Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Live Second: 365 Ways To Make Jesus First

Christmas is officially over, and we are quickly racing forward to New Years Day with fresh hope, fresh promises, and new beginnings. Recently, I was part of a group of bloggers who participated in a blog tour for Live Second: 365 Ways To Make Jesus First by Doug Bender, but I was also given the opportunity to review the entire book. For those who received new reading devices or gift cards for books, let me recommend you get a copy of this book. If you are wanting to start a new devotional for the new year, this is a perfect choice.

Neatly divided into 12 Sessions with 4 (or 5) weeks per session, there is a daily reading part to cover your entire year. Day 1 of each week gives you a video from the I Am Second Official Channel . (The book has the QR code for these videos, but since I own no device that uses them, I'm really not sure how they work.) Each video, usually by a well known actor, athlete. speaker, etc., allows a person to tell where they were before and where they now are after making Jesus first in their life. The sense of community derived from watching these videos will definitely make you realize that you are not alone in your failures and struggles.

Day One has the video and scripture to read. You then have What It Says, What It Means, Live It, Tell It, and Practice It. The other 6 days have the scripture reading and Talk With God, Live It, and Tell It. Each day is only one page and you get out of it what you are willing to put into it. This would be excellent for a group of friends who meet weekly or monthly, but is also appropriate for personal study and growth. This book, your Bible, a journal, writing implements (I personally love colored pencils when I make notes in my Bible) and a desire to make Jesus your priority is all you need. (Well, if you want to watch the videos, you need more.) This is the book I intend to use during 2013 as I desire for Jesus to be first in all aspects of my life. #Iamsecond

I Am Second website
I Am Second Facebook page

From the Facebook page: "I am Second is a movement meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others. Actors. Athletes. Musicians. Business leaders. Drug addicts. Your next-door neighbor. People like you. The authentic stories on iamsecond.com provide insight into dealing with typical struggles of everyday living. These are stories that give hope to the lonely and the hurting, help from destructive lifestyles, and inspiration to the unfulfilled. You’ll discover people who’ve tried to go it alone and have failed. Find the hope, peace, and fulfillment they found. Be Second.
You are here for a reason. We all have needs and could use some help. Talk to us. Call, chat, or email. 24 hours a day. www.iamsecond.com"

 Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sisterchicks In Gondolas by Robin Jones Gunn

Sisterchicks In Gondolas is part of a delightful series by Robin Jones Gunn. Sisterchicks novels can be read as stand alone novels since it is the theme rather than the characters that remains consistent. Each novel is about close friends who share a common faith and have a chance for a vacation or simply to spend time together. (Actually, I was very surprised to realize that I had missed reading this one.) The story for Sisterchicks In Gondolas (from the website) is the following:
Jenna and Sue have been sisters-in-law for nearly thirty years but inseparable friends for only the last five. When Jenna is invited to a week’s stay at a fifteenth century restored palace on a quiet canal in Venice, Sue is her travel companion of choice. The catch? They must cook for a group that is staying at the palace for a retreat. With about six words of Italian between them, a map, and a keen appetite for gelato, Jenna and Sue enter into the lilting gondola-paced Italian lifestyle. Together they discovering corners of Venice most tourists never see and over boiling pots of pasta they dare each other to dream again. These two Sisterchicks realize that sometimes when serving God, the most important thing to do is just show up…and watch for goodness and mercy to follow close behind. 

I am a huge fan of all of the books in this series, but this one touched me even more than some of the others. I have never been to Venice, so I enjoyed reading more about it. The descriptions and information about the city and surrounding areas was fascinating. There is also a lot of humor in this story, as well as moments that caused me to pause and consider my own life. However, the 2 Sisterchicks in this story both had traits that reminded me of myself. Jenna had been divorced for many years, and felt like she couldn't me as much use to God and that family looked down on her for it. (Me too.) She was also invited to cook for some missionaries on a retreat, but is not a good cook. (I can relate to being a bad cook!) She only knows a few words of Italian, but that doesn't stop her for trying. (You should hear my Spanglish! LOL!)

Sue is adjusting to a new normal since her husband's accident...and is wanting to break out of her old patterns of legalism and being fearful. Also, she can cook! I can identify with the ways she has become a bit fearful of life and is wanting to LIVE rather than just continuing to EXIST. The way Sue and Jenna lean on one another and lift up one when the other is down is such a perfect portrait of unselfish love for a friend. They each want to help the other be the person God intended, plus walk closer with Him. This is both a book that makes a valid point of trusting God and His Grace, but also wrapped in pure joy. I loved it!

Like Sisterchicks on Facebook 
LIKE Robin Jones Gunn on Facebook 

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

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On A Quest For Christ

On A Quest For Christ is a 30-day devotional that is intended to help you retrace your spiritual journey. From the first steps toward faith and a relationship with God to where you now are on your path of following Christ, this book shows you your past, your current, and encourages you toward your future steps. Using a variety of topics, the questions asked help you to record your own story.  Prayers and scripture are included that underline and enhance your thoughts and memories.

"Your spiritual story is significant. Who you are makes a difference. God ordained this path for your life even before the dawn of creation. It matters to you. It matters to me. In fact, it matters to the whole community of faith, both now and forever. The impact of your life is incalculable." —Lisa Aré Wulf

Each short chapter begins Scripture and a lead in to what the chapter is about. This is followed by a story from Lisa and then questions to answer about your own story. Reflections gives a couple of more questions and a Scripture to consider. This is followed by a written prayer, but leaves room for you to write a prayer of your own.

I really liked the format and the short chapters. I didn't feel like I was so bogged down with additional info that I wanted to rush through. This could work as a small group, but I like it as a personal reflection. Sometimes the worries and cares of the world can seem so burdensome and we feel as though we are in a rut. This can show you how far you still have to go, but you can also see how far you have gone...and the Lord's presence as you grow nearer to Him. I found it to be a great encouragement.

LIKE On A Quest For Christ on FB.

The author also very kindly sent me another copy to bless someone else. If you would like to be entered into a random drawing, leave a comment on the blog (or you can message me...a lot of Anonymous comments go straight to Spam). The winner will be selected on Wed., Dec 26th at 10:00 am (CDT).

 Disclosure of Material Connection-  I received a free copy of On a Quest for Christ: Tracing the Footsteps of Your Spiritual Journey by Lisa Aré Wulf to review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.  I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Live Second Post #4: Known

Obviously, I am several days late in finishing my fourth and final post about Live Second: 365 Ways To Put Jesus First by Doug Bender. In keeping with the original concept of these blog posts, I will be finishing Session 2: Issues / Week 9: Identity. This week's session is based on John 3:1-21. This passage includes the most well-known verse in the world ("For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life." Basically, the gospel in one verse.), not all know that it is about Jesus meeting with an important Jewish leader at night.

The video for this portion is Tamara Jolee:

When Nicodemus had this personal encounter with Jesus, he went out of curiosity and seeking to know more about His identity. Jesus was matter of much debate, and Nicodemus just had to know what Jesus had to say about Himself...even if he was afraid to be seen speaking to Him alone during daylight hours.

 That shows the identity part; Nicodemus was asking Jesus, "Who are you?" He genuinely wanted to know if Jesus was sent by God, as He claimed...or if the ones who claimed Jesus was an instrument of the devil were right. What strikes me as vital evidence of Jesus truly being God is in how He chose to answer.

Several times when questioned, Jesus refers to the Jewish rabbis and leaders as "vipers", "snakes", or "hypocrites"! Psalm 139:1-6 is filled with imagery of how God knows all about us. So, the way Jesus responds to questions of the fearful, yet truth-seeking Nicodemus let me know right away that He already knew this man was different from the other Pharisees.

What does this mean to and for me? I can face current and future situations, not through my own power, but because I can be honest with my God---who already knows my questions and the answers. He is already aware of my fears, failures, shame, hopes, and so many other emotions that are weaved into my thoughts. Jesus is first and I am [eternally grateful to be] Second. I know Him and #IASknown.

With much appreciation (& apologies for falling behind), I want to thank Doug Bender for the download of this material. I will soon be reviewing the entire book, and have plans to use this as a regular part of my devotions and study time in 2013.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Live Second Post #3: Enough

Live Second blog post 3 has it's focus on Success. The irony of this one is not lost on me. By anyone's stands, I am not a success. Actually, the only success I can lay claim to was that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I have strayed, rebelled, and tried to turn my back on Him a few times when the going got tough and prayers weren't being answered my way! So, here is my post on Success: Enough.

This week's featured video from the I Am Second collection is skateboarder, Brian Sumner:

I have grandkids who loved skateboarding, and a friend wrote and directed the faith-based film, Hardflip...so I did know who Brian Sumner is and love that he is such an example for others.

The Scripture focus on this reading is Proverbs 30: 7-9
“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread. 
 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

I have always been below poverty level, but needs were met. I had no doubt God would provide for me...but it was also in the back of my mind that He put me in places where I could survive. Now I have reached a point where I am in my upper 50s, have not worked since an accident in '94 (other than taking care of grandkids), have multiple health issues, no transportation...and everything I relied on has been taken away. It is extremely like I will start the new year homeless...so this is where my faith is about to truly be tested. The few people I confided in (well...until now! lol) have assured me that God would never allow this to happen to me. Well, why not me? We are not promised success by worldly standards, but my success is in knowing that no matter what I have to face on earth...I will have the success of dwelling forever with my God. Truly, isn't that all that really matters?

This is the last day to take advantage of all of the free stuff!! I highly recommend this book as a devotional for 2013...so grab it today!!
Thanks Doug Bender for providing me with a download for review purposes.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Live Second Post #2: Love Defined

Live Second: 365 Ways To Make Jesus First by Doug Bender contains 365 daily readings and prayers meant to inspire people to consider what life might look like if Jesus were First. I am one of many bloggers who loved the I am Second book and was invited to participate in the launch of this one. This is my 2nd post from Session 2 and it is Relationships: Love Defined.

The video from this one is Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs who married, divorced, and later remarried. Their story was told in the first I Am Second book, plus many details were shared in the recent book about their daughter, Lauren--Still Lolo.

There were several topics available in this section, but the one I chose was Love Defined...based on 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. Many are familiar with this passage, but I like the way it was presented to me once---by personalizing it.

If Cindy speaks human or angelic languages
but do not have love, she is a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 

If Cindy has the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if Cindy has all faith
so that she can move mountains but does not have love, she is nothing. 

And if Cindy donates all her goods to feed the poor,
and if Cindy gives her body in order to boast but does not have love, she gains nothing.

Cindy is patient, Cindy is kind. Cindy does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not 
keep a record of wrongs. Cindy finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. Cindy bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Cindy's love never ends.

I wish those things were true of me, but I can not lay claim to even one. I fail daily, but Jesus will never fail when we depend on Him to be all we need. If you want a relationship to work, Jesus is first. When I think of the relationship I have with him I am second...and that is a wonderful thing!!
I greatly appreciate the free ebook I received to be a part of this launch campaign, and I recommend you check out the offers provided for this week.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Live Second: Enslaved

Live Second: 365 Ways To Make Jesus First by Doug Bender contains 365 daily readings and prayers meant to inspire people to consider what life might look like if Jesus were First. I am one of many bloggers who loved the I am Second book and was invited to participate in the launch of this one. Later on I will be reviewing the entire book, but for this week, I am one of those who will be highlighting Session 2: Issues. This is the first of four blog posts I will be writing and the readings that spoke most to me. Week 6 is about Struggles. The video we watched for this one is of Brian "Head" Welch:

I cannot personally relate to the issues Brian had with drugs, but that isn't the only form of enslavement. The scripture reading for Day 5 was Romans 6:15-23 and deals with moving from slaves to sin to slaves of God. What are some of the habits that come between me and God or do I continue doing...in spite how bad it makes me feel (physically and spiritually)? The internet takes priority too often over time spent alone with God. Even if I am reading devotions from an online source, how many windows do I have open that distract me with a notification that I have an email or message. Unhealthy eating and exercise (or lack of...) habits return before I even realize it. The grip on me is strong.

But, my biggest form of enslavement is fear. Fear of failing, fear of falling, fear of letting go of things and people I trust for provision. He knows my weaknesses and my fears...and assures me frequently with, "Trust me. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will provide for you."  It is time that I put Jesus first for today and my future and do those things I know He wants me to do, and leave behind what needs to stay in the past. He is first and I am second.

I greatly appreciate the free ebook I received to be a part of this launch campaign, and I recommend you check out the offers provided for this week

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Men of A.I.M.

Men of A.I.M. is a ministry seeking to support and encourage churches and men's ministry leaders in Central Illinois, but also reaches out to men in other areas. The acronym A.I.M. is a reminder to men of the importance of balancing Action (James 2:17), Integrity (Proverbs 10:9), and Maturity (Hebrews 6:1) in our lives. Their focus scripture is 1 Corinthians 9:26 ~ Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly...

Of course, I am NOT a member, but I have been fascinated by the work that Rich Gerberding does, especially through Heart of Illinois Movie Central. Rich says on the page, "Film has the potential to impact many lives, and – frankly – the quality of Christian films has increased greatly over the years. The HOI page will be used to provide information about current or upcoming Christian movies in the Central Illinois area, or of films in the works that may be coming our way.As a growing number of Christians support films, the word will get out and Christian filmmakers will want to see if they’re films will 'Play in Peoria'."

I have noticed Rich and his organization over the past couple of years as they have been extremely supportive of several films that have caught my attention. I thought he was very effective in getting out the word (actually, I am a bit jealous of his success! lol) in movies such as Hardflip, October Baby, Christmas With A Capital C and others. I noticed that this group will be promote  The Lost Medallion (another impressive looking film!), but I am really excited that HOI also will be endorsing Beyond The Farthest Star!!!!

Rich kindly included me when he emailed others on his newsletter list, and this is part of what was said: "Is there a trailer.... no, not yet.

But there is a book, and I read it last weekend.  Yes, last weekend.  I had gotten a few pages into The Hobbit, on an impulse downloaded "Beyond the Farthest Star" - and didn't read another word of The Hobbit until I'd finished this book.

Everything I'd hoped to see from the various clips of the movie was there, and I am now even more excited about the film coming out than I was before.

The film hits a lot of topics -

  • Separation of Church & State
  • Teen angst & Self Abuse / cutting
  • Abortion / Sanctity of Life
  • Priorities of Life - Leaving a Legacy
  • The Importance of Marriage Vows

Amazingly, these topics are pulled together through the struggles of a Pastor's family in a Texas small town in a way that they do not feel forced, but rather the culmination of issues left unchecked and finally blowing up."

I have said many times that I truly believe that a good film can be a conversation opener and I would like to see more groups have a media ministry that not only presents films that can minister to the churched, but also appeal to the unchurched. Too many have their own narrow view of what a Christian or faith-based film is but, as with any other type film, there is room for all genres and audiences. If you are looking for a good model on how to organize this type of outreach, I heartily recommend you take a look at the Men of A.I.M. site. I am sure Rich has many pointers on the best way to get started.

Men of A.I.M. website  

Men of A.I.M. Facebook page

Heart Of Illinois Christian Movie Central 

"Like" Beyond The Farthest Star 

(remember to sign up to Bring It!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Still Lolo by Lauren Scruggs

Still Lolo: A Spinning Propeller, a Horrific Accident, and a Family's Journey of Hope by  Lauren Scruggs, the Scruggs Family, and Marcus Brotherton. In December 2011, Lauren (“LoLo”) Scruggs, a 23-year-old fashion journalist, suffered a sudden injury that made headlines around the world. She had been on a short flight to look at Christmas lights and, upon exiting the small plane, was hit by the still-moving propeller blade. A frantic 911 call, several major surgeries, and thousands of prayers later: Lauren lived. But she lost her left hand and left eye. And she had to face some incredibly difficult questions: What kind of future will I have? Where is God in all this pain? Will anyone ever be able to love me now? In Still LoLo, Lauren speaks out for the first time since her accident. She and her family reveal what really happened that night, what Lauren’s life is like today, what got them through their journey toward healing, and how they conquered all odds to persevere as a family. It’s a compelling and fiercely beautiful story of faith, determination, and staying true to who you are—no matter what. (from the publisher)

Lauren, Cheryl, Brittany (bottom)
Jeff and Shaun (top)
It's hard to believe that it has been nearly a year since this accident. Lauren is a friend of a friend, so I remember getting a message about the accident and being asked to pray. I also followed her progress on Caring Bridge as I continued to pray for her and her family...and I stayed in awe of what God was doing; I cried on the bad days and rejoiced on the good ones...and was tremendously blessed by the strength and hope this family found in tragic circumstances. Reading the more detailed ups and downs of the past year through the memories of Lauren, [her twin sister] Brittany and each of her parents enforces the power of God in each of our lives. More than just a summary of the past year, this is also an honest portrayal of a family that has been shattered through divorce but mended stronger than ever through Jeff and Cheryl's remarriage. The security these parents tried to give their daughters during the years apart, is an inspiration and example to others whose marriages have ended. It also covers the girls childhood, relationships, career paths, and provides a glimpse of their lives.

Young, beautiful, and just starting on her career in the field she loved, including launching LOLO Magazine , Lauren's life changed in an instant. Just the physical impact alone of losing her hand and her eye are numerous: Depth perception changes, and having to relearn basic tasks that you normally don't even think about are hard enough, plus there was also unimaginable pain. Lauren gives us insights into the physical, but she also shares the emotions she went through (and, I am sure, will continue to face). The physical, emotional, and psychological pain, the fears she faced, and the triumphs are shared with raw honest emotion that truly speaks to the reader. Throughout it all, her faith, her family, her friends, and her physical fitness each played a role in her recovery.

Lauren doing push-ups

She mentions a song, Restoration, based on Psalm 30:11 that has special meaning for her and is a promise she clings to as she adapts to changes in her life. Her habits of healthy eating and regular exercise had to have been a large plus in her healing, but there were equal parts of a determined strength to overcome odds, and the assurance that her life is in God's Hands...no matter what. I believe this is a book that can provide hope and inspiration to people of any age, but a special encouragement to young women. Lauren is a prime example of taking the interests and abilities God has given you and stepping forward in faith and gratitude for His blessings. I highly recommend the book!

Lauren's recently released  "I am Second" video.

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rose Of Sharon: Delusions Of Grandeur by Jeffrey Greer

Kindle edition
Truth is stranger than fiction, and small town life is the strangest truth of all. Finn Jackson and his wife Zelda have returned to Finn's hometown of Rose of Sharon, Alabama, to escape the city and return to the simple life. But simplicity is hard to find when you're surrounded by robot-obsessed conspiracy theorists, washed-up television actors and senior citizens convinced of the existence of two Alamos. Or Alami. Whatever. In Rose of Sharon, home may be sweet, but it's far from normal!

1. "No Dice": Hollywood, California comes to Rose Of Sharon, Alabama and the clash of culture is hysterical...yet believable. I feel like I am already friends with most of the people on both sides and this is a large part of the charm. The quirkiness of the small town residents and the self-importance of the celebrity visitors is not a new story, but is told in a delightful way that makes you want to be a part of it all.

2. "In Which I Unsuccessfully Attempt To Teach The World To Sing": Who doesn't remember this commercial?

In this story, one of the singers from that commercial has decided that she would like to teach the world her personal philosophy...in 3 parts. Will she and Finn Jackson find perfect harmony to collaborate on her biography? When he is hired to ghostwrite a book, Finn learns that the singer wants to share much more than a simple experience... and a Coke...with the world.

3. "Billy Wayne Grissom Is Gonna Kill Willie Nelson": For many years "Itsy" Grissom has kept her long friendship with Willie Nelson a secret from her jealous husband, Billy Wayne. But when she let her secret slip out during the Rose Of Sharon Baptist Women (ages 35-55) annual trip to Birmingham, it was only a matter of time before someone shared the story with her unsuspecting husband. The whole town fears the worst when it is learned that Willie Nelson will be headlining the annual City Stages event in Birmingham! When Rick and Bubba announce that Willie has been shot, the town immediately suspects Billy Wayne! And, just what part does Seven Spanish Angels have in all of this?
Southern humor and story-telling are an art form and one that is greatly appreciated by me. I literally laughed out loud as I read the 3 stories included in this much too short book by Jeffrey Greer (my new favorite fiction author!) and could not quit reading until I had finished the last word. If you have ever lived in north Alabama, this is a must have book and, even if you haven't, these stories are filled with characters you will not soon forget...and only reluctantly leave. You will want to read this yourself and to share the fun with friends and family. I will be waiting impatiently for my next visit to Rose Of Sharon, Alabama!!

Rose Of Sharon: Delusions Of Grandeur (Kindle edition) is available on Amazon.
If you don't own a Kindle, there is a free download available on Amazon for your computer or other devices. It's so simple, I figured out how to do it...and I am NOT tech-savvy at all!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gift Of A Servant by Tamara Amos

A father waits up on Christmas Eve night to demand retirement from the hero of his childhood, Santa Claus. The same saint who used to symbolize Christmas spirit is now plastered on advertisements everywhere, driving shoppers into holiday hysteria! Dear old Dad makes a mistake, however, by forgetting what every child knows: that when Santa comes in the night with a bag full of surprises, he always leaves the perfect gift.

Gift Of A Servant
is a glimpse into the soul of one of the most celebrated and beloved saints of our time. It is a journey into the heart of his mission to bestow God’s love upon His children, and an invitation to join him in this holy quest.

Enter in with an expectant heart to receive the gift Santa Claus has prepared for you!
from the publisher)

If you are looking for a faith-based book to read to a child in your life, here is a new one that is currently only available in limited quantities. Some of the words are more difficult for young readers, although I am delighted to see a book that is not limited to the most simple vocabulary; I considered that a huge plus as I read through the book. On the negative, some of the syntax seems off a bit. It is reminiscent of the Twas The Night Before Christmas poetic style throughout most of the book, but the meter and structure are missing in parts.

What is most important to me, though, is the message of the tale. In a culture that is becoming increasingly commercial, the birth of the Christ Child and the gift He is to each of us is getting lost. Some want to ignore or downplay that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ and there are others who want no hint of Santa in the message of Christmas and see him as a form of adversary. Instead of making this Jesus vs. Santa Claus, Mrs. Amos weaves a tale of Santa as a servant of Christ who wants to share His love rather than the symbol of consumerism or as being the "reason for the season" himself. I love the way you can use this book to teach your child that we are each here to spread the love of Jesus to others and using Santa as an example.

Visit the  Mystical Rose Inspirations website to find out more and to place an order for this beautiful book. It has a deluxe padded hardcover with gold foil embossing & laminate cover. The size is 8.5x11, it has 40 pages. Also, please make sure you Like Gift Of A Servant on Facebook. The newly released trailer I have embedded below will you a better idea of the story and allow you to see some of the beautiful illustrations by David W. Luebbert. I think will soon become a treasured book to be read each Christmas season for generations to come.

In compliance with federal guidelines, I want to say that I received a copy of this book to use for review purposes. No expectations or promises were made of a positive review.

The Purpose Driven Life (updated edition) by Rick Warren

Ten years ago, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church wrote one of the biggest best-sellers of the 21st century. The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? was widely read by people both churched and unchurched. It struck a chord with millions who were searching for what life has to offer...and what their reason is for being here. However, there is now a new generation of seekers, and many are people who are accustomed to a whole new way of doing things. Social media and new technology that are available now are incorporated to give this 10th anniversary edition a new look and feel and to utilize resources unheard of 10 years ago. For those who have not read the original, the book offers readers a 40-day personal spiritual journey, and presents what the author says are God's five purposes for human life on Earth. They are:

1 You were planned for God's pleasure
2 You were formed for God's family
3 You were created to become like Christ
4 You were shaped for serving God
5 You were made for a mission

  • Video introductions by Rick Warren to chapters 1-40
  • An audio Bible study at the end of each chapter, with over 30 additional hours of teaching by Rick Warren.
  • Two new bonus chapters on the most common barriers to living a purpose driven life.
  • Access to an online community where you can discuss your journey to purpose, get feedback, and receive support.
 I still have my original book, so I was curious to see if this was a new and improved version, or merely a new cover on the same material. To be honest, I don't have a smart phone or any other handheld device that can be used with that odd looking (well, to me!) symbol on each page. If it works the way it has been explained to me, it sounds like an incredibly useful tool. I do have a computer, though, so I can access all of the features available. I love being able to hear the audio message and to know what resources I can use in individual or group studies. This isn't as much "meat" as some would like when doing an indepth Bible study, but it is a good starting place for those who want to start a daily devotional. I feel that is more of an introduction for new Christians or seekers, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

I review for BookSneeze®

Thursday, November 22, 2012

One Thousand Gifts Devotional

 "One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces"  Following the success of "One Thousand Gifts," her guide to giving thanks and finding joy in all aspects of life, Ann Voskamp returns with this "One Thousand Gifts Devotional." Follow in her footsteps, and find 'joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama and daily duties.' The 60 devotions in the "One Thousand Gifts Devotional" explore the simple graces and the hard graces we all experience every day of our lives. Each devotion provides a daily Scripture and prayer and invites you to go deeper into the concept of grace explored in her book and on her blog, www.aholyexperience.com. "One Thousand Gifts" has provided inspiration to many Christians swept up in the chaos of everyday life, and now you have the opportunity to respond with your own list of one thousand gifts. (from the publisher)

This is a tough one. There were some points made that made a huge impression on me. Something Mrs. Voskamp wrote on King Hezekiah made such an impact that it will most likely continue to influence the way I look at things. I also like the way she takes even the most mundane things in life and remembers to give thanks and treasure these moments now. Great outlook that is focused on turning the ordinary into the extraordinary and remembering to be always be thankful.

My problem is that her style of writing annoyed me. It's been too many years since school for me to remember the proper terms, but I would describe it as a "poetic imagery". I prefer someone to cut to the chase and say what they mean, so it made it harder for me to get as much out of this devotional as I would have liked. Bottom line is that I have too many authors whose style I do enjoy, so I won't be reading another by this writer.

GIVEAWAY: If this sounds like YOUR type, though, I have great news!! I was sent a spare copy to use as a giveaway. First person to comment will be the winner.

About Ann Voskamp
Ann Voskamp is a farmer's wife, the home-educating mama to a half-dozen exuberant kids, and the author of the New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. She tells stories. She takes pictures. She sees the whole earth full of the glory of God. A columnist with DaySpring, a contributing editor to Laity Lodge's The High Calling, and a writer of articles featured in WORLD Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Christianity Today, Ann partners with Compassion International as a global advocate for needy children. The poor have made her rich and telling the stories of those who need a voice has changed her own story. Ann can be found writing about messy grace and a magnificent God at her daily online journal: www.aholyexperience.com. Visit Ann'e website at: www.onethousandgifts.com.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tis The Season...

Hunting, Gathering, Preparing
Which season? Depends who you are talking to, I guess. Last weekend was the opening of Hunting Season here, but we are now readying ourselves for Holiday Shopping Season!! Just think about it: avid fans are preparing to hunt, gather, and provide for their loved ones. And, of course, bragging about who bagged the biggest. I just see it as another weekend hearing all about racks, bags, early morning hunts, bucks, and doe/dough. Whether you are hunting for deer, a bargain, a parking space...or a leftover piece of pecan or pumpkin pie, this weekend will seem like the beginning of a rushed season. More and more store ads are popping up about shopping; Some even plan on starting as early as 8pm on Thanksgiving! One of the things I am most thankful for is that I will not be among them!! Due to the traumatic experience when my cousin, Debbie, convinced me to go along with her to check out the early specials at Walmart nearly 30 years ago...my shopping ends before Thanksgiving and I avoid stores until several days into the New Year...unless it involves necessary food or cleaning supplies. Truthfully, I pretty much avoid shopping anytime of the year. So many of my relatives could spend hours just browsing that I sometimes would ask if I was adopted! Apparently it was merely that my brother got both of our shares of the "shopping gene".

Thanks to the internet, online shopping has created "Cyber Monday" to go along with "Black Friday" (by the way, does anyone know if Saturday and Sunday have special names?), and that is more my style...if I MUST shop!! There are 3 things I like to take into consideration:
  1. Avoid Crowds! The internet may be busy too, but I can shop in an old pair of sweats ( or my sleepwear), and a pot of coffee nearby. Win/win!
  2. Save Money! Sales and coupons are a great way to cut the cost of items, and especially if it is for something you planned to buy anyway. There are coupons available to download.
  3.  Helping Others! This time of year, many in this country are preparing for a huge feast with family or friends, and we make it a point to remember our blessings. This often proves to be a time when charitable giving to others less fortunate rises tremendously. I feel that we are blessed so we can bless others.
Recently I was made aware of a group that combines all 3 of the above. Save1.com provides the opportunity to shop from home, save money, and help save lives!! Shoppers simply need to visit the Save1 website, type the name of any store in the search box, find the most relevant coupon or offer, and click "Use this Offer." Even if you love the thrill of the chase in stores, there are some things that are easier to track online!

Watch the video of Todd Smith of Save1.com explaining more about the company:

Family owned and operated, Save1 provides coupons and special offers from thousands of top online retailers on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout the year---enabling shoppers to feed a hungry child with every offer redeemed. Incorporating the Save Money, Save Lives principle, Save1 donates the cost of a meal to one of its nonprofit partner organizations every time a shopper uses a coupon or special offer from the site. For more information, please visit http://save1.com.

LIKE Save1.com on Facebook and you will see that they are serious!! Explore their page and I believe you will be impressed! So, by all means, count your blessings and enjoy your shopping. God blesses us and we should enjoy His provision. However,  to also be able to share our blessing with others is a gift above no other. So happy hunting/shopping...and enjoy this special season in your life!!

And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased ~ Hebrews 13:16

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Matchmakers Of Butternut Creek

The Matchmakers of Butternut Creek is the 2nd book in a series by Jane Myers Perrine. The series revolves around Butternut Creek Christian Church's new minister and a group of well-meaning but interfering ladies know as "The Widows". They want to make sure he knows how things should be done...and are determined to see him settled down with a wife.

Once again, the Widows of Butternut Creek are determined to find a bride for Pastor Adam. This time, their candidate is as gun shy as the pastor!

A traumatic experience as a college freshman has left Gussie Milton 'once bitten, twice shy.' Although she'd like a relationship, she's frightened, so she's thrown herself into caring for her aging parents, her photography business, and her church. In the eyes of Miss Birdie and her friend Mercedes, aka 'the Widows,' Gussie would make their young pastor the perfect wife. And though the attraction proves mutual, first Gussie's past and then the pastor's hopes for the future threaten to keep them apart. Can the Widows' meddling be the catalyst that changes the couple's lives forever?
(from the publisher)

It took me a while to really get into this one. While it is not vital that you have read the first book in the series, I do wonder if my interest would have been captured a bit earlier. There were quirky characters, and fun moments, but sometimes it seemed a bit too predictable. I think I would have been a bit more forgiving on this if I had been in on the action from the moment of Adam's arrival, instead of feeling like I had walked in a bit late and needed to play catch-up. 

On a positive note, some very real and serious issues were addressed in this book. I felt they were handled in a realistic manner, and did bring the characters more to life for me. By the last few chapters, I was beginning to care more about the characters and felt a more vested interest in them. Through much of the book, I felt only a luke-warm interest, but by the closing chapter, I must admit to being curious to what will happen in the third in this series. So, I am borderline between 3 or 4 stars, but will go with a 4 star review...with reservation. I would recommend getting The Welcome Committee Of Butternut Creek and reading it first.

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DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Radical Question and A Radical Idea by David Platt

The Radical Question and A Radical Idea by David Platt is a combination and summation of his 2 books, Radical and Radical Together. Radical is about what a complete commitment to Jesus can look like. We may get our feelings hurt by people who don't understand our Christian faith, but there are millions in other countries who will put their lives on the line for Jesus. Is complacency enough? Radical Together has a focus on being more than just a pew warmer each Sunday. What has God called YOU to do to actively reach out and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it enough to simply show up at church each week, and be involved in programs to entertain and meet your own needs? What would it look like to reach out to the lost yourself?

Read Chapter One for yourself at the book website.

This one is a bit harder for me to review than I expected. First off, I love it, but I preferred the 2 books this one is based on. So, I felt slightly disappointed, but it is unfair to judge this one on those merits. (It would be like reviewing the summary after reviewing a beloved book.) If you have read the other two books, this may not be the book for you. However, the gist of those books is contained, so I really do love this one. I have friends who do not do much reading, due to lack of interest or time, and I am thinking that this would be perfect for those friends. Hopefully, this shorter, more compact book, will lead them to wanting to know more about the impact they can make on others. Even if they don't choose to go more indepth with their reading, this is a perfect size for anyone to refresh and renew the commitment their faith walk. I pray it is a catalyst for me to seriously consider my priorities and the emphasis I place on Jesus and sharing Him with others.

David Platt is the senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and author of the New York Times bestsellers Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream and Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God. A well-known Bible expositor, David holds three advanced degrees, including a doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theology Seminary. He and his wife, Heather, live in Birmingham with their children.

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unexpected Christmas Hero by Kathi Macias

Josie Meyers thinks she is living the American dream when she marries a nice, handsome man with a promising future. The dream quickly becomes a nightmare when Josie becomes a widow and must deal with the fallout of her husband’s decisions. She soon finds that she and her two small children are forced to live on the streets and in homeless shelters.

While the scenes surrounding Josie are dominated by Christmas decorations and carols, Josie finds herself struggling with the demands of caring for her two small children. She is forced to lean on the kindness and generosity of others. What she doesn't know is that the influence of one homeless man in particular is about to change the course of her life and lead her home to the One who waits for her. He becomes her unexpected Christmas hero.
from the publisher)

Watch book trailer by clicking on this link.

This latest book by Kathi Macias is a fictional story of a family who suddenly have found themselves homeless and the hardships they face trying to stay warm and fed. The action takes place beginning as they are preparing to eat Thanksgiving dinner at a local shelter, and meet a homeless Vietnam veteran named Rick. For the next few weeks, we share the highs, lows, difficulties and blessings Josie and her children encounter as they meet new friends who want to help but whose hands are also tied. Josie also has gone from apathy toward God to bitterness for the way her life has turned out. The kindness of others slowly melts her cold heart, and watching the way Rick has survived his own situation with a steadfast faith, shows her that God is ever watchful and caring no matter how big the storm is that rages within and without.

This is one of those books that I did not want to put down once I started reading it, and the characters quickly became dear to me. It also made me think more of what I can do to become part of the solution. The needs of the homeless are many and sometimes the resources are limited or unavailable. There are also many faces and stories that get untold when it comes to those who find themselves homeless; I hope this gives more readers a desire to see how they can do something to help others during this time when many of us are struggling. So, a story that captured my heart and imagination...and gave me something to think about. Well done!

Please read the interview with author Kathi Macias....and see if you can help with a search to find one man's family!!

Homelessness is a tough topic for Christmas. What inspired you to use that as the basis for your annual Christmas novel?

I’ve been involved in homeless ministries, to one degree or another, for decades, so I’m not new to this area of ministry. But I’ll admit that I had never considered writing a novel about it until someone in my family, who had personally experienced homelessness at one time in his life, suggested it. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed the perfect theme for a Christmas novel. After all, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Savior, who was pretty much homeless at that particular point in time and was born in a stable because there was no room for them at the Bethlehem Motel 6.

Despite having previous ministry and even personal experience with the homeless, were there still some difficult times for you as you researched and wrote this novel?

Absolutely! I always try to climb inside the skin of my characters, and when I thought of myself as the young mother Josie, attempting to care for and protect her two small children while living on the streets, I wept. There were times when my own children were little that we didn’t have a lot of material things and almost never had enough money at the end of the month, but we always had a roof over our heads and never wondered where we would find our next meal. When I consider that approximately 25 percent of the homeless in America are families (either single or dual-parent) with small children, it breaks my heart.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of Unexpected Christmas Hero?

This is a story about a young family—husband, wife, two small children—who seem to be living the American dream. But when the husband dies unexpectedly, the wife (Josie) not only has to deal with that loss but quickly discovers that they are destitute. Her husband had lost his job some months earlier but didn’t want to worry her, so he hid it from her, hoping to find another position. He didn’t, and eventually ran up all their credit cards, took out a second mortgage on the house, emptied their savings, and even cashed in his life insurance policy. It doesn’t take long until Josie and her children lose their home and find themselves living on the streets, depending on the charity of others to survive. Then they meet Rick, a homeless Vietnam vet who takes them under his wing and, in a most surprising and sacrificial way, becomes their unexpected Christmas hero.

Tell us about the “story behind the story,” which involves the man on the front cover.

When the publisher sent the designer out to find someone to pose as Rick, the homeless vet in the book, he spotted a man on the street who looked amazingly like him. He asked the man—whose name is Willard Parker—if he would pose for the book cover. The man readily agreed and then explained that he truly was homeless and hoped having his picture on the cover would somehow help him find his family, particularly his grown daughter. We are doing our best to stay in touch with Mr. Parker and also to spread his story across the Internet and on radio/TV in hopes of fulfilling his dream to be reunited with his family. If anyone looks at the picture on the cover and/or recognizes the man’s name (Willard Parker) and knows the whereabouts of any of his family, we would truly appreciate it if they would contact me at ezyrtr@ca.rr.com so we can take the necessary steps to try and make this reunion happen.

Where can people find your book?

It’s available on any of the main online venues (Amazon, ChristianBooks.com, Barnes & Noble, etc.) and many stores nationwide.

Can you give us your website info?

Sure! You can find me at www.kathimacias.com or www.boldfiction.com. I’d love it if people would stop by there and check out all my books, as well as the video trailers that go with them. They can also sign up to receive my weekly devotional, or check out where I’ll be speaking in the near future. Above all, click on “contact” and send me an email. I’d love to hear from them, and I promise to answer.
This time, just leave a comment here (or on my FB page) to be entered into a random drawing. The winner will be selected Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 at 9am (CST)

I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview and/or book review on my blog. CSS Virtual Book Tours are managed by Christian Speakers Services (http://ChristianSpeakersServices.com).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jesus: Pure and Simple by Wayne Cordeiro

Do you ever feel like you're being pulled in a million directions? Like you're overwhelmed with various programs and ministries, or with studying the steps to good parenting or the best ways to share Jesus with your neighbors? These are all good things, but even good things can sometimes take us away from our number one responsibility--knowing Jesus better.

Wayne Cordeiro shares how to focus on the One who matters most and take part in the joy and fulfillment that He brings. But he also teaches how this leads to selflessness, a true love for others, and effective ministry. It will, in fact, change how you see the world around you.  (
from the publisher)

Jesus: Pure and Simple  had many great points about going back to simply following Jesus and doing as He did. Studying/ reading your Bible, praying, loving others, and always being ready to share your knowledge of God with others. Using both scripture and personal stories, this book will lead you back to a more simplified life of following Jesus as opposed to the business so many of us fall into. We may be busy doing the Lord's work, but too busy to spend time with Him or telling others about Him in a personal way. Several chapters reminded me of ways I am guilty of doing that. 

I scanned through some other reviews and saw a couple of remarks about Cordeiro teaching a "prosperity gospel". I did not think he ventured that far. I saw it more as finding contentment with what you have when you are back to the basics of being a disciple of Jesus. I had some trouble getting into the book, but I believe it was more due to the format: I had to accept an e-book version this time, and I still prefer to hold a book in my hands, especially since I sometimes want to go back to a passage...and that is simply the way I have 'always' done it! (I can't fault the author for that). I do recommend this book for others.

 Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mended by Angie Smith

"The image of my life as a broken pitcher was beautiful to me, but at the same time, it was hard to look at all of the cracks. I ran my fingers along them and told Him I wish it had been different. How I wished I had always loved Him, always obeyed Him, always sought Him the way I should. I was mad at the imperfections, years wasted, gaping holes where it should be smooth. But God, my ever-gracious God, was gentle and yet convicting as He explained.

'My dearest Angie. How do you think the world has seen me? If it wasn’t for the cracks, I couldn’t seep out the way I do. I chose the pitcher. I chose you, just as you are.'"
(from the back cover)

Mended: Pieces Of a Life Made Whole is the 3rd book written by Angie Smith. Many are familiar with her through the blog she writes, Bring The Rain. This book is a series of 31 devotions that share a portion of Scripture, along with a former blog post that has been redone in book format. Each chapter gives a feel of a good friend sharing what is going on in her life. There were times I laughed, cried, or was reminded of similar things in my own life. She definitely has a gift of tying it all together into a word picture that brings hope, healing, and help as the reader sees how to use her own cracks and imperfections to allow the light of Jesus to pour out. This is a book I will read again, but I was most impressed by a story called The Canvas in a section at the end called "Foundational Pieces". Make sure you don't just stop after the 31 devotions, but read on through the end of the book. (You know, in a film there are sometimes hidden gems in the closing credits! Same principle here!)

Angie Smith is the wife of Todd Smith (lead singer of Dove Award winning group Selah), author of I Will Carry You and What Women Fear, and one of the most popular speakers and blog writers in the country. She holds a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt University and lives with her husband and daughters in Nashville, TN.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

ShapelyGirl Fitness WrapUp and Giveaway

After a month of reviewing the ShapelyGirl Walking Fit and Fabulous dvd, it's time for my final review. This workout is meant for beginners and for those at all fitness levels. I am the first to admit that I am no where near fit, so I can definitely say whether or not it is for beginners. I will only say that I need to become half the woman I am in size, and I also have some difficulties due to permanent damage to my foot (car wreck) and arthritis that sometimes makes sure I am aware it's around. So, this was a huge challenge. So, have the pounds melted away and I am suddenly more fit than I have ever been? Of course not! This is reality, and it took me more than a month to get in this shape. However, I do recommend this workout to any who want to get started.

When I saw this photo on the left, it reminded me a bit of the past month. I must admit that my journey has not been a progression up the steps, but up and down them. There have been a few of the "I won't do it!" days mixed in with the want to and try to days, but the satisfaction of  "Yes! I did it!" days are incredible! So, while I have had to cut back a bit this week due to a temporary health issue, I think I can safely say I have one foot on "I can do it" and one on "I will do it". This is a workout I will continue to use.

I have followed the blogs of the other women and everyone seems satisfied with the dvds they chose. Like me, many have had ups and downs, but Life Happens. Debra Mazda of ShapelyGirl Fitness knows what it feels like to be overweight, out of shape, and miserable. Each of her dvds are encouraging and stress the point that you need to get move and get healthy. Not everyone is going to be a size 2...or even wants to be a size 2. The important thing is that you eat right and exercise (hmmm...Mom was right!?!); the goal is good health.

GIVEAWAY: Debra is also generously allowing each of us to have a giveaway, if we choose. Of course, mine will be for the workout I did since it is the only one I can really tell you about. Don't panic if you think you are too out of shape for a workout video! The first week, all I could do was walk and make a few clumsy attempts at any other movement. There are also other premixes on here that you can use for variety or time limitations. The important thing is....move! You may not even need to lose weight, but this will help keep those muscles toned. Enter this easy contest and drawing will be held November 10, 2012 at 11pm.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The important thing is to never give up. If you have a set back, that does not mean it is over--it means you start again. You are a beloved child of God, and remember the words in Isaiah 41:10 ~ "Fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” I am part of the CWA Review Crew.  
Check out Debra's ShapelyGirl Fitness website: http://www.debramazda.com/