Tag Archives: Christian living

Review: The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, by Stormie Omartian

The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, by Stormie Omartian #Christianliving #prayerThe Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, by Stormie Omartian (Harvest House Publishers, 2014 Updated Edition)

Because parenting doesn’t end when the nest is empty – or filled with adult offspring – the call to pray for our children doesn’t end. The specifics of those prayers, however, may be quite different from how we may have prayed when they were younger.

In The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, Stormie Omartian highlights specific areas to target in prayer. In each case, as well as discussing the issue and offering insights, she gives a sample, Scripture-based prayer that parents can adjust to suit their particular situation.

I found it encouraging that before even tackling prayer for the children, the book addresses the parent’s needs, including straightforward talk on the importance of forgiving ourselves, the child’s other parent, and anyone else who may have contributed to harm in the past. This doesn’t absolve anyone of guilt, but it recognizes that we’re human and that what’s in the past can’t be changed but that it’ll hold us back if we can’t let go of it.

Topics for prayer include revelation and insight, freedom and healing, purpose, protection, relationships, attitudes, resisting temptation, work and finances, and more. This updated edition includes a chapter on prayer that adult children who believe in God will recognize their need for Him as part of their daily lives.

This is a book to pray through again and again, whether your adult children are securely planted or struggling. The wealth of Scripture verses will be good ones to memorize and add to your prayers.

Stormie Omartian is the author of The Power of Praying series. For more about the author, her books, and her prayer ministry, or to share a prayer request, visit stormieomartian.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Keep an Eye Out (Guest Post)

Keep an Eye Out

By Steph Beth Nickel

Keep an eye out … it’s applicable advice in many areas of life.

This past week, when seeking to decide which two women to write about for my “Just Like Us” series of devotionals for HopeStreamRadio, the answer came in two different ways. I wrote about Eve because she was mentioned in the New Testament reading I did one day as part of my quiet time. I also wrote about Hannah. I had subscribed to a series of online devotionals. That particular morning the focus was on Hannah. While I approached my piece from a completely different perspective, I loved that I had kept an eye out.

And speaking of writing … You may have heard the terms “plotters” and “pantsers.” Plotters create a clear outline before they begin fleshing out their story. Some do so in extreme detail. Pantsers, on the other hand, sit down to write and see where their thoughts take them. Plotters must keep an eye out for good ideas they may not have considered at first, ideas that may make their work better. Pantsers must keep an eye out to see where their writing takes them but also to make sure that they don’t wander aimlessly—although that can be fun for a first draft.

This sounds a lot like life to me.

I’m reminded of Proverbs 16:9, which says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (ESV).

There are plenty of scripture passages that indicate it is wise to plan for the future, that we aren’t simply to “go with the flow,” as it were.

However …

We all know that life often throws us curve balls we weren’t expecting, even if we were keeping an eye out for them. The problem with focusing too intently is that we are likely to get preoccupied with the What Ifs that never come to pass.

We must prayerfully make our plans and plot our course. But we must always be mindful of what it says in Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV).

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways." Isaiah 55:8, ESV

In one sense we plot the course of our life, but in another, we are all pantsers. We must keep an eye out for what God is doing, for what He desires to accomplish in and through us. Along the path we will hit potholes, detours, forks in the road, and insurmountable obstacles. Thankfully, none of this takes Him by surprise.

And the path He leads us on will bring Him glory and will bless us and others. How that will happen is sometimes inconceivable, but let’s commit to keeping an eye out so we can recognize His fingerprints, which are, indeed, all over our life.


In one sense we plot the course of our life, but in another, we are all pantsers. (Click to tweet)

Let’s keep an eye out so we can recognize God’s fingerprints all over our life. (Click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Review: You Are What You Love, by James K. A. Smith

You Are What You Love, by James K A SmithYou Are What You Love, by James K. A. Smith (Brazos Press, 2016)

This book is a call to “worship well. Because you are what you love. And you worship what you love. And you might not love what you think. Which raises an important question. Let’s dare to ask it.” [page xii]

With fresh, engaging language, the author explores the habits in our culture, in our lives, in our churches – especially churches which practice some form of liturgy. He points to the dichotomy between the way we intend to live, honouring to God and growing nearer to Him, and the way we often live instead, with habits and attitudes we don’t even know we’re carrying.

He asserts that we’re not just “thinking things” – we’re influenced by our desires and our loves. From that perspective, it’s vital that Christians identify what we most deeply value so that we can set our hearts on God. Calibrating our hearts to focus on God, James Smith says, takes practice. Habit is part of this practice.

For those in liturgical churches, a significant part of that practice is found in the creeds and prayers that have been unconsciously absorbed and now shape the believers’ worldviews. No matter what a believer’s background, the book encourages us to identify and evaluate the rituals in our lives and in our households, with a view to eliminating some and creating others that will lead to healthier and more worshipful spiritual lives.

I don’t come from a liturgical background, and I know that formality can often become rote and ignored, but this book helped me see more of the value of internalizing the tenets of Christianity through the creeds and prayers – and of course through Scripture memorization, which we can all work at on our own.

At a first read, I was disappointed, because the book called to a felt need in my life, to worship deeper and more truly, and I felt it raised the issue but didn’t give a solution. Discussion with friends helped me see that the solution is present all the way through the book instead of in a concluding summary like I had expected. Thus, it takes more work to find and apply, but that’s life. An author handing out a pat and easy, formulaic take-away would not be truly helping readers.

The take-away is this: a challenge to become aware of the influences on our hearts, and to take corrective action as necessary to develop new habits of the heart and spirit. In beginning to do this, I’m seeing small but healthy changes in my life, and I believe that new habits are forming.

If you’ve read You Are What You Love, take a look at the discussion questions, which include brief videos from the author as well as printed questions. I had already marked this as a book to re-read and allow to steep in my understanding, and this will definitely be an asset.

Award-winning author James K. A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College, Michigan. For more about the author and his work, visit jameskasmith.com. You Are What You Love received the 2017 Grace Irwin Award, Canada’s largest literary prize for a book written by a Christian author.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman

A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. FreemanA Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman (Revell, 2013)

At first glance, you might think a book subtitled “Uncover the art you were made to live” was only for the painters, writers, sculptors etc. But it’s for anyone who wants their life to reveal God in “a million little ways.”

It’s about being close to Him, trusting that He is enough when we aren’t (and accepting that we really aren’t enough no matter how badly we want to be). It’s about discovering those things that give us joy and please Him (not running off to satisfy selfishness, but learning to recognize and embrace the gifts He’s given us to use in our lives).

This is a book about identity, calling us image-bearers of the God who created us and who calls us to reveal Him in our lives. What we do is to flow from who we are in Him.

Our gifts may be what’s traditionally labelled art, but they may also be preparing a meal, faithfully keeping a home, parenting our children. Waiting tables or fixing teeth. Part of the way we “live our art” is by being present in the moment instead of mentally jumping ahead to the next thing.

With honesty and transparency, the author shares from personal experience as she’s learning to apply these truths. As well as our identity and calling in Christ, she addresses topics like self-focus, fear of critics, and the anxiety of trying to manage future outcomes.

My copy of A Million Little Ways has plenty of page markers highlighting personally-relevant lines, and as always I’ve been blessed by the author’s message.

Emily P. Freeman’s website describes her ministry as “creating space for your soul to breathe so you can walk in step with your calling.” She offers a free 7-day ebook, 7 Little Ways to Live Art, and has an audiobook of daily devotions as well as other print books, plus a blog and podcast. For more about the author, visit http://emilypfreeman.com/.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Life’s Perplexities (Guest Post)

Life’s Perplexities

by Steph Beth Nickel

I originally wrote this devotional for HopeStreamRadio, but it may encourage you as well. Be blessed!

Have you ever been disappointed by a brother or sister in Christ?

Have you ever prayed a prayer that God hasn’t answered—at least not as you wanted Him to?

Have you ever read a portion of His Word that left you shaking your head?

It’s fairly easy to understand why others disappoint us from time to time. After all, they are only human—just like we are. When a fellow Christian—or anyone really—lets us down, we must extend forgiveness. This isn’t always easy, but God will give us the desire and wherewithal to do so. We need only ask.

And that brings us to the matter of prayer.

We stand on promises like the following:

Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (ESV)

Do I believe the promises in these verses? I do. Do I always see them come to pass exactly as I hope? Definitely not. Many, if not most, of you would say the same thing.

I know there are those who say God always answers. Sometimes He says, “Yes.” Sometimes He says, “No.” Sometimes He says, “Later.” I, however, think this is an oversimplification.

When He says, “Yes,” do we remember to thank Him? I do—sometimes.

When He says, “No” or “Later,” we must remain prayerful. Is there something He wants us to do or a spiritual lesson He wants to teach us? Is He increasing our ability to walk in faith despite disappointment and heartache? Is He working for our good and the good of others—even though we don’t see it at the time?

As I mentioned, I think wrestling with these questions and seeking answers that are true to His Word and His nature are sometimes part of the process.

But again, we must not question His goodness, His holiness, His righteousness. Although we can’t always understand what’s going on, it doesn’t mean the Lord’s character has changed. In fact, it never has and it never will.

We can count on Him to fulfill every one of His promises—but not necessarily as we expect or would like.

No matter what the outcome, we must remain prayerful.

And when it comes to portions of the Scriptures we simply can’t understand, portions that may cause us to bristle and squirm, we must learn to “rightly handle the word of truth,” as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV).

Here are a few things we can do:

In the face of life's perplexities... Pray. Study. Obey.


We can—and should—pray before we open the Word, asking the Lord to help us understand and apply what we read.


When we come to a difficult portion, instead of skipping over it or deciding it must mean something other than what it seems to mean, we should commit to studying it further. Keeping a separate journal where we keep notes on these portions of the Scriptures could benefit not only us but also others who are struggling with the same passages. We must refuse to put our Bible on the shelf, deciding we’ll never truly understand it anyway.


We must seek, with God’s enabling, to apply the portions of His Word that are clear.

Philippians 3:12-16 is a wonderful and challenging passage:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (ESV).

In the face of all these perplexities, we must continue to pray, confident that in His time and in His way, He will work all things out for our good, as He promises in Romans 8:28.

Tweetable: In the face of life’s perplexities… Pray. Study. Obey. [Click to tweet]

[English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Review: Prayer Warrior, by Stormie Omartian

Prayer Warrior, by Stormie OmartianPrayer Warrior, by Stormie Omartian (Harvest House, 2013)

The premise of this book is that if you belong to Jesus, prayer needs to be part of your life. And if you find yourself praying for specific concerns, you’re probably a prayer warrior.

Consider this a training manual. Building on a foundation of knowing the trustworthy character of God, chapters look at the purpose of prayer, regular “training,” and the importance of understanding our spiritual weapons and how to use them. Specific, practical Scriptures are given, many of which I’ve added to my list to memorize.

I appreciate the author’s perspective that simply being a Christian engages us in warfare, so we’re better off to learn how to pray. Avoidance doesn’t take us or our families out of danger from spiritual attack; it just lowers our guard.

Each chapter of Prayer Warrior finishes with a prayer of application, and the final chapter contains specific sample prayers for a variety of concerns, including family members, health, and global issues.

The prayers in the last chapter are invaluable resources for readers beginning to tackle weighty concerns. They’re easy to personalize by inserting the name(s) and details that have prompted the prayer, and they’re chock-full of appropriate Scriptures.

Speaking God’s Word back to Him is powerful, and it also reinforces the pray-er’s faith. These sample prayers will be helpful in developing our own prayers, and they’ve challenged me to be more alert in my Bible-reading time for verses I’ll want to memorize and/or incorporate in intercession.

Overall I found the writing a bit stilted in the book, and repetitious in places (the author is also a speaker, and speakers need to repeat at times for emphasis), but the content is very helpful and has greatly impacted my prayer life.

Definitely a keeper, and I’d like to upgrade my digital copy for a print one.

Stormie Omartian is known for her books on prayer, including The Power of a Praying… series and study materials. To supplement the material in Prayer Warrior, she’s written a companion study guide and a free 7-day devotional ebook. For more about the author, her books, and her prayer ministry, or to share a prayer request, visit stormieomartian.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: GraceLaced, by Ruth Chou Simons

GraceLaced, by Ruth Chou Simons | daily devotionals, artwork, gift bookGraceLaced, by Ruth Chou Simons (Harvest House Publishers, 2017)

We tend to experience life in seasons, not necessarily in order, and often repeating. Whether you find yourself in winter, spring, summer, or fall, this beautiful interactive devotional book will minister to your spirit.

The gentle artwork and photography quiets the soul and invites readers to slow down, drop their defenses, and be open to receive God’s Word. Many of the Scriptures are familiar, well-loved passages.

Some verses are printed in text, others are hand-lettered as art, and others are set out for readers to pursue in their own Bibles. Many verses are ones I’ve loved over the years, and others I’d like to go back and memorize to keep with me.

Each day’s devotional finishes with a prompt for reader response: to identify a person to encourage, a fear to release, blessings to give thanks for, etc. Readers may want to have a journal handy, because this book is too pretty to write in although the spaces are there.

I had the privilege of reviewing this hard-cover book (no ebook option, that I can see), and it’s beautiful, with thick, glossy pages, suitable for display on your coffee table (provided you’ve written your personal responses elsewhere!). The one thing it lacks is an attached satin ribbon bookmark.

I do confess being disappointed to see the book was printed in China, since the publisher is North American. It’s still very expensive, with $29.99 USD ($41.99 CAD) list price, but, that said, it would make a lovely gift for yourself or for a special loved one.

The book has just released (September 2017) and at the moment, Amazon has a significant discount: $14.99 USD / $27.41 CAD. As much as I prefer to advocate supporting local bookstores, this might be a time for online shopping. Check your prices first. (Canadians, I see Chapters-Indigo has it for a few cents more, but with free shipping…)

GraceLaced is the sort of book a person can revisit again and again, long after the first 30-day devotional journey is complete. Related products are a journal and 17-month planner.

As well as being a writer, Ruth Chou Simons is an artist, speaker, and entrepreneur. Her website is at gracelaced.com, where you can learn more about her, read her blog, and perhaps even find your favourite piece of artwork from the GraceLaced book available for sale.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Harvest House Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Harvest House.]

Unfailing (Unlimited) Love

Have you ever personalized a Bible verse as your own?

Some verses we speak back to God in prayer, and others we cling to as promises.

In an effort to fill my mind and spirit with good things, I’m working to memorize Scripture verses. I have them on note cards that I see in the morning… (to read the rest of this post, click here. It was a guest post I shared on Janice L. Dick’s website.)

Review: Serving Up God, by Colin MacDougall

Serving Up God: My Workplace as Ministry, by Colin MacDougall #bookreview #ChristianlivingServing Up God, by Colin MacDougall (WestBow Press, 2017)

This book is subtitled “My Workplace as Ministry,” and its memoir-style vignettes illustrate author Colin MacDougall’s premise that “Your purpose in life, simply put, is to live Christ where you are” [page xi].

With candour and gentle humour, chapters explore various facets of work and relationships: with customers, co-workers, and employees. It’s clear that the author doesn’t consider himself to have achieved perfection. As he “serves up God” in his business, as much as that impacts those around him, they in turn impact him – for the better.

Since most Christians spend far more time in the marketplace than in faith-based settings, books like this are a valuable resource on how to avoid a Monday morning disconnect from the Sunday morning worship.

The book begins with the idea that work is a gift given by God to be given back in worship, and that doing so involves seeing those around us as children of God: not judging, not trying to push people into their final identity as mature believers, but doing our best to help them move one step closer to God.

Employers and managers are encouraged to take time to know and pray for the employees in their charge, to lead by example, and to discipline fairly and always with the goal of helping employees reach their potential. Jesus is cited as the ultimate example of how to be a leader, as well as how to be a follower (in how He followed God the Father).

Favourite lines:

No matter how big or how small you may feel your job is, do it for the glory of God, and who knows the lives you will be able to impact. [page 6]

It’s important for me to recognize that, although I refer to my workplace as my ministry, it is really God’s ministry. I am quite fortunate to be along for the ride. [page 32]

This book is only 110 pages, but it’s filled with wisdom for Christians who want to live their faith on the job. Some sections apply specifically to managers/owners, but employees will find insights for co-worker and customer relationships as well.

Colin MacDougall has an extensive background in management, and at present he and his wife, Joanne, own a thriving cheesecake restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia, called Sweet Hereafter. Serving Up God is his first book. For more about the author and his book, visit servingupgod.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Treasured Release (Guest Post)

Treasured Release

by Steph Beth Nickel

This post was first written for Stephanie’s “Hunting Treasure” series of devotionals, which can be read (and heard) at HopeStreamRadio.

Do you have things or do things have you?

My mother-in-law was a perfect example of the former but definitely not the latter. After moving into a nursing home and before selling the house that had been her home for decades, Dave’s mom took one last look around.

My mother-in-law’s observation? “There’s nothing here for me anymore.”

Many people place great sentimental value on material possessions, even those not worth much monetarily. But not Dave’s mom.

Oh to hold things with such an open-handed grasp!

We’re in the process of decluttering our home, getting rid of those things we’re not using. The progress is slow going, but it’s very rewarding. We’re making room not only in our home but also in our heart and mind.

However, I have a not-so-secret stash. You won’t find it in the spare room or the basement, not even on my bookshelves. But if you knew where to look in cyberspace, you would be amazed—but not necessarily in a good way.

There is no way one person can possibly get through all the online course material I have stored up … at least not if that person wants to actually implement any of what she’s learning. I’m an e-course addict.

And what does the virtual weight of all these courses do to me?

It preoccupies my thoughts. It distracts me from my already overflowing To Do list. And, worst of all, it keeps me from focusing on that heavenly treasure I very much desire to store up. The treasure mentioned in Matthew 6:19-21.

Outstretched hand, with text: Hold things with open hands.

[image: Pixabay]

What are you clutching?

Money? Possessions? Reputation? Career? Relationships?

When my kids were little, we watched a Berenstain Bear video over and over and over. The one thing that has stuck with me over all these years is the song Sister Bear sang, “I Want It All.”

And although there are many things I’m quite content to do without, I am still eager to jump at almost every opportunity that sounds interesting. And even though I know I can never complete all the online courses—or read all those books on my aforementioned bookshelves—I’m still far too tight-fisted.

In a way, I want it all. How about you?

I can’t help but think of Jesus’s disciples.

In Matthew 4:18-19, we read that the Lord commanded Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, two fishermen, to follow Him, promising to make them fishers of men.

Their response?

In verse 20, it says, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (ESV*). (emphasis mine)

In the next verse, we read that Jesus also called James and John to follow Him.

Their response is recorded in verse 22. “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (ESV). Note the word immediately in this verse as well.

In Mark 2, Jesus came upon a tax collector named Levi. In verse 14 we read that Jesus simply said, “Follow me” (ESV).

And without apparent hesitation, Levi “rose and followed him” (ESV).

These men and others didn’t cling to their careers, what was familiar, their apparent source of security. Instead, they left it all behind to follow One they barely knew.

The things I cling to seem silly in light of the disciples’ example.

Maybe it’s time for some treasured release.

How about you? Are there things holding you back from following the Lord and His teachings as revealed in the Scriptures? Are you willing to leave them behind? Are you at least willing to be made willing?

Does this mean He wants you to turn your back on your job, your material possessions, your online courses? Not necessarily.

But if we’re so busy storing up treasure on Earth, we just may be missing out on what’s most important.


What are you clinging to? (click to tweet this)

Do you have things or do they have you? (click to tweet this)

Hold things with open hands. (click to tweet this)

*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.