Thursday, December 29, 2011

I just loved Dallas and the Spitfire by Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke. In this book, Ted tells of his experience fixing up an old car with a former cocaine addict, Dallas. Along the way, Ted is able to mentor and disciple Dallas. Through this story, we are able to witness the transformational work of the Holy Spirt in the lives of both Dallas and Ted.

The best part about this book is the humor of a real, down-to-earth guy, who feels less than worthy to be discipling a guy from such difficult beginnings. I think I laughed as some point on every page. Ted is so honest and real in his delivery. He truly represents a guy who can live in this world without being of this world. I think that is what made him such an effective mentor to Dallas. And yet, it is also undeniably evident that the Holy Spirit was at work as well. The reader is given a pretty grusome picture of what trials and temptations were at work in Dallas' life. It is truly amazing what an addict has to overcome. I cannot believe that full recovery is possible without the power of the Holy Spirit.

I highly recommend this book! It is a testiment to the effectiveness of discipleship through building relationships. It is an uplifting story of redemption, and it is an encouragement to Christians to be  functioning members of the body of Christ, not merely spectators. I have never read anything by Ted Kluck before, but I am now a fan. I look forward to reading more from him in the future!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It wasn't too long ago that I was thinking that I wanted a study that focused on the teachings of Jesus. And conveniently, R.P. Nettelhorst delivered. A Year With Jesus is a 365 day devotional guide that focuses on Jesus' own words. Each daily entry begins with Biblical text and concludes with reflections on the text by Nettelhorst. The daily entries are undated so that the reader can begin at any point during the year. The contents are organized in a very detailed table of contents and include the following general headings: Love and Hate, Truths and Lies, Arrogance and Humility, Friends and Enemies, Belief and Disbelief, Patience and Impatience, Deserved and Undeserved, Good and Evil, Fidelity and Treachery, and Life and Death. These daily readings will bring the reader to a closer relationship with the Savior and to a deeper understanding of our Lord.
I give A Year with Jesus by R.P. Nettlehorst 4 stars! I have no complaints, but I would like to see future editions with a spiral binding and space for writing thoughts and reflections. Thanks to for the free, advanced readers copy in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I am taking a hiatus from Rick Warren's 40 day challenge. I know...I feel weak and undisciplined...but honestly, if I were to go back to that study right now, it would only be out of a sense of guilt and obligation. I lost my momentum. But I do want to share that today, I began something new. I walked my stairs for 20 minutes today, with some funky upbeat dance music in the background to keep up my pace, while reciting a verse that I wanted to commit to memory. And here I am, post workout, ready to type my newly memorized verse:

God is not the author of confusion, but of peace... 1 Corinthians 14:33

Yea! I and I didn't even have to peek :). So, now, for a while at least, I am going to focus on scripture memory during my workout routine. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 20

Well, I am at the halfway mark...although, admittedly it has taken me longer than 20 days to get here. But I am committed to continuing the 40 day challenge, even if it takes me longer than that to finish.

Today's lesson was entitled, "Restoring Broken Fellowship." I like to call it, "Conflict Resolution." Here are the top insights I gleaned today:

1. Broken fellowship is a disgraceful testimony to unbelievers.

2. Peacemaking is hard work. It is not avoiding conflict or appeasement.

3. Use your ears more than your mouth. Focus on feelings, not facts, and remember that feelings are not always true or logical.

4. Remember our calling to be a living sacrifice? It is a sacrifice to patiently absorb the anger of others.

5. Practice humility by admitting your own mistakes.

6. How you say it is as important as what you say...For the sake of fellowship, you MUST destroy your arsenal of weapons, including condemning, belittling, comparing, labeling, insulting, condescending, and being sarcastic.

7. Peace always has a price tag. Sometimes it costs our pride, sometimes our self-centeredness.

I am very thankful that I have a husband who is willing to practice the art of conflict resolution with me :). Peacemaking is hard work, but when two are willing to work together, it makes it a lot easier. My prayer for couples out there is that both parties are willing to work equally as hard to maintain peace.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Days 17, 18, & 19

Much of the essence of American society today is centered around success at the expense of others, independence, individualism and entitlement. All of these things are contrary to what our focus should be as Christians. We are created to be interdependent. Today's culture has created many spiritual orphans, those who have no commitment to a church body, without any identity or accountability. Therefore, Warren urges Christians to return to the Biblical basics in the practice of church membership.

1. The church is a body, not a building; an organism, not an organization.

2. Our "family responsibilities" that God expects us to fulfill through local church membership include: loving one another, praying for each other, encourage, admonish, greet, serve, teach, accept, forgive, submit, and honor one another....

3. The church was created to meet our 5 deepest needs: a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on.

4. Every time you understand and affirm someone's feelings, you build fellowship.

5. Humble people are so focused on serving others, they don't think of themselves. You can develop humility by: admitting your weaknesses, being patient with others, being open to correction, and by pointing the spotlight on others.

The Biblical practice of church membership gives one many opportunities to practice fellowship and humility. Perhaps then, we can learn to love...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Days 15 & 16

The most important thing of all is LOVE. Time after time after time, the Bible tells us to show love. It is unfortunate that this characteristic is so hard for us to master. Our human nature is naturally self-centered. So, we must PRACTICE.

1. "Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples." (John 13:35) Jesus' wording makes it clear that love should result in visible evidence.

2. "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6) Showing love is an action, an expression of faith.

3. "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:14)  In this statement, Jesus acknowldges that our human nature is selfish. Therefore, we should understand that in order to show love to someone else, we should treat them as we would naturally treat ourselves...

4. The other part of that commandment is to love God. Visible manifestations of that love can be seen through our obedience. One very tangible action that expresses our obedience, is baptism. It symbolizes our participation in the fellowship of God's family, it declares your faith, symbolizes death to your old life and announces your new life in Christ. Baptism doesn't make you a member of God's family, only faith in Christ does that. Baptism shows you are a part of God's family.

Our life should be about PRACTICING love. Can others see that in your life?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Day 14

Today Warren focuses on those times when God seems distant. And while sin in our lives can definately make us distant from God, Warren also reminds us that there may also be other reasons for God to appear distant, as evidenced in the book of Job, that may be for reasons beyond our human knowledge. So, today's study reminds us to practice our faith despite how we "feel", as spiritual maturity is based on trust in God and his unchanging characteristics.
V. Raymond Edman said, "Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light." So, during those dark times, remind yourself of what you know to be eternally true...the promises laid out in God's word.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day 13

Today's focus was on worship that pleases God. Many wonder what denomination has it right, what style is most authentic, why some churches do this and others do that. Well, before today, my answer would have been, "God created us differently, so there are different denominations and worship styles to accommodate those differences." And while I think this position is still valid, today's study is helping me to refine it.

1. First of all, in the book of John, Jesus explains that the time, place, and style of worship is not as important as WHY you worship.

2. And yet, the bible says that there is a right and a wrong way to worship. Jesus says that the first commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30) And in John, He says that, "True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth..." (John 4:23)
What does that mean?

1. To worship in TRUTH: We cannot just create our own comfortable or politically correct image of God. That is idolatry.

2. We must recognize that we are a spirit that resides in a body and worship is our SPIRIT communicating with God.

3. If worship is MINDless, it is meaningless, "vain repetitions," using the words found in First Samuel. We were given a mind, and we are expected to use it to think, be specific, to ponder.

4. And when Jesus said, "with all your STRENGTH," he is recognizing that it takes effort and energy. It is part of being a willing, living sacrifice.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 12

1. Bitterness is the greatest barrier to friendship with God.

2. In James it states that God resists the proud, but when we "draw close to God, God will draw close to you." (James 4:8)

3. You will be as close to God as you choose to be. What is it worth to you?

4. "You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

God desires honest authenticity.....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fans of South Carolina, Charleston, and it's social structure, will enjoy Sunrise on the Battery by Beth Webb Hart. This story details the lives of the Scoville family, a rags to riches couple, who is able to rise to the social elite and provide everything they didn't have for their girls. And then, radical changes take place when Jackson discovers God and goes "all in." As their social status crumbles, Mary Lynn has to deal with the ramifications and decide whether this is a blessing or a curse.

For me, this novel was just "okay." I was somewhat bored by the emphasis placed on describing the South Carolina scenery, both physical and social. The major conversion event of the story did not happen until the final quarter of the book, and I would have preferred that it occur early on. I was more interested in the effects of the conversion, rather than the superficial social scene, on which the story focused. However, while I was not totally sold on this story, I see the merit for fans of South Carolina fiction.

Thanks to Booksneeze for providing a copy of this novel in return for my honest review.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 11

 I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing." I have often heard people scoff and claim that this is not possible. And others trivialize it by turning it into a type of game, challenge, or childish duty. I like the way it is presented in this day's study. It is referred to as "Practicing the Presence of God" a practice written about in the seventeenth century by a French monk.

I always like using the term, "practicing," when referring to challenges of my faith. We are not perfect and never will be in this life. But I can practice. The key is not changing what you do, but changing your attitude and mindset. Practicing the presence of God is a skill, a habit you can develop. And just as a musician or an athlete practices their skills, it is necessary to intentionally practice and train our minds to be unceasing in our conscious awareness of God's presence.  This leads to a lifestyle of worship.

Warren will present a total of 6 ways in which we can intentionally practice this lifestyle, but today's lesson only covers the first two: prayer and meditation.

Prayer lets us speak to God.

Meditation, or simply focused thinking and listening, lets God speak to you.
Days 9 & 10

1. "God is pleased with those who worship him and trust his love." (Psalm 147:11)

2. "We please God by what we do and not only by what we believe." (James 2:24)

3. Just as we parents enjoy watching our children enjoy the gifts we give them, God enjoys watching us enjoy the gifts He gives us.

4. Worship is a lifestyle..."a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer." (Romans 12:1)

5. Sacrifice, or surrendering, of your life is not resignation, fatalism, giving up rational thinking, or repressing your personality. Surrender is warring against our self-centered nature. And it is never just a one-time event. Being a living sacrifice is a lifelong practice of surrender.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 8

God has emotions, too! Well...I must admit that I don't think I really considered this before. It's not that I didn't know it, I just never really considered it. Isn't it just like a child to have this mindset? How often do we tell our own kids, "Hey! I have feelings, too!" I think I just thought of God as being above emotions. So, now that I am taking this into consideration, let me catalog what insights I gained from Rick Warren's study, today...

1. The Bible records a wide variety of emotions of God: He grieves, gets jealous, angry, has pity, feels sorrow, sympathy, and compassion, as well as happiness, gladness, delight, pleasure, and satisfaction. He even laughs!

2. So, is it any wonder that He would feel pleasure as he watches over His children? I feel immense pleasure when I watch my children, and we are created in His image. So, as a child of God, my actions are observed by Him. Do they bring Him pleasure? Embarrassment? Grief?

3. Anthropologists have noted that worship is a universal urge...we were made to worship. And if we fail to worship God, we will always find a substitute.

4. Worship is not something you do, it is a lifestyle. It is not about singing, performing ritualistic church traditions, ecstatic experiences, etc. It is the expression of your heart. Every activity you engage in reveals who or what you worship, whether it's conscious or not. Wow...

5. So..."Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Colossians 3:23)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 7

If God designed me, and my purpose is to live a life that brings glory to God, then I need to continuously be learning who He is. How? previous chapters of this study, it mentions prayer and reading the Bible. But, today's lesson gives a couple of more tangible and specific examples:

1. Creation reveals our Creator. "The heavens declare the glory of God." (Psalm 19:1)
In nature we can see that God is powerful, enjoys variety, loves beauty, is organized, wise and creative.

2. Jesus Christ illuminates God's nature. So, when reading the Bible, focusing on Jesus is a good way to discover God and how to live a life that brings Him glory.

3. Jesus honored God by fulfilling his purpose on earth. (John 17:4) Therefore, we can honor God by fulfilling His purpose for us.

4. As we journey through life seeking and fulfilling God's purpose for us, we can be assured that our path will include following the commandments of Jesus. John records one of Jesus' commandments in chapter 13, verses 34-35, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this alll men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Spiritual maturity is becoming like Jesus in the way we think, feel, and act.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Days 5 & 6

How can we know God's will?
Let God change the way you think through prayer and studying the Bible...Then, you will be able to know the will of God. (Romans 12:2)

1. Start seeing life from God's point of view.

2. Know that God wants you to pass the tests of life, and "He will not allow you to be tested beyond your ability to handle it." (I Corinthians 10:13)

3. God has entrusted his creation to us, and part of our purpose is to manage and take care of it. If we borrow something from a friend, we take special care of it, because it is not ours and we want to return it in the same condition. When we look at all that we are entrusted with as borrowed, we begin to look at it differently.

4. We are ambassadors for Christ; this is our temporary assignment. If we were U.S. ambassadors to another country, we would have to learn the language, adapt to customs, and learn cultural nuances in order to accomplish our mission. In the same way, we are to live in this world, but not forget where our loyalty lies. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

So, as the words of a current Carrie Underwood song states, "This is our temporary home...."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 4

Today's theme was that we were made to last forever. One verse stood out for me today, Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has put eternity in their hearts..." I have heard the first part of this verse many times, but the second part has escaped my notice until today. I think this is one of my favorite realizations, we yearn to immortalize ourselves because we were wired that way. We fear or resist death because we were made to live eternally. Fortunately, God provided. Death is not the end.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 3

1. Everyone's life is driven by something, be it guilt, anger, fear, materialism, the need for approval, etc.

2. But the greatest peace and happiness comes from a purpose driven life. Knowing God's purpose for your life gives meaning to it.

3. People who don't know their purpose try to do too much, causing unnecessary stress. Rick Warren warns to never confuse activity with productivity.

4. Focusing your activities on your purpose simplifies your life and provides motivation and passion.

So, I am going to claim God's promise, recorded by His prophet Isaiah, "You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you." (Isaiah 26:3) 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 2

Here are the top 3 insights for today from Rick Warren's, The Purpose Driven Life:

1. You are not an accident. If there was no God, we would all be accidents, a result of random chance in the universe.

2. God created the world to be inhabited, (Isaiah 45:18) and it is uniquely suited for our existence.
Dr. Michael Denton, senior research fellow in human molecular genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand confirms this statement, "...the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as its fundamental goal and purpose."

3. God's motive for creating us is LOVE. God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is the essence of God's character.

So...if we were created on purpose, we can find that purpose by focusing on the creator.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Today, I started Rick Warren's 40 day challenge in his book, The Purpose Driven Life. I really enjoyed reading and studying and reflecting on what my purpose is in this life. I was able to spend about 45 minutes on it this morning, and I thought, "How in the world would I be able to fit this in if I was working?" It made me very thankful that I am able to be a stay-at-home mom with the flexibility and time to commit to studies such as this. And I thought, "You know, if I share a brief snippet of what I came away with each day on my blog, maybe someone out there who is a lot busier than me, can also benefit." So, if you feel so inclined, feel free to check in. My posts will just be the top 5 or so things that stood out to me. Here's what I took away today (and remember, I am speaking to myself):

1. It's not about you.

2. You were created BY God and FOR God's purpose. (Colossians 1:16)

3. You must DENY yourself to live for Jesus. Self-sacrifice, as opposed to self-help, is the answer. (Matthew 16:24)

4. God clearly reveals His purpose for us in His word and through His Spirit. Our relationship with Jesus allows His Holy Spirit to dwell in us and reveal to us the things of the Spirit, which those who are not followers of Jesus see as foolishness. (1 Corinthians 2:10,14)

5. God's purpose is designed for eternity.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I absolutely love Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers! It is a fabulous 19th century version of the story of Gomer and Hosea. It is vivid and heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching, non-stop action throughout. Towards the end of the story, I found myself thinking, "She's leaving him again?! After all the unconditional love he has shown?! How much more will it take to convince her?" And then I realized that that is one of the aspects of this novel that makes it so perfect...Rivers expertly reveals the same message that God tells through the prophetic life of Homer and his relationship with Gomer: God is always waiting with unconditional love, to receive Isreal (and us) back into His arms again, and again, and again.

Friday, September 9, 2011

This sweet, sweet children's book by Sheila Walsh gives life and a visual interpretation to Psalm 91:11. Gabby is a guardian angel in training on her first assignment. She is sent to help protect a little girl named Sophie who is a fearless, spontaneous little girl after Gabby's own heart. Gabby takes her job to protect the one's that the Lord loves very seriously and she rises to the challenge.
Little girls will love the glittering, bright, and colorful illustrations throughout this story. They exude the sweetness and innocence of children and portray funloving children with angels watching over them. What a wonderful story to bring God's promise in Psalm 91:11 to life for little ones!
Thanks to for a copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What a great testimony of faith and survival by Michael Hingson in Thunder Dog: the true story of a blind man, his guide dog, and the triumph of trust at ground zero. Michael was on the 78th floor of the North Tower on September 11, 2001 and this is his tale of survival. I was thoroughly engaged in his story as he related his sensory experiences as a blind man, dependent on smells, sounds, and the guidance of his guide dog, Roselle. His harrowing tale details his trip down 78 flights of stairs, escaping the debris from the collapsing South Tower, gasping for air during the ensuing dust cloud, and the relief of safety he felt upon hearing the voice of his wife. Interspersed throughout, are his childhood experiences in which he found ways to overcome the challenges he faced as a blind person and how these experienced shaped him into the man his is today. This novel is a definite must read for those who enjoy tales of survival, heroic pets/service animals, and those who are encouraged by a testimony of a man overcoming obstacles by trusting in God's plan.
Thanks to for providing a copy of this book for my honest review.

Friday, June 10, 2011

April Grace is a down home country gal who lives in Cedar Ridge, Arkansas. She lives with mom, dad, an older sister, and a dog, and grandma lives just across the way. I chose to read this book because it seems very similar to my family's current situation...we live in rural Blue Ridge with grandma and her three dogs next door. So, I invited my daughter to read In Front of God and Everybody: confessions of April Grace along with me. We very much enjoyed it. It was a hoot listening to April Grace share her experiences about her new citified neighbors, her too-old-to-be-dating grandma, and her urban wannabe older sister. The story brings to life the preconceived notions that some city dwellers have regarding country folk, and as April Grace learns, that some country folk have about those from the city. So, for young or old, I would recommend reading these Confessions of April Grace by K.D. McCrite. My daughter recommends this book, "because it teaches the lesson: show everybody that you care for them, especially if they need some help in life."  I think it's pretty great to be able to read a book with your child and have them learn lessons of Christian love in the process, and I look forward to reading the next book in the April Grace series with her.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I loved this book! Unsinkable, by Abby Sunderland and Lynn Vincent,  is full of aspirations, adventure, action, challenge, vibrant descriptions, hope, adversity, success, growth, and so much more. Sixteen year old, Abby, shares the journey of her attempt to sail solo around the world. She reveals her experience with her supporters and with those who offered great criticism. She describes her longing for the sea, the satisfaction she feels as she conquors it and the frustrations she encountered when it was overpowering. Abby's descriptions of the weather conditions while on her sail were vivid and so engaging, that although I knew she survived, I was on the edge of my seat while reading. I find great admiration for the Sunderland parents. They have found a way to raise not just a couple, but eight children to be intelligent, level-headed problem solvers. They have provided opportunities for their children that enable them to use their gifts and mature at their own rate. And the opportunities for Abby only became greater as her sail ended. She has since spoken at NASA, universities, yacht clubs, and more. And last but not least, she is now a published author! I recommend this book to all who yearn to be inspired by real people who face real challenges and who overcome with the blessings of a real God.

I would like to thank for providing me with this complimentary copy of Unsinkable by Abby Sunderland and Lynn Vincent. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Band that Played On, by Steve Turner, is a recounting of the tragedy of the Titanic, focusing on the lives of the eight musicians who went down with the ship. Each of the eight musicians’ lives, prior to their voyage on the Titanic, is chronicled in their own chapter. They were all young, respectable men, leading relatively uneventful lives, who were passionate about their craft. Their deaths were hailed as heroic by surviving witnesses. This is the first biography to focus on the lives of these men, and for connoisseurs of Titanic history, it will be well received.

Regrettably, The Band that Played On, was not well received by me. Most of the tale was written in the style of a monotone history book. These men did not have noteworthy lives prior to their experience on the Titanic, and as such, did not make for interesting reading material. The interesting parts of the book were near the end, and unfortunately, contained much speculation as to what the musicians must have been doing during the sinking. Granted, there were many accounts reported of witnesses hearing the band’s music while disembarking to the lifeboats, but they are very contradictory. The author attempts to sort through these accounts and come up with a best case scenario as to the actual occurrences, but in truth, just overstated the possibilities. I felt like if I read the phrase, "Nearer my God to thee" again, I was going to have to throw in the towel. Ultimately, Turner ends the book with a sort of obituary tribute to each of the men. Ironically enough, this is the part I found most interesting. Contrary to the relatively uneventful lives of the men before the Titanic, some of their surviving family members went on to have some entertaining experiences.

So, while I will not recommend this book to my friends as an entertaining biography, I do recognize it’s merit as a worthy historical compilation. Steve Turner was very thorough in his research and retelling of a familiar tragic tale, with a unique perspective.