Category Archives: Book Reviews

Quotable Quotes from Don’t Settle for Safe

Tired of shadowboxing with your past? Feel like you’ll never overcome your present circumstances? Looking for inspiration to move forward and unleash the potential greatness inside? Don’t Settle for Safe is a classic empowerment book, geared for women and based on the life of Sarah Jakes Roberts, who overcame a teenage pregnancy and a failed marriage. Today she is not only the mother of six, she’s a bestselling author and media personality who works alongside her husband, Toure Roberts, in a ministry to Hollywood artists and professionals at One Church LA.  Speaking of greatness, I’m going to give you a long list of my favorite quotes from her book interspersed with photos from America’s largest privately owned estate, the Biltmore.  If her thoughts are a home run for you, consider reading the entire book, which is fresh off the press! “Your power to overcome is in your willingness to not just anticipate but embrace the unpredictability of life.”  (I believe true empowerment comes from God, but when we embrace God, then we’re no longer afraid to embrace an unpredictable future.)           “Your present holds more promise than anything that used to be.”  “Growth is produced through sacrifice…the gift of growing requires letting go…Letting go is trusting that we can carry the lessons from our past in our heart without constantly replaying the pain in our head.” (Spiritual growth comes from “abiding in the Vine” [Jesus], which also requires a certain amount of letting go in trust.)                                                  “Excuses are comfort zones.” “Name your pain.”   “Instant gratification often results in long-term disappointment.”   “What are your weeds? What thoughts and behaviors are keeping you from enjoying the full beauty of the heart God has given you? Your willingness to seek them out [and repent of them*]  will transform your heart,  producing compassion and creating opportunities to extend grace to others. The only way to remove the weeds is to combat them with humility. The fruit of such examination is not constant shame; it’s simple humility and grace.”  “Our greatest accomplishment comes when we have the ability to master our soul.” “If we’re going to commit to achieving a positive outlook on things that once devastated us, we will have to believe that the worst things that happened to us have the potential to work for our benefit.” “The problem with our teenage years is that often our observations are valid, but our perspective is very limited. It’s not until we’re older that we begin to tap into the compassion necessary to learn from those observations.”  “The last thing you want is to create a life that has been built on fear.”  “Your freedom cannot be contingent on whether or not  you’re able to convince others to embark upon the journey with you. It’s up to you to follow the path that leads to your liberation. Freedom and peace can inspire change within your family.”  “Combining your work and faith with His plan for your life creates momentum that transforms everything that should have stopped you into fuel that propels you into a destiny far greater than you could have imagined.”  “Did you know that your obstacles were assigned by God?”  “Confidence in God’s plan helps us to draw the conclusion that if we did not receive something it is because we did not need it.” “Whether your family was perfectly constructed or undeniably fractured, the people in your life did the best they could. You may be thinking to yourself, Well, that wasn’t enough! I’m telling you it was. Some parents are dealing with insecurities so great that all they can do is self-sabotage anything or anyone that comes close to them. You have to come to a place where you forgive your parents for not providing everything you needed.”  “As a match needs friction to produce a flame, the challenges you’ve faced are the friction you need to produce a light that shines for the world to see.”  “When you have encounters with true friends, you feel both humbled and empowered to do what’s right. I know from experience, though that what we need is not always what we desire.”  “Loyalty based on your position is dangerous because the one constant promise of life is change…The best type of loyalty comes from a friend who is loyal to who you are.”  “Unforgiveness will transform you from a victim to a villain.” “Hurt people hurt people…our own pain blinds us from seeing others’ pain.”  “People who do bad things are not always evil; often they are broken.”  “Closure is never about another person. It is reconciliation with one’s self” (and I would add, “and with God”).  “This is who I am. This is where I’ve come from. I am evidence that broken crayons still color and there is still life inside of you.”  “After dropping fifteen pounds the first moth, it became clear that not only was I capable of losing weight, but I was also capable of taking control of my normal and creating something better.”  “Your life is the road map that will help other people avoid detours that delay on their road to manifesting a destiny greater than those moments that have ailed them. Don’t throw it away because you don’t like the marks that nave been made. Fold it neatly, tuck it away in your heart, and preserve its beauty because someone is going to need evidence that even lost people find their way home.”  “From the depths of your sorrow, God wants to manifest blessings that far outweigh any hurt you’ve experienced.”  “Regret robs you of the possibilities that exist in the present. You don’t get do overs in life because you don’t need them. You needed to mess up. You had to make those mistakes. Your heart had to be broken. You needed to lose your way.”  “Our greatest responsibility and challenge in the quest for higher thinking is daring to find light in our darkest situations.”  “When you begin to truly expect and trust the love of God, it significantly changes your paradigm. I want for you to live in a palace of expectations.” “I pray that this book reminds you in spite of what you’ve gone through that you are still lighter than darkness.”  “The first thing to understand about purpose is that it will always be rooted in service toward the betterment of humanity…Your purpose is the answer to a problem that plagues our world.”  “You must be willing to let go of the dream you have for your life so that He can give you His plans.”  “It is the mystery of your potential that makes it clear God’s thought are higher than ours.”  “God never takes away anything from us that He doesn’t return with interest.”  “We foolishly believe that the best way to safeguard our heart is to avoid setting high expectations. You cannot avoid disappointment by becoming comfortable with low expectations.”  “People who have been hurt cheat other people out of the sense of security that stabilizes a relationship.”  “The only way our love reaches perfection is through handing our heart over to God and asking Him to show us our fears. Don’t give another person permission to hold your heart unless you know their hands belong to God.”  “You should never enter into a relationship with someone you would not want to become.”  “I realized that my tomorrow held more promise than my past held pain.” “You’ll feel like an outcast, but it’s okay. Great people are never fully understood, just admired.”  “Find Him in everything you do. May every word out of your mouth be a reflection of Him. That’s how you will become a light that the world cannot diffuse. When your light burns for Him the world will have to take notice.”  “I’ve discovered that growth requires a discipline to do what most cannot because they are unwilling to risk discomfort. We stay in relationship that damage us, remain in positions that stifle us, and maintain mentalities that don’t progress us. I wanted to break the strongholds that exist when we experience negativity. And to challenge women to see the good that’s come from the most difficult experiences…We must each commit to constantly live life searching for the strength to face the vulnerabilities that make us uncomfortable to become unstoppable The only thing standing in your way right now is you.”Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

*I am editorializing here

Wouldn’t You Like to Live an Oola Life??

One of my girlfriends forwarded me information on an opportunity to snag an early copy of Oola for Women: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World. Fifty bloggers out of over five hundred applicants were chosen to receive a free book in exchange for reviewing it on their blog, and I was one of the lucky ones! Frankly, at first I wasn’t sure it was going to be a very oola thing for me to do, but I was curious, and now I’m glad I went for it!

What’s “oola”? It’s getting to the place where you’re living your dream, as in “Oo la la! I love it!” How do you get there? Well, reading the book helps! Dave and Troy have made it as easy as 1,2,3…actually 7, then up to 21, and then back to 1. I can’t begin to share what took them 340 pages to explain, and I can’t begin to inspire you like the 42 vignettes written by women from all walks of life who’ve learned from their Oola ideas, but let me give you a taste, and if you like it, you might want to read the book for yourself.

Step One: Figure out your passion. What would your dream life look like?  If you could do anything, what would you do? If you could change just one thing that would most crucially improve your life, what would it be? You don’t have to know how to get there, you just have to figure out where you’d like to get to!

Step Two: Figure out where you’re at. Think GPS: You have to know where you are before you can figure out how to get where you want to go. In this book, Oola for Women (but skip thinking in terms of “for women,” because the book’s for everybody; it’s just that women do most of the shopping and reading, so if you want something to sell, say it’s for women), Dave and Troy help you understand your own life by walking you through the seven main priorities we almost universally experience: Fitness, finance, family, field (career), faith, friends, and fun (aka “The 7 F’s”).

Are you still with us? If you’re lost already, that’s fine, they guide you through thinking about each of the 7 F’s with definitions, explanations, and stories. Imagine living a balanced life as riding a bike with 7 spokes, each of the 7 “F” areas as one spoke of your wheel. If all 7 spokes are in tact, there’s air in the tire, the wheel is balanced, and the hub is strong (the HUB is critical: what’s the foundation of your life??), you’re in for a much smoother ride, even though life is always challenging.

After teaching you about the 7 areas of life that need to be balanced, the authors address 7 key areas that block progress (with tips for overcoming): Fear, guilt, anger, self-sabotage, laziness, envy, and focus, and then they move on to discuss 7 positive behaviors that will help accelerate your progress: Gratitude, love, discipline, integrity, passion, humility, and wisdom.

Step Three: Figure out your plan. The last section of the book has a series of simple questionnaires to help you figure out where your life is in and out of balance. With a visual to help you chart your path, they encourage you to write out (yes, by hand, not just in your head), 3 “S.M.A.R.T.” goals (specific, measurable, accountable, realistic, and time-based) for each of the 7 “F’s.” Warren Buffet recommends writing down 20 goals, crossing off all but your top 3, and then pursuing those. The Oola guys take it one step further, and encourage you to find your “#Oola One” goal, write it down, and go for it. committing to a S.M.A.R.T. goal with a time and date.

Sound like a plan? I liked it, and I’m on board with living life full out! Today is always a good time to get more excited about life and get moving! Personally, my life is fueled by passion for Christ, God is my Hub, and if I were choosing one word by which I believe the world can be changed it would be “Jesus” not “Oola,” but I do appreciate their enthusiasm and energy, and it definitely did motivate me to take inventory on my life, pray, and figure out my #Oola One goal! I’m going for it! Want to do the same?

“Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:4-5)

Hope for All Seasons; Friends for All Time

Is it fair to have a three-point “message” this morning? I probably shouldn’t,
but there are three ideas burning a hole in my brain: 1. Please extend yourself in love to widows and widowers
(who are often more lonely than widows, since men sometimes aren’t quite as connected to their kids and grandchildren). 2. There’s a new book that just came out, Hope for All Seasons,
and I’d like to recommend it. 3. I never cease to marvel at how connected we all really are,
although most of the time we probably have no clue!

              Okay, for any of you who have time to hear the longer version… #1. Since coming to our new church, we’ve made a lot of new friends. One teaches our Sunday school class sometimes, and not only do we appreciate his excellent teaching, he lost his wife to breast cancer a couple of years ago (just after we started going to our Sunday school class), so we’ve had a special heart to pray for him and invite him over a bit. (We have several close friends who live far away and have lost their mate, and we know how deeply lonely they are!) #2. At any rate, over the course of getting to know Jay, we realized that his wife was Julie Ackerman Link, who wrote for Our Daily Bread, a daily devotional ministry that has been a part of my life for 50 years (and where several of our kids worked during summers). Posthumously, Discovery House has just released a book of 150 of her devotionals called, Hope for All Seasons, which is now available online and through Christian bookstores. I’ve ordered a copy and am really looking forward to reading it, because I love her writing and heart. She was also the person who started the writers’ group I attend, although (sadly) I joined after she was gone. #3. Last time Jay was over for dinner, we realized we also had a college connection. Bob Jones University was our alma mater! Jay is enough younger than I am so that we weren’t students at the same time, but he mentioned having an older sister my age, and once he told me her name, I realized we’d actually been very good friends! In fact, we were “society sisters!” (At B.J.U. “societies” were comparable to sororities and fraternities.) Sadly, his sister recently passed away with cancer, so I won’t be able to renew that friendship here on earth, but she was a real “kindred spirit” 45 years ago, and it was such a revelation to realize our interconnectedness. I’m guessing that for all of us—if we only knew—we’d discover multiple connections with friends and family members within a 30-mile radius of our home. We probably pass people on the street or in stores who are actually friends with whom we’ve lost contact, or distant relatives, or related to people we know and love. I suppose in this life, we’ll never fully know “who’s who,”  but won’t it be a delight in heaven to explore all the relationships we have with one another? And, don’t forget: All believers are brothers and sisters in Christ and children of God. What fun…and what a family reunion there will be someday!

“Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus”

“Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
sing His mercy and His grace;
in the mansions bright and blessed,
He’ll prepare for us a place.

“When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we’ll sing and shout the victory.”  (—E.E. Hewitt, 1898, public domain)

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

*If you’d like to learn more about Our Daily Bread, you can access it here:
http://bible-guide.org/free.php?seed=our%20daily%20bread

Have You Considered The Case for Christ?

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of Chicago Tribune journalist,Lee Strobel, and his search for the truth about Christianity. Back in 1980, Lee (played by Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (played by Erika Christensen) were livin’ the dream…self-proclaimed atheists, in love, and enjoying life together with their daughter. However, their world started to unravel after their daughter nearly choked to death and Lee’s wife became a Christian while attending Willow Creek Church.  Intent on restoring their marriage to its former simplicity and peace, Lee began a two-year investigative journey to debunk the Christian myth: the death and resurrection of Christ.His research took him around the country, where he interviewed leading experts in various fields:  archeology, theology,  psychology, and medicine. The Case for Christ traces Lee and Leslie Strobels’ journey from atheism into faith. If you’ve ever wished you could believe in Christ but haven’t been persuaded
of the veracity of the resurrection, please consider watching this movie (or read the book Lee wrote). It’s also really encouraging for those of you who might be believers
but have spouses who do not believe. PG, 84% (audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes, great acting, excellent script. Nothing embarrassing or unprofessional,
so you won’t need to hold your breath if you invite someone to see it. And, it’s probably showing in a theater near you right now!  In truth, I’ve only been to a theater for anything besides a private showing
twice in the last 55 years: once to see The Passion of Christ,
and yesterday to see The Case for Christ. So, you can tell what means the most to me! Believing in Christ,
who loved us and gave himself for us, is right at the top! 

Declare and present your case;
    let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none besides me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:21-22, ESV)

 

Grace is Greater than______________

Have you given up anything for Lent? I have a young friend who said he gave up self-loathing. I was dumbfounded (which is all too rare in me), but this past weekend I heard the same thing from a sweet older lady in Sunday school.

Do you struggle to forgive—either yourself of others? Are you experiencing deep pain in your life? Do you have wounds that just won’t heal? Are you seething with bitterness, raging with anger, fantasizing about revenge, or despondent over your brokenness? Do you believe that if God really was good and all powerful, He wouldn’t allow all the sin and evil in our world?

If you’re struggling with any of these issues, then I’d like to recommend Kyle Idleman’s latest book, Grace is Greater. Kyle is the bestselling author of Not a Fan, but he’s also the pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky (reported to be the fifth largest church in America), where he preaches to a congregation of over 20,000 weekly. This pretty much insures that he’s a super engaging speaker and writer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he knows what he’s talking about. Nevertheless, after reading his book, I’m convinced he does!

The term “grace” has been overused but under-understood for at least a generation. Grace is Greater breathes fresh insight into this matchless subject. Kyle’s subtitle is apt: “God’s Plan to Overcome Your past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story.” No matter where you are on your own spiritual journey—even if you’re just staring down the path wondering if it would really lead anywhere—you’ll find lots to motivate, challenge, and help you grow in grace.

Kyle is a great story teller, and we all know that stories are the sugar that makes the medicine go down. We remember stories. We retell stories. We learn from stories. In under 200 pages and ten thoughtfully (but also playfully and transparently) crafted chapters, Kyle addresses his (and our) mistakes, hurts, and circumstances, sharing through scripture and example how God’s grace is not only equal to but greater than each of these challenges.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

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)