Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

Thought provoking and challenging!
“Why does the church stir up such negative feelings?” Philip Yancey has been asking this all his life as a journalist. His perennial question is more relevant now than ever: in a twenty-year span starting in the mid-nineties, research shows that favorable opinions of Christianity have plummeted drastically—and opinions of Evangelicals have taken even deeper dives.

The end of the politics-oriented Evangelicalism that was so dominant in the second half of the 20th century is a strong example that we are living in a post-Christian culture.
Yet while the opinions about Christianity are dropping, interest in spirituality is rising. Why the disconnect? Why are so many asking, “What’s so good about the “Good News?”
Yancey’s writing has focused on the search for honest faith that makes a difference for a world in pain. In his landmark book What’s So Amazing about Grace he issued a call for Christians to be as grace-filled in their behavior as they are in declaring their beliefs.
But people inside and outside the church are still thirsty for grace. What the church lacked in its heyday is now exactly what it needs to recover to thrive. Grace can bring together Christianity and our post-Christian culture, inviting outsiders as well as insiders to take a deep second look at why our faith matters and about what could reignite its appeal to future generations.
How can Christians offer grace in a way that is compelling to a jaded society? And how can they make a difference in a world that cries out in need?
Yancey aims this book at Christian readers, showing  them how Christians have lost respect, influence, and reputation in a newly post-Christian culture. “Why do they hate us so much?” mystified Americans ask about the rest of the world.  A similar question applies to evangelicals in America.
Yancey explores what may have contributed to hostility toward Evangelicals, especially in their mixing of faith and politics instead of embracing more grace-filled ways of presenting the gospel.  He offers illuminating stories of how faith can be expressed in ways that disarm even the most cynical critics.  Then he explores what is Good News and what is worth preserving in a culture that thinks it has rejected Christian faith.

My Review

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey is a thought provoking work that dives deep into the heart of grace and questions whether Christians are accurately communicating the message of the cross to a hungry and hurting world.  As with his previous work:  What’s So Amazing About Grace  published in 1997, the reader should be prepared to have their toes stepped on…ouch!! 

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey takes a purposeful look at the way the gospel is being presented in churches today.  After reading this book, I have a greater awareness and appreciation for how I communicate the message of Christ.  Philip Yancey presents the idea that a large percentage of churches in America have steered away from grace and veered toward a harsh and often judgmental presentation of the gospel.  The question submitted is one for careful consideration.  Has the church, as a whole, whether purposefully or inadvertently, turned our pews into more of an arena of arrogance and condemnation rather than a place of acceptance and healing?  This question forms the foundation for the entire book.  Yancey does a magnificent job of exploring the possibility that far too many churches are missing the one thing that matters most to effectively share the love of Christ.  That “one thing” is simple the word- grace.  

Vanishing Grace challenges the reader (especially the Christian reader) to consider the possibility that we have in many cases handled the message of Christ with an extreme amount of forceful theology and too little mercy and grace.  Yancey identifies that there are a large number of people he labels “post Christians” (those who have at one time chosen Christianity and then chosen to leave it) in the population that have had a negative experience with the church setting due to an environment of critical perfectionism and useless pious attitudes. 

Philip Yancey does not leave the reader with hopelessness, however.  He does a phenomenal job of drafting ideas for how to live out grace in a more effective manner.  He throws down the challenge that we MUST press on in the fight against injustice.  He references early Christian movements that were paramount in ending human atrocities, such as the Roman time period when gladiatorial games and infanticide were rampant and including recent campaigns against abuses of slavery and sexual trafficking. 

Vanishing Grace cautions that the Christian should choose battles wisely.  He writes, “The more Christians focus on tangential issues, the less we will be heard on matters of true moral significance.”  He asserts that we should keep priorities of the Bible as our focus.  He encourages that a Christian should fight our battles carefully and with an abundance of grace.  Yancey reminds us that the terms “illegal and immoral” are not the same and that our morality cannot be forced on a society.  He warns Christians to keep church and state separate.

This is a very deeply moving book and requires time to fully absorb each of the ideas and challenges that Yancey proposes.  It is not a quick read, as it engages a level of pondering that will bathe you in reflection.  Vanishing Grace will encourage you to be a “grace dispenser” through that of a “pilgrim, activist, or artist” as identified by your calling to Christ.

Thank you to Zondervan Publishing for this Review Copy of Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey through the BookLook Bloggers program.  I was not required to write a favorable review of this work.  The opinions within the review are strictly my own.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Book Review: Spiritually Strong~The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Building Your Body and Soul by Kristen Feola

This book is loaded with tangible nuggets of applicable counsel.
Spiritually Strong is a six-week program designed to help you get in better shape spiritually and physically. As Timothy says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (4:8). This book teaches you how to train yourself in godliness through the implementation of six disciplines—Bible study, prayer, fasting, healthy living, financial stewardship, and serving others.
By exercising your spiritual core on a daily basis, you will learn to:
  • Study the Bible and understand what God is saying to you.
  • Pray with power.
  • Incorporate periodic fasting into your life.
  • Honor God with your body through nutritious eating and exercise.
  • Practice good stewardship of the resources God has given you.
  • Serve others in humility as an outward demonstration of God’s love.
As you learn to submit to God in each of these areas of your life, you’ll discover the joy that accompanies self-discipline. Your daily steps of obedience will translate into giant strides in your walk with the Lord.

My Review:

Spiritually Strong: The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Building  Your Body and Soul by Kristen Feola is loaded with tangible nuggets of applicable counsel to enhance your walk with the Lord.  This book is definitely worth your attention as the author pairs her passion for the Lord together with her Personal Training expertise in a winning combination to bring about positive transformation in the life of the reader!   

Spiritually Strong:  The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Building Your Body and Soul by Kristen Feola is a straightforward no nonsense look at how to directly apply the truths of God’s word to nearly every area of the reader’s life.  The book’s main theme is the fundamental principle that to gain an increased spiritual awareness in one’s life, it is essential that we develop our heart, soul, and body through structured daily disciplines.  The ideology that “you cannot be a disciple without discipline” is a repetitive message consistently conveyed throughout the reading of this work. 

Utilizing an abundant amount of scripture references coupled with many quotes from renowned theologians for confirmation, Feola’s stand on an active pursuance of Christ through aggressive self management is clear.  She is candid and authentic throughout the book, as she shares struggles and challenges that she has encountered at various junctures in her life.  She is very encouraging and assures the reader that persistence and submission will translate into a more meaningful and joyous relationship with the Lord. 

Feola provides a beautiful picture of what a strong relationship with the Lord should look like as she reflects upon her own walk with God.  She asserts that the key to obtaining such closeness to Christ is through a consistent disciplined plan.  She breaks down the significant areas of focus into six divisions: bible study, prayer, fasting, healthy living, financial stewardship, and serving. 

The final portion of the book lays out a six week program designed to help the reader become a more spiritually and physically strong person.  Each day of the week is methodically organized into six a fore mentioned categories with a specific action plan provided under each heading.  Feola provides a detailed blueprint of the day beginning with the study of God’s word conjoined with a responsive prayer and progressing with ideas for meals, exercise, money, and service projects.

This is book is a great resource.
I was very excited to read Spiritually Strong: The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Building Your Body and Soul, because of my previous and continued experience with the book: The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast Diet by Kristen Feola.  I found this maiden voyage book to be filled with a plethora of wonderful devotions and delicious healthful recipes to feed my heart and tummy.  I have utilized (and continue to use) her first book throughout the years, as you can see from the dog eared pages and highlighted recipes.  After reading this latest book, I am certain that within a year or two, it too will have a worn look from much page turning and referencing.

Kristen’s desire to see people grow closer to the Lord through daily discipline is clearly perceptible in this soon to be released book: Spiritually Strong~The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Building Your Body and Soul.  Her enthusiasm is contagious.  You will be enriched and enlightened after reading this book!  Pre-order here.  This book will be released January 6, 2015.

Thank you to Zondervan Publishing for this Review Copy of Spiritually Strong by Kristen Feola.  I was not required to write a favorable review, only to read this work in its entirety.  The opinions within the review are strictly my own.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Keep Your Armor On~God Can Handle This

Ephesians 6:13(MSG)
Be prepared.  You're up against far more than you can handle on your own.  Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet.

Last night's prayer service at our church was beautiful.  There is certainly something to be said about the children of God gathering together in one accord.  Making the conscious decision to brave the cold weather and worship the King of Kings must earn a person some sort of extra jewel in their crown...right?  Not really...I'm just joshing you :).  

Keep Your Armor On~God Can Handle This
But seriously, it is such a privilege to be able to come before the Lord without fear and in the spiritual freedom of worship.  Our pastor, David Lindell reminded us of that. I'm never sorry that I've gone to the House of God. Generally, when I leave, I'm walking away with a stronger resolve to fight the good fight;  a deeper commitment to put Christ and the cross before me and the world behind turning back. (Okay...those aren't my words...that's from a song we sang during worship...but it's so true!  If you want to hear the whole song entitled: Christ Is Enough-Hillsong click here.)  

Before the concentrated prayer time last evening, we studied Ephesians 6:10-13.  These verses are a strong reminder that as we take up our shield and put on our armor to fight the enemy, we should leave it on. There isn't a time when we take it off and then put it back on.  It needs to be on all the time, because we never know when the darts of Satan might be trying to strike us.  What a great picture of the need to stay in His Word and live out the acknowledgement that He is ever near to us!  He is our rock....our fortress....our shelter.  I've already prayed for you as you're reading this....that God will make Himself undeniably real to you today! 

Almighty Father,
You are so good to have provided us with protection from Satan and his demonic parade. Help me to leave the armor in place, so that I am safeguarded and shielded from the fiery darts that are flung my way.  Thank you for supplying Your strength and covering for the battles we each face on a daily basis. 
In Christ's name,

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Dog Lucy

Psalm 119:85(MSG)
The arrogant godless try to throw me off track, ignorant as they are of God and His ways.

It doesn't take much to throw me off track these days.  I don't know if it's my age or what.  I mean let's be candid, I am pushing 50 years on this planet....that's 350 years for a dog!  Holy smokes!  That's half a century!! Perhaps another contributing factor could be the extraordinarily large amount of information that is available to me at the swipe of a screen. I suppose it could be a combination of both, but it's definitely a constant battle for me to stay on task and I don't think it's got anything to do with the "arrogant godless" this time.  

Here's the real deal. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that we are living in a world that is too busy.  Good grief, the things I can do now that weren't provided even a mere ten years ago is mind boggling!  I can check e-mails while I'm brushing my teeth.  It's not uncommon for me to look at the weather radar while I'm cooking dinner.  I frequently find myself reviewing all of the latest news events as I'm sitting in the car line waiting to pick my daughter up from school.  Oh yes, and there's Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blogs, etc....etc. Great. Or is it? 

I'm not sure what the answer is there, but I am sure of one thing.  When I do derail and inadvertently switch tracks, I usually end up falling behind on what I had intended to accomplish.  When that happens, my stress level goes way up. When my stress and anxiety go "God ways" and certainly my God awareness go down.  Uh-oh... 

Did you know looking into a loving dog's eyes will increase
 endorphin (neurotransmitters that decrease stress)
 release in your body?  This is case
you don't have one of these at home and need
a little stress reduction today.
This is a picture of my dog, Lucy.  She is a beautiful cockapoo who brings so much joy into our home.  I am a firm believer in the stress relieving capabilities of a friendly pet. No surprise there, as they are one of God's biggest blessings to us humans!  You may not agree with that, but this is my blog, so I get to freely voice my opinions :).  Anyway, as awesome as she is, if I multiply that times infinity, my answer will still not compare to the stress relief that I find at the foot of the cross as I look into the eyes of my Savior.  He is certainly the biggest stress reducer of them all.  I hope you'll agree with that one!

Thank you that I am created to be known by You.  I am so grateful that I don't have to hide from You.  You know when I sit and when I rise.  You discern my thoughts from afar.  You know, Oh God, a word before it is even on my tongue.  What freedom to know Your loving eyes are upon me.  What comfort to acknowledge that we don't have to live under the burden of stress or fear because of Your sacrifice.  (Psalm 139)
Oh...and thank You for these beautiful creatures that you have given us to enjoy.

In Christ's Name,

Friday, October 31, 2014

Book Review: Motherless by Erin Healy

2 Corinthians 12:9(MSG)  
My grace is enough;  it's all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

                          Motherless by Erin Healy

A whispering voice at the back of my mind reminds me that I’ve been this way for some time. Dead, that is.

Motherless by Erin Healy
A five star graceful mystery!
The dead have a very broad view of the living, of actions performed out of sight, of thoughts believed to be private. I would know. Losing both parents is a trial no child should endure, and Marina and Dylan have endured enough. They deserve the one thing I could never give them: a mother’s love.
A mother’s love, and the truth.
My children have believed a lie about me for years and years. After all this time I can still feel their hurt in my heart. But the tether holding me to them is frayed from years of neglect . . . and I have to find a way to make my confession before it snaps.
But when the truth comes out, what other beasts will I unleash?
“Why do we lie to the children?” someone asked me once.
“To protect them,” I answered.
How terrible it is that they need protection from me.

My Personal Review

Motherless by Erin Healy is the suspense filled mystery of the year!  This book will engage the reader from start to finish as the interlocking characters twist their way through the pages.

Motherless by Erin Healy has earned the title "top favorite fiction read of the year" award on my list! This novel to be released  November 11, 2014 will have the reader shaking their head with intrigue as they forge ahead in rapid page turning succession (or swiping for those E-readers out there:).  As with her previous books, it is difficult to put Motherless down once you get started.

Now, before I continue, I must confess that I am admittedly an Erin Healy enthusiast.  I jumped aboard the "fan" wagon with her publication of the books:  Afloat and Stranger Things and I somewhat obsessively watch for her new releases to snatch them up. Why? Because Erin not only entertains the reader with her creative mind, but she also manages to simultaneously bring awareness to a culturally relevant subject matter.  The themes within her books are usually hot topic buttons that our society has tried to gently brush under the rug or items that we feel somewhat uncomfortable talking about.  

Motherless by Erin Healy manages to present the subject of mental illness through the life of one of the main characters with a respectful authenticity that is very believable.  The obstacles that an individual suffering with a mental health illness have placed before them are infinite and immense.  The responsibility that a family dealing with an afflicted loved one must bear is communicated throughout the book with inventiveness and truth.  The layers of guilt, shame and regret for past mistakes in the handling of the afflicted individuals behavior are also scrolled throughout the character's hearts and minds.   

As I began reading the first few chapters of the book, I quickly found myself (for my older readers out there) thinking of the movie, Ghost with Patrick Swayze.  The way in which the main character, Garrett is able to see the earthly happenings of his family and minimally convey his presence, despite their inability to make the connection is quite similar to the 1990 film.  As the book proceeds, there is a similarity to Charles Dickens' novella A Christmas Story released in 1893, wherein Ebenezer Scrooge finds himself reviewing his life with ghosts from the past.  In this classic, of course, Scrooge takes a tally of all of the negative choices he has made while he inhabited the earth and applies them upon his awakening.

Do not be confused by my comparisons, however, this is not a rewrite of a tried and true Christmas time classic.  This book is written for today's readers swirling through a wild current of mental health issues as lived out in the lives of several of the family members. Motherless by Erin Healy will take the reader on a compelling, rousing, and soul stirring journey.  The message of hope and the constant undercurrent that God's grace and mercy really are enough to cover our inequities is an undeniable communication throughout the book.  This work is a mysterious and complicated thriller that you won't want to miss!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc for this review copy of Motherless by Erin Healy.  The thoughts expressed within this review are strictly my own. I was not required to give a favorable review of this work;  I was only required to read the book in it's entirety and render a transparent opinion.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hooray For Moms And Dads...Keep Going!

Psalm 119:84(MSG)
How long do I have to put up with all this? 

Good morning!!  On the heels of my review of the book: Their Name Is Today~Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold, I thought it would be appropriate to continue the "parenting encouragement".  The verse of the day is quite fitting to remind me that I must persevere in the parenting department...right?   

With that in mind, please click on the YouTube video below for a very fun song created by a Mom.  Our local radio station aired it today, and although I have heard it before, it made me laugh and brought a smile to my face once again.  I hope it will make you smile as well.  Have a great day!

The Mom Song

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: Their Name Is Today~Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold

This book has the power to
strengthen & encourage
parents!  Don't miss it!
There’s hope for childhood. Despite a perfect storm of hostile forces that are robbing children of a healthy childhood, courageous parents and teachers who know what’s best for children are turning the tide.

Johann Christoph Arnold, whose books on education, parenting, and relationships have helped more than a million readers through life’s challenges, draws on the stories and voices of parents and educators on the ground, and a wealth of personal experience. He surveys the drastic changes in the lives of children, but also the groundswell of grassroots advocacy and action that he believes will lead to the triumph of common sense and time-tested wisdom.

Arnold takes on technology, standardized testing, overstimulation, academic pressure, marketing to children, over-diagnosis and much more, calling on everyone who loves children to combat these threats to childhood and find creative ways to help children flourish. Every parent, teacher, and childcare provider has the power to make a difference, by giving children time to play, access to nature, and personal attention, and most of all, by defending their right to remain children.

My  Personal Review:

Their Name Is Today by Johann Christoph Arnold is a great book calling all parents to wake up and take a stand for their children…..NOW...while it is still today!! Reading this work highlights the daily challenges that parents are faced with in the increasingly electronic and over stimulating culture in which we live.  The author does not stop with merely informing us of the obstacles we face, but he also outlines significant and tangible solutions to equip the reader with a plan of action.  

Their Name Is Today by Johann Christoph Arnold is a call to reclaim our role as parents and step up to meet the true needs of our children in an ever changing, increasingly fast paced world, and inherently materialistic culture.  The book is not for the faint hearted as it illuminates a lot of the monstrous challenges that we face as parents in our attempt to raise well balanced, God fearing, respectful, productive adults in western civilization today. 

The author, Johann Christoph Arnold is a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, described as a Christian community.  His esteem for children and family is heartwarming and champions a desire within the reader’s heart to make a genuine effort to clearly identify the strengths and weaknesses within each of our children and respond appropriately.

The author has much to say about the way in which we should guide our children including ample time for them to be a child through play and plenty of outdoor nature exploration, as this is truly how they learn problem solving skills that will take them into adulthood.  Arnold also emphasizes the extreme importance of authentic human interactions and the danger of missing these opportunities due to time lost in electronic screens. 

There is much to learn within the pages of this book.  The urgency that is felt as one reads this text is contagious and presents the reader with the simple truth that our children really are only children for a short time, therefore, we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to give them the best of ourselves in a devoted manner, while it is still today.  Arnold reminds us that culture is constantly undercutting our job at every turn, but we must stand firm in our convictions. 

There is a spirit of love and compassion sprinkled with reverence from beginning to end in this book.  Arnold’s sincerity is clear and his mission is undeniable.  The message is a cry to put away our electronics; reprioritize our schedules to personally lead our children; be role models without hypocrisy; and to live with the constant reminder that “parenting is a privilege and not a problem!”  Do not delay in getting this book.  You will be a wiser parent for having read it!

Thank you to Plough Publishing House for this review copy of Their Name Is Today by Johann Christoph Arnold.  The opinions within this review are my own.  I was honored to have read this book, and feel that I have been given a gentle reminder of the importance of the job called, “parenting”.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: NIV Streams in the Desert Bible by L. B. Cowman Edited by Jim Reimann

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

NIV Streams in the Desert Bible by L. B. Cowman Edited by Jim Reimann

Are you in a desert experience? Let your thirsty soul be restored and refreshed through the daily devotions in the NIV Streams in the Desert Bible.
At some point in our lives, we encounter the trials and deep mysteries of the Christian faith. And when we do become like a thirsty traveler, what we most desire is for hope, comfort, and encouragement to burst forth like a sparkling, clear river.

The NIV Bible
translation paired with daily
devotions designed to quench your thirst
for a deeper connection
with the Lord.
The hopeful daily readings in this Bible promise to revive and refresh you—one of today’s generation of faithful sojourners—by providing daily devotions in modern, easy-to-understand language that beautifully captures the timeless essence of the original. These devotionals are presented alongside Scripture using the popular New International Version of the Bible.
While the devotions in this Bible were originally written by L. B. Cowman—a pioneer missionary in Japan and China from 1901 to 1917—this devotional Bible has been edited by James Reimann. It maintains the beauty of the original Cowman writings while making the devotionals more accessible for the readers of today.
• Complete text of the clear, accessible NIV Bible
• 365 daily readings of strength and encouragement from L. B. Cowman
• Foreword by Jim Reimann

My Review:

NIV Streams in the Desert Bible by L. B. Cowman Edited by Jim Reimann is everything that you have come to expect when reading the NIV Bible translation, in addition to the spirit led depth of a daily devotion that will take your life journey to an even greater understanding of our Lord and His gracious love for us. 

This Daily Devotional Bible is organized and edited by Jim Reimann. The author has carefully edited each devotion from L. B. Cowman's original Streams in the Desert and identified a specific reference point of scripture implication that serves to enrich the comprehension of the devotion.  The format encourages a daily reflection utilizing the identified verses and expounds upon the culture, setting, and time period during which the verse was written.  This survey of history  illuminates a greater understanding of the message being conveyed within the verses.  There is also a wonderful Subject Index located in the back of the book for quick reference to a vast array of common themes including:  affliction, anxiety, blessings discouragement, and prayer... just to name a few.

The Bible: NIV Streams in the Desert Bible is quite unique in that the original author penned these ponderous words over 100 years ago, and yet because they are tied to the unchanging Word of God, they are as fresh and applicable (or perhaps even more so) today, as they were over a century ago!  I greatly appreciated the consistent thoughtful writings that make up this Devotional Bible.  Each of the 365 devotions are unique and provide the reader with a confidence in Christ;  they create a level of assurance in the scriptures that is not only refreshing and healing, but inspiring.

Another interesting point about this particular Bible is that a portion of the purchase price will go directly to Biblica, an organization that is dedicated to "transforming lives through God's Word".  Biblica was formerly known as the International Bible Society and they currently hold the initial copyright to the NIV Bible translation.  This organization is currently distributing the NIV Bible to 55 countries around the world.  That's pretty impressive!

I would highly recommend this NIV Devotional Bible to anyone who is wanting a user friendly study Bible filled with deeply personal insight into the NEVER changing Word of God.  This Bible will allow the reader to identify the promises of God and apply them to their life with fresh hope and sound doctrine.

I would like to thank Zondervan through the Book-Look-Bloggers program for this review copy of NIV Streams in the Desert Bible by L. B. Cowman & edited by Jim Reimann.  I was not required to write a favorable evaluation.  The opinions within this report are entirely my own.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Learning To Trust Him More

Genesis 9:13 (NIV)
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

Learning to trust Him more.

I'm very much enjoying the "NIV Streams in the Desert" Bible.  It is a  devotional Bible filled with 365 deep devotions from L.B. Cowman that have been set alongside the NIV scripture translation.  The single most obvious detail that I find incredibly astounding about these devotions is that they were written by this man over 100 years ago, and yet, they are as relevant and timely today as they must have been back then.  The reflections are complex and thought provoking and, at the same time, hold simple truths.    

I don't know what this day has in store for you, nor do I know what it holds for myself, but this short excerpt from one of the devotions, will surely bathe your soul in rest....I know it did mine.

"Remember, clouds are always moving ahead of Gods cleansing wind. 

I cannot know why suddenly the storm
Should rage so fiercely round me in its wrath; 
But this I know--God watches all my path,
And I can trust.

I may not draw aside the unseen veil
That hides the unknown future from my sight,
Nor know if for me waits the dark or light;
But I can trust.

I have no power to look across the tide,
To see while here the land beyond the river;
But this I know--I will be God's forever;
So I can trust."     L. B. Cowman

Thank you for the promise you have given to always be watching over us and to gently remind us that we are "Yours forever".  May You continue to show us Your love and favor today.  Help me to have more trust and less doubt.
In Jesus name,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: Never Ever Give Up: The Inspiring Story of Jessie and her Joy Jars by Erik Rees

The book, Never Ever Give Up:  The Inspiring Story of Jessie and Her Joy Jars by Erik Rees with Jenna Glatzer is a beautiful message of hope and courage lived out in a little girl's life as she faced cancer head on.  In this book, Jessie Rees challenges each one of us to make this world a better place by thinking of other's needs before our own and reaching out to spread joy through acts of kindness...especially to those children battling cancer.
This is a tender and beautiful book
that challenged me to look
beyond myself to the needs
 of others.
"It started with a simple question: How can we help them? It became an international movement called NEGU: Never Ever Give Up. When Jessica Joy Rees was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor at age 11, she chose to focus not on herself but on bringing joy and hope to other children suffering from cancer.

During the ten months she battled cancer, she and her family worked in the “Joy Factory” (originally their garage) making JoyJars®—packages filled with toys, games, and love for other kids with cancer. Jessie first handed them out personally at the hospital where she was being treated, but the effort blossomed quickly and there were soon thousands of JoyJars® being distributed across the United States and to over fifteen countries. Today, more than 100,000 kids have received JoyJars®, and they continue shipping each week to kids in over 200 children’s hospitals and 175 Ronald McDonald Houses.

Jessie lost her battle with cancer in January 2012, but her message lives on in the Jessie Rees Foundation, which has become a beacon of hope for families fighting pediatric cancer.

Join the movement at " (Excerpt from the book cover.)

My Review by Karen Wiser

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  This is a perfect time to read an informative book about this dreadful disease and increase our understanding of how we can help.  Never Ever Give Up is just the book!

Never Ever Give Up by Erik Rees with Jenna Glatzer is a wonderful book and I highly recommend reading it.  This tenderly written true story narrated by the father of Jessie Rees, elicits so much emotion due the weightiness of the subject matter, pediatric cancer, that I must confess, I was exhausted after reading it.  I'm sure that being a parent, I frequently put myself in the father and mother's position as they walked through each new trial of this horrible diagnosis pronounced on their previously healthy and vivacious daughter.  The raw emotion and the transparency in which the book is written provide the reader with a microscopic look at the behind the scene details of such an earth shattering diagnosis and how it impacts the entire family. 

This book touched me in several ways.  First, I will now be better equipped to help a family who is going through the dreadful diagnosis of pediatric cancer.  At the end of the book, the author lists "25 Ways To Help a Family With a Child Fighting Cancer."  This is a tangible list with practical things to do for the family, including ideas like making a meal or filling up the car gas tank to cleaning their house or babysitting the siblings. 

Secondly, I have a much deeper understanding of the exhaustion, confusion, fear and turmoil that a family will go through when they receive a pediatric cancer diagnosis. The book provides a candid look into this family's experience which will allow me to be a great deal more empathetic should I ever be confronted with this horrific situation. 

Finally, after reading Never Ever Give Up , I am reminded of the simplicity of a child's heart and faith through Jessie's determination to make her situation more about helping others than focusing on herself.  I am flabbergasted by her selfless acts of kindness as she made the Joy Jars and chose to center her life on bringing relief to others despite the pain and suffering she was in the middle of.  I am completely in awe at the way Jessie and her family have chosen to make something good out of this terrible situation.  It has given me hope and spurred me on to literally "Never Ever Give Up" on reaching a hurting and lonely world, one person at a time! 

This book is narrated with such grace and detail that the reader can't help but feel that they actually had the privilege of meeting Jessie!  It is eloquently written and has an authenticity that cannot be underscored.  What a great example Jessie Rees left for us in her short time here on earth.  "I you?"  (NEGU Nation)

I would like to thank Handlebar and Zondervan Publishing for this review copy of Never Ever Give Up.  The opinions in this review are my own.  It is a privilege and honor to be a part of this book launch.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: Sarah's Choice by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue

Sarah’s Choice by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue is not only an entertaining novel, but moves beyond mere fictional enjoyment into the sensitive subject of a woman’s ability to chose life or death for her unborn child.

This is an excellent book about a
very sensitive subject!
Sarah’s Choice by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue is a thought provoking and compassionate look at one woman’s journey through the emotions of an unplanned pregnancy.  As the world of the main character, Sarah is unveiled; the reader gets a peek into her life both past, present and future.  She is a hardworking executive with lots of plans for corporate ladder advancement, all of which would be ruined in her mind if she is to become an unwed mother.  Her perspective on life and love are formulated by those in her immediate surroundings and she is beyond confusion as to what path she should take.

The book does an excellent job of placing the reader within Sarah’s mind and experiencing the anguish of a decision with such enormous implications.  If she chooses to keep the child, her ability to meet the goals she has established for her career will certainly be in jeopardy, not to mention the inability to pay off many mounting debts.  There is also an underlying fear that Sarah will not be a fit mother to the child due to her inexperience as a caretaker.  And, of course, there is also the father to consider.  Will he want the child and if so, what will his role be in all of it?  If Sarah chooses to have an abortion, she is uncertain that she will be able to live with that decision knowing that she has killed her unborn child. 

Ultimately, the conclusion of this book provides empowerment and a plan of action that will not only guide this particular decision, but will steer the course of a life forever.  After reading this novel, I have a much greater level of compassion for anyone facing the dilemma of an unplanned pregnancy, as well as a deeper level of understanding of the possible daily grief that one lives with if they have already chosen to abort their child.

The character development in this book is phenomenal!  There is humor, suspense, drama, and many extra surprises along the way.  This was an excellent book!  It is well worth your time to read it and to contemplate the staggering statistics on the rate of abortion in this country.  This novel truly sheds light on the sanctity of life.

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson Publishing for this complimentary review copy of Sarah’s Choice by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue.  I was not required to give a favorable review.  The opinions within this review are my own.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Keep A Steady Gaze....God Is Always Up To Something Good

Psalm 119:83(MSG)
There's smoke in my eyes--they burn and water, but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions You post.

Hiding behind this tree, I had a rare chance to observe wildlife
and the beauty of God's creation today. 
                                             What a beautiful morning here in the Ozarks! 
We have an overgrown field complete with a pond and lots of thickets next to our house.  It provides a constant source of nature viewing pleasures.  Today, as I sat in our office staring out over the water where we often see wildlife sneaking out for a cool drink, I got a rare chance to see some new fawns interacting with her Mama!

I grabbed my camera and sprinted out to this hiding spot behind the tree and kept a very "steady gaze".  It definitely paid off to keep the camera in focus and not move a muscle!  I got to partake in some rare interactions between this doe and her new babies!  What a treat!   

She could hear me, however, she never could find me.

Mama knew I was there.  She kept looking for me, but never did spot me.  Each time the shutter clicked, I could see her freeze and listen, but my hiding place was secure.

Cleaning her little one and giving some words of wisdom.

Here she's stopping to clean the water off her sweetheart and perhaps whisper some motherly
advice about not going to far into the water. 

I think she sees me here, but doesn't seem to sense
that there is any danger, so she continues
her does her fawn.

I'm pretty sure that she saw me at this point, but barely breathing and holding my position steady, she went on to finish eating.  As you can see, I caught her fawn eating, too.  After this shot, I snuck away undetected to allow them to finish their morning drink! 

Most Wonderful Creator,
Thank you for this incredible gift today!  I know that I am surrounded by Your me to keep a steady focus on You, so that I can forever see the world through Your lens.
In Christ's name,

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: Arms Open Wide~A Call To Linger in the Savior's Presence by Sherri Gragg

Arms Open Wide by Sherri Gragg is a beautifully written devotional book that brings a greater depth of understanding to the gospels and a renewed sensitivity to the never ending love of Christ.
A wonderful book that draws us to
of a loving Savior.
Arms Open Wide by Sherri Gragg is a tender devotional.  Each individual section of the book leads off with a scripture reading from the gospels and then flows seamlessly into a narrated dialogue from the perspective of a character found within that particular Bible story.  Each section ends with a transparent prayer that draws the reader further into a heart of worship to an approachable and loving Savior.  The author's ability to take nuggets of cultural research and transfer them onto the page for effortless interpretation is a unique gift.  There is a glossary of historical terms at the back of the book to be referenced as needed for a more complete understanding of the setting in which the events were occurring.  I found this list very helpful and enlightening.

The message of hope and freedom that can be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ was eloquently unveiled throughout the entirety of this book.  One specific section of reading that spoke directly to my heart was the story of Mary and Martha.  The author utilizes her extensive research into the treatment of women in this culture and time period and brilliantly connects the scriptures to the probable thoughts occurring within Martha's mind.  The conclusion is a much deeper comprehension of the Lord's desire that each of us come to Him for our fulfillment and not fall into the trap of allowing the world to define us.  Our potential is found in Him and our definition of who we are comes only from His defining grace upon our lives.  We are encouraged to sit at His feet and listen to the direction He has designed uniquely for each of us to follow.  

Upon receiving this book, I was very impressed with the cover design by Milkglass Creative.  In addition to the outstanding cover, the thick smooth paper quality of each individual page adds a richness to the experience that I would be remiss not to mention. 

I found this book, Arms Open Wide by Sherri Gragg, to be a wonderfully deep work of truth paired with an honest heart of creativity.  It truly does beckon the reader to linger and ponder the richness of the living God and respond to the loving redemptive care of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing for this review copy of Arms Open Wide by Sherri Gragg through the BookLook Bloggers program.  The opinions expressed within this review are my own.  I was not required to provide a positive review, but chose to do so of my own accord.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Review: How To Really Love Your Teen (The Acclamined Bestseller--Revised and Updated)

How to Really Love Your Teen by D. Ross Campbell, M.D. is a quick and practical read filled with timely and immediately applicable wisdom!  If you are a parent, grandparent, youth leader or anyone who has the privilege to impact the life of a teen, you have got to get your hands on a copy of this book!

Excellent and practical book!
This is my third time through reading this incredible book.  I purchased it back when my son was a youngster getting ready to go into his teen years, and now that I have another child entering this, sometimes precarious stage of life, I grabbed it for another read and ended up reading it through twice. 

Although, I am sad to report that the author of this book, has sense passed away in a tragic climbing accident, it must be of great comfort to his family to know that he has left a legacy that is still touching families all over the world today.  This short read (142 pages cover to cover) was originally published in 1981 and updated in 2003, however, before you dismiss it to be outdated, be aware that it is filled with valuable insights and appropriately organized nuggets of truth that will make your relationship with your teen stronger than ever!

This book succinctly outlines a plan to understand and relate better to your teen, no matter what your current relationship with them might be.  The author encourages us each to evaluate our own role modeling and tweak and adjust where needed.  The mere reminder that our youth in the teenage phase are actually "children" in transition and need to be treated with much care and attention was enough for me to give this book a five star rating.  The author exhorts us to put our lives in order, physically, morally, and spiritually because our children are learning from us everyday whether we are aware of it or not, so we had better be a positive influence!  The book then supplies the tools to begin a road to confident and calm teenage parenting! 

How To Really Love Your Teen by D. Ross Campbell was an excellent book and well worth your time to read! 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Emergency Preparedness National Day of Action~It doesn't take much time to BE PPREPARED

Psalm 119:82 (MSG)
My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of Your promise;  how long must I wait for Your comfort?

Storm clouds on the horizon.
Today is Emergency Preparedness National Day of Action.  It is a "FEMA-sponsored nationwide community based campaign to increase our emergency preparedness and resiliency" as quoted from the FEMA website.  I think the point is to study the geographical area in which you live, and prepare for the most logical scenario for a possible emergency.  I, personally, cannot manage to think about the large scale emergencies, such as, earthquakes and terrorist attacks, so I focus on the smaller more "manageable" emergencies.  In this area of the Midwest, of course, one thinks immediately of tornadoes and ice storms.  With the recent tornado outbreak, it is certainly fresh on my mind. 

We have a basement in our home, so I use our closet under the stairs as a shelter since it has a concrete wall on one side and is a small room.  The area fits all the "criteria" that I researched to make certain it was "the best" room for this function.  I have set it up according to the FEMA recommendations.  If you come with me inside the room, you will find:  water bottles, peanut butter, flash lights, blankets, pillows, weather radio, storm map, hammer, (supposed to be an axe...need to get one of those), change of clothes, first aid kit, a few good books (a given for any time you might be sitting with nothing to do, but not on FEMA's list...gasp)...etc.  It is not air tight, so it doesn't really provide shelter from an air born terrorist attack, and it's in the basement, so it's not a good quake protection I would want to be standing outside in the field for that one...but I digress. 

Storm Shelter
I think the point is this....I can't possibly prepare for every tragic scenario, but, I can surely focus on this one, sense it is truly a common threat that we are frequently faced with here in Missouri.  So, I took some time today and cleaned out my "shelter".  I changed out the batteries in all of the flashlights and storage box, which I might add had not been done in a LONG time apparently, based upon the many exploded batteries I found!  Interestingly, the brand Rayovac was the culprit.  All the Duracell and Heavy Duty were fine...a post for another day...perhaps...maybe even a  I replaced old water and snacks and made sure the radio was in working condition.  I shook out the blankets and pillows and rearranged the mattress.  That was easy...push that "easy button" here.  Now I am all "prepared".  How about you?  Are you prepared for whatever might come your way?  It didn't take me very long...and now I can rest assured knowing that I've done what I can do.  It's a nice feeling.

Today's Bible verse is a reminder to me that I need to be ever "watchful" and prepared to do my part to protect the life that He has given me and to guard my children's lives.  And to answer the question of the Psalmist about "how long must we wait for His comfort".....we don't have to wait at all for His comfort!  He is right here.....waiting for us!  We need only go to Him and He will wrap us in His comforting arms.

Thank you for the ability to provide protection to my family from storms.  I know that You hold us in the palm of Your mighty right hand.  May Your plans and promises always be fulfilled in our lives, so that Your name will be glorified!