Recommended Blog: “A Walk To Emmaus”

If you are looking for an encouraging read, I highly recommend a relatively new blog called A Walk to Emmaus, by my sister-in-law, sister-in-Christ and friend, Lori Davis. The blog had its first post in November, 2013, and it promises to be a valuable addition to the blogosphere.

The blog begins with a nine-part series called “Here I Am,” in which Lori takes us on a spiritual journey as she shares her experience at a Walk to Emmaus event. You will find words of wisdom in every post, from the anxious weeks on the waiting list to the first day of the Walk to Emmaus itself. I particularly liked the post in which she compares the weeks of anticipation to childhood Christmas memories.

When I read a faith-based book or a blog, I like to be able to recognize some of my own journey in the story. Reading a A Walk to Emmaus is like sitting down to tea with a good and wise friend. Written with generosity and humility, every post gives me reasons to feel hopeful about my own spiritual walk.  I hope you’ll pay this blog a visit.

 

Book Review: This Beautiful Mess, by Rick McKinley

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When we picture the Kingdom of God, we may visualize a faraway place of perfection, where there are no troubles, tears or messy situations. In fact, it may be difficult to picture anything other than heaven itself. In his book This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God, Pastor Rick McKinley helps us see the Kingdom at work all around us, in our lives here on earth.

To illustrate what he calls a “revolutionary reality,” McKinley uses examples ranging from environmental stewardship and creation care to solidarity with the suffering. Chapter by chapter, the book shines a light on the Kingdom of God that is hidden, right in front of us. McKinley challenges Christians to preach with our lives. He reminds us that God loves the world, and that He created people from the earth. The book challenges the “my-home-is-in-heaven-so-why-care-about-the-world” way of thinking.

To me, This Beautiful Mess is a breath of fresh air. As a Christian who cares for God’s creation, I appreciate the emphasis on living in the Kingdom here and now. In one of my favorite parts of the book, Pastor McKinley encourages the use of the word “solidarity” as an expression of partnership and belonging.  I recommend This Beautiful Mess to anyone who is looking for solidarity with the Kingdom of God as they travel through this life.

Interested in this book? For starters, you can read Chapter One of A Beautiful Mess, and you can visit author Rick McKinley’s website.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for writing a review. I was not required to write a positive review; all opinions in this review are my own.

Book Review: What Once was Lost, by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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When we face a major setback, we wonder how we will ever regroup and move on with life. In her novel What Once was Lost, Kim Vogel Sawyer tells a story of trials, grace and hope. In the book, Christena Willems is the director of the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor in Kansas. The residents of this home have become a close-knit family, so when a fire forces them out, Christena struggles to keep the community members together and safe.

A reclusive mill owner named Levi Johnson reluctantly agrees to take in 11-year-old Tommy, who is blind. The bond that develops between Levi and Tommy is one of many ways in this story in which God uses people to help each other heal. Numerous setbacks and disappointments in the lives of the Asylum family are followed by grace and mercy from unexpected sources.

Homelessness is part of my past, and I recognized some of my own story in this book. Even if you have never been displaced from your home, I am sure you will relate to at least one character in this book. The author gives each character his or her own unique history, and adds detailed descriptions of time and place. I recommend this uplifting and romantic read.

If you want to find out more about this author and her books, you can read the first chapter of What Once was Lost, or visit Kim Vogel Sawyer’s website.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review; all opinions in this review are my own.

Five-Minute Friday: Last

Five Minute Friday

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “last.” At Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog, we gather each week to share our nonstop, unedited, five-minute writes. Hope you’ll join us!

Here’s mine:

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The last thing I remember before falling asleep is the peace of hearing you breathing. The last thing I remember before waking up is the remnants of a dream I don’t even remember.

Now that I am wise for my years, I know what is made to last: memories of laughter as a child, the soft beauty of grass under my feet, love that took a lifetime to find. When I drink in an exquisite sunset with its orange symphony, the wonder of colors lingers into the next morning.

When I meditate on the truths that set me free, that bring peace and joy, and grace and mercy, I learn that these are the things that are made to last.

With a humble and quiet heart, I see God’s gifts with new eyes every morning, no matter what dreams disturbed my sleep. I thank God that the last thing I hear is your peaceful breathing, and my thankful prayers.

Book Review: Greater, by Steven Furtick

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What are you waiting for? What is holding you back? You were created for greater things than you can imagine — greater than money, popularity or fame. We’ve probably all been there — feeling stuck in mediocrity, unfulfilled, wondering if this is all there is. In his book Greater, Pastor Steven Furtick tells the story of Elisha as an illustration of how we can start where we are and begin a new life in faith.

Pastor Furtick points out that just as Elisha did when Elijah called him, we can “burn our plow” and break away from things that are holding us back. The key, according to the author, is to develop a trusting relationship with God for the journey. Pastor Furtick also offers encouragement for the times of grief or disappointment, when we wonder if perhaps we’ve “wasted our faith.”

I understand those fears about “wasted faith” all too well. Greater has helped me develop a new perspective about those bitter times. The lessons from this book give me confidence to I work with what I have, and to believe that God can work through me in His infinite power. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to take a step away from self-criticism and start living for something “greater.”

You can learn more about this book at the Greater website, or catch up with Pastor Steven Furtick on his website.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. All opinions in this review are my own; I was not required to write a positive review.

Five-Minute Friday: Belong

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On Fridays, we gather at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog to share our five-minute writes!  All you have to do is write to the prompt for five minutes, no edits. This week’s prompt is “belong.”

Here I go!

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Something about the word “belong”…it started in second grade, when I was old enough to know who belonged and who didn’t. School is a harsh place for the word belonging, especially for a shy, sensitive only child who wanted so badly to belong.

She went home every afternoon, where she could rest and find her haven from the cliques and backbiters. She listened to her parents’ soothing records, and learned to love violin music.

The first place she belonged, outside of home, was in the orchestra, where the conductor did his best to enlighten young artistic minds.

Later, as her hair grayed, she found the Master Artist, who had created her from his own colors, who guided her heart to true love.

With Him we all belong.

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That’s my five-minute write for this week. See you next Friday!

Book Review: Home Tonight by Henri J.M. Nouwen

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It is difficult to drown out the criticisms, labels and rejections that make us feel inadequate and lost. In Home Tonight, Henri J.M. Nouwen teaches us how to find our way home to our true identity as a deeply loved child of the Creator. The book is a collection of the late author’s writings based on inspiration from Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son.  To illustrate the power of forgiveness and God’s unconditional love, Nouwen guides the reader through a series of practices: listening, journaling and communing with God.

After reading Home Tonight, I realize that I still cling to old hurts, and that I need to shake off old labels. As Nouwen points out, security in God’s love gives me freedom to love without fear of disappointing others.  The book encouraged me to walk in freedom, knowing that even if another person rejects me, there is One who’s love never fades. I especially like the emphasis on building a relationship with God, who loves each of us as a unique creation.

For anyone who has faced rejection, disappointment or resentment (and who hasn’t?), Home Tonight offers a breath of fresh air. Nouwen’s gentle approach makes a surprisingly dramatic impact. I highly recommend accepting the author’s invitation to this journey of healing and homecoming.

You can find out more about Home Tonight and Henri J.M. Nouwen here, and read Chapter One of the book here.

I received a free copy of Home Tonight by Henri J.M. Nouwen from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for writing this review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.