Alabaster Guided Meditations of Matthew and John

I’ve struggled to find bible study guides that aren’t so complex and super artsy. I feel those type of books lead me to lose focus and purpose in why I’m using them in the first place. I wanted something that points me to the Word and helps me to understand it and apply it to my life, without the glitz and social-media style glamour that I normally come across. That’s when I discovered this series.

Thank you Alabaster and InterVarsity Press for gifting me copies in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis: In this collaboration between Alabaster Co. and InterVarsity Press, the full text of the Gospel of Matthew and John is presented alongside beautiful full-color photographs and multiple guided meditations by Bible teacher, author, and spiritual director Jan Johnson. Carefully designed as a practical, study-focused version of Alabaster’s other bible books, the Alabaster Guided Meditations invite readers into deeper reflection by incorporating the church’s ancient lectio divina and visio divina traditions. Though the intersection of New Living Translation Bible passages, photography, thoughtfully designed layouts, and meditations, readers are invited to experience the Gospel of Matthew and John anew.

I have completely fallen in love with these study guides. They are simple, elegant, have the Word straight in front of you, and have a one page summary to reflect and respond on what you have learned in every few chapters. It’s perfect for someone who’s always on the go and may only be able to spend a few minutes of quiet time a day OR even for the person who is ready to have deep meaningful reflections on the Word with all the time to spare. I couldn’t imagine something better. It’s enriching and engaging without the chaos and pressure of trying to have the perfect quiet time with God.

5/5 Stars

What Does Your Soul Love by the Fadlings

Isn’t that the question everyone is asking? “What does your soul love?” If that’s not a deep question, then I don’t know what is. I honestly just had to get this book to read and find out!

Thank you InterVarsity Press for my gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis: What do you really want? What is your soul clinging to? What is getting in your way? In these pages Gem and Alan Fadling outline eight key questions that offer deep insight into how we experience soul change. These questions open the door to spiritual transformation. They help us unpack where we are stuck, where we are in pain, where we are afraid, and much more. They also reveal the path to joy and to the heart of God. Spiritual inventories and exercises will guide you, along with stories from Gem and Alan’s lives and their ministry together through Unhurried Living. “Embarking on a journey of transformation involves remaining awake to a deeper level of reality that is always present,” write the Fadlings. “Remaining on this journey requires a simpler, God focus. These eight questions about transformation can help us cultivate this kind of deeper awareness and soul focus. These paths help keep us on the journey of transformation. They keep us in the presence of the transforming One.” This practical, personal book offers a path to understanding what God wants to reveal in your soul.

Oh, this book was absolutely wonderful. I love the layout of the book – alternative questions to guide you through to the main question. Each question is a chapter that follows the themes of desire, resistance, vulnerability, truth, pain, fear, control, and joy in finding what your soul loves. Each chapter has summaries, exercises, and guided questions to help dive into the Word and shape your spiritual life. This book challenges you and encourages you to find purpose in your life – especially through the theology of God’s word and His works in your life. This is the type of book that you can come back to over and over and get something new out of it every time you read it. I highly recommend it!

5/5 Stars

Disability and the Way of Jesus by Bethany McKinney Fox

As some of you may know, I consider myself someone with a disability. It may be invisible, but it affects my daily life much more than most realize. Most people question how I could be a Christian

Thank you Intervarsity Press for gifting me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis: The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus offering physical healing. But even as churches today seek to follow the way of Jesus, people with disabilities all too often experience the very opposite of healing and life-giving community: exclusion, judgment, barriers. Misinterpretation and misapplication of biblical healing narratives can do great damage, yet those who take the Bible as authoritative mustn’t avoid these passages either. Bethany McKinney Fox believes that Christian communities are better off when people with disabilities are an integral part of our common life. In Disability and the Way of Jesus, she considers how the stories of Jesus’ healings can guide us toward mutual thriving. How did Jesus’ original audience understand his works of healing, and how should we relate to these texts today? After examining the healing narratives in their biblical and cultural contexts, Fox considers perspectives from medical doctors, disability scholars, and pastors to more fully understand what Jesus does as he heals and how he points the way for relationships with people with disabilities. Personal reflections from Christians with disabilities are featured throughout the book, which concludes with suggestions for concrete practices adaptable to a variety of church settings. Bridging biblical studies, ethics, and disability studies with the work of practitioners, Fox provides a unique resource that is both theologically grounded and winsomely practical. Disability and the Way of Jesus provides new lenses on holistic healing for scholars, laypeople, and church and parachurch leaders who care about welcoming all people as Jesus would.

I was afraid of going into this book and reading the one thing Christians talk about with disability. Even though my disability isn’t visible, multiple of my chronic illnesses are still listed as such. I have been told by more people than I want to admit that my sin relates to why I am still sick. People have even tried to use multiple bible verses to back up their case. This is not true! I will preach that until the day I die. God has taught me A LOT through my disabilities. I would not be the person I am today without them, nor would I have such a strong faith in the Lord! I’m proud to say this book does a great job at focusing on how we as people and we as the church need to love just as Jesus did. I loved how Bethany focused on different ways the church has interpreted the stories of healing in the bible and how she recognizes the insight each interpretation brings. I loved this thought-provoking book and highly recommend it!

5/5 Stars

Finding Holy in the Suburbs by Ashley Hales

We are currently on the search to buy a house. This book couldn’t have arrived at a better time!

Thank you Intervarsity Press for gifting me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis: Suburban life—including tract homes, strip malls, commuter culture—shapes our desires. More than half of Americans live in the suburbs. Ashley Hales writes that for many Christians, however: “The suburbs are ignored (‘Your place doesn’t matter, we’re all going to heaven anyway’), denigrated and demeaned (‘You’re selfish if you live in a suburb; you only care about your own safety and advancement’), or seen as a cop-out from a faithful Christian life (‘If you really loved God, you’d move to Africa or work in an impoverished area’). In everything from books to Hollywood jokes, the suburbs aren’t supposed to be good for our souls.” What does it look like to live a full Christian life in the suburbs? Suburbs reflect our good, God-given desire for a place to call home. And suburbs also reflect our own brokenness. This book is an invitation to look deeply into your soul as a suburbanite and discover what it means to live holy there.

I spend way too much of my time looking for the perfect house – is the kitchen updated? Are the bedrooms the right size? I get caught in the materialistic spiral of our daily lifestyle and completely become blind to the more important things in a home. Being with family and friends, loving on them, showing kindness and hospitality, making sure others and myself know that we are valued no matter where we end up – those are the kinds of things that are important. Forget about finding how close Target is to my future house, I want to focus on the excitement of hosting board game nights with new friends! I have this book to thank for putting this crazy time in my life into perspective.  Whether you are looking for a house or live in the suburbs now, this book is for you.

5/5 Stars

The Gift of Wonder by Christine Aroney-Sine

Going through a tough time in life, I tend to forget the joy in life. That joy can be seen through many different aspects, but a time like this is where I need a good reminder.

Thank you Intervarsity Press for my gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis: I choose to breathe in the wonder of God’s eternal love, And dance to the rhythm of eternal breath, Listening to the whispers calling me to slow down and take notice. I choose to absorb the beauty of the divine presence, to delight in the Creator of all things and relish the delight God takes in me. Can you imagine a God who dances with shouts of joy, laughs when you laugh, loves to play, enjoys life, and invites us to join the fun? Like many of us, Christine Sine had spent many years with an image of God who was “a very serious, workaholic type of God.” And even when her theology told her this was not true, she struggled to live into this new way of thinking. What she needed was a childlike spirituality. In this book, Christine Sine, online host of the Godspace community, invites us to pay attention to childlike characteristics that have the power to reshape us. Each chapter addresses a childlike characteristic to embrace, including delight, playfulness, imagination, awe and wonder, love of nature, the ability to live in the present, and much more. Fresh spiritual practices that engage all our senses help us live a new spiritual life that embraces the wonder and joy that God intends for us. 

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Scientist because I find perfection and beauty in nature. Maybe that’s the enneagram one in me as well. Because of my perfectionism, I seem to forget the beauty of creativity. I know it’s within me, but I don’t spend time to acknowledge it. This book really helped me with that. It was the perfect reminder that God has given us each the gift of creativity in one form or another and we can find such joy when we actually use it. Because of this book, I’ve been able to go out this summer with this childlike notion to HAVE FUN and BE ADVENTUROUS because God delights in that as well! What a refreshing read!

5/5 Stars

Sensible Shoes Book Studies by Sharon Garlough Brown

The Sensible Shoes series is quite a big deal in the christian world. These books have been a great resource for women all over the globe in growing in their faith. The latest edition to this series is the bible study guide companions and I’m so excited for them. This review will focus most on them as they are new to the publishing world!

Thank you InterVarsity Press for gifting me copies in exchange for my honest review.

Let me start by giving a quick rundown of what this series is about: These books talk about the life journeys of Hannah, Meg, Mara and Charissa as they grow in “friendship, spiritual truths, and a deeper life with God.” These women start out as four strangers who connect on a level they could never imagine before.

I have taken some time to dive into these books and work through the study guides. They are comprehensive and thorough in the best way possible. Each study guide is mirrored after the book with the same name. The study guides have a 5-day week focus with reflective questions, bible readings, and prayer. It’s exactly what I would want in a bible study. These books are an excellent companion to the original books as it pushes you to think critically about your friendships and spiritual life. I think the books themselves had you contemplating these thoughts, but the study guides really challenge you to see how they really apply to your life and how you can change and grow for the better. I’ve been really excited to share these with the women in my church group. I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t get something beneficial out of any of these studies. They’re eye-opening and come highly recommended!

Brave Souls by Belinda Bauman

Do you feel like our world is falling apart? I think that’s a rhetorical question…we seem to realize that now more than ever. What can we do to make a difference in this living so far apart (or maybe even right next door) from people that may need our love the most? Can sympathy really save us? But…what about empathy?

Thank you InterVarsity Press for gifting me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Belinda Bauman was living a comfortable life as a wife, mother, and nonprofit leader—but her soul was checked out. Then she met Esperance. An assault survivor living in one of the poorest, most dangerous countries in the world, Esperance and other Congolese women shared their harrowing stories with Belinda. Their vulnerability set Belinda on a path of embracing empathy. If Esperance could love in the face of so much pain, maybe there is hope for the world too. From the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to the borders of war-torn Syria, Belinda takes readers along her journey to empathy. With cutting-edge neuroscience, biblical parables, and stories of brave women from across the globe, she offers readers direction for seeing others’ perspectives, listening well, and redeeming conflict. She casts a vision for lives and communities transformed by everyday Christians practicing empathy as a spiritual discipline. 

I wish I could’ve been with Belinda during her journey. Thankfully, she has done such an amazing job at making me feel like I was right there with her. We get so caught up in our daily routines that we forget what’s really going on in other’s lives. Maybe you are aware. Maybe you’re struggling just the same now. This book is going to challenge you no matter where you are in your walk. I get so caught up in my sympathy for others that I never realized how far empathy can go. Did you know that 75% of US college students cared less about others based on the same study done 30 years ago? Belinda shares that empathy is “leaning into the feelings of others”. That’s deep! This book is an eye-opening experiencing at how to change not only your perspective, but your way of life on how to love on others and reshape the world around us.

2019 Lent Resources

Lent season is upon us! I have spent hours leading up to lent to try and figure out what to eliminate. My husband and I have gone back and forth on multiple things. The one thing that we can agree on is to add more of Christ in our life. If we come to a conclusion of something to “get rid of”, then it’s great. But, my focus is currently stepping into the Word and talking about it all day long, exposing God’s love to my family. I have a few resources that I have been graciously gifted by InterVarsity press that I want to share with you in hopes that it may encourage you to do the same. Be sure to comment and share with me one of your favorite resources for Lent!

The Art of Lent by Sister Wendy Beckett:

This one is probably my favorite resource this year (and what I will be using for many years to come)! This is a small book that provides a classic or modern painting a day with a themed written passage. The book is set-up into six weeks focusing on Silence, Contemplation, Peace, Joy, Confidence, and Love. The selected art is among some of my favorite paintings. The passages are filled with biblical truth and honesty. They are short passages that help you to contemplate and focus on God throughout the day. I read these to my family every morning at breakfast. Even my toddler gets a lot out of this: she adores the paintings and we talk about them all day. This is a must-have for the lent season. 5/5 Stars

Lent Talks: A Collection of Broadcasts from BBC Radio 4

I love podcasts and national radio programs. I appreciate anything from BBC Radio. This little book has a large mix of previous radio recordings that focus on the season of lent. The main question throughout is: What does lent mean to you? What I like about this book is that it is also set up in weekly themes, but you can really pick and choose what to read as it pertains to you. I will admit that I am not theologically sound when it comes to the bible. I can’t recite annotations in passages or speak with critique on certain translations. Some of these radio broadcast felt like they went a little over my head because of that. I couldn’t relate to all of them, but they all provided me with superb reflection questions and a new light on the events leading up to Easter. I learned quite a lot. I would love a playlist that you could access to go along with this book. 3.5/5 Stars

Messy Easter by Jane Leadbetter

This book is advertised as a church tool, helping Sunday School teachers teach the season of lent and Easter to children through crafts, worship, and even sharing a meal. I help with the littlest of children at church and have one at home myself. I’ve been using this resource in numerous ways. The hands-on activities has helped engage my child and brought on spiritual conversations that foster the love of Christ in church and inside my home. Messy Cream Eggs was one of our favorite arts-and-crafts to do with the kids. The reading comes with a how-to, as well as stories to share with the kids about how the activity relates to Easter. I will be using this every year! I love it! 5/5 Stars

Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram

I really hadn’t dove into the Enneagram way of life until recently. I blame my friends for that one (saying that in the bests way possible). Honestly, it’s one of the most eye-opening personality tests I’ve taken to truly see what makes you unique. Social media has really taken this by a storm. There are so many accounts and teachings about what to do with your “number”, but there really aren’t many great resources on how to use the Enneagram spiritually. I think I’ve found the solution to this!

This book is RICH. I’ve been pouring of this book for days, devouring the information bit by bit as it has challenged me in the best ways possible. You will want to come at this book knowing something about your enneagram number (I personally am a nine). The authors really do a wonderful job at analyzing what we think of ourselves, analyzing things that may harm us, and actions we need to take to focus our shift on viewing life in a positive light. The book is set up in three parts based upon three groupings of the enneagram numbers: the gut, the heart, and the head. Then, each chapter focuses on a specific number in one of those triads. The chapters include a table that uses words to show you “I am”…. and “I am not”…, thoughts on a true self and a false self, healing childhood hurts, discernment, and spiritual rhythms to get into. This is a must-have tool in your library for working with your enneagram and how it relates to your spiritual health. Like I said previously, it’s deep, so you will want to come back for more, over and over again, as you grow in faith and as a person. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you InterVarsity Press for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

5/5 Stars