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Friday, October 14, 2016

book review: "alabama irish" by james russell lingerfelt

Brian was raised on "the wrong side of the tracks" in inner-city Alabama. Now, at nineteen, with a troubled past and juvenile record, Brian struggles to earn a living and find a life purpose. When he journeys to New York on a chance trip, Brian meets and falls in love with Shannon; a bright eyed, aspiring actress from California.

Brian returns to Alabama stirred by Shannon's courage and passion for life. With a new zest and reason for living, Brian is determined to turn himself into a man worthy of her love. Unable to afford college, Brian discovers the Os Guinness Scholarship, which provides free tuition to Pepperdine University for Irish students who desire to train for Ireland's ministry. With some innovative thinking, Brian fakes his Irish citizenry, accepts the scholarship, and moves to Southern California to attend school and pursue Shannon. 

However, when Brian visits Alabama, all the lies come crashing down and Brian comes face to face with a past he thought was finished. Now, Brian must make a choice: lose Shannon by spinning more lies and choosing vengeance in hopes of putting his past to rest. Or choose honesty and forgiveness and embrace a new life with the only woman he ever loved.
 
Alabama Irish was an book I found myself quickly pulled into, curious as to how Brian's story would turn out. It wasn't until I was over halfway through the book that I made the connection that Brian's friend, Finn, and his girlfriend, Eden, are from another story, The Mason Jar. I've not read many books that are told from a male perspective - or written by a male - but I enjoyed it. I think Brian's story is very relatable. He came from a less than ideal situation and was determined to do something about it. This is a book about love, fighting for what you want, not giving up, and learning to forgive. I think, in some way, all of us are broken. We all have something we're going through or been through and it's overcoming those things that make us stronger. It's these things that also make us who we are. I think one of my favorite parts of the story is when Shannon has read Brian's journal. She comes to see him and tells him she loves him. Shannon tells him that several times, knowing he needs to hear it more than once. Two broken people come together to help heal each other. I like how their story ends. That they both get to travel together - and part of that involves visiting Ireland. I think Brian is a realistic character. Sometimes you read a story and it's great but you know people aren't that put together. Brian has baggage and some anger he's holding onto. My heart broke for him and also Paul when Brian went to visit him at his home. How both men were hurting and Paul let Brian hit him again and again. It's like that saying: hurt people hurt people. I'd like to think if the story would have went into more detail that somehow Brian would have made his way back to Paul and told him he forgave him. So they could both start to heal from that awful night. Alabama Irish is one of the few books I've read where I'm satisfied with the ending. All the things Brian needed to overcome were addressed. He ended up with Shannon, got a job at the school that helped change his life, was going to counseling, working on his Master's degree and letting his story help at-risk youth who were in a similar situation. Overall, a good read with a happy ending!

I received a free copy of this book from James Russell Lingerfelt for my honest review. You can learn more about Alabama Irish by clicking here.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

movie review: "voiceless"

"Jesse Dean is a recently discharged soldier who had a rough upbringing, but because of his wife, found God and now is totally devoted to his faith.
He and wife move to Philadelphia so he can take a new job as an outreach leader at an old church whose membership has been declining. As everything is going well and as he starts connecting to the community, he discovers there's an abortion clinic directly across the street from the church.
He goes to the pastor and to several others in the church and tries to get their help to no avail. One day something tragic and personal happens to him while he's going about his everyday routine. He comes to the point that he begins to take action himself. He gets involved but the more involved he gets, the more resistance he gets from those in church and community. His wife, who thinks his actions will get him fired or land him in jail, also comes against him.
Finally, it comes down to him having to make a choice: is he going to take the easy way out and back off, which is what everyone wants him to do, or will he face a major confrontation which will require him to put everything on the line…not just his job, but his freedom and marriage as well.
This film encourages people to stand up for what they know is right, particularly as it pertains to taking God's truths into society to address social issues. It addresses the spirit of retreat as it pertains to engaging the culture that has developed within the Church."

This is a fabulous movie! I feel like Christian movies tend to get a bad wrap for different reasons but this movie, though tackling a heavy subject, is well done and pulls you in from the start! I like what Jesse says at the beginning of the movie and feel it sums up his journey. "I've never questioned where God is leading me, even if it's a little uncomfortable." And what Pastor Gil tells him when Jesse shares his concerns about the abortion clinic. He tells Jesse, "there's nothing you can do." I think we all sometimes can feel helpless at not knowing where to begin when it comes to helping others or wanting to help fight a grand-scale issue (i.e., homelessness, poverty, human trafficking, etc.). But Jesse does something about what's bothering him. He takes action. And he's immediately met with opposition. Another line from the movie I like is what he says to Pastor Gil as the opposition is heating up. When the pastor wants him to be quiet. "It isn't about activism. This is about being a voice for the voiceless. About speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves." I think one of the biggest take aways for me is the impact of one person. That one person can do something. Towards the end of the movie when Jesse is faced with being arrested should he go back to the abortion clinic, I was reminded of Exodus 14:14: "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Just when he was willing to make that sacrifice for what he believed in, an army of people showed up to take his place. People he had impacted; people he had helped. I think this movie is a beautiful story of being God's hands and feet to help those who are hurting. 

You can learn more about the movie by clicking here and see where it's playing. 

I received a free link to watch this movie from Icon Media Group for my honest review.

Friday, July 1, 2016

book review: "dwelling places" by lucinda secrest mcdowell

What if a thriving, active faith were as simple as reading one word a day?

Do you long for serenity and refuge, peace and hope? Are you seeking a deeper spiritual life through a closer relationship with God?

If you're tired of dwelling in busyness and noise, then perhaps one word a day can change your life. Award-winning author Lucinda Secrest McDowell knows that if you spend time each day turning on God's Word for wisdom and guidance, your faith can flourish and grow.

Through short and inspiring readings, McDowell unpacks a single word - such as mercy, beauty, gratitude, or grace - to reveal a biblical blessing or challenge relevant to where you are. Full of stories and illustrations to empower you to live the word you have just read, each devotional ends with a benediction, written as if God were speaking directly to you.

These "dwelling places" that offer the joy of God's promise and presence cover four seasons: fall, Advent, Lent, and summer. Whether in the midst of busy holiday schedules, holy days, ordinary moments, or changing seasons, a deeper faith can be as simple as a single word.

I really like how the focus for each reading is simply one word. Each devotion is only two pages but those two pages are so powerful! One of my favorite readings is on the word "sea." McDowell quotes Anne Morrow Lindbergh: "For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well." That's so true! How often are we busy with truly important things? I feel like that's the goal of this book: to be intentional but also purposeful with each reading. Packing a lot of information in just two pages. This same reading uses one of my favorite verses: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll receive your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest" (Matthew 11:28-30). I wrote in the margin the rest of that passage: "Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." I love that phrase rhythms of grace. What caught my eye with this book is that it's broken up into seasons. The only disadvantage to the book is that there's only 130 different readings so there's not enough for each day of the year but it's still a great resource! Dwelling Places is a great way to start each day!

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. You can read other reviews in the book tour by clicking here.

You can also enter a giveaway by clicking here!
http://bit.ly/28KRmxy

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

recipe: better than anything oreo cake


This dessert. Oh, it turned out pretty perfect! I like it for several reasons. One is that it only takes a handful of ingredients. Two, it was fairly simple to make. Three, it tasted really good! I've made it twice and followed the recipe as is. But I'm thinking next time it might be fun to add some chopped Reese Cups to the top and less Oreo. I feel like the Oreo makes it really sweet - maybe it's the cream. I did a layer of Oreo before the whip and also on top so I might scale back the next time and just use around ten Oreos or so. Regardless, this is an easy recipe and tastes REALLY good! You can look at the full recipe from Nikki at Chef In Training by clicking here.

What you need:
  • 1 box German chocolate cake mix, and all ingredients it requires
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (16 oz) jar hot fudge
  • 1 (8 oz.) tub cool whip, thawed to room temperature
  • 15 Oreos, crushed/chopped
What to do:
  1. Bake cake according to directions in a 9x13 pan.
  2. Let cake cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Poke holes in cake with the handle end of a wooden spoon.
  4. While cake is still warm, slowly pour over sweetened condensed milk over the top making sure some gets in all the holes of the cake.
  5. Heat Jar of Hot Fudge until runny and hot. Make sure it is melted to a point that it will pour easily. Pour over top of cake, making sure some gets in all the holes of cake.
  6. Let cake cool completely then spread thawed cool whip over the top.
  7. Sprinkle crushed/chopped Oreos over the top of Cool Whip.
  8. Store in fridge until ready to eat. Store any leftovers in fridge.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

God is with you

 
I came across these verses last night and wanted a visual. So I found a picture of the Promised Land and added the verses (thanks Pic Monkey!). In Deuteronomy 11, God is giving the Israelites some instructions before they go into the Promised Land. He's already given the ten commandments and the rest of Deuteronomy is God laying out guidelines, if you will, of what the Israelites are to do after they cross the Jordan. But these are the words that stood out to me. I was thinking of it in terms of God's word. When it says, "place these words on your heart. Get them deep inside you," I thought about holding onto a verse that really speaks to you in a specific time in your life. Maybe it's a verse about peace or strength or healing. But you cling to that verse, you get it deep inside you and you don't let go. That verse gives you strength because you're about to get your breakthrough. You're about to cross your own Jordan River! And at the beginning of the book of Joshua, God tells the people to be strong. Three times in chapter one He says those words. He knew what the people would face. And then He says, "...do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (v. 9). No matter what we face, no matter how we're feeling, God is always with us. Always.

Monday, June 13, 2016

book review: "my fringe hours" by jessica n. turner

Make time for you - every day

Do you want to learn how to make time for the things you love, deepen friendships, and take better care of yourself? Begin a journey of self-discovery as you explore your passions and overcome obstacles in this meaningful book. You'll come away refreshed, invigorated, and excited to live a more creative and fulfilled life.

I know I'm not the only one who feels like I just don't have enough time. Don't have enough time for work, church commitments, friends and then just time for me.  Right? This book is a great way to figure out how to make it work! I like what Jessica says on the first page: "Now, please understand, this is not a time-management book because My Fringe Hours is not about doing more. It's about discovering ways to help you be more creative and live more fulfilled." And I think that's the key. Throughout the book, Jessica gives nine principles to help you make the twenty-four hours we each have be more productive and purposeful. She talks about how often, we are our own worst enemy, feeling guilty for not being able to get everything done and/or taking time for ourselves. She talks about finding balance between the things that need to get done and what things could possibly be cut out. There are lots of hands-on activities such as a scale to fill out, listing the things you wish you had time for on one side and all the current things you're doing on the other. It's a great visual to let see what could be removed to allow time for some of the things you'd like to do. I really enjoyed this book! It's a quick read and I like all of the "my turn" activities that are throughout to help me apply what I'm reading. I highlighted the entire last page with Jessica's Final Reflections because it really does sum up the whole book:
My prayer is that as you make time for yourself, you will grow more confident in who you are and experience deeper satisfaction with how you spend your time. I believe that as you pursue the practice of self-care, your life will become defined by gratitude and joy - not because you've done it all perfectly but because you've realized what God knew all along: that you are a unique and one-of-a-kind treasure. And this world needs you - the best possible you. So go ahead. Sign up for that knitting class. Take a long run. Pull out that journal and start filling its blank pages. Make yourself a priority. Invest time in the you that God made you to be. Because you are worth it. This is your new beginning - and it's going to be beautiful.

I received a copy of this book from Icon Media Group for my honest review.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

*insert deep breath*


I've started another blog. It was a big step for me. But it was a step. I needed to do something to move forward in some desires God's stirring up in me. So this was the beginning. You can find out more by heading over there: http://radaphblog.blogspot.com/. Right now, I'm planning on posting on Mondays. I need to find a balance between that blog, this one and I actually have another one about teaching. Now that it's summer, I have the time to plan and figure it out. Someday is a word I try to avoid. So I've done something. I've taken a step forward and am excited to see what happens next!