Book Review: Kisses from Katie

 

This book is profoundly disturbing. And it shakes me to the core. Kisses from Katie is the story of a high school senior who travels to Uganda and subsequently invests her life in the people she meets there. Katie Davis says her life is not extraordinary, but she goes on to describe extraordinary ways the Lord shows up in desperate circumstances.

Katie Davis came with no formal training, no formal backing and no formal plan. She was compelled to get involved, and took the first step. She used her hands and feet to show God’s love in practical ways, and became known in an impoverished land as “Mommy.” Indeed, at age 18, she fed, schooled, applied medical help, housed and eventually adopted. Now, ten years later, Katie’s nonprofit has a Board of Directors, farming education to sustain life, food outreach, a self-sustaining vocational program and sponsors over 700 children.

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Katie says, “Jesus wrecked my life.”

I’ve run into that phrase before. It means she became uncomfortable with her comfortable life. And her words create discomfort with the way we’re doing things in Western society.

Katie found a paradox in Uganda: “amazing, breathtaking beauty juxtaposed against immense poverty and desolation.”

She says, “Materially speaking, the people who began to fill my life were the poorest I had ever met and yet they overflowed with the riches of the heart. They lived in houses of sticks or stones and mud; they slept on hard dirt floors. But they did not blame God for this or ask Him for more. They knew their circumstances were due to the brokenness of this world and they simply praised Jesus for keeping them alive through it all.”

Katie saw children dying from preventable diseases and knew she had to find help. She began to contact people in her hometown of Nashville, TN in search of those willing to come alongside her. She described the need, not as statistics, but as “people I know and love.”

Katie’s approach to her life and work in Uganda might be considered radical, even controversial. She gives to people who cannot repay. She helps those who should be able to help themselves. Yet, the message is an important one. We must get involved. When God’s people reach out to others, that love will transform people, one life at a time.

If you want to stay comfortable, don’t read this book. It gets under your skin. However, I challenge you to get your own copy and a pen. Highlight ideas, quotes and values. Let two worlds merge in your own heart as you seek how the Lord will lead you to be obedient, as a missionary, right where you are. And, in your imperfect, inadequate efforts to serve Him, you will find new release as you lean on Christ.

Sally


The Nest

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How does she do it, that Momma bird? She makes a home for her babies that is tightly knit. It rests on the ledge of my windowsill like a little castle on top of a mountain. Twigs, feathers and all manner of layers are woven together to create a safe haven. We startle Momma Bird every time we walk into the room, so I took to leaving the blinds closed. I wanted her to know we wouldn’t harm her brood.
We stick together, us Mommas. We find ways to help each other as we bring our babies into the world. We protect and feed our babies and we provide a safe haven for them, all in the hopes that one day they will discover their own wings.

It’s a tricky thing, this process of letting go. You raise your brood to be independent thinkers, yet when they achieve that, they no longer need Momma anymore. Or, so I thought. In the same weekend we watched our daughter march across the platform to get her diploma, she reminded me of words of wisdom from my own Mom. And I knew for a fact that you never outgrow your need for your Mom.
Sally
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When All You Can Do Is Pray

Praying woman hands
Praying woman hands

Ever feel so helpless that you can think of nothing else to do to help a situation, except to pray? I’m task-oriented, and that means a task gives me purpose. But, what if my greatest purpose is to pray? Prayer is hard work. It is a discipline that harnesses the mind and will and channels it to seek God’s will. So, instead of prayer being the last resort, it becomes my first choice.

Scripture is a great tool for prayer. It mobilizes and empowers prayers. For example, which prayers are more effective?
A. “Lord, bless Nate today.”
B. “Lord, enable Nate to know how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
A. “Lord, be with Kenzie today.”
B. “Lord, may Kenzie know the truth of Your Word today and be reminded that You will never leave her or forsake her.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
A. “Lord, protect Anna today.”
B. “Lord, may Anna find refuge in You today. Carry her safely in Your everlasting arms. Destroy any evil intended for her.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
In every A example, I am asking good things for my family. But the B examples help me to feel I’ve really been specific and gone to bat for them. One of the places I learned to be very specific in prayer was through Moms In Prayer, International. Moms In Prayer organizes moms to pray for their children and schools. And they have equipped countless families to build a strong foundation in God’s Word. It helped ours through some tough times, as well. Check out their website for more prayer tips.
As author, Mary DeMuth prompts, May I pray for you today?
“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:17-19a) Amen.             In the comments below, tell me what Scripture you will use to infuse your prayers today!
Sally


Book Review: The Third Target

Third Target

A heart-stopping thriller, The Third Target is the story of a clash of world views. The Free World wants to foster Peace Treaties; ISIS wants annihilation of the infidels. The reporter, James Collins is in a race against time. ISIS wants credit for mass destruction against Israel and the U.S., but they also want the element of surprise. If he can verify his leads and facts in the story, he can get it to press before it’s too late to warn people. But someone has other plans for J.B. Collins.

Joel C. Rosenberg has pulled together another spellbinder about the turmoil in the Middle East that has pulled our shores closer to the battle.   Rosenberg “spent more than a decade in Washington as a senior advisor to a number of U.S. and Israeli leaders including Steve Forbes, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Natan Sharansky.”

His novels have gleaned huge attention, as world events unfold similar to what he has written. How can he be so close in detail? He was convinced a War on Terror was coming, mapped out what it could look like, and then researched his map.

The timing of Rosenberg’s books is uncanny. In an age when Biblical prophecy is unfolding before our eyes, Rosenberg is connecting events with narrative fiction in a compelling way. He is explaining prophesies through dialogue with the characters and scenes in locations where events are happening daily.

Can one person make a difference? One thing I questioned was the weight a news correspondent carried with political leaders. Would world rulers in real life summon a journalist? Maybe not, but it made for an exciting story.

I loved the background research in the importance of the Temple Mount, The Dome of the Rock and the city of Jerusalem to Moslems, Christians and Jews. The author used dialogue to inform and show details to great advantage. And he explained why a journalist’s reporting of stories helps to stop a wrong by exposing it.

What an incredible book! It would be of interest to anyone who watches the evening news or reads the newspaper. It catalogues current events with a captivating storyline. It makes me excited to live in this time in history, by seeing it through different eyes. And I struggled with J.B. as he questioned faith and how it applies to facing death. It all comes down to the question J.B.’s brother asks, “What are you going to do with Jesus?”

Indeed, a question we will all have to answer, soon.

Sally

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.


B & B Review: The Teacher’s Pet

A venture down a country road in Pennsylvania turns out to be an adventure to another era. Innkeepers Dave & Judy Clum have created a cozy step back in time with antiques in every nook and cranny. The rooms of their B & B are homey and inviting, with the school theme everywhere, and apple motifs bring back memories of the respect shown toward a cherished profession. Both teachers by trade, Dave & Judy’s home has become a getaway for the student in all of us, yearning for a quiet place to read a good book.

Hubby and I were greeted with mint chocolate chip cookies and a tour. We had our choice of upstairs bedrooms, both with their own bathroom. Ours had a covered four-poster bed with quilted covers and steps for my short legs to climb into the tall bed.

Our Innkeepers steered us to a lovely supper at Log Cabin Inn in Harmony, where we were treated like royalty for an unusual opportunity of uninterrupted dialogue. We finally had a chance to catch up with each other’s hearts!

The morning’s meal was a sight for the eyes, as well as a treat for the taste buds. Our hosts prepared fresh fruit, French toast with confectioners’ sugar, eggs, and toast with homemade blueberry preserves. I sipped from my china teacup in front of a roaring fire and realized it had been far too long since I had actually used a teacup at home. A mug says tackle the day! The teacup is a reminder to slow down and treat life gently. Another simple but special treat was the addition of orange sherbet to the orange juice. It’s one of those things that I could easily put together at home, but never thought to do. It makes an ordinary morning feel extra special.

Dave & Judy Clum

The cherry on top for our breakfast, however, was a visit with our hosts. Dave is a history buff and knowledgeable about subjects from furniture building to the George Washington Trail that runs through Portersville. The antiques they’ve amassed over the years create a warm atmosphere for a visit with new friends. And the motifs nudge a bent toward conversation on a sunny day. It was a B & B worth repeating!

Sally


Book Review: Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love

Raising Big Kids

Did you get an eye-roll with a “whatever,” today? Then you might be the parent of a tween or teen. And you might have realized by this point in your child’s life, that there is no perfect formula for parenting. However, Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love comes pretty close to being a near-perfect parenting manual. Cleverly disguised as a book for parents to glean skills in child-rearing, it actually teaches us to be better adults.

Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love is packed with tools, examples and suggestions for a way to role-play the various hats we wear as parents. The authors, Lori Wildenberg and Becky Danielson bring their collective experience with their own families, as well as examples gleaned through conducting parenting classes. Wildenberg and Danielson are co-founders of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting, and authors of three parenting books. They are licensed parent-family educators, certified teachers, and moms of six between them. Their writing style is straight forward, as they advocate parents can engage with the teen’s world in a healthy and growing relationship.

In a time when we’re worried about being politically correct, the authors hold a high standard for child-rearing. They tackle tough issues like cyber bullying, peer pressure and sexual activity, and lay out a guide to providing a safe and secure home in a shifting culture. Their reliance on Scripture and prayer is refreshing, as they provide practical tips for conversations with teens and a desire to reach their hearts. I love the emphasis on character development and the encouragement to persevere, when you’d rather throw in the towel.

I wish I would have had this book when my own were teens. It reassures that times of failure are when we are most teachable, and we can develop character traits that will benefit our kids their whole lives. It provides a way to navigate the murky waters of expectations and miscommunication. And it is an encouraging and empowering book that is an important part of every parent’s arsenal!

Sally

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the The Blog Spot Network book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review. 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.”


How Do Your Retreat Numbers Measure Up?

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As I put retreat flyers in our church mailboxes Saturday, I thought about our motives for inviting so many women. It’s not about the numbers, really.  It’s about including each and every one into our circle of friends.  That seems like a high aspiration, but it’s not all up to the leaders at that point.  When we can facilitate opportunities for relationships to happen, we are stepping up the possibility for one more woman to know she is a valued member of the human race.

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? To connect people to each other and to the God who created them to be in relationship?

Over the eleven years of planning our spring women’s retreat, we’ve seen the group range from 48 to 77 in attendance, but the quantity is still not our main focus! We always ask, “What can we do to create an atmosphere where women will connect?”

The response may take on a different shape each year, but here are five key factors.

1) Create Fun!  Make your trip one where giggles can abound.  Where there’s laughter, healing will follow, and relationships will happen naturally.  We have ice breakers, skits, and generally role out the carpet for humor.

2) Create Intimacy!  The opportunity to share life’s burdens with another lightens the load.  One-on-one conversations and group discussions will assist the progress of new insights.  Interaction can take place at meal time or around the campfire or even while carpooling home.

3) Create Release!  Getting away from the daily routine of life is essential in order to let go of stress.  Provide walks outdoors for fresh air or indoor games for group interaction.  Have you seen grown women do cannonballs in the pool?!

4) Create Inspiration!  Give food for thought to get creative juices flowing, and to facilitate the opportunity for each to reconnect with the Lord.  Special words from speakers or quiet time with a Bible will enable the mind to cultivate renewal.

5) Create Security!  Remember the Cheers theme song?  “People are all the same;  You want to go where everybody knows your name.”  We all need a safe haven where we can feel like family, and that requires intentional effort and time to nurture.

When you focus on the individuals who come, they will bring their friends and build numbers later on. But it all begins with creating an occasion for women to remember that they are cherished and loved, one person at a time.

Sally

You can find more articles like this, here.

For more tips on Retreat Planning, see my ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat!


Book Review: Back in the Saddle

Back in the Saddle

When a Wall Street broker returns west to get Back in the Saddle, he discovers his home at the Double S Ranch has undergone change in the nine years he’s been gone. Colt Stafford left home to make his own way in the world, and has now come home tired, disillusioned and filled with self-doubt. He encounters a bitter brother, a sick father, a bossy & antagonistic housekeeper and over a thousand calves due to be born in the next few weeks. Will he be able to re-enter the world of a multimillion-dollar beef enterprise? Or, will he find himself ostracized?

Author, Ruth Logan Herne creates memorable characters by unveiling layers gradually. Her research into the habits of the Gray’s Glen, Washington cowboys and the New York Stock Market financiers adds an engaging look at both worlds. She has more than half a million books in print, and after reading Back in the Saddle, it is no surprise as to why she is so well read.

The book is a prodigal story, set in a small western town nestled in a broad valley of rolling fields. It is a reminder of the way all of us try to find our way home, when we’ve exhausted our own resources.

The story arc takes characters into crises that change their perspective toward others. We struggle alongside, as they flesh out their own value system. Herne tackles judgmental attitudes while allowing the characters to grapple with issues of first impressions, faith and family.

Great book. I chose it for the story line, and was not disappointed. It provides a refreshing angle to the story of the Prodigal Son found in the Bible and a reminder of the use of a parable to convey truth. The addition of romance, secrets and the scenic backdrop make it a compelling read. I look forward to more from Ruth Logan Herne, as she expands her new western romance series!

Sally

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

 

 

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Bible Study Review: Grin with Grace

Grin with Grace

When suffering hits, the last thing I want to do is grin; rejoice; be content. But Kathy Carlton Willis contends we not only will do those things, but we will thank the Lord for the trials that grow us. Her book, Grin With Grace is a call to return to the Source of life, the One who can use all things for His good purposes.

Kathy is well versed in the suffering department. From health issues to the nitty gritty of living life, she knows the need for a dose of joy. Her goal is to help all of us who feel so far from the goal. Is it a lofty goal? I don’t think so, because the pursuit of wisdom brings us closer to the One who gives it freely to those who ask. And that’s a good place to be.

Grin With Grace is sectioned off into humorous real-life stories, Bible study, life-application steps, turning faith into ministry and challenging scenarios to consider. The sections invite journaling and that reflection invites action. Never does she leave us to sit on our discoveries, but pushes us to share them with others. Our women’s group found the conversation starters helpful and the personal approach to faith, endearing. We used the material as a springboard toward more transparency in our faith and encouragement of each other. The last chapter, especially, created an opportunity to voice our support through benediction, or blessing.

One of the ways Kathy teaches us about the dependability of Grace, is to cause us to look at the effects of our promises. Do we say what we mean, and mean what we say? She calls us to a higher accountability as we mirror the character of God. And such is the tough love found throughout the book; spoken with compassion, yet straight and to the point. She reminds us to seek the One who is enough, so that we won’t try to be sufficient in our own resources. And that is the power in Grin With Grace; truth cushioned with kindness and love.

Make time for this study on grace. It will open your worldview to the characteristics of a grace-filled life, and equip you to look for the touches of God in grace-filled moments!

Sally

Check out the Bible Study Expo, for an interview with Kathy Carlton Willis!

 

 


Bible Study Expo

2016 Poster

Marnie Swedberg annually hosts an event that has become a go-to resource for me. She invites authors to share the stories behind their Bible studies, and in the process, makes the writer more real. It brings a smile to follow the conversation threads during this event; the fast paced comments on the Facebook party happen at the same time as The Bible Study Expo, and the enthusiasm is contagious. It’s fun, because these gals have become friends. As we dialogue over author quotes, we encourage, inspire and enjoy one another!
Maybe you’ve wanted to lead a Bible study, but never had the courage to step out? I’ve blogged about that at “Why lead a Bible Study?” Here, I want to tell you how I’ve benefitted by connecting with authors. Listening to their voices online, you can hear the passion for the subject they researched. Marnie interviews them, they share behind-the-scenes discoveries, and we all come away enriched by the treasures in God’s Word.

A few years back, Sue Edwards was involved in the Expo, with her book, Ephesians: Discovering Your Identity and Purpose in Christ. I connected with Sue’s work, even though she was not able to attend at the last minute, and used it with my Women’s Bible Study group. I had the opportunity to participate in launching an online study of Ephesians on Sue’s Facebook Page. We also went on to use another in the series, Luke: Discovering Healing in Jesus’ Words to Women.
This year, Kathy Carlton Willis is on the docket with her book, Grin With Grace. Our Women’s Class just wrapped up this study, and I’m looking forward to hearing more stories from Kathy’s quirky take on life.
How can you benefit from attending the Expo? You develop friendships, find studies to share, and more fully appreciate the author’s work. Besides, you may be one of the winners of the door prizes from Sarah Young, Logan Wolfram, Raechel Myers, Barbara Roose, Sherry Poundstone, Kathy Carlton Willis, Jeanne Brooks, Sherri Burgess, or Gwen Smith!
Come join us at The Bible Study Expo, Thursday, March 17, 2016!

Noon – 2 Pacific

1-3 Mountain

2-4 Central

3-5 Eastern
Sally