Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Review: Where God Finds You by Anita Higman

I collect devotionals so I was excited for the opportunity to review this new devotional by Anita Higman. It is a unique book, unlike my other devotionals. There are 40 devotions based on 40 different Bible characters such as Joseph, Peter, Lazarus, Paul, Ruth, Jonah, Rahab, Esther, Zacchaeus, Daniel, Hannah, and Job. The author gives us readers a glimpse of what their daily lives, thoughts, and feelings might have been like and helps us see how God worked in each of these lives and met their needs. She did a great job at bringing these characters to life. We can relate to them in so many different ways. What they learned can still apply to today's issues. Each devotion includes the Story from God's Word (passages from the Bible) and the Story--from Then to Now which is a lesson in application that the author shares from her own experiences. Each devotion ends with thought-provoking questions that are useful for for either personal reflection or group discussion. I enjoyed reading this insightful book. I usually don't like to read fiction that is based on Bible characters because I feel that it may not retain the accuracy. However, the author's retelling of these characters is quite Biblically sound and believable (it provides the actual Scriptures to compare to).

"Sometimes even the most virtuous things in life can be a distraction--it's easy to use the excuse that we are chasing after what is good and wholesome. But even good books cannot replace God's Word, and even the most eloquent sermons cannot replace that still small voice of God." (p. 89)

"When faced with matters of faith, do I always take a stand for Christ, for the sake of righteousness and justice, even if it means loss or humiliation or peril? I pray that God will give us the strength to be as daring and committed and unflappable as Rahab!" (p. 94)

"Everything, good or evil, curse or blessing, has a powerful ripple effect. Rarely do people get to see how the waves of their actions make it to that distant shore. No matter how small the kindness, no matter how insignificant the effort might look from our earthly vantage point, it will all make a difference. Now and for eternity." (p. 111)


~ I received a free copy of this book via the Book Club Network, Inc. in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: Café Chocolat

 
Who (especially among women) doesn't love chocolate :)? Okay there may be a few exceptions. Group Publishing is offering several wonderful resources designed especially for women. One of them is Café Chocolat: Where Women Delight in God's Grace. I was given an opportunity to review this complete Women's Ministry Retreat Director's Kit. The kit includes Director's Guide, Worship Leader Guide, 6 Easy-to Delegate Session Leader Guides, Training & Promo DVD, Graphics & Other Goodies CD, journal, worship CD, God's Grace Bracelet, and Tote Bag. This kit contains everything necessary to plan, prepare, and lead a chocolate-themed, grace-filled retreat for women.

We chose to use chocolate as a metaphor for God’s grace. Those participating will taste God’s goodness through in-depth Bible study, unforgettable worship and a host of fun activities designed to help them slow down, enjoy their time together and grow closer to Jesus.” (~
Amy Nappa, who heads up the adult ministry resources team for Group Publishing) All the guides, the DVD, the CDroms, and the CD make the job of the retreat leader(s) very easy. Step by step instructions are given. The Training & Promo DVD includes two commercials, complete training session for leaders, and decorating ideas. The Graphics & Other Goodies CDroms provide promotional materials, registration forms, clip art, session helps, and evaluations. You will also get instrumental tracks of the songs. The song selections on the worship album are wonderful. They are all about God's grace! The eight songs are Amazing Grace, 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, Grace Flows Down, Extravagant Grace, Create in Me (Psalm 51:10), Your Grace Is Enough, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, and Mighty to Save. I am familiar with all but three. The song lyrics are included in the journal.

I have never led a women's retreat before but after I've looked over all the materials in this kit, I no longer feel so intimidated or overwhelmed. I love the flexible schedule and format available for three different options: a single day retreat, a one-night retreat, or an entire weekend retreat. I'm thinking about using this with our homeschool moms group. Cafe Chocolat is Bible-based and Christ-centered. The message covers Jesus' miracles and it's relevant to women of all ages. Cafe Chocolat (a retreat planner in a box) will help women relax and be refreshed in their relationship with God and with one another. What a sweet and fun treat it is!

"We praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son." Ephesians 1:6

About Group Publishing:
Far more than just a publisher of Christian ministry resources, Group Publishing is dedicated to offering products for group settings designed to help grow the participant’s relationship with Jesus. With a team made up of ministry experts known the world over, the company has a solitary mission to help church ministries succeed. From kids’ crafts to teen mission trips and from women’s retreats to men’s Bible studies, everything that Group offers is designed to bring participants closer to God. Pursuing his dream to offer better tools for leading teens to Christ, Group Publishing founder Thom Schultz began the company in 1974 with the launch of GROUP Magazine, a resource periodical designed specifically for youth leaders, soon making Group’s name synonymous with youth ministry. It was not long afterward that Group decided to branch off into creating resources for children’s ministry. Soon the company was providing innovative VBS and children’s Sunday school programs and had successfully introduced Children’s Ministry Magazine. From there, creating resource materials for men’s and women’s ministries seemed a natural progression. Today, Group Publishing is recognized as a leader in the publishing of Christian resource materials for every age.

~I receive a free Cafe Chocolat kit through the B&B Media Group in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A.C.T.S. Part I: Discover the Joy of Serving!

Join Adventures in Odyssey this summer to discover how fun it can be to serve others!
Adventures in Odyssey, the beloved audio series from Focus on the Family, has encouraged kids toward a stronger faith for 25 years. Whit, Connie, Eugene, and the other loveable characters from Odyssey have shared countless adventures with kids across the world in the classic audio dramas, books, videos, and devotionals, fulfilling the AIO promise to help kids discover, imagine, and grow.

This summer, Adventures in Odyssey is joining with Christian bookstores across the country, inviting kids to participate in a Summer of Service. They’re promoting the biblical message, “When you serve, everybody wins,” encouraging kids to serve their families, their communities, and their world. Whether it’s baking cookies for an elderly neighbor or putting together a care package for missionaries overseas, kids will discover that serving can be a blast!

How the A.C.T.S. (A Call to Service) challenge and contest works:
Kids who join A.C.T.S. can pick up a service log and collect fun character stickers for hours served at participating bookstores throughout the summer, or download a serving log online at whitsend.org. At the end of the summer, kids can record and upload a short video telling how they serve and why they’d like to become an Adventures in Odyssey Ambassador.

A hundred winners will get the brand new AIO Album, and after online voting, two grand prize winners (one boy and one girl) will get to travel on an exciting Good-Goers Mission Based Adventure trip to another country with a parent! The out-of-country destination will be announced on a live podcast May 22—hosted by AIO actors Katie Leigh (Connie) and Chris Anthony (Chris)—which you can watch at whitsend.org/acts. You don’t want to miss it!

Why serve?
"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
Mark 10:43b-45
Our culture puts an extravagant amount of energy into raising kids who will grow up to feel good about themselves. In schools, clubs, homes, and even at church, adults have made a decided effort to bolster children’s “self-esteem” –not by actually encouraging kids do something that’s worthwhile, but by simply telling them they are important and valuable. At the turn of the century, researchers predicted that the next generation would respond to these efforts of raising self-esteem by being filled with optimism and civic duty. Unfortunately, recent research shows the opposite. Kids coming of age today are more self-centered, disrespectful of authority, and depressed than ever before.

In a very real way, then, the best path toward building selfless, confident children is to help and encourage them toward a growing and thriving faith in God. And that includes obedience to what God teaches—not because it makes kids feel good, although it often does—but because they’re following God’s instructions to love Him and serve others. That builds a faith they can count on and carry with them into adulthood—which is the greatest gift any parent can bestow on their child. In addition, our kids can discover their talents through service. The believers' gifts (talents) are not to be laid up for self but laid out in service. Serving is a privilege and honor.

My husband and I have always encouraged our children to use their time, talents, and treasures to serve God and others. We are involved in a weekly outreach ministry to the international students who attend a local university, the annual shoebox project for Operation Christmas Child, our annual baking and handing out yummy goodies & gospel tracts to neighbors, etc. In 2011, our daughter served on the Logos Hope (a ministry of Operation Mobilization) in Malaysia. You can watch her video of her mission trip here. She also has served in a preschool class at our church since 2010 and has served as an online missionary for Global Media Outreach since 2012. After 12 years of doing Steps for Life and being inducted into the Steps for Life Hall of Fame for raising over $10,000 for the Pregnancy Resource Centers of Greater Portland (PRC), my daughter passed the baton to her younger brother last year. He raised a total of $1,450 last year! Please consider giving to PRC by donating through my 11 yo son's Steps for Life page. Please help save lives! Only 5 days left (the website will be closed at noon on May 17th)...he still needs $510 to reach his goal! Any amount helps and adds up :)!


 Check out the free downloadable mp3 file of the AIO Service episode at http://www.tyndale.com/blog/index.php/acts-a-call-to-serve/ (note: downloads are only accessible through this link) and the free PDF download of summer service ideas for kids at http://www.tyndale.com/blog/index.php/acts-a-call-to-serve/ .






Thursday, May 9, 2013

Album Review: To Be Loved by Michael Bublé


To Be Loved is Michael Bublé’s new album that includes a mixture of classics and four original songs co-written by Bublé himself. “After All," one of the four originals was co-written and performed by fellow Canadian Bryan Adams. This new album also includes several hits previously recorded by famous artists such as the Bee Gees' “To Love Somebody”, Dean Martin’s “Nevertheless (I’m In Love With You”), the Jackson 5's “Who’s Loving You”, Jackie Wilson’s “To Be Loved”, Randy Newman's "You've Got A Friend In Me", and Elvis Presley's “Have I Told You Lately”. Michael Bublé and Reese Witherspoon sang the classic Frank and Nancy Sinatra duet “Something Stupid”. I don't think Reese's voice worked well with Michael's :).

To Be Loved Track Listing:
1. "You Make Me Feel So Young"
2. "It's a Beautiful Day"
3. "To Love Somebody"
4. "Who's Lovin You"
5. "Something Stupid" (featuring Reese Witherspoon)
6. "Come Dance with Me"
7. "Close Your Eyes"
8. "After All" (featuring Bryan Adams)
9. "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" (with Naturally 7)
0. "To Be Loved"
11. "You've Got a Friend in Me"
12. "Nevertheless (I'm in Love with You)" (featuring The Puppini Sisters)
13. "I Got It Easy"
14. "Young at Heart"

I enjoyed listening to this love-filled CD. It's romantic and sweet. Love songs with many flavors. Orchestra. Old-fashioned style. Upbeat ("Come Dance with Me" made me want to dance). Jazzy. Light-hearted and fun. Heartache. Passion. Admiration. My favorite tracks are "To Love Somebody", "Close Your Eyes" (very sweet), Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" (this one gave me goosebumps), "To Be Loved", and "I Got It Easy". Michael's rendition of "You've Got A Friend In Me" is quite good, too. I would love to see Michael write more songs in the future. He did a great job with the four songs he co-wrote.


"I want to take you on a wonderful journey about love—all different kinds of love," Michael says. "The album swings big time: it rocks, it’s soulful, it’s happy, sometimes a little sad. It’s romantic, it’s yummy, and it’s heartfelt." "I wrote Close Your Eyes about my wife and about the power of all the women in my life—my sisters, my mom, my grandma and all women in general. Let’s face it, where would we be without them? I Got It Easy, another original, is basically a song where I count my blessings and is a reminder to me and everyone to appreciate all the good parts of life. I’m a very lucky guy and I never want to forget it."



~ I participated in this campaign for One2One Network. I received a free download of the album in exchange for my honest review. By posting, I am eligible for incentives. All opinions stated are my own.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: Feeling God's Presence Today by Laine Lawson Craft


I collect devotionals :). This 365-day devotional is a small, beautiful gift book. We know that God is omnipresent and He is always with us, yet many of us don't always feel His presence. The author wants to help readers begin each day with a sensory experience from God/God's Word. Each day's devotion starts with a Bible verse that's related to our senses such as hearing/listening, saying/speaking/crying out, seeing/seeking, tasting (salty, sweet, etc.), smelling (fragrance), touching/healing or related to our body parts (in a spiritual sense and application) such as eyes, ears, heart, mouth, hand or related to emotions such as love, sorrow, anxiety, peace, joy, etc. Each day's devotion is only about a page long (very small page) and ends with a prayer. Readers will be reminded again and again of God's character, goodness, faithfulness, power, and love. God hears our prayers. God listens to our cries. God sees our tears. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. If your soul longs for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God, check this book out. You will be encouraged and will be more aware of God's presence each day.


~ I received a free copy of this book via the Book Club Network, Inc. in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Big Book of Earth & Sky

This is no ordinary book :)! It contains a 15 foot chart showing the inner core of the earth all the way to the edge of the outer atmosphere. I'm a visual learner so I love this. My 11 year old son is a visual and textile learner so he also enjoyed pulling the chart out and stretching it on the floor and folding it up again. The chart is removable and foldable. It can be viewed one section at a time or hung on the wall or spread out on the floor as a full-length display. You can store the chart back in the sturdy, hardbound case. A teacher's guide (which includes additional questions, educational activities, etc.) is also available. Big Book of Earth & Sky is a great reference tool for homeschooling families or teachers or parents and a fun book for kids ages 7 to 12 to explore earth science by themselves. You can start anywhere on the chart.

The chart shows facts about God's world with interesting details and vibrant colors. It is sprinkled with questions here and there to test kids' comprehension. Kids will learn about the elements that make up the soil, the ocean, and the sky, weather, mountains, caves, clouds, rocks, and more. I really liked using it in our homeschool. My son already knew quite a bit about earth science but both he and I still learned some new cool facts and figures such as the highest skydive on record (24  miles above earth) by an Austrian skydiver and the eyeless & wingless insect that may be the world's deepest land animal (found over a mile below the surface). And did you know that in March 2012, James Cameron completed a record-setting solo dive into the deepest place on earth, the Marianas Trench? Use this book to spark your kid's interest in God's creation wonders and help them see how big our God is! 

~ I received a free copy of this book via New Leaf Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: 5 Days to a Clutter-Free House by Sandra Felton & Marsha Sims

About the authors:
Sandra Felton, The Organizer Lady, is a pioneer in the field of organizing. She is the founder and president of Messies Anonymous and the author of many books including Organizing Magic. Sandra lives in Florida.
 
Marsha Sims is a national speaker who has taught seminars on time management and organization, managing the front desk, and projects and priorities. She has been a professional organizer for fifteen years as the founder and president of her Miami-based company, Sort-It-Out, Inc.

My Review: I admit I'm quite organizationally challenged! My kids are getting older (my youngest is 11) and pretty soon I'll run out of excuses for my disorganized home :). Undoubtedly, the title of this book piqued my curiosity. Does it take only 5 days to get one's house to become clutter-free? Surely, they haven't seen my house :)! My family and I have been in this current house for almost 5 years and we still haven't unpacked all the boxes yet :)! However, that could be viewed as a blessing in disguise (less things to organize and put away...they're already in boxes).

This book is divided into 2 sections: Section One--Getting It Under Control and Section Two--Keep the Good Life Going. The authors introduce the Mount Rushmore Method and employ the box system. The "rush" refers to the speedy 5 days of clearing up the clutter and the "more" refers to a team (more than 1 person). They also suggest setting a specific, tangible goal and a deadline. Another important factor is having a game plan which includes deciding in advance where to store boxes, labeling boxes, and using the body as a guide for each day's decluttering tasks (by focusing on different parts/levels of the home from the ground up). This is an interesting concept that helps break down that "overwhelming" dread of decluttering into a bite-sized, doable mission. The key is teamwork (many hands make light work). You're to invite people to come help you organize for 5 days and then celebrate the result with a party on the 6th day. I think the idea is great but I don't think it will work well for everyone. Some people (such as perfectionists) would have a hard time :). Or those who really value their privacy. The book does mention that the plan can be accomplished even by someone working alone but it just takes longer. There are many useful, practical ideas & tips in this book such as 6 steps to an organized life, steps to make the boxes disappear, rules of storage, ten-minute tidy checklist, etc. I enjoy learning strategies from real-life stories and gleaning from their experiences what works and what doesn't.

Once your home becomes clutter-free, how do you make sure it is kept that way? Session Two addresses this concern. It covers how to manage ourselves, our house, our family, and our time. The authors present clutter-buster habits to cultivate, house clutter-busters, family clutter-busters, time clutter-busters, tips for getting rid of stuff, and top ten tips for de-cluttering and staying de-cluttered. Lots of helpful resources are additionally included in the appendix. If you are discouraged by the disarray of your home, check this book out! I've been motivated and encouraged by it and I hope to put what I learned into action soon. Clutter begone! A clean and organized home is a restful and inviting home. I'm visualizing it right now :). Now what I need is...to just do it!

"Done is better than perfect." (p. 37)

"The book is designed to accomplish one end--at the end of the week, all surfaces of your house, from top to bottom, will be clear. And they'll stay that way." (p. 63)

"Maintenance is doing the same right things over and over again consistently, without undue thought or delay." (p. 133)

"Change is possible, but only if you daily makes the decision to do it." (p. 136)

~ I received a free copy of this book via the Book Club Network, Inc. in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Giveaway: Free Magazine Subscription

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

I enjoy reading magazines at the dentist's office and other waiting rooms. But I didn't want to subscribe to any because I thought I shouldn't and probably couldn't afford them. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see how affordable the prices are for magazine subscriptions at Magazines.com (several are $10 or less for 12 issues).

Mother's Day is fast approaching! They're having great Mother's Day deals right now. You'll find huge savings (up to 94%) on many of moms' favorite magazine subscriptions. From cooking magazines, crafting magazines, and home decorating magazines to parenting magazines, fitness magazines and celebrity magazines! A subscription is a wonderful gift that lasts for quite some time. It's a beautiful way to bless the moms in your life (not just your mother, either)--your daughter, sister, grandmother, aunt, niece, friend, coworker, etc. Or you can treat yourself or hint about it to your husband or children :)! Magazines.com offers a variety of great titles such as Cooking with Paula Deen, Martha Stewart Living, Parenting Early Years, Parenting School Years, Prevention, Weight Watchers, People, Southern Living, Food Network, Crochet Today, Creative Knitting, Quilter's World, Sew News, Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, and lots more. Check it out!

Website: http://www.magazines.com/special-offers/mothers-day-gifts-sale,default,sc.html?origin=mdbo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/magazines.com
Twitter: @magazines 

GIVEAWAY: Magazines.com is offering one of my readers a free subscription to the magazine of her choice (up to $10). Open to U.S. residents only! *Special note to people in NY, NJ, and TN: you will need to pay sales tax when you sign up for a subscription. Sorry about that. Everywhere else is tax-free. They can only ship within the U.S.
Deadline: 5/11 at midnight (Pacific time)

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