Tag Archives: Zondervan

Book Review: The God-First Life


God uses every medium to speak to us. In this case, The God-First Life: Uncomplicate Your Life, God’s Way by Stovall Weems hit me in part one when Stovall spoke about the urgent versus the important. You can read my commentary on it here.

Many of us can relate to this book. Everything, even the Superbowl, is put before God. Stovall makes a solid point in part one about putting your life in order.

“Once you decide to make God a priority in your life, the next decision is to make His family a priority” (Pg. 31).

The God First Life transitions into part two, New Family, where the topics range from how we fit into our new adopted family to how the church of Acts painted a picture of a true community. In Part three, New Life, Stovall talks about how discipleship was important in his walk with God. I especially loved how Stovall went into the definition of worship, what it is and what it is not. This was recently explained at a church meeting when someone talked about different music tastes. Stovall broke down the Lord’s prayer in his book to teach us how to pray; an expression of worship, not just a grocery list of wants and needs.

Part four is about our new freedom in Christ. He delves into Onesimus, a slave who ran away from his owner. Onesimus’ life was changed in an encounter with Paul. What is remarkable about this story is how Onesimus returned to his owner, bearing a letter from Paul, that asked the owner of the slave to set Onesimus free. Onesimus risked his life in returning to his owner. In those days, runaway slaves were put to death. Onesimus demonstrated strength as he trusted the Christ he recently came to know through Paul. In this chapter, Stovall teaches us how God can unchain our past. This book is perfect for the mature Christian as a refresher course and for the brand-new Christian who asks, “What now?”

I gave this book five stars. This book will be available on March 25.

Disclosure of material connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase this item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I might use personally and believe will add value to 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.” Book given by publisher to review.


Book Review: Bread and Wine (Part II)


A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

More than that, I am a bread-and-wine person. By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater—mystery and tradition and symbol. Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely. The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.” – Pg. 11, Bread and Wine, Shauna Niequist; Zondervan

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist makes you wish she lived next door to you.

Niequist writes a combination cookbook and blog-like chapters, filled with warmth and love for her friends, husband, and you and me. Included in most chapters are recipes. I have tried two so far–the Bacon-Wrapped Dates and Goat Cheese and the Blueberry Crisp.

This was before baking.

The Blueberry Crisp (pictured above) was altered. I used blueberries and strawberries. Also, nuts were omitted. Almond Meal costs nearly $10 a bag and so I substituted flour. The result wasn’t what I liked. It wasn’t sweet enough. So I grabbed a handful of brown sugar which made it perfect. I probably won’t make it again. Her other recipe was a risk.

IMG_3947 IMG_3948

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese (pictured above) was a surprising treat. My husband hated it. I couldn’t stop eating them. When you bite into them, you don’t really detect the dates. I used dried dates and not fresh. The dates added a light touch of sweetness to the savory. The goat cheese didn’t stand out strong, but became subtle as it baked. I used thick-cut gourmet apple-smoked bacon in this recipe. I tried to persuade my co-workers to try the recipe, but they were making all sorts of faces at me. My husband says, “Dessert and meat do not go together.” It’s another snack recipe that I don’t have to share, like avocados.

Overall, I loved this book. Like any recipe book, you will always have your winners and losers. Having only tried two recipes so far in this book (later in the week, I plan on making the goat-cheese biscuits), the Blueberry Crisp was definitely the loser. Most of her recipes are gluten-free or altered to fit her particular diet. I gave this book four stars.

*Book given by publisher to review. You can read Part I on the review here.

House Shame (Bread and Wine Review, Part 1)

apple crumb muffins

How many times have I said that I want people to stop over unannounced sometimes (I stress the word sometimes)? Not every time, but sometimes. I used to keep baked goods on hand and fresh tea bags in case someone wanted to stop by to talk, eat, and connect. My husband and I designed our kitchen to be like a coffee house, to encourage people to visit. What happened is reflected by author, Shauna Niequist in her book, Bread and Wine. There is so much here that I can relate to, including the writer part.

Shauna speaks about her friend who owns a beautiful home. Her friend collects hotel silver, presses her napkins, and Shauna has never seen her home, “less than sparkling. Ever.”


She came in and hugged me and sat on the couch in our kitchen, and we chatted about various things–her work, my work, our kids. And I tried not to absolutely freak out. I hope she didn’t notice that I practically developed a facial tic while we chatted.

This is the thing: it was an unannounced stopover. While I was writing. When I am writing at home, it’s as though I am a homebound invalid. No makeup, hair in a ratty bun just above my forehead. Crooked glasses, Aaron’s gym socks. I’m not suggesting I was just a little ragged around the edges; I was terrifying. My brother had given me a sailing shirt, one of those half-zips made of some sort of wicking fabric. I thought it would make me look a little sporty; it makes me look like a forty-eight-year-old athletic director at a small women’s college.

Let’s talk for a moment about my home during that fateful visit. First, the smell: my whole house smelled because I hadn’t done the dishes for days. Many, many days. There are reasons for this, of course, but when someone’s standing in your kitchen, it’s hard to explain the breakfast dishes on the coffee table, the popcorn bits all over the rug, and the smell–heavens, the smell!–of dirty dishes in the sink.

This is the shame double whammy–my body and my house. It was almost physically painful. But this is the thing: she’s my friend. And even though having her sit right in the middle of my house mess set off every shame alarm I have, I stayed there, perched on my couch, listening and talking.

Just the week before, she and I had been talking about the writing I was doing, and I was telling her that while I’m writing about food, what I’m finding is that a lot of it is about shame, about the ways we feel inferior, and because of those feelings, we hide. And of course, it’s all fun and games to talk about these those ideas, and then the next thing you know, you’re in your husband’s gym socks and your kitchen stinks. You’ve got a chance to practice what you’re preaching, and you’re breaking out in hives.

I felt within myself the desire to shoo her out, to hide, to keep her from the disorder that is my real, actual life some days. But I took a deep breath, and she sat there listening to me across my dirty coffee table, and we talked about community and family and authenticity. It’s easy to talk about it, and really, really hard sometimes to practice it.


Shauna really takes us to the heart of hospitality here. All of the above is what I have felt, done, and struggled with. My family might remember the times when I wanted a half an hour warning before they came over to hurry and hide the undone dishes, spray some air freshener into the air, and make sure I could treat my family with all the love of hospitality. I agree with Shauna for these next reasons why most of us do not entertain and come together in fellowship:


This is why the door stays closed for so many of us, literally and figuratively. One friend promises she’ll start having people over when they finally have money to remodel. Another says she’d be too nervous that people wouldn’t eat the food she made, so she never makes the invitation.

But it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t about performance. You’ll miss the richest moments in life–the sacred moments when we feel God’s grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love–if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door. I know it’s scary, but throw open the door anyway, even though someone might see you in your terribly ugly half-zip.

I don’t want to hear from the people whose house is always Home and Garden perfect (bless you for your beauty!), but from those of us, like me and my husband who struggle to keep the house clean and balance work and family in this crazy ride we call life. Be brave. Is your house always picture perfect? What do you think of Shauna’s words?


This is part one of my review of Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes, published by Zondervan. This excerpt was done with permission from page 108-109.

Grow Into Your True Identity


“In the book of judges, we read about a timid leader named Gideon. In our first impression, we see Gideon hiding in a winepress, afraid of the enemy, the Midianites. But an angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, the angel calls him a “mighty man of valor.” Gideon, empowered by God, grew into the true meaning of his name. God will do the same for you, but you must be willing to let go of the old name to grow into the fullness of your true identity.” – Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel (Zondervan, 2013 – Review later. Follow my progress on Goodreads)

Let go of the old name.

It reminds me of what I read called, An Open Letter to the Church from a Lesbian:

We do not ask for your acceptance of our sins any more than we accept yours. We simply ask for the same support, love, guidance, and most of all hope that is given to the rest of your congregation. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not what we shall be, but thank God, we are not what we were. Let us work together to see that we all arrive safely home.

We are not what we shall be, she wrote. Craig Groeschel in Altar Ego said, “You are not yet who you are supposed to be.” All believers sin in some way. Not to take sin lightly or to pass it off as common and acceptable, but we need to be willing to, “grow into the fullness of (our) true identity.” The writer of the letter encourages us to, “…work together to see that we all arrive safely home.”

The charge to change comes from the Holy Spirit in us, like Pinocchio’s conscious, telling us when we are doing wrong or right, giving direction in a complicated world. The harder we fight that voice the longer it takes for us to grow into our new name in Christ, but I’ve found we can incorrectly interpret our voice for the Holy Spirit’s; labeling ourselves; reacting to our circumstances, instead of responding; or wanting something so bad, it is our voice we follow instead, like choosing to eat the cheesecake when it’s the celery and humus we should devour. In a diet, accountability keeps us closet chocolate eaters in line, which is probably why many diet programs have councilors–someone to answer to.

I’ve often wondered at accountability’s absence in our culture, but then realized do we seek after only other people’s accountability? Do we yet realize when we ask for accountability that this prayer includes us, too?

I am not yet who I am meant to be and everyday my Father allows things to happen in my life, either due to a fault of mine or through the consequences of other people’s sins, to change me. In order to change, I must be willing to give up my old name and grow into my new identity in Christ. Some of those changes will always be painful, and has been over the years, but every year I change as people leave a bit of themselves behind in my life–something they did or said which amazed me, even if it was minor. Those are precious gifts from the Father that linger like expensive perfume in my soul; the scent of the Creator Himself.

How are you different since accepting Christ?

Every Body Matters Excerpt

Today I am quoting from page 98 of Every Body Matters. Weight loss and staying fit is a struggle, especially when you look at a single cookie and gain fifteen pounds! But when you get fit with God in mind, it is easier to stay disciplined.

You Are My Inspiration

A true friend isn’t always one who accepts us; sometimes a friend ‘s job is to inspire us. Henry Van Dyke, a Princeton professor and clergyman, once said that the mark of a true friend is someone who makes you want to be at your bst when you are with him.

Are you setting up a social base that inspires you to be the best man or woman you can be? Or is your group of friends and advisors giving up and giving in to the most common spiritual enemeis of our age? Does your doctor address your symptoms, or does she address your decisions? Is your pastor strong enough to occasionally confront your disobedience?

We think the most loving thign we can do is to make someone feel good about themselves, no matter what, and the worst thign we can do is make them feel bad about themselves, but what if ignoring the truth is allowing or even encouraging a condition to continue that may take a decade or more off our friend’s life? Is that love as the Bible defines it?

*Book given by Zondervan to review. See yesterday’s post to read my review of this excellent book.

Book Review: Every Body Matters

There are not many health books that pique my interest. Mostly, they seem to all talk about the same thing. Take this pill and lose thirty pounds with little effort. Do these particular exercises for a sexier body. Each book picks a flavor of the month of something to avoid because studies show it causes heart disease, or some such thing like that. “Every Body Matters” by Gary Thomas gives us a new perspective on obesity and getting healthy. It’s no longer about your clothes fitting.

“For me, a diet—something unusual or temporary—held little interest. Most people come to realize that diets can be enormously successful in the short term, but over the course of a couple of years, they almost always fail; for the most part, people gain back the weight they lose. You see this particularly when celebrities—even celebrity Christians—succeed in losing weight, write a book about their breakthrough, and then, two or three years later, look just like their pre-diet selves. Besides, most dieting books ask, “What does my body need?” While it is an entirely appropriate question, an even better one is: “What eating habits are healthiest for my soul?” (Pg. 52-53)

Thomas talks throughout the book of getting fit, not to look good, be healthy, or to fit into that little black dress, but to get healthy and fit to serve God. If we’re obese, how can we effectively serve God? And what does our weight say about our witness? Our obesity causes other problems that directly impact our motivation, finances, and our future. Thomas describes the purpose of working out on the back of his book, “The goal in this pursuit is not sculpting thinner or more athletic-looking bodies. The goal is to cultivate stronger, well-nourished bodies that are primed to become, in the words of the apostle Paul, ‘instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.’ By looking at your body as an instrument rather than an ornament, you’ll find new and compelling motivation to embrace the kind of active lifestyle that fortifies your soul.”

This book changed my mind about my weight loss. I wanted to fit into a bikini for the first time and look good. I didn’t want to ever become so big that I lose motivation to even live a healthy life or be able to love others in an active way. I am thrilled by what I learned in it. Now I have a different perspective about losing weight and my lifestyle change in eating habits. I rated this book five stars. For anyone looking to lose weight, return those diet pills, ask for a refund from Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers, and let’s get back to common-sense eating and regular work outs. There is no magic formula for permanent weight loss except hard work and good habits.

*Zondervan gave me a free copy of this book to review. Currently, there is a blog tour happening. Review links are posting at http://zondervan.typepad.com/zondervan/2011/11/every-body-matters-blog-tour-review-gary-thomas-book.html

April 2009 - by December was 220 lbs.
September, 2011

…And I am almost in a size 10 now!

Book Review: Leaving by Karen Kingsbury

“Life changes. People come and go, and seasons never last.” Pastor Mark Atteberry’s voice rang with passionate emotion. “Nothing stays the same. We can count on that. Good times come and go…finances are ever changing…our health will eventually fail us. And though death or decision, everyone we know will someday leave us.” He paused, his eyes searching the congregation. “All except for Jesus Christ. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. And because of that we have the strength to love with all our hearts…even unaware of what tomorrow brings.” He smiled. “That’s what I want you to take away from today’s service. Jesus stays.” – Pg. 25

Zondervan sent out requests for a blog tour for Karen Kingsbury’s “Leaving.” I immediately responded, but the answering email said my blog was not accepted. The package came in the mail anyway and I nearly jumped for joy. I circled it in my day planner and eagerly opened the book. I had not been following a lot of Kingsbury’s books, but was familiar with the Baxter Family Series. The book is part of the “Forever in Fiction” series.

“For a number of years now, I’ve had the privilege of offering Forever in Fiction as an auction item at fund-raisers across the country. So many of my more recent books have had Forever in Fiction characters that I hear from your reader friends how you look forward to this part of my novels, reading this section to see which characters in the coming pages are actually inspired by real-life people, and learning a little about their real stories. Then you enjoy looking for them in the coming pages, knowing with a smile how it must feel to their families, seeing their names Forever in Fiction.” – Pg. 19

There are two stories told in this book: Bailey Flanigan and Cody Coleman. They grew up together and fell in love, but Cody walked away without any explanation angering Bailey and her family. Cody’s mom resides in prison. He suffers from PTSD from the Iraq war and a lack of self-worth. Bailey’s family thought of him like family and his disappearance caused a lot of hurt. Life goes on though and we follow their stories until their lives collide in the end.

The writing is phenomenal and joyous. Warmth and love flow in the words and around the Baxter family tree. Their faith and struggles draw you into the story. I enjoyed reading the story, but the ending didn’t leave me satisfied. I felt this same way after watching the second installment of the original Star Wars. Kingsbury’s book series continues in June 2011 with the second phase of Bailey Flanigan’s life called Learning. Just like Star Wars, episode II, I have to read the second phase to find out how Bailey’s love life will evolve.

Zondervan gave me the book to review. All reviews are objective.