I Don't Get You: A Guide to Healthy Conversations by Sherry Graf (Book Review)

I Don't Get You: A Guide to Healthy Conversations by Sherry Graf is a very quick read (I finished it in about an hour) but it contains some valuable insights about choosing wise conversation - topics and intimacy considered - for different levels of relationship between members of the opposite sex. Graf does a good job of illustrating her points through imagined scenarios which help the reader to see the need for the principles and to get an idea of how to apply them in real life. I have to say I found the title did not really indicate the actual content of the book. I had expected something about gender-based differences in communicating, but this book looks at "emotional purity" in conversation.

Despite the usefulness of the principles and how I could recall instances in my life when I wish I had done and said things differently, I will place Graf's perspective firmly in the place of opinion, not as conversational rule. As I was reading I could recall and envision times when my conversations broke these guidelines and still turned out to be enriching and not emotionally compromising. 

Certainly there is much to be gained by becoming aware of Graf's views and integrating them into a more overarching body of personal wisdom for relating to the opposite sex. I feel that teenagers and young adults will get the most out of this book, but it's easy-to-read style and convenient length would recommend it to anyone interested in learning how to guard their heart and the hearts of others in new relationships with members of the opposite sex. 

3 of 5 stars from me.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review but the views expressed here are solely my own.

Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God's Armor After the Wedding Dress (Book Review)

Prayers for New Brides by Jennifer O. White is a good introduction for the new bride to the spiritual fortitude and alertness needed to fight the good fight of faith for one's marriage and family. It is a primer for those starting with less knowledge and exposure to teaching about the spiritual realm and the importance of a life steeped in the Word of God. For more seasoned personal students of the bible there will be little new material but valuable insights and reminders will still make this a worthwhile read.

I expected this to be a book compiled of prayers (perhaps organized under different topics or themes), but it is actually comprised of standard topical chapters which end with a "prayer prompt," followed by "a wife's call to action" giving an activity that is useful for guiding personal bible study.

The book is written with great authenticity and humility. The author has clearly spent time in the Word and has been able to grow from her own mistakes and experiences into one able to teach others.
This book would be a great gift for the engaged and newly wed woman, particularly during those early seasons when it is easy to get carried away with wonderful dreams and even unrealistic expectations of happily ever after without a fight. Prayers for New Brides would be a good complement to many of the other great books on Christian marriage that a couple may (should) have in their library, and perhaps it's greatest benefit would be in leading a new bride to study the word of God more deeply long after the last page is read.

A copy of this book was provided for review at no cost and with no obligation on behalf of New Leaf Press and Cross Focused Reviews. The views expressed here are solely my own. 

Jesus on that dark day. How remarkably alone He was.

"It was 20 years ago that I enjoyed the privilege of portraying Jesus in the film The Gospel of Matthew. The experience was life-changing as I came to understand the Lord in ways I’d never imagined. I discovered His joy, His heartbreak, and the fire of His passion. I also discovered how remarkably alone Jesus was when He walked the earth.

"After all, who could possibly understand a man whose thoughts and ways were so astoundingly removed from those of any other person? Even His closest companions never "got it" until after He’d ascended to His Father. How alone does that leave a man—especially that Golgotha day?

"When we filmed the crucifixion scenes of Matthew, I arrived on the set after a three-hour make-up job that was so authentic none of the film crew could bear to look at me. I recall thinking of that scripture, "He was … like one from whom men hide their face" (Isa. 53:3), and realizing it was very real.

"Then the filming began and the brutality was remarkable. We were just "faking it," and the awfulness was indescribable. I remember hanging there and seeing the faces all around me, just staring. A little girl from the local village where we were filming just cried and cried. They all would have loved to help me somehow. But it was something I had to go through alone.

"I thought of Jesus looking out and seeing His mother, John, and others. As much as they loved Him, there was no way they could understand His motivations that day. As much as they’d have loved to somehow help Him, it was something He had to do—alone.

"Then came the moment of alone beyond alone. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46). And you and I could be born again.

"Today is a day to shed all our wanting and live as the Lord desires: thankful. We have the privilege of understanding Him as those who walked by His side never could, and our response can be nothing other than to fall on our faces in profound gratitude. Glory to Jesus!"

–Bruce Marchiano
[Reposted from intouch.org]

A Cup of Cold Water

    "And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is [my] disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." ~ Matthew 10:42
I heard this Scripture quoted recently and it really got my attention. A cup of cold water is a pretty small thing for most of us. We don't have to go to draw from a well as Rachel and the Samaritan woman did. We would simply have to open the refrigerator and pour a cup from a nicely chilled pitcher, or hand someone a bottle of water  - with minimal effort in all but special cases.

When I think about the simplicity of genuine service that He accepts, I know I've passed up way too many opportunities to do good. In fact, I can clearly recall a sense of irritation at times when asked to do simple tasks, or to stop what I'm engaged in to help someone else out.

The Lord will remember the smallest, seemingly insignificant things we do, out of honor and love for fellow believers. Not only will He remember, but He will also reward us for doing them. God watches us and records our doings. Every. Little. Thing.

I hope you will join me in making a commitment to be more conscientious about these little things, so that we can please Him more fully. Let's find ways, and grasp opportunities, to convert our strength, resources, and time into heavenly treasures.

Take Time To Actually Pray

"The great people of the earth today are the people who pray!  I do not mean those who talk about prayer; nor those who say they believe in prayer; nor those who explain prayer; but I mean those who actually take the time to pray. They have not time. It must be taken from something else. That something else is important, very important and pressing, but still, less important and pressing than prayer. There are people who put prayer first, and group the other items in life's schedule around and after prayer. These are the people today who are doing the most for God in winning souls, in solving problems, in awakening churches, in supplying both men and money for mission posts, in keeping fresh and strong their lives far off in sacrificial service on the foreign field, where the thickest fighting is going on, and in keeping the old earth sweet a little while longer."  S.D. Gordon

A few years ago I discovered the place where persistent prayer took place and yielded results. I learned to pray Scriptures and to pray based on the word of God. I learned to pray specifically, and to pray about everything. I also learned that my prayer could be as effective on the days I didn't 'feel' like praying or when I was more easily distracted. The deciding factor was my choice to separate myself from the other things I could be doing and go pray anyway. Sometimes it was very difficult to get started but I would ask the Holy Spirit to help me, and He would. In those days I found myself spending as much as three to four hours at a time in prayer and intercession. And that time became precious.

Tremendous changes began taking place in me, and by explicit answers to my prayers. I remember thinking that if I had known it could be like this, I would have spent so many hours (which had been previously wasted) in prayer instead. I was truly filled with regret over all the time I could not get back to pray, and all the times I had worried myself into a frenzy instead of putting that energy towards praying about things. If there is a secret to the overcoming Christian life, my experience taught me that it must be spending time getting to know God by studying His word, and then praying according to it.

Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving. 
Colossians 4: 2 (AMP)

A few years ago I did a blog series on praying effectively. You can find it here (this link is based on the label applied; be sure to start from the bottom when reading because it does follow an order to be most useful to you).

New Growth Will Lead To New Things

Happy New Year!
May this year be for each of you a year of growth; going from glory to glory, and faith to faith!

There is a fresh stirring in my heart to delve more deeply into studying the Word of God this year. This didn't occur to me just this morning because it's New Year's Day. I've felt like a new wind of grace has blown over me during the past week in particular. I know this is a work of God in me, and I am determined to cooperate with Him to work it out practically. So, although I did not make New Year Resolutions, I did have to make some New Year Decisions. (I make a distinction because 'resolution' seems to refer to something more whimsical, based on feeling or a burst of positivity; whereas, a 'decision' reminds me that choice and responsibility sit squarely on my shoulders).

I realize that I am going to have to make trade-offs and changes in my daily schedule to spend more time in study that's deeper than daily Bible reading. It's not going to be easy amidst a busy schedule (nothing worth it ever is) but the rewards are the kind that profit a person now, and for eternity. I also know my personal gains will equip me to better serve all those God has put in my sphere, both offline and online.

How about you? I know that God is also at work in you. Will you take this journey with me this year?

I believe it's best to pray about what I should blog here (especially when I'm discussing something that turns out to be more of a mini Bible study), so there's no telling what will come up. Needless to say, the unchanging focus will be on a closer relationship with God, and with others. This always calls for discussing how to live in the light of God's word, in practical ways.

I would love to hear what's on your heart and mind. Join me at Facebook, Google Plus or Twitter. If you have a testimony of praise, or a prayer request, feel free to send it to me at fotshepherd[at]gmail[dot][com]

Blessings of love, strength, and peace to you in Jesus.

Resolve to Love

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Resolve to Love 
By Kerry and Chris Shook

Right now, there are three relationships in your life that trouble you. Perhaps a good friend said something to you yesterday. It felt critical, but you’re not sure what she meant. The two of you used to be so close, but lately you’ve been drifting apart. Something’s not right. Oh, and your mother called. There’s that. You know you should return her call, but you haven’t. Why? You know there are things you should have said before, you avoided them, and now you feel it’s too late. It’s always so hard with her. Always messy. And then...your son has been missing. Not missing physically, but he’s been distant, quiet, silent. Missing emotionally. What’s that about? What’s going on in his life? You want to reach out, but he pushes you away. It worries you.
Maybe the relationships in your life aren’t exactly like these, but I’m guessing these remind you of someone close to you, a problem relationship in your life right now. Maybe it’s not your mother but your father, perhaps not your son but a daughter-in-law. It could be your best friend. Whoever it is, he or she is someone who matters to you—or else the relationship wouldn’t trouble you, gnaw at you on the inside, make you question and grumble, or even bring you to tears.

So take a moment and think, who are these three key people in your life? Which meaningful relationships are troubling you? Relationships you wish were closer. Relationships you’d like to be deeper and richer. Relationships that trouble you, bother you, even make you a little crazy right now.

Seriously, think about it. Who are they? And now take a moment to name these three key relationships out loud.

Trust me, this is important for you. In fact, this may be the most significant thing you do in your life right now. Why?

Because life is way too short. At the end of the day—at the end of The Day—in this all-too-short life we share, all that really matters is relationships. Our relationships with the God who created us and with the people we love. Compared to these relationships, the job or career goals we set now aren’t really so important, the ladders we try to climb don’t matter so much, and the objects we long to own and possess seem utterly trivial.

What really counts in the end is that special knowing look you share with your spouse, the arms of your child reaching up to you, or the quiet comfort of a friend who stands by your side in a difficult time.

The award-winning animated movie Up contains some profound truths about relationships. In a breathtaking sequence early in the film, we see the entire arc of the life of Carl, a balloon salesman, as he meets Ellie, falls in love, and gets married. They share a dream to travel to South America and save every penny for their big trip. But there’s something familiar about the way their savings are constantly being used for the urgencies and emergencies of daily life. Before Carl and Ellie know it, they’re in their seventies, and although they have a beautiful marriage, they never realized their dream adventure.

Ellie dies, and Carl is overwhelmed with regret about the trip they never took. In a desperate attempt to escape loneliness and recapture memories of Ellie, Carl attaches a bunch of balloons to his house and sets out for South America! You begin to realize as the movie progresses that this dream trip they were saving for, this object of their future plan together, wasn’t really that important after all. The real adventure was the life they shared along the way.

The same is true for us: the adventure of a lifetime is right in front of us. It’s just cleverly disguised as a familiar face.

Think about the possible loss of the relationship with one of those three people you named. You can’t do anything about death and the physical departure of one of them from this earth. That’s in God’s hands.

But you can do something about your relationship with them in life.

Much of what you’ve been told about relationships is upside down and wrong.

Researchers tell us that a baby sees everything upside down for the first few days of life until the brain can adjust the visual picture to right side up. Most relationships today are stuck in this same infant stage; we tend to see relationships upside down, and our culture only reinforces this view. The concept of love at first sight permeates our music, movies, television, and books. What we learn as children and continue to believe as adults is that a fairy-tale relationship somehow just happens. Now, I’m not bashing romance, but meaningful relationships depend on seeing other people as they are and looking at them right side up. Real love—whether romantic love, a close friendship, or a family relationship—happens long after first sight. It shows up as people get to know each other more deeply and often after they work through tough things together. Real love in relationships isn’t a magic act; it’s a journey. When people say, “It was love at first sight,” what they really mean is “I was attracted to that person the first time I saw them.” There is nothing wrong with being infatuated with someone at the start of a relationship. The real question, however, is, do you have a love that is growing stronger and deeper every day?

I don’t believe in love at first sight; I believe in love at last sight. Each of my relationships has the potential to be better the next time we’re together than it was the previous time so that the last time we see each other on this earth we’re closer than ever before.

Adapted from One Month to Love by Kerry and Chris Shook with permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.