Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: Whatever is Lovely


This is a beautifully done adult coloring book. I have seen several of these now but I really love how the pages in this one are based on biblical concepts, thoughts, and Scriptures. Each page is made with great deal of detail that will take concentration to complete.

The books intro suggests that as you color a page, you take that time to meditate on the truths of that page. They also offer a spotify playlist to spurn on worship of God as you do this. This is a great enhancement that this book offers that others do not. Of course you can listen to this playlist whether you are coloring or not but the time put into that is what makes this one a little different from the other coloring books I have seen.

It has thick pages that seem to be compatible with color pencils, sharpies, and crayons. There are 45 pages to color in this book.

If you want to get a copy of this coloring book from Amazon.com, you can here.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Monday, January 25, 2016

How to Help Empower People with Fair Trade Products

Trades of Hope is an incredible organization that not only helps women around the world earn a sustainable income but also shares the gospel with these artisans all around the world. The products are great but the best thing is your purchasing with a purpose. When I wear my products I often like to picture the women who made them and pray for them and their families. There are stories after story on youtube of the help done for women around the world. This video explains each artisan's work well. If you are interested in anyway please contact me or purchase products at a party I just opened here. https://mytradesofhope.com/MemberToolsDotNet/ShoppingCartv3/MainCart.aspx?PartyID=24418&PartyGuestID=-1&RequestedGroup1Code=&RequestedGroup2Code=&ReferringDealerID=815218

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book Review: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Welch


This was a practical book on raising kids against the current cultural situation we live within. I found helpful info all throughout on many topics. I think many Christian parents can be encouraged and instructed by it.

I was challenged by it in a few ways regarding my own family. I am hoping to implement the changes. It is nice to know others struggle in the same ways and it is worth exploring possibilities of improvement.

Overall this was an encouraging book. It was worth the time and an easy read which is important to a busy mom.

You can get a copy of this book from Amazon.com here.

I received a copy of the book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Some Thoughts on Sharing 25 Years with My Love


Once upon a time in a faraway land, two crazy young kids who were temperamentally similar to the sensitive and emotional Anne Shirley and no non-sense unemotional Mr. Spock met. They were blinded by “love” and quickly got married, but when two people so different join together in oneness, in order to keep that oneness, lots of dying has to take place.
            Due to this strange union that I found myself in, I was confused, challenged, and angry. Often times, by God’s grace, we find ourselves around people who God uses to sanctify us as light sand paper but this union was like a sand blaster. It wasn’t gradual and it wasn’t gentle.

Then I read this piercing passage of Scripture and found myself conflicted: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask” James 4:1-2.

“Wait, what? But it is him, he is the problem. If he would just act the way I need him to act then we would be fine. Our marriage has problems because he does this or doesn’t do that.” I had reasoned that I was not asking for too much. How could this quarrelsome heart be about me when he failed to meet my needs? After all a husband is to love his wife like Christ loves the church right (Ephesians 5)? Yet the Scripture stood for itself. What causes fights in our relationship is within me. That was not fun to hear or receive as truth but it drove me to my knees.

God, in His graciousness, started opening my eyes, you see, my marriage has not always been the easiest, yet whose has? When you throw two sinners with different upbringings and backgrounds together there are bound to be some problems, but mine had a little more difficulty to it because we have a problem of properly communicating. Not just your typical communication problems that others have but one brought on by neurological disability. And as God gave me more grace freely in areas, in our marriage, I withheld grace from this man God gave me. I did not take the neurological issues into account. I was expecting things that were not physically possible for him to give me.

You see, he didn’t think like me or act like me or even learn like me, we were completely different. It was like living in a foreign land not knowing how to speak the language. I was lost. I was so frustrated with him most of the time. My eyes were on our problems and not our Savior. Our marriage was not working until we both learned to die to ourselves. And by God’s goodness we were able to slowly die little by little allowing grace for the vast differences in our marriage and relationship. Communication continued to be hard; it still is to this day.

When our relationship improved and we started reflecting Christ and the church better, God granted us with children. This journey was incredibly hard for us because we ended up having a child with autism. It was not obvious autism but a mild, high functioning type of autism that is not apparent to others looking in yet in the home it is very evident and life altering. Many marriages find it hard to survive this kind of pressure. They lose the ability to support one another when they enter the world of special needs parenting but this was the biggest grace gift God has given to our marriage.

As I watched my child struggle socially over time my heart overflowed with compassion. I watched people reject her while she did not even know it. I watched her think people were friends while they manipulated. I watched this sweet innocent girl struggle socially and as she grew I watched her struggle with anxiety and communication skills. I helped walk her through obsessions though I could not fix them. I was broken over her strange world that she was forced to live in, there was nothing natural about it for her because she does not pick up social cues like most of us learn as we go. She doesn’t understand sarcasm or common sayings. She is very concrete in her thinking while her peers excel in abstract thought. We easily take for granted some common sense granted to us that has not been given to her. Since nothing is apparent about her disability it surprises many people because they don’t understand the secret world of this invisible illness.

God started opening my eyes toward my husband during this time. I started noticing that some of the things my daughter did or ways she behaved, I also observed in my husband. Yet when you grow up with spectrum issues and no one to help you with them you just learn to cope. Those patterns follow you into adulthood. As I watched my husband, I realized that some of the areas that I extended her grace in, I held my husband under judgment. Oh how my heart broke. As I watch my daughter navigate this difficult road, I now am filled with more compassion for my husband. He is not the same as her but he is on the spectrum with her. And with this new knowledge I am learning to give grace. I am learning to communicate in the proper way and not take things too personally. I have a lot to learn and it is great practice to freely give grace. God gives more grace (James 4:6) and I am learning to do the same as He makes me more Christ like when I have to opportunity to die to self. God does this for my husband as well when I unravel into an emotional whirlwind that makes him extremely uncomfortable. 

You see, our marriage works, despite the vast differences, because we both know that our eyes need to be focused on Christ and as we both individually behold him He transforms us from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). We also learn the art of dying to self and how to be great forgivers who freely lavish on mercy and love. It is a process that is not by any means perfected or natural but it is what God had in store for us both so that our differences sanctify one another for the better and when we stand before God we will be able to say we are more like Christ for it.

Because our relationship is sometimes like observing Mr. Spock and Anne of Green Gables it can be quite comical but when all is said and done, we learn to love better, forgive fuller, pray harder and to pour forth mercy. We are better off for it because we both died a little more and both look a little more like our Savior. If it wasn’t for our daughter with autism, I do not believe I would have ever realized how to love well in our marriage. And I do yearn for the day we will be together in Heaven with no neurological deficiencies so we can communicate without the problem of sin getting in the way. What a glorious day that will be! But until then we press ahead for the prize that Christ (Philippians 3:13-14) has called us to with our eyes fixed on Him (Hebrews 12:2). We praise Him for His good gifts whatever kind of package they come in. All things are gifts of grace from the Father above and we are grateful.  

This year those crazy kids mentioned above give thanks for 20 years of marriage and we stand in awe of His great grace as we achieve this milestone that we know makes God smile because He is the God who sees and He knows the real struggle. It pleases Him when we chose the Christ path of dying to self. Marriage is a great tool to learn and practice that art. So those two crazy kids who got married too young with too many differences are going to make it, not because they are great but because God is great and He is at the center of their marriage. They are very different now than they were then but they would not trade the adventure for anything because it is HIS story. And the Author is good. The happily ever after is soon coming and what a day that will be for their testimony is about His great power that shines through their great weakness. May HIS name be praised!

Friday, January 8, 2016

When Sickness Tarries


 I have been living in a lot of pain lately. Health has always been a struggle of mine for about half of my life now. The problem is that the professionals cannot seem to give me a certain answer for what is really going on. Often tests come back stating "normal." Yet the pain persists. the weird symptoms still occur limiting my ability to live and do everything I want to do, things that "normal" people can do.

But the pain in these past few months has been tear inducing. And I have no idea why. I have my theories of course and so do the professionals, however, as we wait for other things to happen or show up, my body rebels. It attacks itself. It produces great pain.

When people see this, they want to fix it. I think this is a natural tendency. We don't want to see people in pain, and really, if you see me you would probably never know because I do try to hide it if I can. There is no point focusing on it. I need no help with the temptation of self-pity. Yet also I am tired of people recommending the next big fad of health curing alternatives which cost lots of money and have no real guarantee. You see, after half my life of searching and trying to figure it out, I have just had to resign to the fact that some things cannot be figured out. Some things cannot be cured. I have decided not to expend anymore income on it. We are in enough debt already that we are faithfully trying to pay off.

It reminds me of a woman in the Bible. A woman who was desperate. A woman who spent all her money on trying to find a cure. A woman talking to the professionals. A woman broken, alone, desperate for a cure. A woman who reasoned that if she just could touch this Jesus she was hearing about, if she could just touch him, she would be well. And it worked! He healed her. What she wanted to do in secret and discretely he singled out to the crowd. He addressed her as daughter. I find this beautiful. You can read about it in Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8.

As I read, I could only think about her desperate attempt to reach out and touch him. Yet now, after the resurrection, I don't have to reach out to touch Him. He came down to us, to me. He has reached down and touched me. He was resurrected from the dead to beat sin, sickness, and death. Because I live in the in between of the already but not yet period of time, I can be encouraged by this story because it foreshadows the final, once for all healing that will come upon His return. 

He has healed my soul and I can truly say all is well. My body may fail me but my Spirit is strong. When I am weak, He is strong. My goal is not to be healthy and healed though I wish I was and He surely can do that but instead my goal is to rest in His reach because He reached down to me. He holds me close. He reassures me that He is coming back. He helps me know I can trust Him even in this plan of pain. I know that this temporary trial is producing a greater weight of glory and it will be worth it though at the present I do not understand. I don't have to understand because He is God and He is good, that is all I need to know.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Effective Discipling by Little


I found this book to be very informative and interesting. It speaks of discipleship and its many challenges in the context of Muslim communities. Whether you are living as an expat or around communities of others, this book presented challenges and successes when it comes to discipleship. The various stories were insightful and worth the read.

The book is filled with real stories from around the globe. Again, I found it to be interesting information. I especially liked the section about Paul's understanding of discipleship and Spiritual growth along with Discipleship in the early church. These sections gave basic overviews of what the Bible says about discipleship.

The thing that moved me the most about this book was the stress on the need for discipleship. Often people think sharing the gospel is enough but it is not. If people receive the truth of the gospel they will need someone around them who can help explain the truths of the Bible and how to live it out.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

You can get a copy of this book on Amazon here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Review: The Ragamuffin Gospel by Manning


This was a book packed with the truth of the grace of God. It is a good read that should be considered when thinking about what the grace of God really means. This particular book is the 25th anniversary edition because it has remained in print all of these years. That says something. No matter your denomination, I think it would be good for all Christians to be challenged by this book.

I struggle often with grace and I believe I am only beginning to understand what it truly means to live in His grace and grow in His grace. This book is insightful to my growth. There were many sections of this book that just made me take a pause so that I would just worship God for His goodness to us. It was truly a blessing.

I received a copy of this book at no charge for the purpose of and honest review.

You can get a copy of this book from Amazon.com here.

The Danger of Living Outside of Authentic Biblical Community


We were never meant to go it alone. When God made the world, in the beginning, He brought all of the animals before Adam and then stated, "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable to him." 

Can you just let that truth sink in a bit? Here we have Adam and God. God walked in the garden, clearly spoke, and fellow shipped with Adam, yet, it wasn't enough. God said, it was not good for him to be alone. In that reasoning God made Eve. His perfect compliment and even from before "the fall" we were made to live in community. 

Community is a good thing yet after the fall our hearts have gone wrong in many ways. Sin abounds. We hurt one another and our temptation comes to fight or flee. We think we will do better, be better, on our own. Yet, God did not desire this for us because it was not for our very best selves.

I have been studying at CCEF to earn my biblical counseling certificate and part of that process is counseling people. There are various areas of brokenness but all of them involve community. So how is it that the thing that has the propensity to hurt you so badly is such a good thing?

God is community at His very core. God, three in one, is community. He did not need anything else, yet, in His love He created us. First Adam, then Eve. Quickly humans began to fall into greater depravity. We were made in the image of God but we are not like God. We can never measure up to His goodness in community, however, we have the perfect example to look to in Him.

To live in community we must be good forgivers and must be willing to humble ourselves. Naturally in and of ourselves we cannot do these things well or in any lasting manner except through the power of Christ. He took a drastic measure to redeem us; the unseemingly unredeemable. The very image of God through Christ came to save his image bearers by living the perfect life we could not live and becoming the final sacrifice for all sin.  

Now that is some love. Coming to rescue those who do not love you so that those who do not could. He came so our hearts could turn from stone to flesh. He came so we could be forgivers because we have been forgiven and so that we could be lovers because we know what it is to be loved. That is how you do community. Not perfectly but little by little relying on what Christ did for us with that perfect sacrifice. Not only death on the cross but resurrection from the dead. He is the God who resurrects things that seem dead and that can include relationships. 

The book of Hebrews is discussing Christ's sacrifice once and for all and reassuring the believer in this in Chapter 10, then in verse 24 it states,  

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." 

Consider here is a Greek word that means to consider attentively.

Stir up here is a Greek word meaning incite or irritation.

We are being encouraged because of our confidence in what Christ has done to attentively think about how to seriously stir up others in our community toward love and good works. All the while as we await His coming. We need one another to continually encourage our fickle hearts! When I am discouraged you can encourage me in these truths. I need to be reminded and I will remind you as you need reminding. It is the beauty of community. 

The problem is that some are in the habit of abandoning community. I am speaking this problem to myself. When I feel hurt my core desire is to just abandon the community and nurse my own wounds. I reason, I don't really need them anyway. However, this is dangerous territory because it is in this place that it is easier to run into the arms of sin instead of the arms of God. 

Community should be considering how they can stir up that lack of love into welcoming and authentic love and good works. They should be encouraging the weak but in order to encourage the weak we must have eyes to see them and take notice. We must have hearts to love. We must pursue them.

In some of these relationships I have been counseling I am seeing a lack of community involvement. There is not an authentic honesty where the people can be who they really are, warts and all, in community. The problem is they are either not connected anywhere like this or they are in a place where play acting is happening. It is very easy to play dress up and pretend all is well when it is not. That is not in anyway encouraging. Pretending is not a part of authentic community.  And honestly we don't have time for it because the time of His coming is drawing closer.

After the verses from Hebrews about community there is a warning about sinning deliberately and its seriousness. Then a word of encouragement  of when they were enlightened with the truth and how Jesus is coming back for us so we are to persevere in this. Then all of Hebrews 11 is example after example of those who have gone before us who have lived by faith. These are a community of people through the ages we can glean encouragement from. People who were not perfect but were perfected in the Perfect one because of their faith in His saving grace.

Then Hebrews 12:1-4 states, 
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint-hearted."

 Then after we are encouraged by the community of saints, we see Jesus again. We are pointed to Him. We are told to run with endurance the race set before us --- looking to Jesus. Why looking to Jesus? Because He is the perfecter and founder of our faith. He is the one who lived the perfect life we could not and endured death on the cross because it meant life for us. If we consider Him and what He did out of love for His bride, we can be encouraged to do it too. We can love our enemies because he loved us first. We can persist in community because He lead the way for it. We can forgive because we have been forgiven. We can persevere because He gives us grace to endure the race as we look to Him.

Then following we are reminded again of God's familial love toward us. God's discipline toward those He loves. And in verses 14-15 state, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it no one will fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled."

You see, community is not perfect. Community is a place where sinners live. Sinners hurt others. We are all sinners so we all do it but as we learn to live by His grace we can look a little more like Him as we learn to forgive and die more and more to our selfishness. If we persist to stay connected and be honest about our real selves with some others where we are brave enough to confess our sins to one another we will be healed. This is His promise. We will be whole. We will be okay until He returns for us because He is molding a people who are ready and it takes each one of us to fulfill that process. So stay connected to community for the sake of Christ. It can be beautiful. And it is a beautiful bride He is coming back for soon.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Book Review: Parables by MacArthur


This is a really good book that explains select parables of Christ in simple terms. I love books that give cultural and historical background so that we can understand the context of the Scriptures more accurately and this book did that well. I learned a lot and I am thankful that I got to read this. It is always good to learn more about Jesus so if you desire that, read this book.

I grew as I was challenged in a greater way by the parables that Jesus taught. He is an amazing teacher of hard truths and I need to emulate him in that. Parables are great tools to use when addressing the world with biblical truths. It breaks my heart that there will be those who do not have ears to hear but spurns my heart in worship more that I do have ears to hear. Not because of my doing but just because of the goodness of God. I am just overwhelmed again and again by that truth.

I received a copy of this book at no charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

You can get a copy of this book from amazon here.

Friday, January 1, 2016

When a Family Prays Together


This new year's eve our family tried something new. It was decided by my husband that we would all take time to pray for one another and the upcoming new year. We are a family, so we see the most of one another in our best and our worst. This means we have eyes to see the things that we most need help with. I expected this to be a short exercise but as each person took their turn to pray very personally and intimately about the other family members it ended up being almost an hour long ordeal.

This was the most beautiful thing I have seen in 2015. It was busting with love, confession, and grace. We were honest and real with our struggles and desire for more grace to change more into Christ likeness. Forgiveness was sought; humility reigned. There were things I didn't even realize others knew about themselves that were revealed. And the most beautiful thing was that we can help one another by our prayers.

"You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many." ~2 Corinthians 1:11

What if we just took the time to do this on a more regular basis? Hearts would change toward one another. God would move in bigger ways in our hearts. We would be more focused on Him. This is an activity I hope we engage in more often but instead of just focusing prayer on our family that we expand it out to praying for others. Maybe monthly a topic could be given and we would prepare our prayers around that? It is a great start in lessons on dependence on God and I am so thankful for that moving experience.

I hope this new year is a more prayerful year because prayer instills dependence and intimacy with God more naturally in our hearts which is an opportunity for more growth in grace. And I am thankful that "he gives more grace" because I am learning to splash around in it more and more. 
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