Monday, November 30, 2009

I Have Some Great Books to Recommend for the Holidays

I have some great books to recommend for the holidays; sadly, I don't have any free copies to share, but they're worth buying.

First, for the adults in your life: Treasured by Leigh McLeroy. This is a great little book which seeks to help you understand the nature of God by the "things He treasures". The author asks you to imagine opening a "treasure chest" of God. Inside the chest you find all kinds of items that give you insight into who He is and what He values. She then links each item to the Bible story where it originated and explains what each "treasured keepsake" reveals about the nature of God.

When I first read the introduction of this book, I was afraid it was going to be hokey and unoriginal. I was surprised to find it fairly insightful -- the author has a knack for looking at the most familiar Bible stories and pointing out something unique, causing you to think about something in a slightly different way than you previously did. I strongly recommend this book. Although it doesn't claim to be a devotional as that term is used, I thought it worked well as a devotional. The stories are long enough to be substantial, but short enough to get through quickly -- and they kernel of insight gave me something to think and pray about all day.

You can buy it here:

Below is the Summary from the publisher:

In Treasured, Leigh McLeroy considers tangible reminders of God’s active presence and guides readers in discovering evidence in their own lives of his attentive love.

“The idea for the book came from a cigar box filled with odds and ends of my grandfather’s life that arrived a few months after his death. Sifting through the objects in the box, I experienced him in a fresh new way. This made me wonder what treasures might be tucked away in Scripture that could frame God for me in an equally intimate, tangible way. This process also helped me uncover my own “treasures” of my walk with the Lord: objects that remind me of my history with him and his faithfulness to me,” says McLeroy.

Drawn from the pages of Scripture, the author considers twelve such treasures and personalizes their meaning for readers, such as a green olive branch that offers proof of God’s “new every morning” mercy and a scarlet cord that demonstrates his willingness to adopt “strays” of every sort.

Weaving these treasures together with scenes from her personal history, Leigh McLeroy invites readers to discover God’s heart for them and embrace their unique role in his redemptive story. Treasured offers readers a guided experience of God’s love and character and invites them to consider their own treasures that point to their part in God’s ongoing story.

Leigh McLeroy is the author of The Beautiful Ache and The Sacred Ordinary. An avid collector and recorder of everyday moments, words, and wonders, Leigh’s keen eye for God’s presence in ordinary life infuses her writing and living with a deep, insistent joy. A frequent conference and event speaker, the author makes her home in Houston, Texas, and posts often on and

For the little ones in your life, I can recommend two gems from Lisa Tawn Bergren. In God Gave Us Love, a polar bear grandfather explains to his "grandcub" the story of God's love for us and the love we are to have for others in a cute, sweet, easy to understand and non-aggressive manner. I was impressed by the sensitive way the author presented the story and the illustrations were great. It's hard to explain to kids why they should love the unlovable, but this book does it well.

You can buy it here:


In God Gave Us Love, Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, and the young polar bear begins to ask questions like why must we love others . . . even the seemingly unlovable? Why is it easier to love those we like? Where does love come from? And why does God love her so much?

Grampa Bear patiently addresses each one of Little Cub’s curiosities by explaining the different kinds of love we can share: the love between friends, the love between families, the love between moms and dads, and the love for God.

He also assured Little Cub that because of the love God has given her through his Son, there’s nothing she can do to make God love her any more or any less. Through Grampa Bear’s encouraging Little Cub to love others with a “God-sized love,” children will be inspired to love others and to be patient, gentle and kind, so that in every way, they too can demonstrate God’s love.

Again, in God Gave Us Christmas the author explains the meaning of Christmas through the cute polar bear family. The story flows very well, answering common questions without making it seem like a big deal. I love books that don't cram the Christian message down my throat -- or down kids' throats -- but introduce it gently and naturally. The illustrations are fabulous and "soft".

You can buy it here:


In God Gave Us Christmas, as Little Cub and her family prepare to celebrate the most special day of the year, the curious young polar bear has something on her mind: “Who invented Christmas?” she asks. “Is God more important than Santa?”

Her questions reflect the confusion of so many children during the holiday season. And this heartwarming story takes them on a wonderful journey of discovery—right to the heart of Christmas.

Through Mama’s gentle guidance, Little Cub learns that God loves her and everyone— polar bear, moose, or human—so much that he gave us Jesus, the very best gift of all.

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning author of nearly thirty titles, totaling more than 1.5 million books in print. She writes in a broad range of genres, from adult fiction to devotional. God Gave Us Love follows in Lisa’s classic tradition of the best-selling God Gave Us You. She lives in Colorado, with her husband, Tim, and their children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.

These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Little Things

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! I've been thinking of all the reasons I have to be grateful. This 15 minute exercise turned into several hours. Of course, I'm thankful for friends, family, health, finances, pets, a job . . . but then I started thinking of the little things. When was the last time you realized you were grateful for fluoride and dental floss? Kleenex? Sunshine? Clean water? Access to competant medical care? Tylenol? Good books to read and the libraries that loan them for free? Gasoline? Freedom of speech? Not being hungry, shoeless or homeless? When is the last time you were grateful for life itself?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Blind Side

We went to see The Blind Side this weekend. Really a great movie -- it made you laugh (a lot), it made you think, it was heartwarming, and it didn't manipulate you into crying (which I appreciate since most feel good movies are also cheesy in this regard). Honestly, I think it was the best movie I've seen in years!

The best line of the movie still has me laughing: "Honey, who would think we'd have a black son before we'd know a Democrat?!"

After living in the South all these years, I can tell you that comment's not an exaggeration! Go see the movie -- it's well worth it!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Garbage -- Change the World

It's been awhile since I've passed on Reduce Footprints' weekly Change the World Challenge. This week's challenge fits nicely with a statistic I just collected last night from my co-op magazine:

Over five million tons of EXTRA garbage is generated between Thanksgiving and Christmas. EXTRA garbage! UGH

Reduce Footprints says this:

"This week's challenge is about raising our awareness. It comes from one of our newest readers, River221, a 13-year old whose Geography teacher asked the class to try this out. Here's how it goes:

This week, collect your garbage rather than toss it out. Continue to compost and recycle, but rather than take your bag of "real" garbage to the dumpster or put it out for collection ... keep it. At the end of the week, take a look at how much you've collected and consider ways to reduce it. This should truly open our eyes to the amount of waste in our lives."

I can tell you that our office only puts out one bag of trash a month. Our household does about a bag every two weeks. I'm sure we'd cut that in half if we composted, but I just can't seem to work it into my life right now with everything else going on.

So gather your garbage and see what you can do to improve -- at your home and workplace!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scary Factoid

247 billion emails are sent each day. That’s one email every 0.00000035 seconds.

Is it any wonder our days aren't long enough?

Friday, November 13, 2009

White Picket Fences Winner

Congratulations to Wanda of Winnipeg, Manitoba, our winner of White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner. This was a fabulous book! Thanks to everyone who entered; please check back for more reviews and give aways.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Got Peace?

Bill Porter wrote a book entitled Road to Heaven concerning his search for Taoist and Buddhist hermits in the Chungnan mountains in China in 1989. In this book, Porter remembers a Chinese saying, “The small hermit lives on a mountain. The great hermit lives in a town.”

Recently I was listening to a teaching series by Graham Cooke and he was talking about finding peace in God. He said retreating into the quiet place with God is a skill learned through discipline. He further said no matter what his circumstances or where he is, he can become peaceful in under 5 seconds.

I struggle to find perfect peace, what the Bible refers to as “shalom shalom” in the most ideal circumstances!

Porter goes on to recall a conversation with a monk. The monk was asked, “Is it a good place because it’s quiet?” and the monk replied, “If people are quiet, they can be quiet anywhere.”

I also recall a book (Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbers) where the author was discussing her time in Indonesia. She said mothers of young children would take their kids to the doctor (a type of medicine man) if the kids were too hyperactive. She said by American standards, these “hyperactive” kids were practically comatose because they would sit quietly with their mothers for hours waiting to be seen. But the locals thought the inability to sit and be quiet was sign of a serious illness and disorder – to be honest, I agree.

So I pursue peace . . . peace in God, the ability to be quiet, to rest, to listen. I don’t always succeed, but I try.

REMEMBER: I have one copy of White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner I'm giving away tomorrow. To enter the random drawing, send your mailing address to The winner will be drawn tomorrow, Friday, November 13th. Good luck.

Monday, November 9, 2009

White Picket Fences -- Book Review

Susan Meissner's new book White Picket Fences is one of the better books I've read in a long time. I find myself thinking about it over a week after I finished it . . . and when I read the last chapter, it actually brought me to tears. Not the one drop falling down your cheek kind of cry, but a "good cry" that lasted several minutes.

White Picket Fences is the story of a seemingly perfect family . . . which is anything but perfect. The members of this family have to learn to trust each other with their secrets, their feelings, their fears. The secondary theme of this book is the Holocaust -- the teens of this book interview two survivors of a concentration camp as a school project and unearth yet another family secret.

Since this is the second Meissner book I've read and really enjoyed, I even bookmarked her web page to my "favorite authors" page. I strongly recommend this book.

I'm happy to announce I have one free copy of White Picket Fences to give away. To enter the random drawing, please send your name and mailing address to The winner will be drawn on Friday, November 13, 2009.

You can purchase the book here:

Below is the summary from the publisher.


Amanda Janvier’s idyllic home seems the perfect place for her niece Tally to stay while her vagabond brother is in Europe, but the white picket fence life Amanda wants to provide is a mere illusion. Amanda’s husband Neil refuses to admit their teenage son Chase, is haunted by the horrific fire he survived when he was four, and their marriage is crumbling while each looks the other way.

Tally and Chase bond as they interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, and become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.

Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will love White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?

Author Bio

Susan Meissner cannot remember a time when she wasn’t driven to put her thoughts down on paper. Her novel The Shape of Mercy was a Publishers Weekly pick for best religious fiction of 2008 and a Christian Book Award finalist. Susan and her husband live in Southern California, where he is a pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves. They are the parents of four grown children.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

I can say, honestly and gleefully, "My husband is NOT the man I married!"

Today he called to say, "Hey! I got off work early today and just went to the bank. Now I'm going home to mow the lawn, but there's a big Red Cross trailer parked next to the bank. Do you want me to go donate blood?"

Of course, I said, "Yes! Absolutely!"

So he donated blood today for the first time. Spontaneously. Out of the blue. Just because it's the right thing to do.

He's been doing a lot of that lately. He's becoming quite the spokesperson for environmentalism and animal rights. He's donating to charity. He's giving blood.

I not only love the man my husband is becoming, I really LIKE him, too!