Tag Archives: Christian living

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.

Pray

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

Study

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.

Obey

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.

Tweetables

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.

Save $2 on Ebook Pre-orders

A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions is finally available for pre-order, and now’s the time to save for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks etc.

Preorder sale details for A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions, by Janet Sketchley #ebook #sale #kindle #kobo #nook #ibooks Ends May 30, 2017

Right now, you can get an ebook copy for $2.99 USD / $3.99 Canadian (other international pricing is based on the US price). After May 30 (release date) the price will go up to $4.99 USD / $5.99 CAD.

The print book will be releasing on May 30 as well, for a list price of $14.99 USD. Amazon doesn’t let me specify a Canadian price, so it’ll be whatever the exchange rate dictates.

Details and buy links are on my A Year of Tenacity page.

Updating these devotionals from my blog for the book has been a true blessing for me. It was like God was whispering in my ear, “See this? Remember… and learn it deeper.” We never really “arrive,” do we?

As we continue learning, I’m heading back to work on my Green Dory Inn mystery series. I’ve been missing my imaginary friends!

Review: The Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker

The Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker | #Christianliving #meditations #Christianity #faithThe Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker (Outlaw Studios, 2015)

Most readers know Ted Dekker for his Christian fiction, but The Forgotten Way is a collection of 21 non-fiction meditations on “The path of Yeshua for power and peace in this life.”

With detailed reliance on Scripture, the author invites readers to discover and believe the Truth (about God and ourselves), the Life, and the Way. The readings focus on who God is, how He sees us, and how we can begin to believe His truth about ourselves instead of clinging to our temporal, human perspective. Beginning to believe this helps us live as His beloved children in this world without investing our identity solely in the world. This liberates us from a great deal of fear.

Readers are well advised to take time to read every Scripture end-note as flagged in the text, since they often have additional insights attached. There is a companion study guide, which includes the same Scriptures and a few application questions, but it’s more useful to see these quotations and notes in context of the specific portions of the meditations to which they refer.

The Forgotten Way stretched my thinking, and while I gained much, I’ll be following the author’s closing advice to go back and read the book again for a deeper understanding. There were a few minor points I didn’t entirely agree with, but that may be due to the particular words used. A second reading may help.

I did read carefully, and prayerfully, alert for anything that would lead me astray (although having heard Ted Dekker speak, I already respected him as one who seeks truth). Although the concepts are expressed in a different way than I was used to, there was no sense of treading dangerously. Instead, key points matched what I’d heard stated other ways by other teachers.

The individual study bundle comes with brief audio clips expanding on each day’s meditation, plus a few longer podcasts addressing key topics. I saved the longer ones for the end and haven’t yet listened to them.

The Forgotten Way is available for individual or group study. For more details or a taste of the contents, see theforgottenway.com/welcome. It’s not available in stores, and for those shopping outside the US, the shipping is quite expensive. I opted for the study pack, and while I didn’t feel the study guide book added a lot to the experience, I’ve valued the audio resources, and I’d recommend going for the study pack if possible.

Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of intense Christian fiction and more recently, historical fiction from the time of Christ. For more about the author, visit teddekker.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Cover Reveal: A Year of Tenacity

My new devotional book releases this month, and it’s time to share the cover!

A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions #devotional #ChristianlivingYou may notice a similarity to the background of my website. This image of a wild rose growing in a crack in a huge boulder speaks to me of perseverance and… tenacity! Trivia point: the photo was taken at Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, home of a famous lighthouse, numerous tourist attractions, and a colony of extremely large rocks.

I’ll be adding more details to the book page soon, including the release date and pre-order options.

For now, here’s what the back cover says:

365 Daily Devotions to Warm Your Spirit and Encourage Your Heart

“Tenacity” is persistence. Holding on. Not giving up. It’s a quality we need as Christians, and the beautiful thing we discover as we spend time with the Lord is the depth of His tenacity toward us. We may falter, but His hold is sure, His love unshakable, and His grace without limit.

Like the wild rose thrives with its roots anchored in the cleft in the rock, we find life and security when we abide in our Rock.

A Year of Tenacity is a compilation of the best devotionals from the author’s blog, “Tenacity,” freshly updated for this book. Some are short, others fill a page, but each of these conversational-style insights and heart-sharing moments will bless and inspire.

Entries are numbered by day, not by date, so readers aren’t tied to a calendar year and don’t have to play catch-up if they miss a few days.

Honest, engaging, and uplifting, these devotionals are ideal for both long-time Christians and those just finding their way.