Book Review: Fatal Convictions & Giveaway

I recently had the opportunity to review Fatal Convictions by Randy Singer.  I also have the privilege to participate in a blog tour on the book and will be giving away a copy of the book, so be sure to read to the end.

Here is the synopsis from the book:
Alexander Madison is part lawyer, part pastor, and part con artist. When a Muslim imam is accused of instigating honor killings, Alex must decide whether to take the case that every other lawyer in town is running away from. He doesn’t realize until it’s too late that defending the imam may cost him the one thing in life he cares about most. Fatal Convictions is the story of a lawyer willing to risk it all and the women who must choose between faith and love.

I usually don't read fiction books because I love to read non-fiction books. However, the description captured me so I decided to give it a try. The author himself is also a lawyer and a pastor so I was more inclined to read a book where the author had real life experience and knowledge with the topics.

The book was extremely well-written.  Each chapter was only 2-4 pages long, so it was easy to pick up and read when I only had a couple of minutes.  However, there was enough catch at the end of each chapter that it kept me reading.  I ended up having to finish the book from 9pm-midnight one night because I couldn't put it down.  I think this book would make an excellent movie and I enjoyed the read.

My only issue with the book was that Alex, who was a lawyer and a pastor, never gave a hint that he cared about the souls of his clients.  In other areas of his life, he often crossed the line client/lawyer line but he never did in regards to religion.  The book also went into a lot of depth about the Muslim religion and treated it with great respect.  Reading the book alone, it wasn't clear to me how the author felt about Islam as a religion and whether he felt it just provided a different way to God.

My final analysis is for entertainment purposes alone this was an excellently written book that will keep you guessing until the end.

Giveaway:  The winner of this giveaway will receive a certificate from Tyndale Publishers to use at a local bookstore to purchase the book Fatal Convictions.  If for some reason, the book is unavailable at your local bookstore you will be able to redeem it directly through Tyndale. 

To enter:
Leave a comment on this post, I want to win.
You can receive additional entries by becoming a google reader or subscribing to my e-mail subscription.  If you are already a subscriber you just have to let me know and that will count.  As a way to say thank you to my new readers from the last month, they will automatically entered once.
Contest ends Sept 3, 2010.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a Q&A with Randy.

Thanks and good luck,

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers.  All views expressed are my opinion alone; and I was not paid to write this post.

Meditation on Psalm 85

Since I mentioned Bonhoeffer yesterday, I thought I'd let you know the biggest thing I took away from reading about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He emphasized the importance of reading and literally praying the Psalms EVERYDAY.  It really struck me as I read the book and it is something I have been doing since I read the book.

I've been meditating on Psalm 85 for the last week and a half.  I wanted to share it with you.  I've read it in several different versions so I'm going to share the passage with two versions combined.

Psalm 85:8-13 (NCV & Amplified)
I will listen [with expectancy] to God the Lord.
He has ordered peace for those who worship him.
Don't let them go back to [self-confident] folly.
God will soon save those who respect him,
and his glory will be seen in our land.
 Love and truth belong to God's people;
goodness and peace will be theirs.
 On earth people will be loyal to God,
and God's goodness will shine down from heaven.
 The Lord will give his goodness,
and the land will give its crops.
Righteousness shall go before God 
and shall make His footsteps a way in which to walk.

I will share the things that have stood out to me in these verses; first of all, the listening with expectancy to hear the Lord.  The idea that the Lord speaks into our lives and wants to direct the paths of our individual lives is an idea that is debated in the Christian community and within myself at times.  Meditating on this Psalm has confirmed in my heart that He does speak and I need and want to take the time to listen.

God has ordered peace for those who worship Him.  This has been powerful.  I want to be on the receiving end of something that God has ORDERED, especially when the order is for peace.  This verse shows the safest place to be is in the place of worship.  I am often tempted to do what the next verse says not to do, return to self-confident folly to fix my problems.  These two verses are reminding me to go back to the place of worshipping the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and to wait on His plans instead of doing it my own way.

Love and truth belong to God's people.  This concept has blown me away too.  My husband and I watch American Pickers a show where two guys travel around America going into people's barns and buying their treasures from them.  Sometimes, it is astounding to see the treasures people own and you would never believe it by the outside of their lives.  Often times, the people live in small run down houses and they look very poor but then you open up their garages and they have treasures worth thousands and thousands of dollars stuffed in their garages.  They will literally have garbage and treasure sitting side by side.  This verse showed me that I own two treasures in my life, love and truth belong to me.  Yet so often I walk around like I don't even possess them. I allow the garbage in my life to overwhelm and hide the fact that I own these two treasures.  The beauty of American Pickers is that it shows the value of an item is still there even if it is hidden beneath garbage.  It just needs to be pulled out and shown for what it is worth.  If people would look at your life would they know you posses these two great treasures or would they only see the junk?  It is time to go pull out what you own and display it for people to see.

Righteousness shall go before God and make HIS footsteps a path to walk in.  The final part on my series about grace talked about how we have been given the RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ.  This verse states that concept in one incredible sentence.  Jesus says I AM THE WAY (John 14:6).  He goes before us showing us the way to walk in.  The question is, are we looking to follow?

My prayer is that you too will be blessed through meditating on Psalm 85.  It is a beautiful reminder that God wants to lead and guide you in your life and that Love, Truth, peace and goodness are all part of the package.

In Christ,

Emerging Butterfly

If you have a couple of minutes you can watch this video I recorded of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.  My kids voices are whispering in the background; I personally think it is adorable.

If you took time to watch the video you will see 4 stages of a butterfly's life represented in the video: a caterpillar, a chrysalis, a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, and a butterfly with wings fully open and ready to fly.  It is pretty incredible.

I've been reading through the life of Joseph and as I thought about the butterfly, I saw the similarities of the  between their processes.  When Joseph was 17 years old he had a dream.  He was like that caterpillar seeing the end product of the butterfly but not being anywhere close to doing it.  It wasn't time for the dream to happen but he was able to see it.  However, his dreams came crashing down when he was captured and sent off to Egypt and even in Egypt things got worse when he was put into prison.  That stage was like the chrysalis.  He had no idea what was happening.  Then there is the emerging out of the chrysalis to become what he was always supposed to be.  This happened when he explained the dream to the king.  And finally, the big beautiful butterfly, with his wings extended was when he became second in command to Pharaoh.

The thing that I realized while watching the butterfly is that the butterfly had to go through that process to become a butterfly.  There isn't one stage of the process that is more right than the other stage (although some look more enjoyable than others).  All stages are needed. 

I know in my personal Christian walk I've experienced the process of going through the different stages.  Currently, I feel like the emerging butterfly.  I feel like I am struggling against the things that have begun to close me in.  But in the struggle, I am trying to hold onto the dreams that I had in early stages of my life.  What has been the consistent message to my heart over the last month, is that the process is part of my journey, a part of making me who I am becoming and to keep holding on for the day I will get to fly. 

Lessons from my children 4: Doing something great

This morning my kids decided to make a picture together as a present for their Dad and I.  "Sshhh" at the time it was a secret.  I overheard them working together,
"I'll make the ears.  I'm good at making the ears." 
"Okay."  And then they were patiently taking turns with one another.

Wow, that puts a smile in a parent's heart.  As they were doing it, I was already thinking about how it will go in the memory box with a note that they came up with an idea to make something together and they pulled it off.  The beauty of the moment was shattered by high pitch screaming and crying by my daughter Mercea.  The intensity of the cry would make you think that she had sliced her finger off, but the cry was not due to an injury but rather it was from a disagreement about the color of the next body part.

The cry resulted in me sending them to their rooms for a "creativity break" and after a couple of minutes I sat and talked first to Mercea and then the two of them together.  The gist of the conversation was, that what will make this project special to Mommy and Daddy is the fact that they are doing it together.  The picture will be beautiful, but what will make it extra special is the fact that they did it together in love.  We talked about the need for compromise and cooperation.  They returned to their project and happily finished their grand surprise.

Many Christians want to do some "great" project for God.  Do you know what often gets in the way of doing something "great" for God?  People, especially those closest to us.  It is much easier to do a project then it is to love people.  I have tons of art pictures by my kids, they shoot them out at about 5-10 pieces a day.  Why then was I going to choose to treasure and store this particular picture?  Because they did it together, in love.  And I thought about God.  Throughout the course of a day, much more the course of human history, there are many people doing "things" in honor of God.  But in God's Word, He didn't command us to do 30 great things for Him over the course of the lifetime.  Yet that's what we so often strive after.  We as humans still tend to focus on outward projects.  We forget that He tells us that God does not look at the outward appearance, but He looks at the heart (I Samuel 16:7).

What did He ask us to do with our hearts?  He has asked us to love one another and yet this single command remains one of the hardest challenges of our lives.  Here is just a taste of the numerous requests:
John 13:34
A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Romans 13:8
Let no debt remain outstanding,
 except the continuing debt to love one another,
for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
I Peter 1:22
Now that you have purified yourselves
by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers,
love one another deeply, from the heart.
I John 4:12
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another,
God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

If you want to do something great for God, love your sisters and brothers in Christ.  I know as a parent, there is nothing that excites my heart more than seeing my two children working together in love.  I believe that seeing us love one another brings joy to God's heart.

In Christ,

Book Review: The Jesus You Can't Ignore

The following is a book review for John MacArthur's book The Jesus You Can't Ignore.   The following is the description on the back of the book:  Best-selling author John MacArthur gives readers a fresh look at how Jesus addressed attacks against the truth.  Meek and mild. Politically correct. A great teacher. These are the popular depictions of Jesus. But they aren't the complete picture. Maybe because it's uncomfortable, or maybe because it's inconvenient, Christians and non-Christians alike are overlooking the fierceness of the Savior, His passionate mission to make the Gospel clear and bring people into the Kingdom of God. A mission that required he sometimes raise his voice and sometimes raise a whip.
I have great respect for John MacArthur as I'm sure many others do, and that was precisely why I chose to read this book.  I have also learned a lot from him in other books that I've read by him.  However, this book did not sit well with me and there were many points where I disagreed with him.  While I do agree, Jesus has a fierceness and passion for the truth I disagreed with John on the motivation that was driving that firceness.  I felt that the book was written with a personal agenda to attack targeted styles of Christianity.  I felt that this personal agenda caused him to read "between the lines" of Scripture and add more than what was there in order to prove his points.  The only positive from the book for me was that it produced many lengthy and in-depth conversations with my husband about what we believe and why.  I personally do not recommend the book.

In Christ,

I received this book from Booksneeze.  This is my own personal opinion and I was not paid.

Thoughts from today

My kids and I started school this week.  We use Sonlight as our core curriculum because it is literature based and if you haven't gotten the hint yet, I like to read:)  Anyway, we are currently reading
Red Sails to Capri , (which I have never read before) and two things from today's chapter really stuck with me so I'm going to share them with you.

The main character Michele is out on a walk with a painter.  The two thoughts come from conversations that the two of them are having.  The first conversation is discussing people that they know:

I look for a bit of beauty no matter where I go, and Monsieur Jacques is forever searching for adventure.  And we find it, Michele.  I think some way or other most people find the things they look for.  Perhaps your friend Angelo is searching for gaiety, Michele.  He must find something to laugh about, something to make others laugh.  When he doesn't find it he makes it up. That's his way of finding what's important to him. 

Well, I've either lost you by now, or your still hanging with me.  For some reason this really stuck with me.  It made me think about my personality and other people's personality.  I guess, I related to Angelo.  I do search for gaiety.  I like life to be lighthearted and fun.  When I don't see people laughing, I desire to bring a smile to their face.  It's not like I didn't know that about myself before, but for some reason, this passage made me really reflect on it and see the value in it.  I would love it if you would indulge me with your response of what you "search for in life."  What do you search for in life, that you need to see brought forth?  How do you bring it forth when it cannot be found?

The second part that stood out to me was this:  the chapter was titled "The Most Beautiful Spot" the painter (a visitor to the island) was having Michele (a native) take him to the most beautiful spot on the island so the painter could paint it.  On the way to the spot they have to walk up stairs, Michele states that he hates the stairs, he describes them as a "great scar on the side of the mountain."  The artist spends the day painting and Michele doesn't know what he is painting, but he assumes the painter is painting the sky, the sea and the mountainside.  At the end of the day, the artist shows Michele the picture.  The painter chose to paint the steps.  Here is the conversation:
"Why did you go to the most beautiful spot on Capri and then paint something else?" 
"Your spot was too beautiful Michele."
"Too beautiful?"
"Yes.  I don't believe there is enough paint in the world to paint a picture of that spot as it should be painted.  You don't need an artist to show you the beauty of a place like that.  But your ugly steps - if I have made you see a bit of beauty in them, Michele, I am very happy."

Perhaps I have had one to many chocolate chip cookies today, but that scene almost took my breath away and I haven't been able to shake it all day.  Perhaps it is related to a blog brewing in my heart, that I'm not ready to write yet, but it has to do with what God does with our scars.  When I read that the steps were a great scar on the side of the mountain I cringed.  Then I read this part:
"I never thought they were beautiful at all.  I thought they were ugly."
"Perhaps you have never looked at them before."
"Looked at them? I have looked at them a thousand times."
"Sometimes we never look at the things we see most often."

We all have ugly areas in our lives.  Great scars that we see all the time but we prefer to hide them and have them disappear.  Yet in the hands of a great artist even that which is ugly can be made beautiful. 
"Those colors in the rocks-are they really there?"
"I saw them there."
"And the steps-do they loop and turn like that?"
"Exactly like that."
"You have made them look like a stairway to heaven!"

When we step back and see through His eyes, that is when the beauty shines through.  I guess I have a couple scars that I've been doing my darnedest to get rid of.  I'd rather forget that they are there.  After today's reading I'm thinking He is saying, "Let's look at them again, under My light and I will show you how they are a stairway to Me."  So I am sure there will be at least one more post on this topic.  In the meantime, reflect on giving the Great Artist a chance to create beauty out of your scars.

In Christ,

Lessons from my children: 3 Letting Go

I currently am teaching Mercea how to play the piano.  The other day, she initiated practice and we went to play.  She was completely excited, sitting straight up, giddy, perfect attention!  I was excited too.  Then the phone rang.  I answered the phone, and Mercea went off to play while I took care of the phone call.  By the time I got off, Mercea had come up with a whole new idea of what she wanted to do.  I said, that we couldn't do it; the task would make a mess (surprise) and that we were going to resume playing piano.  She was none to happy about it.

She returned to the piano but her attitude was completely different.  She was slouched down, hair over her eyes, and lip sticking out.  Remember, 5 minutes earlier I had a perfectly happy, delighted little girl that wanted to play the piano?  Now, because of an event, completely unrelated to the piano, she no longer was in the place where she could participate in playing the piano.

The conversation I had on the phone between this transition was about the book Journey of Desire.  My co-leader was asking me if I had read the chapter yet called, "Letting Go."  I had not read it at that time.  However, after the conversation, I had a pretty good visual representation of the topic of that chapter.

Because, Mercea, was hanging on to her disappointment it was completely effecting the task she was supposed to be doing.  She was not able to participate wholeheartedly because she was still hanging on to the disappointment from not getting her way.  Even though the 2 events were completely unrelated it was still connected because of the way it was influencing her attitude. 

So yes, it was a right on visual for me.  I can completely relate.  Disappointment has become an underlying attitude for me.  I know the Lord has asked me to continue in some things, but I am only joining in half-hearted because I haven't and frankly don't want to let go of my disappointment.  Of course that chapter, in Journey of Desire, was about God bringing John to the realization that he needed to let go and God had another path for him to walk on.  But unlike I assumed, that God wanted me to suck it up and move on, it is becoming very clear that He wants to hear all about it and then He is inviting me to trust him.

So I want to share some quotes from the chapter "Letting Go" that shows the process that I am walking through:
  • Being content is not pretending that everything is the way you wish it would be; it is not acting as though you have no wishes.  Rather, it is no longer being ruled by your desires (180).
  • "I want to predict what the Lord is going to do, so that it doesn't hurt so bad when it happens." we grasp onto perfectionism to avoid pain and disappointment.  It only makes matters worse.  So what do we do?  How do we live with desire we cannot take care of and heartache we cannot prevent?  We groan and wait (Romans 8:22-25)  (184)
    • To wait is to learn the spiritual grace of detachment, the freedom of desire.  Not the absence of desire, but desire at rest (185).
  • The paradox of grief is that it is healing; it somehow restores our souls, when all the while we thought it would leave us in despair (188).
  • The time has come for us to quit playing chess with God over our lives.  There are two kinds of losses in our lives, the kind that comes to everyone that we have no say in and chosen loss.  Chosen loss is when we give our lives to the only One who can truly keep them.  Spiritual surrender is not resignation.  It is not choosing to care no longer.  Nor is it Eastern mysticism, an attempt to get beyond the suffering of this life by going completely numb.  It is surrender with desire, in desire. (192-193)
  • True surrender is not an easy out, calling it quits early in the game.  This kind of surrender comes only after the night of wrestling.  It comes only after we open our hearts to care deeply.  Then we choose to surrender, or give over our hearts, our deepest desires to God.  And with them we give our hearts, our deepest selves.  (194)
Thanks for reading where I am in process.

In Christ,

Daily Prayer

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