Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Christian Survival Guide

A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth
About The Book:  What enables some to survive as Christians when so many others falter? Without resorting to empty answers, clich├ęs, relativism, or smug certainty, A Christian Survival Guide provides an accessible and safe place to deal with issues that can give Christians sleepless nights. By focusing on spiritual practices, discussing solutions to faith struggles, and offering perspectives from multiple Christian traditions, this survival guide moves readers into a thriving relationship with God, even if that means not necessarily finding all the answers.
A Christian Survival Guide doesn’t run away from the big, tough questions of life like:
• Does the Bible have to be “true”?
• Where is God in an evil world?
• Did God sanction genocide?
• Is hell eternal conscious torment?

• Does money keep us from following Jesus?

About The Author: Ed Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology and the coauthor of Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from Those Who Doubted Jesus and The Good News of Revelation. He is a freelance writer who has contributed to numerous magazines and book projects. He writes about imperfectly following Jesus at www.edcyzewski.com.
My Thoughts On The Book:  This book is not a heavy hitting, verse by verse study.  It is however an easy to read, sometimes uncomfortable, lifeline for today's Christian who needs some answers.  In his introduction is an encouragement to examine your way of thinking and go from surviving to thriving.  He tells shows us in the introduction that surviving is not something you just do.....surviving takes planning.  He gives us some insight into the marks of a Messy Christian vs a Happy Christian and how both can fail to thrive as a follower of Jesus.  That was eye opening for me!  The book is then divided into two parts.  Part I deals with Christian beliefs and although I did not completely agree with some of his thoughts I could see where Cyzewski was coming from.  Each chapter was short and easy to read which would not bog down someone looking for some answers.  Part II was on Christian Practices and the most startling chapter for me dealt with bad churches happening to good people.  This one touched close to home.  Overall I enjoyed reading the book.  It made me uncomfortable at times.  I gave me some answers.  I would share it with friends I know are struggling for answers.
Disclaimer: This book was given to me by Kregel Publishers Blog Tour Program in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts are entirely my own.  Thank you for this opportunity.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Quilts of Love: A Grand Design

About Quilts of Love: Quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. The Quilts of Love series focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family histories. A new book releases each month and features contemporary and historical romances as well as women's fiction and the occasional light mystery. You will be drawn into the endearing characters of this series and be touched by their stories.

About the Book: A getaway on a charming island may be just what Alyssa needs---if only she can let go of her past.  When Alyssa Denham, a single career woman, wins a fun getaway for two on Mackinac Island where her grandmother lives, she gives her carefree best friend a call. Together, they tour the old shops and hidden treasures of the quaint island while helping Alyssa's grandmother piece together an heirloom quilt. Their quest gains them entrance into the homes of many longtime residents of the island, parts of the city that are otherwise off limits to tourists.  As the quilt's story takes shape, Alyssa gains amazing insight into her grandmother's life . . . and attracts the attention of the handsome Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. Will memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go? Or will the quest to piece together the heirloom quilt restore Alyssa's fractured heart---and bring healing to her entire family?

Learn more about this book and the series at the Quilts of Love website.


About The Author:  Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. It seemed only natural to progress into writing down those stories and launching a career in publishing. So far, she has sold 14 books, contributed to 2 others, and have been published in a wide variety of magazines and online sites. Sandra Bishop, of MacGregor Literary, is her agent, and she's doing an amazing job partnering with Stockton. More books are on the horizon.  And now for all that other stuff...Amber married the love of her life in July 2007 and lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, their daughter and son, and their Aussie/retriever mix, Roxie.  Stockton firmly believes a good book can take you away from your present reality into a world you've never seen. With a passion for history (and a minor from college), her books take you back to the worlds that once were and give you a slice of life amidst the adventures and faith of her characters.  Some other tidbits: Amber Stockton was once the only living female Miller in her family; she is related to former President Woodrow Wilson through her great-grandfather's cousin; she has traveled to 41 of the 50 U.S. states and collects playing cards from all of her travels; and she once recorded a CD with a 100+ member choir.  She love to hear from her readers. Feel free to begin a discussion below or check out her other sites (www.amberstockton.com; www.facebook.com/authoramberstockton; www.twitter.com/amberstockton) and leave feedback there.


My Thoughts About The Book:  I have loved all the Quilts of Love series, but this one is my absolute favorite.  I have traveled to Mackinac Island, where the story takes place, and understand the draw that Alyssa feels for the island.  This story is one of those that once you begin reading it you feel as if you are one of the characters inside the pages of the story.  The descriptions were so vivid that I actually pulled out my pictures just to make sure she was accurate.  She was spot on.  Stockton is quite a character developer and I cannot wait to read some more of her books.  I could not put the book down and read it in one sitting.  This is a must read even if you have not read any of the other books in the series. 
Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the Litfust Bloggers Program in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts are entirely my own.  Thank you for this opportunity.




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Down, But Not Out!

Not too long ago, the website Business Insider, published an article entitled, “7 Brutally Honest Rejection Letters.” Included in this article were rejection letters to a woman seeking employment in Disney’s creative department in 1938, one to author Gertrude Stein, and screenwriter Tim Burton. Or how about this rejection from the New Delta Review, a literary magazine based in Baton Rouge: “Thank you for submitting. Unfortunately, the work you sent is quite terrible. Please forgive the form rejection, but it would take too much of my time to tell you exactly how terrible it was. So again, sorry for the form letter.”  We cringe just hearing these letters, don’t we? We can all identify with the pain of rejection, I think. It’s happened in our lives in one way or another, though hopefully not as brutally as the poor folks on the receiving end of these letters! We can’t know what happened to the people who received these rejections. They may have looked at this bad news as just another bump in the road to what they were sure would be a promising career. Or these letters may have stopped their careers before they even really started. In my senior year of college, I decided I wanted to go to grad school to pursue a master’s degree in Shakespeare so I could work for England’s BBC. I applied to Oxford and Trinity College in Dublin. I applied for a summer internship at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and I was rejected by all three. That was it for me, and it sure did make me sad. I did go on to school to get a graduate degree in but it was in English education. I decided if I could not work for the BBC I would teach high school British English.  The road I wanted was not mine…it belonged to someone else.  I took the road God opened for me….Rejection isn’t the end of the road, is it? And as we all know, Tim Burton and Gertrude Stein went on to excel in their chosen fields; the early rejection they both received perhaps a motivation to try even harder to attain their greatest wishes. Rejection doesn’t have to stop us, either. Certainly, rejection wasn’t a deterrent to the Canaanite woman in this morning’s scripture reading. She wanted her ailing daughter to be made well, and she wasn’t going to give up until that very thing happened.
Read Matthew 15:21-28
So let’s take a look at the woman at the center of today’s passage from Matthew. This woman’s story is recorded twice in the gospels; here in Matthew, but also in Mark’s gospel, where she is described as the Syro-Phoenecian woman. In both cases, the intent is to make very clear that this woman is an outsider. She is not a Jew. Mark’s description of the woman as Syro-Phoenician is geographical, placing here in a region beyond the bounds of Jewish territory; an area that we would refer to as Gentile territory. Matthew takes the distinction a bit further by describing her as a Canaanite. In doing this, Matthew is not just placing her outside Jewish territory, but actually setting her against the Jews, as the Canaanites were the people the Jews displaced in order to move into the Promised Land centuries before. Clearly, this woman is not a person Jews would associate with under normal circumstances.
The next thing we learn about this woman is that she has a daughter who is suffering from demon possession. I believe it is safe to assume that like the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, this woman was also desperate for healing. Many of you know the pain of watching your child suffer, even when it’s just from a little stomach virus. You’d do anything to make the aches and pains stop. Parents of children suffering from cancer often say they wish they had gotten cancer instead of their children. We do anything and everything we can when our children are sick to make them comfortable and to help them get better as quickly as possible. And that’s exactly what this Canaanite woman is doing. She has heard about a Jewish healer named Jesus, and she wants to see if maybe he can heal her daughter of this agonizing affliction.
And it just so happens that Jesus is in the region. As Jesus makes his way through Tyre and Sidon, the Canaanite woman sees the perfect opportunity, and she knows she must seize it. She sees Jesus walking by, and so she does what any of us would do when we have a sick child and a renowned healer is in the neighborhood, she cries out to him. What follows is a four-fold rejection. First, Jesus ignores the woman. Undeterred it seems, the woman continued to cry out, for the next rejection was dealt by the disciples. Obviously annoyed by the woman’s noisy nagging, they appeal to Jesus to at least send her away, which prompts the third rejection. This time, Jesus responds neither to the persistent cries of the Canaanite woman, nor to the pleas of the disciples. Instead, he makes a rather general statement indicating that he has no intention of getting involved with this outsider woman and her daughter. “I have been sent only to the lost sheep, the children of Israel.”
But Jesus, it seems, has underestimated this woman. She stops crying out now and instead employs a new tactic; she throws herself at Jesus’ feet. “Lord,” she says, “help me.” She wants her daughter to be healed, and she knows that this man can do it. She has tried every other possibility, and with nothing but failure to show for it, she needs Jesus to help her. But again, she is rejected. This time, I imagine, Jesus must have looked at her with some measure of compassion and understanding as he said to her, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
Now, before we go on here, I think we need to take a moment to understand why Jesus was rejecting this woman just as persistently as she was pleading with him. Though his words are harsh and seem to indicate that Jesus came only to save the Jewish people, that was not the case. Already in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus has raised the daughter of a Roman centurion. Nevertheless, Jesus understood very clearly from his Father that his mission began with the lost of Israel; his task wasn’t simply to be a traveling doctor, healing every sick person he met. So Jesus was going along with his disciples, traveling from one region to another, trying very intently to reach the lost people of Israel and restore them to right relationship with God.
Think of it like this: If you are taking your child to school, the goal is to get your child to school, and that’s what you do first. Unless you have planned in plenty of extra time, you typically don’t go grocery shopping, stop for a walk in the park, or bowl a few frames at the bowling alley. You and your child get in the car, and you drive your child to school where you drop them off before, perhaps, dealing with some of the other tasks for the day like a trip to the store. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to do what needs to be done, but that you have one mission to accomplish before you can tackle the next.
It just so happens that as Jesus is traveling through Tyre and Sidon, he is singularly focused on the people of Israel and helping them become a light to the nations as was always the intention. And so Jesus does not want to take time now to deal with this non-Jewish woman who has thrown herself into his path. It would seem that he has even gotten annoyed with her as he, in his final rejection, refers to her as a dog, which was one way Jews commonly referred to Canaanites. But this woman is desperate, and she is crafty in her desperateness, as she takes Jesus’ words and turns them right around on him. “Yes, Lord,” she says, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their master’s tables.”
I’m not sure I can adequately describe to you what this woman has done in this one simple sentence. It is truly masterful, and not only because she has boldly used Jesus’ own words against him in support of her cause. The woman accepts her identity as a lowly “dog,” an “outsider” in Jewish thought. And yet, at the same time, she has placed herself within the reign of God’s kingdom. She recognizes Jesus as the Master, and she places herself as the dog scrounging crumbs under that Master’s table; lowly, and yet still within the Master’s presence. Even more than that, without being taught, she takes the approach of a mustard seed-sized faith as she says to Jesus, in essence, “I don’t require much, only enough that my daughter be well, and from you, even the leftovers, the crumbs can take care of that.”
Is it really any wonder that Jesus finally relents? Here Jesus has been going around preaching, teaching, and healing among the Israelites, and still God’s people don’t understand. Even his own disciples have had difficulty wrapping their heads around what it means that the Messiah is in their midst. They continue to question, they continue to doubt, they continue to falter in faith; but not this woman. She has probably never heard from Jesus himself, and yet she has heard enough about him to understand. Here is the great physician, the savior of all peoples, the Messiah. She is in his presence, and she knows that he has the power to heal her daughter. So she says what any parent would say, “Help me.”
How many times have we prayed that prayer, and how many times have we felt rejected in the response or lack thereof? Here’s what we need to learn from this Canaanite woman with the very sick daughter. Again and again this woman violates boundaries; boundaries set up because of ethnicity, heritage, religion, gender, and demon possession. This woman refuses to allow even Jesus to let “tradition” become a barrier, blocking her access to the grace of God that she knows is there. The Canaanite woman comes to Jesus with a crystal-clear, unshakable conviction that God’s mercy is enough for her daughter and for herself. That’s what drives her. And, in the face of uncertainty, doubt, and even rejection, it is such “great faith” that should drive us as well. How is your faith?  Are you down?....Hopefully if you are….you are not counted as out.
 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Bridge Tender: A Sunset Beach Novel

The Bridge Tender (A Sunset Beach Novel)


About The Book:  A surprise gift from her late husband will give a young widow the chance to do the hardest thing in the world . . . move on.  On their honeymoon, the new Mr. & Mrs. Ryan Shaw made a pact: No matter the sacrifices along the way, one day they would return to Sunset Beach, North Carolina—this time to buy their own home.  But that dream was not to be. Seven years into a beautiful marriage, Emily is left a widow, heartbroken, and way past caring about anything.  Until a man approaches her, claiming to have something left to her from Ryan. Something secret.  Unsure if she can ever embrace a new life without her husband, but even less sure about continuing to stay where she is, Emily heads to the coast to keep her end of the promise she once made.  Without delay, she becomes immersed in the lives of the locals, including the reclusive bridge tender with an unexpected past. As the community debates over building a new bridge, Emily must decide whether she will build a bridge of her own, one that will take her out of a painful past and into the new life—and new love—that her lost love made possible.


About The Author:  Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. She is the cofounder of She Reads, an online book club focused on spotlighting the best in women's fiction. Marybeth is the author of The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, The Guest Book, and The Wishing Tree. Marybeth and her family live in North Carolina. Visit her website at www.marybethwhalen.com.



My Thoughts On The Book:  Once again I can say that Marybeth Whalen does not disappoint.  Her characters draw you into the story from the very first page.  It is a sweet romance with a few twists and turns to season the story and keep the reader intrigued.  I read this in one sitting.  Once I began the story I did not want to put it down. 




Disclaimer: This book was given to me by Thomas Nelson and their Book Look Bloggers Program in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts are entirely my own.  Thank you for this opportunity.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Race: Living Life On Track

The Race: Living Life on Track  -     By: Kyle Froman, Billy Mauldin, Darrell Waltrip


About The Book:  “Boogity, boogity, boogity! Let’s go racing!” Winning is in every racer’s blood. They continually push themselves to the edge, physically and emotionally, in pursuit of the checkered flag and a visit to Victory Lane. It is the racer’s way.

We too are racers in the middle of the greatest race known to mankind: life. We want to live in a way that, when we reach our finish line, we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished. We want to be an example for our family and friends. And if we are a follower of Christ, we want to hear the words “well done my good and faithful servant.”

In The Race, Motor Racing Outreach leaders Billy Mauldin and Kyle Froman share the lessons they’ve learned in the pits and among the NASCAR community to help others with their personal mission—preparing for it, receiving it, and then living faithfully on mission.

Throughout, three-time NASCAR champion and Hall of Fame inductee Darrell Waltrip offers related stories on what it takes to win the race, giving fans an inside look at his profession and the personal belief in God that keeps him on mission.



About The Author(s): 
Kyle Froman is the MRO Director of Development overseeing a network of forty Associate Chaplains, as well as external donor and relational development.
Billy Mauldin is the President and CEO of Motor Racing Outreach whose sole mission is to introduce the racing community to a personal faith in Christ and to activate church involvement through relationships.  www.go2mro.com
Darrell Waltrip is the winner of eighty-four career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion.  He currently serves as the lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX.  He was recently inducted into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame.  Darrell is the author of several books. 


My Thoughts On The Book:  I think it is funny that I live in the south and am not a NASCAR fan.    I have been to several NASCAR races, I live a short distance from Talladega Motor Speedway, but have never felt the draw of the crowds or the loudness of the cars.  I almost did not ask to review this book because of that.  I am glad I chose to go with my gut feeling and read this outstanding book.  Each chapter has a theme that is NASCAR related and then Waltrip, Mauldin, and Froman share insights into their own walks.  I loved all the stories they shared.  My favorite chapter was called Arriving at My Destination:  Where Does God Want Me to Serve?  It begins with a thought from Darrell Waltrip that says "life is full of stepping stones."  and asks "What is your plan?"  He and Billy Mauldin share life faith stories, scripture, and their callings.  I could not put the book down.  If you are a NASCAR fan this is a wonderful read, but even if you are NOT a NASCAR fan this is one special book about making a difference and doing what you are called to do.  I loved it!


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Shelton Interactive in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Thank you for allowing me this opportunity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday Hodge Podge

Welcome to another edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge. FYI Hodge Podge will be taking a little holiday next week. That means no Hodgepodge on August 20th. Joyce needs a week to catch up round her house, and to be honest I need that too. We'll return to our regularly scheduled programming the following week-August 27th, which if you can believe it, will be the last Hodge Podge in August.

Now back to today. Here are my answers to Joyce's...add your link at the end of her post by clicking here, then hop over to the blogger who linked before you and leave a comment. It's the neighborly thing to do. 


1. The best part of waking up is _______________________________.  Coffee in my Tervis cup. Seriously. and then the rest falls into place smoothly.

2. Given a choice, which animal interaction would you most like to experience (or for you non-adventure lovers...which would you dislike the least?)-swim with the dolphins in one of several locations in the Florida Keys, a lion encounter ten miles from Victoria Falls (Africa), or a day at a remote base camp high in the Big Sur wilderness via the Ventana Wildlife Society helping track California Condors?  I love swimming with the dolphins and the Florida Keys so that would be my pick.


3. What is something you fear about old age? Something you look forward to?  I fear losing my memory like my mom did.  I look forward to retirement.

4. Hot sauce...are you a fan? If you answered yes, what's something you make/eat that must have hot sauce? On a scale of 1-10, how hot is too hot?  Definitely not a huge fan, and I like it in stuff....I don't put it on it. As far as how hot is too hot, I don't like hot for the sake of hot. I like to taste my food. I think a 3-5 would be a gracious plenty of heat.  Frank would disagree, and say there is no such thing as too hot. 

5. It's been said that children learn what they live. What do you think children learn at your house?
I hope children in my house learn that we were never lost....we were simply exploring. Life is not always easy but it worth enjoying the ride.  When life hands you lemons....make some lemonade.  God is the Master of our fate and he knows the Big Picture......so don't sweat the small stuff in life.  No matter what you do....I will always love you.

 6. What's your favorite movie with a number in its title?  I can think of several....7 Brides for 7 Brothers, 13 Going on 30, 27 Dresses. These are my go-to feel good movies.

 7. Saturday (August 16th) is National Tell A Joke Day...share one here.
Teacher: What do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested?
Student: A teacher!


 8.  Insert your own random thought here. My daughter posted this picture on her Moldova FB page and her comment was..."Dukes of Hazzard Moldovan style."  I thought it was so very funny.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The History of a Ghost Town Called Louina, AL


For day two I went outside of Wadley to a Ghost Town called Louina (pronounced Lou Ana).  On Hwy 22 there is a Historic Marker that tells the story of Louina, Alabama.  I have always planned to stop there and read it. But there really is no where to pull off the road that is safe....so I just passed by.  I found out in my research that that marker was placed at the entrance to the town telling the history of the ghost town by the Randolph County Historical Society.  The town of Louina was "one mile North, on the East bank of  Tallapoosa River.  It was settled in 1834. It became a chief business center in Randolph County with the county's first newspaper, schools for boys and girls, Baptist and Methodist Churches, Masonic Lodge, grist mill, wool factory, and cotton gin.
During the Civil War a company of Confederate soldiers organized there on August 1, 1861. The last store closed in 1902 and the post office moved eastward to Concord and named Viola.”  The little town of Louina, on the banks of the Tallapoosa River came into being in 1834 when Isham Weathers opened a store and trading post. Louina was named for a wealthy Indian Woman. When she was forced to leave on the Trail of Tears, it was said she put all her silver in sacks but they were so heavy, the ponies could not carry the load. Legend has it that Louina buried some silver but, despite years of digging, none has been found. Before the Civil War, the town paid more than one third of all the taxes in the County, paid mostly by slave owners. The Concord Baptist church was organized in 1850 by J. Day Barron, editor of the Louina Eagle, the towns newspaper. Louina was on the stage coach line from Wedowee to Dadeville.  In 1856 the newspaper was moved to Wedowee and the name was changed to the Southern Mercury, later it was changed to the Randolph County Democrat. The paper closed just before the Civil War. All the stores and other buildings are long gone, perhaps bearing truth to the legend that Louina was so angry that she was forced to leave she put a curse on the town and said it would vanish from sight.  Curse or no curse, vanished is what it did.  Gone without a trace. Where Liberty Church once stood near Highway 22 is the old cemetery, grown up with weeds and scrub oak.  Some small headstones still stand, but are not visible from the road.  You have to know where you are going to find it.  It is said, by many locals, that the town that once had 2,500 residents and was the largest town in Randolph County has only 17 wells filled, which means many old wells may still be open, making the area potentially dangerous.  People are warned not to go hunting, or digging for the silver alone.