‘For the Love: Fighting for Grace In A World of Impossible Standards’: A Book Review

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If you want a book that will make you laugh and think, Jen Hatmaker’s latest book ‘For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards’ is just that book. And this book is also for anyone who has ever struggled with feeling like they don’t measure up. Wait….isn’t that most of us? Funny and thought provoking, ‘For the Love’ has been rated as the number one best seller in Christian living on Amazon.

Jen Hatmaker is a mother to five children by birth and adoption, a pastor’s wife, popular speaker, blogger, best-selling author and star of the popular series My Big Family Renovation on HGTV.  She is known for her books 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. She is also known for her tell-it- like-it-is authentic, real and humorous writing style.

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Hilariously and insightfully written, this book is about people. And it’s about how we need the grace of God to deal with the challenge of fulfilling part of God’s mandate for us, which is to love others well. Refreshingly honest, Jen Hatmaker tackles challenges that many women face today across different life domains, such as marriage, parenting, friendship and church life. She reveals how to:

  • Break free of guilt and shame by dismantling the unattainable Pinterest perfect life.
  • Learn to engage our culture’s controversial issues with a gracious approach.
  • Be able to love and release the burden of always being right.
  • Identify the tools you already have to develop real-life, all-in, ‘know-my-junk-but-love-me-anyway’ friendships.
  • Escape impossible standards for parenting and marriage by accepting the standard of “mostly good’.

This book was a fun read. It had moments of depth, and moments of shallowness. I especially appreciated the chapter on missions, and I would highly recommend this to anyone contemplating a short term missions trip. This book covered a wide range of topics and felt a little disjointed at times. Liberatingly honest, the strength of this book is in the way that it conveys truth and wisdom about serious issues while remaining lighthearted. Whether you are a Christian or not, single, married, a mother, a professional, perhaps you are someone who has been hurt in church, there is something for everyone in ‘For the Love’. An affirming book for all women, renewing their value and worth.

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Some favourite quotes from ‘For the Love’

Folks who thrive in God’s grace give grace easily, but the self-critical person becomes others-critical.

-We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.

-There’s a difference between humility and insecurity, and self-effacement does no one any favors.

-How many trot out that tired cliché—“I’m waiting for God to open a door”—and He’s all, “I love you, but get going, Pumpkin,” because usually chasing the dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work.

-A good parent prepares the child for the path, not the path for the child.

-I worry we consider “success” to be a product of the parent’s diligence more than the child’s.

-Lean honestly into every hard place, each tender spot, because truthfulness hurts for a minute, but silence is the kill shot.

-Loneliness can be a prison, but we have keys. You needn’t wait for someone to open the bars.

For more information, visit JenHatmaker.com

  • I received a free copy of this book as part of the Booklook Bloggers Programme. I was not required to write a positive review.

On Daffodils and the Elephant in the Room

Daffodils and the Elephant in the Room

Cancer. The giant C word. It’s an awful business. And it’s often been described as the ‘elephant in the room’. I know so many dear people who are battling the cruelty of cancer right now. We all do. Sadly it’s everywhere. Today in New Zealand it is Daffodil Day. Daffodil Day is the Cancer Society’s most important fundraising and awareness campaign in the country. As well as providing an opportunity to raise awareness of cancer in New Zealand, Daffodil Day is a major source of funding for the Cancer Society. Yes this fundraiser is a little controversial due to the testing of cancer drugs on animals. But whether you are against this fundraiser or you would happily shake a bucket on Daffodil Day, we all want to support those who are going through cancer. And their loved ones.

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Even health professionals can feel awkward about having cancer conversations with patients who are newly diagnosed. And if we are a friend, neighbour or family member of someone who is suffering, it can also be hard to gauge whether the person with cancer wants hugs and a listening ear, or whether they simply want to be left alone. Perhaps they don’t want to reiterate their story to every person they meet at the supermarket. What do we say? What do we not say?

Most cancer patients report that they find out who their real friends are while they are undergoing treatment. And if we want to be that caring, empathetic friend, our support needs to be tailor made to suit the person. Firstly, we can aim to be wholly present for the person. We can arm ourselves with information (from credible sources) and learn more about the diagnosis before we communicate with our friend. The person with cancer may not want to talk about the details for many reasons. If there is information that is unknown or not shared, don’t push for more. Prepare yourself for changes in the person’s appearance. Instead of commenting on appearance, perhaps start your visit by saying “It’s good to see you” instead of commenting on any physical changes.

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  • Ask permission—before visiting, and before asking questions. Try not to give advice. And make it clear that saying no is okay.
  • Make plans for the future—this gives your friend something positive to look forward to. Flexible plans can be easily changed in case something comes up or your friend needs to cancel or reschedule.
  • Be comfortable with sadness—do not ignore uncomfortable topics or feelings. Listen and reflect back with they are saying.
  • Make time for a weekly check-in phone call. Let your friend know when you will be calling, and let your friend know that it is okay to not answer the phone.
  • Offer to help with practical tasks, such as taking care of children, taking care of a pet, or preparing a meal. Many people find it hard to ask for help, and your friend will likely appreciate the offer. However, if your friend declines an offer, try not to take it personally. Many of us find it hard to receive help for one reason or another. There are many great online tools that make help coordination easier. See: http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com http://www.takethemameal.com and http://www.mealtrain.com.
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  • Here are some other suggestions of practical help:
    • Shop for groceries and pick up prescriptions.
    • Help with chores around the house, such as getting the mail, taking care of pets, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of plants and flowers, and taking out the rubbish.
    • Delivering meals and baking in disposable containers.
    • Schedule a night of takeaways and movies together.
    • Baby-sit children, take them to and from school and evening activities, and arrange for play dates.
    • Organize a phone chain and/or support team to check on your friend regularly.
    • Call, email, or text regularly. Let your friend know it’s okay if he or she doesn’t reply.
    • Drive your friend to an appointment. You can take notes during a doctor’s appointment or keep your friend company during a treatment session.
    • Go for a walk together.
    • Think about the little things your friend enjoys and makes life “normal” for them. This could be helping to decorate for a holiday or weeding the garden. If there is something your friend would usually do, there are many ways you can make it a bit easier for him or her to do it.
  • Offer to pray for the person. Here is a prayer app that helps one to remember to pray for those on a prayer list. See: app.prayermate.net 
  • Follow through on a commitment to help.
  • As much as possible, treat the person the same way you always have. Ask about interests, hobbies, and other topics not related to cancer—people with cancer sometimes need a break from talking about their illness.
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Avoid saying

  • I know just how you feel.
  • You need to talk.
  • ‘You’re so brave’ or ‘You’re so strong’. This puts pressure on the person to pretend that they are always brave.
  • I know just what you should do.
  • I feel helpless.
  • I don’t know how you manage.
  • I’m sure you’ll be fine.
  • Don’t worry.
  • How much time do the doctors give you?
  • How long do you have?
  • Let me know what I can do. (Instead, offer specific ways you can help or other things you can provide if they need it.)card5

Do say

  • I’m so sorry this has happened to you.
  • If you ever feel like talking, I am here to listen.
  • What are you thinking of doing, and how can I help?
  • I care about you.
  • I’m thinking about you.
  • I don’t know what to say. (It is better to be honest than to simply stop calling or visiting because you feel uncomfortable).

Gift ideas

Giving a gift is one way to show you care about someone, but be mindful not to give your friend anything that advocates a specific treatment as a cure for cancer. It’s important to respect their treatment choices and their coping process, whether it is how you would cope in the same situation or not. Keep gifts tailor made to your friend.

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Some ideas include:

  • Magazines, audio books, novels, books of short stories, or gift cards to purchase reading material
  • CDs or gift cards for downloadable music
  • DVDs of movies, TV shows, or documentaries
  • Accessories (earrings, bracelets, scarves, ties, hats), makeup, or beauty items
  • Note cards or a journal
  • A video message from family and friends
  • Gift certificates for massage, spa services, restaurants, or museum/art gallery passes
  • Gift cards to grocery stores
  • A housecleaning service
  • Craft or hobby supply kits (scrapbooking, drawing)
  • Pajamas or robe, lingere
  • Flowers or plants
  • A weekend away at a holiday house

Sometimes we may wish to send a card to someone suffering with cancer. But many cards have inappropriate wording on them. Here are some fabulous cards for cancer sufferers. The slogans say it all. See:

http://emilymcdowell.com/collections/empathy-cards

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We can also honour our friend by making contributions to related charities, or raising money through sites such as Givealittle: http://www.givealittle.co.nz.

If the person agrees, we could plan a party when treatment is finished or on anniversary dates. Always check with the person with cancer before making party plans, and show them the list of those to be invited.

Loved ones of those with cancer will also need just as much support. A cancer diagnosis is just as devastating for a spouse or loved one. The above tips can apply to spouses and loved ones too.

To make a donation this Daffodil Day, please see: http://www.daffodilday.org.nz.

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‘The Plain Choice’ : A Book Review

The Plain ChoiceYou know the sort of book that you can’t put down and instead end up reading til the early hours of the morning, only to be tired the next day? Well ‘The Plain Choice: A True Story of Choosing to Live An Amish Life’ by Amish foodie and cookbook writer Sherry Gore was just one of those books. I’ve always had a fascination with the Amish. Their way of life is so interesting to me. I like their crafts, their recipes and their sense of community. So when I saw that this book was available to review I simply jumped at the chance. What many people don’t know is that Sherry Gore wasn’t born Amish. She was born into a modern family, but then became a Christian and felt called to live an Amish/Mennonite life. Raised in a broken family, Sherry Gore grew up feeling emotionally neglected. Several mistakes had left her feeling broken, alone and traumatized. 

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Sherry struggles on, and then one morning she walks into a church and has a revelation of Jesus and His grace and love.
Seeking an escape from the darkness and desperation of her earlier life, Sherry makes a fresh start for herself and her children as she seeks to follow the literal interpretation of the Bible’s teachings on head coverings, simple dress, and a focus on Jesus Christ. Then to her excitement, she discovers that there is a community that would be a good fit for her. They are called Amish and Mennonite, and ‘she realizes she has found her people’.

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The plain choice that Sherry made is not for the faint hearted, and Sherry Gore is one of the few people on earth to have successfully joined the Amish from the outside. That is what makes her story so interesting. Her later life hasn’t been easy either, and sadly one of Sherry’s daughters passed away earlier this year after a long battle with illness. This memoir is a fascinating, easy read. It’s a testimony of how God can bring about healing and transformation, from a young person living on the streets, to someone healed, whole, and thriving in community.

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Check out this blog for more Amish inspiration: http://www.notquiteamish.com

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The Argument-Free Marriage: A Book Review

 Argument Free Marriage

‘The Argument-Free Marriage: 28 Days to Creating the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted with the Spouse You Already Have.’ This title recently caught my attention. But wait…..is an argument-free marriage even possible? Fawn Weaver, the best-selling author, award-winning marriage blogger and founder of the ‘Happy Wives Club’ certainly thinks so. In ‘An Argument-Free Marriage’, she invites readers to consider investing twenty-eight days in learning how to live together without arguing.

Fawn asserts that contrary to popular opinion, conflict in marriage is not necessary. Me? I’m not so sure. I would argue that conflict is inevitable in any marriage. There will always be pressures in life that squeeze a marriage over time. It is not the absence of conflict in a marriage that makes a marriage happy and successful. Rather it is how conflict is handled that determines how healthy one’s marriage is.

Weaver asserts that there are 3 things that are essential in creating an argument-free marriage, and that these can be replicated in any relationship one desire’s to last a lifetime (marriage, siblings, parents, children):

  1. ‘Understand and obey the law of acceleration’.
  2. ‘Stick to the original emotion’.
  3. ‘Keep at the forefront of your mind this indisputable fact: that tomorrow may never come’.

I find that many books on marriage say the same things, and this book wasn’t my favourite on the topic. The author writes: ‘This book is personal. This books exposes every inch of my marriage in hopes that each person will find and create the marriage of their dreams. It’s possible…and you hold the power in your hands…today’. Rather than addressing the issue of conflict in marriage, much of the book was focussed on her own marriage, and the tone was rather self satisfied at times. The author claims to have an argument-free marriage, but it’s worth noting that the couple don’t have children, and while children are wonderful little blessings, raising them can often add significant stress to any marriage.  However, there were many pearls pf wisdom in this book. And Fawn has delivered in this book what she does with her website: disseminating encouraging messages about how marriages can thrive. I’m off to call a ‘cease fire’ on arguments for 28 days!

Take a look at the following clip. Fawn is a very engaging speaker.

http://www.happywivesclub.com

Pursuing a Passion for Prayer…When You Barely Have Time to Brush Your Teeth

Pursuing a Passion for Prayer

‘I’m a mother of little kids, I don’t have time to pray. I barely get time for a shower!’

‘I have a busy job, and my boss requires me to work really long hours.’

‘I have to help care for my parents as well as run a business.’

Do any of these sentiments sound familiar? I’ve read many books on prayer over the years. One that comes to mind is the classic by Bill Hybels – ‘Too Busy Not To Pray’. But that’s just it. We are so busy these days. I’ve recently cut several commitments out of my schedule, yet I still feel busy. Perhaps this is just the season of life I am in with young children. One of the commitments I cut out was the role of Prayer Coordinator at church. You’d think I would have more time to pursue prayer now that I have omitted several commitments. But still, prayer is often the first thing to fall on the back burner. Even people who have roles such as ‘Prayer Coordinator’ struggle to pray. We are all in a battle and the enemy fights us to pray and read God’s word, because he knows that when we pray and believe the word of God, things happen.

Sometimes I have been guilty of filling my schedule with activities, leaving little room to spend time in God’s word and prayer. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we need to feel pressured to pray. Many people feel under immense pressure today. Many parents work long hours in jobs just to put food on the table. Some of us are just plain weary. Or perhaps we are overwhelmed by all the needs we see around us. We hear of horrifying things happening to Christians in the Middle East. And around us are those suffering cancer, those with marriages in turmoil. Friends with sick parents, depression, chronic pain or colicky babies. We might wonder, where to start? Jesus himself understood weariness. In Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 11:28), Jesus teaches us “’Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’”

We are never condemned for our failure to pray. Instead, God graciously and gently invites us to fellowship with him. Haggai admonishes us to prioritize God’s work: (Haggai 1:9)  “You expected much, but see, it  turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?”  declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”

In our family we have been working on a few strategies to bring prayer back into the centre of our lives. Prayer is one of our values in our family mission statement, and short of putting a blanket over our heads to pray (like Susannah Wesley did), we have developed a few simple prayer strategies. One is a prayer jar. We write down prayer needs the we know of and pray for one or two of them at dinner time.

prayer jar

Last year I developed a little prayer timetable. Prayer needs are broken down into praying for one area per day.

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One day I would love to have a prayer room, as depicted in the film ‘War Room’ which is about to be released this month. From the producers of Fireproof and Courageous (which I found encouraging if albeit a little cheesy), this film is geared to be the most powerful film yet.  ‘War Room’ explores how pursuing prayer can have a dramatic positive impact upon marriages, parenting, careers, friendships, and every other area of our lives. Many areas of our lives can sometimes feel like a war zone. Maybe we too, need a war room where prayer strategies are planned for the battles that we face. Because we all face battles.

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I my pursuit to prioritize prayer, I am challenged to take a break from distractions. For all the time that I spend on facebook, I could be praying. We all have 24 hours in the day, and even if we are in a really busy season, we have small pockets of time where we can pray. Let’s prioritize time spent with the Lord, even in the busy seasons of life. We need to keep on keeping on. I am really not a morning person, but I might even be challenged to get up early one of these days!

. . . I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.  (Psalm 119:147)

. . . Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went

        off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  (Mark 1:35)

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http://www.warroomthemovie.com

Not the Hostess with the Mostess: Extending Simple Hospitality Amidst a Messy & Hectic Life

Not the Hostess with the Mostess

Hospitality. Sadly hosting others in our homes isn’t done as much today. Before I had my children, having friends over for a meal was something that I did often, and really enjoyed. Hospitality with small children however, is a little more challenging. I’ve come to the conclusion that with young children, I’m not going to be the hostess with the mostess. It simply isn’t realistic to hold myself to the same B.C standards (before children), and I wasn’t the hostess with the mostess before I had children either!.

Really it’s not the cooking that worries me about having others over. It’s the mess that the kids create. Another factor in the equation is busyness. We forgo hospitality because we are busy with a capital B. Even though I have recently reduced the number of commitments that I have, life with three children, a household and a husband with a demanding job is still busy. Even having others over for coffee can be an effort. I feel I have to tidy up before they come, and after they go (if they have small children). Sometimes it’s easier to meet in a café. I recall when my two youngest were both under two, having one friend over for toasted sandwiches was an effort. There are those friends that you know so well, that you can invite them over without having to tidy up. But for most visitors, the pressure I felt to have everything in order was too much. It was easier not to invite others over. I recall a friend helping me put dishes away after dinner, and she saw my drawers that needed cleaning. I was embarrassed. Hospitality is humbling. It requires us to be vulnerable and authentic with one another. But there is something special about opening our doors to others.

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“Welcome is one of the signs that a community is alive. To invite others to live with us is a sign that we aren’t afraid, that we have a treasure of truth and of peace to share. A community which refuses to welcome – whether through fear, weariness, insecurity, a desire to cling to comfort, or just because it is fed up with visitors – is dying spiritually.”Jean Vanier

The value of hospitality has been impressed upon my heart recently. Consider what it says of hospitality in the Bible:

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)

When I was younger I was blessed by families opening their home to me. But I don’t think I realized just how much effort is involved in having others over if you have children. However, now that my youngest is three, I’d really like to get back into the habit of extending hospitality to others, on a regular basis.

We have just started having family nights every Saturday night. We make dinner together as a family, eat together, share a devotion and then do an activity together, which might be a board game or in the case of last Saturday night, creating a mini-golf course around the house. We’ve decided to invite another individual, couple or family over to join us for family night once a month. This way it gives the children opportunity to practice their table manners (which could always do with some improvements), and it helps them to learn to be other-centred and Kingdom centred.

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We will make an effort to tidy up, but generally speaking, our visitors are going to have to take us as they find us. I don’t want to become a stress cadet, barking orders at the children, just because we are having company. After all, our friends or others that we want to get to know are there to see us, not the house. Thankfully, having friends over is not a house inspection (even if it sometimes feels like it when you are the host). Most people feel more at home in a place that isn’t perfect. I have had to ask myself whether I am seeking to bless? Or impress? Entertaining impresses. Hospitality blesses.

With three young children, we can extend ‘scruffy hospitality’. ‘Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together’.

Can we create space and give time to host others? Hospitality creates a sense of warmth and belonging, that is sadly missing in our isolationist culture. In an era where loneliness is of epidemic proportions, can we prioritize community over creating an impression? People are hungrier for hospitality than we realize. We can keep it simple. It can even be as simple as soup and bread rolls. I still enjoy cooking, but I know that a meal doesn’t have to be Pinterest worthy or something off MasterChef. I’m not going to invite others over every night or even every week. I am, after all, still an introvert. But I’d like to take a risk and invite others over more. Will you take a risk and invite others into your home?

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A Book Review: ‘Be the Best Mom You Can Be: A Guide to Raising Whole Children in a Broken Generation’

Be the Best Mom You Can Be

If you are like most moms (including me!) you probably feel stress and insecurity facing the challenges of being a mom in the twenty-first century.”~from the book “Be the Best Mom You Can Be: A Practical Guide to Raising Whole Children in a Broken Generation”

There are many, many parenting books available today. So many, that it can sometimes be rather overwhelming for parents. In fact, this parenting game is a bit like wading through a bog of advice. But for the most part I do enjoy reading parenting books. I like reading about the experiences of others, and I like applying snippets of advice from the parenting book gems that I read. And ‘Be the Best Mom You Can Be’ is a gem of a book. It’s not preachy or condescending like some parenting books can be. And it doesn’t offer a one size fits all approach. But what you will find in this book is a ton of wisdom.

Marina Slayton is a former educator with a master’s degree, and Gregory Slayton is a venture capitalist and visiting professor at several Ivy League universities. He is the author of ‘Be a Better Dad Today.’ They have been married for more than twenty-four years and raised four children. They live in Hanover, New Hampshire.
The Slaytons impart wisdom about how to effectively parent in this challenging generation. While not rocket science, their basic premise is that love is the foundation on which successful parenting of whole children is built. It is ensuring that our children feel loved which is the most important factor. Be the Best Mom You Can Be’ offers six time-test principles (the Six Secrets) for being a truly great mom and is warm, engaging, funny and honest. Slayton offers insights to both educate and equip moms to be the best mothers they can be. Women who need encouragement or who need to grow in confidence in their role as a mothers will find the straight-forward and practical advice beneficial.
I especially liked the premise that ‘Moms don’t have to be perfect, that was never the goal.’ I appreciated Marina Slayton’s honesty about the real life experiences her children and her children’s friends have faced in our ever changing world. Being a mother of littlies, you don’t always anticipate what might be coming up around the corner, and I appreciated that this book discussed how to deal with issues that might come up in the middle childhood and teenage years. This book has real life lessons to help mothers raise their children with real life challenges and issues. I highly recommend this book to all mothers.
To read more about this book and to purchase a copy please see http://www.amazon.com.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as a Booklook Blogger. The opinions are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
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When You Realize That You Are Living Life in a Bubble

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Like me, do you ever feel as if you live life in a bubble? Living in a bubble is perhaps defined as living safely in the confines of our comfort zone, with all the trappings of modern affluence. Recently I’ve wondered why is it that when bloggers blog about issues of poverty, trafficking or injustice, there is little interest. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it is because we are often overwhelmed with our own lives, and it’s simply too much to hear of the atrocities that are going on in the world. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we care too deeply and we simply can’t cope with the realities of the world’s brokenness.

But I’ve been challenged recently about living life in a bubble. And ignoring the snow forecasts, last night I ventured out into the cold, to hear an inspiring speaker. Sue is a New Zealander who has spent the last eleven years counselling victims of trafficking in Cambodia with Hagar International. She tells the story of having her own bubble popped around ten years ago when she visited Cambodia and came face to face with a young girl of fifteen. Serena (not her real name) was lying in a makeshift hospital bed in a run down hospital, dying of aids. She had been sold into sexual slavery at the age of twelve by her mother to finance her crack habit. At the age of fifteen she had been thrown out of a brothel because she was sick and was picked up by World Vision on the streets of Pnom Phen. Sue tells of how meeting Serena really broke her. She was out of her comfort zone, overwhelmed, and lost for words.

It is coming face to face with personal heart wrenching stories like these that really makes the reality hit home. It is estimated that there are more people enslaved today than ever before. And it’s not just in developing nations. It occurs even in first world countries. But many organisations are doing great work. Just this week, nearly 15,000 bars of soap with stickers listing the National Human Trafficking hotline number will be distributed to 100+ hotels in the US as the Major League All-Star Game approaches by the organisation A21. http://a21.cta.gs/0ia. And also this week,  ‪#‎Visa‬, ‪#‎MasterCard‬, and ‪#‎AmEx‬ have barred their credit cards from being used to purchase ads for sex on Backpage.com, a website that serves as a hub for ‪#‎sextrafficking‬. This is a significant step in the fight against sexual exploitation! http://reut.rs/1glpbJZ.

why hagar

While there are many organisations that work in the areas of prevention, rescue and prosecution,  Hagar International works therapeutically with survivors of trafficking and extreme abuse. They ‘do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, to restore a broken life’. Hagar International provides trauma counselling for child and adult victims of trafficking at a live-in rehabilitation centre. They employ highly skilled specialist trauma counsellors and caregivers. These professionals work with young women like Kaylan.

‘With her black sharp eyes, Kalyan is a friendly and energetic woman. It is hard to believe that she has had such a dark past. When she was 15 years old, she was trafficked for sexual exploitation by her mother. Now 19, she is a beautiful young woman living with a friend with support from Hagar.

Kalyan is grateful to Hagar for providing her with a range recovery services, in particular counselling.

“When I came to Hagar, I learned a lot. The programmes made me feel relieved and happy until I forgot all the painful memories,” she said.

Despite Kalyan experiencing serious trauma, she has enjoyed success in Hagar’s educational programmes. She achieved an outstanding study record in Hagar’s Community Learning Centre while she was living in the Girls Recovery Shelter.

kalyanKaylan was loved by all the teachers and was seen as a top student. Although studying Khmer language was challenging for Kalyan because her mother tongue is Vietnamese, she can read and write Khmer well now.

“I am always the number one student in the class, or sometimes I am number two,” she said.

Kalyan still loves studying but felt it would take too long to finish high school. She decided to join Hagar’s Employment Empowerment project and train in a vocation.

“I know that I am completely adult now, I want to have one particular skill for myself, before I leave Hagar,” she said.

Currently, Kalyan is training at a very reputable bakery café in Phnom Penh and will become an employee next month! Her supervisor is very pleased with her commitment to the job and her overall performance. She hopes to become a barista at the café when employed full-time.

Once she learns job skills, Kalyan would like to go back to live with her mother who has just been released from prison. She forgives her mother for what she did to her, believing the law has punished her enough. Hagar will work closely with Kalyan through the reunification. Read more stories: https://hagarinternational.org/new-zealand/stories/

Living a Wrecked Life

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Do you want to live what is called a wrecked life? Jeff Goins, author of ‘Wrecked’ argues that ‘We all need to be wrecked, to allow the pain of a broken world to slam into our comfortable lives—and let it change us. But that’s just the beginning.’ A wrecked life is one that has come face to face with the most difficult of life circumstances and is shaken up yet transformed. But how to we get out of living life in a bubble? We can admit that we are living in a bubble, do something to get out of our comfort zone, and put ourselves in situations that will require bravery. That’s how we grow.

For more information about the transformational work of Hagar International, and to sponsor a child like Kaylan, please visit:

http://www.hagarinternational.com

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Introducing ‘Women, Leadership and the Bible’ by Dr Natalie Eastman

 Women, Leadership and the Bible

It is my great pleasure to host fellow Redbud Writer’s Guild member Dr. Natalie Eastman as she sends her new book ‘Women, Leadership and the Bible’ on a little blog-and-book tour.

DR. NATALIE R. WILSON EASTMAN (M.Div. ‘02, D.Min. ’05–Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is a freelance writer, editor, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She has served as a full-time youth minister to girls and women; Bible study teacher; worship leader and team developer; missionary to east Asia; and retreat and event teacher/speaker. She lives in Delaware, OH, with her husband and three young children. Links to her blogs may be found at www.natalieeastman.com, and her training and coaching at biblicalbreakthrough.com.

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But what is her new book about?

Well, can you imagine a ‘Christian Mom Utopia’?

Dr Eastman writes: ‘Imagine a world in which Christian women—even tired, frazzled mamas—humbly, yet skillfully study Scripture to get clarity on their hardest biblical questions! And imagine those very women sifting and sorting through all kinds of opinions and interpretations as they study and consider what the Bible’s text says!

If you’re a mama, can you even dare to imagine such a world? I mean, sooo many mamas spend days wiping tiny bums, washing endlessly-appearing dirty dishes, and magic-erasing genius artwork from the painted-last-week walls. How do I know this is how many mamas spend their days? I am one! I’ve still got the littles: ages 5, 6, & 8, at present, and spend three-quarters of my days wondering where the day went. Can I get a witness?

But, sisters, true freedom and self-confidence await the woman who engages their difficult life-questions through the lens of Scripture in a systematic way.

Wouldn’t you like to believe that you understand biblically and theologically how women can serve in the church? Would you like to know in your soul that you have a good grasp—biblically and theologically—on whether that baby you’re expecting should be baptized or dedicated? Would you like to know who or what the Holy Spirit is and the role the Holy Spirit plays in your life? Wouldn’t knowing how to think about—and how God thinks about—homosexuality and other sexes and orientations make the entire issue much less frightening and help you know how to be when you are around friends, family, or associates who have come out?

That freedom and confidence come from knowing and understanding not only what you believe, but why you believes what you believe. You will know you have formed your own thoughts, opinions, and interpretations using reliable, tested, and grounded methods, carefully testing your own and your community’s beliefs against Scripture. It is life-changing! I know you already know it’s important to read and study the Bible. But right now it seems theoretical. Yet here’s my news today: it doesn’t have to be theoretical any more.

If you can engage your difficult life-issues with competent biblical integrity (and you can!) rather than relying exclusively on emotions, what others say, or the last book you read’s interpretation (as I did for so long, too), just imagine the difference this will make in your life, your church and, yes, the world! You can feel confidence before God that you are attempting to understand his Word as best you can, as you subsequently seek to follow and obey it.

In the book Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe? I’ve broken down the process for studying, understanding, and interpreting the Bible—and distilled two seminary degrees and fifteen years of ministry experience—into a 5-step process accessible to every woman, even those consumed by child-raising. If you have a hard life question that’s been under your skin for a long time, and yet you don’t have the time, inclination, or $35,000-$75,000 in financial resources to attend seminary for 2-4 years in order to gain the skills to sort through the issue biblically to your satisfaction, such that you can feel confident that you’ve done a great job discerning a godly answer to your questions, then I’d invite you to check it out.

Also, please go look at the brand new online video training program I’ve created at Biblical Breakthrough!. Good news: the basic training level is free!!! And you can join it with or without ownership of the book. It officially launches on July 9, 2015, but you can still see the information and the site is live, even if pieces of the text are missing. Hey, I said I wrote a book and created a training program, but I’m still a tired, distracted human. When you’re a mama of 3, with a music business, writing a book, and launching an idea (and basically battling off too many other ideas for one brain to manage) lots of details – even important ones like the front page of your new ministry website – slip through the cracks! Still, in the program you’ll find the same method, only it’s in video form. And you’ll find a community, too, some of whom are mamas just like you. Like you, they’re mamas who take their faith seriously and who want to know the Bible and what God says about life stuff, as best they can. Come join us!

[So, okay, we’re not a utopian community J. But we’re real, we’re available, and we want to be moving and studying and reflecting on God’s Word side by side with you. We, too, want to experience that freedom and confidence that can be ours through our relationship with God and through the truth of his Word. So, now will you come join us?’

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I am eager to read Natalie’s new book. To order a copy today please visit Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1dFppcU. or to purchase a signed copy please visit:  http://womenleadershipbible.com/shop/buy-signed-book-wlb/

To connect with Natalie, please check out the following links:

http://bb.natalieeastman.com
http://womenleadershipbible.com
FB: https://www.facebook.com/natalierweastman
FB: https://www.facebook.com/womenleadershipbible
G+: https://plus.google.com/+NatalieEastmanTVI/

 

Bible Study

When You Feel Like You Are On the Outside Looking In

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‘Everyone’s Welcome, Nobody’s Perfect, Anything’s Possible.’ That’s the title of a blog post that I read this week that got me thinking. It was by well known author Jennifer Dukes Lee. She writes:

It begins by stopping everything we’re doing to let someone know they’re worth it.

You can read the entire article here: http://jenniferdukeslee.com/everyones-welcome-nobodys-perfect-anythings-possible/

So many people feel unseen today. Have you ever felt like you are on the outside looking in? Have you felt like a spectator viewing life through a glass window? Personally I don’t feel lonely, and I have some lovely friends, however I am no stranger to this feeling. I have felt this way from time to time in my life, and in fact, this is such a common feeling that it has been studied as a broad term by many psychologists. Plenty of information abounds on the web about ‘social isolation’ or ‘social estrangement.’ There are many reasons why people feel this way, and one reason is the deep roots of rejection that many people have. No matter where they are or who they are with, they don’t feel included.

The issue of rejection is a topic I’d like to leave for another time, but I wanted to touch on the slightly touchy subject of cliques. It is human nature to form cliques. I only have to observe my two preschool daughters and the little friendship groups that they have formed from the tender age of two! The dynamics of social life never seem to change, whether you are a three year old in preschool, a teenager, a twenty something or in your thirties, forties or seventies. Cliques happen. While this may be nice for the people on the inside of the clique, it may be less pleasant for those who may feel like they are on the outside looking in. I know that most of the time it is unintentional when someone is left out. I’m sure I’ve been cliquey before, possibly without realizing it. Women are busy. Perhaps our social schedule is full. We are weary and worn out and travelling through life often at breaking speed. We don’t even realize that we are being cliquey. So often we are too busy to catch up with close friends, let alone make time to include new friends into our circles. And many of us are a little introverted or somewhat shy. We like people, but we are worn out by being around people too, and often times we stay within the comfort of the people we know in social situations, rather than making small talk to get to know others.

And what about in the church? I have heard many dear people describe their feelings of ‘aloneness’ in church. They don’t feel a sense of belonging. They don’t feel planted and consequently, they don’t flourish. Sadly church communities can sometimes be cliquey places, and sometimes people can fall through the cracks. When I write about this issue I’m thinking in general terms, and not about any person, church or community that I know of in particular, so if you read this, please don’t be offended!

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What can we do to change this culture of cliques in our communities? Well for a start, in this era of social media, we need to be very careful what we share on facebook and the like. If we have a party or other social gathering, perhaps we ought not to share it on social media, for our other friends who haven’t been invited to see.  Another good place to start is to simply to be aware of how common this issue is, and to be intentional about reaching out to others. Just as we can help our children to make new friends and to include others in their play, we also need to be friendly, and treat others equally, whether they are someone that we ‘gel’ with, or someone who is a little prickly, the ‘extra grace required’ people. I’m sure that we are all ‘extra grace required’ people at some time or other! Jennifer Dukes Lee writes:

I want to be that kind of Christ follower. I want to be the kind of person who refuses to let one person go unnoticed. I want to be the kind of person who drops everybody to let someone know: “You are worth it.”

People are hungry for love, and our challenge in today’s fast paced world is, in the words of Heidi Baker, to stop for the one. Can we make room in our schedules to stop for the one? If you do feel alone, I hope that this beautiful song by Kari Jobe ministers to your heart.

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