Friday, April 19, 2013

Bitesize Biographies: John Newton

One thing that I love to hear about is the history of a hymn. I love to know more about the person behind the hymn, and why those particular lyrics were written. I just finished reading a book about John Newton, who is the man behind the extremely well-known hymn, "Amazing Grace". Author John Crotts talks about Newton's life in what is called a "bitesize" biography.

I didn't read the book with any preconceived notions about John Newton, but his early adult life was pretty interesting. He was born in the early 1700s, and was involved in the navy and also somewhat in slavery. He was quite an immoral person in his early adult life, and actually had several near-death experiences. From being thrown off a horse at an early age (and almost flying into stakes) to bad storms at sea to people wishing him harm, God saved him over and over again, even though at the time he probably seemed pretty useless. The author talks several times, though, how it almost seemed that Newton had a head knowledge of God, and probably would have done great things earlier for God, except that he had no foundation. No church, no saved friends, no one to talk to about his faith.

After Crotts has spoken of Newton's full life, he delves into some hymns and letters of John Newton's. This is very interesting to me and made the book more than just a biography.

I would certainly recommend this book to others, and would enjoy reading some other biographies in this category as well.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and Evangelical Press for providing me this book in return for my honest review.

Where to buy:
EP Books

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Brianna Turns 4!

Okay, so I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that Brianna is four. years. old. today, and so I don't even have an awesome novel to describe this incredible little girl, like a good blogger would. But hey, I'm gonna make up for it by blogging about our awesome day!

Let's start with a day about ten or so days ago. Brianna kept asking about her birthday, so we got out the handy dandy calendar. I drew a birthday cake on my mom's birthday, first of all, which is April 17. Then I drew a birthday cake on Bri's birthday, which is April 18. I drew four tiny little lines and flames and told her those were her four candles. Well, once she realized Grandma's cake didn't have any candles, she made SURE that I remedied that... and yes, she made me count as I drew them!

 Tuesday we celebrated Mom and Brianna's birthdays when we went to my parents' house for lunch:

P.S. This is the day we realized that Brianna does NOT like it when you sing Happy Birthday to her. Just for future reference.

Oh, this is Brianna pretending to be a sabre-tooth tiger. Not sure how this picture got on here.

Okay, on to the day of her birth!

Last night at church, her aunt Lauren gave her a birthday present which consisted of cake pops (devoured by me and the kids last night around 10:30!), a nail polish set, and a tiara/high heels set. So when I heard her waking up this morning upstairs, I set out the princess high heels and the crown at the foot of the stairs. I wish I had taken a picture of her face when she saw them waiting on her at the bottom of the stairs! She's had high heels and a crown before but I think it was just very cool to her that they were waiting for her, ready to be slipped on and spend the day as a princess! So obviously they were put on immediately and not taken off for several hours. Seriously.

Next up, we made a simple but special cake to celebrate her birthday. We're not doing a party this weekend because Stephen's working, so we just had a family over today that goes to our church. I thought it would be fun for all the kids if we had cake in the middle of the afternoon. And nothing fits Brianna more than a pink on pink cake. Enter - the strawberry cake. Oh yeah, with lots and lots of sprinkles!

While the cake cooked the kids opened the cards they'd gotten in the mail from their family in Georgia. They got gum and stickers!!

Brianna asked me where we were going for lunch. I told her we'd go wherever she wanted to. Of course, we went to Chick Fil-A!

After lunch we started preparing for our friends to come over. In our house, that means paint your fingernails and toenails. We used the new nail kit from Lauren to create these beautiful hands and feet!

Our friends Joe and Meagan, and their three kids Matthew, Hannah and Autumn came over and the kids had a ball playing outside! It was beautiful weather.

She asked for noodles and parmesan for dinner (easy enough) and ended the night by watching her newest favorite show, Super Why. She got phone calls galore and lots of sweet shout-outs on my Facebook page. Thanks to everyone that called, or commented on all the various pictures I posted today. We had so much fun!

My sister-in-law has a blog and she gave a shout-out to Bri on her blog today. Made me tear up!

Last year I did this 20 Questions thing with Brianna on her birthday. Here are her answers from last year. Here are the answers from this year.

Brianna Mae Talbert
April 18, 2013

1. What is your favorite color?  Pink
2. What is your favorite toy?  My toy telephone, my baby, and my pocketbook
3. What is your favorite fruit? Grapes
4. What is your favorite TV show?  Scooby Do
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?  Chicken nuggets and french fries
6. What is your favorite outfit?  A dress and high heels
7. What is your favorite game?  Memory games
8. What is your favorite snack?  Potato chips
9. What is your favorite animal?  Horses
10. What is your favorite song?  Soon and Very Soon
11. What is your favorite book?  Aladdin
12. Who is your best friend?  Claire and Evan
13. What is your favorite cereal?  Cheerios
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?  Ride my bike
15. What is your favorite drink?  Sweet tea
16. What is your favorite holiday?  Christmas
17. What do you like to take to bed with you?  Minnie Mouse, Panda, Baby, pink blanket, yellow blanket, pink and white blanket
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?  Waffles
19. What do you want for your birthday dinner?  Noodles with parmesan
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?  A nurse

I love my little girl!! Happy birthday sweetie!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Picture Update

It is really pathetic that I have pictures from last September and October I haven't posted yet!! I'm going to try to catch up on some of my pictures in the next couple of weeks. Get them off my phone and immortalize them on the blog forever...

Just a couple of pictures from the October Impact service. I was so proud of my husband for being the speaker that month! He did an awesome job. There is a Youtube video somewhere but I don't know how to find it...

Pastor Appreciation Sunday!

 Welcoming some new members to the church! (Normally I don't take pictures of this but I happened to have my phone in church on this Sunday!)

My beautiful girl:

 And a sleepy little boy!

Hunter puts 100% into his "cheese" face!

Wrapping presents for Angel Tree had an extra positive thing that came from it - the kids got new tunnels for their Hot Wheels cars every time I used up a roll of wrapping paper :)

And we got a new screen at church! Since then we've upgraded to have another monitor put in at the back of the church so those of us in the choir don't have to crane our necks to see the videos!

Nenah sent a toboggan and scarf set to me and Brianna... Hunter loved it too though!

Been meaning to get these pics up FOREVER! Here is Hunter's BFF at church - Prescilla. Silly faces!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Get Back Up Review

I just finished reading a new book written by Sheryl Giesbrecht, called "Get Back Up". I chose to review the book, but I did not actually think I would be able to apply it to my personal life. I knew the book would be about tragedy and applying scripture to "getting back up" from those tragedies.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the book. Giesbrecht starts off each chapter with a true story of someone surviving against the odds - parachutes not opening, airplane crashes - and then she relates that to how we can survive the storms in our lives. As she studied the scripture and talked about facing tragedy, though, she told her personal story. Starting with her rebellious teenage years, to what seemed to me like years of church ministry disappointments, serious illnesses, and losing loved ones, she is completely open and honest about her family's shortcomings, her emotions, and how they turned to God throughout everything. They had so many struggles, and there were so many that I could personally relate to, so I felt like her book made me understand the struggles that others in my life have been going through.

She talks about what happens in our lives, how to know the truth (she gives great scripture here), forgiveness, depression, fear, loneliness, and she pulls it all together using biblical truths.

This book is such an easy read, I literally read it in just a few hours. Having my Bible open while I read it was perfect because I could go straight to the scripture she was talking about and feel that confidence of those truths while making notes in my Bible.

I highly recommend this book. In fact, I doubt I'll be keeping it for very long because I expect to pass it along as soon as possible!

This book was provided to me at no charge for my honest review from Litfuse Publicity Group. 

Purchase the book from Amazon here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bound Together Review

I recently received a copy of "Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices" by Chris Brauns. The book seemed extremely relevant to me because I know in my personal life, I am tied to people in my past from both good and bad choices. Sometimes the bad choice you make ties you to someone forever, regrettably. And sometimes the good choice you make ties you to someone forever, fortunately! Brauns touches on so many appropriate topics throughout this book, and ties everything in so well with our spiritual lives.

Brauns starts off by talking about the "principle of the rope". This is, as the author states, "the simple truth that our lives, choices and actions are linked to the lives, choices, and actions of other people." Sometimes, when one or two children in the church nursery are fighting over a toy, I may take it away from everyone and put it high on a shelf so that no one has the option to play with it. Not all of the children in the church nursery were fighting over the toy, but they are all "roped" together. So the principle of the rope is not just for our families, but also our churches, our government (such as Hitler pulling down Germany as a whole with him), our places of employment... This applies to our spiritual lives as well. Think of the famous Bible story of Noah and the ark. Think of all the young infants and toddlers who were swept away in the flood of God's wrath. The author poses the question of why this happened - those children didn't yet have time to turn their lives around and obey God. The simple truth is that they were roped to their parents and their culture. God wasn't punishing individually, he was treating them all as one people. There are several other examples given in the book. There are even times in the Bible when the choices made by God's representative leaders have consequences for their people. You probably know someone whose child has made terrible decisions, and so the whole family has been affected. A leader of a corporation makes poor financial decisions and the entire company goes under. This is the principle of the rope in life, and we see it just the same in the Bible.

Brauns goes more in depth when he begins speaking of original sin. He does a great job of explaining original sin and how it affects us, and why we are affected by the choices that Adam and Eve made those many years ago.

But here's the beautiful thing. Yes, we are roped to Adam, and for that reason we are all sinners and are roped together with him. But God gave us a second chance. He sent his son to die on a cross for our sins, and so therefore we now have the option to be roped with Jesus Christ, and receive his freedom, forgiveness, and salvation from sin! As the author puts it - "the cross cancels our solidarity with Adam and links us to Christ."

Brauns looks at other hot topics as well. For example, can we use someone else's sins as an excuse? If my father drinks himself into oblivion, can I use that as an excuse to not be a productive member of society? And simply blame my shortcomings on him? People do this all the time, in my experience. Brauns makes a beautiful argument, of which the point is this - We don't need to play the victim card. We're always going to sin. But God is eager to extend grace to us when we are truly repentant. He looks at our families, our marriages, our joy, our fears, and even our country and culture as a whole.

You won't be disappointed in this read. It's easy to read because it's interesting, and full of information.

I received this for free from Zondervan via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Where to buy:
Amazon (Paperback/Kindle)
Barnes & Noble (Paperback/Nook)
Apple (iBook)
Zondervan (Paperback/Ebook)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Crucifying Morality Review

I have just finished reading the book "Crucifying Morality" by R. W. Glenn. The subtitle of this book is "The Gospel of the Beatitudes" so I that really got me curious. I love the beatitudes, but after being in church my whole life, I really was not sure there was anything new I could learn about them.

Glenn goes through each beatitude individually, but he gets straight to the point. He explains in the beginning of the book that although many people see the beatitudes as commands, he does not believe that is actually how Jesus meant them. He believes that because Christians have felt the grace of God, these characteristics of the beatitudes naturally follow that. As he so aptly states, a Christian knows that he could never "muster up" these characteristics on his own without Jesus. His point is that you should not seek to be a peacemaker. You should not seek to be meek. Seek Jesus, and all of these other things will fall into place.

The author is great at relating these beatitudes to our everyday lives. He makes each beatitude easy to understand and kept me interested throughout the entire book. One thing that he adds to this book which I really enjoyed are the study questions at the end of each chapter. One section of questions is for you to read over and make sure you comprehend what the chapter was about. One set of questions is for you to relate the chapter to you personally. "For Your Church" wants you to connect your learnings to your local church, and the last set of questions wants you to apply all these to your community. Honestly, we should apply these ideas every time we read anything biblical.

I highly recommend this book. I believe it will help you understand the beatitudes, especially if you've heard them your whole life and think you know everything about them. This book will definitely get you thinking and hopefully put some of those thoughts into action.

Where to buy:
Amazon (Paperback)
Shepherd Press (Paperback or Ebook)

 I received this book free of charge from Shepherd Press and Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Avenged Review

I recently received the book "Avenged" by Janice Cantore from Tyndale Publishers.I thought it looked great, because I love suspense and action novels. I have to admit I was a little disappointed to find out when I received the book that it was actually number three in a series.

Fortunately, Cantore does a pretty good job of separating this story from the others (I presume, without reading them). It did take me a little while to figure out who all the characters were and their relationships. Cantore slides in information from previous books into the story, though, so that if you, like me, come in in the middle or it's been a long time since reading the book before this one, you won't feel totally lost.

Cantore has a background as a police officer. I believe that is why she uses such technical terms in this book. At times it can be confusing. She explained some acronyms in the story, but some acronyms went unexplained and I never was quite sure what they meant.

The story itself was action-packed. It involves a gang war, as well as a personal battle going on with the main character Carly. If you like action stories, or police stories, you will like this book, but I recommend you pick up the first one in the series before you read this one.

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review by Tyndale House.