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Lifeway provided me with this picture book, The Marvelous Mud House by April Granley, for an honest review.

All I can say is Yes! This is the perfect time of year for gifting this book to a child, grandchild, niece, nephew or any other child who needs a Mud Housemessage on abundance.  Beautifully written, it is the story of the hungry household where there is a constant want for more and the contented family in the marvelous mud house. It’s about discovery and joy and looking beyond yourself to see a greater need.

Not only is the story well done, but I was captivated by the illustrations – rich colors and appealing designs.  Children will love discovering all of the interesting things on each page that point to the different cultures. And the song the mother and her son in Kenya sing declaring their great wealth (though they have little compared to the hungry household) is beautiful.

The ending is perfect.  “Two houses that night rang with laughter and dance, one marvelous mud house on a mountain, and one happy house on a ranch!” 

What a beautiful story to teach the value of fullness and joy.  I highly recommend this book be placed under every Christmas tree, in every church nursery and on every grandparent’s bookshelf.  It is sure to become a classic read.

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As a worship leader this book spoke to me. The reinforcement given that singing is a vital part of the Christian life, the church and the soul was refreshing. Keith and Kristyn Getty have so thoroughly defined the premise behind why we sing our praises. It’s broken down into chapters that discuss how we are created, commanded and compelled to sing. That singing is personal but also a spiritual gift for bonding the family and for unifying the church. As you read through the book you realize why you are spurred to singing in the shower and at the top of your lungs in the car. Even the one who thinks they can’t carry a tune in a bucket will be inspired by this book and will be willing to step out and let their voice be heard. I’ve shared so many snippets from the book with my congregation and I would recommend it to every pastor and worship team as required reading.

Seasons

As autumn sweeps over the valley I call home I can’t help but marvel at the beauty and wonder that in all actuality signals the death of summer and warns us that winter is just around the corner. I am a warm weather lover. I don’t shed my jacket until the air hits at least 75 degrees, 80 is better and 85 is perfect. I want to be out in it, inhaling sunshine. But as soon as that pre-winter chill hits, I’m the sit by the fire and read girl, a quilt over my legs and a hot beverage in my hand.

Still – autumn captures me. I love russet maples. I love the sight of trees that rain down gold and yellow. I love the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet and I smile when one lands lightly on my hair or floats past close enough to brush my cheek. Logically I know they are dying. But spiritually, I sense them dancing.

They have accomplished their mission in life, to bud and unfurl and shine lush green, giving shelter to birds and squirrels and frisky house cats. They have dressed the branches in a vibrant veil of life and given the breeze something to tickle. They’ve provided shade for the summer lover, a cool spot to sit and watch bees and butterflies do their thing.

And now that their virile days are over, they don’t go out without making a statement. Oh no – nothing quiet about their golden age. They transform. They get out their catchiest outfits, they wear red, they laugh in rusty tones, they twirl and float and settle soft.
They know the secret. They know that while others might see their purpose at an end, they have much more to offer. Children will love to jump and play in them, friends will enjoy walking through them, couples will grasp hands for warmth and share special moments taking in the beauty they add to the landscape.

Winter will come, snow will cover them until the world forgets they were ever there. But they will still be doing their work, mulching the earth to provide nourishment for the new growth that comes with the spring.

Never forget that like the leaves, God has a purpose and a plan for us at every age. Our mission is to listen, follow His leading, and embrace our value in our current season. Don’t lament the fertile green we once wore when you can dress in a ball gown of autumn colors. Don’t regret the day you find you must rest at the root of the tree when you can treasure the memory of the journey that brought you there and the rich heritage you leave for the new growth that is nourished by it.

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come” . Psalm 71:18

Lisa Harper’s book, The Sacrament of Happy, What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World, is aSacrifice fast but truly valuable read.

What I love about this book:  It’s not a textbook on how to be happy, it’s not a make-you-feel-guilty if you’re not happy book, and it’s not a super spiritual do this and you’ll be happy book. It’s practical, it’s amusing, it’s real. Sometimes life circumstances make us unhappy but happy isn’t about life circumstances. It’s about perspective.

I’m currently suffering through a few weeks of recovering from an injury that has me on crutches and – worst nightmare of all, unable to drive. This was the perfect book for me to review at this point in time.

Lisa opens with a chapter called Is Happy Even Holy? And – you’ll be happy to know it is. She points out that happy is “a covenant state of being for God’s people.” And then goes on to ask Is God Happy?

This was my favorite chapter because I’d never grasped before that a perfect God would have to be happy. And how that is proven in scripture when it says He takes great delight in us. A delighted God is a happy God.

Further on Lisa explains how we get happy, how we stay happy even in sad times, and how we regain happy when we’ve lost it. Some of her illustrations are eye opening, I never thought of that kinds of revelation. For instance, in her use of the Good Samaritan story in chapter four she points out that the priest, the very one who passed the injured Samaritan by, had probably been burning incense and offering sacrifices all week in pursuit of God’s guidance and favor.  Clearly God tells us how to be happy but so many times, like the priest, we walk right by the opportunity.

I loved her “momma, I lub your breasts” story and the reminder that God laughs (Ps 2:4a). I loved her emphasis on the outward expression of happy through dancing and arm waving.

Lisa ends this book with some great thoughts on cultivating happy by taking our thoughts captive and remembering it’s the pouring out of ourselves that bring the best return and builds the happiness that withstands the hard blows of life.

I highly recommend this book regardless of where you are on the happiness scale at the moment. If you are up, you’ll need the information contained between its pages to help you when you’re down.  And if you’re down, you will be inspired out of your dark place into a place of light where you can learn to laugh again.

I was provided a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

 

515d3fl4iNL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Just finished reading The Curious Christian: How discovering wonder enriches every part of life by Barnabas Piper. The book was provided to me in return for an honest review.

Piper makes the point in this book that all great discoveries didn’t just happen – they came about through research and trial and error. “Creativity is discovery put to good use in a fresh way. We cannot discover unless we ask and search; that is curiosity!”
Piper addresses the fact that we need to be constantly questioning and seeking new depths, new revelations, and new ways of expressing our faith. It’s so easy to become complacent about our Christian walk – not necessarily moving away from our beliefs, but certainly not moving closer to God through what we believe. As the author points out, curiosity is a valuable tool in any are of our life if we want what we invest our time and intellect in is to be vibrant and challenging.

The book is an easy, quick read and while I didn’t find it a “page turner” I did find it interesting and a worthwhile read. Curiosity that comes so easily to children is often quenched and buried in adults. But opening our minds to asking and seeking can take us back to the excitement of discovery we once experienced. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs practical advice on stepping up their game whether it be in Christian ministry, their personal Christian walk or any other area of their life.

Wouldn’t life be great if we started at point A and moved to point B in a straight line?  Well, as this book makes apparent, no it wouldn’t.  The path to our destiny requires detours to help us mature, strengthen and develop into the person who can handle the destiny when it’s reached.

In his typical way, Tony Evans has written a book that relates to anyone who picks it up and opens to page one. “Detours are a good thing that often feels bad.”

Using the life of Joseph as the thread that carries out the theme, this book clearly opens the door to seeing the turns and roadblocks in life as vital parts of God’s plan for us to realize the very specific, very unique destiny that is ours from the day He blew breath into our lungs.

In his book, the author defines destiny as “the customized life calling for which God has equipped and ordained us, in order to bring Him the greatest glory and the maximum expansion of His kingdom.”  He goes on to explain how God will use the good, the bad and the bitter to get us there.

I’m a highlighter and this book tested the ink in my pink pen! Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Your destiny is not just to go through the motions day-in and day-out. It is a God-designed stamp on your soul that involves the use of your time, talents, and treasures for His glory and other people’s good for the advancement of His kingdom.”

“…in order to arrive at an authentic hope in your spirit, accepting your detours is necessary.”

“God creates detours in order to perform some construction on the pathways of our soul. ….. And depending on how we respond to our detours, we may need to be roadblocked several times before we reach where we are supposed to go.”

And my very favorite:  “When you fill a sponge full of water and then you add pressure to the sponge, water is going to flow out because it is full of water. When you are going through a trial and you feel the pressure of life caving in around you, how much of God comes out?”

And these are from just the first 50 pages!  I could go on and on. But you’d be better off running to the store and grabbing this book off the shelf. Because you are going to want to get to this one:  “Friend, if you ever get providence – the subset of sovereignty – understood, you will begin to view all of life differently. You will begin to rest when you used to fret. You will begin to breathe easily when you used to worry. You will begin to give thanks when you used to be filled with bitterness or regret. To fully live out the victorious Christian life and experience the abundance Jesus Christ died to provide, you must live and look at the events of your life through the lens of providence.”

You will find Detours by Tony Evans an easy, rewarding read filled with great perspective and profound revelation in how God uses the detours in the road to our destiny.

I received this book at no charge so that I would provide an honest review. I would very highly recommend this book to anyone whose path in life has and is filled with curves and roadblocks.

Best book I’ve read on what God’s mission for His people is and how we are to respond.

In the very first chapter the authors make clear what the mission of God is by Israel’s mission in the Testament, “to live its life in such a manner that people would want to be saved by their God”; the mission of Jesus, atonement certainly, but to show us a life to imitate in order to lead others to God; and our mission, “God intends for His people to make disciples of every nation including our own.”

The book is concise and to the point. It is broken down into small chapters that cover where I am called to go with my church, my neighborhood, the nations, my job and anywhere else.

I loved this statement in chapter one, “Our mission is upward, inward, backward, forward, and outward.”  Capturing people for God through His word along with gospel-motivated and gospel-centered actions is the basic theme. And each chapter ends with a fill in the blanks Call To Action.

I found the chapter on the church to be profound in it’s clarification of what church is and how to find a “real” church. And this:  “Today on planet Earth King Jesus is the head of a body that the Bible calls the church. It is truly an incredible organism animated and empowered by his Spirit. It has a mind that can think his thoughts and have his perspective. It has eyes that can see the needs of neighbors. It has ears that can hear the cries of the nations. It has a mouth that can proclaim the good news of the gospel. It has legs that can walk to the hurting. It has arms that can embrace those in pain. It has hands that can serve those in need. It has feet that can be blistered and backs that can be whipped, all for the sake of a King who did all of this for us and so much more. This body called the church makes Jesus Christ real to this world.”

I could go on and on with the thoughts and the quotes. But I will just say this – every church needs to order some of these and make them required reading for  at least the Board and the ministry leaders.

NOTE:  This book was received free of charge from B&H Publishing in return for an honest review.