Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review: An Exceptional Arterburn Read

    Bethany House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of The Exceptional Life: 8 Powerful Steps to Experiencing God's Best for You in exchange for an honest review. After authoring so many books one would think Stephen Arterburn would run out of topics to cover. Yet, in this volume he delves again into the human psyche and all of the baggage people pick up in their lifelong journey. In The Exceptional Life Arterburn shows you how to dump your emotional baggage and gain what you have been missing out on. For instance, if one gives up the guilt and shame that has been hunkering them down, they would gain hope. Or how about isolation in exchange for connection. Between the other topics of resentment, anger and addiction there is truly something that will strike a nerve in everyone. Who wouldn't want to trade those in for a life marked by love, forgiveness and freedom?
     I really appreciated the order given to each topic covered. He explains what guilt and shame are, why they need to be released from our lives, how to, what God will grant you in return and the empowerment gained to accomplish life's journey in new ways. The chapters are all sprinkled with personal experiences in relation to the issue at hand from different people. The brief summaries of these experiences aren't from one set of people, but are derived from people of all walks of life. The issues covered are universal.
     Overall, The Exceptional Life was an enjoyable book beginning to end. Arterburn's gift to understand the internal workings of our minds and hearts is astounding. It is nothing less than a gift from God to be able to be such a prevalent voice in the Christian self-help arena. Often, I have found self-help books to be wishy-washy and vague. They tell you that you can feel better if you do this with steps one to three and you're good to go. Arterburn respects personal disposition and leaves room for you to manoeuvre your healing as long as you do so with Jesus at your side. Complete healing comes only in and through Him. Arterburn points the reader in the right direction while giving guidelines, not strict rules, to utilize during the journey.
     One other thing I would like to point out is that though you may at first think some of the topics won't apply to your life, they do, did or will. Even if you are not personally suffering from a drug addiction, chapter eight can still speak to you if you allow it to. I was amazed and humbled as I read, realizing the information I did glean from it I can carry with me throughout my life. Maybe I won't even use the insights tomorrow, but someday I will. God didn't put us here to help ourselves, but to help others as we glorify Him. Anyone would be wise to want The Exceptional Life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Book Review: Love this Book

     A big thank you goes out to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers for blessing me with a complimentary copy of Love and War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage by John and Stasi Elredge, in exchange for an honest review. In this latest release, the Elredges draw parallels between God and his love for the church and the love between a husband and wife. Every marriage is part of a great love story set among a war. Often we miss this and mistakenly believe that our spouse is the enemy, rather than battling against the Enemy who wants to destroy our strong bonds. God gave us one another to support and uplift each other as we face the battles in life.
     The Elredges go on to dismantle preconceived fairytale notions that as long as we love each other all will be well. Both partners in a marriage are broken.Examples and help are provided throughout the book, though they always leave room for the gray area. No marriage is the same as we bring in our own dispositions and baggage. While at first we marry for selfish reasons, it is through learning to selflessly love that we become the people God intended us to be. Trying to find how to love and why to love can be risky, but well worth it as God creates beauty from ashes.     
    Love and War is beautifully written as it portrays the beauty and strength in a marriage. The portrait painted left me wanting to work on my good marriage and make it better. It's like taking a black and white picture and suddenly seeing it in vivid color. How often do I overlook my husband's feelings and allow my own selfishness to blur my vision? It is shocking to think of the things I may have missed, decisions I overlooked and opportunities lost to have a beautiful marriage.
     This book cannot be read in one sitting, but rather ten or so, to be able to absorb what John and Stasi are relaying. In fact, they recommend reading it though more than once, which I would agree would be well advised.  I would only recommend Love and War if you are willing to look at yourself and your motives, more than your spouse. You can only be concerned with how God is using your marriage to transform you. It'd be a great book for couples to work on together, but certainly can be beneficial if only one partner is willing to read and observe.
     There are a couple of prayers included at the end of the book that I am already finding helpful. The reader will perceive the Elredges genuine love for one another and for the marriages of God's kingdom. We can't return to Eden, but through love and choosing to love your spouse, your marriage can become a bit closer to paradise.

Click here to purchase from Amazon!

Read the first chapter of Love and War here.

Read about John and Stasi Elredge

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Building on Discontent

      I know when I pray God may not answer according to my desires, but always for my good. Then there are other times, I realize as I pray the answer may cause some growing and discomfort. I sit now feeling a bit more at ease. Earlier was another story. God humbled me and shook me awake from a stupor I have been in too long.
      I look around my home and am ashamed. I have too many possessions. These things have sentimental value or are simply pretty. Needless to say, I like cute little things. However, the harsh reality is someday they will burn up and all that will be left is ash. That's fine because the items' inherent value is nonexistent and I am left today with clutter. If they burn tomorrow I will still be rich because I have my Lord at my side and salvation in Him. There isn't a greater gift than that.
     It began about two to three years ago when I began to ask the Lord for guidance. I felt I was controlled not by the things themselves necessarily, but by the desire to buy things I did not need. Slowly, but surely, I have been convicted here and there as I go to purchase an item and end up leaving it at the store. The Spirit whispers, "You don't need that," or something similar. Yet, I am still surrounded by worthless, earthly treasure knowing my real treasure is in God's kingdom.
      Fast forward to Thanksgiving as I am sitting at my in-laws' with my appetite satiated watching the news in their warm living room surrounded by family. I almost couldn't stand to watch. News reports of people serving dinner to the homeless and needy in the streets of Los Angeles, a woman praising their efforts in gratitude for a warm meal, a child displaying the meager contents of his family's refrigerator - all of these raising my barometric pressure. I wanted to explode in fury, in disbelief. An internal storm had been born. This can't be in America. Why am I so blind and negligent of my neighbors? Why couldn't I just jump in my car or beam myself down to the shelters and help serve? There I was warm, comfortable and wanting to be out helping with strangers, or rather  my neighbors.
      Naivete, injustice and disgust pulsated through every minute vein. It truly infuriates me, yet I still haven't acted upon it. I keep wondering where God wants me. Bill Hybel in Holy Discontent poses the question to the reader: What makes you tick? What stirs you up to the point of anger? Well, I have found my discontent. One in five children in the grand United States go to bed hungry. What? Why? This staggering statistic drives me nuts.
      I have been blessed with so much. God never intended me to hoard it. I could certainly allow God to bless others with what He has lent me. Is it not all for His glory? Not my comfort. We have donated clothing and items to a resource center around our area, but discontent fills me. It's not enough. I need to be actively doing something about this.
      Last night, my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas. Sure, there are things I want. But, for what purpose. They will fill me with a moment's pleasure and then the item will collect dust. So, I tried to read a book and relax for a few minutes today. Like I said, I tried. The Spirit didn't whisper, but seemed to shout, "Look around. You don't need anything." This year I am giving instead. I'm not trying to earn praises for myself. I love how God has taken two to three years to answer my prayer in His timing. The money my husband was going to use for me is going to be donated to a foreign mission, while the Salvation Army will be receiving some things for the people around here.
     All I know is that is barely a start, a drop in a very large bucket. I am grateful my Lord is patient.  I cannot wait to see how God continues to sanctify me in this process called life. As this is God's doing, I am sure this is only the beginning of something beautiful. Until He comes what ever we can do will never be enough, but at least it shows people a glimpse into God's kingdom. Merry Christmas and Many Blessings to All!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tyndale/ New Living Translation Bible Giveaway

Now thru December 24th you can enter for a chance to win prizes at  the New Living Translation Facebook page.

You can win one of the following prizes.

•One random person each day will win a Life Application Study Bible Family Pack (Guys Life Application Study Bible hc, Girls Life Application Study Bible hc, Student's Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible Large Print hc).

•One Random person each week will win an Apple iPad 2!

Just enter your name and e-mail on the page and automatically receive a free download copy of the Life Application Bible Study – Book of Luke!!! By the way that alone is 158 pages!
Good Luck and God Bless! A big thanks to Tyndale Publishers!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review: Wonderful Depression Era Novel

     First, I must thank Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of Wonderland Creek in exchange for a heartfelt review. Lynn Austin transports the reader immediately to the Depression Era. As the young woman, Alice Ripley, gives a first-person account of her comfortable life to the adventures that await her in Kentucky, you are drawn to her naivete. It's only when she gets to the run-down town of Acorn where she realizes she was living vicariously through all of the books she read. Through the likes of the wise, centenarian Lillie, kind-hearted Mack and the plethora of other characters in Acorn, Alice becomes a woman wanting to live the God-given life she has with the people she loves.
     Alice began her journey to donate books to the Kentucky library from the drive she started as a librarian in Illinois. When she lands on the steps of Mack's door, Alice finds herself dizzy and bewildered in Wonderland Creek. Through a set of precarious predicaments and contrived circumstances Alice sees God can work in mysterious ways for the betterment of His beloved. Between Mack's injury, Lillie's wisdom, Maggie's grief and June Ann's tumultuous endurance of motherhood, Alice quickly finds herself involved in their stories and lovingly wanting to help bring the feuding town together again.

     I really enjoyed Austin's writing style and sense of humor. The depth of emotions explored can only come from a seasoned author who has experienced life and is willing to share. The emotions brought to the table range from joy to fear to anticipation to love, with many more running the gamut.
     Alice's love of reading spoke to me immediately, as an avid reader myself. She mentions her love of words and the smell of a new book- all classic symptoms of a book lover. However, her voracious appetite for the fictitious world proves to be more enticing for Alice than the reality surrounding her. Honestly, I think many people, myself included, can allow things suck the life out of us, as we give more attention to the unimportant. As Alice eyes were opened to her fallacious misconceptions of life, the readers may be too, if they allow themselves introspection a bit. Slowly, but surely, Alice begins to see the possibilities in front of her, rather than through the pages of another dusty volume.
     Every page was interesting in itself, yet was a part of an exciting epic. I will warn you, this book is a tad over 380 pages long, but the last half of the book in particular, flew by way too quickly. I immensely enjoyed this story. Wonderland Creek is a beautiful, sometimes a bit unbelievable, adventure geared for the woman that explores human emotions, as well faith in God. I only hope that this book by Lynn Austin will expand your perspective to what lays beyond your viewable horizon.

Purchase through Amazon here!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Mother like Mary

     As I read the account of Christ’s birth I often stop and ponder what that evening was like for young Mary. From the visit of Gabriel to visiting Elizabeth to that fateful, starlit night, it must have been a whirlwind of a pregnancy to say the very least. And then, the beautiful happened. The Savior of the world made His grand entrance in the night in the most humble accommodations possible. As Jesus was placed into her arms delicately wrapped in cloth, I am certain, joy and peace filled her washing away any misplaced inhibitions as Mary looked into her helpless son’s eyes.      But, then what? She had children after Jesus. So, I wonder. What was the day to day like for Mary knowing she was raising not just her son, but the Son? How did she judge success? How could she measure if she was mothering “right”? Although Jesus was sinless, Mary couldn't have allowed that to intimidate her from mothering. Imagine the implications of trying to be the "perfect" mother, as a sinner, to Christ, the spotless Lamb. Impossible. Mind-boggling.
     How can any mother know if she is a successful mother? We can’t take empirical data and compare the numbers. Straight As don’t signify life success for anyone. What if our kids sign-up for every extra-curricular available? That does not equal success. We could simply conclude our children are active or social butterflies or inquisitive, etc. There isn’t a result that determines successful mothering.
     Successful mothering can be based on some determining qualities though. Our success can be based upon the process, faith and obedience. We place so much burden upon ourselves as mothers, but honestly God can only lead them to where they are going. We can try to point our children in the right direction, leading them to Christ. Yet, it is the Spirit that will do the convicting.
     Mothers have to realize all is for God. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of our parenting, it is the Father’s affirmation that matters. 1 Corinthians 15:58 also proclaims, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Every morning let us remind ourselves who our boss is and who we answer to. We are not of the world, therefore their standards are certainly not ours. John 15:19, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
     Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,…” Let us parent with diligence and an ardent effort. 1 Corinthians 15:58 also proclaims, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Parenting is our work for the Lord, in the Lord. As we labor for His kingdom let us do so with fervor and passion that can only be driven and sustained by His strength. It all lies within our hearts. Where is our treasure?
     Mary didn’t know the path Jesus’ life was going to take. She knew though that she must live in obedience to God’s commands and walk in faith. In fact, that is all we can do as mothers. Children learn by imitating. If they see us walking with God, we can pray they will find their stride with Him, too. Rest assured in Philippians 1:6. “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Don’t let the weight of mothering pull you down. We can only do as much as God calls us to do. God will fill in the gaps and complete His work. We are humble servants in His kingdom.
     Proverbs 31:26 states, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” We need to stay in the Word, dig deep into the riches therein and live out God’s instruction daily. If we want to speak with wisdom, our children need to see the wisdom lived out in practical, tangible terms daily. Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we loving God with all of our soul and heart? Joshua 1:8, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
     Mary didn’t foresee the Cross or Jesus’ miracles as she raised Him. She saw undeveloped potential. God gave her passion and joy through her obedience and faith. She disciplined and guided with love and compassion. Success isn’t found in numbers on the report card or numbers on a child’s future paycheck. Success is found in a mother’s heart, in her conviction to lead and in her arms as she caresses her babies.

Book Review: For the Young Too

      BookSneeze recently provided me with a complimentary copy of Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for a review.  Billy Graham never disappoints. Building on his experience of growing older, Graham extends his gained wisdom to the reader to embrace life's journey. He encourages everyone to adapt to the challenges age brings with, while maintaining hope in Jesus Christ. Every person leaves a legacy, whether it is a lasting legacy is entirely up to how each individual lives their out for the world to see. As people near retirement they also need to decide to keep living a life pleasing to God, rather than slipping into the abyss of retirement from life.
     I have to say, Billy Graham has written another eye-opening, thought-provoking book for all to peruse. As he points out, the young often don't think to plan for the future. Some may plan financially, but even these days that it proving hard. But, Graham hits upon spiritual, emotional and physical preparation. What happens when we find ourselves alone later in life because we were too busy living the "good" life to bother with our soul's welfare? The consequences will be dire and bleak. Even as we grow older, we are still called to influence others and leave a legacy that will have eternal consequences for generations to come.
     I appreciate the ease of language he uses, particularly if the chapter doesn't suit your fancy. It makes some topics easier to ingest. As my body seems a bit frail now, it frightens me to think of what it will be like in 20 or 50 years. Using himself as an example, Graham placated my fears of decreased vitality, reminding me that this body is temporal and imperfect. Then he proceeds to bring hope to the reader allowing the content to all land upon the Gospel, as it well should. Sixty years of preaching the Good News has definitely come through in this volume, yet I didn't find it overwhelming at all.
     Mr. Graham's personality shines in Nearing Home as he allows you glimpses into his well-lived life. He is humble and still passionate for Christ. We should all take heed to his advice to run this race with perseverance and hope bringing glory to Him. Every day we are all one step closer to home. This book presents us with a realistic perspective from someone who acknowledges he is Nearing Home.