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Opening the door

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

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Hospitality. What sort of images does the word conjure in your mind? Lavish tablescapes, beautifully arranged place settings, a house full of people we hope to impress with our home, our recipes, and our entertaining skills?

Or could it be this: a warm smile, a listening ear, an open heart, and a place of comfort and peace.

Jen Schmidt writes about her experiences in practicing hospitality in Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation.

I loved reading this book. It came to me on the heals of participating in a four-month series where we gathered at the table and learned how Jesus did life at the table in the Scriptures. Jen Schmidt’s book was like a festive dessert after a sumptuous meal.

Jen grew up where inviting people in was common, and she determined to do the same when she had her own home. She tells her varied experiences like the days when they lived small and had little. Money was a consideration when thinking about guests. In the chapter “Elephant in the Room,” she tackles this issue and urges us to open the door anyway, offering suggestions when the budget is tight.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “When we least expect it, comparison sneaks up like a thief and attempts to rob us of all joy, especially when it pertains to things as personal as our home.” (Ch. 2, Trickle Down)
  • “You are the one who can meet the need of another today if you just open the door.” (Ch. 7, The Power of One)
  • “An open home, like an open table, is the overflow of an open heart.” (Ch. 9, The Potluck: Risks and Rewards)
  • We’ve allowed the imperfections of our friendship to strengthen us. A sisterhood of the imperfect.” (Ch. 10, Come as You Are)

Each chapter ends with an appropriate question from a reader and Jen’s answer, plus suggested ideas pertaining to the chapter’s topic.

Just Open the Door is about planned events and spontaneity; big gatherings and intimate tea parties; long-term guests and taking hospitality beyond the walls of home; celebrating everyday moments and deciding who really is my neighbor. It offers optimistic incentive to the novice and those more practiced in opening their doors.

The Bible abounds with examples of hospitality and instructs believers to practice it regularly. Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, will helps us grow and feel more comfortable doing it in our own personal way.

Jen Schmidt is a lifstyle blogger at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. 

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NOTE:   I received a copy of Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review. The book was free. The words are my very own.

 

 

 

 

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What if you knew?

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

What if you knew me, really knew me? Would you approve? What if you knew my past as well as my present, would you be appalled at my imperfections or could you overlook my failures, those things I try to carefully conceal? Would you still love me or even like me?

These are questions author Jamie Ivey seemed to struggle with as she grew from teen to young adult and even into her married and family life.

We women are masters of cover up. We learn to dress and highlight the positive while camouflaging the other, what we see as less than. We add make up to our faces and highlights to our hair in hopes we look better. Sometimes we wear a smile that hides the internal struggle.

Jamie Ivey wrote a memoir revealing her whole truth. Jamie is creator and host of The Happy Hour podcast where she interviews people, asking questions that call for real conversations, encouraging truthfulness and authenticity.

Her book, If You Only Knew, My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free, is a candid look at her past mistakes, failures, sins, and how she tried to hide in order to maintain the “good Christian” persona. As she admits, it was a hard act to keep playing.

 

Ivey’s writing style is conversational. She leaves no stone unturned in telling the truth of the life she lived while trying to get to freedom in Christ. She discovered – or at least finally believed –  that Christ loves us even when we fall down, again and again, that His mercies endure forever, that His forgiveness knows no end.

Today she is a pastor’s wife. She ministers to women in prison offering hope beyond their failures. She urges women to be open with one another, to share struggles and quit acting like we have it all together. She assures us when we are vulnerable with each other, we invite others to be vulnerable too. Hiding ourselves is exhausting. Freedom is beautiful.

 

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NOTE:   I received a copy of If You Only Knew, by Jamie Ivey provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own.

Lessons from the heart

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Imagine being a young woman who exercises regularly, eats healthy food and is about to give birth. And then your heart stops.

Those are the events in the life of author Julie Manning in her biography My Heart. She didn’t know the muscle that pumps blood throughout her body was failing.

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After the birth of her first child, a boy, she was given the devastating news that she was in heart failure, a diagnosis no young, first-time mother expects to hear. But this became her life.

And it changed everything.

Mrs. Manning’s story is gripping as she walks through the days after her son’s birth and the years that follow, always wondering if her heart will last long enough for her to see that sweet baby boy grow up.

She writes honestly about dealing with the shock of her health condition, wrestling with her faith in God, wondering about her and her family’s futures. Through the struggle she came to a place of acceptance and began living each day with purpose, grace and thanksgiving.

“. . .  What if women spent more time looking into the eyes of people around them and had conversations about Jesus, reading through the Bible together and praying to the One who is worthy above all else?  . . . What if we chased our children around the park and on the way home tell them that Jesus is chasing after them, and He never runs out of breath like Mommy? What if we stopped calling our minivan a taxi and begin seeing the opportunity for discipleship of the souls that are buckled into their seats with no place else to go? What if we actually shared the gospel with our children instead of rushing them through life?

“May we turn into a generation of women who live with constant intentionality. Not just for the sake of being intentional but for the sake of living like Christ. May we also be a generation of women who dares to dream of how God might just use our lives tomorrow while we are in the trenches of today.”

My Heart is a gripping story. It made me look at my own soul-heart, to examine my motives for living out the rest of my days.

I want to be part of that generation of women who lives with intention and purpose, investing in the lives of people around me.

It will not happen accidentally.  It is a choice I must  make.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of My Heart, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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Always with you

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

“I am always with you.”

I read those words in my morning devotional, words I’ve known since childhood, but words I need to hear often. Reminders are good and necessary.

I just finished reading The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, and the same truth became evident once again: that the ever-present God, who continues to work out His purpose in every situation, is always with His children.

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Priscilla Shirer has ventured into the genre of fiction books, appealing to elpriscillashirer2ementary and middle school children. The first in the series, The Prince Warriors, introduced us to a group of children whose lives intersect at the Rec Center in their home town. They are different ages, different ethnic backgrounds, and different personalities. Their personal stories intertwine as they are called to the adventures in Ahoratos, a world somewhere in another dimension where good battles evil.

In Ahoratos, they meet Ruwach who dispenses wisdom from time-honored Scripture. He is the one who equips them with armor for battle.

The children encounter attacks from the creatures of the dark kingdom, and they learn how their armor operates, how it helps them fight and protects them from the enemy.

As the story continues, we see how each piece of armor issued to the young prince and princess warriors mirrors the armor of God as described in Ephesians 6.

The second book of the series, The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, highlights the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. One of the girls is harassed by the enemy who tries to invade her thoughts and speak lies to her because she is not wearing her helmet.

During the invasion, the children begin to understand the truth that God is always with them

Though our trails are hard and last long; though the battle rages and we fight hard; though the road ahead look ominous and our strength is gone; one thing is a fountainhead of comfort. Jesus Himself said it,”I am always with you.”

“I AM always with you.” Be reminded.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the book The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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How big is love?

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Sometimes a book surprises, sometimes it delights. Sometimes a book disappoints and I wish I had not bothered to spend my time on it.

Once in a while a book gives me an “Ahh, this is precious,” experience.

How Big Is Love? is one of those delightful kind of books. Aimed at children and in a board-book format, it is perfect for little hands to handle. It features Little Hedgehog and his mother as he asks questions about love.

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“Mama, just how does love get so big?” Little Hedgehog is determined to understand just how love works. His curious questions will warm your heart, and his sweet story will remind you that love grows every time you give it away.

The book is the third in a serious based on 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”

Amy Parker combines her engaging words with Breezy Brookshire’s beautiful illustrations as Little Hedgehog wonders if love is “bigger than the mountains” and “brighter than the sun.”

Mama Hedgehog assures her little one that love is indeed bigger and brighter and stronger than anything. Her final description of love is both simple enough for a child and profound enough for a grown up to comprehend.

“Our love grows every time we give it away.”

How Big Is Love is the companion book from Parker’s series, How High is Hope? and How Far Is Faith?, and would be perfect in the hands of a new mom who wants to read to her baby without fear of the little one tearing pages. It is equally superb for any adult to read to children and begin to practice love in an active way.

The story line is even relative for someone like me. It is simple yet straightforward in its message.

I would have loved to read this book to my one and only son or my grandchildren when they were small.  I hope I can still convey its message to them though they are beyond the board-book stage.

As the holiday season approaches quickly, the gift of How Big Is Love could become someone’s favorite. It is simply a charming book.

NOTE:   I received a copy of How Big Is Love?, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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Coloring and note taking

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

When I was a little girl, I loved to color, and I loved it that my mother would sit and color too. It was fun and creative for me, and we shared the experience making it all the sweeter.

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My mother was my first playmate and confidant. She was my teacher and the one who told me about Jesus for the very first time.

As I became a teacher of children, I recall preparing color sheets for wee ones in Sunday school classes many times. If a picture is really worth a thousand words, then maybe coloring can help us remember those words even more.

As I grew up, I replaced coloring with note taking. If I had colored pens to do it, well, even better. I made lists, kept a calendar of events, took minutes of meetings, and wrote in journals. As more years are added to my life, it seems the more words I write.

With that in mind, I was intrigued to receive The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible from B&H Publishing Group for a couple of reasons. It had wide, lined margins on the pages, with plenty of space to write personal notations during sermons or daily study. I like having room on the page. Some notes I’ve made in my old Bible are scrunched in small areas and often written so small I can barely read them or remember why I wrote them.

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The second reason is The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible has over 600 images and filigree designs for coloring.

The adult coloring book trend is popular, with books turning up for purchase everywhere. One article cites reasons adult coloring can be helpful. It can relieve stress, help one focus, and has been used in art therapy for years.

The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible “combines two hot trends: Bible journaling and adult coloring. Each Bible spread contains a line-drawn illustration that can be filled in by the reader with whatever colors they choose. Includes three varieties of illustrations: (1) filigree, (2) Scripture quotes, and (3) drawings that illustrate the topic of the corresponding Bible text.”

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From the title page to Revelation 22 the opportunity to color abounds in this book, offering illustrations of a story or a verse in creative lettering. Even the Table of Contents can be colored. I especially like the two-page spread for Old Testament and New Testament that incorporates coloring and almost a full page for note-taking.

The plan of salvation is the first thing after the Table of Contents, and next is an Introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the textual basis for this particular translation. This Bible also includes a concordance and a maps section.

Overall, I found this to be a premium book with its bonded leather cover. (It does come in other covers and translations. Plus, there is a version especially for teens.) It is lovely to look at and lovely to hold. The quality of the pages has a touch of elegance.

Don’t expect a lot of extra notes and explanation of Scriptures. This is not a study Bible with scholarly information throughtout. The purpose of The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible is this: a place to write your own thoughts and notations, and a place to be creative as you meditate on God’s Word and who He is. The book fulfils its purpose very well.

I think this Bible would make a wonderful gift for someone you know or even for yourself.

NOTE:   I received a copy of the The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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A good summer read

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

{Typed slowly with a little difficulty due to my one-handedness}

It’s been a long time since I sat and read to my grandchildren. They are so grown up now that their legs would drag the floor if they sat in my lap. The memories are precious.

I did it often when they were young and living in the house next door. When they spent the night, bed time was not complete until we shared our ritual of reading. They picked the books usually, and as it is with children, the same ones surfaced regularly until we could almost quote them line by line.

I miss those days.

As I began reading The Prince Warriors, I thought what a great book this would be to read with a young person.

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Prisilla Shirer (with Gina Detwiler), acclaimed speaker and writer of Bible studies, surprised me with her first book of fiction, aimed at the middle-grade boy or girl. I was pulled into the story line as the lives of two brothers and two friends became intertwined in an adventure children only dream of having.

“The battle is real.

As brothers, Xavier and Evan are used to battling each other. But now they’re discovering that there is a much bigger battle going on all around them. And it’s their turn to fight. . . . Xavier, Evan, and their friends have typical lives until they enter a mysterious land called Ahoratos. There they meet their guide, Ruwach, who offers wisdom and direction as the kids’ initial adventure begins—an adventure filled with armor and danger and a very real enemy.”

While the brothers are typical siblings, fighting their way into trouble with mom, their adventure teaches them they are not enemies of each other. They learn they must cooperate and work together if they are to be victorious over their common adversary.

The young people are brought together for a purpose. They learn from each other. They help each other. They begin to see they need each other.

The book teaches a lot of truth along the way without being preachy. It is a compelling story that draws the reader into the dangerous scrapes and rescues the four friends find themselves.

Ms. Shirer based the story on Ephesians 6:10 through 18 which describes the Armor of God. Having completed her Bible study by that topic this year, it was interesting to see her weave the pieces of armor into the kids’ exploits. I could clearly see the message she was trying to convey.

If you have a child or grandchild in your family, or if you can borrow someone else’s for a few afternoons this summer, read this book with them. You both will enjoy the story and camaraderie of a shared experience.

The Prince Warriors is the first in a trilogy (Unseen Invasion estimated to be released in October 2016). I recommend you get the book, plan your strategy to read it with someone, and follow the escapades of Evan, Xavier, Levi, and Brianna.

Buy this book for a child or share the reading of it with him or her. Spend your summer by investing in something eternal.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the book The Prince Warriors, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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