Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Music {No. 2}

Thinking back, I haven't done a post about music lately. I have no idea if you guys are the type of blog-readers (like me) who see a bunch of links to other blogger's favorite songs and just say "I don't have the time" or if you are the kind who say "Oooh! Recommended music! My library could use some new additions!"

In case some or any of you are the latter group, be glad and rejoice (on the off chance that you haven't already heard these songs a gazillion times already...) - I bring new tidings of great cds!

First of all, as I mentioned many moons (or months, if you're not from a moon-counting species of the human race) ago, Audrey Assad - one of my favorite album artists - released a new cd in Feburary. Heart. And it is worth every shiny (and tarnished) penny I paid for it. In fact, I like it even better than her first album The House You're Building (which also happens to be worth every penny...) She has a very distinct and different style of song-writing and singing. Her rhythms and vocal riffs are really neat and her lyrics are poetic. Sometimes you have to think about them for a while before you understand what she's getting at. 

My favorite songs from Heart are:
- Blessed Are the Ones (which I hear tell is inspired by C.S. Lewis)
- Sparrow (A spin-off of the hymn His Eye Is On the Sparrow)

Of course, I love the other six songs on the album, but it takes too long to link them all up to include anything but my top, top favorites. 

Now, I have also recently introduces myself (via Spotify - which is amazing!) to Laura Story, whose albums - Blessings and Great God Who Saves - I am currently addicted to in a wholesome and non-habit forming way. Her lyrics are very solidly Scripture-based (at times it sounds as if she's just singing verses from the Bible), thought-provoking, and worshipful. She has a clear and straightforward singing style - which reminds me of a mixture of Kristyn Getty and Meredith Andrews. A complete win on both sides.  =D

My favorites from Blessings include:

And from Great God Who Saves:

- Bless The Lord (Probably my absolute favorite of all the songs she sings)
- Immortal, Invisible (not the hymn we're all used to, just so you know)
- Grace (This one is really, really sweet and contemplative)
Hmm, that's almost the entire album...Shows you how good it is, I guess! =D

Hopefully you'll listen to at least a few of these and perhaps discover a new artist to add to your collection! 

Till next time!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rain: Part One - God's Tears

{a poem taken from this image}

God's Tears

A knife in my heart, I already know 
before he speaks, what it will show.
I tell myself no, it's only a dream
It's not true! I want to scream.

Then the words come, I cannot hide;
I can only cringe and bleed inside. 
"I'm sorry, Miss April," he looks so sad, 
"I've done all I know; all I could have."

I shake my head. All isn't enough.
He was mine, don't they understand? 
He can't be dead. Shouldn't be gone.
That sort of thing happens in a stranger's home. 

Left alone, I turn away. 
The window beckons, dark and grey. 
I reach for the sill and try not to look;
the weather reads my heart like a book.

Rain hits the pane and slides away;
I reach out and trace their ways,
groping hard to understand,
Why is it me God reprimands?

The drops fall harder, tumbling down;
they splash on the sill, I wonder how and then I know. 
It's mine.
Another falls, I brush it off,
but what's the use?
They flood my eyes;
I struggle to see, to realize.

Jesus wept, I've read it before;
but then, I never placed much store
in two words that seemed
so detached from me.

I guess now I ought to see
 that He feels the pain that empties me.
When I am weak, when I am dry,
and I don't understand the reasons why,
He is with me - not apart;
His tears fall now to reveal His heart.

Jesus knew pain; He wasn't immune;
if He grieves, why shouldn't I?
My baby is held in the palm of His hand,
and with the other He holds mine.

The rain, His tears, flow by my hand,
His great sorrow lessens mine.
I spread my fingers and press the glass;
I don't wait longer for the feeling to pass.
I weep with God and feel inside,
the start of the healing His tears provide.

© JamieChanning 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Requiem for an Apology

I really have no idea what that title is supposed to mean, but it sounded cool. Hope it's not going to give anyone the disturbances.

Before I begin, I think I ought to bundle all the 'sorrys' I'm am probably going to drop throughout the post together and get them out now.

- I'm sorry that it's been so long since I last posted. I could throw out the "I've been busy excuse" but I have actually had time to blog that I haven't taken advantage of.

- I'm sorry that my posts have been so boring lately. I know a lot of you are probably not very interested in book reviews. *''* (That's supposed to look like a blushing smiley; it actually looks like two asterisks with a couple apostrophes in the middle. Experiment failure strikes again!)

- I'm sorry that this post is going to be lame. If you're curious enough to see just how lame, I'm sure you'll find your way to the bottom eventually.

So, I've been mulling over several Scriptural points that have hit me in the past few weeks (they churn around in my brain and scream: 'Post about me! Post about me!' until they die of old age or I actually get around to posting them) and I've also been thinking of several new fill-in-the-blanks and, of course, there's news about how my completely revamped life is going. But no, we won't use any of those.

Instead we shall talk about


And not really about rain either. Instead, I want to share this picture. 

Now that I've got it big enough so that you can see the pores of her skin...

Actually, we're not even going to talk about this picture. I'm going to post some more that give me that creepy, just-right feeling that a thunderstorm or a thrill or a good idea gives me. Enjoy!

I love how each of these pictures, just looking at them, puts a story in my mind. Lost hopes, shattered dreams, the thrill of hope, the tears of pain. Renewal. Sacrifice. Sorrow. Love. A thousand and a half (also known as 1,500 for you math-brained, unpoetical types) conclusions can be drawn from their expressions, their stances, their surroundings, even the way the rain is falling. It gives me thrills to my fingertips just to think about it! Someday, perhaps, I'll take a group of pictures and write a story or a poem for each one, but that's one of those "I'll do it on vacation or when I retire" pipe-dreams. Maybe someday, though. Maybe...

Have I bored you enough? Perhaps I should go up and add another 'sorry' to the list. But if you're still with me, I just want to say: isn't it so neat how most of these are either muted colors or black and white? Rain just does that to you. Makes you feel black and white, with maybe a little grey around the edges. 

No wonder some people hate it. And no wonder that I love it. 

Till next time,

Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Review: Far From Here

I follow a literary agent's blog and I am not above occasionally stalking her book-of-the-week selections. This is the first one I've stalked off her page that I've actually read, but we'll save the sob story about the 100+ books on my to-read list for another day. 

Reading this book involved a transfer from another library, a misconception, and a lack of observance. We'll get to all but the first later on.

How long do you hold on to hope? 
Danica Greene has always hated flying, so it was almost laughable that the boy of her dreams was a pilot. She married him anyway and together, she and Etsell settled into a life where love really did seem to conquer all. Danica is firmly rooted on the ground in Blackhawk, the small town in northern Iowa where they grew up, and the wide slashes of sky that stretch endlessly across the prairie seem more than enough for Etsell.  But when the opportunity to spend three weeks in Alaska helping a pilot friend presents itself, Etsell accepts and their idyllic world is turned upside down. It’s his dream, he reveals, and Danica knows that she can’t stand in the way. Ell is on his last flight before heading home when his plane mysteriously vanishes shortly after takeoff, leaving Danica in a free fall. Etsell is gone, but what exactly does gone mean? Is she a widow? An abandoned wife? Or will Etsell find his way home to her? Danica is forced to search for the truth in her marriage and treks to Alaska to grapple with the unanswerable questions about her husband’s mysterious disappearance. But when she learns that Ell wasn’t flying alone and that a woman is missing, too, the bits and pieces of the careful life that she had constructed for them in Iowa take to the wind. A story of love and loss, and ultimately starting over, Far From Here explores the dynamics of intimacy and the potentially devastating consequences of the little white lies we tell the ones we love.

Plot: In the beginning, I labored under the delusion that this book (genre-wise) was Christian fiction. It wasn't until I was about two-thirds through that I noticed that the 'H' on the back did not in fact stand for Harvest House Publishers (as I had thought at careless glance) but instead for Howard Books (which is a division of Simon & Schuster, in case anyone wanted to know). It was then that I realized why no one was getting saved. 

Erm, my mistake?

All in all, I was rather impressed with the book. The writing was solid and interesting and the emotions weren't cliche bits of fluff about broken hearts and ect. and ect. They were sort of visceral and real. I could read them and understand how one could draw the conclusion or parallel that was on the page.

But since this wasn't a Christian book, the whole thing was permeated with a sense of hopelessness. I mean, without God, there really isn't a way to find really solid ground. Without the hope of heaven, how can you really put away your grief? Without God's promises, how can you really find a reason to go on living?

The way Danica Greene dealt with her grief hurt me because it was so empty. You can't find real release in long cries, or refinishing tables, or planting flowers or kissing men. She didn't find God, and it was empty. I couldn't find the end very hopeful or inspiring because, though she made some right choices, Danica hadn't really grown or changed, she had simply moved on.

And, since this wasn't a Christian book there were quite a few bouts of drinking, quite a few curse words, several awkward and *ahem* mature scenes, and lots of...nothing.

Danica Greene: I was hard-pressed to like this heroine. For the most part she came of as whiny, ungrateful, high-maintenance, self-centered, and mean. She had her good moments, but the book was all about her. I don't know what it's like to have my husband disappear without a trace (haha) but does it really give you the right to be rude and caustic to everyone?
On the other hand, her emotions did come off as authentic and though they annoyed me because I got tired of her bitterness, that could very well be the way some people act and feel in the face of loss. She was selfish and annoying, but at least she wasn't perfect.
She gets a tie for her opposing parts.

Etsell Greene: My first question about this guy (or maybe my second...) was actually asked by one of the characters in the book: What kind of name is Etsell? Turns out it's his mother's maiden name - which sort of explained the oddity.
Okaay. So Etsell was pretty much perfect. Apollo in jeans, I believe Danica called him. I considered giving up on the book when the first few pages seemed devoted to telling the reader how gorgeous this man was. I prefer those details in small, unexpected doses to being force-fed chunk after chunk.
He wasn't around for most of the book, but the impression I got was that he was a rather unbalanced little boy who turned into a pretty weak husband. (I suppose he had some right to be that way. His mother died when he was young and his father was a drunk. Yay!) His marriage to Danica was based solely on looks and the fact that she, as he put it, "was his ground".This is not an ideal state for a relationship of any kind.

Then there are Kat and Natalie, Danica's polar-opposite sisters; Char, Danica's odd and loose mother; Hazel, Ell's surrogate mother; Samantha Linden, a riddle; and Benjamin, Danica's neighbor-who-is-a-pastor.

Kat needed help, Natalie needed help, Char needed help, Hazel needed...something, Samantha was just weird and I didn't really like Benjamin.

All right!

Likes: By this time I'm sure you're wondering why I even finished this book, but I'll tell you why: I didn't really like the characters, didn't think too much of the content and was turned off by the details of Dani and Ell's relationship and the lack of God's presence in the book, but the writing was excellent. The plot had just enough twists to keep you reading and just enough surprises to keep you guessing. There was a brutal honesty about it that intrigued me and I just wanted to see how it ended.

It was an interesting approach to have the third-person narrative and then switch to Danica's first person recollections and emotions. It did get clunky at times and a bit confusing, but all in all, I believe it was pulled off.

Dislikes: The fact that there was no God. Period. Mention was made of Him, yes, but Mrs. Baart could have made this story so much more powerful than an empty struggle to reach the light if she had just stopped to acknowledge that Christ is the only one who can heal a broken heart. Not to mention that Ell and Dani's marriage would have been eons better with a Scriptural foundation... But I repeat myself.

Conclusion: I would not recommend this book if you are depressed or struggle with depression. I figured the end would be different than it was, but even so the book just got steadily darker. Danica's grief overwhelms her and she drags you down too. Not only that, but this book doesn't draw the reader in. The characters exist in their own little world where you can look through the window, but stay out in the cold. It's a queer feeling not to be transported into another world when I open a book, but after finishing Far From Here, I'm rather glad I wasn't.

Till next time,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My New Baby

So, as you all know from the fact that I posted about this a week or so ago, God surprised me with another job and I am so humbled and amazed by how He works. If I never believed in the power of specific prayer, I do now. Many times while I was sending in applications and so on and so forth I prayed and asked God for specifics. I asked Him for something close, something Christian, and preferably something that was four hours a day, and not at 5 in the morning and something that would allow me to spend time and vacations with my family and please, please, please something that I could handle (which basically meant that I didn't want to go with a job where I'd have to endure the dreaded 'morning rush' (getting a million residents up in the morning for breakfast by 8).

God didn't send conclusive evidence of an answer right away and I got a bit worried. I finally forced myself to accept the fact that I would probably have to get a 2nd shift CNA job (which meant that I would be working 8 hours into the night and spending about 1-1/2 hours at home on weekdays due to my other job in the morning) and completely cut myself off from normal living.

Not the most welcoming thing to contemplate.

And then God comes along and works it out so that I am now employed to take care of one young and wonderful Christian woman for 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, in a setting that is more comfortable to me than an agency, and she lives 7 miles away. Don't anyone ever tell me that God doesn't listen to specifics or care about every detail.

And the first thing that my dad said when I told him I got the job was "you need to get a car."


Let me begin by stating that my interest in cars is about nil. I had a few preferences and little to no knowledge of what I was getting into.

That ended the minute I started looking.

To get down to the point, I basically told God "You dropped this job into my lap, it's fifteen minutes away from my house and I need a vehicle to get me from point A to point B without taking a bus. Please either drop a car in my lap or give me the wisdom to see the right one when it comes along."

I was figuring on the wisdom.

So I began my search.

My dad and I traipsed through car lots, my brother and I traipsed through websites. My dad and I took a road trip to a dinky little car dealership only to find that they had just sold the car we were looking for. We went to another lot and test drove a car that fit my criteria almost perfectly but my dad ruled it out because it made to many unidentifiable noises.

I was getting a little discouraged.

All I wanted was a four-door car for 6 to 7 thousand dollars with less than 100,000 miles on the odometer that had a cd player, air conditioning, power windows and remote entry and preferably in a sane color. I was even willing to give up the windows and entry to squeeze in a possibility.

I went into work last Monday, after another round of car-less-ness had occurred over the weekend and one of the guys who works for my dad asked me (naturally) if I had gotten a car yet. I said no and he pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and said "I've got one for you" (or something like that. I'm not going by the gospel of the letter right now when it comes to recording conversations...).

His son-in-law was upgrading and selling his old car for an extremely low price. I looked at the paper and immediately figured it was another wash because the odometer read 105,000 miles. But my dad said we might as well look at it because it had everything else I wanted and was several thousand dollars less than I had expected to pay. I said why not. I had already been disappointed once, so what did it matter?

We went in and looked at it, took it out for a drive and my dad said we'd be fools if we didn't take it. It was really a neat little car - a little more sporty, perhaps, than I would have preferred, but beggars can't be choosers - and I could come up with no real, legitimate reason to say no.

We shook on the deal, and picked it up yesterday. I got plates for it this morning and here it is! (Yes, my camera and I are still estranged; I was lame and took this with my phone. I hope no one wanted interior shots.)

(Yup, and that's my house in the background...)

And that's my testimony for today on the provision of God. Thanks all for reading!

Till next time!

P.S. Take a gander at the new blog design. Rachel over at Rainy Days Blog Design and I spent a good...erm...many hours working through the rigmarole of HTML and Gimp and stuff (I wasn't much help with all my picky opinions) to get this on the page. Hope it suits!