Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nelson's Cyclopedic Index: The Best Bible Subject Index Ever

I received a complimentary copy of the Nelson's Biblical Cyclopedic Index: The Best Bible Subject Index Ever, in exchange for my honest review.

I love books. I really love small books. And books about books? Oh, yeah. This is a reference book, and it is a very helpful tool for Bible study. I mention that it's small. Why does that matter? Well, you may know of some of the other Biblical reference books and well, they are "exhaustive" in more ways than one. So to have a reference to over 8,000 subjects, names, places, concepts, etc. all contained within a book just slightly bigger than a standard paperback is something to mention! I am so excited to have this compact, yet very comprehensive subject index on my shelf. I tend to carry my Bible around with me, and this study tool may very well become a a permanent resident of my book bag, as well.

In addition to being the "best Bible Subject Index Ever", it also contains hundreds of word studies and thousands of definitions. This would be a great tool for a student, teacher or anyone who may need to find specifics in the Bible. I'm definitely not a scholar, but I find this reference to be very easy to use and understand. This book would be a great gift for anyone that reads the Bible on any level. I highly recommend it!

Thank you Thomas Nelson and the BookSneeze Program for allowing me this complimentary book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nemrey Berses

At our last MOPS meeting, our speaker mentioned that she started her kids working on Scripture memory at age 2 -3. I'm still trying to figure out why I hadn't already started this, but we have been hard at work ever since.

For those of you that didn't already know, Chloe is a genius.

I'm in no way biased.

Seriously, though. She is doing an incredible job of "nemorizing berses" at the speed of light. We started with Philippians 4:5 "Let your gentleness be evident to all; The Lord is near." Or - "Let your genlemess be ebident to all: The Lord is near." - if you read the Chloe version. I can hardly stand the cuteness of it all. I was floored by how quickly she picked up on it.

Our next verse (berse) was Ephesians 6:1 "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." I didn't even realize she knew this one until the other day when she was supposed to be taking a nap, but she was actually reciting her berses to her stuffed animals. I heard her say "6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." I couldn't even believe it. I think that was Tuesday and we had just started that one on Sunday. We may have worked on it 5 times.

Next up are:

Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."


Philippians 2:14 "Do everything without complaining or arguing."

I love that I am learning these verses, too! Most of these I would say I knew, but I wouldn't be able to tell you where they were without the help of or leafing through my Bible for 5 minutes.

Anyone have any suggestions for great verses for kids to learn?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Blast From The Past

I was looking for something on my old (OLD) blog yesterday. I came across my post from 4 years ago today. If ever I had a reason to be THANKFUL for where I am, this would be it. I also find it incredibly interesting how some things are so hard wired into you that years later you still struggle. Even after a post like this - where it seems like you FINALLY get it. Another funny thing: I just redid the Beth Moore study that I mentioned in here. Finished it in November.

Enjoy this blast from the past...

Let me just hang it all out there... Here's what started it all, a quote from my incredible Beth Moore study called "Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit"

"Christ has a purpose in the pain you've suffered or He never would have allowed it. Until you surrender to His purpose in the specific matter at hand, He cannot work it for your good. Do you know what that means? It all happened in vain - for absolutely nothing."

The moral of the story is: If I don't surrender and do what I'm supposed to do, where I am supposed to do it, with the attitude I should be doing it with, THIS COULD ALL BE FOR NOTHING! Hello. Wake up call.

This was so eye opening for me. What a revelation from the Lord. He really helped clue me in on a few things.

1. Though I have accepted that I have to stay where He put me, at least for this year (and in my heart , especially now, I know indefinitely...) I had decided I wasn't going to like it and I was going to PRAY that I be laid off or that God get me out of there one way or the other. The point? I was not surrendered. I didn't think of it as being mad at God for having me where I did not want to be, but I most certainly had an "I'll do it, but I absolutely won't like it" attitude. How I thought I was surrendered, I'm not sure. I had just told Em Friday night that I have never so badly wished I could be outside of God's will. Why? Because I know that that is exactly where I am, I just don't (didn't) want to be there. Scary... The only thing scarier than realizing I am not surrendered to my Lord, is realizing that if I hadn't realized this fact, I could have suffered through this whole year FOR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I can't believe that this whole time I have been blocking God's plan to prosper me (and potentially hundreds of other people) with my negativity and all around rotten attitude. This is alarming to me.

***Just so you don't think I'm a complete moron, (though you have every right to, as I've been acting like one for - oh... 5 months now...) I knew most of the things I'm about to list, in theory. When the coin really goes down into the slot and you GET IT, it makes a big big difference. That's what happened this weekend, cha-ching. ***

2. I realized, (again, hopefully this time for keeps) that I may not be rewarded with seeing the fruit of my labor. Hello? Especially if I were to continue on the ridiculous path I was on. It is not up to me to decide if I am making a difference. It is not my call to say "I can't help people who do not want to be helped." or "These problems are too big for me, I can't do it by myself." Now - mind you, I don't mean that I didn't think God was big enough or anything like that, it's just so many times I feel like a salmon swimming upstream, at school. People who are supposed to be helping are hindering. People who are supposed to be supporting me, appear to lay awake at night thinking of ways to make one of the hardest jobs ever, even harder. The point? I take my marching orders from the One who put me there, and I need to prioritize according to my accountability to Him, not any man. I need to get over wanting my boss to "like me", "approve of me", or even just quit being a jerk. I need to learn to control what I can control, which is me and how I react and interact with the people that God has put in my path. I'm so disappointed with how I have used my influence, and how I have lost the ground I gained with people last year. Relationships that I had fostered last year have suffered, because I have stayed physically, but emotionally and spiritually, I've checked out.... Wait - did I ever even check in? God's grace is sufficient, and I plan to take my second chance VERY seriously.

3. Happiness is based on circumstances. It's okay to not be in love with your circumstances. It is even okay to be unhappy with your circumstances and situations. Sad, frustrated, upset, disappointed, etc... HOWEVER - My joy is in the Lord, who DOES NOT CHANGE. Therefore, if the joy of the Lord is my strength, then that joy should remain regardless of sadness, frustration, disappointment or being upset with my current circumstances which are always TEMPORARY. He gives and takes away, but my heart will choose to say - Lord blessed be your name. I KNOW this. I have sung it, thought it and grasp it intellectually. I have seriously FAILED to live it. Oh, for shame.

4. Love and Hate are choices to be made. Effective yesterday I LOVE MY BUICK!!! Instead of choosing negativity I am choosing to see the sunny side. THERE IS ALWAYS A SUNNY SIDE. It is your, our, and most definitely my choice to see the sunny side. Effective immediately, I will begin again to be intentional about looking for the sunny side of all things. I hadn't even realized how negative I had become. I had made so much progress in this area of my life, with a little help from my friends. I realized one of the main differences between last year and this year is the amount of time I have spent with godly truth telling women. Last year, I spent a lot of time either talking to or being with Emily and Julie. They were both instrumental in helping me to realize my level of negativity. It was so ingrained in my personality, routine, sense of humor. I never even realized how glass half empty I was. I (WE -Jesus, Julie, Emily and myself) really turned it around last year, but what do you know? Here I sit in the mud again. Prodigal me.

All of this to say -

5. I now remember why God has me where I am. I also remember that last year I learned that being in easy circumstances does not foster growth. The best thing about last year, (which was HARD, but compared to this year it was a cake walk) was how close I grew to the Lord. It was the best experience because it taught me what dependence on the Lord really was. Don't ask me where all that went this year. In some respects, I feel like a failure. I'm just thankful that God showed me the error of my ways, before the year was gone and there was no time for redemption. So, here starts the journey back across the mountain. Again, Prodigal me. (If you don't understand my reference to the song Prodigal Me, go back to a post that I wrote almost 1 year ago today. I'm sort of like Rain Man when it comes to dates, and I remembered a serious revelation I had last year around the annivesary of Jessie's death, today, which was brought on by the song Prodigal Me. The lyrics are listed in my 2-7-06 post.)

Alright already - ACTION STEPS

How, then, do I remember on a daily basis what's up?

1. Re-implement my Bible memory system. "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11 I used to meditate on a verse while getting ready in the morning, and while driving to school in a very safe manner. A perfect example of why this is necessary is, I couldn't remember the reference for this verse. I've known the verse since I was 10 but I couldn't find it. Exactly my point.

2. In addition to my Bible memory, I am also starting a little spiral bound index card booklet of things to REMEMBER. You know, those things that you highlight and write hallelujah and Amen, sister - preach it!! next to in the awesome books you read? Well - rather than just having that for a moment when I'm reading, doing a study, talking with a friend who often says stuff that makes me want to have a go-go gadget tape recorder, or listening to a message, now I will write these statements of TRUTH that I want to remember into my handy dandy notebook, and when I think what was that thing that Joyce Meyer, or Steve Andrews or Julie or one of the Emilys said? I can look in my handy dandy notebook, get my head back on straight and go on about my business. I'm excited about this one.

3. My final goal, for the moment, is to start a prayer sticky note reminder system. There are so many people that I want to pray for on a daily basis, and there are a lot of monotonous things that I do every day. My hope is that I will get in the habit of praying for certain people when I am doing certain things each day. Praying for my dad when I'm brushing my teeth. Praying for my mom when I'm putting on my make up, etc... It worked well the time I put a sticky note on the inside door of my kitchen cabinet. I prayed for that person every time I got in there. The challenge? Not causing a cluttery annoying mess of stick notes. Most of my routine stuff is done in my own room, so hopefully I can use my own bathroom, my computer and other often frequented places that will not subject Frank to this.

And just to put blogger to the ultimate test.... Here is the post I referenced from 2.7.06. This is what I was actually looking for last night when I found the above post. If you haven't already gone blind, keep reading.... :)

I am very much looking forward to church tomorrow... I feel so incredibly under attack. I think my enemy knows that I can't be taken down easily, so he is firing at me from every angle. Pray for me please.

Today is the 4 year anniversary of Jessie's accident. In a lot of ways it doesn't seem like 4 years could possibly have passed already, but then on the other hand it seems like it has been light years... It's amazing to fathom what the Lord has done in me in that time. It was today, 4 years ago that I looked up, for the first time in a long time. For the majority of these past four years, as I have made my slow trek back to the feet of Jesus, I have come from a heart of guilt and shame over the lost years. Within the last week or so, the Lord has been showing me (though He has probably been trying to show me all along) that none of our "lost time" matters to Him. It wasn't until I was really able to listen to the lyrics of "Prodigal Me" by Shane Barnard that I got it.

Here's the video. Start it playing and then read these lyrics. And prepare for chicken skin. (Aka gooseflesh, or goosebumps... :) )

prodigal me
by shane barnard

what have i done to get me here?
unraveled and undone, i need my father
what have i done? i've followed my feet to nowhere
now i'm here! as i ran, i can run no more
prodigal me

the mountains to the west, i know they laugh at me
they know i'm scared to cross and leave this life i lead
oh my pride! i give you up a barter for my freedom
what will they think as i come stumbling down to join their lives?

i need to cross this mountain and find my way home
there is no greater fortune, rescue me
oh unmerciful divide be merciful tonight
show me the other side
prodigal me

the mountains to the east, they've swallowed my beloved
this house completely incomplete, where is my mortar?
where did he go? he followed his feet to nowhere
please come home! you've done me no wrong
each evening i look down that road
i hope and i wait for you
and my servants they look down that road
we watch and we pray for you
master, master, who's that man stumbling down that road?
could it be the one? could it be? could it be?
master, master, it's Your son
coming home to join our lives!

i'm looking down this mountain, i see my way home
there is no greater fortune, i believe!
oh unmerciful divide you laugh at me no more
oh i've reached the other side!
prodigal me

could i be the one? could i be? could i be?
Father, Father, we're Your sons
coming home to join Your life

we've finally crossed this mountain, and found our way home
there is no greater fortune than Jesus
oh how merciful is our God who gave His only Son!
oh we worship You tonight!

(Disclaimer - not their best performance but this is OLD!)

The following is someone's commentary on the Parable of the Prodigal Son and it beautiful illustrates what the Lord has been revealing to me through the song.

But then look at what happens when he returns to his father, humbled, no longer feeling he had the right to be given anything, and with the intent of working for him. He is not driven away because of his previous actions and behavior....the father knew and was so overjoyed at his return he didn't even wait for his son to get all the way back...he ran out and met him! Not only did he meet him with joy, he gave him the best of what he had. The best clothes, the best food, and celebrated his return. Our Father is always there for us. He will not deny us if we come to Him, and He will not shame us for our past actions when we do. Like in the story, He knows we're coming, and is prepared and isn't thinking of our past, just rejoicing for our future.

What an amazing God we serve...

If you made it this far, I hope this blessed you!

Monday, February 7, 2011

An Anniversary, Of Sorts

Today, as I flipped to the right page in my devotional book, I realized that today is that day. That day that I thought about a lot in January, hoping that a depression wouldn't threaten when it got here.

It's been nine years.

Nine years, since my best friend and her five month old son lost their lives, as a result of a car accident.

It's been eleven years since I've heard her voice. Unless you count the tape I have of us singing (badly) when we were kids. Or the time several years ago when her sister played me a voice mail that Jessie had left for her before her accident.

Which I don't.

Eight to ten years ago, I would have said that we had grown apart and that distance was the main reason we hadn't spoken in so long. We did live about an hour away from each other, and life had taken us down very different paths. Well, my choices had, if I'm going to be honest.

The choices I had been making were not good ones and by the time she passed away, I hadn't darkened the door of church in seven years. When I think about some of the ways I passed my time in the two years that I could have been spending time with her, I kinda want to shake the Rachel that made those choices. Thankfully, she slowly began to die the same day that Jessie did.

Now that I've firmly re-established my relationship with God, what made us such great friends to begin with, it's easier to admit the truth. The reason we weren't friends during that two year period was sin. My sin. Sin separates us from God, but it can also separate us from those who love Him. Even if they love us, too. Jessie never harassed me about my all-star idiocy. She was smart enough to know what effect that would have had. I know she was praying for me though... After she died, Frank's mom recounted a conversation that she'd had with Jessie on our wedding day. My mother-in-law was asking Jessie what they were going to do about us not being in church. Jessie said, "Don't worry. They'll come back." The faith that she had in me brings me to tears every time I recount it. The irony of what would bring me back gives me chills.

I remember sitting on the steps in a deserted hallway in the hospital, the day of the accident and thinking, did I cause this? Is her death my fault? Is this my punishment for wandering away?

Obviously, I hadn't read the New Testament in awhile, either.

I'm so incredibly thankful that tragedy led me to Jesus instead of away from Him. Despite my messed up theology on the stairs, I chose to run to Him. To slowly but surely find my way back to the Rachel that was best friends with Jessie. The one who loved God more than anything else.

Today, I'm choosing to think of this as the anniversary of the start of my prodi-Gal journey home, instead of one of the worst days of my life.

Even though it's both.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Now That's Deep

For the first time in MY LIFE, I've been on a diet for an entire month.

Let's all take a moment, shall we?

When I was pregnant, Frank went on the South Beach Diet. He lost 40 lbs, while I gained almost that much! Not nice. I had a great excuse at that time to skip it, but I always knew I'd like to try it someday. Well - after enjoying the effects of nursing for a year, I slowly began to put on weight. There was no sign that it was stopping, so I decided I had better do it.

I started on January 3rd. Sadly, it was my sister's 18th birthday - so the first thing I burned up on the alter of dieting was birthday cake. Ouch. That one hurt.

Aside from that, it was really much easier than I expected to completely give up sugar, COLD TURKEY. I seriously thought I was addicted and truly thought it would be an absolute nightmare. Nope. What I've learned along the way is that I wasn't doing nearly as badly as I thought. I've also been reminded that I can do ANYTHING that I put my mind to. I just hadn't put my mind to any self-control where eating was concerned for quite some time.

Sadly, I didn't lose as much as I'd hoped. Phase 1 promises a loss of 8-13 lbs, and I lost 3 or 4. Even now, a month later, I still haven't hit 8 lbs. Boo. The good news is - I'm into the pants that I wanted to be in - and I thought I'd need to lose 12 lbs to get there. So, woot for that! :)

For phase 2, you are allowed to start adding grains back in. We have decided to literally make a lifestyle change where grains are concerned. I'm trying really hard to convince my intestines that this is for the best, however, they are a tough sell. Whole grains, um, cause me some, um, issues. Yeeeeaaaah. Eating an enormous salad everyday for close to 3 weeks also wreaked havoc on the old digestor, too. Yikes. Note to self. Moderation. In all things. Even salad. Ok.

I whine about not losing weight, but the truth of the matter is this diet was more about self-control and dying to self than anything else. I figure if I can't even discipline myself where sugar and other poor eating habits are concerned, how do I expect to discipline myself spiritually.


Since that was so easy, I'm now quitting facebook. Eek. It has been 3 full days, and I remember this being a lot easier the last time I did it. Apparently, my addiction has intensified. Good to know.

I was planning to give up facebook for Lent, but then we were issued a challenge to fast and pray at our last women's meeting and I knew that I needed to give up facebook. SO.... It is going to be very close to 3 months. Yikes. I'm going to try not to think about that right now.

The good news is in place of facebook - my plan is to read and study God's Word more, and pray for the people in my life that need miracles. There are a lot of them. It's so worth it. Even if I am dying to know what people I never even talk to are up to. Lord, give me strength.