Thursday, February 27, 2014

book review: "ingredients for success: 10 best practices for business and life" by joseph james slawek

What ingredients do you need to succeed in business and in life? Award-winning entrepreneur Joseph James Slawek shares 10 best practices for business leaders, which he draws from the teachings of Jesus. You'll learn what the Bible has to say about business, and how to:
- know, develop, and use your unique abilities
- use your talents responsibly or you'll lose them
- invest your talents faithfully for maximum return
- aim for excellence, not perfection

I like that this book isn't just for those who might own a business. It's advice for life. Slawek takes the parables from Matthew 25, creating his ten best practices: 
1. Boldly, yet compassionately, tell the truth.
2. Plan ahead but be ready for surprises.
3. Know, develop, and use your unique abilities.
4. Use your talents responsibly or you'll lose them.
5. Be ready for the accounting.
6. Invest your talents faithfully for maximum return.
7. Aim for excellence, not perfection.
8. Be strong and courageous.
9. Redistribute unused talents and resources.
10. Express gratitude to God and others.
Reading this has challenged me to do more - to be a "good steward" of my talents. "They [the five virgins who ran out of oil] lost the opportunity to be a part of the wedding because they didn't steward their resources responsibly." I liked the personal stories Slawek used through the book, helping to illustrate his points. This was an easy read, full of practical advice. He asked a question that stood out to me: "Have you taken the time and effort to grasp what your responsibility is? How are you going to fulfill it?" This is a book to get you thinking and then asking what you're going to do about it. Overall a good read and one I would recommend to others. 

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

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

book review: "ask me anything, Lord" by heather c. king

When God calls you to make an impact for Him in your everyday life, feelings of fear, doubt, and insufficiency seem to show up automatically. As a matter of fact, they have been making appearances since the beginning of time in the lives of people like Adam and Eve, Elijah, Peter, and many others. During their moment of uncertainty God asked Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" as a checkpoint for their relationship with Him. God asked Elijah, "What are you doing here?" to bring him out from the places of depression and frustration. And Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" to restore their relationship. 

In Ask Me Anything, Lord, Heather C. King reminds you that God can use questions in Scripture to reveal the true motives and intents of your heart, challenge your thinking, and help you overcome. Exploring encounters God had with people of the Bible and sharing her own experiences, King encourages you to draw closer to God, receive the fullness of His blessings, and move forward today.

I loved this book! As I was reading it, I kept thinking "Oh, I'm needing to hear this right now!" over and over again. Having the opportunity to review this in this season of my life was definitely a God thing. I loved this one paragraph: "When we ask for God's guidance, sometimes we must wait with determined patience for the neon sign. Other times, it seems like He says, "I was hoping you'd ask me that!" and the answer is right there before we've even finished praying." I liked how King pulled examples from the Bible and made me see those people differently. She talked about how faith requires trusting, even though it might not make sense. How you have to trust when the plans you thought God had for you seem to be changing but we can know that God directs our steps. I like the questions at the end of each chapter to help take it even deeper! King writes in such a way that it's easy to read and I like her personal stories that she weaves throughout. Definitely a book to keep on the shelf and pass along to others!

I received a copy of this book from Discovery House Publishers for my honest review.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

book review: "where courage calls" by janette oke and laurel oke logan

Beth Thatcher has spent her entire life in the safe, comfortable world of her family, her friends, and the social outings her father's wealth provides. But Beth is about to leave it all behind to accept a teaching position in the rugged foothills of western Canada. Inspired by her aunt Elizabeth, who went west to teach school several years ago, and gently encouraged by her father, Beth resolves to put her trust in God and bravely face any challenge that comes her way.

But the conditions in Coal Valley are even worse than she'd feared. A recent mining accident has left the town grieving and at the mercy of the mining company. The children have had very little prior education, and many of the locals don't even speak English. There isn't even a proper schoolhouse. In addition, Beth's heart is torn between two young men - both Mounties, one a lifelong friend and the other a kind, quiet man who comes to her aid more than once. 

Despite the many challenges, Beth is determined to make a difference in the rustic frontier town. But when her sister visits from the East, reminding her of all the luxuries she's had to give up, will Beth decide to return to her privileged life as soon as the school year is over?

I've watched When Calls the Heart and was excited to be able to review this book and see how Beth's story continues. Last year was my first year teaching - I was able to connect with Beth as she made it through her first year. I couldn't help but get emotional when she had made it to the last day of class! Her students and the mothers gave her the box of letters and then Esther shared how she had changed since Beth arrived. Oh, just pass me a tissue! Beth was willing to take a leap to pursue what she felt God had called her to do. She was willing to give up the comforts of home and what she knew. Though I had a hard time getting into the story at first, this was an overall good read. It's a great story of courage and trusting God and making a difference through small acts and simply caring for people. I love how Beth changed the small town of Coal Valley by falling in love with her students and embracing the opportunity before her. 

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

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Monday, February 17, 2014

ten days

I think about those ten days all the time. About the people we met and the message of Jesus we were able to share. Going to Guatemala was my first out-of-the-country mission trip and I know it won’t be my last. Coming back, I was changed in a way that didn’t happen with the other mission trips I’ve been on. Guatemala messed me up and opened my eyes to things I can no longer ignore. To talk to people and find out they’ve never heard of Jesus? It breaks my heart. I jotted down my thoughts every night of that trip to keep those moments alive in my mind. I didn’t want time to erode the emotions I felt or dim the power of God we experienced.

Prior to the trip we had been praying – not knowing the church we stayed with for part of the trip was praying too. We had the opportunity to meet with some of these people. They prayed over us the night before we were to begin our outreaches. They were so grateful for us to be there. It was so humbling to be a part of something bigger than yourself. As we practiced the dramas in preparation for the outreaches, I had the distinct feeling of this is so much bigger than us. We began something that will continue to grow and produce fruit long beyond those ten days.

 I know all of us who went had a different moment that stands out to them – when God showed up. Mine was a day that my group was talking with some middle school girls. Girls – who I don’t know their names – but will never forget. The four of us listened to these girls tell us about what they were going through and my…heart…broke. Each of us, through our translator, shared with these young girls and I barely had started talking before I burst into tears. I told them what they saw Jesus do in the skit, He did for them. That nothing they do can make God love them less. That they’re beautiful. All of us were crying. The four of us each opened our arms and a girl immediately wrapped her arms around each of us. I held the girl in my arms, crying with her but also praying. I didn’t have to know the language to pray for the hurting girl in my arms. I don’t know how long we stayed that way but eventually the tears subsided. I went to each of them, telling them “Dios te ama” (God loves you). I truly felt we were able to be God’s hands that day, loving those girls with His love. I left a piece of my heart in Guatemala. And now I’m figuring out how to let those ten days bleed over into the everydayness. I don’t want what happened in Guatemala to stay in Guatemala. I think the simplest way to achieve that is by loving people. To continue to be God’s hands. We can be a witness not just with our words but also with our actions. And looking back, I’m so proud of the team I went with. All of us gave 100%, playing soccer in an open marketplace with some kids and basketball at one of the schools we visited. We played with children at an orphanage. We did what was asked of us…and showed God’s love through every act.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

book review: "princess ever after" by rachel hauck

Regina Beswick didn't know she was born to be a princess.

She's content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware that a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother's hand-painted book of fairy tales.

Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation's future - and his own.

Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever.

Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide whether she's destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together - with a little divine intervention - Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.  

I loved this book! I've read Once Upon a Prince and was excited to read this next book in the series! As soon as I picked it up, I had to keep reading, wanting to know how it ended! Being a fellow southern girl myself, I immediately liked Regina and her southern sass :) And then there's the struggle she went through. Having to decide if she'd walk through this new door presented to her or cling to what she knew. Rachel did a great job of making Regina real. She was faced with a huge decision and she had doubts. What I like about Rachel's books is that there's at least one line that seems like it's just for me. With this book, Regina is about to take the Oath of the Throne and is scared. Tanner tells her, "Yes, Regina, your whole world is changing. But isn't that what courage to step into your calling is all about? Discovering the truth and doing everything in your power to obtain it? To live it?" I'm deciding if what I thought to be my calling is truly my calling. Reading Regina's story reminded me to trust God. To take a leap and trust. I love that Susanna made a cameo appearance and told Regina this: "Do you have enough vision to take the leap? That's all it requires to start something amazing. A glimpse at the potential." Even though it's a fiction story, the theme was just what I needed. I liked Regina and Tanner's banter and I couldn't help but smile when Regina not only told Tanner to look at Pinterest for some decorating ideas but then he actually did :) And the book also gave my faith a boost. Regina experienced God several times as she transitioned into her role of princess. She said when she stepped in the church, she felt God. I read in the acknowledgements that Rachel listened to Jeremy Riddle as she finished up the book - he's one of my favorites! I like how Regina continued to ask God for direction as she became a princess and could feel Him with her. Such a good book and encouragement to my faith as well!

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review.
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Monday, February 10, 2014

mountain moving faith

“Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” - Matthew 17:20 (Message)

I read this verse the other day and I've read it before but it stuck out to me this time. What does that kind of faith look like? I wonder if someone could literally move a mountain if they believed enough? And maybe that's my problem. That seems so outrageous to me that I doubt it could happen. But what if it could? What if we believed that way? What if we had so much faith there wasn't room for any doubt? I want that. I want to confidently believe for the big things as easily as I do for the small things. My pastor has said before that, my paraphrase, if we pray for something and it's easy to believe for, we need to think bigger. And, to some, this might not make sense. It might seem we can ask for anything and God should do it but there's a bit more to it. John 15:7 says, "But if you stay in me and obey my commands, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!" The more we seek God, the more we begin to want what He wants and therefore as we pray, we're praying and asking for His will for our lives. So, let's get rid of the doubt and move some mountains!

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

book review: "smitten book club" by colleen coble, kristin billerbeck, diann hunt and denise hunter

The thick, leathery tome Heather pulled out of the dusty cardboard box was definitely coming home with her. Not only was The Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship an appealing curiosity by virtue of its title, it was also written by Smitten, Vermont, native Pearl Chambers, a local gentlewoman from three generations back. 

Little did Heather know the repercussions this little curiosity would have on her and her friends' romantic exploits.

When Heather and her fellow book club members begin passing the book around, their respective interpretations are unleashed on their respective love lives...for better or worse. Is it a mystery? An idealist fantasy? An intimation of Jane Austen? As romantic love finds its way to each woman, the Guide proves itself both surprisingly prescient and hilariously irrelevant.

What's more, a handwritten inscription indicates that the arcane book might hold the only clues leading to buried gold - exactly what one of the members needs to keep her house. How could they not go treasure hunting?

Oh, what a good book! It so happened, as a teacher, I was out of school for snow and was able to read this in just a few sittings! I've read books by each author and having them come together for four short stories was fun to read! I loved each story and the characters in each. Each had humor and some romance and I definitely want to read both Smitten and Secretly Smitten! I love books set in small towns and Smitten has won me over! I laughed at the advice in The Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship but also could see some truth in Pearl's words. I'm sure that would be an interesting read! This was a really good book - it made me laugh and my heart melted just a bit a few times. When Gage was about to kiss Molly and asked if she had a call she needed to take? Yeah, heart melted :) Definitely a title to recommend to those who enjoy a good Christian romance book!

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

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Monday, February 3, 2014

book review: "david and goliath" by malcolm gladwell

Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David's victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn't have won. 

Or should he have? 

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.

Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago. From there, David and Goliath examines Northern Ireland's Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high costs of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms---all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity.

I was disappointed with this book. I had thought it would take the story of David and Goliath and really explore it. But it didn't. The introduction of the book talks about the story - I was thinking more of the book would focus on it. The rest of the book looks at different people who could be considered "David's" due to different challenges they've faced. There's David Boies, a successful lawyer who has dyslexia. Vivek Ranadive, a man who had never played basketball until he decided to coach his daughter's team. Caroline Sacks, a very bright student who ended up abandoning her dream of science after enrolling at Brown and doubting her ability to succeed. I feel like the overall theme lies in one of the very last sentences, when the story of David and Goliath is referred to once more: "You see the giant and the shepherd in the Valley of Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with the sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine." And I agree with that statement. We shouldn't discount the underdog because you never know how capable someone is. But I felt like the route taken through the story to get to this point was lost on me. Gladwell makes some good points throughout the book and, as an educator, especially got me to thinking when talking about how a small class size isn't always a good thing. There are a few things I'll take away from the book but I wasn't overly impressed. 

I received a copy of this book from The B & B Media Group for my honest review.

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