The Poisonwood Bible – Book Review

51LI8aCmN7L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Book: The Poisonwood Bible by  Barbara Kingsolver
Size: 576 pgs
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classic, May 2005
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Category:
  Historical fiction, religious

Summary:  Baptist preacher Nathan Price decides he wants to be a missionary, so he takes his wife and four girls to the Congo in 1959. Each of the five women share their inner thoughts as they struggle to adapt to a culture they didn’t choose to be a part of.  This is not your typical missionary story as Nathan is a difficult man – rigid and abusive.

Barbara Kingsolver does an excellent job writing this story with five voices – all women.  Orleanna is a mousy wife under the domineering hand of her husband.  Rachel’s struggle comes with a longing for the material possessions left behind, Leah is in constant turmoil over a desire for her father’s approval, Adah can’t speak or walk well but shares her deep thoughts and Ruth May is the typical sweet, fun-loving baby of the family.  Nathan has no direct voice, the book is not about him but about the women’s responses to his actions.

My Review: I didn’t know anything about this book when I began reading it, and I’m glad I didn’t.  I feel my experience was deeper as a result.  As each page unfolded I found myself wrestling with the character’s choices and the consequences of them.  In the beginning I assumed this was a Christian book – after all, it’s about missionaries in Africa.  But, it turns out it is a thought-provoking book that deals with the darker side of humanity.

Barbara’s critical lens on Christianity leaves me sad. I’m not sad that she wrote it, I’m sad that there is truth to what she says.  I’m sad for families today whose true story is closer to this fiction book than they would like to admit. I’m sad because people say they are a Christian and then for whatever reasons squelch the true gospel – the life, love, hope and peace that Jesus gives. It reminds me of a song from the 90’s by Wayne Watson That’s Not Jesus . A few lines from the song say:

Some mortal man convicted of some moldy moral sin
And the skeptics wage their tongues and say
“There goes that Jesus again”

That’s not Jesus
He doesn’t carry on that way
Just some flesh and blood like you and me
Somehow gone astray

What I liked:  

  • Barbara Kingsolver is a talented writer.  The words dance on the pages, the imagery brings each character alive making the book an enjoyable experience.
  • She had many interesting facts about the Congo woven through the book as she lived there for a year as a child.
  • A good fiction book leaves you with emotions and things to think on long after you’ve finished it.  Barbara does that here.

What I didn’t like: 

  • She chose Nathan to be a Baptist Missionary, but didn’t seem to do even the basic research on Baptist doctrine.  The book was full of errors that could have easily been corrected with a few conversations with a Baptist or even a google search.
  • The firsts half of the book was excellent.  I would have preferred she end it when the girls reach adulthood.  The second half has a whole political focus I found hard to follow and it just didn’t feel as intriguing as the first half.

Quotes:

“There is a strange moment in time, after something horrible happens, when you know it’s true, but you haven’t told anyone yet.”

“As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer’s long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn’t touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come floating around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown. So I just didn’t stop.”

“Sugar, it’s no parade but you’ll get down the street one way or another, so you’d just as well throw your shoulders back and pick up the pace.”

“…I stir in bed and the memories rise out of me like a buzz of flies from a carcass. I crave to be rid of them…”

“I can think of no honorable answer. Why must some of us deliberate between brands of toothpaste, while others deliberate between damp dirt and bone dust to quiet the fire of an empty stomach lining? There is nothing about the United States I can really explain to this child of another world.”

“…so he just stood there brewing like a coffeepot. Only with a coffeepot you know exactly what’s going to come out of it.”

I would recommend this book to: I  wouldn’t recommend it to children, but rather to an adult who wants to read a good fiction book, learn about Africa in the 1960’s and be left pondering some of the darker side of humanity.

 

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Why is it Hard to be Humble?

After spending hours trying to learn how to back up my website, I asked my husband. Sitting in amazement, I watched as he clearly explained not only my questions, but the why behind each step.  Light bulbs went off in my head as I understood not only what  FTP was but CCS and HTML.  I listened intently and asked questions throughout the conversation.

Later that night it struck me, why am I so often in a hurry to share my thoughts and ideas instead of listening to the way other people do it.  Why was I willing to hear and accept what James was saying when it came to computers? He was knowledgeable on the subject – I recognized I was not.

Humility vs. Pride

Humility

  • My focus is on others
  • I am concerned with loving others well
  • I care about self-control in my life

Pride

  • My focus is on my desires
  • I am concerned with oving myself well
  • I act as if I am an authority over other people’s lives

Want more? My pastor referenced  The Proud and the Broken Chart in a sermon a few weeks ago – it’s good.

Corrie ten Boom was once asked if it was difficult for her to remain humble. Her reply was simple. “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back
of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments on the road, and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?”

She continued, “If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in His glory, I give Him all the praise and all the honor.”

How often do we want life to be about us – our plans and our comfort? Donkeys are slow, stubborn and when they feel unsafe they dig their heels in and won’t move. Fear stops me dead in my tracks – every time. It isn’t until I surrender to God do I move forward productively. It’s not about me. It’s about God. What is His plan?

Am I focusing on my desires and other’s shortcomings 
or
Am I focusing on other’s desires and my shortcomings?

Actionable Step: Print off this chart. Find somewhere quiet and read through it asking God to show you where you are being proud and where you are being humble.  Confess areas of pride.

Question: Why do you think pride is such a struggle for people regardless of race, age, social or financial status?

 

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Book Review: Platform

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Book: Platform: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
Size: 288 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; First Edition edition (May 21, 2012)
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Category:
  Business Technology, Social Media, Marketing

Summary: Times are changing. A platform is no longer a wood stage set above the crowd.  Today a platform is people – people in the social media, blogs and other online presence. The good news is that you no longer have to cross your fingers and hope to be noticed. There are clear, actionable steps that Michael Hyatt gives to help you become successful both by producing a quality product and a gaining a platform.

My Review: I first heard Michael Hyatt speak at the Self-Publishing Summit I attended.  I
was immediately drawn to his down-to-earth practical help and his likable, humble personality. As I poked around his website I was impressed with the wealth of information he is giving away for free. His character aligns with who I am and so I feel comfortable looking to him as a business role-model.

What I liked:  

  • Michael Hyatt gives lots of practical ways to put his suggestions into practice.  Using the tips he gave in the blog post Recovering the Lost Art of Note Taking I made actionable steps smart-notes-0081in the margins of the book. I then transferred those actions to a to-do list. I like interacting with the book and not just reading it and then shelving it hoping to implement the ideas someday.
  • The chapters are short and the book reads smoothly and easily.
  • In most chapters I found myself referencing his notes section in the back of the book for ideas on books or websites he recommends.
  • He is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers – the dude knows how to write – well.

What I didn’t like: 

  • Having spent quite a bit of time on his blog, I recognized many of the chapters as blog posts. Sometimes so much so that he would share the same bit of information in a couple of different chapters. I still picked up enough nuggets to make the book worth my time and money.
  • I would love a new edition with an online link to all the resources in the book.  The One Thing and The Miracle Morning both did this and it is much easy to just click the link for illustrations or URL’s, rather than typing each one he mentions by hand.
  • I did feel a bit overwhelmed at all the things I could do.  But that’s no fault of the book – it’s just where I am in my journey. I also wonder if part of Michael’s success is due to a wide circle of influence he has.

Quotes:

“Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination.”

“You will never see the full path. The important thing is to do the next right thing. What can you do today to move you toward your dream?”

“You can’t just hang a website in cyberspace and expect its mere presence to create a following.  If you build it, they may not come. It’s like putting up a billboard in the desert ten miles from the nearest road.”

I would recommend this book to: Someone wanting to write a book or gain an online presence.

Sum it up: You need a platform to be noticed in today’s busy world.

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How to Find Peace

Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

As a teenage,  my mom would say, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”  She meant I had to find the grit and determination inside myself if I wanted to get the job done. It’s actually a comical metaphor -since obviously it’s quite impossible to lift yourself off the ground by pulling on your bootstraps.

How often do we wear ourselves out trying to please God with our efforts?  

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We accept God’s gift of salvation realizing there is nothing we can do to pay the penalty for our sins. Then we scurry through each day trying to do more, be more and win God’s approval by our hard work.

God loves you not because of anything you do or don’t do.  He loves you because you are you. 

Just like salvation, sanctification or the process of becoming more like Christ is from God. We need to stop trying to be good and realize we can’t please God by sheer hard work. Quite the opposite, actually. We have to stop trying to live on our own power and start letting the Holy Spirit live in us.

This doesn’t mean we can sit around and eat cheese puffs all day.  But, rather than making my plans, my agenda and my to-do list, I find out where God is working and join Him.

I don’t have to fight. I just have to stand firm and let God.

Watchman Nee describes surrender this way:

 “If the general manager of the company told you that you were no longer needed by the company the following month and that you were fired, what would you do?” He said that the only thing he could do would be to resign.

Then I asked, “Suppose the next month came, the new manager arrived, and you transferred everything to him. What would you do if a buyer came to you and asked, `Manager, what kind of new fabric do you have? What is its price? How much do you think this price will go up in two days?’

” The brother answered, “If it happened a few days before the new manager arrived, I would make some calculations and find out what the company had in stock and how much it needed to stock up. But if I had already transferred everything to the new manager, I would have nothing more to do. All I could do would be to watch others work.”

This is letting go and surrendering. This is what it means to be crucified with Christ. We have to say to the Lord, “I am not resigning because I am capable. I am resigning because I cannot stand it any longer. I am not capable of doing anything. I cannot manage anything any longer. This is why I have to resign.

Dear God, Thank you for loving me beyond what I can grasp. Thank you for your Spirit dwelling in me. I realize that if I’m running with all my strength in a race I didn’t sign up for, even if I’m first I won’t receive the prize.  I surrender my plans and ask you to show me where you are working so I can join you.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

Faith Step: What one thing can you do today align your day with God’s plans? You can leave a comment in the box below.

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Book Review: The Miracle Morning

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Book: The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
Size: 170 pages
Publisher:  Hal Elrod (December 7, 2012)
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟
Category:
  Self-help, Motivational, Entrepreneurship

Summary: Do you want to be more productive and fulfilled with your life?  The Miracle Morning argues that can be accomplished by taking the first moments in our morning to care for ourselves.  In practical and actionable steps, Hal outlines six steps you should do each morning (for 10 minutes each) using the acronym SAVERS.

  1. Silence – Quiet your mind
  2. Affirmations –  Think about the person you want to be
  3. Visualization – Think about the goals you want to accomplish
  4. Exercise – Not a full workout, just a few minutes to get your body going
  5. Read – Feeding your mind
  6. Scribbles – Journaling. You can divide a paper in half and write lessons learned on one half and new commitments on the other

My Review: 

I think Hal’s message is excellent.  I have found the disciplines of daily prayer, reading and journaling have made a big difference in my life. His book challenged me to set my alarm a half hour early and getting up and exercising consistently and purposefully.  This is an area of my life I have struggled with being consistent. I was skeptical at first, but I like his advice to tell yourself the night before you are getting enough sleep and assuring yourself you will wake rested.

I had pretty much dismissed affirmations and visualizations until I was reviewing my notes in order to write this post.  At first they seemed silly and almost like self promotion. But, I don’t think so any more.  I tweaked them a bit and have found they sent the tone for my day.  For affirmations I started writing  a few actionable sentences in my journal from my quiet time with God.  For visualizations I write a few sentences in my journal on how I perceive my ideal day looking.

There is a lot of buzz online. Hal has a website, Facebook community and  lots of tools  to help you implement the steps in the book.  Once you finish the book you can start right away implementing actionable steps. This book is definitely not meant to be read and shelved – which is probably what I would have done if I hadn’t been writing a review.  The key is to absorb the concepts and allow them to change your life.

What I liked:

  • The Miracle Morning website. Hal is generous with a Fast Start Kit as well as free downloads of sample affirmations and journal.
  • The 30 Day Life Transformation Challenge – I love that he has actionable steps to implement the book.
  • It is a best seller and he is self published and has partnered with experts in various fields to write, The Miracle Morning for writers, sales people, net-workers and real estate agents.
  • The momentum his book is creating.  His personality is energetic and catchy – his blog, podcasts and book are fun. His Facebook community has 53k followers.

I would recommend this book to: Anyone who wants to be happier, more productive, more focused -or just wanting to live their life intentionally.

Sum it up: In order to work well, love others well and live well, you need to first make sure you are caring for yourself.

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Does What I Do on Earth Matter?

 We will all be perfect when we get to heaven, right? So why strive for it now? What does it matter?  Can’t I just enjoy the things of this earth now and then end up in the same standing as the next guy for the rest of eternity?

Sure, the day of judgement might be a little awkward, but that won’t last too long. I’ll just grit my teeth through it and then God will wipe away all my tears – so I’ll be golden. Best of both worlds, literally.

I mean, think about the parable of the laborers. In the end, the guy who showed up in the last hour got the same amount of money as the dude who worked from sun up. Honestly, I consider myself a smarticle-particle to have figured this out.

Rewards, you say?  Ah, yes.  We will be rewarded for what we have done.  But, don’t you remember we give all back to Jesus? So in the end everyone will be walking around looking the exact same.  No one will remember that I enjoyed the things of the earth and the things of heaven.


Come now you earthly-minded, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your fancy cars and comfy houses have rotted, your clothes..all your stuff – its now all in ruins.

Don’t you see? Take the scales off your eyes.  None of that stuff matters.  It’s like Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake – the 20 minutes on your taste buds are  awesome – but the 1/3 cup sugar and a day’s worth of calories come at a long term cost to  blood sugar, energy and weight.

All the things of this world are a gift, a blessing from God to enjoy.  But don’t hope in them. Hope in God.  A little cheesecake is good – a lot is bad.

A little cheesecake is good – a lot is bad.

Don’t you see? This  day, this moment – it’s not all you’ve got. Don’t be blind to the true state of things. Don’t be a cow grazing in the fields getting fat, living in luxury and not realizing the day of slaughter is coming. When it’s in your power, treat people well, care for them.

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The Secret to Having More Time in a Day

 

 

 

414tVZ2FfPL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_Book: The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
Size:  240 pages
Publisher: Bard Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2013)
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Category:
Non-Fiction,  Business, Management/Leadership

Summary: Do you want fewer distractions and a more productive life?  The One Thing  shows you how to have just that. By focusing on your one thing you are able to build momentum, have less stress and reach your goals without feeling overwhelmed.

My Review:  Jay Papasan was one of the speakers at the Self Publishing Summit.  I immediately connected with his message and was eager to read his book. As someone who is a big fan of goals, The One Thing doesn’t disappoint as it takes goals to the next level. I have pages and pages of take-aways from this book. I have already begun to apply some of the principles in the book in my life and I am noticing a difference in my ability to stick with a problem and follow it through to completion.

I listened to it on audible.  I wish I would have had my own paper copy so I could underline and take notes in the margins. What I did like was the link to view all the diagrams in the book online.  I intend to buy a paper copy and reread it next year.

Quotes:

“Make sure every day you do what matters most. When you know what matters most, everything makes sense. When you don’t know what matters most, anything makes sense.”

“Multitasking is a lie”

“Success is actually a short race—a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.”

“It is not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it is that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”

“If everyone has the same number of hours in the day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others? How do they do more, achieve more, earn more, have more? If time is the currency of achievement, then why are some able to cash in their allotment for more chips than others?

The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small. Going small is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.”

“Tackling these tasks in the order we receive them is behaving as if the squeaky wheel immediately deserves the grease. But, as Australian prime minister Bob Hawke duly noted, “The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.”

I would recommend this book to: Anyone who wants to live life well with no regrets.

Sum it up: “What is the one thing that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

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What Your Friends Say About You

 

Do you remember the “Be Like Mike” Gatorade commercial that originally aired in the early 90’s?  While I’m not sure drinking Gatorade will win you an NBA championship, there is some truth to it.  A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Growth and change is part of our lives whether we are consciously aware of it or just going with the flow.

If you live in the North-Eastern part of the United States like I do, the emergence of the 17 year cicada  left you drowning in “their noise this past spring.  It reminded me of how often the loud noise of life drowns out what is most important.  I want to slow down and hear my friend’s stories and be changed because of them.

Every Person Has a Story

In pausing to think about the five people I want to be most like, I thought about the five traits I most desire in my life.  I am blessed beyond blessed to have friends who fit into each of these categories.  I’m not going to call them out by name, but if you are that friend, I love you deeply and am eternally grateful for the influence you have in my life.

1. Humble

I admire my friend who always seems to know just what a person needs before know it themselves. Her cheerful spirit is always looking for ways to spread Jesus’ love to everything she touches.  She always has time for you and I always come away challenged to love those around me well.

2. Wise

My friend always does the hard thing – even when she don’t have to.  She does it just because she wants to prove to herself she can. She stretches her limits. She wants to be the best she can be.  I like hanging around  her because I think a little bit of that rubs off on me.  Which is good, because I tend to want to do what makes me comfortable.

3. Courageous

As someone who spent most of her life afraid of her own shadow, I admire fearlessness.  I have a friend who doesn’t let fear stop her.  She has taught me how to show up in the uncomfortable and love well.

4. Prayer

It’s a privilege to walk in the footsteps of two Godly women.  I have reaped the fruits of many faithful years of prayer by both my mom and mother-in-law.  I have seen God move mountains. As a stubborn teen and young adult, they didn’t lecture me. Instead the took their concerns to the cross, where God in His tender mercies heard their prayers and weaved his light through my life.  When I’m scared, or worried I now know I can leave it at the cross.  God never changes, he was faithful then and he is faithful now.

5. Surrendered

Watching my friend’s life turn upside down and seeing her lift her hands and say, “God is good. I trust Him.”   To know- that you know- that you know- to the depth of the core of who you are- that God is good, how awesome is that? I pray, I too would let the things of this world to grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

 

 

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The American Sniper

51+W41lr+5L._SX277_BO1,204,203,200_Book: American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle
Size: 434 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 29, 2013)
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟
Category:
  Autobiography, Military

Summary: Chris Kyle is a true American Hero.  He served four tours in Iraq and was called the most lethal sniper in American history.  After returning home he was murdered while reaching out to a serviceman with PTSD.

My Review: I needed to use an audible credit and chose this book based on the large number of reviews.  I love biographies because they give me a peek into someone’s life I wouldn’t normally encounter.  I doubt I’ll ever visit Iraq, I doubt I’ll ever be in the military and I doubt even more I’ll be a sniper.  So, I loved hearing the details of Chris’s deployments.  His love for our country shined throughout the book. I respected the way he strove for excellence. The book moved quickly and kept me engaged.

The military just released the accurate number of valor awards. There is speculation as to Chris exaggerating his awards.  I don’t feel this in any way discredits his book and life. The article says, “It’s not uncommon for a DD214 to be revised. A Navy spokesman told The Navy Times more than 3,800 forms were corrected in 2015 alone”.  It may have been the military’s mistake.  Even if he did exaggerate – he still sacrificed more and was award more awards than many Americans will.

A movie was released in 2014, which I don’t plan to watch because I’d rather read about violence than see it.  If you have seen it, leave me a comment below and let me know what you thought of it.

What I liked: It made me pause and be thankful for sacrifices many make for our freedom.

What I didn’t like: I know it’s just how Chris probably spoke, but there was a lot of hardcore swearing.

I would recommend this book to: Older teen or adult who is interested in the daily life of military and war.

Sum it up: Thank you to those who sacrifice for our country, it’s easy to forget what freedom costs.

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Memorizing James -One Month Update

This is me trying to memorize James:

 

I wish I was kidding. But I’m not. This is me every single morning. If you want a summary of my month – you can stop reading now and just say a prayer for me.  If you want the painful details, keep reading.

Mastery of Memory

Mastery of Memory boasts you can memorize James in one month with 15 minutes a day. I’m sure some people can -I just don’t seem to be one of them. I love the program – just at a much slower pace. The first few days went well, until Day 10 when 5+ verses were given for one day.  Not even with an hour a day were the verses sticking in my brain.

 

What’s Working

  •  My favorite part of Mastery of Memory is the mnemonics. I am able to remember the references – something I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to do without the program.
  • I also like the structure of the program. It teaches you theme verses for each chapter. I like having the overview of James memorized.
  • I review each verse in Scripture Typer which has daily reminders
  • Fighter Verses has a record button that you can say the verses you learned and then it speaks your voice back to you and you can check your work.  At first I froze up each time I tried to record, but it’s getting easier and it seems to be helping.
  • I downloaded a chain app (Habit Bull) which challenges me to keep the chain going by checking off each day you do memory work.
  • I also read that saying the verse over out loud ten times helps. Just started trying that.

 

What’s not

  • I battle the urge to quit almost daily.  Progress seems so slow
  • My brain literally feels tired after an hour or so of working on memorizing.  It’s discouraging to come back the next day and still not have the verses down enough to move on.
  • I’m trying to find a system that works for me (15 min. a day? Once a day? Twice a day?)

 

Where I’m at now

Check out  Energize your quiet time  if you want to see why I’m working on memorizing James.

There are 108 verses in James and I’ve got 21 memorized, which is about 22%. That means it’s still realistic to finish by the end of the year. I keep reminding myself that it’s not how fast I memorize, but that I am implanting the Word in me – which will make me more like Christ.  That’s the goal – to be more like Christ, right?

Any suggestions? Advice on what has worked/not worked for you? Leave them in the comments below.  Until next month.

 

 

 

 

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