Book Review:The Wired Soul

51kSkC6J45L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book: The Wired Soul by Tricia McCary Rhodes
Size: 224 pages
Publisher: NavPress (July 1, 2016)
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Category:
  Non-Fiction, Christian living

Summary: Technology brings change in our personal lives.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?   In The Wired Soul, Tricia McCary Rhodes challenges us to not just mindlessly be chained to technology but to use it for our benefit.

She divides The Wired Soul into four categories:  Lectio: to read, Meditatio: to meditate, Oratio: to pray, and Contemplatio: to  contemplate.  She shares how we can grow in a deep, satisfying relationship with Christ.   .

My Review: My first thought when I opened this book was, “Oh no, another book on the evils of technology.”  It took me a few chapters to put my defenses down and hear Dr. Rhodes heart. By the end I was convicted to evaluate my own life and make sure the I am making the choices for my time, focus and energy and technology isn’t making them for me.

What I liked  Dr. Rhodes knows her stuff.  I love the tremendous amount of research she put into the book.  She broke down complicated subjects like processes of the brain into bit size pieces I could understand.  More than once I referred to the pages and pages of notes she references in the back of the book.  I even picked a few new books she referenced that I want to read.

She provides practical ways to apply the material at the end of each chapter.  I love this! Just reading something once often brings no lasting change in your life.  I found a few new ideas to quiet my mind and focus effectively.

What I didn’t like There were some conclusions she made that I didn’t agree with.  I’m not sure if it’s fair to fault her for that though. Any time you practically apply Scripture people will apply it differently.  That’s why it’s important to study things out for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

I took one star off because of some errors in structure.  For example on page 75 she talks about three critical components to meditation and then goes on to just talk about the first one.  The first chapter in oratio (prayer) was excellent. The second chapter seemed to talk little about prayer and much about relationships.

Quotes: 

Can you say with confidence that technology is a servant to your needs rather than a silent taskmaster over you?

If efficiency is the holy grail of technology, then we ought to find ourselves with more time on our hands, not less…Technology, however, exacts a paradoxical price: it offers us a vast array of ways to fill the time that it saves us.

The ability to interact with God through medication has always required first finding a way to deal with distractions from without and within. 

I would recommend this book to: anyone wanting to be in charge of their choices and live life on purpose.

Sum it up: Don’t be a lemming.

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God is Good

So maybe I’m a bit critical of those who inconvenience me.
And, sure I should be appreciated for the sacrifices I make for those I love.
Don’t judge me for multi-tasking and mentally making a to-do list during worship.  I’m a busy girl!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his,
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

I’d be happy today if my life looked like my friends on Facebook.
Doesn’t anyone understand how hard my life is?
God must not like me. God must be mad at me.

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Self-centered is the opposite of thankfulness.

How thankful I am God doesn’t change based on His moods or circumstances.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves – so easy to turn our focus inward.  But no matter where our thoughts are- God is still God. God is still good.

When I turn my focus off my circumstances and back to God, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness. How glad I am God’s goodness isn’t defined by my understanding of it.  I cling tightly to God’s goodness – no matter what I may think or feel at the moment.

 

Psalms 100

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his,
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations

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Book Review: The Longing in Me

240_360_book-1919-coverBook: The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God. By Sheila Walsh
Size: 208 pages
Publisher:   Thomas Nelson (April 5, 2016)
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Category:
Non-Fiction, Women’s spiritual growth

Summary: In a vulnerable and honest way, Sheila Walsh shares her story, intertwining it with the life of David. She shows how she found freedom and peace in Jesus. There are ten chapters all beginning with, “The Longing to…” (be chosen, be protected, for control etc.)

My Review:  Growing up in the ’80s, I listened to Sheila Walsh’s music, so I was excited when our summer Bible study decided to use this book. In the last few weeks it has become apparent that no matter our age, our background or our experience as a believer, we can all relate to the truths in this book – we are all a mess, God loves us in our mess, God is the answer for our mess.  If this book resonates with you, I also recommend Dee Brestin’s book, Idol Lies.  Getting to the core reason why we are unfulfilled and unhappy leads to freedom, joy and peace.

Check out the first chapter at, The Longing in Me.  There is a study guide or  a DVD/ Study thumbnail-12guide package.  I would recommend the DVD as a stand alone for use in Bible studies/ small groups.  The material on the DVD follows the book almost word for word.  The DVD only has 6 sessions at 20ish minutes each. The book has 10 chapters so it is more in-depth with the extra 4 chapters.

What I liked:  She didn’t just give her ideas or thoughts, but she always pointed to the truths in the Scriptures.

What I didn’t like:  I felt her story didn’t unfold chronologically, but jumped around- leaving me confused at times.

I would recommend this book to: Women for personal growth or for women’s Bible study as a group. It is not overwhelming, it would be a good fit for new Christ followers looking grow.

Sum it up: Every longing can only be truly fulfilled by God.

 

*I received this book free from the publisher.  You –  the reader are my first priority. I am committed to giving an honest review to help you decide if the book is a good fit for you.

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Book Review: The War of Art

41eXP1z1SlL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Book: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
Size: 190 pages
Publisher: Black Irish Entertainment LLC (January 11, 2012)
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Category:
  Non-Fiction, creativity and success

Summary: Mr. Pressfield describes resistance as any act that rejects immediate gratification for long term growth.  Resistance is a dragon that seeks to destroy. Learn to recognize the many forms it takes, learn tips and tricks to choose to defeat it every day. Do the work – accept no excuses and be the person you were meant to be.

My Review: Chandler Bolt from Self-Publishing School  recently hosted an event with 44 authors.   When one author after another recommends the same book, The War of Art –  I listen. This book did not disappoint. I’ve added it to my top ten books on writing   – right up there with Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Steven King.

 

What I liked

  • The layout of the book.  It’s broken into three sections. The first section defines resistance.  The second talks about how to beat it, and the third how to live now that you’ve beat it.
  • Instead of long chapters, each page or so has a topic relating to resistance. It made the book a quick read. But don’t let that fool you  – there are so many nuggets I intend to read it every year for the foreseeable future.

What I didn’t like

  • There is some swearing. Not a lot, and it didn’t bother me. But, something to be aware of.
  • His spiritual views don’t align with mine. Like a buffet, I took what was helpful for me and left the rest.

Quotes: It’s hard to choose just a few!

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

“…as we give birth to ourselves, to that person we were born to be, to the one whose destiny was encoded in our soul.”

“The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work.”

“If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.”

“Be happy. You’re where you wanted to be, aren’t you? So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.”

I would recommend this book to: Any writer needing motivation or inspiration.  The concepts would transfer to anyone who wants change or has unfulfilled dreams.

Sum it up: “Steven Pressfield shows readers how to identify, defeat, and unlock the inner barriers to creativity.  The War of Art is an inspirational, funny, well-aimed kick in the pants guaranteed to galvanize every would-be artist, visionary, or entrepreneur.” (back cover)

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Book Review: Dear Mr. Knightly

51vJOz5a6OL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay
Size: 336 pages
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson (November 12, 2013)
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Category:
Fiction

Summary: Samantha Moore, a 23 year old orphan receives a grant from an anonymous benefactor to attend college and study journalism.  The only catch is that she must write the benefactor, Mr. Knightly on a regular basis. Samantha shares her daily life – success and failures through the letters she sends Mr. Knightly.

It is a modern day adaption of the 1912 children’s classic Daddy Long Legs.

My Review

I was a bit skeptical when the book began, “Dear Mr. Knightly…”  and I realized the book was written as a series of letters. The story line pulled me in and I didn’t find it distracting at all. As someone who loves to read and write, I felt drawn to the main character.

While it is listed as a Christian book, all I noticed were a few references to prayer near the end.  I appreciated that it was a clean book I would be comfortable recommending to my mom.

Part of me really enjoyed the book while another part of me got irritated with the syrupy-ness of Sam’s personality. It was a fun read and left me contemplating if I am being the sincerest, truest version of myself.

What I liked

  • I had a hard time putting the book down, it was engaging and entertaining
  • A couple of time I thought I knew what was coming but I was wrong.  I like being surprised.
  • I listened to the Audible version and enjoyed just relaxing to an easy read.

What I didn’t like

  • Lots of references to Jane Austen.  Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of Pride and Prejudice.  If you are, you’ll probably love the references.  She did reference other books I love like The Count of Monte Cristo – which was fun.
  • At one point I felt like everything was working out just a little too perfectly.  The author must have thought so too, because she just a few paragraphs later reminded the readers of all that hadn’t worked out so perfectly in Sam’s life.  Good move on her part, but I wonder if she couldn’t have gone back and reworked it so the reader wouldn’t have even had those thoughts in the first place.

I would recommend this book to: This book would be a great beach read – fun and engaging.  I’d also recommend it to young adult women or Jane Austen fans – you’d love the references.  

Sum it up: A 20-something’s shedding the dragon skin she is hiding under and becoming the person she was meant to be.

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Ewonderhub Blogger Award

img_20160503_011115I was nominated for the Ewonderhub Blogger Award by Kelly. Kelly’s passion for excellence shows in every area of her life from writing to teaching. She writes with a rare raw honesty. It’s a delight to read her words as they twirl together into a memorable and electric dance. Check out her blog: Kelly Griffiths

A Brief History of My Blog

Kelly teaches a literature class my kids were enrolled in in September 2013.  The first thing she teaches the students is how to set up a WordPress blog.  I think she saw the longing in my eyes and invited me to sit in the back of the class. The season of being a full time mom and homeschool teacher is coming to a close and I’m excited to pursue my dreams of writing.

My blog is me. It is changing and growing as I change and grow. In the beginning I had three blogs with different focuses. Now I have one and I’m trying to take my hands off and let it form the way it is meant to and not the way I think it should look.  .

I am an all-in girl whose curiosity often gets the best of me. As a kid when I wanted to know something I would go to the library and get as many books as I could carry on the subject. I remember topics ranging from electricity (which still fascinates me) to patio gardening.   I was also eager to talk and share everything I was learning with anyone who would listen – which often ended up being my cat. I also loved escaping into worlds found in books. Now being the creator of worlds thrills me.

Advice to New Bloggers

  1. Read. Read and read some more. Stephen King says, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Check out my book list for 2016 here.
  2. Write. Write and write some more.  Quite thinking about it, researching it and dreaming about it.  Just write.  Early in my journey I read a quote that said to plan on ten years of practice before you are ready to publish, and there is no way to hurry that process. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it has given me the space to enjoy the journey. William Faulkner says, “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”

 

Unlike my cat, who rarely gave feedback – it’s been a blessing and privilege to not walk this journey alone.  I’m thankful for each person whose life has touched mine, whether short or long, good or bad – I’m a better person because of you. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

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Energize your Quiet Time

It happened by accident, almost as a side-effect or by product.

In January of this year my church started a series in James.  That week in my quiet time, I came across this verse:

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:21. 

How do I humbly implant your word in me?

I was tired of reading verses like: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18 and then find myself knee deep in the muck of frustration, harsh words and unfilled expectations by lunch.  

I knew I’d stumbled on the answer to my unsuccessful attempts – I just needed to figure out how to implant the word in me. I thought if I memorized the Scriptures that would be a good start at implanting them in me.  So I downloaded a few memorization apps and put them on my phone.

And it completely flopped.  I would work on memorizing the verses and then the next day when I came back to them my brain was completely empty – it was as if I had never tried to learn them.  After a week of this I was discouraged. When I was younger I could memorize quickly and painlessly.  Not any more.

So back to the drawing board I went in a search of a way to implant the word in me. I came across this article The Easiest Way to Memorize Scripture. In it, he talks about reading the passage (or book) you want to memorize 50 times out loud before you begin to try and memorize it.  I had no idea if it would work, but I knew reading 50 times was an obtainable goal and I had nothing to lose. I started reading the book of James in one sitting on March 19 with a plan to finish reading it 50 times on May 13. I used Strides app to record each day that I read the book. I liked this app because it sent me a notification each day to remind me to read. I also liked the little chart marking my progress. It’s free for IOS.   I finished today.

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Here’s my take-a-ways (in no particular order) from reading James 50 times.

  • It doesn’t take much time at all -less than 15 minutes to read the five chapters in James.
  • Imperfect effort over time = success.  I didn’t finish by my goal of May 13th, but I did finish on June 13.
  • I missed the part about reading out loud.  Oops.  See point above.
  • A week ago one of my kids asked me something about James and I opened my mouth and shocked myself as verse after verse poured out.  It wasn’t word perfect, but it was the general gist.  I was so excited – maybe I will be able to memorize.
  • Even yesterday at day 49 I saw new and fresh truths as I read – isn’t God’s word just amazing that way? What other book could you read 50 times and still be learning something.  It truly is living and active.  Heb. 4:12
  • I’ve changed. Inside I mean. The Word has gotten implanted in me and I’m excited to see it worked! More of my words are gentle and open to reason, my heart is starting to remember that God is God and I’m not – and a million other little things. And I know it’s all God.  What I couldn’t do on my own – He can do. His Word has the power to change.

What started as an effort to memorize Scripture  turned into a dynamic quiet time.  Each morning was fresh and different as I prayed through the Scripture I was reading. I would journal, draw pictures, google questions I had, argue with God and ultimately surrender.  Many times in the past I’ve read through the Bible in a year – a telescopic view.  This microscopic view was not something I planned to do, but I’m totally sold on it, and can’t wait to try it with other books of the Bible.

But, for now I’m resisting the urge and moving forward with memorizing James.  I’ve found two apps I’m going to try and use, haven’t decided between the two. They are Fighter Verses and Scripture Typer. Both are available for Andriod and IOS. Scripture Typer has a free version and a pro version. Fighter Verses is $2.99.  I also found this site  which says they will teach you to memorize James in a month.  Watch for updates in how my memorizing goes.

 

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Thinking before Speaking

When I write, I have a chance to reread it and make any necessary corrections before I hit the enter key.  How I wish my brain had an enter key.

Two days down to my six day commitment.

For the rest of the week I will only speak words that are good for building others up, fit the occasion and give grace to those who hear.  I will speak no evil about anyone to anyone.

The first day went well.  But as I think back to yesterday, there was a situation I was dealing with and in the moment, my commitment never crossed my mind.

Receive with meekness the implanted Word

How do I get the Word of God implanted in me? How do I stop the out-flowing of my words?  I thought about writing the key words I wanted to remember on my fingers with a sharpie – which I still may end up doing. But, instead I jotted down the things I want to remember in my journal. I then followed these steps to make it my lock screen on my phone.  Hopefully every time I turn my phone on I’ll remember my goals.

Putting a photo on your lock/home screen (ios)

  • Take a picture
  • Use the EDIT button to make any changes, I used the crop button to remove the spiral bound wires
  • Click on the icon that looks like an arrow trying to escape from the top of a box
  • Select Use as Wallpaper
  • Move the picture until you are happy with the placement
  • Select Set Lock Screen for the screen you see when you turn your phone on
  • Select Set Home Screen for the background with your apps on top

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Book Review: Cold Hard Truth on Men, Women and Money by Kevin O’Leary

512NgXfnaXL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Cold Hard Truth on Men, Women and Money by Kevin O’Leary
Size: 273 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books (September 17, 2013)
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Summary

“Don’t spend too much. Mostly save. Always invest.”

Kevin O’Leary offers simple advice from his years of experience on how to save money, avoid debt and invest for your future.

My Review

One of my goals at the beginning of 2016 was to read a book a month on the art of writing. I have found that when three or four different authors suggest the same thing (ie. tighten up your sentences) my ears begin to perk up.  So, after a discussion my husband and I had about planning for retirement, he sent me this article 19 Books You Want to Read if You Want to Get Rich that began with the quote: “Research finds that 85% of rich people read two or more education, career-related, or self-improvement books per month.”  It reinforced my findings with writing -if you want to become good at something, be disciplined to consistently read books by others who have traveled the road before you.

I am not looking to be wildly rich but rather to be wise stewards what God has entrusted us with as we prepare and plan for the future from our kid’s college to retirement.  Mr’s Wonderful’s book seemed like as good a place to start as any -partly because I’m a fan of Shark Tank– plus it was available at the library. Some may refer to him as opinionated and ruthless, but  I have a lot of respect for Kevin O’Leary. He knows his mind, does the hard thing and has succeeded in the areas that he set out to.  His book was true to his character and did not disappoint.

 

What I liked

  • Interesting and easy to understand.  My head begins to spin when I start to hear IRA’s and 401K’s, so I was a little nervous about a book that would be over my head. This was a perfect book for which to begin my journey. I looked forward to stealing a few minutes here and there to read.
  • The tone had humor and stories about Kevin’s life which made him seem more human underneath the hard shell he portrays.
  • There are lots of good, practical suggestions. He doesn’t just tell you to make a budget, he shows you how to get a handle on where you are spending your money.
  • I came away motivated to learn more on the subject.

 

What I didn’t like

  • The methodology he shares is what has worked for him and made him highly successful financially.  The book is his opinions on how he got there. There isn’t a lot of research or studies, rather one man’s formula for success.
  • He had a ghost writer and his step father did his research.

 

I would recommend this book to: I think it would be a great read for anyone wanting to be a better steward of their money.  At the very least it gets you thinking and asking questions instead of running mindlessly on the rat wheel of life. I would like my teenagers to read it as they are starting out in life as well as my mom as she heads into retirement -and everyone in between.  This book  isn’t the end all – but a good stepping stone to conversations in the right direction.

Sum it up:  “I wrote this book for anyone who wants to tap my database of experiences. I hope that this book helps those on their own journeys…”

 

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Speak No Evil

I have found by sun down, often the resolves I made early in the morning have gotten trampled by the rush and stress of the day.

James 1:22-25 describes my situation well:  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

I want to be a doer of the Word. The question is, how do I be a doer and not just a hearer? A Commitment that Has Changed My Life got me thinking about how I could practically take steps to being a doer and not just a doer want-to-be (aka a hearer).

So here’s what I read in my Bible this morning:

“Do not speak evil against one another.” James 4:11

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Eph 4:29

And here’s my commitment.

For the rest of the week I will only speak words that are good for building others up, fit the occasion and give grace to those who hear.  I will speak no evil about anyone to anyone.

What are evil words?  Words that stem from selfish ambition (wanting what I want), jealousy (wanting what others have), a critical or prideful (arrogant, boasting) heart. To me this means  extending compassion, kindness and love regardless. I choose not to act like I am God, determining whether or not they deserve it.

My children are asleep and my husband is at work, so far so good.  I’m sure it will get more challenging once I have to actually talk to people.  I’ll probably mess this up more than I get it right.  My plan is to apologize and move on.  The goal isn’t to hole myself up in my room for the next 6 days, or to take an oath of silence, but to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer.

My goal is to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only.

I picked the end of the week, because that’s measurable and doable.  If I said I would never speak evil about anyone ever, I suspect my good intentions would quickly be forgotten.  A week is measurable and doable.

 

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