Tuesday, January 29, 2013

We Should All Be Hypocrites

I'm a hypocrite.

More to the point, I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm hypocrite.

To start this conversation, we all need to be on the same page about what we're talking about when I say "hypocrite". I don't go by the straight dictionary definition, because I don't think people mean the actual dictionary definition when they use this word.

According to dictionary.com, a hypocrite is a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.  The only problem I have with that definition is the word "pretends".  What is the word for someone who actually has principles and beliefs but their actions go against the stated beliefs? I believe this person would still be called a hypocrite in the English language.

So, the simple definition to be used for the rest of this article for hypocrite is: a person who says one thing and does another.

And by that definition, I am a hypocrite. All Christians should be hypocrites.

Here's why: we're broken. I don't care how diligent, prayerful, and dedicated you are as a follower of Christ, you will sin. It is inevitable. That does not mean we just go about sinning, but it is a fact of life that we must accept. (Read Romans 6, and probably a few commentaries and Bible studies for the full import of this sentiment.)

What this means is that even though I stand on the Word of God as truth and perfect guidance, you will occasionally see me mess up. I may take out my bad mood on someone and yell at them. For that matter, I may be in a bad mood and just complain about life. (Philippians 2:14 if you want to reference that wrongdoing.)

My screw-up makes me human, not wrong. But, if I have spoken the truth of God and stated that I believe we should go through life without complaining or arguing, it also makes me a hypocrite.

I teach teenagers. When I teach them, I do my best to tell them what the Word of God says, what He wants them to do, how He wants them to live, and ways that they can live according to His desires. I believe what I am saying to them 100%.

They have seen me screw up. They have called me on it and together we've discussed what went wrong, how I could have done things differently, and what God says about it.

But what if you're not  a hypocrite. What does that mean? Well, it means one of two things.

1. Your life is perfect, or at least appears to be. If you have gotten so close to God that you truly do not sin anymore, I would seriously like to meet you and have you teach me some things. If you have managed to build the appearance of perfection, beware because that house of cards is going to fall down in shambles one day.

OR

2. You aren't speaking the truths of the Bible. This is more likely the reason you aren't a hypocrite. Because in order to be a hypocrite you have to say one thing is true and then do something that belies that statement.

Often it's fear of being labeled a hypocrite that makes us hold our tongue and not tell people about the wonders of Jesus. But look at the opportunities you miss. Every time someone labels you "the H word" you have the opportunity to say, "Yes, you're right, and God loves me anyway. Isn't that amazing?"

Don't be afraid to be a hypocrite. Look at Peter. He was the ultimate hypocrite - denying Jesus three times only hours after committing to stand with him to the death. And yet Jesus said the church would be built on Peter's confession of faith.

Let me close with this. God isn't happy that we're hypocrites. He would prefer we live upright, blameless lives with no blemish on our souls. I would prefer that, too, and I try for it every day. But when I fall, I'm glad His grace is there to catch me, put me back on my feet, and tell me that His love never fails. And I'm glad I get to share that truth, too.

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's Not Worth It Until Someone's Willing to Pay ~ Life Lessons from Auctions

Last year Edvard Munch's artwork, The Scream, became the most expensive piece of art sold at auction selling for $119,922,500.

You can watch the video of the sale here. It's short and somewhat interesting to see how it works and how quickly $120 Million was spent.

That's a lot of money.

I like art. I took an art history class in college and really enjoyed it.  The Scream is one of those famous paintings I've always found, well, ugly. For someone, though, it's a piece of art they want to enjoy looking at so much that they dropped a record setting amount of money on it.

If you look into other off-the-chart options you'll find things like Marilyn Monroe's "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" dress, which sold for more than $1.2 million or one of Leonardo Da Vinci's journals that sold for a whopping $30.8 Million. (You can see more high auction prices here and here.)

Sometimes I understand the high price of certain auction items. Other times I'm left baffled.

Have you ever seen Antiques Roadshow? It's a PBS program where people bring in random things from their homes or families and experts tell them how much a particular item is worth. Most of the time, it isn't worth a whole lot, but every once in a while a special item comes along that gets a massive value tag. Owners get excited and you can tell that some of them are planning on auctioning the piece off as soon as they figure out how.

The thing is, that item, whatever it is, isn't really worth that much until someone is willing to pay it.

Recently the piano from Casablanca was sold. It was valued before the sale at $1.2 Million. But it wasn't really worth that much because the most anyone was willing to pay for it was $600,000. Half the anticipated value. Baseball cards, collectibles, art - all of these items get touted as being "worth" a certain amount of money. But if you go to sell it and no one will pay it... was it really worth that much?

I look at the auction of The Scream and all I can think is that someone wanted that piece of art really badly. That pastel on board that I think is pretty atrocious, means a lot to someone else. I hope that intend to put it somewhere they can look at it and enjoy their purchase.

All of that makes me realize just how valuable I am.

You see, once upon a time, my life was on the auction block. When sin entered the world, mankind - and myself by extension - became sullied. Worth less than expected, or at least we assumed.

But the fact is that God stepped up to the auction house where our lives wait in havoc and chaos, and He places a bid. He says He can pay the price, far above what anyone else, myself included, ever thought it was worth.

My life, your life, are valuable enough for him to pay the price with Jesus' death, suffering, and resurrection.
Talk about your high-value auction item.

Sometimes I think I'm ugly, and not always on the outside. Sometimes I think I'm not worth much, but the price paid says otherwise. It says I'm worth Jesus giving His life.

And that makes me feel pretty special.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I Don't Watch Downton Abbey And Other Confessions of a Regency Writer

Every group has its "popularities". Stereotypes or things that most of the group, or seemingly most of the group, likes or does.

Authors have a lot of them.

Regency authors have even more.

I have decided to come clean and confess that there are a few areas where I don't mesh with my sisters (and the occasional brother!) in writing. So, have a seat and be sure you aren't drinking anything. I wouldn't want you to choke on my shocking confessions.

1. I don't watch Downton Abbey. 

Yes, I know, it's shocking. It seems that most of my Regency writing friends are hooked on it. I watched the first season and then I was kinda over it. The house is gorgeous and you have to love the clothes, but the plot and such just don't do anything for me.

2. I'm not a huge fan of Georgette Heyer.

If you don't hang out in the world of Regency authors, you may not realize that this is an even more shocking announcement than someone saying they aren't a huge fan of Jane Austen. Heyer was the mother of the historical romance novel and many current authors grew up reading her books. Some people I've talked to tell me I just haven't read the right ones, and that's quite possible. As of yet, I am not a Heyer fan though.

3. I don't drink coffee.

Not even occasionally. Take me to Starbucks and I'll order something with chocolate in it.

4. I'm not a cat person.

I've about decided that this is a blessing, given the number of friends I've had that mention the horrors of trying to keep the kitty off the keyboard. I don't have any pets really, but if I were to have a large one it would more likely be a dog than a cat.

5. I don't know a dangling participle from a split infinitive. Seriously. I don't even know what they are. Those are just terms I looked up on Google so I could write that sentence. 

My. Grammar. Stinks. Really. I don't know the third thing about grammar. (I figure the first is nouns and verbs and the second is adjectives and adverbs.) I have a dear friend that edits my grammar, but when I'm writing my first drafts, the pages are full of passive participles axing infinitives while they hang off the side of a cliff. At least, I assume they are since I don't know what those are so have no way of avoiding them. And commas.... I don't think I could place one correctly if you offered me $1,000 to do so, no matter how many times my very patient, dear friend has tried to teach me.

If you've been reading for a while, you know I confessed the grammar thing before. Go check it out - it has an awesome poem about the absurdities of the English language.

So there you have it. My author confession list. Think they'll still let me in the club?

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Dangers of Personal Museums ~ Life Lessons from Louis Giglio

On Monday President Obama will be sworn into office for another four years.

Louis Giglio will not be praying at the event.

In case you've missed this turn of events, or missed some of the brouhaha that followed, here's a quick recap.

End It Shine A Light on Slavery
Louis Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and one of the men behind the Passion conference which recently completed in Atlanta. If any of your friends went to Passion 2013, you've probably seen the End It links on Facebook and twitter because one of the focuses of this year's conference. as well as a focus of Louis' work recently, is ending slavery.

Just after the first of the year, it was announced that Louis had been chosen to pray at Obama's inauguration. It wasn't long before some people started complaining of the choice. Eventually Louis withdrew because of gay support groups making a fuss over a 15-year old sermon in which he spoke out against homosexuality.

Louis' post on his church's blog. 

The article on Fox News and the article on CNN depending on how you like to read your news.

Social media lit up with people both supporting and criticizing Giglio. While some people are holding Giglio up as an example of how those pushing the homosexual agenda will turn anything into a discussion about gay rights, others are nearly trashing him because the group used a sermon 15 years old.

I would like to take a moment to say both of those groups are wrong.

For the record, I support Louis and his decision. He is my brother in Christ and I completely understand his desire to keep his focus on the passion and ministry God has currently given him. I do not think Louis is perfect, above reproach, or incapable of making a bad decision.

That is where I think the problem has arisen for those who are polarizing the situation. People love to hold others, particularly celebrities, up on pedestals. We have personal museums of personalities that we have decided are the perfect examples of who we want to be or what we believe in.

Tower of wooden blocks
Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The problem is that these pedestals are rickety, built like a child's tower of blocks. When these people, who mostly have never asked or claimed the spot we've given them, do something against the image we've created, they fall. We either knock them down ourselves and try to bury them beneath the rubble or someone else comes in a gleefully sends them crashing to the floor, scarring and bruising us in the process.

It is so dangerous to put fallible humans above reproach. They will always, ALWAYS fail us.

In this case, Louis never asked to be the posterboy for the conservative stance on homosexuality. In fact, by his own words he pulled out so that he wouldn't be in that position. He also never said he was perfect. In fact, in the sermon snippet used by the ruckus-raising group, he says he is s a sinner just like everyone else listening to his sermon.

Go through your personal museum. Who rests uncomfortably high on your homemade towers? They aren't always distant celebrities. Parents, friends, pastors, and others in our daily lives are sometimes exalted as well.

Do yourself and them a favor. Dismantle your pedestals. Don't ram them down and crush everything you admire. Take them down piece by piece, block by block, and build an altar with them. Use it to remember that the only One capable of living up to every expectation without failure is Jesus Christ.


Author's notes: I did not include the links to the social media that I saw because most of them were personal discussions on Facebook. You can find many, many blog posts on both sides through Google. Also, for the record, Louis Giglio spoke out against homosexuality during a series on marriage and dating less than a year ago. His choices and situation were not the main point of this article, simply a recent example used to illustrate my point. Do not lay undue praise or censure at his door. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

You Have Value ~ Jacob's Journal

I'm excited to once again welcome my husband to the blog to share his thoughts and views. Below is a guest post from Rev. Jacob Hunter. 


Through much of my personal devotional time last year, I really became enamored with the first few of chapters of Genesis. 

Genesis, from the Gutenberg Bible
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
There are just so many wonderful truths to find when you really dig deep and get over all the debates that surround the passage and get to the point. Not that these debates are bad or unneeded, but sometimes you just have to get to the point. 

So many of the themes that stream throughout the Bible start here: God’s revelation of Himself, mandates, sin, redemption, marriage, gardening, sanctity of life, etc. etc. It is amazing how much of God’s truth and love and His story for mankind unfolds in the first 3 chapters. 

I want to take a moment to focus on one of these themes, the image of God.

It is amazing to me that we can look at the first page of the Bible and see that God created us in His image, male and female, and saw that it was “very good.” Not just good, plain old good like the rest of creation but “very good.” (Gen. 1:27, 31) This simple little tidbit has such massive ramifications that it is hard to comprehend. Then on top of that you see that God created us with a purpose and a mission in mind. (Gen. 1:28)

All of humanity has intrinsic value, placed in them by the creator of all things. Value not dependent on age, gender, income, intelligence, race, time from conception, usefulness or any other man made measurement, but based on the image of the Creator.

This image ultimately finds its’ fulfillment in Christ Jesus, God in the flesh, God inhabiting the form that He made in His image. 

The Christian is continually called throughout the New Testament to pursue the image of Christ. They were formed in his image (Gen. 1:27), are being transformed(2 Cor. 3:18), purposely to be conformed(Rom. 8:29), but first they must be informed (Col. 3:10) about His image. 

Formed, InFormed, ConFormed, TransFormed: My Life in His Image.

May that be the cry of all Christians: My Life in His Image.

Blazing for Christ,

Jacob Hunter

Friday, January 11, 2013

Getting Past the Cliche ~ Life Lessons from Another Blog

I read several other blogs, though admittedly there I days when I just skim the titles in my RSS feed on my Google Reader.

The other day, I read a post at Seekerville that was really interesting. The whole post is interesting, particularly if you are an author, but there was one piece in particular that struck me.

The article is a collection of reader feedback about things they like or don't like in their novels. One reader said this about things she didn't like in her Christian fiction: "Over use of of Jeremiah 29:11 and similar verses."

First, let me say I understand what this reader was talking about and I agree. Often times it seems that writers must have the most edited Bibles in the world, containing only about thirty verses. So I get that the reader is looking for more originality, more use of the entire word of God, more depth in her book's theology. I even agree with her.

But what about outside of books?

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Have certain stories and verses from the Bible become so cliche that they don't mean anything anymore?

How many of you can quote John 3:16? Jeremiah 29:11? Philippians 4:13? Psalm 23?

Some of you, I'm sure, rattled at least two of those off just now. But did you think about what they really said? Cliched and overused verses usually get that way for a reason - their meaning is vastly important to God and to us.

But somewhere down the line these important verses stopped being the cornerstone to a greater truth and started getting used as isolated nuggets of comfort and teaching.

When I work with students, I love to ask them what John 3:17 says. Only once have I had one know the answer. But they are all intimately familiar with John 3:16.

A Bible study I attend recently spent two weeks walking through the Lord's Prayer, or the model prayer as the teacher liked to call it. We walked through every line, examining what it meant, why Jesus included it, and how it applied today. How often do we take the time to do that? Do you have a life verse or a favorite verse that you pull out all the time? When was the last time you looked at the context around that verse to really know what it was talking about.

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Just last week I realized what the "these things" were in the verse I'd learned as a child, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you."

That verse comes immediately after the passage where Jesus talks about God taking care of the birds and the fields and the clothes and food needed for each. Look it up in Luke 12:22-31. I couldn't believe it. I had heard these two snippets of scripture my entire life and never realized they went together.

What made me even sadder what that I had never stopped to ask what "these things" were that God was going to give me if I sought His kingdom. Now, both of those passages have a greater impact.

So when a verse, thought, or Biblical truth starts to feel a bit tired and overused, ask yourself what it means. Read the verses around it. You might be surprised at what the verses you think you know actually mean.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How To Marry a Marquis ~ A Peek At My Bookshelf

Important Note: The book discussed below is a general market publication. It contains language, behaviors, and viewpoints that some may find objectionable, including cursing and sexual situations. Please use your own discretion when selecting your reading material and do not rely solely on my or anyone else's opinions.

I fell in love with Regency England the first time I read a historical romance set in early nineteenth century England.

I fell in love with writing the first time I read Julia Quinn.

Me and Julia Quinn at the Moonlight and Magnolias
conference, October 2012.
Now, I don't expect everyone to love her or for her to be everyone's favorite author, but for me, her writing hits that perfect sweet spot that draws me into a book, makes me run to the end, and makes me sad when it's over. Her books won't take you on a deep theological journey or make you ponder the deepest depths of human nature, but they will take you on a fun and interesting ride with witty, memorable characters.

Once a month I like to take you on a little jaunt to my "re-read" bookshelf, and if you went to look at it - because yes, it is a physical shelf - you'd find a lot of Julia Quinn books. Today, I'm sharing one of my favorites.

My copy of How to Marry a Marquis is pretty worn looking. The storyline isn't the most original - boy goes undercover to solve a mystery, girl meets boy and falls in love with him in the guise of his secret identity, boy is ousted and girl gets mad.  What I love about this book is that every character that crosses the stage right down to the cat - maybe especially the cat - is a very memorable, unique character.

We always expect the hero and heroine to be well-rounded and well-known by the end of the book, but even characters that pop up nearly 3/4 of the way through the book are easy to get a read on. You really feel like your slipping into a world of people that you know. And the characters are so varied that your bound to find someone to relate to.

Sarcastic and cynical, but determined to have the best for those you have deemed worthy of your love? Occasionally overcome by such a desperate need to better things for those you love that you'll do anything - even read a self-help book? Tired of people always wanting things from you and delighted with the possibility that someone may just like you for you and not what you can do for them? A cat lover that thinks felines are the most discerning and smartest creatures on the planet?

If any of those describe you, you'll find a kindred spirit within the pages of How to Marry a Marquis. You may like them so well that you'll have to go pick up the loosely linked companion book How to Catch an Heiress (which actually takes place before How to Marry a Marquis).

About the book:

SHE'S TRYING TO FOLLOW THE RULES...

When Elizabeth Hotchkiss stumbles upon a copy of How to Marry a Marquis in her employer's library, she's convinced someone is playing a cruel joke. With three younger siblings to support, she knows she has to marry for money, but who might have guessed how desperate she's become? A guidebook to seduction might be just the thing she needs—and what harm could there be in taking a little peek?
...BUT HE'S MAKING HIS OWN

James Sidwell, the Marquis of Riverdale, has been summoned to rescue his aunt from a blackmailer, a task that requires him to pose as the new estate manager, and his primary suspect is his aunt's companion, Elizabeth. Intrigued by the alluring young woman with the curious little rulebook, he gallantly offers to help her find a husband... by practicing her wiles on him. But when practice becomes all too perfect, James decides that there is only one rule worth following—that Elizabeth marry her marquis.
What to find out more about How to Marry a Marquis? Visit the book's page on Julia Quinn's website for book trivia, book excerpts, and links to buy it just about anywhere you could possibly want to. 
Just ready to buy it and read it? You can grab it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or some of your local bookstores. How to Marry a Marquis is one of Julia Quinn's earlier books, first published in 1999, so it might not be carried in your local storefront, even though it is readily available online. 
Kristi Ann Hunter is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Joy of "The Best" ~ Life Lessons from a Bookcase


I got a new bookcase for Christmas.

via Wikimedia Commons
When you read the above sentence you must giggle like a giddy teenager that just got a text from her crush. Then you have to do the happy dance. Maybe grab the nearest person and squeal and jump around in a circle.

Because this bookcase is so much more than a bookcase.

Like most people, my husband and I didn't have a lot of money when we got married, so our apartment was filled with a hodge podge of furniture I had collected from various relatives over the years. The only thing new was our mattress and box springs which was a wedding present.

Now, almost a decade later very little has changed. We have redecorated and most of our rooms look somewhat coordinated, but it's all still hand-me-downs. About the only furniture we've bought new are the inexpensive bookcases at Wal-Mart because that was the cheapest way to get our books off the floor.

And we have a lot of books.

But this bookcase... Oh, this bookcase is new. This bookcase looks nice. This bookcase is something I picked out and said, "Wow, I really like that. I would like to have that piece of furniture in my house."

Fortunately, my very wonderful mother heard me - probably because she was with me and I grabbed her arm and say, "Hey, Mom, I really love this bookcase. In the dark brown. In this size." - and the bookcase, or at least a picture of it, found its way under the Christmas tree. And now, it sits in my living room in all of it's brand new furniture glory.

It's made me realize something.

It's very easy to be satisfied with "good" until you taste "incredible". For me, this is the best bookcase for my living room. A lot of people might not feel that way, but I do. It's that stacked square style. I've wanted one since the first time I saw one in Target - I just wanted it a little nicer and a little bigger. Thank you, Ikea.

Before this bookcase took a place of honor along my living room wall, I was quite happy with the way my living room looked. I'd managed to piece together a room that actually looked decorated and not like a very nice yard sale. The thing is, very little of it is anything I would go to the store and buy if I were decorating my room from scratch.

So while it is good, it isn't the best it could be for me.

Now, I'm not going to scrap all my furniture and run out and redecorate my house because I've realized this. It wouldn't be responsible or wise. But it has made me think more about setting aside some money here and there to start bringing in a special piece every now and then to slowly make my home the best reflection of me.

I think all too often we settle for good because it's easy and accessible. The best often requires work and sacrifice and planning. I don't want to settle for just good in my life anymore. The joy I feel when I look at that bookcase tells me that the best is worth fighting for.

What are you settling for? What is good in your life that you might need to look at upgrading to the best?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

This Year I'm Gonna Be A Swoosh

Friday I took a look back at how my year had gone. Some really big ups and a few downs, but overall a good year. My biggest disappointment was how poorly I did with my word of the year thing.

Looking at it, I didn't do as badly as I originally thought. I didn't lose any weight, which is probably the actual  biggest disappointment from the year, but I am eating a little healthier. My self-image is definitely better. I took steps to reach out a meet a few more people and fulfill some social needs that had been lacking. My house is also in much better shape than it was a year ago. Not perfect, but not awful either.

Even though it didn't go as planned, I'm not quite ready to give up on the yearly concept idea. (That's the idea that instead of resolutions you pick a theme for your year. Then you try to keep that theme in mind as you make your decisions. You can read more details about the concept in last year's post.)

So, may I have a drumroll please? (You'll have to provide your own. I hate background sounds on webpages. Although, if you just really want to hear one you can try this video.)

This year's theme is...



Yep. I'm gonna be a swoosh. Taking Nike's slogan and making it my own.

It's ironic really because I can't wear a Nike shoe for anything, but they make lots of other athletic stuff that I like.

It's not one word, but it is one concept, and I think that still fits with the yearly word idea.

Why This Theme?

I am notorious for procrastinating. In fact, I am writing this blog about eight hours before it's supposed to post. Not the closest I've ever cut it, but closer than I'd like.

My house is full of piles I've made with the intent of doing them all at once. For instance, there's a pile of bills (paid, just in case you're wondering) that I still have to scan and file. Instead of running them through the scanner which takes about 5 seconds - I have an autofeed scanner - I let them pile up.

Under my new slogan, I'll scan that puppy as soon as I write paid across the top.

My life is full of that kind of thinking. It means that things end up getting done late or barely getting done or maybe even not getting done at all.

I make plans like you wouldn't believe. They rarely get done, because I make very ambitious plans and then procrastinate the things that would let me accomplish them.

So this year, I'll just do it.

Get a great blog post idea? Write and schedule the article then (unless, of course, I'm on my way out the door or driving or something). No more sticking it on a post it note and then watching some television.

Find something that belongs in another room? Go put it away (unless, of course, there are sleeping children in said room.)

I'm noticing a pattern of exceptions, but no one ever said life was simple. Or maybe they did. But if they did they were wrong.

What about you?

So that's my plan. What about you? Do you make resolutions? Prescribe to the yearly theme idea? Have a plan for making yourself better this year?