Which of my women friends are courageous?
One of my friends was diagnosed with Cushing's Syndrome, a health issue that affects not only her physical wellness, but also her appearance, emotional stability, and ability to perform daily activities. She has had an increase in symptoms and questions that are not being answered by medical professionals. On top of her mounting fatigue and difficulty handling any stress (Cushing's syndrome directly and adversely affects hormones responsible for helping us manage stress), she's developed chronic hives that have allergists, dermatologists and endocrinologists all baffled. And yet she smiles. And yet she prays and praises. And yet she reaches out for opportunities to connect with others. She continues working with seniors even on days that she feels exhausted beyond normal and miserable in her own skin. She keeps pushing forward and talking with her is not attendance to a pity party. She blesses me with her quiet perseverance and servant's heart.
It takes courage not to allow your pain or your struggle
I have already read Heaven by the same author, so I was excited to read this new book about Happiness. I will say upfront, I don't care for the 60-day format of questions and answers because I never remember to do it daily and would rather digest a large chunk of information that flows well than bounce from thought to thought. However, since I knew this book was in that format when I ordered it, I would not rate it less based on my personal preference. I wanted to read this book because it is the in-between size book on the subject (275 pages approx. 5x7"). There is a 90 page book titled, "God's Promise of Happiness" and a full-size book titled simply "Happiness" which is 450 pages.
This book had several quotes which would be excellent conversation starters. I'll share some of the ones I gleaned here:
The most creative acts in history are God-generated acts. It shouldn't surprise us that creative people are often chronic procrastinators. Creatives generate more ideas than they can pursue, which is one reason they are not the risk takers they are often made out to be. They tend to be cautious about the ideas on which they expend their energy. (pg. 18)
I would recommend this to anyone wanting to take a fresh look at Jesus as the Bible portrays Him. It can be easy to get caught up in what we think a Christian "walk" should look like or bogged down in guilt for areas we feel we don't measure up. This book opens the door for freedom to be who God called you to be rather than to try fit some type of cookie cutter mold created by the current church, the current culture, or perhaps most accurately, the current church culture.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are genuine.
This is book is written to a wide audience: pastors, lay leaders (unpaid individuals with leadership positions in the church or in its programs) and also church attendees and members. We all know that discipleship is at the heart of healthy Christianity. After all, Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus Christ, and allowing His grace to sanctify us and make us more like Him. Jesus took the ministry of discipleship very seriously and His disciples "turned the world upside down" announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God. How carefully have we thought about the definition of discipleship? How much thought have we put into how we should go about disclipling others? Do the programs and practices in our churches reflect the way Jesus discipled? Is it possible our churches could experience more growth if they began to look at some discipleship options from "outside" the box (or should I say "outside the churches walls)?
- Preston Sprinkle tackles some hard questions in his book, "Go," but he does so in a loving, respectful, investigative manner. He explores the results of recent Barna Group surveys finding that there can be quite a difference between how pastors, lay leaders and church attendees view discipleship and the programs the church has to offer. The author offers insights into why there may be discrepancies between these viewpoints, but he does not point a finger at one group or the other and offer a "shame on you" sermon or a "get with the program" pep talk. Reading this book is like having a conversation with a variety of humble, open minded, authentic members of the body of Christ who hold various positions and are not hung up on their differences.
There were a few passages that had me nodding my head in agreement, longing for days when the church's light will shine brighter in this dark world. One of the simple quotes I enjoyed was early in the book, when the author was setting the foundation for later concepts. He stated, "When Jesus said, 'Come follow me,' he wasn't heading to Sunday school. He was on his way to heal the sick, befriend a tax collector, stand up for an adulteress, and proclaim Good News to the poor."
I felt like I had a good grasp on how discipleship "ought" to be done in the Biblical sense from reading the Bible and reading or talking about ministries which have proven to be very fruitful and have the contagious joy of the gospel, which seems to often be lacking from large group format programs. I was not sure whether reading this book would simply confirm the ideas I'd formed or expand on them, but it has certainly expanded them and been well worth my time to read. I have a half dozen pages marked with post-it notes and the book has sparked a couple good conversations with my spouse. The entire section devoted to why having a multi-enthic church congregation is so important was very well written and thought provoking.
Several different controversial topics are addressed with tact. I have heard of people disliking the phrase "accept Jesus into your heart" because it sounds so individualistic and self-centered. The emphasis is on what WE do rather than what Christ has done as the finished work on the cross. This book also asks us gently to examine the phrase "having a personal relationship with Jesus," not because it is inherently wrong, but because it can become a misconception that our relationship with Jesus is to be private. "Our relationship with Jesus is personal, but it's never just personal. It's also communal [we need to be in fellowship with others] and missional [we need to be involved with those outside our belief system to share the gospel]." (Comments in brackets are not quotes from the author, but my commentary for clarification.)
The author of this book quotes several other sources, aside from the Barna Group, and I think I'd enjoy reading some of these books he mentions. For example, he refers to a book called "Church Refugees" by sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope. They interviewed 100 people who left the church (referred to as "dechurched" for some reason) and were very surprised by the results they found. Here's a quote from their book, "The dechurched are leaving to do more, not less. The church isn't asking too much of people; it's asking the wrong things of them . . . . Jesus commanded his followers to care for the poor, the sick, and the hungry,, [yet] the dechurched have experienced the church as an organization that cares primarily for itself and its own members."
The much discussed topic of why we have children leaving the church when they hit adulthood is also addressed briefly, suggesting that we may not be laying a large and deep enough foundation for our children by teaching them primarily about how they are to be saved and neglecting to teach them the calling Jesus had for those who are saved: to count the cost and follow Him. "Jesus didn't come preaching a gospel of individual salvation, nor did he come to take us to church. He came preaching 'the kingdom of God'-- the reign of God over all things. .... Jesus's kingdom is a whole new reality, a different way of living, a counter-cultural existence that can't be contained inside the four walls of a church building."
I would recommend this book to any Christian, middle school aged and above. I think it would provide a very thought-provoking study and conversation for leaders and laymen to go through this book together while examining the church's programs, resources, and available talents which are not being tapped into. I cannot picture that happening without conflict in many cases, but if Christ were the center and the fruit of the spirit was abounding, I think it could lead to a revival of serving in that community.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are my own.
I remember thinking summer would be a relaxing, unstructured time for the 3 boys and I during the day while my husband is at work. I didn't set myself lofty goals with homeschooling, just some little ends to tie up. No pressure. Today I brought one child to a Sports Camp, acted as referee for the other two, prepared lunch, defrosted meat for dinner, taught a math lesson, made calls about bills, picked up my son from Sports Camp, came home for a quick snack. Then, my husband came with and we set out to run to 2 places but it turned into 5... I believe I may be starting to look forward to the structured days our school year will bring!
Despite the hectic world we live in, as confessing Christians, our lives should look different in some ways. I have been very intentional about praying, particularly for others since I felt God calling me to intercessory prayer a few years ago. I let my Bible reading slide and wasn't reading God's Word daily for the last few months, but I realized that is a pitfall I don't want to find myself stuck in. My faith was greatly kindled at a Voice of the Martyr (VOM) Advance Conference. I picked up my Bible again and I asked God to forgive me for not setting time aside to commune with Him and read His Word. I asked my husband to pray for me to have wisdom. God does answer prayers! Here's one thing He's revealing to me:
Don't focus on what you cannot do, watch for opportunities of what you can do.
"Zacchaeus and Jesus" is a Flipside Story by Tyndale Kids. What that means is that when you look at the book straight on, you can read about Zacchaeus's side of his encounter with Jesus until you get half way through the book. Then you will encounter a page that tells you to "CLOSE and then FLIP this storybook." Doing so reveals that what was the back cover looks now like a front cover only it is titled "Jesus and Zacchaeus." You can now read about Jesus's encounter with Zacchaeus through Jesus's perspective. I really enjoy the original creativity in this book. Not only is it thoughtfully written and beautifully illustrated, but it is unique compared to other "Bible Story" or biblical account books we have on the shelf.
I appreciate that it will help me in teaching my children to consider a situation, or a person's actions, from more than one perspective. I love that in the book, Zacchaeus thinks to himself "They're right" in response to his accusers- taking responsibility for his sin and admitting his guilt. The next thing he does is to say, "I ask Your forgiveness." and he explains how his actions will change due to his repentance.
Also, the emphasis in this book is not "Jesus is love" or "Jesus is loving" or "Jesus forgives." These things are all true, are all good, and all play a part in the Good News of the Gospel, for sure. Sometimes I wonder that we don't give our children, especially at the youngest ages, a full enough picture of the Lord's depth of character. The emphasis in this book is that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. What an excellent reminder that we are all called to the Great Commission. Christianity is not supposed to be an exclusively consumer lifestyle. "I got saved," "I have a lot more peace," "I've been forgiven" (again, these things are excellent, but the fullness of the Gospel is SO much more!). Christianity is a radical rebirth that should change the trajectory of our lives and cause us to consider the Lord's Kingdom before considering the cares of this world. High goals He gives us, not because we are capable, but because He is sufficient.
I highly recommend this book for Christian homes, as gifts, for nurseries and waiting rooms. My kids have come back and requested it read multiple times since we received it a few days ago. They listen intently through the whole book, even the wiggly 4 year old. It's wholesome and well made with a sturdy cover and thick pages to hold up to years of reading.
In the interest of full-disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Tyndale Blog Network for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are honest!
When she encounters Truth through the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible, she gains a deep reservoir of peace, hope and strength. She will need every ounce of it as her career as a civil rights attorney begins to draw international attention. Despite having to pledge loyalty to Communism before even taking the bar exam, Virginia boldly takes cases against the government defending Christians who are being mistreated. Matters quickly escalate and the author's career, personal freedom, and safety of her family are all on the line. It is amazing and inspiring to read her retelling of multiple life-or-death encounters. She truly fits the definition of courageous- not being without fear, but rather, in the face of great fear still doing what is right.
I would recommend this book to teenagers and adults who enjoy history, as well as to anyone who would like a spark to kindle their faith. Excellent reads such as this one are a great antidote to apathy.
***In the interest of full-disclosure: I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale Blogging Network for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are my own.
The African Study Bible hopes to enter the scene and fill that void. While there are countless experiences that are common to mankind, I still think there's a huge benefit from gleaning wisdom from someone who has some common ground with you. Like I was saying above. I haven't read any books that were directed at Eskimos, or Islanders. They may be good books, but trying to find life application when the lifestyles they address may be drastically different than mine may prove less encouraging and practical than if the resources matched the needs more clearly.
Please don't misunderstand me, there are Bibles available to the African continent, there just aren't any study Bibles directed toward their culture. The study Bibles available in Africa are written from a Western culture (Europe & the USA) point of view. I am a fan of the KJV for many reasons, but I am also a fan of my old NIV Life Application Bible because the resources are so rich. I believe the ASB is planning to deliver rich resources to the hands of the African people in this NLT Bible and that is why I support the cause. Here are some highlights from the ASB Press Release:
“With the ASB, we’re bringing the power of Scripture to Africa in a new and culturally relevant way,” says Dr. Matthew Elliott, president of Oasis, publisher of the ASB. “Under the leadership of an 11-member editorial board of scholars from across Africa, we’ve brought together 350 writers and editors from over 40 African countries, representing 50 denominations. This is an unprecedented project that will impact the global church.”
“Our goal is to have the first run of the ASB available in Africa by the end of 2016,” says Elliott. “We already know of more than 100 million people in denominations and movements in Africa whose leaders want to use the ASB for discipleship so there is a lot of anticipation throughout the continent.”
The incentives for the Kickstart Campaign start when you give just $5 and increase at the $15, $25, $40, $100, $500, $1000, $3500, and $10000 giving levels. You can check out all the goodies, which include things such as previews, apps, artwork, various editions of the ASB, all the way up to trips to see the launch of the ASB in the USA or Kenya for the launch and a safari!
Here's what I like: No matter how much money you have, or don't have, you can help impact the production of the ASB and bless the African community of believers by keeping this ministry in your prayers. Pray for the discernment & wisdom for those in leadership. Pray for resources to come together and pray for the hearts of the people of Africa to be softening to the Gospel. We are very excited about the growth of the body of Christ in Africa, but in every nation, there are those who resist the Good News of Jesus Christ for one reason or another. Pray that those individuals will be moved to see the Truth, grace, love, peace, and freedom found in following Jesus. I appreciate that, from the limited amount of what I've seen of the ASB so far, it does not appear to be a resource which promotes (falsley) that our lives will become "fixed" or "easier" when we follow Jesus. It is a difficult road we are asked to travel, but we never travel it alone, and we do not have to do it on our own strength, wisdom or resourcefulness. That is the relief of an easy yoke on a hard journey. Pray that the Word of God, encouragement, and applications in the ASB would bring Jesus much glory.
***UPDATE 6/20/16: I have removed the hyperlink to the KickStarter Campaign as that has ended. If you wish to contribute, please check the Oasis webpage HERE, where there should be a "give" link near the bottom of the page.
FYI: None of the links in this post are affiliate links.
Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood: A Down-to-Earth, Practical Devotional for the Hearts & Lives of Moms
I am not a huge devotional fan. I couldn't even count how many I have picked up, read samples from, and set aside. I have even gone so far as to purchase some and discontinue their use (despite my best efforts) a short way into the text. I usually don't get "hooked" by these books. There is something about having a designated amount and topic to read set to a structured schedule that just doesn't appeal to me. Far too many devotionals try to fill a single page by condensing a sermon or expanding a hallmark card encouraging quote.
Melissa B. Kruger wrote "Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood: An Eleven-Week Devotional Bible Study" differently. I find myself going back to this book, even when a bit of the writing has pricked my conscience and made me aware of an area of my life that needs sanctification. Even when I am off schedule because I completely forgot to pick up my devotional for a few days (or weeks). This devotional feels like a gentle conversation with a wise friend who has traveled a road similar to mine. I find it strangely comforting. Strange, because as I stated before, I don't really like devotional books.
This time of year can be hard to enjoy if you have anxiety. It is so close to school starting that anxiety about the change of season (whether or not there are any major differences from last year to this) can stand as an obstacle to enjoying the last couple weeks of summer vacation.
Are the kids ready to transition to more structured days? Am I? Shouldn't I be easing in more routine now?
Great questions!! Either way, time marches on. Some years we've tried to get the kids to reasonable bedtimes starting two weeks or even one week before school starts, some years we haven't. Some years we've started school slowly, adding in subjects one at a time to build up to a regular day, some years we just jump in with both feet. This is really just a variation of the question above. The question above was basically, how do I end summer? This question is, how do I start school? As long as you DO start, you'll get into the groove. Different approaches for different people, for different circumstances and different years. Don't compare your approach to others' approaches, just consider the situation and the options.
Did we get all the supplies we're going to need?
Maybe, maybe not. Maybe you got too much, or haven't even started thinking about shopping yet. This is small stuff in the scheme of things really. Anything that can be remedied with less than an hour in Walmart is small stuff in the scheme of things. Keep that in mind and move on. You can always share/donate extras or make another run to a store for needs that pop up.
Are the decisions we made about curriculum and/or activities the wisest for the situation and children?
Did you pray about them?
Woah.... where did THAT come from? Isn't this an anxiety post that's supposed to be a feel-good read about how "I really CAN handle this time of year"??? This is a reality post about life. Decisions that shape the life of your child (or other people's children) should be prayed over. Do you know these kids' hearts? Their futures? God does. Consult Him. If you've made decisions already without consulting the Lord, that doesn't mean you need to scrap everything and start all over again. It means you need to have some quiet time and search your heart.
God, was I so busy and so anxious because I am trying to do this all on my own strength and by my own wisdom? Father, I am sorry; please, forgive me. I know that man can make plans, but You are the One who establishes and directs our paths (Proverbs 16:9). I should have consulted you first. No matter how good, or how off course my plans are, I desire that Your purpose prevails in my life (Proverbs 19:21). Please grant me wisdom, Lord, and a teachable spirit, that I will be willing to make adjustments according to Your leading. I desire to bring You glory with my decisions and I know that no matter how this fall and the following months turn out, You will be working all things for my good because I love You. (Romans 8:28).
In Jesus Name, Amen.
Will I look back at this time period and kick myself for doing something wrong or not doing enough?
Let's use looking back as an opportunity to be grateful for God's provision and protection, to praise Him for His sustaining grace and longsuffering lovingkindness. Let's not allow ourselves to use looking back to beat ourselves over not being perfect. We already know we're not perfect, no need to dwell there. If you need somewhere to dwell, I highly suggest the Word of God. Next time those anxious thoughts are starting to zip around your head with increasing speed and intensity, remember two things.
Remember you are never alone and are cherished deeply by the Creator God of the Universe Who knows all things, is all-powerful, and is present everywhere.
Remember this verse, which is challenging to put into practice, but comforting like nothing else:
Want to pin a post? Click on the Post Title (in orange) to be taken to the post page. Then hover your mouse over an image and a "Pin it" button shall appear. I apologize for the inconvenience, but this ensures your pin will redirect to the proper URL.
I am not much of a blog reader. There's only a couple I check on occasion:
Love this girl's writing... feels like she's a long distance friend. Well, her sister is my long-distance friend, so that probably helps. Either way, what an inspiration and encouragement- you just need to check out some of the places life has taken Leah and be strengthened and inspired by the love that oozes (yes, oooozes) from her heart for Jesus, His people and His creation!
If you like nummy recipes, or have special dietary needs (or both!) check it out. ALL of her recipes are Vegan, and many can be made gluten-free. I stumbled upon it when searching for dairy/egg free treats to make for my kiddo and have gotten hooked on several recipes. Okay, "hooked on" doesn't portray it well enough. How about "addicted to"? That's more fitting. Will definitely be going back for more!