Friday, December 30, 2011


My photos do not do justice to the sunrise on this penultimate day of 2011, but here is my best shot at capturing the 360 degrees of glory for you:

Because of our God’s merciful compassion, 

the Dawn from on high will visit us 
to shine on those who live in darkness 
and the shadow of death, 
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Luke 1:78-79, HCSB

Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One Thousand Gifts Book Giveaway

Photo credit:
Dear Crumbles, the year's reading has not altered my opinion that Ann Voskamp's New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts would be my favorite new book of 2011. By way of thanking you and supporting any new gratitude habits in the works for 2012, I would like to offer one copy of the book to a commenter on this post. To enter, please leave a comment before 11:59PM, January 2, 2012. The winner will be chosen by on January 3. (If you are reading this by email or in a feed reader, please click over to the actual blog to leave a comment.)

Considering the formation of new habits, in company with the Holy Experience community:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Blessing from Wits' End

When the time came to completion, God sent His Son,born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Galatians 4:4-7, HCSB

May you never cease to marvel at the mystery of Christmas:
God in a feeding trough,
Small enough to hold in your arms,
Fully God and fully human,
That He might fully atone for the sins of mankind.
Only through this Incarnation
Can we know salvation,
New life as sons and daughters of God.
Whatever your circumstances today, dear Crumbles,
May you find joy in knowing this Christ we celebrate.

Giving thanks today for the first, last, and best gift, the Lord Jesus Christ

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent 4: Salvation

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21, NIV1984).

How can it be that
All the weight of all the promises
And government will rest
On the wee shoulders
Of this bairn
In a borrowed crib?

This wrinkled, ruddy infant--
Can He be the seed of the woman,
the serpent-slayer;
the seed of Abraham,
the nations' blessing;
the seed of the shepherd singer,
the forever ruler?

Behold the Lamb of God
In a feed trough,
The Shepherd of Israel
Adored by shepherds,
The Word "without whom nothing"
Made wordless flesh,
The light of our shadowlands
Bathed in starlight.

And for what? Why did very God forsake
The splendor of His majesty?
For grace,
For love,
For kindness,
For my salvation He appeared,
For the pardon of this traitor heart,
For the redemption of this rebel sinner.

For the joy of my rescue
The King of kings became a ragamuffin
That I might become royalty.

Son of God, Son of Mary,
Swaddled Savior,
Messiah in a manger,
Glorious grace-giver.
I believe;
Help my unbelief.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:11-12, ESV).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Instead of Worrying, Ask

As I was worrying through my prayer time this morning, God so graciously reminded me that the antidote to worry is to ask, to ask in prayer, to ask with thanksgiving. His promises are so generous and kind. Daily bread, wisdom, forgiveness, intercession, love--all these and more He promises, but He does invite us to ask.

What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
~Matthew 7:9-11, HCSB

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. ~James 1:5, HCSB

What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
He did not even spare His own Son,
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
~Romans 8:31-32, HCSB

Who can bring an accusation against God's elect?
God is the One who justifies.
Who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised;
He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.
~Romans 8:33-34, HCSB

Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or anguish or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

No, in all these things we are more than victorious
through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
~Romans 8:35,37-39, HCSB

Come and survey your Father's storehouse, and ask whether he will let you starve while he has laid up so great an abundance in his garner? Look at his heart of mercy; see if that can ever prove unkind! Look at his inscrutable wisdom; see if that will ever be at fault. Above all, look up to Jesus Christ your Intercessor, and ask yourself, while he pleads, can your Father deal ungraciously with you? If he remembers even sparrows, will he forget one of the least of his poor children? 'Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved'" (C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening for this morning).

Giving thanks once again to the Giver of all good gifts, #2454-2469)...
Jesus, the best Gift of all
God's gentleness even in correcting me
Two hugs from an unexpected encounter with our little neighbor when I asked the Father to send me one today
Gifts wrapped and tucked beneath the tree
Disappointments for loved ones and
Inability to fix their circumstances myself
A family friend's courage to choose truth
Christmas cards from old friends
Real mail from online friends :)
Emailed prayers
Grace words in text messages
New haircut possibly salvaging Romans 7 hair decade year (You know, Romans 7:15.  The good that I would [it] will not do, and the evil that I would not, that [it] does.)
Good lab results for friends
Middle-of-the-night grace, a Helper who does not slumber or sleep (Psalm 121)
Husband home all weekend
Help to make one batch of toffee (with some to send to my Nonni)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead {Audio Book Review}

When I agreed to review the audiobook  of Stephen Lawhead's novel The Skin Map for Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program, I was hoping for a good story to carry me away on an adventure. This book did not disappoint. It is a rollicking good yarn.

Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared. At least, he would have brought an umbrella (p.3).

The Book
The novel posits the cosmos as multiverse, multiple worlds nestled together like soap bubbles in the bath (as one character describes it). The intersections among worlds create regions of increased electromagnetic energy. The story calls these locales "ley lines." That terminology originates outside the story world, as the author explains in an essay appended to the tale proper. The inciting incident of the book launches Kit Livingstone, who seems the chief protagonist in an ensemble cast, out of his twenty-first-century comfort zone into the unpredictable adventure of traveling through the multiverse across these lines.

Another who had preceded Kit in this kind of adventure had painstakingly had a map, the Skin Map of the title, tattooed on his body as a guide to this ley leaping. This book (and apparently the Bright Empires series as a whole) describes the chase to possess or recover this map.

The novel embodies many classic narratives of Western literature. First and foremost, it is a quest story with multiple parties pursuing the same object (but for ends not wholly apparent yet). Fish-out-of-water episodes abound as well, as the characters are dislocated in history and culture and must adapt quickly to maintain their cover stories, so to speak. I suspect the series will also become a coming-of-age saga as the reluctant hero grows to the task at hand.

The author deploys his ensemble cast with great skill. The shift among characters, narrative threads, and settings keeps the interest high and the pace fast. The secondary characters, especially a baker in seventeenth-century Prague, proved especially endearing. Kit was harder to like at first, but he's growing on me as the challenges reveal his character (hence the suspicion that his growth arc will become another unitive theme of the series).
"There is no God," he said, his voice flat and hard. "There is only chaos, chance, and the immutable laws of nature. As men of science, I had thought you would know that. In this world--as in all others--there is only the survival of the fittest." ~Lord Archelaus Burleigh, pp.337-338.
The strongly drawn characters clearly reveal the lines of the conflict. The villain is over-the-top evil; I picture him twirling an oiled black mustache as he sneers his threats. The good guys are generally ordinary folks thrust into extraordinary circumstances which reveal and test their moral foundations. This is not to exclude the possibility for treachery and shifting allegiances, but among the core group of characters the sides seem black and white in classic adventure-tale style.
"Listen to this," he said, and began to read aloud. "Sir Henry writes, 'I hold two precepts absolute: That the universe was created to allow Providence its expression, and therefore nothing happens beyond its purview.... Secondly, all was made for the benefit of each: man, woman, child, and beast, down to the curve of every wave, and the flight of the lowliest insect. For, if there be such a thing as Providence, then everything is providential, and every act of Providence is a special providence'" (pp.371-372).

The Skin Map introduces Lawhead's newest series, Bright Empires. This particular book is not a stand-alone story like a Mitford novel or one of the Chronicles of Narnia would be. This more closely resembles the first season of a television series (complete with multiple cliffhangers) or the first volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As such, this novel requires a great deal of exposition, introducing us not just to the characters but also to the whole concept of multiple universes and ley travel. In my opinion Lawhead weaves this into the story deftly and does not let the concept overwhelm the characters or conflicts.

For me, the reader, Simon Bubb, was a little slow to fully inhabit his characters, but by the second disc I stopped thinking of "the reader" and only thought of "the characters." This would seem the mark of a good performance. The complexity and breadth of the narrative require him to assume several different accents and different voices within each, but I was never confused as to the speaker at a given moment. I thoroughly enjoyed this listen and found myself looking for excuses to put the next disc in when my allotted listening time was done.

From a narrative perspective, it confused me that one character speaks of a concept of "absolute future," meaning that no one could travel to a time in another world which would be future relative to his or her home world, although later in the story at least three characters appear to do just that. I am happy to grant that the fault lies in my inattention or misunderstanding, so this is hardly worth mentioning except that in a high-concept work such as this those rules provide structure on which the story is built.
"'No Coincidence Under Heaven.... Providence not Coincidence'" (p. 372).
My other uncertainty concerns the concept itself. The ley line idea has more credence with New Age groups than orthodox science or religion, while the once fantastic concept of multiple worlds is now the stuff of science and mathematics and is closely integrated with the big bang theory of cosmic origins. The text of the story itself and the appended essay indicate the author's familiarity with both these facts. The characters' words also indicate Christian theological underpinnings, with the heroes discussing God and Providence and the villain speaking of chance and chaos.

In the concluding essay, Lawhead writes, "Not being a scientist, it is my particular privilege to roam freely in the world of 'what if' without having to prove anything." Given that, I enjoyed listening to this novel as a work of fantasy. As long as I view it as make-believe, these concerns do not overly trouble me, but for readers particularly sensitive to the Creation-evolution issue even an allusion to the big bang or old-earth geologic dating may prove bothersome enough to avoid this book.

The Bottom Line
Although outside my usual reading comfort zone, This novel was a thoroughly enjoyable listen. It was great fun and just the adventure I had hoped for. Now, if you'll excuse me, the second book in the Bright Empires series has come in for me at the library, so I must go see what happens next.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I review for BookSneeze®

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent 3: Joy {Elisabeth}

"The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people" (Luke 1:25, HCSB).

An angel's good news beggars the priest's belief

A seed of joy, sown by an expired prayer,
Takes root in his aged bride's shriveled womb,
Flutters, kicks new life into dead hopes.
Fruit of the promise swells, burgeons,
Tautens the walls of empty longing
With outlandish hope.

God sends a son called Grace*--
A son for Elisabeth--
Grace for her disgrace,
Favor for her shame,
Joy for her sorrow,
But grace upon grace:

Her Grace-child jumps for joy,
Joy dancing in her barren places.
Mute joy-leaps hail the Author of joy,
And the mother of Grace meets the mother of her Lord.

Grace rejoices in the coming
Of the Grace-giver Himself,
As near and as far
As the embrace of two unexpectedly expectant mothers
(One too soon, one too late, both in good time)
Rejoicing together in good news
Of the promise coming,
So near they can feel it kick.

*The name "John" is a variant of the Hebrew for "Yahweh is gracious."


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Dirty Truth

Cat in the garden,
Dog out the door,
Mud on the carpet,
Jeans clean no more.

Mama grabs the washcloth;
Puppy tries to hide;
A chase ensues all through the house;
Next time, let's play inside!

(Disclaimer:  it's not all tea and quilts and snuggles at Wits' End.)

Seriously, though, please join me in the chorus of thanksgiving for God's many gifts:
Mud, plenty of mud
One of the cutest Christmas photos ever in the mail
Phone visits with family
Listening to my grandmother's Pearl Harbor memories
New lavatory faucet that doesn't drip
Indoor plumbing
Water safe for drinking and hand washing
Going to bed with a full stomach
Warm blankets, coat, scarves, hats
God's timing to protect us from temptation
Kindred spirits in surprising places
Tree lit and ornamented
Pink poinsettias
Memories of poinsettia trees overhanging the roads in Vietnam
Wrapped packages slowly appearing
Making lists
Checking items off
Christmas music everywhere
Remembering a birthday in time to send a card
Working weekends
Relatives protected from serious harm in a car accident
One of Santa's elves jogging past us at the park (yes, really)
(gratitude list #2376-2396)

Linking up to Ann's celebration of thanksgiving to God...

and Laura's Playdates

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent 2: Peace

The suffering saints cried out, "How long, O Lord?
How long until You come to reign and judge?
Your covenant with Abraham, is it
Forgotten? Grace depleted? Favor spent?"

Then cried a Babe, God's answer in the flesh:
The Prince of Peace who came to reign and save;
The promises, so many, realized
At last as Yahweh whispers, "I am here."

Linking up a day late to Laura and a day early to Ann:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Another Rainy Monday

"The Sky is low--the Clouds are mean" here for the fourth consecutive day (Emily Dickinson, #1075). Allen calls this cold, wet, grey, blustery sort of day "London weather," though neither of us has ever been there. Before I even woke this morning (and we wake early around here), a text message of another in a series of hard eucharisteos for a loved one had arrived. Saturday an email brought news of an even harder trust for a friend's child.

Even so, inexplicably except for grace, the word upon my heart today is "glad." This is a day made by the Lord. Nature may be "caught/Without her Diadem," but He is not. God is on His throne; His grace is sure; His love endures forever. Therefore, I can rejoice and be glad.

Warm blankets, hot tea, a snuggle puppy, and Christmas tree lights don't hurt, either.
Sorry for the photo rerun. Minor technical difficulties with the video I intended.
Today I'm also returning thanks to God for the last week of His blessings:
Advent/Christmas carols;
the wise guys men a-wandering about the house;
Allen laughing with me over an old Dick Van Dyke Show episode, even though there were no explosions;
winning a blog giveaway for the first time ever;
our favorite kennel closing unexpectedly, opportunity to look up for guidance again;
lunch with my mother and a friend who is a sister in Christ and in chronic illness;
the fellowship of Christ's suffering;
Allen fetching me frozen yogurt;
another transformative message from Joni Eareckson Tada;
the patience of my First Husband: "Many a time a believer will put himself out of humour with the Lord for some slight turn in providence, but our precious Husband knows our silly hearts too well to take any offence at our ill manners" (Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, "Morning, December 3");
a marriage book I've been wanting, now available in Kindle format;
enjoying a family movie night with much less back discomfort than the last attempt in August;
desire fulfilled to give a pig to a needy family;
no new issues to report from my lupus checkup;
continued resting, waiting, managing chest pain until God decides to take it away;
He didn't drop any stitches when He knit me together, no matter how things appear (Psalm 139:13, HCSB).
(from the gratitude list, #2336-2354)

Giving thanks in community with the others at Ann's...