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All in all

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

Sophie Hudson is already one of my favorite authors. I was reading one of her books about a year ago in the doctor’s waiting room and broke out into unrestrained laughter while most of the other patients looked like they had lost their wallet. It was a great moment, for me at least.

This time I’m reading All in All Journaling Devotional, Loving God Wherever You Are by my good “friend” Sophie.

As I opened the book to Day 1, I felt like Sophie was across the table from me chatting. She is very real as she expresses herself. And her experience working with teens and young women gives her the perspective to write in a way that will appeal to them. She speaks their language.

The devotional in not dated, making it easy to begin anytime and to read at one’s own pace. Let’s be real, the young lead busy lives like the rest of us. Being able to pick up a book today and then a couple of days later takes away the perceived guilt of not keeping up. The young don’t need anymore guilt and unreal expectations placed on them. (In fact, neither do any of us.)

Each day is broken into segments:

  • Sophie’s encouraging and understanding devotional words on a particular theme
  • A passage of Scripture to read
  • Three or four questions related to the devotional
  • A place to write out a verse of Scripture that relates
  • A half page of space to write out “Today’s Prayer”

 

 

All in All Journaling Devotional is targeted for the young and young at heart. It is perfect for personal quiet time or could equally be satisfying if done with a group.

Life is busy. Let’s admit it. There are many things calling for our attention every day. We need a little help in keeping ourselves focused and setting aside time to spend with Jesus. All in All Journaling Devotional is a book that calls to us to come away for a while and rest.

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

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On being happy

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

I understand that the personality one is born with affects the way we view the world. Some naturally view the glass half full while others see it half empty.

I’ve been one who tends toward the half full while wearing rose-colored spectacles.

That does not mean I’ve never dealt with depression or days upon end when I felt lonely and sad. There have been long seasons of grief and even despair. Life has its ups and downs, and each of us must learn to walk through the shadows as well as the sunshine.

At times Christians have been presumed to be serious, stoic, even grim and rigid in lifestyle so that the idea of being happy seems frivolous, even worldly.

I remember when artists’ renderings of a laughing Jesus began to appear during the 1970s. He was appealing and approachable and had a joy-of-living look on his face. I liked it.

laughing Jesus

by Francis Hook

So what about being happy? Is it spiritual?

Lisa Harper’s latest book, The Sacrament of Happy, says “yes.” The few times I saw Lisa speak, she was obviously one of those half-full kind of people. Her joy is infectious and her ability to make her audience see the funny side of life comes naturally to her.

The by-line of The Sacrament of Happy is this: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World. And couldn’t we all use a smile from God?

Lisa points out that the word “blessed” in Scripture can often be translated as “happy.” That puts a different connotation on the beatitudes, doesn’t it? And how about if 1 Timothy 1:11 read like this:

“. . . in accordance with the good news of the glory of the happy God with which I have been entrusted.”

A happy God. I’m not sure I’ve thought of Him like that. But I am excited about the idea of a Father who enjoys His creation and delights in what He has made – me.

It puts me in the mind of my own father who enjoyed people fully and telling a funny story was his forte. He could laugh the biggest and loudest, while still being one of the most spiritually-minded men I’ve ever known. It was a beautiful combination of character traits.

Lisa weaves in stories of the adoption of her daughter Missy, who was born in Haiti, and how the two of them are enjoying a happy life. Lisa’s sorrow over two failed attempts at adoption and Missy’s unfortunate early years in a poverty and disease stricken country testify that everything is not always easy.

But she proposes that we can continue to be happy even in the very middle of trials and heartaches.  She tackles this issue in the chapters entitled “Is Happiness the Absence of Sadness?” and “What about When Happy Takes a Hike?”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Lisa in her book:

” . . . true, biblical happiness doesn’t have a personality type!”

“Genuine, God-given happiness is not the absence of sadness . . . it is the overriding presence of His sovereign mercy. The firm belief that He is good and He does good no matter what our current circumstances are.”

And some familiar verses with a twist of happy:

[Jesus said] “How happy are those who have no doubts about me!”  Matthew 11:6 GNT

“Happy are those whose wrongs are forgiven, whose sins are pardoned! Happy is the person whose sins the Lord will not keep account of!” Romans 4:7-8 GNT

Quoted within the book:

“Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings–it’s something we make inside ourselves.” Corrie Ten Boom”

“Where others see but the dawn coming over the hill, I see the soul of God shouting for joy.” William Blake

I especially like the chapter near the end, “Can Happy Change the World?” In it Lisa describes her trip to Greece where they encountered the refugees’ crisis there. She and her companions did what they could to give aid. When they were transferred to the children’s tent, they enticed them into round after round of an animated version of the Hokey Pokey. The children “began singing and dancing their little hearts out, too.”

Lisa saw first-hand the redemptive effect “this glorious good news of the happy God (1 Tim. 1:11) of which we’ve been entrusted has on those who have every reason to be joyless.”

I am fascinated to think of a happy God, one who delights in me, who enjoys giving good gifts, and who has my best interest in His heart. It also challenges me to be unrestrained in my joy and happiness. It has the potential to point others to my happy God and Savior.

The Sacrament of Happy was a good read the first time. I may start it over again and get another good dose of joy.

It makes me want to lift my head heavenward and smile.

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

Words of God

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

I’ve got quite a collection of Bibles. Growing up, I was often on the receiving end of such gifts.  As an adult, I’ve wanted study Bibles and different translations so I could understand better.

While it is the trend to read any available version of Scripture online via laptops, tablets  or smart phones, I still prefer to hold the book in my hands, turn the thin pages, underline verses and make notes in the margins. Call me old-fashioned. 

So I was delighted to receive the Christian Standard Bible from B&H Publishing Company for review.

The dual shaded brown leathertouch book is thinline and light weight, a just-right size for purse or carry case.  The cover has a soft feel. Opening the book and turning its delicate, golden-edged pages is a pleasing sensory experience.

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Features of this Bible are:

  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Presentation page
  • Two-column text
  • Center-column cross references
  • Topical subheadings
  • Words of Christ in red
  • 8.25-point type
  • Concordance
  • Full-color maps

I’ve not had a Bible with cut-in tabs showing the books for quickly locating them, and I must say I am finding that very helpful, even though I learned the books of the Bible when I was a child. The Old Testament order can still be tricky, and I often sing a song that helps me with the New Testament order of books.

There is an “Introduction to the Christian Standard Bible” near the front explaining how this particular version came about. This is always important to me. I want to know that every effort was made to be as accurate as possible in translating the Scriptures to a readable format. And I am comfortable that the CSB is just that.

This is a lovely book to look at and hold. It will take its place among the varied translations and paraphrases I already have on shelves. I want to be a good student, to search out on my own and not just swallow what someone tells me. The more I am able to understand what God is trying to say, the more I get to know who He is.

And the more I know who God is, the more I love and trust Him.

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

Friends

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

Friends. I have the best, and I hope you know who you are. If I began to count the ways I’ve been befriended and loved, it could take all day.

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Friendship is what we crave.  But it can be hard, especially among women for so many reasons. Never Unfriended, The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, by Lisa-Jo Baker, made me cry when I first began reading it.  It seemed to be speaking directly to my heart and my experiences.

Baker writes:

“Fear makes me want to hide. Fear makes me afraid of my own gifts and name. Instead of sharing them with the world, fear makes me want to dig a hole and stuff all that I am and all that I love deep down into the dark where no one can get to them. Fear is a terrible friend.”

I have felt that fear, especially as a young woman trying to figure out who I was, comparing myself to others and never feeling like I measured up to the standard.

“Into us God breathed the desire for companionship. Into us God breathed the gift of community. Into us God breathed all the capacity for believing the best about each other, loving others more than ourselves, and making ourselves wildly vulnerable without fear of betrayal.”

The dichotomy is apparent. There is the breath of God and there is fear. Which will reign supreme? Will we live with fear dominating our existence, the decisions we make and the resulting despair, or will we be guided by the life-giving breath of the Creator who has ordained a hope and a future for us?

Baker offers a unique opportunity to dig into her book at different parts, depending on where you are relationally, or if your one who likes looking at the back of the book first.

Part 1: What Are We Afraid Of?

Part 2: What Can’t We Do About It?

Part 3: What Can We Do About It?

Part 4: Where Do We Start?

I began at the end, Part 4.  “This is for the sisterhood, the motherhood, the neighborhood, the misunderstood,” Baker writes. We start where we are now, whether we have the best of friends or if we have been hurt and are afraid to open our hearts again.

The chapters in Part 4 are entitled “Practice Being a Good Friend To Yourself Today” and “Practice Being a Good Friend To Someone Else Today.” Because don’t we have to accept ourselves, be good to ourselves, and love ourselves, before we can be a good friend?

Never Unfriended ultimately assures us that God’s love transcends all of our hurts, all of our self-inflicted wounds, and all the ways we have managed to offend others.  His love is not fickle. We cannot change His unchanging love, compassion, and mercy toward us. He will never unfriend us.

I am blessed with friends, all ages, sizes, colors, genders and backgrounds. They are treasures I cherish.

The Author of relationship invites our friendship and then demonstrates how to love with a heart bigger than the universe. Love is patient, kind, not envious or proud, not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs and does not take offense easily.  It protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

And that is a recipe for a great friendship.

 

NOTE:   I received a copy of Never Unfriended, 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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