Book Roundup 2015

Book Roundup 2015

There’s not much I enjoy more than a room with books. Today I thought I’d take some time for a round-up of the books I made room for in 2015.

aroomwithbooks2

 A room without books is like a body without a soul.   

Cicero

 Here they are, followed by my making a little game out of which ones I loved, loathed, and left out.

books2015

I didn’t read quite as much this year as I did in 2014 but was actually surprised when my book count for 2015 added up to twenty-seven (not including the New Testament and a ton of blog reading). I wasn’t nearly as intentional this year, but it turned out I was only six books shy of the amount I read last year. As I looked back over my selections, I found it interesting to see the genre choices…. 25 nonfiction and 2 fiction. Yep, that’s me.

The nonfiction breakdown:

  • 9  Autobiography/Memoir
  • 7  Christian Living
  • 4  Bible Study
  • 3  Self-help
  • 1  Health
  • 1  How To

the fiction:

  • 1  Historical fiction
  • 1  Mystery/Whodunit  (so not my genre, but I attended a book club at the beginning of the year, and this was the chosen read)

Three of the books I read this year were re-reads. To me this speaks extremely well of a book since there’s hardly enough time for all the books I’m interested in much less time to read something I’ve read before. Therefore, high praise goes to three:

Only 77 pages, this book reveals a hidden truth in Ephesians that might just change your life.

Discover what might be keeping you from fulfilling your calling in this profound book by one of my favorite authors.

AN ABSOLUTE MUST if you love the message of grace and have never read this book!

                             

Led me to a great little discovery ~

Need some inspiration to dare to live your dreams? If you’re interested in seeing how one person finally got honest about her life, admitted what her dream was, took deliberate steps to make it happen and followed through against all odds, then read this book. As a result of the practice of doing what’s known as morning pages (a practice of daily stream of consciousness writing heralded by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way), this ordinary woman opts for a drastic life change, moves to France and through an interesting turn of events finds an art form that turns into a charming, lucrative, and fulfilling medium.  This gal’s story is daring and fun (although a bit risqué when she finds love in Paris). I hate to spoil the fun of the book, but if you’re not going to read the story of how it all started, do at least check out this video on her website and her Etsy store to see what I consider to be a great little discovery as a result of reading this book.

 

Most Unexpected Surprise ~  

I love libraries more than I can explain, but honestly, finding a great book while wandering the aisles can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Nevertheless, sometimes it happens…and happen it did when I stumbled upon this book by a man I’d never heard of. You’ve never understood some of the parables of Jesus like you will after reading this book. The author, an Episcopal priest, has a revelation of grace that is likely more radical than any of the “grace preachers” you might be familiar with. I will definitely be re-reading this book with a Bible, pen, notebook, and concordance at hand. The perspective presented will contort your mind into a new way of thinking, a grace way of thinking, about stories we’re familiar with and think we understand. Although the author could be accused of taking God’s unearned, undeserved favor to an extreme that seems to border on Universalism (although he does NOT leave off the part we play in having to believe to receive that grace), I can honestly say his radical interpretation of the scriptures analyzed in this book will, at the very least, serve to shake and shatter any mistaken mindset we might have lingering in the shadows as to the scandalous love God has for us. Beyond even this, this amazing book masterfully highlights how these same stories reveal the equal emphasis God puts on our showing this same extreme, revolutionary, profound grace to one another. A fascinating read.

 

Least favorite ~

It’s not that the subject matter of my least favorite book of the year was undesirable (renewing the mind is one of my very favorite topics), however, I could not make sense of how the facts shared in it were presented. I came very close to not finishing it but pressed through thinking it would eventually clear up. Not so. If you’re interested in the brain’s anatomy or the physiology explaining what the brain does in response to our thoughts then it might interest you. For me though, this could have been more practically true to its subtitle by emphasizing the admonitions of Paul in Philippians 4:8 and II Corinthians 10:5. If you want less technical and more practical I would rather recommend this book .

 

Most Disappointing ~

One of the things I focused on this past year was the subject of prayer. Someone I respected gave this book high praise so I put it on the list of books to read while my husband was in Africa during the summer. Unfortunately, it turned out to be another book I forced myself to finish . I always think something’s going to change and I’ll miss it if I don’t finish. It might be that some of the content in this book seemed elementary to me. An extensive use of quotes from theologians like Calvin, Luther and Augustine made it more theological than practical. I wish I had spent my time actually praying instead of using it to read this book. I’m sure I would have been further ahead.

 

Best and Most Surprising Ending ~

You would think the mystery/whodunit book would hold the prize for most surprising ending, but no mystery I’ve ever read caught me by surprise or was more unexpected than the ending to this memoir. The honest, brave conclusion this author wrote as an end to this diary was written six months after his seven month cloister with Trappist monks in the Upstate New York monastery he entered to deal with his restlessness. The decision to separate himself from his busy life as a professor and priest and devote himself to solitude and prayer was made with the intention to see lasting change as a result of this extended and solitary focus of attention and energy. A noble quest indeed, one I have often thought would benefit me as well. My commitment to read the diary was at times just that…a commitment. I was likewise seeking answers…hoping to be inspired regarding my prayer life from seeing the fruit of it heralded by someone who had made it a priority in such an unorthodox and extreme way. As usual, with the many books I read on spiritual topics, I pressed on, attending to every single word with hopeful anticipation. In this case I am so glad I didn’t quit before finishing. Thank God this man had the courage to end his book as he did. Truly, it provided the answer…the one and only answer to all our searching. The closing statements made the time I took to read this book worth it! Just when I thought I would find another secret to a deeper walk through more dedication to and understanding of prayer, I was overjoyed at the staggering reminder via this fellow seeker of God who finally and mercifully discovered that all is grace!

 

Most favorite ~

I really don’t have the words to tell you how much I love this girl and her writing. I’ve followed her blog for almost two years now and still get giddy when I see she’s published a new post. And now this first book, my very favorite read of the year, a full 272 pages of her masterful word weaving. I was first drawn to her because of a heartfelt post she wrote describing the unfamiliarity and loneliness she felt in having just moved to Atlanta from New York. My son had just moved there and was experiencing the same emotions so my heart engaged with her immediately. The book is a memoir of her ever so challenging season living in New York during which she began writing poignant letters to anonymous people and leaving them all over the city. Purely unplanned, it has since become a movement, eventually leading to her being asked to do a TED talk which as of this writing has been viewed over one and a half million times. This girl is honest and extremely talented. She has a way of crafting the story of life with all its unknowns, its highs and lows, its promise in a way that makes you feel like you’re not crazy or the only one experiencing the wonderings and wanderings of life. She is becoming more and more aware of the reality of God and has begun sharing Him with bold authenticity. I am thrilled to watch what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do in this girl’s life. If you like genuine and genuinely good writing, this girl’s for you.

One of many wonderful quotes:  

“It’s not about you. It’s not about what you want. Look for that selfless place inside of you and just start stacking wood for the fire there. Search until you find that place, though it won’t be easy to find. Still, be relentless in finding it. Build from the selfless place inside of you that is not big or loud or selfish or proud. Build from that little spot inside of you that burns quietly and unceasingly for others.”

 

I could go on and on talking about books but I’ll shorten things up by mentioning a few books (ones I absolutely recommend) by way of quotes, quirks or comments.

 

~ You’ll never meet a more whimsical, radical doer! Need someone to talk to? The author ends this book by giving you his phone number!!

“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”

 

~ Something to seriously consider if you’re having trouble hearing God’s voice.

 The voice you believe will determine the future you experience.

 

Praying God’s will for that child you’re sending off to college? God has ways of pursuing and overtaking even when we’re not pursuing Him.

 

In conclusion, let me say that although I shared my favorite read of the year, if I had to recommend the one book that I would want absolutely everyone to read (with highlighter in hand) it is this one. As I stated, if you love the message of grace and haven’t read this book you will not be disappointed. Trust me…you haven’t heard it communicated like this before.    As of today the Kindle format is only 2.99!

 

I’m looking forward to another year of reading great books. If you’ve read any you recommend please let me know in the comments. I’m compiling my 2016 book bucket list.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

This post contains my affiliate links.

How Good is Good?

How Good is Good?

dogwoodGood Friday…aren’t you thankful for what we commemorate on this day? In truth though, for most of us the consciousness of what happened over 2,000 years ago on Golgotha’s hill is with us every single day. Not many days go by that I don’t express to God my gratefulness for His sacrifice, for Him taking the wrath due me on that rugged cross those many years ago.

Like most of us, I will not forget to remember. However, something else happened that day, and more often than not, it is forgotten…that is, if it’s known about at all. For years I didn’t know it had occurred, but once I found out…well, my life changed drastically.

You see, whether we know it or not, Jesus was not the only one crucified that fateful day, and I’m not speaking of the two who hung at His sides. No, that day there were more than just the three. Thankfully, there was you and there was me.

I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…. Galatians 2:20a

Yes, we were there that day too, dying the same death…a death to sin. Thanks be to God that, together with Him, our old man was also crucified. Why? It was “in order that” we could be not only forgiven but free…free from having to sin!

…knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.  Romans 6:6

It’s something we need to know. It’s something else we need to be thankful for every single day. Let’s begin today on this day of commemoration.

Let’s never forget to remember just how good Good Friday really is.

 

If you’d like to read more on this topic go here and keep following the links to freedom! 

Linking up with Five Minute Friday over at Kate Motaung’s Heading Home

 

 

 

 

DIY

DIY

DSCN8260SEncouraging others is one of the things I care more about than nearly anything. I desperately want people, you people, to know your value, that the things you do (no matter how insignificant you deem them to be) are stellar! You rock people’s worlds with your hospitality, your art, your listening ear, your ability to make people laugh…whatever your unique talents and proclivities might be. It matters to me that you know you matter, that you are valuable, that that thing you do is impressive, needed, useful…and recognized.

Since there’s not much I enjoy more than acknowledging and praising these individual gifts to the ones gifted with them, you would think that this compulsion of mine would overflow onto absolutely everyone, wouldn’t you? Surely, it would! Or would it? Actually, it might surprise you as it surprised me to realize that in spite of this overwhelming desire to encourage, there’s one person with whom I never, ever share encouragement. Myself!

Determined as I am to compliment and commend, it seems I’d have seen it before now, but I have finally recognized a sobering reality…I would never criticize someone else like I criticize myself.

I’ve been told I’m too hard on myself, and I’m beginning to see the truth of it. I am my own worst critic. While admiring and acknowledging the treasures in others, looking intently to see precisely what they are, I am looking at all the shortcomings in myself…the faults and weaknesses, the things in need of correction. As a result, negativity occupies far too much space in my mind. It’s exhausting and debilitating. I’ve somehow believed it’s all in the name of improving myself, of eliminating the flawed aspects of my personality, demeanor, and tendencies. Even if it were helping (which I daresay it’s not), it leaves me feeling disheartened. It could even be perpetuating the very problems I’m trying to solve.

So, although an encourager to a fault, I now see that I never encourage myself. It would appear that I need to be a bit more like David.

David encouraged himself in the Lord… I Samuel 30:6

It may seem silly, but as much as I believe with all my heart that everyone needs to be recognized, acknowledged and encouraged…I now see that I am one of the everyones. So I’m beginning to follow David’s lead. I will encourage myself. I will acknowledge and recognize what is in me…Who is in me!

What about you? Do you need to be encouraged? Don’t wait for it to come from someone else and don’t reserve your encouragement only for others. Join me in calling your own little DIY project. Be like David and diyourself!

 

One Thing

One Thing

“A woman named Martha welcomed Jesus into her home.
She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.
But Martha was distracted…”

 

So here we are, fleshing out 2015. How’s the new year going for you? Looking much different from the last? All those resolutions, goals, and changes…so many things we still want to see accomplished in our lives…are you seeing any evidence of a difference yet? They say it takes twenty-one days to solidify a new habit. Well, today’s day twenty-four, and I’m not feeling it. Hardly.

No, to be honest, so far the new year is looking a lot like the old. And if you’d asked me a few weeks ago how I would feel about that I’d have said, “Freaked out”. But you know what? I’m not. And maybe that’s the biggest change I’ve seen thus far this year. It may not seem like a big deal, but believe me when I tell you…for me it’s huge.

So, what’s made the difference? Well, several weeks ago while reading the book of Luke, I was stopped in my tracks at the very familiar story of Mary and Martha. It’s a story that never particularly stood out to me personally, probably because I’m not the most domestic of females, as anyone who knows me well could attest. Without a doubt, I’m not the type to be compared with hospitable Martha. However, reading the account this time spoke to me like never before because I noticed something I’d previously overlooked. It’s something the most un-domestic of us might nevertheless be guilty of. What I’d failed to ever notice before was this: it wasn’t Martha’s tendency towards service and fussing over preparations that Jesus confronted. Not at all. What Jesus addressed wasn’t that Martha was too domestic, but that she was too distracted.

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things…

No, it wasn’t Martha’s activity that concerned Jesus, it was her anxiety. Dear, domestic, hospitable Martha…it seems I share more in common with you than I realized.

Could we just as easily replace her name with ours? I now realize I certainly could. “Lisa, Lisa, you are worried and bothered about so many things…”

Maybe my things are different than Martha’s, and, no doubt, your things are different than mine. Nevertheless, like her, are we worried and bothered by them? Our families, our futures, our finances? Our weight, our work, our will? Our lack of ambition, our lousy attitude, our limited accomplishment? Everyone’s list is different, but if we take time to examine our hearts and acknowledge the things we’re anxious about, would it be so many things? It was for me.

So what’s the remedy? If you’re anything like me you make a list. You put everything in neat little boxes, you bullet point, you break it down. You resolve to solve…and there’s no better time than the beginning of a new year! You get busy, and the sooner the better because, after all, there are so many things. So we start the diet, curb the spending, create the goals, list the resolutions; we bite the tongue, book the travel, change the attitude, face the fears. But is that the answer Jesus supplied, the remedy He prescribed? Not by a long shot.

No, His answer was not to energize, but to eliminate…not to induce activity, but to reduce it. To reduce the so many things to just one.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary…

Martha’s sister, Mary, had chosen that one thing.  “Mary…was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word“.

So, I’ve made a change for the new year…one single change. Change is such a common theme at the start of any new year, and truly there are changes I want to see. However, rather than fret and worry about so many things, I’ll be concentrating on one. This year I’m choosing what Mary chose, the one thing Jesus said was necessary. I’ve replaced the many things on my list of things to tackle this year with only the one. First and foremost I’ll be spending this year doing whatever it takes to stay “seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word”.  Jesus called it “the good part” which I would imagine could make for a very good year.

 

Taking part in Five Minute Friday at Heading Home (although this took much longer than five minutes….sorry, I’ve missed participating and wanted to jump back in).

Photo by Mo Riza provided under Creative Commons License 2.0

One Word 2015

One Word 2015

file0001458427763With the New Year approaching I’ve been doing some thinking about what to choose as my One Word for 2015. This year was my first for choosing one word to focus on as opposed to making the famed and failure prone list of resolutions. I did make lists of things I wanted to accomplish and do this year, but unlike the usual nature of resolutions, they weren’t change oriented. I reserved that distinction for my One Word. It honestly made a difference.

When you think about it there are usually only a few things, not a whole list of things that are hindering, haunting, or holding us back. I’m finding that focusing on just one…consistently, for a full year, can bring unexpected revelation and lasting change. I say lasting change because after nearly an entire year of constant, committed attention to one single word, I daresay I will take it into succeeding years without any forethought whatsoever. I’ve seen it occur even before the year’s end. As the days passed and my attention waned, my word would nevertheless pop into the forefront of my mind, announcing itself, nudging me with a reminder in any and every situation where honesty was needed to proceed accordingly and make necessary adjustments, creating new habit patterns and bringing more and more freedom. I truly believe it’s one unexpected benefit of the One Word approach… change that endures.

Knowing this, I’ve decided to do it again for 2015. We’ll see what develops as I ponder and pray about what to choose as my One Word for 2015.

Searching for Meaning

Searching for Meaning

imageToday marks day one, year three of blogging here at My Word Study. It’s been two years of discovery. Sometimes we have to explore and experiment to not only discover our passions but also to eliminate things as possibilities. One thing I’ve realized in these past two years is that writing is hard work. Additionally, and this has been somewhat of a surprise to me, I’ve found I don’t enjoy it as much as I once believed. Or maybe I should say certain styles of it.

I’ve always considered myself a writer, partly because I can, but I haven’t actually done it much, not since college anyway. There I always got positive feedback from my professors, but looking back I realize that most of my writing was literary analysis…offering an interpretation of a piece of literature to uncover and expound upon the meaning the author sought to convey in the work. Creative writing? I can’t ever remember doing it. I’ve attempted it here with little success. No, I’m not one who is any good at creating an original piece. What I do is repeat, recount, restate, in a sense regurgitate words written by others.

I’m discovering, with the help of two years of blogging, that not much has changed since college. Most of my writing is still literary analysis, offering an interpretation of a piece to uncover and expound upon the meaning the author wanted to convey. I still use such things as context, theme, allegory, and symbolism to find that meaning. What has changed is the Author whose words I search out. By searching for meaning in His words I’m finding the meaning in mine.

Looking forward to year three of my Word study.

Meeting in the Middle

Meeting in the Middle

centerSDid you know that today, July 2nd, marks the exact middle of the year?  Yes, as of last night we’ve lived 182 days of 2014 and beginning tomorrow, God willing, we’ll live the remaining 182. But today? Well, today we’re right in the middle.

For a girl like me, today seems kind of special. Why? Because I have this weird thing about symmetry. I don’t know why, but I love it. Things symmetrical are made of exactly similar parts facing each other around an axis. So today, the day smack dab in the middle of two 182 day parts, this day feels kind of like a free day…the axis around which these two parts of the year face. And to me, the axis doesn’t really count. So I’m taking this day, this axis day, and using it to make sense of what surrounds it.  Yes, I’ve decided to have a meeting with myself this mid-day to look back and to look forward, to deliberate and to determine (to the extent that any of us can) where I’ve been and where it is I want to go for this second half of the year.

I have no particular wisdom to share with you today, nothing profound to pass along, just a desire to make you aware of the point we’ve reached. Might I encourage you, right here in the middle of this thing we call time, measured by mortals in days and years, to pause and to ponder, to reflect and review, and possibly recalculate?  I, for one, don’t want to one day look back on this middle day only to find I was actually in the middle…of nowhere.

 

Here’s a couple of super great resources from Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, that might prove useful as you ponder and plan.

His book, Storyline, leads you step by step to understanding and living your part in God’s story

On his blog: A Free Week of Life Coaching

 

 

This post contains my affiliate links 
Photo by dynamosquito available through a Creative Commons License 

A First Observance

A First Observance

biblereading1Today many Christians begin observing Lent and although I’ve never observed the season before, I have decided to do a little something during this 40 day period this year. I happened to stumble across Margaret Feinburg’s blog today, just in time to find out about her 40 Day Lent Challenge to read the entire New Testament through Lent. I might not be observing Lent according to tradition but I couldn’t resist taking part in this so I’m in! Since I’m beginning this challenge somewhat late today I’m not exactly sure how I’ll develop this commitment here on the blog, but don’t be surprised to see a post or two discussing what I’m reading and being inspired by.

If you’d like to join me you can print out the reader’s guide, or if you have the You Version Bible reading app on your computer, tablet, or smartphone search for The 40 Day New Testament Challenge in the reading plans so you can follow along there. The plan provides a way to fulfill the challenge even while taking Sundays off from your reading or for using them to catch up should you fall behind. If it sounds too daunting don’t be fooled, the plan only requires reading approximately seven chapters per day. Totally doable.

So what do you say? Want to join me?

 

Daily Bread

Daily Bread

EzekielEzekiel Bread…It’s my daily breakfast routine.  There’s nothing that satisfies quite like it.  No temptation to over-eat, no looking for something else to hit the spot.  It simply satisfies, day after day after day.  It seems pretty remarkable…until you read the book of Ezekiel.Continue reading

Qualified for Blessing

Qualified for Blessing

rahabToday I conclude the story that began with this Bible Identity Quiz.  If you haven’t already, take it before you read on and see if you can get the answer. 

Below is the conclusion, but here is the first part of the story where I began telling how I came to “identify” and “identify with” this uniquely favored woman of the Bible.

Oh, to have the daughter-in-law blessing like Naomi did.  Her story had given me a vision for the future. I became increasingly aware of the seriousness of this topic as my study in God’s Word continued. I saw other examples of disastrous scenarios resulting from men choosing the wrong women, the most startling telling of the tragic consequences resulting from the marriage of King Jehosophat’s son, Jehoram, to Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter, Athaliah. The more I learned, the more commited I became to seek God’s wisdom and will concerning my future daughter-in-laws.

Additionally, there was more than these examples from God’s Word that caused me to focus my faith on this subject.  Suddenly I had a story of my own that was playing out right before my eyes, and, like the dreadful Biblical accounts I’d read, this one appeared to be a disaster in the making.Continue reading