Friday, September 30, 2016

Melody Carlson's Annual Christmas Novel

For the past few years, I have enjoyed reading Melody Carlson's annual Christmas novels.  Every Fall, a new one comes out.  This year's novel is titled The Christmas Angel Project.  With this story, it's hard to explain the story without giving the crux of the plot away.  So, I'm not going to.  This story is one of 4 friends who grow and walk through some tough times together around Christmas.

Melody Carlson writes these novels like Hallmark Channel Christmas movies (since they're the only ones nowadays who really make cheesy movies like the story of these books).  But, they're fun to read.  There's something about Christmas that makes people think of healing, family, friends, and fellowship.  That's what this book is all about.

Does the plot flow?  Yes.  Are the characters flawed, yet likeable?  Yes.  Does the writing make it easy to picture the story?  Yes.  It's just fine.

If you enjoy tv movies or cheesy Christmas stories, you'll like this short story.  It would be fun and easy to read while sipping a cup of hot tea.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Books for review.

Books on my reading list...

Recently, I read two really good books.  They were very different from one another, though.  One was good and it took concentration and effort to read; while with the other, I made myself put it down after each chapter so that I could savor it and make it last.

The first book was The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges.  This book was not what I expected.  It surprised me with insight that I had never understood before.  I'm in my 40s, yet I had always seen the Beattitudes as a group of verses that were grouped by pattern, rather than meaning.  In this book, I felt like Jerry Bridges opened my eyes to see the pyramid that the Beattitudes form--each verse building upon the previous to help us understand God's plan for our salvation.  The book was very insightful and helpful to me when I was teaching a group of 2nd to 5th graders about the Beattitudes this summer.   I found time and time again that the curriculum book missed the point of the verses.  I had to abandon the book and turn to Bridges' book for help understanding the verses and how they connect together.  If you have never delved into the Beattitudes, I would highly recommend this book!  I have always found Jerry Bridges' writing to be very easily understood and I found the same with this book.

The second book on my desk is titled Ragged Hope:  Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices by Cynthia Ruchti.  I recently read several fiction books by this author and discovered this book by her on Amazon.  The title made me very curious because of my own life and some struggles close friends of mine are walking through.  Ms. Ruchti wrote a wonderful, encouraging book.  Each chapter of the book was about a crisis someone has walked through or is still walking through (some trials affect our lives for a lifetime).  After the stories, Ms. Ruchti talked about how God sustained the people and their perspectives.  She included questions at the end of each chapter about how the story might relate to you personally and then how it might relate to someone you know.  She includes wonderful suggestions about how we can love people better who find themselves in situations like these.

I remember when I had a miscarriage before I had my oldest daughter.  Several people didn't talk to me because they simply didn't know what to say--they were paralyzed.  When I mentioned this to a family I know, they said they had a similar experience when one of their children died.  There were some people that never talked to them again--because they didn't know what to say.  Sometimes eventhough we're called to love one another, we can be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and making someone's hurt worse.  I think this book can help with ideas so that we don't end up not doing something when people we care about are hurting.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of The Blessing of Humility from Tyndale books for review, but I purchased Ragged Hope because the title was something I thought I needed to read--and I was right.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Walking through the Valley

Yesterday, I walked through a valley.  It wasn't fun.  Valleys never are, really.  As I had entered this valley, I had just finished reading a fiction book by a new author I found on Hoopla that I enjoy, Cynthia Ruchti.  The book was titled As Waters Gone By.  It sounds like a bit of an odd title, but it's taken from a single verse of Job.

Job 11:16
You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
 (gone away in the NIV)

Yesterday morning, I read the larger portion of verses surrounding verse 16 and they were filled with hope.

starting with verse 13...
If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him.  If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents.  surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear.  You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.  And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning.  And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.  You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor.  But the eyes of the wicket will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.  ... ending with verse 20.  ESV

Those verses were very encouraging to me yesterday.  Valleys come and go.  But, there is hope because we will get through them.  Some are short journeys, some are long.  Perhaps, some are even life-long.  But, I was reminded that there is hope.  Hope in Christ.  I am loved by Jesus because of who He made me to be.  Nothing can change that.  I need to find my identity and peace in Him.  Always.  When my eyes get distracted and I value other things more, then my heart fills will resentment and struggle.

I am grateful this morning to be through the valley.  I do know there will be another one.  In fact, there will be many more.  But, there is hope.