Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Book Review: True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created You to Be.

Releasing January 1st is perfect! This timing is impeccable as each new year many of us look for a fresh start. A new goal. An improved plan. Or focus. 

My 2018 has been one full of soul searching and reflection- as my word for the year was RESTORE, and yet things in my life occurred very differently than I expected, leaving me feeling very broken, disjointed, lost, and disoriented. 

So as I've committed to allow God to RESTORE me in Him, I have been seeking what He has for me in all of life.  This book came as I have been trying to pull together the Holy Spirit's work and provision in my life, make sense of the loss and changes, and continue to seek God's will no matter how it feels or looks.  

This book shares the author's journey to peel back the layers of herself and find the one whom God calls her to be. She artistically uses the image of pruning a tree to help the reader grasp how to peel back the layers that keep each of us from showing ourselves first and then our community who we really are. 

Her imagery of pruning the tree, was a great visual tool that helped connect the concepts and fully recognize the work that it takes to find the best branches so the tree will thrive in the future growth. 

I found her approach so helpful. At first I wasn't sure how each chapter was different from the next, but as the book progressed, I realized that she was peeling back the layers we have that hide our true selves from the surface to the core, and that they are all inter-connected, but the deeper you go, the more reflective and intuitive your search is. 

Each chapter end with reflective questions to help this process move along at the needed slow transforming pace. The author integrates scripture and quotes from others who have found their true identity in meaningful and engaging ways throughout the book. I found these chapter questions so helpful, and as I said earlier, the first chapters seemed similar as they layers we hide beneath overlap, but as you move in to the core of you are, peeling back the identity, false identity, perceptions, lies you hide beneath, you are finding your true you! I will be revisiting this book often. It helped me begin to find my inner passion and goals, but battling all the layers will take time to breakdown and focus on the core me. 

What I found to be so true, of my true me, is that I have gone through this process without fully realizing it.  When all of my life changed in what seemed like a minute this year, I engaged in what gives me life, brings me joy, and renews my energy- writing curriculum and delivering biblical truth, literacy, and skills to children.  I've restored my role as a children's ministry person in our local church and I have been able to process the changes with contentment and joy, as my time is spent focused on serving others with my best self!  

Thankful to partner with Baker books and read an advance copy to review.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Guest Post:What a Japanese Pruning Technique Can Teach Us about Our Own Souls

Two years ago on a warm June morning, my husband, our two boys, and I met Marsha, avolunteer guide, just inside the front gate of the Portland Japanese Garden.

As we followed Marsha across petite wooden bridges, along pea gravel paths, and over steppingstones set into spongy moss, the garden seemed to wrap us in a shawl of quiet. We spoke in whispers as we strolled, a lullaby of flowing water melding with the rhythmic crunch of gravel beneath our shoes.

Our guide paused beside a large Japanese maple poised regal and elegant like a grand dame on a small, moss-covered hill. Its delicate chartreuse leaves fanned like antique lace over an elaborate network of dark limbs and branches spreading like veins beneath the canopy. 

Marsha explained that a particular Japanese gardening technique called “open center pruning” was responsible not only for the sculptural appeal of this maple, but also for the uncluttered space and serenity in the garden as a whole.

Pruning open enables an individual tree to flourish by removing complicating elements, simplifying structure, and revealing its essence, Marsha explained. Over time, a tree that is pruned open is turned inside out, so to speak, revealing the beautiful design inherent within it.

Our group continued on with the tour, but I held back, reluctant to leave this one captivating tree. There was something mesmerizing about it  the way its limbs and branches spread like an elaborate scaffolding beneath its intricate canopy of delicate green, the way its roots, gnarled and exposed, gripped the mossy hill. I yearned to lean my body against its twisting trunk, to soak upthe wisdom I sensed coursing deep within it. 

Eventually I ran to catch up with my family, but even after the tour had ended, I found myself still thinking about that one tree. In the months that followed our visit, I thought a lot about the practice of pruning open, and I’ve since come to understand it as a beautiful metaphor  one we can look to for guidance in our own lives and along our own spiritual journeys. 

The practice of pruning open is not an easy one. In both gardening and in life, it’s a skill that takes discipline, insight, and years of trial and error, and in many ways, it goes against the grain. 

Metaphorically speaking, pruning is the antithesis of contemporary western culture. It is the path toward smaller, rather than larger; toward quiet, rather than loud; toward slow, rather than fast; toward simple, rather than busy; toward dismantling, rather than building; toward less, rather than more. 

Pruning may not be a popular practice, at least according to what our bigger-better-faster-more society values, but it is an essential one, not only for trees, but also for ourselves and particularly for our souls. It is only in moving toward smaller and less – in cutting back in order to open up that we uncover who we are at the very center of our God-created selves

BIO: A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of chickens … and God. She’s the wife of an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun and mom to two teenage boys and the laziest Corgi-beagle in the world. Michelle’s newest book, True You, releasing January 1, guides readerson a journey toward letting go in order to uncover their true God-created selves.  

This post is adapted from True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created, by Michelle DeRusha, releasing January 1 from Baker Books. 

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...