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euniceMy latest read, provided to me for review, was Sophie Hudson’s Giddy Up, Eunice. I have to say up front I tend toward more serious books and I am easily distracted and put off by parenthetical comments. I want to get to the meat of the story and those things just get in the way. Parenthetical comments abound in this book!

That being said, I did enjoy the book and though there were lots of cutsey comments for me to weed through, there were some wonderful nuggets that made it worth it. The book truly captures the value of mentoring and the richness of cross-generational relationships.

Hudson uses three such relationships from the Bible – Elizabeth and Mary, Naomi and Ruth and Eunice and Lois. I thought her perspective on these relationships was fresh and insightful. Where do we go when we find ourselves in a troubling situation? We seek the one who has experienced something similar. Mary ran to her cousin Elizabeth because a surprise pregnancy was right up her alley. Ruth, a broken widow, aligned herself with an experienced woman in the same boat, her mother in law, Naomi. And the beautiful relationship between Lois and Eunice spilled out on Timothy, setting his life path.

There is much humor between the pages and Hudson’s personal stories give practical examples of how strong relationships deepen us, carry us and help us survive. This would be a great gift book for a sister, a mother, a grandmother or a friend. Anyone on the receiving end would be touched by the message in the book, and the message in the gift – that they are special and that the relationship between the giver and the recipient is precious.

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51m3BdLgQJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_[1]Just finished reading Churchfails – 100 Blunders in Church History (& what we can learn from them), David Stabnow, General Editor. This book was provided to me through B&H Bloggers for the purpose of this review. The thoughts and opinions are purely my own. I am not a dedicated history buff and this is not my general choice of reading material. But I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

What a fun and informative book. Written in a most palliative and quick read style, and certainly anything but dry. The churchfails outlined begin as early as 35 AD and continue through to modern times outlining how seemingly intelligent and sane people twist theology and wander off in surprisingly ridiculous tangents.

Each short article gives a one or two line synopsis, a biography of the offshoot leader, defines the main theme of the churchfail, and then gives application for today.  Humor is incorporated in a way that makes us laugh not just at the wrong thinking of the leader but at ourselves and how easily we are led down the meandering path, away from solid theology if we aren’t careful.

Some of my favorites:

Marcion of Sinope who rejected all of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament, keeping only what supported his beliefs. He was the first to bring together certain Christian books and call them the writings of the church. Unfortunately, he selected only portions he agreed with and eliminated anything he didn’t like. As a result he was excommunicated, branded as a heretic and Marcionism died out.  The application for today: many modern day churches do the same – pick and choose what they want from the Bible and ignore the rest. The author points out that “no book, no miracle, and no nation should be left out of our message; the whole plan of God should be preached (Acts 20:27).”

Hippolytus of Rome who “never met a pope he didn’t agree with” and who also became the first in history to work out the exact date of Christ’s return. He met five popes in his lifetime and had issues with each which he was quick to verbalize. The application for today is the warning to avoid being known only for what you disagree with. And of course, for attempting to do what the Bible says is impossible – predict the exact day of the second coming.

Matthew Caffyn who was highly intelligent and decided if his brilliant mind couldn’t fully comprehend such things as how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit could be one and the same then it must not be true. He disregarded the biblical teaching of centuries and came to the conclusion that he was wiser than the scholars before him. As the writer points out in the application for today, even Solomon, who was considered the wisest man on earth, had 700 wives and 300 concubines! How smart was that when with those wives came 700 mother-in-laws! In the case of Caffyn we are reminded “haughty arrogance regarding ones own abilities leads to one’s downfall.”

Throughout the book we are reminded how foolish it is to veer from scripture and assume we have a new answer or a new theology. There’s a reason the Gospel of Christ has endured – it is true and pure and life giving.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants glimpses into the history of churchfails and a few laughs along the way.

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4197o3w9xeL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_[1]I recently read After Easter by Jeremy R. Howard and Doug Powell and this is a review of the book.

This may seem a little late since Easter is long past, but truthfully you could read this book anytime and be amazed all over again by the miracle of the cross.

A new Christian will read this book and journey from the Garden to the Cross, gaining a good understanding of how the whole redemption story came to be. A seasoned Christian will read the book and be refreshed in remembering the significance of why the Son of God had to die. Both will be humbled again by the realization that He did it for us.

I like how this book gives scriptural and scientific evidence for the events that led to the empty tomb, and even gives clear details of how the early church began and took the mission of Christ seriously.

The book can be read in a short period time but that certainly doesn’t indicate it is shallow. Quite the opposite. The depth of detail contained in its 60 pages is amazing. I would highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to boost their witnessing ability. It would make a nice gift and should certainly be in every church library.

I am a Lifeway/B&H blogger and received a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

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51HG9Gv9bIL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_[1]I belong to a book review group through B&H Bloggers and am able to acquire books to read at no charge and post reviews. When I saw the topic of the book Cherish by Vicki Courtney, I thought of my young granddaughters and was led to check it out. So glad I did.

What a wonderful down to earth and easy to read yet deep book on cultivating relationships for teen girls. Courtney addresses relationships with friends, family, self, guys and God in such a simple straightforward way. Courtney poses the question “instead of just surviving relationships, why not cherish them?”

In the opening chapter she addresses what makes up a good friend (someone who doesn’t ditch you on your worst days, keeps a secret when she should, makes right choices and helps point you to God) and then turns right around and poses the question, What about You? The reader is encouraged to take a moment and examine how they measure up to those four points. I love how she addresses Friendship Fixers – ways to strengthen yourself as a friend and so much more in this chapter from when it’s time to end a friendship, how to survive girl drama, gossip, how to balance out relationships with Christian and non-Christian friends, and my favorite – how to be a real friend in a digital world. Courtney dedicates the final part of the chapter to how to recognize when a friend needs help and when it’s critical that you talk to an adult about a friend’s issues.

Throughout each chapter she splashes scripture and quick quizzes that just really make the book personal. The scriptures are presented in such a way as to not be preachy but to bring that “wow” reaction for how there is a Word from God on every topic.

On her chapter for family relationships she starts off with a bang, addressing the trust issue. Her nine points are perfect – everything a parent would tell a teen and find it falling on deaf ears. Courtney doesn’t lecture, just lists the facts that make sense (follow the rules, associate with people of good character, admit mistakes, etc.)The 25 things that will make your parents smile are great. and the section E is for Embarrassing – yep, sometimes we embarrass our kids! Courtney balances respect for parents with sitting down and having a conversation about how the parent can avoid embarrassing you again in the same manner.

She talks about divorce and unsafe home situations, getting along with siblings and blended families and even dealing with non-Christian parents when you’ve become one.

The chapter on self is beautifully done, reminding the reader how to find God’s truth about beauty and value in a world that’s a bit twisted in these areas. She even gives a great chart on what other religions believe so a teen can understand the differences. So much more in this chapter that is pertinent and appropriate for what teens face every day right down to coping with the death of a friend or loved one.

The chapter on relationships with guys starts with a bang by listing the actual responses from boys when asked: Describe the perfect girl, What do girls do that send you running, and Why do some guys act like they like you one day and ignore you the next. (My favorite response to that last one, “I think you are overanalyzing this – we are really very simple.” Spot on – we as females tend to deeply overanalyze, they as males tend to be pretty on the surface with things.) The reader will find real answers to why it’s important to dress appropriately, what sexual purity really means, why we date and questions to ask before you date a guy. I loved that Courtney covered abuse in a relationship and lies about sex because our girls, in their need to be popular and be loved, are so vulnerable to the dangers.

Finally, in the chapter addressing the relationship with God, the author makes it clear it’s not just about streets of gold and angel wings. She lays out the plan for a personal, close relationship with the One who can truly guard and guide the young girls journey through this life.

The book is contemporary and frank, beautifully written and easy to read. I am passing on my copy to my granddaughters who are just entering their teens and praying that they will glean from this insights that will ground them in a well rounded, satisfying relationships.

I would recommend the book to any parent, grandparent, or friend of teen girls. It would make a wonderful gift. And handing it off to a young girl would be an expression of love, show that you care, you understand the challenges in the world today, and you want the best for her.

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It's a ... novel!

It’s a … novel!

As I put the finishing touches on a manuscript I will enter in the Genesis contest with American Christian Fiction Writers I am deluged with advice from the blogs of other writers, critique comments, bullet points from books on the craft of writing and of course, my own gut feelings.

When you have a baby, you want the best for it.  You want to be the best parent, give great counsel, love unconditionally, and have moments when you can sit back and beam proudly at your accomplishment. It’s no different with the birth of a manuscript.

The problem with parenting is that often love is blind and you find yourself overlooking things that should be corrected, behaviors that should be stopped, disciplinary action that should be taken and a few other mistakes. The problem with writing – ditto.

My first big struggle came when input from a contest judge stated my story was good and publishable but she questioned whether first person was the right point of view for the story.  Two other judges in the contest gave feedback that my voice was light and funny and really lent enjoyment to the story.

So what to do?  I decided to take chapter one and try a different point of view.  I worked diligently, but in the end I couldn’t do it.  It just didn’t feel right. The story didn’t flow and it didn’t make me smile when I read it back.  I made an executive decision to leave the point of view alone.

My second struggle came with the advice every writer gets from every critique, every article and every bit of advice from seasoned authors – too much back story.  My first reaction,  “But you have to get to know my MC before you will really understand the story.  She is her history. You want me to cut all that good stuff out?  I’m going to need a lot of anesthesia for that kind of surgery.  And a supply of pain killers afterward.” 

I began cutting, bleeding and moaning at each step.  What I discovered in the long run was all that history is what led me to know my character intimately. And because I knew her so well, I could tell her story in the present letting her personality and her actions suggest the history that made her the way she is.  Brilliant!

The third big struggle was with the story being “overwritten”.  I had to study that comment because I wasn’t sure what it meant.  Reading back through the manuscript I found  it was all action.  Action is good.  Action is key. Action is what moves the story forward. However, as I observed from some of my favorite reads, now and then the reader needs a chance to catch a breath, experience a golden moment, bask in a lazy description of the scene, the prophetic moment, the romance, the MC’s dreams, even a crazy conversation between two characters that seems to have no relevance to the main theme.

When I went back and broke up the action a little with some of this frosting on the cake stuff, I loved it.  It began to read like a novel you can’t put down.

I’m excited about one or two more edits before submitting it for the contest.  And I’m excited that once again I learned a couple of valuable lessons in the process.

  • You can love your work too much and it will cause you to ignore valuable guidance. Just like parenting, once in a while you have to look past the “my perfect child” part and address the little flaws that if not corrected can result in a big problem.
  • You can love your work too little and let the miles and miles of advice take you away from your core idea. Editing and correcting, cutting and revising are good until you find you’ve lost the “you” in your writing. Each writer is unique in some way. Don’t lose sight of your special something that exists in everything you  compose.
  • You can never know too much about your character, but you can certainly reveal too much about your character. Back story is like Elmer’s glue – a little goes a long way. Don’t put so much in that your reader gets stuck . But include just enough to get the reader attached.
  • As in all things, seek guidance, pray, trust your instincts and be willing to take a risk. Every parent knows there is a lot of “seat of your pants” parenting that goes into a well raised child.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”   Kurt Vonnegut

Psalms 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

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It happens every January 1, a new year like a blank page begging for a story.  It stretches out before you, not yet sullied, not yet marked by disappointment, not yet peppered with regret.  You look back and analyze the past year and there are always parts you’d like to erase.  You look forward and begin to make resolutions that will guarantee improvement.

There is excitement and enthusiasm for a while.  If you are like me, you get into a cleaning frenzy.  You reorganize.  You dust corners you’ve forgotten about for the past several months.  I would love to start every year by throwing out the old wardrobe and starting over with everything brand new, never worn. 

The first day of a new year is perfection – for about five minutes.  Hard as you try you can’t keep it that way. Before the day ends you’ve probably said something you wish you hadn’t, neglected something you should have taken care of, and shoved an item into a place it didn’t go. All those wonderful resolutions already starting to crumble and you have another 364 days to go.

Still, I am a hopeless resolution maker. I am a dreamer of better decisions, kinder thoughts, more generous actions and a deeper walk. I am a seeker of more meaning and richer relationships.  I am a planner of more organized days and fewer busy nights.

For several years now I have been reading through the Bible, beginning January 1st and finishing triumphantly December 31st. I have not failed to live up to this commitment yet.

And God has not failed to reveal new ideas and thoughts to me through His amazing words.  Here is the perfect example.

It’s January 3, 2013 and I have just read through the story of creation again.  I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve studied this particular section of scripture. However, this is the first time I was struck with how it parallels the start of a brand new year. Picture God looking out on nothing and deciding to create something, so He starts with light.

Now here is the clue God gave me for how to improve my life in 2013. God didn’t create light and jump to the next step. “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good,…” Genesis 1:3-4a

God took time to look His first step over and make sure it was good before moving on. What a thought!  Take time to make sure where you are is right and good before you move forward.

To me that means when the realization comes that I’ve stumbled in thought, word or deed, I need to stop and make amends. When I’m short with my husband, who is one of the few people who can push me from my normally tolerant and gentle self to irritation, I can’t just walk on.  I have to stop and ask forgiveness because I desire to please God in all things.  I want Him to look at me and say “that was good, move on.”

When I neglect my devotions or don’t take time with someone who needs time, or spread gossip, or fail to put all of my effort or talent in what God has called me to do, I need to go back and make it right.

God stopped several times in the creation process and assessed His work. Did the world He created stay beautiful and unsullied? Nope.  Man messed it up within a very short time, and continues to distort it every day. But that doesn’t change what God did.

Take some time this first week of 2013 to look for the original good in God’s actions that first week of the very first year ever.  Here’s what you will find:

  • There is still heart wrenching, soul moving beauty in a sunrise. 
  • There is still tranquility in the still waters and breathtaking power in a waterfall.
  • There is still majesty beyond description in the mighty mountains and cool, soothing peace in the lush valleys.
  • There is still hope in the shimmer of moonlight, laughter in the antics of animals, wonder in the effortless soaring of a bird, faith in the ebb and flow of the ocean.
  • And never doubt, there is still goodness in man. The news may try to hide it, evil will try to cast a shadow on it. But it’s there, every day, in the heart and spirit of the ones who choose to walk with God and live out love, forgiveness and grace.

Look for it and you will find it. When you do, remind yourself “it is good”.

 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good….” Genesis 1:31a

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MB900423031[1]Here’s what I discovered in the month of November. There are limits to what I can accomplish. I am a chronic over-committer, over-achiever, over-estimator and over-just about everything else.

This past month it came to a head. Here’s what I had on my plate:

  • Full time plus job (and it’s open enrollment which means a steady parade of employees in my HR office, a plethora of paperwork, and a million questions to answer)
  • My commitment to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
  • Thanksgiving with all the pie baking, etc.
  • My birthday with lunches and meeting friends over coffee and family stuff.
  • Weekly practices with the Christmas choir.
  • Writing of the Christmas pageant.
  • Early Christmas shopping (I did black Friday!!!)
  • All my regular scheduled meetings, bible studies and worship activities.
  • Friends in crisis.
  • And – well – the rest I can’t remember because I am too tired

I think I’m getting old. My body doesn’t hold up as well as it used to and I hate to admit this but I get tired sometimes. There is nothing that gets my dander up more than sitting down in my chair by the fire and falling asleep immediately. I need some kind of device that sends an electric shock through my body the second my head nods.

Everything on my list is something I want to do, enjoy and never want to give up. Not only that, but there are even more things that I’d like to get involved in but to do them I’d have to give up sleeping all together.  It seems the days get shorter and what used to be plenty of time seems to have become never enough time.

Looking back my great regret is that I did not finish the novel.  I did get ten chapters and 20,000 words written.  I wrote from 4:00 a.m. until 5:00 a.m. almost every morning. I squeezed a few more minutes in here and there. I jotted handwritten notes in grocery lines and on my lunch breaks to transcribe later. But I just couldn’t get there. I feel bad about it because I seldom let myself fail to do what I’ve set my mind on.

So I’m using this blog to give myself a pep talk.

  • I didn’t finish but at least I started and it’s a really good start.
  • My novel is shaping up to be a good one.
  • I discovered that I can shake the cobwebs from my brain even earlier than usual (I usually don’t get up until 4:30 a.m. and then I spend fifteen or twenty minutes sipping coffee and letting my brain coast.)
  • The world does not end when you admit that you failed.
  • Life is too short to beat yourself up.
  • When I look at my list, the novel is the only thing I did not accomplish so that in itself is a pat on the back, right?

Writing is hard work. Work is hard work. Having fun is hard work. Ministry is hard work. Anything that you are committed to doing well is hard work.

There, I feel better.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.1 Cor 10:31

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