Monthly Archives: April 2012

Don’t Throw Your Junk In My Backyard!

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“Don’t throw your junk in my backyard, my backyard, my backyard;

Don’t throw your junk in my backyard, my backyard’s full!”

In the car, on the way home from school a number of years ago, my third grader was singing this song.  She had learned it in choir as part of an exercise to teach harmony.  A catchy tune, I find myself humming it or singing it on a regular basis as I go throughout my day.  One day, as I encountered yet another person sharing the latest complaints and “concerns” with me, I found this song going through my mind.  As I paused to reflect on it, I realized what a wonderful motto it makes.

As a pastor’s wife, I hear my fair share of grumbling and “I can’t believe they did that!” type conversations.  I think ladies are more vulnerable than men are to these well-meaning people, mostly other ladies.  Maybe it’s because we are good listeners; maybe it’s because we haven’t mastered the male far away look in the eye along with the distracted “I’m sorry, what did you say?”  Maybe it’s because we girls feel a certain responsibility to share our feelings with our friends.  Whatever the reason, I have come to the conclusion that I have enough of my own “junk;” I don’t need yours cluttering up my mind, too.  See, as a woman, I have plenty of my own opinions.  I come by it honestly – just don’t tell my mother I said as much!  Everyday, I have to diligently work to keep my attitude in check and the “backyard” of my mind free from clutter and distractions.  I cannot hear the Lord speaking to me if I am too busy shutting out the preacher’s voice because I do not agree with something he did or said.  I cannot receive loving correction from the authority in my life when my attitude is not right or I am mortified that my faults have been exposed.

I can’t let a day go by without cleaning up my “junk;” because if I do, it will multiply; and before long, I will not be able to contain it all in the limited storage space of my own mind.  Then, I will find myself throwing my junk in your backyard, and if you are at all like me, you don’t need any extra junk.  So please, “Don’t throw your junk in my backyard; my backyard’s full!”

What Not to Say – John Holbert, Alyce McKenzie

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What Not to Say- Avoiding the Common Mistakes That Can Sink Your Sermon is an aptly titled handbook for seminary students just beginning their public speaking career or veteran ministers looking to brush up on their public speaking skills.  John Holbert and Alyce McKenzie are both ordained elders in the United Methodist Church, and at times their doctrinal beliefs about the relativity of the Bible and certain lifestyles cloud the point.  Overall, this book is a good idea and is without doubt a great tool for the seminary classes the authors are involved with; however, it did not quite meet the goal I was hoping for as a training tool in my local situation.  Although I have no problem “eating the meat and spitting out the bones” in any training material, I found the presentation dry and a “textbook” read; whereas I am convinced this could have been a fantastic book if presented in a fresher manner.

Tough Guys and Drama Queens – Mark L Gregston

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“How not to get blindsided by your child’s teen years” – well, this subtitle certainly caught my attention.  Being the mother of a 14 year old daughter, I jumped into this one with both feet, and I wasn’t disappointed.   As the host of Parenting Today’s Teens (a national radio broadcast)  and the residential counselor for Hearlight Ministries (a residential program for troubled teens), Mark Gregston offers first-hand insight into what teenagers are thinking and why they sometimes behave as they do.  Tough Guys and Drama Queens is a beacon of hope for parents of teenagers.  Gregston challenges the reader to adopt a proactive action plan for independence along with a list of top 5 rules (hills you are willing to die on) and mutually agreed upon consequences for infractions of these rules.

Relationship is the key theme for weathering the turbulent teen years.  Parents must shift not only their style of parenting but also their expectations as their children begin making the transition into adulthood.  His premise that parents and their teens actually share the common goal of having the teen grow into independence allows both the parent and child to collaborate on how to accomplish the goal.  In his chapter on changing expectations, Gregston makes the following eye-opening statement:  “The tendency for any parent is to feel that their child is choosing to play on the opposing team rather than on yours.  That’s not always true.  They’re just trying to find out what their position is on the team they’re playing on.”  He concludes with some practical examples of ways to interact with your teen in the chapter, “Parenting Practices that Really Work.”

I cannot say enough positive things about Tough Guys and Drama Queens.  It truly is the best insight I have read for keeping your teenager on your team!  If you have a child between the ages of eleven and seventeen, I beg you to read this book!

The American Challenge – What Every American Should Know About Their Own Country

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Robert C. Etheredge has masterfully compiled a go-to resource of American history that EVERY American needs to read- whether they are natural-born citizens who have lived here all their lives or first-generation immigrants.  The American Challenge is well-written and easy to read and includes a short summary of the major events in American history in timeline format, relating these events to what was happening in the world-at-large at the same time.  Also included is a short biography of each President, lists of American poets, songs, movies, books, food, inventions…everything that America is famous for and that a well-educated American should know about his country!  A copy of the founding documents as well as a transcript of important speeches given by key leaders in both ancient and recent history is included.

I believe every American should read this book and have a mastery of the content within.  Do you know who becomes President if both the Vice President and the Speaker of the House are unable to fill the vacancy?  Do you know which denomination of money is called a “fin”?  What about a “sawbuck”?  Do you know who Pecos Bill was?  Betsy Ross?  Black Bart?  John Dillinger?  Do you know what Walt Disney’s first two movies were?  Have you heard the story of the “Candy Bomber”?

I challenge you to take the Citizenship Test included at the end.  Can you pass the test required to become a naturalized American citizen?  Do you think it would be a good idea to require every American to pass the Citizenship Test (thus demonstrating an understanding of American history and how our government works) and take the oath of allegiance before being issued their first voting rights?  Would doing so give American voters a better understanding of the responsibility and privilege of choosing our leaders?  Would it encourage Americans to vote according to their world-view and truly-held values rather than which political party captures their attention?

Glamorous Illusions- Lisa T. Bergren

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A Grand Tour!  What young lady would not leap at the opportunity to travel to the continent in the company of other young people and a handsome guide?  Cora Diehl, only child of Minnesota farmers, has just been slammed in the gut with the reality that she is in fact Cora Kensington, the daughter of Wallace Kensington, Montana copper baron, and has three half-siblings.  Glamorous Illusions introduces the reader to the Kensington and Morgan families as they begin their Grand Tour.  Travel to pre-WW1 England and France with these spoiled, rich American young adults as they discover reality and interpersonal relationships in the face of rejection, adventure, foreign cultures, and danger.

Lisa Bergren has long been a favorite author of mine, and I was delighted to begin a new series from her- especially such a well-written historical fiction series.  I am eagerly awaiting the next part of the series as the Grand Tour continues to Italy!

I received a free copy of this book for preview and was not required to write a positive review.

The Guest Book- Marybeth Whalen

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Take a trip to the beach with Macy, Brenda, Max, and Emma and ride the waves of discovery!  Macy is a young woman trying to move past the pain of her father’s death while raising her young daughter Emma alone.  During dinner with her mother, Brenda, and brother, Max, on what would have been her father’s birthday, her mother astounds the rest of the family by announcing a trip to the beach and cottage where the family had spent every summer while her dad was alive.  As a young child, Macy had been too young to write in the guest book; so her dad encouraged her to draw a picture.  The next year, to her surprise, another picture had been drawn for her and signed, “The Artist.”  Over the years, Macy and the Artist exchanged pictures by way of the guest book in the cottage.  On this anniversary trip Macy is determined to find the Artist.  On the first night at the cottage, she prays for God to bring someone special into her life- to help her find the Artist.  Over the next several days, three men come into her life- each one having artistic ability and very interested in her, but which one is the ONE?

The Guest Book is an easy summer vacation quick read.  Not the book that will change your life, but definitely a book that will give you a lunch-break escape from the daily grind.

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes and am not required to write a positive review.

How Clean Is Your Mirror?

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One Saturday, as I was running late for a district ladies meeting, I took one last glance with my hand mirror at the back of my hair to make sure all was in place.  As I did, I thought to myself, “Hmm…my hair seems to be a few shades lighter than it was last week.”  Now, that in itself was a slightly annoying thought because I have always envied those with dark, shiny hair.  And although my hair has vacillated along the spectrum of brown throughout my life in direct relation to the amount of time spent in the sun, I have spent the last 20 years in colder climates gleefully observing it getting darker.  Well, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that about the time the previous thought passed through my mind another followed close on its heels.  I remembered that I had cleaned the hand mirror the day before.  My hair had not changed, but my vision had cleared up considerably.

Later in the day, as I sat pondering this amusing episode, I thought how much we resemble that hand mirror.  We view everything through either the clear view of God’s Word or through the clouded view of man’s philosophy.  As Christians we must hold up every thought, action, belief, and opinion to the clear reflection of God’s Word.  Our view cannot be clouded over by a film of worldly philosophy, current culture, church culture, a seared conscience, or an inaccurate, watered-down version of the Bible.  God is the ultimate Authority on what is good, pure, and clean and what is evil, impure, and filthy.  We need to take time every day to clean our mirrors through prayer and the Word, conscientiously washing away the film of worldliness so the enemy will not be able to confuse us with blurry vision.  Now, where did I put that Windex?