Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Story Only God Can Write

Welcome 2012! Tuesday I will be talking about something new for Spoiled For The Ordinary. Here's a teaser - a story only God can write!

Twenty years ago I was part of something that became pretty incredible. It started with listening to God and a hunger for pizza.

I was on a Discipleship Training School (DTS) outreach through Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Montana. We had two different teams, and my group was in Chanthaburi, Thailand during Dec/Jan of '91/'92. It was a great group of people - single men and women, married couples, and families that were all strangers a few months ago, coming together to learn what it means to serve God overseas.

Chanthaburi is a neat city, but it is small enough that it didn't have any Western food outlets at the time (No McDonalds or KFC sadly - or maybe not). We enjoyed the Thai diet of rice, vegetables, fish and chicken, but comfort foods are magnified when a few thousand miles from home.

One day a few of my teammates really had a craving for pizza. We had a few translators with us, and somehow they found out about an Italian restaurant in town. They hailed a taxi and made it there for lunch.

I heard the pizzas were interesting - no tomato sauce, so they improvised with ketchup.

However, the owner spoke English and was intrigued by the foreigners visiting his establishment. Chanthaburi is not a hot spot for tourism, so we did stand out. It turned out he was quite the businessman, and he also owned a disco in another part of the city. It also turned out that we had a group of musicians in our team - some of these guys were sick!

The businessman was excited, and asked if we could play for his disco. No big deal, right?

Our show date was New Year's Eve, 1991.

The musicians in our group enjoyed scouring the markets to see what Thai music tastes were like. At that time they ran towards Credence Clearwater Revival, Phil Collins, and Richard Marx. Interesting.

They put together a set of songs from these artists plus some up-tempo worship choruses. A few of the songs lent themselves to a horn section. We had a really good sax player. Then there was me. I brought my trumpet, but I was more concert-trained. Where was my sheet music? I muddled through, and they humored me and let me play with them! We had three guitarists, but they were so good one switched to drums and another to bass to fill out our band. We were christened - "Lightforce"!

December 31st came, and we drove up in taxis to the disco location.

That's when our leader's chin hit the ground.

He had been on another outreach to Chanthaburi about three years prior. He remembered being on this street - the town's small red-light district. He knew the disco.

Their group had prayed that this disco would be used to glorify God. That His praises would be lifted in this place.

We were there to do exactly that.

We serve an amazing God, who knows what is coming three years down the road when we are praying over a building in a foreign city, that something will happen. He can use even a craving for pizza. Shoot, our leader wasn't originally scheduled to come to Thailand with us. He joined up as a co-leader to help out as our other leaders were first-timers as far as leading an outreach. If he hadn't joined us, we wouldn't know that God was cooking up something.

Something greater than pizza even.

That's me on the left rocking the peg-leg jeans. And I still have hair!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Good Reads

Are you done with your shopping? Need some last minute Christmas gift ideas? Never fear!

Here at Spoiled for the Ordinary we specialize in randomness, so a shopping guide is perfect.

I've seen a lot of pitches for giving a book this Christmas, to encourage the year-long gift of reading and learning. However, many people end up buying a series with long waiting times in between books. You don't want your loved ones to be frustrated!

That's why I've listed several series that have several books already published. Most are completed, so you can get the whole series, or at least have several books to read before you need another one - giving the author a chance to catch up to you.

Remember, if one book is a good gift, three or four are even better!

If they like historical action with a dash of controversy a la "The DaVinci Code," then consider The Gifted series by Lisa T. Bergren. Set in 1300's Italy, a group called by God with special gifts must navigate the power plays of Catholic leadership and the darkness of Lord Abramo Amidei. I  recently picked up the first book The Begotten for a minute and ended up reading the whole book again. Engrossing - and much better than Dan Brown.

One of the most unique characters in literature right now is The Bug Man, Nick Polchak. He's a forensic entomologist who is brilliant with science and clueless socially. Tim Downs writes this series and his sense of humor, suspenseful stories, and trademark ick factor of a CSI show makes each one a treat. Several can be read stand alone, but he is working them as a series with the last several ones.

How about a little more alternative history? Stephen Lawhead is one of the best mythological writers out there. He loves to tie into old tales and bring them to life in his fiction. In The Raven King series, he does his own take on Robin Hood, taking him from Sherwood Forest in England and settling him into the dark woods of medieval Wales. An excellent series.

A little more modern? Try the series of coming to age tales in the deep South starting in the 1940's, only with a spiritual warfare twist: The Black or White Chronicles by John Aubrey Anderson. The first book, Abiding Darkness, made me laugh and cry on the same bus ride. The next two books were just as engaging. After a publisher change, I have started into book four, The Cool Woman.

Current trends support superhero powers - just look at the hit movies from the summer of 2011! If you're looking for that in book form, you can't beat Robin Parrish and his Dominion Trilogy. When the main character gets Shifted into a new, powerful body with amazing powers, he finds other people wearing similar rings as him, with varied superhuman abilities. He also finds a conspiracy tracing through time, waiting for the moment with he would arrive! Suspenseful to the nth degree, Robin writes a literary comic book that rocks.

Maybe they need a laugh. You can't beat Rene Gutteridge for this, and her Occupational Hazards books will keep you in stitches. The Hazard family grew up homeschooled and helping their parents with a clown business. When the parents die in a tragic hot tub accident, the different siblings look to make their way in the world. Their innocent faith and honest integrity lead them to a news room, an airline spy, and working as an undercover cop with fits and giggles.

If they need a book to challenge their grey matter, then check out the Chronicles of Chaos series by John C. Wright. When the Titans of old are force to live in an English boarding house, they discover burgeoning powers that bend physics and mythology into a strange, wonderful blend. If you like quantum mechanics mixed with your Greek gods, then this is the series for you!

If you're looking at the young adult set, my first and best recommendation is The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Three children wonder about their place in the world, living under the oppresion of the Fangs of Dang. If only they knew they were the fabled Jewels of Anniera, and that they were destined to rule a fabled land. If they don't get eaten by toothy cows first. Whimsy, lyrical, touching, and just too much fun, these books are worth adult reading as well!

Last but not least, there's a great suspense series set in my own state of Idaho that will keep you up at night. Brandilyn Collins specializes in Seatbelt Suspense (meaning you better hang on!). In her Kanner Lake series, a small Idaho mountain town and its quirky residents must confront evil when murder and mayhem shakes up their idyllic setting. These books defy being put down, and also make lack of sleep a distinct option (from staying up too late reading or being too scared to turn out the lights - both are known to happen).

I hope you've enjoyed this special service. May your Christmas be full of joy and your tree stocked with good reading for 2012!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christ in Christmas

Some traditions need changed
 It's the most wonderful time of the year.


To some people.

During the holiday season, we hear accusations of "culture wars" or "Christmas wars." There are various stories of people complaining that some politician is calling the city's decorations a "Holiday Tree" instead of a Christmas tree. Elementary students can't sing traditional Christmas carols like "Angels We Have Heard On High," only songs like "Jingle Bells."

Christians get worked up over the scrubbing of Christ from Christmas. Secular people state that not everyone is celebrating the same thing.

On a similar note, my family enjoyed The Sing Off on NBC. The singers they bring in are so amazing. They had a Christmas special on December 5th, and it brought some of the most popular groups from the 3 seasons to perform. It was a very enjoyable performance, but I realized after a while that all of the songs were focused at the secular side of Christmas. I didn't listen to every performance, so I may have missed something, but even though it was billed as Christmas and inspirational, there were no Christmas hymns. The groups may not be Christians, but some amazing songs come from the Christmas hymn tradition and would be great for acapella groups to tackle.

I am not here to throw another punch for the culture wars. I still enjoyed this special. It is still disappointing to listen to two hours of music without any classic hymns. It is sad to miss out on Christ in Christmas.

Secular people may point to the facts that Christianity superceded other pagan holidays or traditions over time to draw people to Church celebrations. Point taken! Guilty as charged.

I can't change that fact. Still, we have hundreds of years of tradition for Christmas. Even though some traditions are relatively new, there is still background that has changed rapidly in the last several years.

I'm willing to share. I don't care if a Christmas album has "Jingle Bells" or "White Christmas" on it. But I don't want to see "O Holy Night" or "Go Tell It On The Mountain" relegated to church only though. Why can't we all have time in December? How does that sound?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

CSFF Tour - Corus the Champion Day 2

The Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy tour is highlighting D. Barkley Briggs  and his book Corus the Champion from the Legends of Karac Tor series. It is the second of five books. The first book is The Book of Names, and the third is also available, The Song of Unmasking. Anyone who leaves a comment through December 9 will have a chance to win Song.

I'm disappointed that I haven't had time to read the books yet. Too much going on lately. However, I bought the first three for my boys, and they are working their way through the series. My oldest is reading Corus right now, while my middle son has started Names.

We featured The Book of Names a couple of years ago. In the meantime issues with the original publisher arose, and the series was put on hiatus until this year, when the first three found release and new life.

I can't comment on the books themselves, but I was willing to buy the first three at once because of what I see of the author, D. Barkley Briggs. I've not met him, but from what I've gathered online from his blog, Twitter feed, and biography, he is a man with a heart to challenge kids toward a great adventure in the Kingdom.

After losing his wife of 16 years, Briggs decided to tell a tale his four sons could relate to in their own journey through loss. Thus was born The Legends of Karac Tor, a sweeping adventure of four brothers who become enmeshed in the crisis of another world and along the way, must find their courage, battle overwhelming odds, face their pain, and never quit searching for home. (From his bio)

My boys and I have a tradition of reading at night before they go to bed. I am so thankful that even my 11 year old wants to continue this. I am looking forward to reading the Legends of Karac Tor to them, and to keep their love of story going, and stoke the fires of seeking God's adventure for their lives in all they do.

I wish I had my own review, but I'm hoping that my oldest will do what he was asked and write up a little plug for Karac Tor. There are many more thoughts from my tourmates below. Becky Miller always collects all of the posts for your perusal, so check those out for more!

Gillian Adams Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Morgan L. Busse CSFF Blog Tour Carol Bruce Collett Theresa Dunlap April Erwin Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Christopher Hopper Julie Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Marzabeth Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Eve Nielsen Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Rachel Starr Thomson Steve Trower Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Nicole White Rachel Wyant

Monday, December 05, 2011

CSFF Tour - Corus the Champion Day 1

Read me!
Today the CSFF tour invites you to venture into a far away land. Legend tells of a land of names and songs, of a land waiting for a champion to come. The land of Karac Tor.

Haven't you heard of it? If not, there's a guide who can lead you in these hidden lands. Seek out D. Barkley Briggs and he can introduce you to some brave young men who have been to Karac Tor and survived adventures there.

We are focusing on the book Corus the Champion, but the tale begins in The Book of Names. Hadyn and Ewan Barlow are the oldest of four brothers. They are living in rural Missouri, where their father moved them after the death of their mother a year ago.

While clearing out a field of brambles, the brothers stumble upon a portal into a strange land - Karac Tor. They have a story to tell, but that will be for another day.

If you want to learn more, check back on the next two days, or check out my tourmates below.

I have a special opportunity for those interested in this series. The third book is The Song of Unmasking, and if you leave a comment from now until Wednesday, December 7th, you will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of it (U.S. residents only, I'm afraid). So leave a comment, and check back for more!

Gillian Adams Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Morgan L. Busse CSFF Blog Tour Carol Bruce Collett Theresa Dunlap April Erwin Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Christopher Hopper Julie Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Marzabeth Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Eve Nielsen Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Rachel Starr Thomson Steve Trower Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Nicole White Rachel Wyant