Archive for Books I Love

Books That Challenged and Changed Me This Year {2015}

 

In case you need some ideas for Santa, here are a few of my favorite books from 2015. These aren’t necessarily new releases, but just books that encouraged and challenged me this year. I’m including the Amazon links below:

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We Would See Jesus. A short, life changing read. Every Christian woman should read this classic.

Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom. Got hurt issues? This is a great resource.

Women of the Word. Excellent resource for learning how to study the Bible for yourself, without relying on commentaries.

The Church Planting Wife. Great read for any ministry wife.

From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. Wonderful read.

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image. Excellent resource for women who are living for titles or are confused about what Christian womanhood looks like. I adapted this book and taught through some of the topics in our teen girls youth group and I plan to cover the rest of them this winter.

Look and Live. One of the best books on worship I’ve read in a long time. I can’t recommend it cart blanche, as I had a few qualms with it (stylistic), but it’s wonderful for those who feel they are dry spiritually and know they are missing something in their worship of God…aka…they’re worshiping lesser things.

Safe People: How to Find Relationships that Are Good for You. I bristled at the title of this, because I tend to believe that you should get along with the people God sends into your life, but I was glad I read this book. It helped me to prioritize my relationships and find peace with letting go of a few relationships that I knew were no longer healthy because let’s face it–life’s too short to spend energy on people who are toxic.

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living In Paris. A fun read.

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass. Peter read this aloud to me and it was fascinating. It’s based on the life work of Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychologist who, after working with the poor and incarcerated for years, noted a common dysfunctional set of values that seemed to keep these people trapped in a victim’s mindset, hence, trapped in their current circumstances with no hope of change. Excellent read.

A Thousand Miles to Freedom:My Escape from North Korea. Peter read this aloud to us as a family and we couldn’t wait to hear the conclusion of this modern day escape!

What books would you recommend? What books challenged you this year?

*Post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting JoyFilled Days!

Favorite Things Fridays

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Favorite Things post, so today’s post is newsy.

Yesterday we enjoyed a grower reception at Ocean Spray and got to meet the OS “commercial guys.”

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I am busy getting ready for Christmas. I have a good chunk of my shopping done.

I want to be done early because my kids are coming home for Thanksgiving for a week! Woot! Plus we have three birthdays to celebrate that week as well, so I need to be organized in order to get it all done. :)

And once Thanksgiving weekend is over, life seems to get busier than I like. If we’re not careful, we can spend our time reacting to life rather than planning it out and living it well. I wrote extensively about keeping holiday sanity (and not breaking the bank!) in my ebook “Merry Christmas, Meager Budget” available here.  (<—also, grab 2 free chapters here as well.) Plus, we have an Instagram Giveawayhttps://instagram.com/p/9eF9D4lcMo/ of 4 copies of our eBook going on right now so head on over there to enter for you and a friend.

Here are some of my favorite things around the web. Grab a cup of tea and enjoy.

CRAFTY:: 1 Million free vintage images from the British Library.

Learn how artist/illustrator Renee Graef illustrates a book. She’s definitely one of my favorite illustrators.

MOTHERHOOD:: Sally Clarkson on teaching obedience to your kids.Sally Clarkson on teaching obedience.

Also, we’re newbies to the world of foster care but this was a great article about the need entitled “Wanted: Parents Willing to Get too Attached. Someday, when I can, I’ll write a little bit about the roller coaster of emotions that is foster care, but for now, we’re praying our way through this journey and loving on our little guy.

EDUCATIONAL:: This video: Watch 1000 Years of European Borders Change in 3 Minutes.

This 3D animation of how the heart works is fascinating.

CHRISTIAN GROWTH:: This super insightful post by Piper entitled The Major Obstacle in Forgiving Others might make you think twice about why you like to hold a grudge.

“… if we do this —if we really return good for evil, not the kind of manipulative way that hopes to really draw attention to the other person’s guilt…then very few people, if anybody, will know that we have been hurt.”

Holly Stratton’s article about relational struggles sheds light on our struggles with pride when faced with the pride of others and how God graciously uses other’s sin to show us our own.

KITCHEN:: This is by far my most pinned recipe: Copycat Dunkin Donuts Vanilla Chai Tea Mix. Great for fall and Christmas gift giving.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff via Allrecipes is one of my favorite recipes to make for a crowd. Serve with green beans, cranberry sauce and rolls. Yum.

BOOKS:: I am currently enjoying Relying on the Power of the Holy Spirit by Elizabeth George, and Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life, which I find myself coming back to again and again. Peterson is extremely insightful and calming, if you know what I mean. Her section on community and identifying with family after a loved one passes away was worth the cost of the book. Also, Contentment: A Godly Woman’s Adornment. Because you can’t be godly and discontent, now can you? 😉 I wrote about that choosing contentment  even when life gets hard and what to remember when it does. 

What links did you enjoy this week? Feel free to share in the comments. Or if you blog, feel free to share one of your own links. Have a great weekend!

*Post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

Contentment is a choice.

Contentment is a topic that kept resurfacing over and over again this past week, and whenever that happens, I know the Lord is trying to teach me something.

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Discontentment can creep into our hearts in the subtlest ways, like the other night when I just wanted a few minutes of peace and quiet. It had been a busy day, and I had met the needs of everyone in the house, and had a busy “ministry” day.

Peter made a nice fire in my fireplace so I could read, but I couldn’t seem to get to my bedroom to enjoy it. As I ran around, tidying up the house, I could feel the frustration building and discontentment growing each time I passed my bedroom and saw the warm glow flickering and heard the wood crackling. The internal complaining began:

What am I, the maid? Can’t I have five minutes to myself? Am I the only one with two arms and two legs in this house? Why am I doing everything?

God graciously convicted me after a few minutes that my complaining thoughts were not okay. Wanting a fire and solitude are wonderful things, good gifts, but

not the ultimate thing. When I desire good things too much, and it morphs into demands, you can be sure discontentment and covetousness are at the root.

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Nobody wants to be discontent. I strive to be joyful, but without contentment,  joy is completely impossible and elusive.

I’m not alone in this struggle. I’ve sat and listened to many women who find joy elusive. It’s always just out of reach because everything is not the way they’d dreamed. Happiness would come:

  • If I were thinner/prettier
  • If my kids weren’t so disobedient
  • If finances weren’t so tight
  • If I had an attentive husband
  • If I had a better childhood
  • If people respected me more
  • If that person would just leave
  • When this thing ____________{fill in the blank} changes

But do other people make us unhappy or is this just a way of blame shifting?

Jerry Bridges, in Respectable Sins says this:

“Your circumstances may be much more difficult than any I’ve ever experienced, but the truth is, it is our response to our circumstances rather than the degree of difficulty that determines whether or not we are discontent.

My contentment is not based on my situations or circumstances, but on my responses and the focus of my heart.  Contentment is a choice.

Lydia Brownback, in her lovely book “Contentment” says this of Rachel:

Jacob’s wife Rachel was never a very happy person. She wasn’t a very productive woman either. She spent the majority of her life seeking the things she wanted at any cost and at the expense of other people. God never satisfied Rachel, which is precisely why nothing else satisfied her either.

Discontentment is an equal opportunity tormentor and we see it in every walk of life:

  • the single girl who wants to get married and the married lady who wishes she wasn’t,
  • the woman who struggles with infertility and the woman who has so many children she can’t hear herself think,
  • the woman who lives in a teeny-tiny apartment and the woman who can’t stand to clean her enormous house,
  • the mom of toddlers who just wants a break and the empty-nester who thinks her life is over now that her kids are gone
  • the woman struggling to put food on the table and the richest woman in Hollywood.

When God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, He prefaced all ten of them with this statement:

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

So when we’re breaking the 10th commandment by coveting (which is idolatry, because of discontentment) we’re forgetting the Lord our God.

I am the Lord thy God. Period. I am everything you need. You are no longer in bondage. I am in control. I am doing what’s right for you. If you follow my ways, you’ll be blessed.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

Be content. Why? Because I am the Lord your God. I will never leave you or forsake you. You have everything you need.

Everything. If we have Christ, we have it all. Anything else is just an extra blessing.

Sow thankfulness, reap contentment.

How are you pursuing contentment?

*post contains Amazon Affiliate links to books I recommend at no cost to you.

Things You’ll Love

This week Hope and I have been sick with colds. We’re both on antibiotics now and are on the mend. Yay for modern medicine!

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We watched Paddington as a family and it was really sweet and funny.  We also got a pre-screening link to view Beyond The Mask and loved it.

SOO, {ducking and bracing} I rarely LOVE Christian films for whatever reason (acting is weak, humor is corny, low budget, all of the above, I don’t know. Don’t hate!) but I will watch them because the messages are usually wholesome. This was NOT the case with Beyond The Mask. The filming was right up there with the best movies I’ve seen and the acting was wonderful! It was full of action and romance that wasn’t trashy, and there was no foul language. Highly recommend!

I spent some time reading At Home with Madame Chic and am really enjoying it. I love the detail that Jennifer Scott puts into life. I also love that she lives her life with high standards regardless of what anyone else is doing around her. We only get one life to live. We might as well live it well!

Some days I was so sick that all I could do was listen to an audio book. By the way, if you’ve never tried Audible you can get two free audio books right now by signing up for their free trial. You’re welcome.

Some favorite reads around the web this week:

Why venting your emotions is the worst choice. Just so much common sense here.

The Small, Happy Life “We don’t all have to shine.”

How are you doing today? Insightful article by Anne about the questions we ask when people are grieving. I agree with Anne that the question should be, “How are you doing right now.”

In Defense of Doing Nothing. A Stanford dean tells us why we should let our kids just live during the summers.

Things have been slow around the blog lately. We all know that life happens and blogs go cold. We’ve been in the midst of carefree hospitality and setting priorities so that we aren’t so busy “serving” that we actually forget about God.

DID I MENTION THAT MY SISTER IS COMING HOME IN FIVE DAYS? We were just together in May, but we love having all the kids together for a few weeks each summer. YAY!!

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What have you been reading and loving this week? Let me know in the comments section here or on FB. I hope you are all bronchitis-free and enjoying this lovely summer.

*post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Interview with Christine Hoover and a From Good to Grace Giveaway

Really excited to share this interview with Christine Hoover with you today and offer a giveaway of her new book, From Good to Grace for you and a friend!  If you aren’t familiar with her book, I semi-reviewed it here after I disagreed with the Gospel Coalition’s review which basically said that this dependence on grace and the Holy Spirit was not enough to lead to holiness and change. Many of you wrote that this was your faulty understanding as well, years ago, and that God had brought you through trials to bring you to the end of yourself and show you that dependence on the law for salvation or sanctification was futile. The law was meant to be a schoolmaster, holding our hand, leading us to the Savior.

I had a few questions for Christine after reading her book and wanted to share them with you.

Sarah: What causes us to get the “gospel” so wrong?  Especially those of us who have been brought up in solid gospel preaching churches?

Christine: The gospel is not innate to us. It’s an announcement of good news that we must hear and proclaim to ourselves over and over again. We must let it consistently sink down deeper into every crevice of life. We get it wrong so often because what I term the goodness gospel–spiritual growth through self-effort–is innate. We tend to innately believe that external behaviors can change internal realities, so self-effort has an appearance of wisdom to us. We must, as Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “stand firm in the liberty for which Christ has set us free”.

So there’s this fight to live in the grace Christ has won for us, but I think in our churches we often focus on what the gospel says about salvation, but we aren’t always talking about how the gospel applies to our sanctification. How do we grow? How does the Holy Spirit work in our daily lives? What does it mean to walk by faith? Without understanding these concepts, we naturally revert back to the goodness gospel.

Sarah: On a practical level, what does preaching the “grace gospel” look like on a daily basis? You talked in the book about what you dubbed “Autism Days” and how those emotionally hard days were when you needed to remember God’s love. Can you talk us through your thought process. What verses do you cling to? How do you prepare yourself for the highs and lows of emotion that we women experience throughout life?

Christine: My emotionally difficult days usually circle around discouragement regarding my children, self-doubt regarding writing, and struggles with being a pastor’s wife. My thoughts tell me that I’m not good enough or that I’m not doing enough. When I’m thinking along those lines, I typically go back to two anchors.

One is, “What has God asked of me in this?” Almost 100% of the time, I am condemning myself rather than experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit. God has asked me to be faithful in my roles, but I am putting additional standards on myself, such as having perfectly behaved children and people at church who are perpetually pleased with me. I know God’s conviction when it is biblical, specific, and hopeful, not condemning. There is no condemnation ever for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).

The second anchor is adding “But God” to my thoughts. Am I good enough? No, but God has made me righteous in His eyes through Christ. Am I going to disappoint people? Yes, but God has given me His unchangeable approval in Christ.

I’m not saying that my emotions immediately change, but going to these anchors leads me to ask the Lord for help in believing what is true and help in being faithful to Him in my roles.

Sarah: Parenting is one place where I think we can unknowingly train our kids to a behavioral gospel. We praise good behavior and scold negative behavior. We use phrases like “Good girl” and get excited when our kids act and behave in appropriate ways that make us look like the “good mom.” Do you think we are ingraining the goodness gospel in our kids?

Christine: This is a good and important question. In parenting my kids according to the gospel of grace, it helps me to think about the role of the Law. According to Galatians 3:19-25, the Law teaches us that we need something beyond ourselves and our own abilities and behaviors in order to be righteous. In other words, I look at the law and I see my inability to be good and it leads me to Christ.

This is so applicable to parenting. I want to teach my children what God says is right and wrong and to obey Him (the Law), but I can’t stop there. I have to help them understand that they are unable in and of themselves to fully obey and “be good”. This leads to the gospel: Jesus was perfect on their behalf and they are given the opportunity to accept it by faith.

After salvation, I want to teach them that faithfulness to God is the most important pursuit. I am leading them to Jesus and teaching them to walk with Him, not just to obey me. I want them to go to Him in Scripture, know Him through Scripture, ask Him for help and leadership, and learn to obey His voice. Of course, I am going to be a primary voice in their life, but the question is who is leading me as I lead my children? Myself and my own desires, understanding, and effort? Or am I trusting that God will speak to my children and help them grow? I must pray toward that end, otherwise I am tempted to be their Law and Holy Spirit.

Sarah: How has writing this book impacted the way you parent? How are you intentionally training your kids to understand the love and grace of God?

Christine: What God has taught me about grace has greatly impacted my parenting. The most helpful thing I’ve learned about grace is that I am not an orphan (John 14:18). I don’t have to take care of myself. I have a Father who loves me, cares for me, and nurtures me. He delights in me and sings over me. Knowing that lights me up with joy, but it also compels me to lay down my life for the One who has sacrificed so much for me.

 

This has everything to do with parenting. I want my kids to see me delight in God and enjoy Him and serve Him, because kids really do love what their parents love. I want them to see me so confident in God’s love for me and that He loves them the same way. Because God’s love toward them will compel them to faithful obedience (2 Cor. 5:14). I know that’s not super practical, but the old adage is true: you can’t give away what you don’t have.

Thanks, so much, Christine, for joining us here today and sharing what the Lord is teaching you.

If you’d like to enter a contest to win a copy of From Good to Grace for you and a friend, you can enter whichever way is easiest for you:

1. Comment on our Instagram pic and tag your friend on IG.

2. Tweet about this giveaway and tag your friend and @joyfilleddays on Twitter.

3. Share this on FB and tag your friend and @joyfilleddays.

Make sure you tag @joyfilleddays and make your post public so I can count your entry on the social media outlet of your choice. You can enter once on each social media platform for a total of 3 entries.

Contest ends midnight, Friday, 3/13/2015, EST.  Physical book mailings for the US only. Outside the US, you’ll win a Kindle version of the book. Giveaway courtesy of Baker Books and Joyfilleddays.com. 

A watercolor printable for you, and a new, must-read book

So teach us

My site has been quiet this past week, partly due to technical reasons which I ended up ignoring, because honestly, life is busy in a good way.

In case I haven’t mentioned it, we’ve got snow here, people. Six feet. And with it—rain in my kitchen. Insurance adjusters are coming our way soon and we’re thinking that we’ll need to replace ceilings in two rooms.

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The storm has afforded me extra time to read, paint, and have friends over.

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I told you I’d post the watercolor I designed on my way home from A.I. DuPont after Addy’s first surgery. I’m posting it here so you can print it out and enjoy it. Please consider it a thank you for praying for my niece.

I’ve entitled it “Teach us to number our days.” It’s a picture of a primitive style cabinet in my kitchen.

This is the cabinet this past Christmas.

This is the cabinet this past Christmas.

I filled it with all of the things of a woman’s life: quilts to represent security, rest, and hospitality; dishes to represent the important task of feeding bodies and carrying on family traditions; books for the imparting of wisdom. There are other “life”” things tucked in the cabinet, including baby shoes, flowers, tea cups, photos, needle and thread, etc. Yellow beeswax tapers hang on the side to represent light. Now we see darkly, as by candle light, but some days we’ll behold our Savior and see Him as he is. Amazing thought.

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These things are all crude and necessary, but imagine heaven some day. No need of blankets for warmth or security, because we’ll be in the presence of the holy, triune God.

No need of books. We’ll be with the Word itself.

Even our best china dishes will pale in comparison to the table the Lord sets before us.

Until then, we’ll rejoice that we are strangers and pilgrims here, and use our time to worship the Lord through our work.

When you see all of life as worship, the job you’ve been given to do no longer matters. Faithfulness matters. Sometimes we get this wrong. We pour our energy into “big” things to the neglect of the everyday things. This is a serious mistake. Our lives are lived in the mundane moments, and most of our opportunities to serve come in micro-events, not mountaintop moments.

We can serve pancakes and tea to our family behind closed doors and God sees it as service to Him. Don’t make your kids fend for themselves, but then kill yourself for a church ministry. That’s backwards, and honestly, not uncommon. We can embrace washing sheets and dishes with as much gratitude as standing on a stage speaking to hundreds for the cause of Christ. If our heart is worshiping God, we’ll happily serve whether on the stage or in the sick room cleaning up after children.

So teach us 8X10
One book that I want to make sure you know about that releases today on Kindle is From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel.

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This book is not a loosey-goosey feel good book. It’s not a call to let your hair down and live as you want.

It’s the secret to a powerful Christian walk. It’s letting go of the try hard life and forgetting self all together, so that you can depend on the Holy Spirit to get a hold of you and change you.

For those of you who live with self-condemnation which keeps you from really loving and serving others, this book is for you.

For those who feel like no one appreciates all that they do, this one if for you.

For those who feel like a failure as a Christian, you are so close…because you are… and that’s exactly where you need to be to grasp the grace that God provides for you.

For those of you who are doing good things for all the wrong reasons…trying to get God to like you or trying to get others to think you are a good person, this book is for you.

If you’ve spent your entire Christian walk worrying about what other people think of you, pick up  From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel.

This is one of my favorite reads of 2015 so far. (Disclosure: I received it free from the publisher. I’m purchasing it for several friends–it was that good, and it’s out today in Kindle format. Paperback is available March 3.)

Have a great week, ladies!

Classic Books for Children: New England Authors

classic books new england authors

New England has a rich literary history. I live less than an hour away from the stomping grounds of literary greats like Lousia May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite books written by New England area authors or books set in New England. Let me know your favorites in the comments! Enjoy.
1.Little Women

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2.Stuart Little Read-Aloud Edition (This is my favorite edition, and I’m currently reading this to Hope! Unfortunately it’s out of print, but you can get it used for a penny on Amazon!)

3.A Time to Keep Ah, Tasha Tudor. My favorite childhood illustrator. I could look at these pictures all day. If you’ve never introduced your child to Tasha Tudor’s heartwarming family scenes, this is a wonderful book to start with.

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4.Make Way for Ducklings

5.Charlotte’s Web

6. The Hat
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7.Number the Stars Lois Lowry is known for her delicate handling of tough issues. This is one of our favorite read-a-louds on WWII.

8. Blueberries for Sal  We read this every year before blueberry picking!
9. One Morning in Maine a book which I may or may not have already bought for my future grandchildren.

Lovely books set in New England:
10. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
11. Pollyanna 

12. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years We’ve read this book so many times that the cover’s fallen off!

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14. Snowflake Bentley

15.Ox-Cart Man

Can you think of any other great books I missed? Feel free to share in the comments.

—->This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog.

Favorite Weekend Links

I hope you have a great weekend. Here’s a newsy post for you. Grab some coffee and enjoy!

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News:

Rebekah is already back at school and Emily is headed there tomorrow. Pray for them, won’t you? We’re hoping that any health problems that Em had her freshman year will be no longer an issue now that she is an appendix-free girlie, as of this summer. :) Pray for Rebekah to be a servant-leader on her hall in her role as RA.

Also, I’m excited to tell you about a great opportunity the Lord has given me. I’ve been asked to be a contributing author to an online resource/counseling website for hurting women. It’s launching this October and honestly, this team of writers is out of my league. Two words: Karen Ehman. Yes, she’s one of my favorite authors (hospitality ninja) and she’s also a contributing author. Also, when you read all of these women’s bio’s and then you see mine, you’ll laugh. 😉 But, I’m honored to be part of such an amazing team! I’ve learned so much in the past two months from all of them, working behind the scenes, getting this project together.

Just because an opportunity presents itself, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from God. So, I’m following God’s lead (and seeking Peter’s advice and the advice of godly friends!) as He hands me ministry opportunities in the areas of writing and speaking lately. I’ve always wanted to write books, because I’m so thankful for the part that “book mentors” played in my spiritual growth. I hope to share what I’ve learned about life– motherhood, hospitality, ministry, mentoring—and be a help to some other struggling woman. I’ve never wanted to speak to women, because, my comfort zone is speaking to teen girls or teaching younger children, but the Lord keeps nudging me and giving me opportunities to speak for Him. A godly woman schooled me: “Satan’s women are out there spreading his message! How can the Lord’s women not speak for Him?”

I feel the Lord is preparing me for that “someday” ministry right now. He’s swinging doors wide open, and I wish I could say that I strut through them with confidence, but my reality is that I peek through the crack of the door onto the other side pretty timidly, and fearfully, not really sure if I’m ready to take that next step and walk through. Pray for me as I write, that the words of my mouth (keyboard) will spoken in love and will point people to Christ.

Articles I loved:

4 Ways to Live Out Your Role as Helper: Jen Thorn

The Truth About Grace For Today: Ruth Simons

How To Have Joy: Christine Hoover

Why It’s So Critical We Connect With Friends: Lisa Jacobson

If Your Child Is Looking At P*rn, Give Them Grace: Jessica Thompson (Elyse Fitzpatrick’s daughter)

Talking With Your Children About Persecution: Kara Chupp

Ferguson and My White Son: Trillia Newbell

Currently Reading:

Women of the Word (Advance Reader Edition): How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds
The Holiness of God
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

 

Kindle Deals:

Women Living Well: Find Your Joy in God, Your Man, Your Kids, and Your Home is $.99 today.

Funny:

You know it’s true! 😉 lol

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  Crafty:

 Easy Fall Watercolor Tutorial for kids. 

DIY Pearl Statement Necklace via Gracelaced. Ruth has an amazing sense of style and this necklace is gorgeous!

Yummy:

Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Copycat Vanilla Chai Recipe (Just like Dunkin Donuts)  I’ve eliminated a step to make it super easy. This is a great mix to make for your college students! My girls love it!

Great Quote:

It makes me boil when I think of the power we profess and the utter impotency of our action. Believers who know one-tenth as much as we do are doing one-hundred times more for God, with His blessing and our criticism. Oh if I could write it, preach it, say it, paint it, anything at all, if only God’s power would become known among us.”  Jim Elliot

*post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog.

Holiness for the Church That Is Too Ridiculous

Are you frustrated by the pursuit of holiness? Does it seem like an impossible task? You’re not alone.

Pretend with me that you are seated in a church sanctuary. Now, look around the room at the people nearby. What kind of people do you see?*

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In my imaginary church, I see

  • A frazzled mom impatiently SHUSHING her kids in the sanctuary.
  • A moody husband who rolled his eyes and belittled his wife yet again with sarcasm.
  • An energy-drained single mom trying to make ends meet on her own because her husband is a good for nothing.
  • A married couple who live side by side in cool indifference.
  • A heartbroken woman who dulls the pain of her husband’s unfaithfulness by excessive spending and endless Botox.
  • A guy whose pornography addiction has devastated his wife, leaving her fighting depression and overbearing guilt.
  • A ministry couple who came to church fighting and will continue the argument after the morning worship service.
  • The bitter woman who proudly carries a chip on her shoulder like it’s a victim badge.

On any typical Sunday, in any given church, you’ll find pews full of sinners. (If you find a church that’s perfect, let me know!)

We’re all ridiculous in our own ways. And still the command rings in our ears:  “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” I almost want to snicker, Are you kidding me? Holiness seems about as likely as lassoing the moon.

But the command remains. What’s a raggle-taggle church full of ridiculous sinners supposed to do with this command?

Be Holy. Set apart. Consecrated unto God. Single-minded. Obedient.

First, humble ourselves. Stop thinking we can do this alone.

Then, draw near to God and claim, yet again, His enabling grace.

Grace motivates us to keep on going. Kinda like when you taught your kid to ride a bike, and they tipped, and fell, and failed. You kept cheering them on, and holding the back of the bike for them, running alongside, never leaving them for a minute, telling them that they could do this thing. You encouraged them toward a goal, but their lack of fear and confidence in your good will toward them motivated them to try, try again, keep peddling, keep getting up, even when they are unbalanced, wobbly, scared and have never done it right before.

Yellow brick road 300ppi

It’s the same with Grace. If we feared getting the proverbial ax every time we mess up, we wouldn’t even try. But grace leads us, nurtures us, teaches us in love and keeps encouraging us in the right direction. The same grace that saved us keeps us and teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live sensibly, upright, and godly lives in this present life. (see Titus 2:11,12)

God’s grace does not stop when you’ve failed. It pulls you back, spurns you onward and helps you to see big picture. Many people tell you that when you fail, you should look upward. Of course they mean that you should look upward to God and from your circumstances, and I know what they mean.

But I believe that God’s grace teaches you to look downward. God’s grace teaches us to see things with an eternal perspective. We start at heaven and look down, and all of the things we thought were so big actually pale in comparison to eternity and spiritual treasure.

If you have legalistic tendencies, grace alone may disturb you. So, lest you misunderstand, and think that I am encouraging recklessness and lawlessness, a caveat:  a focus on God’s grace that ends in disregard for God’s laws is not grace at all, but licentiousness.

“Legalism makes believers think that God accepts them on the basis of what they do. Licentiousness makes believers think that God does not care what they do. Both errors have terrible consequences. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Grace should not make obedience optional. When God removes good works as a condition for His acceptence he does not remove righteousness as a requirement for life. The standards of scripture glorify God and protect His people from harm.

Resting on God’s grace does not relieve us of our holy obligations; rather it should enable us to fulfill them.

Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength

Grace-living that relies on God to help us live in ways that please Him produces fruit that looks like Him.

  • Selfishness takes a back seat as you live for others and God’s glory.
  • True ministry to others can take place as your heart is purified and base motives removed.
  • Closeness to God occurs as pride falls away and humility is embraced.
  • Your love for others is seen more clearly as you truly learn to love and obey the Lord.
  • Your reasonableness is known to all men.
  • You fulfill your call to be “holy and blameless BEFORE HIM.” Eph. 1:4

Martin Luther, the once Catholic priest turned reformer, when he realized that good works and law keeping could not save you, but faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, encouraged us to drop what we once considered our spiritual “trophies.” These words should encourage you to stop attempting holiness for the wrong reasons. God does not owe us anything because of our feeble attempts at holiness. He loves us and desires us to be holy and spurns us onward with His power.

Martin Luther, from The Sum of the Christian Life:

It will be exceedingly difficult to get into another habit of thinking in which we clearly separate faith and [Works of] love … even though we are now in faith… the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say:  After all, I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account… But it cannot be done. 

With men you may boast:  I have done the best I could toward everyone, and if anything is lacking I will still try to make recompense.  But when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home and remember to appeal from justice to grace.

Let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter a thing it is for a man, who all his life has been mired in his work righteousness, to pull himself out of it and with all his heart rise up through faith in this one Mediator.  I myself have now been preaching and cultivating it through reading and writing for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness.  And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace;  yet this is what I should and must do.  The mercy seat alone must prevail and remain, because he himself has established it;  otherwise no man can come before God. 

Are you depending on God’s grace today to give you the power to change, or are you running on empty/exhausted from trying to live the try-hard life for yet another day? You can’t do this on your own. You need enabling power. Plan to sit with the Lord today and ask Him to open your eyes to your need and His all sufficient resource, GRACE.

*This exercise, adapted and personalized from Bryan Chapell’s Holiness By Grace.

15 Faith-Building Books For Your Beach Bag

Oh, how I love the beach. The salt air, soft sand, and rhythm of the waves. Paradise. {We’re spoiled here with Cape Cod’s beautiful beaches.}

Want to increase your faith while relaxing on the beach?

Here are some of my favorite Christian reads for your summer beach bag. Check them out of the library or download them to your Kindle.  I’m categorizing them for you into light reading (like one-a-day devotionals), instructive/encouraging, and boot camp and giving you five in each category to choose from. (I used the Amazon picture link this time to try it out so you could see the cover.) Enjoy!

 

 

Light Reading





 

Instructive/Encouraging




Boot Camp for Believers




What books would you add to this summer reading list?