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...