"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."
What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
This year, I have had the privilege of leading my daughter and my niece through a Girl Scout project about protecting the planet's water. I watched these two darling Brownies as they explored the sad truth that so many children around our world must spend the majority of their days searching for enough water for their familes to drink. And even though my sister-in-law and I have done everything we can to raise these girls outside the realms of entitlement, the thought that we need to be thankful for tap water boggled their little minds. It was the single most important thing they carried with them as they finished their project.
Last night, as I was purchasing my very American root beer float from Sonic, I was thinking about how many things I take for granted. At that moment, I was listening to the Focus on the Family radio broadcast, and the speaker was issuing a call to all listeners:
Each night, before you go to bed, give thanks to God for three things that you have been blessed with. And then watch your life change.
It seems too simple, too good to be true. And yet, I know that it works. Many of you know that I have clinical depression. Negative thoughts are the norm for people in my situation. But lately, when an extremely negative thought pops into my head for no reason at all, I have taken to immediately sending up a prayer of thankfulness for all my many blessings.
And you know what? The more I do this, those blessings are pushing the negative thoughts out of my head. I am learning to enjoy life for what it is, not for what I want it to be. I am less and less plagued by unwelcome thoughts, simply for remembering my blessings. Who would have thought that something so easy could be so effective? Whole books have been written on escaping negative thoughts, and all it really took was prayers of thanksgiving.
I believe I first learned from Frances Hodgson Burnett in her novel The Secret Garden that where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow. A nice platitude, but it's true nonetheless.
So here's my challenge for myself and for anyone who wants to take it:
Think of three things that you are thankful for, every single night. And for those of us who are teachers, perhaps we can have our students, at the close of every single day, think of three things that they are thankful for. In a public school classroom, this is easy to do without bringing in religion. No one philosophy has a monopoly on thankfulness.
How many people could we influence to bring in roses to push out the thistles? And what effect could this have on our entitlement society, if we could teach our children how to be thankful, instead of complaining that they are not thankful enough?
As my shoes clunk on the Pergo from stepping off my soapbox, I wish each and every one of you a blessed Thanksgiving.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
As it happens, that woman - Henrietta Lacks - isn't just a fascinating picture. In her lifetime, it was apparent that she was an amazingly inspirational woman. And then there's the little matter of her cells....
A sample of Mrs. Lacks' cells taken during a biopsy is the only line of cells that has been deemed "immortal", meaning that they have not died off after 50 generations of division. In fact, since 1951, her cells have been used for so many medical breakthroughs that most - if not all - of us, have been affected by these cells. I had never heard of the HeLa cells before this book, but they are famous in the scientific and medical communities because of their widespread use in research. The list of medical advancements that are linked to HeLa starts with the polio vaccine, and just builds from there.
This book is a very well-researched account of the life of Henrietta Lacks, the life of her cells after her death, and the effects on her family. It is also a very thought-provoking discussion of race and class in America.
As if those issues weren't enough, the book brings to light a subject which most of us know nothing about - although we should. Neither Henrietta Lacks nor her family knew what those cells were being used for. For that matter, neither do any of us know what is being done with tissue and blood that is removed from our bodies during even simple procedures. And yet, most of us have tissue or blood samples in storage somewhere.
The debate over ownership of tissue samples should be more public. Because like Henrietta Lacks, we are all much more than a conglomeration of cells. For me, that was the true message of this book.
Five out of five stars.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Friday Highlights: I practically fell out of my seat laughing at Andy Andrews and his version of "Amazing Grace" set to the tune of the theme from "Gilligan's Island." I marvel at this man because I've read his book The Final Summit (review here), and felt that its author was a truly inspirational person. Hearing his comedic side was a surprise of some magnitude, I can tell you! I was honored to hear him speak.
Brenda Warner was such a strong woman and a model of who we as women should strive to be. I felt humbled to be in her presence. This woman reminded me that God is always near through the rainbows and the rain. Her testimony was exactly what I was hoping to get from Women of Faith. Instead of this fine woman constantly being introduced as "Kurt Warner's wife," people should be introducing Kurt Warner as "Brenda Warner's husband." Because that's how bright her ray of sunshine is.
Mandisa gave a concert that was not only inspirational but just. plain. fun. I'm heading over to iTunes after I finish this piece!
Saturday Highlights: I've wanted to hear Amy Grant live since I was a child. I think I must have looked like a kid in a candy store during her set. Her guitarist amazed me as well. Amy Grant, Mandisa, and Sandi Patty closed the set together, inviting all women to sing with them. Dancing and singing along with these three women was one of the best times I've ever had. I felt so free, and so grateful to be alive.
Sandi Patty carried the day, without a doubt. I've rarely heard a performer sing so well during a live show. And the speech that she gave brought me to tears. She reminded us to just be still and listen, for God is near.
My one concern is that there was a dramatic piece given on Friday night that seemed to downplay the role that husbands play in our lives. Yes, we women are busy, and we lead lives that at times are overwhelming. But we can't ever forget the load that our husbands pull.
I don't know where I would be today if it were not for the kind and thoughtful efforts of my husband, and that's not an exaggeration. I had unidentified, untreated clinical depression for much of my life, and my husband has been an absolute rock through all of it.
I was saddened by that presentation because I realized how many women out there identified with it. I used to be one of those women, but through God's mercy, I have learned to step back from that kind of life.
If I were ever to speak to women, that is the topic I would choose. So many of us struggle, and so many of us have no idea how to deal with the pain.
If you are one of those women who identified with that presentation, I hope that you are able to step back, take a look at your life, sit down with your husband, and talk with him about how you can simplify your lives.You are not running a race. If you feel as though you are, something is wrong, and there are so many ways that you can address it if you can just ask for help.
"Be still, and know that I am God..... My grace is sufficient for you." If you have been to Women of Faith, or if you plan to go in the future, my prayer for you is that those verses are what you take from it. Because ultimately, that's all we need now or ever will need.
Soli Deo gloria
Sunday, September 4, 2011
The basic premise is that the heroine and her husband are living a very happy marriage on mission in Columbia when the husband dies. The grieving widow returns to America, where she gives birth to their child, and attempts to put the pieces of her life back together. Two and a half years later, she is happily remarried to another man - until she receives word that her first husband has been found alive. She's put in the terrible position of having to choose between two men she loves.
This book deals in a very powerful way with the theme of sacrificing our own desires to meet God's plan for our lives. And, really, if you enjoy Christian fiction, this one is a must-read.
Five out of five stars
Friday, September 2, 2011
However, a week before the conference, my tickets still had not arrived. After waiting and checking the mailbox much like a high school senior during college admissions season, I finally caved and decided to call them this morning. I spoke to just the nicest woman. She discovered that I hadn't been assigned seats due to a glitch in the computer system. Gosh, don't I understand what that's like!
To sum it up, her supervisor felt so badly about the mixup that they've given me seats on the conference floor, very close to the actual presentation. These seats are so difficult to come by that I'm absolutely overwhelmed by their generosity.
But more important than that was the sense of kindness that I felt from the woman who took my call. This was a woman who seemed so full of love that I could feel her spirituality over the phone, half a continent away. I truly didn't want to hang up the phone, just so I could enjoy her sheer goodness for just a few minutes more. That's the kind of person I wish I were, the kind of person I'd like to teach my daughter to be.
And she was just one more reminder that we make an impact with even the smallest actions.
So, thank you to Women of Faith, and thank you for the kindness of one woman. You've reminded me that there are still people in this world who shine a light for the rest of us.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
I'm excited to report that I will be attending the Women of Faith conference in September, courtesy of Thomas Nelson Company. I've been wanting to attend this conference for a long time. Many of my friends have been, and I've heard it's very powerful. I can't wait!
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
I was provided this book by the publisher and was not required to give a positive review.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. I was not required to post a positive review.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Five out of Five Stars
Friday, April 15, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I read this book because I found the author's most recent book, <i>A Billion Reasons Why</i>, to be entertaining. I can't say the same for this one, however. I just didn't connect well with any of the characters. The main character wore on my nerves after a while, which was unfortunate since the book is written in first person.
Billerbeck's writing style, however, is incredible. She's definitely an author that I would read again.
She's All That
Thomas Nelson, 2005
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Goodreads First Read book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Sunday, February 20, 2011
R.C. Sproul's The Truth of the Cross is nothing short of an amazing piece of theological writing. It discusses the necessity of Christ's atonement in light of the sins of man. It also goes into detail about the substitutionary act that was Christ's death, and covers who exactly benefits from the atonement. There is also a chapter on the five points of Calvinism that explains the historical depth of Calvinism.
I admit that I was nervous about reading this book because of Sproul's reputation as a first-class theologian. As a layperson, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to follow his writing very well. However, Sproul is a master of the written word. He takes this subject and makes it easy to understand with his captivating writing style. As a result, I found the book to be a fairly easy read - which helped, because the subject matter is so thought-provoking.
I finished this book before church this morning, and I found that what I learned in this book opened up the Bible to me in ways I never imagined. I understand so much more about what Christ's sacrifice truly meant, both for those who lived before His time and for those who lived after. In terms of this understanding, I feel that The Truth of the Cross is one of the most inspirational books I have ever read, and I don't use that hyperbole lightly.
A chapter toward the end of the book does a pretty thorough job of explaining the five points of Calvinism from a layperson's perspective. Sproul explains that Calvinism actually stems back to the time of St. Augustine, and that people tend to misinterpret the idea of limited atonement. He explains that limited atonement only means that Christ died for believers, which I feel is important for people to understand.
Whether or not you are a member of the reformed church, I believe that this book is inspirational and leads to a better understanding of the sacrifice that was made on Calvary. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Christ, God, and what is expected of Christians.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
I appreciated the first section of the book, which examined God's character as He shows Himself in the Bible. I am impressed with Chan's challenge of the American church and its members to look within themselves to see if they are truly following God's word. The second part of the book focused on ways in which we as Christians can examine ourselves. It gives guidance on how to allow God to lead us in the path of the righteous.
The book was good in that it absolutely caused me to examine my life as a Christian more closely. However, the writing style was not as riveting as I had hoped it would be, which made it difficult to keep my interest for long periods of time. But, as with many issues of a spiritual nature, perhaps this book is best read slowly and deliberately, leaving time for prayer.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in stepping up their spirituality.
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
David C. Cook (2008)
Friday, February 11, 2011
This is the first in a trilogy of books about two Amish sisters. One has left the Amish community for a passionate marraige with a non-Amish man, but has come to regret the decision. The other sister is faced with making a decision between her best friend, a non-Amish man she has so much in common with, and an Amish man who will provide her with the faith-based life she needs, but seems not to have a great deal in common with her otherwise.
The dichotomy between the two sisters is the most interesting part of the book. It is almost as though they are older and younger versions of the same person. It will be interesting to see how the trilogy plays out to see how much the younger sister is influenced by the choices of the elder.
This book is certainly better than most fiction about the Amish that I have read. It was well-written, and I felt as though most of the characters had true human emotions. It's tough to review the first book of a trilogy, since many of my concerns about the characters in the book were obviously left unanswered. I am eagerly awaiting the next two books to see how well the story stands as a whole.
This isn't a silly romance, nor is it a deeply serious book. Recommended for any older teenage girl or adult who wants a book that is a good, solid, middle-of-the-road book. I am eagerly awaiting the second book in the trilogy.
The Thorn (Rose Trilogy #1)
Bethany House (2010)
Sunday, February 6, 2011
The styles of the two authors blended together nicely. This was a very well-written book, with the perfect mesh of adventure and romance. The crime novel portion was interesting, although the ending was as predictable as these things usually are. The religious aspects of the novel, while important, definitely took a back seat to the crime aspect of the story, so I think that anyone, Christian or not, would enjoy this book. It is not at all preachy.
I'd recommend this novel for anyone who is interested in a crime novel that isn't too terribly intense, with light romance thrown in for good measure. And I very much hope that this won't be the last collaboration of these two authors.