Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: Uncommon Life

Tony Dungy needs no introduction.  He is respected in the secular sports world as well as in the Christian world.  Unlike many he seems to have found a way to balance both faith and "worldly" success.  In Uncommon Life Tony allows the reader to have a glimpse into his personal spiritual journey.   His passion for building men of faith comes through in this devotional.  He selected seven core themes to focus on:  core, family, friends, potential, mission, influence and faith.   The reader (most likely a man) is encouraged to connect with other men participating in the same study online, if they are not part of a church community. 

Each devotion is one page or less and is easy to read.  I think even the unchurched would find it appealing if they are a sports/football fan.  Tony and co-author, Nathan Whitaker, tackle (pun intended) some tough questions and topics in this book:  What defines you?  Who are you imitating? Where does money rank on your significance list? How is God pruning your life?  How are you sharing another's burden?  This book is not an in-depth study into God's Word, but does a great job using one or two verses to direct the reader into a closer walk with God and becoming a man of character and integrity.  

I somewhat enjoyed this book although I'm not a sports fan.  The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge is definitely a male-focused book.  It seems that perhaps it could have been grouped together according to theme instead of using the seven day rotation, but that's just a personal preference.  I also think it would be nice to have included a page at the beginning or end that explained exactly what the Gospel is about and how one can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  This was alluded to throughout the book, but I think it's important to be clear on this as there is so much churchese these days and the meaning of the word "salvation" or "conversion" is often unknown. 

Below is a short clip that introduces the book and it's purpose.  You can also learn more at or

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book to me. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Life's Minor Irritations

Last week I went grocery shopping.  While we have a grocery store in our town I try to drive to Salina at least once a month to stock up.   One item on my list was a specialty item:  our favorite chili garlic paste.  I hadn't had it for several weeks as the old jar in our fridge had turned a grayish color and the expiration date was smudged out.  Time to toss it!   I was forced to skip making several dishes as it was a key ingredient. 

So I found my paste in the ethnic section of the grocery store and purchased it at the end of a long tiring shopping trip.  Imagine my dismay when I unpacked my groceries at home and discovered it hadn't been put in my bag.  By this time I had tossed my receipt in the garbage where it was covered in leftover muffin dough.  So I dug it out, washed it and scanned it to make sure I had indeed paid for the item.  Sure enough it was on there.  I called the store and they confirmed they had it and suggested I return to the store to pick it up.  Ugh.  This is where the frustration really began to rise.   I felt like telling the clerk to  "wait just a minute as I drive the 130 mile roundtrip journey to retrieve my $2.00 jar of chili garlic paste."  Instead I explained that it would probably be about two weeks before I might return and she was kind enough to tell me I could stop in and get my paste.

Even though the item was so incidental it was very irritating to have purchased something and not to have it in my bag.  I felt very cheated.  It's not as though the price was a huge issue, but I can't find this item locally.  I really felt like pouting.  Isn't it amazing how something so minor can tip us over the edge into such a frazzled irritated state?

Jonah had this problem.  His life was miraculously spared and in a prophetic way his stay in the belly of the fish foretold the Messiah's resurrection and death.  He saw thousands of people repent and the miracle of God's forgiveness bestowed on the once-depraved citizens of Ninevah.  God kindly allowed a plant to grow to shade Jonah as he sat and watched what would become of the city.   Then God divinely appointed a little hungry worm to attack the plant and kill it. Jonah failed God's test quite horribly and became angry enough over this dead plant that he wished himself dead.

And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" Jonah 4:10-11

Of course the book ends there and we never find out what happened to Jonah next.  God put Jonah's sour attitude into perspective as He reminds Him that he should be rejoicing in the mercy shown to thousands of people instead of complaining about his lack of shade.  Have you ever been guilty of this?  Have you skipped savoring God's blessing and allowed a minor upset to send you into a fit of irritation?

This morning my pastor preached on Philippians 2:14 "Do all things without grumbling or questioning."  Yes, it was convicting although often my murmuring and grumbling takes place only internally, but God still "hears" it.  If I am filled with the fruit of the Spirit by investing more time with God in His Word only sweet juice (a.k.a. blessings and praise) will spill from my heart when jostled by one of life's minor irritations. 
Grumbling is an evidence of little faith in the gracious providence of God in all the affairs of our lives. And little faith is a dishonor to him. It belittles his sovereignty and wisdom and goodness.  -John Piper

Today I'm linking up with:

Beholding Glory

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Be Still My Heart

This evening I began reading some information on our freedom is being whittled away.  The stories shared by parents throughout the nation were somewhat alarming.  My mind began to move into high gear as I began to wonder how we would be able to raise up our daughter in this environment and what measures we must take to protect her.  I felt myself being enveloped in fear and worry.  As I conveyed some of my concern to Jeff I realized what I really was trying to tell him was "I am fearful."

But wait, there is One who can conquer all fear.  We have a Sovereign Lord who reigns over all.  Of course knowing this doesn't excuse inactivity on our part, but it does allow us to remain internally calm as we trust in the One who orders our every step.  While we wait on Him we can speak up for truth and defend the cause of those in need.  We can celebrate the freedoms we currently have and prepare ourselves for the persecution that will inevitably be directed toward Christians.  We also have a responsibility to be informed when it comes to political decisions and to exercise the privilege to vote.

Tonight I am headed to bed and I don't think I will have any problems sleeping (unless interrupted by a certain small female).  I know God will give grace to see me through any troubles I may face in the future. 

"But he knoweth the way that I take; when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."  Job 23:10

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Blessing and A Gift

Last week I had the opportunity to hear Ward Foley speak.  Ward is known as Scarman and goes around speaking about the pain, surgeries and disfigurement he has endured after being born with Arthrogryposis.  I heard him speak at a secular event and it was amazing to hear him speak about his life with such a positive attitude.  As he recounted all he had been through he highlighted the specific times there was a difficult period in this life:  severe burns, a car accident, the loss of his mother, etc.  Each time he talked about these afflictions he would say they were a "blessing and a gift."  

Can we as Christians say this about the minor inconveniences (or the major ones) we are called to endure?  Do we see the testing we are currently in as a blessing and a gift from God?  Can we thank Him for the thorns in our side whether they are physical ailments, a pesky family member, or being stuck in a job we despise?  

Ward has used the pain in his life to comfort others who are suffering from physical handicaps or those who are close to death.  He talked about the peace he has and how he converses with God daily so perhaps he is a born-again believer.  It's hard to fake true peace.  For those who don't know God they often seek temporary peace in a belief system, meditation or even an illicit drug.  But the true peace we find in God through Jesus Christ is a peace that no one can steal from us.   When I understand that God is with me at all times and through any difficult challenges, what do I have to fear?

To learn more about Scarman, visit his website.  

Have you thanked God for the blessings and the gifts that come with thorns?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

30 Cents

Yesterday after visiting my patients I stopped in a local shop with Abby.  I knew she wanted more time to "explore" before heading home so I thought this would be a fun opportunity.  The problem was I found a small item that was priced right and I thought I needed it.  But the shop only took cash and I don't tend to carry much cash on me.  I realized this as I opened up my pocketbook.  I began counting my change and it became quite obvious I was short.  I really thought I could scrounge up enough, but even after digging through the bottom of my purse I still needed 30 cents.  I was slightly embarrassed that I didn't have enough and assured the lady that I could run and get some money and be right back, but she insisted that she cover my 30 cents.  I thanked her and she asked that I do the same for someone else.  Later I thought about that and how I need to be more mindful of how I can give to cover others needs.  I also reflected on  how pride welled up inside and made me want to turn down her gracious offer to cover my need.  Hmm.  Don't we have the same difficulty when it comes to recognizing our need before a Gracious Savior? 

For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:19-21

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Grace! 'Tis a Charming Sound

Illness during our Christmas "tour" and many hours of riding in a vehicle allowed me to spend more time reading various books and pamphlets.  During our stay with my Grandpa I discovered he has over 2,000 in his library so my love of a good read has been a family tradition.  But I digress.

I did read a short pamphlet by R. Bruce Steward on the book of John.  He included the lyrics to "Grace! 'Tis a Charming Sound" at the end of the booklet.  I don't know what the melody sounds like, but I love the words. 

"Grace! 'Tis a Charming Sound" 
by Philip Doddridge, 1702-1751, stanzas 1, 2, 4 & 6 
by Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778, stanzas 3 & 5

1. Grace! 'Tis a charming sound, Harmonious to the ear; 
Heaven with the echo shall resound, And all the earth shall hear. 
2. Grace first contrived the way To save rebellious man, 
And all the steps that grace display Which drew the wondrous plan. 
3. Grace first inscribed my name In God's eternal book; 
'Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb, Who all my sorrows took. 
4. Grace led my wandering feet To tread the heavenly road; 
And new supplies each hour I meet While pressing on to God. 
5. Grace taught my soul to pray And made mine eyes o'erflow; 
'Twas grace that kept me to this day And will not let me go. 
6. Grace all the work shall crown Through everlasting days; 
It lays in heaven the topmost stone And well deserves the praise.

Steward ends by talking about the only certain cure for our terminal disease.

Jesus has carefully diagnosed our condition before God.  He also has prescribed the remedy, which is a personal relationship with God through faith in Himself.  He calls you to Himself in many ways.  To the one who knows and owns his sins,  He is the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."  To the one who is perishing in his sins, He is the God-given "Serpent lifted up in the wilderness,"  who gives life to all who believe in Him.   To the spiritually thirsty,  He gives "the water of life" freely.  To the one who senses his condemnation before God, His word, heard and believed, is the passage from death unto life.  To the hungry, He is the Bread of God.  To the one groping in  darkness, He is the "light of the World."  To the one wandering aimlessly ignorance, He is the "Good Shepherd."  To the one who is fearful and sorrowing because of death, He is the Resurrection and the Life."  Tot he one who is filled with doubt and uncertainty, He is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."  To the one who is separated from the source of life, He is the True Vine" who gives life to the branches. 
World peace and personal peace can only be found in the One so many ignore.  Have you taken Him for granted today? 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Travels Through the Midwest

Abby spends some time with her Grandma E.
Our life has been rather hectic the last 10 days.  Last night we arrived home after a long journey from Kansas to Iowa to Wisconsin to Illinois and back home to Kansas.  Thankfully, Jeff's schedule allowed us to spend a few days in each location. 

Our journey did come with a few bumps in the road.  Abby became sick with an ear infection.  The ER doctor didn't catch it when he checked her ears.  Isn't it difficult not to be upset when a medical professional makes a mistake, albeit a fairly minor one?  I'm thankful for medications, medical professionals who are blessed with wisdom and Abby's renewed health.  A second trip to Abby's old doctor was more beneficial and a shot of antibiotics helped to destroy the nasty infection.  It was so difficult to be away from home with a child who wasn't herself. 

My Grandma J. has had declining health for many months.  She suffers from Alzheimer's and this sad disease has slowly caused her weight to decrease to an emaciated 81 pounds.  She suffered some internal bleeding over the weekend so we arrived in town just in time to go to the ER at the hospital to see her.  I'm so thankful that she was able to see Abby while lying in the hospital bed.  She smiled at her and reached her hand out and said "Oh, she's so cute."  I know she probably didn't know it was her great-grand-daughter, but I was so happy to see her respond to Abby in that way.  The next day she became unresponsive and was rushed back to the hospital.   After a transfusion she has improved, but the end is near.  Heaven is just around the corner for her.  I'm so thankful for the godly life she has lived. 

We were blessed with beautiful weather, caring family members and friends and an overabundance of rich foods.  I'm so thankful Abby was able to meet all of her living great-grandparents.  Life is too short to take for granted.  Please don't forget about your elderly family members, neighbors or friends. 

"Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."  James 4:14
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