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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Discipleship: Living for Christ in the Daily Grind

J.Heinrich Arnold  (1913-1982)

Johann Heinrich Arnold (also known as Heini and Heinrich) is best known for his books, which have helped thousands to follow Christ in their daily lives, and for his pastoral care as elder of the Bruderhof community movement.

Arnold grew up surrounded by people for whom discipleship took shape in a dramatic way. 

When Heinrich Arnold was seven, his parents Eberhard and Emmy Arnold and their five children left a bourgeois life in Berlin for a dilapidated villa in the German village of Sannerz, where they founded the Bruderhof, a Christian community based on Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.

As a young man, Heinrich Arnold refused to serve in Hitler's armed forces and was forced to flee Germany. He studied agriculture in Zurich, Switzerland, and in 1936 married Annemarie Waechter, a kindergarten teacher and fellow Bruderhof member.

Arnold was a true pastor, but an unconventional one. He was not a charismatic personality, and he had no formal theological training. He was a true Seelsorgeror “spiritual guide” who cared deeply for the inner and outer wellbeing of the communities entrusted to him.

Arnold’s style as a speaker and writer was straightforward and spontaneous. He rarely spoke with notes, and when he wrote, he quickly and sometimes almost aggressively met the heart of the issue. There were those who felt he was too blunt. Yet it was precisely his simplicity that made his witness accessible to so many. His faith was not a matter theological sophistication, but something that had to be expressed in deeds: “We are tired of words; they are cheap and can be heard almost anywhere, for who will say that he is against brotherhood and love?”

As a pastor, Arnold was called on to address every aspect of spiritual life, personal and communal. But there is a visible thread that runs through all he wrote: Christ and his cross as the center of the universe. What mattered to him most of all was the power of the Gospel to transform the lives of his readers and of all those he counseled. In his own words:
What a great gift it would be if we could see a little of the great vision of Jesus – if we could see beyond our small lives! Certainly our view is very limited. But we can at least ask him to call us out of our small worlds and our self-centeredness, and we can at least ask to feel the challenge of the great harvest that must be gathered – the harvest of all nations and all people, including the generations of the future.
*Biography information taken from  http://www.heiniarnold.com/index.html.


Sometimes sensitive, sometimes provocative, but always encouraging, Arnold guides readers toward leading Christlike lives amid the stress and strain of modern life.  Perhaps the hardest thing about following Christ is translating our good intentions into deeds.  Christ calls us, and we yearn to answer Him, but time and again we lose resolve. Is discipleship really possible today?

Many selections in this book offer answers to specific needs or problems.  Others grapple with broader themes such as world suffering, salvation, and the coming of the kingdom of God.  All of them pulsate with conviction and compassion, giving fresh hope to those who find themselves lonely or disheartened in the daily search to follow Christ. 

"The excerpts in this book were compiled and edited over several years by people who knew Arnold personally.  It was no easy task to sift through the material, for there was so much to choose from, and it ranged from published articles to personal correspondence, from transcripts of worship meetings to circulars written on behalf of the congregations he served.  The purpose of this selection is simply to bring to the reader the full impact of his witness."  (pg. xiv of the introduction)

My Thoughts:
Plough Publishing House (Walden, New York) has offered readers an invaluable tool.  Discipleship: Living for Christ in the Daily Grind is a well organized and edited introduction to and compilation of J. Heinrich Arnold's writings and thoughts on what following Christ day after day looks like.
The book covers almost every conceivable aspect of life under the three broad categories of The Disciple, The Church and The Kingdom of God.  Organized in sections rather than chapters, the book is easy to navigate and allows the reader to easily find a particular subject rather than having to start necessarily at page one and move to the end.  I really appreciated having Scripture references to the side of each paragraph.
Discipleship would be an excellent personal study tool or would be particularly useful in a one on one discipleship relationship with a new Christian or resource for small group study.  I can not recommend it highly enough!  It now takes a prominent place in my personal study library.

*Thank you Julie Busteed for the complimentary copy of the book for the purpose of this review through Handlebar.

You can order the book at Amazon.com by going HERE.

Blessings,
Jennifer

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World



Gary Chapman - author, speaker, and counselor - has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships.  He is the bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages series and the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc.  Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations.  For more information about Gary's work visit 5lovelanguages.com.

You can view the 28 min. interview with Gary below to get an idea of some of his thoughts.












Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife and 31 Days to a Happy Husband.  She has been featured on The Today Show, The 700 Club and Family Life Today and formerly served as the associate producer for Turning Point Television with Dr. David Jeremiah.  Arlene lives in Southern California with her husband James and their three children.

You can find out more by visiting ArlenePellicane.com.








Interview with Pellicane on FOX & Friends where she talks a bit specifically about some of the ideas shared in Growing Up Social:




Is technology bringing your family closer together or driving you farther apart?

Children today are no longer playing hid-and-seek outside or curling up with a good book - instead they've been introduced to a world of constant digital entertainment through television, video games, and mobile devices.  And while technology has the potential to add value to our lives and families, it can also erode a sense of togetherness and hinder a child's emotional and social development.

Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane will empower you with the necessary tools to make positive changes...starting TODAY! Through stories, wit, and wisdom, you'll discover how to take back your home from an overdependence on screens.





My Thoughts:
I really wish I had the financial means to put this amazing resource into the hands of every parent I know!  Chapman and Pellicane employ the perfect blend of story, reasoning and application along with encouragement to press into parents the importance of balance in the use of technology and screen driven devices in our families and homes.  With wisdom, they teach the undisputed value of face-to-face relationships with those we love - primarily our children.
I appreciated that Chapman and Pellicane didn't just tell parents what they shouldn't be doing in the area of social media and technology, but they show parents what and how to do the right things. Neither do they just vilify technology and harp on all its dangers:
"Screens are not the problem; the problem lies in the way we constantly use them...Pixels instead of people take center stage for the average American family. Children are like wet cement, and nowadays most are being imprinted by screens, not by parents.  It doesn't have to be this way."
Chapman and Pellicane spend 14 chapters laying a solid foundation for a better way:

  • The A+ Skill of Affection
  • The A+ Skill of Appreciation
  • The A+ Skill of Anger Management
  • The A+ Skill of Apology
  • The A+ Skill of Attention
  • Screen Time and Shyness
  • Screen Time and the Brain
  • Screen Time and the Love Languages
  • Screen Time and Security
  • Screen Time and Parental Authority
  • Screen Time and the Single Parent
  • Screen Time and YOU
If you are a parent or grandparent, this books should be read and in your personal library.  You can order from Amazon.com by going HERE.

*Thank you Debbie Lykon for sending a complimentary copy of the book for the purpose of this review.

Blessings,
Jennifer

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Masterpiece Marriage

Gina Welborn is the author of several novels and novellas, including The Heiress's Courtship. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers; the president of Faith, Hope and Love; and a founding member of InkwellInspirations.com. She lives in Cache, Oklahoma, with her pastor husband and their five children. Visit her online at GinaWelborn.com.





He wants to save his business. She wants to be a professor. But are they asking for more than they can really have?
After a flood damages the looms at Zenus Dane's Philadelphia textile mill and the bank demands loan payment, Zenus turns to his aunt for help repurposing his textiles. Trouble is . . . his aunt has already been hired by the lovely yet secretive Englishwoman Mary Varrs.
Eager to acquire his aunt's quilt patterns, Zenus attends the summer Quilting Bee, a social event his aunt has uniquely designed with the secret purpose of finding Zenus a wife. However Zenus only has eyes for Mary, but Mary has no such desire for him.
Though his aunt is determined to design a masterpiece marriage, both Zenus and Mary will have to overcome their stubborn ways. Can he realize that love requires stepping out of his routine? And will she recognize that following her heart doesn't mean sacrificing her ambition?

About Quilts of Love: Quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. TheQuilts of Love series focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family histories. A new book releases each month and features contemporary and historical romances as well as women's fiction and the occasional light mystery. You will be drawn into the endearing characters of this series and be touched by their stories.

Learn more about this book and the series at the Quilts of Lovewebsite.

To see what others are saying about Masterpiece Marriage, you can visit HERE.

My Thoughts:
The Quilts of Love books have been such a delight to read.  I loved everything about Masterpiece Marriage.  Welborn hit this one out of the ballpark with believable characters and a story that expertly captured the time period.  This was an easy and relaxing read.  Perhaps the ending was a bit predictable, but the journey to there was no less enjoyable.

Blessings Ya'll,
Jennifer


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Patmos Deception


Davis Bunn is an award-winning novelist and a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Oxford.  His books, translated into twenty languages, have sold nearly seven million copies worldwide. Formerly a business executive working in Europe, Aftica and the Middle East, Davis draws on this international experience in crafting his stories. Davis has won four Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, and was recently inducted into the Christy hall of Fame.  He and his wife, isabella, divide their time between the English countryside and the coast of Florida.

You can learn more about Davis's writing by visiting DavisBunn.com.





An ancient island holds an ancient secret...

Nick Hennesy, a young Texas journalist yearning for his big break, finds himself in Europe - his assignment, to investigate the alarming disappearance of invaluable Grecian antiquities.  Nick has the credentials - and cover ID - to unearth the truth.  And he knows just the researcher to help him.

Carey Mathers, fres from her studies in forensic archeology, has accepted a job with the prestidious Athens Institute for Antiquities - a dream come true, really, especially when the Greek isle of Patmos, where the Apostle John received his vision of the Apocalypse, was a particular focus of her research.

Dimitri Rubinos, fro whom the Greek islands represent his life, holds on by his fingernails to the family charter boat business.  But his country's economic chaos isn't the only thing that has turned his world on its head.

My Thoughts:
Patmos Deception very much felt like the beginning of a series.  Bunn spent much of the book "setting up" the plot and introducing characters.  To be honest, until about half way through the book, things were a bit hard to follow.  The overall "feel" of the story was very stilted and the flow of the story was not smooth. I did enjoy Bunn's description of the characters' surroundings.  I felt like I "was there" much of the book.  Hearing from the different voices was a definite draw for me to hang in there with the book the first half.  The ending leaves the reader hanging and lots of blanks are left empty making the perfect set-up for a series.  I'll be looking forward to Davis' next installment!

You can order the book at Amazon by going HERE.

*I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Blessings Ya'll,
Jennifer

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables



Bob Welch is the author of seventeen books, an award-winning columnist, a speaker, and an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Oregon in Eugene.  His articles have been published in inspirational books, including the popular "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.

Bob believes in changing the world one word at a time.  Read more about Bob and his writing and speaking schedule at bobwelch.net.








"There is one spectacle greater than the sea:  that is the sky; there is one spectacle greater than the sky:  that is the interior of the soul."

Whether on stage, page, or screen, few stories engage the heart quite the way Les Miserables does.  From the agony of Fantine's sorrow to the beauty of Jean Valjean's broken spirit, it is a story that reminds us only love can overcome the devastation of life's suffering.

In 52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables, author Bob Welch illuminates the spiritual themes woven throughout Victor Hugo's magnificent story of anguish, mercy, suffering, and forgiveness in the face of adversity.  Through this collection of insights, we remember Jean Valjean's transformation, the bishop's compassion, and the redemption that flows from it.  We are reminded that even the coldest heart can thaw, and that mercy can transform us all from teh worst to the best versions of ourselves.  Through the individual plights of the bishop, Valjean, Fantine, Cossette, Javert, Marus, and Eponine, Welch reminds us that Christlike love, at its purest, restores us all in beautiful ways.

My Thoughts:
One of the quotes Welch uses in 52 Lessons from Les Miserables is this one from St. Augustine:
"God gives where He finds empty hands.  A man whose hands are full of parcels can't receive a gift."
Welch has offered readers, Les Miserables fans or not, a gift.  While the title has the word "little" in it and each one of the 52 chapters are "short", don't let those descriptive words fool you on the value of the content.  Welch seems to be a man of few words, but his words count.

In the 150 years since Hugo's original book was published, there have been hundreds of theatrical productions, around thirty films and multiple written commentaries.  I believe Welch's book could be the most valuable because he pulls out the themes of death and resurrection, law and grace, wrongdoing and redemption and shows his readers this story through a gospel lens.



I highly recommend this book which would be perfect for use weekly in the new year as a devotional aid, for use with a small group, or for a book club discussion (questions are included in the book).

*I was given a complimentary copy of the book for the purpose of review as part of the Book Look Bloggers group.

You can order your copy at Amazon.com HERE.

Happy New Years Ya'll,
Jennifer

Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life



Timothy Willard serves as Spiritual Director for the Praxis Nonprofit Accelerator and coauthored the critically acclaimed book Veneer.  He is a PhD candidate at King's College London and lives in Oxford, England.  When he's not scratching poetry, chasing the scholar's craft, or carving trails on his mountain bike, he enjoys making up faerie stories about the English countryside for his wife and three pixie daughters.

You can learn more about Willard at timothywillard.com.







Catch your breath and sit for a moment.  
Now listen...

What do you hear - questions of trust, longing, disappointment, courage, and love?  In Longing for More, Timothy Willard invites us to think and pray through our deepest needs, and explores how the ebb and flow of life can be used for God's glory.  Creatively organized in 52 chapters that follow the four seasons of the year, the daily readings point the way to a richer spiritual life.







My Thoughts:
I love new beginnings.  One of my favorite things to do near the end of an old year and looking toward the new is to pick a new Bible Reading Plan along with a new journal, pens and devotional guide.  I will be using Timothy Willard's Longing for More this year.
Longing for More is organized into 52 chapters reflecting the rhythms of daily life (following the seasons) with a reading for each working day, totaling 5 days. Each day, Willard gives a focus scripture, short devotional thought and prayer with Wednesday being devoted to a pause in prayer.  Every twelfth week, Willard offers what he calls "The Long Pause" - a time of reflection on what is working or not working and an opportunity to change things up if necessary as well as encouragement to unplug for some "real time off the grid".
You may ask, "Why such an emphasis on 'rhythms'?"  Willard says...
"Why God rhythms?  Because life is anything but formulaic."
I appreciate that this devotional is a mixture of scripture, devotional meditations and quotes with a supreme focus on the truth of Christ as found in His Word.  While the book contains the author's reflections on the God rhythms he has experienced in his own life, he encourages the reader to use this book only as an addition to their own study, times of quietness before the Lord and prayer. Willard encourages relationship over a legalistic "checking off" of a scripture reading in order to somehow seek God's favor...rest in the presence of God.

Published by Bethany House, the book can be ordered at Amazon.com by going HERE.

*I received a complimentary copy of the book for the purpose of review.

Blessings,
Jennifer

Friday, December 26, 2014

Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet



Sara Hagerty is a wife to Nate and a mother of five whose arms stretched wide across the ocean to Africa.  After almost a decade of Christian life, she was introduced to ain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus.  God met her and moved her when life stopped working for her.  His Word and His whisper took on new shape and form to her in the dark.  Sara writes regularly about life-delays, motherhood, marriage, adoption, and finding God in the unlikely at EveryBitterThingisSweet.com.

*If you visit the website, you can download the first chapter of Sara's book Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet:  Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things.






Shaping the bitterness of loss into a new place of Hope...

What does it look like to know God's nearness when your world stops working?

What does it mean to receive His life when earthly life remains barren?

How can God turn the bitterness of unmet desire into new flavors of joy?

Sara Hagerty has lived these questions.  Masterfully drawing from her experiences of spiritual and physical barrenness, she will help you set afire a new longing for God.  This is the story of the beautifully invasive love of God for every person.  With exquisite storytelling and reflection, Hagerty guides you to a tender place that God is holding just for you - a place where He shapes the bitterness of loss into deep,new invitations to knowing Him.


"A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet."
Proverbs 27:7

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"The God behind it was proving Himself to be fundamentally different than what I'd supposed for at least a decade, maybe more.  But I was finding Him.  In the places I had feared most and spent a lifetime avoiding, He was meeting me.  My worst, my very worst, moments were getting rewritten without circumstances changing.  I was getting acquainted with the kind of deep satisfaction that bad news can't shake.  He was showing me Himself as strong enough.  He was letting me hide in Him, letting me find a safe place."
"No part of knowing God is passive...They reached the unreached with a life, not just a message."
"Fear loses oxygen when every moment suspends itself under the purpose of bringing Him glory, of knowing His name and His nature."
"God was working every angle to change our knowledge about who He is.  We realized that our lives aren't, in fact, a series of rewards for doing things 'right'.  They are strung-together surprises that continue to speak more of who He is than who we aren't."
And those are just a few!

Sara uses the transparency of her life to give readers a picture of the wonderfully amazing goodness of God in ALL things - the good, bad and down right ugly.  We expect things to be smooth and easy after coming to know God, but Sara helps us understand through her life's example that the greater knowing often comes through the painfully difficult.  Against the night, stars shine the brightest.

Included at the end of each chapter is a section I found most helpful titled "For Your Continued Pursuit".  In this section, Sara gives a list of Scriptures and gives the reader the opportunity to "trace any spoken declarations back to God's truth and use those as starting points for adoring Him, for making His Word part of their everyday language."

Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet is a book to be read more than once.  I know I plan to read it again.



*I was given a complimentary copy of the book for the purpose of giving my honest review.

Blessings Ya'll,
Jennifer