Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Reading vs. Studying

I recently started reading a book by Keith Ferrin called How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible.  The back of the book says, “Do you feel like you should read the Bible more? This book will help you want to read it.”  

I must admit, this is a book I really need.  It’s not just about spending more time in the Bible, it’s about the type of time you spend in it.  And one of the things that Ferrin talks about early on is the difference between reading the Bible and studying it.  

I’m a studier.  I like to get out my Bible, get a workbook, be asked specific questions, and then go find the answer and write it down in my book.  I can do this for a topical study or for the study of a particular book (though I prefer topical studies.)

But how much am I really taking in by doing this?  Am I really understanding the bigger picture? Am I letting it speak to me?

I’ve never really enjoyed sitting down to just read because I find that when I do, my mind wanders and I don’t feel like I’m remembering very much.  But maybe the key isn’t about how much I can remember.  Maybe it’s about giving the Bible an opportunity to speak to me.  Maybe it’s about spending time with God in a relational way, not a teacher-student way.

So, I’m spending a lot of time with this book by Keith Ferrin and really paying attention to what it is saying.  I’m putting aside my study methods of the Bible and I’m spending my time just reading.  I’m letting life lead me to what I read and I’m following the challenges set forth in the book.  I’ll let you know how it goes and my review of the book will be up in a couple of weeks.

How about you? Are you a reader, a studier, a combination of both? Do you enjoy reading your Bible? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"Shifting Stats Shaking the Church: 40 Canadian Churches Respond" by Patricia Paddey and Karen Stiller

Canada is home to one of the most diverse populations on the planet, ethnically, culturally, and religiously.  This is something to celebrate but also something that is changing the nature of our society, and the church especially.  It may seem that churches are in decline but the Canadian church is responding beautifully to this changing landscape.

In Shifting Stats Shaking the Church: 40 Canadian Churches Respond, Patricia Paddey and Karen Stiller bring us the stories of churches across the country that are strengthening diverse communities and building up the diversity of the kingdom of God.  Published by World Vision Canada, this is an inspiring and invaluable book.

I was blown away by how inspiring this book is.  I am so thankful to be able to attend a culturally diverse church in the heart of a major city and to be able to witness the amazing work it is achieving in our community and beyond.  And this book showed me the many different ways other churches are meeting the needs of their communities.  Not all churches can operate in the same manner.  Not all churches can meet every need.  But by learning about what others are doing, we can all be continually inspired in our quest to build God’s kingdom.

In this book you’ll find churches that are have decided to make their focus:
  • reaching out to university students
  • opening their doors to new immigrants and refugees
  • using the internet to reach out
  • strengthening marriages
  • blessing their cities with furniture banks
  • supporting single parents
  • encouraging adoptive and foster families
  • creating youth camps
  • equipping youth to be leaders

and many more ideas.

This isn’t just an inspiring book, it is a resource.  Each chapter gives a description of the church and the work it is doing in a couple of pages.  Then, the “More to Explore” section at the end of the chapter shares information about how this church fits into the larger landscape in Canada and gives articles, websites, and programs that further explore this issue.  The Conclusion of the book sums up the work that is being done across the country and gives guidance and tips for doing the same in your own church.

Whether you are in ministry or you attend a congregation, this book will inspire and equip you to mobilize your church to reach out further into your community.  The landscape of our country and these congregations are proving that the church can weather this change and continue to do God’s work in our cities.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bible Study Books

When it comes to studying the Bible, I am one of those people who needs a guide.  I can sit down and read the Bible, but I get so much more out of it when I have guided questions and a place to write down the answers to the questions.  There are a few books and series that have made such an impact on how I study my Bible.  These are:

How to Study Your Bible and the How to Study Your Bible Handbook by Kay Arthur - I was introduced to Kay Arthur’s Inductive Study Method a few years ago by a friend and though I have tailored it a bit to what suits me, I find this a great way to really go deep into my Bible.  It has showed me a lot of information that I have missed when just reading.

How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon Fee - I like to get an overview of what I’m about to study before I get into the actual text.  This book shows me what to look out for and helps me see how what I am studying fits into the big picture.

Discover Together Bible Study Series by Sue Edwards - this is the kind of study I like.  It walks you through a book of the Bible, piece by piece, asking questions about what you are reading and helps you see how to apply it to your life.  The book gives tons of room to write in your answers to the questions.  

Focus on the Family Bible Study Series - another set of books that are question and answer.  I purchased the Women of Worth series years ago and I gained so much from using these books.  This is actually the first question and answer series I ever used and this is where I realized that this was the best Bible Study method for me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"The Mother and Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope

Last year, 287,000 women lost their lives due to complications in pregnancy or during childbirth.  Another 220 million women around the world are in need of education and services that will allow them to have healthy, well spaced pregnancies.  Women around the world are fighting for the same services that we in the West often take for granted.  And they can access these resources with our help.

The Mother and Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope is a collection of essays written by people of all walks of life who are working for the safety of mothers and children around the world.  They are the celebrities, policy makers, health workers, and pastors who are on the front lines, educating women around the world about healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies (HTSP), family planning, HIV/AIDS, gender equality, and more.  Contributors include:

Kay Warren
Melinda Gates
Amy Grant
Kimberly Williams-Paisley
Hillary Clinton
Nicholas Kristof
Jimmy Carter
Desmond Tutu
Natalie Grant
Tony Campolo
Mary Beth Chapman

and many, many more.  There are also first-hand accounts from women around the world who have benefited from the programs put into place by contributors to the book.

This is a powerful book.  It is amazing to see so many voices come together to speak to the importance of these issues.  There is a good mix of well-known names and heroes who are doing behind the scenes work.

Having had two healthy pregnancies and now having two beautiful children, I know how easy it is to take pregnancy, childbirth, and the health services we receive around them for granted.  Imagine being pregnant and never seeing a doctor.  Imagine giving birth without an experienced attendant.  Or not knowing if you child will see their first birthday.  For those of us in the West, we don’t even think about those things when we find out we’re having children. But for hundreds of millions of women, this is reality.  And there are many amazing programs that are working to give these mothers and children the same chances we do.

My only criticism of this book is that it often felt repetitive.  The book is divided into four parts: Maternal and Child Health: How Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy Saves Lives, Strong Mothers: The Key to Healthy Families, Communities and Nations, Other Concerns: Male Involvement, Child Marriage, Slavery, and Orphan Care, and Why Maternal Health Matters to People of Faith.  Each part has essays by different people on the subject.  But these essays discuss the same issues and once you have read a few of them, the rest become repetitive. For example, many of the essays explain HTSP and why it is important in the same way and with the same statistics.  Because of this, the book can feel like the essays were collected without much discussion before hand about who would discuss what and the repetitiveness can be a bit off-putting.

But this is a very strong book and its strength lies in the various stories told by those working on the ground.  They are sharing what programs are making a difference, why and how.  They show how turning the tide in maternal and child health doesn’t take a miracle, but rather dedicated people.  The addition of the stories of women who have personally benefited from these programs is a wonderful addition and give readers a better understanding of the cultural reasons why this is an issue for many women.   At the end of the book, there are resources available for how you can get involved.  This is a must-read for all people of faith.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Reflections on Lent

Growing up, Lent wasn’t something we practiced or really anything I knew about.  The practice of fasting during this period or giving up something was never discussed in church that I can remember.  It wasn’t until I went to university and my Catholic roommate was thinking about what to give up that I actually came to learn about the time of Lent.

While it is still not something that is wholly practiced in the church I attend, over the past few years I’ve come to take this period as a time to reflect on and work on areas of my spiritual area that I have been neglecting.  Sometimes it takes the form of giving something up (one year I gave up caffeine), sometimes it is trying something new (last year I began fasting as a spiritual practice for the first time ever.)  

This year, it was more about a focus, an intention.  This year I started looking at how I spend my time.  As a stay at home mother with my kids in school, my time is very much open.  I’m not stuck to a schedule, I can choose how I use my time and for what.  But with that comes a lot of wasted time.  Especially when it comes to television and the internet.  So I worked on giving up on the aspects of those two things that weren’t enriching my life.  Gone were certain talk shows, news sites, and any sort of celebrity gossip that I never needed to know about anyways.

Wow, what an amazing time it was.  I knew I was wasting some of my time but I did not realize I was wasting THAT much time.  And what was I wasting it for?  There is nothing about those things that I missed throughout that time.  For news, I just read my newspaper in the morning and would get updates through a few trustworthy news sources on Twitter.  And yeah, I’d hear the occasional celebrity news on Twitter but I didn’t click on it and I didn’t waste my time with it.

Instead, I was able to read more, spend more time outside walking, and more time in prayer and reflection.  I felt renewed and inspired.  And now that the period of Lent is over, I feel like I have turned a new page and am going forward with more time for better things.

How do you celebrate Lent?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Modest Clothing Inspiration

Modesty is something I didn’t think much about for many years but then began giving a lot of thought to over the years.  Much of this has to do with the fact that I live in a neighbourhood where a lot of people are very religious (from varying religions) and for whom modesty is a core value of their faith.  In my neighbourhood it’s common to see butt cheeks hanging out of shorts walking down the same sidewalk as a woman in a black abaya and niqab.  Every single plot on the modesty graph is seen in my everyday life.  And so a little while ago I blogged about modesty, what it means to me, and why it is important (read it here.)

So when it comes to everyday dressing, modesty is a big deal for me.  And so is fashion.  It’s something I really enjoy - reading magazines, following the runway shows, and of course filling my wardrobe.  Fashion is something that is fun, it’s a way to express yourself.  And dressing modestly does not mean that you can't have fun.  

But many of the magazines, runway shows, and stores don’t always have modesty in mind.  So I, for one, am always looking online for modest fashion inspiration.  And I wanted to share a few of my favourite places for the fellow modest fashionista.




Happy Browsing!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Names of God:

My current Bible Study topic is the names of God, using The Names of God Bible from Ann Spangler as my guide.


But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. - Mark 14:61-62

Mashiach is the Hebrew word for Messiah while Christos is the Greek word for Messiah or Anointed One.  The New Testament identifies Jesus as the Christ no fewer than 530 times, a title he avoided throughout his life until shortly before his death.

Related Verses

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed (Mashiach) saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. - Psalm 2:1-3

But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus, and Timotheus, was not yea and nay but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. - 2 Corinthians 1:18-20

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man called also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. - 1 Corinthians 15:20-22