Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bethany Partner Review: The Spirit-Led Heart Living a Life of Love and Faith without Borders by Suzanne Eller

Want to be set on a path of empowerment? Learn how to be confident & bold? Be comforted when you are hurt? Recognize that you are equipped and empowered by a helper to live a life of faith and love without borders?  This book will explain and share personal stories of how the Holy Spirit helps each believer deepen her faith, find courage, use her gifts, and handle uncertainty.

It is well written, in a conversational, approachable style. Each chapter shares the Word, a Spirit Led Promise, A Spirit-Led Invitation, and a prayer that challenges or reminds your heart of all that God reveals through the Holy Spirit.

This book is powerful, encouraging, thought provoking, and helpful.  As I started to read, my life was completely upside down as I grieved a relationship that is failed and the uncertainty of determining what is best for a child we've parented and loved as our own for over four years.  So my heart was broken and pouring out.  I had given up the thought that I could fix anything- or rely on myself- but struggling with how to hear God's voice, trust Him fully, and stay focused on His providence, plan, and provision for the immediate needs and every step of the way. 

Throughout this 'primer' on the Holy Spirit and all of the aspects He brings to the believer, I was encouraged, challenged, and able to recognize that the Spirit is with me and God will reveal in His timing and through the Spirit all that I need to know and experience.  So I found peace. I found comfort. I admit I've rested in revisiting head knowledge while taking what I know and learning to live out my faith and belief in my circumstances.

Suzanne Eller's counsel is wise. Her concepts about truth vs a lie or an almost truth, are spot on, and her theology matches the Bible well.  But it's her vulnerability and the fact that the book is written to ''us" or with the pronoun "we".  She has included you in what she is learning to remember, to frame her beliefs, and to explore how to grow and surrender to our Great God, with the Helper directing our minds and choices.

The book is one that I highlighted, starred, and marked up as I went. I love that there are group discussion questions at the back, and hope to re-read it with a group in the future. It's a book I can highly recommend. I love partnering with Bethany House Publishers and getting new books to read and review.

This quote is something I have shared from my reading, and adopted as a clear mantra for me:

I also found empowerment in this truth:

My recent Holy Spirit connections....

The Holy Spirit- One aspect of the Trinity.  I enjoyed teaching my Sunday School class about the Holy Spirit this spring and all that he adds to knowing God, knowing that Jesus rescues us, and the Holy Spirit lives in us and helps us.   It's a practical promise to really grasp in your heart and mind.  And the Holy Spirit in Acts comes as fire, wind and breathe- with great power and presence, and with five year olds these are fun concepts to act out, discuss, and think about.

So when an opportunity to review a book about a Spirit-Led life came up, it seemed divine intervention that I should read it.  Even the cover is soothing, and brings about a calming feeling as you look at it. 

The Lord brings into our lives often by the work of the Holy Spirit things we need to know, be aware of, respond to, or grow in.  And this book is an amazing tool to help process the role of the Holy Spirit, as well as, to begin practicing the presence of God via the Holy Spirit in your life.   And processing faith based practices, has been something I've been exploring this year as I ask the Lord to RESTORE me as He would use me to glorify Him.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Book review: Always We Begin Again by Leanna Tankersley

I have now read the book, listened (first) and I re-listened to parts of the book as well.  In my reading on the kindle, I highlighted aspects and copied quotes into a notebook to review again and again. 

Leanna Tankersley teaches us about ourselves by sharing her own introspection and process over her adult lifetime.  She speaks therapeutically when she reminds us that it is our job (especially as women) to dialogue with ourselves as you would a friend, not an enemy.  She shares that often our response to shame or to self is to treat yourself negatively, critically, but it really is important that we learn and remember how to treat me- and recognize we aren't failing, things are hard because things are hard,...  So she shares how she searches for herself, in a move it forward manner, including looking at the source, her deeper belief, knowing she's made for more, to be well, and to follow God's voice.  And to recognize that we often put ourselves in a cyclical pattern, instead of stepping forward in the next step of our journey. 

Her approach to receiving rest- is one I wholeheartedly agree with- she quotes St. Augustine "Our heart is restless until we find rest in Thee."  Then St. Benedictine- "Always we begin again." She sees this as the holiness of repetition.  The *practice* of beginning again is a gift you give yourself. 

This book uses terms and language that are counseling or therapy oriented, some religious and benedictine, and widely used, but can have different meanings, and one of the reasons I was drawn to this book.  Phrases such as:  "always begin again", "the practice", "listening" as a practice, being "centered", "be present", "hold space for myself"  terms that I've not been raised with to have the same priority as they seem to have today, but she also uses key theology phrases (I think in the same way I learned them) to share what seems to be a biblical world or self view- like "seal", "rooted", "breathed new life", "love', "God's grace", "mercy",... so this is part of my process- knowing that I am understanding the concepts. 

The author is sharing how she has learned that in life- it is necessary to 'begin again' often, but it's not as simple as saying 'redo' like we might do with our children on a morning when everything has been off.  For adults who are growing, communing with our Great Creator and God,  it's a bit more introspective than that.  She combines the liturgy, spiritual practices, and then creates her own terms from her life experiences that she uses from that point on. 

Not only must we 'begin again' but we must be willing to make sure we know we are 'held', 'sit in the truth', "eliminate the dead trees" that our blocking our view- we may need to "burn away" some raw edges, and put our big girl pants on (my term she has a more poetic way of discussing her inner 9 year old self) and face who we are, who we want to be, and how we may need to see ourselves differently with grace as we would a friend, so that we can move ahead, grow, and truly find rest in the Lord and in living this life.  She speaks poetically (similar to Ann Voskamp at times, but her own flair for words.) Mixed with words or concepts from "prophets, monks, and mystics" like "choosing the opening up," 'held-ness", "sit in this truth", "feel centered and rooted and you will feel connected to God and to your own soul,"  words that could be concerning or viewed as new age, but I am learning that we are in an era, where we find language that researchers will use, that people before our time used, that are religious or soul terms, and it seems we are mixing this language into our faith based practices because perhaps this language can articulate clearer, that which is hard to express and is within us.  So I admit, that's part of my uncomfortableness in hearing and reading this book. I'm working through the meaning and implications of the concepts being explained or revealed.  But I'm recognizing that it is a strength as I'm making this my own process and thoughts, and taking what perhaps on my own, I would never have found words to share. 

 My review is between I really liked it and it was amazing- because it's a book that draws you to think deeply (which makes it amazing in my thinking) but at times my own mind is too cluttered to really grasp all of the expressions and applications that the author used in her story telling, and I'm having to re-read and re-think as I internalize, and maybe that's an argument for marking it an 'amazing' book.  Perhaps I need my own scale! 

The book does whisper the Word throughout it, and the author shares how she comes to interpret and think about different people in the Old and New Testament and the process and message from the Lord as we have their examples to learn from in the Word.  I didn't overly examine them, but none of her connections gave me pause theologically or hermenutically. 

My first review a month ago, after only listening to it...

I'm still processing this book, and need to begin again-- as I listened to the book, and there are so many thoughts that if I were reading, I would re-read, take a note, process, etc.  I have paused as I read to internalize, but this book I will listen to several more times I imagine.  I was attracted to this book from the post on Ann Voskamp's blog, I was also interested as knowing that Shauna Niequist wrote the forward to it, and the title alone- it would have a language and feel that I've become familiar with through Brene Brown and Shauna Niequist books. The benedictine aspect intrigued me as I know that the liturgies and practices of old so often are still vital and essential. 

I found this book more intentional, more biblically oriented than I expected.  I sort of expected a level of cliche phrases that were pretty generic and undefined, and that is not what I got.  I was so pleased to have "begin again" explained, modeled, evaluated and as well connected to truth.  There are a few questions in my mind about some of Leanna's techniques to find herself, but that's real thinking and evaluating, so it is helpful. 

The author and I are close to the same age- and I can envision her life easily and her attempts to embrace rest as well as releasing hurt-- it takes being brave- vulnerable-authentic and real and that's what I appreciate most-- her unguarded sharing of her learning and processing how to be herself and be the best person she truly is- all the time.

Thanks to my public library for the audio version of this book and to netgalley for an e-version to review and share my thoughts.  

Book Review: Waterbrooks' Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett

Part of whispering the Word to our kids- is being sure we are in a mindset of faith, belief, and letting the Word transform us.  I choose to read mainly fiction and non-fiction books that will help me think at higher levels and evaluate, analyze or synthesize how I process and internalize the Word of God.  This book is a great example of that.  The characters thinking and processing of a few scriptures is shared throughout the storyline and is authentic, vulnerable, and realistic even in today's world.  So I'll recommend this fiction read to teens on up... and if you have a tween who loves historical fiction with a big of suspense I don't see any issues with letting them choose a 340ish page book to read.  It could easily be a literature circle book with 10 questions at the end of the book from the author, and you could analyze many great writing elements or character development reading this together and I expect you would ALL enjoy it thoroughly.... The authors style, depth, and writing would be a great model to mirror for developing writers.  

I read a lot of books. It's new for me to regularly be reading fiction again, and historical fiction especially with a little romance has always been something I enjoy. But Karen Barnett, a new author to me, has blown me away with her ability to make a national park come alive, with intriguing characters, and unpredictable page turning plot, as both Clark and Olivia search out their identity and ultimately their identity in Christ. 

This book releases June 5, if you pre-order and submit your receipts here, you can get her first park ranger book free!  

This book is well written, and the characters come to life, as they are so well developed, but not predictable. I like that faith is a theme of the story, but in authentic real ways. Scripture is shared when it fits a conversation or when it might be present in a character's mind, but it is not overly emphasized so that someone who may not believe in the Word of God would still enjoy the tale, and might be encouraged to wonder in similar ways. 

One of my favorite parts of their storyline is that both question what God is doing in their lives, is He even still present and guiding them, and what does He have in store for the next step. Without spoiling the content, I think Chapter 18 is a great representation of a real, alive and growing faith dialogue, that many don't think can be discussed out loud, but it is portrayed in a real and authentic way, and accurate to how I have had God work in my own life. 

I enjoy a lot of books. But I feel like after reading this book, my 5 star rating may over rate other books I've read previously. I am blessed to have an ARC from the publisher, I wanted to try a new author and I'm thrilled to share an honest, positive review... now time to see if my local library has her other books!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Book Review: The Lifegiving Parent by Clay and Sally Clarkson

The Lifegiving Parent:          Clay, with Sally's input, writes about "Giving Your Child a Life Worth Living for Christ." This book is, in many ways, a summary of the core parenting messages they have taught for over twenty years. Lifegiving parenting is about more than simply giving your children a "Christian life," but about giving them the life of Christ 

Clay and Sally Clarkson have their own ministry.  The online home is:

They are well known authors and trainers in christian ministry.  I've read only a few of Sally's books- my favorite being Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson.   

I haven't read other books in the lifegiving series, and didn't even realize it is a series until I was into this book.  But the subtitle of giving your child a life worth living for Christ is definitely a goal in our home.   And Different is so inspiring and practical, I wanted to see if I loved this book as much.  

This book is more of a philosophical book to help parents process the foundation of their home based on who God is and how He is present in your home.  Clay seems to be the main author and boy, he is a solid biblical educator, who can explain what a word means in the greek and then explain why that concept is so relevant for today.  Sally in the foreward says this is a book that will give 'couples a book to read together to shape a philosophy of how to give your children the life of God in their homes."   Clay describes his goal as giving the "life of God" to parents which many parenting books overlook.    

I just assumed it would be a balance of philosophy and practical suggestions with stories that intrigued me and kept me reading.  I was incorrect.  This book is primarily the teaching from the Word of God about Who God is, and how to life not a christian life or create a christian home, but on how to center your life/home on the life of Christ and imitating Him.  

After the introductory chapter, the book shares 'heartbeats' to help you 'start living like a lifegiving parent.'   It follows a formula that is more than just the philosophy, but the meat of the book is primarily exegesis of the Word of God by Clay.  Each heartbeat starts with a story or cultural connection to explain the heartbeat, then shares passages from scripture that 'form a complete, holistic biblical idea.'  This is followed by some steps to implement this idea, then Sally's lifegiving Momoirs then Lifegiving ParenTips, and ends with a brief Startging the Heartbeat of Parenting Lifegiving.  

The book is systematic, linear, and does create a plan and strategies to life a Christ like life and replicate this in your home and in front of your children.  Many people will appreciate the style, the solid teaching, and the layout with little need to think for yourself about this principle.  I'm hoping that the companion guide written to go with the book will promote higher level thinking and more engagement. 

The heartbeats are great points and ideas for raising your children.  I found them to be sound and great ideas, and I learned about some greek words I did not know and grasped principals that I would not have been able to solidly support with biblical connections, if it weren't for the teaching in this book.  But I found the book itself to be very personality driven, and I suspect that many of the other Clarkson books are similarly developed, so if you love all the Clarkson books, this book will suit you well.  But if Different is your main connection to Clarkson's books, go into this purchase aware that it's not the story telling advice and connections as the main learning connection in the first 208 pages.  Then you get an update on where each child is today, and the book ends with appendixes of the 24 family ways, knowing your child's personality, and notes.  

The book did make me think about some of the teaching's and interpretations shared.  For instance there is a main point, that you need to know your child as good. At face value, I wasn't sure that I agreed with that statement. In our home, we often have discussed that we are all 'bad' because of the sin in our lives, but that Jesus makes all things new within us when we accept the free gift of eternal life by accepting his death, Resurrection, and substitution before God for our sins.  The author is making the point, that we need to recognize and acknowledge that our children are growing. learning, and deserve encouragement, recognition, and praise for the good that shows in your home and in their lives.  That I agree with.   But I did pause and think.  

I'm thankful for a life that has brought me under good teaching of the Word, for a Bible College one year education that had me think about family life and my role in a home where Christ is the center first of my marriage, and then of my home.  Teaching that had me recognize as a teen that I needed to live a Romans 12:1,2 life of transformation, and to know that it is my job to die to self, and live for Him.  My ultimate goal is to live for the glory of God and to grow to be more like Him, by renewing my mind, heart, and soul through the Word of God, prayer, worship, and christian fellowship.  So for me this book, was a good review in a very linear style of the foundation philosophical tenets of a Christ like life and how to transfer them through modeling this in the Shema (walk and talk) of life.  

It's not my favorite style of writing, or presentation format, but I know I am unique and many will be inspired and unable to put this book down.  In many ways I think my hesitance to wholeheartedly celebrate this book as a tool for all, is the direct teaching that sort of boxes parents in, or is suggesting a works based? (not sure if this is the right wording) approach to a faith based practice that parents could achieve these principles in much less formal techniques and I would have liked it more if those techniques were included in the author's perspective. 

Thank you Tyndale for the opportunity to review this book.  I love to share my views and to read ALL types of books. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Worthy Publishing: Unbroken Faith Spiritual Recovery for the Special-Needs Parent by Diane Dokko Kim

If you are struggling as a parent                           ....  read this book. 

If you are grieving what could have been,    this book. 
If you are wondering where God is,               this book. 

If you think your suffering will never end,    this book. 
If you want to see who God is, in the bitter aspects of life,                                                                                        this book.

If you want to be challenged to evaluate your faith, thinking, and comfortable Christianity, this book will lead you through the doubts, ugly thoughts, and wilderness you face and keep you pointed to who God is. To find His hope. To recognize before He rebuilds and restores, He often demolished and improved.

Especially if you have a child that has special needs,read this book. This author shares facing an autism diagnosis. A lifelong perspective changer and simplifier of a parents dreams. Instead of a vision of how much a child will accomplish in this life on earth, it becomes a wonder of, will my child the parent of a kiddo from a hard place, this book resonates with me. It seeks out my inner core. My heart when others say, what hope do we have? Is it worth it to endure? Will progress ever be achieved and maintained? 

This devotional reminds me that it’s not my job to answer those questions.

It’s my job to trust in the all knowing, loving,redeeming God who saved a wretch like me and know that He is able to use my child. 

Our family. For His glory and His good. 
Even if it’s only to show me that when I am weak, broken, at my last straw, He is directing me. He is strong. He is all I need. He will do a work in me...

I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from this well written book. The author shares her stories connects them to truths and people in the Bible. Gives unbreakable promises (scripture verses) at the end of every chapter, a model prayer that synthesizes our needs and reminds us of how God meets those in His nature and character. And then helps us reflect on how the truth and question of the chapter might be found in our hearts and souls.

I’ve read many devotionals for special needs parents. This one is different. Dianne Dokko Kim loves the Lord, recognizes and eloquently shares who He is, and is a blessing and cheerleader for the reader to find her own unbroken faith. We all need this type of recovery program most days.  I'm thankful to have gotten acquainted with her through the pages of her book and to have been encouraged by the book. Thank you Worthy Publishing for sending me an advanced reader copy.  I highly recommend it. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Waterbrook Fiction: No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert (an Iowa Author)

Releasing April 3rd, 2018

Three Families. Two School Districts. 
A Dozen Miles Between Them, 
But Worlds Apart.
When an impoverished Missouri school district loses its accreditation, the nearby affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open its doors to bussed students. Soon the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fund-raiser, faced with a rattling discovery that threatens to tear apart her picture-perfect world; Jen Covington, a career nurse whose painful journey to motherhood finally results in a happily-ever-after, though not the one she anticipated; and Anaya Jones, the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand-new teacher at Crystal Ridge’s top elementary school, who is unprepared for the minefield she is stepping into. As tensions rise, Camille, Jen, and Anaya will fiercely protect their loved ones – but at what cost?
Inspired by real-world events, No One Ever Asked is a riveting tale about the way we see one another, the lies we tell ourselves, the questions and stories that go unexplored, and the tragedies that result from our blindness.

I met Katie Ganshert as an author just over a year ago, and I believe I've read most of her books since then.  She's a refreshing author that writes stories set in the present time, about characters that face real life struggles and the reader is invited into their thoughts, emotions, and wonders.  Her characters often have a christian world view.  She's also an adopted mom who lives in the Davenport, IA area, so it's fun to read a novel from someone who has similar passions and lives within an hour and a half drive.

This book is dear to my heart.  The quote above from Anaya's Daddy, is one that we all might benefit from, as we face change, or an unwanted experience.   I love how Anaya grows as she remembers it.  It's a story that needs to be recognized, repeated more often, and a thought provoking book that will have every reader introspectively analyzing their own thoughts about racism, identity, beliefs, relationships, the struggle at accepting, hearing, and grasping the perspective of each person in the struggle.  And I believe each reader will explore a new mindset, a better one, as he or she contemplate which thoughts could have been his or her own.  I know I did.

This book will be a great discussion book.  There are so many ways to approach the themes and threaded concepts with a safe and intentional jumping point, I hope this book becomes a favorite book club book, and I have a feeling it's a timeless discussion on so many levels.   Anger is something all the main characters have to face head on.

Here are some things that could be explored: 

Racism, Inequality, Injustice, Elitism, Generational bigotry, buried emotions, education, coaching, sexism, gun control, culture, change, diabetes, adoption, parenting, self righteous attitudes, grief, understanding another's perspective,  creating friendships, maintaining friendships, community, be the change, forgiveness

This book is one in which I could so easily identify with the setting, the characters, the struggles, each character and I had something in Common. Anaya was a brand new teacher in an elite school district, feeling the awkwardness of being from 'across the tracks.'  I felt like that in my first year teaching as well, in a very well to do school district, at a school in one of the most affluent neighborhoods.  Camille is a mom to three children with very different needs and personalities, and she seeks to love and care for them individually, and she has to accept their independence and growth as they mature.  Her youngest is 8 and in second grade, same as mine.   Jen becomes a school nurse, but she's an adoptive mom to a beautiful girl, and she speaks of Karyn Purvis, the Empowered to Connect conference, and connected parenting, all things I'm so familiar with as we entered kinship care 4 years ago, and have worked through all the same materials and strive to implement it in our home.  The birthday party at the start of the book is so close to our normal I almost cried at hearing the other children and parent's thoughts about the melt down, as it's so often us.

The mindset of change, fits with the growth mindset I strive to develop in myself, my family, and others.  This book shows the lies that we so easily have in our heads, often unintentional, but there nevertheless and impacting how we behave or act with one another.  I'm thankful that the author showed us hope and growth as these struggles ensued, and each character handled their own weaknesses.

My real response was "amazing, wow, so grateful for all the depths and mindset that the characters portrayed!"  This book brings to life so much more than the obvious differences in the lives of these women, it also brings their families and instinctual responses to mind.  And gave me pause as I felt connected to all three women and it expanded my perspective.

I wish it had tied in more to the local church and the perspective of the Word of God and people, but I also am wishing for a sequel that continues the story, with the growth and perspectives gained, perhaps that could showcase more clearly how God views many of these issues.  Then I discover that today-- Katie Ganshert shares her perspective at the Farm (Ann Voskamp's site)...

Want to read the first chapter, it's here at the author's blog.

Want to read other books that will add to the concepts? Here's a list of 7 books the author suggests.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Online Bible Study Review: Wisdom Whispers with Sarah Koontz

This 31-day free online Bible study of King Solomon will help you hear Wisdom's call to salvation, obedience, and humility. Wisdom Whispers is packed with powerful biblical truths and beautiful digital gifts. All you need to complete this study is 15-minutes per day and a mobile device. | Bible Study for Women | Spiritual Growth for Christian Women | #wisdomwhispers #biblestudy

Living By Design's studies are new to me, but I'm always looking for new ways to be in the Word on my own to grow in knowledge and wisdom.

There are a lot of things I appreciate about this Bible Study.
  • it includes the scripture text with each day's reading, making it an easy to read in the carpool lane or at an appointment.  
  • Format:  Today's Reading: (a question) then the passages
    • Today's Devotional- teaching about the text, with bold statements that are often conclusions from the knowledge.  It is written from the author of the studies perspective- she writes in the first person- I .... 
    • Wisdom Whispers (something about who God is and how He helps me)
    • Verse
    • Action Point- often thought provoking, digging deep reflections- open ended
    • Discussion Question: thought provoking, digging deep reflections- that you need to answer.
  • the genuine personal testimony and encouragement of the author, as she has found that God directs, protects, provides, sustains, ... her life in many circumstances. 
I found the study to be a format that many will appreciate and find useful, for me the thinking was primarily done by the author, and she teaches so well, but if I am going to take time to apply, I need to be more engaged in the study and in the Word to learn independently.

Bonus Connection, from a website I found:
Want to include your children in thinking about King Solomon's wisdom?  Look at the Owl printables about wisdom from Ministry Ark-- so cute-- I might need them just for me!  Here's the lesson to use them with.