Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti: Jesus or Judgement?

Is God judging Haiti? After all, this is a country known for its witch craft and child slavery. Did God finally get fed up and zap them?

I had a college professor who once insinuated that God doesn't do things like that. In the cafeteria of my Baptist college, some students were debating whether or not AIDS was God's judgement on homosexuals. Some felt a loving God would not do such a thing. I pointed out that God once sent poisonous snakes as a wake up call to his children in the wilderness.

My professor was incredulous, "Do you think God actually did that?" he asked.

"The Bible says he did," I replied. (See the book of Numbers chapter 21.)

The fact is, our loving God sometimes takes desperate measures to get the attention of the people he created.

So, what about Haiti, or AIDS for that matter?

My answer is this: Be very careful about drawing any conclusions.

Does that sound like sitting the fence? Perhaps it is. But to me, it's fearing God.

To say that God would not do such a thing is to subject God to our human and limited understanding of love. He is simply not bound by our definitions.

But to say that he has judged another person, or another people group, is kind of like reading another person's mail, only worse...much worse. It's presuming a higher level of holiness than those you think are being judged.

Jesus addressed such an issue in Luke 13. Some people were talking about a group of Galileans who were killed by Pilate. We don't know exactly what they said, but they must have implied that the Galileans were experiencing God's judgement. Here's what Jesus said:

Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
In other words, when calamity strikes, soul searching is the proper response. To check out the other guy's guilt is wrong. To evaluate your own relationship with God is right.

The other response is compassion. God is always glorified by the loving responses of his children. Now is the time to extend a hand of love to Haiti. Two of my favorite charities are Samaritan's Purse and Compassion International. Of course the Red Cross, the Clinton-Bush fund, and a number of other charities are helping, too. I hope you will do what you can.

And don't forget to pray, pray, pray.

Gettin' Real!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Christmas Clashes Can Shell Shock the New Year

Have old family battles pranced merrily into your new year? Sometimes Christmas trees bring more than lights and tinsel. Opening brightly colored boxes is fun, but opening old wounds of dysfunctional relationships is definitely not. When the carols are all sung out and the ornaments are back in the attic for another year’s wait, Christmas clashes can still leave us shell shocked long after the holidays are over.

In my post Does Christmas Highlight Family Pain?, I examined Jan Silvious's description of the the fools in our lives. In her book Fool-proofing Your Life, Silvious uses Proverbs, as well as other Biblical passages, to help us understand that some people habitually relate foolishly with others. Whereas the Bible calls us to love our enemies, what to we do with friends, co-workers, and family members who aren’t exactly enemies, but who drive us crazy just the same? Here are some tips from Silvious to help us deal effectively with the impossible people in our lives:

1. Put away your own childish reactions (p150). A foolish person likes to engage in verbal battles. Don’t join in. Resist to the urge to engage. It takes two to argue. Refuse to be one of the two.

2. Determine that you can live with or without your fool (p152-153). This doesn’t necessarily mean you will divorce your spouse or kick out a rebellious teenager. It means you have an inner change that results in abandoning clingy behavior.

3. Stop trying to change your fool (p153).

4. Turn away from evil (p167-8). Turn away inwardly by choosing your steps wisely. Turn away to a safe location if your fool is violent.

5. Overcome evil with good (p169-171). Your goal is not to appease the fool. Instead practice godly kindness. Perhaps your kindness will expose his or her folly and bring repentance. Perhaps not. Either way, you are growing.

6. Detach (p171-2). Don’t open yourself up to intimacy. Speak with the civility and kindness that you use with a waiter or sales associate. Be polite, exchange pleasantries, but don’t engage in combat.

7. Speak the truth with strength and dignity (p173-4). The goal is not to convince the fool. The goal is the feed your spirit with the strength that truth brings. Perhaps the fool with change as a result, perhaps not.

8. Pray.

Silvious’s book is packed with wisdom on every page. The list above is great, but it barely scratches the surface of the solid advice she gives. Each chapter is filled with Scripture and each ends with a short Bible study. This is the best book I’ve read on this subject, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is dealing with difficult people.


Gettin’ Real!

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Prayer Power Winner and Surprise Gifts Announced

Congratulations to Carole Shepherd! You have won the drawing for the book Prayer Power: 30 Days to a Stronger Connection with God. Carole, email me at with your snail mail address, and I'll ship you a copy of the book.

Carole was entered into the drawing along with all others who commented -- via this blog or my social networking sites -- on the Prayer Power series. However, as a special Christmas surprise, I entered all followers and subscribers for to Get Real! into a drawing for two Christmas books.

And the winners are...Jeanie R and Kurt.

Kurt will receive Christmas Miracles by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson.

Keep reading the Get Real! blog for more opportunities to win free books! All followers and email subscribers are automatically entered into occasional surprise drawings. Other contests will also be announced.

Coming up on Get Real!
(1) The second installment on the two part series: Does Christmas Highlight Family Pain?
(2) An interview with Dr. Craig Von Buseck, expert in religious journalism for
(3) My review of and inspirational comments related to Terror By Night by Terry Carrey. (The true story of the brutal Texas murder that destroyed a family, restored one man's faith, and shocked a nation.)

To learn more about any of the books mentioned above, click on the title of the book to go to author or retailers sites.

My thanks to Kathy Carlton Willis Communications for providing review or gift copies of all of the books mentioned on today's post. Visit to learn more about this author marketing firm.

Thanks and Merry Christmas!

Gettin' Real!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Does Christmas Highlight Family Pain?

Do the holidays put you in the path of someone who brings chaotic ups and downs? Perhaps you walk on eggshells in your home much of the time already, but Christmas stress brings even more confusion. We all have people in our lives that make us feel crazy and off balanced. Sometimes, we are able to keep these people at a safe emotional distance from us. Other times, we love these people so much, we feel we've been taken hostage.

You might be surprised to learn that the Bible talks about hard to deal with people. No, I'm not talking about the "turn your other cheek" passages or the "love your enemy" passages, though we might choose to apply those at times. I'm talking about passages such as, "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions." (Prov. 18:2) That's right. Some people are fools. That's what the Bible calls them.

But, what is a fool? Author Jan Silvious identifies several qualities of fools that can be found in Scripture:

1. Self contained -- Their full trust is in their own resources.
2. Deceitful -- They hid their true nature until they get what they want.
3. Complacent -- They are satisfied with their own way of thinking and will accept no challenge to it.

Underlying all of this is a foundation of selfishness. The fool must protect his or her own interest no matter what.

We are all fools at times, but for some foolishness is a lifestyle. According to Silvious, relationships with a fool are full of anger, strife, destruction, and slander. When a person we love chronically makes poor choices, always thinks he or she is right, and is closed-minded, spiritually empty, or hard-hearted, our lives can feel like runaway roller-coasters. In December, the coasters are decorated with silver ribbons and splashed with eggnog.

Maybe your difficult person isn't as bad as I've described. Most people can't easily be catagorized. We all have God's image stamped on us. So, even fools can have their up side. On the other hand, you might be saying, "My fool is all of this and even more!" Either way, is there hope?

Absolutely, God's word doesn't merely define the problem. It offers solid advice. In my next post, I'll  be sharing tips from Fool-Proofing Your Life, or you can click on the title and order a copy straight from Random House. This is one of the best books I've seen on the topic of dealing with difficult people. Silvious has created a text that is easy to read, loaded with Biblical truth, but doesn't preach at the reader.

And it's just in time for all those happy holiday family reunions!

Gettin' Real!

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Two Books to Help Keep the Holidays Real

When WaterBrook Press sent me a review copy of Treasured, I tried to skim it, but I had a problem: I kept getting interested in it! Leigh McLeroy is a talented writer and kept drawing me into her book. One reason I'm happy to recommend it to Get Real! followers is that her concepts relate directly to the theme of this blog: Connecting God to Every Day Life. In each chapter, McLeroy examines a concrete object from Scripture, such as a fig leaf, a riding crop, or a golden bell. She briefly (and beautifully) tells the Biblical account and then uses real life stories to connects the ancient symbols to 21st century living . Every life lesson reveals some new aspect about God. The fig leaf, for instance, teaches that he is the God who covers us. The Shepherd's harp string reminds us that he is the God of the little guy. The book is not themed around Christmas, but it would make a great present for someone that needs a hug from God. Enjoy!

Do you need a Christmas gift for a youngster in your life? God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren is a delightful book centered around a conversation between a mother polar bear and her cub. Using the beauty of nature, Mama Bear explains how God reveals himself everywhere through his creation. When the northern lights brighten the sky, Little Cub learns that God sent Jesus to be the light of the world. This beautifully illustrated story is a unique way to learn about Christmas. In my home, God Gave Us Christmas will go into the special basket of books we get out every year and enjoy during the holiday season.

Hope this helped with your last minute Christmas shopping!

Gettin' Real!

These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Click here to learn more about these books or to purchase them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Prayer Power: When Silent Nights Aren't Holy Nights

Ever feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling faster than you can say the words? I do. Sometimes my times of prayer are tiny glimpses of Heaven. When I get up from my chair, I know I've been with my Savior. He filled me up. Other times, I wonder if God put me on hold while he was taking other calls.
Don't get me wrong. Theologically, I know that God always hears my prayers and always answers them. I can quote any number of verses to back that up. But what I know in my head and what I feel in my heart do not always match.

The Christmas season can be an especially erratic time for prayer. Sometimes, worship during this season is intense. When I find the time .. make the time ... to focus on the miracle of Christ's birth, I'm overwhelmed by God's grace and creativity. The bread of life (Jesus) being born in the City of Bread (Bethlehem). The birth of the lamb of God announced to a group of shepherds. A star. A virgin. A group of traveling wise men. Only God could orchestrate all of that. And for what purpose? So that God could show his love up close and personal. Wow!

But then, there's all the other stuff. Shopping and shipping. Baking and budgeting. Getting off schedule and out of control. Even songs can hurt. This week at ensemble practice, I got choked up while singing "Away in a Manger." It conjured up images of my family singing around my grandmother's Christmas tree, a moment that will never again be recreated. My grandmother went to Heaven this year. Her precious kitchen sits vacant. No tree adorns the living room. The house is up for sale.

So, what's the answer? Keep praying, but don't try too hard to be religious while you're at it. As Peter Lundell says in his book Prayer Power, "The Bible never teaches us to pray politely...We may offend him with our sin, but never with our boldness." (p166)

Yes, sing about the Little Town of Bethlehem, but remember the Christ Child is no longer in the manger. He can handle your deepest hurts and greatest disappointments. Don't send God your Hallmark prayers. This Christmas give him the darkest part of your heart.

He'll send you a new one. It will be all wrapped up and placed under the tree. The Easter tree that is, the one shaped like a cross. After all, that's why he came in the first place.

Gettin' Real!
PS This is the fifth installment in my Prayer Power series. You can still win a copy of Peter Lundell's book Prayer Power by commenting on this or any other entry about prayer. There will be one more installment in this series.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Touched by a Vampire

 Any language arts teacher is eager to find a book that motivates kids to read something .. anything! .. more in depth than the text messages they secretly send in between classes. Last year I noticed my middle school girls going giggly over the Twilight saga. Some of these kids were reluctant readers, yet they lugged around vampire books which were twice the length of the novels I assigned. Hungrily, they sped through the first novel, then the second, and chatted eagerly about how they were dying (no pun intended) for the next to be released. So, I borrowed a copy Twilight to check it out for myself.

I discovered an artfully written book sure to intrigue any romantic teen into the mysterious world of love and forbidden dreams. Stephenie Meyer is a powerful storyteller and has done her job well. But even as I found myself caught up into the plot, something disturbed me. Many of Ella's responses to Edward mirrored real life women I have counseled -- or wished I could counsel -- in my role as a pastor's wife. These women in abusive relationships gave themselves completely over to their men in a kind of distorted self abandon. Edward, by choosing not to remove Ella from the danger he posed to her, mirrored many abusers I have known.

On the other hand, I found qualities in the book I could admire. Meyers created a character with an inner conflict between good and evil. He committed himself to the good in spite of tremendous cravings for evil. I relate to that struggle and find it refreshing to discover a hero in the pop culture that is willing to endure the challenges of delayed gratification.

So, I am happy to recommend Beth Felker Jones's book Touched by a Vampire: Discovering Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga. Jones, a professor of theology at Wheaton College, has done a wonderful job of exploring the themes found in the Twilight series such as dangerous romance, abstinence and sex, gender roles, marriage, parenting, and the universal search for purpose in life.

Jones does not attack Meyers or her books. Instead, she carefully challenges Twilight fans to filter the books through a Christian worldview. She speaks of the characters as though they are real and asks us to evaluate their perspectives and decisions through the lens of Scripture. Sometimes, we'll discover that Ella, Edward, or the other characters, have acted in ways that well illustrate Biblical principles. Other times, they represent ideals that subtly run counter to Christian thought. Jones also points out that Meyer's own Mormon beliefs are woven into the plot.

Touched by a Vampire is a short, thought provoking book. Any parent, teacher, or Twilight fan will find this a helpful aid to creating meaningful, non-threatening conversation about the Twilight saga.

Gettin' Real!

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.