Saturday, February 15, 2020

Book Review: Judah's Wife

Author Angela Hunt brings to life the story of the Maccabees, which took place in the silent years between the Old and New Testaments. She focuses on Judah, whose father designated he lead his brothers and others in resisting the attacks of Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes.

You meet Judah Maccabee when he comes to the rescue of Leah, a young girl tormented by a youthful gang while walking to market. They eventually marry, but she has come from a dysfunctional family, which complicates her relationship with her husband.

I liked the short chapters, which alternate the viewpoints of Leah and Judah. The front of the book includes a map and a listing of the main events of the Maccabean revolt. The five parts of the book are introduced with readings from 1 Maccabees, a book included in the Apocrypha but not the Bible, which solidifies the historical accuracy of the underlying story.

If you enjoy historical fiction, you’ll enjoy Judah’s Wife. I cannot imagine the amount of research needed to remain true to the historical battles and their outcomes. An Epilogue wraps up the story, and the book includes an extensive author’s note of explanation along with discussion questions for small groups. A good read. This is Book 2 or a 3-Book series, but it stands alone quite well. I did not read the other two.

Friday, February 7, 2020

5 Letters To Anchor Your Life

Last October I experienced a severe bout of vertigo, so severe we called 911. I felt as though I was in the middle of a merry-go-round with everything spinning around me, totally out of my control. I could not walk. I became so nauseous I felt as though my body convulsed. My hearing was garbled.

That night I was treated with medication at an urgent care facility. It did not solve my problem, and I continued to have less severe attacks. I eventually saw an ear, nose and throat specialist who diagnosed Meniere’s disease, prescribed medication and put me on a low salt diet.

Probably a month passed before I felt like myself again. It was a long haul. And I live with the consequences. If you’ve ever monitored your sodium intake, you know this is no easy task. Everything from bread to milk contains sodium. Don’t even think about eating cheese, the love of my taste buds.

The vertigo experience left me shaken and leery about accepting speaking engagements. What if I suffer an attack “on the road”? Can I trust God that it won’t happen again?

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. Oh, not vertigo itself. But the feeling that life is out of control, spinning around you and you can’t do anything about it. You pray and pray and pray. You beg God to change your circumstances. Perhaps you face a dire diagnosis or a dim future after a major loss. How do you help yourself when you feel helpless? How do you regain trust in God?

You keep the FAITH. God has permitted this situation to touch your life. Yes, you may struggle, but struggles make you stronger. Faith is holding on to what you know is true when what you see as true contradicts it.

As I consider the letters that make up FAITH, they offer clues to developing a robust faith that anchors your life at any age, at any stage:

F – Forgiveness – We accept forgiveness from God, so we extend forgiveness to others. We are all flawed human beings. Whoever may have offended you is made in the image of God. Their action against you may have been intentional or unintentional. You may not be able to forget. And you may never forge close ties with the offender, especially if the hurt involved abuse. But as you consider why they may have acted as they did (perhaps they themselves were deeply hurt in the past), you will find God’s Spirit helps you shower them with grace. I’ve at times echoed Jesus’ prayer: Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

A – Attitude – Live with an attitude of humility. Realize you do not have all the answers or you would be God. Be teachable. When life overwhelms me, I seek advice from other Christians. I once visited a counselor when I needed help in dealing with a situation. The older I get, the more I know what I don’t know and the more I know God does not expect me to walk this path alone. He is with me, and He sends other Christians to strengthen me.

I – Inner Peace – Our inner peace comes from knowing Christ. Acknowledge him as your Savior. Look to him daily in prayer, and do what he puts on your heart. Accepting Christ was the best decision I ever made, and through Bible reading and prayer, He nourishes my soul.

T – Trust – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). When you don’t know which end is up, wait and trust that God will pull you through. Whatever has spun out of your control is under his control. I write this Bible reference on greeting cards and keep it in mind at all times.

H – Hope – Live with a hopeful spirit that tomorrow will be better. With hope in my heart, I asked my doctor if Meniere’s disease is manageable or am I bound to have attacks from time to time. He assured me if I stick to the plan, I should be OK. So I hope to manage the disease. No matter what we face on this earth, with God’s help, it is manageable. And no matter what we face on this earth, this is not all there is. You cannot even imagine the glories of heaven or you would be all too eager to get there. So settle down and hope for what is to come.  

Live in the moment with an awareness of God’s Presence. Let go of the past. Let God take care of the future. That’s FAITH. Faith is holding on to what you know is true when what you see as true contradicts it.


Photo by Firaaz Hisyari from Pexels

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

They say writers should show, not tell. This book did just that. Author Patti Callahan took you right into the New York City home of Joy Davidman Gresham and her husband, Bill. You hear them call each other pet names and meet their two little boys. But you also feel Joy’s anguish over the alcoholism of her husband. They eventually divorced.

Both writers, the Gresham’s were intellectuals and atheists, and in the writings of C. S. Lewis they discovered an intellectual atheist who had converted to Christianity. Bill encouraged Joy to write to Lewis with their questions and the two developed a bond. This book covers the years of friendship that eventually led to marriage in 1956 and her death in 1960 at age 45.

This is a work of fiction, so the author certainly took liberties in what she wrote. But it’s evident she did thorough research, and I believe she composed a realistic picture of the times and sentiments of the subjects. If you’re a C. S. Lewis fan, this book offers a great opportunity to glimpse his personal life and his struggle over marrying a divorcee.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s descriptive writing and will look for more of her novels.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Book Review: Reshaping It All

This book is about far more than reshaping your body. Candace Cameron Bure tells just how her life has changed physically and spiritually since she became serious about her faith.

Bure writes: “My body is a temple to be used by Him and for Him. He desires that we seek a spiritual transformation, not merely a moral one.” Her chapters cover everything from gaining victory over temptation to leaving a legacy, something she takes quite seriously with her own family.

Chapters are short, and I loved how each chapter ends with “The Pantry, Chocked-Full of Food For Thought.” This section includes “The Main Ingredient,” the gist of the chapter in a paragraph. Then there’s “A Slice of Advice,” a letter from a fan asking a question, which Bure answers. “A Pinch of Practicality” offers Bure’s suggestions on how to carry out your quest to transform, and “Food for Thought” offers related scriptures. Finally there’s “The Candy Dish” quote and an easy, practical and nutritious recipe. I plan to try some.

Bure inspires us to lead authentic Christian lives: “When the changes we make are anchored in the will of God and when our love for God becomes the driving force in our lives, we discover the ultimate trainer is with us, cheering us on.”

Fans will also enjoy the section of photos included on glossy pages. I appreciated how Bure spoke of her relationship with her husband Val and their children Natasha, Lev and Maksim. By the time you finish the book, they feel like the family next door.

This is a great book for both the new and mature Christians, since we all need encouragement to live for Christ in all areas of our lives. I plan to read two books that inspired her because I want to live the kind of faith she demonstrates.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Man Against Beast: Four Steps to Success

The squirrels live for birdseed. My husband lives to outwit the squirrels. Each perseveres against the other. When my husband hung a feeder with small holes on the ends just large enough to admit songbirds, squirrels simply chewed away the wood until the holes were large enough to admit them. Bill now replaced the wood and inserted staples around the hole. Squirrels surely won’t bite on staples. We’ll see. Life requires perseverance for both man and beast to survive.

Perseverance helps you recognize your potential and reach your destiny. Perseverance. The name of
the parent who can barely make ends meet. The name of the mom who spoon-feeds a seriously sick child. The name of the dad who cheers on a learning disabled son. The name of the kid who shows up for every practice, yet sits on the bench during every game. The name of the student who studies hard, gets C’s, yet earns a degree.

Do you need perseverance?

Maybe you get up in the morning, look in the mirror and dread going to work. Do you send out resumes week after week? Is there something you might do to make your current job more enjoyable?

Maybe you regret taking the first job you could get out of high school instead of going to college. Do you check out online courses? Do we take a course at a time, year after year, until you reach your goal?

Maybe you can’t talk to your husband about what’s on your heart, or maybe your teen is rebellious. Do you take time to read books such as Gary Smalley’s For Better or for Worse: A Valuable Guide to Knowing, Understanding and Loving Your Husband? Or The 5 Languages of Love by Gary Chapman. Those would surely lay a foundation for better communication.

Maybe you crave to understand the Bible or pray the way your friend does? Have you read God’s Word? Have you attended church?

Every success in life requires perseverance. Nothing much happens by accident. We get what we’re determined to attain. As a writer, I’ve received many more rejection than acceptance letters. I’ve spent many hours writing pieces that never saw the light of print. It’s all part of the journey. They say you have to write a million words before you’re worth anything as a writer. So I keep on writing.

In his book Ten Publishing Myths, Terry Whalin writes of Kobe Bryant, the winner of five NBA championships and two Olympic Gold Medals. Bryant started his day at 4:30 a.m., shooting baskets, conditioning, working on jump shots between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. Whalin writes, “His work showed because Bryant knew how to grind then grind some more.” According to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to become skillful in any craft.

Since perseverance helps you recognize your potential and reach your destiny, consider these suggestions:

1.     Choose an area in which you want to persevere and set a short-term goal. How would you like to see this situation change within the next two weeks? What might you do to initiate change?
2.     Find someone who can remind you of your goal. Ask them to hold you accountable to take one daily step toward reaching that goal. Maybe you can even trade accountability statements.
3.     Each day, pray for energy and endurance. Think of Bible people who persevered in spite of opposition—the apostle Paul, all of the disciples, the bleeding woman. They didn’t give in or give up. They offer role models of perseverance.
4.     As you reach a goal, do something fun. Celebrate!

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance . . . for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 2:5-8)

Do yourself a favor: identify what would make your life better, then take one step toward conquering that beast—even if the beast is only a squirrel.

And may God bless you as you persevere on your journey.