Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy 7th Birthday Rockstar!

It's that time of year again when we celebrate part of our musical life God has blessed us with by celebrating that memorable day our blonde haired, blue-eyed Rockstar entered our world.  Here is a pictorial glimpse into this past year with our young Rockstar.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Word for 2013

I began this year reading a short article in The Baptist Digest titled "Not My Enemy!" and the truth within it has been following me around now for about 26 days waiting to be written, yet not completed.  Yesterday I was knocked into bed with some type of bug that completely zapped me of all energy and made every joint in my body ache.  Today as I continue to rest and recover I determined to put this New Year's thought down in writing. This post is only one of many that should follow as God works in my life throughout 2013 and beyond.   

 The most thought provoking quote (of a quote) in this article that I have been trying to digest over the last several weeks is "I love how Dr. Gary Thomas asks in Sacred Marriage, 'What if God intends to make us holy and not happy?'"  This quote has left me in a quandary.  My mind has been consumed with thoughts and questions such as -  My happiness is not directly related to the holiness God desires I develop.  Holiness and happiness are not the same (didn't I know this?).  Do they co-exist?  What is it in those unhappy moments that God is trying to teach me about holiness?  It seems as I further explore these thoughts, God brings to mind verses of wisdom in those "unhappy" moments that indicate to me there is a long journey ahead.

I was also challenged in this Proverbs 31 Ministries post by Rachel Olsen to chose one word to focus on for the year.  One word that is representative of what I hope Jesus will do in or through me.  One word that will help give me direction.  Yes, you've probably guessed it.  I've chosen my word.  Maybe my word chose me.  Regardless, the word, my word is holy.  Although I may have tried to avoid it and delay the post that might make it official.   It was the first word that provoked serious contemplation as I began 2013.  It continues to challenge me in my thoughts and actions.  I struggle.  I struggle hard.  Especially as I see the areas God is trying to teach me to be holy even at the expense of my happiness.  This is no small word.  This is no simple task.  It can't be accomplished in one written blog post, not even one or two days, months or years.  It won't be accomplished by church attendance or fellowship functions or even in Sunday School - although each of these things can by good and helpful.  This word, this process, is a lifelong challenge to become something I am not, yet something God desires me to be.  Holiness is not an accessory that I can wear when it matches my outfit.  Holiness is what God desires from me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  His word speaks to me, it calls me to be holy, to be set apart, to be light in the darkness.  The goal is set before me.  The finish line is not in sight, but the race is underway.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  Hebrews 12:1

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."  Ephesians 1:4

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  Ephesians 4:22-24

"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'"  1 Peter 1:15-16

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bible Study Review: Chase by Jennie Allen

I recently reviewed the dvd-based study, Chase, by Jennie Allen.  The study is published by Thomas Nelson and contains an eight session dvd, member's bible study book, leader's guide and discussion cards for use during group discussion times.  In the Chase study, Jennie Allen leads us to explore the question, "What are you chasing?" by looking into the life of David and the defining events in his life.

The dvd contains eight video segments approximately 10 minutes each of bible teaching from Jennie Allen. The segment titles correspond with the study and include:
1) Chase - the introduction
2) Identity
3) Courage
4) Obedience
5) Belief
6) Repentance
7) Surrender
8) Chased Down

The leader's guide provides tips and information for preparation and leading a small group.  Each session is broken down into two parts: the main idea and the main goal.  The main goal section includes homework discussion questions to help foster direction in small group time.

The medium sized, 156 page member book provides focused bible study and projects designed to be completed individually throughout the week.  Each week includes approximately 15 pages of individual study and projects with plenty of "white space" for notes and answers to your study questions.  I did not find this study to be as intensive as previous studies I have completed by authors such as Beth Moore, but the study will provide many opportunities to respond and grow as you read and study the life of David.

My favorite part of the study is possibly the most unique way I've seen the use of discussion questions in a bible study.  The "ask" question cards.  There are approximately 12 question cards and a scripture card for each week.  It is suggested that you distribute the cards for each week and take turns reading the questions and discussing them as a group.  Also included is a scripture card for the week to help bring home the focus of the scriptural truth for the week's study.

This study is designed to be flexible and meet the needs of your specific group.  It can be used for a one-hour study group or expanded to a longer time frame that allows for more in-depth conversation among group members.

I found Jennie Allen to be real and transparent in her own struggles of what she loves in life and those things that often take priority over God, His kingdom and His word.  She uses personal examples of her life, her children and her family's adoption experience throughout the video segments.  I especially liked how she spoke directly to the camera in her video segments to her viewing audience.

I received this study for free from the Booksneeze blogging program in exchange for my honest review of this material.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

All I Want...

Rockstar had planned to be singing "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth."  She was super excited when she lost the first upper tooth in early December and the second one began to loosen soon after.  Although Christmas has come and gone, she returned from school yesterday ecstatic to have one less tooth.  Now if she only had a tooth fairy who wasn't so forgetful...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

I recently had the pleasure to read Kristen Heitzmann's novel, The Breath of Dawn. This is the third book of a series, following Rush of Wings and The Still of Night.  I have enjoyed many of Heitzmann's novels and I was excited to get my hands on this newest addition. The Breath of Dawn lived up to the high expectations I had for it.

The Breath of Dawn picks up with success guru, Morgan Spencer, adjusting to the tragic loss of his wife, Jill.  After a couple years regrouping at his brother's ranch and learning how to be a father to his little girl in the midst of all his pain, he meets Quinn Reilly.  Quinn has a past of her own she is trying to escape.  When Quinn begins to realize her past is catching up to her, she turns to Morgan for help. Although Quinn is initially offended by the unconventional solution Morgan offers, she soon realizes it is her only real option for safety.  In what maybe one of Morgan's riskiest moves yet, his family steps aside and prays he knows what he is doing. 

If you enjoyed Rush of Wings and The Still of Night, follow Morgan and Quinn on this wild and crazy ride of suspense, romance and healing in this third installment of the series and you will be glad you did.  I enjoyed it so much that I returned to it and revisited the last half of the book before writing this review.  Please be aware that Quinn's character is threatened by a person from her past.  If you are sensitive to violence of any form, you may not enjoy this book.  

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Book Review: Inescapable by Nancy Mehl

I recently read my first romantic suspense novel set in the Mennonite community.  Inescapable is the first in the Road to Kingdom series by Nancy Mehl.  Inescapable follows the life of Lizzie Engel as she runs back to her hometown of Kingdom, Kansas.  Lizzie never intended to return to her father or the Mennonite community that wanted to have nothing to do with her and her young child born out of wedlock.  However, mysterious letters and glimpses of a stalker and trouble in her workplace force Lizzie to leave her new life and return to Kingdom, a place so far off the map she hopes no one can find her there.  When Lizzie returns to Kingdom, she is met with a town in limbo.  There are many struggles within the town and the changes people are pushing in the church community.  Lizzie finds friends that help her to adjust to her return and her time in Kingdom presents her with many new options to consider for her and her young daughter.

Inescapable was an enjoyable read.  Two minor things I took note of while reading were the dialogue between Lizzie and her parents and also Lizzie's relationship with her daughter, Charity.  It took a little to get used to the writer's dialogue, especially between Lizzie and her mother and father.  Although Lizzie speaks plainly, her parents speak in a very formal manner, often referring to her as "Daughter" or by her first and middle name.  I also found it difficult to fully identify with the relationship between Lizzie and her young daughter.  Lizzie is a great mom, doing the best she can as a single mom to raise her child. If I recall correctly, Lizzie's daughter is identified as a six year old in the story, yet her behaviors and the mother/daughter relationship make her appear much younger that six in my opinion.

Inescapable is a good choice if you like the combination of modern day romance, suspense and the Mennonite community setting.  The characters are well developed as well as the suspense and desire for reconciliation.  Inescapable also includes 10 discussion questions and a sneak peak of the first chapter of Book #2 of the Kingdom series, Unbreakable, available Spring 2013.

I received this book for free from Bethany House publishers for the purpose of my unbiased review.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: The Widow of Saunders Creek by Tracey Bateman

I recently read The Widow of Saunders Creek by Tracey Bateman.  This book, while not my favorite, was an interesting, captivating and entertaining read to me.

Corrie Saunders returns to her home that had been in her husband's family for generations. Corrie faces some coldness from family members who think she should have returned the home to the family and moved on with her life after her husband died a hero at war.  Corrie feels somewhat out of place in his hometown, yet it is also the place she feels closest to her late husband, Jarrod.  Corrie believes that the spirits she senses belong to her husband and that maybe he hasn't left her after all.  Jarrod's cousin, Eli, is helping with the renovations of the family home.  He is concerned for Corrie and her safety as she begins to open up about the odd occurrences.  Eli begins to witness the spirit occurrences as well.  Eli, a strong man of faith, is aware of the evil that has been allowed to roam the home for generations, invited to stay by his grandparents.  Eli is aware of many of Jarrod's failings and struggles to hide his somewhat ill feelings from Corrie to not dismantle her hero view of her late husband and her delicate emotions.  Eli and Corrie find themselves drawing closer together, yet being torn apart by differing opinions.  Eli encourages Corrie to grow in her faith and to rely on Jesus in those moments of concern.  However, Aunt Trudy, a old magic practicing medium encourages Corrie that Jarrod is not lost to her and that she can reconnect with him and his spirit.  Corrie must decide how she will choose to live the rest of her life.

The book is full of deep characters, the struggle between good and evil and the growing romance that grief and healing allow.  It had a different plot than books I frequently choose, however, it drew me in quickly and kept my attention.  I would not hesitate to read another book by Tracey Bateman.

If you are interested in The Widow of Saunders Creek, follow this link to a free preview available at Scribd.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.