Category Archives: Book Reviews

Chasing Slow All The Way To Hawaii

chasing-slowErin Loechner is young. I am a senior citizen. Erin Loechner is a blogger with a fan base of over a million women. I have yet to have half a million people even view my blog and no “fan base” at all! Erin Loechner’s new book, Chasing Slow, just hit the market three weeks ago. I’ve never had a book hit the market! One thing we do have in common: She has no clue who I am, and I have no clue who she is…or at least that was true until I accepted the offer to read and review her book on my blog.

Chasing Slow arrived just before we left for Hawaii, and I chased slow all the way there and back, as the deadline is today! Do I recommend her book? Yes, for these people:

*Women who feel a lion roaring inside them or are feeling dizzy on their merry-go-round. (If this makes sense to you…you’re in.)

*Women who own a Millennial, love a Millennial, or would like to understand the pressures on this now largest living generation, born sometime between 1980 until 2000 or so. Millennials are a cohort of 75± million precious souls who are the major target of massive marketing efforts. They live in a world of cyber connection, averaging 250 friends on Facebook and a median of 50 phone texts per day. They tweet, instagram, pin, blog, linkin and are expected to measure their self worth on the yardstick of what the world-wide web deems perfection.

There’s the reason the “web” is called the “web.” It’s sticky and few escape. Erin found herself trapped in the vortex and has been trying to find her way out.

But it seemed impossibly hard, because she kept feeding the lion, and he was never satisfied. Feeding the lion? I grew up eating the Word and brushed my cut my teeth on 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Don’t feed the lion, resist the lion, and cast all your cares on God, who will care for you and deliver you from the lion (1 Peter 5:7-9; 2 Timothy 4:17). Sounds simple, but I know it’s hard. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to keep the lion fed. Both sooner and later he’ll just keep devouring you.

Feeling dizzy or empty? “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). That works better than yoga, brambleberry lip stain, or a double chocolate latte with whipped cream. Seeking fame and fortune—which comes standard on most Millennials—isn’t the endgame of life. Love and connection with God, family and friends is. Erin’s struggle to figure that out will inspire you if you’re a Millennial and probably distress you if you’ve stayed out of the fast lane, but she’s a very entertaining, openhearted writer, and she salts her mismatched analogies with lots of pepper, so if you can keep from crying you’ll be laughing as you read along her wild ride Chasing Slow.

(P.S.—Tomorrow I want to tell you about a Hawaiian we met last week named Larry Rivera. He played with Elvis Presley back in the day but passed him forty years ago by chasing slow!)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

Life in Season: Cozy and Warm

life-in-season-bookLife in Season is a book of gentle reflections to “Celebrate the Moments that Fill Your Heart & Home.” It’s the type of book you’d like to curl up and read beside the fire with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. At least, that’s how I enjoyed it! vanessa-hunt-and-heather-patterson-life-in-seasonTwo sisters, Vanessa Hunt and Heather Patterson, open their lives to give you glimpses into what the Lord has taught them through their tears and triumphs…mostly as wives and moms, but ultimately as women. scars-life-in-seasonTheir meditations journey across the four seasons of the year, and the entries are a potpourri of lessons. quote-by-oswald-chambers-life-in-seasonAs I read, I kept having the fantasy that they’d cooked up a nourishing bowl of oatmeal, sprinkled it with craft projects and evocative photos, and poured over it some warm milk of the Word. hospitality-life-in-season                                                      Very sweet soul food. mind-the-gaps-life-in-seasonIf this sounds interesting to  you, check out their website, At the Picket Fence. peppermint-sugar-scrub-life-in-seasonIf you enjoy that, Life in Season is a new release that’s now available on Amazon. Or, if you live close by, you can borrow the copy I received for this review. It might be too late for Christmas this year, but there are ideas for Valentine’s Day and Easter at the beginning of the book…

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:8-11. ESV)

From Depths We Rise Reviewed

from-depths-we-riseIf you’re ever tempted to feel sorry for yourself or bitter because your life is so hard, here’s medicine for your beleaguered soul, fresh off the press this October. Reading From Depths We Rise reminded me that life is never predictable, tragedy is almost universal at some point in our lives, and God doesn’t owe us anything. Still, like Job (and Sarah Rodriguez, who authored this memoir), God is worthy of our worship and trust.

Job declared his shocking faith thus: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). How’s that for the antithesis of modern Americans, who argue that if God were good he’d order the universe according to our sensibilities and opinions? And yet, Job is lauded around the globe for his patience and held up as a model of integrity in the Bible. Similarly, I stand in awe of Sarah’s faith through a world of heartache, infertility, love found and lost, and love almost lost but ultimately found.

From Depths We Rise was hard to read but good to remember. I read it in spare moments between chatting with people while tending my ArtPrize entry. It was the perfect therapy for thinking I “should” win anything. Life is all about obeying God and leaving the results with Him. He doesn’t promise us any tangible rewards in this life for surrendering our lives to Him, but He does promise to bless us with far more precious intangibles: love, joy, peace, patience, faith, hope, self-control, gentleness, goodness…

Feeling disappointed? Feeling loss? Try reading Sarah’s amazing story of passion, prayer, anger, surrender, and joy as she learned to rise from the depths of sorrow and loss. May it inspire you to steadiness in faith as it has inspired me.

Tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:3-6).

Rewriting Stories: Jungle Book

jungle-book-coverHave you seen Disney’s new version of The Jungle Book? How did you like it?  jungle-book-2I’d definitely recommend it, and I especially loved their fantastic graphics.
The world of reality and imagination are merging at an incredible pace!

jungle-book-3Although I appreciated the advances in sophisticated graphic design techniques, the movie was a little disappointing to me. It was scarier and less humorous than Disney’s original cartoon classic…more tension; less relaxation and fun. jungle-book-cartoon-versionAdmittedly, I own a copy of Disney’s original version, and we’ve watched it so often as a family (kids and now grand kids) that we know all the songs by heart and use classic lines to pepper our family’s own peculiar inside-joke culture. baloo-and-mowgli-singing-in-disneys-jungle-bookSo, I guess I’m not surprised that the new version is a bit of a let down. Who can forget all the good song and dance routines, and who will never miss them?  🙂

mowgli-1895-illustration-by-j-lockwood-kipling-father-of-rudyard-kiplingHowever, I was doing okay until the ending. What? No romantic “happily ever after”? In Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Mowgli enters the village, is adopted by a human family, marries, and has a son of his own, which is portended in Disney’s original cartoon version. The thought of Mowgli spending his life in the jungle is simply unacceptable to me! I want all my endings to be happy, and “happy” usually ends with wedding bells and a “happily ever after.”

Thankfully, my comfort isn’t riding on how accurately Disney portrays Kipling’s book, but my comfort is riding on how accurately churches portray the end of the Christian story. The Bible is clear that there will be a happily ever after ending for all who believe and come to the Lamb of God. If you go to a church where they’ve rewritten the ending to the story of life, I hope you’re not content. Find a church where the story of man’s need for redemption and the marriage supper of the Lamb is still told!   summer-sun-and-cloudsThen a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.‘”
(Revelation 19:5-9, NIV)

 

Is it True that “Everything is Possible”?

everything-is-possible“A life without fear is a life without limits” (Jen Bricker). Have you ever heard of Nick Vujicic or Jen Bricker? I’d never heard of Jen Bricker before I read her book, Everything is Possible, which was just released last week, but she really does give me the feeling that with God, everything is possible…at least everything that God calls us to!  jen-bricker-with-her-adopted-brothersBorn without legs, Jen was abandoned by her parents at birth. Thankfully, an incredibly nurturing family adopted her and brought her up to love God and embrace her life and her body, learning to overcome what most of us would consider impossible barriers to become what she is today: an aerialist, a motivational speaker, an author, and best of all, a joyful, healthy individual who has turned her liability into an asset and lives an incredibly rich, fascinating, and fruitful life! jen-bricker-performingEverything is Possible has made me re-evaluate the way I look at challenges. If Jen could overcome huge physical, emotional, and spiritual obstacles without legs, it makes me realize that I’m a wimp by comparison. If you’re down in the dumps about your life problems, take a break to be inspired by Jen’s life story, then get to work realizing your dreams. As Jesus taught us:  “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).   jen-brickerA few of my favorite quotes from Jen’s book:

“As we try new things, we discover how strong we are and realize the only limits are the ones we impose on ourselves.”

“Our physical presence is only part of who we are as human beings. What’s inside is just as important, and maybe more so.”

“You too have talents, gifts, and abilities (I like to think of them as your personal superpowers) you were born with that are unique to you…The beauty of how God made us it that we don’t have to be jealous of someone else’s superpowers, because they weren’t meant for us. This one thing I would tell you to keep in your back pocket at all times: know that you are significant, you do matter, and what you have to offer is powerful.”

“God shows us the opportunities and puts them in our path, but we have to be strong enough to grab them and then hold on for all our worth.”

“I’ve learned that the more I surrender and let God take care of things, the better off I am. I get out of my own way, I get out of His way, and then I let Him do His work….My dreams are laughable when compared with God’s plans for my life! His gifts, ideas, and blessings are so much bigger and better than anything I could possible imagine!”

“CAN’T is a 4-letter word.”

“I finally realized something: God didn’t owe me an explanation. Sometimes He’s simply protecting us, and we have to trust that there is a lesson to be learned.”

“Sometimes you have to be your own hero. What I mean by that is that you have to fight for what you believe in and for what you want to happen.”

Anyway, Everything is Possible has a treasury of inspirational ideas on how to overcome what appear to be tragic circumstances. It also gave me many insights into how to interact with those who have body shapes different from the norm.  Baker Book House has graciously given me an extra copy to give away, so if you’re interested in reading the book, I’ll give it to the first person to contact me via this blog, email, or Facebook. If you have a story to share about yourself or someone you know that might benefit us, please add it in the comment box. Thanks!!

God Knows I Won’t Be Fat Again

god-knows-i-wont-be-fat-againHappy First Day of Autumn to you! Got any good plans for this fall? I’m just finishing a 40-day diet of “no desserts or starches.” However, I’m very motivated to keep eating right because I still have quite a way to go, and so I’ve been working hard developing my fall strategy. “They” say it takes 30 days to establish a new habit, so I am hopeful. However, I’m not as dogmatic in my hope as the author of the book I just read, God Knows I Won’t be Fat Again. For one thing, even though I’ve lost ten pounds, I still need to lose another fifteen or more, so I wouldn’t want to be presumptuous. However, I did enjoy reading the success story written by the daughter of one of our former pastors, who managed to eat addictively to 340 pounds and then eventually lose back to 130 pounds. The book was written 35 years ago, so I’d be interested to know how she’s doing today, but I hope her title was right!

I appreciated Karen Wise’s honesty about what it was like to be so fat…the stares and rude comments from little children…the lack of self-esteem and the deep need to feel loved. There were a lot of lessons in the book about how to support people who are addicted…and how to get back on the right track if your life is out of balance in some area, since a lack of self-discipline can manifest in many different ways, not just food. As her father told her, “For every ounce of talent there must be an ounce of self discipline.” Without it, our potential goes to waste.

Here are a few tips from Karen’s life struggles:

1. Take responsibility for our own failure. If I’m overweight (which I am), I  have no one to blame but myself. I ate the food. For instance, my husband has a great metabolism and can eat whatever he wants, but that’s no excuse for my eating whatever I want! (If I worked as hard as he does and was as stressed as he is, I might not have a weight problem either.) Whatever our excuses, we need to  recognize that they’re just excuses and take charge of what and how much we eat. Name the sin for what it is: Gluttony!

2. If you have a child or friend with a weight problem, support them! Cheer them on when they make wise choices, and don’t tempt them with unhealthy ones. Don’t say, “Oh, just a little taste won’t hurt.” It might. Notice if they’ve lost weight and mention that they’re looking good. Don’t be jealous if they start looking slimmer than you; let their weight loss inspire you to lose weight too!

3. Don’t use diet pills. Karen wrote, “I did take them at various times in my life, but they sent me higher than a kite and I became immune to them after several weeks. A lot of people I know have gotten hooked on the energy kick they give and have suffered deep depression when they have quit taking them” (p. 126). This was verified in my research too. For better or worse, the best way is simply eating well and less.

4. Find contentment in who you are. Karen felt like a failure, became depressed, felt incapable of overcoming her problems, and used food as an escape (like most addicts). For her, the tension between being all thought she should and could be versus the drive to throw it all overboard and be what she wanted to be was overwhelming. It took her years to stop running away from God and start asking Him for help instead. Thankfully, as we all know who’ve turned to Him, God never says “No” to those who ask for mercy and help. For those who struggle with “fitting in,” I loved this insight: “The funny thing is, I still don’t really fit into every place and with everybody in the Christian world. But I have found I don’t want to be a ‘complete fitter’ anyway. I would rather fit snugly into that special niche God has for me, reaching those people I can reach and having the ministry God has planned for me.”

So, on I go with my quest for good nutrition and a healthier weight, and I hope you’re moving forward too if there’s some area of your life where you’re conscious of a need to improve. May we exercise self-discipline and lean on God for help. Here’s to lives that are healthier, more fruitful, and happier!  🙂

The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble;
and he knoweth them that trust in him
” (Nahum 1:7).

Do You Know What You’re Doing, Lord?

Do You Know What You're Doing, Lord?Do you ever wonder what God is doing…and if He even knows what he’s doing? While visiting Jon and Linda to help out with their new baby, they held a big breakfast/ prayer meeting in their home to pray for the beginning of the school year…and really needs all around the world. While there, I met Carol Lee Anderson, who wrote “a jungle journey in search of God” called Do You Know What You’re Doing, Lord? She and her husband, Neil, were missionaries for 34 years with Wycliffe, translating the Bible into the Folopa language for former cannibals in the jungles of Papau New Guinea…and learning how to love and minister to the needs of these people in numerous practical ways as well. Along the way, they had all sorts of adventures, including Carol’s developing a reaction to malaria medicine that almost killed her and plenty of encounters with “all spiders, great and small,” etc. In fact, they seemed to experience just about every imaginable scenario of raw life among a very remote tribe of precious but wild and woolly people.

Carol speaks with transparent candor and a wisdom only possible after you’ve “lived through the war” (so to speak) and have survived with grace rather than bitterness. Still, she’s retained great clarity of memory and openly describes her failures and flounderings along the way as she struggled to live out what she believed to be God’s call in her life. Or…was it?? Or, was she mistaken? Or, did He really know what he was doing? Carol deals very effectively with the inevitable doubts that come to those who attempt to follow God by doing those impossibly difficult tasks that can only be done through supernatural grace.

I think this book would be especially valuable to anyone considering the mission field, but I also found it inspirational reading for myself. Missionaries are sort of like the marines of Christian living, although rather than “the few, the proud, and the brave,” they are “the few, the humble, and the brave.” Thank you to every Christian missionary who leaves home and family to carry the love of Christ to others. May you be blessed, safe, and live to continue ministering to others even into older age, as Carol and Niel are continuing to do.

And he [Jesus] said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).