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Susan Baganz

Guard me as the apple of Your eye: Hide me in the shadow of Your wing.”   (Psalm 17:8 HCSB)

Psalm 17 is a psalm that talks repeatedly of God hearing me, paying attention to me, listening to me, SEEING me. He also answers me, hears what I say, guards and hides me, fills and satisfies me.  When I think of God being my “all in all” this psalm echoes that.

I think that the above verse though, was a concept that truly captured my heart as a young Christian. Feeling a bit disenfranchised by my own family, it was thrilling to know that God delighted in me and looked at me as unique and special, within the mass of humanity He loves, and died for.  I don’t get it.  I’m not unique or special compared to anyone else, yet in His eyes, I am. I’m His favorite! But then…

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Short-Straw Bride (Book Review)

I had seen promotions for Short-Straw Bride on Facebook and was intrigued. I saw the trailer and it whetted my appetite, which is unusual.  I went to Amazon to put the book on my wish list.  Then the opportunity came up with Bethany House to review it and I leapt at the chance. When I found out I would be mailed a copy I waited impatiently for it to come. I hesitated to read other things because I was so eager to read this story.

Short-Straw Bride is a historical romance written by author Karen Witemeyer. Karen has a gift for making fictional characters come alive.  This story, set in Texas, introduces a young girl, Meredith Hayes with a childhood incident with Travis Archer that spurs  myriad  dreams of love. All grown up and on the verge of a possible marriage, Meridith hears of a plot against the Archers and in desperation flees to their ranch to warn them of the impending danger.  Trouble does come and Meredith’s reputation ends up in shreds. Four Archer men need to determine which one will wed her.  After drawing straws, Meredith finds herself wed to the man of her childhood dreams, Travis, but wonders if he will ever come to really love her as she loves him.

The book goes beyond this initial development in their relationship to follow the rocky course of love and misunderstandings and is filled with adventure, hope and yes, romance. All the characters are well-developed and believable. Headstrong, feisty Meredith struggles to comply with a man who is used to being entirely in charge of everyone and everything around him, supplanting God in the process. A woman on Archer land changes everything for this solitary band of brothers and all of it for the better.

I look forward to reading more from this author. I loved Short-Straw Bride and had to re-read the last chapter again so I could sigh once more at the beautifully written ending. It was a book I had a hard time putting down and I enjoyed every minute spent in its pages.  Beautifully done, Karen. Ms. Witemeyer and Bethany House get two thumbs up for not only creating in me an appetite to read this book and by not disappointing me when I finally did.

Unplugging

Okay, so I posted on Facebook about how a friend responded when I told her that for three days I was going “off-line” and taking a ‘technology fast’ while attending the True Woman ’10 conference in Indianapolis this week starting Thursday.  She gasped and said she would rather go without food for three days than her computer!

We’ll, I’ll confess. This is going to stretch me as I’m blogging now and so much is going on in ministry. When I attended this conference two years ago – they challenged us to a technology fast. At that time I had no internet on my phone and no laptop.  Easy as pie.  In 2009, I did a similar fast at a prayer retreat.  Computers were available and others would say, “Why don’t you go on-line? Check Facebook? It won’t hurt anything!”  Ah, the voice of temptation can be sooo sweet!  However, I had determined that my time at that retreat was to seek God – not others – and I stuck to it and to be honest – didn’t really miss it.

I have work that I know I will want to do for which a computer would be beneficial.  So I have to trust God that being off-line for three days will not hinder that.  He is in control of it all anyway.  Emails will wait.  Facebook, well, I love connecting with people there and encouraging them, and I get the best updates on news that way . . . (If it’s not reported on Facebook – it really didn’t happen), but life will go on if I’m not there.  If you desperately need to call or text – I’ll still have my phone, but I’ll be busy and won’t be checking it too often.  Just sayin’ that if it’s not an emergency – don’t bother.

So why torture myself like this?  Well, honestly, while I kind of dread it and will leave the laptop at home to minimize the temptation, I have learned from experience that when I truly am going someplace to seek God and hear His voice, then I had better get rid of some of the “noise” in my life.  I’ll have my journal. I can still write and jot down ideas or simply pray.  I’ll walk away from any pressure to create or learn anything other than what it is HE longs to show me.

I have some ministry and life issues where I really do need to hear from God. I have some “out of the box” problems that have no clear cut answers and I need direction.  More than anything, I want a revival in my heart for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  As much as I love ministry and people and writing – to have time where HE is my sole focus – is good, and necessary.  It will make three days without being on-line so worth it. I may be “unplugging” from technology – but “plugging in” to the best power source available.  Not a bad trade off.

So, if you had to, could you go three days without internet?  Even on your cell phone?  Voluntarily?  Have you ever fasted from anything in order to seek God more fully?

Mom – Why do you read so much?

I got that question from my 8 year old the other night, when of course, I was . . . reading.  Homework had been done, they were reading and so was I.  Daddy had told them that I should be the one to sign off on their reading assignments because – I read.

I’ve always loved to read. I love escaping into my imagination to another world and experience the life between the pages of a book.  I long ago gave up suspense/mystery novels, my poor overworked adrenals can’t stand the excitement.  So yeah, I like things that inspire me.  Romance is good but it’s better when there’s fun in there.   I’m hoping that may writing can have those moments that maybe make someone laugh out loud, or giggle or smile.  Right now I’m reading a novel and it’s well written and my heart aches for the female protagonist. She’s well written. I feel her pain, and hopefully, by the time I’m done, I’ll feel her joy as well. We all want a ‘happily ever after’ don’t we?

I also read a variety of other books.  I’m currently reading “Shattered Dreams” by Larry Crabb in my never-ending quest to broaden my theology on suffering. I’m also reading “Switch,” by Chip and Dan Heath, it’s about how to change, when change is hard. The applications are for everyone: business, church, personal life. It’s really good.  Well written books that engage the heart and the head.

Of course there is my almost daily time spent reading the Holy Bible. I got a new one recently, a different version, and I’m enjoying how the differences from the way my brain remembers certain verses, get slightly different flavor with the use of a similar but different word. I like that because sometimes it’s easy to gloss over stuff you’ve read many times over – and it forces me to stop and rethink the application of the words of God and how they might be fresh and new in my life today.  This is the book that challenges me to get over my bad self to focus on the Most High God, who is worthy of my praise, adoration, all the glory – and my obedience.  I’m grateful He’s a God of grace who loves me when I fail and is gentle, yet sometimes painful work at molding me more and more into the image of His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the book that is the primary text for my inquiry into the theology of suffering. It’s also the only one that promises a true ‘happily ever after’ beyond my wildest dreams and beyond the struggles of this life for those who bend their knee to worship and obey Jesus Christ, the ONLY way, truth and life.  Hope is a powerful thing.

So my kids are learning to love reading, because they see that I love it too. I would rather read a book than watch any television or movie. I love to learn, and I want to always be growing, so I read.  How about you? Do you read? What kind of books do you enjoy?  Share – it might end up on my “wish list” for the future!

Looking Back

This morning I get to meet with some former co-workers from my time in Milwaukee.  Friends who have experienced along with me the brutal reality of mental illness and the challenges that places on society.  It’s been eight years since I moved Nort’, kicking and screaming, to the Holy Land and away from my work in the inner city of crime and cockroaches. We did good work there. We made a difference, one life at a time, by serving this population of adults that are so marginalized by society.  Hard work. Painful work.  Amazingly funny moments in the midst of the challenges and the mental illness that sometimes seemed to characterize the personality of the company we worked for!  So this morning I will connect with two of those women who share that history with me – to catch up on the real life history of our own making.  I’m looking forward to that!

Then later today I get to re-connect again with several women who shared the lunch room table with me in High School. That was more years past than I really want to admit to. (my heart has not aged as fast as my body or the calendar would indicate). It seems a lifetime ago, and in fact it was.  Silly me, I cannot remember much of those years in specifics and the details. I do remember feeling that with this group of young women, I belonged.  Or at least they let me belong.  Many rotations of the globe later we meet again and I realize that while a lifetime has passed for me and I am not the same person I was ___ years ago.  Neither are they.  Love, loss, pain – all mark our lives in some way, shape or form.  In a way I am making new friends – not reviving old ones – because we are all changed.  For better or worse life and our choices has molded us into who we are today – and each time we meet we get to understand those changes and celebrate our survival in fresh ways.  

The pic above of me with Laura and Carol was taken at our first “reunion” in January of this year.

 When you look back – do you see positive changes in your life?  Have you allowed the challenges you have faced to grow you into a better person than you were before?  How have you “improved with age?”Like fine wine or cheese – it’s worth sharing with others . . .

Anticipation

My kids are going to a rodeo tonight. They’ve been ready  for hours now and driving me nuts with their energy and expectations for fun. Made me think – what do I anticpate? What am I expectant for in my life? What gets my blood fired up and rarin’ to go? What makes me want to get out of bed in the morning?

Right now I’m working on two books – one fiction – one non-fiction. Working on them definitely fires me up and gets me excited. A little fearful too – what if no one likes them? (grateful that I have readers who love my novel!)  Still – I’m having fun and that’s what counts right? Who knows what God will do? He’s already reconnected me with so many people that I knew just a few years ago in High School (good ol’ Goodrich!).

I always wanted to write and now have had the courage to do it – jumped into NaNoWriMo last year and everything changed. So with a mixture of fear and joyful anticipation – I’m writing. I’m pouring out my heart and creativity.  I look forward to seeing how God will use that next. So here’s my blog. Just another step forward in a world filled with people giving their thoughts and opinions on life, exploring their adventures and potentially being inspiring in the process. Not sure if you will find that all here – but you never know – you might!  Hopefully you will check in occassionally and say “hi”.

In the meantime – what fires you up? What is getting you up in the morning? If nothing – you may need to explore the dreams God has planted in your heart – and take a risk to follow them. You just never know what will happen in the process.

Hello world!

A friend told me today that I NEED a blog.  Need?  I need air, food, water and shelter.  Oh, and clothes are good – VERY good!  But NEED a blog?  *big sigh* However, if I want to be exposed as a writer I need an “on-line presence.”  So, here I am bowing to her wisdom.  One more thing for me “to do” and one more thing for you “to read” in a world of information overload.  Wow – doesn’t that excite you and make you want to read more? 

If you follow me on Facebook – you may actually like what you find here.  I cannot promise to always be witty or inspiring – but maybe you will find that here.  Perhaps I will encourage you. Hopefully you will find grace and hope for your own journey.  One thing I hope you do find – I’m real.  This is real life.  And I won’t pretend to be someone I’m not.  If you like that – then I’m glad you are here.

Thanks for stopping by and hopefully you will visit again.