Saturday, July 4, 2015

Movie Review: War Room


"From the award-winning creators of Fireproof and Courageouscomes WAR ROOM, a compelling drama with humor and heart that explores the power that prayer can have on marriages, parenting, careers, friendships, and every other area of our lives.
Tony and Elizabeth Jordan have it all—great jobs, a beautiful daughter, and their dream house. But appearances can be deceiving. Tony and Elizabeth Jordan’s world is actually crumbling under the strain of a failing marriage. While Tony basks in his professional success and flirts with temptation, Elizabeth resigns herself to increasing bitterness. But their lives take an unexpected turn when Elizabeth meets her newest client, Miss Clara, and is challenged to establish a “war room” and a battle plan of prayer for her family. As Elizabeth tries to fight for her family, Tony’s hidden struggles come to light. Tony must decide if he will make amends to his family and prove Miss Clara’s wisdom that victories don’t come by accident.
Opening nationwide in theaters August 28 and filled with more of the authentic characters loved by millions in previous Kendrick Brothers’ films, WAR ROOM is a vivid reminder that prayer is a powerful weapon."
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A refreshing and thought provoking film centered around the power of prayer. You won't be disappointed in this new film by the Kendrick brothers and you will walk away with a desire to clean out a room or closet for the specific use of prayer!  
I was thankful that the movie did not delve in to any of the new trends of mysticism in prayer, but held to the biblical truths of crying out to God in repentance and trusting Him and His sovereign rule in all things.  
I was also thankful for the mighty example of a Titus 2 woman in mentoring and seeking the Lord as to how she could invest and make a difference in the lives of other women through the power of prayer.  
I would advise parents to watch the movie alone to discern whether or not it is appropriate for children.  There are some thematic elements that may not be suitable for the younger ones in your family.
In Theaters on August 28th, 2015
*I was invited and given two tickets to a pre-screening of War Room by Affirm Films

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review: Nobody's Cuter Than You

"There is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself. Yet over the last couple of decades, we’ve substituted the joy of real friendship with cheap imitations. We settle for “community” on Facebook and Twitter and a series of text messages that allow us to communicate with someone without the commitment. We like each other’s beautifully filtered photos on Instagram and delude ourselves into believing we have a community. But real friendship requires effort. It’s showing up, laughing loud, and crying hard. It’s forgiving and loving and giving the benefit of the doubt. It’s making a casserole, doing a carpool pickup, and making sure she knows those cute shoes are 50 percent off. Written in the same comedic style as the New York Times bestsellers Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living RoomNobody’s Cuter than You is a laugh-out-loud look at the special bond that exists between friends and a poignant celebration of all the extraordinary people God had the good sense to bring into our lives at exactly the right moments. From the friendships we develop over a lifetime to the ones that wounded us and the ones that taught us to love better, Melanie Shankle reveals the influence our friends have on who we were, who we are, and who we will become. And on a day when our jeans feel too tight, our chins have decided to embrace hormone-related acne reminiscent of our teen years, and our kids have tested the limits of our sanity, they are the ones who will look at us and say, “Nobody’s cuter than you!”


I loved every second of reading this book!  Sometimes you just need a feel good book for the beach, car trip, or a rainy day!  This is definitely that book.  I was surprised and thrilled to find out that the author had two bestselling books prior to this one:  Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living Room.   I will be ordering both of these books!

To be honest, I prefer to use my precious spare time reading biographies of great Christian men and women, or books that will enhance my main reading of the Scripture.  But, for some reason, when offered the opportunity to review a book called Nobody's Cuter Than You I was powerless to refuse. I love stories of friendship and have even spoken a time or two on the subject at ladies conferences. What a wonderful surprise that, though this book is not intended to be theological in nature, it is a beautiful picture of exactly how God has ordained that we look at friendship.  Sacrifice, unconditional love, and preferring others over ourselves oozes out of the sweet and poignant stories that flow through this book.  And there is a beautiful undertone of the gospel threaded through the pages.

I was, at all times while reading this book, either smiling, laughing or pushing back the tears.  When I got to the last page, I closed the book quickly in denial knowing that as soon as I read that last paragraph it would be over.  I can't wait to read the other two titles and I look forward to passing these books on to my girls and my girlfriends.

Need some light but deep-hearted reading for the beach this summer?  Get in line for this book! (I say that because, last time I looked, it was already out of stock!).  If you live near me I might let you borrow my copy! :)

*I was provided a free copy of this book by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for an honest review

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: From Good to Grace-Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel







I was so excited to be part of the launch team for Christine Hoover's new book From Good to Grace!
At the time when I committed to be a part and all that that entailed, I had no idea all that God was doing and working in me-in His perfect sovereignty-to prepare my heart to receive the message in this book.

The launch of the book was to be on March 3, my birthday.  I had plenty of time to read the book, send out a few tweets with the launch hashtag, prepare for the guest post by Christine, and have my review of the book written and posted on my website by launch date.  According to my timeline...not His.

Without boring you on the particulars, let's just say my life got overloaded in a big way!  Activities, family matters, sickness (oh stomach bug...why?), hospitals, funerals, women's conference, fundraisers, graduation planning meetings...and that all on top of my duties at home of homeschooling, homemaking, being a help meet and my serving at our church as Pastor's wife, worship leader and teaching a women's bible study class.  Are you tired just from reading that?

This really is not my norm.  Yes, my life is filled...but in a good way with all God has intended for me.  But, providentially, all this ^ happened while I was reading from Good to Grace.

I love grace.  God's grace is a treasure, a balm, a comfort and a promise I cling to.  I know it, I embrace it, and I bask in it.  I know that salvation is all of God.  I know that I had absolutely nothing but unrighteousness to offer to God...and I know that out of His great love He sent His Son...the only One who could keep the covenant of the law and grace simultaneously when He died upon the cross for my sin and was resurrected to the praise and the glory of God!  I know salvation, justification, sanctification and glorification is all of Him!  And I am so thankful!

So, I was excited to read this new book for, what I thought, would be an aid to help me in conveying that true gospel in obedience to Matthew 28.  I know there are many inside and outside the church that are trying to get to God and secure salvation through works and by their own merit.  I know that there is sadly some false teaching in our churches today that promotes a 'to-do" list and rules that must be kept to gain heaven.  And this book is full of the truth of the real gospel.  The gospel of Truth and of grace.

What I didn't expect was to be called out early on in the first few chapters, admonished by Truth, that though I have trusted in Christ alone for my salvation, I am guilty of, at times, living out my day to day through a goodness gospel!  As if Christ was enough to save me, but now the rest is up to me?  I actually "know" that not to be the case.  I "know" that I can only do all things through Christ (Phil. 4:13) and it is by His strength and power we are able to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Col 1:9-10).  So why do I sometimes slip back in to a works-based day to day walk?  Why do I feel guilty if I don't "do" something someone wants me to do?  Or fulfill a role that is not filled?  Or volunteer for EVERYTHING?  Because I sometimes slip back in to the goodness gospel by believing that I am my performance.

In her book, Christine Hoover reminds us that, "In Christ, I am not my performance."  She writes,

“The gospel ransoms me from my prison of performance. In Christ, I am not my performance. This is perhaps the first and most important freedom I’ve received in Christ. Grace frees me from a focus on self and all the sins and burdens that come along with it: selfishness, insecurity, pride, trying to prove myself worthy, seeking love and approval, fear of not being enough. Like a giant wave, the gospel rises above this petty focus on self, crushing every facet of our selfishness and self-centeredness. We no longer need to seek our own honor and worth because we are loved by Love himself…This is the explosive power of the gospel: it frees us from ourselves and enables us to live for God and for the sake of others.” (p. 117-118).

The whole book points constantly and consistently to the sufficiency of Christ.  I love that.  There is nothing in this book that points to Christine, and she over and over again points to Him and all that He has done in her life with a transparency and a tenderness that could only have come from Him.

I could just literally quote the whole book here as I had to put down my highlighter as I found I was highlighting entire pages! You just need to get this book and read it.  Savor it.  I thank God that He allowed me to go through a time of intense busyness where I felt completely weak and insufficient to carry out all He had for me right in the midst of reading this book.  I am thankful that He gave me eyes, ears and a heart to see, hear and feel the message He had for me in this book with my bible open alongside.  I pray you will read it that way as well and let Him wash over you anew with His grace that is intended for every part and every day of your life.  My prayer is that you, and I, and Christine will all preach the gospel of Christ to ourselves EVERY DAY in EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE in EVERY DUTY that we accomplish for Him and for His glory!

Get your copy here: From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel
        





Friday, March 6, 2015

Guest post by Christine Hoover

I am so excited to be reviewing the book From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel by Christine Hoover!  My review of the book is coming soon.  In the meantime, enjoy this guest post by Christine.  You will love her heart for Truth, her transparency, and boldness in speaking the Truth in love.  Book review spoiler alert:  you are going to LOVE this book that is rooted deep in the gospel of Christ and the grace of God!

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Good, Bye

Christine Hoover (@christinehoover) is an author, a recovering perfectionist, the wife of a pastor, and a mom of three boys. She writes online at www.GraceCoversMe.com and has contributed to Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, Send Network, and iBelieve. Her newest book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel, offers women biblical freedom from trying to “be good enough”. The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book. You can read the entire chapter here.


I’ve been obsessed with being good and performing all of my life.

Hello, my name is Christine. I’m a goodness addict.

I was born with a list in my hand, or at least that’s how early I imagine it started. I came by it honestly—my mom’s response to everything my sister and I needed as children, whether shampoo from the store or help with a school project, was always, “Make a list!”

So I did. I made list after list—of library books for summer reading, of boys that I liked, of songs to record from the radio on my tape recorder, of necessities to pack for overnight camp, of must-haves in my future husband, even of outfits for the first month of eighth grade so as not to repeat and make a fashion faux pas of infinite proportion.

I don’t just make lists. I am that person, the one who adds a task to a list just to experience the satisfaction of crossing it off, the one who makes lists for my lists.

I’m a perfectionist.

There was a time when I would have said that with pride, but not anymore. Perfectionism has not been a friend to me. Sure, my house is organized and my budget spreadsheet is up-to-date, but when perfectionism is applied to the spiritual needs of the heart, it’s called legalism. And legalism is a fancy word for an obsession with goodness. It’s a belief that good things come from God to those who are good. And it’s a belief that you can actually be good enough to get to God on your own.

I became a Christian at age eight. From that point, or more accurately from the point in middle school when I started having “quiet times” according to my youth minister’s instructions, until my late twenties, I spent the majority of my Christian life striving—striving for perfection, for God’s favor, for the approval of others, and for the joy and freedom that the Bible spoke of yet completely eluded me.

At an early age, I fell for perfectionism’s lie that I could be good enough to win God’s heart and the approval of others. I sought joy, peace, and love through being good and, instead, found myself miserably enslaved to my own unattainable standards.

This was my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian: If I do good things, then God is pleased. If I do things wrong, then he is angry. This is actually the basis of every religion on earth except Christianity, this idea of a scale where the good must outweigh the bad in order to be right with God. I had religion down pat, but the religion I practiced wasn’t true and biblical Christianity. On the outside I appeared to be a good Christian, but on the inside I felt unlovable and was riddled with guilt about my inability to please God.

Unfortunately for me, a large part of a goodness obsession is an addiction to self. Goodness is evaluated by activity, completed tasks, responses from others, and results. It requires a focus on appearance and image and maintaining some semblance of religious behavior. Goodness required that I control my environment with military precision, hide my weaknesses, and compare myself with others or my own arbitrary standards. Goodness fed both my pride and my self-condemnation and kept me relationally isolated.

The other part of a goodness addiction, I discovered in my twenties, is a faulty understanding of who God is and what he expects from His children. I only saw God through perfectionism’s filter. He was gray. He had no patience for my mistakes, forever glaring at me with a scowl on His face. He sighed a lot. If I was extra-good, He might manage to crack a smile. He was one-dimensional, disengaged, unaffectionate, and I absolutely feared him.

I knew nothing about grace.
I knew nothing about forgiveness.
I knew nothing about the true gospel, because a goodness addiction completely overtakes the heart and mind, leaving no room for truth. It enslaves and cannibalizes itself. It becomes an all-encompassing religion, closing tightly around one’s soul. It led me down paths of depression and despair.

And it became my gospel.
I lived according to that gospel–what I now call the goodness gospel–for far too long, precisely because I didn’t know the true gospel’s reach. I believed that faith was effective for salvation but only self-effort could produce my sanctification. Now I know differently. God has taken me on a ten-year exploration of grace and sanctification and faith, and I am not the girl I once was. I live in the freedom that Christ was won for me.

Now that I know differently, I also have eyes to see the goodness gospel covertly worming its way into hearts of believers, and I see its destructive effects.

In the Christian culture, there seems to be great confusion and even pressure that we women feel about what we should be doing and why we should be doing it. The confusion touches decisions about education, family, eating and drinking, work, hobbies, community involvement, and even whether one should volunteer when the sign-up sheet is passed around again at church.

The pressure grows when choices are wrapped in spiritual or more-spiritual terms. We see it everywhere: Do something great! Follow your dreams! Make a difference for the kingdom! Be missional and in community! For the gospel-confused, that too often translates into: I’m not doing enough, what I’m doing isn’t making a difference, and I’ve got to create my own and my neighbor’s own and my children’s own and everyone’s own life transformation.
From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel is a book for women like I was, who long to please God but fear they never will. It's for the woman drowning in self-condemnation, the woman afraid to be vulnerable with others because she's so fully aware of her imperfections, and the woman who craves but can't seem to grasp the freedom and joy that Jesus promised His followers.
Instead of asking "What does God want from us?", From Good to Grace asks, "What does God want for us?" The book illustrates how we confuse being good and trying hard--the goodness gospel--with the true gospel, which is really about receiving the grace and love that Jesus offers us and responding with our lives by the Holy Spirit's help. It’s my prayer that through it you discover it's possible to know God's love, live in peace and freedom, and serve others with great joy. Because God has something so much greater for you than trying to be good enough.


Purchase your copy today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, or iTunes and discover the gospel’s reach in your own life.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Wisdom and Reader's Digest

I really enjoy Reader's Digest.  I always have and a friend of mine gets me a subscription for it every year for Christmas!  I also love bubble baths!  Bubble baths and Reader's Digest go together like peanut butter and jelly, donuts and coffee, salt and pepper and Batman and Robin.  I mean it is the perfect size book to read in the bathtub.  Easy to handle, it folds in half for one hand holding, and it doesn't matter if you accidentally drop it and it gets wet!  It also is much more relaxing a read, with short little encouraging stories and some fun and clean humor sections, than my usual theological bible study selections.

I was recently having one of these rare evenings where Jeff was home and was guarding the bathroom door armed and ready to tackle all the questions and interruptions that seem to always surface the minute I close the bathroom door!  By the time the water had filled up the tub, he had already fended off the "where is mom?!?" questions, thwarted an attempt to sneak out of kitchen duty, and circumvented a possible "we can get away with it-Dad's reading the news" coo.  I listened for the sounds of bickering or the house falling down...but it was quiet!  My hero had secured the gate and was standing guard!  Ahhhh...nice hot bath and the Reader's Digest!

I don't usually read the Reader's Digest from front cover to back.  I usually head right for Life in these United States or quotable quotes.  It takes a little time to decompress from the day before I am ready to dig in to such heady stuff as "The Dog Who Became the Dog Whisperer" or "8 Clever Shortcuts to Peel & Slice".  For some reason, this night, I started at the front.  Quickly thumbed past the Geico ad and the contents page and landed on the Editor's Note.  I don't usually read that either.
But, the headline was "Wisdom Begins in Wonder" -Socrates.  Thanks to some of that usual reading of theological books and my treasured Bible, that statement immediately made me go
huh?

The editor began to list things that had filled her with wonder lately.  I have to give her a little credit...some of them do fill me with wonder too:  Sunsets, people who can make people laugh and the red color a Japanese Maple turns in October(not that I have ever seen one, but still...), chocolate with nuts, and how that in the very same day she can ache with grief, mist with gratitude, and giggle at the sun.  But just like so many things written today, the enemy has infiltrated in unknowing (sometimes knowing) people these kinds of humanistic thoughts that are 90% untruth with just a little splash of Truth.  This article reminded me how important it is to know what God's Word says, hide it in our hearts and minds, so we are ready to give an answer and deflect and defeat the lies of the enemy!  For example, where the Bible says wisdom begins is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10). Oh, but it sounds so good, Socrates, to say "Wisdom Begins in Wonder!"  So much more palatable for our feeble little hearts and minds.  The prince of this world wants to take glory from God, and in this instance, make men believe that they can be wise in their own eyes.  No one is truly wise, whether they are full of wonder or not, until God has regenerated them and they are walking in the wisdom of God.  And in the fear of God, which is the awe and reverence of being reconciled to God as His children!

So, the editor recommended that the readers make their own list of things that fill them with wonder. Here are a few of mine:

*That God created everything in 6 days
*That that creation is beautiful, in color, and unfathomable in design
*That He made man in His own image and desired fellowship with us
*Grace...
*The way He chose to keep His covenant with us
*That Christ-fully God, came to earth-fully man.  Kept the whole law, never sinned,
   was tempted in every way we are, experienced our hurts, joys, and sorrows.
*How He fulfilled the covenant of works and grace with His death, burial, and resurrection
*How we are clothed in Christ's righteousness when all our righteousness was as filthy rags
*How He hasn't left us alone because of His Holy Spirit working in and through us
*That He has chosen us for good works
*That He has chosen us. Period.
*How we were created to bring Him glory and to enjoy Him now and forevermore

Just to name a few!  I bet you can add a lot more to this list!  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Sorry Mrs. Editor and Socrates.  You both got that one wrong.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." Prov. 9:10

"And he said to the human race, "The fear of the Lord--that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding." Job. 28:28

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." Psalm 111:10

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Prov. 1:7




Sunday, October 26, 2014





We interrupt this blog for a wedding!!



I will be taking a break from the blog to focus my time and energy on being with and helping my sweet daughter, Schaeffer, plan the wedding where she will marry the love of her life!

Here's the video if you missed it!!




Thanks for all your love, prayers and well wishes!  Be back in November/December with pictures, updates and more of all that God is teaching me as I, through His power and strength, live out His design!

Shelley








Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review: Songs of a Suffering King

Ever have those days when things are so tough that your overwhelming urge is that you must get alone and get into God's Word?  I need His Word daily...hourly...moment by moment.  But some days, in the midst of chaos, confusion, trial or testing, my heart cries out, "go to the Word!"  I would say 99% of the time that happens I head straight to the Psalms.  The Psalms have always brought me so much comfort and seem to mirror so many of my heartaches, joys or sorrows.  They are so...real. So, it was eye-opening for me to read, in the new book Songs of A Suffering King, that

"Sadly, the Psalms no longer have a place of prominence in the worship of the broader church or even with many Reformed churches. Perhaps part of the reason of this dearth of the Psalms is the church's unfamiliarity with this wonderful, divinely inspired hymnbook."  

That statement really surprised and saddened me.  I am thankful that from a young age I was taught to cherish the Psalms and that our church regularly reads and sings the Psalms as a congregation.  I am also grateful for this book written by J.V. Fesko.  It didn't take me long to become engulfed in this easy to read devotional type book that just leads you through Psalm 1-8, while pointing out the beauty of seeing the centrality of Christ throughout.

The author's desire to show the importance of the Psalms and the beauty of the context within them shines through as he exhorts the reader to not cease to plumb the depths of truth and comfort
laid out in them for us.
It's no wonder to me, that during some of my most trying times, the Spirit graciously leads me to read the Psalms.  With Christ at the center of this inspired Word, we are called to find our strength and comfort through the One who can relate to all trials.  The One who became flesh for us and was tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15) and who understands our joys and our sorrows.  The One who showed us the way from suffering to glory!  What better comfort is there?

Songs of a Suffering King is a great place to start if you are getting acquainted with the Psalms or a great supplement if you are a regular student of the "grand Christ hymn".  The book not only highlights the first eight books, but also includes a metrical version of each Psalm and short devotional questions for further study.  

"Christians know they need instruction not only to pray but also to sing.  By tracing the narrative of Christ in the opening eight Psalms of the Psalter, this book helps me pray while I sing and sing while I pray.  I've learned not only to hear Christ in each Psalm, but I also begin to sing under the aegis of Christ, the chief musician."  Gerald M. Bilkes

Songs of a Suffering King was provided to me by Reformation Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.