"The Christmas Candle" shines bright

We all desire a glimpse of hope especially during the Christmas season.  Max Lucado shares a story of hope in "The Christmas Candle" that warms the heart and soul.  The legend of a candle that is touched by an angel every twenty five years is received with skepticism by the new minister, David Richmond, as he takes on his new congregation in the village of Gladstone. He meets a series of very interesting people in this village who are not very happy with his response to this important legend in the life of their village.

One of my favorite questions asked of Reverend Richmond by a parishioner is "The mystery of God unsettles us all, Reverend. But isn’t mystery where God works? If he does only what we understand, is he God?”  As the story unfolds, the new minister is confronted with his own crisis of faith in believing that God can do the miraculous as events of his past life intersect with events happening in the village of Gladstone. 

The Christmas Candle is a comforting read for anyone during the Christmas season. It encourages the person of faith to HAVE faith and never doubt or become callous to mystery of God in our lives. 

This book was reviewed as a part of Booksneeze with Thomas Nelson Publishing.

For Chesterton fans everywhere

I was introduced to this author, G.K. Chesterton, while living in NYC a few years ago and fell in love with his ability to say the profound in a few, well chosen words.  For me, this book is a great collection of some of his most famous sayings and pearls of wisdom.  

The Quotable Chesterton: The Wit and Wisdom of G.K. Chesterton is organized by subject and alphabetically. I liked this because as someone who is a part of a sermon writing team, this makes research of his quotes much easier to find.  Chesterton  blended his faith into all areas of his life. He did not segment his faith from all other areas.  This book helps you, the reader, to see that and if you are a person of faith, you find challenge and a little bit of "ouch" from so much of what he says. One of my favorite quotes is "It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it."

If you are not a fan of Chesterton and are not familiar with his work, this book may be a little hard to just pick and read through his quotes and sayings. However, if you are familiar with him as an author and find thought-provoking sayings very intriguing, this is a MUST for your library. Because as G. K. Chesterton says, " A room without books is like a body without a soul."  Add this to your library!

I enjoy being a part of the BookSneeze program and this was a great choice to read and share a review.


Thankful

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I'm thankful for...

  • a life partner who is willing to hold my hand through the ebb and flow of marriage.
  • my daughter's smile which changes my mood instantly.
  • my son's laugh because it's contagious.
  • my parents for all their prayers over my life & their role as grandparents for my kids.
  • my sisters for all the drama of "our lives" that continue to create memories I cherish.
  • my friends who "totally get me" and yet, still call me a friend.
  • my church and the spiritual family we have become.
  • the privilege of living on Hilton Head Island and enjoying God's creation in its natural form.
  • my Savior, my Friend, My Comforter, my Constant who never leaves me and reveals His love for me more each day.

Roots and Soil

Tree-roots  It's been strange for me to be away from cheval glass as much as I have been this past year. It's not that life has not been full of so many things I've learned and observed. I find myself microblogging now so much more through facebook and twitter...saying what I need to say in 140 characters and moving on.

Post-sabbatical, I find myself still refreshed from that time away last January. So much of what I learned about myself as well as my need for "spiritual loittering" still influence my decisions and my time.  This is the first "Pre-Christmas" season in a few years that I'm waking up NOW with excitement about our creative endeavors as a team and the musical offerings we will be sharing throughout the season. 

IMG_7333  I entered the world of homeschool this past August with my 4th grader. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I am, truthfully.  I thought by now I would be thinking something very different! The time with Sydney has been magical.  The conversation, the learning experiences, the weekend "field trip" to Atlanta to visit the Fernbank Museum, etc... I have learned SO much about my daughter that I know I would never have learned without this experience. She told me her favorite part of homeschool is her piano and voice lessons we do together. The joy of sharing music with her is hard to put into words. There is just something as an artist about enjoying music with your kids.  Sean also is taking piano lessons and is growing up fast into a "little Cynthia" as Todd says. His passion for soccer has opened the door for him to become a part of STORM Soccer Academy this year. He is learning so much skill and is a great team player.  

I see this new season of life as one of watching our roots going into good soil.  I see it in my marriage, my kids, in our ministry at HHICC, and in our community as we get involved on a much more committed basis.  I realized the other day that we have lived in the house we live in now longer than any other home in our 18 years of marriage! This is different and new - not boring or predictable. It is rich with experiences that come from roots gaining nutrients and good soil.

When I think of this season, I'm drawn to Paul's words to the church at Ephesus...

"When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."  - Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT)


Riding bikes and summer reading at the library...these are the two most vivid memories of my childhood summers. I did both with my kids today. I can't quite explain how much doing that with my kids today brought me back to being a kid myself. I love summer and I'm glad it's here!


40

Images  The number scares me a little. I knew today was coming but now that I have "officially" left my 30's... wow.  I spent sometime on my sabbatical in January wrapping my mind around this birthday. Honestly, I have seen too many friends and acquaintances not handle this one very well and I didn't want to presume I was immune to it.  

It's weird to think I have entered another decade...so much happened in my thirties.  I became a mom twice, our family moved to two different cities,  we helped plant two churches...I'm tired just thinking about it.  I look forward to enjoying the "fruits" of my 30's in my 40's.   Not that I expect life to slow down with a nine year old and a six year old, but there has been a lot of "planting" the last few years.   I look forward to the blossoms.

The one emotion that keeps coming to the surface today is gratefulness. Through all the highs and lows of my life, I am overwhelmed when I really think about all that God has done in my life and blessed me with through the years.  Two great parents, sisters, extended family...we actually enjoy spending time together still! My husband, my children, my ministry, my home and yes... I live at the beach.  The amazing friendships that I have through the years and the wonderful memories that I have.  God has provided for me every step of the way in so many ways...I'm spoiled and I know it.

I have a few things still on my "list."  Since Todd and I celebrated our 18th anniversary this week, we talked about our 20, 25 and 30th aniversary trips. That got me excited.  I have a passion to continue to create opportunities for artists to be "reconciled" back to the church and God.  I have some tangible ways I want to see that happen on the Island. My songwriting is something I want to look back at my 40's and say that I really went for it. I've written more this year than in the last 10 years and I just want to keep at it. I want to see my kids continue to pursue lives that make a difference. Make choices that count. I want to take them on their first mission trip outside of this country in the next few years. I want to live it more than I tell them "how" to live it.

I want my marriage to not be something I take for granted. I want Todd and I to fall more in love each and everyday and extend grace to each other more than we ever have in the last 20 years.

I want to play more and work less. Trust God more and stop trying to figure it out. Let circumstances unfold and see what God is teaching me that day. I really feel that I'm starting to find such beauty in the quiet, simple, marginal life that I have really tried to live since January.  The "not so fun" things I need to do... eat less sugar, walk three times a week without excuses, use my eye cream twice a day without fail...yeah.  That's enough.

So, I'm going eat cupcakes (thanks, Donna!) and enjoy my family today. Take a nice long walk with my huband.  Enjoy dinner tonight with the family at my favorite restaurant. And be grateful.

"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.  I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;  You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.  Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared  before I’d even lived one day." - Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)


Breaking the rules

 Todd and I completed a 40-Day Daniel Fast this weekend. If you are not familiar with a Daniel Fast, CLICK HERE. The spiritual discipline of fasting is something that, I admit,was not a part of my spiritual journey until the last four years.  I had friends who did 40 days fasts from all food and frankly, that scared me. I go a few hours without food and I turn into a...well, not a very nice person.

The first time I fasted, I did a Daniel Fast. Water only and food must be from a seed or from the ground...basically, if God made it, I can eat it.  Todd, being the gourmet chef that he is, loved the challenge of cooking all naturally and trying different foods. We had done two, 21-day fasts before at different times, but never 40 days.

Honestly, we weren't prepared as much as we should have been when we started, so we got off to a little bit of a rough start.  We got into and the road of 40 days seemed impossible. We chose different times to break the fast for a meal because life happens, but we remained true to the intent of the fast. That was to break free from the bondage of "I got to have..." in our physical appetites and turn that energy and desire toward God and what He can provide.  

The main purpose of a fast is to learn that you CAN resist temptation. By learning to control your appetite, it gives you the tools to do that in every area of your life and how to stay away from behaivors and poor decisions. You learn that you "CAN" help yourself and through prayer and relying on God, you can say no to things that you should.

One thing I love about doing a Daniel Fast is that you are encouraged not to fixate on the boundaries of the fast but the rather the purpose or person that you need to be focused on during the fast.  It is wonderful detox for your body to just be eating such healthy, nourishing foods as well.  There is weight loss although a Daniel Fast is not a low-calorie fast. It's about eating what God has made for us to eat - fruit, nuts, vegetables, rice...you get it.

As we ended our fast and "broke the rules," I discovered something this time that I did not before. Yes, my first cup of coffee in many weeks was something I looked for to and the first sip did taste good.  Yes, the chips and cheese dip at La Parilla were great, too. But, I felt an absence. A sense of loss is some ways. I had grown used to not eating these things and praying through the smell of breadsticks at Olive Garden.  Breaking the rules was fun for a moment and then, well, it was just...over.

Reflecting on that today, I was reminded of the faith chapter and this decription of Moses, "24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." - Hebrews 11:24-26

It was not sin that I ate cheese dip. The fast was over. The truth that I got from breaking the rules was exactly what the verse meant. Eating the cheese dip was such a  fleeting pleasure.  There were so many times during the fast that I thought about how WONDERFUL it would be when it was over to eat the things I love so much again. Sadly, it really wasn't that great.

I learned so much during the fast about my faith in God and my weaknesses, oh yes, my ridiculous obsession with being satisfied instantaneously.  But, now that it's over, I have to say I learned more in breaking the rules. I don't want my life to consist of fleeting pleasures. I want to resist those things and look toward the reward like Moses did. The best things God has for me in my life, not the fleeting ones.

I'll do a fast again. Don't know if it will be for 40 days...this was tough. But, I see the power and the transformational process that occurs in my life in every area when I practice this discipline.

Okay, now I want some cheese dip...


A first step

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IMG_5957  Sunday night, we had the opportunity to sponsor a Global Missions Benefit Concert for our four missions partners at HHICC. All the bands performed for free, the food was provided by Harold's Diner, and we accepted donations for all our partners throughout the night.

I've been giddy since Sunday night for so many reasons.  I was so thrilled with the turnout for the event.  Because we have never done anything like this before, we had NO idea what the turnout would be for this.  It was the first time we have hosted a concert in our new facility since we moved in last July. We invited the "Voted Best Band of 2012" on the Island, Cranford and Sons (who Randy, one of our drummers, is a founding member), and a singer-songwriter friend of Cranford, Angel Snow to join our HHICC artists (who opened the night's concert). Brandon and Kim Smith also performed and shared about their ministry, No Hungry Children.

I have a sincere passion to create avenues for artists to engage with the church. I feel very strongly that the "Church at Large" needs to do a better job of this.  Last night was a first step for us at HHICC.  Doing events like this allows the walls to come down  in every way.  We find what we can do together and create opportunitues for partnership and new relationships are formed.  Oh..and it was like a giant party!

I am so thankful for our team who served, most of them since 7am that morning for services.  It was an amazing expereience to see people from all over our Island community, not just our church community, come and support these artists as well as projects to build schools in Belize, feed kids in Africa, and send Islanders on mission trips.

Sometimes as a church, we don't do a very good job bringing the community together. I recognize that. Last night, we DID! It was such a privilege to host it, to participate in the concert with other artists, and share our music together. All of it...to benefit people all over the world who need our help...and we made new friends in the process.

This is not the end...I can't wait to do this again!  I look forward to MORE opportunities for us to create avenues for artists and the community to come together here on the Island.


Reset

IMG_5651  Driftwood Beach - Jekyll Island, GA

If I had one word to describe what my 30-day sabbatical was for me, that's the word. In every area of my life, I feel that I have a "inner button" switched from where I was before my time away and where I am now.  I truly went into this time with no expectation. As a highly-driven person, I probably had more fear than anything heading into 30 days of no responsibilities.  Everything I did for that time was from my heart - a true desire to do it. Whether it was sitting in a lounge chair somewhere in the Carribean or sitting with my son after school to help him read...I did what I enjoyed doing. 

The interesting thing is that I wasn't sure what I enjoyed doing in ministry and in a lot of areas of my life before my sabbatical.  I couldn't separate what I was responsble for from what I really loved doing.  I found myself just bursting with new songs I wanted to share, some I had written, and others that I was worshipping with alone. I started to "feel" again. I think I had become numb to a lot of the day-to-day of my life.  I didn't realize how far I had gone down that road.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the power of sleep can never be underestimated. For the most part, I've been consistently going to bed around the same time and waking up around the same time. My new mantra my first week back has been,"Cynthia, that's enough for today." I feel like I'm treating myself like my own kids sometimes, but I have alot of unhealthy margins to correct.

Spiritually, I'm so thankful for the large amounts of time that I had alone with God.  I filled the pages of my sabbatical journal and I practiced what Lance Witt refers to as "spiritual loitering." I spent alot of time wasting time with God and being quiet.  I know that is why my songwriting was so rich and plentiful during my sabbatical.

Before my sabbatical, I had become disconnected to some of my life-long friends. I made plans with almost everyone of them either in person or phone during my 30-days. I am so thankful for the love, grace, and prayers they poured over me and the encouragement they were to me during this time. You know who you are...thank you for being fresh water to my soul.

I wasn't sure if I would be coming back to ministry after this time way.  My exhaustion level was at my core.  I laid everything on the line with God and told Him that if I needed to be done, I was fine with that. Twenty years is a long time and if my season was done, I was willing to be done. I was pleasantly suprised.  Not only did God clearly reveal to me in my time with Him that I am NOT done, He renewed my heart and passion for His people in the local church.  He refined my calling as I begin this next season of ministry. For the first time in a LONG time, I have a more clear understanding of how my days should be spent as a pastor's wife and a Worship Arts Director.

IMG_5756  There were also some areas in my life that I realized were not as "jumbled" as I thought they were. Having a clear head helped me to see what was going well in my life and celebrate that!   Our family vacation on a Disney Cruise just put a BIG exclamation point on my time away. Since we were not able to have a fmaily vacation in 2012 (it was scheduled for the week we moved into our new facility!), it was a wonderful treat to spend that time with them. Todd and I had great conversations during my sabbatical and we sense a true refreshment in our marriage and in our family.

I sensed anxiety and worry trying to creep in this week as I returned to normal life and then it as if the Holy Spirit just speaks to me and says, "No, we aren't going there." and it passes before it has a hold on me.  I know there will be days when it wins. I'm celebrating it didn't this week!

I couldn't get this song out of my head during my time away. I think it became my heart's cry and how I want to move forward in my life...

"I need you more...more than yesterday / I need you more...more than words can say / I need you more...than ever before/ I need you more...I need you, Lord/ More than the air I breathe/ More than the song I sing/ More than the next heartbeat/ More than anything/ And Lord, as time goes by/I will be by Your side/ 'Cause I never want to go back to my old life." Written by Bruce Haynes and Lindell Cooley ©1996 CCLI #2061678

It's the last line of that song that I think has just stuck with me. That's what reset means. And that's what I'm leaning into each day.