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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Heart Of Memory

I've always been intrigued by the changes in some people after they have had heart procedures.  Medical advances that allow a surgeon to actually hold and manipulate the heart of a human being is amazing and I always have wondered how these surgeries affect the person.  Does it cause any change in personalities, emotions or abilities to cope with life in general?  Does it change the person in any way?

Alison Strobel explores this phenomenon in her novel The Heart Of Memory.  Savannah Trover (main character) is wife, mother, and ministry leader.  Early in the book, Savannah finds she has an enlarged heart and is experiencing heart failure which leads to the need for a heart transplant.

From the back cover of the book:
"Savannah expected to receive a new heart...but she didn't expect to lose her faith."
Ms Strobel weaves an amazing story of the changes that take place in Savannah after her surgery.  The side story of her husband Shaun's secret adds a bit of mystery to their story that holds the reader until the very last page.  And the strained relationship between Savannah and her daughter Jessie make for a heart wrenching tale of family dynamics.  There is a lot on the line for Savannah...will she walk away from her ministry?  Will she lose her husband and daughter?  Will she ever regain her faith in God?

The author Alison Strobel, daughter of Lee Strobel, has written children's books with her husband.  I have read and reviewed two of them:  That's When I Talk To God and That's Where God IsThe Heart Of Memory is the first of her novels I have read and I was not disappointed.  Her other novel is The Weight Of Shadows.  I certainly plan to get my hands on that one.  You can find out more about Ms Strobel at her personal website by going HERE

Zondervan sent me a copy of The Heart Of Memory for the purpose of providing you with this review.  The book can be ordered from them by going HERE.  The book can also be ordered at by following the link below:

Happy Reading,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Backyard Bible Club 2011

There's a lot of talk about being missional these days, but what does that really mean?  Unfortunately, many people equate being missional with having to go off to another place somewhere and they miss the opportunities right around them.  Or they think being missional means you have to give up everything you have rather than the willingness to use what you have for God's glory and purposes.  

I've seen amazing missionary work right in my own home and neighborhood this week.  Thanks to the support of our church family, we had Backyard Bible Clubs in our home Monday thru Wednesday morning.  We live in a neighborhood full of families with lots of kids and the opportunities for ministry are limitless.  Some of our Youth girls came and helped us by leading the Bible lessons, doing the crafts and games and helping serve the kids lunch each day.  I can not tell you how proud I am of those girls.  There are lots of things they could have done with three mornings of Summer vacation, but they chose to serve these kids for the Glory of God.  And they did an amazing job.  It was a beautiful thing to see them work together so well!

Here's a re-cap of each day:
"I am the good shepherd  The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."      John 10:11
We didn't have as many kids come as we were hoping for, but in the end the number isn't of main importance.  We ended up over the course of the three days connecting with eight children from the neighborhood reaching five different families.  They weren't here on Monday at the 9 am start time, so we went and rounded them up.  I'm proud of my little man (Bentley is in the blue muscle shirt on the front row).  He got on his bike and started knocking on his friend's doors!
The group got warmed up with a few games and then had music time.  JennaBeth had one of her little friends join her in a class and Darci and Christina were their teachers.
Morgan, JennaBeth, Darci, Christina
These girls did a phenomenal job teaching these two little ones!  I am so proud of their faithfulness this week to be so intentional about teaching a 3 year old and a 2 year old important truths about Jesus.  They did the cutest little craft with them on Monday...

"Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry.'"  John 6:35a
The kids really enjoyed the music.  Mike lead them with the guitar and even let them use some instruments.  They really liked that...

Bentley told us that one of the little boys told him, "Man I just can't get those songs out my head!"  That's a real good thing!  

Ms Debbie, who teaches Bentley in Sunday School, came on Tuesday morning to do a lesson illustration with the JennaBeth and her friend Morgan.  She had made them shirts that said, "I am kneading Jesus.  He is my bread of life"...
And then they got to actually make bread...
The whole group of kids got to taste the bread and we had mini loaves we sent home with each child.

That evening after the kids had gone home, a big thunderstorm came.  Right before the rain started, I snapped these pictures of a beautiful rainbow.


"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.'"  John 14:6
The biggest highlight of day three for me was getting to hear Darci teach about Jesus being the only way to God to JennaBeth (2) and Morgan (3).
She had their attention and to see little Morgan do the motions Darci had taught them to help them learn their memory verse (Yes!  She had them doing a memory verse!) was about more than my heart could take!

Cecily did the lesson and review game with the group this last day.  She's my oldest (orange shirt)...

The games Wednesday were all water games and the kids really loved them...

Splish, Splish, Splash (water version of Duck, Duck Goose)...

Water slide...

Water balloons...

"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, He was indignant.  He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'  And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them."  Mark 10:13-16

Don't miss an opportunity to minister today.  It may be closer than you realize,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thin Places

What happens to you when the challenges of life come your way?

"In the Celtic tradition, a 'thin place' is the place where the veil that separates heaven and earth is nearly transparent.  It is a place where we experience a deep sense of God's presence in our everyday world.  A thin place where, for a moment, the spiritual world and natural world intersect.  There are moments when we do feel the divine breaking through into our world.  We feel unified and connected with God.  It is not an intellectual knowing, it is felt in the spirit.  It can be a sudden momentary awareness or profound unexplainable experience."  
That quote if from Pressing Into Thin Places:  Encouraging the Heart Toward God by Margaret Harrell Wills, EdD.  Audra from B&B Media Group sent me a free copy for the purpose of review.

Pressing Into Thin Places is not your typical "how to" book and is not even comparable to the variety of "self help" books out there.  Dr. Wills encourages the reader to "press close to the source of our peace" when the world is falling apart around them.  Here are a few of Dr. Wills' words from the Author's Note in the book:
"We are created to connect with God and restore the relationship we innately and desperately desire.  We are called to be followers of Jesus.  This book encourages us to be honest in our need and expectant in our faith.  It points us to move toward the heart of God and find the joy and reality of 'God alive in us.'"
This is a book perfect for personal devotions.  The sections are short and vary from poems to scripture to quotes from a variety of sources to personal stories shared by Dr. Wills.  She clearly expresses importance of "the application of faith in all areas of life and at all times".

In a world and time when people are urged to find solace and comfort in other things, Dr. Wills' biblical call to seek after God is refreshing and very much needed.  You can order Pressing Into Thin Places at by following the link below:


Monday, June 20, 2011

False Witness

If your are looking for some good Summer time fiction to read, I have an awesome writer to tell you about and his latest book False Witness, will surely be one to pick up.  Randy Singer, the author, by day is a litigation attorney specializing in complex personal injury cases and commercial litigation for the law firm of Wilcox and Savage.  He is also teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  He teaches classes in advocacy and ethics at Regent Law School as well.  On top of all these things, he began pursuing his passion to write a few years ago.  You can visit Randy's personal website by going HERE.  Randy pens legal thrillers designed to entertain his readers while confronting them with controversial issues.

Singer took a trip to India a few years ago and saw firsthand the systemic oppression of the Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) through the Hindu caste system.  Singer is deeply passionate about helping end the human rights struggle in India that includes the exploitation of 15 million children in bonded labor and the toleration of temple prostitution and other forms of sexual slavery.  He is donating all royalties from the sale of False Witness to the Dalit Freedom Network, which works to provide Dalit children a first-class education and to free them from the bondage of human trafficking. 

The idea for the book came to Singer at the funeral for one of his good friends and former clients.  His friend had been a part of the witness protection program.  The friend's pastor made this statement and after hearing it Singer decided to write False Witness:
"The government can give you a new identity, but only Christ can change your life."
False Witness is a fast moving legal thriller.  Singer does an amazing job of drawing you in with the very first few paragraphs.  He peppers little details along the way that cause you to keep turning page after page.  Just when you think you have things figured out, Singer throws in a twist and turn.  You will go from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and you will gain insight into the growing church in India.  In the end, the reader comes away with knowing how God is a God of justice and how, in His time, justice will be served.

Believe me, you don't want to miss this one!  If you like John Grisham as an author, you will LOVE Randy Singer's False Witness.  I have my local library getting a copy of his other books for me!

You can order the book from by following the link provided below:

So grab a great Summer read and at the same time you will be playing a part in the extinction of human trafficking in India.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Brand New Kindergartener

My last post was about my new eighth grader.  This one is about my new kindergartener.  Now I turn 40 in July and that's bad enough.  But, to think that I have an eighth grader AND a kindergartener REALLY makes me feel my age a bit!

Mike and I are very proud of Bentley.  He has really grown up a lot these past few months.  Bentley's speech was a little slow in getting started and when it did, we quickly noticed he had real trouble with some of his sounds.  He had a slight lisp and distortion with his "s" sounds at the beginning of words.  When he started getting upset and tearful with correction, I knew he was going to need some speech therapy.  He began classes two afternoons a week one of our local elementary schools back in November of last year.
Bentley loved this class and his teachers!  We saw growth taking place immediately and he was a quick learner.  I would say in a little over a month, he began to self-correct himself on the very sounds he had been having so much trouble with!  In the picture above, he is doing some online work.  That sounds surreal to say a preschooler is doing "online" work, but his speech pathologist told us about this really neat site called Starfall.  Bentley loves to do his work there.   

Starfall is a free public service that teaches children to read with phonics. Their systematic phonics approach, in conjunction with phonemic awareness practice is perfect for preschool and kindergarten aged kids.  The site is full of resources and games to help kids learn their letter sounds and reading skills.

Another area we have noticed growth in Bentley is his imagination.  This boy can come up with fun using just the things he finds around the house.  He is forevermore the entertainer for sure!
He loves firetrucks and says that when he grows up he wants to be a firefighter.  As you can see in the picture above, he put together his own firefighting suit:  hat, goggles (so the smoke wouldn't get in his eyes), swimming goggles ("you know mommy like that thing the real firefighters wear over their mouth"), gloves, and jacket!  All over his pj's!  He even had his dad's old work boots on!
I asked him why he had crayons between his toes and he said, "Cause those are the ones I'll need for this picture I'm coloring.  I won't have to go hunting for them in the color bucket if I just put them here."
On June 3rd, his speech class had a graduation ceremony.  Bentley is the one in the middle of the picture above (plaid shirt/khaki pants).  He was about a head taller than the other kids.  We were so proud of him this night.  The kids were really rambunctious; especially the boys.  They were moving around and leaving the steps and turning around, but Bentley stood still and paid attention to the teachers.  Maybe it was stage fright, but he was really good and set a very good example!

The kids sang several songs showing off the different sounds they had improved in and then each child was called forward to receive their certificate and graduation hats they had made.  Here Bentley is with his speech pathologist, Ms Vicki:
Bentley made several friends during this class, but Dominic was his "bestest" friend:
Bentley gave both Ms Vicki and his assistant teacher Ms Debbie flowers after the ceremony.  He was so sweet.  I had told him to give them their flowers and hug their neck.  When he gave each one their flowers, he told them, "Thank you for being my teacher and helping me talk."
Bentley and Ms Vicki
Bentley and Ms Debbie

The class had been practicing their songs for a few weeks and Bentley was really excited about the "Five Little Hotdogs" song.  He wanted me to record it:

I also recorded them singing "What a miracle am I":

So, at the beginning of August I'll be seeing him off to Kindergarten.  And while it will be a bittersweet day for me, he is excited about going to school.  I know he will do well and I can't wait to see all that God will do through my little man!

One blessed mama,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brand New Eighth Grader

Yep, that's right!  We have a brand new eighth grader in our home!  Cecily has worked really hard this past year in school and has accomplished a lot both academically and artistically.  One project she was especially excited about was the opportunity to re-design a takeout menu for a local restaurant.  The members of her computer class were given the assignment to take the restaurant's existing menu and give it a new look.  The teacher picked five and sent those to the owners for their final decision.  Cecily and another young man's was chosen.  Here they are at the re-opening of Al Caprese Italian restaurant:
The young man designed the outside of the menu and Cecily the inside.  The local community paper did an article featuring the re-opening of Al Caprese and featured Cecily's work as well.
They were given gift certificates by the owners:
Cecily was also named the Best 2nd Year Pianist in her middle school by her piano teacher.  Here she is being congratulated by her principal:
Prior to the awards ceremony, there was a banquet held in the honor of the students receiving awards.  Cecily and three friends posed for a picture:
From left to right are Darci, Danielle, Cecily and Sara.  Darci and Danielle also go to church with us.  Darci is the sweetest girl and really talented.  She is so good with JennaBeth our two year old.  Danielle was named the school's Most Outstanding Female Artist of the Year.  Sara is a friend Cecily has enjoyed getting to know this year.

Cecily also had several pieces of her personal art work displayed in the school's art show earlier in May:
Cecily painted the cute little raccoon:

Not only did she have these art displays, but her piano recital was also held that evening.  Here she is playing Franz Liszt's Liebestraum (Love Dream):

So, all this plus she completed seventh grade with all A's and a few B's taking advanced academic courses!  Her father and I couldn't be more proud of her and her hard work.  She is growing into a beautiful young woman both inside and out.