I Blog For Books

30 December 2013

31 Days to Happiness

What do you know about Solomon? From what I remember (not much, admittedly), he was considered to be wise and just. What I didn't know was what Dr. David Jeremiah hints at in his preface and introduction, and what he elaborates upon as the book develops. There is so much more to know about King Solomon ... "The wisest man on the face of the earth" - definitely able to teach us a thing or two, wouldn't you say?

In 31 Days to Happiness, David Jeremiah walks us through the struggles, through the pain, through the understanding, and the growth of wisdom of King Solomon. 

Who was King Solomon, this wise man of the Bible? Son of David and Bathsheba, a wise and trusted ruler. A man who drifted away from God. A man who found his way back.

What I once knew but forgot about Solomon, I was reminded of in the book's introduction: the three books called his legacy. Song of Solomon, of course. Dr. Jeremiah calls this "rhapsody of passionate romance" the book of "the morning of his life." Proverbs, written during his strong years - or the "noontime of his life" - is a "heavenly rule book for earthly living".  If Song of Solomon is passionate love and Proverbs is the rule book, what in the world is Ecclesiastes? Ecclesiastes is "a regretful retrospective," or what happens when you wake up to find that not only do you not know it all, you know exactly what you don't know.

Solomon could have - and did, at a point in his life - have nearly everything he could possibly want. When God asked him what he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom. Wisdom! Would that we could have it bestowed upon us, instead of having to earn it through making mistakes ...  Solomon was a very wise man, indeed. But even wise men can be dumb sometimes. And so, too, can we.

We are not supposed to have all the answers. We are supposed to seek He who does have those answers. This book tells us about Solomon, his decisions, the consequences of those decisions, and his regrets. The subtitle of this book, How to Find What Really Matters in Life, sums it up nicely. It is not about what we have, it is about what we do with what we have. Those aren't new words, I can't claim them as my own. What I DO know, however, is that life isn't about things and knowing all the answers. Life is about living for Jesus, in a way that allows Him to shine through us. Life is about knowing who DOES have all the answers - and actively seeking Him. From Bored to Death (chapter 2) to Dollars and Sense (Chapter 13), from Employment without Enjoyment (chapter 15), to the Power of Wisdom (Chapter 22), Dr. David Jeremiah walks us through the life of a fascinating man. What I learned in the process was a lot about Solomon ... and even more about Denise.

Lord, I have so much learning to do. I ask for your grace and mercy as I stumble through this journey of discovery. Please guide me to you in all that I do. Help me to be as You would have me be, every day, one step at a time.

"Wisdom is good with an inheritance, And profitable to those who see the sun. For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, But the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it." ~ Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

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

02 November 2013

Let Hope IN


Before you wonder if my finger got stuck on the caps lock key, let me reiterate the title: Let Hope IN.  No, Pete Wilson did not title his book that way (well, I say that, but then again, the book title is in all caps ... ).  After reading this book, however, it has become increasingly clear that I can read book after book, listen to a plethora of speakers, or search the Internet all day long for answers, suggestions, or ideas - none of which will come to fruition if I do not make the conscious decision to internalize whatever piece of advice or words of wisdom that my eyes see or my ears hear.  Simply reading words do not make them a part of your vocabulary or life, you have to understand and apply them.  You have to make a conscious decision to make a change.  

I will be the first one to admit that I am stubborn, at times set in my ways, and *gasp* even overly confident if I am certain of my ideas.  One of the biggest struggles that I have currently is an inability to step away from the past.

This is the first of Pete Wilson's books that I have read, but it will not be the last.  The subtitle of this book is 4 Choices That Will Change Your Life Forever.  I have read so many books that claim they will change you, change your life, change your mindset ... you know the drill.  I am sure I am not the first to read with a "show me" attitude.  Pete Wilson grabs you and pulls you in from the beginning. His four choices are simple, and for some, may be eye-opening.  It certainly was for me.

Choice One: Choosing to Transform instead of Transfer.  Think about it.  If we don't truly make a change, we end up rehashing the same things. Over and over again.  In terms of the past ... "your past is not your past if it's still impacting your present." No, it's not. If you do not change something, you will continue to have the same problem. Remember this: "God is bigger than your history and more concerned with your destiny."

Choice Two: Choosing to Be Okay with Not Being Okay.  Does that sound like a big change from many so-called self-help books? Think about it ... sometimes, it is NOT going to be okay.  No matter what you do, there are going to be times of self-doubt, worry, and maybe even fear.  You are not alone in your struggle, remember that.

Choice Three:  Choosing to Trust Rather than Please.  I think this particular choice ties in rather well with choice two.  Instead of killing yourself trying to be perfect to please anyone, everyone, or because you think it is what God wants from you, remember this: He knows all of you, and loves you just as you are.  Can you step outside yourself for just a minute and trust Him with that knowledge?  He loves you just as you are.  Trusting in Him, even though you feel that you are not as "perfect" as you should be, is a big step.  I don't have to try and please God by becoming perfect, He loves me and all my imperfections.  He accepts me as I am.

Choice Four: Choosing to Free People Rather than Hurt Them.  This was a big step for me.  I mentioned earlier about the past.  There are parts of my past that I replay in my head, far more often than I should.  Wondering why I did what I did, and why I can't simply forget about it and move on.  Why? Because I have not yet let go.  Reading through the first part of choice four, a chapter titled Breathe Grace, I was floored by a few simple words.  We know we should forgive and move on.  Do we? Not always.  When we forgive, however, we are saying that we recognize that there was a wrong, and we are choosing to move past it.  "My understanding of God's forgiving me despite me enables me to forgive others despite others."  Make sense? It will ... The next sentence clarifies it.  The bold, italic emphasis is my own - that is how much it affected me. "And while this act of forgiveness may not erase your past hurt, it does erase the power it has over you.  It allows your past to truly become just that - your past."  You are not going to miraculously transform your past into perfection, the scars of past pain are not going to go away. They will, however, begin to heal.  And that, my friends, is the true power of forgiveness.

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

03 October 2013

You'll Get Through This

Who can resist a book with a subtitle that offers Hope and Help?  I couldn't, and that is why I chose to review Max Lucado's You'll Get Through This.  I have been a fan of Max Lucado's work for many years - he has a way of cutting through the fluff and getting straight to the point - and I like that.  When I am having a hard time, when I am feeling down or distressed, I do not want platitudes.  Life IS rough sometimes, and no amount of sugar-coating will change that.

"You'll get through this.  It won't be painless.  It won't be quick.  But God will use this mess for good.  Don't be foolish or naive.  But don't despair either.  With God's help, you'll get through this" (p. 3).  Simplistic, right? Mouthing platitudes? No.  Sometimes in life, we are going to hurt.  Sometimes that pain will last far longer than we thought it would, and longer than we think we are equipped to handle.  Remember this, please, when you want to give in - God is bigger than any problems we might have. ANY problems.

As Paul states in Second Corinthians, "Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV).  What is pain compared to the eternity that awaits us?  I am not saying that living with pain is fun. I am saying that living with pain knowing that there are far better days ahead might not be optimal, but it can be tolerable.

Wound throughout this book, Max tells the story of Joseph.  You remember Joseph, from Sunday School? The one with the cool multicolor coat? The one whose brothers hated him so much that they threw him in a pit and left him to die? He showed them, didn't he?? Rescued and eventually in a position of power, he didn't shun his brothers when they came in need.  He offered love - after he threw them in prison, made them sweat a little. He got through it. And so can you.  Remember, "your history doesn't have to be your future" (p. 105).

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

20 August 2013

Runaway Emotions

Jeff Schreve is a pastor whose explanation of our emotions hits home.  From the time I started reading this book, I found myself nodding my head in agreement - or thinking "How did he know that? He doesn't know me!"  Along with each explanation, he offers a biblical story, real-life example, or both. I have read many books of this genre, but I can honestly say that this particular book stands out in a way that the others have not - it speaks to me in a language that I can both understand and relate to. 

His chapter on depression was quite the eye-opener. Certainly I am not the only person who was brought up with the idea that depression is "all in your head" -- one did not discuss things of that sort. You just took a deep breath, and went on about your business, without  letting anyone know if there were problems.

Unlike many authors of the "self-help" genre, Jeff Schreve does not claim to have all the answers. He offers humor, Biblical principles and Bible verses entwined with real-life examples to drive his points home in a most effective way. Before I had gotten through the first chapter, the highlighter was out and the pages were folded down as a reminder of a point that I wanted to revisit.

Will Runaway Emotions have the answers that you seek? Only you can answer that question. For this reader in particular, Jeff Schreve has hit a home run.

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

20 July 2013

Closing A Chapter

I received a short text message from my brother yesterday while I was at the gym. It literally stopped me in my tracks, and it consisted of only four words: "house in realtor's hands." This was the final step in a journey that began in January of this year and took a definitive turn in May. Our decisions were not made lightly, nor were they made without many hours of thought and tearful discussion. What it boils down to in the end, however, is one simple fact: it still hurts. 

Dementia is a viciously ugly disease. It knows no restrictions and can affect anyone. There is no known cure. A year ago, I would have nodded my head in sympathy, while quietly giving thanks that it wasn't me and mine. Seven months ago, it became mine. Not that we didn't suspect, or sometimes have that feeling that something just wasn't right ... but to have those thoughts and feelings confirmed is still a hateful blow. The questions began. The self-doubt began, and still, to some extent, continues. "Did we do the right thing?"

As I pulled into the parking lot at the nursing home, she turned and looked at me and stated "I'm not going here." When I put my truck in park, she crossed her arms reminiscent of Samantha and stated "I'm not getting out. You can't make me." I unbuckled her seat belt. She buckled it back. Strangely, that was the first time in months that she had fastened a seat belt without difficulty. "I'm not going." I don't know what my face looked like, but apparently there was this pleading "Help Me!" written across it. My brother opened the passenger door, and when she turned to tell him she wasn't getting out, he simply looked at her and said "Come on, mama." I unbuckled her seat belt and she slowly got out of the vehicle, walking beside him. My sister and I fell into step, our pace speaking volumes about the heartbreaking decision we had made.

When we got inside, one of the aides from the unit came down the hall and put her arm around mama. She began making conversation with her, and gently led her down the hall. We watched, and wondered. Paperwork, conversation, paperwork, questions. Then you walk away, hoping against hope that you have not made a mistake. Logically, you know you haven't. Emotionally, you feel like a traitor. You feel as if you have abandoned the one person who would never abandon you.

Emptying the house was a lengthy, painful process. What to keep? What to do with what you don't keep? There were many, many items found that made us stop, look at each other and say "Huh?" Memories unfolded, time and time again. The realization that she is never again going to come home, never again going to live in this house is overwhelming.  How do you say goodbye?

I'm going home in a couple of weeks. I haven't decided whether or not I will drive by the house. I don't know how I"ll handle it. Where will we sit around the table and drink coffee at all hours of the day or night? Where will we all get together and visit? Will we even get together and visit anymore? How do I explain it to my granddaughter when I don't feel like I fully comprehend it myself? I"m almost 50 years old. I have my own home, have children and grandchildren of my own. But mama's house isn't mama's house anymore.

Lord, I ask for strength and peace. For all of us. We are fond of saying that "we have two choices: laugh or cry. We choose to laugh." Please, help us to find the laughter.

"the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."~Numbers 6:25-26 NIV

29 June 2013

When Donkeys Talk

As a part of Booksneeze bloggers, I offer to read and review books. What I get in return is a free book! For someone who is a lifelong addict (yes, to books), free books are better than candy ... even to a candy lover like myself. Sometimes, a book comes along that sounds good but does not quite live up to the promotional materials that accompany it. For me, that was this book: When Donkeys Talk by Tyler Blanski.

The description of this book sounded like something that would intrigue me. Working my way through my own rediscovery of my faith, the book seemed to be one that might offer new insights and guidance. I did not find that to be necessarily so. While I enjoy Tyler Blanski's conversational style of writing, and some of his examples, overall I just felt that the book fell short of my expectations of it.

"Nothing ruins a good party like a story about a miracle" (Blanski, 2012).  Blanski pops you upfront with this statement, making you pause and wonder what exactly he will be sharing over the next 200+ pages. Think about those words: how many times, especially in today's world, does a mere mention of God, or Christianity, or beliefs, or miracles cause raised eyebrows and shaking of heads. Those raised to be polite might not voice the disbelief that shines blatantly through their eyes, but it is oh-so-obviously there. Miracles? Talking donkeys? Did you miss your psych appointment that I didn't know you had but obviously need?

Blanski explains the reasoning behind his quest: the biblical story of Balaam and his ass, realizing that "I had never taken that story seriously. In fact, I had never taken most of the Bible that seriously" (Blanski, 2012) [If you are unfamiliar with the story, it is in the book of Numbers] Relatable! Definitely, because I remember vague bible stories from youth, believing with the innocence of a child. As I grew older, some of the belief turned to skepticism, but never doubt. I was searching for an answer in When Donkeys Talk, an answer that I did not find.

I did, however, take away several bits of information from this book. One that resounded quite loudly was the quote Blanski included from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. "We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know" (Blanski, 2012) Think about that for a moment. Find God in what you know. True? I think it is. When I look around at my life - the blessings that I have received, and the struggles that I have had, the one constant is my faith. My belief that God is, and that He is powerful enough to do anything.

Dive into the not-so-typical book called When Donkeys Talk. While it was not one of my particular favorites, Tyler Blanski does share information to make you think. To make you want to start (or continue, as the case may be) your own quest to rediscover.

Blanski, T. (2012). When donkeys talk: A quest to rediscover the mystery and wonder of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

But Balaam answered them: "Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God."~Numbers 22:18 NIV

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers in return for writing an honest review. A positive review was not required.

22 April 2013

Where I Am Meant To Be

I worked last night. No big deal, right? People do that all the time. Today, I had a meeting. Still, you might think, what's the point? Are you trying to say something important? Yes, I guess I am  - am. Deciding last summer to move "across town", as the hospital switch here is commonly referred to, I stepped from one facility to another. Never having worked for a faith-based organization before, I was not quite prepared for the immediate sense of contentment that I found in my new work environment. Coming from an atmosphere that often preferred pointing fingers to applauding successes, the beginning of every meeting with a reflection was something that took me by surprise - in a very good way! It's okay to talk about God at work! You can pray OUT LOUD. (And yes, I know that the proper term is aloud, but OUT LOUD just fits.) From the first day of orientation to today, every meeting has started with a reflection - a story, a verse or passage - that keeps us as associates focused on our true mission, to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.

Today, the reflection came from Ephesians 4, and the verse resonated within me. Strangely enough, a teammate and myself had been having a similar conversation before the meeting even started! Ephesians 4:29 says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (NIV) My translation? Watch what you say, make sure it is positive. If you have to say something negative, make sure it is understood that the negativity is directed toward the action and not the person.

Why did I need to say that I had a meeting today? First, I am in a period of transition. Last week, I was blessed to be offered an opportunity to change positions at my current facility. The new job is going to allow me the chance to learn and grow in a new field, and is giving me a work environment unlike any I have had recently. For the first time in longer than I care to think about, I can honestly say that I like everyone that I work with. The atmosphere is vibrant, and thrumming with excitement. There are changes ahead that we as a team will be instrumental in implementing -- and I can't wait! I am so excited to be a part of it!!

I am grateful, happy, and at peace. I feel like this is the beginning of a new phase of my life - and I plan to embrace it wholeheartedly. Today reinforced to me what I have felt since the beginning of my employment here - this is where I am meant to be. Lord, please guide my footsteps along the path that glorifies you. Help me every day to show your love.

"It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him." ~ Deuteronomy 13:4 NIV

30 March 2013

gods at war

A few short days ago, I received an unassuming package in my mailbox. Opening it to reveal Kyle Idleman's newest book Gods at War. And so the journey began ...

Not having read Idleman's previous book, not a fan, I was not sure what to expect. His introduction immediately reveals that this book will be a more personal experience. Recounting a "teachable moment" with his 8 year old daughter brings a shocking realization: idols are not the graven images of a dusty past, but present today in forms that are far more insidious and threatening. After all, who gives a second thought to many of the things that we take for granted? Have you considered that the importance you place on things (status, money, possessions, etc) thrusts them firmly into the place of something that you worship (idol)?

"The deadliest war is the one most of us never realize is being fought." How true those few words - and all before I had completed the introduction. Moving forward, Idleman blasts you with another seemingly simplistic view that brings his point home: "Goals can become gods. You start to serve them, live for them, and sacrifice for them." Sound familiar? Just a few more hours at work and we are sure to nail down that promotion/new position/recognition. It's okay if we have to miss a game/competition/family outing/church ... we can make it up tomorrow/next week/next year. Remember Mt. Sinai and the calf? "Anything at all can become an idol when it becomes a substitute for God in our lives." (emphasis mine) Proverbs 27:19 reminds us that "As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart." (NIV). What does your life say about where your heart lies?

Pastor Idleman breaks down his book into four parts, detailing the gods that can detract us from focusing on the one true God. From the temple of pleasure (food, sex, entertainment), to the temple of power (success, money, achievement), to the temple of love (romance, family, me), the author gives an eye-opening view of how easy it can be to turn away from what is real to begin a never-ending journey for thethingthatisbetterandjustaroundthecorner. "The battlefield of the gods is your heart. Your heart is shaped by your thoughts ... be careful how you think, because that's what you will worship."

This book did what I expect any good book to do: it made me think. It drove me to ask myself some questions, and I didn't always like the answers. What is most important? Is God the most important thing in my life? Am I living like He is the most important, or am I just paying lip service? Am I talking the talk without walking the walk?

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."~Proverbs 4:23 NIV

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

04 March 2013

1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ

When choosing a book for review, I seek out a title that grabs my attention - something that makes me think, or makes me want to learn more. This is the first Jonathan Falwell book that I have read, and I will admit to being slightly disappointed. I was expecting the book to be a deeper study of Christ's ministry; instead, what I found was more questions than answers. I do believe that the book would be great for group study, the questions at the end of each chapter are designed to make you think about changes that could bring you to a closer walk with Jesus.

Several thought-provoking moments occurred while I was reading this book. I most appreciated the reminder of 1 Samuel 16:7 "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I agree with this statement, and feel that it is an important reminder in the world of today where so much focus is put on one's outer self.

I think that Falwell brings up some good points, although I disagree with his interpretation at times. As many reviewers before me have noted, if you want to know Jesus, read the Bible. If you are looking for an indepth study of Christ's ministry, this is not the book you are looking for. I gave the book a 3 star rating because I felt there were several points that applied to my own life, and I felt that the book made me take a deeper look at my own following of Christ's footsteps.

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

01 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Can you believe it is 2013? It seems a bit strange to me, but I have yet to actually write the date. What type of resolutions have you set for this new year? Each year, I go through the motions of setting resolutions and while I follow some longer than I do others ... well, you know how that goes. Last year, I was blessed to become part of a group on Facebook that read through the Bible. Did I complete the year's worth of readings? No, I didn't. I followed the group progress, however, and stayed in touch with a few members of the group throughout the year. I am disappointed in myself with failing to complete the reading along with the group, but today begins a new year.

My husband and I discussed plans for this new year this morning. What are we going to do? Will we do anything differently than we have in the past? What changes do we want to make? As in years past, I am determined to eat healthier. Do I want to lose weight? Of course I do. Am I making weight loss my goal? Not particularly. This year, I want to focus more on putting healthier food into my body, and learning portion control. I don't plan to focus as much on the numbers, but instead to focus on the process. In keeping with that train of thought, this morning on my trip to Walmart I tried to choose snack items wisely. Knowing that I am by nature a snacker, I portioned the snacks on my return home. Instead of grabbing the box of Cheezits, I can now grab a bag that holds a single serving. It will not be easy, nor will I always be successful. My intention today? To take it one day at a time. Every day, I will make a concentrated effort to eat healthier. I don't know how it will work, but if I try, I will at least know what needs improvement.

I told Rob that I planned to read through the Bible this year, and asked him if he wanted to read with me. To my surprise, he said yes! I asked him where he wanted to start, and he said "At the beginning! Genesis!" Both of us puttered around a bit more, then he stated that he was going to bed. I looked at him and said "We didn't read yet." I then asked him if he wanted to read aloud. He agreed, and we read the first two chapters of Genesis. 

There is more to Genesis, however, than just words on a page. The first two chapters of Genesis deal with creation. Talk about an area of controversy for some! I believe in creation. I believe that God made the heavens and the earth, and all the living creatures - man included. I believe that God made apes and God made man and that we did not develop from the apes. There are many who disagree, and I respect their right to do so. 

Our reading this morning generated a discussion that lasted three times as long as the reading itself. And that, I believe, is what a good reading is all about. 

Almighty God, we cherish you and trust in you to provide. Work within us to give us strength, and to draw us even closer. May we live each day as you would have us do, and may we remember that we are your creation.

"This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens." ~ Genesis 2:4 NIV