Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: A Year with Jesus by R. P. Nettelhorst

The subtitle of this book is “Daily Reflections and Readings on Jesus’ Own Words” and this 1-year devotional book is just that.  A Year with Jesus focuses on the words of Jesus: his sermons, parables, miracles, and interactions with his disciples and Second Temple Jewish leadership.  The text is divided into 365 daily devotionals; each one takes about 5 minutes to read. The first half of each devotional is a scripture passage taken from a different translation (i.e, NIV, NKJV) or paraphrase (The Message).  The second half of each devo includes a personal reflection or application.  Nettelhorst divides the year’s readings into 10 groups to allow readers to contemplate Jesus’ teachings on the following topics: Love and Hate, Truth and Lies, Arrogance and Humility, Friends and Enemies, Belief and Disbelief, Patience and Impatience, Deserved and Undeserved, Good and Evil, Fidelity and Treachery, and Life and Death.

What struck me most about these devotions is their attention to the Jewish roots of Christianity.  Nettelhorst places some readings in the context of Jewish holidays and reminds readers of the Messianic expectations of Jesus’ time.  I did a little research and discovered that the author not only spent time in Israel (working on a kibbutz) he also did graduate work in Semitic languages.  A Year with Jesus is not “scholarly’--it’s very readable and accessible--but it is intelligent, which gives it a plus in my book.

Since I’m reviewing this close to Christmas, I think this would make a great gift for a family member, friend, or Bible study teacher.  It’s a little big to be completely portable and won’t fit into a purse or glove compartment (if you’re looking for that sort of book) But I’m thankful that Thomas Nelson valued content over size for this volume.  

Highly recommended.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review: The Peace That God Promises

Book jacket photo from Amazon.com
It's not easy to classify Ann Spangler's book "The Peace That God Promises".  It's not a how-to book, though the author shares practical advice. It's not a self-help book, though it provides counsel on living well. It's not a Bible study, though it's filled with insights and verses from Scripture.

What Spangler has written is an insightful and intelligent guide to be read, highlighted, discussed, and read again.

Spangler opens the book with two concepts culled from her own personal study, namely that the stories we tell ourselves have an effect on the peace we experience in our lives and how we choose to remember our lives--and whether we're truthful with ourselves-- has an impact on our sense of peace. 

If our lives are filled with falsehood, we have difficulty finding and experiencing peace.  Each chapter addresses one aspect of finding peace and Spangler encourages the reader to develop and nurture a peace-filled life through many avenues:
* Forgiving enemies
* Following Christ
* Repentance
* Learning to live in community with others
* Practicing simplicity
* Eliminating hurry
* Observing a day of rest
* Cultivating a life of prayer
* Being mindful of what we say and how we say it

This would be an excellent book for individual or group study.  It would also make an appropriate gift for a friend or family member struggling with anxiety.  Contains questions to use for individual journaling or discussion in a reading group.

I received a free copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine program.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review: Smack-Dab in the Middle of God’s Love

Authors Brennan Manning and John Blase welcome children to learn what it’s like to be  Smack-Dab in the Middle of God’s Love. This is a gentle story of a couple “smack-dab in the middle of their years”. Willie Juan and Ana have no children of their own, but all the children in town gravitate toward them because of their easy nature, their open hearts, and Ana’s honey-wonderful sopapillas.

One evening Willie Juan asks the children, “Little friends, someday, when you are in heaven, what do you think Abba will ask you?”  (Willie Juan uses the familiar Hebrew, Abba, just as Jesus did)  From this question comes a discussion about what it means to be smack-dab in the middle of God’s love.

This is a lovely book.  Nicole Tadgell’s illustrations are vibrant and lively with bold yellows and pinks and a rainbow of skin colors. The characters' faces are kindly and the book gently addresses some childhood fears when confronted with a God who is both overwhelmingly big and intimately loving.

Despite it’s good qualities, this book did not bear up to a 2nd reading in my household.  It’s a wonderful book for grownups to read, but not very exciting for kids drawn to more action based books.  It is quite wordy and repetitive in a way that repeats the message rather than repeats a refrain, as do many books for young children.  It wasn’t always very clear what the story was about from page to page.  My own children respected this book, but did not enjoy it. Your mileage may vary.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Book Review: Managing God's Money by Randy Alcorn

Does God care how we spend money? How can we apply Biblical teaching to our current financial situation?

Randy Alcorn’s latest book, Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide, is a fairly comprehensive overview of Biblical teaching on stewardship.  Alcorn’s book is not a “how-to” guide to financial planning. Rather, the first half focuses on developing a scriptural attitude toward money, while the second half provides general guidance on making decisions about handling money in light of the Bible’s teaching.

Alcorn allocates chapters to getting out of debt, teaching children to be good stewards of money and the difference between “grace giving” and tithing. A substantial portion of his book addresses materialism and how it’s gotten Western society into the financial mess we find ourselves in today.

The question and answer format of each chapter made the text easy to follow and the table of contents is handy for browsing through topics of interest.  Alcorn’s style is friendly, yet direct and uncompromising, as a good advisor should be. It’s filled with Scripture references and would make an excellent small group or family study. 

Recommended for pastors, newlyweds, parents, college students and recent graduates,  and those looking to understand the Biblical worldview on handling money.

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complementary copy of this book.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker

I usually review books in this blog, but my latest review is over at my other blog, Frugal Family Friend.  The book is called Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving.

I haven't been too impressed with the latest "frugal living" books that have appeared in the bookstores.  (Woman discovers coupons!) However, I'm pretty enthusaistic about this one, mostly because it's packed with plenty of practical tips, some of which I'll be sharing on my own frugal living blog.

I'm also hoping to give away this book (reluctantly, because I love it so) at Frugal Family Friend once I'm done taking notes.  If you haven't seen my new blog, come on over for a visit.

Shalom, y'all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review: The Happiness of Pursuit

The Tour de France is just around the corner and, in my household, the month of July means three solid weeks of cycling on TV.  That's why I jumped at the chance to review Davis Phinney's new book, The Happiness of Pursuit, for Amazon Vine.

I'm posting my review here as well. While Phinney's story is not the usual Christian-themed book I typically review on this blog, I found his story to be inspiring and admire the co-writers for "bleeping out" any foul language.  I feel pretty secure recommending this to the high school athletes I know.

The Joy is in the Journey

The Happiness of Pursuit is a multi-layered story.  It’s the story of Davis Phinney’s cycling career. It’s the story of his relationship with father, Damon Phinney.  It’s the story of his love of family and of getting to see son Taylor compete in the Beijing Olympics.  It’s the story of Phinney’s experiences with early onset Parkinson’s Disease.  Above all, this book is a collection of stories that reflect Phinney’s never-give-up attitude, which served him well as a cyclist and which he relies on in his battle with Parkinson’s.

Readers looking for a “tell-all” cycling memoir this summer should look elsewhere.  Phinney and co-writer Austin Murphy have given us a glimpse into the difficult work and choices that cyclists make in their career. But the point of the story is not the prize at the end nor fame nor fortune, but about celebrating life’s everyday victories whether they be barely hanging on to compete another day of racing or merely getting oneself out of bed.

Though some of the people mentioned in this book will be unfamiliar to those who don't follow professional cycling, even non-fans will find Phinney's story inspirational and engaging. A terrific fathers and sons story that will appeal to older teens and adults alike.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding

Videotaped the ceremony.  Didn't want to wake the kids up.  I'm sure glad the ceremony went a little better than this.  Very funny.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: Max on Life by Max Lucado

Readers have questions and Max has answers.  Max on Life is a collection of questions that Lucado has fielded as a pastor, a husband, a father, and an author.  The book files questions under categories of Hope, Hurt, Help, Him/Her, Home, Haves/Have-Nots, and Hereafter.

More specifically Max Lucado tackles 172 questions that involve prayer life, discerning God’s calling, dating, disagreements, sex, money, heaven and more.  I’ll admit to thumbing through the book looking for answers to the “big questions” and Max does address some, but the book is aimed more at practical advice for Christians, not the theological puzzles that won’t be answered this side of heaven.

Sample questions:
#14: How can I get free of the fear that God might not forgive me?
#64: I’ve asked God to heal me from cancer. He healed my friend from cancer, but so far he hasn’t helped me. My friend says I should pray with more faith. Is she right?
#144: I was born to worry. What advice do you have for us fretters?
#170: ...”How could a loving God send people to Hell?”...Can you help me answer my friend’s question?

Max on Life is a collection of gleanings from Lucado’s years in the ministry and some of his books. Lucado’s answers are brief and pithy, supported by Scripture, and salted with experience.  I’d recommend this book to Lucado’s fans, seminarians, pastors, counselors, or anyone involved in a church ministry.  Somehow, somewhere, many of these questions are going to crop up.

Max may not have all the answers, but he knows the One who does.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their 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  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James: Book Review

Carolyn Custis James is concerned about women.  While God intends women to “thrive, mature, gain wisdom, hone their gifts, and contribute to his vast purposes in our world” (p. 76),  other voices relegate women to, at best, a soft ghetto of second class status, or worse, outright dismissal and horrific abuse.

James has become the voice of a generation of women who desire authentic Christian living that moves beyond platitudes into meaningful action,  in which women (and men) live up to their role as God’s image bearers.  Half the Church for women to roll up their sleeves and get to work on behalf of the Kingdom.

Have Western interpretations made the gospel message relevant only to white, middle class, married women with children?  Or do Jesus’ words and actions have meaning for every woman: the unmarried woman, the widow, the childless, the woman forced into sex trafficking, the Third World child-bride?  James’s answer in Half the Church is a resounding yes--and she has both the Scripture and the skills to back it up.

Half the Church will challenge, inspire, possibly provoke, but it will not leave you feeling unmoved.  Discussion questions follow each chapter.  Note and citations at the end of the book.

I will definitely be passing this one around to friends.

Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women
Carolyn Custis James

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book free from Amazon.com as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Time with God for Mothers by Jack Countryman: Book Review

Time with God for Mothers by Jack Countryman is a collection of some 90 brief devotions based on verses from the New King James Version.  Sprinkled throughout the text are jeweled flowers and butterflies as if to equate Mother with a precious jewel.  The devotions are in no particular order or grouping and apply to all mothers, whether they be newly minted moms hauling a diaper bag, or the matriarch of a grown family.

Devotion titles include:

  • Encouragement Changes Everything
  • The Joy of a Mother’s Faith
  • What is Your God-Given Talent?

Appendices include:

  • Mother’s Prayers in the Bible (think Hannah, Naomi, Mary)
  • Index to verses about the responsibilities of motherhood (compassion, discipline) 
  • Index to verses about the promises of motherhood (fruitfulness, grace)
  • A place for notes

I’ve reviewed books by Countryman before and am impressed at how he writes so tenderly for women.  The primary mood of these devotions is encouragement and these words of encouragement could easily have come from a son reflecting on what a godly mother taught him.  This is a lovely volume containing powerful Scripture and easy to read devotions that would make a great gift for your own Mom, a new mom, or a friend who’s a mom.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their 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  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Eat Your Peas for Mom: Book Review

Today’s mail packet contained a small volume that’s part of the “Eat Your Peas” series of books by Cheryl Karpen.  Eat Your Peas for Mom is subtitled Simple Truths and Happy Insights.  The “eat your peas” part comes from Karpen’s own mother’s advice and this book contains something the author calls “nutrients for your heart.”

I love the cover design, but as I began flipping through the pages of this book I thought, “Oh dear. This one’s going to be glurgy.”  Call me a cynical child of the 1980‘s, but I’m not a fan of overly sentimental collections of phrases and this one does have a few.  [Maybe I’ve had one too many sappy emails in my in-box?]

Yet, when I sat down and went through the pages in order I could see a beautiful progression of sentiments that seemed to capture a woman’s thoughts about mother that range from:

  • You reassured me as a child
  • You put up with me as a teen and young adult
  • The things you did now start to make sense to me
  • I am who I am because of you
  • I’ll always need you--but right now I want you to get out there and do the things you put off when you had children

Part apology, part head-smacking “why didn’t I appreciate you sooner,” there are some lovely thoughts expressed here that'll warm mom's heart.  But if this book really captures your feelings toward mom, use some of the ample white space on the left-side pages and write her a personal note. Otherwise, it’s just a book.

So, I'm of mixed feelings about this book.  It's definitely a "gift book" and it really depends on the giver and receiver as to whether or not this will make a good gift.  The spring release of Eat Your Peas for Mom is just in time to order for Mother’s Day on May 8th.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their 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  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, March 04, 2011

Renew Your Strength

The inspiration for this week's Jesus Boat Blog post came from a Scripture verse I saw at my son's Tae Kwon Do class.  Master Perri and instructor Karen both have Zech. 4:6 on their black belts. (and that is so cool)

So, of course I had to look it up:

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.  Zechariah 4:6 NIV

I thought that a post talking about Tae Kwon Do might sound strange coming from a blog out of Israel (I could be wrong) so I changed the sport to weightlifting.

Here's this week's post:

Renew Your Strength

The man plants his feet on the mat and steadies his legs.  He bends his knees and grips a steel bar firmly with both hands.  His face twists into a grimace as he straightens his legs and hoists the weighted barbell high above his head.  He releases the weight and raises muscled arms in triumph: a new world record.

Athletes who perform feats of amazing strength are easy to identify by their muscular arms and legs.  Less obvious to the eye are the ordinary strongmen around us: those who shoulder heavy burdens and endure uncommon difficulties.  From where do they get their strength? How do we gain that strength?

Read the rest at The Jesus Boat Blog

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Path Through the Legos--Monday Manna

Today I’m joining in Monday Manna over at Vonnie Blake’s blog, My Back Door.  The purpose of Monday Manna is to get to know God’s word a little better by meditating on a selected verse, then writing about it and linking up with fellow bloggers.

This week’s verse is Psalm 18:36 --
“Thou hast enlarged my steps under me,  that my feet did not slip.” (KJV)

Living in a house inhabited by boys, the first image that sprang to mind was of carefully navigating the minefield of Legos, Hot Wheels, and Star Wars figurines that emerges in our living room every day after school.  You don't step on the Legos (ouch); you stick to the uncluttered path (wherever that might be).

The smooth path is the better way.

The NIV gives a different translation, “You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.”  The HCSB translates the verse, “You widen [a place] beneath me for my steps, and my ankles do not give way.”

One of my favorite classes in seminary was the “maps class”: Historical Geography of the Bible.  For an entire semester we traced the paths the Israelites took as they traveled to and through the Promised Land.  The Psalmist was quite familiar with the difference between the wide and narrow paths. The best roads to travel were between mountains and across the wide, flat plains. These became the highways that merchants, kings, and armies used.  It’s possible to travel over the mountains, but you need nimble feet and steady ankles.

The smooth path is the better way.

The New Century Version translates, “You give me a better way to live, so I live as you want me to.”

You have to navigate through life's problems and dangers, they come to the believer as well as the unbeliever.   Walk in the way of the world (be this thin, buy this car, earn this much, you can do it--just think positive) and you're likely to wind up with a foot full of Legos.  Walk in The Way of Jesus and he will enlarge your steps:  “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:30)

Let Jesus be your guide. His smooth path is the better way.

You clear the way for me, and now I won't stumble. (CEV)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Quiet Time - Monday Manna

I’m participating in Monday Manna today over at Joanne Sher’s blog, “An Open Book”.  The purpose of Monday Manna is to get to know God’s word a little better by meditating on a selected verse, then writing about it and linking up with fellow bloggers.  It’s interesting to see how each verse impacts us since our lives and locations are different.

Today’s verse is Psalm 27:8 from the New Living Translation (NLT)  “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.”

As a stay-at-home-mom with two active boys and an erratic schedule, I struggle with finding...

Quiet Time

Dear Lord,
I hear you call
and I’m coming
Then I hear a crash and a child wails and a voice cries, “Mom” and
there’s milk all over the kitchen floor.

Dear Lord,
I hear you call
and my heart is warmed
Then the cat throws up and the children shriek and
are we out of paper towels again?

Dear Lord,
I hear you call
as I tiptoe out of my dawn-lit room
Then a child walks in, yawns “You woke me up” and
sits on the open Bible in my lap.

Dear Lord,
I hear you call
but my heart is torn
‘Cause it’s finally quiet and I can talk
in complete sentences
with the man that I married
before I forget his first name isn’t “Daddy.”

Dear Lord,
I hear you call
and I want to choose the better part
Then one voice whines, another cries, and someone needs
(was that a meow?)
and Martha is pulled back to her kitchen.

Dear Lord,
Photo: Geri-Jean Blanchard

I hear you call
in a quiet oasis when
I’m early for car line with ten silent minutes
Just the two of us

And my heart cries, “Lord, I am here!”

Friday, February 18, 2011

What are we waiting for?

Here's the weekly Jesus Boat Blog post.  I've had waiting on my mind lately...I'm not always a very patient person.

What are we waiting for?

Instant coffee. Instant messaging. Instant replay.  We live at speeds unimaginable to earlier generations.  Ours is the era of fast forward, our Internet-fueled lifestyle feeding our desire for instant gratification.  And the faster we move, the more we need the words of Scripture to teach us to slow down...and wait.

We don’t like to wait.  But, then again, neither did Abraham and Sarah, nor the disciples praying with Jesus in the Garden, nor the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land.

But our Lord knows that it is good for us to wait, to learn how to wait well, and to learn how to live our lives in the in-between times.

Through Scripture we learn:
  It is good to wait quietly (Lamentations 3:26)
  Wait patiently (Psalm 40:1)
  With courage (Psalm 27:14)
  And in his word put our hope (Psalm 130:5)

As believers in Christ, we are not passively waiting, but active as we learn:
  From the widow, to pray with persistence (Luke 18:1-8)
  From the bridesmaids to keep ourselves ready (Matt. 25:1-13)
  From Paul to depend on the Lord for strength (1 Cor. 1:7-8)
  From James to refrain from grumbling (James 5:7)

There are times, however, when we’re told not to wait...

To read the rest, visit The Jesus Boat Blog.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Since I'll probably be pretty busy on Monday (school holiday), I thought I'd post an early Valentine tonight.  Here's a love-themed post that I wrote for the Jesus Boat Blog.  This one sprang from an idea I had while waiting for my kids at church and was fascinating to finally put together.


Without Love, I Gain Nothing

The most thrilling words ever written about love are not found within the pages of a romance novel or the inside of a greeting card. They’re found in the cherished stories, the powerful declarations, and selfless acts of fidelity woven throughout Scripture.

Scripture contains examples of, not only God’s great and abiding love for us, but love expressed between husband and wife, father and son, mother and daughter-in-law, and close friends.

Today we’ll allow the men and women of the Bible speak to us as we reflect on the timeless principles Paul shared with the Corinthians two centuries ago.

Love is patient  
So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. (Gen. 29:20)

Love is kind
But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. (1 Sam. 1:5)

Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” (Ruth 2:2)

...Read the rest of this post at the Jesus Boat Blog

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

CAST your cares upon the Lord

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago for the Jesus Boat Blog.  This post originated in my desire to read more about how not to worry.  I guess I'm not the only one concerned with worry....this post had the highest number of views, "likes," and comments since I started writing for JBB last year.

Hope this blesses you as well!

Shalom y'all. --Karen

CAST your cares upon the Lord

Bad news in the papers.  Dire warnings on television and the Internet.   We live in uncertain times.  But when have times ever not been “uncertain”?  Since the fall from Eden, our world has been plagued by crime, illness, division, natural disasters, and other ills.

Even when life is free from catastrophic disasters, there are still everyday epics.  Will I find a job? Can we afford a house?  Should we let our children play outside?

We know that Jesus tells us, “Do not worry.” We know that our Father cares about us.  We know this in our heads, but do we feel it in our hearts?

Visit the Jesus Boat Blog to read the rest...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jesus is no Jedi

Today I'm linking up with Joanne Sher's blog "An Open Book" to talk about today's verse.  I think I took a different tack on this, but the question of why bad things happen has been on my mind...

Today's Monday Manna verse is: 

“And (Jesus) did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”  --- Matthew 13:58

Growing up in the Star Wars era, I was fascinated by the saga of Luke Skywalker What kid wouldn’t want to be able to use the Force to defeat bullies and get a few chores done?

Then there’s that verse in the Bible where Jesus says, “...if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20)

Whoa. Talk about a Jedi moment.  I envisioned moving mountains, like Yoda raising Luke’s X-Wing fighter from the swamps of Dagobah.  All it took was a little faith...

Well, not really. I knew better than that.

But I think we can get a bit confused about the connection between faith and miracles.  We’re tempted to believe that if we only have a little more faith something incredible will happen.  But what if the miracle doesn’t come: people die, storms ravage, cancer comes back  Does that necessarily imply a lack of faith?

Is God saying to us when life slips away, as Darth Vader did, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

No, absolutely not.

Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus performed many miracles, giving credit to faith:

  •  “Take heart, daughter. Your faith has healed you,”  (Matt. 9:22)
  •  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)
  •  “Receive your sight, your faith has healed you.” (Luke 18:42)

However, Scripture also tells us that Paul prayed for a “thorn” to be removed and it wasn’t.  (2 Cor. 12)  No one would accuse Paul of having little faith.

Give thanks for miracles. They display God’s glory. They uplift the believer.  They astound the unbeliever.  And no doubt about it--the story from which today’s verse was taken is a cautionary tale.  We should guard and grow our faith through prayer and study. But we should keep in mind that there’s no mystical, “force” of faith that we need to learn to manipulate to bring about miracles.

With God, nothing is impossible. But Jesus is no Jedi.  Thank God for that.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Year, New Beginning

This one didn't quite show up on The Jesus Boat Blog with all my formatting.   But I love these verses, so I'm posting it here.

New Year New Beginning

Happy New Year friends and readers!  Did you begin 2011 with any New Year’s resolutions?

  • Perhaps this year you’ve decided to read through the entire Bible in a year--or elected to read it through once more...
  • Perhaps this year you resolved to choose a spiritual discipline, such as prayer or fasting, and make it a greater part of your life...
  • Perhaps this year you’ll quiet yourself and listen for God’s particular calling for your life...
  • Perhaps this is the year that you’ll visit the Holy Land or begin planning and saving for a future trip!

Whether you elected to make a list of New Year’s resolutions or treated January 1st as a day like any other, rejoice that our God is the God of new beginnings.  He welcomes the sinner who repents. (Luke 15:7) He upholds the righteous. (Ps 37:17). Through Christ, we are a new creation. (2 Cor 5:17) And, as believers, we need not fear what may happen in the coming year, for through Christ we have overcome the world. (1 John 5:4)

Whatever you do in 2011, commit yourself (and your resolutions) to the Lord. Here are some verses to start the year:

  • Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Prov. 16:3)
  • In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. (Prov. 16:9)
  • Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:13-14)
  • “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer 29:11)

Thank you for following Along the Way (and The Jesus Boat Blog, if you do). Shalom and may God bless you this year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Clearing out the Clutter

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal... (Matt. 6:19)

(Not my closet, but you get the picture)
Photo by Chris Scott @ stock.xchng
Well, I’m not sure about “treasures on earth”, but one of our biggest household problems is clutter.  The problem with clutter is that it’s hard to find the good stuff amid all the other stuff.

One of the things we used to do annually in the library was weed the collection.  Studies have shown that discarding books that aren’t circulating (or are out of date) helps improve the use of the rest of the collection.  Who knew?

During the past couple of months I’ve been weeding our house.  Not only have I cleared out some stuff we’re not using, I’ve found some things that we needed: a padded laptop case,  winter accessories, CD storage cases.  Now,  my house is cleaner and I didn’t need to repurchase these items at the store.

Here are some of our family tips for what we’ve been weeding so far:

Toys:  I start right after school begins in the fall (while the kids are at school).  I pull out the toys that don’t get played with and separate them into piles for consignment, donation, trash.  Last fall I made some cash for Christmas shopping by consigning toys and DVDs that they’ve outgrown.  I gave educational toys to the preschool.  So far, nobody has missed anything and between birthdays and Christmas, they have new stuff anyway.

Clothes:  Kids clothes are easy.  Once they’ve been outgrown, handed-down, and outgrown again, most of them are ready for the trash bin.  Good condition children’s clothes go to charity.  I’d already given ours away to Goodwill when I heard about Clothes To Kids and their need for warm clothes this winter.  

Likewise, my husband gathered up some good condition sweaters for the Red Cross warm clothing drive.  Clothes in poor condition went into the trash.  I did a serious weeding of my closet last year, but it’s time once again.  Good stuff to charity; bad stuff to the trashbin.

Documents:  Since I don’t like to use my shredder when the kids are around (3 guesses why),  I haven’t shredded tax documents and personal papers in many years.  Good Housekeeping recommends keeping 3 years of personal or 6 years of supporting business documents for tax returns.  The IRS has an interesting article on how long to keep tax returns.   This Bankrate.com article provides a list of what basic records to keep.

Here are a couple good clutter-clearing websites:

25 Ideas from Good Housekeeping

Organized Home

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cleaning up in 2011

"This is the year," I keep telling myself, "This is the year we'll get it together."

What's the "it"?  Our house and garage.

After 6 years of survival cleaning and just making do--since the birth of our older son--we finally have a little more time to get ourselves organized.

We're talking:

  • 6 years of shoving stuff under the bed and in the closet
  • 6 years of throwing stuff into the garage
  • 6 years of tucking papers into file cabinets, folders, and boxes
  • 6 years of things just wandering around the house: scattering to corners, collecting in piles, languishing in drawers

Since our house is on the smallish side, 6 years of "stuff", can really add up and cramp our living space.  But this is the year to tackle some of our big organizational problems.  It's 2011 and here we go.

The first step?  Getting rid of stuff.

More on that later....

Shalom y'all!


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Are we any different because of Christmas?

Had the new year on my mind for last week's Jesus Boat Blog post.  This was inspired by a question asked during one of the sermons of Advent and Christmas at First United Methodist St. Petersburg. (Thanks, Pastor David)

I hope to be blogging here a little more in 2011--but I will keep posting links to my Jesus Boat Blog posts as they're published.

Shalom, y'all!

Because of Christmas

This Christmas we remembered the blessed birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. On Christmas Eve, worshippers celebrated in festive family services, joyful praise and worship, or quiet candlelight contemplation.  We gathered with family and friends or spent time serving strangers.  Now the gifts are unwrapped and the leftovers are picked over. Some have already taken down their decorations.  Many are glad the holiday is finally over.  But a question remains to be asked:

Are we any different because of Christmas?

You'll find the rest of this post at http://www.jesusboatmuseum.com/blog/?p=873