Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: A New Favorite Friend

     BookSneeze, on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing, provided a complimentary copy of Todd D. Hunter's Our Favorite Sins: The Sins We Commit and How You Can Quit, in exchange for an honest review. In the first half the author presents the origins of sin, the root of our sins and why we return to them even as believers. The disordered desires of our hearts can be fed and result in the negative behavior, or sin. Unfortunately, temporary bandages are applied repeatedly. One is put on as soon as the previous bandage falls off. It does not get to the heart. It does not reorder our desires according to God.
     The second half of Our Favorite Sins provides more than a bandage, but rather a permanent solution. Given, it is not a quick fix; it is a transforming, time-consuming process. Mr. Hunter walks the reader through a journey that hinges upon communion with the Almighty, through prayer, solitude and the "path of the ancients." The Sacrament and liturgy are explained in rich terms allowing the reader, who may or may not be familiar with such practices, to perceive the intrinsic value in the practices. Believers who prescribe to these practices find a greater awareness and familiarity to the Divine; putting off the old self and putting on the new. (2 Cor. 5:17) They reorder their desires to those of the Lord as they become a little more like Him.
     We all crave, desire, covet something at some point in our lives. I do and I found great value in Our Favorite Sins. Instead of feeling condemned by the author, he gave me hope. His writing style is open, honest and at ease. He accepts there is sin within him and desires to overcome sin one day at a time. He used his pastoral experience to create archetypes of five pervasive sins in our culture brilliantly. Most readers could probably at least relate to one of them to some extent.
     My favorite part was the second half previously covered. Mr. Hunter never prescribes a one-two-three, do A to get to Z type remedy. The remedy lies in God alone. Jesus is our Healer. He includes a lot of wonderful information and insight, as well as beautiful liturgy and prayers I was unfamiliar with. Needless to say, I enjoyed his book immensely. Even if one is not struggling with sin per se, every one can gain a deeper relationship with God if they apply some of the teachings in Our Favorite Sins. I encourage you to pick up this volume and dig deep into it and into yourself. Happy Beginnings!

Buy your own copy here!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: Awaken Your Life

     I was very excited to receive Joanna Weaver's latest, Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God, from WaterBrook Multnomah Press in exchange for a review.  When we answer the call to become a follower of Christ, many of us walk around in a stupor of sorts forgetting that Jesus came to give us live abundantly.  Maybe we know He loves us in our minds, but don't accept that in our hearts. Or maybe, we just do not live out His love.   What holds us back? Is it fear, insecurity or some other false belief? Then with those, we encase our hearts in grave clothes ensuring our hearts they are protected, yet not letting God's love in. After years of hurts and life, people choose to live in self-imposed tombs with stones of unworthiness, unforgiveness and unbelief blocking escape.
     Weaver brings the first century to life and relevance to the 21st century through vivid analogies and colorful imagery. How often I have read the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus not once contemplating what I could learn from his perspective. On account of Lazarus Awakening I will never pass by him again.  By directing our attention to Jesus' miraculous resurrection of Lazarus, she walks us through our own lives: the past hurts, anguished memories and blockages that cloud our vision.  Let me point out though, the main point using Lazarus as our case study points us in the direction to help others remove their grave clothes and walk them into the Light.
     It is in the bonus chapter we are shown the way to shed our own trappings.  Honestly, I found it odd at first until she pointed it out that the bonus chapter was included to round things out.  It didn't fit into the story line with the rest of the preceding chapters.That being the case, it crossed my mind many times that we would first need to be living free ourselves to help others.  Maybe some could help others first, but it would seem hypocritical to so.  Readers choice I suppose. 
     I absolutely was captivated by the attention to detail and how the author seems to really get into the minds of the characters. That shows true talent. So often, when reading I hear the same message about a particular account from the Bible. So often, I find myself clawing through the book longing for some treasure. There was no clawing here. The treasures were plenty and the chapters flew faster than I anticipated. Mrs. Weaver's insights are inspiring.  She opened my mind to new ways of thinking. What would I feel if I were that person? What is being said in between the lines that was not written out?
     When Jesus commanded Lazarus to arise, He didn't intend for him to walk around in a dazed slumber, but wanted him to exude the joy He came to bring. If one was to work on the included study, I believe Lazarus Awakening could help bring that joy to some believer's life.  The book could hold the catalyst many of us need to live the life in light of the love God shines down upon us.  Joanna Weaver has written a book that can help you help others or help yourself. Lazarus Awakening would be a great gift to hurting hearts.  They might finally identify the wrappings that are hindering their spiritual life. With that, Happy Unbinding and Happy Finding!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Book Giveaway!!! Healing Your Church Hurt

I am really excited to be able to offer this giveaway courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers.  For one's enjoyment and growth I am offering the book, Healing Your Church Hurt by Stephen Mansfield. 

Check out my review here!

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy.

For each additional entry leave a separate comment below letting me know if you have either:

- blogged about this giveaway,
- let your Facebook friends know, and/or
- tweeted about the giveaway.

You may enter until March 20, 2012 at 11:59p.m.  On March 21st I will select a winner and notify the winner on the blog and via e-mail. 

Good luck and many blessings!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stepping from Failure

     Failure. It is no doubt a word that sends chills and darkness into souls, so mean and menacing, cold and pervading. There is no other word that deflates a child more. As parents we hopefully are not the ones to utter such despicable syllables. Much to our dismay, the world will whisper them for us. Children will see they “need” those items being peddled on television to become “successful.” Homeschooled children are fortunate that as their teachers we can help them master a skill without marking their papers with those forbidden, humiliating, red-inked ‘F’s.’ What can failure teach? Where can failure lead?
     Below are some basic points. These are not meant to be new epiphanies, but rather time-honored practices. Busy moms and dads have a tendency to need a reminder. An idea we have utilized before gets lost in the hustle and bustle of life. It’s when our memories are stoked, the fire burns brightly again.

Failure is a time for learning. Parents can re-label those into learning opportunities. In fact, it is when we have to practice a skill or rework a paper we learn the most. Instead of “Look what you did,” it’s, “Let’s take a look how we can improve this assignment.” I am quite sure the Apostle Paul became better at preaching as time went on. His first oration may very well have been something quite less.

Failure can lead to a different avenue or mode of operation. Moses had to ask for help knowing he wasn’t a natural-born orator. God has not gifted us equally. After a few tries at a new pursuit, it is perfectly okay to ask for assistance. God gave us families to help us along in life. No one was created to go at it alone. The world may try to create super-boy or super-girl that wants to conquer all, but those are the people that grow up to find they are alone. Teamwork is a blessing. Think outside the box if the task must be accomplished. One way is not always the only way.

Failure can build up perseverance. Are you going to quit after a failed attempt or keep trying to master that skill? Sir Winston Churchill, voted Greatest Briton in 2002, overcame a terrible lisp and clinical depression. Besides being remembered as a former prime minister leading during World War II and author, he is recounted as a great orator. Certainly, he persevered. As he claimed and as I second his statement, “Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” It’s up to our children how far they reach and whether they get there. Aim for perseverance.

Failure can be encouraged away. We have a responsibility to build our children up. Encourage their hearts and souls to pursue God’s will for their lives. If the child wants to try again at whatever task is at hand we can encourage them to do so. Sometimes, all it takes a little more love and encouragement to give them the necessary boost in confidence.

Failure doesn’t stand up to the positive. If they choose not to continue the attempt or are simply unable to complete it, encourage a new pursuit. Let them move on and reiterate what was learned. When the positive is pointed out to them, children will carry that throughout their lives. On the other hand, failure remembered in a negative light can be crippling.

Failure reminds us to look back at whence we came. Deuteronomy 1:31 reminds us, “and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.” God has done so much for us all. In a desert period it is beneficial and heart-warming to ponder where He has led us from and where He has led us to. Failures are small in comparison to the bigger picture.

Failure allows us to realign our vision. It is time to sit down and figure out what you want to accomplish. What’s the big picture? Were expectations set too high? Once that big picture is in focus it is time to set up snapshots or smaller goals. Break down the picture into small pieces. Often, failure is a result of taking on too much at once or having unrealistic aims. Anyway, if you don’t get to the end, at the very least you have accomplished small goals. Confidence is boosted, as well as courage.

     Lastly, failure is about perspective as I hope to have pointed out by now. Our children are primed to learn how to handle failure. May we lead them biblically and uplift their souls. All throughout the Bible God shows us how our plans are not always His plans. Our days are ordained, which consequently, so are our failures. Each one is a stepping stone to our sanctification for the glory of our Lord. Keep on!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review: More Than Fair

     Bethany Publishers supplied a complimentary copy of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen in exchange for an honest review.  Miss Margaret Macy born into privelege finds herself in circumstances that confound all of her senses at first.  She leaves home with her former maid to escape an unsavory suitor who is only after her imminent, coming-of-age inheritance, with her.  As fate would determine, Miss Macy landed herself a job as maid as a former love interest's estate.  It is at Fairbourne Hall the reader watches her become a woman of honesty and virtue.
     Set in the 1800s The Maid of Fairbourne Hall is an exemplary work of historic fiction at its best.  Ms. Klassen obviously researched and pored over many resources to have such a fine understanding and handling of the intricacies of the decorum of the age. I was fascinated almost immediately as I dove into this book. 
     It reminded me a bit of Pride and Prejudice as I read. The character development of Miss Macy enraptured my attention throughout the book.  First, you are introduced to Miss Macy as a girl who knows her place in society and intends to keep it that way.  Then you make your way through the 410 pages and find here ego meeting her match in Fiona and humbling herself before her heart's desire, Nathaniel Upchurch, as a maid.
     This book captivates the imagination with mystery, love, deceit and misconceptions. Under the guise of Nora Garrett, Miss Margaret Macy begins to see the world from the eyes of the working class.  It is when she realizes that she rarely ever paid attention to her former servants, Miss Macy begins to see the prejudice harboring in her heart.  It's in this setting the reader can pose the question to herself: What prejudices do I carry? It seems we all can relate to that.  Misperceptions and adversity plague our society.  Ms. Klassen points this out in other characters as well.
     I hope you can gather I more than appreciated The Maid of Fairbourne Hall.  Despite the gap in time and even the distance in setting, this book can speak to many women at a deeper level than one would first presume.  It is a love story.  It is a mystery.  But, most of all, it is an enlightening, engaging, inviting book that begs to make one ponder their own place and prejudice.  Best of all, it can hope one's heart to others.