Sunday, December 9, 2012

Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic is a very likable and inspirational man.  He has used his disability (being born without arms or legs) as a platform to share God's love and hope with the world.  In Unstoppable, his second book, Nick shares some of his inspirational advice on topics such as relationships, financial/job crises, bullying, self-destructive thoughts, and finding balance. 

I thought everything that he shared in this book was great advice.  My only critique is that I found it a little repetitive.  Sometimes what works great while public speaking does not work as well in written form.  For someone like myself who reads a lot by Christian authors, I found the text to be slow-moving.  However, for someone going through a crisis, or someone dealing with an issue in life that Nick speaks directly to...that might be just what they need! 

Here is a quote from the book that really reveals Nick's passion: "I have not received the miracle of arms and legs that I've sought, but I've experienced the miraculous joy and peace and trust of faith...By faith today I honestly have the joy of seeing lives transformed.  This is huge!  You may rejoice that you have limbs, but each day I rejoice that I do not...It won't matter how much money I've made or how many nice cars I've owned.  What will matter is that I've reached out to someone and served a purpose greater than my own."

I enjoyed Nick's sense of humor, authenticity, and boldness to share his story with the world for God's glory.  I liked how he both shared his story, as well as weaving in the life experiences of others.  If you have never heard Nick speak, I highly suggest you visit his website http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/, read his books, or view some of his many videos on YouTube.  You will gain a better perspective and be infused with hope for the future God has in store for your life.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Press in exchange for an honest review*

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dreams and Visions by Tom Doyle

When I first picked up this book, I had a fear of it being dry and over my head...but I am pleased to report that this was far from the truth.  This is one of the most fascinating books I've read all year!  The majority of the book consists of stories from Muslims in various Middle Eastern countries who have had dreams and visions of Jesus which have led them to seek out answers and find life in Christ.  The author also intermixes relevant information so that readers who have little knowledge of Islamic practices (like myself) gain a fuller understanding of the Muslim faith and what life is like in those countries.

Tom Doyle is a missionary who is watching this phenomenon unfold first-hand.  He writes "I believe Islamic terrorism is Satan's attempt to keep the gospel message away from Muslims.  The enemy thinks that if he can make the rest of us afraid of  Muslims or make us hate them, then he can short-circuit Jesus' church from reaching Muslims.  But that isn't working.  Jesus has stepped in and is opening Muslim hearts Himself...Dreams and visions break down barriers that keep Muslims from embracing Christ.  Then it's up to us to get the gospel to them with a solid explanation and an offer to receive Jesus." After the terrorist bombing, Americans tend to fear that all Arabs are terrorists.  Even though a significant number are (about 10%), the author urges us not to overlook and ignore the other 90% who are not.  They need to know the love of Jesus and we can play a part in that happening.

This book has increased my awareness of Muslim beliefs and practices, made me more compassionate, and boosted my faith by hearing the stories of how Jesus is appearing to these people today.  I highly recommend it!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The First Thanksgiving

We all know the story of the First Thanksgiving, right?  The Pilgrims and the Indians of course! I was just in Isaac's classroom and this is what they learned.  While it's true that this was an important meal of Thanksgiving, I recently learned of the origin of the first official Thanksgiving holiday...and it's not anything I was taught in school.  Maybe you will find it as enlightening as I have.

In Rick Santorum's book, American Patriots, he writes of a patriot named Elias Boudinot.  "Boudinot served as one of the first four New Jersey members of the House of Representatives.  His reliance on God and his gratefulness for God's provision of the young country prompted Boudinot to propose a resolution in his first year as congressman that established "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer".  Boudinot proclaimed that he "could not think of letting the session pass over without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining, with one voice, in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings he had poured down upon them."  President George Washington responded by issuing America's first federal thanksgiving proclamation."

Wikipedia shines further light on the subject..."As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God."

To read the entire Proclamation written by George Washington, click here.  There is no doubt after reading this that our founding fathers knew to whom our thanks was due.  May we remember this as well as we celebrate with our friends and family this week.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jesus: Pure & Simple by Wayne Cordeiro

I decided to check out this book because one of the author's previous books, The Divine Mentor, made a real impact on my family.  I found that this book was well-written and thought provoking, but it didn't offer anything new....at least nothing new to me.

The main idea is focused around this Scripture from 2 Corinthians 11:3 "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."  The author says that "it's easy to confuse...our spiritual vitality with our spiritual activity".  It's not about our Bible knowledge or the number of "religious" things we do...it's all about how much our lives reflect His....pure and simple.  We need a clear picture of Jesus and to learn how to correct back to Him.  Other topics include serving without the need for recognition, recognizing the presence of Christ, focusing on the lost, personal renewal, contentment, and living in the present.

The writing style is easy enough for a new Christian to understand, yet still challenging for someone seasoned in the faith.  The end of each chapter contains a few questions for individual reflection or group discussion.  This book could help generate some great discussions, especially for newer groups who want to start with the basics.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How He Speaks

This morning I thought I'd give you a glimpse at how God sometimes speaks to me.  My morning Bible readings have recently been going through the book of Ecclesiastes.  While there are a few phrases here and there that catch my attention, it's not my favorite book.  But this morning I read in Ecc 7:10 Do not say "Why were the old days better than these?"  Instantly I was reminded of a song from my past that included this phrase.  I pulled out my ipod to listen to the lyrics and they spoke to the very area of my heart that needed it.



You don't know what's coming....but you know the one who holds tomorrow...Just take my hand and walk where I lead.

(This song also brings back special memories as it's one of the first songs I heard Jeremy sing after meeting him.  And I frequently requested him to sing it again...and again.)

May this song be a blessing to you this morning as well :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

American Patriots by Rick Santorum

I should start this review with the disclaimer that I am not a history buff.  I made it through history classes in school by skimming and using short-term memorization!  While this isn't typical of books I read, something about the content caught my interest. 

American Patriots is about the values set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and stories of the brave men and women who fought to make our freedom possible.  The stories are shared to inspire the current generation to rise up and take a stand.  The author writes "The greatest threat to liberty today is not from the ruling elites; it lies within each one of us when we give in to the temptation to live our lives with conformity, apathy, and complacency."

The book is divided into 3 sections: Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness.  Each section begins with a few pages of thoughts from the author, followed by 5 stories.  My favorite parts were the commentaries by Rick Santorum.  To hear a politician say that our rights come from God, that we are all equal in the eyes of the Creator, and that "our founders' call to happiness was really a call to pursue virtue" gives me hope.  So many people overlook the fact that our country was founded on Christian values.  If Rick Santorum runs for president in the future, he has my vote!

While the historical stories shared were somewhat interesting, I felt like I missed a lot by not having a solid foundation to build upon.  People who know their history will most likely enjoy these stories more.  I think this would be a great resource for students/teachers who are studying the American Revolution.  It was a great way to honor and remember patriots who may not be mentioned in a typical school history book.  Overall, good book for those who enjoy learning about history.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What You Wear Matters

Below is an article written by Sheri Rose Shepherd that I thought was very good and goes along with a sermon I heard recently at church:

Fighting to Find the Benefits and Blessings of Purity

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)

When I was a new Christian, it never occurred to me to change the way I dressed or flirted; after all, I was single, so why shouldn't I dress the way I wanted and get whatever attention I could? I had worked hard to lose over fifty pounds and get in shape. I was finally thin for the first time.

Then one day, about a year into my walk with God, my young singles pastor came up to me after our church service and politely asked me if I could come to church dressed more modestly. He told me I was distracting him and some of the young men in our group from focusing on God. I know it took every ounce of courage he had to confront me and help me understand how men struggle, and even though I was a bit embarrassed and slightly offended, I'm glad he took a chance and told me the truth.

We have no idea the major internal battle that goes on inside our men when it comes to women. The truth is, sex and women hold the key to unlock a beast inside of them. Deep down inside, our men are screaming for some relief from all the overstimulation and sensual battles that war against their souls every day. Even those men who desire purity are forced to fight for it because of all the women who flirt and flash their flesh to get attention. Even our beloved King David, a warrior who was strong enough to stand before a giant, could not withstand temptation when he saw Bathsheba naked in the bathtub. The interesting thing about this story is that Bathsheba was unaware she was even tempting David. Bathsheba was in her own home, taking a bath in her own yard, but when David's eyes saw her flesh, he lost his strength and forgot who he was: a God-appointed king. Once he lost his moral compass, he lost his senses. He caved to his craving for her and then set up her husband to be killed on the battlefield so his own sin wouldn't be exposed.

David's moment of weakness had tragic consequences as the baby conceived by Bathsheba died. But even more tragic was that a piece of David's soul died that day, and the passion he once had to be a heroic man never did fully return. Our hearts' desire is for men to know how to connect to our hearts, but we make it difficult for them when we blind them with our bodies. We know how to grab their attention, but in the process are we trading what we want most, which is a real love relationship with them? Feeling sexy is fun, but what is the cost when we force men to fight temptation? Somehow it seems the price that we pay to get attention is not worth it. And it's really out of control when a man cannot even attend church because the women are distracting him from worshiping.

Look at the influence the first lady in the human race had. Her craving led Adam to follow her into disobeying God. Eve saw something that was pleasing to the eye, and she wanted it more than she wanted to obey God. She ended up taking her husband down with her, and the Fall occurred.

Today the "fall of families" is an epidemic. We are losing our moral men of faith by the masses while pornography and human trafficking are out of control. Our men are forced to look at our flesh, whether they want to or not. They don't even have to seek it on the Internet; all they have to do is walk out their doors. Is it any wonder they are struggling to remain pure? Something has to change, and it has to start with us. How will our sons and daughters find the strength to remain pure and experience a pure love if no one leads the way?

For more teaching from the Your Heart's Desire book and Bible study, visit www.biblelifecoaching.com.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow

Like any Christian parent, I want to surround my boys with as many good influences as possible.  When I saw that Tim Tebow had written a book targeted for my son's age range I knew I had to check it out!  My 9 year-old son is a bit obsessed with sports.  Playing sports...sports video games...sports books...sports movies...you name it.  And he just got done playing his first season of football as the back-up quarterback.  Yes, this book will find it's way under my Christmas tree. 

What is so special about Tim Tebow?  He is committed to using his popularity to share his faith and raise money for missions.  He spends his time ministering in prisons, hospitals, and overseas.  In college he would write a Scripture passage on his eye-black patches in order to have the opportunity to share his faith.  Yes, he is driven to excel athletically, but he also knows that there is more to this life and gives God the glory for his success.

The message presented in this book that I hope my son will hear loud and clear is this: trust in Jesus, honor your parents, work hard, be thankful in all things, stick up for others, and finish strong.  Tim says "For me, leaving something behind is more about being rewarded in heaven.  Seeing a plaque or trophy with my name on it sure is nice.  But God wants us to make a difference in the world...I want to act in a way that causes the people I help to want to help others.  Finish strong and you help not just yourself - you help others."

I like that each chapter begins with a key verse, one that kids could understand and focus on.  Sometimes the football game details got a bit much for me, but I know my son won't have any trouble following along!  I am simply thankful that a professional athlete would use his influence over the younger generation to speak to them about living godly lives, and provide an example for them to follow. 

NOTE: Be aware that there are two versions of this book, both with the same title.  One is for adults, and the other (on which this review is based) is a Young Readers edition.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Letting Go

The following blog post was just too good not to pass on.  It's written by Katie Davis, who is serving the children of Uganda. Go HERE to read her post and prepare to be blessed! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Girl's Still Got It by Liz Curtis Higgs

Want an easy-to-read and informative study on the book of Ruth?  Look no further.  Liz Curtis Higgs has done extensive research and uses her heartfelt storytelling to bring the drama to life.  We, the readers, are the on-lookers...trying to understand what took place and why it matters.  Liz is our guide, taking us through each verse and adding in cultural background and application to our lives today.

What makes this book unique?

1. The Scripture and narrative are intermixed in such a way that the story is always moving and held my attention.  There is just enough commentary added to aide in understanding, but not too much.

2.  The author has done her research and brings in information from many different sources.  I especially liked how she uses the wording from different Bible translations.  The main text is taken from the NIV, but she weaves the alternate translations into her narrative, clearly marking each one.

3. The text is humorous, insightful, authentic, and helps bridge the gap between cultures.  I definetly have a better understanding of the book of Ruth after reading this book.

4.  There are study questions provided for two types of groups.  One set of questions is for a single group discussion.  There is also a more in-depth study guide for groups going through the book chapter by chapter.

(If you would like to get a sneak peek of the first chapter, take a look here.)

I enjoyed this book very much and hope that Liz writes more like it in the future!

*Thank you WaterBrook Press for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

From This Day Forward

For anyone looking for a good marriage resource, check out a recent series by Craig Groeschel entitled "From This Day Forward" found HERE.  There are 5 messages that you can watch online or download and listen on your iPod (like I did).  Marriage is a topic that I've read a lot about, but it's always good to check our attitudes and make sure we're on course.  I enjoyed Pastor Craig's humorous and truthful reminders of what makes a marriage thrive.  And there are some things I will never think of in the same way again!  (You can also access "talk notes" in the sidebar which gives you the main points, scripture references, and even some discussion questions.) 

Watch them with your spouse! Add in a dinner beforehand and some "belly button-to-belly button" time afterwards, and you'll have 5 date nights that both you and your husband will enjoy :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Perfect Word for Every Occasion by Liz Duckworth

Have you ever sat down to write someone a note or an email and stared at the blank page for a while struggling to find the right words?  That happens to me.  Whether it's a note of congratulations, or encouragement, or sympathy, it can be hard to find something meaningful to say.  There can also be that fear of saying the wrong thing that could be taken in a way other than you had intended.  That's where this unique resource comes in!  Words for the grieving and the sick.  Words of thanks and congratulations.  Words for birthdays and weddings.  Words to ask for forgiveness or encourage others. Divided into chapters that touch on nearly every occasion - this book is designed to spark some ideas and help you express your feelings.

Each chapter is broken down into sections.  I will use the chapter on Grieving to illustrate.  After the author shares a few thoughts, she shares Prompts to Help You Begin.  For example, "What does the person you are writing mean to you?  Thinking about the person who has died, what were some outstanding qualities he or she brought to life?  What wishes do you have for the person to whom you are writing?"  Then comes Words to Make Your Own. The suggestions found are not meant to be a substitute for us searching for our own words, but to be adapted to the situation at hand.  There are suggestions of what to say for the loss of a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, a colleague, and even a pet!  This chapter even includes ideas for what to say in a receiving line.  Then comes Aunt Me-me's Guide to What Not to Say.  Sometimes we mean well, but words can come out that are insensitive.  This section is aimed at helping us to avoid those mistakes.  And finally there are Quotes Worth Sharing and Scripture Passages that can inspire our writing or be included in the note.

This book is not one to be read cover to cover....but it's a great resource!  No more staring at blank note cards for me.  I'm sure this book will get a lot of use over the years...thanks Liz!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Not a Fan. by Kyle Idleman

"Many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums.  And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him".

What does it mean to be a completely committed follower of Jesus?  How do you know if you are a follower or a fan?  This book can help all Christians think through and discover what areas of their lives still need to be surrendered to God.

Part 1 contains several chapters designed to help the readers diagnose whether they are followers or fans.  For example, do you have knowledge about Him or intimacy with Him?  Are you following Jesus or just following the rules?  I thought the content was good.  The only thing that irritated me a bit was the use of foot-note humor.  I didn't always find the author's humor to be funny.  It's kind of like that awkward moment when you know you should laugh but all you can muster is a polite smile.  This humor was normally found as a foot-note at the bottom of the page.  You're reading along and find an asterisk in the text, then have to travel down to the bottom of the page to read the unnecessary comment, and then find the place where you had left off.  In my opinion, if the comment is going to be printed it should be put in the text (using italics or parentheses if necessary).  The use of foot-notes distracted my train of thought.  Thankfully, the rest of the book didn't use this style as frequently.

Parts 2 & 3 clearly lay out Jesus's invitation to follow Him and what that means.  The main scriptural focus is Luke 9:23 which states "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."  The author uses examples from Scripture and real life to show what this invitation entails.  He does a great job presenting analogies, including that of a romantic relationship, to help the reader understand what committment really means.

The invitation is for anyone.  "When Jesus invites you to follow he wants you to start right now from your current location.  You don't have to go back to where you started.  You don't need to get a little closer on your own.  He reaches out to you with grace and love and invites you to follow him.  He wants you to start following him from right where you are and he wants you to start right now".  Don't know how?  Grab this book and start reading!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest reivew.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Devotional for Tween Girls

I was asked to review The One Year Be-Tween You & God: devotions for girls by Sandra Byrd.  While I don't have a daughter, I do have a neice and several friends of my son who are in the targeted 9-14 year old range.  This review contains both my opinion and that of an 11 year old girl I will refer to as "Sara", who will be receiving a copy of this devotional as a thank-you for her input!

Each page in the devotional is labeled with a day of the year, amounting to one short devotion per day.  The top of the page highlights a question that a girl in this age-range (or at any age for that matter) might have.  Some examples are: "Dear God, How do I know that the Bible is the true Word of God? * Dear God, Why don't you just get rid of all the bad people in the world?  *Dear God, Sometimes it seems like you made a lot of rules.  Why did you do that?  *Dear God, Which Bible verses will help me when I want to talk back to my parents?....yep, I like that one!!!  Sara agreed that the questions were interesting and captured her attention.

Following the question are a few paragraphs in response.  Sara and I found the information to be easy to read and thought provoking.  At the bottom of the page there is a related Bible verse and a question to answer and discuss with God.  While there is a Scripture Index in the back, I think it would have been more helpful to have a Topical Index.

Besides the content being appealing to young girls, the embossed leather cover is beautiful!  I think any girl would treasure this book.  Sara is very interested to begin reading it daily and get some of those questions answered!  With Christmas shortly upon us, this would make a great gift for the "Tween" girl in your life.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Call of a Coward by Marcia Moston

What would you do if your husband came home one day and announced that he thought your family was being called to go minister in Guatemala for a year?  Would you agree to go or would fear hold you back?  This is what happened in Marcia Moston's life.  Her book is an honest look at the fears that plague us and the faith that is required to follow God when He asks us to move.  "The problem with promising God you'll follow him wherever he leads is that you just might have to go"!

I could relate to the idea of wrestling with the what-ifs.  The Moston's had a ten-year-old daughter that would be making the trip with them.  Guatemala is not the safest place to be traveling.  There were fears of bandits, unsafe traveling conditions, and disease.  Would it be irresponsible for a parent to take a child into these conditions?  What Marcia discovered is that it all comes down to trust.  She says "I wondered how I could so easily believe in Someone who created the universe, parted the Red Sea, and rose from the dead, but not trust him to take care of my daughter."  Questions like these are challenging for all of us, not only those contemplating going overseas.

The book was very interesting and easy to read.  The message applies not only to missionaries, but to anyone who wants to be faithful in following God, even when the path doesn't make sense or line up with our dreams.  As Marcia discovered, "His plans and purposes are far more marvelous than ones I could ever conjure up myself".  Her story is full of examples of God at work in the details of our lives.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 28, 2012

New Adventure

Those kicking and screaming death-throes moments when you realize you aren't and you can't are God's opportunities to show you He is and He can -  Marcia Moston

I need more of those moments.  With the exception of leading a small group, my life is pretty comfortable.  I love having my days free to work at my own pace and bury myself in books.  But at the same time I find myself longing for more adventure...more of a challenge.

One thing that has been mentioned to me several times over the past 6 months is substitute teaching.  While the schedule is ideal, I dismissed the idea quickly.  You see, while everyone is saying "You'll be great at it!" inside I know that it won't come naturally to me.  I'm a planner...not someone who is comfortable with change and spontaneity.  I'm not a natural with kids.  I fear being in a situation where I don't know what to do or say.  What if I fail?  And (now this is really bad...) what if they don't like me?

I kept hearing about the need and began wanting to help.  What finally occurred to me is that I don't need to do it perfectly.  I am not going to do everything as well as a full-time teacher would do it.  I won't do it as smoothly as someone who has experience subbing.  I don't have to be someone else...I can just be me and that's ok.  Where I am weak, God can show off. (I'm counting on it!) 

My questions began to change to: What if I am missing out on something because I'm too scared to try?  What if I forfeit this opportunity to see God working through me?  What if I can bring a smile or a kind word to some children who don't get that love at home?  What if I can make a difference?

I feel a bit nervous, but also excited.  I'm going to need God to show up in a big way.  The application has been turned in.  My license is being processed.  Let the adventure begin!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Soon To Be Released...

Normally I blog about books that I've already read.  This time I've been asked to highlight a book that will be released soon, on October 2nd.

I remember seeing a video clip of Nick Vujicic at church a few years ago.  This man was born without arms and legs, yet is a prime example of what it means to rise above our circumstances and live the life we've been given for God's glory.  When I watched him speak I was captured by his joy and optimism.  I have not yet read his first book, Life Without Limits, but it's on my list!  I have no doubt that his new release, Unstoppable, will be an inspiration to many.

You can read the introduction and first chapter here



Friday, September 14, 2012

Greater by Steven Furtick

"The thing is, most believers aren't in imminent danger of ruining their lives.  They're facing a danger that's far greater: wasting them."

Steven Furtick is a man whose life isn't being wasted.  In listening to his podcasts over the years he has become my favorite preacher.  So I must say that I had an advantage in reading this book...I could hear it being preached to me.   I could hear his tone of voice when telling a funny story and knew when his voice would raise with passion when presenting a point he wanted to drive home.  That being said, whether you are familiar with Pastor Steven or just hearing his name for the first time, get your highlighter ready - this book is full of wisdom and practical application.

Here's what I liked about the book that sets it apart:

1) It's Real.  Pastor Steven is willing to share his "behind the scenes" questions and insecurities.  The book also tackles the question of wasted faith.  What happens when you do all the right things on a path to a greater life, but your situation ends with heartache?  Was your faith wasted? 

2) It's Biblical.  The book follows the story of Elisha the prophet, taking events from his ministry and applying them to our journey toward being greater.  Pastor Steven shares God's Word in a way that brings insight and understanding.

3)It's Attainable.  He says "God's greater purpose in any area of your life means giving up your false expectations of greatness to find the greater things He's called only you to do."  It all boils down to taking small steps of obedience and allowing God's greatness to show through you.

This book will ignite God's vision for your life.  (Good preaching, Pastor!)  There are also small group discussion questions included for each chapter.

I just have one little complaint.  The last page advertises a new CD by Elevation Worship...12 songs written to go along with the content of this book, corresponding to each chapter.  That is right up my alley!  But after doing some research I discovered the CD won't be released until Feb 2013!  And so I wait...

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From Psalm to Song

This morning I was reading Psalm 119: 153-176, part of the longest psalm in the Bible.  All of a sudden I realized...I know this song!  Many of the lyrics seem to be taken from the New King James version.  I am in awe when a songwriter can take Scripture and put it so beautifully to music.  Take a listen...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The $5 Cookie Greeting

A few months ago we had a scare after Jacob got hit in the back with a baseball.  Because of the symptoms he was experiencing we took a trip to the ER.  Thankfully nothing serious was wrong.  A few days later Jacob received something in the mail...a box of Cheryl's cookies from one of the families on his baseball team.  He got a big smile on his face and said "Mom, they really like me!"  There is something special about receiving something in the mail, especially for kids.

So when a friend from Jacob's football team got hurt this week, my first thought was to send him cookies!  Problem is that we have a little tighter budget being a single-income family.  But I decided to check it out anyway.  Then I saw this...


The $5 Cookie Greeting, complete with personal note and shipping!  I could handle $5 to bring a smile to a young boy's face. 

I thought I would share this find with you in case there is someone you want to bring a smile to today.

You can check out the variety of Cookie Greetings here.


Monday, September 10, 2012

The Reason by William Sirls

While it's been fun reading some fiction over the summer, this will be the last for a while.  Time to get back to reality! Anyhow...

I have mixed feelings about this fictional story.  The book is well-written and interesting to read.  There are several characters who are each searching for the reason why certain things have happened/are happening in their lives.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  That's a question that's sure to run through our thoughts every now and then.  With the help of the mysterious "Kenneth", many characters are able to confront their doubts, let go,  and find the courage to "Only Believe". 

It's difficult to explain what I didn't like the book without revealing too much of the story.  While everything that happened is certainly possible, I found the series of events to be a huge stretch from reality.  I also thought it was a bit predictable.  With few exceptions, I knew what was going to happen before I read it.  That took away from the suspense.  Even so, the characters expressed real emotions and I still found myself questioning and rejoicing alongside them.

The message is good.  God loves you.  God is able.  There is a reason why things happen the way they do, even when you can't understand why.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Unfailing Love by Karol Ladd

The unique format of this book got my attention.  It is like a commentary on the book of 1 John, going through each verse and explaining all background information to help the reader understand what the words meant to John's original audience.  However, it is written like a Christian-living book; pulling in stories, quotes, and other scriptures to help the reader fully process the themes and learn to apply them.

I started out really enjoying this format.  The author has a clear love of the Scriptures and does a good job adding relevant information and explanations.  Then I began to lose interest.  Sometimes it seemed like the focus of the text moved too much into "related themes" instead of focusing on the words of 1 John.  I also felt that I wasn't learning very much that I didn't already know, which made it difficult to stay focused.  I did like that each chapter ended with summary points, additional reading, and action steps.  There are also discussion questions included in the back of the book to use in study groups.

For those wanting to study the book of 1 John without having to read a dry textbook-like commentary, this would be a good resource. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harvest House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman

This book is a light fictional story about a family who agrees to go on a reality TV show where they will experience the Amish way of life.  Two sister-in-laws and their children embark on this journey, each searching for different things.  Julie is tired of life being so busy and juggling her over-committed schedule.  Susan is hoping to use the show to launch her career.  While the Amish life is not "easy", the simplicity ended up teaching both women about themselves and how to better set their priorities.

I enjoyed this story, but didn't find myself very involved in it emotionally.  I tend to prefer books with more drama and depth.  However, I did like the main lesson the book had to teach.  We all have gifts...things that we are good at.  As women we tend to compare ourselves with one another, envying the gifts we see in others rather than recognizing and appreciating what we do well.  Or we can become prideful over our strengths and become frustrated with others who don't adhere to our standards.  I think in some way we can all relate to the struggles these characters faced.

I have always wondered what it would really to be like to be on a reality TV show.  Since this is fiction, I don't know if the way the show was depicted is representative of how these shows really work, but it was interesting to think about.  I don't think I could endure that invasion into my privacy :)

Overall, if you're looking for a light, entertaining read then this is a good book to check out!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Choice by Robert Whitlow

Teenage pregnancies are on the rise.  This fictional story is about the choice that each of these young girls must make...what to do with the life growing inside of them. 

The main character is Sandy who gets pregnant while in high school.  We follow her as she examines all possibilities and decides what to do with her baby.  Part way through, the story jumps ahead 30 years and Sandy has the opportunity to help another girl in a similar situation.  I love this...it shows how we can use our experiences and heartaches to speak into the life of someone else and encourage them. 

There is plenty of suspense mixed into this story to keep the pages turning quickly.  While a bit unrealistic at times, I enjoyed the plot.  My only complaint is that I would have liked a few additional chapters added.  I felt it ended a bit abruptly.

I don't want to give away much of the story, but adoption is a major theme.  The author says that his "ultimate hope is that readers of this story...will be encouraged to make unselfish, sacrificial choices." Thank you, Robert Whitlow, for writing a story to honor mothers that entertains us as well :)

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Be the Mom by Tracey Eyster

Since I am a mom, a book about overcoming attitude traps and enjoying my kids seemed like a good one to read.  I could relate to each of the 7 "traps" mentioned because they are attitudes that I have struggled with as well at some point during my parenting journey.  While this book would have been more beneficial to read shortly after becoming a mom when I was going through the transition, I still found the author's insights to be good reminders.  The key to overcoming these traps is to recognize them and to align our thoughts with the truth.

My kids are now to the age that they can begin helping with chores.  I still haven't figured out the best way to tackle this.  I tend to do things myself, but I know I need to teach them to share in the responsibility.  I found a neat idea in this book to help make family chores fun!  Tracey suggests writing down each weekly chore on a slip of paper and placing them in a jar.  Each family member would draw out a chore and do it.  There are also slips that say "Mom's Choice", "Kid's Choice", or even "No Chore" to keep things interesting :) 

Another idea that stood out to me was a response to a kid's saying "Whatever".  She had her daughter memorize Philippians 4:8 "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  Whenever her daughter said "Whatever" she was asked to recite the verse.

Be the Mom is simply advice from one experienced mom to another.  It is a book meant to enlighten, encourage, and remind us of the high calling of motherhood.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thoughts About Motherhood

Another undefeated ball season...way to go boys!  This was Jacob's (on right) last year of coach pitch baseball.  This fall he starts a new school and a new sport...football.  I am not looking forward to the worry I will feel each time he gets tackled.  He says "Don't worry mom, I'll have pads on!"  If only it were that simple.

There are 2 questions that Jacob asks a lot that can drive me nuts.  The first is WHEN?  "When are we leaving?  How long will it take to get there?  Where are we going to stop (and in what order)?When does football conditioning start?    When are they coming over?  How long are they staying?  When is dinner?  What are we going to eat?  Where are we going for vacation in the year 2016?" (ok, maybe not that bad)  My point is that he likes to know the details.  He probably gets that from me :)  I want to tell him "Don't worry about it.  I'll get you where you need to go, when you need to get there.  Enjoy being a kid.  Live in the moment.  Let me take care of the details!"

The other questions is WHY? "Why do I have to go to bed NOW?  Why can't I stay up longer to read?  Why do I have to pick up my toys?  Why do I have to take a shower?"  To which I reply "Why can't you just do what you're asked to do without asking questions???"  Today we have a surprise planned for Jacob...his dad is taking him to Cedar Point for the first time.  We knew they would be leaving early and he needed his sleep.  Last night when I said it was time for bed I was met with a ton of complaining. "It's summer...why can't I stay up later?"  I gave him a brief explanation that he needed his sleep and was expected to do as he was told.  The whining got so bad I wanted to cancel the trip!  I knew he had a great surprise in store for him, but all he could see was his present circumstance.

In the midst of my frustration I was struck with a thought....I wonder if this is how God feels about all my When's and Why's.  I want to know the plan and understand why things happen the way they do.  So maybe God wants to say to me, "Don't worry about it.  I'm in control.  Enjoy living in the present moment.  Let me take care of the details.  Trust me that I know what's best."  Maybe I should quit complaining because I could have a blessing waiting right around the corner that God is preparing me for and is anxious to give me.  Maybe God desires that same thing that I do as a parent...a thankful heart that is willing to trust and quick to obey.

Philippians 2:14-15 "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe"

Friday, July 20, 2012

That's Why I'm Here by Chris Spielman

Many football fans know the accomplishments of Chris Spielman on the field.  While this book does talk about his football career, it's mainly about his wife's battle with cancer and the legacy she has left behind.

What makes Stefanie Spielman's story so inspirational?  Her attitude.  Chris says, "You need to know that Stef never viewed cancer as an unfair or undeserved penalty that took something away from her.  She saw it instead as an opportunity to complete a mission that God had designed especially for her...It became our mission to make her diagnosis public in hopes of helping others.  We saw it as our calling, our divine purpose.  We wouldn't have chosen this path, but now that we had to walk it, we determined to use our experience and our lives as an opportunity to serve men and women who might need our help."  They were able to use Chris's celebrity status to increase awareness and raise lots of money for cancer research.  Stefanie was also able to use her struggles to comfort and encourage others in many different ways.  The Spielmans' credit their faith in God as the sustaining force in their family and share that faith in the course of the book in a non-pushy way.

Football fans will not be disappointed...there is about 60 pages of pure football memories from the time of Chris's youth up until the end of his career.  I found some of it to be interesting, but personally could have done with a shorter re-cap :)  It is neat to see Chris's growth from a man obsessed with football to a man focused on how God would have him help others.  He says "The first part of my life focused solely on winning, or trying to win.  If I didn't win, it made me more obsessed to win the next time.  Now I look at life differently.  It's not what you accomplish that's most important.  It's what you experience and overcome along the way.  Instead of always looking for the end result, I've learned to embrace the journey."

Whether you read this book for the football stories, or you read because you can relate to the battle with cancer, you will come away with something good...an outlook that we can't always choose what happens to us, but we can choose what to do with it.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson

This is a story that every teenage girl needs to hear, especially those who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. 

When she was 17 years old, Kristen Anderson was overwhelmed by all of life's struggles and spontaneously decided to take her own life by laying down in front of an oncoming train.  God, however, had other plans for her.  Kristen's life was spared but her legs were severed.  In this book Kristen shares her past, the details of that life-changing day, and the hope that she eventually found in Jesus.  It is a short book, sharing the perfect amount of information to get her message across without citing unnecessary details.

Kristen writes in a way that is authentic and easy to relate to.  I could see many teens, and adults too, being able to identify with her feelings.  I liked how at the end of certain chapters Kristen wrote a personal message to her readers, speaking directly to those who are having suicidal thoughts, have been raped, or want to know how to begin a relationship with Jesus.  The gospel is clearly presented as she shares her own journey of faith.

The path has been messy, but God is using Kristen's story and her heart for helping others to make a huge impact.  She has started Reaching You Ministries as a way to help those struggling with depression and suicide.  She desires to share the hope that she has found and encourage others who are hurting.  Click here to read the first chapter!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

The following is Kristen's interview on Oprah.  It alone has saved at least one life.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Through Rushing Water by Catherine Richmond

While I don't read fiction very often, summer is a great time to get lost in a novel.  I enjoyed this one for several different reasons:

1.  The story was inspired by true events.  Taking place in 1876, the plot follows Sophia, a missionary who was assigned to be a teacher for the Ponca Indian tribe during an era when Indians were being "civilized".  It was a trip back through time, learning about the Ponca culture and history.   Sophia embarked on this journey with the wrong motives, but the change God brought about in her heart is similar to accounts I've read of other missionaries.  The characters were mostly fictional but the story was woven with truth.

2.  The book focused on a lesson..."ignore the rushing water".  Basically this means to ignore all the obstacles and worries that tend to consume us and focus on the here and now.  Today's troubles are enough for today.  It can be easy to get overwhelmed when there are so many people with so many needs.  This story teaches to do what you can with what you have, focusing on the need in front of you, and trusting the rest to God.

3. Yes, I must admit I liked the hint of romance as well.  What woman doesn't enjoy a good love story?  I do give the author credit for keeping the romance pure and tasteful. 

Overall, I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to a friend.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel

I've found that many books on spiritual growth tend to get boring and repetitive.  But I'm pleased to say that this book is not one of them!  Craig Groeschel delivers a message full of truth that is also laugh-out-loud funny! 

Soul Detox is about purifying our lives.  Pastor Craig says that just as smokers are unaware of the smell in their home, "many people aren't fully aware of the forces stunting their spiritual growth...and what many people don't know is not just hurting them but killing them spiritually...It is our responsibility to discern what we let into our lives and what we keep out."  Part One takes a look at our toxic thoughts, language, and hidden sins.  Part Two examines toxic emotions such as bitterness, envy, anger, and fear.  And Part Three reveals toxic influences including materialism, culture, relationships, and religion gone bad.

Reading this book was challenging in the sense that I still have some (okay...a lot of) purifying to do in my life, as we all do.  But the message is also full of transparency and grace.  I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a little soul cleansing, with a few laughs along the way :)

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hope Lodge

While it is my sincere prayer that none of you or your loved ones ever get cancer, if that should happen and you can get treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, I highly recommend the Hope Lodge as a place to stay. 

I recently spent a week there with my dad during his last week of chemo/radiation for tonsil cancer.  I was nervous going because I didn't know what to expect, but I found it to be a great experience.  The Hope Lodge is run by the American Cancer Society and will lodge for FREE anyone who lives more than 50 miles from Cleveland and is undergoing cancer treatment.  The main requirement is that a caregiver stay in the room with the patient.  Towels and bedding are provided, but must be washed by the caregivers. (Therefore, I got to be the maid...but it was easy since all cleaning supplies are provided too.)  There are no TV's or food allowed in the rooms, which forces people to engage and form relationships with others.  There are several community rooms with couches, tv's, and computers.  And there is a large kitchen with multiple appliances and all the cooking tools you would ever need.  Each patient has their own private place to store food and there is also a "free" refridgerator and pantry to allow sharing.  Because of this set-up I got to know many people and hear their stories.  Sickness has a way of stripping away all the unimportant things in life such as social status and profession.  Everyone there had something in common and talked with a transparency that is uncommon among strangers.  It was almost sad to leave because I was starting to form relationships and enjoy the community (my dad, however, was quite happy to be going home after 6 weeks!)

My favorite place there was the back patio/garden area.  For being in the middle of Cleveland it was very quiet and peaceful.  Since my dad rested frequently, I came supplied with a stack of books and my iPod loaded with music and podcasts.  The first night I was missing home and uncomfortable in my new environment, so I retreated to the gazebo with a book.  After a while it started to rain, but I stayed put, enjoying the sound and allowing God to rain down his peace into my soul.  I decided to embrace where I was at the moment and allow God to use me there.  I don't know if my presence at the Lodge that week made an impact on anyone else, but it made an impact on me.  I "left behind" a few books in the library.  And I felt led to have one of the patio bricks inscribed with Psalm 34:18 to remind the brokenhearted that God is near.  I wanted to leave my mark on a place that is such a blessing to those who need it.

As for my dad, his treatment is over and he is hopefully on the mend (although it will take a few weeks until he can eat normally again).  He will have a scan in 3 months to make sure the cancer cells are gone, but the docs are very confident they will be.  It was nice to have that time with him even though he wasn't feeling very good.  I am thankful for our time together and the blessing that Hope Lodge was to our family.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No Greater Love by Levi Benkert

This book is the true story of Levi Benkert and his family - detailing the challenges and joys they experienced after moving their family of 5 to Ethiopia in order to save and care for orphans.  He shares honestly and openly about their struggles and how God has changed them in the process.
In 2009, Levi learned about the practice of mingi killings that were happening in some tribes in southern Ethiopia.  A child can be considered mingi, or "cursed", if the parents are not married, if the parents had not declared ahead of time to the elders that they intended to conceive, or if the child's top teeth came in before the bottom ones.  The parents would be forced to kill these perfectly healthy children in order to spare the tribe from "evil spirits".  Levi was asked to go on a 2 week trip to help set up an orphanage to care for a few of the mingi children who had been saved.  Once he was there and saw their faces, the direction of his life changed.

While they experienced many setbacks and changes of plans, Levi and his family did make a difference in the lives of these children.  They now have a ministry that helps widows and orphans in Ethiopia to form families and thrive.  To learn more, go to www.bringlove.in.  Or better yet....read the book!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.



Monday, June 18, 2012

Unstuck by Cole & Ross

The main purpose of this book is to guide and encourage people who feel stuck in their spiritual growth.  The authors share their own experiences with feeling stuck and share their research findings about how we end up there and how we can get "unstuck".  Bottom line: "Neglecting God's Word is the main reason believers become stuck spiritually."  They found that engaging the Bible four or more times per week (receiving, reflecting, and responding to God's Word) is the key to lasting spiritual growth - especially when it comes to overcoming temptations and changing negative behaviors.  Their research also revealed that "the lives of Christians who rarely read the Bible (less than 3 times weekly) appear identical to those who don't follow Christ at all".  Convicting, isn't it?  The book then gives guidance regarding how to engage God's Word and overcome common stumbling blocks, including a 45-day devotional to get started.

I was very drawn to the first few chapters of this book and the results of the studies that were conducted.  I was reminded of the importance of reading the Bible itself...not merely books about the Bible.  But midway through the book I lost interest.  The content was all good...I just didn't find it to be what I needed at this point in my spiritual journey.

What I do really like is that the authors are committed to helping others grow!  They created a website, www.gotandem.com, to help others engage the Bible in a way that is suitable for their lifestyles.  On the site you can take a spiritual assessment and then sign up for ways to have scripture delivered to you.  You pick the times and the delivery method (text, voicemail, email).  You can even sign up to have a person call you once a week to encourage you on your spiritual journey!

Overall, the book points believers back to the Bible and provides tools and insight to help them grow.  I don't think it's the best book on this topic, but the research findings set it apart and made it worth the read.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Music for my Soul

I like many types of music.  A full band has its advantages.  But what speaks to my soul the most is the simplicity of a man and his acoustic guitar.  Or in this case, two men and their guitars, with a little drums mixed in :)  Awesome guitarists, great vocals...take a listen!




Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Color of Rain by Michael & Gina Spehn

Get the tissues ready for this one! The Color of Rain is the true story of two young people who both lose a spouse to cancer and eventually find hope and healing when their two families join together.  The chapters alternate between Michael and Gina telling their stories.  Part One provides background information about the families, painting the picture of when life was good.  Part Two reveals their painful struggle while watching their spouses slip from this life to the next.  And Part Three is about hope and restoration...the promise of a new day.

This book hit home with me because these people are my age.  Their kids are the ages of mine.  Tragedy, cancer included, can swoop in and change lives very suddenly.  Through this story I am reminded to treasure the time now...the time when life is good.  Faith in God carried these families through.  Faith in the reality of heaven.  Faith that good can come from suffering.  Both Michael & Gina shared with a honesty and authenticity that I think will help others also walking through this type of loss.

As a result of their situation, the Spehns have created a foundation to help families of children who have lost a parent due to cancer.  (You can view more about this book and their ministry here.)  They are using their pain and loss to lead others to healing, which is what we're called to do.  This is definitely a story worth reading.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You Were Born For This by Bruce Wilkinson

What were you born for?  According to Bruce Wilkinson you were born to be "a sent person who shares God's heart for people and who intentionally partners with the Spirit to do God's work through acts of proactive dependence on Him to deliver His miracles to others."  Wow, that's a mouthful!  Through sharing his insights in how God works and speaks to us, and providing many examples, the author tries to awaken the reader to the fact that personal miracles happen everyday and we can be used by God to touch the lives of others in a powerful way.

I liked the ideas and stories that were shared in this book.  I think many times we become so focused on ourselves and our own agenda, that we aren't able to recognize opportunities to bless others. This book helped me to see ways that God may nudge us to help another person, if we are prepared and willing to do so.  My favorite concept was about "The God Pocket" (which is now a separate book written by the author).  The idea is that you carry around money in a separate pocket or section of your purse that you have set apart for God.  Then when you come across a person with a need and sense God telling you to help, the money is already there...and it's not really yours, it's God's to use as He sees fit. 

While the content of this book was good, I do admit that I felt sleepy nearly every time I began to read.  There is something about the writing style that didn't hold my attention well.  I also felt at times like I was being trained to be a counselor!  The chapters about helping others to chase their dreams and forgive were very in depth. 

Overall, the book is successful at showing some ways that God can use us to bless others, and how we can be prepared to recognize those opportunities.  There are also discussion questions included and video clips available online for using in a study group.  To read the first chapter or get more book info, you can visit the book's website here.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review*


Monday, May 14, 2012

A Simple Act of Kindness

Yesterday on Mother's Day while driving out to visit with my mom, our van broke down.  Great gift, right?  I could have let worry consume me.  I could have been upset that God could allow this to happen when we were 2 1/2 hours from home.  But instead, much to my surprise, I began to see God's fingerprints all over the situation. 

We had been driving along with no problems when all of sudden our "Low Engine Oil Pressure" light came on accompanied by rapid beeping.  We were on the outskirts of a small town with nowhere to pull over immediately, so we drove on for a few minutes.  Just as we got close a small drive thru, our van died and we coasted into the parking lot.  Thankfully we were only 10 minutes from where we were meeting my mom!

While waiting for her to arrive, and feeling a bit discouraged about our situation, the woman who worked at the drive thru came out to offer her assistance.  But then she did something beyond what I would have expected.  She saw my boys and asked if I would be ok with her giving them some ice cream while we waited, free of charge. 
It was a simple act of kindness.  She didn't know us or the details of our situation.  She only knew that we were having trouble and offered what she had.  That small gesture was a huge reminder to me that God was with us and we were loved.  I hope to be able to see opportunities to bless others in the same way.

After checking fluid levels and talking to a friend who is a mechanic, we decided that driving the vehicle was not safe.  Sundays are not a good time to break down either, much less on Mother's Day.  So we were stuck.  But once again, God's provision could be seen.  It just so "happened" that my mom had driven separately from her boyfriend to the lake that weekend and she was able to loan us her Jeep for the week .

I still don't know what the fate is of our van (it could be engine failure...yikes!), but I'm resting in the knowledge that it's in His hands.  I'm thankful for warning lights, parking lots, nice ladies who spoil my boys with ice cream, a working vehicle, a generous mom, and a God who cares about every detail of my life. 

May your eyes be opened to God's fingerprints that are surrounding you today.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

By Faith, Not By Sight by Scott MacIntyre

Many people know Scott MacIntyre as the blind American Idol contestant who made the Top Ten Finalists in 2009.  This book tells the rest of his story, from overcoming obstacles such as blindness and kidney failure to rejoicing in is academic and musical success.  Scott says "God works through us during the good times and the bad - when we are on the mountaintop, and when we trudge through the valley.  I have experienced both extremes in my life - often at the same time.  But I learned that he used the worst days of my life to bless me the most."  This book is a wonderful example of a man and a family walking by faith.

Having not had much interaction myself with people who are blind, I am simply amazed at how much Scott was and is able to do!  God has blessed him with a supportive family and an incredible musical talent.  He started playing the piano at a very young age, performing the music for an entire wedding at 6 years old!  Even though he was born blind, he learned how to participate safely in many activities such as riding a bike, skiing, navigating his way around London, and learning the choreography to the group songs on Idol.  He has taken the initiative to produce and sell his own CD's, which he hopes will encourage others.  What he has accomplished so far in his life would be impressive for a sighted person, but is simply inspiring knowing the challenges he has overcome.

The main message in Scott's story is to be thankful and give God glory in all circumstances (even in things like dialysis).  We all have highs and lows in our lives. It's how we walk through those times that displays our character and our faith.  Scott shows us that when we can't see clearly, we need to depend on One who can.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Here's a peek of Scott on the show...


Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Giveaway!

As part of a blog tour introducing this new book, I have been presented with a copy to give away!  If you would like a chance to receive As One Devil To Another by Richard Platt, simply post a comment below.  I will randomly choose a winner one week from today :)

Many Christians have heard of the book The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis.  The book is composed of a collection of fictional letters sent from a senior devil to a devil in-training, instructing him in the art of deception.  While the concept intrigued me, I have never been able to read through the whole book because of the scholarly language and writing style.  So when I saw As One Devil to Another was the same type of book, yet written to a modern audience, I wanted to check it out...

The story is a collection of letters from senior devil Slashreap to his nephew and trainee, Scardagger.  The letters are meant to teach the aspiring devil how to keep humans from joining with and living for The Adversary (God).  The trainee is given a female college student as a "client" who he is to keep within their grasp.  This case study is intertwined with basic education from the devil's worldview.  Is Scardagger successful in his task?  You will have to read to find out!

This type of writing is a creative way of highlighting the spiritual dangers and failures of our society today.  The author makes a point of saying that all of God's creation is inherently good, but it can also be twisted for evil purposes.  Things like technology, media, art, literature, beauty, sex...all can be used for either good or evil.  Are we aware of how we are being influenced by the world?  One letter states that most humans would not like a society designed by the Adversary "because it would exist to help them grow, not simply for their amusement and distraction."  There are some great insights shared about the purpose of suffering and the power of prayer.

While I liked much of the content, I found the writing language to be very similar to C.S. Lewis, which for me was the downfall.  I'm not sure if the point is to make the senior devil come across as well-educated, but the way the letters are composed are very scholarly and sometimes confusing to an everyday gal like myself.  I had to depend on context clues to understand what was being said at times because I certainly was not going to continually look up words in the dictionary.  I would have enjoyed the book much more if it were written in a more common language.

Overall, Richard Platt uses an interesting format to convey some thought provoking (sometimes even convicting) ideas.  One tidbit I will share that hit home with me was the devil's technique of distraction.  His advice is: "You should never allow the client to attend to the moment she is in.  You must be forever in the moment, but you must forever push her thoughts elsewhere.  Get her thinking of work when she is at play, and of recreation when she should be at work...If you can render this habit of mind chronic, it will be particularly helpful to you when she is on her knees in prayer...with a little repetition you can have her thinking of her dinner when she ought to be attending to the Adversary".  (Yep, I can relate to that one, how about you?)

If you would like a chance to win a free copy of this book, remember to leave a comment below!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Redemption by Bryan Clay

While I have not been an avid watcher of the Olympic Games, sometimes an athlete will catch my attention.  Now after reading about the journey of gold medalist Bryan Clay, I am looking forward to watching him compete in August 2012 in the decathlon with hopes of winning a third medal.  Bryan hopes to use his success to share about the faithfulness of God is his life and to give hope to others whose start in life does not seem to pave the way for success.  This book is the story of two journeys in his life: the journey of an athlete to the Olympics, and his journey of faith.

I knew nothing about the decathlon until picking up this book, but now have a greater appreciation for the event and what the athletes have to go through to succeed.  The sport is physically demanding, but also requires a lot of mental focus.  I like that Bryan openly shares his successes and failures both on a physical and emotional level.  He learned from past mistakes and learned to turn to God for his strength when he felt like giving up.  Sometimes the details were a little more than I needed, but I think a track athlete or fan will appreciate them.

Another thing I liked about this book was the way Bryan used his sport and his faith to fuel each other.  He was able to set his priorities and apply lessons from his physical training to his spiritual training.  His comparatively small size and troubled youth made him an unlikely champion, but he overcame, and he gives glory to the One who made it possible.

This is a great book to read before the Olympics!  Enjoy!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The End of Birthday Season

Isaac just had his 7th birthday this past weekend.  Normally we just have the boys pick one friend and we go do something fun like Chuck E Cheese.  But this year he decided to have friends over, which meant I had to plan something for 17 kids!  Two things saved me: my wonderful husband who was willing to get involved on party day, and keeping the party to 2 hours long!  I was hoping for a beautiful spring day like we've been having, but it turned out rather chilly which meant more indoor activities.  I ran across a website (located here) which allows you to create and print your own bingo cards for free!  That came in handy.  I made ones that spelled ROCKY across the top to stick with our theme.  While the party was a success, I think I'll still try to guide him in another direction in the future.  (By the way, those are not my creative cake-decorating skills...the credit must go to Kym Stake).  Isaac asked for boxing gloves for his birthday, so we now have frequent sparring matches in our living room...and occasional tears :(

We also got our family pics taken this weekend.  I of course went intending to purchase the $9.99 package, sitting fee included.  But we made the mistake of letting the photographer take bunches of pictures, which she then showed to us.  And our kids are so darn cute that we had to buy a larger package so we could get the digital picture cd of all the pictures.  Good-bye $$$.  We won't be going there often...but I'm glad we did.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How We Love Our Kids by Milan & Kay Yerkovich

The majority of this book is centered around 5 Love Styles that the Yerkovich's have identified.  They first wrote a book entitled How We Love that introduced these Love Styles and applied them to marriage.  This book shows how they can be applied to parenting.  The 5 Love Styles of Parenting are the Avoider, the Pleaser, the Vacillator, the Controller, and the Victim.  Each Love Style is explained, provides a self-assessment, shows how these traits might present themselves when dealing with different age groups of children, and has goals for growth.  There is also a section with parenting tips for those who find their children developing with these traits as well.

I discovered a website for these books which allows the user to take a Love Styles Quiz online, found here.  I got around 50% in the first 3 styles, and less in the others. Basically that means that I could identify with some traits in a few styles, but there wasn't one style that "defined" me.  Unfortunately, not fitting into a category made the content in this book not very relevant to me.  There were bits of wisdom here and there, but I think this book would be much more beneficial to someone who scores high in one style.

The last section of the book dealt with 7 gifts that we can give our children: insight, comfort, power, frustration, confession, laughter, and God.  I liked what the authors had to say in the last chapter. "What God does for us is what love looks like in action.  This is our perfect model for our job as parents.  As we grow out of our love styles, out of our injuries, and toward the ideal secure love style, our love will become a clearer picture of God's.  And by the time our kids leave home, relating to God will feel a lot like relating to Mom and Dad.  In our humble opinion, that's the greatest gift parents could give their kids."

I like the importance that this book places on us as parents to fix our own dysfunctions as a means of helping our kids fix theirs (or even to prevent our kids from getting them in the first place!)  Whether we fit into a "Love Style" or not, it's always good to be striving to become the best we can be for the benefit of our kids.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Press in exchange for an honest review.