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.