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Friday, July 29, 2011

A Father's Gift

It is almost August; just four days away!  This means that Christmas is only four months (and a couple of weeks) away!  Now I know that some of you super organized and expert planners have already started your Christmas lists!

What is on that list?

What is the very best gift you can think of to give your children?

That's the very question Kenneth Wingate asked himself on Christmas morning 1996 as he watched the wrapping paper fly around his living room.  He felt something very empty about all the bows and pretty wrapping paper.  As he thought about his answer to his own question, his book A Father's Gift:  Lessons from Proverbs began to take shape.

From the back cover of the book (and from Sinclair Ferguson's foreword):
"Many young parents today are beside themselves with anxieties about their children, and, sadly, confusion too about how to nurture them.  The ongoing addiction of our times to the heresy of modernity and its proud rejection - and ignorance - of the tested and tried wisdom of the past, inevitably leads to dysfunction in home and family life.  Sadly, the older, wiser counsel of God's Word, and especially of the book of Proverbs, is unknown or neglected.  Yet Proverbs was composed specifically as a manual for home and family instruction, and to prepare us for life in the world.  It is a divinely given handbook to help parents.  Here then is a book for parents to read on their own; for teenagers to read on their own; for parents and teenagers, who are willing to take the family challenge, to read round the table after dinner or on other occasions.  It points us to God's way.  It promises us God's grace.  What could be better for us than that?"
The book has 19 chapters, each ending with a one sentence Key Principle easy to commit to memory along with scripture.  There are two appendixes at the end of the book; one contains Key Principles for Abundant Living and the other breaks down the book of Proverbs by subject.

Here's an example of the Key Principle for Abundant Living concerning our words:
"Speak only the F.A.C.T.S.  Let your words be Few, Apt, Calm, True, and Sweet.
I have three children, ages 13, 5, and 2, and I've read my share of parenting books.  A Father's Gift rises close to the top of my parenting library.  I'm so glad Mr. Wingate has chosen to share his gift to his children with us.  If you read only one book on parenting outside of your Bible, make sure it is this one!  But the beauty of the book is that it is not meant to be just read by you, but an endless gift of biblical treasure to share with your children, and their children, and their children, and their children, and....

Banner of Truth was so kind to send me a complimentary copy of A Father's Gift for the purpose of review.  You can order your copy from them by  going HERE.  Or if you frequent, the book can be ordered by following the link provided below:


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Courageous: Honor Begins At Home

On September 30th, the highly anticipated movie by the creators of Facing the Giants and Fireproof will be released.  I had the amazing opportunity by Tyndale House Publishers to review the book Courageous.  Yes, you heard me right, the book.  Randy Alcorn took the screenplay for Courageous written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick and wrote a novel telling the story of four law enforcement officers seeking to make a God honoring, lifelong impact on their children through their role as fathers.

Randy Alcorn's website can be found HERE and his blog can be found HERE.

Here's the synopsis from Tyndale's website:
"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua
Four men, one calling: To serve and protect.
As law enforcement officers, Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, and their partners are confident and focused. They are willingly to stand up to the worst the streets have to offer. Yet at the end of the day, they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood.
While they consistently give their best on the job, good enough seems to be all they can muster as dads. But they’re quickly discovering that their standard is missing the mark.
They know that God desires to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, but their children are beginning to drift further and further away from them. Will they be able to find a way to serve and protect those that are most dear to them?
When tragedy hits home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering. Can a newfound urgency help these dads draw closer to God … and to their children?
Protecting the streets is second nature to these law enforcement officers. Raising their children in a God-honoring way? That takes courage."
I have never before read a book before seeing the movie portrayal of the story.  But based on the amazing story found within the pages of this book, I can't imagine being disappointed on September 30th!  The book includes subplots, characters and backstory that will not be seen in the movie.  Mr. Alcorn explains some of the reasoning for this in the interview below.  The interview is approximately 20 minutes long, but very interesting if you have the time:

Alcorn moves the story along, but it is an amazing ride.  He captures well the typical humor and raw emotion that we have become accustomed to with the stories from Sherwood Pictures.

What I appreciated most about the book is Alcorn's careful attention to making much of Christ and the clear message that any good in us comes from Him while at the same time encouraging the personal responsibility of making self sacrificing decisions for the glory of God.  You will see this in the conversations between one of the more seasoned sheriff's deputies and his younger rookie partner.  The older deputy is portrayed in the very first chapter of the book and through his courageous action in the very beginning, he earns the ability to be able to speak into his partner's life.

You can read the first chapter by going HERE.

The book releases in August, while the movie doesn't release until September 30th.  Whether you read the book before or after seeing the move, DO BOTH!  You will not regret having this story in print!  There are discussion questions included at the end of the book.  This would be an amazing resource for a mentoring relationship or for use with a small group of men meeting together for discipleship.

Grab this book and see Micah 6:8 played out on the streets of Albany, Georgia!
"He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Courageous can be pre-ordered at by following the link below:


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rumors of God

"LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them know;
in wrath remember mercy."
Habakkuk 3:2

"I have heard...." 

According to the Free Merriam-Webster online dictionary, rumor is defined as the following:
  1. talk or opinion widely disseminated with no discernible source 
     2.  a statement or report current without known authority for its truth 

So, is the God of the Bible really about giving His children abundant life?  Is He really a God of generosity, love, grace, freedom, commitment, community, justice and most important of all hope?

Yes, and according to Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson in their book Rumors of God:  Experience The Kind Of Faith You've Only Heard About God wants to use you and me, true believers in Him, His children to let a world lost without Him know that these "rumors" about Him are indeed true.  

Hear their heart from chapter three where they discuss how in America discontent is often cultivated:
"Living in a consumer culture reverses the biblical vision:  'To live is gain and to die is Christ'.  It is a quiet subversion of the meaning and purpose of our lives.  Accumulate as much as you can.  Build bigger barns, then take life easy - eat, drink, and be merry.  After enjoying the benefits of indulgent living, when you die you go to be with Christ.  The great tragedy of materialistic America is not financial abundance, but spiritual poverty."
I think these guys are on to something!  We in the United States are concerned about the wrong economy!

I was challenged and encouraged by Rumors of God.  However, there were a couple of things that I would constructively criticize about the book:
  1. There is really nothing new said in the book that hasn't already been said in other books such as Radical by David Platt.  Don't misunderstand me.  Whitehead and Tyson bring up very good points of challenge, but many of the examples and quotes they use are ones I've read in other books along this same line of thinking.  There was really no new insight to grab onto.
  2. There are no Scripture references used within the text of the book.  Plenty of Bible verses are used, but the references (chapter/verse) can only be found by going to the "notes" section at the end of the book.  This would make the reading of the book very cumbersome for a reader less familiar with the Scriptures.
A reading group guide is included in the back of the book, making it helpful for use with small group meetings.

Thomas Nelson sent me a complimentary copy of Rumors of God for the purpose of review.

You can order the book by following the link to below:


I Am His

I Am His:  Experiencing the Comfort of Abba's Love written by Rita J. Platt is an 8 week Bible Study inviting women "to know the comfort of dwelling in the arms of a tender, wise, and powerful Abba Father.  The book was sent to me by NavPress for the purpose of review.

The title of the book drew my attention immediately.  Unfortunately many women, Christian women, seem to find themselves falling into defining themselves by what they do rather than by who they are in Christ.  I was interested in seeing how Ms Platt would address the very important issue of women finding their identity in Christ and not other things.

I was a little disappointed.  Much of the "study" is story driven and as "inspirational" as much of them were, it is not the same as a close look at Scripture, which I consider to be true "Bible Study".  When God's word was examined, Platt does a good job of helping the reader take a look at what God has to say about He as our Father and we as His beloved children.  This is a mistake I am beginning to see in many Bible Studies supposedly geared toward women.  Who says women can't handle a good, long, hard look at the Scriptures?

You can order I Am His from NavPress by going HERE or from by following the link given bellow:


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Four Decades

Last Thursday, I turned 40 years old.  There I said it...forty years old!  For some reason, this birthday kinda bothered me a little.  I'm not sure why, but it did.  I'm trusting that what a Facebook friend told me is true.  She said that 40 is the new 20.  We will see.  Since last week, I've been reflecting on the 40 years with which God has chosen to grace me.  Here is a timeline of the significant life happenings from each decade (Every time I type that word, I cringe!):
  • Age 1-10:  I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus as my Savior at the age of 9.
  • Age 11-20:  I graduated from high school and began college.  I served as a Summer Missionary on the South Side of Chicago (You know the "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" side :).  
  • Age 21-30:  I graduated from MS State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work and began a career in Psychiatric Social Work.  I got married. I became a mother for the first time.
  • Age 31- 40:  I became a mother for the second and third time.  I began the hardest job I've ever had:  I became a stay-at-home mom.  Began blogging.
Not a very exciting life you might say, but there are lots of other things that have happened over the past 40 years that I will "plead the fifth" on.  So much more...

There are so many parts of my life that I could get really puffed up about in the flesh, but what keeps me humble is that there are a trillion more with which I'm not so proud.  I'm so very thankful that God pursued me and called me to Himself at a young age.  As I've thought much about my life this past week, there are many times I have had this thought:  "But without the grace of God I could have, would have....."

1 Corinthians 1:7-9 says,
"You do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
I did a little study of this passage, particularly the words "spiritual gift" using my Key Word Study Bible which has an Old and New Testament Lexical Aid.  Here's what the New Testament Lexical Aid said about the phrase "spiritual gift":
The words "spiritual gift" in the original Greek is the word "charisma" which means to show favor.  A gift of grace; and undeserved benefit.  In the N.T., used only of gifts and graces imparted from God, deliverance from peril; the gift of self-control; gifts of Christian knowledge, consolation, confidence; redemption, salvation through Christ.  Specifically of the gifts imparted to the early Christians and particularly to Christian teachers by the Holy Spirit.  The relationship between the grace of God in Christ Jesus and the gifts which it bestows is indicated in 1 Corinthians 1:4-7.  Charisma is the instantaneous enablement of the Holy Spirit in the life of any believer to exercise a gift for the edification of others.
Favor, grace, undeserved benefit, gift, confidence, redemption, instantaneous enablement...I don't know about you, but I desperately need all of those things in my life.  And God HAS BEEN faithful to me.

And yes, I want to be "strong to the end" and "blameless" on that blessed day for which I do eagerly wait for.  I want to be His beautiful bride.  And I am thankful that my Father God is giving me all I need to be just that...a beautiful bride!

Praising the God of my days,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heart Trouble?

So, how's your heart?

No.  Not that heart; the one pumping blood throughout your body.  I'm talking about your other heart.  How's that one doing?

The Scripture tells us in Proverbs 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."  And Matthew 15:18 says, "But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them."

Author and Pastor Andy Stanley in his book Enemies of the Heart (previously published in 2006 under the title It Came from Within) takes a look at these scriptures and many more to help us understand the seriousness of taking an evaluating look at our hearts - that part of us that is the "mysterious, wonderful, confusing part of you that enables you to love, laugh, fear and experience life.  It's the sphere in which relationships happen.  And it's the sphere in which relationships are broken." (Stanley from Chapter 1)

Stanley identifies four main emotions that control each of us:
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Greed
  • Jealousy
"The heart seeps into every conversation.  It dictates every relationship.  Our very lives emanate from the heart.  We live, parent, lead, relate, romance, confront, react, respond, instruct, manage, problem solve, and love from the heart.  Our hearts impact the intensity of our communication.  Our hearts have the potential to exaggerate our sensitivities and insensitivities.  Every arena of life intersects with what's going on in our hearts.  Everything passes through on its way to wherever it's going.  Everything."
If that statement is true and according to the Scripture it is, then our hearts need to be healthy in order for our words and actions to be God glorifying.  But how can we do that when guilt, anger, greed and jealousy are controlling us?  And how can we conquer the "dynamic debt" that each of the four carry:
  • Guilt - I owe you.
  • Anger - You owe me.
  • Greed - I owe me.
  • Jealousy - God owes me.
The solution according to Stanley is:  Confession, Forgiveness, Generosity, Celebration.  He says,
"Confession allows us to come out from hiding.  Forgiveness allows others to come out from under cover.  Generosity allows us to partner with God as he shows himself in tangible ways to the world around us.  Celebration makes us a vehicle through which God communicates his pleasure.  That's what you were created for, and that's why these habits have the potential to change so much about our lives. Nothing goes untouched."
In short, Stanley really "gets into your business" in Enemies of the Heart.  The book is confrontational, convicting, challenging but encouraging as Stanley points the reader to the Great Cardiologist Jesus Christ.  Stanley is clear through his presentation and exegesis of the Scriptures that Christ alone can bring about the heart transformation we all need.  His writing is conversational and even quite whitty times.

Stanley offers the reader a most valuable gift.  He speaks the truth in love.

You can go HERE to read chapter one.  The book can be ordered from Waterbrook Multnomah by going HERE.  Or you can order through by following the link below:

*I received a copy of the book from Waterbrook as part of their Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.  If this review has been helpful, would you take a moment to rate my review in the box provided below?  This will help me to have a wider access to quality books to review and provide info about to you! Plus, if you rank my review, you will automatically be entered to win a copy of Enemies of the Heart!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Exciting News!!!

A couple of months back, I received an email from Thomas Nelson Publishers giving me a chance at attending one of the Women of Faith conferences as a blogger for them.  I signed up thinking, "I'll sign up for this, but I'm sure they won't pick me and my little blog."

Guess what?  They did!!! 

I am so excited to announce that I will be attending the Women of Faith event in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on October the 28-29th.  I am also super excited, because I will be able to take my oldest daughter with me as Thomas Nelson will be sending me two tickets to the conference.  I am really looking forward to an amazing weekend with my girl!

The line up for the Women of Faith weekend in Ft. Lauderdale is amazing:
  • Sheila Walsh
  • Luci Swindoll
  • Lisa Harper
  • Angie Smith (Her husband Todd sings with the group "Selah".  I follow her blog Bring the Rain.)
  • Mary Mary
  • Natalie Grant
  • Nichole Johnson
  • Henry Cloud

From the Women of Faith website:
"Women of Faith is a faith-based women's organization encouraging women of all ages and stages in life to grow in faith and spiritual maturity through a relationship with Jesus Christ and an understanding of God’s love and grace."
You can learn more about Women of Faith and view their schedule for an event near you by going HERE, or you can click the "Imagine" banner in my sidebar for more information about the event in Ft. Lauderdale.  If you end up going to Ft. Lauderdale or any other Women of Faith event, I'd love to hear about your experience!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Blessing

What does being blessed by someone mean to you?

How do you know you have received "the blessing"?

According to the Free Online Dictionary, blessing means: 
the act of invoking divine protection or aid, the words or ceremony used for this, a short prayer of thanksgiving before or after a meal; grace, approval; good wishes, the bestowal of a divine gift or favour, or a happy event or state of affairs.

Protection, approval, grace, happiness.  Aren't those things we all desire in our lives?

According to John Trent, PH.D. and Gary Smalley in their revised and updated book The Blessing:  Giving The Gift Of Unconditional Love And Acceptance, there are five essential components to the biblical concept of blessing:
  • Meaningful Touch
  • A Spoken Message
  • Attaching High Value
  • Picturing a Special Future
  • An Active Commitment
Hear Trent and Smalley's heart regarding the importance of imparting the blessing to those closets to us from chapter one:
"A number of Christian books and messages today call young (and old) believers to a 'sold out' life of faith.  For example, in reading books such as Crazy Love and Radical, you find a much needed call to pursue a Great Commission lifestyle as a real-life goal.  But adopting a Great Commission or 'missional' lifestyle doesn't mean leaving your important relationships in the dust  as you seek to win others for Christ.  In fact, if you are not living out a crazy, radical faith and love for Christ with your family and own children first, you have missed a huge first step!"
Drawing primarily from Genesis 27 in the first part of the book (which has four parts), Trent and Smalley seek to help the reader understand the Old Testament concept of blessing while emphasizing the relationship elements of this blessing that are applicable to us today.  Through a close look at Deuteronomy 30:19:
"I call heaven and earth as witness against you today, that I have set before you life or death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants."
they help us to understand that we have the most important choice of either blessing those around us or cursing them.  They point out two ideas contained in the Hebrew word for bless:
  • bowing the knee
  • adding weight or value
The other choice we have is to curse those around us and we do that by subtracting the things that add life to them.

In the second part of the book, Trent and Smalley look at each element of the blessing in detail.  This section is a very practical approach to helping the reader understand the elements of blessing.  The authors share stories from their counseling experiences and their own personal lives to give the reader a clear picture of each element.  I particularly enjoyed this section of the book, because it was not filled with "psychological speak", but a sound and biblical look at blessing others and what it should look like in "real life".

The third part of The Blessing takes a look at when the blessing doesn't happen.  The section was filled with hope and encouragement for the reader that might not have received the blessing in their home.  Trent and Smalley take the reader through five different scenarios where the blessing is withheld and then considers those situations where only half a blessing is given.  I was pleased to see Trent and Smalley give so much attention to "reversing the curse" by showing the reader a clear picture of Christ and grace that is available in Him.

In the final section of the book, the authors give a very clear picture of the "blessing challenge" and show readers step by step how to live out the five elements.  Again, I was impressed with the way Trent and Smalley gave five pictures from scripture to showcase biblically the elements of the blessing.  

At different points in the book, the reader is encouraged to visit the website for The Blessing to view video segments recorded by John Trent.  You can visit the website and avail yourself of numerous resources to further your understanding of the blessing.  You can find it at theblessing.comYou can also find The Blessing Challenge blog by going HERE.  

If you want to truly know how to bless your loved ones, grab your Bible and a copy of The Blessing and prepare yourself to give the greatest gift you will ever share.

Thomas Nelson publishers provided me a copy of The Blessing for the purpose of review.  You can get a copy by following the link provided below:

Blessings to you and your family,

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shuckin' Awe!

Hopefully that wonderful post title will make some sense in a little bit :)

Anyway, last week we had a wonderful surprise:  a visit from my mom and step-dad.  They traveled from the East-Central part of Mississippi and only got to stay two and a half days, but we enjoyed every single minute!  I know this trip was a sacrifice for them financially and otherwise with a car that is needing some repair, but I appreciate their visit so much!
I know one little girl that enjoyed having her "ganny" around.  By Tuesday morning she was calling for her "ganny" to get her out of the bed when she woke up.
Since they were here on the Fourth of July, we cooked out on the grill.  Cecily and Granny made potato salad to go with the baked beans (with pineapple), burgers and Johnsonville brats.

Bentley and Cecily made a Piston Cup Pizza for our dessert.
It turned out so cute and was delicious!!!  Later that evening we watched fireworks outside and shot a few ourselves.
Tuesday morning, we enjoyed some watermelon that Granny and Pops had brought with them.  It was so good and sweet.

As you can tell, the kiddos really got "into" their watermelon!  Cecily taught her grandparents how to play Spoons card game and I wish you could have been fly on the wall!  After a while of just lazin' around, we took Granny and Pops to Sonic happy hour for some drinks and an ice cream cone to celebrate their anniversary.
Now for the Shuckin' Awe part.  I know all of you remember George Bush's "Shock and Awe" campaign during the Gulf War?  Well this was our Shuckin' Awe:
Cecily had gone grocery shopping with me before Granny and Pops came down and she noticed the awesome deal Publix had on fresh corn.  She wanted some, but didn't want to "shuck in public" as she put it.  The real deal is that she didn't know how!  So, Granny and Pops took her back to Publix and bought that girl some corn and taught her how to shuck corn on the comfort of her own back porch!  We had it with supper that night and it was so good!

The next morning was Wednesday and Granny and Pops were packing up to leave, but before they left, Cecily made Pops a birthday cake.  He turned the big 60!  Somebody wanted to help a little with the icing:

Before they left, we had to get just a few more rounds of Spoons in:
Granny became quite the competitor!  We had the best fun while they were here!  We didn't go anywhere or do anything big, but sometimes simple fun with the ones you love is just the best!