Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review - "The Kingdom"




What would a world without Scripture look like?

This is just one of the questions Bryan Litfin poses in his Cheveis trilogy. I’ve recently read the third and final installment—after a year-long wait (!)—and enjoyed every minute of the time I’ve spent with Teo and Ana, following their adventures throughout Cheveis and the great Beyond.

The first book, The Sword, sets the scene and poses the question of what would happen if the Word of God was lost forever. The second book, The Gift, follows Teo and Ana on some amazing adventures as they get to know what is in the great Book and as they encounter those who do not want the Word of God to be made known.

The final book, The Kingdom, continues the journey as Teo and Ana are called to spread the Word to the far reaches of the Beyond. But they encounter severe spiritual opposition, even from some who claim to be followers of Deus (their word for God). Several exciting battle scenes later, Teo and Ana are poised to finally return home to the land that they love, but they must still fight for their love (yes, there is a love story woven throughout all three books).

I love how Bryan Litfin weaves deep theological questions with the genre of fantasy and romance. I love how he brings these characters to life and makes me want to know more about them. I love his descriptions of battle scenes and beautiful settings of places I know he has visited many times in Europe.

Of course, there may have been a scene or two that seemed a little contrived, particularly the love scenes between Teo and Ana. This could be, though, because I know Bryan from church (seriously, Bryan, how DO you write this stuff?!). Also, his use of modern phrases mixed with a fictional language with a medieval bent occasionally bothered this English teacher. But overall the books, all three, were so enjoyable I didn’t want them to end.

So back to my question: What would a world without Scripture look like?

I recently read these verses in the book of Amos:

“People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from border to border
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it.
Beautiful girls and strong young men will grow faint in that day,
Thirsting for the LORD’s word.” Amos 8:12-13

These verses tell me that a world without the word of God looks much like the world of Teo and Ana—filled with people who are thirsting for the Lord’s word, searching for it. Things may seem hopeless for a time, but in the end, as the prophet Isaiah tells us:

“The grass withers and the flowers fade,
But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Even though it seems, even today, like the Word of God could die out forever, it will not. Never. God is still in His Heaven. He is still working out His plan for His creation. And He will never let His word be lost.

This is Bryan Litfin’s theme, and it has challenged me to take God’s Word more seriously and to treat it as the precious gift that it is.

I’d say that’s a pretty good takeaway.


Shelly

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sales Call


A word-for-word transcript of a call that took place in my home last week: 

“Hello, may I speak to Shelly’s parent?”

“Excuse me?”

“May I please speak to Shelly’s parent?”

“Well, Shelly’s parents live in Arizona.”

Silence.

“Uh. Oh, really? Do you take care of Shelly?”

“Yes, you could say that. I definitely take care of Shelly. Shelly is almost 50 years old.”

Silence again.

Deep breath.

“Well, my name is Greg, and I’m calling from the SAT prep program.”

Click.



Shelly

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Good Reads

So many great posts lately! Here are some that just MUST be shared.

"How to Really Protect Your Children" : Flower Patch Farm Girl. Shannan knows how to live . . . and how to write . . . and how to parent. I love this girl's heart.

"Dear Body" : To Think is to Create. I wish, I wish, I wish I could get to this point. I'm working on it, but I need to read this a few more times to let the lesson really sink in.

"Self, Doubt, and Writing" : Desiring God blog. As long as we're on the subject of my insecurities . . .

"The 1 Thing You Really Have to Know About Your Family" : Ann VosKamp. Warning: this one will wreck you. In a good way.

"The Fight for Glory" : The Gospel Coalition blog. Beautiful grace.

"Why We Need to Struggle" : We are THAT Family. Seems like Kristin and Ann are struggling with the same things. And passing it on for us to wrestle with. Hmmmm.

"Lessons from those We Walk Behind" : Off the Beaten Path. We really DO have something to learn from the generations who went before us. Kay reminds us of some of those lessons that seem to be getting lost today. Excellent!

"5 Things I want my freshman daughter to remember" : Such the Spot by Darcy. As a mom to TWO freshmen this year (one high school, one college) I could NOT have said this better myself. In fact, all three of my girls should read this, because no matter what their stage in life, the advice still rings true. So good!

So these were some of my favorites lately. What were some of your favorite posts this week? Share the link in the comments.


Shelly

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It's a Good Question {Italy - Part 2}


"Where did you see Jesus today?" 

This was the question Mark asked at the end of each day of camp. It was a question I knew was coming, and yet I still had to think about it, searching for the answer as I walked through my day.

It's a good question to think about, even here at home.

So where did I see Jesus in Italy? 

I saw Him in the kids. Smiles everywhere. Willing hands. Vulnerability. Joy. Our kids—the American ones—were so intentional about praying, seeking out opportunities to share their faith, even turning conversations toward Christ during down time. Their faith, their enthusiasm, encouraged me so much and showed me that Jesus is alive and active in the kids of our church.


I saw Him in the Italian kids, too. Wide-eyed. Questioning. Listening. Talking. They quickly connected with the American kids and were so open to hearing about Jesus. Some already knew Him, but still, they wanted to know more. And their hunger reminded me that we Americans don’t have all the answers. All we can do is love and allow God to do His work.


I saw Him in the missionaries, pastors, and Christian workers who helped us all week. So much giving. So much pouring of themselves for the sake of the gospel. So much hope amidst some very difficult circumstances. Some of the volunteers had sacrificed a week of work so that they could help translate for us—that showed me Jesus in a big way. And with each encounter with the Italian Christians, I saw their love for Christ and their passion to share that love with others.



Jesus showed up in Italy, yes He did. He showed up in a big way in S’s life, as she encountered His life-giving salvation for the first time. He showed up through N, a girl from our church who has loved S and has prayed for her for the past three years. How good He was to allow N to be a part of S’s story! He showed up when N gave S her first Bible--walking her through it, explaining the Old Testament and New Testament, and showing her how to spend time in God’s word each day. Such a beautiful thing.

Every day we asked ourselves that question: “Where did you see Jesus today?”

And at the end of each day, I had to think about another question as well: Did others see Jesus in me? Because, if I’m supposed to look around for Jesus, I need to remember that those around me are looking to find Him, too.

Do they see Him here? Am I reflecting Jesus to my family, my friends, my co-workers, and even those I meet?

It’s a good question.


Shelly

Monday, July 16, 2012

Italy - Part 1


I’ve probably put it off long enough, talking about my trip to Italy. I’ve been home for almost a week already and am finding it hard to put into words all that happened on the trip.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ll probably word dump here, and it might take more than one blog post.

Hang with me while I try to sort it all out, O.K.?

So why did I go to Italy of all places? First of all, why not Italy? As I wrote before I left, Italians need Jesus too, so why not? As I found out while I was there, Italians really need Jesus—a lot. As is much of Europe these days, Italy has become a post-Christian culture. Sure, many still attend the Roman Catholic church that their families have attended for generations, but I would guess that if you asked the average Italian why they attend church, if they attend at all, they would be hard-pressed to give you an answer.

“Church” is just one more cultural symbol to them. It’s just what you do on special holidays. It doesn’t have much to do with average, everyday Italian life.


We went to Italy to join with three very small Italian evangelical churches to put on a sports/English camp for Italian youth. But it was much more than that; this was also a chance to share Jesus with Italian kids. The people we worked with there have a vision to reach younger generations for Christ and to start a movement that will affect families for years to come. It makes sense, and it’s working, but the work is slow and difficult.

So what did our days look like? Each morning we would start at 8:00 a.m. with a team meeting. Mark, the missionary from our church, would read a passage from Philippians and give us encouragement for the day. Then we’d spend some time in prayer before we welcomed the kids.


 The days of camp went so fast! The mornings were filled with sports and games as well as a brief time of Bible study and discussion. After lunch, we’d have English lessons for about an hour and a half, followed by a gelato break (!) and more games. 


The kids were picked up at 6:00 p.m.

After that, our team would meet again for about a half an hour. Each day Mark would ask us two questions: “Where did you see Jesus today?” and “Where would you like to see Jesus show up tomorrow?” These were important questions to think about because sometimes, when the day flies by as quickly as ours did, you forget to stop and think about how the Lord is working.

And, boy, did He work! 

Tomorrow I’ll share a bit about how Jesus showed up at the camp.


Shelly

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bongiourno!

That means "hello" from Italy!

Not much time to write here, and this is the last day I'll have internet access, but I just thought I'd pop in to say that I am well and happy here in Italy. I miss my family terribly, but as I explained to my husband in an email this morning, I try not to think about that too much or I would be distracted from doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

Travel over here was full of delays, missed planes, more delays, and late flights. Twenty-three hours and nine minutes later, we finally made it to Bologna. The joys of international travel, I guess.

We spent the first full day in Italy touring a medieval village called Ferrara. It was beautiful, thousands of years old, and HOT. The temperature has been incredible--like nothing I've experienced before. It was over 100 degrees for our first three days here . . . and have I mentioned that we have no air conditioning in the hostel where we're staying? Apparently the Italians are superstitious about air conditioning--they think it's not good for your health--so not many people even have it. Can you say unbearable?



But apparently it IS bearable because I have not melted or died or even gotten sick. God is good.

On Sunday our group was split into three smaller groups to attend three different evangelical churches in the area. What a blessing to worship with believers from across the globe who speak a different language, share many different customs, but worship the same God. Amazing.

This week has been full as we have run the camp for Italian youth every day. We begin our day at 8:00 a.m. and finish around 6:30 p.m., but God has supplied all the energy and stamina we need. We've played games, taught English, and heard stories of people who have been changed by Jesus. Most importantly, many significant conversations have taken place, and that's what we're here for.

I'm going offline for a few days, but you can be sure things are going very well here. I will come home with lots of happy stories to share.

God is good.

Shelly