Book Reviews, faith, Family, God's love, grace, love

Book Review: Between Heaven and the Real World

“Oh taste and SEE that the Lord is good!” (Ps. 34:8)

This is the theme verse of Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman. 

In all my years of reading, whether for pleasure, for school, or for work, I’ve never read a book written with such raw vulnerability, painful hurts, deep faith, total surrender and intense trust. That is, until I read this book.

Between Heaven and the Real World begins when Steven was a young boy and brings the reader through his life up until 2013. He shares of the struggles he had as a young boy, a teenager. He writes of meeting his bride, Mary Beth, of the struggles she experienced, and the struggles they experienced together. He tells the reader of the unwavering commitment he and Mary Beth had to one another and how, through the darkest, bleakest times, that commitment held them together. 

He shares stories of all of his children – biological and adopted. Maria, adopted from China, brought an effervescent joy to the Chapman home. Her happiness, her love of life brightened up the lives of everyone around her. Steven is at his most vulnerable as he writes of life after Maria. All of the family suffered greatly, and yet, through their suffering, the roots of their faith grew deeper and today, around the world, Maria’s legacy can be found everywhere. “Oh, taste and SEE that the Lord is good!”

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the many times Steven shared how he got the inspiration for the various hit singles he’s had through the years, many of them becoming part of the “48 career number one radio singles.” After reading this book, you will hear one of those songs and remember just where Steven was, who he was with, and how God revealed to him the lyrics to the song. Knowing the background of the song gives the song a deeper meaning and makes the song even more special than when you heard it before.

This is a book that will minister to everyone who reads it. But for those who are in the midst of a crisis of faith, it is a “must” read. Your faith will grow stronger, your heart will be encouraged and your life changed. 

                                                                                 

God's love, light, pain

What Would Jesus Do?

I am sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room, having driven my husband to his appointment. I don’t mind driving him and waiting as it gives me time to do one of my favorite things – people watch. This morning is no different, as there are a number of people waiting their turn to see the doctor for their allotted 10 minutes.

There is the woman who is in obvious pain from what appears to be a migraine. She has on dark sunglasses to block out as much of the light in the room as possible. She leans her head onto her hand; occasionally she makes a low, moaning sound as the pain becomes almost more than she can tolerate. I wonder to myself what has triggered her migraine and having suffered from migraines myself in the past, I say a prayer for her. Should I have offered to pray with her right there in the waiting room?

The obese woman sitting in the corner by herself looks so very miserable. Is her obesity caused by a medical condition? Or does it cover up emotional wounds that she has never faced? There is a self-imposed wall surrounding her that I can feel from where I sit. It is as if her obesity is a fortress – keeping her locked in and others out. Should I have told her how much God loves her and how beautiful she is to Him?

Then there is the elderly man who cannot walk on his own. His legs are four wheels on a chair that his daughter pushes while his wife walks alongside. This man has a twinkle in his eye that sparkles like diamonds. His smile radiates around the room and his laughter is infectious. Life has dealt him some blows, obviously. His body has begun to betray him, hence the wheelchair. As I listen to him repeat his sentences frequently, I realize that his mind, so sharp in youth, now playas tricks on him. He still has a lively, contagious sense of humor. He wonders out loud why he is “there to see the doctor about my hip when it is my head that hurts!” His daughter tells him that “his hip bone is connected to his head bone” – like the old song we all sang as children – and he laughs happily. In a few minutes he wonders out loud why he is “there to see the doctor about my hip when it is my head that hurts!” As I watched his wife and daughter, their faces fell ever so slightly as they realized, not for the first time I’m sure, that his mind continues to slip away a little more each day. His sense of humor prevails as he said (more than once) “I’m here to see Dr. Nee about my hip pain.” And he would laugh uproariously. Should I have shown my support to the wife and daughter by reminding them that God is their strength?

These people caused me to think about how we, as Christians, can and should be a witness of God’s love, care and mercy. Every day, everywhere we go there are many people who need an encouraging word or a friendly smile. And yet, we are usually so busy with our own life and our own schedule that we are not even aware of those around us, much less what they may need at the very moment our lives collide, however briefly. God has called us to be His light to the world but how can we when we are moving at warped speed? What if we are the only Christian who crosses that person’s path that day? What kind of witness would we leave with them?

“But I’m so busy. I have to go here, do this, do that, see this person and that person….” I understand busy – believe me, I do. But if we are so busy that we cannot take a moment to speak to someone in kindness, we are too busy. If we are so distracted that we cannot smile at a person who so obviously needs encouragement, we are too distracted. If we are so rushed that we cannot offer up a brief prayer for someone who is in pain, we are too rushed.

“What would Jesus do?” became a popular saying a few years back and it is an excellent question to ask ourselves. Had I asked myself that question in the doctor’s office that day, I would have known what I should have done. Because Jesus would have prayed with the lady who had the migraine, He would have told the obese woman how much He loved her and how beautiful she was to Him, and He would have laughed with the elderly gentleman and shown His support to his wife and daughter.

Beginning today I’m going to be more aware of the people around me who need encouragement, whose spirits need lifting. And I am going to be His light to them. I challenge you to do the same.

 

© 2015 Edwina E. Cowgill

everlasting love, God's love

Day Ten: The Gift of His Love

Jeremiah 31:3: “…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son; that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

What an amazing gift! To think that Almighty God loved you and me so much that He sent His son to be born of a virgin, in the lowliest, most humble place possible – a stable, with a manger as His bed – is mind-boggling. Then God caused Him who knew no sin to become sin for us and to pay the ultimate price for us so, when we die, if we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will leave our temporary home here on earth to live eternally in heaven with God and all the saints. It leaves me speechless.

Over the years, I have heard many people say “I’m sure he died for your sins, but not mine.” Or “I’m not good enough.” Or “I just don’t believe he died for me.” Or some other unbelieving remark. The Bible says “God is no respecter of persons.” In other words, if He did it for one person, He did it for all. If you had been the only living person on earth, He would have died for you.

What are some characteristics of God’s love?

• It shows no favorites. God loves us equally. He loves the sinner just as much as He loves the saint. He is no respecter of persons.

• It is unconditional. It is not based on who we are, what we do or achieve. It is not based on whether or not we deserve it. God’s love is based on the fact that He created us to be His daughters and sons. We never have to work to earn the right to be loved. No matter what we do or don’t do, say or don’t say, God loves us.

It is boundless. There are no limitations, no constraints, no conditions that we must meet for God to love us. He loves us unreservedly. No ifs, ands, or buts. Period.

• It is extravagant. He pours out His love into our lives recklessly, extravagantly. Think of all the blessings He has given you. He did that because He loves you so. There have been times when He has saved you, or a loved one, from a catastrophe, even when you were not aware of it. God’s blessings, His protection, is in your life are because of His extravagant love.

If you, the reader, don’t get anything out of any blog this month, please understand this: GOD LOVES YOU –unconditionally, boundlessly, extravagantly.

Abba Father, how can we thank you enough for your love for us? It leaves us speechless, but still we humbly say thank you. May we always be aware of your love surrounding us. We love you Abba Father. Amen.