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Together is a good place

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

Being an only child, mother had plenty of time to spend with me. She didn’t have to divide her attention between multiple children. And let’s face it, one child does not create that same work as three or four.

One of my sweetest childhood memories is coloring with my mother. She patiently sat with me and colored in the large pictures designed for the very young, a box full of crayons scattered on the table between us. Just being with my mother in a shared, fun activity provided more stability than I can probably understand.

The BIG and Little Coloring Devotional, written by Rachel C Swanson and illustrated by Jacy Corral, provides just such opportunity for an adult and a child to experience togetherness in a bonding activity. What is unique about the book is the way the pages are put together.

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On one side is an adult graphic to color. On the opposite side is a less detailed coloring page just right for a child to enjoy. The perk of the book is the written devotional captured within the adult side.

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Imagine this picture: You are sitting at the table beside your child, or someone else’s. The crayons, pencils and markers are scattered about. The child colors and you color, each of you having your own page. Both of you begin to relax into the activity, breathing deeper as you fill in spaces with brightness and beauty. Pausing a minute from coloring, you read the devotional right there on the page, never leaving the table. You let the words penetrate your thoughts. You listen as the Holy Spirit speaks.

On the other side of the book, the child is deeply involved in her activity. You notice how her page coordinates in a simple way with what you’ve just read. Now you begin to ask questions that give her a chance to talk about the topic, whether that is sadness and tears, obedience, God’s love, or seeking Jesus with the whole heart.

The two of you are now sharing time with God together. Tenderly, unhurried, simply conversational. These moments carry eternal weight as she opens her heart and you open yours.

In our busy, task-oriented culture, slowing down long enough to color a page may seem insignificant, unnecessary, or even time spent foolishly. However, whenever we slow ourselves, give ourselves permission to relax and fall into the rhythm of a leisurely pace, when we connect with another person, young or old, through our words and animation, something significant happens in the atmosphere of life. Something important that outlasts our latest project on the to-do list.

BIG and Little Coloring Devotional provides the vehicle for being together.

Give time to the people you care about the most, especially during the rush of upcoming holidays. Ask questions and listen, linger with the conversation, turn off technology and experience life together.

Being together is a good place to be. In fact, it is the best place.

 

P.S. BIG and Little Coloring Devotional is currently on sale for only $5 at Lifeway.com. Pair it with pretty pencils or markers and you have a great Christmas gift.

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

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Wake up

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

I credit my mother for instilling the discipline of daily devotions. I first remember her giving me Streams in the Desert, by Mrs. Charles Cowman, when I was just a girl. It was her way of teaching me the importance of daily time with Jesus.

By now, my collection of devotional books has grown by stacks.

The opportunity to review Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks, by Priscilla Shirer, was a no-brainer for me.  I’ve participated in Ms. Shirer’s Bible studies a number of times and always enjoy the journey of her teaching. Awaken is her first devotional book, and it is a gem.

Awaken

Priscilla Shirer is a Bible scholar who writes with the authority of one who knows the Author and His works. Awaken affirms that God wants to speak to us as individuals. Without dated pages, one can begin this book anytime and pick it up again when the schedule permits. No guilt if you miss a day. Just continue to the next entry.

But don’t wait too long to read another daily devotional because this is good stuff. For each day Ms. Shirer gives a short Bible illustration, coupled with her own experiences, then re-enforces both with Scripture verses.

Finally, she asks a question to help the reader make application to his/her life. The questions are thoughtful and thought-provoking. A blank page gives plenty of room to journal one’s thoughts.

It is in the writing that I often understand more clearly what I’ve read and how it pertains to and connects with me. Thus, I am able to hear from the God who speaks. Because He does want to speak to me.

This is a great book for teens or adults. Someone on your Christmas list might need Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks to help her start the day with Jesus. (You are already thinking about Christmas, aren’t you?)

A day without the Word and listening for God’s voice is not the way to start a good day. Just sayin’.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

Sing your song

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

Music was part of my life since I can remember. My mother sang in a church trio when she was young and then became a soloist later in life. She could belt out a song. As I grew to be more accomplished on the keyboard, I was her primary accompanist.

My dad did not read music but played piano by ear (the reason my mother was determined I have lessons). He could touch almost any instrument and make music with it, be it a recorder, harmonica, banjo or guitar. He played something he called a sweet potato, brought back with him from the war. I learned it is called an ocarina. He even learned to play the saw, using a violin bow.  A carpenter by trade, he had plenty of “instruments” to choose from, and make music he did.

A special memory is singing in the church choir as a child. It wasn’t a formal or trained choir, but a group of people who went to the platform at the beginning of service to sing with the congregation. We were all ages, and  my friends and I sang with enthusiasm. We were there to praise the Lord with music. I still love the old songs. I can hear one of them, and I am back there again, a little girl with a melody in my heart.

Naturally I was drawn to the book Sing!, How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, written by Keith and Kristyn Getty. The Getty’s songs are already favorites; titles like In Christ Alone , Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer 2, and The Power of the Cross 3  are well known and beloved. Their gift with lyric and melody has given the church hymns once again.

Sing book

The book examines and encourages singing together whether as a family or as a church congregation.

Sing! encourages singing in our everyday lives, throughout the day, with the family at home or on road trips, as a church body. We witness to the world through our singing, and when we sing together, the message is powerful.

Chapter titles include:

  • Created to . . . Sing!
  • Commanded to  . . . Sing!
  • Compelled to . . . Sing!

Then we are to sing “with Heart and Mind,” “with Your Family,” and “with the Local Church.”

Some of my favorite quotes are:

“We are all singers. We may not all be very good singers, but we are all created to be singers nonetheless.”

“Your ability to sing is fearfully and wonderfully made. Around the twelve-week mark the vocal cords of a baby growing in the womb are in place and have been shown to work long before the baby is born.” 

“We are designed to benefit from beauty in creativity. . . . God made us to be powerfully engaged in our senses and memories by music. Songs have the power to prompt a memory or transport us back to some time and place.”

” . . . as we create, we communicate–just as God does through His creation . . . Echoing through our congregational singing is the commun.ication the divine Author has written into this world. Melodies matter. Words matter. Our songs always say something.”

“To praise him [God] is the original desire sewn into every fiber of our God-designed humanity and into every aspect of our God-designed world. When we sing God’s praise, we join with the tune of the cosmos. Just pause. Isn’t this incredible?”

Sing! can be used as a small group study; with worship leaders, choirs and musicians; with the entire church congregation; or individually.

It is essential that we understand how vital and necessary singing is to our lives.  We learn through music. Music affects us emotionally. Songs impact the way we live and the society in general.

It’s not about style of music that we choose in our churches, but it is about quality songs and a message that reflects who God truly is. The truth written in the lyrics, and sung so the world can hear, must declare that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God.

Co-authored by Stuart Townend
Co-authored by Margaret Becker
Co-authored by Stuart Townend

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NOTE:   I received a copy of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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. 

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.

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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.

never unfriended

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.