Thursday, September 29, 2016

Riley Unlikely - Book Review

It's amazing what God can do when there is a willing and passionate heart! It defies all age, gender, and economic status.

Riley Banks-Snyder, journals her passion through her new book, Riley Unlikely. Her journey started at age 13 and was sparked by other family members pursuing missions. She chronicles life from this point forward and her words on paper on like healing balm to one's faith. Seeing God supply again and again reminds the reader that He is able to complete what He calls one to do.

Riley was just an average girl with an above average expectation. And God has used her in mighty ways. She trusts God to work what He has given her the vision for and He does. She has impacted so many children for the kingdom of God by equipping them with the simple task of learning to read and write.

What an inspirational story of what God can do through one little girl, who is now a married woman. It also speaks to the fact that her parents trusted in God for their daughter's life as well and gave her the ability to be used by God when they could have said, "Wait until you are older."

Note: As part of the Booklook Blogging Network, I received a free copy of this book.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Greater Than Gold - Book Review

Most of the world were enraptured in the Olympics last month. This is an event that seems to capture the attention of most people and breaks any barriers of race, religion, economic status, etc.

And most, evangelical Christians had their eyes on and their ears open to diver, David Boudia.

So when his book came out and up for review I was ecstatic to be able to find out more about this outspoken Christian man.

Greater Than Gold, written by David Boudia alongside with Tim Ellsworth, is an easy read that chronicles David's journey to find happiness. Like so many athletes, there seems to be a black hole when it comes to "making it to the top." It never quite satisfies. And that is what Mr. Boudia find out himself. The change in his life that occurred was a miracle...just like all of us that come to know Christ and have allowed Him to transform us looks like. As you read his book, there is a definite line of "before Christ" and "after Christ". He writes with transparency and humility.

He is the real deal. I think we all saw that even at the last Olympics in Rio. He reminds us that life is greater than our achievements. It is more than our happiness. It is about the peace of God ruling in our hearts and our goal in life being for His glory.

Note: As a part of the Book Look Blogger's Network, I received a free copy of this book.

Monday, September 5, 2016

With All Due Respect - A Must Read For Parents of Tweens or Teens

Boy, parenting is hard work!

Parenting teens is even harder work!

I think all parents wish there was either a fast forward button on parenting or a go-into-coma-and-wake-up-when-it's-over button as they enter those tween or teen years.

I thought as a parent the first one was the hardest and yet, to my surprise, my youngest has been a challenge in her own right. So I was very excited to be able to read and review this newest book titled, With All Due Respect, by Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock.

Most of us raising our children think things will be great if we do the job we need to do when they are little. Teaching them manners, respect, and first-time-obedience. And yet, most of us have a huge wake up call when the teen years hit because we have to adjust our parenting to slowing release
control. This, for me, has been the most difficult part.

Nina and Debbie have done a great job in helping us tackle this and other important aspects of how we treat our teens as "people" and pointing us to the Lord as the One who ultimately will give us the answers. Each chapter is short and concise, with an application that will sometimes tear your heart out, but is very necessary.

A huge shout out to these brave souls who point us up the difficult mountain but hold our hands as we go. Mistakes will be made. But seeking forgiveness is key.

For all of you who are headed this way or are in the throws of it, I highly recommend this guide.

As a part of the BookLook Bloggers Network, I received a free copy of this book.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Knowing God's Will is (sometimes) Easy

This last week was a game changer for us here on the Ponderosa. After 14 years of home schooling, my littlest went off to school. Grade 5.

For those of you who are fellow home-schoolers you may know the range of emotions I have felt. But, thankfully, the overarching emotion was peace. Now, if you would have asked me last year if this was an option, I would have been totally freaked out. This year not the case. That's how I know we are following the Lord's leading. Public school is not an option so God made a huge way for her to attend a local Christian School. A full scholarship. Not just for tuition, but for all outside activities, books, sports and misc. fees. I am overwhelmed by God's grace in this. Not only this but the school does its best to teach and understand children who do not fit into that nice little box we call compliance. We are so blessed!

Unfortunately, I have had those who feel like home schooling is a Biblical mandate, snub me and look down on our decision, (years ago that might have been me, but through trials He changes us.) but thankfully the majority have been supportive.

And the truth is, unless you have lived in my shoes, you have no idea the day to day struggles with a child who loves you, yet pushes so hard against you to try to prove you don't love her.

And now, because of this decision, I have a young lady who chats all the way home with me about her day. I know her friends' names. I know who the class clown is. I know about her music and art class. I know the funny things that happened on the playground. All this coming from a little one who struggles to talk and communicate. She has blossomed already in this first year of school.

Just thinking today on God's gracious faithfulness and provisions!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review - Next Door as it is in Heaven

I love my neighborhood! I love the community that it pictures. We have about 30 homes on our circle, many of whom still have the original owners from the mid '70's. There is a sense of family, and yet, it is so easy to forget each other and get busy outside of those who live side by side day after day. I was raised by a Mother who showed an amazing amount of intentional hospitality and have a heart that desires this. As a believer, this shows up most in the context of the local church, mostly because it is safe and non-confrontational. But I was challenged in the last week or so.

One of the most important books that I have read this summer was Next Door as it is in Heaven, by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco. They piece apart the downfall of the comradery of neighborhoods as they use to be and give some great history about why and how this happened. They confront the reader head on with the Word of God and how we as believers should be the most intentional beings in a neighborhood. They bring to life the practical out workings of this and give great step by step ways to fall in love with this idea and how Christ on earth was the ultimate giver of hospitality. They remind us we need to examine the busyness of our lives and compare it with how we are (or are not) investing in the lives around us, namely the neighborhoods we live in. If you have a desire to reach those around you for the Gospel, but in way more than words, this book is for you. You will be thoroughly encouraged along the way as you strive to meet those you may have never spoken with before.

As one author put it, "The dining room table is sometimes the best evangelistic tool."

For three years our family held a Christmas open house for our neighborhood, It's sad to say, this happened 8-10 years ago. So lookout Little Road residents and be prepared to party with the Pueblas again this year.

*Note: As a part of the Tyndale Blogging Network, I received a free copy of this book.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What Defines Wisdom

Just look around. Listen intently to those speaking loud into our culture. I believe they want to be seen as wise. All people seek wisdom. Whether one is conservative, liberal, rich, poor, old or young, wisdom is essential for living. We also see two different kinds of wisdom. The world defines it by feelings, rights, and allows for constant change.

Yet we know that true wisdom is personified in the person of Jesus Christ. He, also, gives us so much direction on this subject in His love letter to us.

We know that wisdom is not just words. It is living actions.

James 3:13 says "If you are wise and understand God's ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with humility that comes from wisdom." (NLT)

So how do we become "wise and understand God's ways"? Seek God and His Word. Spend time with the One who wrote down His very words so that we can obtain this wisdom. He didn't leave His children to wonder what to do; He continues to speak to us through His beautiful Word.

James 3:17 goes on to say, "But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere." (NLT)

Wow! Look at these words: honorable, humility, pure, peace loving, gentle, yielding to others, mercy, no favoritism, and sincere. Do these sound like wisdom that the world offers. DEFINITELY NOT! This is a far cry from what we see in all the unrest, violence and politics around us.

Let's seek God's wisdom today. Let's make a difference in the way we interact with others.

And remember, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. (I Corinthians 1:27a NLT)

The world may or probably will not see us as wise, but we answer to a different authority.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Who Are We Relying On?

When it comes to the burdens of life, my goals, aspirations, fears, dreads, and joys, I find myself way too overcome. Way too often. This stems from many different things, one of which is (MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF) fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of making the wrong decisions. Fear of hurt, pain, ridicule. Fear of failure. Fear of man. Fear of rejection. I often recognize this but for some reason wallow in this than to do the right, next thing. I need wisdom!

James 1:5 reminds us where our wisdom comes from:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

And this asking involves prayer. This is one area that our over-confident, individualized and self-centered culture is good at avoiding. This seems to be our "last resort" instead of first impulse.

Isaiah reminds the people of Israel this. He gives two little lines of soul-searching, knife-piercing insight to the reason for the judgment coming on Israel.

Isaiah 22:11b
But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.
    You never considered the One who planned this long ago.

These two little lines reveal the depths of the human heart when we try to live this life apart from our Creator. We need His help and no matter what we are going through, we must consider His sovereignty and perfect plan for our lives.

So whether you are fearing the violent acts of international/national terrorism or striving to understand or live in the midst of the social injustices taking place in our country, be certain of this. HE KNOWS! HE SEES! HE WILL REMAIN FAITHFUL! But, we must seek wisdom in all these things.

So I seek Him today.

Precious Jesus, As I sit here speaking to You, I am rejoicing that you are a LIVING God. You are fully aware of my plight as well as those in China, France, and Baton Rouge. I am reminded of your faithfulness in my life as I look back on decisions we faced, then made and no without a shadow of a doubt that you gave us the wisdom we needed.

Today, God, there is a part of my heart that is in a battle over fear. Fear for my childrens' futures, but for their present day as well. You promise wisdom, so I am asking. I am asking for healing for our nation, but most of all for your body. We are so divided right now. Bring reconciliation. Help us all to look outside of our own feelings and "rights" and see you desire for us to live loving one another more important than ourselves. This is when Your bride will be at her most beautiful state. Reflecting Your Light. Showing the Glory of You in all of creation, especially in each ethnic race as fearfully and wonderfully made.

As our freedoms in this life seem to diminish more and more, sometimes on a daily level, empower us to live in that contradiction; wanting freedom but ever knowing that true freedom comes as we give ourselves as slaves and bondservants to you. Empower us by your Holy Spirit to trust you and live by an active faith.

Sometimes, Lord, I seem to be a broken record, but I know you want me to keep asking, seeking, and knocking. You promise to lavish us with wisdom when we ask you without doubting. So please do this Lord. For Your Name's Sake.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

In the Light of Our World: HAVE NO FEAR!

My hubby and I have just started reading Isaiah together in the mornings. To be honest, I was not sure I was looking forward to it. The longest prophetic book! Would I really be able to understand it? Let's just say, "I was humbled," to say the least!

In light of all the bad news in the last week, my heart can quickly turn to fear. A fear that cripples. A fear that invades the mind so much, I find it hard to dig my way out of those thoughts. Terrorism striking WAY too close to home! Animals going crazy! Murders! I can't even get on the internet or look at news sometimes. I know our hope is in Christ, but the evils of the world seem to scream louder sometimes.

As I opened the Scriptures today, Isaiah did have some powerful things to say. (Actually God did.)

Isaiah 2:18-22 (NLT)
"Idols will completely disappear.
When the Lord rises to shake the earth,
his enemies will crawl into holes in the ground.
They will hide in caves in the rocks
from the terror of the Lord
and his majesty.
On that day of judgment,
they will abandon the gold and silver idols
they made for themselves to worship.
They will leave their gods to rodents and bats,
while they crawl away into caverns
and hide among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.
They will try to escape the terror of the Lord
and the glory of his majesty
as he rises to shake the earth.

Isaiah is prophesying future victory by our Lord! He is reminding the Israelites back then and us today, that the things we make and value and even look to for help (dare, I say, idols????) that are apart from our Maker will be destroyed as well.

Our God is coming back for his children and He wins, people! He wins! We need not fear what man can do to us on this earth! This brought me joy today and peace. Peace in a world of turbulence. Peace in a culture of fighting and forsaking.

It reminds me of a song I used to sing to my children when they were young. "My God is so big; so strong and so mighty; there's nothing my God cannot do."


All But Normal - Book Review

As I age and go through this life and all that comes my way, the one lesson I seem to take from whatever the current trial may be, is pushing through how to love unconditionally. Isn't this hard for all of us? When are enemies curse us, we just want to give what we think is deserving to that situation or person. When we are reviled, we want to revile in return.

Shawn Thornton, author of a new memoir, All But Normal, deals with this concept his entire life. But just imagine, that person who is mistreating you, being your mother. Not just your mother, but your mother, who can't help it because she has had a brain injury. Shawn's mother was injured in a car accident at the age of 14, was in a coma for 3 months and after a few years went on to marry the young man who was driving the car. Mr. Thornton grew up in a Christian home but daily dealt with verbal and sometimes physical abuse from his precious mother who loved Jesus and manifested that love when she was in her right mind.

His story is truly an inspiration. Just as his mom was to him. She taught him to love better, not
necessarily because she loved well. But she pointed him to Jesus who helped him to love well. As this story unfolded I kept waiting for everyone around her to give up. But they didn't! They kept loving well.

This story challenges the reader as well. How do I manifest love to others? Especially those who struggle to show love. We can't do it in the flesh, that's for sure. We need the help of the Holy Spirit. Not only, did Mr. Thornton learn this, but the Lord grew him to be a great teacher of the Word and Pastor to a flock in the body of Christ.

My take away is love as Jesus has loved us! This is true obedience. Bless your enemies! Look to Christ's example of not reviling in return.

Hard? Sure!

The right thing to do? YES! Forgiveness is key!

As a part of the Tyndale Blogger's Network, I received a free copy of this book.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Longing in Me - Book Review

Many of us (in my age group) remember Sheila Walsh as a contemporary music artist who came on the scene in the '80s. Her story is much more.

This is my second book review of a book written by Sheila Walsh. The Longing in Me is the story of
how her first marriage came to be and how and why it ended. But bigger than that is the story of how Jesus got ahold of her life after so many others tried to destroy it. Sheila was raised in a very dysfunctional home, where many things occurred that many of us could never imagine. As Sheila aged, she reached out for security in many different forms and ended up in an abusive relationship. Through all of this God was drawing her heart and giving her the longing for something bigger.

As she writes this journey down in ink, she brings us through a study of the life of King David. In a beautiful way, she likens so many of the areas in our lives we struggle with to the life of this "Man After God's Own Heart".
God takes us through so many trial in life to teach us to trust in His sovereignty as we see His amazing love poured out on us. We are all pieces of the big story. Everything in our lives that happens both good and bad, is to push our gaze on the One who holds all things together, even when it seems they are falling apart.

Sheila Walsh does a great job in encouraging us in this journey.

As a part of the BookLook Bloggers Network, I received a free copy of this book.