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You Can be Everything God Wants You to Be

Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out God’s plan, and if you don’t know the plan, it’s even harder to figure out the next step to take. Today, on Faith, Creativity, Life, I’m featuring a brand new book from Max Lucado. “You Can be Everything God Wants You to Be” is a gift book dedicated to helping readers zone in on what God has uniquely equipped them to do. Although it has over 120 pages, each page has wide margins and at practically pocket size, it’s a quick read. I read the entire thing in an afternoon.

I enjoyed the book and it helped me reaffirm my own direction, yet it didn’t really say anything profound. It was more of a pep talk and reminded me of a commencement speech with its encouragement to aspire and live a fulfilled life. In places it was repetitive and really the summary on the back cover said the entire message of the book in a paragraph. Still, Max Lucado has such a poetic way of writing that when you add that to the illustrations and word pictures that he often uses, he can take anything and make it sound new. For example, in one chapter Lucado says, “Spelunk these verses with me,” where most of us would use the conventional word, “explore”.

I think that this book would be a good gift for someone who is graduating or considering launching into a new venture.


It's Creativity Wednesday

Anything trash to treasure revs up my creativity, but you don't have to be super crafty to create something. Really, you don't. I know some of you doubt me right now. But let me show you some projects that might inspire you to attempt to create something. I promise, they don't use glue or power tools. 

If you're anything like me, you have a ton of old purses stashed somewhere and most of them have flaws that have rendered them useless as a purse anymore. But you keep them because they are cute or you can't part with something that cost that much. How about this idea from Cap Creations?

Or, how about this framed scrapbook paper. Just spraypaint and some decorative paper make a wall hanging that looks like a million bucks. I found this example on the Finding Fabulous blog.
I bet you can tie a knot! If so, then you can make this rag wreath designed by the Homemade Mamas. Just tear of cut strips and tie them on.
For the bakers out there, aren't these pool ball cupcakes by A Crafty Escape a fun way to make a birthday cake? I suppose an electric mixer technically counts as a power tool, however, I think these are great.
Got your creative juices flowing now? We'd love to see pictures of what you create. Just send a photo by e-mail and I'll feature it on a future Creativity Wednesday. 

Isn't it amazing how God can give us the creativity to come up with so many different ideas? It blows my mind when I see what people can make. If our finite minds can create so much variety, doesn't that tell us something about the infinite mind of the Creator who made each of us unique?


Review- The Telling by Beverly Lewis

I just finished reading "The Telling" by Beverly Lewis. It's book #3 in the Seasons of Grace series, and I believe it's the last in the series. I must admit, I've been disappointed with this series in that, Beverly Lewis has grown much more predictable in her writing. I had the ending of this book figured out already in the last book, but being the way I am, I was compelled to read it all to see if I was correct. So, I checked out new release at my library.

As great as she is with her mechanics of writing, Lewis just doesn't challenge me much as a reader. She does a great job with research, but I think she's lost her touch when it comes to building suspense, weaving unexpected twists into the plot, and gripping the reader. 

On the plus side, this book is a wonderful example of grace and making peace with the past. Readers will be touched by the message of the book, if anything. 

All told, "The Telling" doesn't rank up there with my favorite reads. How about you? Have you read the book. Have you been a Beverly Lewis follower all along? I'd love to hear your impression of this latest series. Add your comments below and tell us what you think.

The Need to be Creative

This summer, my time has not worked out as I expected it would. Commitments turned into something bigger than expected, obligations overtook my free time, and everyday life usurped the relax time I anticipated. Lately, I've been starved for some creativity time. At the moment, I'm counting down the days to when the guys are all away and I have the house to myself for a whole week. I know I'll be devoting a good part of that week to creative pursuits.

If you're a creative person, have you ever wondered why you get that hunger to create something? Some people get the itch to travel, others can't wait to go for jog around the lake (though I have to wonder what possesses them to crave that), and others can't wait to get to the cabin for a weekend. But I crave time with my sewing machine or time with a stack of colored pencils and paper. It's one of the things that replenishes my emotional bank.

What do you enjoy doing that helps you to relax and satisfies an emotional need for creativity? How do you balance creative time and everyday obligations? Share your comments below.


Photo of the Week

One of my favorite parts of summer is enjoying all of my flowers. This one hangs above my favorite chair on my back deck retreat spot. 



Everday Ideas

For this week's Tuesday everyday idea, I'd like to introduce you to a magazine that I enjoy. Real Simple magazine features easy everyday ideas in every issue, reader feedback, coupons, decorating and food features, and lots more. You'll find many helpful ideas on the Real Simple website too.

Each month, the magazine features ideas from readers and it just so happens that this month, one of my ideas was chosen for the magazine. You'll find a link to the online version of my response at this link. The "Your Words" feature for this month asked if you had a free day this summer, how would you spend it?

How about you? If you had an unexpected free day this summer, how would you spend it? Share your ideas in the comments below, right here on the blog.


Stellar Review vs Incomparable Book

Book reviews are one of my favorite things to write. One of the perks of writing reviews is that I often receive my complimentary copy of the book before it comes out in bookstores. Now that I’ve written a few reviews, I’m asked to do even more, and I love getting new books in the mail. I flip through the crisp pages knowing the author has spent countless hours creating the work I hold in my hands.

I wonder what it would it be like if I were assigned to write a book review of the Bible. Could I do justice to the holy and inspired Word of God in a review? And what about the parts that I didn’t like as much? Could my readers could accept my honesty if I admitted that some parts, though God-breathed, weren’t so easy to read? How would you write a review of the Bible?

I’d begin with an introduction to the author. Although I’ve never seen him in person, nor have I ever seen a picture of him, I do know him personally. In fact, I talk with him every day, visit his house weekly, and he knew my name and that of every one of my ancestors long before we were born. He’s a kind and loving father who never forgets his children. He’s never written a sequel, since he’s already said all that ever needs to be said. The author doesn’t worry about “royalty” checks since he’s the King of Kings.

Next, I would describe the genre of the book. It’s nonfiction, but does it have a subcategory? It isn’t self-help. It isn’t reference material either. Some would call the Bible a biography of the author, and although readers will learn much about the author just by reading the book, it’s so much more than God’s biography. Others might call it an instruction manual or a history book. Although it contains many instructions and commands, and it has plenty of historically proven facts, that isn’t how I would classify it either.

Some would say it’s a collection of stories suited for bedtime reading like a book of fairytales. Anyone arguing such a silly thing has obviously not read the Bible, or else he hasn’t noticed the complete opposite of happily ever after in many of the stories contained in these pages. Some parts would definitely qualify for stricter than a PG rating for the violent content in the wars of Israel and the beheading of John the Baptist, or for sexually explicit sins such as David’s adultery. So how does a person describe the Bible? Obviously, it stands in a class all its own.

If I could sum up the Bible, I’d describe it more as a love letter, a story of how much God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. It’s a life-changing message of hope in the midst of a dark world. It’s the account of redemption and the promise of eternal life for all who believe on the name of Jesus, but I’ll admit, it’s easy to miss that message and get bogged down in some of the chapters. For example, the book of Leviticus isn’t exactly light reading. Many a time my eyelids have fallen shut while I’m reading the lists of Old Testament rules and regulations. Yet, even here, as God’s people learned about the rules of sacrifice, we see the thread of redemption and the beauty of God’s covenant relationship with his people.

It has sold billions of copies, and the Bible tops the list of all-time best sellers in the world. God wrote his Word thousands of years ago and it’s still timeless. But have you read it? In most of my reviews, I show my readers the benefit of buying the book, but I suspect that most of you already own several copies of God’s Word. Instead, I urge you to open your Bible and read it with fresh eyes, with a heart ready to hear the words of God who loves you enough to write a book with a message just for you. I could write a stellar review, but why waste your time reading my words? God’s Word is much more worthwhile.

This article reprinted as it appeared in the June 2010 issue of Wisconsin Christian News in Michelle's "Habits for Quality Living" Column.


New Book from Seasoned Author

I just finished reading book one in the Seasons of Redemption series by Andrea Boeshaar, and Andrea didn’t disappoint. Several years ago, I heard the author speak at a women’s event and had purchased some of her novels which I enjoyed. So I was happy to review a brand new one, and today, I'm happy to host Andrea Boeshaar on tour on my blog.

Michelle's Review:
This novel takes place in New Orleans during Civil War time. In “Unwilling Warrior” main character Valerie Fontaine faces the challenges of the culture including, arranged marriages, coming out parties, and the trials of a society in Confederate territory. As Valerie tries to adjust to life without her beloved mother, her father doesn’t know how to deal with his own grief and Valerie longs for his fatherly love. A houseguest brings  a distraction for Valerie, but when his occupation as a professional photographer leads to Valerie and her father being accused of conspiracy, the story takes on a new twist.

“Unwilling Warrior” is well written and I enjoyed it very much. Although some parts of the story are very predictable, Boeshaar’s writing style is captivating enough that I couldn’t put it down. I can’t say that the plot had anything I’d describe as over-the-top original, any book that is well-written and holds my attention is worth reading for relaxation and entertainment. I think the author did a good job of doing her research and keeping the story true to the period. Historical fiction buffs, especially Civil War, I encourage you to check out this new series published by Realms, a Strang Company imprint.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publicist in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author:

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar has been married for more than 30 years. She and her husband, Daniel, have three adult sons, daughters-in-law, and two precious grandchildren. Andrea's educational background includes the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, where she studied in English, and Alverno College where she studied in Professional Communications and Business Management.

Andrea has been writing stories and poems since she was a little girl; however, it wasn't until 1984 that she started submitting her work for publication. Eight years after that, she was convicted about writing for the Christian market. She read books in her genre (Inspirational Romance & Women's Fiction), studied the market, and worked hard to hone her craft.

Finally her first novel was published in 1994. Since then she's written numerous articles and devotionals. Andrea has also published inspiration romance novels, women's fiction, and novellas.

In 2003, Andrea joined the Hartline Literary Agency and worked for Joyce Hart as a literary agent. She saw much success. But then in 2007, Andrea realized she was more of a teacher/encourager than a sales person. She left the agency and became a certified Christian life coach. Now, in addition to her writing, Andrea enjoys encouraging others to use their God-given talents and gifts to their fullest.

Andrea has taught workshops at such writers conferences as: Write-To-Publish; American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW); Oregon Christian Writers Conference; Mount Hermon Writers Conference and many local writers conferences. She also speaks at various churches and women's groups.

Another of Andrea's accomplishments is co-founder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its Advisory Board and as its CEO.


Reflecting on Independence Day

Happy 4th of July!

It's hard to believe the 4th of July is already upon us. That means summer is flying by. This weekend, as we celebrate the 4th of July with picnics and parades, fireworks and friends, let's take a few minutes to think about why we celebrate. Imagine what it would be like if no one fought the battles for our freedom. What would it be like if we were a country in bondage to another country?

I'm thankful for those who fought so many years ago to ensure the liberties that we have today. I'm thankful that I'm free. But that freedom didn't come without a cost. So many have given their lives over the years to protect the freedom I enjoy, and so many still give their lives every day. 

As I celebrate my liberty this weekend, I'm also deeply grateful to those who work to protect our nation right now. I'm thankful for their sacrifice, not only in defending our shores with their lives, but in what it costs them personally. Many leave their spouses and children behind for more than a year. They give up the joy that I've had in seeing my children grow. Many marital relationships do not survive the separation.

These soldiers have given up their homes, the pleasure of hanging out with friends, and the simple joys of summer that we will all enjoy this weekend: family, friends, food. They serve in deserts while we mow our lawns and sip lemonade on the back deck. They travel in caravans of Humvees while we cruise around on four-lane freeways. They sleep in military quarters while we sleep in plush beds in air conditioned rooms.

This weekend, as I watch those magnificent fireworks and listen to every boom, I'll remember the soldiers who hear booming all around them every night in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. I'll remember those for whom hiding in a bunker is a daily event and I'll think of them with deep gratitude. But most of all, I'll pray for them. Will you pray too?

 "Pray for the Soldiers" is written and performed by Michelle Rayburn


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