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The Sanctuary – A Tale of Mercy

January 2, 2013 1 comment
The Sanctuary by Ted Dekker

The Sanctuary – another great read by Ted Dekker!

I’ve often heard it said that mercy is not getting what one truly deserves. Ted Dekker’s latest book The Sanctuary is a prime example of this concept. Renee Gilmore kills two men and Danny Hansen, a former priest, confesses to the murders so Renee will not have to go to prison. The characters of Renee and Danny originally appeared in Dekker’s 2011 novel The Priest’s Graveyard. In this new book, Danny is sent to an experimental prison where he experiences first hand how punishment can be used to attempt to break a man.

Another one of the prisoners has been falsely accused of rape (the girl’s parents don’t like that fact that their daughter is dating him, so they make up a story claiming he raped her). Something happens to this prisoner while in the prison and he is unjustly given a punishment. Danny willingly takes on the punishment for this innocent young man. A primary point in the story is that Danny has taken a vow of non-violence, but the warden and those in the prison keep trying to break him so he will give in to the violence of his past.

While Danny is in prison, Renee receives a phone call and several notes from a mysterious and sadistic individual telling her that she must do as he says or Danny will die. There are a couple surprise twists toward the end of the book that really made it an exciting book. I highly recommend this read for anyone who likes adrenaline-filled books that keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Consider yourself warned – I couldn’t put this book down…I read it within a few days (on average it can take me up to a month or so to read a book).

If you are looking for other Ted Dekker books to read, check out The Paradise Trilogy (Showdown, Saint, and Sinner), Forbidden, Chosen, or Thr3e (the first Ted Dekker book that I personally read) .

Photo Credit: By Amazon.com

My Top 10 Favorite Christmas Albums

December 26, 2012 Leave a comment
North Point Christmas

My favorite album this year.

Since it’s about time to take all of the Christmas music off of my iPod, I thought I would share with you the top 10 Christmas albums I enjoyed this year. They weren’t necessarily released this year, just ones I listened to most for the Christmas holidays in 2012.

1) North Point Christmas – This album was released in 2010. North Point Community Church is the main campus of the church I attend (Buckhead Church). It contains songs by several of the worship leaders at both campuses including Seth Condrey, Chrystina Fincher, Todd Fields, Eddie Kirkland, Casey Darnell, and Chinua Hawk. Whenever I listen to these songs, it makes me feel like I’m at church worshiping our awesome God!

2) PTXmas by PentatonixPentatonix is an a cappella group that won the third season of the reality show The Sing-Off. Their unique sound blends pop, dance, and electronic music just using their voices.

3) A Very She & Him ChristmasShe & Him is made up of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. This album to me is a representation of a “modern day classic.” It has a very nostalgic sound and feel…it reminds me of the Christmas music we listened to when I was a child.

4) A Myx’d Christmas by Scott BlackwellScott Blackwell was the first Christian DJ I had ever heard. This is just good Christmas music to which you can dance. It has classic Christmas songs everyone knows plus a few original tracks.

5) When My Heart Finds Christmas by Harry Connick, Jr. – It’s hard to believe this album was released in 1993 because it is so timeless to me. Harry Connick, Jr. has an amazing voice that is much like that of Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Listening to this album was the first time I had ever heard him. You have your classic Christmas songs along with original songs (my favorite track has to be I Pray On Christmas).

6) If Every Day Was Like Christmas by Elvis Presley – I can’t help but think of Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas when I think of Christmas music. This album makes me think of a time when all was right with the world (so to speak)….the simpler times. You didn’t worry about the troubles of today…you just spent time with your family and friends enjoying Christmas and all that came with the holiday.

7) Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay – Dan Haseltine’s voice just puts me in a good mood no matter what is going on around me. Jars of Clay has been one of my favorite bands over the years and this is a great sample of the sound.

8) The Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant – Gotta show some love to the guys from the ATL! Family Force 5 has a unique sound that is all their own. This is just a fun album that mixes pop, rock, rap, and dance with Christmas music.

9) Christmas Remixed: Holiday Classics Re-Grooved – I am a big fan of remixes and mash-ups and this album is a great example of what makes Christmas fun and exciting. It’s the classic Christmas songs you remember, but with a twist.

10) Merry Mixmas: Christmas Classics Remixed – Another album that shows several examples of classic Christmas songs with a modern twist.

What Christmas albums were your favorites to listen to this year?

Photo Credit: By Amazon.com

My Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies

December 25, 2012 Leave a comment
It's A Wonderful Life

My #1 favorite Christmas movie.

To say that I haven’t been keeping my blog up to date lately would be the biggest understatement of the millennium at this point! Since it is Christmas Day and I love movies…I thought I would join the likes of AMC and IMDB by sharing my favorite holiday movies. Enjoy my top 10 favorite Christmas movies:

1) It’s A Wonderful Life – This movie is the epitome of Christmas for me. What would life be like if we had not had the opportunity to be a part of the lives of those we love most? The most memorable line for me is “Teacher says ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.'”

2) A Christmas Story – We can all relate to wanting that one special gift for Christmas. This movie has so many memorable scenes that just scream out the attempt of trying to celebrate Christmas as a family. Ralphie and the pink bunny suit, poor Randy being bundle up to the point he can’t move in his coat, the “triple dog dare” of licking a frozen flagpole, and the family Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant all bring me to tears from laughing so hard…regardless of how many times I’ve seen this movie.

3) Elf – This movie is Will Ferrell at his best (not to mention the fact that Zooey Deschanel is in it). One of my favorite parts of the movie is when he gets a job as an elf helping with Santa at the mall. There are so many quotable lines from this movie. I love “You’re not Santa! You smell of beef and cheese!” and “If you’re Santa what song did you sing to me on my birthday last year?”

4) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – The first scene that comes to mind when I think of this movie is when they ask Aunt Bethany to say grace at the dinner table.

5) The Santa Clause – Tim Allen transforms into Santa Claus…enough said!

6) The Nightmare Before Christmas – Tim Burton at his Christmas/Halloween strangest!

7) Jack Frost – Michael Keaton’s character doesn’t spend time with his son because he is always away. He is able to make up for lost time when he becomes a snowman. Sounds strange, but it’s actually good.

8) Surviving Christmas – When his family moves out of their old home, Ben Affleck’s character pays the new family that lives there to let him spend Christmas with them.

9) A Charlie Brown Christmas – Not really a movie, but a must see every year for Christmas! My favorite part is when Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas.

10) Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas – Another one that is not really a movie. We would watch this every year around Christmas when I was a child. This musical, puppetry take on the story The Gift of the Magi is one of the things I love about Jim Henson.

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Photo Credit: By SqueakyMarmot

The Dreaded Question

October 3, 2012 7 comments
Dog shaking hands

“So what do you do for a living?”

Meeting new people can be stressful, especially when you are an introvert. It’s not the new people that bother me. What bothers me is that almost every time I meet someone new, I get asked the dreaded question – “What do you do for a living?” Since I am still unemployed, I loathe being asked this question. I don’t want to be seen as Debbie Downer and bring everyone down. How do you respond to this question without being seen as “that guy” and have everyone avoid you?

For men, we often associate our identity with what we do for a career. We want to be the provider (whether you are single or married with a family) and without a job we feel like a part of us is missing. There is a great article on Relevant magazine’s website that talks about not letting our occupation (or lack there of) determine our worth. Unfortunately it’s easier said than done not to go down the path of doubt and depression when it comes being unemployed.

In a recent conversation with a friend, he reminded me that I am so much more than any job. When people ask me this question, his suggested response was to tell people the truth – that I am serving through world missions, leading others in discipleship, and using this time to grow spiritually. I know that I will eventually have a job title as an answer to this question, but lately it’s been all about what to do or say in the mean time. At times like these, I wish life had a fast forward button so you could move on to the next stage of your life (while still attaining the lessons you learned or unlearned during the “fast forward period”).

If you have been without a job, how did you answer the dreaded question?

Photo Credit: By Shannon Yeh

Conversations of a Life Unexpected

September 26, 2012 Leave a comment
life tiles

Life never goes as we plan.

I will be celebrating (okay, maybe “celebrating” isn’t quite the right word…more like “dreading” right now) a milestone birthday in less than six months. Last night I was talking with my roommate about all of these things that I had hoped to have accomplished or done by this upcoming birthday. We all have our “bucket list” of things we want to do by a certain age and my list was more out of feeling a sense of entitlement (like I deserved these things) – “Why am I not married by now?” or “Why do I not have a house of my own now?” These ideas brought more questions, but no answers.

Donald Miller’s blog Storyline has a great post by Jeff Goins on this very topic – “When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way You Expect” and I felt like it was written specifically to me. Goins compares our life to that of a story where we are an important character, but not the MAIN character. God is the MAIN character in our story. Things happen in our life that we don’t plan – job loss, death of a friend or family member, car problems…and the list continues. We get frustrated because more often than not, we have no control over these situations.

One thing we are quick to forget – when we are on the other side of our respective situations, we will be stronger and a better person because of them.

How has your life turned out differently than you planned?

Photo Credit: By Wes Peck

Londrina – It’s Been Amazing!

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment
Guys at Bus Station

Adam and I with the Brazilian guys.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow (Friday) will be our last night in Londrina. The time has gone by so fast as it seems like we just got here. Tuesday night we helped them create an environment called Muvuka (our definition was “A relevant gathering for building community” but in Portuguese it means “a mob or large gathering”). This night was much like our Singles Gatherings at Buckhead/North Point Community Church, but it was geared more towards their culture.

Wednesday we had an amazing Brazilian BBQ (steak marinated all day and then cooked on the grill along with several traditional Brazilian side items) at the home of our Brazilian friend Ely and his family. On Wednesday, we also spent some time sight seeing in Londrina and were able to see a really cool Catholic church that is a big part of Londrina’s history. Tonight (Thursday) we ate dinner at a restaurant in the bus station (believe me, it was MUCH better than it sounds) and then we enjoyed fresh squeezed fruit juices while we talked for hours with several of our new Brazilian friends. Tomorrow (Friday) is a holiday in Brazil (their equivalent of our July 4th) and Capella is having a picnic and doing baptisms (around 15 people will be getting baptized – including our new friend Carlos).

We will be leaving Londrina at 11:00 PM Friday via bus headed to Iguazu Falls where we will arrive around 7:00 AM on Saturday morning. We will spend all of Saturday at the falls and then will begin our travels back to Atlanta. It’s been an AWESOME time seeing God at work in our Brazilian friends and their church…it will be very hard to leave them tomorrow evening, but we will be keeping in contact with them via e-mail and Facebook. We hate to leave Londrina, but we are exciting about getting back home to see our friends and family.

Please continue to keep our team in your prayers as we travel to Igauzu Falls and then back to Atlanta.

Other Posts From Our Trip

An Assessment of Me

August 16, 2012 Leave a comment
peanut

“That’s me in a nutshell!”

As a whole, we typically do an assessment of things when we find a problem. You take your car to the mechanic when you find something wrong. Doctors see patients when they need to find out why they don’t feel well. The truth of the matter is that assessments can tell us where our strengths are and how we can better ourselves using these areas.

Since I have had some time to reflect lately (as I prepare for my Brazil mission trip and as I continue to look for a job), I decided to take a few online assessments to see where my strengths are at this point in my life. This is something I encourage you to do on a regular basis. Some of the things that are revealed you may already know about yourself, but other things may surprise you. Here is what I found about myself through these assessments:

Spiritual Gifts Analysis – I typically take one of these assessments every six months or so. In the past Teaching has been one of my dominant spiritual gifts, but this time it was somewhere in the middle. My primary spiritual gift this time was Pastor/Shepherd (with 20 points – this has previously been a dominant gift for me as well). For my secondary spiritual gift I had a three-way tie (with 17 points each): Exhortation, Showing Mercy, and Administration. I can definitely see evidence of all of these in my life – I love leading people, I’m known for being an encourager, and I’m really good with coordinating things.

Jung Typology Test – This is a shorter version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. My results were ISFJ – Introvert (56%), Sensing (50%), Feeling (75%), and Judging (33%). I knew about the Introvert part and the Feeling part. I was not aware of the Sensing or Judging part, but they both make sense.

5 Love Languages – This assessment is based on the book by Gary Chapman. I took this one about 2-3 years ago and the results have changed drastically for me. It tells you how you best feel people show you love and it also reflects how you give love to others. In the past my primary love language was words of affirmation, but this time around my primary love language was receiving gifts. I also return love in the same way. The study tells you that giving/receiving gifts is not a materialistic thing…it’s in the finding or making something that makes you think of a certain individual that expresses love. In this current stage of my life I can definitely see this as my primary love language. I love when people take the time to find something that reminds them of me – I definitely feel loved and appreciated when this happens.

I’ve shared my assessments, now it’s your turn. What were your results from the above assessments? What did you already now as a result of these and what did you learn about yourself?

Photo Credit: By C B

I Love My Church – Singles Leader Edition

August 10, 2012 Leave a comment
Hotel view

View from my room this weekend

What an organization does (or doesn’t do) to equip its leaders is a reflection of that organization. I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of a church that greatly invests in its leaders – Buckhead Church. The staff is always doing something for us to help us grow and become better leaders – whether it be giving us a book, spending one-on-one time with us, or having a guest speaker come and share with us. This weekend was yet another example of the giving nature of not only the church, but the Singles Ministry: The Singles Leader Retreat.

In its second year, all of the leaders and staff in the Singles Ministry came together for a weekend (this year it was held at Cohutta Springs Conference Center in Crandall, GA) of teaching, social time, and some alone time with God. This year our speakers were Rodney Anderson (Singles Pastor at Buckhead Church) and Jeanne Stevens (she and her husband Jarrett Co-Pastor Soul City Church in Chicago, IL). One of the messages (given by Rodney) was on Psalm 139:13-16:

“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

This passage has been at the forefront of my mind lately, as this was the third time in a couple of weeks that it has brought to my attention – Day 11 of 40 Days of The Jesus Creed used this passage, my roommate and I were talking about this passage the other day, and now Rodney spoke about it at the retreat. As leaders, we get so caught up in leading others that we often neglect ourselves. God took the time to create and care for us – we are of great value to Him. As a result we need to care for ourselves: eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and take care of ourselves spiritually and mentally.

What are you doing to take care of yourself as a leader?

Here are a couple videos they did for us this weekend at the Singles Leader Retreat. Enjoy!

Don’t Quit Your Day Job…Yet!

Quitter

Quit the right way!

In many circles, Jon Acuff is considered a rock star – he has his own blog, has written three books (including Gazelles, Baby Steps And 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt and Stuff Christians Like) and he speaks to millions of people a year. With all these accolades, one of the main titles Acuff talks about frequently is that of “serial quitter” (having had eight jobs in eight years). Quitter, tells the story of how Acuff went from working a job he could barely tolerate to finding and starting his dream job. With a self-deprecating sense of humor, the author tells of how he learned that you cannot truly quit your day job with out a great deal of preparation.

Some great takeaways I found in this book are:

  • Some times you need your day job to fund your dream job.
  • Test your dream job to see if it truly works before you quit your day job.
  • Find a support network who believes in your and your dream job.
  • Create an “opportunity filter” that shows what you would be willing to do or not do in order to achieve your dream job (ex. only travel only 2 weekends out of the month, no back to back trips, etc.)

Quitter is an easy read that I really enjoyed and I would highly recommend to anyone who is not happy at their current job. As someone who is currently unemployed, I also got a lot out of the book. One of my favorite quotes from the book was “Find your passion. Practice it. Then plan it.” – a lot of people think they have to plan everything first and then take action. More often than not, when you practice your passion the plan will appear in the process.

Photo Credit: By Better World Books

The Next American Idol (Judge) Is…

July 14, 2012 1 comment
American Idol logo

Who will replace the AI judges?

American Idol is one of my guilty pleasures. I’ve watched it every season since it started. I saw two of the American Idol tours (the year Taylor Hicks won and the year David Cook won). I even voted for Phillip Phillips this year and have his song Home on my iPod. If you keep up with pop culture at all, you have probably heard recently that both Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler will not be returning as judges for season 12 of the show. At this point it is not known if Randy Jackson will stay or follow suit. Ryan Seacrest has signed a 2 year deal to remain, so he will be hosting through at least season 13 but who knows are that.

With at least two of the three judges leaving the show, it’s time to make some changes to bring American Idol back to the juggernaut that it was when it first started back in 2002. First off, they need an “anchor” female judge who is known and loved by many (the X Factor has Britney Spears and The Voice has Christina Aguilera). Someone like Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, or even a music veteran like Carole King or Chrissie Hynde could potentially be a good fit. Next they need someone who is up and coming or really current right now – someone like Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, Pink,  Ellie Goulding, or even Katy Perry. A music producer or someone in the industry is a must for the panel – like Jimmy Iovine, Will.i.am, or even someone like Diddy. Finally, I think they should bring back a fourth judge and have it as a “rotating” judge homecoming for AI alumni (winners and those who have had a significant impact on the show) – Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, Kris Allen, David Cook, or Jordin Sparks. This would be nice because they would only be there for a week, so it wouldn’t greatly impact their touring or appearance schedules. It would also be a great way for the audience to see “where are they now” regarding their favorite former AI contestants.

As we discovered in season 9, finding the right judges can be a hit or miss process (Ellen DeGeneres?!?! Really?!?!). If you could pick, who would you like to see as the new judges for American Idol season 12?

Photo Credit: By Darren Wittko

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