Saturday, February 28, 2015

(Review) One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Publication Date: January 4, 2011.
Publisher: Zondervan.
Genre: Thanksgiving, reflection, journaling.
Pages: 241.
Source: self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Kindle copy @ Amazon. 

For a biography of Ann, which includes her Christian beliefs: A Holy Experience. 

Ann's website, which is filled with beautiful photographs, Bible studies, journal writings, and freebie printables: A Holy Experience. 

I waited on purpose to read this book in order to move past the gazillion reviews and critics.
At Amazon, the book has 1,661 reviews, of which 1,317 are 5 star reviews. I read a few of the low score reviews--no comment nor arguing with other reader's opinions.

One Thousand Gifts was on sale at Lifeway early in January for less than $5. I bought a few copies to keep and giveaway as gifts.

Ann Voskamp is a farm wife in the Midwest. She is the mother of six children. People who are not aware of the hard work of being a farm wife or caring for six children might believe Ann lives a "simple" life in the country. They are mistaken. Ann is a busy wife, mother, and partner to a hardworking farmer.
At the encouragement (dare) of a friend, Ann began making a one thousand things to be thankful for list. The list was the preemptive beginnings of the book and devotional that followed.
Ann began by sharing a painful story from her childhood, her sister's death. Ann reflects on this period of her life, primarily its pain, but also how it has led to living a fuller life. Further, a life in eucharisteo.
There are several points about the book that you should be aware of before reading.

  • The word eucharisteo is used often. The following links will give you a solid definition of the word: The High Calling and Bible Gateway. Ann uses the word in reference to giving thanks in life, everyday life, both small moments and large moments. 
  • Ann's writing style is wordy. Some readers might define her style as verbose (using more words than necessary.) I love her writing style. I love slow-natured books, not always, but often. When I'm aware the atmosphere of a book is going to be reflective, poetic, deep-thinking, and emotionally moving---I settle down my speed reading eyes. 
  • The book is a journal of sorts. Ann shares her days, the simple details of washing dishes or caring for a sick child. I was reminded of another book: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. The copy I own was originally my dad's and purchased in 1963. I read this book years ago and might read it again. It's considered a "Catholic" book so there are some people who are afraid of it and will not read it. 
  • Lastly, Ann brings experiences from her past and present, and they are teachable features for the theme of the book: living in eucharisteo. 

I love love love this book. It has meant so much to me to be reminded of living in eucharisteo/thankfulness. I'm still grieving the death of my dad, and my mind if I'm not careful reverts to a pity-party, but when I focus on the things I'm thankful for, no longer am I inward focused but outward focused. Outward focused means I'm thinking on the things of God.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Colossians 3:1-2. ESV. 

A favorite quote from the book:
"We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace" Page 39.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Future Reviews

I'm reading two books for reviews.
One is a chunkster, the second book is small but filled with meditative writing.
Christianity in Roman Africa: the development of its practices and beliefs by J. Patout Burns Jr. and Robin M. Jensen.
Published by Eerdman, November 2014.
There are 723 pages, with 153 color photographs and black ink drawings.

The Confessions of St. Augustine by Augustine of Hippo.
Foreword by Warren W. Wiersbe.
Published by Baker Books/Revell Publishing in 2005.
There are 199 pages.
This book is an edited version of the original. It is considered to be a confiteri (read the definition provided by link) and not necessarily an autobiography.
This little book has been sitting on the bookshelf gathering dust. Christianity in Roman Africa refers to Augustine. I thought the two books complemented one another. 

Bible Reading Update

The last Bible Reading Update posted was on February 12. 
The world/kosmos continues to spiral downward. And we are ashen at the horror of what ISIS is doing in the Middle East. Their goal is to rape, murder, and destroy lives. They cannot destroy God. They can destroy people's bodies, but they cannot rob Christians of eternal life in Jesus Christ. ISIS is Satan's Army. Their plan is Satan's plan, and one that he has had since the beginning, to try and destroy God's people.
Instead of being fearful we have three options:

  1. Keep our eyes focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. 
  2. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who are in harm's way. 
  3. Read and memorize Scripture. 

Since the last time I posted an update the following Bible verses have been read:
All Scriptures read from the ESV Journaling Bible by Crossway. 

A voice says, 'Cry!' And I said, 'What shall I cry!' All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:6-8. ESV. 
Scripture links from Bible Gateway. 
Are you reading your Bible?

(Review) Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God by Margaret Feinberg

Publication Date: December 25, 2012.
Publisher: Worthy Publishing.
Genre: Christian nonfiction, God's blessings in everyday life.
Pages: 224.
Source: self-purchase Kindle ebook.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.
Wonderstruck Bible Study link. 
The Amazon Kindle ebook is $3.03. 

The above video is a summary of the book.

It occurred to me that this is the posture we're supposed to take in our spiritual journeys. God delights for us to cup our hands in prayer and scrunch our faces against the vault of heaven in holy expectation that he will meet us in beautiful mysterious ways. The creator desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with himself-displaying facets of his character, igniting us with his fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of his holiness.

My Thoughts:
I love this book for two main reasons.

  1. It spoke to my introvert, reflective personality. 
  2. It reminded me to get out of my comfort zone-which is where I tend to gravitate. 

In the above video, Margaret commented, "people going through motions of faith." The life of a Christian should not be methodical. Nor matte-colored. Instead, the Christian life should be a vibrant, joyful, "abundant" life.
Feinberg believes it is during the "wonder of God" of His creation, that we have a "spiritual awakening that makes us curious to know God more." And we "know God more" by reading His Word. I love Feinberg's expressions that Bible verses come "...alive like a pop-up book...."
I've been guilty of living a Christian life with out really seeing what is around me; instead, I'm overwhelmed by concerns and cares. My eyes are inward focused and I've lost sight of being God focused.
When reading and studying the Bible, I don't want to read God's Word as if it is merely ink on paper, because God's Word is alive and actively at work in my inner person. God's Word is nourishment and strength, correction and wisdom, mercy and grace.
After reading Wonderstruck, I came away with the emphasis that Feinberg is reminding me to wake-up and be amazed at God's creation and His Word; and to let go of my pseudo safe existence, and be secure in God and His will for my life.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

(Review) My Scripture Journal: Fearing the Lord by Heather Bixler

Publication Date: June 12, 2011.
Publisher: Becoming Press.
Genre: Bible study, Scripture journal.
Pages: 120.
Source: Free Kindle ebook @ Amazon.
Rating: 3 stars for good.

To read a brief example: My Scripture Journal. 

Heather Bixler's website.

My Scripture Journal is a tool to help memorize Bible verses. The books audience is for readers with a "short attention span." I take this to mean the book is for people who are not fond of reading. And I'm guessing most of the readers of my blog love to read and would consider this book to be brief.
The Bible study is twelve weeks/chapters in length. Most of the Bible verses are from Psalms, a few from Proverbs; plus Luke 1:50 and 2 Kings 17:39.
Bixler begins by explaining what it "means to fear the Lord."

My Thoughts:
I believe this is an adequate Bible study for a light reader, or for a new Christian.
You can't beat the price. Free.
Memorizing Scripture is a hard discipline. The difficult part is finding time and in knowing how to get started. It helps to have a guide book such as My Scripture Journal.
Not all Christians want to dive off into a major disciplined Bible study like BSF or Precepts. Although I recommend both Bible studies.

On a similar subject:
I am a member of Beth Moore's Siesta Sister Scripture Memorization Team. What this means is I memorize two Bible passages per month. One on the first. A second on the fifteenth. A total of 24 verses will be memorized in 2015. In order to keep me accountable I post the verses I'm going to memorize on the first and fifteenth of each month on Beth's Facebook post, along with all the people memorizing Bible verses.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lenten Reading

"Resurrection (24)" by Surgun100 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
Lent begins today and ends April 2.
A brief definition of Lent-preparation through prayer, Bible reading, "repentance", and "self-denial during the six weeks leading up to Easter.
To read more information about Lent:
The Upper Room
Christianity Today
I've found several links for Bible reading during Lent.
Lifeway Women All Access has a list of six reading plans, plus two shorter plans: Six Reading Plans for Lent. 
A list of five devotional plans for Lent from Bible Gateway: Devotions for Lent and Easter. 
A free 98 page Kindle download from Ray Pritchard of Keep Believing Ministries: In His Steps. 
Lenten series from Ray Pritchard's blog: In His Steps.
The Common English Bible, 40 Day Promise.
A free resource for Lent, a study guide to download from Crossway. The guide/book is Behold the King of Glory by Russ Ramsey. 
Also from Crossway, a study guide from the book The Final Days of Jesus. This is a link to a 40 day Devotional reading plan. This features an awesome schedule of the last week/parallel Gospel presentation.
A Holy Experience, The Call for the Next 40 Days: To The Nations and People of the Cross.
A colorful Lenten series from Margaret Feinberg: Need Encouragement This Ash Wednesday. 
Lastly, Reliving the Passion: Meditation on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark by Walter Wangerin Jr. The Kindle is $2.99. 

I've had a difficult time choosing a Lenten reading plan. There are so many wonderful choices. I settled on Reliving the Passion by Walter Wangerin Jr. But, I'm also going to read Ray Pritchard's, In His Steps. 

In addition, I found a notable list of apologetic reading for free from Truthbomb Apologetics. You will want to bookmark this handy page!

(Review) Mist of Midnight, Daughters of Hampshire Book One by Sandra Byrd

Publication Date: March 10, 2015.
Publisher: Howard Books/Simon and Schuster.
Genre: Fiction, Victorian England, India, Gothic romance, mystery.
Pages: 384.
Source: Free copy from Howard Books and CBA Tours in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Link @ Simon and Schuster/Howard Books.
Link @ Amazon. 
Link @ Barnes and Nobles. 

In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands. Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her...and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an impostor had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca's name, but her home and incomes. That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real impostor. Her home and her father's investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”? A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless. 

My Thoughts:
The time period for the story begins in 1858. The place is Hampshire, England.
Mist of Midnight is described as a "Gothic romance." I believe it has a mystery element, but there is no horror. I was not frightened while reading the story, but I felt a mistrust in some of the characters. Actually, most of the characters seemed to be holding something back, or appeared to be. Later, I understood why their actions showed me their mistrust.
Rebecca Ravenshaw is the main character and heroine of the story. She is a savvy young woman. I enjoyed reading a story with a strong Victorian age female leading character. I dislike stories of damsels in distress who are not able to think or contemplate wise words and actions. She is not foolhardy, nor is swept away by emotions. A fainting couch is not needed for Rebecca.
I love it when animals are characters in a story. Bravo for adding a smart cat to the story-line.
I loved reading about India during the mid 1800s. India is a country that I've little knowledge of its history and culture. The caste social system is expounded on in the story, as well as the history of the Indian Mutiny.
An important feature in the story is God and mission work. Rebecca's parents left England and were missionaries in India. Rebecca was active in working alongside her parents. She knows Scripture and is a prayer warrior.
Rebecca has an abiding love for India and its people. England is a stranger. This added a fresh take to the story. Rebecca is English, yet has little memory of England and its current Victorian culture.

About the author:
Sandra Byrd is a best-selling author and has earned Library Journal's Best Books of the year pick twice, in 2011 for To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, and in 2012 for The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.  She's twice been a Christy Award finalist, for To Die For and for Let Them Eat Cake: A Novel. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published April 2013
Sandra Byrd's website
Sandra @ Pinterest 
Sandra @ Twitter
Sandra @ Facebook