“Savor” the moments, right where you are.

It’s been a while since I had my hands on a good devotion book.  I’ve been spending more time digging into the word directly, school work with Christian Leaders Institute, and writing a curriculum on women’s ministry.  Most of the devotion books I have on my bookshelf require a little more effort than what limited time I have for supplemental reading.

Family Christian gave me the opportunity take review Shauna Niequist’s devotion book, Savor.  When I first opened the pages, I  was happy to see that these were devotions that were short and really got right into the heart of the message.  What I didn’t realize was how poignant they were going to be as I went through them.

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Like two days ago, as I was sitting on bench waiting.  My sixteen year old was taking her driver’s test, life was changing.  Shaunti’s words about embracing the here and the now, were so needed.  My youngest reached over and pressed down the right side of the book so I could snap a picture.  So aware of what I was doing, but suddenly part of it.  I closed the book and grabbed that little hand, holding on for a bit longer.

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Today, I read about being present with God in the demonstration of his power through his Word.  I find such joy in reading and studying scripture and bible history.  I find joy in teaching it to others, which is exactly what God has asked of us to do in the Great Commission.  It was an affirmation to the things God has been maneuvering in my life for quite some time, as I start seeing them fall into place today.

And, if a devotion book isn’t good enough on it’s own… I let you in on a little secret.   Scattered amongst the pages are savory recipes that fit the seasons; from summer salads to sweet fondues.    Each devotion page has a few questions on the bottom that serves as reminders of who we are, what God created us to be, and those who God has put into your life to help you get along in your journey.

This is a great devotion book, for you own use… but is also beautiful and would make a lovely gift for a friend or someone in your church body who is in need of a little pick me up.

The book Savor was provided to me by Family Christian for the purpose of reviewing on this blog.  The opinions, however, are entirely my own and without bias.

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Easter Inspiration

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I don’t know about you, but I have a really bad habit of scrambling for Easter Baskets.  We adhere to a strict budget in home (a’la #DaveRamsey ).  When there was just one child, Easter was great.  I would buy up things in the months leading up to it, wrapped in special paper, hidden along with eggs.  So very #MarthaStewart.

Our first hiccup, is that every 4 years our eldest daughter’s #birthday is the same week as #Easter.  That will pinch the budget, quite a bit.  Then we had our second daughter, who miraculously shares that same birthday.  So now, we had 2 kids to Easter shop for, and every 4 years … 2 kids birthdays to shop for.  Double pinch.  It would come to an arch with the birth of our 3rd daughter, who doesn’t share the same birthday, but is still another person to shop for on Easter.  Not to mention by the time she came along, Easter baskets for my eldest were starting to get a big pricier.

The funny thing about all this #budget complaining?  I know #DaveRamsey would say “You know it comes every year, why don’t you plan for it?”  And, he’s right.  My girls birthdays fall the same day, every year.  With or without Easter.  And Easter, is conveniently on the calendar.  It’s not a surprise, it’s just not planned very well.  My fault, entirely.

2015 brought a particularly tight budget, though.  Not only did we have the year of the Birthday/Easter week, but for my eldest it was a milestone birthday.  Sweet Sixteen.   This year, however, I had my #DaveRamsey cap on.  I was determined to plan, and plan early.  I was determined to stay within my budget.  I was also determined to interject more #Jesus, less candy.

I know that it’s too late Easter 2015, dear readers.  But, you can start planning early for Easter 2016.  Here is a break down of this years baskets.  I hope it is a bit of inspiration.   (And no, I didn’t get any discounts or freebies from these companies.  LOL.  Not sponsored ads, just idea sharing).

candyThis is a 3.75 lb. bag of Palmer Easter candies.  They call it the “Egg Hunt Mix“, and it was perfect.  A little bit of everything.  1 price, 1 bag.   I grabbed my bag at BJ’s.  #Palmer candies are one of my personal favorites.  I’m partial to their peanut butter cups because the peanut butter is smooth and creamy vs. grainy like other brands.

I divided the bag of candy up by 4, because mom needs here share.  I plead the 5th as to whether or not those were “equal shares”.

For my 8 and 12 year old daughters, their baskets were virtually identical.  I headed over to #OrientalTrading and wanted the best value for my dollar.  I went with:

ebfiller  This Easter Basket Filler Assortment was a perfect solution, it had quite a variety and divided up perfectly.  You should be aware that you won’t get everything in the picture.   I did get most of what you see in the picture.  The blow up bunnies were my personal favorite.  The foam airplanes were the kids.    Most of the variety was just 2-4 pieces of that particular item, but there were a couple of things I got a ton of.  I held onto the extras & I am saving them for next year.  #BudgetWin   I also made the choice to inflate the bunnies and built the planes vs. putting the diy kit in there.

supertoy  I also selected the Super Toy Assortment.  On this one, there were definitely differences from the photo.  I pulled the whistles out, because that was one thing our household didn’t need.  I am going to donate them to a local rape crisis center, or place that offers women’s self defense training.    Despite the differences #OrientalTrading still provided a great assortment, with small numbers of each type of toy.

lamby  I purchased one these adorable I Love Jesus Sheep for each of the 3 girls, because who doesn’t love a sweet cuddly plushy?

chalk  I also selected a bucket of chalk and these cute bags carrotbag to wrap up some of the smaller items in.   The carrot bags do not come with any ties, so you will need to pick up some ribbon.  #OrientalTrading came through this year, for sure.  Plus I had a free shipping discount code.  WIN.

I then hopped on over to #FamilyChristian to grab up a few items for the individual girls.

For my 12 year old, I grabbed this great devotion bookdevotional  She’s growing up, and it was time to upgrade her from her “Action Bible“.  She loves that bible and I highly recommend it for your younger kids (girls and boys alike).  But it was time for something more, “Middle School”.

For my  year old, who has been telling us the same jokes over and over again… and is terrible at making up her own…. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of kid friendly, clean joke books #FamilyChristian carries.

jokebook  I picked these 2, but there were many more to choose from.  eastercolor You can’t go wrong with coloring or activity books for an #EasterBasket , so I picked up this too.  It’s perfect, for 8-12 year olds.

There is another great company called #CTAInc. that I have purchased all sorts of items from to use with our #WomensMinistry .   I had never paid much attention to their kids section, but I am glad I took a peek this year.  I got these awesome eggs to put in the girls baskets!   One tells the Gospel Story through cute little egg shaped cards.  Another has a dog tag style necklace that sums up the story with easy to remember color coding.  The third has a puzzle and mini story book to seal the deal.  I chose just to get the eggs because I had other items already purchased.  But CTA Inc. had a lot of other Easter items for various ages, and some coordinated with the eggs!

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For those waiting with baited breath as to what in the world I got for my 16 year old…. that was a bit tricker.  With it being her 16th birthday, we had a BEAUTIFUL Blessings Tea at a local Tea House.  She was gifted a lot of amazing things, to put into her Hope Chest (yes, we do that thing here, LOL).  So she didn’t get a lot of typical “fun” gifts.  I mean, sure grandparents gave her spending money…. because that is what they do.  But, at her party the gifts were much more personal and sentimental.

So, I filled her basket with the plush lamb, a bit more candy than her sisters, and then went for jewelry & some cute Easter socks.  I’d like to say she loved them, but frankly at the hour her sisters got us all up… she was less than human.   She promptly went back to bed, I expect I’ll know the success of my endeavor by whether or not pictures show up on her facebook page.

Frankly, I had already failed her with opting not to dye eggs this year the traditional way.  She silently protested.  Choosing to color her eggs solid, as if to say … “this is how they should look” … while silently thinking “mom not only disappointed me with a cheesecake instead of a real birthday cake, but now she has ruined Easter too.”

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WHO DOESN’T LIKE CHEESECAKE?????   People, really.  This happened.  Pray for her.

…. and yes, that is a Candy Corn Easter Egg…..

I SOLEMNLY SWEAR I AM UP TO REAL GOOD….

When I started blogging, one of the things that really excited me was becoming a blogger with Family Christian.  So far, I have gotten to review some really great books… AND was a guest blogger on their site on ministering to children and families with special needs.  VERY COOL.

A bit ago they presented us with an opportunity to be apart of their giving back campaign.   We simply had to submit how we’d use $50 to give back to our church or community.

I was thrilled that I was selected.  Now, off to Family Christian to order some goodies…..  Keep an eye out to see what I bought, who is getting it, and why they need it.

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#FCblogger #Easter #GivingBack

 

Andy Stanley’s ASK IT – Loving this study.

I was really excited for spring Small Groups, because we selected Andy Stanley’s Ask It!  I am a HUGE Andy Stanley fan, I like his “tell it like it is” attitude, how he speaks directly to the heart of the matter, and more importantly he doesn’t generally use a lot of filler.  That fits my personality to a tee.

If you are one of those people who wants to know what God’s will is for your life, or even in a particular situation or relationship… Andy Stanley takes through the steps to discover those answers.  And, it’s simpler than you think!

This is a great study for small groups, or the video can be watched in a single sitting.    If broken up into sessions, the video will take your small group just 6 weeks to complete.   If you would like your small group study to run a bit longer, couple the video with the book.

My small group loves this study so much, we want to do an adult fellowship night on it.  We kept thinking not only of our own situations, but others whom we felt could benefit from this study.

You can purchase the video and book through Family Christian.

PRAYERS FOR YOUR CHILDREN – Book Review

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To be blunt, PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK.

If you have children in your life, this book is frankly amazing.  I am so glad I was able to get my hands on an advanced copy!  Every so often, I will write reviews for Family Christian on various books they sell in their stores and online.  My compensation is getting books for free, which as an avid reader… that is a win.  So, when I was given the opportunity to get an advanced copy of this book… I SAID YES.

Let’s face it, sometimes…. our prayers for our kids… can become a bit ROUTINE.

Dear God, please watch over my children…

Keep them safe.  Help them to know you…

Let them do well in school, get along with their siblings better…

Heal their cold, help them pass their tests…

Lead them to a godly spouse…

Amen.

Sound familiar?  In recent years, I have been trying a lot harder to pray from the scriptures.  Yet, even with that attempt, I still found that the it was getting repetitive.  I needed help!

In the past, I have purchased devotion books for my kids.   They are great for teaching kids, and praying WITH your kids, but not for your kids.  At a recent meeting with my church small group, we talked about the difference between praying ABOUT people, and praying FOR them.  I really want my prayer life for my kids to be more meaningful, I don’t want to pray a laundry list of all the things they are doing wrong, failing at, or causing frustration to me.  I want to pray for my children with deep, scriptural, prayer.

In the book, Prayers for Your Children: 90 Days of Heartfelt Prayers, we get exactly that.  When you finish the 90 days, you may be ready to launch off on your own.  But, you may find, you want to start back over from the beginning, making small changes along the way.

The author, James Banks, has a very comfortable writing style that gets right to the point.  The 90 days of prayers are broken up into themed weeks (Knowing [God], [Being] Thankful, etc).  Each day, within that week, has a selection of scripture that reflects the days main point.  Immediately, you move into the prayer structure.  Supporting the scripture and theme for the week, every sentence of the prayer reflects scripture.  Not only is it written out for us in a prayer format, but the actual scripture is referenced in parenthesis next to it.

As you begin to move through the pages of the book, I would recommend reading through the prayer first.  With a prayer journal, or even just by writing in the margins of the pages, customize the prayers to the child you are praying for.  Change he into she, or substitute with your child’s name. Perhaps the prayer selection brings to mind a very specific situation, jot that down & make sure to include it in your prayers.  After reading through it, pray it!  Pray on your own, or with your spouse; you may even wish to include your child in the prayer as they get older.  Utilize your journal or empty space in the margins, to come back to it & keep track of how God is answering your prayers.

In moments of doubt, you can reflect on how God has answered your prayers & is working in the life of your child.  And, if your child is going through a season of doubt…. show it to them.  Let them see all of the prayers you had been praying for them, and how God was moving on their behalf… and they didn’t even know it!

Life will throw our kids loops and put obstacles in their way.  You may not choose to work through the prayers in order, but instead search for the ones appropriate to what is happening in your child’s life… right now.  Regardless of how you choose to use it, this is a great scriptural prayer resource.  A perfect tool for any parent.

At $12.99 it is not an expensive book at all, and one you may reference over and over again.  This would make a great gift for parents-to-be, parents that are new believers, or even for that parent who is struggling with their child.  When we shift from praying ABOUT our kids and into praying FOR them, it opens up compassion and allows us to see our kids from heavenly perspective.

Prayers for Your Children: 90 Days of Heartfelt Prayers

Author:  James Banks

Publisher:  Discovery House Publishers

ISBN: 978-1-62707-333-2

Currently on Pre-Order, Anticipated for Release March 2015

BOOK REVIEW: BEFORE AMEN (Max Lucado)

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I am a huge fan of Max Lucado.  In fact, one of the very first books I read when I became a Christian was “He Chose the Nails”.  As a parent, I would introduce my kids to Max Lucado through “Hermie & Friends”.  I was also very excited to see Max Lucado speak at my local Women of Faith event, several years back.

When Family Christian gave me the opportunity to read “Before Amen”, I jumped at the opportunity.  I admit it, I am biased.  I new I’d love it, because I have always found Max Lucado’s writing credible, honest, easy to read & understand, and poignant to season in my life I am reading it.  Now that I have finished the book, I totally understand why it was chosen Book of the Year.

I’m going to let you in on a secret, that I have hidden from my kids, I write in books.  Yes, the very thing I tell them not to do… I do it.  Endlessly.  Without shame.

My bible…

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My books….

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As I was reading through “Before Amen”, my pen was being put to serious use.  In fact, I am pretty sure if the book had been about 10 pages longer, I’d have run out of ink.

A new Christian may find themselves in that awkward moment, where they want to talk to God… they know they should pray.  However, they don’t know how.   How do I begin?  What do I say?  How do I end?  How long should it be?  And, truthfully, if you google prayer formats, you can find quite a few suggestions.  Start with this, follow with this, etc.  Yet they are still confusing to a new believer.   For example, the A.C.T.S.  format (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) … a new believer will have no clue what “supplication” means.  They find themselves needing a dictionary just to understand how to pray.

When the Council at Jerusalem met, one thing they concluded is that we shouldn’t make faith difficult for new believers.  (ACTS 15:19)

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New believers, they need a simple prayer.

Perhaps though, you are a seasoned believer.  You have been praying all your life, but you find yourself in a moment of crisis, disaster, and you can’t find the words.  Your heart, your soul, LONGS to pray… but the words escape you.  Pain & confusion fill your mind, and your sorrow falls with your tears onto your pillow.  Others have the words to encourage you, the scriptures you should cling to.  Yet, you are unable to speak them or read them.  The tears fall, a silent prayer, when words escape us.

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Seasoned believers, need a simple prayer.

That is what “Before Amen” helps us all, new and seasoned believers, to find.  That simple prayer, when we don’t know what to say, or how to say it.  A prayer that acknowledges our God as our father, who loves us.  A prayer that says “Daddy, I need you”.  A prayer that say, “They need you”.  A prayer that says “Thank you” even when we are in our moments of doubt, lack of understanding, and pain.  A prayer that calls on the authority of the Heavens, on our behalf.

It is here, in my car, I have my conversations with God.

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They don’t always start out with “Dear God” and don’t always end with “In Jesus Name”, but they are moments where I pour out my heart to God about things I can’t grapple with.  This isn’t my formal prayer time, but it is sacred time to me.  It’s an uninterrupted time to wrap my head around the things going on around me.  I know God is there with me, but surely He’d prefer me to be quiet more, and listen more.  This conversation, that may last 15 minutes or 1 hour, isn’t enough.  It isn’t a simple prayer.

It is here, in this corner, where I was broken… beyond words…. crying out to God.   Tears staining my cheek, fingers wrenched around my cardigan, words escaped me.  But, I needed God

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I needed a simple prayer.

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In moments like these, even words like those above elude us.  The good news is that in “Before Amen”, Max Lucado points us not only toward a simple prayer, that has an enormous amount of power, but teaches us the importance of each sentence.  It’s a prayer we can write down on a card to display in our bathrooms, tuck into our purse to access throughout the day, or to share with our friends and loved ones.  A simple prayer that acknowledges our Father, and calls on the authority of Jesus.

In the scriptures, Max Lucado points out, the only thing that the disciples actually asked for a tutorial on… is how to pray.  That is how important prayer is; not only did they want to know how, but that Jesus took the time to teach them.   He set the best example on prayer life.  How, when and where.

“Before Amen” introduces us to this simple prayer, and the chapters that follow expand on each sentence of the prayer.  Why is this portion important?  How do we do it?  How does it help us?  Others?  Everything pivoting on our personal relationship with our Father God, it is a pure and sincere prayer that isn’t congested with fancy words, platitudes, illustrations and ideas.

We get an opportunity to explore how God answers prayers, and how to work through those prayers that are seemingly unanswered.  All of our prayers are important and answered by Him, but in His timing; our prayers for healing, forgiveness, safety, understanding, peace… the joyous and the tear stained.

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Within the final chapters of “Before Amen”, we are left with a very special gift….  A STUDY GUIDE!   Whether for your own purposes, for use in a small group, with friends or even with your spouse; these pages contain practical application questions, scripture reading promptings and guidance to help you span the gap between prayer in theory & prayer in practice.

The study guide in “Before Amen”, is well written and can be explored in a few sittings or spread out over time; to allow you to really reflect on the questions & suggestions.  It also helps us to identify our strengths in prayer, directs us to Bible Prayer Heroes that we can relate to, and gives us suggestions on how to strengthen in other areas of prayer.

Some great quotes, from the book “Before Amen”:

“When we invite God into our world, he walks in.  He brings a host of gifts:  joy, patience, resilience.  Anxieties come, but they don’t stick.  Fears surface and then depart.  Regrets land on the windshield, but then comes the wiper of prayer.  The devil hands me stones of guilt, but I turn and give them to Christ.”   (Max Lucado, Before Amen)

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“Travel to the Wailing Wall if you want.  But prayers at your backyard fence is just as effective.  The One who hears your prayers is your Daddy.  You needn’t woo him with location.”   (Max Lucado, Before Amen)

“Prayer changes things because prayer appeals to the top power in the universe… It is the yes to God’s invitation to invoke his name.”  (Max Lucado, Before Amen)

We are all running the good race, together.  We may find ourselves in those last few yard praying… Daddy, you are good to me.  I know you can.  So please, help me.  Help them.  Thank you. In Jesus name, AMEN.  

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And then we fall into his arms, because He was running with us the whole time. 

If you are looking for a good book to pick up, to start 2015 out right, I highly recommend “Before Amen”Too many books give us a complicated how to, that seem bigger than we can handle.  “Before Amen”  keeps it simple, to the point; it offers tangible and realistic steps that will transform your prayer life, and in doing so will transform you & the world around you.

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