Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Favourite Tweeters

I resisted Twitter for a long time but as with most social media, I eventually gave in.  Though my personal blog account isn't very active in terms of tweets from me, I do check it daily for inspiration and edification from the people I follow.  Here are a few of the accounts I'm following:

@sarahbessey:  Sarah Bessey is the author of Jesus Feminist, an incredible book about the role of women in todays church and a call for women to find freedom in Christ. She always has some great nuggets of wisdom on Twitter.

@ChristianPost: World news that is relevant to Christians and written with a Christian perspective. I find myself clicking on their stories every day.

@IamSecond: A movement (and two fantastic books) that aims to inspire people to put God first and themselves second.

@MatthewBarnett: Matthew is the pastor of The Dream Center and Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, California.  The Dream Center is an amazing organization doing even more amazing work in the city.

@The_Gospels: The Gospel Daily tweets daily bible verses and though I follow a few different accounts like this, this one always seems to have the words I need to hear at the moment.

Who are you following on Twitter? Who would you recommend?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Modesty Monday: Why Modesty?

For a while now, modesty is one word that has been placed on my heart.  I think it is partly because I live in an area where the majority of people follow a religion in which modest dress is an expectation and is thus, very noticeable.  When I contrast the people in my neighbourhood with what I see in the media, I wonder “where do I fit in? What is modesty for me?”  

Modesty isn’t just about the clothes we wear, it’s also about how we speak and how we carry ourselves.  But our apparel is usually the first thing people notice about us.  And in today’s era of crop tops and mini-skirts, one can wonder just how important modesty is to young women.

While there are no specific admonitions about how women should dress in the BIble, Paul does touch on the subject of modesty for women.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array - 1 Timothy 2:9

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel - 1 Peter 3:3

There are different ways that these verses are interpreted.  One is the idea that they are explicit in what women shouldn’t wear (no gold! no pearls!), another is that here Paul isn’t concerned about what we wear but how we carry ourselves.  For me, I find both in these verses.  

It is important to note that at the time, there was a focus on extravagant dress in the larger society.  This was something that Paul did not want to see carried over into the church.  Braiding of hair, gold jewellery, fancy clothes were like our crop tops and miniskirts.  Paul is talking about the apparel of women being different from that in society.  When our focus is on the extravagance of our clothing, our best ornament - our faith - is not being displayed.  When we wear items that are characteristic of the world, we can be confused with those in the world when we should be set apart from them. Paul wants women to take care that their dress matches up with their profession of faith, and that holds true today.  

It would be nice if people didn’t judge each other by what they wear, but it happens.  In our world, people make assumptions on what kind of person you are based on how you present yourself.  Think about witnessing to someone not of the faith.  Will your words have a good impact if your outward appearance places an emphasis on your clothes or your body?

Just as with our behaviour and our language, it’s important that our manner of dress is modest.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear nice clothes, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care with your appearance.  It’s not an edict to cover yourself from head to toe in drab fabrics.  It's about matching our appearance to our faith, it's about sharing our values in all that we do.

Over the next few months I will be exploring why modesty is important, what it means to me, and how modest girls can navigate the fashion world.

Join me on Pinterest to celebrate and encourage modesty and please feel free to share your thoughts.  I don't think I have all the answers and I'm certainly not telling people how to dress, but I definitely want to start a conversation.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"When I Fall in Love" by Susan May Warren

When Grace Christiansen’s family surprises her with an all expenses paid cooking retreat in Hawaii, it’s the last thing she wants.  Grace is perfectly happy in her predictable, safe life and doesn’t want to leave it.  But she can’t say no and she soon finds herself living as far outside of her comfort zone as she ever thought she’d be.  And she certainly didn’t expect that it was here that she would find love.

When Max Sharpe, superstar hockey player, heads out on his yearly three-week culinary vacation in Hawaii, he is looking forward to spending alone time in his favourite place - the kitchen.  Max is definitely not looking for love, but when he is asked to keep an eye out for a friend’s sister and then ends up entering a cooking competition with her, he might end up playing too close to the flames.

Max and Grace are both heading to Hawaii simply for the cooking lessons but they will end up leaving with their hearts wide open.  And when Max’s real reason for refusing to fall in love emerge, Grace has to make a choice she never expected - play it safe or follow or heart.

When I Fall in Love, by Susan May Warren, is the third novel in the Christiansen Family series about a large family from Northern Minnesota and the lives of the adult children. When I first picked up this book I did not realize that it was part of a series. That soon become apparent while reading it (some backstories that are alluded to but not explained), the book works as a stand-alone novel.  Though with the quality of Susan May Warren’s writing, why would you want to read only one?

This is a beautiful, romantic story, but one with a lot of depth to it.  There are some very serious tones to it, with a main character who shies away from getting close to a woman because of the disease he suffers from.  Warren wrote this character and his struggle with such warmth and beauty. There is so much depth to her characters and their struggles, and that pulls you in as a reader.  Even the secondary characters and stories have you caught up and they don’t shy away from the difficulties and controversies.  

I really enjoy contemporary Christian novels where the characters are strong in their faith but still have their everyday struggles in the world.  These characters aren’t perfect and they shouldn’t be because none of us are.  I don’t want to read stories about people who have things all figured out or who live in a world where everything comes out on top.  I want to read about people who are like me, who have their struggles but who have experienced the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and keep going because of it.  That is exactly what happens in this novel.

There is so much to this novel that everyone will relate to - yearning to know God fully, trying to understand why we suffer, giving up the things we can’t control to Him.  You may not have the same life experiences of these characters but you can relate to their emotions, passions, and the importance of their faith.   

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Atlas Girl" by Emily Wierenga

When Emily Wierenga left home at the age of 18, she figured she would never return.  Growing up in a strict religious home and battling every day to not fall into the eating disorder that almost took her life at the age of 13, she was desperate to find God on her own terms, in a new place.  And so Emily set out across the world, through Canada, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and Central America as a student, missionary, and teacher.  But it wasn’t until her mother’s brain tumour brought her home that she discovered God was waiting for her there all of the time.

Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look is a deeply personal, poignant story that will touch you right from the start.  Emily Wierenga’s memoir of faith and forgiveness will resonate with every reader.  With all of the brokenness in the world, it is easy to close yourself off from all of it and from God, but Wierenga’s story will bring you hope in the darkness and inspiration for your journey.

Emily starts by sharing about her childhood in the Congo and how her father’s call to missions and later to the pulpit affected the family dynamic, especially for her mother who never felt the same calling.  She shares about heading to the other side of Canada to attend school and questioning her faith when she was supposed to be teaching others about it.  She talks about dating her husband, going to the Middle East as a missionary, her friends and family.

But the deepest and most introspective moments come in two places.  First, when she talks about battling anorexia that started at the age of 9 and within a few years had her hospitalized.  And second and most importantly, when she returns home as an adult to care for her mother who is suffering from a brain tumour.  It is here where she reconciles her childhood with her understanding of God as she cares for her mother the way a mother cares for a daughter.

Her story is strong enough to move you - to faith, to tears, to forgiveness, to God.  But what makes this book so moving and beautiful is Emily’s writing style.  It is poetic and lyrical.  It is introspective, full of grace and mercy.  She isn’t telling you about her life, she is inviting you into it.  Rarely, do people give so much of their hearts and souls on paper as Emily does in this book.

About the Author

Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including "Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look" (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.   Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books , a division of Baker Publishing Group

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Face to Face with Jesus" by Samaa Habib with Bodie Thoene

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” - John 14:6

It is a headline we have seen many times.  A bomb rips through a church during service on the other side of the world.  Five hundred people try to escape but there is only one door to leave through.  Many people lose their lives.  But this time, one woman comes back to life.  

When Samaa Habib first heard the voice of Jesus Christ calling her to Him, she knew she was making a dangerous decision.  Samaa grew up in a Muslim family in the Middle East and she knew that she would find opposition everywhere she looked, especially within her own family.  But she was not prepared for what happened after the bombing.

After one of the bombs exploded next to her, Samaa met Jesus face to face in heaven.  But He gave her a message that her time on earth was not finished.  She took back with her a renewed hope and love, a spirit that would never be broken, and a mission to bring people of all walks of life to the Saviour who guides her.

Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love by Samaa Habib with Bodie Thoene is a heart-wrenching and inspiring account of Samaa’s early life, conversion, and unflinching faith in Jesus Christ.

Samaa was raised in a country that is 98% Muslim and where conversion to Christianity is considered punishable by death to many.  But as her country plunged into a civil war and her family tried desperately just to stay alive, she found herself being called to Jesus through people who came into her life.  After converting to Christianity, her struggles worsened but her faith grew and the supernatural power of Christ touched her life in many ways.

This is an incredible book.  I was so moved by Samaa’s faith in the face of violence and death.  Shortly after I finished reading the book, my pastor spoke of how difficult it can be for us in the West to understand miracles.  He spoke about Christians in parts of the world where there is war and persecution placing a high importance on them when we don’t.  This book shows you why.  

I was so inspired by the stories of Christians who came to her country and spoke openly about Jesus Christ.  I was glued to the pages in which she describes the church services and the community of Christians she belonged to.  In the face of persecution, they stood strong for Jesus in a way that many of us will never have to experience.  It is amazing to read these kinds of stories.

What I loved most about reading this book was reading about the conversions to Christianity of her family and friends.  It really shows us the importance of patience and prayer in witnessing to our loved ones.  It took a lot of time but even Samaa’s fiercest opponents were changed by her life and testimony.  

Moving, inspiring, and permeated by His love, mercy, and grace, this book is an fantastic read.  Looking at our faith through the eyes of a convert who faced persecution and terror for her decision will move and push your faith in incredible ways.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Chosen Books.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Hope Rising" by Scott C. Todd

She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. - Proverbs 31:20

As Senior Vice President for Global Advocacy at Compassion International, Scott C. Todd has travelled the world and seen the poverty most of us will never see, let alone experience.  People living on $1.25 a day, children dying from diseases that were eradicated in the developed world decades ago, women forced to sell their bodies to make money to feed their children, places where people are too scared to go outside at night to use the bathroom, he has witnessed this extreme poverty firsthand.  But it doesn’t have to exist.

In Hope Rising: How Christians Can End Extreme Poverty in This Generation, Todd shares why poverty still exists in our world and what we can do to change this.  Todd argues that if we accept the fact that poverty is not to be expected and begin to live accordingly, we will change our world.

Twenty-first century Christians are in a unique position to change the world.  The internet and social media are bringing us stories from around the world.  People working on the ground in foreign countries, in places torn apart by war or natural disasters or amongst people who have never heard of Jesus Christ, are able to send their stories back to us in an instant.  We have the means to create grassroots movements, to send our money around the world, to lobby our politicians for change in a very public manner.  Even if we can’t go to the other side of the world, we have the means to change the world at our fingertips.

In this book, Todd shares the shocking facts about poverty.  He shares the stories of children and families he has met and he shares the sobering statistics.  A generation ago, 52 per cent of the developing world’s population lived in extreme poverty.  Today, that number is down to 21 per cent.  That is amazing change but that is still 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty.  Todd challenges every one of us to find a way to make a difference by sharing the stories of people who have made an impact on this world and gives us ways that we can start to make a difference today.

This is a powerful book.  It is something that a lot of people might not want to hear.  But the fact remains that extreme poverty does not need to exist in the world and the people in the best position to fix that are Christians.  The Church is already creating change throughout the world.  When we open our eyes to the fact that poverty is not supposed to exist, that it is our call to go out into the world as Jesus did and care for the poor, we will be able to move mountains and change this world.

This book should be required reading.  We may think that we know what is going on around the world or we may already be doing the work but this book will be a reminder why we are doing and it will show us that we can do more.


“For the first time in human history, we have the realistic possibility of ending extreme global poverty.  But the presence of poverty is so historically familiar that the change is difficult to imagine.  And if it is hard to imagine, it will be nearly impossible to expect.” (Loc. 400, e-book)

“The main point is this: we should not slump in defeat before an enemy that is already halfway dead.  We have proven that simple things, such as vaccines, clean water, and mosquito nets, are effective tools.  We can end preventable child death.  It’s that simple.” (Loc. 665)

“The trouble is with our theology of power.  We simply do not comprehend the power within us. We are quick to say that we have no power, but that’s false humility.  Quick to insist that it’s God’s power in us (and it is), but we really act like tenants claiming that the landlord should fix up the place when He has left that for us to do.” (Loc. 1197)

“Our motivation to work for the end of extreme poverty should be rooted in our love for God and our love for the poor.” (Loc. 1894)

I received this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley,  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Dynamic Women of the Bible" by Ruth Tucker

When we read the stories of people in the Bible, we almost always find ourselves reading the stories of men.  And it makes sense - fewer than 10 per cent of the people named in the Bible are women.  But when one looks, they find strong, edgy, determined, game-changing women within the pages.  Even the nameless women have incredible stories to tell.

In Dynamic Women of the Bible: What We Can Learn from Their Surprising Stories, Ruth Tucker profiles more than fifty women who have left their mark and who can still influence and inspire today.  

Most Christians know the stories of Eve, Sarah, Naomi and Ruth, and Mary.  But what about the names Abigail, Michal, Sapphira, Dorcas, Rhoda?  How much do we know about them?  What about the women who weren’t even named but still given mention in the Bible?  What can they teach us about ourselves?  This book will have give you a bigger picture of them, fill you in on the whole story, and show how you can relate their lessons to your own life.  

This book goes beyond the traditional books on women in the BIble.  It is more than just a who’s who.  It gives a complete pictures of the lives of these women.  It does seem to take a few liberties when filling in the gaps and I can’t comment on the correctness of this so it is good to take it with an understanding that some of these gaps will be filled with assumptions.

What this book teaches us is that women can look to the Bible to help them deal with any issues they are going through.  Our lives are reflected in the Bible.  The amount of time between these women and us isn’t important, the women in the Bible dealt with the same issues we do - seeking God, serving God, struggling with sin.

This book would be an excellent tool for a women’s small group study.  The Questions to Think About at the end of the chapter will help lead in reflection and discussion.  I really like how the questions encompass a wide range of thinking and application.  Two examples are:

As we reflect on a daughter of a great patriarch and a Canaanite woman named in Jesus’s genealogy, should we be surprised that neither appears to have even a perfunctory relationship with God?

You’re a defense attorney standing before the New England town fathers of The Scarlet Letter fame.  Or a defense attorney today.  Your clients are Lot’s daughters, the details of whose planned pregnancies have been brought to light.  What arguments would you use to defend them?

I have chosen these two questions because I think they excellently capture the journey this book takes readers on.  This book will have you looking at the women in their own time and their importance in the Bible but also applying their stories to your own life and making you think about how their timeless examples affect us today.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.