Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: Bible study

What I’m Reading: Delicate Balance

man bunThe man bun. It’s one of those things in life that most people have a definite opinion of and no hesitation in sharing those opinions. Think about the pineapple on pizza debate, only with hair styles. (By the way, pineapple most definitely belongs on pizza.) You want to get a conversation, and quite possibly an argument, started? Show up with a photo of any one of the popular male celebrities sporting the hairstyle and make comment on it. The opinions will fly in seconds, only they’ll be worded as if they’re fact.

Honestly, I’m not a fan. But I’m also one of the odd ones out that doesn’t fall solidly into the “no man bun” camp. Most people can’t pull it off well. Almost all of them should probably stop trying. But there are exceptions to the rule. I can think of a few celebrities whose looks are not diminished by a well-done man bun.

As I was scrolling through the blogs I follow the other day, it was a man bun that caught my attention. I paused. It was a book review by The Christian Fiction Girl. (In case I haven’t said it before, you should check out her blog. I’ve found several new authors through her reviews.) I don’t think I’d ever seen a Christian or clean reads book with a cover like that before. I clicked the link and read the review. Then, I bought the book.

Delicate Balance . . .a romance (The Blair Brothers Book 1) by Brooke St. James turned out to be a fun, quick read. Henry and Aiden have known of each other for years. Everyone who’s lived in Astoria long knows of Henry’s family. But when his family is seated in her section to waitress at work, Aiden finds herself with the chance to get to know him for real.

Acquaintances turn to friends turn to . . .maybe more? Who’s to say for sure? The signals are there, unless they aren’t. Maybe it’s all wishful thinking. Aiden and Henry second guess each other’s feelings while trying to put the lid on their own. It doesn’t work for either of them. But it’s not a smooth road to romance.

Family drama, self-doubt, and misunderstanding all play a part in keeping this couple from realizing what they are to each other. They also play key roles, along with the chemistry between Aiden and Henry, in making Delicate Balance an entertaining story. And it all started with that man bun.

By the Book: The conversations started when opposite sides discuss hair styles and pizza toppings can be a fun way to pass the time. But there are times when opinions have no place in the conversations. The topics of sin, salvation, and who God is are spelled out clearly in scripture. When we try to apply human opinion to a matter already decided by our Creator, we make a mess of everything. That’s why it’s important to take to heart the direction in 2 Timothy 2:15. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” It’s through getting to know God through His word that we are able to understand what’s already been decided by God and learn how to live inside His will.

What I'm Reading: Delicate Balance

man bunThe man bun. It’s one of those things in life that most people have a definite opinion of and no hesitation in sharing those opinions. Think about the pineapple on pizza debate, only with hair styles. (By the way, pineapple most definitely belongs on pizza.) You want to get a conversation, and quite possibly an argument, started? Show up with a photo of any one of the popular male celebrities sporting the hairstyle and make comment on it. The opinions will fly in seconds, only they’ll be worded as if they’re fact.
Honestly, I’m not a fan. But I’m also one of the odd ones out that doesn’t fall solidly into the “no man bun” camp. Most people can’t pull it off well. Almost all of them should probably stop trying. But there are exceptions to the rule. I can think of a few celebrities whose looks are not diminished by a well-done man bun.
As I was scrolling through the blogs I follow the other day, it was a man bun that caught my attention. I paused. It was a book review by The Christian Fiction Girl. (In case I haven’t said it before, you should check out her blog. I’ve found several new authors through her reviews.) I don’t think I’d ever seen a Christian or clean reads book with a cover like that before. I clicked the link and read the review. Then, I bought the book.
Delicate Balance . . .a romance (The Blair Brothers Book 1) by Brooke St. James turned out to be a fun, quick read. Henry and Aiden have known of each other for years. Everyone who’s lived in Astoria long knows of Henry’s family. But when his family is seated in her section to waitress at work, Aiden finds herself with the chance to get to know him for real.
Acquaintances turn to friends turn to . . .maybe more? Who’s to say for sure? The signals are there, unless they aren’t. Maybe it’s all wishful thinking. Aiden and Henry second guess each other’s feelings while trying to put the lid on their own. It doesn’t work for either of them. But it’s not a smooth road to romance.
Family drama, self-doubt, and misunderstanding all play a part in keeping this couple from realizing what they are to each other. They also play key roles, along with the chemistry between Aiden and Henry, in making Delicate Balance an entertaining story. And it all started with that man bun.
By the Book: The conversations started when opposite sides discuss hair styles and pizza toppings can be a fun way to pass the time. But there are times when opinions have no place in the conversations. The topics of sin, salvation, and who God is are spelled out clearly in scripture. When we try to apply human opinion to a matter already decided by our Creator, we make a mess of everything. That’s why it’s important to take to heart the direction in 2 Timothy 2:15. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” It’s through getting to know God through His word that we are able to understand what’s already been decided by God and learn how to live inside His will.

More or Less

It’s getting close to that time of year when stores entice customers with pastel colored jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. I know we haven’t passed Valentine’s Day, but I’ve already seen a few Easter treats taking up residence near check-out counters. I love Easter candy. It’s better than chalky conversation hearts and blobs of peanut butter cups that are supposed to be hearts but somehow lack that tell-tale shape.

My favorite confections by far are made by Cadbury. Mini eggs are addicting. And for a long time it wasn’t spring until I had my first crème egg. I like the caramel ones as much if not more. But as I’ve aged and developed a few stomach issues, I can’t enjoy these treats in abundance like I used to. A full-size egg makes me queasy. The person who came up with the bite-sized versions deserves a Nobel prize. They took everything I love about a crème egg and put it into a perfectly proportioned miniature version that doesn’t offend my tummy’s sensitivities. Add cute packaging that resembles a dozen eggs, and you’ve got the best Easter treat on the market. It’s perfect when I want to enjoy a favorite treat without feeling sick after.

I’m learning bite-size can be great for a lot of different things. Since Christmas, I’ve enjoyed two books made up of three novellas each. I love to read, but I also have a lot of demands on my time.  I work 40 hours a week as a receptionist. Local ministry needs take up time. I have a family and a writing ministry that both need my attention. There are times I want to be able to sit down and enjoy a good story in a sitting or two, and all of these things prevent that. Or they did until I got my first compilation.

My most recent foray into the world of multiple novellas in one book was just what I needed. To Have and to Hold is, according to the cover, a collection of three autumn love stories. Each stands on its own. Love Takes the Cake by Betsy St. Amant is a sweet story about a baker (see what I did there?) who has been less than lucky in love. But her luck may change when she’s thrown together with a difficult bride’s best man to plan the desserts for all of the wedding festivities.

The Perfect Arrangement by Katie Ganshert is a fun story about a chance meeting and a friendship that starts by accident. It’s reminiscent of one of my favorite movies, with the main characters developing their friendship through email. And though they don’t find out that they’re mortal enemies, they do have a few roadblocks in taking the next steps in their relationship. The story leaves you with a smile on your face and a list of old movies you need to watch.

Becky Wade wrote the final novella in the set. Love in the Details brings former flames back together in order to help plan a friend’s wedding. Two broken hearts that never healed and a secret reason for the break up mean neither of the main characters can move on and trust is fragile to try to move forward. There’s no escaping a hard look at their real feelings for each other as they work together to make the day special for their friend. And neither can deny the love they still feel for each other.

All three stories were the perfect length to let myself dive into them without worry over having to set them aside in favor of other activities. All three gave me the time of relaxation and enjoyment I look for in a good book. Am I going to abandon full-length books in favor of shorter compilations in the future? No. There is a depth that can be achieved in story and character development only when time is given to it. There is something comforting about following a loved character through various seasons of life as you read additional books in the series. I will always make time for full-length novels and book series.  But I guarantee I won’t turn away a good collection of novellas like this in the future either. There’s a place for both in my reading life.

There’s also a place for this type of thinking in my spiritual life. Busy lives pull us in many directions leaving us exhausted and unable to think clearly. Too often we may be tempted to neglect time in God’s word because we can’t dive in deep.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

From books to apps on our phones we have a variety of devotional materials at our fingertips. We can find them on any subject we desire. They’re bite-sized nuggets of truth from God’s word to turn our hearts and minds to Him. Using them can help change our attitudes for the day ahead or convict us of sinful behavior from the day we’ve finished. They can foster praise and worship in our hearts as we go about our day. And they’re perfect for us when we need a little reminder of God’s presence in our lives.

We also have books that serve as guided studies for us. They may lead us through a subject or scripture and expand on a theme. They present questions and allow us time to participate in the learning process. They take us deeper than devotions, but they tend to be lighter in the actual study part with a heavier focus on explanation. More time is required, but we will come away with a bit more complete understanding of the subject.

But we don’t have to stop there. We shouldn’t stop with what someone else tells us about scripture, whether it’s a devotion, sermon, or book. We have the scriptures at our disposal. We also have the Holy Spirit living in us to testify to the truths contained in God’s word. Devotions and books are wonderful tools, but there is something special about diving deep into scripture on your own. A good study that leads you to search out the context and meaning of a scripture for yourself is invaluable. As with the books mentioned above you a participant in the learning process. Because you are uncovering the truths for yourself, they become part of who you are. To dig deep into a passage and find out the answers to who, what, when, where, why, and how, to understand the words in the context of the surrounding scripture, and to ask yourself “what does it mean for my life” are all powerful elements of study that will change the way you live.

It’s amazing to know whether I have time for a little or a lot, there’s always a way to spend time with God.

If you’d like to read To Have and To Hold you can find it here:

Christmas According to John

“They’re going to be just a few months apart. They’ll always have a best friend to play with.” I don’t want to burst the perfectly planned little bubble of expectant parents when they say this. So, I smile and nod and remember the days when those words came out of my own mouth.

My two oldest boys are fifteen months apart. As very young children, they did play well together. They did almost everything together, watched the same shows, and liked the same toys. Then, they started to grow up. Their beliefs of how they should interact with the world around them began to diverge. My oldest became very order and rule oriented. His brother is a little more of a free spirit. One is studious, the other athletic. Both are creative, but in very different ways. As their personalities developed, the comradery they had known as children was strained under the weight of their differences. Now entering adulthood, but still at home, their differences cause more friction than their similarities allow for friendship. (Though I have hope for the future. My own brothers are very different, but they found their common ground since they stopped living under the same roof!)

I am amazed at how unique my sons are. Face it, they share the same DNA. Two apples off the same tree should look and taste the same, right? Often, with people, that isn’t the case. And that is a really good thing. God has a plan for each of my children, and He made them exactly like He wants them to accomplish that purpose. Sure, He has to sand off the rough edges of their personalities, but my oldest is not equipped to fulfill the purpose of the younger brother. Nor is the younger equipped to do what God will call His brother to do. All of my children need to be unique in their personalities and passions because God needs to grow them into the person perfectly suited for the plans He has for them and not anyone else.

It’s good to remember this as we consider our differences with others, but also keep it in mind as we read scripture. Looking for a new Bible study as Christmas approached, I wanted one that deepened my understanding of Jesus. I wanted to revisit the gospels and see the Christmas story with fresh eyes.

I decided on The God Who Cares and Knows You by Kay Arthur. I’ve always enjoyed inductive Bible study, and this one in the gospel of John sounded perfect. The only problem with reading John to get a new outlook on the Christmas story is that John is one of the two gospels without mention of the Christmas story.

All the gospels were written to share the good news of Jesus. Why would John choose not to focus on Jesus coming as a baby in a manger? That’s where the story begins, right? Not exactly. While each of the gospels have the same basic purpose, the men God chose to write them are as different as my sons. They have different backgrounds, personalities, and passions. Things one remembers as important, might not have caught the attention of another.  The people being written to were different as well. They had different needs. So, the focus and information contained in the gospels written to them had to be different too. Tailored by God to meet their specific needs.

John’s sole purpose was to show people that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God. He needed to impress on the recipients the idea that Jesus, born man, was also God from the beginning. So he didn’t start with the manger. He takes us back to creation and establishes Jesus as God the Son before moving through His ministry, death, and resurrection.

Though he doesn’t include the traditional Christmas story, John introduces us to the reality of “God with us” and what that means for us. And because he does this, I can study John and come away with a fresh appreciation for the Christmas story and for our God who loves us enough to write four gospels as unique as the people they are meant to speak to.

By the Book: Read the opening chapter of John. Then, read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke, keeping in mind who the baby in the manger really is.

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