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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.

my heart

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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His steadfast love

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

The Psalms.  I have camped there a time or two.

When I had so many questions and few answers, when I was heartbroken and full of tears, when life seemed unfair and out of control, I went to the Psalms.  My hurts, disappointments, and questions were echoed on the pages.  The writers of the Psalms had similar emotions as I during their trials.  They asked how long it would go on.  They looked at others whose lives seemed free of trouble and felt a bit envious. They experienced fear, discouragement, loneliness, and sadness.

They were just like me.

What I found in the writings there was the eventual turn from their troubles and questions to the only One with the answers.  They began to look to their great Lord and God.  It was then that He overshadowed all else with His steadfast love.

And they enter into worship.  Their journey became my journey.

Fans of Lauren Chandler will identify with and perhaps recognize a quote from her blog.  It introduces her book, Steadfast Love.

“Sometimes He wrings the worship from our hearts.”

And with that, she begins to live in Psalm 107.

Lauren says, “Psalm 107 is fashioned more like a modern worship song than most of the other palms in the book.  It has a cadence, a rhythm.  There’s a clear refrain and the verses are easily identified.  As a worship leader and songwriter, I was immediately drawn to it.”

Even those we call well-known and beautiful suffer hardship.  Steadfast Love is evidence of Lauren’s struggle through her husband’s diagnoses of a brain tumor and the days of surgery, healing, and learning a new normal.  The days of the unknown.

She wrestles with Psalm 107 and walks with her readers through its themes:

  • The Call to Worshipsteadfast love
  • The Desert
  • Chains
  • Folly
  • The Storm

She weaves many Bible stories into her own story as she tells how God was faithful in the past and thus would be faithful to us through His Steadfast Love.

When someone else has faced tragedy and come forth with an assurance of the steadfast love of God in the midst of it all, it helps me know my God will be the same to me.

After expounding about the woman at the well, Lauren says, “Jesus came to expose our thirst and to reveal God as the only fountain that will ever satisfy.”

Concerning God’s command for a Sabbath rest, she says, “The heart of the Sabbath is to cease striving and trust God’s work on our behalf. . . . Too many times I have attempted to build my own walls of protection and thus manufacture my own rest.”

In the chapter on Chains, Lauren asks questions:  “Does something ‘own’ you like it did me?  . . . Have you been hurt in a way that still affects how you live today?  Are you ‘hooked’ on someone or something?  Does the thought of losing whatever or whomever it is give you an anxiety attack? . . . If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, there’s a good chance you are being temporarily ‘owned’ by something other than Christ.”

In Steadfast Love, you will see your God, your Savior, the One who is changeless in an ever-changing world.  No one else can offer such faithfulness, such commitment, such eternal reward and promises that will not be forgotten.

God alone give steadfast love.

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.  — Psalm 107:43 ESV

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

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It’s about time

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

Time is such a gift.  I realize it more and more.

We each received the gift of time this morning, my friend and I, as we met for a couple of hours.  And our chatter was the give and take that friends do.  We share life experiences, and we pray for the each other.

This kind of gift cannot be purchased and wrapped with a bow.

Time is a gift we give to God.  Imagine that we can gift something to the God who owns everything?  But think it through.  He desires to be with us, to talk and listen to us.  To share heart experiences.  To hear our prayers.

How much time do we really give Him?  Uninterrupted time.  Focused time.  Meditative time.

When I was but a small child, my mother presented me with a daily devotion book.  It began on January 1 and ended on December 31.  It was her way of encouraging daily time with the One she knew so well.  She wanted that same precious relationship for me.

Mother kept me in devotion books through the years hoping I would develop a habit of spending time with God.  It was a discipline I would desperately need through the years.

There were seasons when I could barely bring myself to open the Bible, open the devotional, open a study book.  Times when I felt alone and forsaken.  Times of depression and darkness of soul.  Times when all looked hopeless.

But the daily habit was ingrained.  So I did it.

And it brought me face to face with my Savior once again.  It was the face I needed to see, beyond the current storm I was in.

And so I want to recommend The Devotional for Womendevotional for women.

It begins with Day 1, not January 1, so you can begin it at anytime of the year.

It begins with Genesis and goes through Revelation, encapsulating the entire Bible, not leaving out the tough parts.

It is a book written by women for women so it speaks to us personally.

It has a “strong focus on what God has to say to women.”

And it’s just pretty.  Purple.  With a soft almost velvety feeling cover.  It appeals to the eye.  But it’s what’s inside that is important.

Just like a woman.

Are you needing something to spur you on this year?  Have you already forsaken that “read the Bible through in 2016” resolution and feel like a failure?  Would you like some help in developing the discipline of being in God’s Word and spending time with Him?  Could you use a a little guidance that you can pick up at anytime?

Check out The Devotional for Women.  If not for yourself, make it a gift for someone.

Because time is the gift.

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

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