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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Trust in Him

Source: Tumblr

This quote goes very well with what my Pastor was preaching on yesterday, and something I’ve been thinking on a lot lately.

So often, when we’re going through a difficult time, we have trouble understanding why we are where we are.  We question why God has put us there.  And we become frustrated when we can’t immediately understand why.  We are a culture that wants everything right away and that gets frustrated when things don’t happen on our timing.

But if we are putting our faith in Jesus Christ, we have to allow ourselves to live by his timing.  Easy to say, tough to put into practice.

My Pastor has been preaching on people in the Bible who were going through difficult times.  Whose difficulties weren’t so much about ministering to them, but ministering to those around us.  Sometimes our trials aren’t for us, but are a testimony to others.  When someone sees us going through them, and putting our faith in Jesus the whole way through, what do you think they will take away?  That life has dealt us a poor hand?  Or that despite the poor hand, we trusted in and praised Jesus the whole way through?  If we continue to look to Him through our troubles, others are going to wonder what amazing power there is for them in Him.  

Everything we go through in life, we go through for a purpose.  It may be for us or for others.  It may be brief or long.  It may be mildly difficult or it may be the toughest thing we’ve ever had to face.  And most of the time, it won’t make sense to us why it’s happening. But God knows exactly why.  And He will reveal it to us.  Trust in Him, and it will all make sense to you one day.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Movie Review: "God's Not Dead"

Recently, there has been an explosion of faith-based movies at the box office.  From blockbusters that are questionable in the eyes of some (Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings) to smaller films that hit big at the theatres (Heaven is For Real), Christian stories and beliefs are being told to larger audiences.  One of the movies that has hit big in the past few years is God’s Not Dead.  It opened in under 800 theatres but brought in $9.2 million its opening weekend.  

Starring Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, Dean Cain, David A.R. White and a special appearance by Newsboys, the movie follows a young student in his first year at university who is challenged by his atheist philosophy professor.  In Professor Radisson’s class, the topic of religion is a no-go.  In fact, on the first day of class, he makes his students sign a piece of paper stating “God is dead.”  But Josh is a Christian and he can’t do it.

Professor Radisson tells Josh that if he wants a chance to pass the class, he must prove in a series of presentations that God exists.  While he recognizes that it would just be easier to drop the class, Josh knows that he must stand up for his beliefs.  And so, he sets off to prove to his Professor wrong and show others why God’s Not Dead.

I watch a lot of movies and I’m often disappointed in the way that Christians are portrayed in film (television as well.)  Often, we are portrayed as small-minded, unintelligent, and judgmental.  It’s fine, I get it.  There are some of us who are like that (as there are in every group.)  But often Christian films have never met the mark for me in terms of quality.  So when I saw the trailer for this movie, I was hopeful that it would be something new and refreshing.

The premise of this movie sounds great.  Apologetics is a topic that I feel like I am in way over my head with but am very interested in.  To see it on the screen sounded great to me.  Plus, I can remember what it was like being a Christian on a university campus.  In fact, I took a religion course in which the professor declared we needed to leave our faith at the door in order to fully understand what we were studying and that was something I just couldn’t do.

But a lot of this movie felt over the top.  The professor’s hatred for religion? I’m sure the university wouldn’t allow him to be so openly hostile toward the beliefs of his students.  And the side stories were a little too stereotypical.  I know people who have a wide range of beliefs, but I’ve never met people like this.  

The story with the Muslim girl disappointed me.  I’ve spent a lot of time in close connection with Muslims from all over the world.  There are a lot of Muslims who have a heart to know Jesus but have to keep it under wraps because of what those around them will do.  But not enough time is devoted to this story to keep it from just descending into stereotypes.  Plus, one thing that really irked me was that the girl had to cover her face as dictated by her father, but he was okay with her wearing short sleeves.  In my daily life, I come across a lot of women wearing face-coverings, but I’ve yet to see one who dresses like that at the same time.  It just felt like whoever was writing the characters didn’t take the time to understand why the culture is the way it is.  This is a storyline that had great promise but wasn’t given enough time to develop.

Here’s the thing about the movie - it’s a very promising movie.  It’s a Christian movie so I’m not shocked at what it is portraying.  As a follower of Jesus, I’m happy to see these movies being made and shown in theatres.  The acting wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, nor was the production.  Christian movies are finally getting decent budgets and that is a great thing.  If the thought of talking to unbelievers about God scares you, this movie will point you in the right direction (and then go read the book of the same title by Rice Broocks.)  This movie is a great reminder of the ways our faith is under attack and how we should stand up for what we believe in without any shame.  

I’m just disappointed in the fringe parts of the movie.  In the same way that I get upset at how Christians are portrayed as stereotypes in secular films, this happens to others in this movie.  I understand that these stories were needed for the film but I think there could have been a bit more understanding and compassion in writing them.  

This is a movie that I would recommend to my Christian friends, but to anyone I know who is exploring the faith or not a believer, I would bypass it.