The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017)

The Remarkable Ordinary by Frederick BuechnerI have long been an admirer of Frederick Buechner’s wisdom. This book is no exception. It is based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures. The author encourages us to take a moment to see what’s really around us. With life’s hectic pace, we often don’t see what is remarkable. He talks about art (writing, painting, music) as a medium for helping us see what is meaningful. Buechner says to take time to stop, look, and listen–and we will be amazed at what we find!

“So, art is saying Stop. It helps us to stop by putting a frame around something and makes us see it in a way we would never have seen it under the normal circumstances of living, as so many of us do, on sort of automatic pilot, going through the world without really seeing much of anything…So, stop and see. Become more sensitive, more aware, more alive to our own humanness, to the humanness of each other.”

Frederick Buechner’s writing style is easy to read, conversational–like talking with a good friend. He points out that we need to pay attention–really notice what’s going on around us. As a theologian, he ties these ideas with his biblical faith. Paying attention to being alive is important. Paying attention to each other and to God, to how he’s moving and speaking or where he’s trying to take you.

Listen for God, stop and watch and wait for him. To love God means to pay attention, be mindful, be open to the possibility that God is with you in ways, that unless you have your eyes open, you may never glimpse. He speaks words that, unless you have your ears open, you may never hear. Draw near to him as best you can.

I love the story he tells about a Christmas Eve in Vermont. He had told his neighbors he would take care of their sheep while they were away. He nearly forgot that evening with all of the holiday activities, but then remembered. As late as it was, he and his brother trudged through snow to the neighbor’s barn. It struck him that there he was in a barn with sheep and a manger on Christmas Eve. With all the busyness of the Christmas season, we sometimes forget to notice what it’s really about.

Buechner encourages us to love others. He notes we would be overwhelmed if we stopped to look and listen to every person who passes by. But he says, “We can surely do more than we do!”

The Remarkable Ordinary has helped me look for God’s extraordinary work in life’s seemingly unimportant routines. What a gift!

* I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017)

 A collection of essays dealing with pain and lossThis collection of essays from Frederick Buechner delve into the nature of how we deal with pain and loss. Buechner is no stranger to this topic as he has spent much of his life grappling with his father’s suicide when he was a young boy. As an adult, he faced the anguish of his daughter’s anorexia. Even though God may seem silent during  times of crushing grief, Buechner discovered God’s presence and his grace–that he truly is close to the brokenhearted.

The author, an excellent storyteller, tells about an experience at a retreat. Someone commented to Buechner that he had experienced a great deal of pain in his life, but he been a good steward of his pain. That was a new concept to Buechner–and to me as well. I like the idea that we can choose a positive way to manage the sad and puzzling events that happen in our lives. We can be good stewards of our pain.

Buechner says the tendency is to push pain away, to forget what happened, to never speak of a loved one we have lost.  Yet miracles happen when we walk through the gates of pain.

Miracles happen because of the willingness to open the door into your pain. Open your ears and your eyes to the elusive, invisible, silent presence of healing, of the power of God to heal, which moves as quietly, as undramatically, as the wind moves.

The author concludes that joy is at the end. When we enter through the gates of pain, we can encounter joy. Treasure can be found when we are willing to work through our sorrow. Buechner’s gentle, easy style draws readers in and gives hope. His compassionate, authentic wisdom make this book well worth reading.

 

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

The Awakening of HK Derryberry: My Unlikely Friendship with the Boy Who Remembers Everything (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017)

The Awakening of HK Derryberry: an unlikely friendship with a special needs boyIf you’ve ever wondered if one person can make a difference in someone’s life,  read The Awakening of HK Derryberry and you will know the answer is a resounding yes!

The unlikely friendship between Jim Bradford, a senior business executive, and 9-year old HK Derryberry, a boy with multiple disabilities, begins on a cold October morning in 1999 when Jim stops at Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits in search of a cup of coffee. He almost misses the small boy sitting at a table at the back of the restaurant. When Jim sees HK, he feels an unusual emotional tug. He walks over to talk with the boy–something he almost never did. Jim writes that his encounter with HK that day revealed that he was a “pickpocket,” because he had stolen Jim’s heart.

And I would have to say they have stolen my heart as well. Jim Bradford’s story reeled me right in from the first chapter. We learn that HK was born prematurely under tragic family circumstances. It is a miracle the baby boy survived, but he is blind, has cerebral palsy, and countless other challenges. As I read about the enduring friendship (16 years!) between Jim and HK, I felt my emotions welling up inside. It is inspiring to see how Jim and his wife, Brenda, invested their time and love for HK–and how many amazing possibilities opened up for a lonely little boy who needed a dad.

This is a must-read book. The touching story between a man and a special-needs boy will have you laughing one minute and in tears the next–and learning to look for the unlikely to cross your path.

 

New Hope for MaNew Hope for Marriagerriage Weekend Retreat…for wives who are struggling in their marriages and looking for refreshment and hope. Join Christie Miller and Deb Kalmbach at beautiful Cedar Springs Christian Retreat Center in Bellingham, Washington, April 21-23. Get ready to be encouraged! Contact: Christie@FreshLookThinking.com or debkalmbach@centurytel.net

Date: April 21, 2017—April 23, 2017
Time: 16:00
Event: New Hope for Marriage Weekend Retreat
Topic: New Hope for Marriage
Sponsor: Northwest Christian Speakers Bureau/New Hope for Marriage
360-966-0203
Venue: Cedar Springs Christian Retreat Center
Location: Bellingham, WA
Public: Private

A Spectacle of Glory (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016)

I’m always excited about receiving a new devotional book, and this book by Joni Eareckson Tada is no exception. In my opinion, she is one of the most qualified individuals to write about showcasing God’s glory. Joni Eareckson Tada devotional bookShe has done this beautifully as she has learned, by God’s grace, how to live with the chronic pain and suffering of quadriplegia for nearly 50 years. I can’t imagine…

Her inspiration touched my life profoundly when I read her book, Joni, in the late 1970s. She wrote about the diving accident that left her paralyzed as a teen and how she wrestled to accept that God could use her life more  to impact others from a wheelchair than if she could walk. Her faith and wisdom has only matured through the years. Her latest book, A Spectacle of Glory, is a 365-day devotional that offers comfort and hope to anyone who is struggling with difficult circumstances.

Each devotional focuses on a Bible verse, followed by a short reading that encourages readers to allow God’s light to shine through them, no matter what they’re going through. The daily offering ends with a heartfelt prayer.

In one reading, Joni refers to Psalm 46:1. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” She writes: When you are in trouble, God doesn’t just send help; He is your help. And this help is ever-present.

Joni’s writing is transparent, real, and encouraging. There’s a calmness and simplicity in what she shares, yet a gentle authority. Her daily insights will help you discover how to put God’s glory on display–how to say “no” to complaining and “yes” to following God as you walk the most difficult paths. I like this book because I feel like I have a friend accompanying me on the journey–someone who really knows the ropes when it comes to dealing with pain and suffering.

Handlebar Media provided a free copy of this book for my honest review.

How You Can Have Your Best Year Ever

It’s hard to believe 2017 is right around the corner. It seems like I blinked and now it’s mid-November. ApproachingMichael Hyatt Achieve What Matters 2017  year’s-end gets me thinking about what I’ve accomplished during the previous 12 months. Goal-setting has always been challenging for me. It seems easy enough to write down the goals, but a few weeks–or even days into the plan, and I’m already struggling. A couple of years ago, I signed up for Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever goal-setting course. I felt like my first stab at it went well for 2015. I moved forward in several areas where I’d felt stuck–but still, I knew there was room for improvement. Last December when the opportunity came to take the course again, I decided to go for it!

I knew I needed extra help/coaching to keep going beyond what Michael calls “the messy middle”–the point where you just want to give up and throw in the towel. I signed up for the VIP plan which was a special offer for course alumni. What did I have to lose? Throughout the year, I’ve received a monthly coaching video from Michael as well as a quarterly Q&A session. It’s so helpful knowing I’m not alone in this process. I can’t say I’ve had perfect success with each goal, but I’ve made undeniable progress. Now that’s something to celebrate!

I bought a large white-board to track my progress. There are lots of computer apps out there to help with this, but I like having something I can look at that’s BIG! Some of my encouraging “wins” this year include launching my first self-published children’s book (on my 2015 list, but I didn’t quite get there) and retiring from my day job–a long-held dream that I finally got the courage to pursue. There will always be areas where I can improve — being more consistent with writing (now that I have more time) and being diligent with a weight-loss plan and exercise. What’s so encouraging about this course, is that it’s never too late to dig in and take those first steps forward. This course helps you get clear on what really matters and why it’s important to you. Your “why”/motivation for reaching a particular goal is a huge component in being successful. You can ask yourself, “What will happen if I don’t reach this goal?”

This is the 5th year for 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. The course has been completely revised with a ton of valuable information added. One thing I can tell you without a doubt–any course or product Michael Hyatt offers is exceptional and well worth the cost. I’m a very grateful student. Because I’m so convinced of this course’s value,  I decided to be part of Michael’s launch team, helping to get the word out and encouraging you to check it out. It’s really been a life-changer for me.

Michael will be offering some amazing free information in the next few weeks. I’ll be sure to let you know how to access it. Even if you decide you’re not interested in taking the course, the eBook, life assessment and webinar will be worth checking out.

Today is the first day of Michael’s launch and he’s offering an eBook, Achieve What Matters in 2017. This is an incredible download… with more than 30 thought leaders, influencers, and high achievers all sharing their top strategies for starting the year off with a bang.

You can get the whole PDF (no cost) here:

http://bestyearever.me/a20085/2017ebook

You’ll recognize many of the names as they include
multiple best-selling authors, speakers, and
leaders of their respected fields.

People like:

Tony Robbins
John Maxwell
Dave Ramsey
Marie Forleo
Andy Andrews
Jeff Walker
Amy Porterfield
Lysa TerKeurst
Andy Stanley
Chalene Johnson
Lewis Howes
(and many others)

It’s all available here:

http://bestyearever.me/a20085/2017ebook

Enjoy!

P.S. As we get closer to the start of 2017, the
timing on this couldn’t be any better. The
insights were pretty incredible. Take a look
for yourself!