Saving the Saved

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I received Saving the Saved by Bryan Loritts for the purpose of reviewing, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

A couple of years ago, I lamented to a friend that I was a terrible evangelist.  She looked a little surprised, because in all of our encounters I didn’t exactly shy away from talking about the gospel.  She asked me to clarify my statement.  I confessed that I was fine talking about God in certain environments and situations, but heading out in to the unknown and sharing it with strangers was very hard for me.  I was broken over it, feeling like I was not fulfilling The Great Commission very well.

As we continued to talk, and I was admittedly sobbing at this point, I had come to a conclusion about myself. I realized that I had a heart for the lukewarm believer, the people who should know better but don’t.  The big things that mattered to me, were topics like bible literacy and strong prayer lives.  I was undone by what people didn’t know because they didn’t take time to read the scriptures, or when scripture was being twisted to fit agenda.

It was at that point, she giggled just a bit at me.  She told me that I had a heart for discipleship, and that was Great Commission work.  As we continued to talk she pointed out that each of us have our role in The Great Commission.  There are the missionaries and evangelists who bring the gospel to people for the first time.   There are the apologists who defend the faith well, to those who question and doubt.  Then there are disciple makers, who have a heart for studying and teaching the scriptures well.  She freed me from the disappointment in my poor evangelizing by helping me to recognize that wasn’t my gift.

It also helped me pinpoint my role in serving the body, that I loved to teach and equip leaders.  My heart was bent toward knowledge and wisdom from the scriptures, and that i desired to know it well myself in order to make sure I teach it well to others.  Integrity in my teaching was highly important to me.  Just this year, a woman asked me if I would consider being her mentor.  After prayerful consideration, I responded that I didn’t feel right mentoring her.  I still had a lot to learn, and quite often I learn from her.  Ultimately we agreed instead on a mutual relationship, like the disciples had, where we could learn form each other.

There is so much freedom in the scriptures, and I am someone who loves a to do list.  It is very easy for me to find myself looking for clear cut directions, and frustrated with the scripture are vague on a topic.  I want God to tell me in His Word exactly how I am to live every single day of my life.  If I am not careful, I can allow myself to become too legalistic.  At the same time, I must also be careful that I don’t go into the deep end of “everything is permissible” without remembering that doesn’t mean it is beneficial.

I’m already a fan of Bryan Loritts, and I was excited to read this book.  It had everything I loved about sharing the gospel with those who are saved.   The pages speak of mercy, grace, and love.  It tells me to be generous, put my pride in check, and to find peace instead of worries.  It affirms my marriage priority as my first ministry and reminds me that I need to get out of my own way.  Oh… and then it trips me up… when it talks about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is hard.  Like, REALLY, hard.   And, honestly it doesn’t even matter who I am trying to forgive.  In fact, I often have an easier time forgiving others than my own self.  It can be a real struggle to forgive, because our Christ-like heart says YES and our fleshy mind says NO.  Who hasn’t uttered the words…  “How many times do I forgive {insert person, situation, self}?”

Bryan Loritts takes us right to the truth of it…

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me,

and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee,

Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 

Matthew 18:21-22

Ouch.  That many times, Lord?  Really?  Really.  For a moment, let’s take this literally.  If the Lord has set the limit at 490 forgivenesses… I’m in trouble.  I’ve stopped long before that number.  I can’t think of a single person in my life that has wronged me 490 times.

If we take it in concept, that is STILL a lot of times to forgive someone.  UGH!

I know that there are times where I am really hurt, and I don’t want to forgive.  But there are other times when I know that I am being petty, or I know that it’s more about how I perceived the wrongdoing than what was actually done.  One of the most reoccurring themes for me in 2016 has been about forgiveness.  That forgiveness isn’t easy, but necessary.  Forgiveness is a choice, that I sometimes have to make every day despite my flesh.  Forgiveness is not reconciliation but part of that process.  Forgiveness won’t always make sense, and by the worlds terms, they may not deserve my forgiveness.  Forgiveness may cost me something… and yet forgiveness is freeing.

It’s funny to me, the terrible evangelist, that I purchased a book about saving the saved… and it was a book I needed to read.  I continually need to be reminded to forgive.

Seventy times seven times.

Lord, forgive my unforgiveness.  Let grace, mercy, and forgiveness fall from my lips. Amen.

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Illustrated Notetakers Bible – #Write31Days

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Bible journaling isn’t exactly a new thing, but combining the journaling along with art is catching on quickly.  There are some people who are just not artistically gifted but love the idea of art journaling.  Then there are those who are like me, who love making art but also are a bit o a perfectionist.  If I mess up on a pad of drawing paper, I can rip it out and throw it away.  However, I would never rip a page of out of my Bible.  So, this artistic concept actually terrified me.

Then I got this, the HCSB Illustrators Notetaking Bible from B&H Publishing Group for the purpose of reviewing.

This Bible contains pages with gray tone sketches that you can follow along with (like an adult coloring book), use as a launching point and customize, and even blank pages for your own art. 

For someone like me, it works with my sensibilities and allows me the freedom to be artistic without the worry of perfection.  I experimented with a few different tools.  The pages are nice and thick, thus I expected to encounter few (if any issues) working with these different tools.

Colored pencils have a smooth finish on the paper, obviously won’t bleed through, and give you the option to erase.  I really liked the pencils on pages that included skintones and detailed garments.

Gel pens are fantastic for smooth outlines and coloring in the blank space.  I didn’t have any issues with bleeding through, as the ink seemed to sit on top of the page.  I really loved the metallic inks.  Depending on the type of gel pen, I would advise allowing the page time to dry before closing it.  Very detailed pages could be prone to smudging (pen issue, not pages), thus I recommend working top to bottom or taking breaks to allow portions to dry thoroughly.

Colored Markers tend to come in a greater variety of colors and ultra fine point tips.  In my Bible, I really enjoyed the smooth outlines.  I also preferred these markers for writing, and they didn’t require dry time like the gel markers.  Certain colors/pigments did bleed through, but I would attribute this to the markers themselves.  These particular fine tip markers were not as nice for filling in space as the gel pens.  If you choose to use markers, I would advise getting 2 sets of the same colors.  One with an ultra fine point for outlines and details, and then a fine/thin point for filling in space more smoothly.

Overall, I think this Illustrators Bible is going to be a perfect fit for my artistic nature and sensibilities.  This would also be a great gift this Christmas, or when Easter and Mother’s Day rolls around. 

So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

Motherhood is Missional, A Review

I received a copy of Missional Motherhood, The Bible Study from Lifeway for the purpose of reviewing.  I purchased the book that inspired the study, Missional Motherhood.  This is an honest review of the STUDY, and is in no way influenced by the gifted study.

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I have been a mother for over 17 years.  During that time I have not only been a part of Women’s Ministries that are full of moms, but also MOPS International groups.  One thing I have learned about being a mom, over all of these years, is that I still have room to learn more.  Another thing I have learned is that many of us mothers share a similar feeling, a desire to be more than “just a mom”.

There are some women who were born to be mothers, and what I mean by that is that these are women who desired nothing more than being a mom when they were of age.  They played house, always taking the role of mom.  They loved on other babies, and the news of becoming a big sister was something that excited them beyond measure.  They were babysitters and helped in the church nursery as soon as they were old enough.  In fact, at a very early age they probably knew how many babies they wanted to have and even what their names would be.

Then there are other women, who didn’t have motherhood on their radar as their ultimate calling.  It wasn’t something that they desired from a young age.  When they played with their dolls they took the role of teacher or doctor.  Their life goals were aimed at having a successful career, doing something significant in the world, or even serving as missionaries in a foreign country.  Children may or not have been included in those dreams and goals.

I was in the latter camp.  When I was pregnant with my first child the plan had been that I would return to work & my husband would stay  home those first few years.  At the time, I made more income than he did.  It just made fiscal sense.  Yet, once that tiny little body was place in my arms… the Lord changed my heart.  We decided that I would stay home and we would trust in the Lord’s provision.  He never failed us.

Yet, it was very difficult for me when I would be asked the question:  So, what do you do?

It wasn’t common in our area for women to stay home with their children.  Even members of my own family didn’t understand the decision.  Was I wasting my education, my skills, my talents, and my potential?   It was like I lost my identity and become someone’s wife… someone’s mom.   Over the years, as I have sat with other women … I hear those thoughts echoed.

We desire to be known, to be seen, to have purpose, and to have impact.  Somewhere along the line we lost the view of motherhood as a calling and instead it became something we just “do”.  Our value and worth began to reside in our accomplishments outside of the home, and when that was no longer an option… we felt lost.  Like we were doing nothing important, and yet the Lord had given us a very important calling.

Society’s focus on accomplishments have tainted our view’s of motherhood, and Gloria Furman does a great job at point out our need to reclaim this role.  Utilizing scriptures from the Old and New Testament, we examine how the role of Motherhood fits into God’s plan.   The Bible Study encompasses many of the bible study techniques that we may be familiar with in conjunction with our own personal reflections.  What I also appreciate is Gloria Furman not only talks about the mission of motherhood in regard to the typical American family but explores what this looks like in other cultures and how we interact with other cultures.

Throughout the study we begin to see how our role as mother is part of our Great Commission calling, for every woman.  For the mom who questions her purpose, this study helps her find her identity in Christ and the mission God has called her to fulfill in this season of her life.    We explore how our every day lives fall into the larger story of God’s redemptive plan.

From life giving creation to The Great Commission, our role as mothers is far beyond “just a mom”.  We are disciplers, mentors, teachers, leaders, guides, nurturers, providers, and so much more…. all in the confines of our own homes.  When our identity is rooted in Christ, then the gifts we have been given by the Holy Spirit are put to use in our homes.  This is our mission field, where we serve as a teacher to those in our charge and an example to the world watching us.  We are a family set apart, different… and we can find satisfaction in our purpose.

Whether you are a first time mom, a seasoned mother, or an empty-nester serving as a mentor mom… we all still have a thing or two to learn and share.  This would be a great study for a small group of mothers, MOPS group, or even as a gift to a mom to be.

Coloring Books! Scripture! I’m in!!!

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I was really excited when this coloring book set arrived from B&H Publishing for me to review.  Who doesn’t want to “review” a coloring book!!!!  So, I cracked open the first book and began coloring away.  The pages are super smooth, but they are not pure white.  If you want to have a brilliant white in your finished piece, you’ll want to use a white crayon, pencil, gel stick, or gel pen.  Other than that, I was really impressed with how smoothly my colored pencils glided on the page, which made controlling how dark or light the color went on much easier.  Even though the books are smaller than most coloring books, the details were not so fine that I couldn’t saturate the spaces.  Their size makes them super convenient for travel too.  In fact, I’m heading to a conference in a few weeks and I’ll be packing these for my plane ride.

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Some pages are images to color, others include scripture references (like the photo above), and there are also some that have prompts where you can journal your thoughts.  Almost every page has some white space that you can add your own personal thoughts to, albeit some have greater space than others.

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There are pages that contain single images, as well as some where it is one image that bridge across the page.  If you want to pull these pages out for framing, there is no perforation and the spine doesn’t open totally flat.  Therefore, it can be difficult to get into the very center.  If you intend to frame the images, then you may want to use a paper cutter to slice through the spine.  This will allow you to color all the way to the inside edge.

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After I walked through some of the pages in the first book of the SET… yes loves, it is a SET.  I realized that the second book is full of empty pages!!!!  Be still my heART!   Maybe you are not really artsy, the first book can be great inspiration to help you dive into the second book.  Perhaps you want to use the second book to record your thoughts as you work through the first book.  Or, let it be a blank canvas for releasing your own designs and thoughts.  I decided I wanted to use it as a prayer journal.  The pages are super thick, which allowed me to use a nice bold black marker without it bleeding through the page.

This set is a perfect “thinking of you” gift, hostess gift, birthday gift, stocking stuffer… or a “sorry your bored in the hospital here is something to do” gift.

Most places offer this book for under $12!

Definitely a set I would recommend, whether you consider yourself creative or not.

A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit – STUDY

Just last week I posted about the book 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit, today I want to talk about the Study Workbook that goes with it.

Some of us can pick up book like 5 Habits, read it, and glean everything possible from it.  Others of us, need to dig a bit deeper.  We need to flesh out the ideas and concepts on paper.  We need to work through it, taking our time to digest the content and determine how to best use it to affect our lives.  And, there are occasions where we need to even hear the words coming from the author, peppered in with their personal accounts and feelings to make it more real.

If you click on the books above, you’ll be taken to the Lifeway.com page that lists not only the book for sale, but the black Study Workbook and even downloadable video links for individuals and groups.

The Pro’s of “A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit” study workbook:

  • The study is 6 weeks long, which makes this a perfect length for a summer study.  It can be a lot harder to gather your small group during the summer vacation months, and I generally find a 6 week study is the perfect solution.
  • The structure of the study is easy to follow along with, if you choose to facilitate the study for a group of friends (or if you decided to tackle this one solo).
  • The study workbook can be used independently of the original book, and videos!

The Con’s of “A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit” study workbook:

  • Even though the study is a 6 week session, there is daily homework.  I’ve often found this tends to be the area that hangs up women the most, in a small group setting.  This is particularly difficult for moms with young children or working women.

SOLUTION:  Take your time working through it, don’t rush to be done in six weeks.

  • There are some areas of the book that provide ample writing space, but others I fine to be lacking.

SOLUTION:  Consider a small notebook, or use the larger post it notes for added space.

Other than that, it is very solid study that explores the book of Ruth and what we can learn from her on how to be a woman who doesn’t quit.   The study walks us through scripture, explores our own past habits, and then encourages us to build new ones.

On the Bookshelf, 2016

2015 is coming to a close, and if you’ve learned anything about me thus far… I like to read.  So, in case you are still contemplating your 2016 reading list… here is a sneak peak at mine.  There is a combination of books, including ones I think deserve a re-read.

I’m sure I will be adding some things to the stack as 2016 progresses, but it is a start.  HA!

For what it is worth, none of these are advertisements or sponsored suggestions.  They are not affiliate links, so I am not making any money off the recommendations. books2016

Since I am completing my Bachelors in Divinity, and I know that I will be continuing in ministry of some sort, I really wanted to take a look into the functioning of the church as a whole.

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I also got my hands on a book I’ve been wanting to read on Women’s Ministry and material that may prove to be a good resource for beginning a discipling program.

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I’m also going to be revisiting two books I’ve already read.  Mere Christianity is a text I read earlier in my walk, and I’d like to read it from new more mature eyes.  Authentic Intimacy is coming to my town in January and I want to stay acquainted with the materials as I promote it with churches, leaders, and women I encounter.25qbooks merextian

I’ve definitely been focused on my personal relationship to God, especially now in a light of transition.  I know that God has something in mind, and sometimes I get a bit afraid.  Afraid of what He is going to ask of me, afraid I am not worthy of the calling, afraid I will fail, etc.  I’m looking forward to these 3 books (and yes, 1 doesn’t come out until Feb 2016… don’t covet they neighbor’s books. )  Technically I read one of the books already, but I actually want to take my time and go through it again.

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After reading Don Whitney’s Praying the Bible, I want to explore my prayer life more.  I also have a heart for revival, and realized that in all of the past stories I have heard about revivals… they all started with a prayer group starting somewhere.  Prayer is a powerful tool in the belt of a Christian.  I long to understand how to use it to the fullest capacity.

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I am daily studying the scriptures directly, and I firmly stand on that being the primary way to study scripture.  However, I have always found blessing in other resources.  Two that I have heard great things about have made it to my list this year.  I’m not sure if I will attempt these on my own, or put together a study group (as of right now I already lead a Women of the Word study), I guess I need to pray about that.

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The other thing that is big on my agenda for 2016 is getting a better grip on my health, which I have known means reigning in my diet.  Having an autoimmune based thyroid condition means that I am constantly fighting against my own body.  It’s been a hit or miss on what works best for me, and I’ve been blessed to find an amazing doctor this year who helped me on the medication and supplement end.  Recently I was introduced to a plan by a friend, and I’ve heard good things from others with my condition.  So, I’m going to give it a try.  I bought the book & a cookbook.

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And to cap it off, I got another cookbook.  One thing most people don’t know about me is that I read cookbooks just like I would a novel.  I love them.  In fact I had so many cookbooks at one point, I had to pair down.  One of my favorite cookbooks was the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day cookbook, which is all about bread.  Great… but when the doctor tells you that you need to be gluten free… bread is a no-no.  Boooo.  Well, it turns out the authors came out with a NEW version that includes GLUTEN FREE recipes.  WOOOOOOO.   Merry Christmas to me.  If the gluten free recipes are anything like the original recipes, you’ll find me comatose in the corner … bread crumbs strewn about.

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So… what books are on your 2016 reading list?  Use the comment section to recommend something you read this year, that I MUST read.  Link to your blog with your 2015 or 2016 reading list.  Or, share which of the books I recommended jumped out at you as one you’d like to read.  Join the conversation, and let’s fill the bookshelves!  And you never know… there may be a drawing or two in the works!

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