Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Goodreads Value and a Free Book Sample

A while back I decided that I was going to start reading more books than I had before. A friend of mine invited me to join goodreads. I joined just to see what it was and I did like seeing what other people were reading.

Beyond that, I really didn't see much value in it. That is until a few months ago. One of the first books I read (and posted on goodreads) was Redeemed: Embracing a Transformed Life, by Kerry Clarensau. I posted a book review on the book here on the blog if you would like to go back and read it. This book is truly a life changer if you let it sink in!

I also had read and posted on goodreads Love Revealed: Experiencing God's Authentic Love and Secrets: Transforming Your Life and Marriage both by Kerry Clarensau as well. Secrets I have not finished reading yet, but Love Revealed and Redeemed were read and rated on the site.

A few months ago, I was contacted through goodreads by someone who works at MyHealthyChurch which is the publisher for those books. She said that she had noticed my interest in those books and offered to send me The Jesus-Hearted Woman by Jodi Detrick to read and review for free as an e-book. That was a great deal for me because I was planning on reading it anyway. After I finish, I will post a review here of that book as well. That was enough for me to be convinced that goodreads was worth the effort.

After the first of the year, this same contact at MyHealthyChurch emailed me again and asked me if I was the blogger she had talked with previously about posting a sample of Redeemed on my blog. I told her that I was not the person she had talked with, however, I would love to do that if she was looking for others too also! She said that was great and sent me a pdf of the first chapter of the book.

So, if you are wondering about Redeemed here is your chance to read a sample of it. This sample includes the Forward, Introduction, and Chapter 1. Click on the image below to view the book sample.

I had my doubts about the value of goodreads, but I'm convinced now, it's worth the few minutes it takes to add the books you are reading and leave some ratings. Enjoy this sample and if you would like to purchase the book to read the rest of it, the information to do so is at the bottom of my previous book review.

UPDATE: January 21, 2014 - This book is only $1.99 through February 2 as an eBook!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Milestone Ahead

In a few short months, my life will hit a milestone. I’m not talking about a graduation, wedding, or the birth of a child. No, I’m talking about turning thirty.

Now, before you write me off as shallow and think this post is gonna be a whiny one about getting older, read it through to the end.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about life. Where I’ve been, where I haven’t been, and where I am going. Where I’ve been is somewhere I’m glad to not be anymore. Some of the things life has brought my way were not pleasant and I’m thankful to be moving past them.

Part of me wants to say that where I haven’t been doesn’t matter because I haven’t been there. In reality, the places we don’t go in life are just as important as the places we do. Staying away from things we don’t need in our life matters just as much as being surrounded by the things we do.

Where exactly am I going? I can’t really answer that question. One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 which says; “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

While I don’t know what the future holds in detail, I know that the plans that God has for me and my family are GOOD! They are plans that will bring hope and a future to our lives.

For those who know me best, they know that I am a planner. I have a hard time doing things at the last minute. I also am early almost everywhere I go. If I am on time, I feel like I’m late. These qualities, whether good or bad, make patiently waiting difficult sometimes. I am much more comfortable knowing what’s coming and “being prepared” for what’s to come.

I have found that life in general doesn’t work that way. You can prepare for a trip, a meeting, a dinner, a birthday party, or a day at the park. What you can not prepare for is tomorrow. What if your trip, meeting, dinner, birthday party, or day at the park is happening tomorrow? Your preparation is for the activity, not for the day. It is for the event, not for the time. In most cases, whatever you planned for tomorrow, will probably still happen and maybe just like you planned. Sometimes though, your plans just don’t work out.

I was intrigued recently with a series of post on Heather’s Dish. She wrote a series on Living Boldly starting on the day she turned thirty. Thirty-one days of stepping outside of her comfort zone to challenge her to become a woman boldly on fire for Christ. What I was most intrigued by was the fact that some of the things on her list were not spiritual things. They were seemingly small, everyday decisions, but they challenged her heart.

What does this have to do with my future? While you can’t always make plans for tomorrow, you can be prepared. God has a way of preparing us for the unknowns of tomorrow. God knows what our future holds even though we may not.

Looking back on where I’ve been (and where I haven’t been) I can see some of God’s preparation for me. He has lead me down specific roads, brought specific people into my life, and challenged me more than I ever wanted to be by specific things that I’ve had to face in life; all for His glory, and all so I would be able to face my unplanned tomorrows.

I don’t know what thirty will bring, but God does. That being said, my goal for this year is to stop trying to plan so much. My goal is to live life, trusting God, not worrying about tomorrow. God knows, so as long as I know God, I’m good!!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Growth Requires Challenges

I have been thinking a lot lately about my life journey. The good, the bad, and everything in between. While I am trying each and every day to live in the present and not dwell on the past, short times of reflection can be helpful. What is standing out to me at the moment are the ways that the Lord has challenged me and helped me grow closer to who He wants me to be.

Here is my list of ways I can currently think of that He has helped me to grow in Him.
  1. Worship Music
  2. Scripture
  3. Prayer
  4. Working in the Ministry
  5. Books
  6. Friends
  7. Life situations that seem impossible
  8. People who seem impossible
  9. My son
  10. My husband
I might could name more and I definitely could be more specific but I won't do that today.

The point is, God can use just about anything to help us to become the people that He created us to be. He can use the ordinary, every day things, or the not so ordinary, seemingly impossible things, to challenge us in our faith, our patience, and our endurance.

When we face the impossible, God is asking us to not only trust Him but to actively pursue Him. He is asking us to seek Him for solutions and praise Him even when you see none. 

What is God doing to challenge you? What are you doing in response?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado

At some time or another in life, we all will reach a point where we just aren’t sure if we are going to survive. Hard times that last over a long period of time can make us feel as though life will never get any better and things will always be hard. If you are going through a hard time in life, You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado is a must read.

This book is a combination of the life of Joseph and Lucado’s real life experiences. He takes you on a journey through the life of Joseph, from being born the favorite and having it made, to being thrown into a pit, to coming out of the pit to be sold into slavery, to being thrown in prison and ultimately as second in command over all of Egypt.

Lucado strives to encourage us that we will survive the storms in life. As I was reading this book I thought of several different people in my own life as well as my own situations. This book literally has something in it for everyone whether you are dealing with job loss, divorce, health issues, or the death of a loved one. You name it, he covered it.

There are a few things that I really liked about this book. Lucado used one person from the Bible to draw his illustrations from. He didn’t skip from one story to another. The other thing I really liked about that was it gave me a chance to seriously dive into Joseph’s life. I learned things about Joseph I had not known before and by the end of the book could relate my life in today’s world to his. All of this while being encouraged that no matter what I’m facing, with God, I will get through it!

Before I finished the book I wrote my thoughts on a specific chapter of the book: Waiting While God Works. Feel free to return to that post for a little more information on that specific chapter.

This is really a great read for anyone! Even if you aren’t in a low point in your life, you will take something away from this book. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, January 3, 2014

Brokenness and Scars

I have really struggled lately with a lot of things. I have struggled with life circumstances that I’ve been forced to deal with. You know, there are things we bring on ourselves, but then there are also things that get brought on us without our asking for them. I’ve had those types of issues to wade through: the unwanted and unasked for ones.

Through all of it, I haven’t ever doubted God. I’ve never given up on what I know He can do. I have had plenty of questions for Him and many times that I have not understood the path I was walking down, but I have not doubted Him.

I have spoken lately about my scars. I have used that word specifically to describe the wounds that I have inside of me. Emotional scars, not physical ones. Scars that seem like they will never heal. Before I used the word scars, I used to say that I was broken; that I had been damaged and was just broken inside. Lately, I've discovered, there is a difference between brokenness and scars.

Brokenness happens at single points in time. During single events of your life pieces of your heart and emotions get broken. The moment when you find out your husband is filing for divorce, a piece of you breaks. That time in the doctor’s office when you hear the devastating news of a disease, that will do everything it can to take you out if you don’t do everything you can to take it out, a piece of you breaks. The moment you realize that your life is forever changed because someone you love has left this earth, a piece of you breaks. The moment you discover that your best friend has betrayed you and those closest to you aren’t around anymore to make everything better, a piece (or two) of you breaks.

Brokenness is what happens when you realize the mess that you are in. It is the kick in the gut at the most inopportune times that makes you question everything you have ever known to be true.

Scars are very different than brokenness. Although they are there for the same reason that brokenness is, they are not a reflection of the pain. Scars don’t tell us that someone is hurt; they tell us that someone has healed. They don’t show us the injury, they show us the recovery.

Last night I came home from work and had a terrible head ache. I didn’t turn the TV on because the more noise there was in the house, the more my head ached. My husband came home after he got off from work and while I was finishing up dinner he turned the TV on. He turned it to Daystar (the only Christian television station we can get on our digital converter box and antenna).

As we sat down to eat, a piece of the 2013 Refreshing Times Conference came on. It was a message by Jimmy Evans. Now, I like Jimmy Evans, but I honestly wasn’t in the mood to hear a message on marriage. I just didn’t have it in me last night. The great thing is that God knew that. He knew that what I needed went much deeper than that. The message that Jimmy Evans shared was about the Scars of our Redeemer.

I haven’t really ever stopped to think about the scars that Jesus carried. I mean, I know about them, but I had never questioned them. Jesus died a horrible, excruciating, death on a cross after He had been beaten and whipped one strike away from death. If the story ended there, then scars would be expected.

The story didn’t end there. Why would Jesus, in His resurrected body, have scars? Why in His glorified, redeemed, resurrected state, would He have the ability to show the disciples the scars from his death? They were no longer wounds, because in His death and resurrection, they were healed, but they did leave scars.

One side note here: did you catch what I just said? “In His death and resurrection, Jesus’ wounds were healed”. Through the most horrible moments of Jesus’ earthly life, He was healed of the very thing that was wounding Him.

Many people have said before that because Jesus came to earth in human form, He was tempted and tried, just like we are, and that He had the same emotions and feelings as we do, so He understands the things we are going through in life. I have heard that often and I do believe that. But I had never before considered the fact that Jesus, when He could have so easily taken on a perfect, resurrected body, kept His scars. The question remains, why?

I don’t think that it was to “prove” He was who He claimed to be. The people He showed His scars to were people that He had spent a lot of time with. I think there would have been countless ways to prove to His disciples and family that it truly was Him and that He truly had been raised from the dead.

Here is what I think. Jesus wanted those around Him to see that even though He had been through such torture and torment, that God had healed Him. Even after death, God had restored Him and had made His life on earth a story of Redemption.

We have wounds, we have brokenness, and even if at this very moment in time, we don’t feel as though we have been healed of those, we do, or will have scars. Our scars are not ugly and they are not a reminder of the pain. Our scars, our redeemed, glorified scars, are a beautiful picture of the power of God to heal us from the most horrible moments in our lives. They are a reflection of His goodness and His love.

Satan will do everything he can to convince you to look at your scars as ugly, rotten, no good, painful wounds. He will try and tell you that you are useless and no good to God because of your scars. He will try to keep you in bondage to your wounds by trying to convince you that you have not been healed and never will be. He couldn’t be more wrong.

If Jesus can bear scars as a way to share the power of God and His love for others, then we can too. Stop trying to hide your scars. They don’t need to be covered up and you don’t need to be ashamed of them. Someone else needs to see them so that they can finally understand that God loves them and that He can change their life.

I wasn’t the one God chose to die on the cross for all mankind (thank goodness) but I am the one that He chose (and so are you) to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Scars are such an effective way to do that.

If you are struggling with an addiction, you don’t want to hear anything about how you will get through it from a person who has no clue what it is like to struggle with addiction. But if you run into a recovering alcoholic who tells you how much God loves you and he proves it to you by showing you his scars, you will listen much harder to what he has to say. You will listen because you understand that he has been there and that his life is better now than it was before.

I still have brokenness and I still have wounds. Everything in my life has not been completely healed yet. But I do have some scars and I have many more that are in the process of healing. I’m trusting God to finish that process.

One of the things that Jimmy Evans said is that when he was at his lowest point in his marriage, and Karen was in the bedroom packing to leave him, he told God, “If you will help us, we will help others”.

That is my prayer to God today. Lord, help me heal so that I will have the scars to help others.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Empty Shelf Challenge

I noticed a link shared by a friend on Facebook the other day. I clicked on it and read the short post and thought it was quite interesting. It was a reading challenge for 2014 called The Empty Shelf Challenge.

I have books that I want to read, and books that I have started reading, but I have very few books that I have actually read in their entirety. Why? Well, because I’m busy and sometimes lazy. When I find extra time at the end of my day, sometimes, I just want to watch tv or take a nap (just being honest here).

The challenge is to clear off a shelf on your bookshelf so that it starts out empty. Then you put the books you have finished reading on that shelf. The idea being that staring at an empty shelf will encourage you to read more this year than you did last year.

Ok, so why do I care if I read more this year than I did last year? A friend of mine loaned me four books last January. To be more specific, January 19th 2013 is when these books were loaned to me. I really want to read them, however, I have read maybe a chapter from each and I still have them sitting here waiting to be read. I have several other books that I have done the exact same way. Books that I really want to read, but I read a few chapters, get busy, and then don’t finish them.

For me, this is a challenge of finishing what I start. Not necessarily of reading more, although, that will be a result from it. I am not going to put a number on how many I want to read, I just want to complete the books that I start and add them to my empty shelf.

Since I read a combination of eBooks and paper copy books, filling up an actual shelf is not realistic for me. So I created this Pinterest board to act as my empty shelf. As I finish a book, whether it is hard copy or eBook, I will post it here, possibly as book reviews on my blog.

This is not a new years resolution, because I don’t really end up keeping those. It is more of a challenge this year to not leave things unfinished.

If you decide to participate in this challenge yourself, please leave a comment and let me know. Maybe we can check in with each other and see how we are doing?
Happy New Year to you all!!