Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: Almost as Good as Gold

    Many thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for providing a free copy of As Silver Refined in exchange for an honest review.  Don't you love how God can take a mess of a human being and transform them into something pure and beautiful? As I read As Silver Refined I realized Kay Arthur, the author, is one such Christian. God can take the worse of us and begin to refine us into the person He created us to be. We can allow God to use life's afflictions for His glory or we can fight against Him and fall into what Arthur calls the five Deadly D's- disappointment, discouragement, dejection, despair and demoralization.
     Every person is bound to face trials and tribulations, but what we do with them determines the type of person we will be. If we react in anger that fans the flames. However, if we turn to our Lord's Word seeking to discover His will for our lives, God in turn will refine us to the character of His Son. Submission to His will never comes naturally for us; we must always fight against our Adversary and cling to our Lord's sovereignty and might.
     This is my first Kay Arthur book and frankly I didn't know what to expect. It was exciting to know she is a well-renowned Bible teacher and author of over one hundred books. Her writing certainly proves her extensive experience. Better yet though, was that within the first half of  As Silver Refined I felt I knew her so well that if I actually ran into her I might accidentally call her "Kay."  The book is intense study, yet she manages to be so personal and inviting that that must be part of her success.
     Arthur's use of language grabs your attention and holds it. "Whatever the disappointment, it is God's appointment- and that assures us it's His gift, bestowed upon us in the rich outpouring of His grace." That is one of several line's I want to remember always. Mrs. Arthur makes good use of parentheses as she inserts little side notes and quips, such as, "Where there is hope there can never be despair. (You may want to pause and think about that one!)."
      Reading As Silver Refined will take you into a sanctuary with Kay Arthur seated by your side as she delves into the Word. This isn't a book for a quick perusal, but one that will etch itself and God's Word upon your heart. If you do want to dig in further, there is an accompanying 13-week study in the back of the book. I am sure with any effort and prayer God certainly will work within you and refine you as silver.

About the author: KAY ARTHUR founded Precept Ministries International with her husband, Jack, in 1970. What started as a fledgling ministry to teens is now a worldwide outreach with Inductive Bible Studies in nearly 150 countries and 70 languages. Arthur has written 100-plus books and Bible studies, including the Gold Medallion-winner Lord, I Need Grace to Make It Today. Arthur reaches over 90 million viewers and listeners through her half-hour television program Precepts for Life and the one-minute radio feature Precepts from God's Word, aired on nearly 1,000 radio and television stations worldwide and available online at www.preceptsforlife.com.
     Kay received the National Religious Broadcasters "Best Television Teaching Program" award in 2004 and in 2009 for Precepts For Life, Precept Ministries' half-hour television program. She holds an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tennessee Temple University. For more information about Kay Arthur and Precept Ministries International, visit http://www.precept.org/.

Read Chapter One of As Silver Refined

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: Walk with God

     BookSneeze has provided me with a copy of With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God on behalf of Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.  With by Skye Jethani may be a simple title, but its content is anything but simple. Where do you stand with God? Do you view yourself and your life under, over, from or for God? We tend to pick one of these four postures as we relate to God. However, Jethani proposes a better way, a more intimate relation to God- with God. At the beginning of Creation God intended to walk with us along our side. As we try to come into closer communion with God we will find that our eternal joy can begin now, rather than later.
     Though the first chapters that dealt with the common four postures were informative, I didn't find myself engaged with the book until the middle. I guess Jethani worked up to the meat of the book and served the potatoes first.  That said, I did enjoy the "with" chapters in the latter half. With God isn't some set formula that works for one and all. Jethani suggests trying different means to attain a more intimate communion with our Father. In Appendix A he provides various prayer techniques and questions to help you engage yourself more with God.

     I always wonder if I am not "doing" prayer right. People often speak of prayer, but rarely do you hear the details. I sit there doubting my time. Is there something more? With allowed me to affirm my communion time with God. It's about experiencing that utter joy and bliss before our Maker, not wondering what to say next, but simply enjoying each other's presence.
    Jethani did an excellent job providing the reader with a clear view what it means to walk With God. This volume is for any Christian wanting to gain a clearer, more concise perspective of their walk with the Lord. I am sure the first several chapters may open many eyes to possible frustrations in their walk. I hope and pray that anyone who picks up this book will not peruse it for amusement, but use it to analyze their lives and make any necessary adjustments to walk With God.
To purchase "With" from Barnes & Noble click here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Leaving a Legacy: Good, Bad or Maybe in the Middle

     Not that today has been a "bad" in itself, but I have had a few "melt-down-mommy" moments lately. Of course, I beat myself up about it. Then after that I realize I have a Heavenly Father waiting for me to run to, to accept His open-door invitation. I do. I run into His arms and give it all to Him. He has just witnessed my bad. He hears my sad and then something transforming happens. God's love pours into me, comforts me; reminding me I am a human mom- not superwoman.
     How I wish that was different? Imagine never crumbling under pressure or crying until I look like a raccoon. Everything I attempt I could do with gusto and a signature flair. The kids would thank me every instant I was around and my husband would never get annoyed with my habits. Life would be perfect.
     Well, I have news for myself. Perfection is not my middle name-not even close. I come back to reality as I look around and there is another laundry heap to tackle, more toys to corral and dinner, oh yeah, dinner....uh, I'll get to that...later. The only choice in the matter that I actually have is: if I am going to be a mother of grace and love or a mother that doesn't realize the inherent value in her job?
     My Heavenly Father is perfect and I am not. Case closed. However, my Father has granted me another opportunity to demonstrate His love and grace to my children when they mess up or often when I mess up. When I make a mistake I can try to hide behind a facade and act arrogant or I can choose to admit my faults and witness to my children God's ultimate forgiveness. When they see me pray for forgiveness and see the transformation of my heart they are seeing what God openly offers to all of His children every day.
     That is the legacy I want to leave them. Sure the kids will probably remember some tears or words that could have been spoken with a lot more grace and ease. But, more than likely they will remember a mother who is transparent and freely loves and surrenders herself to her Lord over and over again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Review: A Strong Book

     Tyndale Publishers provided me a free copy of Muscular Faith by Ben Patterson in exchange for an honest review. What does it look like to run the race that Paul envisions for the faithful Christian? What should our faith look like and how are we equipped to do that? Patterson explores those questions in this uplifting volume as he includes personal life excerpts and biblical examples. As the Apostle Paul would encourage us to persevere through the thick and thin of life knowing our hope is in Christ alone, so does Ben Patterson.
     As an athlete doesn't dive into his sport as a professional, so should the Christian look at his life. An athlete trains strenuously before competing with an ultimate goal in mind. Likewise, believers are to keep their eyes focused on the prize of an eternal reward that is worth putting our all into to claim as our own. We will be stetched and endure pain. Just as Christ knew of the Cross, our labors will lead to sweet fruit later
      I was engaged with Muscular Faith from page one. Patterson's easy-going style made it a pleasure to sit down to peruse his thoughts on a strong Christian life. As most can see this life isn't filled with lackadaisical pleasures, but often deals us painful, time-consuming experiences that can either make or break us. The only way they will have eternal value is if we allow the Spirit to strengthen us as we endure these trials for the sake of the Cross.
      Muscular Faith would be a great library addition for most Christians wanting to further their understanding of their personal walk with their Savior. Patterson's masculine analogies of camping, marathon running and wrestling would be well-suited for the athlete or man in particular. I being a thirty-year-old woman still enjoyed his use of analogies, despite not be athletically-inclined. In a bit over 250 pages Muscular Faith can certainly strengthen your own life in Christ.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Over the Top Experience

     Women of Faith here I come...with my mom! I am excited every year I am able to attend this conference for a number of reasons. This  year it isn't any different. We have a countdown of a month and I am ready to roll. First, let me tell you of my first experience with Women of Faith and the surge of faith that has reverberated through me ever since.
     The spring of 2008 I decided I would not only attend Infinite Grace, but I would be willing to lead a group. Let's just say a bit of spiritual warfare tried to stomp on my heart to no avail. I felt God was  leading me. He was, but God always has bigger plans for us. Instead of a group, only one lady was going to attend with me. I was disappointed, yet I wasn't going to let that ruin my weekend with the ladies.
     I drove down Friday afternoon by myself. The other lady couldn't make it the first day. I drive over to the Honda Center after taking the scenic route. I hate to say I made wrong turns- the scenic route sounds smarter. Here's where our Heavenly Father worked his love and grace. As I walked up to the arena alone, I realized I was completely in His freedom. I wasn't nervous or fearful to be alone. I almost cried tears of utter joy. You see, since I was 12 years old I have suffered from clinical depression, anxiety (particularly in crowds), and panic attacks. This was my moment of triumph with God! Better yet, God's triumph in me! I was set free from everything that held me captive.
      So I find my way to my seat. The music from the Women of Faith Worship team moved every happy beat in my heart it could muster. Then to witness the sheer magnitude of women come together from all walks of life, all ages in every array of the rainbow is one of the most God-given surreal experiences in my life. In fact, maybe I should say one of the most real experiences of my life. Glory to God is our purpose. Thousands of ladies coming together singing, in tune or not, was astounding. It felt like a sliver of a glimpse into what our eternal worship of the Almighty will be like.
     In September of 2008 God did pour out His Infinite Grace upon me. It didn't matter who I brought to the event. That freedom of attending the first night by myself allowed me to see that with Him I am never alone. I never needed anyone else's approval or accolades to be a person. I need only His acceptance. Jesus does walk with me and I with Him. In Him I have everything!
     Some women come to be refreshed, others come to meet their Savior and others want to get away. No matter the reason, every women sees God's glory, hears the stories of these women whose faith has been made stronger through trials and in turn can relate to one another. Maybe you are sitting in a valley of your journey and need God to bring you Over the Top. Or maybe you want to thank the Lord for bring you to the top.
     If you have never been to a Women of Faith conference or have, but are indecisive I would invite you to pray about it. Allow God to move your heart to join us as this year the ladies take you Over the Top. Stay tuned for more posts.  Don't forget to check out the preview video. May His love reign always in your life!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review: Calling All Animal Lovers

     I was very excited when I received a courtesy copy of Thunder Dog from BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for an honest review. I can honestly say that the authors of this book, Michael Hingson and Susy Flory, did an excellent job on changing my perception of life as a blind person. In Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, Hingson who was blind since birth invites the reader into his life through vivid accounts of life as he grew up and the harrowing experience he encountered with his guide dog, Roselle, during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The two worked as a team to lead each other and encourage others to descend the staircase of stairwell B in the first tower to be attacked at the World Trade Center.
     As an avid animal lover, I am particularly drawn to stories recollecting inspiring accounts of animals and their heroic efforts. That is what first drew me into Hingson's story. However, within the first few pages I realized this was not just Roselle's story, but Michael's life story as well. Throughout Thunder Dog you get a glimpse of what life is like to be blind in a world that exalts itself on the visual. I wonder if my family treated my grandmother as an incompetent child when she suffered a stroke and subsequently lived out her last years in the dark. Hingson certainly accomplished bringing awareness for the blind to light.
     I also had the pleasure of joining a Facebook conversation with the authors on the day of the book's release. I was humbled to see his humility and passion for life. As I read Thunder Dog afterwards I wanted to know more of this man who perceives himself as living out his purpose to the glory of God. It's not too often you come across an individual who exudes a down-to-earth compassion wanting to reach out to others. That kept me drawn to the book.
     Of course I can't write a review without mentioning Roselle. Despite the chaos that enveloped them that terrible, fateful day, she remained calm at Hingson's side waiting for direction. As they made their way down from the 78th floor, she stayed faithful never flinching. Throughout the day Hingson and Roselle both drew on each other's strength resting in the assurance that they were together. Shouldn't we all be depending on one another, guiding each other to eternity?
     I read this book within two days, going to bed late because I couldn't put it down. Hingson and Flory relate the material in such a way that you feel you know Hingson personally. The words flow well, even as they take you from September 11th to his childhood days to his adult memories and back again. It never seemed to be choppy. The chapters are small enough for a quick reading break and captive enough to hold your complete attention. Thunder Dog is a book that one must read for themselves to understand why I love this book. I can't do this book justice with my words. Pick up a copy to be inspired for yourself!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review: Worth the Read

      WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing has provided me with a copy of Andy Stanley's Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You, in exchange for a review.  Stanley, son of Charles Stanley, provides ways to overcome the four main emotions that when left unchecked can dominate our lives.  Taking the reader through the four- guilt, anger, greed and jealousy, Enemies of the Heart, subsequently has the reader examine his/her own heart.  Exercises that we can incorporate into our daily lives are then offered as counter-weights, such as confession and forgiveness.
       This isn't my first Stanley read. I find his writing to offer bits of humor interlaced with his practical guidance.  Overall, this volume is a valuable resource to manage the conditions of our hearts.  Often people, myself included, tend to bury emotions and/or experiences deep within themselves.  As these enemies take root in our lives we allow our thoughts to center on people and circumstances, rather than engaging our hearts and digging out the disease. All emotions can be handled as we turn our problems over to Our Lord.  He is the ultimate Healer, the greatest Physician.  "But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another."
      I enjoyed most of the book, even when I found myself convicted in some areas.  Using the exercises I did find the conviction, but I also was freed from those emotions as well.  I am a very introspective person and try to keep my emotions in check.  I was a little surprised of the discrepancies that were harboring in my heart.
      However, my favorite part of Enemies of the Heart was the chapter on guiding our children to keep their hearts free from the debris life can throw at them. As a parent, whatever information I acquire I attempt to implement it in my parenting.  Hopefully some things will last for generations to come. Any believer would be well-suited to peruse Stanley's Enemies of the Heart. May God help you clean up any emotional debris and bring your heart to His freedom!

Order a copy of Enemies of the Heart here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Review: Gear Up with This Book

     Bethany House Publishers sent me a courtesy copy of Spiritual Warfare for Women: Winning the Battle for Your Home, Family, and Friends in exchange for a review. Leighann McCoy, author, is a straight-talking, to-the-point lady who wants to empower women with God's spiritual armor for when the enemy attacks. She particularly wants to engage the enemy when women are prone to listen and take heed to those inner whisperings that they aren't measuring up, that they aren't good enough to be the daughter of an awesome King. This book is filled with God's Word and fictional stories to relate some of the verses more definitively to  a woman. The latter fourth of the book she informs us how to keep our defenses up and shows women that victory is ours.
      Spiritual Warfare for Women consists of four parts in a bit over two hundred pages. McCoy connects to the reader as she underscores her own battles that she has encountered. If it wasn't for her personal accounts I would find her book a little more difficult to digest. I wasn't brought up to believe in Satan; it has only been in the last few years when I finally submitted my will to the Lord's that I have seen the enemy at work. That being said, the more stringent points were still uncomfortable subject matter for me, though I do agree with them.
      McCoy as a pastor's wife, knowing the talk of Satan is often taboo, emphasizes the need for believers to be aware of their spiritual surroundings. The church doesn't need believers running around in ignorance. The Bible pointedly declares that we are indeed engaged in spiritual warfare. Hats off to Mrs. McCoy for standing her ground! "Because you are a child of the King, you are a target for attack."
      Anytime I pick up a book that even remotely implies that the subject matter is of a darker nature I start cautiously. Due to the fictional stories and the personal accounts of the author I did warm up to the book. I ended up with a lot more dog-eared pages than I imagined. Spiritual Warfare for Women isn't a book for everyone, though it should be. Some ladies just may not be ready for the heavy subject matter. I do hope that if you are ready for battle that you draw on God's power and engage the enemy!

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