Crazy Stories Sane God (Review)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions are 100% my own.

I hope I’ve made it pretty clear that this is going to be a year of growth around here. Especially when it comes to my faith journey. I started the year out reading a book that brings the story of the Bible into what reads like fiction. As I’ve been reading weekly, I’m coming across stories that make me go, “Wait. What?”. These “crazy stories” come to us from a sane God and have a purpose and meaning. Trust me.

In his new book, Crazy Stories, Sane God, John Alan Turner brings us 52 of these stories. My dad and mom didn’t share these with us in Church, Sunday School, VBS, or youth group (at least for the most part). These were the ones that were saved for understanding as an adult.

Crazy Stories, Sane God
Source: PR by the Book

While I won’t be reading this book with my kids, it’s a great way to shed light on the fact that strange things do happen, even to some of the people God used as Biblical leaders. Things like getting drunk, seeing UFO’s, and a talking Donkey are the stories that you likely wouldn’t expect to read in the Bible, but they are there.

Turner isn’t questioning the validity of these stories, he’s giving them to his readers as a gift to show that God’s love really is real. No matter how crazy the stories may seem, the outcome is a message that God is in control and forgiving.

The epilogue is what got me most – it pointed me to WHY I was meant to read the book. While some crazy things have happened in my life, nothing is better than God’s love and redemption. It’s why I am here blogging, sharing my crazy stories with you…things that inspire me that hopefully inspire you in turn.

If you’d like to check this book out, it retails for $14.99. It’s an easy read and broken down into chapters you could dedicate a few moments to each week for a year. While I’m not sure I’ll run out and share this one with my dad (a pastor) over a cup of coffee, it’s definitely worth picking up and chewing over yourself.

Want to get social about this book? Follow @PRbytheBook @BHPub @JohnAlanTurner on Twitter.

“Love and Respect in the Family”

Disclaimer: I was provided with a book to review and one to give away in exchange for this review. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

Love and Respect in the Family
Source: http://loveandrespect.com/family-book/

When I was asked to review “Love and Respect in the Family” by Dr. Emerson Eggrichs, I was overly excited. Something has been eating at me for months. I’ll go right out and say it, because you all are my safety net: I don’t feel like I am a great mom. I feel like a fraud. Reading the pitch for this book, I knew I had to take up the offer and learn some tips.

Here’s what I was told about the book:

Written by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, it is not just for parents of young children – it is also great for those whose kids are grown, but with whom their relationship may be broken or hurting. Either way, it gets families off of the ‘crazy cycle’ (parents feeling disrespected and treating kids unlovingly, kids feeling unloved and treat parents disrespectfully and around and around it goes…).  

I immediately was brought to tears and responded with a yes. Now, that was about a month ago. The shipping was super fast, but my eyes, ears, and heart weren’t quite ready to read. I got sick, I got busy. I pushed it to the side of my dresser and figured I’d get to it. I apologized to the rep, and dug my heels in and started to read.

Truth be told, I was having a really hard time reading it because I really want to be a good parent and break the cycle of craziness in my house…and in my relationships. I wanted to learn how to handle conflict, but I wasn’t exactly ready to listen.

Once I dug in, I appreciated the framework that Dr. Eggerichs puts around the book. His childhood was not perfect. He didn’t raise his kids perfect. God didn’t make us perfect, either. It’s all really okay. He takes a look into his own raising and how he and his wife Sarah raised their three children, inserting Biblical references to guide us as parents.

Speaking of guide, there is a section of the book, “The Family Energizing Cycle”, that is based on the acronym “GUIDES”, a way to parent as set forth in the Bible. We need to give our children enough to meet their needs (which affirmed for me why I can’t stand the kids being spoiled and why we’re working on them being givers). We need to understand our children (I am working on this – it’s hard for me to understand that a 5 year old does not think like a 30 year old). We need to Instruct our children (like when I talked to the kids about why there are stoplights/rules for a reason). We need to Discipline (but not PUNISH) our children so they know when they’ve made a poor choice (we talk about this a lot). We need to Encourage our children and help them with the things that God has given them (I”m going to work on this with my smart kiddos – we need to enrich their brains more and more). And finally, we need to Supplicate in prayer for our children (I’ve already started praying that God is raising them a good partner, just like my parents prayed the same for me).

It’s not easy, this parenting thing, but it wasn’t intended to be. When we as parents can understand that our children speak in love and we speak in respect and need to meet in the middle, we can have the balance that God intended.

If you’re interested in reading this book yourself to guide your parenting skills, you can find a copy on http://loveandrespect.com/family-book/ for $14 plus shipping.

One lucky reader will be sent a copy of this book – enter through next Sunday 1/19! (Note – this is a new to me giveaway tool, so please let me know what you think.)

Mixed-Up Love

Disclosure: I received the book discussed below in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Mixed-Up Love, written by a Jewish rabbi, Michal Woll, and her husband, Jon Sweeney, a prolific Catholic writer, explores their experience as an interfaith couple. Between deciding if and how to get married, how to practice religion, and how to raise their family, there were a lot of decisions to make.

I connected with the text as Greg and I are living this life. As a Christian married to a Baha’i, I often worry that my decisions to have our kids be raised in the UMC might not be the approved way…but it is the way that works for us. As Michal and Jon write in this book, families need to talk about how their faiths will work together and do it in a fashion that works for them.

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My favorite part of Mixed-Up Love was the section on “Coming Together”-going from friendship to dating to marriage. While some people in my life may not get it, faith was was a big player in our decision to marry. We followed the Baha’i practice of holding our wedding ceremony within 90 days of our engagement (talk about whirlwind). We followed UMC marriage ceremony norms and had a separate Baha’i ceremony immediately afterword. Later that night, my dad handed us the state certificate. All of this followed 90 days of making sure it was all *just* right and we weren’t conflicting any practice. It wasn’t easy, but growing up kids of faith leaders, we felt right doing it this way.

And if you ask Greg what one of the things that made him fall in love with me was? He would tell you my dedication to my faith.

Reading this book, I found myself nodding a lot. While I don’t understand the Catholic and Jewish references,  I get the concept and reason they wrote it. And, I appreciate knowing other couples are doing what we are…living our lives as individuals engaged in our relationships and faiths.

You can get a copy of Mixed-Up Love on Amazon. Retail value is $15.

Pilgrimage

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book below from Bethany House. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

In the almost diary-style text of Pilgrimage,  Lynn Austin (Christian Fiction author) chronicles her journey through Israel. This journey came at a time in her life and faith that she felt dry and mindless. As she journeyed, she hoped to renew the abundance she expected Christians to feel in their daily lives.

Pilgrimage
Source: BethanyHouse.com

I wasn’t even 4 pages in when I turned to Greg and told him that I want to do this very same thing. We realize it’s pretty much impossible right now with two ‘lil kids, but one day, we want to journey to Israel. Like Lynn, I’d like to step where Jesus has walked and experience the beauty of Israel. I want to go to where my faith is rooted, and to see the land where Greg’s is, too.

As Lynn toured Israel with her husband, she wrote about some tough lessons in faith (like discerning God’s calling and being “in the middle of things”). She chronicled the beauty of the land, the tears along the way, and the lessons brought to light. Her words were honest, but bring hope for those who have felt what she did when she first embarked on the journey.

It was hard for me not to be a ‘lil bit jealous, but I rejoice in knowing that even though Greg and I have a mixed-faith, we both will find meaning in a trek to the Holy Land one day. We’ll start planning now, even if it’s years and years away. And I am sure, like it was for Lynn and her husband, it will come at a good time.

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If you’d like to read this book, visit the Bethany House website: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/pilgrimage/344800

It is available in paperback and e-book, retailing for $14.99.

Letting Go

Disclosure: I received this book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

In Sandie Freed’s “Letting Go of your Limitations”, readers will find ways to experience God’s transforming power in their lives. She takes a look at 11 limitations we put on ourselves and helps readers find ways to let go of those.

Source: Chosen from bakerpublishinggroup.com

Each chapter looks at a specific limitation such as “pride”, “disappointments”, or “pressure to achieve results” with a Scripture story and reflective activity.

When I first picked up the book, I was a bit surprised that the first chapter was Letting Go of “Religion” – this is a book about God, after all. Reading it, I realized Freed was looking to help her readers become free of the vision of oppressive/persecuting/hypocritical religion. Both Greg and I have struggled with organized religion at points in our lives, so to read that we were not alone in our struggle was refreshing. The important thing is to hunger for God and let his blessings into our lives. The rest will come as we move with Him (and if I am interpreting my feelings right, lead to finding the right faith community to help build up that journey with God).

The reason you decide to pick up this book and read it will likely be different than mine. You may read one of the eleven chapters and it really speak to you when none of the others do. This is exactly why I believe Sandie wrote this book. If you feel like it is time to let go of your limitations, you can pick up a copy of this book from Chosen: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/letting-go-of-your-limitations/344900 (Available via paperback and e-book for $13.99.)

“God is in the restoration business. His desire is to restore us, heal up the brokenhearted and demonstrate Kingdom power as never before.”–Dr. Sandie Freed

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church!

Disclosure: I was sent a book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

“Making connections” is one of the comprehension skills of literacy. Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! is a book that made such awesome connections to our ‘lil boy that I shed tears that first time I read it.

Source: idealsbooks.com

Do you see why, yet?

So sweet, this story by Kathleen Long Bostrom tells the story of four-year-old Ryan who takes his stuffed monkey (Rufus) to church.

Just like our Evan and Monkey/Baby, Ryan and Rufus:

  • Greet the pastor
  • Love the Bible story (especially the Ark)
  • Sing VERY LOUDLY
  • Fidget
  • Say AMEN!

I seriously shed tears the first time I read it, because I know Evan would enjoy reading a book like him. Sadly, he didn’t get it at first, but Arianna totally made the connection. She was dancing on her carpet square as the story went on, smiling ear to ear. When it was done, she said, “Bubby, that story is just like YOU!”. And then I think it clicked with our ‘lil boy. 😉

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! is the first in a board book series for kids ages 2-5. This series (which includes Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers) provides a simple, child-friendly introduction to the concepts of Christianity, starting with going to church and saying prayers. In addition, the books focus on character traits and development. The text is presented in young Ryan’s voice as he teaches Rufus about the things he is learning himself.

You can find the series at  http://www.idealsbooks.com. This book retails for $7.99.

Book Review: Tempted, Tested, True

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Tempted, Tested, True in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Life sure does throw us some interesting challenges, doesn’t it? Many of these challenges are temptations. For me, the temptation has always been two major things – spending money (although I am seriously frugal) and worrying too much about what everyone else thinks (I see that as a temptation to conform to society). These temptations can rob our souls of the things that God has in store for us, as is discussed in Arnie Cole and Michael Ross’ book Tempted, Tested, True. 

Tempted Tested True
Source: Bethany House

I chose to review this book because I know that temptations can run us down. Having that knowledge, I wanted to learn more about ways to overcome these challenges and lead a life that’s full and true. The book used real-life stories to provide a process to overcome temptations; however, upon reading the contents, I wasn’t sure my temptations would be covered. Once I took to reading the book, there were several lessons I could learn from each chapter, including the one about struggles that men face).

Admittedly, the book was not the easiest read for me, but it does break the temptations and process down into sections. It would definitely be a good choice if you had a group that wanted to study overcoming temptations as there are sections for discussion and personal reflection. There are even online resources at http://temptedbook.com/, including an 8-week devotional.

Each chapter investigates a temptation (or set of temptations) that the authors researched and applied biblical lessons to. If alcohol, gossip, anxiety, or even the past has a hold of you, there’s an answer to discover in this book. In the appendix, you’ll even find a chart to jot down times you are tempted or when your spirit is interrupted. While the answer you are searching for may not be immediate, I think this book will start you on the right path.

I think I may re-visit the book a little further in my faith journey, perhaps with other followers, and truly get to the messages God wants me to hear regarding overcoming temptation.

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Tempted, Tested, True is published by Bethany House and retails for $14.99.

Book Review: A Woman’s Guide to Hearing God’s Voice

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of “A Woman’s Guide to Hearing God’s Voice” in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

As a child (a child of a pastor), I always wondered how I’d hear God’s voice. I fully expected a big, booming noise to rain down from Heaven, telling me that everything was going to be okay. My parents couldn’t really explain it to me, but throughout the years I’ve learned to listen and hear it.

Leighann McCoy explores this discovery in her book, “A Woman’s Guide to Hearing God’s Voice”. You see, He’s always speaking — it’s just that we need to learn to listen. McCoy presents chapters on times in her life that she and her family have learned to listen to God’s voice and weaves it into biblical teachings. Discussion questions and applications to real life are included. You know, sometimes God is in the thick — are we ready to hear?

God's Voice
Source: Bethany House

Because McCoy is a cancer survivor and had a daughter with an unplanned pregnancy, I really connected with the stories within. It took me to the times that God was speaking to me – through the loss of Wendy and through the blessing of having Arianna (and in turn, Greg happening to be there at the hospital when I gave birth). These were truly dark times in my life, but LOUD AND CLEAR, God gave me reasons to go on. God is bigger than anything he lays before our path.

This book would be another great one for a Women’s Bible Study group, complete with activities and an event to plan in the Appendix. While it may not be easy to hear God’s voice, we have to believe it is there.

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A Woman’s Guide to Hearing God’s Voice is published by Bethany House and retails for $13.99.

Book Review: Fearless Daughters of the Bible

Disclaimer: I was sent a complimentary copy of  this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Fearless Daughters of the Bible
Source: Chosen Books

J. Lee Grady, a man who (with his wife) raised four daughters shares the stories and lessons learned from “22 women who challenged tradition, fought injustice and dared to lead” in his book, Fearless Daughters of the Bible. Isn’t that subtitle just inspiring in itself? When I think of the Bible and the lessons I learned in Sunday School, church, and Bible School, how many of them were about the men? As a feminist who is challenging tradition by being the bread winner, I knew this book was going to be an inspiration not only on my faith journey but also in my day to day life.

I was right.

Grady explores the stories of powerful women in recent history and in today’s faith world and explores the comparisons between them and these Fearless Daughters of the Bible. As expected, women like Mary (mother of Jesus), Ruth, Sarah, and Miriam are included. I, however, was introduced to some women this pastor’s kid had never read about (or may I just didn’t pay attention?) — Priscilla, Jehosheba, and Deborah (among others).

Following a connection between modern day fearless daughters of faith and a discussion of the biblical daughter, Grady presents appropriate challenges / thoughts to guide the reader to consider their faith (and in some instances prompt us to become stronger, more fearless women). The chapters conclude with discussion questions (these would be great in a Bible Study) and a message from God, tying it all together.

As a woman who hopes to break molds and use the gifts God has given me, Grady’s book was definitely an empowering read. It’s a good reminder of the things that I hope to do in this world.

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Fearless Daughters of the Bible by J. Lee Grady is published by Chosen Books and retails for $14.99.

Finding ‘Your Beautiful Purpose’

Below is a review of Your Beautiful Purpose from Bethany House. I received the book to read for free in exchange for this review. All opinions, as with all of my reviews, are 100% my own. 

Lately, I’ve been throwing myself toward ‘Running for a Reason’ and trying to lose weight. It’s been a battle, and to say it hasn’t had its moments would be crazy (because it has, today even!). In this journey, I’ve given up a lot of things, including sitting down to take the time to read a good book. After having the day like I had today, you had better believe my eyes turned to the sky and I thanked God that I signed up to do this book review.

Following my run, I saw “Your Beautiful Purpose” by Susie Larson on my nightstand. I just knew it was time to give it a read. While my husband worked through making supper, I worked through starting to remember what this whole journey is about, thanks to this book. You see, all of us have a purpose, a calling. We just have to tune our ears to that purpose and it will find its way. That’s God’s plan (and we never should question it).

Probably a good day to start reading this. #Purpose

The cover promises the read involves “discovering and enjoying what God can do through you”. While, admittedly, I’ve only read one chapter*, the book has already given me some “aha” moments, and I’ve remembered why 1) I chose life for Arianna 2) I moved back to Pennsylvania 3) I started running and 4) am running for Kids with Cancer. All in one chapter, I am seeing just a handful of blessings. The next five chapters are sure to turn on even more lights in my dim eyes and I will see more of what is meant to be.

If you are looking for your purpose and trying to put light back in your life, give this book a try. I’ll be over here reading through it in my quiet moments, and anxiously seeking more of what God has in store.

* What I love about the format of the book is that you can read 2 chapters a week as a 6-week study. That is what I plan to do, giving myself time daily to read the suggested Bible passages in the extension questions and find ways to discuss the study questions with those closest to me. It would be great to use this book as a women’s study among close believers! You can pick the book up through Bethany House or your favorite online book retailer for around $14.