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The 30-Day Praise Challenge

July Daily Devotion

30DayPraise

NEW this week…

The 30-Day Praise Challenge by Becky Harling

2 of 5 stars

A twenty-minute-a-day devotion encouraging readers to spend time praising God.

Focus your praise on God’s grace and forgiveness.  Lay down every burden of guilt, shame, regret, and self-punishment.  Imagine yourself clothed in Christ’s righteous robe.

This book was simply not for me.  Before picking it up, the reader should know that of the twenty minutes of praise encouraged by this book only includes about five minutes of reading.  The rest is supposed to be spent listening to praise music.  Let me say now, I’m not really a fan of the genre.  Not only that, but I tend to like to spend my daily devotion time away from my computer, so being encouraged to look music videos up on YouTube is kind of counterproductive for people like me who could easily get sucked into checking email or updating a blog whenever opening a browser window.

The rest of the devotion tends to follow the same kind of feel-good praise-music vibe as the genre, so if you’re into that sort to thing, this would probably be a great book for you.  I did really appreciate the prayer portions, though.

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Kitty, My Rib

KittyMyRib

Kitty, My Rib by E. Jane Mall

Pub: 1959

4 of 5 stars

A fictionalized biography of Katherine Luther, wife of the great Protestant reformer, Martin Luther.

Katherine had been an object of interest before to the citizens of Wittenberg.  People had stopped and stared at the runaway nun but had soon accepted her and become used to her.  Now she was again a special object of interest.  She was the wife of the famous Dr. Martin Luther.

Katherine von Bora (Kitty Luther) is one historical character that has always been of special interest to me.  This brisk biographical novel of her life was incredibly well-researched, and gives the reader a glimpse into the incredibly difficulties this pastor’s wife faced in her fascinating life.  From escaping a convent to marrying the most well-known “heretic” of the time, dealing with the loss of two children, putting up with Luther’s idiosyncrasies and the pressures of his ministry, and finally struggling to make a living as a widow whom her husband’s followers seemed to forget about almost immediately after his death.

The writing style is a bit dated; I think a modern writer might try to get into Katherine’s head a bit more, whereas this seems to at times just jump from one event to the next without a lot of time for reflection in between.  The author also assumes that the reader knows at least a bit about Reformation history and the history of the world at the time.  Concepts such as indulgencesdiets, electors, and other people and events in Reformation history are referred to, but not explained.

Overall: A touching (yes, even tear-jerking) story of Luther’s wife and helper and the daily life that they enjoyed together

One Year Book of Psalms

One Year Book

One Year Book of Psalms by William J Petersen & Randy Petersen

Pub: 1999

4.5 of 5 stars

Devotional book that breaks up the book of Psalms into bite-sized daily readings throughout the course of a year.

The Psalms are inspired by God, so they can teach us.  And because they express emotions that flow out of the psalmists’ relationship with God, they can help us in our emotions as well.

I would highly recommend this devotion book for anyone who likes a short Bible reading and inspiration at the beginning of the day to start out their morning right.  The daily segments are short enough to read over your first cup of coffee, and express truths of God’s word clearly and concisely, often tying the Psalms to other parts of the Bible to better clarify the lessons learned.

I loved that they were labeled with the date of the year, so that it was easy to remember where you had left off; and I loved the small blurbs of “fast facts,” “notable quotables,” and “bible networking” in the margins which added another depth of understanding to the Scriptures.

Read along with me!
June’s Daily Devotion:

FascinatingPeople

Ephesians

Ephesians

Ephesians: Life in God’s Family by Woodrow Kroll

4 of 5 stars

The book of Ephesians is studied in the course of thirteen lessons which focus on the Christian’s life as a member of the body of Christ.

If we want to have a healthy view of the world around us and a triumphant experience in our Christian lives, we will have to live out the truth found in Ephesians.

This 13-chapter study is perfect for individual bible study.  Each chapter begins with a section from Scripture, followed by the author’s thoughts on the passage and how it relates to our lives.  A “Go Deeper” section encourages readers to connect with other parts of Scripture, and each chapter ends with “Consider It” — seven or eight questions about the topic, beginning with comprehension and ending with an opportunity to apply each section to one’s own life.  It has been a great study for our small group and encouraged me to take a closer look into this book of the Bible.

I do, however, wish that there were more questions that would create conversation among a small group, as that was the setting in which I read this book.  Often, we’d all have very similar answers, and would find ourselves going, “Yup, what she said!” instead of really having something unique to contribute.

Overall: A great book for personal Bible study that can also be used for small group studies.

Couples of the Bible

April’s Daily Devotion

Couples of the Bible

NEW this month…

Couples of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study to Draw You Closer to God and Each Other by Robert Wolgemuth

2 of 5 stars

This 52-week devotion features on a different Biblical couple each week, with a different focus for each day.

When we trust in God’s sovereignty, we can be sure He will redeem every circumstance.  This makes even boy-meets-girl marriages sweetly prearranged by God’s kind intervention and grace.

The format of this book intrigued me.  I liked the idea of analyzing the relationships of the people whose stories God shares with us in his Word, and using the lessons from those marriages to enrich our own.  Each week featured five days of study: Their Story, Their Life and Times, Can You Imagine?, Their Legacy in Scripture, and Their Legacy of Prayer.  Of these, my favorite section was Their Life and Times, which included historical context and additional cultural information pertinent to their story.  For instance, did you know that “the Hebrew term for ‘second wife’ is literally ‘rival wife’?

The other, sections, however, disappointed me.  First off, although there are 52 weeks, there are not 52 couples, as some (such as Adam and Eve) are the featured couple in multiple stories (or in that case, also in the story of their first sons).  Though I expected ‘Their Story’ to include the Biblical account straight from Scripture, it ended up being more of a historical fictionalization of the couples’ stories that added dialogue, emotions, motives, and other details that muddled the story in my head, to the point where I’d have to go back and re-read each one in Scripture anyways just to remember which parts were factual and which parts were artistic license.  All five of the sections are very short, so that all five could easily be completed in a single day, and breaking them up into separate readings didn’t work well for me; each section lacked the impact to carry through to the next days without having to reread them.  Although the ‘Their Legacy in Scripture’ section did include application questions, I had a difficult time applying the other sections to my daily life or marriage.

Read along with me!
May’s Daily Devotion Book will be:
One Year Book

The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting a Toddler

Christian Mama's Guide

NEW this week…

The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting a Toddler by Erin MacPherson

3 of 5 stars

One mom’s advice and encouragement on a range of topics pertinent to raising toddlers in a Christian home.

It’s easy to get frustrated with one-and-a-half-year-olds, but it’s also easy to love them for the real, honest, and utterly adorable children of God that they are.

With one son entering the toddler years and the other making his way out, I picked up this book with the advantage of hindsight and the anticipation of going through the ‘terrible twos’ again pretty soon.

The author is a blogger/author with three kids of her own.  She uses a healthy dose of humor and self-depreciation to encourage and reassure parents that no one is a perfect mom, and it’s okay to admit your faults and shortcomings, to give yourself breaks, and to have an ‘off’ day every once in awhile.  I appreciated the laid-back, realistic approach to parenting that balances good, reasonable advice with the acknowledgement that some days, just making it to bedtime is accomplishment enough.  My favorite section was that on “Learning and Growing with Your Toddler” which included lists of age-appropriate activities to nurture your child’s love of learning.

Although this book is great for a quick pick-me-up when you need encouragement, don’t expect a lot of heavy scientific research or appendices filled with other resources.  As far as parenting books go, it’s pretty fluffy, with more personal anecdotes and been-there-done-that cheerleading than hard facts.  Some of the advice, I’d even downright disagree with, so you have to take it with a grain of salt and realize that the author isn’t writing this as an end-all-be-all parenting handbook, but simply more of a collection of advice from her personal experiences.

Overall:  A quick, easy-to-read, light-hearted book on the struggles of parenting toddlers.

Other parenting books I’d recommend:
The Honest Toddler: A Child's Guide to Parenting Raising Your Spirited Child REV Ed Moms Raising Sons to Be Men Because I Said So! : The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids Regret Free Parenting: Raise Good Kids and Know You're Doing It Right

On Calvary’s Hill

March’s Daily Devotion

On Calvary's Hill

On Calvary’s Hill: 40 Devotions for the Easter Season by Max Lucado

Pub: Jan 2013

3 of 5 stars

Forty daily readings take Christians on a journey with Christ from His Palm Sunday entrance to his appearance to his disciples in the upper room.

Maybe the only thing he knew about this Messiah was what he now saw: a beaten, slashed, nail-suspended preacher… Something, though, told him he had never been in better company.

Max Lucado has a way with words.  These short, daily devotional readings take part of the Passion history and paint it in beautiful, flowing words.  Each begins with a Bible passage and ends with a short prayer that is meant to help a Christian remained focused on Christ’s sacrifice throughout Lent.

I was somewhat disappointed, however, that there was no new material in this book.  It is a compilation of Lucado’s other works, taking short sections which deal with the Easter story.  For someone looking for a sampling of his writing, this is a great book, but those who may be familiar with his other books won’t find anything new here.

Read along with me!
April’s Daily Devotion book will be:

Couples of the Bible(available 4/9/2013)

Books for Bitties: God Gave Us Easter

God Gave Us Easter

 

“God loved us so much he wanted us to always be with him too. That’s why God knew he’d need to give us Easter.”

The fluffy little polar bear and her family are back to explain another aspect of God’s love using object lessons and pictures from her natural forest surroundings.  Fans of God Gave Us Easter will likely enjoy this book as well, as it follows a very similar pattern, and even indirectly refers back to it when explaining that the Easter Bunny is like Santa, who “reminds us of gifts and happy surprises in the morning.”  

As with the Christmas book, my biggest concern with this one is that the analogies used may be a bit complex for young children.  Although talking about eggs makes sense in an Easter story, some of the other comparisons baffled me a bit —  Noah’s Ark was brought up, but seemed strangely tangential.  The Root of Jesse would have been perfectly suited for a Christmas story, but for Easter, wouldn’t it have made more sense to talk about the wood/tree used to make the cross?  In fact, through this whole book, the cross isn’t mentioned at all!

Also, the end of the book took another tangent in which Papa talks about how he talks to Jesus and how Jesus “whispers in my heart” to tell him things and encourages Little Cub to listen for God’s whisper voice, yet never brings up how God speaks to us clearly about His love in the Bible.

Overall:  Warm, cute, but misses the mark.

What a Son Needs from His Mom

What a Son Needs From His Mom

NEW this week…

What a Son Needs from His Mom by Cheri Fuller

3 of 5 stars

A mom of two boys explores what it takes to be a Christian mother, with an emphasis on preparing him to become an adult.

“The actual process of our children leaving the nest starts way before you take them to their college campus or they’re headed out for the honeymoon with their precious bride.  And it’s important to get a big-picture perspective of what the end goal of all our parenting is.”

This book contains a wealth of encouragement for moms with sons, from how to build their confidence without inflating their ego, to how to stay connected during the tumultuous teenage years, from how to really listen to what your son is saying, to how to prepare them for college and life beyond.  The author draws from a variety of professional sources, as well as her own personal experience, and the examples included are realistic and practical.

Although the advice given would be applicable to all mothers, there are certain sections — namely, the ones on how to pray for your son and the one on how to encourage your son’s faith — that are specifically for Christian mothers.  Though I found the prayer section very useful, the section on nurturing your son’s faith took a decidedly evangelical/fundamentalist slant, discussing a son’s decision to be baptized, as well as how and when to encourage him to invite Jesus into his heart.

Overall: Great encouragement for moms wanting to be more intentional in how they raise their sons.

Other Books for Raising Boys:
Raising Your Spirited Child REV Ed Moms Raising Sons to Be Men Regret Free Parenting: Raise Good Kids and Know You're Doing It Right

Moms Raising Sons to be Men

NEW this week

Moms Raising Sons to be Men by Rhonda Stoppe

4 of 5 stars

Using Biblical encouragement and guidelines, the author explores the relationship between mother and son and addresses how to raise up your child to be a faithful, God-pleasing man.

As you parent your children, if your focus is on every turn of events, you will certainly be overwhelmed and afraid… focusing on God and resting in His character will bring peace.

This book presented down-to-earth, practical, and Biblically-based encouragement that I think many moms of sons need to hear.  As a mom of two sons, I was reminded and spurred on in my effort to be a mother who will emulate Christ and raise up young men who take their walk of faith seriously.  What’s more, most of the advice and admonition in this book can be applied to fathers as well, or moms raising daughters, though I did appreciate the focus on moms and sons, since that relationship is one that is incredibly important and unique.  In the first half of the book, the author uses examples of mothers in the Bible — Mary, Hannah, and Eunice, to name a few of the positive examples — to illustrate some basic guidelines.  Then in the second half, she breaks this down into seven important principles, giving examples from Scripture and from personal and secondhand experiences that make the points.

This book didn’t contain as many applications as I had expected; it’s really more about establishing the principles and guidelines than a “how-to” book on explaining what this would look like in each individual family unit.  As far as Biblical accuracy, my only complaint is that in the story of David, she makes some assumptions about David’s mother and their relationship where the Bible doesn’t address it; for all we know, David’s mother could have already passed away before the events recorded in the Bible.  Also, although I appreciated the appendix sections, the one on “How to Have a Relationship with Jesus” uses some theologically synergistic phraseology.

Overall: A Biblical look at what it means to raise up Christian sons

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