Book Review: Your Family in Pictures

Your Family in Pictures

Me Ra Koh has successfully documented a way to equip moms to capture timeless moments. Photography was a catalyst for healing in her own life, and she advocates it as a way to empower women as they carry camera in hand. Me Ra says, “To impact a mom’s life is to impact the whole family.” (p. ix)

Not only does Me Ra Koh bring in tips for setting up photo ops with active kids, she cultivates family connections. She says to avoid a photo pose, (“Refuse to say cheese.”) and instead, look for a moment to capture. Her examples are so personal and practical, the reader takeaway is immediate. The author answers the question of “What’s in it for me?” with tips for individual shots, lighting recipes and aperture settings. Me Ra Koh gives hands-on advice for setting up a photo and locking in the emotion of the moment.

As a writing mom, I appreciate the journaling prompts provided. They jumpstart memories that later translate into scrapbooking slogans, adding to the legacy of that family moment captured in time. Koh also spins a tale, as in capturing the magic of bedtime: “…day’s adventures finally come to an end and dreaming begins.” (p. 46)

Wonderful book. Visually appealing. And great life applications found within!

Sally

 Disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

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Book Review: Hope Crossing

Hope Crossing

Lovers of Amish novels are in for a treat from Cindy Woodsmall; Hope Crossing includes three books in one. This Ada’s House Trilogy weaves a story that includes turmoil and triumph. It’s nice to have the trilogy bound into one volume, in order to continue the relationship built with characters. Indeed, it feels like they’ve become fast friends and I found myself almost blurting out at the supper table, “You won’t believe what Cara said now…” Realizing, of course, I was about to speak of them as real people. But, when we read good fiction, fiction that really works, we learn something of ourselves and our response to the world around us.

Here’s one: “It pained her to watch him struggle. If he could just let go of trying to make life fit inside his understanding, his hands would be free to grasp the richness around him.” (p. 105)

Don’t we all struggle to put life in a box, into our comfort zone, so that we can figure things out? And in the process, miss what is right under our noses?

Here’s another good one: “What had made her be someone who never trusted her own thoughts or desires or dreams? Why had she feared being wrong so much that she let others be wrong for her?” (p. 254)

Yep, that sounds like perfectionist tendencies to me.

How about this one? “No one… can decide what’s right for everyone else… But if everyone’s willing to listen, they can talk things out and find a compromise.” (p. 997)

I like to orchestrate things around me. Others might see it as manipulate. The last story in the trilogy points out how damaging it can be, no matter what you call it!

And fiction is a tool to teach us about faith:

”Feeling gratitude is much like a prayer all on its own. If you thank Him for those things, it becomes a prayer.” (p. 729)

“How can you talk to me as if we’re doomed because we may have serious problems to face? Life dishes out what only God can get us through.” (p. 850)

I love this phrase about Deborah’s grieving: “They’d taken the grandfather clock with them, so she didn’t know what time it was. But it didn’t matter. It was somewhere between yesterday and tomorrow.” (p. 297)

Anyone who has dealt with heartbreak can relate to the way all time comes to a stop.

Fiction is like that, though. It draws you into another world and then reveals something you hadn’t realized before. Woodsmall skillfully develops believable characters with a storyline that caries momentum, then packs it with truth that nudges you in real life.

Come on, isn’t it time to escape into a good book?

Sally

 Disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

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Fifty shades of grace

Guest post from James N. Watkins

Someone asked me, why am I so bent out of shape by the best-selling book and now major movie, Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s certainly not because I hate sex. I’ve written three books celebrating sexuality and lifting up the sex act as the highest form of intimacy and pleasure on earth. It’s because I am so pro-sex that I am so anti-Grey!

The apostle Paul writes: “As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Throughout the Bible, sexual intercourse has been used as a symbol for the unity and intimacy that God wants to have with himself and his people. (He used circumcision as a symbol of faithfulness to him! And called unfaithfulness to him “adultery.”) God is so pro-sex that the Bible devotes an entire book, The Song of Solomon, to the celebration of sexual pleasure—with some pretty graphic images!

I believe that’s why God gave us strict and detailed commandments on how sexuality is to be expressed. And that’s why I believe the enemy tries so hard to degrade, demean and devalue sex. We see it in porn, in child sex trade, sadomasochism, and many, many other perversions of God’s original design.

So, that’s why I’ve spoken out so strongly against Fifty Shades of Grey. (I suspect the sadistic main character’s name, Christian, is a not-so-subtle attempt to further sully the name of Christ—and sex.)

But here’s the good news! God’s grace has made a way for everyone—no matter his or her sexual past—to experience a relationship with him that far exceeds any earthly symbol. (Sex is just an pale preview of what pleasure awaits Christ’s followers in heaven.)

Click to learn how you can experience God’s love and fifty shades of grace!

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins from www.jameswatkins.com

Book Review: The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren, Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Mark Hyman

The Daniel Plan

The Daniel Plan “is a lifestyle program based on biblical principles and five essential components: Food, Fitness, Focus, Faith, and Friends.” (p. 16)

The book’s namesake is Daniel of the Bible. Daniel and the boys of Judah were away from home when their mettle got tested. But they resolved to follow the dietary guidelines given to every Jewish boy, according to the Law of Moses. An example of perseverance, Daniel provides the basis of the diet, and the authors add exercise, meal plans and lifestyle to the mix. They especially highlight the importance of doing any kind of health changes within the context of a loving, supportive community.

This book makes me MAD! The Daniel Plan reports ways our food industry has hijacked our eating habits, and our health is only one of the ways we suffer. I appreciated the forthrightness of the authors, in exposing food changes in today’s society. The book tackles poor food choices by suggesting the means to a healthier lifestyle and character strengthening models. It provides charts, recipes and exercises to augment the regimen suggested. But, is it just another fad diet? The authors would say, “No, the motivation is different than a diet when you see the unconditional love of God (instead of guilt) as the foundation.” (See p. 17)

One of the frustrating things about the menu included, is the use of ingredients that aren’t readily available. The authors claim “real food” is anything our great-grandmothers would recognize, but I’ve never heard of some of the ingredients in the recipes listed (wheat-free tamari?).

I choose to read this book, because I fall into the same category of seven in ten Americans who are overweight. (p. 15) The book takes a different angle than I expected, as it spends a great deal of time talking about types of foods to skip and to eat. But I would still recommend the book, as the authors suggest the biggest reason for following the plan will lead to “strength of character, confidence, and courage forged by God.” (p. 150)

No matter where you land on a “diet,” make sure it is balanced with good common sense. The authors bring plenty of both to this work, and the reminder to start with one thing, one change that can make a life-long difference.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers 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.”
Sally

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Book Review: The Stress Cure: Praying Your Way to Personal Peace

Do you think The Stress Cure: Praying Your Way to Personal Peace might be an unrealistic premise? Anytime you use a hook and promise a “cure,” you set the bar high. Can Shepherd deliver?

Linda Evans Shepherd “is the author of over thirty books, including How to Pray through Hard Times (which won the 2012 Selah Christian Life Award), Experiencing God’s Presence, When You Don’t Know What to Pray, and When You Need a Miracle (which won the 2013 Selah Christian Life Award).” But her qualifications are born in the school of suffering, where she struggled with the questions of life’s fairness in her eighteen-month-old daughter’s injurious car accident.

There are gems sprinkled throughout the book:

“Building a bridge to peace involves gaining a better understanding of God and the tools he’s given us, which include prayer and God’s Word.” (p. 15)

“Having (God’s) Spirit inside us doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to yield to him. And this yielding could very well be the key to experiencing less stress in our lives.” (p. 31)

“If everything always went our way, how would we ever discover that God can flip our difficulties into good…?” (p. 38)

“The best way to develop a grateful heart is to learn how to walk in step with God.” (p. 66)

“Jesus changes our hearts from a slum to a palace fit for his presence.” (p. 94)

“If you are caught up in situations beyond your control, the solution is not figuring out how God can save you; it’s trusting that he will.” (p. 97)

“When our negative attitude comes because we don’t like where we are or what we have, we need to do a ‘will’ check: God’s will versus our will.” (p. 137)

Shepherd is a gifted storyteller, weaving details of Scripture in narrative form in order to clearly illustrate God’s truths. She’s so good at the craft, in the middle of a story, she turns the point back home to point out personal application. So much so, that you don’t see it coming!

But the biggest “ah ha” for me, came in the stories of her own battles surrounding her infant daughter’s car accident, coma and resulting disabilities. Shepherd clearly understands the need for stress relief in its many forms, and her narrative is a reminder of the power of story to connect a reader to the greater truths of God’s love, care and compassion.

This is an important book, because Shepherd brings hope. She reminds each one that “God is with you. He’s at work in your circumstances now.” (p. 77)

Is there anyone who does not experience stress in some form today? This book is a must-read for all. It provides space to stop reading in order to write out a personal application, as well as modeling steps of prayer to process the change needed. It provides fresh insight into troublesome stories in the Bible and reminds us of our calling to love and be loved.

Could Shepherd deliver on her promise to bring a stress cure? Yes, she did! The illustrations, Scripture passages and written-out prayers all served as a stress reliever, ushering in the peace of Christ!

Disclaimer: I received this book as a contest giveaway in The Book Club Network, Inc.

Sally

 

The Best Gift. Ever.

Christmas week provided an opportunity for my family to reconnect. As we played a game in front of the fireplace, my adult kids began to reminisce about their antics with babysitters in years gone by. It was amusing to hear their side of the “story,” and to see their reaction to our version. What a soothing balm it was for this mom’s heart to hear the laughter that has been so absent between them in recent years. I glanced at the lights on the Christmas tree and relished our Christmas miracle.
There was another Christmas week that changed our story. It was the Christmas when God’s Son was born in a manger. Jesus came to our world to remind us that we were made for relationship with Him. He is the true ambassador of God’s love, and our Christmas miracle.
Yesterday, our daughter-in-law slid off the snowy road and down an embankment. As a precaution in her seventh month of pregnancy, the ambulance took her to the ER to check on the baby. Our lives came to a standstill as we anxiously awaited news. We are all inexplicably linked, as we were made for relationship with each other. We received a Christmas miracle in knowing the affirmation of that love.

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It is God’s desire for us to be in relationship with Him and with each other. How else could He show us, than to come, Himself? It reminds me of a Christmas carol that says, “He taught us to love one another.” Jesus modeled that sacrificial love.
What gift are you thankful for? Have you experienced a Christmas miracle in the call to love one another?
Sally

Book Review: “Why Dogs Are…”

“Why Dogs Are…” is the name of a delightful children’s book about compassion expressed through a canine friend. Author, Tana Thompson, and illustrator, Marita Gentry, have paired up to compose a compelling look at the ways dogs help people experience unconditional love as they comfort, give aid and serve as guides.

In a through-the-back-door style, the book brings a deeper message, that of the sanctity of human life. It teaches the value of every human and the need to help those who are different than ourselves. It is an important tool for families to use as they learn to display character traits of respect, compassion and forgiveness.

“Why Dogs Are…” is a make believe story about the origins of dogs, but a true to life story of the impact of a dog’s love. It uses appealing colors to draw the observer into the story, and the cheerful colors create a drawing board of illustrations. The pictures provide opportunity for parents to talk about the needs of those who suffer from illness, loneliness or the inability to perform day to day functions. And in talking about those needs, brainstorm ways to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Through the storyline, it’s easy to envision a dog’s enthusiastic beginnings in heaven: “wagging his tail, ran through clouds, jumped over rainbow, goofy smile, hiding bones in big fluffy clouds.” The book says dogs came from heaven as ambassadors from God, and were sent on a mission to communicate His love. Anyone who has had a dog will tell you they become members of the family, and this book illustrates beautifully the lessons we learn from pets of unconditional loyalty, love and forgiveness. It is also a good reminder that we all have the responsibility to care for others with love and compassion.

“Why Dogs Are…” has a refreshing take on life and the beauty of God’s world. Share a copy with the little people in your life!

Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sally

 

Moving Party!

To celebrate my new blog, and to “lighten the load” in moving, and to celebrate the new release of my ebook on Kindle, we’re having a sale! For five days only, January 5-9, 2015, you can pick up your own copy absolutely FREE!
Are you planning a Spring Retreat? Now’s the time to start the process! Get your own copy on Amazon.

Would you be willing to post a review on Amazon or on your own blog? It would be a big help on the Amazon Ranking to let others know what tips you will implement as you plan your own event. Get it while it’s free!
Don’t have a Kindle? I got my own copy for PC free. Check that out here.
And welcome to the party at my new home!
It’s gonna be a great year!
Sally

Book Review: Freedom’s Stand

Freedoms Stand

What would it feel like to live in a Muslim country? J.M. Windle has captured the essence of a life that is ruled by Shariah Law and the cultural morays for women who are bartered like property. Freedom’s Stand is the story of a relief aid worker who clashes with an ancient society and with her own expectations of what it means to make a difference. As she strives to build relationships with women of Afghanistan, Amy Mallory is faced with her own inadequacies. The struggles of faith and humanity are real and believable. The reader gains understanding of how it feels to have daily language barriers in trying to communicate needs, and then feeling mistrusted in the process. The dilemmas reveal genuine soul-searching as characters insert their own beliefs about God’s involvement in the human element. And the storyline is an eye-opening look at the different forms justice takes, in the application of it around the world.

Who is J.M. Windle? Jeanette Windle grew up in South America as the daughter of missionaries. Her home included six countries and served as fuel for the imagination of a gifted storyteller. She shares about the details of research on her blog.

Why is it important to understand another culture? (Click to Tweet) The world is becoming a smaller place; people move to other countries with job opportunities, and then find the challenges of being in another culture overwhelming. When we study the behavior of other people, even in the form of fiction, we better understand the methods they use to cope with daily life and survival in their lands. We are also seeing more about Shariah Law in our own country. The web brings news of laws being changed to accommodate our Muslim neighbors. How will that effect life in the USA? How will we respond to injustices around the globe? We can’t be vocal if we don’t invest in the learning process.

Grab a copy of Freedom’s Stand, and its prequel, Veiled Freedom, and immerse yourself in a riveting story that includes danger, romance and far away lands!

Note: I received this book as part of the Tyndale Rewards Program. I received no compensation for this review. Do you want to get free books too? Here’s my link.

Sally

Related Posts:

How to help Children on another Continent

Slavery and Human Trafficking

Out of Africa
 

 

Christmas Eve

presents

The 24th is my favorite date in December. We’ve arrived home from the 11 pm Christmas Eve Service. The frenzy of the month is over. The kids have received their first present (new pajamas) and everyone has gone to bed. I have the moment to hold in my hands as I put the last of the bows on the packages and place them under the tree. There’s a serenity that fills the night. Another author captured it by saying, “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

Funny, how the two stories have become so intertwined in American folklore; Santa and The Christ seem to get equal billing in our media. Only, Santa is portrayed as a living, breathing, jolly old soul.

And Jesus? He’s a lawn ornament, a plastic figurine with peeling paint.

When did Santa and The Savior reverse roles? Now, we’re saving the North Pole, and Christmas magic, and telling kids, if we only believe, Santa will rescue our Christmas dreams. How do we help the world discover the One who really came to rescue us at Christmas?

A few weeks ago, Hubby and I attended a Steven Curtis Chapman Concert in Elmira, NY. As Steven Curtis Chapman shared a video about their program, Show Hope, he told us, “Some children do not want presents this Christmas. They want someone who will become their own forever family.”

These children have unfulfilled Christmas dreams. And here I am, with an abundance of presents under my Christmas tree. It’s difficult to reconcile the two worlds. We clash by what we do and don’t have. And it’s a stark reminder of our need for a Savior.

So, here I am, beneath my tree, remembering the carols sung less than an hour ago, of a baby in a manger. And angels bringing news of peace on earth. And wise men who recognize the Hope of the world.

Will you kneel before Him?

Will I?

Sally

Luke 2:1-20