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  Or better 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,, 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.