I did a lot of venting a couple of weeks ago about songs I like and songs I don't like (mostly remakes). And since I'm a bit of a music junkie, I thought it would be fun if we got a discussion started. Top 3 favorite songs of all time. Now, this go-round, I'm not asking for your top 3 praise songs (because you know I just can't narrow down my top 3 Third Day songs, let alone my top 3 praise songs by everybody), we'll do that another week. Hit that mainstream station (or that oldies station, because I recently found out that the 80s are the oldies now), and share.

My top 3 is pretty much always the same, and you can call me a geek because, believe me, when you see number one, you're going to scream "geek," especially since Newman on Seinfeld referenced the dude...

3) "Aubrey" by Bread. Okay yes, it's a total cheesy seventies song. And yet, for reasons unexplained, if I play it once, I have to go back and play it seven more times. Who can resist a line like, "We tripped the light and danced together to the moon"? It makes me want to write stories. Longhand. With my new multi-colored "real" fountain pens.

2) "Oh, Girl" by Paul Young. We've been over this one already.

1) Okay, I'm going to confess this out loud. Ya ready? My all time favorite song ever is... "Sailing," by Christopher Cross. More seventies cheese, I know. As a child of the eighties, I just can't explain it. As someone who has never sailed, I can't explain it either. I just know it takes me to a happy place. Maybe therapy could help me figure that out? Oh well, I guess I would have been happy at Newmannium, anyway.

Okay, so let's hear from you. Top 3 favorite songs. If I can confess Christopher Cross and Bread in the same post, surely you can do no less...

Know what I love? Chocolate pudding. I thought instant pudding was so awesome until a certain amazing pudding company came out with individual serving packets of pudding powder. Instead of messing around with an entire batch of pudding, I could just pull out my little single serving pouch, dump it in a mug, add milk, and chow down on my chocolate treat--all in about five minutes.


Know what I don't like? Non-instant chocolate pudding. You have to cook it. My word, I have to wait for it to heat up, wait for it to cool down... And then, it just has this weird mouth feel to me. I have to get used to it before I can enjoy it. It takes a few bites for my mouth to go, "Mmm. Chocolate."

Here's the problem. Sometimes, I treat prayer like instant pudding. I run in, stir up the waters, chug down my mug of godly chocolate, relish the fact that it's just like last time, give a quick, "Thanks, God," then rush right back out.

Prayer should be like cooked pudding. Time in worship to warm up, to get close to God. A good long simmer in His presence. A good thank you time to cool down. But here's the scary part... Remember how I said I don't like the "mouth feel" of cooked pudding at first? When we take that time to slow cook with God, sometimes He tells us something we don't necessarily want to digest. It's different. It might be conviction. It might be a new calling. It might be change. But it requires us to adjust.

That's one of the reasons I think I shy away from cooked pudding prayers. I don't want to be uncomfortable. Like the cooked pudding, I don't like to change. (Sound much like the Pharisees from Monday's post?) It doesn't feel right at first, because I've grown lazy and used to quick and easy.

So... think about this season in your life. Are you an instant pudding prayer? Or a cooked pudding prayer?

And are you craving chocolate yet?

Oh, those silly Pharisees. Can you believe them? There they go again, asking one of their unanswerable questions, trying to trap the Son of God and prove Him wrong. Don't they know Jesus knows what they're all about? That he has all the answers? Aren't they so silly?

And aren't they so sad and pitiful? Here they are, loving their religion so much that they can't even see Jesus in front of their faces. Clinging to their laws and their power and totally missing out on their relationship with Jesus. Those poor, sad, pitiful Pharisees. I'm sure glad I'm not like them.

Hm. Hey. Wait a second. Know what those Pharisees were really saying? "Look, Jesus. We've got a great thing going here. Our religion is awesome and we love it. It's all about God, really, isn't it? I mean, we say His name and we attach Him to all of these laws we make and these actions we do. We happen to like the way things are, even if it leaves some of the truth out, it's a nice religion and it's partially built on truth. It might be a house of cards, but we really kind of enjoy it, so please, Jesus, don't you come along and start breathing too hard on us. That just causes a big ol' mess. 'K? Thanks."

I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong, but that sounds like some of us in the church today, doesn't it? If we're honest, it sounds like all of us some of the time, huh? We can get into our little routines with Jesus in certain seasons of our lives, and we forget this is a relationship. The center focus is HIM and our relationship with him, not the things we do. That was the problem with those Pharisees. They forgot exactly who was at the center. They forgot it was God first and not religion first. It's a fine line, I know, but it's a line. They'd have liked Jesus just fine if he hadn't rocked their boats. But Jesus is the premiere boat rocker, isn't He?

I had to stop the other day and really think. Am I following Jesus? Or am I following my religion?

Hm. Something to think about, huh?

If you have ever wanted to be kicked in the teeth and laugh while it happens, you've come to the right place.

Jonathan Acuff is Prodigal John on Twitter, and if you're one of the four people in the world not following him, you're missing out. His 140-character tweets are worth signing up for Twitter, even if you never follow anyone else. Then go to Stuff Christians Like and check out the blog that started it all.

But about the book...

I never planned to review Stuff Christians Like. I bought it because I agree with Jon that Chick-fil-a sweet tea should be served in fountains in heaven. I bought it because his random observations on life are hilarious, and I figured a book full of random observations about the church would be awesome.

Oh, it's awesome alright. Awesome in a way that makes the Holy Spirit slap you upside the head. I thought I knew what SCL was all about from reading the blog, but there's something about having these ideas concentrated in one place that changed the way I think in a way the blog never did. Maybe because I read the SCL blog in a drive-by fashion and the book at a slower pace. Or maybe God just thought I was ready for what Jon might call a "truth smack-down." I dare you to read about "the splinter in my eye, plank upside yo' head" gossip plank idea without laughing so hard you wake your dog up from three rooms away. But after you laugh, you're going to stop and you're going to think. "Wait a sec... I do that."

Then two things are going to happen. First, you're going to feel some conviction. We're all hypocrites in some area or another. Jon's observations have cracked me up on more than one occasion, then the Holy Spirit has used that to bring me to my knees. (More on that in Monday's post.) I've laughed 'til I cried, true, but I've also done more repenting reading this book than I have after every sermon in my whole life, I think. Second, you're going to realize you're not the only one. I have beat myself up over my quiet time lately, thinking I'm the worst quiet time Christian ever. And then I read Jon's awesome quiet time essay. Oh yeah, I laughed, but I also gave a big sigh of relief. I'm not alone in my struggles.

Seriously, go buy this book. Today. It's not what I expected it to be. It's a million and one times better.

I picked this picture up on MSNBC a couple of days ago, and I can't stop looking at it. That's the Iceland volcano that has wreaked havoc on air travel the past week or so. If you're like me, you'll stare at that for a while. It is so strangely beautiful and yet so horrifying. It makes me think of Luke 10:18 when Jesus says he say Satan cast from heaven like lightning.

After I looked at it for a while, it got me thinking about sin. I mean, we don't sin in a vacuum. Oh yes, we like to think we aren't hurting anyone, but we do. Eventually, sin spreads. It may happen in Iceland, but it drifts on the upper air currents and causes disruption around the world. Despite what the commercials would like you to believe, what happens in Iceland, doesn't stay in Iceland.

And there's also that terrible/beautiful thing. When Mel Gibson cast Satan in "The Passion of the Christ," he chose a gorgeous woman and shaved her hair and eyebrows. He wanted the look to be hauntingly beautiful yet terribly disturbing. His reason? Sin is like that. We fall because Satan makes it so attractive we have trouble looking away.

I don't have a conclusion today, no pretty way of wrapping this up. I do know this much: I'm glad God is ultimately in control. And I'm glad Jesus sacrificed his life for me so I'll never have to know what hell really looks like.

I know I already blogged today, but this is just too much for me to be quiet about. You will rarely hear me go crazy fan girl about anything. I tend to reserve those moments for when I'm alone. Right now, I just can't help it.

We all know I love Third Day. We all know I love Tobymac. Michael W. Smith is, well, he's Michael W. Smith and he goes beyond the need for description. I cut my grown up Christian teeth reading Max Lucado. So, when the tweets hit today from them that, come October, they will all be sharing a stage to support Worldivison, I have to say it sent me straight to concert heaven.

And then I saw this picture...

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Click on that picture, make it bigger, and you will see there is so much awesomeness in one room that the world should have spun off its axis. Thank you, David Schroeder, for sharing that pic. It made my day, maybe even my year.

Great music, great message, worthy cause. With all that anointing in one place, I can't wait to see what God does. October is going to be amazing.

This marks the end of my crazy fan girl rant... :-)

I've been very frustrated lately. For me, the hardest part of moving is finding a new church. I'm not totally settled until we have a church home. It's been two and a half months since we left our amazing Georgia church, and every Sunday I come home frustrated and sad after visiting a perfectly nice church that just isn't "the one."

Today, we may have found "the one." We'll go for a second visit next week and pray for confirmation in the meantime. With all that is happening in our lives, I am desperately hoping this is it. We need that family.

Anyway, today we sang a song I love, "Mighty to Save." Know what? It made me realize how much the devil likes to hit me with the same old tricks. There's a lyric, "Savior, he can move the mountains. My God is mighty to save." Moving a mountain would be hard, wouldn't it? But God can do it. Saving me is even harder than moving that mountain, but God is mighty enough to do it. He is mightier than anything I can ever throw at Him.

So why is it that I--and I'll bet you too--keep believing the lie that God doesn't want to be close to us? That we can be so far gone He can't save us? No. He is mighty to save. It doesn't matter how many days, weeks, or months we've missed quiet time. It doesn't matter how far we've fallen down the mountain. Know what? It doesn't matter if we've never even been on the mountain before. God is still mighty to save.

Nothing's too hard for Him. It's time to start believing that, isn't it?

(I was feeling this today, so I went back, found the blog, and decided on a repost.)

Well, folks, I've been struggling. Sometimes I think that the outward struggle to write is related to the inward struggle of faith. The weaker I feel in Christ, the harder it is to write. I have to cling to the fact that He is strong in my weakness. And feelings just don't matter when it comes to God.

Whenever I have those times when I feel like I'm in that valley where I just don't "feel" God at all, I tend to say that I'm "walking through Egypt." (I probably got that from Clyde Edgerton's book Walking Across Egypt.) The point is, it's like being in a desert and looking for water. When I am able to say that I'm "walking through Egypt," it helps me to hold onto the faith that I will eventually get to the other side and that God and I will connect again; that I'll get to the top of the mountain and have that sweet communion that I just can't seem to grasp when I'm in the midst of seasons like this.

Despite the fact that I'm in a dry desert, pretty much alone, Egypt can have some really awesome moments. There is, in fact, mail delivery in the middle of my Egyptian desert. God sends me postcards. They're not letters, because they don't take long to "read," but they are little bitty "hellos" that God sends to remind me that I am never, ever alone.

This morning, I was driving to Atlanta Bread Company (where you should have figured out by now that I typically like to write on Fridays) in the middle of a good ol' Georgia spring rainstorm. I was just about to change the radio station when "East to West" by Casting Crowns came on. That song has meant a whole lot to me at various times, but a new line grabbed me today and, when it did, the tears just smacked the backs of my eyelids. "I'm not holding on to you, but your'e holding on to me." Even now, sitting here in ABC, my eyes are welling up. There just aren't words for what that spoke to me, what it's speaking to me now. That even in Egypt, when I feel so spiritually weak that I can hardly hold my head up, when I've fought and fought to see the face of God and felt like He's just not there (even though my head knows He is, my heart could use a good shot of Him), that even though my grip may slip, He's never going to let me go. Never. Feelings don't matter; truth does. And the truth is that God loves me so much that He will never let me go. Such love. Such love for me. Wow. I needed that love.

I found a quote by Eugene Peterson in the I Samuel introduction in the Message Bible. At first, I thought I'd write about it. Then I decided to let it speak for itself. Sometimes, it's better to draw your own conclusions...

" we submit our lives to what we read [in I Samuel], we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but to see our stories in God's."

(And yes, this is my typical Monday post delivered on Tuesday. I ran behind yesterday.)

I hate remakes. H-A-T-E them. It really irks me when I love a good old song,then someone comes along and tries to do it better. Very few people can get away with remaking a classic.

When I was a teenager, I refused to like that red-headed mall singer who shall remain nameless. For those of you who think this had something to do with the fact she dated my biggest teen-aged crush, you're WRONG. It is because she first dug her nails into Tommy James and the Shondells, then she dared to defile a Beatles song by not only remaking it, but changing the words as well. 'Nuff said.

It's not that remakes aren't good, it's just that they seem pointless. Part of the reason I feel this way is because I grew up with parents who taught me a deep appreciation for the "oldies." And when songs are classics like that, you just don't mess with them. (Annie Lennox, I'm talkin' to you. You should have left "Whiter Shade of Pale" alone.)

I said all of that to say this: Only once in my life have I gone ga-ga over a remake. I was sixteen. And to this day, that remake is one of my all time, no doubt about it, listen until my ears fall off, favorite songs. Don't get me wrong. The Chi-lites did it right, but (and this is quite possibly the only time you will ever here me say this), Paul Young did "Oh, Girl" so much better. The man was made to sing that song. Hear his pain and that slight gravel in his voice. I could listen to it ten times in a row, then go back for more. I think, quite possibly, the Chi-lites traveled forward in time to 1990, snagged that song, then went back to 1972 and did a sort of "premake," if you will. That, folks, is how much Paul Young rocked that song.

Okay, so there might be one more remake I can stand. Tom Cochrane's "Life is a Highway" was almost an anthem when I was in high school. Rascal Flatts? Good job making me like yours almost as much. Then again, that's a song it would be really, really hard to mess up in the first place.

So, how about the rest of you? Care to leave a comment about your favorite remake? Join me, won't you? I think I'm off to grab a hairbrush and sing in the kitchen.


(A P.S.--Just learned my dear friend Kay has a different opinion if you want to check it out.)
About a week and a half ago, I had new lenses put in my glasses. Lesson from previous pair? Don't put cheap lenses in your glasses. 'Nuff said. This go-round, I didn't get anti-glare coating. I hated the stuff on my last pair. I could never get the lenses clean, and it seemed like things were just never right. The woman selling me my lenses kept arguing that I'd hate glasses without the coating, but I stood my ground and got my glaring glasses.

I slid on the new pair and headed home, but there seemed to be a smudge in the lens. I kept cleaning, but the smudge wouldn't go away. It took me a couple of hours to figure out what the smudge was. You'll never guess. I could see the reflection of my own eyeball. Without the anti-glare, the whites of my eyes bounce right back at me.

That got me thinking about the plank in my own eye and the speck in somebody else's. What would life be like if we truly could walk around and see our own "eyeball"? Rarely do we have a clear picture of our own sins, but we can sure point them out in somebody else! Wouldn't it be cool to have a way to impartially see those planks in our eyes?

Then again, I could see the whites of my own eyes. Until I got used to it, it was pretty hard to take the focus off of, well, me. Instead of clearly seeing what stood right in front of me, everything filtered through my reflection. Need I go any farther with that, or are you already getting the gist of it? It's hard to see others and their needs when we're focused on ourselves, huh?

So there you have it. Two things on my mind this week, and all because I caught a glimpse of my own eyeball. I may need to swallow my pride and go back to the store though. I think I need anti-glare.

This is not a book review. Yeah, I stole the title from a book by Max Lucado, but that's not where I am today.

On Good Friday, I couldn't get those four words out of my head. In the past, I always thought of them in the context of Jesus allowing the crucifixion to happen, as though he was so involved he may as well have walked up to a bin of nails and personally chosen the ones used to impale his hands and feet.

Friday, I realized there is yet another meaning. Jesus had a choice. He could have stopped the crucifixion at any point. When he was in Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood in agony, asking God to take this cup from him, he could have walked way. Jesus was not obligated to die for us. He chose to. In essence, he chose the nails (and our salvation) over his own life.

It goes so much deeper than that. When God created His law, He alone declared that the only atonement for sin is death. Nobody forced Him to make it that way. He chose to. And He knew all along, before He ever said, "Let there be light," that man would fall. He knew we'd need a Savior. Yet He still created us, and He still made the law.

Before the earth was even formed, He chose the nails.
If you're looking for good reads, here are the new releases from members of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Congrats to everyone with releases this month!

1. A Promise Forged, Heartsong Presents Historical Ohio Series by Cara C. Putman An historical from Heartsong Presents. A player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League finds challenges and love as she travels with her team.

2. Abbie Ann; Daughters of Jacob Kane, 3rd & final installment. by Sharlene MacLaren An historical romance from Whitaker House. Abbie Ann, president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1907, butts heads with a handsome divorcee, blindsided when she realizes her utter attraction to him.

3. Blood Ransom; Mission Hope Series, Book 1 by Lisa Harris A suspense/mystery/thriller from from Zondervan. A thriller about the modern-day slave trade and those who dare to challenge it.

4. Calculated Revenge by Jill Elizabeth Nelson A suspense/mystery/thriller from Steeple Hill. When a teacher finds on the playground a backpack belonging to her long-ago abducted sister, she turns to the principal, an ex-private detective, to stop a child-killer from targeting her daughter.

5. Chesapeake Weddings by Cecelia Dowdy A romance from Barbour. Life sends three African American women into a tailspin; Can these women let God rebuild their tattered hopes when new romances unexpectedly enter their lives?

6. Code Blue by Richard L. Mabry M.D. A suspense/mystery/thriller from Abingdon. A doctor finds that returning to her home town has put her in the midst of conflict and possibly marked her for death

7. Crossroads Bay by Kathleen Kovach A romance from Heartsong Presents. A beautiful charter boat captain searches for lost treasure while her real prize is the caterer trying to keep up with her.

8. Damages by Deborah Kinnard A romance from Desert Breeze. A story of second chances, found in an unexpected place.

9. In Plain Sight by Michelle Sutton A suspense/mystery/thriller from Desert Breeze. Abused by her gypsy ex-boyfriend and left for dead, Jovana moves to America seeking a new life; two handsome men desire her heart, but she must choose the right one or end up in a situation much worse than before.

10. Lorenzo and the Pirate by Rick and Lila Guzman An historical from Blooming Tree Press. Will Lorenzo Bannister, marooned on a deserted island with two pirates, ever get home to New Orleans?

11. Love Lessons by Margaret Daley A romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Alexa Michaels brings a breath of fresh air into Ian Ferguson's and his daughter's life, but is it enough to make Ian trust in love again?

12. Lucky Baby by Meredith Efken A women's fiction from Howard Books/Simon & Schuster. Will adopting an orphan from China bring Meg and Lewis the happiness they long for?

13. Mountain Peril by Sandra Robbins A suspense/mystery/thriller from Steeple Hill, Love Inspired Suspense. A woman discovers violence has once again entered her life when a grisly website sets the stage for murder and terror on a peaceful college campus.

14. Queen of Hearts by K. Dawn Byrd A suspense/mystery/thriller from Desert Breeze. Daphne Dean never knew that serving her country as a spy during WWII would send her into hiding in an abandoned mental institution with secrets of its own.

15. Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson A suspense/mystery/thriller from Kregal. As Camden Bristow works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored on Crescent Hill, she discovers a deep family secret hidden within the mansion's walls that could change her life˜and the entire town˜forever.

16. Rodeo Sweetheart by Betsy St.Amant A romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. She grew up with a cowboy hat and a pony; he grew up with designer duds and a silver spoon. Will this mismatched couple ever be able to lasso their differences?

17. Rooms by Jim Rubart A suspense/mystery/thriller from B&H Fiction. A young Seattle software tycoon inherits a home on the Oregon coast that turns out to be a physical manifestation of his soul.

18. Scenarios for Girls, Book 3 by Nicole O'Dell General fiction from Barbour. Molly Jacobs isn't sure what she should do: Should she follow through with stealing some clothes for her friends from Magna the trendy girls clothing store where she works? Or should she do what she knows is right, even if it means losing her newfound popularity? Scenarios for Girls are interactive books that allow the reader to choose between alternate endings to make important, moral decisions for the main characters.

19. Scenarios for Girls, Book 4 by Nicole O'Dell General fiction from Barbour. Kate Walker joins the swim team and becomes obsessed with practice and making it through the championships with flying colors. What will Kate do when she's faced with pressure from her teammates to take an illegal substance that will help her swim multiple events in their championship meet? Scenarios for Girls are interactive books that allow the reader to choose between alternate endings to make important, moral decisions for the main characters.

20. Seasons in the Mist; Seasons of Destiny Book 1 by Deborah Kinnard A romance from Sheaf House. An eager historian, a time portal, and intrigue in King Edward III's court.

21. She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell An historical from Bethany House. As Clara Carter makes her debut, she realizes it's not just her heart at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

22. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson An historical from Bethany House. Sixteen Civil War widows join the Ladies Emigration Society and head west to claim homesteads, only to find their organization has other plans. . . involving the word "brides.

23. Sworn to Protect by Diann Mills A suspense/mystery/thriller from Tyndale. Border Patrol Agent Danika Morales is caught up in a conspiracy and her life is at stake.

24. The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough A romance from Barbour. Three mail-order brides arrive expecting to marry the town marshal. But he didn't order a bride. A contest to discover which bride would make the best wife turns into mayhem when there is a fourth anonymous entry.

25. The Cowboy's Baby by Linda Ford A romance from Love Inspired Historical. The prodigal returns but is he too late for a second chance?

26. The Word Unleashed, Book 2 of Face in the Deep by Steve Rzasa A sci-fi/fantasy/futuristic from Marcher Lord Press. Baden Haczyk's adventure continues as he tries to keep the last Bible safe from the religious secret police.

27. Too Close to Home, Book 1 of the Women of Justice Series by Lynette Eason A suspense/mystery/thriller from Revell. An FBI agent and a detective must track down a killer of teenage girls before his next victim hits Too Close to Home.

28. Wildflower Hearts, Book 1 in Series Set in North Dakota by Vickie McDonough A romance from Barbour. Three siblings who live on a ranch face problems and romance in the North Dakota Badlands

29. Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer An historical from Abingdon Press. In Denmark's darkest days, is it duty, faith...or love?