Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith (plus a few comments about Starry Night)

You may know that at the age of 16 Gabrille Douglas won two Olympic gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. You may not know how close she came to relinquishing her dream nor the cost she paid to claim it. This book tells the story of her journey, which at different times included the twin demons of homelessness and major homesickness.
I don’t want to give away the details, so may it suffice to say this book will inspire you. Each chapter opens with a quote such as this one from Dale Carnegie: “Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” An eight-page section of color photos shows Gabrielle at various ages and stages along with her family and others who became near and dear to her. It also shares her struggle with feelings for a father who was mostly absent from her life. And the book closes with a discussion guide, perfect for book clubs or for guiding a talk with a young person who needs encouragement.
Written from a Christian perspective, the book shares how the faith of Michelle’s mother inspired her daughter. Michelle posted her mother’s prayer by her bed to help her visualize success. The book also includes a beautiful letter from her mother that Michelle read just before competing. Written with the “lol” exclamations of youth and the vernacular of teenagers, this Zondervan hard cover would be a great book for teens or preteens as well as adults. A beautiful cover shot of Michelle executing a move illustrates her leap of faith.
And a second book:
Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

I had never read anything by Debbie Macomber but had often come across her name, so I thought I'd sample her writing. I am not a reader of romance novels, so I hardly qualify to review it. But I thoroughly enjoyed this story and thought the author did a fine job of developing the plot, which revolves around a journalist ( I love stories that involve writers) who won't give up in tracking down a reclusive novelist for an interview. Enough said. A fast fun read.

If you've already read either of these books, feel free to add your comments.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: Shattered Dreams

Shattered Dreams: God's Unexpected Path to Joy

If you’ve ever felt God deserted you when tragedy struck, this book is for you. Larry Crabb’s insights will change your way of thinking. In a good way. Instead of feeling like God deserts us when things go wrong, we should see such situations as opportunities to get to know God better. Rather than leaving us in a lurch, God is actually inviting us to draw closer to him and to get to know him better. I like that thought! And I have found what Crabb says to be true in my own life, although I wish I had read this book 30 years ago.

Crabb, a well-known psychologist and Bible teacher, bases his insights on the book of Ruth and especially on Naomi’s journey from bitterness to wholeness.

According to Crabb, the best “good” we can experience in this life is to know God better. So bad experiences are really pathways to blessing—if we respond to them in faith. Shattered Dreams offers great thoughts in short easy-to-read chapters. The book includes a detailed discussion guide to help you process the information, ideally within a group, since relying on community with others is another of Crabb’s points. The final chapter wraps things up by centering on who God is, who we are and how can we enjoy each other more fully. By reading this book, you just may change those shattered dreams from nightmares into hope for a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Writing" the New Year

Sunrise over St. Mary's, Pennsylvania

Dear Friends,

                The blank page facing me as I begin to write this blog reminds me of the blank year facing me as well. What will it hold? What will I write on it? I surely do not know. But I do know that if I face it with God and the proper attitude, 2014 holds blessing. So for the next 12 months, I want to focus on the following words:

1.       Do what’s right. I want to live my life with honesty before God and others. I may at times flub up, but that won’t keep me from trying.

2.       Don’t quit. It would be so easy to quit--exercising, eating healthful foods, working at writing, taking speaking engagements that force me to take unfamiliar roads. And the list goes on. But facing challenges by God’s grace strengthens our spiritual muscles, keeps us active and ultimately brings blessing.

3.       Be joyful. Joy spills from a heart full of gratitude. Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts reminds me to look for something to be thankful for, even in dire circumstances.

4.       Be prayerful. Yesterday Friends of the Heart offered to pray with anyone who dropped by Kim’s house. What surprised us were the 17 prayer requests we received by e-mail. I want to become more of a woman of prayer in 2014, supporting friends and family and those of you whom I get to know along the way.

5.       Read scripture. And memorize too. This year I memorized the book of Ruth by working on one verse a day. It took about four months, (because, of course, you miss some days). Makes me feel like I know Ruth, Boaz and Naomi as well as I know my neighbors. And how I love to present scripture from memory to audiences. What might I memorize this year? Not yet sure.

6.       Show love. Too often I become defensive or suspicious or irritated by someone’s words or actions. I want to offer gracious, loving responses to all people—at all times. A tough one, for sure!

7.       Have faith. In Larry Crabb’s book Shattered Dreams he writes of how we should see troubled times when we feel far from God as opportunities to cling to him and to get to know him better. While God may not restore our shattered dreams in ways we expect, our faith and trust will grow as we allow him to walk us through the heartache.

Since the number seven represents perfection, I’ll stop there. What about you? What words or phrases will be important to you in 2014? Share them by return e-mail or in the comment box at I’ll send a beautiful “Paths to God” 2014 wall calendar with pictures and scripture verses to a name drawn from the comments. Thanks to all who responded to last month’s blog, and congratulations to Joan Eck, who won a copy of Michelle Lazurek’s book, Becoming the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved.

Upcoming events:
January 10-12 – Women’s Retreat with Berean Bible Church at Traber Center, Spring City.
January 19, 8 and 10:30 a.m. – Shirley speaking at First United Methodist Church, Millersburg.