The Bosnia List Review

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The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return by Kenan Trebincevic surprised me. When I read in another article how his Christian neighbors turned on him, I thought, “So this is going to be a Muslim rant against Christians?” Yet the war was much more complicated.

I remember the Bosnia war news stories, but I have to admit to not paying attention. At the time, I was a teenager. So the war was somewhere ‘over there.’ Kenan’s story reminds me of the Holocaust. The story begins in New York. The Bosnia List is an actual list Kenan wrote down on things he wanted to accomplish when he took his dad back to the old country. Kenan didn’t want to go, but pressure from his father, friends, and sibling changed his mind. Kenan returns to the old country years after the Bosnian war, and reflects on his trip with a much different spirit. I had just two problems with the book.

First, I really didn’t care for the swearing in the dialogue. It peppered the manuscript. Second, the prologue begins with, “December, 2009,” written in italics, and on page 7 jumps to 2010 in a regular paragraph without any extra spaces. When you put a title in italics listing a chapter as 2009, usually you don’t suddenly switch to another year. On page 11, he brings us to 2011 in the same prologue. Otherwise, the reader follows Kenan’s growth and healing from present day New York to the past during the war, and back again. It’s a great story with lessons we could all learn from it, like putting our belief in God and His values first above our nationality. This is not all though.

Kenan shows how some things he observed as a child were taken out of context, and he learns the truth during his visit to his home country as an adult. I really loved how he rounds out his whole experience from war to visiting home again post war. His last page made me nod and smile. What I thought would primarily be a rant against Christians stayed true to his story of how complicated the war became for him. I gave this book four stars.

Disclosure of material connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase this item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I might use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Book given by author to review.

Why I Still Attend Church

Relevant interviewed author, Donald Miller, about his blog post, I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Worship Elsewhere. Relevant said:

There are several topics that are known to ignite controversy in many Christian circles, and one of those is church attendance. A few weeks ago, author and Storyline founder Donald Miller found this out the hard way. His blog post confessing that he doesn’t feel that he connects very well to God in the setting of a Sunday morning church service quickly went viral, drawing criticism, some rebuttals and plenty of questions.

A friend of mine calls these times in our lives seasons. Miller talked about worship, and that he worships through work. A writer is always working. His writing is worship. I understand his words. When I read the so-called controversial blog, I found it to be as he explained in the Relevant interview, about how different people learn. I, too, do not like the lecture format. I learn better by doing, and worship better when I am writing, hiking, running, or reading.

But work can hinder, too. It can be a shield to actual worship. Miller’s unconventional view of church reminds me that church isn’t about worship; it’s about fellowship. Stovall Weems of The God-First Life: Uncomplicate Your Life, God’s Way says, “If we want to experience the benefits of community, we have to invest in the communities we belong to. It’s a two-way street. I find that people can get so disappointed because the church was not “there for them” in their moment of crisis. But if we are not investing in others within the community, we won’t be in a position to reap the benefits of the community in your time of need.” Hence, attending church is an easy way of getting involved in community. But don’t restrict yourselves to just your church. Community is your neighborhood, other churches, missionary churches, etc. When I looked at Miller’s website, I find he’s not against church.

And I have a reason for still attending church. I can’t worship through music. Sitting in a pew or chairs, facing forward in a lecture-format is still not stimulating, and corporate prayer for longer than ten minutes makes my mind wander. However, its the people who have influenced me through church that make attending church worthwhile. The people who pray for me and who keep me accountable are invaluable. Many positive influences came through relations in church. Lots of expository sermons brought me to know the Christ I love, but in church, I have encountered people who are judgmental and hurtful. It’s the risk of going anywhere that a large group of people gather in intimate community.

The only way to avoid hurt is to avoid people. According to the Bible, we are not to leave from gathering together as believers. But what Miller said about wishing he had not written the blog really made me wish, that as believers, we were more sensitive. The only people who can rebuke a man for not attending church are the people who know them. They are the people privy to what is going on in their hearts. The rest of us should gentle our responses, and pray for those who do not have a church home. A large, home-church movement is out there, and while I do not agree with a home-church, I am glad, at least, the people without a church gather with a group of believers during the week. But I will not stop attending church. What church looks like for me may be different, but I still believe church matters. Church is also not a building, as a friend recently reminded me, but a body.

So please pray for those who do not have a church they feel they can call home. Pray for those hurt by church and pray for those who have trouble finding community in church. Help them realize that what we sow into community, we will reap.

Disclosure of material connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase this item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I might use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

People Need Work

Mission-Drift-cover

“We work in Congo. We know some of the complexities of poverty. And we know poverty cannot be solved merely by shipments of food, pioneering malaria treatments, or the construction of new homes. To achieve lasting change, people in poverty need work. They need jobs. We recognize many suffer primarily because of lack of opportunities. We committed our careers to providing men and women the financial tools and training they need to lift themselves out of poverty.” – Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches by Peter Greer

I am in the middle of Mission Drift, a book review. So many things spoke to me in this book from major organizations who drifted from their Christ-centered mission to others who have stayed strong in spite of the temptations to make Jesus secondary or not at all. But the quote above reminds me of a story from the mission field.

A group tried to help out people by giving them businesses. It didn’t work out and they revised their plan by giving them low-rate loans they had to pay back as they taught them how to run a business. The second plan worked to free them from the poverty they were in, and while they were still poor, they were eating and living healthier lives. People need work. That is true in the mission field. It is true in America.

I am 12% through the book. I will review it when I am done. But so far I am finding it fascinating.

Disclosure of material connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase this item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I might use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Book given by publisher to review.

The Thrill of Creative Effort

Tricia Goyer posted this on her Facebook last Monday:

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort – Franklin  D. Roosevelt

Anyone, anywhere can find achievement and thrill in any job. The most mundane job can have hidden thrills or layers we can’t see because of our boredom or bitterness.  I call them blocks. I find complete happiness in all of my creative efforts, but  most especially when my creative efforts benefit someone else. After all, creativity is a gift you give away.

That gift brings joy. But the biggest joy comes from the Creator Himself who gave us creativity. He made the sunset and the sunrise; the Rembrandts and the Mona Lisa’s; the quilts and the sewing projects; the Tolkein’s and Lewis’ of our time; and I am so happy to be a child of His, belonging to a greater family than my own earthly one. The creative efforts and achievements are arrows pointing back to the Creator Himself who first made us and gave us these gifts that we take for granted.

In the comment section, list why you are grateful for the Creator of the Universe. Use this time to worship Him.

When They’d Rather Have Casserole

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When trying to stir interest in your project, you must know your audience, or it will be like trying to feed a baby liquefied peas.The most common mistake, for instance, is when you try to make someone like something you love.

Like telling a teenager he should listen to a dated rendition of your favorite hymn rather than Skillet (Rise). The more you put down his music, the more irrelevant and alienating you become to him. Instead, celebrate that he does listen to Christian music. Tell the stories behind the songs you love.

I fell in love with a hymn because the hymn was used in a popular movie, not because people put down my music.

Being relevant means making our project human to the culture we live in. But if you insist on not thinking beyond the scope of your own narrow interests, you will lose your audience. Who wants to eat liquefied peas when casserole is available?

Disclosure of material connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase this item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I might use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Judas Kiss

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. - Mark 14:44-46

CONGRATULATIONS(1)

The Voice of the Martyr’s magazine sits on the arm of my chair. On the cover, Vietnamese believers hunch over the Bible with flashlights. The walls are dark and gray. Their seats aren’t pews or chairs, and their church isn’t some big cathedral. It’s an underground church. Next to this magazine is a book called, “Tortured for Christ,” by Reverend Richard Wurmbrand. Wurmbrand was turned in by an associate to the Communists and spent a torturous eight and a half years in prison. What caught my eye were the words, “an associate turned him in.” How can a church member turn on another church member?

I realized, of course, it’s easy to do. We do it all the time in a country where free people don’t have to hide their beliefs. C.S. Lewis has a quote that pertains to justification. It is from God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology):

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” 

I wonder if the associate who turned in Wurmbrand disagreed with how the underground church was run? Was that his justification? Of course, this wasn’t Wurmbrand’s first experience with torture. During World War II, he and his wife attempted to evangelize the occupying soldiers. Wurmbrand and his wife were beaten numerous times. They were trustworthy church leaders, but in World War II, not all pastors or reverands were safe.

In Russia, a pastor turned in his Jewish friends to be shot, tortured, and imprisoned in Russia’s own Holocaust. That pastor escaped prosecution with little or no consequences to his actions years after World War II ended. In occupied Europe and in Germany and Russia, many people turned in their Jewish neighbors for less. In one instance, the people living next door to a Jewish person envied what that Jewish person owned. They turned him in and took over his apartments, stealing his rich furnishings. The warnings of our past history are ignored. If it can happen to Jews, it can happen to Christians. Christian persecution is very real today. It’s not something that happened in the past, or made up to make Christians a more sympathetic people group. People who say this purposely turn a blind eye to the truth.

I’m not done reading Reverand Richard Wurmbrand’s book. I’ve just begun. Several other books have amazed me with what God is doing in closed countries, but I am grieved by what I see in my country. According to George Barna, “American morality is no longer synonymous with Christian morality. The new agenda is about individual independence instead of issues threatening family or country.”

Many churches exist that do good work, whose people stand in solidarity against the secular world. But there are those in church who fall into C.S. Lewis’ version of tyranncy; they kiss their church friend on the cheek and let the soldiers come and take them away, like Jesus’ Judas. Only its not soldiers that come; just our own avarice and gossip, leaving that church friend out in the cold like an orphan. If we ever became a closed country, I have no doubt that tyranny will be the undoing of some underground churches not used to unifying together against a greater threat.

As I sit in my chair, I am watching Billy Graham’s, My Hope America. I am surrounded by access to God’s Word. I listen to stories of changed lives, but haven’t seen that lately. God is doing something in my life now, and I am waiting to see the outcome. I am learning to be brave, to act and speak, and to live in God’s purpose; build His kingdom, not mine. While I sit here, children and widows in India starve, underground churches in closed countries meet in spite of the danger of death or imprisonment, and I know I am blessed. In many ways, I think American churches have it hard, too. We don’t go hungry, but our job is harder to reach the unsaved because prosperity has made them comfortable or entitlement has made it easy to stay unchanged. They don’t feel they need God. Individually, I think as a Christian we are in danger of falling into a rut. We could get too comfortable in that rut, and blind, be unable to see the damage of our inaction to ourselves and to the people we could have impacted for Christ.

So when you go to church ask yourself as I will, “Am I making decisions for someone because I think its in their best interest without knowing the harm it causes? Am I choosing my words with care so as to empower someone to go forward in Christ or are my words truth devoid of love or a lie to manipulate someone to go our way? Would I give a Judas kiss to someone, and turn around to speak against them?”

That last should sting. Because how many times have I given a Judas kiss, and in my ignorance and blindness of the moment, became an enemy? James says the tongue is evil.

Romans 7:15 says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

If, God forbid, our country becomes closed to Christianity, I pray for myself and for other Christians that the temptation to turn in a church member in the heat of the moment never comes, and that if it does, we pay careful attention to our consciousness, the Word, and to history. As Billy Graham says, “I’ve not given my life to a dead Christ, but to a live Christ!”

Have you ever forgotten, while you were attending church, why you were put on this earth and why you became a believer?

The Word, Christian

A missionary friend once said he doesn’t use the word, “Christian,” in his field to identify his biblical belief because of how internationally re-defined it has become and how religions have made it all-inclusive. I came across Ravi Zacharius’ Youtube video on the word Christian and Cult. I love Ravi.

A Life of Words: @kristinemac

Name of blog:  Kristine ReMixed 
 

Your Name:Kristine McGuire  

Your Twitter: kristinemac

Your Facebook page:  AuthorKristineMcguire

Why did you pick that name? 

My husband, Thom, suggested it. He used to be a nightclub DJ. He would take various pieces of original music and “remix” it to create something new. As a re-dedicated Christian I have been “remixed” by God (a Christian who was restored to Him after eight years spent in the occult). Therefore I am now—Kristine ReMixed

What prompted you to begin blogging? 

I kept my testimony to myself for two years. Frankly, I thought other Christians would be unkind about my testimony. However, during those two years I heard people talk of how they wanted a deeper connection with God. I saw how mysticism and interest in the paranormal was gaining momentum in our society. I decided it was time to share my story but wasn’t sure how. I already blogged on Myspace (just daily life stuff) so when Thom suggested I start a real blog (and offered to help set it up) I decided to go for it.

What kind of blogs did you first write?

I started with typical “Christian life stuff”. It wasn’t until October I began addressing occult issues with a post about a movie called “Paranormal Activity”…and my readership exploded.

What mistakes did you make when you first blogged?

Not including pictures  (with links to the original source), making the font too small, and not paying attention to the length of the post.

What was your worst blog post in the beginning? Your best? 

I have no idea because it can be subjective. There are posts I slaved over and believed were awesome which nobody read. There have been “throw away” posts I’ve written in a few minutes which people loved and shared.

Why did you begin blogging? 

Officially? August 2009.

What are your top 5 favorite blogs to read?

www.sarahmae.com, www.sarahmarkley.com, www.faithbarista.comtolovehonorandvacuum.com, and of course yours. :)

What inspires you to blog? 

God, life, stories I see on TV, other blog posts…sharing what I’ve learned over the course of my life (even the stuff that really hurt).

When do you write your posts and how long do they take? 

It depends on when I get inspired. I’ve been known to create a blog post as early as 6AM and as late as 11:45PM.

What is your brand?

My name and that I’m a Former Witch, Medium, Ghost Hunter. This has established me as an “authority” on occult matters for Christians.

What was your worst comment?

When I was accused of sharing my story so I could “make millions of dollars.” That truly hurt because I feel a profound burden to share God’s truth about the occult with anyone who will listen.

Your best?
The person who found peace with the past, knowing God will always forgive if we truly repent.

When your first comments came and they weren’t family or friends, describe that feeling.

Over the top excited. I may have done a happy dance. :)

Why do you blog now and how has that changed from your very beginnings? 

The motivation remains the same. God has put words on my heart which I put out there in the hope someone will be encouraged in their faith or challenged to turn their eyes to Him.

Do you have any comments to add for people who want to start blogs? Any advice?

Keep your posts to a reasonable length. If it’s going to be long, break it up into several parts. Be prepared to write something every day—even if all you do is admit how uninspired you feel or how boring life is that day. And practice your craft. A good blogger should be a good writer.

How many times a week do you post? 

I try to post something every day. When life gets busy I shoot for three or four times a week.

Are you a believer? If not, what religion do you believe in? If a believer, what denomination do you attend?

I’m a Christian. My faith community is Resurrection Life Church in Grandville, MI.

Do people at your church or work know about your blog? What is their reaction?

My church is very large but I do know there are people from there who read my blog. Everyone has been very supportive and encouraging.

What was your family’s reaction when you wanted to begin blogging? 

As far as I know my family does not read my blog but they are supportive of my writing so I assume they’d like it.

Did you ever write a blog that made someone feel hurt? How did you reconcile that or resolve that? 

The people who might feel hurt by my posts are usually involved in the occult. I never set out to be hurtful but I also do not mince the truth when it comes to the gospel. I do try to let people know they are valued and loved whether we have the same belief or not.

What can we pray about for you? 

God’s gracious favor as my book hits the market in September, and more open doors to minister to people. Daily inspiration for the blog. And as always His strength.

How many hours do you social network and/or blog per week? 

Oh goodness, probably 20 hours or so.

How many readers do you get a month?

Over 10,000

Anything else you’d like to share about your blog?

I’m blessed and humbled to have the opportunity to share faith and life with people through my blog. Thank you. :)

Note from Nikki: The purpose of this series is to show the heart behind some of the many blogs I read. Most of them might be Christian, but some of them aren’t believers. On June 24, we featured Lori Heyd. With all the great articles out there about social networking, building your brand, and marketing ones self in the world, I wanted to put a different spin on things. This series will make an attempt to get at the heart of the blogger. I’m not asking for submissions. So please keep your comments to prayers for Kristine, questions for her, or encouragement for her as she fulfills this calling. As Bonnie Gray once said, your comments are a gift.

The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression

war-on-christmasBuy book here: War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression

The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression is an education into the culture war and dispels the myths man has created from Christmas.

While some tire of the phrase, war on Christmas, its no less a reality for Christians who seek to celebrate a holiday that is theirs to celebrate in the first place, but find Christmas challenged in the court and school systems. Christmas to Christians is like Hanukkah is to the Jewish in that Christmas is a Christians celebration of the birth of Christ. Some have paganized much of the Christian holiday with Santa Claus, elves, and reindeer. In The War on Christmas, even Black Friday is picked on a little. I echo what Charlie Brown said, “Doesn’t anyone know the meaning of Christmas?”

The War on Christmas explores the truths behind common misunderstandings of Christmas, like the Nativity set. The Three Wise Men didn’t actually come to see Christ until Christ was nearly two years of age. The book also talks about the star and how the book of Genesis plays into the Christmas story. The book talks about how Jesus had brothers, how Mary wasn’t a perpetual virgin, and other things. All of the details of the Christmas story are discussed in this book, even to the smallest detail of the “Inn.”

My husband and I chose to keep this book in our library as a reference for re-reading as it is a testament to God in every small detail of the Christmas story even before the beginning of time. I am ever amazed at God’s attention to detail. Why should I be surprised though when God also created the human body, DNA, and even the atom? The archeological and spiritual truths in this book is what I would expect from Ken Ham and the people at Answers in Genesis.

For anyone who wonders how to keep the Christmas Story in focus over the other distractions and commercialization of the holiday, this book is a great book, laid out in full color and nice, thick pages. It’s a teaching tool for parents, and towards the end shows how we can still play the Santa Claus game without lying to our kids about whether Santa Claus is real, and instead, focusing on the historical figure behind the mythical man. I gave this book five stars. It’s on my re-read list.

*Book given by publisher to review.