Tuesday, November 18, 2014


So a few months ago I found out from a friend, a fellow book lover, that publishing agencies accept book reviewers. I looked up Baker on the web and signed my name to the line. Within a few weeks I received an email of a list of books to choose from to read and write a review. For a book lover, this list was like Thanksgiving dinner. My eyes were certainly bigger than my stomach. Or in this case, my eyes were bigger than my brain. I did exhibit a little bit of restraint when I choose only three books to read and review by the middle of this month.

You are my shipmates accompanying me on my maiden voyage of book reviewing.

Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

The first book that I read for review is titled Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson. It is a book for the teenage audience. I found the book to be delightful, interesting and easy to read. The story centers around two young people in vastly different lifestyles. Michah, a young believer who lives as an "englischer", and Zach an Amish young man. Michah and Zach have been pen pals for over five years and as they approach the end of their teenage years they decide that they would like to meet in person. Sweet enough. Interesting enough.

The plot twister; Michah is a girl! All along Zach believes Michah to be his dear friend from the english world. He related to Michah as one guy to another guy. Upon meeting, both characters encounter strain and stress in their relationship due to the deception that Michah has allowed to go unchecked. Melody does a great job of giving words to the inner workings and thoughts of two very different young people. She keeps the reader interested and engaged throughout the entire story. I liked how the characters friendship was the main focus of the book. I appreciated that romantic interest was not highlighted throughout the story. It's a refreshing change from constant bombardment of expected romantic involvement in stories.

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

The second title that I read was The Christmas Cat also by Melody Carlson. I must start by saying that I LOVED this book! I have greatly enjoyed all of the Christmas books that Melody has written. When I saw that this title was listed as a choice for the book reviewers I jumped on it right away. However, I waited until the very last minute to read it, as I wanted to be closer to the Christmas season.

In this book we find a young man, Garrison, who has inherited the responsibility of re-homing his grandmother's six precious cats in order to take possession of his inheritance. The story is delightful and funny. As a self-proclaimed cat lover,I can picture the cats one by one. Melody did a fabulous job of character development with the human characters as well as the feline ones. I enjoyed how the cats at first were a nuisance and a source of allergic troubles to Garrison. But over time he comes to appreciate each one and even warms up to the sweet Maine Coon named Harry. This book is a fast and easy read, perfect for the winter and holiday season. It is endearing and lighthearted. Perfect for reading on a cold and wintery day with a mug of coffee and a blanket!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Repurposed: Sarah and Rahab

Since I last posted we have traveled down the road of life and faith with Sarah and Rahab. Their stories and lives have impacted me and caused me to think of the many ways that my life resembles theirs. I'm just continually amazed by how God uses the lives of His people to bring glory to Himself. And not just that, He uses their lives and their experiences to teach them something about themselves. He seeks to comfort them in their distress and in their confusion. He stands with them giving support in each area of responsibility that they have.

Let's travel back to the tents and camels of Sarah and Abraham. Sarah's default is manipulation. My first thought when opening my bible study to the week on Sarah was "I probably won't relate too much to this week's study material". Wow...was I ever wrong! I have never considered myself a manipulative person. My default is quite the opposite, run from conflict. I had a faulty assumption that manipulation was characterized by active measures to get what you want. That is just not me. But as I looked deeper into Sarah's life and past the things that she did to manipulate the fulfillment of God's promise, I saw into her heart. What I saw was a woman who didn't trust God to come through on what He said He would do. I saw a woman too focused on the physical world and the power within herself that she almost missed the blessing all together. As I studied her life and considered her situation giving thought to her pattern of default, I found myself staring into my own hazel eyes.

I am Sarah too.

God has promised that I would be blessed and I am. He has promised that my life would have significance and it does. He has promised that He will never leave me and He never has. Yet, I doubt Him time and time again. Like Thomas doubting the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, I have doubted the activity of the Lord in my life. I pridefully say "I want to see the nail scars, I want to see the wound in His side". Maybe it's not so much pride these days. I know that He has changed my heart. I think it wasn't pride for Thomas either. Jesus knew his heart also and He allowed that doubt in Thomas. When He appeared to Thomas He told him to come and see the wounds in his hands, feet, and side. He invited Thomas to come and put his hand into the areas. He commanded Thomas to not doubt but believe. And after he commands this of Thomas He says blessed are they who believe but do not see.

That is me.

Jesus understands my doubts and confusion. He meets me in the middle of them. He allows them to enter my mind so that my faith is made stronger. And He has never, ever, ever let me down. Even when I feel let down and confused by the seemingly lack of activity in my life, He is there. Sarah taught me a lot!

Now lets travel to the city of Jericho. Here we meet a woman named Rahab. She is a woman of ill-repute. Her choices in life have landed her on the doorstep of the oldest profession in the world: prostitution. Her default to life's struggles is sexual promiscuity. Although this has never been part of my story I have known many women with a promiscuous past. In my conversations with them I have found a deep brokenness resulting from giving their bodies in a way that the Lord never intended. The assumption that is made about the life of the promiscuous woman is that she has no dignity and no boundaries. I would venture to say that what lies beneath is a deep sense of shame from the deep well of sin. Our Rahab was a woman who no doubt suffered deep shame. But the amazing thing is how God attended to her need and forgave her sinful lifestyle. He allowed the two Israelite men to enter her home and business and treat her with respect and kindness. He determined that she was worth saving. There was action necessary for the survival of her family but it was not what determined her worth. God used her to bring about His plan to save not just her but all mankind for Jesus came from her line.

I am Rahab too.

I have made choices that cause the shame within to flare up. Over the years I have learned valuable lessons on how not to let shame define me but I've yet fully understood how to completely give it over to Jesus. Rahab trusts the men and in turn trusts the Lord. She makes a choice to step out with tremendous courage and her risk is acknowledged. She inherits a new identity with her leap of courage. True to their word, the two men return and take Rahab and her family to safety outside of the Israelite camp. We learn as we read further that Rahab didn't stay outside the boundaries of the camp for long. She is welcomed in as a new daughter when she marries Salmon. Before long she and Salmon welcome baby Boaz into their family. And if you are a reader of scripture, you know where Boaz comes into the picture of the story of Jesus. He is the wonderful kinsman redeemer that saves Ruth from a lifetime of widowhood. But that is another story for another week!

Rahab and Sarah. They both made choices apart from the guidance of the Lord. They both step out in faith and turn from their natural inclination to default. They both are used mightily in the plans of God. They both inherit a new identity.

Sarah the barren one becomes Sarah the mother of nations.

Rahab the prostitute becomes Rahab the princess.

I am Sarah and Rahab. A woman drawn to default. A woman drawn to manipulation. A woman seduced by the trappings of the world. I too have encountered the Lord. And in my small but great courage, I have received a new identity.

I am no longer Bethany the manipulative one, the one who runs away from pain and conflict, the one who's shame defines her.

I am Bethany, a Daughter of the King of Kings, loved and cherished, valued, chosen, and redeemed. I am a child of God who has been set free.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fighting Idolism

Bel bows down, Nebo Stoops low;
their idols are borne by beasts of burden.
The images that are carried about are burdensome,
a burden for the weary.

Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all you who remain of the house of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since you were conceived,
and have carried since your birth.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:1,3-4

Idolism is a fast growing cancer. It begins with something so small. Before you are aware of it, it has metastasized into a life threatening illness. One that seeks to destroy you in every way.

When you are overtaken by idols remember that the Lord has upheld you since conception. He has carried you since your entrance into this world. He will carry you until your hair grays with age.

He made you.

He sustains you.

He carries you.

He rescues you.

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Manna for Today

Lately I have been grappling with feeling unimportant and not valued. I have let the words exit my mouth when really they should have stayed in. If I have learned anything over the past 5 years it is that I must rehearse truth to myself and others in order to combat the lies of satan.

I have failed.

No, I rephrase: I have had a setback.

I have fallen from my stable place and slipped back into the pit that menaces that I am unable to change. It is a place where satan lives. It is a place of lowness and darkness and sadness. It is a place where I am most afraid and yet most at home. I don't want to live in that place anymore. I am a conqueror. I have a Saviour who died so that I could be free from death and guilt. He died so that I could be free from the clutches of satan and his demons.
I have dreams in my life that have gone unfulfilled. I am angry, saddened, confused about the fact that they are unrealized dreams. I've entertained the thought that Jesus died for me becasue He had to not because He chose to.

Ridiculous but honest.

I can't understand why Jesus would chose singleness for me. I have spent a lifetime feeling lonely and looking forward to the day that I would have someone who would love me and me only. Someone who would want to hear what I have to say. Someone who would be excited to hear my voice.

Unrealized dreams.

I have concluded that I am not enough for these gifts. Valuable enough, pretty enough, good enough.

Rather than point my life down that dark road I must turn around and head in the direction of the Light of Life.

Today I resolve to take a step in the direction of Jesus' light by reminding myself of these essential truths about my life.

1. Jesus died to save me
"For God so loved the world (bethany) that He gave his only Son that whoever (bethany) believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16

2. The Lord made me with purpose and plans
"For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

3. Jesus' death bought my freedom
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us (bethany) free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

4. I am made new
"Therefore, if anyhone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" 2 Corinthians 5:17

5. My sins are not catalogued
"As far as the east is from the west, so far does He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

6. I am a witness to others
"The righteous are like a light shining brightly..." Proverbs 13:9a

7. I am loved
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness." Jeremiah 31:3

8. My pain is a reminder of my dependency on Jesus
"He strengthens those who are weak and tired." Isaiah 40:29

9. My life has weight and value
"For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

10. I can change
"and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:23-24