About Me

My photo

Writer of fiction that reflects the light of Jesus. Sometimes the grit mixes with beauty to make up a picture of this life. That's where my fiction lives.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: The Weight of Mercy by Deb Richardson-Moore

Some books are entertaining. They allow the reader to escape the sounds and smells and stresses of life. They harken back to simpler times and places and situations. The reader is left with a calm and easy feeling after reading the last page.

This is not one of those books. 

Deb Richardson-Moore's book The Weight of Mercy: A Novice Pastor on the City Streets moves the reader, making him or her uncomfortable, causing the reader to see the rugged urban streets as something more than a "bad neighborhood". She makes the reader see the least of these among us. She doesn't allow us to turn our faces away from them. 

Deb wrote about drug addiction, prostitution, vandalism, violence, homelessness, crime, discrimination, poverty. She also wrote about redemption, rehabilitation, restoration, forgiveness, extreme joy, worship, education. Deb wrote a very human story. And it is all true.

She wrote skillfully, that's clear. She worked as a journalist for 27 years prior to taking the pastorate at Triune Mercy Center. However, she wrote this book outside the clear cut, detailed work of a journalist. She wrote with heart, compassion, and conviction. She didn't give easy answers. Didn't claim to know everything. Never once took credit for the work God is doing in the inner-city. 

This is a book that needs to be read. From the pastor of the inner-city church to the business man living in the suburbs. The stay at home mom to the community organizer. For too long, the Church has misunderstood something vitally important. That the mission field is confined to other countries. That we can only be missionaries in the midst of another race and culture, speaking a different language. Deb's book is a light to shine on the mission fields in our own cities and towns. People living only miles from us or in the house next door need compassion and love. They need us to help them, love them, be a light in their darkness. 

This is the weight of mercy. 

**Note; I received a complementary copy of The Weight of Mercy for my honest review.    

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review of "The Book of Books"

I am always looking for great storybook Bibles for my family to enjoy. This is the storybook Bible for an older child or an adult. It takes the major stories of the Old and New Testaments and retells them in a fresh way. Trevor Dennis has combined prose, poetry, and a bit of history to simplify the main message of the Scriptures.

This is where I need to say one thing: The BIBLE is still and always will be the best source for study and devotional time. "The Book of Books" is not to be used as a replacement for Bible reading. I think it is, however, a good supplement.

Dennis uses language beautifully to write some of the stories of the Bible. The word that comes to mind is "smooth". With a few asides to explain where he is in the telling and bits of information about how the Scriptures are written, it is a good introduction to the Bible for new believers (in a non-patronizing way). The few illustrations throughout serve the eyes well. It is also broken into sections to make for ease in reading one section at a time.

I recommend this book for families with older children (pre-teen and older), a book club, Bible study, Sunday school class, or for the newer believer. I look forward to reading through it again in some of my more casual reading times.

Please Note: I received a free copy of this book from Kregal Publications for my honest review.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review of Simon and the Easter Miracle

Easter is such a great time of year. Especially when children learn about the joy of Christ's resurrection.

I love having books to read with my kids. And this book "Simon and the Easter Miracle" is a great one. It takes a different approach to telling the Easter story. Mary Joslin retold a traditional telling of the story. She used beautifully woven language and exciting description that kept my kids' ears attentive. Anna Luraschi illustrated this book with a great folksy style and many vibrant colors that had the eyes of my children wide and engaged.  

I could keep talking about this book...but, really, it's about what my kids thought. And they loved it. My daughter, as a matter of fact, has claimed it as her own and put it with her "special" books to be read over and over again.

This book would be great as a gift at any time of the year. But especially now as Easter is fast approaching us.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

RECIPE! Miss Jan's Chocolate Crispy Cookies!

May it be known that I am a sucker for a good cookie. Especially when it includes chocolate chips.

And I love it when a cookie is soft and crispy.

What? Soft AND crispy?

Yes. That's what I said.

My daughter's pre-school teacher Jan Taylor gave me this recipe...and the cookies. I'd like to share the super deliousness with you! 

Here's how you make these cookies!

Miss Jan's Chocolate Crispy Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 F, grease cookie sheets

2 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups crisp rice cereal (or any kind of crispy, crunchy cereal)
12 oz package of chocolate chips (I bet you could use any kind of baking chips...YUM!)

Stir together flour, soda and salt, set aside. 

Beat margarine or butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  

Mix in flour mixture.  

Stir in cereal and chocolate chips. 

Drop by level measuring tablespoon onto greased baking sheet. 

 Bake at 350 about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.  

Remove from baking sheets.

Makes about 7 dozen

Do you have a favorite cookie recipe? 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review of 1&2 Corinthians: Straight to the Heart

1 and 2 Corinthians are huge chunks of Scripture, packed with enough theology and debate and discussion to keep a Bible college open for years. I've had friends who, after first becoming Christians, read these books of the Bible only to feel overwhelmed and entrenched in history they do not understand. Not to mention the culture! And Paul. Oh, yes, Paul can be hard to swallow at times.

And a commentary? Right. That only makes it more difficult!

Well, until you look at "Straight to the Heart" by Phil Moore. Moore wrote this easily read, easily understood commentary in "60 Bite-Sized Insights". Exactly what it should be. It is understandable, accessible and written in such a way that it is relevant to our culture. That being said, Moore doesn't push aside the important business that Paul addresses in this part of Scripture. He is clearly an excellent and gifted teacher.

This book would be fantastic for the Christian of any Biblical knowledge. It would be a good book for a Bible study or an adult Sunday school class/small group. It would also be great for the individual looking for an in-depth personal study.

I loved my Corinthians class that I took in college. What would have made it better would have been this book. It is excellent.

Review of I Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times. Week Six

I am a singer. I've been in choirs and other musical groups for most of my life. I've even been in a few bands. Yeah. I'm a rocker chick.

One thing that I've learned is that in order for music to work correctly, there must be harmony. Balance. Blending. Give and take. 

And it is so true in other aspects of life. Especially within the Church.

Peter addresses Christians who are starting, brand new, with the whole Body of Christ thing. And we are still in desperate need of that teaching now, 2000 years later!

In this week's study there was a case study. It was about a family getting together for Christmas. There was some tension between the grandmother and her daughters. One daughter took some time away at a bad time. She was inconsiderate...which happens in families and churches, right? Well, that and a few other things made the family late for an event. The next day, the mother/grandmother reminded the daughter that she needed to be on time for that day's events (3 times...that's bordering on nagging). That daughter ended up leaving early.

It's so sad. This family had their Christmas disrupted because of a misunderstanding and "putting oneself first". How often do we see this in the Church? Instead of doing life together, we put our needs first. And then we let ourselves become riled when it doesn't go our way. This is anything but unified. It is anything but a body working together. It is more of a family that is working against each other.

Peter (who was the "rock" on which Jesus would build the Church) encouraged the early Christians to be one. To not fight one another. This is a lesson we would do well to learn now. 

We have plenty of others coming at us. The Church should be where we can come together in one purpose. To further the Kingdom of God.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review of I Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times. Week Five

Beauty. Ah. Yes. You know, I am on Pinterest. Here's what I learn about beauty from the assorted pins I come across:

Beauty is...
~A flat stomach
~A perfect figure in a bikini
~The right hair cut
~Perfectly applied make up
~Big eyes, pouty lips, pert nose.

And on and on and on.

We are an image obsessed culture. And, quite frankly, I'm tired of it. I'm sick of feeling guilty for my weight. Keeping up with the latest clothes is beyond my budget. And I don't have time to be bothered with make up. And I will not wear a bikini. 

But I feel pressure. To be skinny (I do think we need to be healthy and mindful about our food and exercise). To look a certain way (I do want to be pretty for my husband). Pressure, guilt, embarrassment, shame, stress.

But here's the thing: All the muscle tone and make up and expensive clothes in the world does not "beauty" make. Peter (good old Peter...I love that guy) says that true beauty is found in a woman who lives in purity and reverence. 

Yes! Yes! That's it!

A woman who follows Jesus. Who strives to be holy, consecrated to the Lord! Her heart is beautiful ("Golden Hearted" as we teach our daughter to call it). And her light radiates, reflecting the Love of Jesus.

I was complaining to my husband about how men age so much better than women. 

He said, "Well, maybe that's why it's so important for a woman to really shine the love of Jesus. You know, to show how truly beautiful she is."

I think that's exactly what Peter was talking about.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book Review of "The Mysterious Epigenome: What Lies Beyond DNA"

Thomas E. Woodward, PhD, and James P. Gills, MD attempt to do a few very interesting things in this book. First, they attempt to make the science of the epigenome accessible and understanding to the "lay-person". This goal is achieved well. They define many terms and theories that otherwise would have my head spinning. With conversational writing and actual dialogue (WHAT? Dialogue in a science book? Yes.) this book was actually pleasant to read. 

"Well done" and pats on the back, gentlemen. (I never got fantastic grades in the sciences...however, this book was easily understandable).  

Doctors Woodward and Gills also attempted to marry Spirituality (and specifically Christianity) with the study of cellular science. This is a controversial bridge to create. Both sides are typically in opposition. I appreciate the attempts of these authors to make sense of logic behind the intricacies of cells and the masterful design of the Creator.

This book not only has great chapters, but it also has discussion questions at the end of each section, making it great for a discussion group or Bible study. It also includes colorful pictures. And at the end it features "Frequently Asked Questions". It is clear that these doctors worked diligently on this book. And yet, with such a HUGE subject, the book is only 160 pages. It is definitely readable at that length.

I recommend this book to anyone who is reaching out to learn more about the science of creation. Also for those who want to analyze the creation claims of Scripture. It's good for the seeker who wants to learn more about why we have faith in the Creator. 

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review of I Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times. Week Four

This week, while contemplating on this study, I've been thinking about the struggles of our Christian life. Modern Christians in the United States have it relatively easy. The very worst we encounter is that someone on Facebook might call us "weak-minded" or "stupid" and challenge our knowledge or engage us in a debate. 

The believers in the first Century, however, had such struggles, such hardship, such persecution. As compared to them, I have no idea what it means to suffer for my faith.

But there are plenty of others in this world who do face all kinds of pain and struggle because of Jesus. Persecution of Christians is prominent in many cultures. Many are beaten, imprisoned, murdered for their faith. Others suffer through poverty because they refuse to steal or cheat others because of their Christian standards.

So, it's easy to be a Christian in the United States, yes? There are no challenges in a land wherein a church is built on every corner, right? 

Well. No.

I have friends who are missionaries. Actually, several of them. A few of them live in or have experienced the challenges of being a Christian in a physically hostile environment where witchcraft and religious oppression are common. They all say that it is more difficult to be a Christian in the U.S.

What? But we have all our needs covered. If someone hurts us for our faith we have a legal system to protect us. We have rights!

Well, that's kind of the thing. We don't HAVE to rely on God. It's easy to think that we are protected by the government, that we provide our own needs, that we are safe. Thank you very much, we are Americans and we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

And all the while we forget who it is that sustains us. Ours is a struggle of complacency, being to comfortable, too lazy in our faith. 

While we fight a different kind of oppression, we are still under the persecution of the accuser who would have us renounce our faith and give in to him. 

Please Note: I received a free copy of this Bible study in exchange for a review.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review of Married Mom, Solo Parent by Carla Anne Coroy

I have a few friends who are married to men who are gone nearly all the time. They have children together and that's about all that they have in common anymore. It's so sad. It takes a toll on the children. They feel a tension between the "world" and the "church". The world tells them to file for divorce. The church tells them to tough it out, be the gentle guidance that their husband needs. A few of my friends don't feel freedom to discuss this problem. This topic, within many Christian circles, is taboo. 

Carla Anne Coroy tackled the issue in her book "Married Mom, Solo Parent". I am impressed with her openness in this book. She discusses with honesty her emotions, her thoughts, her struggles. For a mother (or even a father) going through this struggle, this would be an invaluable resource of encouragement and edification. 

With chapters that lean to the practical side (ie, keeping the house clean, keeping mealtime a great experience for the kids, attending events and special occasions alone), Carla is lending a hand, teaching her coping skills. She is saying, in these chapters, that it is possible to physically survive this time of life. 

Carla also writes about the emotions, the grief, of being in this Married Mom, Solo Parent position. She writes about honoring the husband who is absent, the need for a break, the price that the kids pay in this situation. I can't imagine that these were easy chapters for her to write. However, they are sure to help another woman to know that she isn't alone in these painful emotions. 

The very last chapter of this book was written by her husband. Now, let's just say, that takes some humility. I found his ideas for talking to an absent husband to be very enlightening. And, in writing that chapter, he truly showed his willingness to be the supportive, present father he needs to be.

This book would be fantastic for a woman who is living in this kind of marriage, for family ministries at a church, for counseling situations, for friends hoping to understand the struggles of a friend. 

I highly recommend this book.

Please note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Review of I Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times. Week Three

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."
~I Peter 2:9 (NIV)

In college my sister started calling me "Puppy". Just out of the blue. Apparently she saw it on "My Best Friend's Wedding" and she thought it was such a cute nickname that she wanted to use it on me. And it stuck. Truth? I hated it at first. But after a short time, I loved it. Why? Because that name came at just the right time. I was going through some personal struggles and dealing with the death of both my grandmothers. "Puppy" was just a way for my sister to acknowledge that our relationship is special. 

Nearly 15 years later, she still calls me "Puppy". 

God has called us "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession." 

But isn't He the Creator of all things? Yes. And He has chosen me? Yes. And He has called me to a holy priesthood, a consecrated ministry? Yes. He calls me a part of a holy nation? Yes. And I am special? Yes.

I have to tell you, being called a "special possession" of God sinks deeply within me. It acknowledges the intimate relationship that God desires to have with me. Not a controlling, abusive relationship. Not a special, lovingly jealous one. We are His portion. We are the Bride that He desires to lift up and make holy.

Now that, THAT, is a great nickname.

*Note: I received a free copy of this Bible study in exchange for an honest review

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review of I Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times. Week Two.

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." 
1 Peter 1:22 and 23

During this week's study, I was contemplating love. Love that is defined in the above verses. It made me think of something that happened almost 2 years ago. 

I was reading a book that detailed human evil. I read a particular story that disturbed me so greatly that I slapped the book closed and hid it under several other books. I couldn't even look at the book anymore. Anger, that I hope was righteous, and sorrow overtook me. 

Days later I was driving. A song about God's love played on the radio. 

"Thank You, God, for loving me," I prayed. 

"I love them, too," I felt Him say. I knew He meant the people in that book that did all of those terrible, evil things. 

"That isn't fair," I thought. "It isn't right and it isn't fair."

"But I do love them," I felt His words again. "And you need to, as well."

That was it. Well, until I heard that song again. And I realized that the evil, the pain that those people inflicted on others hurt the heart of God. Because of the victim and because of the perpetrator. 

As much as I didn't want to, I prayed that God would help me to love them. Not accept their deeds. No. Never that. But to love them. Sometimes being purified by obeying the truth is painful, laborious and all together unpleasant. 

But as I tried to obey, I realized something that broke my heart. I'd never worked that hard to love in all my life. Not even my brothers and sisters in Christ. There were some Christians that I just did not love deeply. Parts of the imperishable seed, the image of God made me angry or hurt me. And I didn't fight to maintain my love for them. 

This realization made me fall flat. I repented. Then God asked me to reconcile with specific people. It was terrifying. It made me physically ill from the anxiety of it. But the obedience was purifying. Some of the relationships were not restored. Forgiveness was reached. Then other relationships were saved. Renewed. Better than ever before. 

And that's the purifying. Sincere love brings us to a tiny bit better understanding of the incomprehensible love of our Heavenly Father. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review of I Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times. Week One.

Each Friday I'll be reviewing a Bible study lesson from this Sue Edward study of I Peter. 

When a Bible study starts with "Do you ever wonder if you would deny Christ if faced with prison, poverty or pain?" (page 10), well, you know that you're in for a deep study. 

A Bible study that will delve into your heart and bring about great introspection. 

This is my kind of Bible study.

In the introduction, she brings up the possibility of persecution. She encourages us to be ready, because we never know if it will happen to us, our children or our grand children. And she reminds us that persecution is happening in nations around the world. 

This made me reflect. Have I ever been persecuted for my faith?

No. I haven't.

I've been called ignorant. Stupid. Weak. Naive.

But never persecuted. 

Nothing like the early Church faced in the arenas of Rome. Nothing like a woman who is honor killed by her family member in modern nations. 

I guess the word that really applies to what I've experienced is opposition. People who want to debate their views against mine. I've lost friends because of my faith. It hurts. Sure. It's awful. 

So many times I've seen Christians react in two ways to this kind of opposition. Some hold firm and get angry and argue and scream. Others fun from their beliefs, back peddling to avoid a fight.  Both are problematic for obvious reasons. And I've been guilty for both responses.

And I think that neither of those reactions are full of hope. "Hope for the heaven bound", as Sue Edwards says at the end of the introduction. Hope doesn't get angry and spout off arguments. Hope doesn't deny what it knows to be true. Hope is faithful. Hope is gentle. Hope is loving. And those reactions, when faced with opposition or even persecution, are full of the Fruit of the Spirit. And God will equip us to display these Fruits when faced with hard times. Or even horrible times.

This study is packed. It is a big beef steak of wisdom and instruction. And I am so excited that I get to go through this faith building study.

Check back next week for my review of Lesson 2.

Note: I received a copy of this study in exchange of an honest review.