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Book Review #5: Red Sea Rules

redsearulesHave you ever wondered what it must have been like to be the children of Israel facing the Red Sea? Think about it….

You have just watched God bring an entire country to its knees. Though you were slaves and conditions were far from optimal, it was still the place your family had called home for nearly 400 years! Now, you have had to pack up your families, your belongings, your animals – everything that you could carry with you – and follow a shepherd into the desert. You don’t know exactly where you are going or how long it’s going to take you to get there, but you know that you must follow! You are thrilled to finally be free from the clutches of a dictator who valued you only because of what you did for him; yet you are unsure of the path ahead. Immediately before you is the Red Sea. As if the water in front of you were not troubling enough, in the distance beyond you there are mountains. In the trail behind you, there is a cloud of dust beginning to rise. It is not long before word spreads that Pharaoh is coming for you! He’s angry at you, at your leader, at your God, and he wants revenge! You begin to feel an all-to-familiar knot forming in the pit of your stomach! Now what?

Do you know that feeling? I do! If you are a living, breathing human being, you will, at some point in this life, come to place where you do not know what to do. Beyond you, there will be mountains. Before you, there may be deep waters. Behind you, there are opposing forces. What do you do when you don’t see any way to escape?

In The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-given Strategies for Difficult Times, Robert Morgan reminds any Christian facing difficulties that God has a proven track record! He worked miracle after miracle for the children of Israel just to get them out of Egypt and to the Red Sea. That was not the end of their story; it was only the beginning! By applying the following ten strategies to our lives during times of difficulty, we can witness the miraculous power of the same God who led His people through deep water on DRY ground:

  1. Realize that God means for you to be where you are.
  2. Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief.
  3. Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.
  4. Pray!
  5. Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.
  6. When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith.
  7. Envision God’s enveloping presence.
  8. Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.
  9. View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.
  10. Don’t forget to praise Him.

I could elaborate on each of these principles with specific examples from my own personal life, but that would defeat the purpose of encouraging you to read the book for yourself and apply it to your life! No matter what impossible situation or circumstance you may be currently facing, there is a God who sees your tears, hears your prayers, and stands ready to lead you through deep water! Follow Him! This could be just the beginning of your story!

The hardback copy of this book is available for $8.99 from www.amazon.com. You may also purchase the paperback or Kindle editions here. If purchasing is not an option for you, check with your local library. This is the resource I used when a friend recommended the book to me!

**As noted in a previous post, in the interest of complete honesty for those who may want to know ahead of time, not all of the verses quoted in the text are from the KJV.

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Book Review #4: Slow-Roasted Hope

slow roasted hopeWhen I picture the word hope, I think of the tiniest little ray of sunshine peaking through a sky filled with dark, ominous storm clouds! Sometimes, that is what hope is in our lives. We are surrounded by stormy situations and circumstances. It appears that all is lost.

When I came across the Kindle version of this book last year, I was, quite frankly, lacking hope! I had let the unexpected storms in our lives crowd out that little ray of sunshine. There were so many more questions than answers running around in my mind, and I had a hard time imagining that there would ever be much to be hopeful about again! (A bit of an over-reaction, I know, but it’s where I was at the time!) However, as I was struggling to find hope, it seemed that the Lord kept bringing that word to my attention just about every time I turned around! It popped up in my Bible reading on a daily basis! Some sweet friends sent me a birthday card and wrote a Scripture reference with their kind note. The reference belonged to a verse about hope! I went to two different ladies’ meetings at two different churches where two different speakers talked about waiting on God and hoping in Him. When I saw this book in my Amazon recommended reading list and then read the description, I decided that maybe the Lord was trying to tell me something!

Mrs. Chumley faced her own storm when doctors discovered that her almost two year old daughter was completely deaf in both ears. She was, quite understandably, shaken and faced a time of great despair and darkness. It was then that she began to search through the Scriptures to find out what God had to say about hope. This book is the result of that research. It is the story of how God used the deafness of her first daughter to prepare her for the same diagnosis with her second. It is the story of how God used His Word and His people to comfort her hurting heart and prepare her to comfort others in the future. It is story of how one little ray of hope led to another, which led to another, which led to another. It is the story of how God changed her perspective and gave her the ability to see hope in the darkness, instead of just looking for hope to get out of it! Incredibly, it is also the story of how, years later, God answered the prayers of those two little girls and surprised the family with a third daughter – who has no hearing problems at all!  You can read about her journey out of darkness and into hope by purchasing the Kindle edition of this book for $3.99 at www.amazon.com**

Maybe you are still in the darkness. Seek God! Go to His Word! Surround yourself with His people! Remember that finding healing and hope, like brewing a good cup of coffee, takes time! It is often a slow process, but one that will leave you stronger and better able to strengthen those around you who are weak. Perhaps, God will change your perspective. Instead of seeing only the threatening clouds of doubt and despair that are filling your thoughts, maybe you will find that one little ray of hope, pushing its way through the darkness and fighting to make its presence known.

“But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.”

~~Psalm 71:14~~

 

**In the interest of complete honesty for those who may want to know ahead of time, I should note that not all of the verses quoted in the text are from the KJV.

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Book Review #3: Off Script

 Well, hello there! It has been well over a year since I have written anything on my blog. There have been plenty of events in the Ross household that may warrant future blog posts – like the birth of our precious Sarah Noel seven months ago or the unexpected job offer from a friend at church that my husband accepted two months ago. With six growing children ranging in age from baby to sophomore in high school and increasing involvement at church and school, I have spent lots of time thinking about this blog, but not much time actually writing! Here’s hoping this will not be the last post for another 15 months!

To be honest, this book review has been in the works for almost eighteen months. Along with the normal activities of life, there is a lot of soul-searching, thinking, and praying that goes on when your plans and dreams for ministry come to a crashing halt! This is just one of the reasons that I believe reading good, Bible based material is so very important. Though it can be temporarily encouraging to read from motivational speakers who tell you that God has a great (i.e., successful, prosperous) life planned for you or that you can guarantee said successful and prosperous life simply by having a positive outlook, those philosophies are not at all Scriptural. In fact, they are the very opposite of sound Biblical teaching. The Bible is overflowing with stories of men and women who were not, by the world’s standards, successful or prosperous; whose lives were filled with great pain, misfortune, and suffering; and whose only hope was that God could see what they were experiencing and would work it together for their good. (In fact, one of the items on my “bucket list” is writing a book about some of those people and the example they left for us as they waited – sometimes for years – for God to bring closure to their stories of pain, loss, suffering, testing, trial, etc.) Sound reading material is vital to Christian growth and even more necessary for those who wish to lead other Christians!

It’s been so long since I first read “Off Script” that I decided to go back and read it again before writing my review. Honestly, I think I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Though his circumstances differed greatly from ours, I appreciated Pastor Schmidt’s openness and honesty about his struggles physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was blessed to read about his victories and was thrilled to see on his Facebook page recently that he has been given the “all clear” and has been discharged from the care of his oncologist! Knowing that God has brought him through his season of trial and has done miraculous things for him in the process (in both his personal life and ministry) has been a source of encouragement to me!

In a style that addresses serious topics and issues with both honesty and humor, Pastor Schmidt outlines the following ten principles to implement when facing times in life that expectations do not match reality:

  • Love God, Trust God, Live for God
  • Be of Good Cheer
  • Be the Clay
  • Cherish the Treasures of Darkness
  • Walk in the Spirit
  • Wait for Him, Hope in Him
  • Try Your Ways
  • Be Strong and Work
  • Love Your Own
  • Strive Together for the Faith

Your season of trial may occur in health, relationships, ministry, finances, or any number of other areas in life. The above principles, if implemented, will strengthen your faith as you face the unknown with confidence in an all-knowing God and broaden your influence as others learn from your faith-based, Spirit-led responses to the difficulties life brings.  Whether you are currently entering, enduring, or ending a stormy time in life, it is vital that you fill your heart and mind with Scripturally sound literature that will encourage you to daily place your trust in the God who knows and sees all! “Off Script” is one example of the kind of reading material every Christian should include in his library. It can be purchased for $14.95 from www.strivingtogether.com. Pastor Schmidt has more books and other helpful resources available at www.caryschmidt.com.

 

The Other Side of the Storm

rainbow cloudsHave you ever gone through a trial in life and thought, “I am never going to make it through this! This is hard! Why can’t it just be over already?” Four years ago this week, I was there. I will never forget the look on the ultrasound technician’s face when she said that we would have to try the internal ultrasound to find baby’s heartbeat. She was trying to be positive, but I felt a knot in my stomach and the tears well up in my eyes. I knew what she wasn’t saying: my baby was gone!

This wasn’t supposed to happen! When I went to the doctor two weeks before because of some early difficulties, we saw a precious baby and a beating heart! The doctor dated me at 8 weeks, 1 day and started me on progesterone. My troublesome symptoms went away. For two weeks, I clung to the hope that everything was going to be fine. When it was time for the follow-up ultrasound at 10 weeks, I planned to go in, confirm that everything was normal, and then go back to our very busy schedule with little interruption! God, however, had other plans. The doctor was out of the office that Wednesday morning delivering someone else’s baby, but he called and spoke to me about my options. I honestly don’t remember anything he said past, “I’m so very sorry…” I cried and cried and cried some more. We opted to go off of the progesterone and then wait for nature to take its course without other medical intervention. The next four days seemed like normal days. My husband was busy with ministry responsibilities. Our fall revival was starting that Sunday, and the Youth Conference that our teens hosted was on the calendar for the Saturday following the revival. We were just a few weeks away from the annual school play that he had been tasked with organizing and directing shortly before the new school year started. I was busy helping finalize arrangements for the Youth Conference, preparing costumes for the play, and practicing piano music for both church and school activities. On top of ministry, we had three school age children and a lively toddler at home! I waited and waited and waited. We went about our “normal” routine. Finally, on the same Sunday morning that our revival meeting started, the physical process of losing my baby also began. I cannot count how many times during those next couple of days that I talked to the Lord, “Why me, Lord? I am busy serving you. This does not fit into my plans. I don’t have time for this. Can’t you just make it go away? Can I just wake up and realize that it was all just a horrific nightmare?” I was struggling…searching…wondering.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you are grieving the death of a spouse, child, or other loved one. Maybe you have lost your job or your home or your marriage or your ministry. Maybe you are facing an unexpected diagnosis of disease. The sky is dark and the wind is howling around you. This boat of life is being tossed around by the raging waves, and you find yourself struggling to see your hand in front of your face, searching for some glimmer of light in the darkness, and wondering if you’ll ever see the other side of the storm. I am here to tell you that you will! I cannot tell you why you are going through the storm. I cannot tell you how long it will take…BUT…I can tell you that God is already there on the other side of your storm! He knows exactly how long it will last, what lessons He is planning to teach you, and how you will be able to help others because of it!

Honestly, in the midst of my storm, there were times that I really didn’t care that God was already aware of what was on the other side for me. I thought that if He really cared, he would have taken me around the storm in the first place. (I know that’s not  a very spiritual response, but it is an honest one. Anyone who tells you that they have never struggled emotionally, even for a moment, during a time of trial is lying to you!) Even when I decided that God did know best and really did have my best interest at heart, it was still painful to talk about for a long time. As with all wounds, time has brought healing. The scars may remain, but with God’s help they have become a way for me to minister to others.

I will never be the same person I was before that day in September of 2013. I will never go to another ultrasound without a knot in my stomach and the feeling that the hammer is about to drop! I will never face the early days of September (or my due date in late March) without some sadness at the thought of the life that could have been. I will still cry when I read articles or watch commercials or movies that deal with the loss of a child. I will always, always, always miss my baby! No amount of time will ever change that! What has changed is my perspective about the storm! I will never know this side of Heaven all the reasons that God allowed those stormy days in my life, but the important thing is that He brought me through them! The storm was not the end of my story. In some ways, it was only the beginning….

God sees the storm from the other side
He knows the lessons learned
And just beyond the clouds He sees clear skies
He speaks peace to the raging storm
When peace cannot be found
He already sees the rainbow when we see only clouds

You can read more about my story and the lessons I learned from it in my five part series called “Suffering in Silence.”

Suffering in Silence: My Story 

Suffering in Silence: Did You Know?

Suffering in Silence: Ministering (Part 1) – Recognize Their Loss

Suffering in Silence: Ministering (Part 2) – Realize Their Struggle

Suffering in Silence: Ministering (Part 3) – Reach Out to Help

Book Review #2: The Burden Bearer

41fzLV03QwL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_In Matthew 11:28-30, the Lord said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you restTake my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” As we seek to serve Christ, we can often become weighted down with burdens of our own making.   In the midst of our daily lives, we often tend to look to ourselves and our abilities for the strength to survive another day: we become reliant on the things that we know and the jobs that we can accomplish. While we are busy serving Christ and making “sacrifices” for Him, we begin to see ministry in the light of “what” we are doing. We become so obsessed with doing things for the Lord that we neglect to develop a meaningful relationship with Him. In other words, our focus becomes the service itself, rather than the Saviour we are serving. Instead of allowing the Lord to carry the weight and give us rest, we shoulder the burdens on our own and end up weary, worn, and broken.

This book is written in allegorical form, similar to Pilgrim’s Progress, and tells the story of Carrier, a Christian whose focus in life is to be as strong as he can to carry the burdens placed upon him by the Burden Bearer. As His relationship with the Burden Bearer grows stronger, Carrier realizes that his thought process has been flawed: his burdens have not come from the Burden Bearer but from Carrier’s own desire to succeed and his fear of looking weak in the eyes of others. In time, he learns to place His burdens at the feet of the Burden Bearer and then rest in Him to find true success. Throughout his journey, Carrier must battle his inclination to pick up those old burdens and add more in order to prove his strength and worthiness for the journey. The Burden Bearer is always present and ready to assure Carrier that He can carry those burdens far better than Carrier will ever be able to do on his own. In the end, Carrier serves the Burden Bearer happily until he is able to lay his burdens down one final time and meet the Burden Bearer face to face.

Each chapter in this book contains two parts: a piece of Carrier’s story and the practical application for Christians today. It is filled with Scripture, as well as personal stories from the life of the author. If you are struggling to survive in this journey that we call “life,” I would encourage you to read this book. If you wish to find true success in the this Christian journey, you must realize that just making sacrifices or staying busy for the Lord will not bring you the peace and rest that He offers. You must “yoke up” with Him and allow Him to carry your burdens. The Burden Bearer: Who’s Carrying Your Load? will give you practical advice and Biblical principals to make that possible.

This book can normally be purchased for $14.95 from http://www.strivingtogether.com.

Book Review #1: When Others Make Your Life Difficult

Difficult life Let’s face it: sometimes life is just plain hard! There are times that we bring the hardship on ourselves because of disobedience to God’s Word or refusal to walk in God’s ways. Sometimes, however, we find ourselves in difficult situations because of the decisions that other people have made. In effect, we become the collateral damage of their disobedience or bad choices!

Often, conflict in the physical world is rooted in Spiritual warfare. When that conflict makes its presence known in our lives through the hurt we receive at the hands of others, we are faced with important decisions. Will we become angry at the injustice done to us and allow bitterness to take root? Will we repay hurt for hurt? Will we, instead, practice forgiveness and extend mercy? Will we show a gracious, Christ-like spirit in spite of our hurt?

Though this book is only 72 pages, it is packed with Scripture to encourage those who are facing difficulties in life. The short, easy-to-read chapters also contain personal stories and practical application that make it a must-read for anyone struggling to make sense of life’s hard times. Both teens and adults could glean encouragement and hope from the Bible principles discussed here.

This book can be purchased for $2.99 from www.amazon.com.

Coming Soon!!!!

books“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

~~ Harry Truman~~

If you read my most recent post about ministry (What is Ministry?), you will know that I have struggled somewhat over the last few months with how to proceed with this blog. Honestly, I have had quite the case of “writer’s block.” Since all five of my kids are visiting my parents over Spring Break, I will have quite a bit of time on my hands (Yay, me!), and I have decided to dedicate some of it to reading. I know that I will not get to read all of the books on my list over the break (I’m also planing to sort through the stash of old papers, schoolbooks, and miscellaneous “kid stuff” that is now taking up space in what is supposed to be my sewing room!), but I would like to make a nice dent in the stack! I know that these books are going to be an encouragement to me, and I want to share some of what I learn through them by publishing a book review post for each one that I finish!

Here are the books on my reading list:

  1. When Others Make Your Life Difficult (Daniel E. Miller) – This is a booklet that my Mom gave me last summer. It has short, easy to read chapters and is filled with Scriptural principles.
  2. The Burden Bearer (Paul Chappell) – I won this in a drawing at our church’s annual Ladies’ Retreat last fall, and I have been slowly reading it since then. It has been a blessing so far, and I look forward to finishing it soon!
  3. Off Script: What to do When God Rewrites Your Life (Cary Schmidt) – My friend Stephanie recommended this book to a new mom in our church, and it seemed like a book that I could learn from during our time of transition!
  4. Out of Commission: Getting Every Christian Back to the Great Commission (Paul Chappell) – My husband and I were both encouraged to hear our pastor, Pastor Brandon Sichting, talk recently about several books that he has read that have challenged or encouraged him in the ministry! This is one of those books, and I am excited to read it as well!

I hope that you’ll join me for this new adventure and that it will be a challenge to you to find Godly reading material that will encourage you in your Christian walk!