Monday, October 5, 2015

book review: "the methuselah project" by rick barry

Shot down over Nazi Germany in 1943, Roger Greene becomes both a prisoner and an unwilling guinea pig in a bizarre experiment. Seventy years later, Roger still appears as youthful as that day he crash-landed - and he's still a prisoner. Nearly insane from his long captivity, Roger finds his only hope in an old Bible.

Not until present day time does Roger finally escape from the secret society running the Methuselah Project. When he does, the modern world has become a fast-paced, perplexing place. His only option is to accept the help of Katherine Mueller - crack shot, go-getter, and attractive to boot. Can he convince her of the truth of his crazy story? And can he continue to trust her when he finds out she works for the very organization he's trying to flee? 

I found the plot for this story interesting! I liked the way the story jumped back and forth between Katherine and Roger, telling each of their stories until they meet. It took me a little while to get into the story but after that, I wanted to keep reading to see what would happen next! I found myself holding my breath as I read of Roger's first attempt at escape only to be returned to his prison. And then as he discovered what had happened to the world since his capture, I can't imagine how overwhelmed he must have felt. In a way, Roger reminded me of Captain America; even his personality. I love the way he found God and He became Roger's stabilizing force through his time at the Kossler Estate. This was a story of action, faith and a dash of romance. A good read!

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

book review: "the finishing school" by valerie woerner

In today's world, our pursuit of a life well lived gets squeezed out by the silliest of things: binging on Netflix or ice cream shopping trips for things we don't need, bad habits we can't seem to get a handle on and so much more. Valerie has been there despite knowing what she wanted for her life. Actually do it though? That's the real challenge.

After gobbling up all the non-fiction and self-help books her donut-filled belly could handle, she decided it was time to put her knowledge to use and start actually living it out. The result has been a refining process that has drawn her closer to God and produced the sweetest fruit in her life. You will hear about Valerie's journey filled with failures and victories and find practical tips to apply to your own pursuit of holiness. You will find homework at the end of each chapter that includes a worksheet to put real change in motion for your life as well as recommended books to further study those topics that really test you.

I really. liked. this. book! In the first chapter, Valerie gives suggestions for how to use the book: either read the book all the way through, slowing down and meditating on chapters that are applicable to you or spread the book over the course of a year. This is a book I definitely plan on slowing down to read, so I can reflect and get the most out of it! I like what Valerie says about the book: "My hope is that you will be encouraged in these pages to live out your faith and that people would see your fruit. This doesn't mean seeking after perfection. It simply means that we look different than we did last year because of God's work in our lives. I think when unbelievers can see our walk - trips and falls and all - that speaks to them too. Let's be genuine and authentic as we pursue Christ and point to His glory." I feel like this sums up the entire book. And that's what I want. To not go throughout life without changing but to continually strive to be who God wants me to be...and to be more like Him. One of the biggest take-aways for me is fighting distractions. "Our distractions don't just keep us from a productive day. They can also hinder us from something the Lord is calling us to do." Ouch. I'm trying to be more intentional and focused after reading this book. Making a weekly to-do list, really focusing on what I need to get done...and then doing it! I'm busy - I have my job, church commitments and then my family all vying for my attention. Valerie did a great job of encouraging me but also challenging me. 

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

book review: "gather around the amish table" by lucy leid

This cookbook offers favorite family recipes and charming stories from Amish and Mennonite cooks. Bake the pecan rolls that taste best after an ice-skating party, or try the hoagies that a community sold to help an Amish family with hospital bills. Discover the cocoa cupcakes with instructions to "stir by hand" that one young cook took literally, or whip up the whoopie pies that one Amish woman took to market in her horse and buggy.

Gather your family around the table to sample the delightful flavors and comforting traditions of the plain people. In the words of one cookbook contributor: "Bake someone happy!"

I love the idea of things centering around food; of having friends or family over on a weeknight to celebrate the normal. I think this cookbook is perfect for that! The pictures of the Amish community are beautiful and I love the stories attached with the recipes. There are certain recipes I make that have memories associated with them. I like what Lucy says in the "Compiler's Note": "It's one of the blessings of life to share ourselves with each other." That's so true. I love the simplicity of the recipes. Life is busy right now (as I'm sure everyone can relate to) but I want to make time for the simple. To find enjoyment in biting into a fresh, homemade blueberry muffin or doughnut. There are so many recipes in this book! Breads, soups, sandwiches, cookies, desserts - just to name a few. I haven't had the chance to try any recipes but I will be! At the top of my list are pumpkin cookies, brown sugar oatmeal cookies, Huntington chicken - they all sound delicious! The recipes in the book are easy to read and follow. I'm looking forward to making these recipes, knowing I'm tapping into some Amish history.

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

media review: "intersect" by rob peabody and chris rogers

Follow the journey of five individuals as they tell authentic stories of circumstances that have forced them to examine how God might fit into their lives. Within each story there will be a point where the viewer's own personal story intersects and an opportunity to discover where God's story converges. 

Starting spiritual conversations with those outside of church is viewed as a worthy, yet arduous and intimidating task. Intersect was created as an easy-to-use resource, perfect for sharing with co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family to enter into meaningful conversations. Each film is accompanied by thought-provoking questions to designed to encourage each participant to examine the world in which they live and the life they're pursuing, always ending with a conversation on how Jesus intersects the current topic.

Allow this powerful new film resource to engage those you are in relationship with, and then propel them forward in their next step with Jesus.

Intersect tells the story of five people and each story focuses on a different topic:
1. Expectations
How do we handle the unexpected things that we encounter in life?
2. Rest
In the long pursuit of your dreams and desires, do you find yourself feeling empty, dry and exhausted?
3. Disappointment
What do you do when you realize the life you are living isn't the life you were hoping for?
4. Trust
What if God is not against us, but actually for us?
5. Control
Are we actually in control of our lives or are our lives in control of us?

These five topics are things that anyone can identify with, no matter where you're at in life. One thing that stood out to me in the video is that when we face hard times, "God isn't the thing to run from but the thing to run to. His promise isn't about an easy ride but a safe arrival." I like how each story wraps up with a gently push toward God and the fact that He's with us, regardless of what we may face. The study guide includes discussion questions and scriptures to accompany each topic. When we go through hard times, sometimes people blame God. But as several people in the DVD said, God is the one thing we can hold onto during those hard times. I think about James in the video. His wife divorced him after two years of marriage. He said he wouldn't trade the experience because of what he learned about God as a result. All of us struggle with having unmet expectations, being so busy trying to achieve things that we fail to rest, feeling disappointment when dreams fall apart, trusting God and giving God control of everything. All of these topics are interconnected in some way. I like that each video is short yet thought provoking. Intersect is a great small group resource. One other thing said in the video: "I'm for you. I'm with you. Keep going."  God is the one cheering us on." And we all need a reminder of that.

I received a copy of this DVD from Litfuse Publicity Group for my honest review.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

book review: "until my name is known" by sonya contreras

The time: 2450 BC
The place: Old Kingdom of Egypt
Pharaoh is god. 
His people worship him. 
Israel's God arrives. 
He challenges Pharaoh. 
His power touches all. 
They must change. 
Some don't concede. They suffer. 
Others yield. They find freedom. 
Until My Name Is Known brings all to see the one true God. 
Read it to see Him. 

I like to read fiction stories that bring to life the Bible. To take stories I've grown up hearing and tell them in a new way. Even though I know the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt, I found myself unable to put this book down. I was drawn to the characters and how the Hebrews chose to trust God. And it was trusting God that was the theme through this book - and what happened to those who didn't trust. Before Moses left to return to Egypt, Zipporah struggled with a God who require such a mission of her husband. "You trust this God too much." She told Moses. "I trust this God too little. Or I wouldn't question." And I find myself in the same place today: trusting God completely. Without question. No matter what. During the plagues, some of the Hebrews had a hard time equating the destruction of the plagues with a loving God. Aaron asked one of them, "Will anyone seek God, if he doesn't know he needs God? Pain drives us to God or away from Him. We need Him, Mack. Pain makes us seek Him more than anything else." I like how this book has given me a fresh perspective on this familiar story. All through the book, the Egyptians realize more and more how incapable their gods are. With each plague, God specifically targets each of their gods, showing their lack of power. The chief high priest keeps saying how jealous the Hebrews' God is, not sharing His power. It makes me wonder if any of the Egyptians, seeing God's hand, chose to worship Him? If they realized He was the true God. This is a great book to encourage your faith and remind you of God's faithfulness. One of the Hebrews, as they're leaving Egypt, things about Joseph's bones that they're taking with them. "Joseph's bones lay hidden with Moses' possessions. God heard the desire of a man and granted it four hundred and twenty years later. If he ever doubted God caring about the details, he would remember this." I think that's one of the main things I took from this story: God is faithful. Always. 

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group for my honest review. 

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

book review: "summer's list" by anita higman

Life hadn't been easy for Summer Snow. In acts of selflessness - caring for her ailing parents and running her grandmother's bookstore - she had forfeited her youth and dreams for the needs of others. And the only shots she had at love…didn't' work out. She had the bookstore, she had her beloved granny, but she was missing something - or someone.

Opportunity strikes when Granny sends Summer on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree, a kind and quirky young man from Summer's past. With Laney the Chihuahua along for the ride, a childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?

I couldn't put this book down! It was such a sweet story that it didn't take me long to get swept away in Summer's adventure. It was such a great story - a story of forgiveness, letting go, heartbreak, and love. Anita did a great job of bringing everything together in the end and I finished it, happy with the characters and their story. I've grown up loving to read and spending hours in the library so I immediately connected with Summer and her love of her granny's bookstore. And the friendship between Martin and Summer was so sweet. I love how they were able to pick up where they left off when Summer knocked on his door twenty years later. I wanted to cry when Granny passed away and at the pain Summer felt. But then I laughed aloud when Martin told Summer he had burned the soup and they would have to either eat cat food or go out somewhere. I enjoyed his honesty and how special he made Summer feel. This was just a fun and sweet book. A great summer read!

I received a copy of this book for my honest review. 

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

go to all the world

I'm preparing for a third trip to Guatemala. I'm beyond excited but as I'm mentally and spiritually preparing, I'm thinking of the contrasts. Part of my goal this summer was to exercise more. I've been doing well. How many magazines at the checkout offer tips to lose weight or show off one celebrity or another who has dropped her baby weight? Yet in other countries, getting in shape is not even a concern. When you see the lack others have and how truly blessed we are, it changes you. It's frustrating to see how we live in excess when others have so little. And I know there are people who need to hear about Jesus in this country; a missions trip could take place right down the street as easily as in another country. But when you meet a little girl and find out she's never even heard of Jesus, you realize the need of taking the gospel to the whole world. Everything is about balance. Not becoming so focused on going to other places that we neglect ministering to those we encounter every day. But at the same time, not thinking someone else will travel to the rest of the world to share Jesus' love. It's simple but complicated at the same time. But it all comes down to just...loving others. I recently bought the newest Hillsong United album, Empires. I like every song but right now am listening to "Street Called Mercy." That's what I think it comes down to: "You are all I want. You are all I need. Every breath I take is a breath to say I am Yours now forever." Having such a desire for God that He's the focus. And then letting others see that so they'll want it too. 

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