns and revise their terms of service agreement. This process may take several weeks.

Good move.

Read the article.

Suicide—A Preventable Tragedy? | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, UTube, LinkedIn and Twitter

Amanda French compares terms of service contracts in popular social networking website.

Read her blog post, Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, UTube, LinkedIn and Twitter.

In a morally lax world, what do you do with fly by sights?

An instructor at Biola once said, "You can't keep birds from flying over you, but you don't have to let them build a nest on your head."

The context of his comment was to encourage students in the morally lax 70s not to take that second and lingering look. That was David's mistake with the beautiful Bathsheba and led him down a dangerous path.

I wonder if today's students are hearing and responding to messages encouraging purity in a muddy world. Some of that mud is quicksand.

Something to think about.

'Sexting': What would Jesus do?

It bothers me that 'sexting' teens may face child porn charges. I'm conflicted. What would Jesus do?

Child pornography convictions can mar a young person's future. In states where these charges are a felony, like Virginia, convicted felons lose voting rights and the right to serve on a jury. Child pornography sentences include mandatory registry in sex offender databases and public publication of faces, names, and addresses. Felony convictions restrict job opportunities in many ways.

I used to think that felons were murderers or drug dealers. Now, it seems, a person can become a candidate for becoming a felon in the blick of a message on a cell phone. Laws make it easy to prosecute someone with a photo, even a deleted photo.

It is too easy for young people to get hurt these days by possessing photo debris from friends or from cyberspace. The photo could be of a teen who is now in her 50s, yet the law may prosecute the possessor of that photo anyway.

Child porn photos are …

'Sexting' Teens May Face Child Porn Charges

A recent article, 'Sexting' Teens May Face Child Porn Charges, posted on ABC New's website, has attracted a great deal of attention and comments.

Authorities are considering charging six eigth grade students who possessed a partially nude picture of a fellow student on their cell phone.

The article continues to state that authorities want to send a strong message to students who are texting nude pictures to one another on cell phones. The practice of Sexting is become more prevalent and it can have serious legal consequences.

Current laws make possession of child pornography a crime. In Massachusetts possession of child pornography is a felony even though in this case the girl took the picture of herself and sent it to friends. If convicted, these students may spend time in prison and they will be required to register as sex offenders for years.

Most of the comments posted on ABC New's website expressed surprise, anger and dismay that authorities were considering prosecuti…

Love stands alongside

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”- 1 Corinthians 13: 6-7

Love stands alongside a loved one. Love is there for him. Love is there for her.

Love doesn't like unkind or ugly things said or done; but, love is glad when he admits the truth, takes responsibility and embraces honorable ways.

Love stands by to protect.

Love trusts God at work in imperfect people.

Love hopes.

Love perseveres whatever it must, for however long it has to. Love can go the distance.

God's love is like that.

When God helps us love ourselves ... our children ... a spouse ... and others with this kind of love... our hearts are rich and the world is a better place.

When we are in Christ, we can be a vessel of God's healing love.

Photo Credits: www.pfphoto (dot) org. Note: caption to photo read: " I waited to try and see this fat creature get back on it~~s feet, but it never did. I wonder if they come out every once in…


Do you really believe you are forgiven?

Do you really believe Christ died to cleanse us from all the shameful, dirty, unkind things we have ever said or did?

If we could only see God's desire to draw us close and comfort us. He doesn't find us too dirty, too marred. He isn't ashamed to be called our Father. He loves us and reaches out to restore us to a close relationship with him and with others.

God doesn't condemn those who turn to him. He doesn't want us to wear a mantle of shame.

If you feel condemned, ask God to forgive you. He promises to cleanse (1 John 1:9) .

If you still feel condemned, hold tight to the knowledge that God does not condemn those who seek his refuge (Romans 8:1-4). Lean on his promise: He draws near to those who draw near to him (James 4:8).

Those who seek God will find him (Proverbs 8:17). And he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Do you feel clean and forgiven? If you feel condemned, it may not be God talking.

Sharing in ways that encourage others

Debbie Morris, author of Forgiving the Dead Man Walking, spoke at our church this weekend. She shared her story of being kidnapped when she was 14. She and her boyfriend were sipping milkshakes on a date when two men attacked them. They shot her boyfriend and they repeatedly raped Debbie over a two-day-terror spree across several states.

Debbie shared her story with our church and community with candidness and honesty. She described her struggle to forgive as a multi-layered process. It took her years to reach the point where she was willing to forgive. And since that time, when an event or an anniversary triggers more anger to surface, Debbie said she is quicker now to seek God's help to forgive yet another aspect of what she suffered.

Debbie shared many true observations about forgiveness that are relevant to others, even those who have not suffered from an extreme situation such as hers.

She said forgiveness was a decision, not a feeling thing. She used the phrase, "Fake it …

Lyrics worth living, one day at a time

It isn't often a dying man leads us in song. Last night was special.

Last night The Salvation Army's National Capital Band played at Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church (GPC). James B. Anderson directed his thirty talented band members. This was the second year the band played a hymn sing just prior to the church's annual Chili Dinner.

Earlier in the day, I asked Ann Schmidt, GPC's director of music, if this would become an annual event. Ann didn't know. She said the director had cancer and doctors had given him only 3 months to live. That was in July.

Last night, I listened and watched James Anderson as he joyfully directed the young musicians. From time to time, Anderson recited lyrics or told us background information about the Salvation Army's origins. His lyrical Scottish accent had a music all its own. He never mentioned he was dying. Joy filled his face and energized his movements.

I was impressed.

If I had only a few months to live, would I be conducting a co…

Inauguration views from a speck on the Mall

A record-breaking crowd of nearly 2 million met on the National Mall to witness the Inauguration of President-elect Barak Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Lauren and I were there. We were two specks in the flag-waving faces on the National Mall.

Whenever the announcer would say, "You can now be seated," the crowd laughed. Where we stood, sitting was a luxury we wouldn't find for hours as more and more people gently pushed their way into the area.
Speeches and announcements boomed from speakers positioned along the soggy grass on the National Mall. If not always the sights, at least the music and the messages of the day's events were audible to those who were tall enough to see and those who huddled between them. When human pillars around us shifted positions, we strained to catch glimpses of the Capitol building or watch sharp shooters on museum rooftops or stare at images flashed on jumbotrons. The large screens displayed politicians and dignitaries …

Room to be a part of history

Matt, Lauren and I drove around Washington, D.C., today. We wanted to see and be part of a moment of history in the making.

Inauguration preparations decorated D.C. I've never seen so many police cars, temporary fences, fur coats and lines of port-a-potties near the National Mall. Crowds of pedestrians clogged major intersections. We didn't mind since it gave us a chance to snap photos.Tomorrow, when even larger swirls and streams of pedestrians are let loose in Washington, Lauren and I plan to be a pair of specks among the many, perhaps millions, who are drawn to the area and the moment.This week large screens flank and festoon areas near the Washington Monument and the Capitol grounds. Not everyone will see Obama's inauguration in person tomorrow. Many will look toward one of those large screens as, simultaneously, millions of others witness the events in homes, businesses, and on palm-held devices around the world.Why will people stand in the cold tomorrow to watch histo…

Seeking God's Smile

This week's topic in The Writer's View 2 (TWV2), an AOL online writer's group, yielded a painful truth: few writers earn a living only from writing.

Today, the panelist who initiated the discussion, focused a spotlight on a more important truth among these harsh realities of the publishing field. Cec Murphey wrote these faith-filled words to other Christian communicators:
Dream big. Work hard. If you truly believe that God is sovereign, it means your responsibility is to be faithful as you continue to improve your craft and send out manuscripts. One day God might smile brightly on you.

Cecil ("Cec") Murphey
www.cecilmurphey.comDoes faithful and hard work pay off in writing or in any area of life? Maybe not in blockbuster sales or six-figure salaries. But God rewards his servants in amazing ways -- seen and unseen. Consider the hope the Apostle Paul shared with believers:
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move …

"When my spirit grows faint within me . . ."

"When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who know my way." Psalm 142: 3a (NIV)David wrote this psalm from a cave where he hid from King Saul's soldiers. David didn't feel safe. He didn't feel supported by enough others to meet the challenges he faced. In the dim light of that moment, David called on God to rescue him and show him a path to a future place where he could praise God's goodness with others. David asked for and hoped in God's help. History teaches us that David eventually received what he asked for in ways beyond his dreams.

How about us? We may not have a platoon of soldiers hunting us; but, in these economic times, we can feel besieged by fears about jobs and finances and worries about the future. Like David, we may yearn for a sense of safety, freedom and a path to a future time when we can celebrate with others in God's faithfulness and goodness to us.

God is in the business of freeing prisoners and giving hope to those who call o…