Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's On Your Nightstand? July 2015

 
 


I am a day late with my post for the monthly What's On Your Nightstand which is hosted by 5 Minutes for Books, but a day late is better than not at all. Especially, since this seems to have become my most consistent post about the books I've read, and would like to read.

I have gone through stretches where I frequently post about the books I have read; it is very apparent that I am currently in a season of not posting much in way of books. Since January, I have posted only once about a book. Once. This year, I have read, to date, twenty-six books. And yet, I've only written about one, here on this blog. I have a better track record on my Goodreads account. I think my Goodreads account is more relaxed; a paragraph suffices for me. On my blog, I feel a need to expand my reasons for liking or disliking a book. The kicker is this, I have a strong desire to post about at least half of the twenty-six books I have read. I have their posts drafted. They need editing. I hope to take the next step and publish the posts..soon. But then, as the day gets moving life moves and the idea of spending time editing and publishing these posts are put on the back burner. It's weird, my more personal-in-nature posts are nowhere near as daunting; I feel less pressure to expand my reasoning.

Moral of this tale? I do hope to post more frequently about books, here on my blog. But for now, Goodreads is where I am keeping the best track of the books I would like to read, and ones I have read.


A word about bookclubs --- last month I attended, for the first time, a bookclub that is organized by my local library. I attended with a friend, forever thankful that she was gamed for going otherwise I would not have gone alone into the unknown. The unknown turned out to be a fabulous eveining with a group of women discussing likes and dislikes of a book we all read. I'm not sure what I was thinking it would be like...maybe low attendance? A click-y group of women? Anyway, this bookclub's focus is YA...all different genres marketed for the YA population, and the club is meant for adults who read YA. I cannot say I love YA...more times than not, it bothers me. But the club itself was great fun. Even though I didn't like the book, it was fun discussing it with others and hearing their perspective. The bookclub meets monthly, and I am excited to continue meeting up with this insightful group of ladies. There are other bookclubs with different focuses that the library organizes...maybe more suited to my current tastes, but they don't meet at a time that is doable for me. I love hearing about bookclubs...are you a part of one?



For June, the Books I Completed:


The Cure by John S. Lynch, Bruce McNicol, Bill Thrall

I was incredibly impacted by this book, but not by the entire book. Out of the seven chapters, two completely spoke to me. Every chapter lended itself for thought; I have highlighted a lot. But it really was only two chapters that utterly impacted and convicted me with Truth.


A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage

I was intrigued by this book because I am sucker for time-travel type books especially historical ones and most especially ones set in Scotland. Yes, it has the typical romance novel elements, but I was happy to see that the author did advance the plot line and developed the characters beyond the lust and instaLove stage that so often is the modus operandi of romance novels. This one proved to be a much better story than I anticipated.


Love Beyond Time by Bethany Claire

This was the not the book for me, that is for certain.


The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain

Well. Hmmm. I really super enjoyed this book, that is until towards the end and then it went a bit wonky for me. The relationship within the story fell into place too conveniently. The story took a spin that was playing out too neatly. And then there was the mix of mythology with Christianity and well...I love mythology, and those stories are great fun to read, but the parallels made with Christianity even with just being made in a storytelling kind of way to explain situations in the story was an uneasy aspect that I just couldn't digest. I really was greatly enjoying the story until the relationship, story spin, and Christianity/mythology aspects started to flesh out.


Christy by Catherine Marshall

I loved this book so much that I am certain it will be near the top of my favorite five books read for this year. There is absolutely so much good about this book in way of writing, setting, characters and the actual story...richness, depth, truth, humanity, ugliness, love. I read all 480 pages within seven days, and that is no longer an easy feat for me.


Brides and Betrayal by Michelle Lynn Brown

I enjoyed this book, but didn't love it by any stretch of the imagination. There was absolutely a great message, but the message took over the story instead of being a part of it.


Veils and Vows by Michelle Lynn Brown

A bit cheesy, very predictable, and not all that complicated, but yet I liked it a whole lot. It spoke to my heart even with all its simplicity. And in the end, I was a satisfied reader who very much liked the story, the entire story.


Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson

An okay book, but ultimately was not my cup of tea due to the incredible quick "instaLove-let's-get-married" aspect....it just did not work for me, and took away from the strength of the book.


Here and Now by Henri Nouwen

A good, good book. Much of the reading gave me pause to think. I highlighted many quotes amongst these pages. But, I must admit, the last several chapters were a bit flat for me. The strength of the book is the first half. One of my favorite quotes... "Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us."



I Am Currently Reading:


 

Glittering Images by Susan Howatch

Finally I have started this book, and while I am not far into the story, I am liking this one. I am curious how much I will like the story once I am done, because right now it may seem that I will like it a whole lot. It is richly written; words, characters, mysterious aspects, and Truths. The reading is smooth, and intriguing. The only reason why I have not moved into the devouring-the-words reading pace is because life has not allowed for that luxury. I hope the luxury comes to me this week.


 

Red Rising By Pierce Brown

This is a book for my local bookclub. I am not too far into the read. I am not disliking it but I am also not loving it. The worldbuilidng is very detailed; so much so that it is hard for me to follow. Maybe it's more the matter of me not wanting to take the time to sort out and remember the details. Fortunately, for me, I am usually okay with not having the details immediately sorted out. Usually, the book will do the sorting as the storyline advances...at least that's the case when a book is well written. Beyond the detailed worldbuilding, I am intrigued.


Potential Books for August:

The list is pretty long and vast. As I write this post, July 29th, I am sick with a cold that is a great nuisance...a nuisance that is stripping away my brain cells that care about planning - narrowing down the potential books to the top potentials. So even though my list is long, and because I don't have any top potentials yet, and because my brain cells are very tired, let me ask you...What is the one book that you are currently recommending or would recommend to another reader to read?


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What book(s) are on your nightstand?

 

 

 

 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Twenty


"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love." Ephesians 3:16-17


 

She is now twenty-years old.


Twenty!


Surreal!


It truly was surreal when on July 23, 2015 when we celebrated Eva-Marie's twentieth birthday. It's been twenty years of loving her, guiding her and watching her mature.


It has been a privilege to be her parents all these years. We pray for another twenty, forty, sixty years of having that privilege and honor. (Well, maybe not sixty more years as that would put us into our hundreds and well...ummm...not sure about being in our hundreds).


We pray that we will always be actively a part of her life.


We pray that she will continue to grow in the beautiful ways that she has already grown. We pray that she will love the Lord with all her heart, and through that love she will know the gift of grace, and the sweet joy of knowing Him.


We love you dearly, Eva-Marie!


 
 
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We had a quiet celebration with just our immediate family and the grandparents. Ice cream cake was in order; it was yummy. Pizza from Evie's favorite place was the main dish. It was an enjoyable night celebrating.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

But God.....and cycling


"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

 



Yesterday, while bike riding (and today, for that matter), a belief became more solid.


God created us to move...to be active.


God protects and provides. And the ability to physically exert ourselves is one way he provides and protects us.


Physical exertion brings me physical wellness and equilibrium to the mindset.



God doesn't necessarily take away circumstances or illness or death. But, He does provide ways to help a person adjust to changes, stressors, etc. He created us to move...to actively move. It helps not only our physical being but also our mental and emotional beings. There is something about physical exertion that sets off all sorts of good and positive effects. (see last side note below)


During my bike rides, most especially, I feel His presence. It's a time for me to have communion with Him, to converse in prayer and to mediate on scripture (if not verse by verse then at least by concept of the Scriptures read) and worshipping Him. True, there are many moments that I am not thinking at all because I am too focused on breathing, but even so...My mindset shifts from thoughts focused on the world to thoughts focused on the Spirit.



I am prone to depression and anxiety. It's a fact. For the most part, I manage it fairly well. The last couple years, I've noticed that once a month during my cycle, my levels of anxiety and depressed moods increase. I've also noticed that when I am consistently physically active that my level of anxiety and depressed moods decrease ten-fold. Over the last eight months or so, I have been living with a low-humming of anxiety within myself. It's there, daily. Constantly. Most days it truly is just an undertone of my day. But then there are phases where I wake up to a fairly loud pulsating rhythm of anxiety racing through my body. It effects me. Not to where I am impaired. But it definitely effects my emotions, my mood...my mindset. I think it's more situational than hormonal...that's what I've come to determine. This loud pulsating phase has been in full blast for about the last three weeks. It sucks. It creates a depressed mood. It feeds me nonsense. My mind is easily deceived. I ask a lot of why questions. I feel lost. I feel like there is a hole in my heart and that it will never be repaired.


I am being open about this aspect of myself in order to hopefully convey the impact of this truth...God protects and provides. I see His provision in His gift to me; the means and ability to bike ride. As I seek Him, I continue to see His provision in the gift of His Word.


 


The LORD does not leave. And for me, right now, He is not silent. I strongly believe this. I also strongly believe that He has shaped and formed me even further over these last eight months. He is growing and maturing me. Good will come from the circumstances of my life. I may not always see that good, but I know it is there and will come; I know it will be for the good of God. And that is huge to me! My hope and strength is in Him, always. This brings me solace.


God brings me healing not only through physical exertion (bike riding), but also through His promises.


 

 

Psalm 37 speaks many promises; I have been pouring over this Psalm.


I feel lost.

But God...says to trust Him.


I feel empty and inadequate.

But God...is my stronghold. My hope is in Him.


I feel the need to change circumstances.

But God...says for me to keep His ways and take delight in Him. Be still, wait.


I feel worry.

But God...tells me not to fret.


I feel wounded, pain, and sorrow.

But God...is my stronghold.


It's not easy; it's hard to face down this inner anxiety and depressed mood. It's hard to face circumstances and issues. It's hard to feel lost, empty and wounded.


Physical exertion helps to reset my mindset, to focus on truth.


 


But God....heals.


But God....provides and protects.


He brings solace.


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Side note: Anxiety and Depression are serious medical issues, and for many people medication is necessary. For many people, medication is needed in order to begin making positive changes that will go a long way towards helping them feel better....changes such as taking steps towards a healthy lifestyle which includes physical exertion of some sort. For me, medication is not the answer nor a need. I've been down the medication path before with postpartum depression, and counseling (at that time). For me right now, I know the steps I need to take to help with my healing, and those steps do indeed help me significantly....bike riding (God's provision to me), and seeking the LORD daily...this also includes worshipping Him through music along with being in His Word, and prayer. Fellowship with other believers proves helpful too, especially with those where a connection, and confidence has been formed.


There are people who are physically disabled which does not enable them to physically move, and exert themselves. I do believe that God provides for their needs too, in a unique manner that is suited for them. This is another aspect of my deep faith in Him....my Hope in Him...He provides.



Psalm 37 (Expanded Bible)


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Friday, July 17, 2015

Twelve


"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28


 
 
He is now twelve years old.

July 15, 2015 was the day he entered into the age of twelve; one more year and he'll be a teenager. Hard to believe. His life path is vastly different than that of his older siblings. His teenage years will be different too. But for now, he is twelve. Just about to enter the middle school grades. Age and grades do not mean the same for him as it does for most. Actually, for him, there is not much meaning to those assigned descriptors. We tend to not think of him as an age or a grade, we think of him as Isaiah.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


When we think of Isaiah, our minds do not stray from his challenges as they are present every day, every minute with phases of vast difficulties and phases were the difficulties are easier to manage. His challenges are a part of who is, and a part of who we have become. BUT, while we cannot separate him from his challenges the same goes for his gifts. The LORD has blessed him and us immensely through Isaiah's challenges AND through his gifts. It's amazing, really. The gifts Isaiah possesses are unique. Unique in the sense that no other boy or girl could pull them off in the manner that Isaiah does.


When I am weary, and do not feel equipped to parent him effectively, God reminds me about Isaiah's gifts, or Isaiah will display his gifts in a timely manner, or God will remind me in some other way. But the kicker is this too, God also reminds me that Isaiah's challenges have a purpose too, that He is using these challenges along with the gifts to accomplish His purpose. It's two-fold. They go hand in hand. There are blessings in the adversities - the hardships - just as much as there are in the favors.





 
 


Isaiah is now twelve years old, he continues to amaze us. He continues to keep us moving and thinking quickly, creatively and with purpose almost every waking minute.



 
 
 
 
 
 


We remain forever thankful for the gift we've been given, we are thankful for Isaiah.


We love him immensely.



 


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For Isaiah's birthday party, we celebrated at my brother's home per Isaiah's request. My brother has fun toys, and Isaiah loves his toys -- 4-wheeler, boat and wave runner. My brother, Darin, was gracious. His gift to Isaiah was his almost constant attention paid to Isaiah fulfilling his desire to ride on the 4-wheeler and to go boating. The weather was chilly so the wave runner was put off until another day. It was a lovely evening celebrating Isaiah with family and our family from Israel (my brother Doane, and his family are here for a visit).



 
 
 
 
 
 
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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Book Thoughts: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

 
 

The Perilous Gard
by Elizabeth Marie Pope
published: Houghton Mifflin Company (1974)
Hardcover, 280 pages

Newbery Honor, 1975


Finished Reading.....February 7, 2015


Book Description: In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.


First Line: "She won't be angry at me," said Alicia.


My Thoughts: This was such a good book. So very good. The book description does not do this book justice. There is far more to this book, far more.


I enjoyed all the elements; the setting of 1558 England, mysterious aspects, fantasy aspects, characters that were interesting, a pace that kept me engaged. There is much goodness within these pages; even amongst the trials that the characters faced.


The Perilous Gard has one fantastic heroine in Kate, the best aspect of the book. She is respectful yet willing to ask questions, even the tough questions. She is stubborn and has common sense. She is brave and courageous. She is honest and is not self-seeking. Truly, she has fabulous character within herself.


Throughout the story, especially when I was done reading, I found myself thinking that I want my 8 year old daughter to read this book, independently or as a read aloud with me, when she is a bit older. I even think my 15-year old would very much enjoy this story, too.


The Perilous Gard is one of those books, that once you have finished reading, you let out a deep breath of satisfaction. I was very satisfied.


Bottom line: This book has endeared itself to me with interesting characters that engaged me along with a storyline that flowed beautifully.


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Monday, June 29, 2015

Justice


"Blessed are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times." Psalm 106:3


 
 

Justice. It's on my mind. The idea of Justice - what is it? how does it look? What does it mean to live justly with a Biblical view? How does one reconcile the tension between love and justice? These may all seem like ridiculous no-brainer questions. But for me, these questions were and are serious. They're ones I've thought about frequently.


Around January 2014, after reading a certain book, this dialogue regarding justice started to take form - an internal searching dialogue as well as one with a friend. The book, while I did not like it (overall), it did put the dialogue into motion. For me, I needed to hear a balance between the talk regarding justice and the clear talk regarding responsibility and obedience to God's commands. I wasn't hearing that balance. Not hearing the balance was troublesome, for me. I did not have a good grasp on what it practically and actually means to live justly...do justice.


Since January 2014, God has used the book to propel conversation, and since November 2014 the idea of putting justice into action (to live justly) gradually became more important to me. During May, I read a fabulous book, Overrated by Eugene Cho, that gave me the balance I was needing - the balance of justice along with the responsibility and obedience to God. Prior to reading Overrated, the opportunity to attend The Justice Conference in Chicago landed on my doorstep. I took the opportunity. I didn't expect much from the Conference except to hopefully gain a better handle on love and Justice - how to live life justly. I wasn't looking to become an activist. I was longing to understand the Biblical view of justice and how it practically looks. I was nervous about attending. I was glad I read Overrated because it put me at ease about what it means to live justly...to pursue justice. The book put me at ease about attending the conference.


The above is the backdrop to my experience of The Justice Conference. The following is the experience.


"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." -Micah 6:8



 
 
On the morning of June 5, 2015 - I posted the following to my Instagram and Facebook accounts.....

"Totally excited to see how God is going to grow me and teach me through this Justice conference and the Refugee Justice activism track this weekend."


I had no idea how much God would use the Justice conference to teach and grow me!



 
 

The two day conference was packed with the refugee activism track, powerful and interesting speakers, awesome worship music and fellowship. While I didn't agree with all the approaches or discussions, I was impacted in some way or another by every conversation, experience, speaker, and topic as well as by the music. I know that God was in our presence and His hand was guiding our time. I know that even in disagreement that we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. And He is our driving force to live justly...to do justice.


The Bible doesn’t say, "Seek justice, love mercy and … seek justice." It’s "walk humbly." We must remain humble. -Eugene Cho



 

 

Amena Brown (top left) did an awesome job MCing the conference. The conference's worship team (middle and bottom left) did a fabulous job leading our worship music. Crowder and Rend Collective were simply fantastic to hear (top and bottom right) and worship with their songs to God.


 
 
 
"When you're a follower of Jesus, you don't ask for permission to be a force for good. That's your calling. That's what you're here to do." -Dr. Cornel West


Before the start of the conference, I did not know much about Cornel West. I was not that interested in his session. Of all the speakers, if given the chance, I would have skipped his session. I am glad I was not given the chance. While I still do not know much about Cornel West, I do know that he made a huge impact upon me. There is so much about the words he spoke that I appreciate. He spoke with intensity, passion for Jesus, justice, love and balance. His words pierced.


"Tenderness is what justice looks like in private. It’s about how we treat each other interpersonally." -Dr. Cornel West



Cornel West was the conference's opening speaker on Friday night. Crowder was our night's music. Amazing stuff.



 
 

The Justice Conference Film Festival was part of the weekend, we did not purchase tickets for the festival. But, we were lucky enough to snag free tickets to the premiere of Captive. It was a pretty darn good movie. Not as deep as I would have hoped, but it was powerful enough that I think it will encourage conversations regarding several topics of justice. I hope the movie does well when it is released this coming September. (the photos above feature my Friday conference buddies - Jody and Becky. And the food, Chick-fil-A was my diet for the weekend)


Saturday was a crazy packed day. By the time the day ended, I was very exhausted, in a good way.


 
 

The four speakers in the photo above were my Saturday highlights.


"Justice matters because justice must be apart of our worship of God." "everybody loves justice until there’s a cost." - Eugene Cho (top left)


"We will be known for our opinions but we will be remembered for our love." and he also said something like...I don't want to block anyone's view of Jesus. -Bob Goff (top right)


"Learn to let your ears carry the weight of the conversation." He also said that there are virtues we need to nurture - bravery, humility, empathy, diversity. He explained what is involved in these virtues. - Jonathan Meritt (bottom right)


Christ made peace with me when he died on the cross. I am at peace with Christ so I now can be a peacemaker. - Louie Giglio (bottom left)


The quotes by those four men were just tips of the iceberg for their sessions. There is so much more I took away. Almost overwhelming. Definitely convicting.



 
 
"Perhaps it's not enough to have a good heart in the right place. Perhaps you actually need to do something." - Neichelle Guidry


"If you’re going to live in the Kingdom of God, you need to give up your addiction to convenience and comfort." - Neichelle Guidry


The closing speaker for the conference was Neichelle Guidry. This was my first exposure to this gifted speaker. God has given her a powerful ability to preach and to preach with conviction and passion. I was impressed. More importantly, even though I had a few qualms with her sermon, she convicted me in several ways.


 
 

God used the Justice conference to teach and grow me in big and subtle ways. Its hard to quantify; I don't think I can. It's not huge external results that others can see, not yet anyway. Rather, it's internally in my mind, heart and soul where I know growth has happened and knowledge has been gained.


I don't see myself as an activist. I don't see myself becoming involved in activist type organizations. But if I did, helping refugees is something that spoke to my heart. While refugees speak to my heart, I am thinking that maybe God has been shaping me for an advocacy role of some sort that would help those with special needs, disabilities and their families. Ultimately though, I don't have to be apart of an organization, or doing something "big" in order to do justice. This justice stuff starts at home, it starts with me, it starts with me being right with Jesus...living life following Him. It starts with me loving others, and being available and open to a life of interruptions. It starts with having conversations, the right conversations in the right place at the right time. It starts with me seeking to understand instead of seeking to be understood. It starts with listening. It starts with seeing my neighbor.


"Justice always has to be rooted deeper than itself." - Dr. Cornel West


"We need to live justly everyday and in the mundane." - Eugene Cho



 
 
"But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." -Amos 5:24

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The JUSTICE Conference 2015 Highlights from The JUSTICE CONFERENCE on Vimeo.

 

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