Sunday, October 28, 2012

Aiming for Perfection? Think Again.

I was minding my own business, driving to church, when suddenly I heard the familiar stutter. It was the engine, and it was talking to me:

Feed me.

Only I was miles from the gas station, I was wearing a pair of red heels completely not conducive to walking, and it was ninety-five degrees outside.

Easy, right? Make a phone call. Only it was at this very second my phone began to scream death chants at me. I’m dying! I’m dying! Beep. Beep.

I felt like I was on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but with only one lifeline. I knew there was enough juice to make exactly one phone call as I veered to the side of the road and searched for the hazards on my husband’s Jeep.

(Did I mention it’s my husband’s Jeep? That the gas gauge is broken? That he apparently determines when it needs fuel by “how it feels when the engine cranks”? Nice.)

So I called a deacon from church. I listened hopefully as his phone rang again… and again… and again… finally to be answered. Only he was at the beach. Nowhere near my stranded car.


My deacon-friend blurted the church number quickly enough for me to hang up and dial the pastor’s wife, who sent a search party to the highway just as my phone breathed its last.

(And why did I not call my husband? He also was having a rough night and accidentally left his phone on the kitchen table.)

I arrived at church in time to teach four out of my five classes. But it wasn’t pretty. I was hot, I was sticky, and I was in a mood. Also, I’m pretty sure four out of every five kids won’t be coming back to VBS because of the gas fumes that were leaking from my pores.

I tell you this story as a confession:

I used to obsess about “having it together”.

I couldn’t teach, couldn’t write, couldn’t contribute unless my life resembled a perfectly pristine, starched, white shirt.

No wrinkles.

No flaws.

No mistakes.

I think it’s something we do as Christians; we don’t want people to know when we screw up. We don’t want to admit we don’t have it all together.

But God has something different to say about us. He wants us to do our best—all for His glory—but trust that He uses our weaknesses as strengths for His kingdom.

1 Corinthians 1 says, But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;

God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

Feeling flawed today? Like you don’t have it all together?

Go ahead. Breathe deeply. Let it go. God might just choose to use that to further His kingdom.

Q4U: What can you let go of today?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book giveaway - A Perfect Square by Vannetta Chapman

Camy here! Today I’m giving away a book!

A Perfect Square (A Shipshewana Amish Mystery)
Vannetta Chapman

There's more to the quaint northern Indiana town of Shipshewana than handcrafted quilts, Amish-made furniture, immaculate farms and close-knit families. When a dead girl is found floating in a local pond, murder is also afoot. And Reuben Fisher is in jail as the suspect! Reuben refuses to divulge any information, even to clear himself of a crime Deborah is certain he didn't commit. So, with her English friend, Callie---fellow sleuth and owner of Daisy's Quilt Shop---Deborah sets out to uncover the truth. But the mystery deepens when an elderly man seeks Callie's help in finding his long-lost daughter, missing since the days of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes. An old man who has lost his past. A young man who may lose his future. Once again Deborah and Callie find themselves trying to piece together a crazy quilt of lives and events---one that can bring unexpected touches of God's grace and resolve the tragedy that has shaken this quiet Amish community.

Camy here: I’m giving away 3 copies!

To enter to win today’s book, leave a comment on this blog post, giving your name and US state. Sorry, no international entrants. Please click here to read giveaway rules and why I had to change them.

Please also leave an email address or website where I can contact you (please use this format--you [at] something like that to prevent spammers from trolling for your email address). It is the winner’s responsibility to check to see if you won and to email me if you haven’t yet heard from me.

I always email the winner and give them a week to reply, but if I don’t receive an answer, I will pull another person to win the book. I am not responsible for a lost opportunity if you are on vacation or leave an email address you don’t check frequently.

Only one entry per person. The winner can expect their free book in 4-6 weeks.

I'll pick a name out of a hat on November 14th. (BTW, you can post a comment and NOT enter, too.)

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the first book in her new series, Protection for Hire, which is like Stephanie Plum meets The Joy Luck Club. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jesus's voice in the storm...

We all go through storms of various sizes and intensity. Storms regarding friendships, grades, choices, peer pressure, relationships, finances. No matter how old we are, how established we are, how wise we are - there is always either a storm coming or a storm we are just getting through.

I'm going through a storm right now that is deep and personal and hurts. A storm that leaves me helpless and out of control and pleading for God's mercy. A storm that instead of booms thunder, booms lies. A storm that instead of flashes lightning, flashes hopelessness. A storm that seems it could truly sweep me away.

The other night, a random storm sprung up here in the country. My four year old and I were headed home, and my husband was at the fire station. Little Miss is always more nervous when he's not at home, and she's TERRIFIED of lightning and thunder. I was reassuring her and comforting her while we were in the car driving down our street and parking in the carport. I carried her inside and once we got in the house, the truth of what I had just spoken slapped me across the face.

I'd said in the course of the last few minutes:

"It's just a storm, baby. God is still in control."

"This storm is just an example of God's power."

"It will be over soon."

"Remember the Bible story, when Jesus and His disciples were in the boat and a storm came? Jesus was asleep, and the disciples were scared. Jesus woke up and calmed the wind and the waves. The storm had to respond to Him."

"It made Jesus sad that His disciples didn't trust Him in the storm."

"Just because Jesus is in Heaven now doesn't mean He's not still in control."



What's your storm today? And which sound are you choosing to listen to in the midst of it? The overwhelming noise of thunder and wind and crashing waves?

Or the voice of Jesus? The One who is in control of it all and won't let you drown?

I trust You today, Jesus.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Adopt Amish Principles . . . as a Teen


Living in Montana for fifteen years I enjoyed being out of the flow of busy life. Montana is a destination. It's not someplace people "drive through" or "stop by." Life has a slower pace, too. Maybe because there is snow on the ground 6 months of the year. Maybe because the views of the meadows, mountains and lakes make you remember what's really important in life—God, family, nature—and not the to-do list.

Imagine my surprise when I traveled up to the West Kootenai area and discovered a slower pace still. My daughter Leslie and I had lunch in the West Kootenai Kraft and Grocery and noticed neighbors running into each other and sitting down for an impromptu lunch—Amish and Englisch alike. There were little boys driving four-wheelers and a few girls riding horseback down the country lanes. Another teen boy was mowing the field behind the grocery but his attention seemed to be drawn to the sky and the mountains on the horizon as much as the weeds he was trying to whack down. People in the store chatted about their gardens and yesterday's rain. I thought my life had been slow-paced in Kalispell, but being in the mountains of West Kootenai I felt like I'd taken my first deep breath.

Since writing Beside Still Waters I've moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. Things are busier here. There are more cars, more traffic, more things to do and see. The challenge for me has been not to get caught up in the flow. To remember that just because people around me have full schedules doesn't mean I have to do the same. It's something I'm still trying to figure out.

Yet being in the West Kootenai has taught me a few lessons I've tried to incorporate, and you can, too.

1. If you run into a friend, whether you're at school or at the grocery store, try to chat for even five minutes. Ask about that person's day. Ask how they really are.

2. Take a few minutes to enjoy nature. Yes, that means putting down the phone for a few seconds. Really stop and look at those beautiful vegetables you are bagging up at the grocery store. Pause to appreciate a flower bed at the park or even in front of your favorite store.

3. Take a big breath and sit back and enjoy lunch on a weekend with someone you care about. You don't need to be on vacation or spring break to make time for a friend.

4. Finally, appreciate God's handiwork in your area. He's created each place with joys of their own. Don't forget to thank Him for that today.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Making Health Fun

Lately I have been on a health kick. A stressful couple years was taking its toll and I couldn't afford to get sick or drag around. One fear I had was that I would start out strong only to lose my enthusiasm and slack off. Instead, the opposite has happened. The more benefits I see (make that feel) in this healthier eating plan, the more I want to stick with it. The nice part is that my family is on board too, which hasn't always been the case in the past. I think part of this has to do with my attempts to make it fun. For example, we discovered that we can pack a lot of nutrition into a smoothie and it still tastes like dessert. The nice thing about smoothies is that you can throw in whatever you want. Here a few items to keep on hand for a quick health boost:

Yogurt (I like plain Greek style)
Frozen berries
Other fruits like mango or kiwi
Wheat germ or ground flax seed
Ice cubes

If you really want to be brave, add a handful of spinach or kale. I tried this a few weeks ago and no one in my family could taste the difference.

You don't need to know how to cook; you only need to know how to operate a blender. Smoothies make for a great breakfast or afternoon snack.

Play around with different combinations and see what great-tasting things you can come up with.

I would love to read some of your creations if you come up with a recipe that you really like.



Sunday, October 14, 2012

Social Media

Camy here! I was at Yogurtland with the high school kids from my church youth group because only two of them came, so instead of having lesson, we went for frozen yogurt. :)

We were talking about social media--well, specifically Facebook and Instagram. It was neat getting their perspective on it and understanding how they used it as opposed to how I and my husband use it.

I use Facebook a lot for connecting with people who read my books, and also for playing Zuma Blitz. :) (I love Zuma Blitz!)

I haven’t used it for connecting with my youth group, mostly because I accept pretty much any friend request, and I don’t know a lot of those people personally, and I don’t want any of them to be able to be find the profiles of any of the youth I know.

The high school kids, on the other hand, use social media as “social” media. They connect with friends and utilize media in a way I don’t often think about. Take Instagram. I haven’t used it much, but they were talking about the ways they use Instagram all the time, and it enables them to post pictures on Facebook a lot easier than the clunky Facebook app on their phones.

So how about you? How do you use social media? And if you’re on Facebook, like my author page! Pretty please? :)

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the first book in her new series, Protection for Hire, which is like Stephanie Plum meets The Joy Luck Club. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's enough?

Betsy here, with a hard question today.

What's enough?

Interesting question, too - and if you ask a 4 year old, the answer is usually "nothing". lol They always want more juice in their sippy cup, more Cheezits in their bowl, more cartoons on TV, more candy at Halloween, more money in their piggy bank, more friends at their birthday party, and always, always more cake.

It's never enough.

And we're sort of like 4 years old too, aren't we?

We never have enough friends. Enough popularity. Enough allowance. Enough clothes. Enough attention from the hot guy at school. Enough status. Enough cash. Enough talent for the team. Enough GPA to get to the college we want to go to.

It's exhausting, isn't it? The good news, JESUS is enough. And I know that sounds like a trite, church answer. I used to think that too, used to think that I SHOULD believe that. And I did believe it. But rarely felt it. It was like, okay, God, I know you're supposed to be enough for me, and my pastor says that a lot, but I'm not feeling it. Come on - I'm human. I want this other stuff too. I want a boyfriend and a husband and kid and a good job and my dreams to come true. I want to love and be loved. I want money and a nice house one day and security. I want to tour Europe and live life. What's wrong with that?

Jesus came that we might have ABUNDANT life. And abundant life isn't found when we stick Jesus to one side and focus on that never ending, exhausting, "never enough list". Because when we get those things, we discover they weren't enough after all.

And that truly, seriously, deeply - only Jesus is.

Think about that today, as you review your list of wants and needs and desires and longings. Where does Jesus fit at the list? The Bible tells us to seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added. "Added" - meaning, later, in addition to, at another time. Because we have to get the steps in the right order, guys. And when we truly live for Jesus and want Him and let Him be enough in our hearts, we're strengthened and encouraged for the journey.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Top Ten Reasons to Stay Abstinent

No one doubts that sexual activity is physically, emotionally, and socially dangerous.

But what are the actual risks?

10. The risk of death. More than 600,000 cases of AIDS have been reported in the United States since 1981. As many as 900,000 Americans may be infected with HIV.

1 Corinthians 6:18 says, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body."

9. The risk of lost relationships. When you choose to develop a sexual relationship with someone, you've immediately changed the definition of the relationship. There is no such thing as casual sex. Once you have developed a sexual relationship, that relationship turns a critical corner. After the relationship ends, you and your partner will experience that guilt and pain of promises broken.

Hebrews 12:16 says, "See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son."

8. Risks of incurable disease. Imagine you have found that one special person with whom you want to share your life . . . and now you are forced to break the news that you have an incurable disease. Even though such diseases like herpes are generally not considered life-threatening, currently no cures exist. Not only is it incurable, but it fills a life with worries, awkward revelations, and continuous need for medication.

1 Corinthians 6:13 says, "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body."

7. The risk of damaging the destiny of your future marriage. There is no way premarital sex of any kind is positive for your future marriage. (Just ask my husband how he feels "knowing" about my past.) It only causes suspicion, mistrust, and regret.

Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."

6. The risk of permanently damaging your testimony as a Christian. You'll never be able to say honestly, "I was a virgin before I was married." You'll never be able to live as an example of committed purity.

Ephesians 5:3 says, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people."

5. The risk of depression. Those who participate in premarital sex experience emotional damage that can lead to an increased chance of mental depression and emotional despair.

2 Corinthians 12:21 says, "I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged."

4. The risk of placing your future children in spiritual harm's way. The Bible clearly speaks of the concept of generational sin. What you sow (plant) spiritually may be reaped in the life of your children. Remain pure before God, and you'll be tenaciously guarding the future of the next generation.

Proverbs 20:7 says, "The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him."

3. The risk of sexual dysfunction. People spend millions of dollars to correct sexual dysfunction through drugs and psychotherapy. Why? Because they entered marriage with unresolved sexual issues. For example, a man may think that he will be free from the curse of pornography once he gets married, only to find that the problems are even more noticeable and controlling. Sexual purity before marriage is the first step to incredible sexual fulfillment after marriage.

Mark 7:21 says, "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,"

2. The risk of shame. Premarital sex imputes a spiritual state of shame that becomes a major weapon for our enemy. God forgives you, but you will still be vulnerable to Satan's whispering accusations on your worth.

1 Corinthians 5:1-2 says, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you . . . Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief?"

1. The risk of disobeying God and letting Satan get a foothold. The Bible, time after time, tells us to flee sexual sins. Why? Because it is a major strategy of the devil to sabotage God's work on Earth. How can God work through you when you aren't living up to His standards?

1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality."

So, what do you think?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

When it hurts too much to pray

I've been thinking a lot about Hannah lately; about her desire for a child.

Even when God was silent, Hannah continued to press in. Even when her heart was breaking... she didn't push the Lord away.

Lately I've been grieving my own lack of answers. And I know my heart is a great distance from Jesus, as if I've withdrawn into myself; somehow become immobilized.

Tonight, as I lay on the floor, I asked Jesus to meet me there. To make up the distance I could not reach. To give me the desire for relationship with Him in the midst of the pain He's allowing.

Not even to restore me... but just to begin by wooing me.

Woo me gently, Jesus
When I don't have the strength to raise my hand
Woo me gently, Jesus
When my heart breaks and cannot understand

I've knelt before You here so many times
I gasp for air, not sure that I'm alive
My hopes are scattered pieces on the ground
I try to speak -- my lips won't make a sound

When I am broken, lonely, and ashamed...
Gentle Jesus, woo me once again.

God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit... (Psa. 34:18)

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart... (Psa. 37:4)

Trust in the Lord and do good, trust also in Him and He will bring it to pass...
(Psa. 37:3)

Postscript: I wrote this blog before God gave me the desires of my heart. He answered my prayer most of all in allowing me to see that He was enough for me in the waiting.

Will you ask Him to be enough for you today, even when it hurts?