Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review for A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander

A lasting impression is exactly what this book brings.   

A Lasting Impression by Tamera AlexanderThis story takes place in the late 1800’s after the war.  The states are desperate to recover and rebuild and so is Claire Elise Laurent, a young French woman whose past is only a step behind her.  She comes to war-torn Tennessee hoping for a fresh start.  In the Publisher’s words:
“Set at Nashville’s historic Belmont Mansion, A Lasting Impression is a sweeping love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and a woman to see themselves – and each other – for who they truly are.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  The history is rich and vibrant along with the characters.  My own knowledge on this time period is lacking but I felt the world Ms. Alexander created of Nashville was stunning.  And the Belmont Mansion is extravagant in description.  She has an amazing ability to string together words providing a masterpiece of the senses.  I loved it.  A link to an excerpt of the story is here.

Alexander covers many themes in this story, such as authenticity and honesty, family backgrounds and social status.  Along with this she exposes a spiritual journey for the main characters that feels real and alive.  The progression of the story is natural.  I really loved the character Claire.  She has a secret that shapes her and molds her decisions leading the reader effortlessly along her journey.

So far in every Alexander book I have read she always leaves a fingerprint on my heart; a word or phrase that changes the soil of my soul.   Tamera always leaves me changed – and challenged.  In the story, the main character faces a question that Tamera herself faced at one time.  Would you still paint (or write or sing or whatever) if you were only painting for Him?  God places desires and talents in us, His children.  He wants us to use those for His kingdom.  That is a question we all must answer at some point in our lives.  That alone is a journey.  I am on that journey myself.  The popular quote often repeated is that every journey begins with a step.  A step of faith often.  Claire had to take one and so do I.  There is a line at the end of the novel that has struck chord within me.  Alexander writes this as closure has come to one issue and Sutton, the hero of the story, is granted a new position at his work.  “Though Claire knew it wasn’t what Sutton wanted to do with his life, it was a step, and every step changed the view.  Who knew what God would bring next?”     Now isn’t that what a spiritual journey is all about?

Have you ever taken a step of faith, not knowing what would happen and then watched the view before your eyes change?  Was God faithful in that step of faith?

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, 
a division of Baker Publishing Group".   

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Review for Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy

A mother's love.  A sister's promise. Will two women find the path to save a young woman's life?

Reclaiming LilyPatti Lacy wrote a powerful story about two cultures and two women who collide over their love for one special girl.  Lily, a young girl in a Chinese Orphanage is adopted and relocated to the Long Horn State in the U.S.A. She is renamed Joy and expected to live the life of an American girl.

Gloria, Joy's adoptive mother, struggles with a deep fear that she will lose Joy, so she holds on to her with an iron grip.  Too tight - to the point of pushing her away.

Many years after her adoption Joy is tracked down by her adoring sister, Kai who has spent her life on the mission to reclaim Lily into her Chinese family. Kai brings a sense of family Joy has been missing.  She also brings bad news of a genetic disease, PKD, that has attacked the Chinese Chang family and fears it may be poised to take Joy as well.

This story is moving and deep as it follows the roller coaster ride of international adoption, diverse cultures, teenage angst and rebellion, and life changing illnesses.  Patti Lacy has also pulled back the veil of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in this story of healing and restoration.  The story line is definitely worth the read.

As a reader I struggled with the lay out of the story.  The backstory, flashbacks and switching view points made the beginning half of the story difficult to follow and frustrating to continue on.  The two main characters, both women, were not easy to relate to from my perspective.  However, by the middle of the story I was engaged and invested in the characters plights. There were elements of the story that I struggled to see the connection to the plot.  This slowed down the flow of the book. The ending/epilogue felt a little rushed and disconnected but by the wrap up of the story I was able to see what Lacy was trying to show.

The aspects of the story I enjoyed were redeeming.  The transitions in the characters was realistic and understandable.  The faith issue was handles well without clich├ę or contrived 'Christianese'.  A strong voice for Kai helped the cultural differences to stand center stage at all times.  I felt the character of Kai was the most interesting and compelling.  Kai's story became more of the focus of the plot than Joy.  The research Lacy must have done for the story was extensive, but her accounts showed a confidence and power.  There were many emotive experiences she needed to draw from.  Well done.

My recommendation for Reclaiming Lily is to readers who are looking for a deep story, written with poetic prose and rich historical basis.  The story will touch your heart and leave you encouraged.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Lord has come ... now and then.

Have you ever had one of those teaching moments from God where the light bulb flickers on and all the little puzzle pieces from the last few days or weeks all come together.  I love those moments.  To me it is proof that there is a an all-powerful God who loves me enough to send me little 'love notes' or clues.

Lately I have been thinking about how there is so much that doesn't make sense to me.  You know the big things, like ... why is pain and suffering the best teacher?  ... how do we pray for something for years without an answer and still pray in faith?  ... how do I live in the now but focus on the then?

The little clues of truth God has been planting in my life started several weeks ago.  First as a sermon, then in some morning devotions and last of all in a book I was reading.  The clues over the last few weeks point towards one word ...eternity.  This life I am living right now is only a blip, a mist, a shard of ice off the tip of the iceberg.  Why then do we get so caught up in that tiny speck. It is time to see the bigger picture.

I just finished another ARC book titled Reclaiming Lily.  I discovered an undercurrent theme of how God is in the big things and in the little things and He is especially present in the things we don't understand.  I will explain more about that in my review.

Here is a clip from my devotions this week that sums it up nicely - (another clue).

"God is everywhere present, so why am I surprised when I find him in unexpected places?  Royalty in a manger?  Sovereignty riding a common colt through the streets of Jerusalem?  Peace by the beside of my friend's mother who is trying of leukemia?  Expectations are disappointed.  Plans are thwarted.  I do not like what life does to people and plans."   (Ruth Senter)
The fact that God does so many things that don't make sense to us is actually part of the plan.  "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing..."  (1 Cor 1:18)   God has a grand scheme plan, a large scale purpose, a never-ending plot that cannot be explained in the first few words of an introductory sentence.
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him -"  (1 Cor 2:9)
So the next time you find yourself scratching your temple, shaking your head and fists at God, think for a moment about the fact that we are unable to see the whole story from our limited perspective. Imagine it like acting as an extra in a movie.  Your scene runs a full one minute and eight seconds then the camera swerves back to the main character.  With that small presence you don't have anything to do with the setting, the arc of the characters or even the plot.  You weren't there when it all started and you won't be there when it all ends either.  Even if it turns out to be the best movie ever made, poised to accept a long string of awards, you are insignificant.  You are a by passer.  You are an extra.  You are 'Guy, the expendable crewman number six'.

However don't stop there.  That isn't the end of the story.  There is something else that's good news.  The best news of all.

  • You are a child of the Living God (1 John 3:1,2)
  • You are Christ's friend (John 15:15)
  • You are adopted by God (Rom 8:15)
  • You are a citizen of Heaven (Phil 3:20)
  • You are an heir of God (Rom 8:17)
  • You are blessed (Eph 1:3)
  • You are chosen by God (holy, beloved) (Col 3:12)
  • You are a member of His body (1 Cor 12:27)
I could go on.  I could list item after item of how important you are to God.  You are not insignificant or expendable or even a casual thought.  You are special to Him.  You are loved.

So how does that fit in with the whole fleeting moment thing?

Simple.  Our life here ... our troubles here are temporary.  Our life here on Earth is what is fleeting and small.  But our life IN CHRIST is what will last forever.  If you find yourself lost in the moment, neck deep in frustration, worry or pain, take a step back.  Ask God for an eternal perspective.  Spend time alone with Him to counteract the bombardment of the "now" to focus on the "then".

Take a moment this week to plan for eternity, instead of for 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spread some cheer ... Christmas time is here.

This morning I am baking goodies - sweet and savoury for our annual open house.  I haven't been in the mood for a lot of Christmas music yet this year but today I am.  So I thought I would show you a few songs to get you in the mood too.  (In case you aren't there yet).

But first, let me open our time together with a silly video from the guys at Tenth Avenue North.  You can tell they had a lot of fun filming it.

Anyone want to take a guess at how many attempts it took to film that awesome display of Holiday Cheer?  Check out their website for the answer.  The song is also available for download at iTunes.

Here is a list of some Christian artists celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour.  The links are to the song which you can download onto your computer for free.

If you like Sixpence None the Richer, Leigh Nash has a free download from Amazon of her rendition of O Holy Night.  (It is in Mp3 format.)

Or why not, Angels We Have Heard on High. (Info on how to download is underneath the song title.  To play the song, click on the blue highlighted song title.)    

Or perhaps you are in the mood for a little God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Jars of Clay.

Are you a Phil Keaggy fan?  Try The Best Christmas Morn.

Those are just a few free downloads you can add to your Christmas tunes this year.  However my favourite Christmas CD, (which isn't free and I don't even have any videos for it) is my Paul Brandt CD titled The Gift.  I am listening to it now.  Wanna come over?  I'll have some cookies out of the oven in about ten minutes.

One last bit of holiday fun is a video made by Spirit 105.3.  

Have a blessed and joyous Christmas.  From my home to yours ... God Bless!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Marc Martel - He's somebody to love!

Well the votes have been cast and he did it folks.  Marc Martel won the role of lead singer for the band Queen's 40th Anniversary tour. Roger Taylor, former Queen member has selected 6 lucky individuals from the masses to be in his tribute band.  Three of those six are Canadians.  Go Canada Go!

I posted a lot of information about Marc and his amazing climb to the top in the audition process here.  You can discover the background there.  But for now, here is what Marc has to say about all this stuff.

“What an amazing and unexpected opportunity to come our way – not to mention the timing of it all for me.  Having gotten to know the other contest winners a bit in LA, I’m confident we have what it takes to gel as a unit and give our best to do justice to some of the best rock music ever recorded.  I am so thankful for the chance to do this.  Gonna be Fun!”
The CBC ran a clip and an interview with all three Canadians. Check them out here.  One thing I did not know until the finalist were announced is that Marc's brother, David, was one of the semi-finalist as well.  Some good rock n' roll genes in that family i would say.  Unfortunately David Martel did not win.  Here is a You tube journey for David.  (1st audition, 2nd audition, final audition).

The contest required him to pass through two video auditions and then a live audition with several other artists in front of Band member Roger Taylor.  The Queen Extravaganza group posted all six of the live auditions if you want to check them out.  Marc Martel in on video part 4.  But for today ...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review – The Names of God Bible

“Yahweh is my Roeh.”  Do you know what scripture that is?

Names of God Bible, The, Ann Spangler, 978-0-8007-1931-9Ann Spangler, the General Editor of the Names of God Bible, opens the door to a more intimate relationship with God.  She takes your everyday reading of God’s word to a new level. Spangler is an award-winning writer whose fascination with the Bible has resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. She is the author or co-author of several bestselling books, including Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, Women of the Bible, and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus.

The Names of God Bible is written in the God’s Word Translation.  This is a relatively new translation from 1995 which uses the method known as “closest natural equivalence” to express the meaning of the original text.  This allows for clear readability.  The structure is common to our everyday day English, using grammar and punctuation we are most familiar with.  For more information about the God’s Word Translation please visit here.

My first impression of the Bible was it's beautiful layout.  I like the colours used and the pleasing look of the pages. The Bible would make a beautiful gift.

I found the Names of God Bible very easy to read with the added eloquence of the proper Hebrew names of God within the text.  It took away the common, overused titles we use for our Lord and replaced them with words that now hold greater meaning.  I also enjoyed the prayer prompts throughout to give me a handle on what God's name means to me in my life today.  A nice touch.

The Name pages interspersed throughout the Bible are well written and share some great insights.  An added bonus of the Bible is the ability to travel through on a verse by verse trail following the same name.  This is a useful aspect should the reader want to study the names of God deeper. (Which is perhaps the Bible's main purpose.)  

One aspect I wished I could have had in the Bible is a link back to where the Name was taught - a.k.a. the Name page.  Due to the style of my daily devotions at this particular time, I read a scripture set each day - not in sequential order.  So when I came along a new name in the scriptures I had to resort to the index to find out what page the Name description was on.  It was not difficult - just time consuming.  A small page link in the margins would have been helpful.

Overall, I find the Names of God a good reference.  I enjoyed using it alongside my other Bible.  I would recommend it to others.

By the way, the verse at the top is Psalm 23.
"Yahweh is my Roeh.  I am never in need.  
He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside peaceful waters.  He renews my soul.  He guides me along the paths of righteousness for the sake of his name.  
Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm.  Your rod and your staff give me courage."
If I have intrigued you and you want to know more, please check out this video about how the Bible is set up with all its added features that I couldn't touch on here.  

Bible has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Laugh a little; live a lot

Want a good laugh?  Go check out this short video from a blog I follow, Character Therapist.  Do it now, I will wait for you.

I am not insinuating that mental health is a laughing matter - it isn't.  Our mental health is a very serious thing, but sometimes we can get so lost inside ourselves we forget why Christ came.  So, golly-gee let's all lighten up a little and heal some by laughing.

This morning my devotions were from Galatians 5:
Christ has freed us so that we may be enjoy the benefits of freedom.  Therefore, be firm in this freedom and don't become slaves again.
Paul is referring to becoming a slave to the law, but I think in our culture there are so many things that enslave us than only the law and our own sins.  Things like:

  • busyness - running from place A to place B in a frantic race to be involved
  • money - trying to get more, have more and be more
  • comparisons - looking around to see what others are or have that you lack
  • depression - caught up in self instead of others
  • strangling relationship - discord with ones we are called to love 
  • discontentment - never having enough of ...
Where are you struggling to be free from?  What bonds are holding you prisoner?  Remember that Christ came so you could be free and have life to the fullest.  Live it!

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review - Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo and Lyn Vincent

Pastor Todd Burpo had no idea that his picture and outlook on Heaven would change once his 4 year old son Colton was rolled into the operating room for a life-saving surgery to correct an infected appendix.   Heaven was about to become very real.   As Colton recovered from the invasive surgery he began to share glimpses of a journey he took to heaven and back.  Over the coming months Todd would document the stories told by his son Colton.  Stories that would bring hope and comfort to those who chose to listen and believe.

As I read this story I made two observations in this easy to read true story.  First, Heaven is for Real is certainly not a book to rely on for a biblical picture of heaven.   I am in no position to determine if Colton really did or did not go to heaven.  However I will say that some of the stories told left me scratching my head and wondering if that was truely a match for what is presented in the Bible.

On a more positive note, my second observation is that of a lesson learned from reading this book.  A child’s faith is something to behold.  Little Colton has no reservations or doubts when it comes to the validity of heaven and life-after-death.  I wonder, do I live with this type of confidence from the knowledge I have gained in scripture?  Whether the reader believes this story or not, there is no disputing that the boy portrayed within the pages has a faith that is strong and certain. 

Heaven is For Real is not a hard book to read.  While some may find it somewhat of a stretch to believe, I choose to digest it for the lessons I can learn.  I would recommend this book to people looking for a casual but interesting read.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers 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 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sing unto Him a new song

We are doing a study at our church about discovering your life's vision or dream, giving to you by God.  (Check out this post for more information.  Or visit Chazown for yourself.)

As part of the process we took a test to determine our spiritual gifts.  I was amazed.  What I thought would be on my list wasn't and instead ones I never would have guessed were.

For example I rated quite high for music.  I would never list music as my spiritual gifting - either would the poor soul standing in front of me in the pews.  I love to sing but I can't do it well.  At all.  I once told a musically gifted woman that and she smiled and said 'you could learn to'.  So, I told her the story of when I joined a kids choir as a youngster.  This is no lie; the sweet choir director, a close friend of my family, pulled me aside after a few sessions and gently suggested I find another hobby.

I also taught preschool for years.  I loved teaching the kids new songs, but the best part was the look on the parent helper's face when I started to sing it for the kids.  Funny how little people never care if you are in tune or not.  It just makes them sing freer, I think. (I hope.)

The interesting part is that music is very important to me.  There is always some playing in my home and in my vehicle.  I wake up in the morning with songs on my mind.  Music speaks deeper into my soul than words or art or anything.  However it is such a personal, almost private thing, that most people who know me very well may not even know how important it is in my life.  I can't think of a single person who would say it was one of my spiritual gifts.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book review Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock

Shadow in Serenity is a smooth ride on a new carousel.  I found the book light and fun to read with engaging characters who brought the story to life.

Click to see a larger image of Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock

Carny Sullivan was named aptly for the world she grew up in.  Her parents worked on a travelling carnival who taught her to see the world through very different eyes than most.  She was raised to trick, con and steal almost anything.  Which gave her an ability to read people far deeper than most could. 

Now living in a quiet "Mayberry" types town in Texas she doesn't need to use that skill much, until Logan Brisco strolls into town. His slick and saavy ways are no match for her insight, until he finds a way past her head and into her heart.  Then he has to pull off the greatest con ever in his life ... the truth.

Shadow in Serenity is penned by Terri Blackstock, a Christy Award winning and New York Times Bestelling author.  This title is my first from this author and I was definitely not disappointed.  The original story was actually published many years ago when she worked as a non-christian writer.  Since God changed her life and she switched over to the Inspirational market, she has had a fondness for this story.  So when the timing was right she re-wrote parts, added more to the Christian elements and prepared the story for her conservative audience.

This story held so many great elements for me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Did you know ...

The movie Courageaous did very well in the Theatres.  The hit movie from Sherwood Pictures and the Kendrick brothers is about to launch its DVD nationwide on January 17, 2012.  Let's check out some stats first.

The movie was only picked up by select theatres but shocked many when it opened at No. 4.  After the second week, the movie expanded into thousands more theatres than it started out with - across the US.  There it stayed in the top ten for four weeks.

I don't know about where you live but here in Alberta the film did very well for the short time it was available.  It played in only ONE theatre in all of Calgary, however.  The first weekend it was sold right out hours before the showings.  It did not stay for long and did not expand its showings like in the states.

COURAGEOUS is that rare movie combining an entertaining, engaging story with a vital, inspiring message,” said Michael Catt, executive producer of the film and Sherwood Baptist Church senior pastor. “You’ll be on the edge of your seat watching COURAGEOUS, then rise up when it’s over, resolving to make a difference in your life and the lives of those you care about.”

Now we can get geared up for the DVD to be released.