Wednesday, December 23, 2015

#struggles by Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel has delivered an eye-opening, culturally relevant book for this generation.  I too have a love-hate relationship with technology.  Sure, in some ways technology makes our lives easier.  But does it also come with a cost?  This book reveals the ways that our "devices" are influencing our culture.  Its goal is not to condemn social media and technology, but to help us view and use them in healthy ways.

Like many of his previous books, Craig Groeschel writes in an easy-to-read manner full of stories, humor, and biblical truth.  He focuses on 8 biblical values and how they are affected by social media.  Here's a few things to think about...

1. Contentment - How much easier is it for us to envy and compare ourselves with others?
2. Intimacy - Is our online relationships taking the place of real friendships?
3. Authenticity - Do we crave affirmation from others in the form of "likes"and comments?
4. Compassion - Are we being desensitized to others pain and failing to love others well?
5. Integrity - Are temptations more easily accessed and kept secret?
6. Encouragement - Do we post things online that we would never say face-to-face?
7. Worship - Could our phones be becoming idols?
8. Rest - Is having a distraction always at our fingertips robbing us of rest?

I urge you to read this book and delve more into these topics.  The key lies in finding balance.  It was said that the "fear of missing out" is one thing that keeps us addicted to our devices.  If you find that to be true, check out this quote: "Instead of the Fear of Missing Out online, what you really should be afraid of is missing out on the people right in front of you.  You may be missing out on your children growing up.  You may be missing out on enjoying an intimate marriage.  You may be missing out on deep friendships filled with meaning.  Is your fear that you're going to miss out on something causing you to miss out on what matters most?"

Appendix 1 at the back of the book gives us "Ten Commandments of Using Social Media to Grow Your Faith and Share God's Love".  The list shows how we can use social media in healthy and uplifting ways.  Appendix 2 suggests many safeguards against temptations/inappropriate content that can be downloaded on your computer and/or phone.

If you use social media on any level, I suggest reading this book and evaluating if changes need to be made.  Even if you don't struggle deeply with these issues, I'm sure you know someone who does.  It's the world we find ourselves in.  This book will open your eyes to these struggles and enable you to take back control.

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

No Fear by Tony Perkins

Real stories of a courageous new generation standing for truth.  This is what drew me in.  I wanted to hear stories that would instill hope and courage in the younger generation, inspiring us all to stand up for what's right. 

The selection of stories was not quite what I had expected.  They mostly revolve around people risking ridicule, employment, or even jail time to take a stand against laws/expectations that restrict religious freedom.  These people courageously stand firm in their beliefs and do so in a peaceful manner.  I was just hoping to read some stories about people radically loving others, with less focus on legal matters. 

I like the way the book is set-up.  Each chapter contains a story about an individual, giving just enough background information and detail to explain the situation.  That is then followed by an account of a Biblical figure who was in a similar situation.  The author writes in an engaging way that is easy to understand.  Each chapter closes with a few questions for further thought and/or discussion.

Instead of simply telling these stories, I felt that the author interjected his own opinion frequently - and sometimes in poor taste.  For example, when explaining about a public gathering that some individuals had planned to repent and pray for our nation, he writes "less than 25 percent of Charlotte's churches participated - some of the megachurch pastors apparently felt that joining in might hurt their book sales."  Really?  I sense some bitterness there.  I sometimes got the feeling that the author was trying to push his own agenda rather than simply reporting the facts.

No Fear does tell stories that are worth being heard.  It links them to biblical accounts and helps us to see that there are different challenges in all generations - but that we can all stand up for truth when God asks us to.  These recent and ancient examples can inspire us to act with courage.

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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado

I have read many non-fiction books written by Max Lucado and already liked him as an author, so I was excited to see this fictional novel hit the shelves.  I was not disappointed with the story-telling...Max is a master at weaving truth into compelling stories.  My only complaint is that the book seemed short - I would have liked to see more development.

The plot in this book reminded me of some of Frank Peretti's works, but with less action.  The book focuses on a family working through problems here on Earth, but then flips the lens every now and then to show us what is going on in the "heavenly realms".  While the story itself is fiction, it really makes the reader think about the possibility of an alternate spiritual reality.  Do we too have guardian angels?  Can our prayers be heard and seen in heaven as is presented in this story?

A large focus of the story is on a "God Blog" that patrons can access through an internet site at a cafe. Each person is allowed to ask one question that is answered directly by God.  I enjoyed reading the questions and answers that were submitted.  The author is able to offer wisdom and perspective to some common questions people ask, while adding in some humor at the same time.

While the story didn't seem incomplete, I did desire more character and plot development.  However, for those who like it sweet and simple - this length would be perfect.  There are a list of 12 discussion questions at the end of the book.

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Message 100 Bible Review

The Message is a Bible translation that is meant to be easy to read, using language from our generation.  It is translated by a pastor whose heart is to get people engaged reading the Bible.  I like reading The Message to help me to think about Scriptures in a new way, even though I typically use other versions for study.  The Message 100 is a Bible arranged in 100 readings, each beginning with an introduction of the content.  While the books of the Bible are all present, this version does some re-arranging of the order to aide in understanding.

Why 100 Readings?  Eugene Peterson has grouped the Scriptures into 100 content-related sections.  I like the reflections that he has written to begin each reading because they help to set up the main idea.  But be aware - this is not your typical devotional Bible.  For someone like myself who would have a difficult time reading through the Bible in one year, I definitely would fail doing it within 100 days.  In my opinion, these should not be thought of as "one-a-day" devotions, unless reading 17 pages of small print per day is something you have time to do!  Instead, I would suggest setting a comfortable pace for YOU, and then just enjoying the added reflections from the pastor when they appear.

This is not a Bible to be used for in-depth study.  There are no maps, footnotes, concordances, or indexes (other than where to locate the 100 readings and books of the Bible).  This is a version for reading and reflecting.  If you want to hear the Scriptures in a fresh, engaging way, I recommend The Message.

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


Sunday, October 11, 2015

It's Good to Be Queen by Liz Curtis Higgs

Who was the queen of Sheba and is there anything to learn from her?  That was the question that led me to pick up this book.  I had read the few verses about Sheba's visit to King Solomon in the Bible, but honestly had never given her much thought.  Liz Curtis Higgs has researched what Scripture and historical documents have to say about this queen, and then throws in some personal insight and application.

Here's what I liked: Liz stuck to the truth.  Even though I have never seen them, there are various films and stories about the queen of Sheba that are based on legend, not fact.  This book sticks to what we know to be true, using various translations of Scripture.  The passage is broken down phrase by phrase to add in historical context and personal application.  Going this slowly through a passage of Scripture really helps me to focus and think through the message that God was trying to convey.  It also helps me to remember the story long after the book has been completed!  There are two types of discussion questions at the end of the book: one set of 10 questions for book clubs who are discussing in only one meeting, and other more in-depth questions for each chapter for those who are meeting in multiple sessions.

Here's what I would've left out: All the quotes from blog readers.  Sometimes Liz posts questions on her blog to get ideas and opinions from her audience.  There are several times in the book that these quotes are shared.  I think that's great for a discussion board on a website, but not to be included in the book.  That is just my opinion....I'm more of a "let's get to the point" kind of person :)

I enjoyed learning more about the queen of Sheba and her interaction with King Solomon.  Here's my take-away.  "The queen of Sheba finished exceedingly well: she found the wisdom of God and shared it with her people.  Of all her many fine qualities, that's what makes her a worthy mentor, for our generation and for every generation."

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


Friday, September 4, 2015

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow

Sometimes I pick fiction books to read to occupy my time while I'm waiting.  My criteria is that it must encourage good morals and be entertaining enough to keep my attention.  This novel did both!  It wasn't quite what I expected (I don't agree with the reviewer who compared it to John Grisham), but it was still a good story.

A House Divided is primarily a story about family.  It revolves around a family who has been torn apart by alcohol abuse and is trying to make peace with the past and each other.  The story shows how just one person addicted to alcohol can have damaging effects on various family members.  However, it also offers hope and freedom from the chains of addiction.

Since the main characters are lawyers, there is also a major court case in the mix.  There are some young boys in town who have been diagnosed with cancer. Their parents think it may have been caused by chemicals released from a nearby factory.  Their case rests in the hands of the main character.   I had thought the book would be mainly about this case, when in reality the case details and proceedings were brief.  I found myself wanting more development in this area.  The ending seemed too abrupt.

If you're looking for an entertaining fictional story, you've found one. There is a list of 13 discussion questions at the end of the book which would be ideal for book clubs.

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


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Unafraid by Susie Davis

There is a lot to fear in this world for ourselves and our loves ones.  Cancer. Rape. Murder. Infidelity. Abandonment, Theft. Natural Disaster. Economic Decline. Crazy Drivers (to name a few).   With all these things to worry about, how do we live without being dominated by fear?  In this insightful book, Susie Davis shares her personal struggle with fear and the journey she is taking  to overcome and trust God.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the authenticity.  Susie endured a traumatic event that began a persistent pattern of living afraid.  She shares many stories and examples of ways that fear took hold and caused her to act and think irrationally.  While my experiences have been different, I can say that I can relate to this madness.  Other readers will also be able to see that they are not alone.  The stronghold of fear is real and can make us think that we are just being "careful".  However, Susie points out that being afraid can be a symptom of not trusting God.

She writes "The Enemy knows just where to grab for me.  Pouncing in with outrageous ideas and ridiculous scenarios, fear falling like new snow.  The Enemy knows that when I listen to fear, it quickly leads to distrust.  Distrust in God. And his provision. And his plan.  We don't have the luxury of listening to the Enemy's lies if we desire to live free from fear and worry.  And we don't have the option of letting lies settle into our minds if we intend to allow God his rightful place in our lives.  So we must pray for discernment to recognize the Enemy's bid for our minds and then do something about it.  Speak the truth..."

Susie's testimony proves that fear can be overcome -  through our daily choices and surrender to God.  There are discussion questions and a study guide included at the end of the book to be used in small groups.  I encourage you to grab some close friends and talk through these issues.  Learn some ways to lessen the hold that fear has on your life.

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

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas

Here is a book packed full of marital insight!  While I found the second half of the book to be more engaging than the beginning, there are nuggets of wisdom to be found in each chapter.  Here are some of my take-aways...

The first section of the book begins to establish a healthy perspective of marriage.  It encourages us to view marriage in light of eternity, let challenges push us toward dependence on God, and live on mission as a couple.  My all-time favorite concept was viewing God as "Father-In-Law".  It's the idea that we are all God's children.  I want my children to be loved by their future spouses despite their faults.  People can earn my favor or wrath by how they treat my kids.  Is it possible that we can cause God pleasure or pain by how we treat our spouses (His kids)?!?

"A good marriage isn't something you find; it's something you make". The next section of the book focuses on growing together.  We are taught that each couple is unique.  With God's help marriages can be built and re-built if necessary.  Gary helps us understand power shifts that can occur during different life stages, and how honesty and oneness can benefit our marriages.

The final section of the book is on loving....the way that God has called us to love.  "Biblical love isn't a feeling to be felt; its a commitment to be kept...The kind of love the Bible calls us to is a love that is focused on others' welfare; our desire is for their good, not our own benefit."  It's a call to be giving, rather than self-focused.  We learn that love is not the same thing as desire.  Sexuality is discussed, as well as the sin of withholding good.  It's also mentioned that doing small loving things consistently is more effective than the occasional grand gesture.

I've mentioned a few of the highlights, but I encourage you to read the chapters in full to gain greater understanding.  Each chapter ends with a few discussion questions that you and your spouse can discuss if reading this book together, followed by a prayer.  The time spent thinking through and applying this material will be well worth it!

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

Thursday, August 6, 2015

War Room by Chris Fabry

This book is a novelization of the soon-to-be-released movie, War Room.  For those of you who have enjoyed the movies Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Courageous - this story was created by the same writers.

I read this novel within a few days - it was hard to put down!  It was easy to visualize what was happening in the story and get caught up in the characters' plight.  The story focuses on a couple who is having marital problems, and how prayer and obedience to God can make all the difference.  It also shows how a parent's choices can impact the lives of their children, and how a spiritual mentor can speak life into a generation in need of guidance.

The War Room is a room of prayer - meaning we are to fight our battles not with each other, but with our true enemy.  The older woman, Clara, provides many insights into prayer throughout the story. She says "God does hear what we pray.  You don't need a megaphone or a million people to get His attention.  But the point of prayer is not to get what you want.  Prayer changes the person who prays."  This book/movie can give people a greater understanding of the meaning of prayer and inspire them to spend more time engaged in spiritual battle.

The only criticism I have of the story is that it was fairly predictable.  Even so, I still enjoyed reading how everything played out.  There was a good mix of humorous and serious elements.  At the end of the book is a group of discussion questions to help individuals or groups apply themes from the story to their own lives.

While I have not been able to compare the book with the movie, I highly recommend this novel as a light fiction read that packs in a lot of truth.  May many "war rooms" be created because of its influence!

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

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Freedom's Never Free

Today we celebrate our freedom.  You may be gathering with friends and family to have a cook-out, or preparing to watch fireworks tonight.  But don't forget that our freedom came with a price!  We would not have this day to celebrate if not for the brave men and women who gave their lives for future generations.  Remember those sacrifices and be thankful.

I was reading in Genesis yesterday morning about the first sacrifice that took place.  Most people know the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit and hiding in the garden, suddenly ashamed that they were naked.  Then God spoke with them and made garments of skin to cover them.  Where do you think that skin came from?  The first animal sacrifice.  Blood was shed to cover over their sin. And many years later, blood was shed to cover over our sin as well and offer us freedom.

This is an older song, but very appropriate for where my thoughts are taking me today...




Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Believe:Kids Edition review


 While at the Exponential conference a few months ago, I attended a meeting for church leaders sponsored by Zondervan in which the company introduced a new church curriculum by Randy Frazee called Believe.  I was given a copy of the adult book (pictured on right) and told about other editions for kids and teens.  I thought it was a neat idea...families being able to go through the same material but at levels that were age appropriate.  So when I got the opportunity to preview the kids edition and to see how these two editions interacted, I took it!

 Here's the scoop...

Believe is split into 3 sections, 10 chapters each.

  • Think: 10 key beliefs of the Christian life
  • Act: 10 key spiritual practices of the Christian life
  • Be: 10 key virtues God desires to see developed in your life

Each chapter contains a Key Question, Key Idea, Key Verse, Main Text, and Discussion Questions.  (The questions in the kids edition appear in each chapter, but in the adult edition are found in the back of the book).  The neat thing about this book is that the text is mostly Scripture.  There are a few paragraphs throughout providing background information about various texts, but other than that the text is simply the Bible.  For example: Chapter 1 talks about the belief in one God and the Trinity.  The Bible passages found in this chapter all support and give evidence for this belief.  The kids edition has about 4 pages of text with some accompanying illustrations, while the adult edition has 12 pages (a wider variety of passages).  The verses used in the kids edition are often found in the adult version too.

We had a short family devotional time this morning and I asked one of my kids to pick a chapter.  He chose the virtue of Patience.  As we were reading the key thoughts and verses about being patient and controlling tempers, I could see guilty smiles spread across their faces because they realized this is an area that needs work in their lives!  The stories and questions gave us the opportunity to discuss why patience is hard and what we can do to slow our anger and help us to wait patiently.  

These keys to the Christian life are all very basic, but sometimes it's good to go back to basics and strengthen foundations.  I think it would be beneficial to go through this curriculum as a church or a family to ensure that everyone is on the same page in their beliefs.  It's a great way to get discussions started and dig deeper into the Word of God.

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


Monday, June 22, 2015

The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny

This book came to me at an appropriate time...during the middle of summer little league.  My boys range from ages 8 to 12 and have been involved in baseball since their earliest opportunity.  I decided to review this book mostly because I thought it might be of interest to my oldest son.  After having been a player, parent, coach, and now manager - Mike Matheny knows baseball.  He wrote a letter explaining his coaching philosophy to a group of youth parents, which has now become known as the Matheny Manifesto.  So here's my take on it...

This book is a mixture of coaching philosophy and biography.  For the professional baseball fan, you will enjoy all of it.  For a mom like me who is more focused on my son's character development - I'd say there is some great content, but it is only partially geared toward youth players.  There are many stories about the big leagues, but fewer real-life examples related to youth and how to apply his coaching principles to that age group.

The first half of the book is directed toward coaches and parents.  Matheny addresses some of the problems he has seen in the attitudes and behaviors in the stands and suggests a better way.  He models his coaching style after Coach John Wooden. He writes "Wooden believed success ought to be tied not to achievement, wealth, or fame but to how close a person came to their potential.  He wanted his students to see success not in terms of results but in terms of effort."

Matheny knows there are more important things than winning.  He focuses on character development in a way that I find admirable.  The second half of his book talks about the key character qualities that he tries to develop in his players: leadership, confidence, teamwork, faith, class, character, toughness, and humility.  He writes "On our youth team, we made a conscious effort to make a bigger deal of the character stuff than the baseball stuff.  We always made a point to notice and recognize a boy who would do a task none of the others wanted to do.  Or when one showed sportsmanship to an opponent.  For instance, the boy who would go out of his way to encourage a disappointed teammate was celebrated, and then it became contagious.  Amazing how the things we adults deem important soon become the same for those we lead.".

I personally would have benefited from the book more if it had stayed focused on the arena of youth sports and left out all of the detailed major league stories.  But then again, I'm not really a baseball fan except when my boys are on the field :)  I appreciate Mike Matheny's willingness to share his experiences and stand up for his faith and the values that flow from it.

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


Sunday, June 21, 2015

15 Years and Counting...

My husband and I recently celebrated our 15th anniversary!  The older we get, the more marriages we see fall apart.  Seeing our friends go through divorce saddens me and it scares me.  It reminds me that we can never take our spouses for granted and treat our marriages as anything other than top priority.  So we took a day to celebrate and have fun together.  My dad came in to stay with our boys and we spent the day watching a movie, doing some shopping, and enjoying a nice dinner together.

For those of you in the area, I recommend The Oaks Lakeside Restaurant in Chippewa Lake, Ohio.  It isn't cheap (we would only go on a very special occasion), but the atmosphere is wonderful!  We were able to sit outside with a view of the lake and watch the sunset.  There was also a live band playing.  Here are some pictures...



I've been doing some reflecting on the things we've done RIGHT the past 15 years.
Here are some of our keys to success:

*We are quick to forgive and don't hold grudges.  1 Corinthians 13:5 says to keep no record of wrongs.  We bring out into the open what needs to be discussed, and then we move forward.

*We don't expect the other person to meet all of our needs. It's unrealistic to expect our spouse to make us happy all of the time.  We take responsibility for our own attitudes and turn to God to fill and instruct us.

*We make our relationship a priority. We schedule time for date nights, time alone after the kids are in bed, and occasionally vacations to re-connect.

*We don't send each other out into the world hungry. Here's what I mean: Have you ever gone to the grocery store hungry?  You end up buying much more than intended because everything looks so good!  Items that you might have easily passed by are all of a sudden very tempting.  I do my best not to send my husband out into the world unsatisfied, so that his temptations will be minimal.  Scripture talks about this in 1 Corinthians 7:5.  It says "Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time...then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." 

In many respects, our marriage has been easy.  But there have been seasons and moments when love has been a choice.  It's a choice to bring up a difficult subject that would be easier to ignore.  It's a choice to believe the best about another person's intentions instead of making assumptions.  It's a choice to love and serve your spouse in ways that he/she will understand. No, we don't do everything right.  But we choose to strengthen and re-build because there is no "exit door" in our relationship.

My friends, I pray for your marriages, and I ask that you pray for mine.  Please take time to celebrate the successes in your relationships and persevere through the rough patches.  It will be worth it.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What My Summer Looks Like

This is my summer...





...and I love it!

With 3 boys on 3 different teams, we have a game up to 5 nights per week!  Even though our evenings are busy, I don't long for the season to end as with other sports.  I enjoy being outdoors, leaving my to-do list at home, and watching my boys have fun.  

So what about during the day?  I like to keep a little structure in our daytime routine when school is out.  Every year looks a little different.  Here's a few of our "summer rules" for this year:
  • Unplugged from 10-2.  No video games, ipods (except for music), or tv during these hours.  

  • Chores 2 days per week.  I put all the chores needing to be done that week on slips of paper in a bowl.  For 1/2 hour on these two days, we randomly pull out chores and keep busy.  It gets the house tidy and allows me to teach them how to clean.

  • Bible for a Buck.  This is something new I'm trying.  I'm having this be an optional 1/2 hour  time, 2 days per week, in which they earn a dollar for participating.  Since concession stand money is a big motivator, so far it's worked well!  I got a DVD teaching series by Chip Ingram entitled "Why I Believe".  The sessions give logical arguments and evidence for why Christianity is true.  I know some of the information is over their heads - but I wanted to give them a basic understanding of why we believe what we believe.
The library's Summer Reading Program and various day camps add some variety to our days as well.  I like to keep my boys active, yet still have some downtime to just relax and enjoy being together.

If you have any ideas for summertime activities/routines that have worked well in your home, please comment!

Monday, June 8, 2015

It's a God Thing - Volume 2

Do you ever feel like God no longer performs miracles in this day and age?  If so, you may change your mind after reading a book like this one!  It's a God Thing is a compilation of 58 testimonies in which individuals share the miraculous ways that God has intervened in their lives.

Some stories you may be tempted to view as simply "coincidences".  A pair of glasses found on the highway.  Money coming in at just the right time.  A suicide bomb not detonating. Rainbows appearing in the sky over a special place.  Cool stories for sure...but not everyone may see these as miracles.

But wait...there's more.  This book is full of medical miracle stories that can be explained no other way.  When there are well-documented test results confirming medical diagnosis, and then suddenly it's GONE, what else can you do but praise God?  These stories strengthen my faith the most because it's hard to explain away something that is scientifically impossible.

This book is light reading, with short 2-5 page stories.  I liked to take a few minutes and read just a few stories at a time.  You could also read a story along with a devotional as a way to remind yourself of ways that God can and will move in our lives.  We just need to open our eyes to recognize Him.

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

Sunday, June 7, 2015

When Ministry Is Not Convenient

One of the hardest things about ministry is that it is rarely convenient.  Sure, there are volunteer events that can be scheduled on the calendar and can be anticipated.  But ministry often comes in those sudden instances when someone needs help NOW, and you need to decide whether you are able and willing to help.

This is especially hard for a "planner" like me who normally has expectations for the day ahead.  Usually the things that come up involve my husband's time and me having to adjust to keep the family running without him.  However, this week the opportunity was placed in my hands...


I got a call on Wednesday that a woman from our church who I had recently formed a relationship with was in the hospital.  I knew she did not have a good support system.  I called up a friend and we decided to make a short visit that afternoon.  Making hospital visits is not common for me.  I did not know what to expect and felt quite uncomfortable, but I knew I needed to go.  I was not prepared for what I saw.  This new friend of mine had a breathing tube which left her unable to speak, and was in pain.  She was scared and alone.  We spoke encouraging words and prayed for her, hoping that we were bringing some comfort. I was glad we had made the time to visit.  Good deed done for the day...check :)

Then came Thursday morning.  I had my to-do list ready and expectations for what I would accomplish.  I had been behind on a bible study I was working through and needed to figure out what I was going to write about this week.  There were bills, laundry, and meal prep that needed to be done.  Yet my mind kept coming back to this woman in the hospital.  I tried to push the thoughts away.  After all, I had already done my "good deed", right?  What if she was still intubated...what else could I say?  What about all the things that I wanted to do?  What ended up convicting me was the thought that I might give up the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus with an excuse of needing to finish my Bible study!  Hello...who cares if I know the Word if I don't live it out !?! So I spent my morning creating music CDs, cutting flowers, and choosing a book to take along with me to the hospital.  My kids got to go to work with daddy (one perk of my husband's job) and I took the time to bless someone who was in great need of further encouragement.

I don't say all this to pat myself on the back.  I'm sure I've missed plenty of ministry opportunities due to selfishness.  I'm sharing this story to remind us all that it's so easy to get our priorities out of whack.  I'm so thankful that this time I was able to see the big picture and say "yes" to what was truly important.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Seeds Family Worship

It has been my experience that the best way to memorize Scripture is through song.  There are some Scripture songs that I learned 15 years ago in college that are still in my memory!  (Wow...college was really 15 years ago??) While at Exponential, I heard about Seeds Family Worship.  This ministry empowers parents to plant seeds of Scripture in their children's memory through music.

Seeds Family Worship: Their mission
  • To help families experience God's Word through music
  • To teach parents to lead family worship in their homes
  • To provide awesome resources for family discipleship
The song lyrics come word-for-word from Scripture.  You can visit their website, and listen to full-length versions of all their songs here.  There are currently 9 different albums!  I have only pre-viewed a handful of what is available, but so far I've found there to be a good variety of musical styles and lots of catchy rhythms. 

I wish I would have come across this music when my children were younger.  I think my 8 year old would still enjoy it.  But my pre-teen rap lover?  Probably not.  Even though he wouldn't choose this music for himself, he doesn't always get to decide what we listen to in the car.  I can still plant those seeds in his brain against his will if he doesn't have anyplace else to go! 

Songs can be downloaded individually through iTunes, or you can order CD's through their website.  One neat thing about ordering a CD for $12.97 is that the ministry will send you TWO....one for yourself, and one to give away. 

Here is one song that I just listened to today that has already planted itself in my brain.  It really works!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Undone by Michele Cushatt

Making peace with an unexpected life.  Isn't that something we all need to learn how to do?  No matter how much planning is done, life has a way of surprising us with the unexpected.  Michele Cushatt has experienced a good share of challenges and shares with us in this book her experiences and the insights she has learned.

Divorce.  Blended Families.  Cancer.  Adoption.  For anyone who has had these struggles, you will be able to relate to what Michele has gone through.  But even for someone like me who has not gone through the same trials, there is much to learn.  We all experience fear...fear of the unknown, fear of failure.  We all experience periods of disappointment and lose perspective.  This memoir will help to clear your vision and help you to see your circumstances in a new light.

One of Michele's insights had to do with the value of today.  She writes "Faith isn't rooted in the past or the future.  It's birthed in how we approach and handle today.  It's the anchor that holds us firmly in this moment, allowing us the freedom to experience it and enjoy it regardless of the regrets and what-ifs.  Those who have faith, deep abiding faith in an Artist who has all things under his control, have no need to rehash the past or predict the future.  They're content...Peace can't be found in the past or the future, but only in a Person, and in whom you believe him to be, today."

This book was well-written and easy to read.  What I enjoyed the most were Michele's authenticity and sense of humor.  Our fears and striving for control and perfection really can hinder our living life to its fullest.  It helps to know that we are not alone...other women share the same struggles.  May you be encouraged and blessed by her story.

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

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Let Them See You Bleed

One of the speakers I heard at Exponential was Danielle Strickland.  She gave this illustration that really hit home with me.  I was fortunate enough to find a blog post she had written that explains it better than I ever could.  Here it is...

Never Let Them See You Bleed

I went to see Hercules (the movie) a few weeks ago. It was a fun movie (if you don’t mind excessive violence). It was a clever story of the ‘man’ Hercules who created a myth to incite fear in his enemies and faith in his fellow fighters. Tormented by his own inner demons and tragic life, Hercules finds resolve to fight for ‘right’ instead of just for money. In the movie Hercules is supported by his team. There is one poignant scene in a battle where Hercules gets cut by an enemy’s sword on his shoulder. One of his team members swoops by and grabs his cape, wraps it around the back of Hercules and whispers in his ear, ‘never let them see you bleed’.

This is the strategy of anyone trying to build their own ‘myth': “Never let them see you bleed”.
And it is the literal opposite of Jesus. And this reminded me about the true power and incredible leadership  of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t afraid to show weakness, or bleed publicly. Actually, the Bible tells us that it was through his willingness to become weak (to the death) that we can live. And later on Paul explains that it’s only in the willingness of His followers to embrace vulnerability and weakness that they can live too.

The world needs more heroes. But I’ve a good hunch they don’t need more heroic ‘myths’ that pretend to be something they’re not. It’s a tempting posture though – if we are honest. It’s tempting to pretend we have it all together – to go with the ‘cape’ to cover a multitude of sins. But the invitation I’ve been hearing over and over again from Jesus is to be fully human… bleeding included. To be vulnerable and honest and willing to look silly and stupid in order to be true. I’m reminding myself these days (not that it’s hard) that I bleed. And I’m excited because it makes me less like Hercules and more like Jesus.

***********************

Authenticity has always been important to me.  I don't like to play games - just be real.  But sometimes it's easier said than done!  When you allow people to see you weak and bleeding, you are exposing where you are vulnerable.  You are increasing the possibility of further pain.  However, you are also offering someone else a chance to heal.

I saw this same point explained in a book I'm reading, Undone by Michele Cushatt.  She is a public speaker at women's conferences and found herself in a battle with cancer.  This is what she discovered:

 "Authenticity ministers far more than put-togetherness.  And vulnerability builds a far stronger bond than perfection. 

There is strength in empty.  Not the kind of strength we wish for.  We want polished strength, the kind that wears a cape and leaps tall buildings with a single bound.  I couldn't leap or fly or save anyone from catastrophe.  In fact, I could barely show up.  But I did.  Show up.  And that ended up being a strength all of its own. 

Ministry - of the truest kind -  isn't about impressing unknown strangers with spotless presentations and a flawless life.  It's about exposing the hidden imperfections and giving others permission to do the same.  Becoming a fellow struggler who delivers zero judgment but abundant grace."

This has become my vision for ministry. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Love & Respect

"Ministry life is not normal."  These are the words that came out of a pastor's wife at Exponential.  Although my husband and I have participated in ministry most of our married lives, the past two years with him being on staff have been different.  We have new titles and new responsibilities.  This man that you see has a huge heart and works very hard, always striving for excellence.  And since the demands on his time are never-ending, it's sometimes hard to keep everything in balance.  As he's learning to manage his time, I'm learning to adjust to the new normal. 
 
Last weekend is one example.  We had a marriage conference at our church called Love And Respect.  We couldn't attend in the typical fashion because Jeremy was in charge of running the sound and computer.  So we did the next best thing. I sat next to him...in our "box seats" :)


 
 

And you know what?  I think I enjoyed our semi-private time more than if I would have been sitting among the crowd.  Sometimes it's more fun not to be normal!

I highly recommend the Love And Respect conference videos.  Here are some of my take-aways: 
  • Men and women approach things differently.  It's not that one is right and the other is wrong.  We are just different...from the things that we crave the most to the way we handle conflict.  It was eye-opening to hear about these differences and confirm them with my husband.
  • These differences can also help me to understand my sons better! 
  • My response is my responsibility.  When pressure or stress is applied to something, it simply reveals the inner properties.  Check out this clip...


While I think a conference is more engaging than a book, I know the Eggerichs have several books that also explain this material.  I encourage you to check them out...both for marriage and parenting application

I hope to be able to say like Paul "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith".  I want to finish well...and finish together. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Waiting by Cathy LaGrow

In the 1920's, unwed and single mothers were not accepted like they are today.  So when Minka Disbrow was raped and ended up pregnant, an adoption was seen as the best choice.  The Waiting is the true story of Minka's journey, always longing for the little girl she had given up - and eight decades later finding her prayers answered. 

The author, Cathy LaGrow, is Minka's granddaughter.  No one in the family even knew that Minka had given up a baby for adoption.  When the details of her story began to unfold, Cathy used old letters, her grandmother's memories, and research to portray these events as accurately as possible.  The result is a beautiful memoir to a life well lived, and a reunion story that will bring you to tears.

Minka lived to be 102 years old!  In the telling of her story, Cathy often brought in what was happening historically during different time periods.  It's amazing to think of how much change a person can witness during a century.  Minka has a lesson to teach us all about waiting...never give up!  Many people would have given up hope after so long, but Minka held onto the hope that God could answer her prayer to see her baby girl again - and she got even more than she could have imagined.

This story is very well-written.  Sometimes there was a bit more detail than I wanted to know, but I understand why it's there - this is a family keepsake, preserving this story for generations to come.  It was interesting to travel back in time and see how another generation lived and thrived. 



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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The High Calling of Motherhood

One of the workshops I attended at Exponential was about discipleship in the home.  It was led by Bobby and Chad Harrington, father and son.  While they admit to being far from perfect, this topic was so important to them that they helped to research and write a book called Dedicated: Training Your Children to Trust and Follow Jesus.  I must have looked like I really needed the advice, because I was one of two people in the room chosen to receive a copy of the book!  I have not yet read it, but plan to.  What I'll share here is some of what was talked about and how it impacted me.



First, let's lay a scriptural foundation...

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up - Deuteronomy 6:4-7

Some of this talk may occur naturally.  However, I've found that spiritual conversations usually take some kind of prompting - an act of intentional forethought.  It's also important to note that the commandments are first to be on OUR hearts, and displayed through our actions.  I recently heard a pastor say "Your kids will do what you show them more than they will do what you tell them."  Modeling is important.

If we look at how Jesus interacted with his disciples, we can see that he spent time with them, listened to them, and spoke words of wisdom.  Relationship is the key to obedience.  In John 14:23 Jesus says "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching".  Based on this, the Harringtons came up with these relationship equations:

Rules-Relationship=Rebellion
Relationship-Rules=Recklessness
Relationship + Rules=Righteousness

We've got the rules part down, and I desperately want to avoid the rebellion- so that leaves relationship.  As my boys are growing up (now ages 8, 10 and 12) I find it increasingly more difficult to connect with them.  My husband has it easy - sports and violent video games are right up his alley.  He has a great relationship with them because of the time they spend together, both in work and play.  I tend to be more "behind the scenes".  Sure, I'm the one that makes sure they have yummy food to eat, clean clothes to wear, and keep their schedules straight - but that doesn't always translate into relationship. So my goal is to take every opportunity I get to connect on their level.  Chaperoning field trips.  Watching a movie with them (even when I'm not interested in it) just for the chance to cuddle on the couch. Taking them out one-on-one to do something special.  Attending as many of their sporting events as possible.  For you moms of pre-teen boys: What ways do you bond with your boys?  

  
Since I wasn't raised in a Christian home, I have no example to follow on how to engage older children in spiritual conversations.  How do I spark that desire in their hearts to want to follow Jesus?  We have tried age-appropriate devotionals around the dinner table, but aren't great at being consistent with it.  I have just started allowing my oldest to read Christian books that I pick out in order to earn money.  (If that's what it takes to fill his mind with the truth - I'll do it!)  One thing that Chad Harrington's mother did was to ask "What was the pit and peak of your day?" when tucking her children in at night, and then praying with them. If you were discipled by your parents growing up, what worked in your home?  Let's share some ideas!

Today is Mother's Day.  Our culture leads us to believe that us mothers are to be pampered on this day.  While that would certainly be nice, I think the most important thing to remember is that we are blessed.  God has entrusted us with a high calling - to raise up a future generation.  It is too overwhelming of a task to do alone.  We need His guidance and His grace.  May you enjoy spending time with your children today and strengthening your relationship with them!

 And you may want to take a minute to tell your Mom "Thanks" as well.  I hope you enjoy this video!



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Exponential 2015

My husband and I , along with some other New Hope staff members/spouses, just returned from a church planting conference called Exponential.  We had a fun time bonding and learning together. 

 
The conference was made up of several large group sessions focusing on Multiplication.  There were also several smaller workshops to choose from that focused in on specific topics.  I chose to learn more about Student Ministry, Discipleship in the Home, Ministry Healthiness, and Volunteer Motivation.  On the last day of the conference I had all these ideas swirling around in my mind, and they began to form together into a personal vision for me.  My plan is to share with you over the next several weeks some of what I've learned and how I plan to apply it.  I share both for accountability and in the hope that these ideas may spark something in your spirit as well!

For today, I'll begin with an overview.  Future posts will delve more into specifics...

I need to begin with a healthy foundation.  If I'm not healthy, I can't help others.  This includes physical, relational, emotional, and spiritual components.  When these are met, I can better fulfill the roles that God has called me to.

 
WHAT I'VE BEEN CALLED TO DO:
 
 
1) To Make Disciples - This is a task Jesus gave all Christians to do.
  • My priority is to do this in the home - with my boys.  My first inclination is to look outside these walls to how I can serve the church.  However, if I fail at home, it matters little what else I've done.  I've been entrusted for this season to disciple these boys, and it won't happen by accident.  It needs to be intentional.
  • I also desire to disciple other women through leading by example and sharing with them as authentically as I can.  (That's part of why I decided to put writing back on my priority list!)
2) To Support and Encourage My Husband
  • I am his only wife, and I plan for that not to change!  In order for him to minister to others, I need to step up in others areas...and to do it with a good attitude :) I also need to faithfully pray for him.
3) To Serve My Church/Community
  • To volunteer where I'm needed and in accordance with my gifting, but not in a way that cheats my family
  • To continue subbing a few days a week - giving teachers a reliable replacement and building relationships with the students
 
So there it is...a compilation of all those bits and pieces of information.  I don't fully understand the "how" on some of these things.  But I know where my focus needs to be and can use these goals to filter my decision-making through.  In the coming weeks I will explore these topics in further detail and also ask for your input! 
 
If you want to join me on this journey, check this site every Sunday.  I think a weekly goal is attainable :)  Until then, begin thinking through what you believe YOU have been called to, and evaluate whether your schedule is filled with activities that are in agreement with YOUR goals.
 
May the Lord bless you and protect you. 
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. 
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
 


Friday, April 24, 2015

Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman

Sometimes it's nice to read a book purely for entertainment.  I like fictional stories that can capture my attention similar to watching a movie, but that are also free from the foul language and sexual immorality that is overtaking our culture.  I am pleased to say that Finding Me was one of those good stories!
The plot focuses on a young woman who discovers after her father's death that she had another family she had been taken from as a child.  She then goes on a search to discover who this family is and decide whether she should reveal the truth to them, or keep it a secret.  The scenario is a bit far-fetched, but the characters and their struggles are very real.
 
The only critique I have is that the ending felt a bit rushed.  The anticipation built throughout the story and then when that moment finally came I thought, "Wait...that's it?"  Give me some more dialogue and details!  The ending was sufficient...I just wanted more.
 
If you're looking for a book to take out to the pool this summer, this is a good choice!  There are also 6 discussion questions at the end of the book which can be used in a book club.
 
 
*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.
 
 

 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

I first heard of Kara's story through a post on Facebook, leading me to her blog.  Here was a young mom, about my age, going through something I can't even imagine - battling terminal cancer.  I wanted to learn more about her journey and what she has learned through it.

This book gives glimpses into Kara's life in a very transparent and genuine way.  She expresses her heart clearly and urges the reader to apply the lessons she has learned to his/her own situation.  There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter to help with that.

One insight I appreciated was her discussion of Proverbs 1:33 which states "Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster."  Kara reminds us that it doesn't say God will remove the disaster, but he can remove the dread if we really sit and listen to Him.  She writes "The dread and fear are what so often steal our peace and leave us on the edges of our moments exhausted.  We meet the scary of life and forget to turn to God and listen and know His peace.  We scramble to control, fix, and protect from hard.  The imagined fears and worries often break us more than reality." I think we all need reminders like these...to slow down, listen, and trust God.

I did have a hard time grasping the time line of events Kara described in her story.  She does not use dates or many time frames to indicate a chronological order or how much time had elapsed between different stops on her journey. While I enjoyed the specific memories, it was difficult to see the whole picture.  It also took a while for me to get used to the way Kara sometimes uses adjectives as nouns. It would interrupt the flow of reading for me, until I realized it was just her style.  Pictures would have been a nice addition to the book as well.

Readers can learn more about Kara's story, and see pictures on her blog site: www.mundanefaithfulness.com.  I was saddened to read that she went to Heaven just a few weeks ago. (Not for her sake, but for those she left behind!) Now her loved ones are left with this beautiful keepsake, preserving her thoughts and encouraging words for generations to come.

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


Saturday, April 4, 2015

7 Men by Eric Metaxas

There are 2 reasons I decided to read this book.  The first is that I didn't know much about these 7 men and I wanted to learn their stories.  George Washington. William Wilberforce.  Eric Liddell. Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Jackie Robinson (I was probably most familiar with him due to the recent movie 42). Pope John Paul II. Charles W. Colson.  Some of these names I had never heard.  Others I recognized but knew little about.  Each of them contributed to society in a way that is worth learning about and remembering.  Eric Metaxas writes is a style that is easy to read and kept my attention.

The second reason I wanted to read this book is for my three boys.  I think it's good for them to have male role models to look up to other than sports stars.  The author puts it this way: "This is a book that doesn't talk about manhood...but that shows it in the actual lives of great men.  You can talk about right and wrong and good and bad all day long, but ultimately people need to see it.  Seeing and studying the actual lives of people is simply the best way to communicate ideas about how to behave and how not to behave.  We need heroes and role models."  Will I have my sons read this someday?  Yes.  I think junior high and up would be an appropriate age.

This book could be read from start to finish, as I did, or the chapters could be read individually.  This would be a great resource for someone writing a report on any of these men.  An index at the back of the book can be used for reference.

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Divine Applause by Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson raises questions that we've all probably pondered.  How do we have a relationship with a God we can't see?  How do we hear Him speak if his voice isn't audible?  How can we be sure He even notices us?  This book revolves around a verse spoken three times by Jesus in Matthew 6, "Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."  Jesus made this statement after teaching about giving, prayer, and fasting.  The idea is that when we do things to get God's attention, we can expect a response.  However, our eyes and ears must be ready to recognize it.

What Was Unique: The author brought a unique point of view to the discussion of hearing God's voice.  Having suffered from hearing loss since childhood, Jeff was able to draw several parallels from physical hearing loss to spiritual hearing loss.  He has had to learn to compensate for his loss of hearing and develop strategies to stay connected.  I found his insight to be helpful.

What Could be Improved: While I did enjoy the author's use of storytelling and analogy, the text became quite repetitive.  Time is precious.  If I'm going to take the time to read a book of this nature, I want it to get to the point and keep moving.  That simply didn't happen. (How many times do I need to be reminded of Mrs. Whyte?!?)

I think Divine Applause contains some great perspective.  I simply would have preferred to get the bullet points in a sermon or two, rather than reading the full version!

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



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge

Your past. Hormones. Spiritual Warfare. Mothers. Self-Image. Fear. Friendship. Suffering. Faith. These are some of the many issues discussed in this book that affect women and influence how we live our lives.  Stasi writes that "what you are looking at becomes what you are aiming at."  Perspective is so important.  This book will allow you to think through these important topics and develop a healthy picture of the woman you are created to be.

I'll start with the positives.  I really liked the variety of issues discussed in Becoming Myself.  There are many personal stories and examples used that women can relate to.  One topic that I found unique is the discussion on hormones.  Looking at the different cycles and how they affect our emotions was very eye-opening for me.  The chapter on friendships was also fresh and insightful - developing realistic expectations is so important! I can envision using these chapters to springboard discussions in a women's group.  Discussion questions are not included in this book, but would make a good addition.

The one thing that made me uncomfortable was the discussion on spirits and soul ties.  The idea is that you can create an unholy bond with another person that can "form a kind of spiritual walkway over which another person's warfare travels to you."  Even with the explanations given in the book, I'm still not convinced that this is biblical.  However, I'm not going to allow one questionable idea to take away from my opinion of the book as a whole.

So how do we find the freedom to become ourselves?  I think it's best put this way: "Most of us are probably still laboring under the impression that freedom comes first in our circumstances, and then we can experience love, joy, peace, patience, and all the other wonderful fruit of the Spirit.  Not so.  God usually begins first with the transformation of our attitudes; then he can change our circumstance." This book can help you to clear your vision and adjust your attitudes so that you can become all you were meant to be.

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Frederick: A book review

Frederick Ndabaramiye has a powerful story to share!  He grew up in Rwanda during the genocide, losing his hands because he refused to follow the soldiers orders to kill his countrymen.  In Rwanda, to have no hands meant there would be no hope of having a productive life.  That is, until Frederick and a group of caring Americans began to intervene...

Frederick's story brings hope to those with disabilities.  While at one point he did feel like ending his life, he decided instead to persevere and make the most of every day.  Because of that, he formed relationships that put him in contact with some Americans who decided to help him.  They weren't aware of it at the time, but by helping this one boy get prosthetic fingers, they enabled Frederick to start what has become a huge learning center to help other Rwandans with disabilities learn and become productive members of society.    God's fingerprints are all over this series of events.  What was intended to harm has been used for a great good.

What touched me most was Frederick's perspective.  He could have focused on the hardships and tragedy in his life.  He could have written God off as unloving and cruel.  Instead, he recognized the times during his childhood when God had used people to save him.  Since God had allowed him to live, he dared to hope that there was a purpose for him still.  By focusing on the good in the world - the generous Americans who helped him - he was able to forgive his attackers.  He continued to dream, to hope, and to move forward through his challenges.  That's a lesson we all could learn from.

I recommend this book as an inspirational story, but also as a way to learn more about the Rwandan way of life and what happened during the genocide. 

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Never Ever Give Up by Erik Rees

This is an inspiring story on many different levels.  Some may have heard of 12-year-old Jessie and her battle with cancer or her famous NEGU "Never Ever Give Up" motto.  Others may have seen her on the news or heard of fundraisers to fill JoyJars for children with cancer.  Or, like me, you may have never heard of Jessie Rees until this moment.  No matter where you find yourself, this is a story worth reading. 

There are unfortunately many children who get cancer, all of which have stories to tell.  What makes this situation unique is Jessie's reaction to her circumstances.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity, she looked to the other children suffering through treatment and asked "How can I help them?"  What began as a simple act of her filling a few jars with toys to give to children at a local hospital has grown into a huge foundation (www.jessie.org) that has raised over $3 million to give hope to children with cancer and their families.  Jessie's life only lasted 10 months after her diagnosis, but her legacy continues.

This book can also be a resource of hope to families dealing with similar issues.  What really stood out to me was when Jessie's father talked about making the decision to be bitter or better.  No matter what difficult circumstance we find ourselves in, isn't that always a choice?  This family was hurting and struggling - but their choice to continue to care for others in the midst of their pain is an example to be followed.  Erik writes "We cannot understand with our finite minds God's infinite plans.  All we can do is to trust that when we are suffering, there is a greater cause.  God doesn't let us suffer pointlessly.  So when you're hurting and wondering why God isn't taking your pain away, consider that you're playing a role in a greater picture than you could ever imagine."

Yes, this story was written to raise awareness of childhood cancer and rally support.  But it was also written to inspire us to take the initiative to care for others and make a difference in whatever way God has impressed on your heart.  Use your gifts and passions to help others.  Jessie left us a great example of how to do just that. 

Thank you, Rees family, for sharing the intimate details of your story with the world.

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

Monday, January 5, 2015

Compassion Without Compromise by Barr & Citlau

Finding the right balance between love and truth can be tricky sometimes.  Compassion Without Compromise uses biblical teaching and personal stories to "help Christians find balanced ways to respond to the issue of homosexuality."  The authors are both pastors and have experience in counseling people struggling with this issue.  One of the authors, Ron, was once living a homosexual lifestyle and has since been transformed.  They have compassion for others with this struggle.  They have also studied the Bible and believe it is fully inspired by God - it's the truth.  It is from their experience of balancing compassion and truth that this book is born.

I have read other books with a similar theme.  One thing I like about this book is that it is short and not bogged down with quotes and studies from other sources.  The text asks questions that are relevant to our society today, and at the very least can ignite some great discussions.  At the end of each chapter there is a Takeaway paragraph that sums up the main idea of the chapter.  I found that to be very helpful.  There is also a list of resources at the back for people who want to research these ideas further.

The author's "hope begins with the message that we all need God's forgiveness and joyfully proclaims that Jesus has made a way".

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



Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Song for a New Year

I recently heard "Keep Making Me" by Sidewalk Prophets and liked it instantly.  It's as if God put it before me and said "Here, Jeanette...this is what you need right now."  But once I really focused on the lyrics, I had to re-evaluate whether I wanted to be singing them!  Do I really want to be broken, empty, and lonely?  Those things are scary and can hurt!  But as the song reminds me, those things also lead to healing, fulfillment, and fellowship with Jesus - all of which I desperately need.  So this will be my song for a while.  Praying it will bless and challenge you as well. 



Make me broken
So I can be healed
‘Cause I’m so calloused
And now I can’t feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken

Make me empty
So I can be filled
‘Cause I’m still holding
Onto my will
And I’m completed
When you are with me
Make me empty
 
[Chorus:]
‘Til You are my one desire
‘Til You are my one true love
‘Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

Make me lonely
So I can be Yours
‘Til I want no one
More than You, Lord
‘Cause in the darkness
I know You will hold me
Make me lonely