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. 

Waterbrook Fiction: Beneath the Prairie Moon by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Here is the book 'teaser' from the publisher.

Readers rabid for the sweet historical romances of Tracie Peterson and Tamara Alexander will flock to best-selling author Kim Vogel Sawyer's prairie-set heartwarmer of high society cast-off and the western town that welcomes her.

Abigail Brantley grew up in affluence and knows exactly how to behave in high society. But when she is cast from the social registers due to her father's illegal dealings, she finds herself forced into a role she never imagined: tutoring rough Kansas ranchers in the subjects of manners and morals so they can "marry up" with their mail-order brides. Mack Cleveland, whose father was swindled by a mail-order bride, wants no part of the scheme to bring Eastern women to Spiveyville, Kansas, and he's put off by the snooty airs and fastidious behavior of the "little city gal" in their midst. But as time goes by, his heart goes out to the teacher who tries so diligently to smooth the rough edges from the down-to-earth men. How can he teach her that perfection won't bring happiness?

Here is my review: 

This book was written through the lens of four main characters thoughts. This style brought more depth to the book.  But the characters are strong people that you love and want to get to hear the voices out loud and in their head, as it reveals so much more of how people live bravely in community and the courage it takes to be real with others around you.  

I found the book had a slow start, I just wasn’t sure where it was going. But as I kept reading, those details came alive, bringing reality and vulnerability to the characters and their lives. I adored the etiquette perspective brought to light throughout the book. I loved that some of the characters clearly had a growth mindset while others started with a fixed mindset. I also appreciated the non traditional roles of men and women that likely were the norm even in prairie life. My favorite aspect of the book was the authentic faith and prayers that were manifested by all the main characters. Life is messy and people can be ugly and judge, but this book-shares that there is always a flip side to review. Thanks for the chance to review an arc. 

The book also ends with discussion questions if you are looking for a book club book or a book discussion in an educational setting.  I think it would be a great book discussion with a lot of higher level thinking among the readers!  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tyndale Book Review: Restore break out of your past and into God's future

I was intrigued by this book.  Restore is my word for 2018, so it seemed like it might be a good fit for my book reviews, and expose me to a different style of book.  I wasn't disappointed.  

The book helps you figure out what is going on in your life that has you 'stuck' and keeps you from moving beyond your past, healing your hurts, and breaking bad habits.  As sinners, we all face one or more of these issues.  I really appreciated the free extras with email and a pdf of questions that come along with your reading.  

Here's what the publisher tells you about the book:
What should we do when we feel stuck in life?
You know how it feels. There’s a hurt in your past that is hard to get beyond. There’s a bad habit that’s difficult to break. There’s a setback that is just too tough to overcome.

We all have our own unique situations in which we feel “stuck.” Americans’ favorite suggestions for how to fix our lives—self-help programs, self-esteem techniques, or simple willpower—leave many of us ceaselessly spinning our wheels and feeling just as “stuck” as ever. Vince Antonucci knows what this feels like, and he knows many who have struggled to fix their lives with these dead-end methods. He struggled to get past the pain of a neglectful and angry father. It wasn’t until Vince decided to go through a recovery and rehab course, focused on God, that he learned ways to break free of that hurt and to live in God’s future.

Today, when someone walks through the doors of Vince’s innovative church, located just off the Las Vegas Strip, he offers a Restore class as one of three core classes that every member takes. He knows how important it is to learn to break free of these old hurts and bad habits. The essence of that popular class is contained in this book.

Move past your past, heal your hurts, and break your bad habits.

Want to read the first chapter?  Here's a link to a pdf.... so you can see for yourself!

Here is my review:

Things I appreciated:
  • Book Format:  Humor integrated  in Top Ten Lists, Short Daily Readings that have bold headings to keep you focused, Book is divided into the steps take, with the online community and email video/pdf support.
  • Balance of stories from the authors life, other lives, and models from the Bible of how people lived.
  • Application steps to take, so you are forced to start the process of real healing with simple questions and prompts, which make it feel easy to do.  
  • Way that you are forced to think, process, and integrate in the steps and leave your ways and step into God's ways. 
  • Scriptural connections.  The references are all in the back. 
I wanted the full experience so I signed up for the daily emails with videos and pdfs.  These daily pdfs had more questions, concept, and ways to think/process your thoughts, as well as a song  for the theme. Many are like the voice in your head, trying to fight doing what you know you need to do, compelling! (you do have to go search for the song, it's not directly linked.)  

Personally I have not had the time while reviewing the book to 'follow' all the directions at one time.  I really like the idea of choosing a month and going through the videos, pdfs, and days one at a time.  The ones that I had more time to process I did find very valuable and helpful.  Really we are looking at our identity in Christ, our grasp of Who God is, His attributes/identity, and how He directs us, but we have to keep our eyes focused on His plan, not ours.  When problems or stress arises, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to remind us who we are in Him, and to guide us and direct us.   This book is very practical and will lead you to search your soul and overcome whatever may have you 'stuck' in your life.  Just commit the time to it so that you can grow!  

 I joined the Facebook Group called:  The Restore Community  the daily videos are there, and some discussion, but not a specific group studying together now.  (there was an original group that went through the 30 days together.) 

I am not a traditional video/youtube person.  But Vince Antonucci's videos are threeish minutes, he's connecting, honest, and they are quick concepts brought to life and he helps me process the book's concepts, and this book is not just for those addicts who need a twelve step program, I'm sure it would help them. But this book teaches many spiritual lessons about forgiveness, daily living, focus, setting our eyes on the Lord, judgement, love poured out, .... 

Here's a link to the author's page. Thank you Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Kregel Book Review: I could use a nap and a million dollars by Jesse Clemence

This book my husband keeps picking up and glancing at.  The title is catchy and it fits the author's style-- of humor and attention getting perspective to connect the reader to the advice she's giving.  But what I found so refreshing was the fact that her advice is grounded in the Word of God, as the subtitle says, "Biblical Alternatives to Stressed Out Living." 

Here are some things I appreciate about the book:

  • This book is easy to read, entertaining, grounded in the Word, with poignant tales of the author's life and experiences as well as connections to the Bible. 
  • Every chapter (and they are not very long) closes with three focuses; make it personal, scripture connection, and a prayer for today.  
    • Make it Personal are questions for you to connect to your life.
    • Scripture- is a passage
    • Prayer a way to process and apply the concepts as you talk with God.
    • This could make this a great book club book or Bible study group interaction.  
  • Chapter Quotes (each chapter has a different font inserted with a line at the front quote, that really is a meme to go with the theme and solidify a point).  For Example:
    • God was at work, moving exactly the right people into place for exactly the right time. (on change)
    • Jesus didn't back down from righteous conflict. We rarely get anywhere near righteous conflict because we are too busy fighting over stupid stuff.  (on arguing and conflict.)
  • Jessie Clemence's writing style reflects our current culture referencing a quote from Jen Hatmaker, or HGTV, or Target.  She relates to a typical woman of this day. 
  • The author 'gets the reader' and sees you, where you are, in the midst of daily life, and it shows in your reading the book, you feel like this is a mentor girlfriend chatting with you.  
  • The topics are bold, necessary, and sometimes a little confrontational or convicting, but the humor, the perspective, and the real connection to the Word, can use this book to convict your heart and help you trust the living God and His Holy Spirit to be your nap and a million dollars, and live an abundant, satisfied life as God directs.  
Thank you Kregel for an advanced copy to review, the thoughts here are my own.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New Resources for Printable Activities

As we whisper the Word to our children, there is a time and a place for everything.  I love it when I can give them fun puzzles, coloring sheets, games, or create handouts for a family worship hour that go with the theme to help the kids engage fully.

Repetition helps all of us learn, and when we are encouraged to think at higher levels, we apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate, so that's the best level of learning to lead our children to, but they need knowledge and understanding to move there. 

I found some new resources recently, you may like them, did I mention these are FREE resources? 

Tip: Use the search feature with key words or bible references to find your story or verse. 

Ministry Ark: a youth/kidmin person in UK.  Her site has free lessons, free units, games, printables, ... very neat and diverse.  This seems to have a small following,but I think will become huge as it's discovered. 
Cute Bible Verse Printables Here
Movie clips and ideas for lessons and discussions.

Biblewise Kids Korner:  Story ideas, coloring, puzzles, and diverse activities by topic/character. 

Sunday School Zone: This site has so many options from teaching, to activities, things to print. Easy too navigate. 
Bible activities galore.... color by number, spot the difference, write the verse/concept, puzzles, and pictures, and stories, oh my! It's an amazing resource!

Crafting the Word of God this site is smaller, but has some really neat options. 
Cute crafts like a wheel of images with a cover for John 3:16, many with simple props and a printable.

Kids Bible Worksheets  You can find word searches, cryptograms, mazes, etc.

 Basically this website has used Discovery's puzzlemaker with key stories and verses for you.

Have fun creating or finding helpful handouts!  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Book Review: Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard

I am loving my 2018 books so far.   Not a dud among them, although I probably should come up with a warning, #straighttotheheart or something to let you know that there are books about the christian life that you can read, enjoy, and learn from, and then there are books that you read, re-read, think about, take some notes, and immediately apply the strategies the author endorses.  This book is one of those.

I did not expect a book written from notes of talks on Psalm 23, from a man who passed into glory in 2013, to have orders to be followed before you read his book.  He must have learned from Dora the Explorer's creators that kids listen to the TV, so why wouldn't readers listen to an author's written voice.

So the book, as I'm sure he did his talks, saying, each chapter, read through, meditate and process Psalm 23 before you jump into the book.  And I did it.  And it was a bold move on his part, but so meaningful to me. Here is the opening prayer for the book and it is a great example of how intimately connected and knowledgable Dr. Willard is of the Lord Jesus Christ and his intent with the book.

He also suggested that if I was really looking to have a #Lifewithoutlack that I should memorize it and say it out loud.  Well, at my youthful 45 years of age, that was a feat. I still haven't figured out what translation I originally memorized it in, but my 8 year old can testify with a whole list of translations that I do not know word for word, and oh was she entertained helping me check!  But hey,  as humbling as it was, when I skipped verses, or spoke them in the wrong order, we bonded and giggled over Mom's lack of ability to memorize a passage word perfect!  And that my friends, is whispering the Word to your child, in real authentic ways!

I selected this book, only knowing of Dallas Willard, and hearing his quotes regularly over my lifetime, but didn't know what to expect.  But since my One Word this year is "restore" and that is a key word in the passage, it seemed like a good choice.  And I know now, it was Holy Spirit that led me to be encouraged to follow Dr. Willard's directives and teaching.

First, yes he was a professor of Philosophy and well educated, but please know, the tone of the book, which others who knew him agree with, is warm, connecting, and as if you were talking with him.  I love it when I'm being educated and trained in a better view of God, and yet it's conversational and stretching to my cognitive brain.  His principles are so simple,  but he teaches you with depth, so that you will grasp how God works even more intentionally than you might suspect.

It's so hard to narrow it down to a few favorite aspects of the book, but I will try:

  • Tone of the book, conversational, stories, LOTS of scripture quoted in the book!  
  • Heart of the book, the information taught was shared out of a life of experience, and real concepts tested and taught by the author, it wasn't a one size fits the author kind of book, his ideas would work with many learning styles and personalities. 
  • Higher Level Thinking pervades the book, and you are drawn in to analyze, synthesize, apply and create your own thoughts/responses.  Real learning just happened as I read and meditated. 
  • A theme of the book was mindset of the reader, this was a wonderful unexpected bonus.  The mindset of someone who is growing in an intimate, personal, deep relationship with our great God is developed in the teaching, and Dr. Willard seemed so educated in brain research!  Here is a link to my mindset post from the concepts of the book, perhaps my favorite take away.  
  • A very hands on, practical last chapter, so simple, yet so helpful in ending the book with the reader a plan to try to spend the day with Jesus. 
Here is meme about the application of a mindset of a #lifewithoutlack: 

I highly encourage purcahasing or ordering this book via your favorite library, I do not think it will disappoint you.   Thank you for an advanced copy, it's been a great encouragement to my heart as I've read the book and applied it.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Journal Review: #QAforKids with inspirational Bible Verse by Scott Bowen

This book my 9 1/2 year old son thought was very fun and cool. He sat down and flipped through the book and read a bunch of random questions.  He really liked the verses at the bottom that connected to the questions.  
 He and I sat down and he answered most of the February prompts- thinking it was great fun to be interviewed by Mom!  Sometimes the questions made him think, and he'd start with I don't know, but then ponder for a moment, and come up with an answer.  I was surprised at the number of answers he gave that related to our discussions about God, Salvation, Sin, the Holy Spirit in your life, etc.  And he caught the fun in some questions as well.  I'll share below. 
He found it funny that this had been his journal prompt at school the day before we did it! 

Here are some sample days we did, to show you the variety of questions and concepts... Look here for your own copy

He and I found it a great balance of fun, serious, future, and present questions, and I think answering them again, over time will be really interesting.  I decided to use initials so I can write down more than one child's answer in a year.  And I think he did better filling in about 15 days in one conversation, he was thinking about it more.  And having more fun.  It will be interesting to see if we do it week by week, or daily over time.  But it certainly helped me find out the thoughts in his head, and I was impressed with the whispers from the Lord he included. 

My 8 year old daughter was a bit intimidated by several of the questions and did not want to investigate the book. But she doesn't handle new things well, we will see how she does when her brother has answered the questions. She may realize this is a fun activity and there isn't a wrong answer.    
I thought the small line drawings at the bottom of each page were a nice visual connection to the theme for the day. 
 And the verses connected as well. 

From the publisher: 
Q& A for Kids is a  wonderful way to get to know your child's unfolding personality as well as an open door to discuss hard questions.  Together you and your kids will be able to visit the same question on the same day year after year and watch how your child's thoughts about life and the world change. Each question is also paired with an encouraging verse from the Bible to point your family to the what the Word of God says about the serious and the funny.

#QAforKids You can purchase the book here