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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Voices From The Past and Commentary On The Psalms

Beth Wiley from Banner of Truth publishers was very generous and sent me two titles for the purpose of review.  She sent Voices From The Past:  Puritan Devotional Readings edited by Richard Rushing and Commentary On The Psalms by John Calvin, abridged by David C. Searle.

Voices From the Past:
My interest in the writings of the Puritans was sparked well over a year ago while reading prayers from The Valley of Vision.  I had also read some excerpts of Voices From the Past on other blogs and knew I wanted to get a copy.  Thank you Beth for sending me a copy of this amazing devotional!  I have used this devotional in my quiet time every other day or so for about two months.  Mr. Rushing has done an outstanding job of compiling works from Puritan writers such as Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, John Flavel, John Owen and many more.
Voices From the Past is a dated devotional.  A scripture passage is given followed by a short collection of insights from the particular Puritan writer being featured that day.  What I really liked about this devotional is that Mr. Rushing compiled the devotionals by theme.  For example for several days in a row you are able to gain an understanding  from several different places in scripture and different Puritan perspectives (sometimes the same writer) say on the subject of delighting yourself in the Lord.
So many people, so many Christians seem to be always looking for the next, newest way to enrich their lives.  If "the thing" doesn't have all the bells and whistles then it surely can't be effective!  The men that Mr. Rushing features in this devotional lived long ago.  They didn't have all the bells and whistles, but what they did have was the Bible and a passion to preach and teach the truth of God's word unashamedly.  Quite frankly, I think there is much we can learn from these "voices from the past".  I want the kind of passion for reading and living out the word of God they seem to have had.
I will be using this devotional in my quiet time during 2011.  I would recommend it to you also.  It can be purchased at Amazon by following the provided link below.

Commentary On The Psalms:
Beth from Banner of Truth also sent me John Calvin's Commentary On The Psalms abridged by David C. Searle for the purpose of review.  I have wanted to do my own study of the Psalms for some time now.  I was very excited to get the chance to review this commentary, especially this abridged version since the original Calvin commentary on the Psalms was five large volumes!
This commentary is 659 pages in length.  Each Psalm is covered in 4 to 8 pages with the exception of Psalm 119.  However, Psalm 119 is divided into sections allowing the reader to study one section at a time easily.  Each verse of each Psalm is covered.  Sometimes there may be 2 to 3 verses that are coupled together.  Mr. Searle uses the ESV when providing the scripture feeling it was the most suitable when compared to Calvin's translation of the Hebrew text.
I plan to use Commentary On The Psalms this upcoming year as I read through the Psalms during my devotional times.  Mr. Searle mentions in the introduction that Calvin was accustomed to calling the Psalms "an anatomy of all the parts of the soul" and asserted that his (Calvin) commentary "will train believers in earnest and genuine prayer, two requirements for which are a sense of our need and faith in the promises of God".  What better way to begin the new year than with a sense of your need and faith in the promises of God?
Commentary On The Psalms can be purchased at Amazon by following the link provided below.

Making room for Him,

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Lord's Prayer

I've read a lot of books in 2010.  And if I were to rank them in order of their impact, R.T. Kendall's The Lord's Prayer:  Insight and Inspiration to Draw You Closer to Him would rank second only to David Platt's Radical.  

A copy of The Lord's Prayer by R.T. Kendall was sent to me free for the purpose of review.  The book was published by Chosen which is a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Special recommendations were written for this book by Mark Rutland, O.S. Hawkins, and Terry Virgo and the foreward by Ed Stetzer.  I must share some of Mr. Stetzer's thoughts because they set the tone for the importance of the book:
"We live in a world in which communication feels at times, like a pandemic.  Words, ideas and even emotions move with unstoppable velocity.  The human race has honed the science and art of transporting content to one another.  But we are, I fear, at the mercy of the medium and are losing our own messages...Mobile phones, email, blogging on the Internet and a myriad of instant messaging options have transformed our communication methods...Correspondence is occurring more frequently and at a faster pace, but possibly with an atrophying impact.  We dance along a tightrope of increased communication lacking any depth or significance.  With such self-imposed limitations placed on our communications to one another, there must be a spiritual consequence.  It cannot be denied that in a time when tools for communication are growing more powerful, our ability to relate is weakening.  In speaking more rapidly, we are listening less intently."
Most of us know the Lord's Prayer and can recite it without a second thought.  But have you ever truly studied or meditated on the words you are saying?  Have they taken root in your heart and been allowed to transform the way you pray and relate to God in your conversations with Him?

That's exactly what you will have the opportunity to do in Kendall's book.  In The Lord's Prayer , Mr. Kendall takes this model prayer of Jesus phrase by phrase and teaches the reader how to approach the heart of God in prayer.  Kendall doesn't teach another "formula" for prayer, but uncovers the transforming truths contained in each line of the prayer. 

When reading the book, I got the sense I was reading not Mr. Kendall's study of the Lord's Prayer, but his experience of the Lord's Prayer.  Listen to him from chapter 6 "Wanting What God Wants":
"I suppose the secret will of God is more interesting, more compelling, more exciting and sometimes more sensational than the revealed will.  Getting an undoubted word of knowledge is easier than hours and hours of wrestling with God in reading the Bible and praying.  But the latter should be our immediate and fundamental search; the secret will of God will be clear to you when you need to know it.  Seek to know the secret will of God as a primary focus, and it will elude you; aspire to know the revealed will of God and you will gain the general knowledge of His will - and receive a 'rhema' word when you aren't expecting it."
This book is one I very much recommend.  It is one I will be going back to time and time again I am sure.  This resource would be excellent for study with a small group or as a discipleship tool with a new believer wanting to know learn how to pray.

You can purchase The Lord's Prayer at Amazon.

Making room for Him,

Pause for Power

I have tons of pictures and lots to share about our Christmas celebration, but I'm going to put that off for a few days.  I know that many people are looking for fresh ideas and resources to use during their quiet times for the new year and I have been blessed to review some amazing resources that I would like to share with you over the next two or three days.

Karen Davis with the B&B Media Group sent me a copy of Dr. Warren Wiersbe's Pause for Power:  A 365 Day Journey in the Scriptures.  This devotional covers fifteen different books of the Bible:  Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter and 1 John.  The insights are taken from Wiersbe's BE commentaries.

I especially liked that the readings are blended.  You may read a scripture passage from the prophet Isaiah one day and the next find yourself challenged by Paul's writing in Romans.  Each day the reader is given a scripture passage to read followed by Wiersbe's insights into that passage.  Each day's devotional ends with a question and short prayer of reflection that purposefully helps the reader to commit their heart and mind to God's direction.

Dr. Wiersbe doesn't talk over your head, but shares deep truth in bite-sized portions.   I know with little ones at home, I don't always have large amounts of time to spend reading.  I found Weirsbe's devotional to be very practical and "doable" as a busy mom.  It is also very appealing to know that over the course of a year with this devotional there is the opportunity to study fifteen books of the Bible.

I can highly recommend this devotional resource. The devotional can be purchased at Amazon by following the link provided.

Making room for Him,

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Baby Changes Everything!

Yesterday morning my five year old son woke up and came into the kitchen to me still very sleepy and rubbing his sleepy eyes and said, "Hey mama, guess what my radio is playing?"  He goes to sleep every night with the radio playing.  I asked him what was his radio playing as I helped him wipe the sleepy out of his eyes and he said, "Mary did you know your baby came to save us from us sins?" and he ran back in his room to hear the song finish.

I was very thankful that he began his day with that thought in his mind.  And I wonder how much Mary knew.  Did she know that when she kissed her newborn's face that she was kissing the face of her God?  Did she know that in about 33 years he would die on a cross to save His people from their sins?  Did she know or understand these words of Zechariah from Luke 2:68-75:
"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people.  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us - to show mercy to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath He swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days."
Yes, a baby does change everything!!

Merry Christmas to you and yours,
The McIlwains 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mary Had a Baby

"And Mary said:
My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices
in God my Savior,
for He has been mindful 
of the humble state of His servant.
From now on all generations will
call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done
great things for me - 
holy is His name.
His mercy extends to those who fear Him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds
with His arm;
He has scattered those
who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers
from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry
with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about
three months and then returned home."
Luke 1:46-56
*In the video is Leah, my five year old niece, who sang this little song for us when we visited back home Thanksgiving week.

Making Room for Him,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Fun with the Youth

This past Wednesday night was the Youth Christmas Party at our church.  Mike (my hubby) had a couple of our older youth come up with the games (Thank You Andrea and Jordan) and they did a really good job.

First they played the "Musical Present" game...
where they passed a present around that had been wrapped multiple times.  When the music stopped, the person holding the package had to unwrap one layer and follow the instructions on the card taped to the next layer of wrapping paper.  In the end, the last person who ended up with the package and unwrapped the last layer of paper got to keep the item in the box, which in this case was a very large Hershey bar!

Then they divided themselves up into two teams.  One person was designated the "Christmas Tree" and each team had to see which one could decorate their "Christmas Tree" the fastest...
Kiera was one "Christmas Tree"...
and Darci was the other.
Darci's team won!  They got her decorated and over to an outlet and "plugged" in first!

Her brother Jordan sporting his high school's colors with his "bling"...
What kid doesn't like ice cream, huh?  Well these big kids got to feed each other ice cream.  They broke off into pairs and had to see which team could finish a bowl of ice cream first by feeding it to their partner...
 (Sisters, Ellen and Julia)
 (Brothers, Josh and Jordan)
 (Marissa and Grace)
 (Veronica and Andrea)
(Darci and Keyana)
Next came the game where there was another box wrapped multiple times.  The kids sat in a circle and threw dice.  Whoever rolled a double had to put on oven mitts and attempt to unwrap the present.  That person could keep working on unwrapping the gift until the next double dice was rolled...
The last game consisted of the kids breaking off into pairs again.  They were given a box, wrapping paper and tape.  Each team had to see who could wrap their box the fastest with just one minor catch.  Each team member had to hold one of their hands behind their back and work as a team wrapping the gift with the use of just one of their hands...
 (Josh and Jordan)
 (Wilmarie and Cecily)

After some yummy snacks, the kids had a white elephant gift exchange.  Every year they come up with the funniest gifts.  They really have a great time with this...
 The Justin Bieber poster and book "with 60 cute stickers" was a real big hit! Ha Ha!!
 Then there was the famous re-gift of the rock.  Last year the rock had googly eyes. They were removed for the re-gift!
And Jordan ended up with a very cute pink and orange mist fan!  I'm sure he'll whip that out at his next baseball practice when he gets a little hot!!!
At one point during the party, Elvis showed up to sing Blue Christmas and the kids semi-accompanied him...

The Ms Darci Moody played Silent Night...

I'm so thankful that Cecily gets to be part of such a fun group of kids.  They are a blast to hang out with and I am so proud of them!!

Making Room for Him,


Sunday, December 19, 2010

She's Thirteen!

Today my firstborn is THIRTEEN years old!  I'm still trying to come to grips with where the past thirteen years have gone!  I think she has taught me more about myself than I've taught her.  Over the past couple of days I have relived in my mind so many sweet memories and oh. my. goodness. so many mistakes, but God's grace has been there.  He has been so faithful to gently guide this mother!

The weekend celebration actually began on Friday night for Cecily.  She and her daddy went to the Gaither Homecoming concert with a few other people from our church.  Cecily was excited about hearing Mark Lowry.  Since it was so close to Christmas, he sang Mary Did You Know.  She even got to meet him and have her picture taken with him...
She also got to meet several of the other singers there, but the camera was messing up and didn't get pictures with all of them.  She did get to catch a pic with one of the Martins...
On Saturday evening, we took her to Olive Garden to have a birthday dinner.  We were blessed to be seated at a table in an area that was kind of set off to itself.  This is a very good thing when you have a very active almost two year old little girl who was all over the place...

No worries folks about the bottle you see in that first picture!  It is just Bentley's root beer bottle!  Just thought I'd clear that up!  Anyway, thankfully we had a very sweet waitress who was a mom with a three year old and a one year old at home and was very understanding about JennaBeth!
Bentley loves his big sister!  He gives her heck a lot of the time, but he loves her so much and she is so sweet with him! 
And this now thirteen year old has always been a daddy's girl.  They are very close and I am so glad!  

We were getting ready to finish up our dinner and our sweet waitress came to our table and asked us if the manager told us about our bill.  Mike and I looked at each other a little nervous thinking what in the world was going on.  We told her no and she said, "Well someone in the restaurant has taken care of your bill, so you have no bill".  We were floored and very appreciative of this unexpected grace.  The Lord never ceases to absolutely amaze me with His provision!!

We went home and the birthday spanking...
and the presents and the birthday dessert ( I made her Smores Bars, because she loves chocolate)...
took place. 
You can not possibly know how much I love you!  Thank you for teaching me how to be a mommy.  I am so very proud of the young lady you are becoming.  You are very smart and a beautiful person, both inside and out.  Thirteen years ago on this very night, a huge chunk of my heart began beating in yours.  My prayer for you is that you continue to grow in the Lord and that He will grant you a heart of wisdom and understanding as you venture into this new part of your life...your teen years.  
Love you turkey head,
Making room for Him,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Million Ways To Die: The Only Way To Live

Audra Jennings of the B&B Media Group sent me a copy of Rick James' A Million Way To Die for the purpose of review.

In this book Mr. James sets forth the idea for the reader that "death is the new life".  What he describes in his book is a "path of death, not a path to death.  Here are some points he makes in the very first chapter that made me think and motivated me to want to read more:
"To see smaller, daily opportunities to die is as important as seeing the daily tokens of God's love and faithfulness that He bestows on us."
As believers, we often want to talk about gaining the victory and resurrection, but there is no opportunity for resurrection without a death of some sort or as James seeks to convince the reader many little deaths each day.  Mr. James calls Mark 8:22-37 the "cornerstone of what it means to follow Jesus" and spends the rest of the book fleshing out this idea.  He seeks to have the reader understand that "death is not an ending - it's an invitation to more abundant life".

Mr. James says that:
"Though the 'carry the cross' discourse is simply Jesus' introduction to the cross, several principles already emerge regarding what it will mean for the Son of Man to 'suffer and die', and these principles are precisely what it will mean for us.  The principles are:
  • We live though we die.
  • We die that others may live.
  • We are tempted to live when we need to die.
  • We die when we ought to live."
I am only half-way through this book, but can give it a hearty recommendation.  I'm only half-way through because Mr. James gives you a lot to think about and pray through.  If you have ever wanted to understand what it really means to be a Christ-follower and know how to deny yourself, carry your cross and follow Him, then this book would be an excellent place to start second only to the Scriptures themselves.  Which if you read this book, be sure and have Bible with you as Mr. James points to the Scriptures to make his points.
The book is well written.  Mr. James does a good job of having the ideas he is sharing flow from one chapter to the next.  His writing style is very engaging, but at the same time he doesn't hold back from sharing truth.  He is bold, but non-threatening at the same time.  He simply lets the Scripture and truth speak for itself.  The only negative thing I have to say about this book is this:  I do not like the cover at all.  However, it goes to prove the old cliche:  Do not judge a book by its cover!  

This book can be purchased at Amazon.

Making Room for Him,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook

Audra Jennings from the B&B Media Group sent me this delightful little book for the purpose of review, and I am so glad that she did!

I have read this book to my 22 month old daughter a couple of times and she loves it!  Now when you ask her to go get a book to read, she runs and finds this one, no matter where it is in the house and hands it to you and says, "Baby G-us" (her pronunciation of Jesus).
The illustrations are simple, but colorful.  Each page gives you a different phase of the Christmas story along with the scripture so you can read to your little one from the Bible.  Each phase is told in four short sentences followed by interactive suggestions, which keeps the little one's attention.  At the end of each "story" is a one sentence prayer.  Here is an example from the book:
Mary's Secret
Luke 1:30-31
The angel told Mary a special secret.
Put your fingers on your lips:  shhhhh.
Mary will have a baby.
Point to Mary in the picture.
The baby will be God's Son, Jesus.
Pretend to rock a baby.
Mary was glad to be a mommy to Jesus.
Smile a big smile.
Dear God, thank You for the best secret:  Jesus.  Amen
If you have infants or toddlers in your home or know someone who does, this would be an excellent gift this Christmas season.  Or Grandparents, this would be a valuable resource to have on hand for those little ones in your life who might visit from time to time.

The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook can be purchased at Amazon.

Making room for Him,

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas with The Doves

One of the joys I have of serving my church family is through my role as a Sunday School teacher.  I teach a Senior Adult Ladies class and we call ourselves The Doves Class.  These ladies all struggle with various physical illnesses and the discouragement of not being able to do all the things they were once able to do.  And except for one member, they are all widows.  Despite these challenges, they are faithful to support and love one another.  It's amazing to watch how they keep each other encouraged.  I am humbled that they let me hang out with them!

We had our Christmas Luncheon today at Olive Garden.  It was a really fun time to enjoy lunch with these ladies.  I never fail to learn something new about their lives during opportunities like the one today.  I joked with them and warned them not to be shocked if I leaned over and tried to wipe their face or something, because I don't often get the opportunity to enjoy a "kid-free" meal these days! 

For you local readers:  If you go to the Olive Garden on Pine Island Road, you must ask for Mark to take care of your visit!  He was the best and was so friendly.  He took very good care of us.  We sang a few Christmas Hymns while we were there (Yes we serenaded the whole restaurant!) and Mark even joined in and sang with us!  He had a very nice base voice.
(Mark with our class deacon, Richard)
(The Doves minus several who weren't able to make the lunch.)
"Praise the LORD.  Praise the LORD, O my soul.  I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.  When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope
is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea
and everything in them, The LORD, who remains faithful
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the alien and sustains
the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the LORD!"
Psalm 146
Making room for Him,

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hope of the Nations

I am super excited about our church's Christmas program being presented this coming Sunday evening entitled Hope of the Nations.  While it is not going to be your typical Christmas pageant with the manger scene and a thrilling version of Joy to the World, it will present in a unique way through a missions emphasis the reason Jesus, God's Son, "put on flesh and made His dwelling among us".

I was so encouraged last night as we had our final run-through of the program in preparation for Sunday evening.  As we sang the songs The King of Love, Salvation Has a Name, Calypso Carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, The Other Side of the World, Breath of Heaven, Emmanuel Medley (Emmanuel, Behold the Lamb, Holy Ground), Immanuel, God Is With Us, and Hope of the Nations, I couldn't help but feel as if I should have been physically bowed down.

Bowed down in worship of the Person Jesus Christ who is my hope.  People are looking for so many things, especially this time of the year.  It is my prayer that those in attendance Sunday evening and those who will hear the program through distribution of copies of the DVD will have an encounter with THE One and Only Hope of the Nations Who is Jesus Christ!

This song will be the finale of our program, coupled with flags from various countries placed on a Christmas tree:

"And they sang a new song:  'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."  Rev. 5:9
Making Room for Him,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

He Really Is Growing Up

And I really must accept it!

Bentley passed two milestones this past week.  He has learned to ride his bike with NO TRAINING WHEELS!  He is so proud of himself and we are too.  I must share the videos:

I'm sure he'll appreciate it, when he comes back and reads this some day, me sharing the true motivation for him to try and learn to ride without training wheels!  He and the little girl that lives next door to us have become pretty good friends.  At the beginning of last week he and his little friend were riding their bikes together back and forth in front of the house.  When it was time to come in, Bentley told me, "Mom, I want to try and ride my bike without my training wheels, because Anna can ride really faster than me and I need to catch up with her." 
Secondly, Bentley started Speech Therapy classes this week.  He is going to one of the local elementary schools two afternoons a week.  His class has five other students in it, but this is his first experience being in a classroom setting and away from home.  I've been at home with him, so he's never been to a daycare or preschool situation before this experience.

Here he is after his first afternoon in class:

(The sun was in his eyes!)
He had a great time and is making friends.  I think he is actually excited to go back this week!  And yes, I really am happy about this!!

He is growing up and my prayer is that he will have a desire to follow after Jesus all the days of his life.
"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."  Luke 2:52
Making Room for Him,

Friday, December 3, 2010

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

I received a copy of Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of review.

I have to say that Ms. Paul is an absolutely brilliant writer!  The only reason I didn't finish this book in one sitting is because I have three children and a husband that need a few minutes of my care and attention each day!  Otherwise, I would have finished it at one time, because it was hard to put the book down.

Ms. Paul is a master weaver of fantasy, romance and biblical truth.

This was a delightful story about a man (Simon) and a woman (Cora) who have worked together for five years, but barely know each other.  They are both Christians and come from very different but challenging families of origin.  They happen to be in the same bookstore just before Christmas looking for gifts; however, one ends up learning how to forgive and the other learns how to really love someone...and you will have to read the rest for yourself!

The bookstore's name is Warner,Werner, and Wizbotterdad Books.  The costume shop keepers names are Betty and Bonnie Booterbaw.  The street is Sage street and I must say you really should visit there!

If you love to read and want a good whimsical adventure to get you in the spirit of Christmas, then get a copy of Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball! 
"The Christmas spirit is giving what you already have, not going out to find something to buy."  (from Chapter 18, page 224)
This book can be purchased at Amazon.

Making room for Him,

A Year With God

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a copy of R.P. Nettelhorst's devotional book A Year With God:  Daily Readings and Reflections On God's Own Words for the purpose of review.  I've had it for a few weeks and have occasionally used portions during my quiet times.

In this devotional book, the reader gets 365 devotionals each with scripture taken from the Old Testament along with Nettelhorst's brief comments relating to the text given.

There were some things I liked about this devotional resource.  The book is organized beautifully into topical sections covering hope and fear, love and hate, perseverance and quitting, faith and doubt, loyalty and betrayal, companionship and isolation, mercy and judgment, forgiveness and anger, joy and sadness, and peace and conflict.  This makes it easy for the reader to search for scripture/devotional thoughts by topic according to what may presently be the need in their life on any given day.

The Scriptures used are taken from many different versions of the Bible giving the reader an opportunity to compare the devotional scripture given with the version they typically use.

The problem comes in the comments by Nettelhorst.  They were all over the place.  I couldn't really figure out exactly what this man believed!  On some days when I read, I was "amening" in my heart and on other days I was asking myself "What in the world did he just say?"

So rather than a strong recommendation, I really would have to give a warning.  I would not recommend giving this to someone who is new in their walk with God.  Discernment and some knowledge of God's word is needed to sift through much of what Mr. Nettelhorst has to share.  There's more bad here than good.  

A Year With God can be purchased at Amazon.

Making room for Him,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas 2010 Advent Scripture Readings

Our family was gone last week visiting our extended families in MS and AL.  That's about a 14 hour drive from where we are here in SW Florida!  Needless to say we had an amazing time with our loved ones, but are still recovering from the drive home.  I'll be sharing about our trip probably in three parts over the next several days here.  I took so many pictures, not so much of scenery, but of sweet faces; faces that we may not see for another year!  So I'll share the trip with you in three parts so as not to do so much damage to your eyesight :)

I've shared before that Fall/Winter are my favorite seasons of the year; primarily because of the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.  I love the Christmas decorations that are beginning to pop up everywhere.  We decorated our home before our trip, because I like to enjoy a festive home the entire month of December.  There just seems to be something different in the air this time of year.  Maybe it's the excitement and expectation of this time of year.  But sometimes I wonder exactly what people are so excited about.

Yes, I'm looking forward to the Christmas parties, Christmas music playing, the decorations which I love, spending time with friends and the giving of gifts to one another; and oh. my. goodness. the yummy food this season of the year offers.

But I want to be intentional and very deliberate about preparing room in my heart for "The Word" Who "became flesh and made His dwelling among us." (John 1:14a)

One of the ways I'll be doing that is following an Advent Reading Plan organized by a pastor that we served with when we lived in Greenville, MS.  One of the things he always encouraged us to do this time of year was to focus on preparing our hearts with Scripture.  He organized this set of Advent Scripture Readings and I thought I'd share it here with you for your use this Advent Season:

Christmas 2010 Advent Reading
Prepared by Dennis Salley

November 28          Luke 1:1-4; Galatians 3:26-4:7
November 29         John 1:1-18
November 30         Philippians 2:5-11
December 1           Colossians 1:13-23
December 2           Ephesians 1:1-14
December 3           Genesis 1
December 4           Genesis 2
December 5           Genesis 3
December 6           Genesis 12:1-7; 15:1-16
December 7           Genesis 17:1-8; 15-21; 21:1-7
December 8           Isaiah 7:10-14
December 9           Isaiah 9:2-7
December 10         Psalms 72
December 11         Isaiah 11:1-5
December 12         Isaiah 40:1-11
December 13         Isaiah 53
December 14         Micah 5:2-5; Genesis 49:8-10
December 15         Haggai 2:6-9
December 16         Malachi 2:17-3:5
December 17         Matthew 1:1-17
December 18         Luke 3:23-38
December 19         Luke 1:5-25
December 20         Luke 1:26-38
December 21         Luke 1:39-56
December 22         Luke 1:57-80
December 23         Matthew 1:18-25
December 24         Luke 2:1-20
December 25         Matthew 2
December 26         Luke 2:21-52

As I prepare room in my heart for Immanuel, the God Who is with us, I encourage you to do the same.

Preparing room,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bringing Up Girls: Month of Thanksgiving - Day 20

Today I'm thankful for my girls:
What a high calling and amazing privilege it is to be shaping two members of the next generation of women.  I am humbled every day as I tread these waters of partnering with God in raising Cecily (12) and JennaBeth (20 months).

When I was pregnant with my son Bentley (now 5), one of the first books I couldn't wait to get my hands on was Dr. James Dobson's Bringing Up Boys.  It is a book I have gone back to many times over the past five years as I've encountered many questions about raising Bentley and one I'm sure I'll refer to many more times before he leaves the nest.

So, when I found out that Tyndale was offering Dobson's Bringing Up Girls:  Practical advice and encouragement for those shaping the next generation of women, I jumped at the opportunity to read and review this book for them.  Tyndale sent me a copy free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Once again, Dr. Dobson did not disappoint!  In Bringing Up Girls, Dobson covers a wide range of topics such as:
  • Girls in Peril
  • The Fair Sex
  • Why She Is Who She Is
  • Teaching Girls to be Ladies
  • Embarrassing the Angels
  • Girls and Their Mothers
  • Young Women Talk About Their Mothers
  • Why Daddies Matter
  • Fathers and Daughters
  • Cinderella At the Ball
  • The Obsession with Beauty
  • The River of Culture
  • Charming Your Daughter
  • Puberty and Adolescence
  • Bullies, Buddies and Best Friends
  • Protecting Your Daughter from Invasive Technology
The book is somewhat a lengthy read at 272 pages, but well worth the time spent.  Dr. Dobson does get rather "technical" in places when discussing some of the medical and psychological aspects and these portions are a little difficult to muddle through.  However, Dobson's knowledge helpful in understanding the nature of girls. 

I really enjoyed the very practical advice he offers.  The chapters which were organized in a question and answer format were helpful as I had some of the very questions dealt with in those portions of the book.  Dobson doesn't just give you a lot of information to consider, but helps you think through answers and practical solutions, but provides tried and tested recommendations.  You also get the advantage of other contributors throughout the book.

Here's Dr. Dobson from the introduction:
"Children are a gift from God, and we are stewards of their welfare.  Training up our daughters in this sense implies helping them to navigate the cultural minefields that lie in their paths - teaching them eternal values, talents, and perspectives.  It means instilling within them an appreciation for truthfulness, trustworthiness, self-discipline, self-control, generosity, and sweetness of spirit.  It means teaching them modesty, morality, and manners.  It means helping them overcome the natural inclination toward selfishness, aggressiveness, violence, and slovenliness. It means teaching them to work and learn and think.  That is just eh beginning, which is why parenthood is such a daunting responsibility, requiring careful forethought and planning."
I am thankful for the guidance and knowledge with which God has blessed men like Dr. Dobson and thankful for Tyndale for sending me a review copy.  I will be returning to this resource often in the years to come.  I recommend if you have girls of your own or are a grandparent to get a copy of this resource.

This book can be purchased at Amazon.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Month of Thanksgiving: Day 19 - Costly Grace

One of the things for which I am thankful today is the blogging for books program sponsored by many publishing companies.  Here at Mother of Three, I review books for several publishers:  Thomas Nelson, Tyndale, Bethany House, NavPress, Banner of Truth, B & B Media Group, and Waterbrook.  I am really thankful for this program, because books are expensive.  Trying to live very frugally, I don't have the extra money to buy books.  That poses a huge problem for a book lover like myself.  However, with the blogging for books program, I am able to read to my heart's content and not spend a dime.  The publisher sends me the book and I agree to read the book and provide them with an honest review.

One of the recent books sent to me by the B & B Media Group (Thank you Audra!) for review was Costly Grace:  A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship by Jon Walker.

Rick Warren in his foreword to the book says this:
"We speak too often of winning, succeeding, overcoming, and conquering and too little of yielding, submitting, obeying, and surrendering.  Yet, we can only follow Jesus when we obey Jesus and his commands.  To say 'No Lord' is to speak a contradiction."
In the book, Walker does an excellent job of relaying Bonhoeffer's idea of "cheap grace" in contrast to "costly grace" by showing how we can become "like" Jesus in several areas:
  • Becoming like Jesus through His call
  • Becoming like Jesus in Obedience
  • Becoming like Jesus in Suffering
  • Becoming like Jesus in Our Loyalty
  • Becoming like Jesus by Developing His Character
  • Becoming like Jesus in Influence
  • Becoming like Jesus in Righteiousness
  • Becoming like Jesus in Authenticity
  • Becoming like Jesus in Purity
  • Becoming like Jesus in Transparency
  • Becoming like Jesus through Redemption
  • Becoming like Jesus in Loving Enemies
  • Becoming like Jesus in Quiet Service
  • Becoming like Jesus in Prayer
  • Becoming like Jesus in Spiritual Disciplines
  • Becoming like Jesus in Trusting the Father
  • Becoming like Jesus in Our Acceptance of Non-Believers
  • Becoming like Jesus in Abandonment
  • Becoming like Jesus in Wisdom
  • Becoming like Jesus in His Compassion
  • Becoming like Jesus Together
  • Becoming like Jesus in Our Work
  • Becoming like Jesus through Persecution
  • Becoming like Jesus in Our Faith
  • Becoming like Jesus to Others
These thought provoking insights are divided up into short chapters, giving the reader a chance to meditate on and digest a small portion of rich material at a time.  At the end of each chapter, Walker gives a short synopsis of the cost of discipleship in relationship to the material covered in that chapter along with statements that would be considered "fallen thinking" and statements considered to be "kingdom thinking".  Finally, he offers a section called "Your Choice", where the reader is challenged to work through the truth shared and evaluate where they are in their own life.

Walker does a good job of breaking down amazing truth in an easy to read format.  I would consider his writing to be conversational.  I liked the way the chapters are organized:  At the beginning you get a quote from Bonhoeffer, scripture to consider, and then Walker gives you "Jesus' Objective".  Each chapter is 8 to 10 pages long and then the section at the end (given in the paragraph above) allows you to apply what you've read.

My only criticism of the book has nothing to do with content.  The editing was rather sloppy.  There were numerous places in the book where words were either left out of sentences or the wrong word was given in a sentence.  In reading and having the context, the reader would be able to figure out what was meant, but the mistakes happened often enough that it became a little annoying.  For example this sentence on page 211:
"Only be will he blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and His word until the end".

I would recommend this book.  It is one I'm sure I'll read again and refer to often.  I'll leave you with this portion from the introduction:
"Why instead of the abundant life, do so many of us end up living lives of quiet desperation?  We go to church; we read the Bible; we pray; we try to be good people and to serve other people; yet, for many of us, our life with Jesus doesn't seem to be much more than an add-on to our increasingly complex lives, where we are over-stretched and now seem to be facing a tsunami of uncertainty in many areas that for so long have seemed relatively secure - our finances, our jobs, our homes, and even our fundamental safety.  So, we try harder, work harder, pray harder, study harder, and try to figure out what we're doing wrong because that's what we think Jesus wants us to do.  And, all the while, he keeps asking, in a sense, 'Are you tired of this yet?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace' (Matthew 11:28b-29 MSG).    Jesus calls us away from the hows and whys and whats into the rhythms of his grace, standing before us as the Son of God Incarnate, Jesus, God's Word in the flesh.  The answer to our frustrations is 'who' not 'what' or 'how'.  The Word of God who stands before us is not a problem to be solved, but a person to know...Instead of trying harder, we need to trust more."
This book can be purchased at

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Month of Thanksgiving: Day 16

Today I am very thankful for my husband and the amount of time and energy he puts into our children.  He works very hard and still somehow finds the energy to play, fix things for them and just "be there" for them.

I've often heard the old adage:  It's not the amount of time, but the quality of the time you spend with your children that counts.  In some ways I agree with that and some I don't.  Children need to know their father loves them and that they can count on him.  I'm thankful to be able to say that without a doubt my children know their father is there!

Speaking of being there, I'm so glad Mike was so helpful last night, because he bathed JennaBeth two times!  Why you ask?  Well, because he had bathed her before supper.  They had been out playing with the neighborhood kids and she was filthy.  I  fixed spaghetti and meatballs for supper and this happened...

I think the pictures explain the need for the second bath!

Visit Rebecca Writes and find out what others are thankful for today!

Leave a comment here telling me one thing you are thankful for today!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Month of Thanksgiving: Days 11-15

Although I haven't had time to post the past few days, I have lots from each day for which to be thankful!  God has blessed my heart so these past few days.  I'm rejoicing that...
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  James 1:17
For one thing, it has just felt like a very relaxing few days.  God has blessed me with a peace in my spirit that I can't explain.  There's been plenty to worry over; there always is, but I've not gone there with the enemy.  God has supernaturally given me that "peace that passes all understanding".

On Saturday, me and the three kiddos all went and got haircuts.  Saturday was an especially fun day for me.  Cecily (my oldest) and I seemed to connect like we haven't in a long time.  We had good conversation.  It wasn't that we were doing anything special; God just blessed in the midst of the ordinary.

And because we are going to be visiting family some over the next week or so, we went ahead and decorated the house for Christmas.  This is always a fun time with the kids.  Cecily and Bentley put the ornaments on the tree and it was sweet to see such excitement in the home.  And then on Saturday night we had family movie night.  It was just an overall fun and sweet day together as a family.

While the kids and I were getting haircuts, Mike went and helped a couple in our church who were moving.  It was such a joy to help these folks out.  They have been such a blessing to us.  I'll never forget how overcome I was with the love of our church family for us, when we made our move in May of this year.  The husband of this particular couple stood propped up against the wall in Cecily's old room taking down her loft bed (which was a chore by the way!)!  He was experiencing some sever pain and trouble with his knee at the time, but was still there to help us!  I could really almost cry thinking of his sacrificial giving to us on that day.

The daughter of this couple sent back with Mike a bag full of hand me down clothes for JennaBeth.  Her daughter had grown out of some things and she wanted to give them to our littlest one.  I am so very thankful for this sweet gift, because JennaBeth has started growing out of most of the clothes she had in her closet and really needed some things.  The sizes in the bag were exactly what she needs now!  She'll be able to use them immediately!  I was reminded that God knows our needs and knows exactly when they need to be met.  For that my heart swells with thanksgiving to Him!

Then on Sunday, the day of prayer for the persecuted church, I was very thankful to be able to set under very strong expository preaching of God's word without fear and free of persecution.  The title of the sermon was:  The Power of Thanksgiving and the text was Ephesians 5:20...
"always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
How appropriate.

At the beginning of the sermon our pastor asked us, "Are you humbly thankful or grumbly hateful"?  He then shared this quote from G.K. Chesterton:
"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
Here's the outline of the sermon with some of my notes:
I.  The Causes of an Unthankful Heart
    A.  A spirit of self-sufficiency (self-trust)
          1.  There is no place for self-congratulation in biblical thanksgiving.
          2.  Phil. 3 - We can't even worship apart from the Spirit of God helping us.
          3.  Story of the 10 lepers from Luke 17
    B.  A spirit of ignorance
          1.  Our view of God is very important:  You see the trinity in verses 18-20 of chapter 5.
    C.  A spirit of entitlement
II.  God's Call to Live Thankfully
    A.  A continuous response to understanding what it means to live by faith in God's grace.
          *  James 4:5-6 (An example would be that you would not be thankful for a diagnosis of cancer, but
              thankful to God, Who is Sovereign and can sustain you through any trial.)
    B.  A continuous focus on the sovereign love, wisdom and power of God.
         *  Romans 8:28  (Not all things are good, but that God is more than able to work everything for good.)
         *  Psalm 135:6
    C.  A continuous consideration of the gracious benefits that are ours through Jesus Christ.

Sunday afternoon the two littlest ones played outside with a big group of neighborhood kids.  It was such a delight to hear their laughter and screams of joy as they played tag and ran and had such fun in the cooler weather.  I'm thankful that we live in a neighborhood with lots of families with young children and that my little guys have been able to make friends. 

While they played outside, Mike, Cecily and I watched a movie. In between watching the movie and peaking on the littles a few times, I finished up my Christmas decorating.  I also got to find a special place for my new Yankee Candle (Mistletoe) which a sweet lady in our church blessed me with that morning.  She and I share a love for Yankee Candles and she knew that I had plans to get a Christmas scent to enjoy this season.  It was such a sweet surprise and just one of the many ways God chose to bless me this weekend.

Praying that we all will continue to have the grace to live out Ephesians 5:20,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Month of Thanksgiving: Day 10

Today I am very thankful for healthy, growing and developing children!  We have three ages 12 (almost 13, she reminds us everyday!), 5 and 20 months.  They are all three changing it seems everyday.
The littlest one is learning more and more each day and her vocabulary and understanding is increasing by the minutes it seems like.  She watches every move her big brother a.k.a. "bubba" makes and thinks she can do everything he does.  You can tell she loves him so much!  When she wakes up in the mornings, she starts calling, "bubba, bubba" as loud as she can.  She does the same thing when she wakes up from her naps during the day.
Bentley (our 5 year old) loves his "big tister" so much!  And she loves him!  You wouldn't know it on some days if you could hear them.  Little brother can be just that a little brother, but at the end of the day they love each other bunches and it is sweet to see them together.  Cecily is so good to take up time with her little brother and sister.  In the picture above she had built a "fort" in the living room and read books to Bentley.  Now, NO ONE can build a fort like "big tister"!
This picture is of JennaBeth at  her 18 month check-up with the pediatrician. 
I'm blessed and thankful to have healthy children.  I am painfully aware that there are many moms who can not say that and I think of them and their children often.
Learning to help is another thing I have prayed my children would learn and desire to do and I see that happening.  It's exciting to see it in the younger two.  Their big chore is to take out the the items to be recycled to our recycle bin in the garage each evening.  Baby sister is big brother's "helper".  She loves to do this with him.  When a pile of things build up on the kitchen counter, I'll say, "It's time to recycle" and JennaBeth comes running around into the kitchen saying, "cycle, cycle" and is ready to go.  Many times Bentley will notice things need to be taken out and he'll call to JennaBeth, "baby tister, it's time to do our chore".  He'll hand her a few items she can carry and tells her to come help him.

The two of them are out on our lanai right now playing and it is music to my ears; all except the screaming on baby girl's part.  Apparently her brother isn't playing with her just right!

One of JennaBeth's newest words she has learned is "Sissy".  I took this picture before we left for church on Sunday.  She was saying "sissy" when I snapped the pic.  I love to see the smiles on their faces!

Speaking of words, we were working on all the grandparents' names this morning.  JennaBeth has papaw, pops, mamaw and nana down, but is having trouble saying "granny" (what the littles call my mother).  Every time Bentley and I would ask her to say "granny" she would say "maw"; not mawmaw, but just "maw".
So, granny, for now you are "maw"!!

Check out Rebecca Writes and be blessed and encouraged to be thankful for something today!

Thankful and blessed,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Month of Thanksgiving: Day 9

"My counsel for you is simple and straightforward:  Just go ahead with what you've been given," says Paul.  "You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live Him.  You're deeply rooted in Him.  You're well constructed upon Him.  You know your way around the faith.  Now do what you've been taught.  School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it!  And let your living spill over into thanksgiving."  Colossians 2:6-7 MSG
I was finishing up a book this morning I've been reading (Costly Grace:  A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship) and came across this passage out of Colossians in the Message Version of the Bible.  I was struck by the wording "quit studying the subject and start living it" and "let your living spill over into thanksgiving".  

One of the grace gifts Mike and I have in our lives that allows us to do those very two things are supportive parents.  That's what I'm very thankful for today.

Mike and I have been married for a little over 18 years.  He was surrendered to the ministry when I married him; so I knew "what I was getting into" so to speak.  One of the things I was fully aware of was the fact that most likely we wouldn't always live close to our families.  Some of our places of service have been close, but the last few have not been.

Mike currently serves as Associate Pastor at our church in SW Florida which puts about 1,000 miles away from our families in Mississippi and Alabama.  Living such a distance from them, we only get to see our parents and siblings once a year.  My mom and stepdad and my dad and stepmom have been able to make a couple of trips to see us in the Summer, which has been very nice!

Our parents, both mine and Mike's, have always been so encouraging and supportive of our life in the ministry.  They understand the supreme importance of our obedience and trust in God for the places He would have us serve.  They pray for us.  We have never once been given the guilt trip of "Why are you moving the grandchildren so far away?".   We don't have the pressure of "When are ya'll gonna move back home?"  This gift of supportive parents frees us up to "live a life of extraordinary quality, one that carries significance beyond ourselves" (Costly Grace, by Jon Walker).

Now I won't lie to you and have you believe that there are never tears or sadness on one side or the other.  It's natural to miss them and them miss us!  I'd be a little concerned if they didn't miss us!  I'm 39 years old and there are still times that I just plain ole miss my mama!  And yes there are days I shed a few tears at what they are missing when it comes to the grandchildren growing up.  But God always gives much grace on those days and they are the ones that the phone calls last an hour or longer.

And I am thankful for the internet!  One of the primary reasons I started blogging was to provide a way for our families to keep up with what our family is doing and what the grandkids are up to at any given time.

So, on that note...

I'll post this picture of the grand younguns and say, "We love you and miss you Granny and Pops, Papaw Sonny and Mamaw Judy and Papaw Conrad and Nana.  We can't wait to see ya'll at Thanksgiving!"

Continuing to be thankful with Rebecca and others,

Monday, November 8, 2010

Month of Thanksgiving: Day 8

Today I am very thankful for my church and for being able to be a part of the Ladies Ministry Team.

One of the events we host each year at the beginning of November is called "Holiday House".  Different people offer to decorate tables.  For the past three years, Cecily (my oldest) has been involved in putting together the Kid's table.  Here she is doing that this on Saturday evening...

She always does a very nice job and it is a joy to be able to serve with her in this way!

The ministry team invites the ladies of our church to join us for a nice dinner.  I was so pleased at the crowd we had this year.  Many of our ladies invited friends to come with them and we had a nice crowd of our own ladies and their visitors.

I thought the tables were beautiful as they always are and the fellowship was so sweet.

As amazing as that all is, the most fun each year at Holiday House is packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Each person attending brings a shoe box and items in which to pack the box.  It thrilles my heart each year to see our youth girls join us "older" ladies in this ministry and be excited about it!

I can't quite put into words the excitement in the room as everyone gets up from the tables and begins the process of selecting items and packing their shoe boxes.  Such joy is expressed on each face.

Everyone has so much fun!  I really can't think of a better way to spend an evening than involved in a ministry like Operation Christmas Child.  I'm thankful to share this event with such sweet ladies.
So sweet to see two sisters packing shoe boxes together...
With some of the other things I was doing that evening, I only got to pack one box for a little boy age 5 to 9...
I'm praying that the LORD will be pleased to delight the little boy who receives the box I packed with such joy this year and that it would possibly be the very thing the LORD would use in that little boy's life to draw him to saving faith in Him!  I'm asking LORD that it would impact the little boy's whole family!

One of the new features that was sent with the promotional materials this year for OCC was information sheets you could include with the items in your box.  Many of our youth girls filled these out and put them in their boxes.  They were able to show where they lived and tell a little about themselves so that the child receiving the box would know a little about who had sent them this gift.  They could also include their address so that the child receiving their box could correspond with them.  Here is Cecily writing her letter...
I always come away from Holiday House feeling like God has smiled upon what we've done.  I pray it pleases Him and the boxes will glorify Him as love is shared with each of the children receiving this small gift this year...

Visit Rebecca's place and see what others are thankful for today!