Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Trees Lean and God Speaks

     Yesterday, I realized the kids and I had not visited the park in a while. Today we capitalized upon the fall weather and drove over meeting quiet and solitude as no one else was around. This morning was slightly cool, a welcomed relief to this summer's multiple heatwaves, and beautiful. My eldest son came and sat on the bench beside me. I was afraid he had decided he was too old to play on the equipment now that he has hit the ripe-old age of 10. Much to my delight, he simply wanted to sit by his mommy.
     Then my daughter joined us on my other side. In that moment I realized my kids can enjoy peace and quiet, even if it was only to last a few minutes. Gabriel commented on the eastward lean of the trees. I asked if he knew why and of course, Mary had to have the answer. I say "of course" because she has always tried to keep pace with her older brother in wit and ability. Right then, we had a "God moment." You know those moments when it is the beautiful whisper of the Spirit gently showing you a truth. God breathed life and we had one of those!
     I began to explain that the pine trees grew with the wind, as it is easier to go with the flow, rather than stand up against it. Now that wouldn't be a useful analogy if we were talking about the conformity society likes to pressure everyone into. However, as an analogy to teach my children about the storms in life the analogy proved useful and quite profound. I wonder how many times I have tried to stand firmly against the storms that have blown into my life and have ended up in the eye of the storm, the exact place I feared and dreaded.
    When God allows a storm to blow into town, we have a choice to resist or to bend like the trees. The tree branches would snap like twigs if they fought the wind.  Today, I saw something new in those crooked pines. They had not allowed the winds to inhibit their growth, but allowed them to steer them in a certain direction. I have always been fascinated with trees. Their very presence seems to speak to me. When I think of a tree a crooked one doesn't come to mind. Instead, tall, majestic trees towering over me paint my imagination. Yet, there they stood this morning, crooked and beautiful.
     Our lives can take on many storms if we learn to blow in the wind with God and let Him steer us. As I have learned to bend my life isn't filled with as much strife and struggle. Sure there are still troublesome clouds hovering overhead and the nasty winds that bring them, but the difference is I know every storm is guiding me on the course God has planned for me. Ususally, if I am looking for His glory in the midst of the storm a beautiful rainbow graces my sky. If we are wise and learn from the past storms we can find there are many blessings as we lean into our Savior's guidance.
     My kids listened intently, thoughtfully even. Then they raced back to the playground and played joyfully. Today I am thankful for so much, for my children's delight and laughter, the trees and His truth, and for God and his brilliance.  I pray my children will lean with the wind and see His glory always.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: Good Read to Find Your Way

     I would like to thank BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing for a complimentary copy of Phil Cooke's One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do. It seems simple enough, just state your big purpose in life. Do you find yourself stumbling for an anwer? Many of us find ourselves running around the world trying to make heads or tails of our day-to-day lives. Where does that leave your purpose? Often in the muck and mire of busyness. Phil Cooke sets out on a mission to lead the reader to their life's "one big thing." Since, we are not made from a cookie cutter and are unique in our own ways, it can be hard to find our purpose when the world wants to press you into its mold. However, this book allows you to discover what makes you you and what direction that can lead you in.
     In 171 pages, Cooke asks you a series of questions and manages to complete his part in this mission. Once you understand your "thing," what then? One Big Thing helps you pinpoint your purpose, explains perception and image, how to take charge and navigates you in the right direction. Please don't misunderstand, Cooke does not tell you what to do, but inspires you to set out on your own course. He also brings many examples of success and failure to the table to illustrate where good and bad choices matter. The masters of different fields did not find their callings by accident, but by understanding their hearts, recognizing their talents and having the drive to do something about it.
     Honestly, I was quick to judge. I believe I made a sound such as, "Ugh!" or that dreaded, sarcastic, "Oh, this is going to be fun." Apparently, the adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover," should also be applied to the first few pages. Usually, I know better. How wrong I was. Let me just say, by the end of the book I had admit what my "one big thing" is, in affirmation of my suspicions and trepidation. Not only that, I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter (even the first by the end).
     One Big Thing is not an easy answer to your life's mysteries. However, it may be the catalyst you need to boost your life and get it off the ground. Cooke's book brings you the questions that will help you discover who God has created you to be. As a note, I found it refreshing to see a person entwined with the entertainment industry successful, yet faithful to our God. Bravo, Mr. Cooke. My dear, fellow reader, may you discover your One Big Thing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review: Interesting to Say the Least

     Chosen Books recently sent a complimentary copy of Help for the Fractured Soul in exchange for an honest review. Author Candyce Roberts delves into her years of experience in prayer ministry to guide others to help hurting people. Help for the Fractured Soul: Experiencing Healing and Deliverance from Deep Trauma  is geared for ministry leaders, counselors and prayer partners. When children are abused they often develop fractured souls or different personalities to endure the abuse. As adults these people are so fragmented they find it difficult to cope and function in life.
     Roberts not only provides her real-life experience helping these people to allow their personalities to integrate, she brings biblical examples into account as well. The book contains case studies of lives healed and of lives that remain broken. The author does not whitewash her painful disappointments which I found refreshing and encouraging. Not every person is willing to let go of their pain. We can only help others as much as they allow us to.
     Help for the Fractured Soul provides tools to facilitate healing in a manner that is easily understandable and pragmatic. Roberts not only includes information as to how to help others, but also how to prepare yourself and maintain a healthy relationship with the patient. I honestly was not aware of the depth of pain this book was going to look at. I would have to advise that the reader be a bit more advanced in the area of biblical counseling than I am. I learned a lot and do hope to apply the knowledge I acquired.
     This book is biblical, practical and extremely interesting. If any one is looking to further their prayer ministry or counseling Help for the Fractured Soul is definitely one to add to your library.

Check out Nick Vujicic's Latest: Unstoppable

     I am SO excited about this upcoming release from Nick Vujicic. In fact, I would say I am giddy. Nothing about Nick's message shows God's love and grace more than his radiant joy. Sure he is what we would consider handicapped, but Nick doesn't let that stop him from living out God's love, joy and peace. It is not that he dismisses his physical limitations, but embraces them and finds a new way for common everyday tasks. Mr. Vujicic understands his story is a part of His greater, larger story.
     Just a couple weeks ago my family had the honor of hearing him speak at Greg Laurie's Harvest L.A. It was truly the highlight of our day. My daughter is absolutely amazed at the life Nick leads as am I. God has used Nick to lift people up from an eight-year-old girl to a mom of three in my family alone. It is incredible to see Nick's reach across the globe.
    So, to get everyone pumped up about Unstoppable slated to release in two weeks WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing has given us a sneak peek. Check out the trailer below. I really hope you are as inspired as I find myself every time I see or hear his story. Enjoy, be inspired and live life for God's glory!

Read the first chapter from Unstoppable here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book Review: It May Help You Find Your Fill

      I recently received a complimentary copy of A Sudden Glory: God's Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing in exchange for a review. Everyone is born with a longing for more, a hole to fill. Author Sharon Jaynes refers to that void as a "glory ache." It is our innate desire for God that sends us on a quest to fill that hole. Until we understand the "glory ache" we will continue to fill it with worldly pursuits.
     The book's premise is based upon Acts 17:28, "For in him we live and move and have our being." Jaynes guides the reader to find that holy union with God. She shows you how to live and move and have our being with God. It is an every day awareness of His presence that will help us live in the Kingdom. A Sudden Glory invites you to see God's glory in the little moments, as well as the bigger ones, the happy ones and the most difficult. When the sunset speaks to your heart that is the Spirit seeking union with you. When your loved one passes He will show you His love in the thick of the pain, if you are willing to see. God is always seeking us out as a lover courts his beloved. It is when a woman realizes that she is beautiful in His sight and sought after, she will realize she is a part of the greatest love story of all.
     I was mesmerized by the author's eloquent dance with her pen. The words glide seamlessly from one page to the next. Jaynes uses a rather ornate vocabulary to paint a vivid portrait of God's love. Her joy of writing comes to life for the reader. Every chapter flows together connecting the various parts to make a cohesive whole.
      When I began reading I had planned on seeing a one-two-three, do-this-and-find-God approach. Instead, the book is more of a guide to activate a new way of thinking rather than a manual. Some may be disappointed that A Sudden Glory does not tell you what to do. However, as I read through it I found my thinking more upon the Lord. I was more aware of His presence and enticements to draw me near. His glory truly abounds every day
     A Sudden Glory exceeded my expectations. Although I do hold low expectations, particularly with an author I am unfamiliar with, as to not be disappointed. My bar could have been raised and the book still would have surpassed those standards. In the back there is a nice study that goes chapter by correlating chapter. It would be a wonderful gift for the struggling believer or a great addition to center your attention upon our Greatest Love. This book will woo you with beautiful writing as God woos you with his glorious, infinite love.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Review: Introducing 20+ Religions

     Bethany House Publishers furbished a complimentary copy of  Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day by Garry R. Morgan. Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day is a small, enjoyable guide to over 20 world religions. The author introduces you to many religions from Christianity to Buddhism to animism. There are so many religions in the world today it is hard to make heads or tails of many of them. Morgan recognizes the  varying sects and beliefs within each religion, but tries to give a brief generalization of the main practices, histories and beliefs.
      Some religions are given several chapters to do the depth and prevalence in our world. It must be noted that Morgan is a Christian. However, he attempts to write with a neutral, unbiased perspective. A couple of times a Christian perspective abounds. Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day is a great reference book, particularly for the Christian who wants to evangelize others of various beliefs. It is crucial to have a grasp of other religions to show respect for unbelievers. Without this knowledge one could easily offend another person without realizing their blunder.
     Other readers will find this volume enjoyable simply because it is extremely interesting. Society has become so diverse with modern-day travel and technology we are bound to meet others of differing backgrounds and beliefs. If nothing else, the reader will close the book with a better understanding of other people and their world views. I certainly did.
     Each of the 40 chapters were short and concise. There were only a couple of chapters I found dry. Other than that I have no complaints. Do not expect to be a master of theology after reading this. Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day will inform the reader and possibly whet their appetite to further their religious studies. Whether it is picked off the bookstore shelf as another read, a beginning study or to equip oneself to evangelize this book will certainly hold your attention. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review: Fell for this Fiction

     Bethany House Publishers provided a complimentary copy of Touching the Sky in exchange for an honest review.  The Civil War has just ended when Laura Marquardt finds herself in the midst of the lingering smoke in Corpus Christi. Her family was ousted with many others that supported the Union's cause who now truly want to move forward with their neighbors. Miss Marquardt wants to follow her faith and help educate the recently-freed slaves. However, some in the town want to further define those dividing lines that many men had lost their lives trying to blur.
     Laura's sister weds a man she has hardly any knowledge of and gives into her heart's enchantment. It is only after the wedding she understands Laura's numerous warnings were meant to protect her from her husband, a Confederate soldier, and not out of jealousy. When Laura foils the plans of her brother-in-law's posse she valiantly looks death in the face to save her sister and the lives of Union soldiers.  Despite the lingering heartache she meets Union Army Captain Brandon and realizes she has fallen for the handsome man faster than she thought possible. It is here Laura learns that sometimes one must follow their heart.
     Well-renowned Christian author, Tracie Peterson, manages to capture a vast array of emotions with depth and clarity. Not every author delves so well into the heart of every character. The reader will get  a real sense of the fear and anguish, as well as joy and love that is woven into one narrative. The characters are multi-faceted, particularly Miss Laura Marquardt. By the end of the book I felt as if I knew her for much longer than Touching the Sky's 331 pages.
     Peterson invokes the age of the narrative with a dusting of vintage words and phrases, though it is written with a modern pen. The mannerisms of the characters and setting of the piece also lend a hand to bring the 19th century back to life. Yet, I never was annoyed with overuse of such tools. Peterson's gift is well displayed.
      My favorite aspect of Touching the Sky was how she incorporated faith into the book. Both Laura and Brandon are close to the Lord, but not zealously so. Initially, their Union support is what drew them together. Yet, it was the natural outward extension of their faith that knits their hearts together. With that said, make sure you are a romantic at heart to pick up this book. If you are not, you will probably be disappointed. Every now and then I love a good romance without the fluff. Touching the Sky delivers just that within a historical background. The only downside was the story ended.
     Just an extra note: Apparently, this book is part of a series, Land of the Lone Star. I was well unaware of that fact and found this book to be very enjoyable without having read the first in the series. Touching the Sky stands alone as a great book itself.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Book Review: A Sobering Read with a Chance for Hope

     Recently I was given  a complimentary copy of Implosion:Can America Recover from its Economic and Spiritual Challenges in Time? in exchange for an honest review. Author Joel C. Rosenberg begins to dissect the gloomy state of affairs that are currently befuddling the American climate. Rosenberg addresses both the political and economical hardships that America has endured, particularly in the last decade, with sobering clarity. Subsequently, he turns his attention to what he calls the "third lens," that of biblical Scripture. Does the Bible forecast such dissent among the people and what are the end results forecasted? Implosion encourages readers to look at the issues for themselves, while presenting very biblical-guided reason to draw conclusions.
     With that in mind, he goes on to look at Israel, as a nation and people, who have been punished and blessed by God throughout the ages. What are the reasons to support the state of Israel as a Christian? Rosenberg does not hold back and concludes that with the changing weather in America and around the world once can surmise the End Days are approaching. Different scenarios are presented and walked through including financial implosion, war and terrorism, natural disasters and the Rapture.
      Where is the hope you ask? Implosion brings in the historical accounts of the First and Second Great Awakening. This is where we can begin to see that revival among the nations is possible as it has been done before. This is where believers can choose to live in hope and let His light shine through them. Rosenberg is not naive or ignorant. He knows it will take work and a great faith to overcome the present-day challenges in the United States. Yet, if we give up now, what will carry us forward? Hope and faith have carried many people and nations great distances.
     As I read Implosion I was hit with an array of emotions. Looking back, what I remember most is the urgency I sensed. As a Christian I have hope in the Lord. However, it is not just about the individual believer nor the nation; it is about the world. It is interesting to realize the hope we need for the world begins with each person. The last few chapters give the reader applicable steps to take to help calm the impending storm.
     I enjoyed the book as it was enlightening, though it is a little heart-breaking at points. Rosenberg engages the reader with clear, understandable writing, even though the material is anything but light-hearted. Implosion is a work full of passion and depth. For every Christian believer who loves their nation and wants to witness change Implosion would be a great starting point. We can either watch the storm brew or hope to see the barometric pressure drop.