The Weight of Mercy by Deb Richardson-Moore

After being a journalist for many years, Ms. Richardson-Moore felt God was leading her in a different direction. She was eager to follow Him and truly serve. She accepted the pastorate of the Triune Mercy Center. Once a grand and thriving church, it was now impoverished and right in the midst of a rundown dangerous area. In addition to church services, they also are a main distribution center of food and clothing for the poor. Either of those alone would be a huge undertaking but she had both.
Having worked with my husband in his ministry the last 25 years I can relate to so many of her experiences, though not to some extremes nor on a daily basis.
She tackles her assignment with excitement and hope, but also some doubt and fear as it is all new territory. She like so many Christians experienced “serving” as going to church, sitting in a comfortable, attractive facility with clean, well-dressed people, singing hymns, putting money in the offering plate, and listening to a sermon. Nothing had prepared her for the real ministry of Jesus that few encounter in a lifetime. Going into the trenches and seeking those deep in the depravity of sin.
I can remember when my husband surrendered to the ministry there was this “Pollyanna” attitude of helping others, not knowing the real cost and all we would see. I saw her grow and be strengthened as we did to love and care for those that society and many Christians reject. When in reality, Christ died for these people the same as everyone. She becomes deeply involved in the lives of drug addicts, alcoholics, thieves, the mentally ill, and the homeless whose lives have been shattered. She hurts with them, questions her ability to carry out this work, and struggles to find answers to help those that are bent on hurting themselves.
I could understand her pain and frustration in wanting to help but not know how. I felt her discouragement of seeing those who had turned their life around, be sucked back into the black hole of sin they had overcome, and wondering what she did wrong.
Through her story, I remembered the discomfort of being confronted with situations and people that were way past anything we could imagine. While her accounts are graphic and raw at times, they are real. Her book gives every Christian a glimpse of what it is like to be on the front lines of Christian service. Experiencing the exhaustion, fear, feelings of inadequacy, and even thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” Most of all her book inspires you to see that no matter what the situation there is always hope in the Lord. Realizing that “the least of these” the Bible speaks of are real, flesh and blood, hurting people with great needs. Also, accepting that while in reaching out to them, we may not be able to fix their problems, but we are still doing God’s work and making a difference.
Her accomplishments, spiritual growth as a person and a leader, and commitment to minister to those many find undesirable is a beautiful testimony. She said she would stay a year but recently celebrated her 7th year there. This book is a must read for all Christians who say they want to serve God. It is an eye-opener.
I received this book from Kregel Publications for my honest review.

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Mr. Christmas by Narita Roady

In Wilshire England there is an electrician named Andy Park who is known to many as Mr. Christmas. He claims that he loves Christmas more than anyone and has been true to his word by celebrating it every day for the last 19 years. In 1993 after suffering from bouts of depression, he decided it was up to him to choose to be happy and not let stress rule his life. Remembering how good he felt during the Christmas season, he decided he would celebrate Christmas every day. He unboxed all his decorations, adorned his house, and make it Christmas from that day forward.
Every morning he wakes up and eats 6 to 7 mince tarts. He opens presents he has purchased and wrapped for himself the night before, pretending he hasn’t a clue what is in them. One year he even bought himself a Mercedes! This is one way to make sure you always get the gifts you want! Next, he lovingly looks at the Christmas card he signed especially for him, from him (sometimes 2 or 3 cards)! Of course he hand delivers it to save on postage by walking out the door, putting it through his mail slot, going back inside and picking it up. What a substantial savings that is considering the last total in 2008 was 235,206 cards!
Then it is off to work for about three hours (after all someone has to pay for all of this!) and back home for a complete Christmas dinner. This includes watching the Queen’s Christmas Day address to the nation. (Recorded from the previous year of course!)
All this holiday cheer has cost him a whopping $500,000. He has consumed 6,622 turkeys, 34,276 roasted potatoes, 117,600 Brussels sprouts, over 6660 pints of gravy, over 30.660 stuffing balls, and 94,080 mince pies, in addition to numerous carrots and peas. He has also popped more than 204,400 Christmas cracker favors, worn out 37 electric ovens, and 23 video recorders.
After going over through over 30 Christmas trees, his present one of two years has proven to be his . . .uh. . . favorite. He has decided he wants to marry it! A beautiful ring has even been purchased but he is in a dilemma as to which branch to place it on. Do not wait for a nuptial announcement yet because he is having difficulties finding a minister to marry them! (In this day and age, I find that hard to believe) Oh, one more thing, the ONLY day Andy Park does not celebrate Christmas is . . . Christmas Day! Before we shake our heads too hard at Mr. Christmas, I think we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and make sure we do not share some of his misguided thinking. You have to admit in America today that Christ certainly is not the center of Christmas anymore, even among Christians. More important are we guilty of replacing Him too?
Did you find it ironic that the only day Mr. Park did not celebrate Christmas was Christmas Day? I did! Yet the more I thought about it the more I realized our offense is just the opposite. We claim to celebrate the birth of Jesus on JUST that day but we forget about Him the rest of the year! As born again believers God’s gift of His son is something to be thankful for everyday! Not only the gift of salvation and our deliverance from Hell, but His abiding presence in our lives 24 hours a day. To name just a few, He protects, guides, heals, comforts, nurtures, and gives joy to us non-stop. We also should be rejoicing for the beautiful home in Heaven we already have. The Babe in a manger should be our focus from January 1 to December 31 every year. “ Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4
The most obvious flaw in Mr. Park’s daily festivities is that his focus is on the rituals and details of the holiday, not the One the holiday is supposed to honor. He’s all about the baubles, decorations, sparkle, and glitz. We too easily fall into this worldly trap ourselves. How many times do people get stressed out about getting the tree up and decorated, hanging lights on the house, putting the wreath on the door, making sure treasured family nativities, bowls and candles are in the perfect spot? That’s only beginning. Following fast on the heels of “decking the halls” is the food; the frenzy of baking cookies, breads, candies, and cakes. Frantic plans for the perfect Christmas meal are included with emphasis on old family recipes and traditional favorites. Now don’t get your lights all in a tangle, I am not in any way saying these activities are wrong. I am simply asking what is your spirit and motivation behind them. Is it glorifying and delighting in our precious Savior? Most of the time you would have to say it isn’t. Do you see how we really aren’t that different from Mr. Christmas?
We become as the seed that was sown among the thorns in Mark 4:18-19.
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
Busyness preparing for December 25th consumes us and like the keeper at the in Inn that faithful night so many years ago, and we unknowingly turn Christ away. We tell Him by our actions that we have no room for Him in our hearts or homes during Christmas. Just like Mr. Parker we have missed the Reason of our celebration. Casting aside Jesus who is truly important, we pursue that which is pointless, meaningless, and worthless. Like Martha we are “careful and troubled about many things” and have failed to follow Mary’s example and chosen what is good cannot be taken away. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:41-42
Did you notice who Mr. Christmas’s daily celebration is about? Him! He is incredibly selfish. It is all about what he wants and how he feels, so there really isn’t any room for anyone else. You might be thinking, “Not me! I’m not selfish! Everything I do is for my family!” Is it now? If we are over 25 years old, it is true that we may not be concerned about what gifts we receive, but isn’t it still about us? Aren’t we trying to create emotional, sentimental feelings and attempting to fulfill our expectations of how our holiday should be? Yes, we want to give to your family, and make them happy, but are they not an extension of ourselves? We desire to give material gifts they want, but not the real Gift, the One they really need.
Can we do both, make Christ the center of our holiday and take part in traditional celebration? Yes, I believe we can, but it will take effort and focus on our part. Always the first step we should take in any matter is prayer. Ask the Lord to protect you from being ensnared society’s Christless Christmas. Seek His guidance in how He would have you honor Him. Make it a point to read your Bible daily, alone and with your family. There are many good devotional books and daily Bible readings for Christmas. You might even want to do a word study on “gifts” or “giving”. As you shop, cook and decorate, thank Him for the blessing to be able to do these things financially and physically. Consult Him before you purchase gifts and supplies that He would guide you in spending His money wisely. Make sure you don’t rob Him of His tithe to purchase expensive gifts your family doesn’t really need. That makes no sense to steal from Him to celebrate His birth does it? Listen to Christmas hymns that focus on Him and His glory, not carnal secular holiday tunes. When you find yourself becoming stressed and frazzled at all, you think you must do, be like Mary and take time to sit at His feet and listen to Him. If you let Him, He can help you weed out all those unnecessary things you feel you must do. Make sure you purpose to share Him with others. You can do this with a smile, an act of kindness, patience in stressful moments, a caring word or fulfilling a need. The most important way to share Him is by witnessing to others. Ask Him to send you those who are searching for Him. Is there someone He has laid on your heart to speak to this year and you have put it off? Go to them and share the gift of eternal life that He has given you. I can share a few ways, but don’t stop with mine, ask God how to show you how what would please Him.
After the last tissue paper and bow is thrown away and the tree is taken down, let’s all remember to celebrate Him in word and truth the next 364 days of the year too! Every day is Christ’s day!
Merry Christmas and God Bless Each of You!

Published in the Oklahoma Baptist Newspaper, December 2012

SHE’S GOT ISSUES

I am very impressed by this book and DVD series. Our women’s Bible study group is currently using it at church. It has generated a lot of excitement.
Right away, the author caught my attention with the question: “Am I changed because of Jesus?” Since I accepted Christ as my Savior 36 years ago and I have posed that question to myself in many different ways. Yes, I changed, but as much as I should have? Has it been a lasting, growing change? If I am changed, why do I struggle with some of the same things I did even as a child? Why don’t’ I have the abundant life He promised me? It isn’t my fault I don’t possess this because all His promises are true.
Ms. Unice covers all these things. She doesn’t stab at you with truths by harshly pointing out your problems. One of my favorite things about this series is how she gently prods, directs, and helps you uncover what areas of your life you need to change. Some of those areas you may not even be aware of. She looks at 6 issues: control, insecurity, comparison, fear, anger, and unforgiveness. These seem to be ones that we have a tendency to cover up or excuse in our lives. This only makes matters worse!
Even though the author is a professional counselor, she is very transparent and open about her struggles with these issues in her life. I think her profession adds greatly to how the book is able to reach into your life and the way she approaches the study making it feel very personal.
Each chapter includes a prayer time, quizzes, a journaling/self-examination worksheet, and discussion questions for your group. These are wonderful tools that enable you and the Lord to take a hard look at what is really going on in your life.
I loved the DVD. There are 6 sessions. The first part of each session has a woman openly sharing her problems in the area being studied. This is followed by Nicole teaching using Scripture, personal stories and examples from God’s Word. It is all very relaxed and personal.
Truly, this book can make difference in your life. A wonderful and powerful study and guide to overcoming the problems that hinder you.
I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255