Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book Review: Beautiful Mess: The Story of Diamond Rio

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

I was privileged to review the book Beautiful Mess: The Story of Diamond Rio by Diamond Rio with Tom Roland. The book gives the reader a very detailed background of each member of the group, how they struggled to become part of a successful group, and how they all managed to be in the right place at the right time to come together as Diamond Rio.

There is a chapter dedicated to each band member: Marty Roe, Dan Truman, Jimmy Olander, Brian Prout, Gene Johnson, and Dana Williams. The book is filled with black and white photos of individual members when they were children, and of the group as they became a solid and award-winning group, lasting more than twenty years together.

The book chronicles the struggles, the small steps, and the joy of the first hit songs. It takes us through the group’s personal and health problems, of slumps and revivals. Several pages are devoted to the charitable work of the group.

I am not a diehard county music fan, but I have always loved Diamond Rio because of their harmony. A few times, the author wrote about people in the county music industry that I had never heard of, and that was a little confusing for me.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and am looking forward to many more years of music from Diamond Rio on Word Records.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Our gift to you:

May the Spirit of Christmas put down roots and grow in all of us!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Did She Know?

Did Mary know?

Surely her back was aching as she rode the donkey; maybe caused by travel weariness, maybe the first contractions, faint at the beginning.

For months she had known she was the chosen one. She had felt and watched the baby grow inside her.

Surely her young skin was riddled with stretch marks, her feet swollen.

As she continued mile after mile, did she wonder if there would be a resting place for her tonight, if there would be a place of welcome?

Did she know that this was the last day; the last day the Savior, our blessed Jesus, would reside in her womb?

Did she know that by tomorrow, she would be different, the world would be different, all time and eternity would be different?

Could her heart and mind comprehend spiritual things so glorious?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Coming: Coming Home

We never forget where we came from.

There is within every living thing an instinct to go home, the place where they began, the place where they belong.

We hear stories of lost dogs returning home, worse for wear, after traveling for miles and miles, across rivers and busy interstates, after weeks of being lost. Banding hummingbirds has proven that some return to the same feeders in the spring, after they have wintered in South America, hundreds of miles from the plastic red feeder that feels like home to them.
Each year, the swallows return to Capistrano. Pacific salmon return to the stream where their life began.
The circle of life sometimes ends where it began, and somehow, we find comfort in that.

Some terminal patients, knowing that their days on this earth are few, beg to leave their hospital beds and go home, to their place, to spend their final hours. Wounded soldiers on blood-drenched battlefields write of their desire to just make it home, to be surrounded by family, to be buried in familiar soil. Home, where peace and rest can be found, where problems can be handled.

After World War II, many of my relatives moved to the industrial cities of the north, seeking jobs that didn't exist in rural Tennessee farming communities. The north presented opportunities for a better life, but they felt like aliens, strangers in a foreign land. Some prospered, and spent their working years there. They never ceased to call Tennessee home, and many returned to live there after retirement, their lives iron drawn by a magnet. Things were different when they returned, but it was still home to them, still that place in their hearts where they seemed to belong.

During the time they were in the north, my relatives made every effort to be home at Christmas. Their large families crammed in one car, eating peanut butter sandwiches along the way, they would drive for hours for the privilege of sitting around the dinner table with their kin, people who talked and thought the same way they did. Children loved it, and didn't complain about sleeping on the cold floor on pallets made with quilts. There were never expensive gifts, sometimes socks, always fruit, but just being together was enough.

There is something about Christmas that makes us long for home. Not the gifts or even the food there, but just being where you know you are loved in spite of your shortcomings, where its okay if you wear pajamas all day. We long for it enough to sleep in airports and risk being stranded in early blizzards. We long for it enough to give up gifts so the money can be used to buy gas to get to Grandma's house. During the hot, growing months of the year, we are looking forward to Christmas, waiting for the time when we can go home again.

There is something about Christmas that makes those in the family of God long for home. Home where we are loved in spite of our shortcomings, home where we are surrounded by those who talk and think the same way we do. Home where we are encompassed by the familiar. Home with our loving Father, where we can rest. Home where we belong.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2: 19-22

holy experience

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas: Time to Worship and Praise

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47

Who do we praise? The Mighty King, the Great I AM, the Lord God Almighty, our Savior!
What do we praise? His love, his salvation, his mercy, his goodness; all his beautiful gifts!
Where can we praise? Anywhere we breathe.
When is the proper time to worship our Savior? Anytime we breathe.
How do we praise and worship? Genuinely, from the heart, spontaneously, knowing what He has done for us, from a child's heart.

In his book Experiencing God Day by Day, Dr. Henry Blackaby writes:
'You should never have difficulty thinking of reasons why God deserves your praise...
As you contemplate the boundless love and mercy God has shown you,
you will want to sing His praises as Mary did.
Spontaneous praise is authentic praise.
It does not have to be manipulated or orchestrated.
It is a real and personal expression of a grateful heart and wonder-filled life that has encountered
Holy God.'

We can never praise Him enough. . . .

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Psalm 105:1-3

Monday, December 21, 2009

Multitude Monday

When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs? ~G.K. Chesterton

holy experience

226. New friends
227. A car with everything working
228. Grandchildren wondering about gifts under the tree
229. The way the smell of oranges triggers Christmas memories
230. Rest for the weary
231. Hub bringing me coffee in bed
232. Apple cider

233. Laughing
234. Making new Christmas traditions
235. Remembering old Christmas traditions
236. Mountain music
237. Glasses
238. Handmade baskets
239. Pipes that never freeze
240. Goals met
241. New goals set

242. The beauty of silence
243. Caramel apples
244. Christmas mugs
245. Wrinkles with wisdom
246. Warm shelter
247. Flannel pajamas
248. Kitchen makeovers
249. Christmas cookies
250. Promises set in stone

When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord. Jonah 2:7-9

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Celebrate Saturday: Some Good Books

I am an avid book lover.

From the time I learned to read, there has been one close to me.
My bedside table is piled high with the ones I just have to read next.

Here are some of my favorites:

In 2000, Sam Venable of Knoxville published this beautiful book. I was privileged to meet the author at the fall festival held each year at the Museum of Appalachia. Since then, I have read the rest of his books, but this one is still my favorite.

Our country is blessed with an abundance of wildflowers. I have enjoyed and appreciated the ones in Alabama with the help of this book and some good teachers!

Sharyn McCrumb is another author from Appalachia that I adore. Her stories transport you to the mountain peaks and hollows and the life contained there. Her Rosewood Casket book is good enough to read over and over.

What can I say? I'm a Southern girl. This book should be read at least every decade.

James Michener is one of the great American authors. I have devoured his books, Alaska, Chesapeake, Hawaii, and more. Centennial, published in 1974, may be my favorite book of all time.

Frank E. Peretti has written many books since This Present Darkness, but it is the one that opened my eyes to spiritual warfare. It is a work of fiction based on biblical teaching. I would recommend it to anyone who doubts that demons exist.

I would like to suggest a New Year's resolution. Make a list of books you want to read, and write it somewhere permanent (maybe on the cover of your day planner). Fifty books is a reasonable number for a year; don't stop at three or four.

So many books; so little time!

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance. Proverbs 1:5

Friday, December 18, 2009

Heroes: Alexander Cruden

Born in Scotland in 1699, Alexander Cruden loved words.

Well-educated, Cruden was more than a little eccentric.

He took on the self-proclaimed title of Corrector, and made it his mission to safeguard his nation's spelling and grammar. He habitually carried a sponge, and effaced signs and inscriptions that he thought incorrect or immoral. (Oh, how I would love to do this!)

Alexander Cruden was laughed at by his society. He was not at all popular with the nobility that he criticized for using their power for immoral acts. Throughout his lifetime, he was in and out of mental institutions, although some think it was just a way for him to be silenced.

He wouldn't be silenced.

Working alone, without SpellCheck, Cruden produced the most consistent and complete concordance of the Bible available before the introduction of computerised indexing.
Cruden's Bible Concordance can be found today just about anywhere people study the Bible. There is a well-used copy next to the dictionary on my desk.

In March 1872, Charles H. Spurgeon wrote, "This half crazy Cruden did better service to the church than half the D.D.s and L.L.D.s of all time."

Alexander Cruden is still serving the church today, 240 years after his death.

As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Never Alone

We are never alone.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.” Isaiah 43:2-3

The Word is full of promises that we will never be left alone.
Promises hard to remember when the night is long and friends can't be found.
Promises we must remember with spiritual hearts.

No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you. Joshua 1:5

It is impossible to foolishly choose to be alone, to run away from everything that hurts.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:7-10

Thank you, Father, for hugging us with loving arms when the world is heavy and we can't find our way.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ringing bells

holy experience

She sings.

In the cold, with crowds passing, most ignoring, she keeps singing.

Singing of a manger, of a star, of a promise, of prophecy fulfilled, of love divine, of holiness.

You see them everywhere during the Christmas season. Salvation Army bell ringers, who stand in the cold, ringing to draw attention to their big red kettles, the kettles that holds dreams of gifts, food, and shelter for some. Bell ringers are paid minimum wage for standing several hours per shift, ringing their bells. Among them are the retired, the unemployed, those who are able to prepare Christmas dinner with their wages.

Some stand silently, eyes glazed to the turmoil around them. Some, obviously bored, yawn and pace back and forth. Some greet shoppers as they pass.
But this one sings.

Standing in front of a huge warehouse store, red apron atop the layers of bulky clothing, she sweetly sings to all who pass.
She may never sing in a choir or catch the ears of a music producer, but she's okay with that. She sings about the great I AM, the wonderful counselor, the Prince of Peace.

The littered, busy concrete entrance where she stands is holy ground.
And I, the one determined not to get caught up in the rush, not to become a victim of the commercialization of the season, stand on it with liquid joy and remember.

I don't know her name, but surely we are sisters, family, so different and so alike, rejoicing in the waiting.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy... Isaiah 9: 2-3a

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Gift of Wisdom

Who among us is wise?
Is it even possible to be wise?
Wisdom is a scary word, usually not used concerning "regular" people.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 111:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7

Earthly wisdom is education, life experience, sweat equity. Earthly wisdom is very desirable and we work hard to earn it. It makes our lives, and the lives of those around us, easier and more productive. Unfortunately, it is temporary, and sometimes very difficult to acquire.

Heavenly wisdom, that which comes from God, the Word, and prayer, is spiritual. Heavenly wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, impartial, sincere, full of mercy and good fruit. Heavenly wisdom is never a surprise; you won't find it if you don't seek it.

Wisdom, like all good gifts, comes from Abba Father.

Daniel was wise; wise enough to be chosen by God to be a prophet. He acknowledged God as the source of wisdom...

Praise be to the name of God forever and ever,
wisdom and power are His.
He changes the times and seasons;
He sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells in Him.
I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers;
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.

Daniel 2:20-23

Monday, December 14, 2009

Multitude Monday

holy experience

“The more gratefully we fix our minds on the Supreme when
good things come to us, the more good things we will receive,
and the more rapidly they will come; and the reason simply
is that the mental attitude of gratitude draws the mind into
closer touch with the source from which the blessings come”
. . . . Wallace D Wattles

201. The honor of seeing another sunrise in the Great Smoky Mountains
202. Seeing old friends
203. Spending time just looking at nature's offerings
204. Mountain streams

205. Hugs
206. Christmas bells tinkling
207. Christmas lights shining
208. Sisters, although I don't always know their names
209. Hot vegetable soup on a chilly day
210. Safe trips
211. Young hands raised in praise
212. The Christmas story, always new
213. Young legs dancing
214. Feet jumping for joy
215. Wrapping gifts
216. Sweet emails that encourage
217. When the doctor's report is good
218. The smell of pine
219. A warm scarf in cold wind
220. Beauty everywhere
221. Winter afternoons

222. Ice cream in winter
223. Mercy that is new every morning
224. The Word that never changes
225. Holly berries

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
Isaiah 52:7

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


holy experience

We wait in lines, at work, at school, in traffic.

Always waiting, our vaporous time on
this earth dictated by clocks, buzzers, lights, ringing.

Life around us constantly flowing, everyone about
their business, everyone running and waiting.

Isaiah waited for a Savior while preaching of His majesty, His healing.
David waited as he sang psalms and adored the one he had not seen with fleshly eyes.
They knew the promise. The Messiah was coming.

We celebrate the Advent, this season of anticipation, and we imagine that we are tending sheep in cold silence, wondering about the star in the east, wondering when this promise will walk among us.

The Word, which always was, took on flesh, flesh that laughed and cried, flesh that needed food and water, flesh that felt cold and heat.
Flesh that awoke, worked, rested, slept.
Flesh that walked among us.
Divine flesh that died for our redemption.

Two thousand years later, we wait. We know the promise.
The Messiah is coming. Not as a baby with human flesh, but as the King of Glory.
The King who will destroy death and darkness, and will reign forever and ever.

Still, longing, we wait.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Little Things Matter

My little dog was lost.

I prayed for God's help in finding him, feeling selfish.

After all, wars are waging all over the planet.
The rain hasn't come to come areas, and the people are starving.
Earthquakes have shaken towns and villages, causing mud to cover lives.
Terrorists are plotting, training for evil, and must be watched.
Disease spreads daily.
Presidents and leaders are struggling with economics, immorality.

God, our Father, the High Priest, has this blue planet to care for,in the midst of a dynamic universe that listens to him and does what he says.
Why would I think that Abba Father would care that my dog was lost?

If it matters to me, it matters to Him.

Before the creation of the world, He knew me and had plans for me.
I am his heir.
I am eternal, a holy priest for this generation.
He loves me, knows when I hurt, knows when I am weak.

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it-we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that's also why the world doesn't recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to. 1 John 3: 1-2 Message.

For some, it is much easier to believe God's miracles than that He really loves us, His children. We know what we have done, how we have failed.
We can't forget it. He can.

We're not worthy of his love or grace. He knows, and loves us anyway.
Loves us enough to help a mentally challenged dog find his way home.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

Monday, December 7, 2009

Multitude Monday

In this season of waiting, anticipation, I am reminded of the gifts I have already received.....
holy experience

176. Family games around the dining table
177. Grown men yelling at a pigskin
178. Christmas dinner parties
179. Praise songs
180. Thanks from a student
181. Satellite radio
182. Christmas bears

183. Completed repairs
184. Frost sparkling like diamonds
185. Cards in the mail
186. Homemade gifts
187. Truth
188. Blackberry jelly
189. Charles Dickens

190. Quiet mornings
191. UPS truck in my driveway
192. Mistletoe

193. Flowers in winter

194. Tender hearts
195. Directions
196. Those who never give up
197. A wonderful semester finished
198. Courtesy
199. Old music that is forever new
200. Smells of Christmas

You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid you hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:5-6

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Celebrate Saturday: Homemade Ornaments

Celebrate this cold Saturday by enjoying your old homemade ornaments, or making some new ones. Bits of glue, cloth, string, and paper joined together to brighten your Christmas tree and your heart.

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
Ecclesiastes 11:6