Posted in Bible Study, Book Review

This post is a bit premature considering I haven’t finished the book series yet, but the heart message that God is teaching me is ready to share. It’s not a new lesson, but it’s one I need reminding of often. So many times I ask God what he has planned. I want to know the details of when and how events in my life will play out. Specifically now with my 25th birthday coming up, I wonder if marriage is in my future or if I’m better equipped to serve as a single person. I also wonder if this physical place is where I’ll be for a while or if it’s only a short stop. Through the Above the Line series by Karen Kingsbury, music, and scripture, God is reminding me of his promises.

There are several plot lines within the series’s four books, but one key idea is woven through them all. Bailey Flannigan, the young college student stuck between two guys, wonders if her dream of going to New York to act is really what God has planned for her. Keith and Chase, the movie producer team who take Hollywood by story, wonder many times if the trials thrown at them are a sign that the movie is not God’s plan. Andi, the former missionary kid, wonders if God is really even part of her life at all. Each one of them come to a key verse from Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Recently another verse keeps popping up in numerous places of my life. In Romans 8:28, Paul writes, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” I know that I love God, and I know that he has called me to be in the place I am in right now. Just the other day, I was talking with a friend about his current situation in life and the part of Ecclesiastes about there being seasons came into the conversation. I am in a season right now where I feel both content and anxiously awaiting. The thing that God keeps reminding me though is that He has a plan that is perfect. I don’t want to step too far ahead of his plan with my wanderings or wonderings; instead I want to wait right here no matter how anxious I may feel about waiting and no matter how often I want to force some action to take place.

Finally, a song was played this morning at church that sealed the deal about my questions and anxieties. In her song “Trust in You”, Lauren Daigle sings about how even when things don’t work out the way she thinks they should, she still trusts God. She trusts that he “know[s] what tomorrow brings” and that “There’s not a day ahead [he has] not seen”. In fact she opens the song with these lines which to me are extremely bold: “Letting go of every single dream/ I lay each one down at your feet”. It’s so true; in order to see God work the most in my life, I have to focus on the season I’m currently living and stop wondering about the future. He has it all under control.

 

 

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Posted in Book Review

“Guardian angels” and “angels fighting for you” are platitudes often spoken to make us feel better, but I rarely give angels much serious thought aside from the Christmas and Easter story. In Karen Kingsbury’s Angels Walking series, angels become a very real reality.

I just finished the third book of the series where a team of angels is sent to complete missions in order to ensure God’s plan is enacted. There’s always the possibility that the mission will fail and several moments when the mission is derailed in some way, but God’s plan always succeeds. In this particular novel, the angels are trying to ensure the birth and protection of an infant who will grow up to be a great missionary. It takes a while to discover through whom the baby will be born, but the reader knows that all of the main characters are necessary.

The Bible talks in several places about angels. In Psalm 91:11 the psalmist writes that God “will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” In Hebrews 13:2, we are reminded that by entertaining strangers we might be unknowingly entertaining angels. Other verses talk about ministering spirits, and of course there are the actual appearances of angels scattered throughout the Bible.

Maybe I’ve just been unaware, but I can’t think of any instances where I’ve felt the presence of an angel. It’s possible I have and don’t account for it because it’s not portrayed like the angels in movies and books. In Kingsbury’s novels, the characters are never actually aware that they are interacting with angels, but they do get strange feelings about the angels in disguise. The closest I’ve come to thinking about an angel are the moments when I realize that God worked something out. I attribute it to God, which is probably fine with the angels and God, but maybe God has used angels in those moments to accomplish his purpose.

The only take-away I can take from this is to be kind to everyone because, just like the writer of Hebrews says, we never know when we might be interacting with an angel.

If you want to check out Karen Kingsbury’s books, head on over to her website or your local library. I haven’t found one I haven’t enjoyed. They also make great audio books because they’re usually easy-to-read story lines.

Posted in Book Review

Unlocked

I have generally not been making posts about the books I listen to, but Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury struck a chord in me that I must talk about.

unlocked

The story is centered around a child who is diagnosed as autistic at the age of three. The diagnosis tears apart his family and separates him from his best friend Ella. Fast forward fifteen years to when Ella and Holden are seniors in high school. They reconnect in spite of the fact that everyone else things Holden is regressing. Side plots include a set of bullies and some orchestra kids, Ella’s family troubles, and Holden’s father. Through it all, Holden’s steady faith in God proves to be the key to changing the world around him.

At first the book struck me as interesting because it is the story of a movie which plays a big part in another of Kingsbury’s books. The second part that struck me was the portrayal of autism. Some of the characters truly believe that Holden can come out of the silence he has been in since he was three, and this is evidenced even more so by the way that Holden narrates some of the story. Also it was interesting to ponder the idea that the actions which his teachers labeled as autistic actions could be explained by events in his past. For example, he reveals that the reason he flaps his arms is that he’s praying and the bursts of push-ups when agitated are because his father told him push-ups would make him a man. While I don’t know what it feels like to be autistic, the way in which Kingsbury allowed Holden a voice gave dignity to his character when most portrayals of autism are only from the outside looking in. (Books autism keep coming on my radar without even trying. See my other recent reads Best Boy and In a Different Key if this topic interests you as well.)

This book turned out to be much more emotional than I had planned. Most of the time I listen to audio books while I doing  something else, which contributes to the fact that I don’t make posts about them, but this book stopped me dead in my tracks at one point. I refuse to spoil the plot, so I will only say be prepared for an emotional moment when a character unexpectedly dies.

Other good parts of the book: the story of Beauty and the Beast plays a major role; entire scriptures are quoted; it is referenced in another book as a movie, so does that mean a movie might happen?

While the audio version was well done, this is a book I may pick up as a hard copy if I come across it again at the right time. Karen Kingsbury remains one of my favorite Christian fiction authors.

 

Technical Information
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Published by Zondervan 2010
323 pages
Posted in Book Review

Chasing Sunsets

To be honest, I’ve never been very good with audio books. My listening comprehension is not as good as my reading comprehension, and I don’t focus well enough to sit still and listen to a book. I would love to listen in my car on long trips, but I only have a tape player in my car which poses a problem in the world of CDs and MP3s. One time I tried to take a audio book on CD and put all of the tracks on my MP3 player; that was insane because they started playing out of order. Every once in a while though I wander back over to the audio book section of the library. Now they have these nifty devices called Playaways. They are loaded with a book and only require a battery and headphones. Since I have a tape converter for my car, I can even plug them into my car radio. Perfection.

play away

Recently I wandered over to the audio book section and checked out Karen Kingsbury’s Chasing Sunsets to listen to while I ride my bike or drive my car. I’ve enjoyed Karen Kingsbury’s work (see my posts on Fifteen Minutes and Waiting for Morning), so I figured I couldn’t go wrong by listening to this book. I wasn’t disappointed.

chasing sunsets

The plot is intricate, involving multiple characters and plot lines, but I didn’t get confused by the intertwining stories. It starts with chapters one and two telling different stories of each major characters. Some of the characters connect already, but it’s not clear how some connect. The story is focused on Mary Catherine, Marcus, and Lexi with some other characters intertwined. Mary Catherine has just learned about a health condition she has which limits her life. She vows to not fall in love and to instead focus on doing God’s work. She and her friend, Sammi, are headed to the opening of a new youth center in a rougher part of town. That’s where Marcus comes in; he’s a pro-baseball player with a heart that wants to do good. Lexi is the girlfriend of a boy trying to become leader of a gang, which will require him to kill Marcus. Without giving away more of the plot, I’ll tell you this story involves romance, murder, faith, and angels. It’s a page (er, minute) turner; often I found myself trying to find just a few minutes in the day when I could work in time to listen.

This version of the audio book is read by a man and a woman, which helps keeps the characters’ perspectives unique. Both do a good job of creating voices for the characters. I don’t have much experience listening to audio books, but these two did a good job of reading in my not-so-experienced opinion.

Chasing Sunsets made me consider the fact that angels might be walking around, and even more to keep my eyes open for how God is working around me.  I also always love a hopeful romance, but this one is not a cheap simplistic romance. There are hard decisions to make and actually the romance almost doesn’t happen. It reminded me that just because there are mutual feelings between two people does not mean that starting a relationship is the next best move.

My only complaint is that it ended on a cliff hanger! I wasn’t aware it was part of a series until I got to the end. Now I have to find the next book in the Angels Walking series to find out what happens in these characters’ lives.

Posted in Book Challenge, Book Review

Best Book of 2015

Today I begin a 30-day blog challenge where all of the challenges relate to books. Let’s see if I can keep up. If I get behind, show some grace. I will get caught up.

Book Challenge

Day one is “Best Book You Read Last Year”. Oh my, that is hard. I must admit that in 2015, I spent way too much time watching television, but I did read some pretty good books. Without looking back at any of my posts or pondering too long, I choose Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury. It may not have been the most literary of books, but it was the one that sparked my book love and caused me to really reflect on my life. It is about a young man who leaves his Kentucky home to audition for a national singing competition. He ends up getting very far in the competition and it changes him. I don’t remember if he actually ends up winning, so I can’t spoil the ending for you.

I remember that at the time it really struck me that I also get distracted by outside forces just as the main character was distracted by fame. At the time, I was struggling with my Bible study time, which is something I consistently struggle to do, and my television time was out of control. In other words, I was distracted by time-wasters. This book really helped me to recognize these distractions and take preventative measures.

distractions

Maybe there were other good or better books that I read during the year, but there’s something to say for the fact that this was the first book that came to my mind today. Currently, I am in a Netflix fast centered around the Lenten tradition. I recognized that mindless Netflix watching was distracting me from my God time and even sometimes taking the place of it. I decided to use the accountability of other friends and the tradition to take a step back and really be mindful of my desire to fill time with television. Maybe that’s the reason this book’s message came back to me today as I pondered the best book I read in 2015. Just as the character in this book had to step back and reflect on how the fame changed him, I am stepping back to ponder the effect mindless television has on my life.

Posted in Blogging for Books, Book Review

Waiting for Morning

book

Picture a happy family coming home from a camping trip, an anxious mother waiting their arrival, and a stranger who just lost his job. They meet at an intersection in this book about forgiveness and mercy. What’s left is a mother and a daughter at odds and a man facing a life in prison. Waiting for Morning by Karen Kingsbury is a fascinating read where I just wanted to shake the characters and make them see how their actions affect others.

The lessons in this book are powerful not only for people affected by drunk driving but also for anyone who’s ever had to find the power to forgive when it’s hard. The mother lets hate toward the driver of the vehicle that hit her family’s car build up in her heart to the point that God is pushed out. The powerful message of the book is that only God can heal hearts.

Not only does God have work to do in the mother’s heart, but He also provides an opportunity to the drunk driver’s heart as well. He learns how to finally change his ways and how to gracefully accept his consequences. The surviving daughter also has a battle to fight. Living with guilt and a mother absorbed by other matters, the daughter’s faith in God is the only thing she can hold onto. Literally, it saves her life.

This is a powerful book full of believable characters and a God that can work through the toughest of circumstances. Once again, Karen Kingsbury has reminded me of God’s power and God’s truths. Thank you. I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.

For more information on the book: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/92853/waiting-for-morning-by-karen-kingsbury/

For more information on the author: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/15746/karen-kingsbury/

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Posted in Book Review

Fighting against the flesh.

Sometimes I get really distracted by the world and I forget God. That’s the honest truth and I hope I’m not alone in this struggle. I know at least one fictional character can relate to this struggle. Zach Dylan, in Karen Kingsbury’s Fifteen Minutes, leaves his Danville, KY home to audition for an American-idol type singing competition called Fifteen Minutes. He tells his serious girlfriend and family that the competition will not change him, but within hours of arriving at the competition he finds himself doing things for the camera that he wouldn’t do otherwise. He justifies these actions by telling himself it’s all so he can get on the show and be a witness for Jesus. As the book continues, his ardor for Jesus lessens while his need for fame increases. He gets caught up in the excitement of the show. In the process, he loses his girlfriend and his family becomes estranged.

While I have not recently auditioned for a national TV show or even left my current place of residence, I still get distracted. Zach Dylan got distracted by fame; I get distracted by “fitting in” or “keeping up” or “being enough”. I lose track of what’s really important in my quest to be able to be liked by people.

I would say that this book gets a 5 out of 5. It pulled me out of a book slump and taught me a lesson. It was also a precious read since it pointed me to God. It made me realize once again how precious it is to be able to talk to God. This is the God who created the entire universe and I’m allowed to talk to him. If there’s any kind of fame I should strive for, it should be to be seen as famous in God’s eyes alone. The great thing is that God already sees me as famous. He proves that by letting me have a relationship with him, by forgiving me, and by preparing a place for me in heaven. I’m so excited to spend time with him in heaven where there will be no distractions. In the meantime, I want to keep my eyes focused on God.

The book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WwZUfXNU84