Monthly Archives: May 2013

Book Report: Heaven Changes Everything by Todd & Sonja Burpo

*Living Every Day with Eternity in Mind*

heaven changes everything

It’s hard to review a devotional objectively. It’s something very personal & what speaks to you is going to be different than what speaks to another reader. But here goes Smile

I had read, “Heaven is for Real” a few years ago. I remember the exact moment I found it at the store. I had never heard of the book & was actually shopping for a Joyce Meyer book that was on my reading list. I picked up Heaven is for Real, read the description on the back; thought it sounded interesting & then shelved it. Throughout the rest of my shopping trip my mind kept going back to that book that eventually (mainly to silence the nags) I put it in my shopping cart & cashed out. I started it almost immediately & it was instrumental in changing  (and confirming) my view on heaven. At the time I read it, my Grandma was battling stage-4 cancer & upon her death the chapters & words in that book were such a comfort to me. She was a strong woman of faith & I know the riches of heaven fell upon her & that we will be reunited again and that fills me with healing. I’ve since passed the book on to others & have recommended it to countless people.

It took me awhile to get through Heaven Changes Everything (over 6months) not because it was bad, but because of LIFE. I had read other devotionals in between, read other novels, but every time I picked up this specific book the messages were very tailored to what I was currently going through; questions on my mind, troubles that were heavy on my shoulders. So I feel like God was telling me to take this devotional very, very, slowly to let it sink in (on average, I’m a speedy reader). Usually I’d find myself crying over the words I was reading & sighing over how “spot on” it felt to read what I was feeling. And I’ll be honest, it led to some frustration because I didn’t want to change my thinking or behavior about some subjects the author suggested needed changed (hey, God made me stubborn so “technically” its His fault, right? Haha!)

Heaven Changes Everything is obviously set up a little differently since it is a devotional & not a narrative. For starters, its written by Todd & Sonja Burpo (Colton’s parents) who alternate chapters (which I liked) each giving their own viewpoint & spin on the subject of the chapter. You definitely would be able to use this book for a Bible Study since it does pose group discussion questions & has countless passages of scripture to study, memorize & discuss. Like I do with all devotionals, I went after it with a “college” mentality. You wouldn’t want to borrow my copy because its highlighted, underlined in pen, things are starred & my personal thoughts are wrote in the margins. You’d finish my copy more confused than when you started! Flipping through the book even now, there’s so many good chapters that I don’t even know where to start! Todd & Sonja (obviously) center the book around their take on Colton’s (their middle-son) near-death experience; visit to heaven & then return to earth. They give their viewpoints on what happened “behind the scenes” & how their lives have changed post-publishing of his novel, “Heaven is for Real”. What I also like was they touched on a little bit of everything; their marriage, their struggles, parenting, balancing careers & of course, their personal views on God & faith.

Since I can’t go chapter by chapter (its not a big book, but it would take awhile & the weather’s to nice to be indoors all day typing on the computer *wink wink*) I’ve picked a couple chapters that really spoke to me:

Chapter 9: “A Mixture of Faith & Doubt” told from the viewpoint of Todd. It’s about how you can be a person of Faith & still Doubt. I know I can relate to that. I don’t know how many countless times I’ve prayed for something & then took matters into my own hands because God was moving to slow (you’d think by now I would have learned my lesson & realize I do more damage than good!). Todd writes, “So you’re struggling. God understands. He knows you can’t see what’s waiting for you around the corner-not to mention next week or next year. But God is good at working with strugglers. Pray, “help me believe”. Even though he’s a Pastor; a man people look up to for spiritual guidance, he still struggled with doubt when doctor’s reported his son would not survive.

Chapter 23: “Imagine Being Held by Jesus”. This chapter really got to be. In this chapter, Todd remembers the moment when he was in the hospital chapel; alone, spewing forth hateful & angry words to God, so fearful that he may lose his son-didn’t understand why & God seemed to be silent. Upon Colton’s “return to earth” he tells Todd that he saw him in the chapel, crying & angry. “yeah, Jesus was there too.”…..”well, where was Jesus?”….Colton looked me right in the eye. ‘I was sitting in Jesus’ lap.’”….I was hiding out in the empty hospital room, raging at God for bringing my son so close to death-furious at the very One who at that moment, unknown to me, was holding my son in his arms. Quite the contrast, isn’t it?”. For me personally, I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten angry at God for his silence (what I view as silence) when he’s got something so much bigger intended for me. “But at the same time I try to remember that God has a plan for my life-a plan that ends in heaven-and whatever is happening to me right now is part of that plan.”

Countless other thoughts jump out at me throughout this devotional, “There are things God allows to happen because he knows the outcome is going to be greater than anything we could ever do on our own.”,”Children’s simple prayers fall as sweetly on God’s ears as they do on ours.”, “there is blessedness in brokenness. God uses broken people.” & “stand without wavering. Stand without apology. Stand confidently & say, ‘I know who Jesus is, and this is what he has done for me.’”

This is not a hard devotional at all & I recommend it for any beginner who is new in their walk with the Lord. It’ll get your feet wet as far as getting in the Word & reading the Bible, its full of personal opinion & testimonials rather than a lot of Bible-scripture-reading. However, even if you’re dedicated & like those in-depth devotionals this works as well, you can back up the author’s points & key-notes with Bible scriptures that reference it. Any way you look at it, the fact is; it’s just a good clean read & I highly recommend adding it to any reading list.

The closing paragraph of the book just warms me: “I love thinking about being so glad, and so grateful, to see Jesus that I spontaneously fall down on my knees before him. And I know he’ll be glad to see me. In fact, he’s been praying that I would join him there. He’s praying you’ll join him there too. Please don’t disappoint him. He’s waiting for you in heaven. And that changes everything.” What a great feeling to think that the Lord is praying to spend time with you! That’s something to hold onto when you’re feeling challenged, stressed, & overwhelmed. The Lord is praying that you’ll talk to him & spend time with him.

How fantastic of a thought is that???

How will you react????

 

 

 

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Lessons Learned: Taking Ownership…

Lessons learned

One of my part-time jobs (yes, I work a couple!) is working at a horse rescue. Even though my employment “status” falls under the veterinary department, as anybody involved in rescue work knows; you usually end up wearing a multitude of hats. More often than not I’ve found myself doing less vaccine administration & more stall-mucking (fortunately a part of me loves that hard-labor work). Within the last few months, the founder asked if I’d be interested in learning how the adoption-process works; going through the application & interviewing process, matching up potentials with the right “fit”, home visits & conducting background & financial checks on potentials. At first I was hesitant…this is supposed to be my “fun” job, even though I’d still be working directly with the horses & getting my hands dirty, a few hours of office work would now be added to my plate. Blah! But since my ultimate life-goal is to run my own animal rescue/adoption group one day (my big God-dream) with little thought I seized the opportunity knowing this is something I need to learn & will only benefit me in the long run.

For several weeks I’d been working with this girl (she’s given me permission to blog her story), around my age, divorced, no kids…a horse girl at heart. For several years of her marriage she had lived in the city & had gotten away from her country roots. Upon her divorce, she moved out to the country, got a dog, & was now looking to add a horse to her little family. Several emails back & forth, a few meet & greets and (finally) we found a Quarter Horse mare that was a nice fit Buckles1for her (and on a personal level, this was a horse that was dear to my heart & I was waiting until just the right person came along!) I was stoked, she was stoked & in my heart I felt good. Everything seemed to be falling into place. Because of the cost to do background & financial checks, we don’t do them until the very last step (otherwise we’d be doing them on everybody & that cost adds up fast!) when we know this is a serious potential & that’s the last hurdle to overcome. This girl did not pass the financial check. I was heartbroken (literally, I cried) I felt so BAD for her knowing how much she needed this specific horse for her own healing from a painful divorce. I fought & fought on her behalf to our head Adoption Coordinator & in the end she told me,”Carey, its our policy. It’s not meant to be for either of them. This position requires you to be a voice for the voiceless.” I rolled my eyes at her (stupidest thing I’d ever heard!) & said, “F**k the policy” & walked out of the office (classy!) to call this girl with the news that it wasn’t going to happen this time. She was upset, but said,”I can’t blame anyone but myself. My finances are not in order & I’m going to have to learn that nobody is going to change that but me.”

I thought about these words on my drive home (and it’s a long drive!)

I really respect that answer. So often people blame others for their mistakes (myself included). When I’ve failed at something, I do find myself blaming this reason or that & more often than not, its because I wasn’t prepared. When my bank account is wavering on the verge of non-existent, I can look down & see the new shoes I bought because I “had to” have them in that moment. When I step on the scale & realize how much weight I’ve gained I blame my past, how I was raised, my genes…everything but the boxes of Girl Scout cookies I inhaled for every meal for 2 weeks straight. This is an area I struggle with, its hard to look in the mirror & take responsibility for your actions…all of them!

You’re in the situation you’re in because of decisions that (A) you’ve either made or (B) your response to situation’s you had no control over.

Every single decision that you will ever make has either a good consequence or a bad consequence….but take ownership of it, either way.

I wish I could tell you exactly how to do this, I don’t know. It’s something that I will have to work through, as well. Over the last few years, there’s been things brought up in my personal life that I’ve had to deal with & I’ve learned how its affected behavior that I didn’t even realize it affected. The point is, I can’t use it as an excuse anymore…taking ownership.

Today, was a good lesson.

 

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Book Report: "Thurston House" by Danielle Steel

ThurstonHouse

This is my um-teenth D.S. novel I’ve read to date, some I’ve liked…some I’ve hated. This one I liked. Really liked. This may be a front-runner for one of my favorites of her novels.

Thurston House is the story of Jeremiah Thurston & the legacy that he built. It’s divided into 3 different “books”. I’m a sucker for a good, epic, Historical-fiction novel & this one fit the bill. At over 500pages, it’ll take you awhile to get through, but it will hold your interest.

Book 1 introduces you to Jeremiah Thurston; Napa Valley, CA, 1860. She opens the novel with laying down the foundation that the rest of the epic is built upon. Thurston is a small-time owner of a quicksilver mine beginning his life with his young bride. A lost-battle with influenza takes the life of his bride & he spends the next several decades in bachelor-dom, building up his mining empire. Alone with his housekeeper (Hannah), she becomes the mother-figure he never had & she, in turn, becomes a pivotal character in the novel. On a cross-country train ride to Atlanta, middle-aged Thurston meets Amelia & falls immediately in-love, however, its not reciprocated & a strong friendship is built that, also, transpires throughout the rest of the novel. Once in Atlanta, he meets the (very) young , 17year old Camilia Beauchamp & she quickly becomes his wife.

Now I LOVE a good villain in a novel…love them! I have a weakness for nastiness, debauchery, bitchiness, arrogance, vile, great villain characters (no surprise my favorite movie characters are; Wicked Witch of the West, the Evil Queen in Snow White, Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmatians. They just make things “interesting” *insert maniacal “wa-ha-ha” laugh*). Camille definitely falls under the category of “villain”. Evil! Right from the beginning she weaseled her way into Jeremiah’s heart (as only a young girl can do to a middle-aged man), he’s beyond loaded with money & she is the quintessential “gold-digger”. He even had clues prior to the wedding that she had ulterior motives, but chose to ignore them. Being so young, he knew she’d never be happy living in the very desolate country-lifestyle that was Napa Valley at the turn of the century, so he built her a grand house, “Thurston House” in San Francisco; at the time it was marveled as being the grandest house in the country, comparable to the Castles of Europe. After the wedding, she made his life miserable, as well as, the life of his staff & friends. Even though Danielle Steele emphasizes what a “victim” Thurston is to Camille, my sympathies were limited towards him. There was moments of abuse, he raped her (which resulted in her pregnancy, something she was adamantly against. But he thought she’d grow out of that mindset), eventually she cheated & left him to move to Paris. He never divorced her (so you knew she was going to show up later in the novel with more malicious intent) & raised his daughter, Sabrina, to believe she had died when Sabrina was a baby.

Books 2 &3 are about Sabrina’s early & later years. I really, really liked what Danielle Steel did with this character. Talk about a ball-buster! Thurston mines are beyond booming & grape vineyards are added into the mix. Biggest mining-industry in the country, rivaled only to that by their arch-rival the Harte mines. The first few chapters are about Sabrina coming-of-age as a late teenager & when her father unexpectedly passes away, Sabrina takes on the challenge of managing the mines & vineyards. This is pre-WW1 era, she’s a female & is 18 to boot. Needless to say, she had to grow a huge pair! I loved the chapters how she toughened up & had to fight her way to keep her father’s business afloat. It was no surprise that, eventually, she fell in love with the owner of her arch-rival, John Harte, married & settled into a more relaxed life with her running the vineyards (her real passion) & him running the mines. They have a child together, Jonathan, but she once again finds herself alone when John dies tragically in a train accident.

She raises John, as I imagine any child in that situation would be raised, as spoiled ROTTEN. He’s showing the same character traits of  Camille & Steel brilliantly brought her character back to life through Jonathon (although, spoiling him obsessively to make up for Sabrina’s lack of being involved in his life probably didn’t help!), eventually through a series of events Jonathon (as an adult) is introduced to Camille, realizes it is his Grandma & connivingly brings her back into Thurston House to take over Sabrina’s life & money (because he’s mad his mom didn’t buy him a new car). I wish that part of the story would’ve drug out longer because I really enjoyed it, but it only lasted a few chapters.

During Book 3, Sabrina loses the mines, is forced to sell most of her belongings & is only able to hold onto the vineyards, which she only manages to stay afloat when she’s introduced to Andre & Antoine; father & son wine-makers from France who help build up her wine-empire. Eventually, she marries Andre & they have a daughter together, Dominique.

Plenty of secondary-characters are throughout this novel: Mary Ellen, Spring Moon, Dan Richfield, Hannah, Amelia, & Arden whom are all instrumental in the shaping of events. Typical Danielle Steel style, she uses the backdrop of history to give a personal feel to the story; WW1 & 2, the Great Depression, the California Gold-Rush & hot debatable topics; domestic abuse, rape, women’s rights, abortion, even religion & divorce. When you mix that with late 19th/early 20th century ideals it can create an interesting story!

I definitely recommend this novel, even if you’re not a Danielle Steel fan (it does have some romance) it’s a heavy book & not necessarily a light read. Its full of lots of history & hot debatable topics. It’ll piss you off, it’ll make you smile, & some parts will make you laugh at the absurdity of that time-period’s thinking. It’s one of her early ones (circa 1985), but still a good find for me (.99 at a used-bookstore…score!).

 

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A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place by Beth Moore…

Wow, its been awhile since I’ve done a book review! I wish I could say that I’ve been reading, but I haven’t even done much of that! When my Goodreads Book Update came via email (with the big headline: You’ve completed 0 books of your 25 book goal for 2013) I felt book readers everywhere mentally stone me for my laziness. Fortunately its summertime which just feels like book-reading season (you would think wintertime would be, but I’m using summertime as my excuse to make it look better, is it working?)

a woman's heartbethmoore1

For the past 3mos. my Women’s Bible Study group at my church has been studying Beth Moore’s, “A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place”. It’s super-hard to do an actual “book report” over this because it’s a study-guide (like a text-book) & very personal, full of devotion’s & questions for you to answer about your own life & where you are on your walk with Christ. I wasn’t sure how to review this study, but in the end the only way I know how to review it is by (trying) to put into words how this study has changed my own personal view on specific things.

Beth Moore opens the study by letting you know that she prayed for you! Y.O.U. (and me) she prays that God pours His Spirit onto those going through this study & that He meets us where we need him too. I’ve done devotionals before, but this is the first time I’ve ever read that the author PRAYED for its readers, right away I knew this was going to be a rough study to get through. It consists of 10 sessions with 5 Days in each session; every night you’re supposed to read a “day” & answer the accompanying questions. Then at the end of the sessions, there is an hour long video viewer guide where Beth Moore wraps up all 5 sessions into a lecture (sermon-style). Its certainly a lot of work! Upon completion I felt the same accomplished feeling I got when I finished an intense semester of college!

She takes you through the story of Moses (post-freeing the Israelites) into the building of God’s Tabernacle & why that is the foundation of God dwelling inside all of us. Based in the study of Bible Scripture (mostly in the chapters of Exodus) she guides you step-by-step through the idea (the Garden of Eden), Moses’ building the Tabernacle, the hierarchy of leaders appointed, the fallout, the birth of Jesus-his life & death, the tabernacle in present times & ends the study by how the book of Revelation views the future of the Tabernacle. In case you’re unfamiliar with what the “Tabernacle” is, in a nutshell: its’ God’s Dwelling Place! His “home” on Earth.

Heavy stuff!

Like I said earlier, I can’t break the study down because its very individualized. What stood out to me is going to be different than what stood out to another person doing the study. What was apparent throughout this study, however, was that God met us where we needed to be met.

For me, there was two very big chapters that stood out to me. The first one was Session 6, The Heart of a IMAG2149Servant; the outside structure of the Tabernacle had been built & now the decorating of the inside has begun (of course a chapter on “decorating” would naturally be one of my favorites! Smile). The Altar of Incense is introduced in this session. I’m going to try to explain this in the easiest way that I’ve come to know what it means: the altar of incense signifies intercession. It signifies Christ (who hasn’t been born yet) interceding our prayers to God on our behalf! It’s about offering up prayers, fragrant worship, unto God. It’s about getting past “issues” & asking for help. It’s about knowing & fully believing that God hears our prayers, that’s what the Altar of Incense is, it symbolizes prayer. One of the biggest lessons I learned in the viewer’s guide session was when Beth Moore said, “Don’t think your prayers are unanswered, they are never unanswered. Your prayer is answered the second you pray for it, but the time for the answer to be revealed to you will be in God’s timing when you’re ready to see it.” It hit me hard because the night before I watched this session I had wrote down in my journal that I was “giving up”on a prayer that had been on my heart for awhile. And just that morning the word, “Obedience” kept ringing through my head when I was dragging ass about going to Bible Study because I felt so defeated & was racking my brain to come up with an excuse why I couldn’t make it to class. That message was for me that day, that message was what God wanted me to hear to let me know my answer will be revealed (probably when I quit whining about it!).

The second session that really hit me hard was (coincidentally) the following week (I guess God was really telling me to pay attention those weeks!). It was IMAG2150Session 7: A Heart that Intercedes.This chapter was about the leaders, the priesthood, that God appointed for His Tabernacle & how Jesus Christ is the ultimate intercessor, the ultimate great-high priest. I had never thought about Jesus as an “intercessor” on my behalf before, how he actually talks to his father (God) about me! How awesome is that!  To think that my silly little prayers are being discussed about & a plan is being shaped to answer prayers that I’ve prayed. I can just picture me in my bedroom praying for something that’s weighing on my heart, Jesus is hanging out at the sports bar with God, drinking some Guinness (because you know they’re dark-beer drinkers) watching some Ohio State football & says, “Dad, Carey’s bugging me about this…again! How do you want handle it? Seriously, she’s getting on my nerves. Let’s make this happen…soon!” I just love that! LOVE THAT! To think that God puts thought into EVERYTHING concerning my life & nothing is made in haste, no decision, is ever made in haste when it comes to the fulfillment of God’s plan for my life. That even the times I’ve screwed up, that I expressed free-will on my own life, God still allowed that mistake to happen if it fit into his greater plan for my life. I don’t know about you, but that makes me look at some of my past mistakes & think, “yeah, that sucked. It was painful, it was a tough lesson, but it really will get me to a greater destiny.”

So there ya go! That’s my review on Beth Moore: A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place. It was a little jumbled, a little all over the place, at times painful to get through…but so worth it. I learned a lot through this Bible Study on God’s relationship with those he holds in high esteem & to think that I’m one of them, that’s kind of a cool thought. It would be a tough Bible Study to get through if you wanted to do it on your own because so much is geared towards discussion points & getting insight from others, but you could do it. I definitely recommend getting this Bible Study going in your own home church (or even if you want to start a Bible Study with friends…try this one out!). It’s so worth it!

 

 

 

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