Empty Shelf Challenge Book #14: “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortberg

I finished my 14th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

I’ve actually finished 18 books at this point due to being wicked pregnant and encouraged to stay off my swollen feet. Today is the baby’s due date, so I’m trying to finish up a few of these posts before she arrives 🙂

I was  introduced to John Ortberg almost a decade ago. I don’t remember who encouraged me to read his books, but I’m so glad they did!

I know I had started this book previously, but I’m unsure if I ever finished it before. I ‘m so glad I did now! It was a very appropriate book for the season that we’ve been in for over 2 years now, almost 3, when God called us to make the big step of moving to Virginia. Though we are now back in Massachusetts, that was another big step in choosing to trust God when we’re not sure what He could be doing.

The premise of the book is based on Matthew 14, where Jesus walks on water toward the disciples and beckons Peter to come to him. The book outlines several other stories from Scripture where people are called out of their comfort zones and into a life of faith and trust.

I’m not much for underlining in books unless it’s a text book. I’m more of the dog ear type. Well, this book is more dog-earred than any other I’ve read this year. Just so many relevant and challenging points. So many little takeaways. Here are a few.

“What am I doing that I could not do apart from the power of God?” pg. 79

“If I had it all to do over again – I would have trusted Christ more.” pg. 88

“Your heart is revealed and your character is forged when life does not turn out the way you planned.” pg. 100-101

“Worry is fear that has unpacked its bags and signed a long-term lease.” pg. 123

“It is fear that threatens to keep people from trusting and obeying God.” pg. 124

And there were many more.

If you are in a season where God is calling you to do faith-filled scary things, this book is for you. If you simply want to learn to rely on God more in everyday life, this book is for you. If you are tired of fear dictating your choices, this book is for you.

I imagine that pretty much covers everyone 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:


Empty Shelf Challenge Book #2: The Circle Maker

I finished my 2nd book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

I don’t plan on doing full book reviews, or summaries even. Rather, I will share a few quotes as well as my personal takeaways from the book.

I’ve been hearing about Mark Batterson for a long time. I have a few friends that are on staff at the church he leads, National Community Church, which isn’t far from where we live. I have spoken at conferences alongside some of his church members. The free download at Christianaudio.com a few months ago was his book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. I have begun to listen to that. Then our church started reading The Circle Maker at the midweek service (which we don’t usually attend), but a good friend started talking about it a lot.

So I checked the book out of the library.

(Side note – for the #EmptyShelf challenge, why not find out what your library might have to offer? I just asked my library to order 2 books I wanted to read, and they did!)

I really enjoyed The Circle Maker. This book has a lot of great takeaways. Mark Batterson uses 3 main themes to structure the book:

1. Dream Big
2. Pray Hard
3. Think Long

I had a 4th takeaway: Praise Through.

The book hit a bunch of themes and Scriptures that God has been challenging me with so the past year, especially in light of the book release. I was simultaneously reading this book as I reviewed words and impressions that God spoke to me over the last year. It actually almost became comical after a while to see the parallels. OK, God, I’m listening!

God has been calling me for a long time to dream ludicrous dreams, and this book reinforced that ludicrous dreams are, in fact, Biblical. Here is the main quote that I’ll leave you with:

At one point, God spoke to Mark, “Stop praying for it and start praising Me for it.” At the beginning of 2013, I wrote in my journal: 2013 = Sacrifice of Praise. I didn’t do so well with that last year, so God is giving me another chance to learn what that looks like as a daily practice.

I’ll be making a little virtual bookshelf at the end of each update:

I may also include some other meaningful quotes at the end, like these:
“God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less.”
“To me, writing is praying with a keyboard.”
“If you want to see crazy miracles, obey the crazy promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
“What we perceive as unanswered prayers are often the greatest answers.”
“Goals are dreams with deadlines.”

Monday Morning Meditation: It’s Okay to Dream

On September 22nd, I ran the Zooma Cape Cod Half Marathon.

It was an amazing race. Still brings tears to my eyes.

Redemption. Read about it here. Amazing.

We had recently found out my dad didn’t have long to live.

I run because I can. I ran that race for him and so many others who cannot run.

On race weekend, we stayed at a little resort where my husband Roy stayed growing up. I found this postcard in the gift shop:

My father loves JFK, so I bought this with the intention of promptly sending it to him.

There was one last possibility for saving my father’s life (besides divine intervention): a new chemo. Within a couple of weeks, it became clear that the chemo was making him too sick to continue.  When I found this out, this postcard showed up a day or two later, stuffed in a book. I filled it out, shared some psalms, and encouraged him: It’s okay to dream.

And dream he did. When I arrived a few days at the marathon, as they had given him a few weeks to live, you could see it in his eyes. His eyes would slowly drift up, with a faraway gaze.

He dreamt of heaven.

I recently had the privilege of speaking to women of our church. As I prayed the morning of the event, I flipped through my Bible to read various psalms and came across Psalm 126:1 (NIV1984):

When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

Are you allowing yourself to dream? Have your recent struggles and trials made dreaming seem unrealistic, or even painful?

My oldest son Bear, Me, and my dad, March 2012

Yesterday, I ran the ZERO Prostate Cancer Challenge, a 4-mile race on Father’s Day, in honor of my dad. He taught me to aim high, and open my heart to what life might bring me.

He taught me: It’s okay to dream.

It’s time to dream your own dreams again.

“You know a dream is from God when you can let go of it, but it won’t let go of you.” Darlene Zschech, Kiss of Heaven

Freedom Friday: Are Your Dreams Suffocating?

What have you been dreaming about lately?

Are there dreams that God has deposited in your heart?

There have been many times God stirred a vision in my heart: for my life, my family, my marriage, His calling. Thinking about the dream, praying through it, processing it made me come alive. It stirred a longing in me that is often silenced.

Then something changes.

Life happens, circumstances are difficult, my perspective tells me it’s not worth it to hope. My dreams are too big, too ludicrous – just too much.

It reminds me of the parable of the sower that Jesus told in Luke 8. My dreams become like the seed that fell among thorns.

“The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.” verse 14

What are the thorns suffocating your dreams?

If we serve a God of hope, and hope does not disappoint….

If hope that is seen is not really hope (“if we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it,” Romans 8:24 NLT)……

Why do we allow our dreams to be suffocated?

There is a simple answer.


My main thorn is fear.

Fear drowns hope. It keeps my dreams bound, caged, suffocating.

How do we combat fear?

With love.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NIV84)

If God is love, if His love is unfailing and never-ending, why do I fear? Why do I doubt?

When I look to the cross, can I still believe anything is impossible for God?

This thought popped into my head today: I never want to stop dreaming.

I need to find a way to keep my dreams alive, to fight off the thorns that threaten to silence them.

“And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.” Luke 8:15

Is fear suffocating your dreams today? What would happen if you received God’s unfailing love?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

What dream of yours needs to be revived today?

Other helpful posts:
Are Your Dreams Asleep?
How To Keep Dreams Alive
Living Your Amazing Without Suffocating

Freedom Friday: You Have Not Because You Ask Not

Have you noticed any patterns in your life lately?

Themes concerning which God is dealing with you?

I’m in the midst of reading 2 Kings in the Bible and starting on the New Testament, beginning with the gospel of Matthew. The topics of prayer and petition has been coming up quite a bit, especially as I read the Sermon on the Mount.

Last night, I was listening to a podcast, and the speaker reminded me of this verse in James 4:2 (KJV):

“You have not because you ask not.”

It brought to mind something that happened recently.

In January, our church sang “Came to my rescue.” How I love that song (I prefer this simple version to the one generally heard). I downloaded it to my phone, as I was about to embark on a road trip.

I passionately sang as I drove down the highway, “I called, You answered, and You came to my rescue…” As I sang, God gently spoke to my heart.

“But you don’t always.”

“Wait, what?” I replied.

“You don’t always.” He gently said.

“What do you mean?” I again replied.

“You don’t call. There are times when I would have rescued you, even recently, when I would have reached out to save you, but you didn’t call.”

That just broke my heart. Especially as a parent.

A year ago, I wrote a post called “Eeyore Complex: Pooping on God’s Plan“. In that post, I wrote the following:

How would I feel if my children went whining around the neighborhood, asking for everyone else to feed them and meet their needs, but they didn’t come to me? What if they only came to me as sort of an afterthought? Like I was their 2nd or 3rd choice?

But in this case, I wasn’t running to everyone else. In this time of silence, I’m more apt to sit around, wallowing in self-pity and hopelessness, than I am to go to God first.

When God brought this to my attention on that road trip, I cried and asked God to forgive me. I repented of my pity party and acknowledged that I desperately need His help and long for Him to be my rescuer.

“You have not because you ask not.”

The Sermon on the Mount teaches us some lessons on prayer.

1. Keep it simple. The number of words or the complexity of language isn’t what convinces God to answer our prayers. Matthew 6 talks about not babbling on like the Pharisees because “your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” It gives us an example of how to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.

Sometimes, I just pray, “God, help” or “Holy Spirit, come.” God knows your heart and your desires. Keep it simple.

2. Be persistent. Keeping our prayers simple does not mean we can only ask once. In fact, Jesus implores us to do the opposite:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” words of Jesus in Mt 7:7-8

I mentioned the persistent widow in this week’s Monday Morning Meditation. I also talked about reminding God of His promises, something I’m seeing a lot of in the Old Testament. We can persistently ask God to do what He has said He will do.

3. Keep it real. We can be honest with God. We can unreservedly share with Him about our fears, our doubts, even our ludicrous dreams. It’s often when I open these things up to God that He reveals to me the why and the how.

God is good. He is also mighty. He is able to handle whatever you need to share with Him.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” words of Jesus in Mt 7:9-11

God really does have a plan for you. You. Good things for you. Ask Him to see it come to fruition in your life. Ask Him for your needs and your desires. And trust Him for the answer, even if it’s no.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 (NIV1984)

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. This Bible’s NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at Biblegateway.com.

Freedom Friday: Are Your Dreams Asleep?

“Once upon a time there was a funny dog named Crispin’s Crispian. He was named Crispin’s Crispian because – he belonged to himself.”

This is the beginning of one of our favorite children’s stories, Mister Dog: The Dog Who Belonged to Himself.

My husband discovered this book at the grocery store when my oldest was just a toddler. My kids loves this book. Love it. Ideally, they would like for me to read it 15 times a day.

In the book, Crispin’s Crispian meets a little boy in his travels. They cook dinner together and the boy moves into Crispian’s little house.

The final pages of the book describe them cleaning up after dinner and heading to bed. “He [Mr. Dog] curled up in a warm little heap and went to sleep. And he dreamed his own dreams.”

I couldn’t help but think of Mr. Dog as I watched Bob Hamp’s “A Kingdom Parable” teaching this week. He tells the story of how a young man discovers who God created him to be (he’s an acrobat). At the end of the parable, Bob describes how people react to seeing this young man’s acrobatic feat.

He describes the audience as people whose hearts have gone to sleep, and are coming alive as they witness someone who is stepping into exactly who they were made to be. The people go home, and tie ropes to trees. They pick up those music lessons that have been forgotten for too long. Others simply go back to what they used to do when their dreams were still alive.

Has this ever happened to you?

Sometimes, I go to a show, I hear good music, and it inspires me to write. I’ve written some of my most honest and powerful songs this way. Other times, I hear an inspirational speaker talk about something that exhilarates me, and I go home and write a blog post.

I walked away from this Bob Hamp teaching and felt God put a question on my heart.

Are your dreams asleep? Is your heart asleep?

In the acrobat parable, the young man’s father says to him something that struck me as a profound truth. There are some things hidden in your heart that you will never discover if you don’t push yourself enough to find it.

I’ve written elsewhere on how to keep your dreams alive. I’ve also written about how God refines us and gives us the desires of our hearts. Those posts might be helpful resources.

Part of learning to walk in freedom, part of learning to become the person God created you to be is fanning those dreams that He has given you. It’s infusing hope into them when there is no visible reason to hope.

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8 (NLT)

Ask yourself today: are my dreams asleep? What dreams are hidden in my heart, things I’ve seen glimpses of, but have been afraid to dig deeper and discover their fullness? Have I, or the enemy, squelched and buried the dreams and hopes God had conceived in us? Is it because they seem too big, too wild, too unrealistic?

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

Do I believe that God is able? Do I believe that God is not only able, but willing? Not just willing, but that He has a deep desire to bless me and love on me and see my dreams come true?

Unlike Mr. Dog, we do not belong to ourselves. We belong to God. And we find out who we are by staring into His eyes and seeing ourselves reflected in Him. We discern who He created us to be by diving into His heart and resting in Him. We discover the power to keep our dreams alive in His presence.

Wake up your dreams today. Get out your journal and remind yourself of what they are. Position yourself in a warm little heap in God’s lap and allow Him to redeposit those dreams into your heart (I envision this involving hot cocoa with marshmallows for some reason).

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4 (NLT)

Two resources that might be helpful in assisting you in this exercise: The Kiss of Heaven by Darlene Zschech and Holy Discontent by Bill Hybels.

Dream your own dreams, the ones God has given you. You are dear to God, and your dreams are His gift to you. Nurture those dreams as you would care for delicate gift from a dear loved one.

My Focus Roles, Goals, Dreams & Priorities for 2012

With my youngest at a conference in North Carolina this summer

I’m sharing with you today my focus roles for 2012, and the goals, dreams and priorities that have been born out of those roles.

Focus Roles:
Keeper of my home: Cleaning, Mealplanning, Meal prepping, Decluttering, Organizing, Playing with kids, Homeschooling
Runner/Healthy eater: Improving my running and overall fitness, eating better & more whole foods
Minister/Author, Speaker: Refilling, Writing, Praying, Soaking Up God

Keeper of my home: I’m not a very good housekeeper. I basically do the bare minimum of what needs to be done so the main rooms don’t look like a disaster area. I’ve always blamed this on being a homeschooling mom who works from home and has little kids with food sensitivities (i.e. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, as well as shopping at numerous grocery stores). I’d like to get more organized so I can see what I’m actually able to accomplish.

Runner/Healthy eater: As I stated, I’d like to improve my overall fitness. Also, in an effort to save money this year, I bought some foods that I normally would avoid, due to being highly processed. I have seen the negatives effects of that and am reverting back to a healthier eating plan. This goes hand-in-hand with the first role because this means I will need to do more meal prep and planning.

Minister/Author, Speaker: I’ve noticed when I come home from traveling, both for ministry and personal life, I struggle to get back into our routine. I also wrestle with feeling depleted. I would also like to write more and refine my vision for what God desires of me as a ministry director, author and speaker.

Out of those focus roles, I came up with the following priorities and goals.

1. Spend more time focusing on keeping my home, including interacting with my kids, decluttering, meal-planning and spending wisely.
2. Spend less time on the internet and on my phone. This is my escape, but it’s not necessarily helpful or healthy.
3. Continue running and work on improving overall fitness.
4. Improve family eating habits, cooking more and making whole foods more available, including snacks.

1. Keep my iPhone inbox below 50 emails (that’s 50 total for 5 email addresses).
2. Cut out food dyes, corn syrup, dairy & wheat from our diets (dairy & wheat is just for me since the boys already don’t eat it), as well as most pre-packaged, processed foods. Cut down on grains.
3. Run 100 miles per month through the winter. Consider what other races I should do, including aiming for a new 5K & 10K PR.
4. Run a half marathon at a :30/mile faster pace than my 1st half marathon, which I ran in 2:12:34 with a 10:08 pace.
5. Create a plan for traveling for ministry and family, which includes refilling on both ends of the trip. Figure out what my needs are in that regard.
6. Finish the booklet, “Learning to Walk in Freedom” & publish it.
7. Create a 4 week meal plan every month and follow it.
8. Make a plan for keeping my house tidy and for decluttering.
9. Continue daily Bible reading. 2 days a week, get up at running time to read the Bible, pray, journal & be silent.
10. Consider 1 other type of cardio fitness (a class at a gym or swimming).
11. Strengthen arms & core, specifically to prevent back injuries.
12. Read & finish 25-30 books in 2012. That’s just over 2 books a month. This includes books I’ve started and not yet finished.
13. Incorporate more raw & fermented foods into our diets, as well as broth. Specifically, keep a good supply of dilly green beans and dilly carrots for the kids.
14. Do a study on Mephibosheth.
15. Come up with a short stretching routine for after running.

I’m going to leave them as is without explaining them, but if you have a question, let me know! I will return at least monthly and let you know how it’s going.

How To Keep Dreams Alive

How do we keep out dreams alive?

Through the mundane of life, how do we keep dreaming about the plans that God has laid and is laying on our hearts? How do we not get bogged down by the bills to pay, diapers to change, mouths to feed? How do we get our eyes off the obstacles in the way and rather lift our eyes a little higher, keeping the prize in view?

When I had already written all the above, I came across this blog entry. He gives some practical advice on how to get out of the rut you may have fallen into and get back into focus.

Some of it is not super practical for a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom like me. Finding a big chunk of time to spend alone and focus on God, the giver and sustainer of my dreams? Near impossible!! I’m thankful for the 10 minutes I sneak by myself in the morning to read God’s Word. But on a very rare occasion, my kids do sleep at the same time, and I really need to take hold of those moments and focus on Him.

I can also do small focus moments throughout the day. I enjoy having a Bible reading application on my iPhone, as well as a couple of devotional apps. I also listen to podcasts of some Christian speakers I enjoy and am inspired by as I go about my day. Sometimes, while my children are playing, I may even have the opportunity to read a few pages of a book! And just interacting with my children reminds me of who God is as my perfect heavenly father, and how His singing and rejoicing over me to exponentially bigger and greater than what I feel for my own children. The bottom line is that It’s easy for my focus to get sidetracked, so I can use these small things to bring it back to Him.

It certainly can be (and is at times) easy to get discouraged when I don’t feel as if I have the time & space to see my dreams come to fruition. As a mom, I need to remember that my primary mission is here at home! God has given me & my husband two (so far!) beautiful children to care for. God forbid I ever look on them as an obstacle to what God has for me in my life. On the contrary, when God knit together His plans & dreams for me, He already orchestrated all the great things my husband, my kids and I would do together!

Rather I keep my focus on the giver and perfecter of my faith, the One who is able to make His plans come to pass in His perfect timing. I’m just along for the ride 🙂