Tuesday, December 11, 2018

IVP book review: Spiritual Practices in Community by Diana Shiflett


Diana Shiflett is an amazing writer who brings to life how to lead or use spiritual practices in your own life or in the groups you lead. She has a heart for hearing God, training others in learning to be silent and hear God personally, her writing is approachable, helpful, with great examples to help the reader grasp how these strategies work across different ages and groups. And I’m recognizing some of her strategies are practices I’ve adopted, but I didn’t realize had names or were recognized. She’s centered on the Word and her ideas are achievable, simple, relevant and well grounded.

It's been so encouraging with ideas on how to improve my prayer, bible journaling, anxiety with spiritual practices-- The author has a degree in youth ministry, a Masters in Psychology from Wheaton and an MDiv. And she has great teaching skills in print plus she's fun- reminds you to laugh at yourself- and encouraging- it's an easy to read book- but I want to go back and read it slow and try EVERY one of her ideas or her ways of implementing spiritual practices to know God more intimately and experience Him in new ways. I read over 50 books each year- and this one makes the top of my list as beneficial and worthy of your reading it. 
My suggestion for improvement is pictures of journaling examples, labyrinth prayer, etc. to bring it even more alive to those of us unfamiliar with these practices.
Blessed to partner with #intervarsitypress and get to read and advanced copy and review.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Ruth-Redeeming the Darkness a Bible Study for Women by Andrea Thom

About the Book

Book: Ruth, Redeeming the Darkness
Author: Andrea Thom
Genre: Non-Fiction; Bible Study
Release Date: November, 2018

An in-depth, gospel-centered bible study on how Christ redeems even the worst forms of darkness lurking within and around us.
RUTH: Redeeming The Darkness uses God`s truth to touch our daily realities:
  • Fractured relationships
  • Processing feelings of bitterness, confusion, and doubt
  • All-in Christianity
  • Our response to the faithfulness and sovereignty of God
Have you ever felt like God has left you? Struggled with feelings of bitterness or doubt? Hopelessness? Ruth’s message is not presented as a five-point sermon, but as a spectacular, romantic drama. Its story woos us into relationship with its characters and storyline, yet is also true, living history. This workbook-style bible study approach tackles important life topics including fractured relationships, all-in Christianity, God`s faithful devotion, and rightly processing bitterness and doubt.

Ruth is unlike any other book of the bible because words like love story and theatrical are accurate descriptors of its text alongside being historical, and gospel-centred. She’s small enough in her four chapters to rest as a cute hardback on your coffee table, yet profound enough to explode hope and redemption into your darkest pain and everyday frustrations. It is not only magnificent because of its breath-taking storyline between a man and a woman, but because God sovereignly orchestrated and sealed it within the scriptural canon so that we can experience Him as the ultimate lover of our souls. Ultimately, Ruth conveys the love story of Christ coming to redeem His people. Christ is coming for you. The host has ripped your ticket for Ruth’s next performance and you’ll be sitting front row centre as His guest of honor. Come expectantly and settle into your seat prayerfully. The orchestra is cued, and the curtain is pulling back for Act 1…
Can God be kind and all-powerful when the world is filled with despair?

Click here to purchase your copy!

About the Author

Andrea Thom is a wife, mom to three great kids, and a therapist. Known for being both deeply reflective yet quick-witted, she`s the parent on the sidelines yelling a little too loud for the home team, but also the one who loves to curl up with a good book and a hot cup of tea on a rainy day…or any day. She loves. Her family and friends – the whole messy lot of them. She loves unexpected belly laughs. Putting on warm clothes straight from the dryer. The colour blue. Efficiency. Reason. Tidy cupboards. Easter. Quietly gleaning through scripture’s pages at night before exhaustion folds her into her pillow. That`s a special space – it`s just Jesus and her there – – a hallowed, secret union that is theirs alone. She wants to live with eternity in mind and be consumed with what she’ll be enjoying forever – Jesus. That’s why she loves God’s word so much. Jesus is the only trustworthy One to offer real hope and redemption for our eternal futures and everyday realities.

Guest Post from Andrea
The Bible is not a book about God, it is God actually speaking! In fact, throughout history, Scripture is the primary and most trusted way that Christ reveals Himself to the world. Ever notice how our experiences become more powerful when understanding runs alongside the experience? A sports match is more exciting to watch when we know the rules of play. The theatre is more captivating when we comprehend the dialogue. Music can impact us more deeply when the sweep of the notes collide with lyrics that we actually grasp. The power of our experience of Jesus is connected to the depth of our understanding about who He actually is!

No matter what you’re like or who you are, the same Jesus who spoke creation to life wants to speak life into your circumstances now through His Word. Pursuing biblical depth is not just reserved for the academically elite who are into that sort of thing. We consume food to survive, but we consume His Word to truly live! So grab some friends to join your Bible study journey because the pursuit of truth through His Word is essential, doable, and awesome. Come – just as you authentically are – and prepare to meet Jesus for who He actually is…
Looking for a new Bible study series with FRESH commentary and RELIABLE gospel-focus? 
Have you ever felt like God has left you? Struggled with feelings of bitterness or confusion? Hopelessness? Ruth – Redeeming The Darkness is an in-depth, gospel-centred bible study on how Christ redeems even the ugliest types of darkness that can lurk within and around us. The book is one of the most exquisitely written love stories ever penned. Words like love story, theatrical, and screenplay are accurate descriptors alongside historical, and gospel-centred. It’s small enough in its four chapters to rest as a cute hardback on your coffee table, yet profound enough to explode hope and redemption into your darkest pain and everyday frustrations. The book conveys the love story of Christ coming to redeem His people – now Christ is coming for YOU. The host has ripped your ticket for Ruth’s next performance and you’ll be sitting front row centre as His guest of honor. Come expectantly and settle into your seat prayerfully. The orchestra is cued, and the curtain is pulling back for Act 1…
  • “I have completed a lot of bible studies over the years, but few have grabbed my attention as quickly and held it as powerfully as ‘Ruth: Redeeming the Darkness’. Andrea guides the reader through the book of Ruth and takes them straight to the cross. This study will grow your appreciation for the Word of God, increase your competency in handling the Word of God, and bless your heart. It is my joy to recommend ‘Ruth: Redeeming the Darkness’ as a powerful tool to aid you in your study of God’s Word.” ... Bible study participant
  • “Using beautifully descriptive, poetic language, Andrea does a masterful job of plumbing the depths of both the historical context and modern-day parallels and applications. Its message is both surprising and incredibly encouraging to those of us who find ourselves much like Ruth – pursuing ordinary lives in the midst of God’s great Love Story.”...Bible study participant
  • “As the vivid picture of Naomi reveals your own feelings of hopelessness, bitterness, and despair, you will be captivated by a love story that becomes your own.”  ...Bible study participant



(No Bread Machine Required)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp active dry instant yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3-5 cups all-purpose flour
*Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add honey, and stir well. Mix in whole wheat flour, salt, and vegetable oil. Work all-purpose flour in gradually.
*Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for at least 10 minutes. *When dough is smooth and elastic, place it in an oiled bowl. Turn several times in the bowl to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. *Punch down the dough. Shape into two loaves, and place into two greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise until dough is 1 to 1 1/2 inches above pans.
*Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes.

Blog Stops

Midnight Bookaholic, November 24
Bibliophile Reviews, November 25
Texas Book-aholic, November 26
Janices book reviewsNovember 27
All-of-a-kind Mom, November 28
Genesis 5020, November 28
Multifarious, November 30
More Of Him, November 30
Mary Hake, December 1
Moments, December 3
whispering the Word, December 4
Godly Book Reviews, December 5
A Diva’s Heart, December 5
Carpe Diem, December 6
Inklings and NotionsDecember 7
BigreadersiteDecember 7
To celebrate her tour, Andrea is giving away a grand prize “Loving the Word” theme basket that includes a gorgeous writing journal with Scripture at the bottom of each lined page, 6 stunning magnetic book page markers,“Be still and know that I am God” Bible verse key chain, Highlighter/ Pink post-it note, Old Testament Bible Reading Checklist by LOVE the Word | LIVE the Word, & RUTH-Redeeming The Darkness Bible Memory Companion Sheet!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d62b/ruth-redeeming-the-darkness-celebration-tour-giveaway

My review:
This study was well organized, called lessons sessions, had lots of commentary.  Lots of background information.
Here's what I liked:
  • very descriptive language and imagery
  • supported background information
  • framed the entire book as a theater drama/love story of redemption
  • really helps you observe, think, and identify with the people mentioned.
  • connects other scriptures
  • layout with overview, layers, history, connections to modern day, meditation
  • Boxes to complete- variety of answers- some literal, some application. 
  • introduction to a new author. 
  • I'd love to try another study like this- working on my own for a review- I didn't feel like I gleaned as much as I would if I was discussing with others. 
What I missed:
  • directions on how often to do the sessions, how to do the study alone, with a group, etc.  
  • More thought provoking questions or research- the author tells us lots- but real learning happens in the discovery and thinking the reader does.  
  • Some of the commentary or information would have been better as an appendix, rather than doing the work for us.  
I don't feel confident in my Ruth Bible study to reflect the theology shared in this study, but I think it's good for every reader to always self check statements and author's perspectives on the Word of God- and that's healthy. 

Thank you celebrate lit! for the opportunity to review this study.  A new experience for sharing newly published books- I was asked to post their information and then add my own thoughts.  

Monday, October 22, 2018

Thomas Nelson Partner: Love Does for Kids by Bob Goff

Bob Goff is known for sharing about love and motivating others to love one another well.  So it's great that he and his daughter wrote a children's book for kids.  My first surprise was, a wonder, do I like this book even better than the version for grown ups? And I think my answer is yes.  The tone of the stories, the integration of how Jesus and God fit into every type of experience and stories from the Bible seem more connected, more frequent, and deeper in this book. It totally could be me, but this book is amazing. 

 The illustrations are warm and beautiful.  The book is 224 pages.  It releases October 23. It's been a while since I read Love Does- but it seems to me that this kids version seems to be more directly connected to the Word of God and who God is, how He shows himself through His Son Jesus, and how it affects our lives. 

His daughter, Lindsey, is an elementary teacher and the book shares many stories and experiences from Love Does with a whimsical flavor. 

What I liked about the book

  • warm, child friendly colorful illustrations.  
  • references to different bible stories and events.  
  • Love makes the difference message connected to a message of God's work and love.  
  • Chapters are short, quick, focused reads. 
  • People of different races are depicted in the images. 
  • Bob Goff's attitude and mindset is one that the world needs to emulate, and somehow he gave it to his children with such a spirit of love and joy, it seems natural, and I wonder why all of us can't always be this open minded, and open to seeing the world as a group of our friends.   

What I wondered about the book

  • why not share or link the references to the biblical concepts. I really like the for further study or connections that some authors do.  
  • transitions between stories were abrupt feeling at times, but the book is about love, not a sequential life story, and as the book moves on the pattern appears. 
  • Some stories seem unbelievable- but then again the way the Goff's approach things is counter cultural- and that makes these unbelievable stories- all that much more believable. 

How I might use the book:

  • To discuss how mindset affects everything. 
  • To teach a lesson on how we see someone, an event, our neighbors- is all an opportunity for fun, ministry, and inclusion, instead of a mindset of that's impossible, that won't work, etc. The can do attitude developed by the Goff's is biblically driven and that's why it works.  
  • One chapter teaches the definition of restore and justice- so a lesson intro or background info for a topic that uses one or both of those works- this could be a great hook. 
  • Pick a chapter and use is as a writing prompt- share a similar experience you have had. 
  • Pick a definition or connection to God and seek out verses from the Bible that show that this concept is true- or contain the same phrases.  If you can't find a verse- is there a hymn, a teaching, or someplace you've understood the same concept about who God is, and how He loves us, gives us grace, and helps us? 
  • As a read aloud in a Sunday School class, lecture, family, it would work in many scenarios. 
  • Discussing character development, inferences, visualizing, connections, things all great readers use to comprehend a story, as well as some solid analytical skills.  
  • Inspiration and encouragement for what a God centered, love driven mindset can do for a person.  Growth-God mindset.  

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Tommy Nelson Partner: Gift I Can Give by Kathie Lee Gifford

What I loved:

  • "Exactly the person God made me to be!" part of the opening line.  
  • Pictures- warm, delightful,draw a reader in with the colors, and experiences. 
  • Rhyming Words
  • Concept of the book- I can always give God's love 
  • length- not too short, not too long

What bothered me:

  • Missed potential... 
    • this could be so Gospel Centered, sharing how God's love is so great, so high, so vast, sharing how God gives His love through His Son Jesus on the cross, but it is very general and generic... 
    • No scripture referenced, no scripture notes or suggested verses
    • "As He lives in my heart, every moment, every day" (literary license? so it's okay but a note to parents at the end of the book about this confusing expression when referred to ask Jesus in your heart)
How I might use it:

As a home read aloud: 
  • with references to God's love from the Word of God
    • I'd ask my kids what do know about God's love? 
      • Ephesians 3:18- vast, wide, high.... So big we can't measure it
      • 1 John 4:7,8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God....
      • John 13:33-34
      • I Peter 4:8 
      • 1 John 3:16 
      • Hymn- The Love of God
In a Sunday School or Kidmin setting
  • when talking about gifts
  • When presenting the gospel- I'd share we can share God's gift of love because Jesus was the picture of God's love, in His death, resurrection, and return to Heaven- and Jesus makes the way for us to draw close to God, and live like He would.  
  • with Colossians 3 passage- what does the well dressed believer need to put on.... how do we put it on... 
  • by asking kids what illustration would you change in this book, to make God's love be better defined. (adding Jesus image, adding scripture...) 
With parents 
  • as an example of being culturally acceptable- God could be any God- and as a book that is christian, but misses the mark- it's okay, maybe even good, but it's missing the mark at being the best book for a gospel centered life. 
  • asking parents, what do you think of this book? would it be in your home? how would you use it? is it missing an aspect that you as the spiritual fathers of your kids needs to add in?  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Thomas Nelson Partner: Defiant Joy by Stasi Eldredge

This book- this message repeating over and over,  in my year of living focused on RESTORE.  In order to whisper the Word to the children and even my family/friends- I must be full and focused on the Lord. This book is another read that reminds us how to set our gaze on the God of the Universe, His Son, and His Holy Spirit.  

The author has experience with loosing hope, not seeing the beauty and being overwhelmed with life in a hurting world- but she prescribes clearly specific ways to have a GOD mindset, with much scripture, some hymns, and even some poems/prayers to repeat or think about.  

Her quotes are from Ann Voskamp, St. Patrick, CS Lewis (and Narnia of course) as well as George MacDonald.  

I will let my notes and reminders to self tell of the book's principles to absorb into your life! 

I'll end with some favorite memes'

 a great quote below...

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins Partner: Ministry of the Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin

Whispering the Word perspective shared with a group of reader friends:

I finished the book-- this is a theme throughout it- waking up to God's goodness all around you. It is designed for Christ followers to grow in their walk.

Throughout the book Shannan Martin shows us how the Lord directs her steps to see His goodness all around her and to serve others right were she is.

But also just as she is-- in a world of books where Christians are publishing self help books that hardly mention God's role in their lives. This book is a breathe of fresh air- as Shannan Martin knows that all her growth, learning, failures, gifts, strengths are all through and in the Lord God and His Holy Spirit living in her.

She shares her stories some of which are unique, since she lives in a low income poverty neighborhood . Her stories start with how she learns to pay attention to the world God created all around her. She intentionally walks her kids to school.

Her desire and suggestion that we all connect with the misfits all around us. It's one that we can do in any neighborhood, at any age, and in many different ways.

She clearly shares deep understanding of Who God is, and how He has worked like He is in her life- in others in scripture, her new favorite passages or verses, and what they've come to mean to her- all in a humorous, well written, book of life stories and life lessons- drawn as she she seeks to glorify God and learn new lessons and ways of worshiping Him. Many of her tips weren't new or extreme- but her own growth in how she chooses hospitality, to leave her introvert comfort zone, how God chooses to push a bit, and the abundant life found in all of this- made it a very encouraging and refreshing book to read, and convicted my heart to grow and re frame some of my comfortable habits. She showed gospel living.
 Goodreads review:

This book- I loved it-- it was a book of the author's personal stories, personal challenges, and her ability to press forward and overcome them. 

But she didn't will herself to do this- she didn't decide being brave or courageous- or something other than exactly who she is would fix her desire to minister to others in the ordinary places-- her subtitle says it all- a constant thread in the book was- waking up to God's goodness around you!! And that infusion of God's Character, the Holy Spirit's work in our lives, and how as God calls us to do things, He equips us and brings us joy. 

But that doesn't mean there won't be failures, we won't let ourselves get in the way and mess up, suffering, loneliness, etc won't ever head our way.  It means that as we build endurance, seek God's way over our own, learn new ways of worshiping Him, and keep growing as humans who learn and press on- and do it well when we use our kingdom gifts as the bread that brings life to others. 

Her heart for people is clear- her desire that we join her in loving others well in our own neighborhood and small space of the community right outside our home-- is our ministry of ordinary places. 

She and her husband moved to an inner city/urban location and into a neighborhood of former convicts, poverty, addictions, etc. But Shannan Martin is a cheerleader and encourager of each of us- learning the lessons she learns in daily life as she continues to serve those right outside her front door. She makes it clear that we are to be ourselves and find ways to love well, share mightily, listen attentively, pay attention, and make those around us our people.  She never suggests we need to move to a neighborhood like hers- just gives examples of how loving the misfits and regularly breaking bread at least weekly with as regular and ordinary people as you can find.

Her stories could happen to most of us, and her self actualization is convicting, but not written in a tone to be judgmental- just so easy to relate to.  She recognizes that her people and her neighbors aren't the people that look just like her- but the ones who come near in mercy.  And that's it's healthy to love others and come near to them, "getting better at loving people for every good and puzzling thing they are." Just as I am!   She learns and suggests that we all should not look at those in need as projects, or lower than us, or that we are higher than they are, but to:
Get to know those in need, reflect love as they want it, share a smile on your face, express I'm rooting for you, be humble, invite correction, face forgiveness.  In other words- have real relationships, even with unexpected people.

She speaks of faith.  "A faith that could ride out a howling stretch of pain- keeping it's spark through the winds of drought."  She reminds us: "Christ camped among suffering and didn't flee discomfort."  Abundant life is found in the 'sweet and the salty.' 

Throughout the book, she shares her thinking and her growing mindset of how hospitality, mission, service, and being present outside your front door really reflects- Emmanuel, God with us.  She regularly shares verses, stories of different bible people, and other truths from the Word of God that she discovers more closely as she listens and pays closer attention to the world around her.  She is woman who grasps the gospel in and out of her experiences, and has this wordsmith ability to share her life, stories, learning, and heart in a humorous way that will leave you wanting more, and asking God to show you in your neighborhood how to learn these same lessons. 

I love to add the author's own words... here are some memes.

I relieved an Advance Reader Copy from Harper Collins Christian Publishers.  

Monday, October 1, 2018

David C Cook Partner Review: Calming Angry Kids by Tricia Goyer

Do you want to learn how to help your child deal with anger? This book will show you how YOU are the first and best solution, and the author, Tricia Goyer, shares how humbling and challenging it is to change YOUR responses to outbursts from angry children. Not only does she share her learning, but she is well researched, articulate, and of all the parenting books I've read, her book is the best I've read as far as easy to implement, research based practices from well known authors like Dan Siegel are integrated, as well as a biblical basis for changing your heart and skill set, while you approach your child and help him or her gain the skills that he or she needs to recognize a trigger, handle intense emotions, realize that that it's easier to be mad than sad, or recognize their own intensity in an everyday situation. I will be sharing this book and the helpful approach over and over. And as you can see from my pictures of highlighted segments- it is practical and I've already been taking pictures and sharing with mom friends who are in the same struggle I face, as we encourage one another to grow and parent in a meaningful and helpful way!

Each chapter ends with a reflection question set to help you process and internalize the content.... it's well done and so helpful.

One of my favorite parts of this book- parenting an angry child- starts with my heart-- asking God to show me what changes I need to make.  Wisdom shared from Psalm 27:14

#whisperingtheword connection- whisper to myself before my kids... let them see it in me!

Example of research based strategies integrated in knowing how to figure out where the feelings are coming from, so you can create a plan and share strategies to help address them better.

This is not a five minute read and it's all inside, and you'll do this.  Dealing with intense emotions requires your commitment- remembering your focus is- I'm on your team- meaning you remind them- we will figure this out together- and you are with them. 

I have read a lot of parenting books. I’ve read a lot of books on helping children handle their overwhelming emotions. I have learned so much from so many in the past five years. I’ve read through the lists on helping trauma, foster, adoptive kids. I’m an avid reader and have had much to learn. I’ve sought out the balance of brain based responses. Biblical responses. Trauma responses.

This is the easiest to read. Most practical. Well researched. Easy to grasp. And most likely to be internalized book of all the books. The author has lived, learned, prayed and suffered through gains and losses. Her story and knowledge are spot on and this resource is at the top of the list to share with those who need help parenting kids with strong emotions.

It's encouraging as she shares her failures and learning in parenting challenging/angry children of all ages.  It's encouraging as she recognizes it's knowing the research. learning to know YOU are the key factor in calming kids and preventing the whirlwind, but that God is with you, His Word brings hope and help in the best practice concepts of calming angry kids, learning their triggers, and planning ways to help them grow the needed skills to overcome intense emotions.

Thankful to partner with David C. Cook and read an early copy.  Comment below by Friday, October 5th, 2018 and I'll draw a winner sometime after noon, and one of you can win a copy!!