Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Top Twenty

     The holidays are complete and the end of the year is drawing near.  I received a book from my  daughter for Christmas - not sure how she found it but it seems just perfect for me. 
Emily P. Freeman's A Million Little Ways is a book about uncovering "the Art you were meant to live".

     Oh Emily, if you only knew how much I needed this.  I have always seen the Lord's art everywhere I look but my art, who I am meant to be?  I seem to let that get steamrolled over all of the time.  Your book, your blog, your podcast - inspiration and encouragement for me to 'be'.  Thank you.

     So, taking your cue, here are my 20 things in no particular order.

1. Fur is pervasive, it gets on your clothes, in your nose and in every crack and crevice of your house.  It also gets deep within your heart as the love of a furry ball of happy can't be replaced by anything else.

2. It's a good thing I haven't really been to too many places, that way Alaska still gets to be on the top of my list.  So blessed to have once again been able to cruise to Alaska with MWS and many wonderful people.

3. Time-wasters.  I have long known that time-wasters can suck the life out of me.  I'm talking those meaningless things that flip across my screen, click through my media feed or simply fall out of my mouth as so-called words.  Still, I've yet to conquer them - here's to better success at it in 2015.

4. and 5.  There are few things that I'm good at, some may say blessed with.  I've never been one to toot my own horn so it's not comfortable for me to say that I've been given the gifts of being able to paint well and write well.  I receive encouragement to paint more yet I only paint if I need a gift for someone, want to donate something for a raffle at my church or have been commissioned to.  I don't really paint for me, which means I don't paint from my emotions.  I do write from my emotions.  I enjoy writing but I'm not disciplined in this area either.  I want more from myself in regard to my painting and writing.

6. Family.  As the years go by and time flies it is good to remind ones self that you can never spend too much time with loved ones.  True, too much time in one day may make you run in the other direction, but we need to run back as soon as we can before time runs out.
7. Servant hood.  God wants more and I need to make the time for that, put aside my differences and allow myself to wander away from my comfort zone and get busy.

8. Faith.  Daily doses of His word will bring me comfort, joy, confidence and more faith in myself, confidence in His path for my life and hope above all else.

9. Darkness.  I don't like it.  It comes with the change in season, the long winter and naked trees.  Plus, I can't see stuff, who turned out the lights?

10. Habits.  We are creatures of habit.  I'm not talking really bad habits like smoking or biting your fingernails.  I'm just talking about the habitualness of shopping, coming home after work, making dinner, being too tired to clean up.  I need to change things up, simplify.  I still act as though 4 people live in this house - let's change this habit of cooking for 4 in 2015.

11.  Perspective. I love looking at things differently. I love to have open discussions with friends, listen and then offer a different way to look at things. They aren't necessarily the way I would have looked at things prior to the conversation, but something shows me a different way to look at things.

12. Recipes. They are everywhere.  They give me a million reasons to try new things, eat new food or the same food in new ways.  I love them but I'd be much better if I just ignored them.

13. Boys.  Some things never change.  No further comment.

14. Friends.  Where would I be without them?  I love an adventure with a friend, simple shopping with a friend, crying together over coffee, worshipping together, I can't say enough about friends.

15. The Arts. A few concerts, a one man play - this is not enough.  I love the arts.  I need to spend more time appreciating these things, time walking slowly through a museum, going to the theater, the ballet - awakening the million little ways my soul responds to the arts.

16. Correspondence.  I love it.  Who doesn't?  We enjoy receiving a card or a note realizing someone has been thinking about us.  But I'm not good at it. I'm guessing a book of stamps, some note cards and some time well spent can brighten a lot of people's day.  Why don't we do this anymore?  Maybe we can start a trend - a correspondence club or something.  Just a thought.

17. Fasting.  I understand it, believe in the benefits, but one word.  How?  How Lord do I do this? How exactly, at my job, in my home, do I do this?

18. Sleep. Why does it take vacation to reap the benefits of a proper amount of sleep? 2014 didn't have enough sleep.

19. Salted Caramel. It doesn't really matter what form this takes.  Ever since I discovered it - it can be candy, frozen yogurt, a cupcake, a beverage - doesn't matter, salted caramel is the flavor du jour.

20.  Daughters.  It doesn't get much better than having a true relationship between mother and daughter. Two people who know each other like no one else and share a common appreciation and everlasting love for one another. Daughter love is one of a kind.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review - The River by Michael Neale

The River by Michael Neale (Thomas Nelson Publishers) is a story about Gabriel Clarke that not only traverses his life from childhood to young adult-hood, but also The River where his roots began and to which he eventually returns.  Mr. Neale paints an awesome picture which the reader can see, hear and smell.  The characters are alive and invite the reader to turn page after page of Gabriel’s journey through life, experiencing loss, loneliness and self-doubt.  Circumstances bring Gabriel back to the River which draws him with both the intrigue of new adventure and an unexpected familiarity.  Neale draws the ready deeper into the story and the River as he introduces symbols of spirituality and the unknown.  The River is a great read with a somewhat predictable and abrupt ending.  Overall an inspired, very good read that this reader highly recommends.
The publisher has provided  this reviewer with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through BookSneeze®.
I review for BookSneeze®

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nearing Home by Billy Graham

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well, by Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson Publishers) is Billy’s Graham’s latest attempt on revealing to the world what it means to walk in faith.  He offers a candid look at what it means to grown old in the Lord and gives us a hint at the cost of being an evangelist on fire for the Lord.  Who besides Billy Graham can tell this story?  With personal recounts of his early years with Ruth, words of wisdom on how to live your life and be content even when the body fails, this book has something for everyone.
As in all Mr. Graham’s books there is a hope offered.  He encourages us as he reveals the gifts that come with a life of servitude and a life long-lived.  He finishes in revealing the hope that we have in an eternal life with God, providing glimpses of heaven.
The publisher of Nearing Home has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through BookSneeze®.  I enjoyed this book and highly recommend this read.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Self-publication: It's really pretty cool

I've been part of a ministry called Kingdom Writer's in my church for a year or so.  It has been good, using my love for writing cathartically for myself while also seeking to encourage others.  We are called to use our gifts, given to us by our Creator, and so I write.  I don't write as often as I should, sometimes need a little writing prompt from the head of the ministry to keep me on track, but I do enjoy it.  As our leader Mel encouraged us to share our writings and we began to discuss self-publication I went out on a limb and decided to put a few pieces that I had written together in a small publication.  I don't even think you can call it a book but I encourage you to have a look.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

God in an Oceanarium

God in an Oceanarium

Liz Hall © 2012

It was the last day. In less than 24 hours, my week-long Christian cruise with amazing singer-songwriters, authors, a comedian and a boat full of God’s people would be ending. It is always bittersweet when good things come to an end. As my day began in Bar Harbor, Maine, I began my sightseeing with these things in the back of my mind. The completion of the cruise would mean I would have to return to the ‘real’ world, and work, and be surrounded by more secular things. Gone would be my daily discussions with my friends from throughout the world regarding the morning devotional just presented by Frank Peretti. Dinner would not be in a world class restaurant and include sumptuous courses prepared by a top chef. My evenings would not be filled with praise and worship lead by an awesome contemporary Christian recording artist and daily excursions to ports of call would be replaced with time in an office, in front of my computer, crunching data.

And so I visited the little shops and hopped on a coach bus for a guided excursion through the town and then into Acadia National Park. The sights were inspiring. Filling my memory card with snapshot after snapshot of the wonders of God’s creation, I was continually inspired to return to my paints and canvas upon my arrival back home. Leaving Cadillac Mountain and the park, the tour guide informed us of our next stop at the Mount Desert Oceanarium where would be given a demonstration and learn about lobsters at the Lobster Institute there. I sighed with some regret thinking that being from Connecticut I had certainly seen my fair share of lobsters; additionally I had just seen a short presentation during my trip to Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia the day before. Regardless, I was with my friends and waited patiently upon our arrival. I glanced around at the wooden buildings, most looking slightly old and worn and wondered what was awaiting us.

We were ushered into a building with a few rows of folding chairs which we filled. Looking forward I noticed that in front of us was an entire lobster boat taking up the larger part of the room. The boat had a cut-away opening to allow easy access and was filled with the tools of a lobster fisherman. There were traps and buoys and the like everywhere. After a minute or so, David Mills, a tall elderly gentleman, entered the room and greeted us. He had white hair and well-worn jeans and appeared to be a gentle soul. He began by telling us how happy he was to see us, confirmed that we were from a cruise ship and said there was someone in common that he and us enjoyed. We were delighted and assumed he was a Michael W. Smith fan. He then proceeded to tell us that God instructed him to open the Oceanarium back in 1972. Now having my full attention, with a huge smile on my face I sat in great expectation of what he would share with us.

He explained how during similar presentations as the one we would see, he hosted many secular groups and was continually given the opportunity to ‘love on’ them when they least expected it. He told us of a recent group that came through and a couple who sat in the front row. The husband, he explained was kind of “jerky” and he felt sorry for the wife noticing her gentle disposition. During his presentation of the lobster boat he directed the group’s attention to the registry number which every vessel must have. As the group he was talking about did, we looked and observed the registry: ME 316 JN on the bow of the boat. Our group became excited and he described how a murmur went through the secular group he was telling us about when he presented them the registry number. Between them he began to hear some of them mention John 3:16. The woman in front with the ‘jerky’ husband said she didn’t understand and asked him what they were talking about. He told us how he explained to her that the letters and numbers represented the state the vessel was registered in, ME for Maine and 316 JN represented a scripture in the bible. To which she responded, “I don’t know it; can you tell me what it says?” He eloquently shared how it says that God loves her and that he loves her so much that he sent his only son and if she would believe in him she would have eternal life and not perish. He reminded us of how we never know how God is going to use us.

The remainder of the presentation was quaint and informative. In a short time the tour guide told him he had to finish up as we had a ship to catch. In the gentlest of voices he told us how much he had enjoyed our group and how he wished there was more time. He asked if he could pray over us and finished the presentation with a sincere prayer for our group, for the rest of the ship including the unsaved staff and for all God’s people. My friends and I got back on the coach bus and looked at each other asking ‘what just happened?’ We were more excited than words can describe. We had spent a week cruising the Saint Lawrence River and visiting some of Canada’s most interesting ports. We had been ministered to by anointed musicians, a renowned author and other talented people; yet the cherry on top of the sundae was in a modest building with a lobster boat and a fisherman wise with years and with the knowledge of God.

What I heard God tell me that day was that His people are everywhere. When I reflect back on the experience, I realize that our conclusion that Mr. Mills was a Michael W. Smith fan may have been less than correct. What we had in common was above all else, a love for the Lord. I equate the Oceanarium experience to finding the gold nugget amongst all the grains of sand. There are those He has refined that are heavy and filled with all the things of God. They will stand out, shining brightly and with His word they will proclaim Him as Lord and ‘love on’ those that are in need.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Giftedness ©

Gifts and talents are amazing.  We all have heroes we admire and respect.  We admire their courage and strength, their knowledge and intellect, their creativity and inventiveness.  We admire their talent.  It seems kingdoms and countries have been led by men and women such as these.  Sometimes we observe such talent and think, ‘Oh, if I just had a tiny fraction of that person’s talent.’ 
The fact is that we all have our very own set of gifts and talents.  We may not be the best speaker or leader, we may not have political savvy or be the best guitar player or worship leader.  But we might be awesome at childcare.  We might be an awesome cook or an excellent gardener.  Perhaps we excel at writing poems, throwing a football, knitting or training puppies.  The point is, it doesn’t matter what we are good at only that we recognize that we are good at something.  And that something, no matter how big or how small, is the exact talent or gift that we are meant to have.  More importantly, that gift or talent is meant to be shared with others; it is ours given to us to by the creator to be used for all. 
The truth is if we were all great leaders there would be no one to lead.  If we were all top notch guitar players the band would sound horrible without the rest of the instruments.  Large and small, gifts and talents cannot be measured in value based on popularity because they are all necessary; let us all give thanks for our own special gifts.   

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thoughts on Women of Faith © 2011

Women of Faith. What does that mean? How do we come to fall into that category? Hmm, fall into a category, that’s an interesting concept, but it doesn’t apply here. Being a woman is part of who we are, part of our assignment from God. Faith is a choice and not something we fall in to.

In this case, ‘Women of Faith is a Christian women’s organization that has been holding non-denominational conferences at various locations around North America since 1996’ at least that is how it is defined according to Wikipedia. But in my experience it is so much more. Attending a Women of Faith (WOF) conference cannot be narrowed down to a simple definition. It is an experience. It is true that part of WOF is the whole ‘getting there’ dilemma. Can we take the time? Will the family survive? What about the expense? Should we stay in a hotel? Who we will go with and on and on. It is no small task to actually get a woman to step out and attend a conference designed solely for her, for 2 entire days. But, when everything falls into place and the WOF experience begins, you will never forget it.

I attend the WOF conference in Hartford, CT. This is significant for two reasons: 1) it is close to my home and 2) it is the closing conference for the season and that makes it really special. This year’s WOF conference had something for everyone. Comedy, drama, psychology, science, music, and of course worship and testimonies. From Shelia Walsh’s poignant bible study and testimony to Ken Davis’ outrageous comedy I cried and laughed until I was near dehydration. As a scientist by education I truly appreciated Dr. Henry Cloud’s presentation of the Law of Happiness and how the science behind happy people so closely follows the reality of Christian teaching. One could say that God’s law is the key to happiness. But we all knew that didn’t we?

One of the favorite things I enjoy about WOF is not only the opportunity to connect with nearly 9,000 women in worship which brings glory to my heavenly Father, but also the obvious connection between the WOF team. As these women share their hearts, their brokenness and their encouragement with the audience, we can observe not only how their stories affect those in the seats around us, but also how they affect their co-team members sitting on the ‘front porch’. I watched as they cheered each other on, were humbled by each other’s talent and wept over their heartbreaks. From April to November these women and men leave their families on the weekend and minister to thousands of women across the country. The production of the conference is timed and goes on without a hitch as the same material is covered weekend after weekend. Yet I see these women weep for each other over material previously presented and I see them bent over in hysterics as Ken Davis kills us with his comedic view on life. I see Henry Cloud choke up as he speaks of the importance of connection. This is the essence of what the Women of Faith experience is - the connectedness. This is where women are touched and encouraged by women who have faith that accepting the love of our Savior is what will get us all through.  I am so grateful to all those who make the Women of Faith experience possible and I am better for having experienced it.