faithcounts

Following God One Step at a Time

Top 5 Books in 2017

My Top 5 Books For 2017–

  1. The most fun book I read was “Beyond the Castle” by Jody Dreyer.
  2. The most amazing turn around life story was “Break Out” by Jed Lindstrom. He is drug free and running a ministry to help others.
  3. The most truthful life story that gives hope for the future was “Convicted” by Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins. This book is unusual because it gives both sides of the story, from the convicted man’s view, and from the policeman’s view. 
  4. The best life example to mentor us to be a better parent and to trust God more was “My Heart” by Julie Manning. Every new parent should read this book.  I wish there was a parenting class that taught the principles Julie demonstrates through her own life as a mom, even while facing a serious illness.
  5. The true story that is the best teacher of how to be forgiving was “The Way of Letting Go” by Wilma Derksen.

These books truly challenged me, and helped me grow in my faith.  I am in awe of the truthfulness of the authors in sharing about their own lives, their weaknesses and the things they learned by walking through their problems.  Although the authors’ problems were very different (drug addiction, deception, anger, serious health problems, and even murder), they all came out stronger in the end.  They all wanted to share what they learned, to help other people. 

The only book that was not about difficulties, was “Beyond the Castle”.  It is about fun, having a positive attitude, good leadership, and the Disney Company.  I really enjoyed reading this book.

I highly recommend that you read one or two of these books.  I know that any one of them will teach you new ways to tackle life, grow stronger, and increase your faith and trust in God.  They will challenge you to grow and change.  To me that is the highest praise I could give for a book.

I thank each one of the authors for sharing their story with all honesty, and for giving us direction in how we can learn from their experience.  I hope I never stop learning!  For me, reading is an enjoyable way to learn, especially when reading a true story.  I am honored to be able to share information with you about these awesome books!

Beneath each book’s cover below, there is a link to my book review on the book, and a link to purchase the book.  Enjoy!

BeyondTheCastle

–>Book Review

–>Amazon

 

BookCover BreakOut

–>Book Review

  –>Author Book Website

  –>Amazon

 

Book Convicted

–>Book Review

–>Amazon

 

 

My Heart Cover

 –>Book Review

–>Lifeway Purchase

  –>Amazon

 

LettingGo

>Book Review

–>Amazon

I did receive a free copy of each of these books so I could do an honest review.  I picked these 5 favorites from a list of over 40 books that I read in 2017.  If you are interested in receiving free books so you can write reviews on your blog, you can go to –>BookLook Bloggers or –>NetGalleyI also get books directly from authors, from B&H Publishing through Lifeway, as well as from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing.

 

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Has an Animal Ever Saved Your Life?

Has an animal ever saved your life?

I know that it does happen! Maybe you have heard a news story about a dog or cat that saved someone’s life.  How about a donkey?

In the Bible, there is at least one time it happened.  A donkey saved the life of a man!  Do you know the story? (You can find it in the book of Numbers chapters 22 – 24.)

Balaam earned a living selling curses.  He would curse people for a fee.  He was paid to curse the Israelites because they were moving into the Promised Land, and the king in the land feared themGod told Balaam not to go, but the king was insistent, so God said he could go, but he had to do what God told him to do.

Balaam rode his donkey to travel to a hill overlooking where the Israelites were camped.  At one point in the road, his donkey went off the road and past a section of road.  Balaam beat the donkey to get back on the road.  Again the donkey went around part of the road, smashing Balaam’s foot on a wall bordering the road.  Balaam beat the donkey again.  Finally the donkey just sat down in the middle of the road.  Balaam beat her again. 

As it turns out, the donkey could see or sense what Balaam could not.  There was a huge angel with a sword in his hand waiting for Balaam to bump into him.  The angel was going to kill Balaam so he could not curse the Israelites, but the donkey saved Balaam’s life by going around the angel twice, and then refusing to go furtherThe donkey actually saved Balaam’s life, even though Balaam beat her!  This next part is probably the part of the story you remember, when the donkey talks to Balaam, and asks, “What have I done to make you beat me these three times?” (God actually made the donkey talk.)

The angel then appears to Balaam and tells him that if not for the donkey’s actions, he would have killed Balaam, but left the donkey alone.  Thanks to the donkey, the angel lets Balaam continue on his journey.  When Balaam gets to the hill overlooking the Israelites’ camp, instead of curses, blessings come out of his mouth.  God wouldn’t let him curse the Israelites!  God protected the Israelites as He promised them.

Now the people who paid Balaam to curse the Israelites, were not happy, but Balaam was still alive!

–>Click HERE to read the story in the book of Numbers.

There are many morals to this story, but I will leave you to read the Scriptures to see what else you can learn.

 

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They Came For Freedom

TheyCameForFreedom

I wanted to read this book, because there has been a lot of discussion about the United States being a Christian country from the beginning, and many want to go back to those values.  I wanted to read a history book that looks at the factual events, so I could decide for myself whether I agree with the statement that this country started as a Christian country.  

The 1600s were a difficult time of monarchy rule, monarchy chosen religion, with riches for royalty, but only hard work for little benefits.  The common people were very poor, worked hard 6 days each week, and paid taxes to royalty.

This book is about the Pilgrims, and as the title suggests,

“They Came For Freedom”. 

I really enjoyed reading this book!  The author, Jay Milbrandt, did a good job of research and filled in many gaps in what I remembered about the Pilgrims’ history.  The story begins in England, because that history sets the stage for why the Pilgrims went to America. 

Of course it wasn’t even America yet.  It was a new world, still being explored for how other countries could use its resources to make money.  Spain, England, and France were all sending ships to bring back a bounty of animal furs, sassafras, and fish.  They were hoping to find gold and silver, but that didn’t happen this early in the history.

The people that later were called Pilgrims, were called Separatists in England.  This meant that they separated from the Church of England.  That was illegal.  They had to worship in secret.  The law in England said that everyone had to worship at a Church of England every Sunday.  Breaking this law would end you in prison.  Many of the Separatists did go to prison.  Some died there. Some survived.

First a group of Separatists left England to move to Holland, where people were free to choose their own religion.  It was illegal to leave England without permission.  Once again, they had to be hidden to avoid going to prison.  Some were caught and did go to prison.  Life in Holland was still hard.  At least they had their own church.  When England got word of the Separatists in Holland, they were in danger of prison again.  This time they decided to go to the New World.

By the time the Pilgrims arrived in the New World, explorers had already mapped the coastal areas all along the East coast.  There was already a settlement established at Jamestown.  They definitely were not the first to arrive.

The Pilgrims and the other settlers that came from England in the Mayflower ship, were going to the New World for different reasons.  Many were seeking their fortune. The Pilgrims mainly wanted religious freedom.

 In 1636, all the men on the Mayflower signed a document laying out the rules of law that they would follow.  This document was called the “Mayflower Compact”.  They decided to separate church and state, to guarantee religious freedom.  They gave land ownership to all men, and inheritance to all sons, not just the first son.  They made marriage a government function, not the church. These three decisions were in total disagreement with the ruling classes in England, France, and Spain.  There was to be no king.  There would be a governor, chosen by the people.  This was the first self-government of the common people.  None of these are really Christian based.

The book continues the story of how the Pilgrims lived and where they settled in the New World.  It covers their relationship with the Indians in the area.  It also covers the first thanksgiving feast.  Their lives were still very hard.  Many died. 

About the same time as the Pilgrims settled in the New World, the Puritans also arrived.  Although they both had Christian beliefs, they did differ, and did not live in the same towns.  The Puritans later became well known for the Salem witch trials. 

I believe, knowing our history, gives us good knowledge that can help us avoid some pitfalls.  Unfortunately, most people ignore history, and they are then doomed to make the same mistakes.  Some of the things Christians did after coming to the New World were good and worth following, but some things are not.  Even as Christianity exists today with many different churches and beliefs, the same was true in the day of the Pilgrims. 

People tend to want others around them to believe like they do.  Some Christians even want the United States government to legislate based on Christian beliefs.  This would be directly counter to the freedom the Pilgrims came here to find.  They wanted freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.  If we want freedom, we must give that same freedom to every citizen!

The story of the Pilgrims is complicated.  It is not clear from their story alone whether this country can be called a Christian country from the beginning.  I believe instead, what we can say is that it is a country with freedom of religion to all, and should stay that way.

If you would like to read the history, and make up your mind on this issue, this is an excellent book to read.  Just remember that the Pilgrims are only one part of the story.

–>Click HERE to get “They Came For Freedom”.

 

Jay Milbrandt also wrote the book “The Daring Heart of David Livingstone”.  If you enjoy history, you may want to read it too.

–>Click this to get the book about David Livingstone.

I am supposed to tell you that I got a free copy of “They Came For Freedom”, from —>BookLook Bloggers so that I could write my honest review of the book for you. Enjoy!

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Got One Word for 2018?

OneWord Difference

Just ONE WORD !

Do you have your One Word for 2018 yet?

It’s time.  I took longer than usual to come up with mine this year too.  I used Lara Casey’s Power Sheets to help me focus on goals for 2018 and to decide on my One Word this year.  I also used prayer to help pick my One Word.

This past year, my One Word was “Forward”.  I loved it! It really helped me push forward on some ideas and changes in my life.  I was amazed how often I would read a book or article or blog post and the word “forward” would jump out at me!

This year my One Word is “Light”! 

I am excited about this choice.  I actually was trying to avoid it, because other people have used it in the past.  I wanted to be more original. HaHa!  Well, it seems God had other plans

In prayer and after doing the prep work in Lara’s Power Sheets, I knew that “Light” was my One Word for 2018!

Now some people wonder how one word can be helpful.  Well for me, One Word is easier to remember and use as a direction when making decisions.  For example, last year when I was trying to decide whether to do something, or whether to change something, I would just say “Go Forward”!  It worked for me!

This year, my One Word fits into a phrase that came to me in my morning prayer time –

–“Jesus is the Light that shines through my brokenness.”–

I have been reading Ann Voskamp’s book “The Broken Way”.  At first I thought my word was “broken”, but instead I was shown the “Light”.  I am really looking forward to what God will bring into my life through my focus on this One Word — “Light”.

So, I would love it if you would share your One Word with me!  Just click “Comments” below and type in your word.  If you share, I will pray for that word to positively influence your life throughout 2018.

If you don’t know how to choose your One Word, try reading Lara Casey’s 5-part blog post series.  While there you can enter her contest to win one of many prizes (winner will be picked 1-31-2018). 

You can browse my posts from past years to help you choose your One Word

–>Go HERE for more One Word posts.

I encourage you to choose One Word to help guide and direct your life in 2018!

–>Click HERE for Lara Casey’s Power Sheets, contest, or 5-part series.

 

–>Click IT to find Ann Voskamp’s book “The Broken Way”.

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Penned Without Ink

PennedWithoutInk

“Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story” by  Sarah Lynn Phillips is an interesting book!  It tells the true story of how one family trusted God to get them through tragedy.  The title tells why they must trust God — He writes our story from beginning to end. (But God does not write it down; no ink is used.)

“Penned Without Ink” is about a normal family with a Christian faith.  One day they had a horrific car accident that brought them near death.  If they were going to recover, they needed to hold on tight to God.

Sarah, the mother and wife, tells the story.  I was riveted on her words about how the family dealt with everything after the accident.  Their story is compelling.

 Their story is also teaching us how to trust God through the worst things in life — unexpected tragedy.  (Did you catch that in the title it says — “trusting God to write YOUR story?)

Sarah does a very good job of writing down their story.  I did wish that she had put the story down all in order from start to finish.  The parts of the book where she reflects on an event out of sequence, or has the reader reflect, were interruptions to the main story I was most interested in reading.  But in reflection is where we grow in our faith and trust in God.  In reflection we see the answered prayers.  In reflection we see how God arranged the details to bring about the help we needed.

I suggest you read this book, especially if you find it hard to trust God sometimes. Sarah is a strong woman to have dealt with everything she had to do, but she did not do it alone.  She walked with God through it all.

–>Click HERE to get a copy of this book!

If you have never read a book from this publisher before, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, then you are in for a surprise!  Many of their books are available in Kindle format for free or 2.99 cents or less.  You can sign up to get regular emails from them, that will list the titles available for free.  I get lots of books from them!

–>Click HERE to get access to free books!

 

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Heard any good news lately?

QuestionAsk cartoon-1300894__340

It’s tough right? The news last year was always bad, bad, bad…

Let’s turn that around in 2018!

Let’s share good news that we find! Use #GoodNews wherever you post good news comments or pics.  Share good news with friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, Instagram…

Today I found an encouraging magazine issue — The current (1-15) issue of “Time” magazine is titled “The Optimists”!  There is a smiling 5 year old boy on the cover.  It is full of good news! If you need some good news, start with this issue of “Time”.

Bill Gates says that >90% of all children in the world are going to primary school. That is a huge improvement!  

Gates also says that back in 1990 over 30% of people in the world lived in extreme poverty. Today this is down to about 10%!  That is huge too! This is good news because it shows that our investments in poor countries are working! 

It is encouraging to see progress being made! We don’t want to quit helping families and kids; we want to keep doing what is working!  Keep donating to charities. Keep sponsoring children!  The kids you sponsor are going to school! Yay!

Having trouble finding good news? Me too!

Here are some places I found —

( –> points to clickable links, Click away!)

–>goodnewsnetwork.org    — Good news online all the time.

–>today.com/news/good-news   — Highlights good news stories.

–>sunnyskyz.com  — Weekly good news.

–>msn.com/en-us/news/good-news  — Highlighted good news.

So read some good news and share it with other people!  

Let’s stay positive and share the good news in 2018!

#GoodNews

 

 

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River of Doubt

Although the title might suggest a topic about how to deal with overwhelming doubt, that is not the case at all.  The book I am reviewing today is an amazing adventure story that is all true!  The people in the middle of the action are brave and reckless, standing up to all odds against them to explore a large river in the Amazon jungle of Brazil, a river that had never before been explored! It is amazing that any of them survived. Even more surprising is who was on this 1914 expedition.

RiverOfDoubt

The book, “The River of Doubt” by Candice Millard is about a dangerous exploration trip set up by the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

I had heard a few comments about Teddy Roosevelt’s bravery, but this book really opened my eyes.  I would never expect a former President to ever go on such a dangerous trip, let alone be the first person to travel a large river with many unknown white water rapids.  This river was called the River of Doubt, because it was doubtful that it even existed.  In fact, many people thought Roosevelt was making the story up when he returned to the States, but he proved them wrong!

The author Candice Millard did an excellent job of research to write this book! Bravo to her! Luckily she had access to some journals that some of the men wrote in almost daily during their trip.  This first person witnessing of what happened on the river helps make this story riveting!

The book is long, but it is filled with history, mystery, bravery, intelligence, physical endurance, and determination.  Making it even more exciting are the treachery of long hidden local Indians, poisonous snakes, unbearable heat, malaria, betrayal, even the loss of food, equipment, and canoes!  

I love action movies!  I wish this book was turned into a movie.  It would be a blockbuster!  The book is filled with so much history I did not know about, that I am very glad I read it.  It would have been a tragedy not to have read it, especially since I am a history fan, and love to read true stories.  Not even Teddy Roosevelt himself could have written a better book about his trip through the Amazon Jungle!

I borrowed this book from my local library.  It is also available at bookstores.

–>Click HERE to get the book!

I just want to share a little bit about the author, Candice Millard.  I am grateful to her for writing this book, making this part of history available to us all.  Candice was a writer and editor for National Geographic Magazine.  That experience helped her do the research necessary to write this book, and gave her the interest in real life exploration. Thank you Candice.

Candice Millard has also written two other historical books,  “Destiny of the Republic” about President Lincoln, and “Hero of the Empire” about Winston Churchill.

–>See all her books HERE!

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A Dream So Big

AfricaMissionary ADreamSoBig

Some books are exciting and some are sad, but “A Dream So Big” by Steve Peifer is a real life story full of happiness and sadness, hope and despair!

You will not be bored reading this book!

Steve and his wife, Nancy are missionaries in Kenya.

Steve tells the story of their lives very well.  He gives us a picture of how missionaries live.  He talks about the exciting and amazing things like seeing the wild animals of Africa, and the baboons on their porch.  He also talks about the daily tasks that are so difficult in Africa.  There are so many children who go hungry all the time.  There are so many children who do not go to school.  There are so many children in Africa who have no hope.

Steve decided to do something about the children of Africa, as many missionaries do.  He started a feeding program at some of the schools, and set up computer centers at several schools.  Many children started coming to school just so they could have one meal each day of school.  Many of them had never seen a computer.  One man deciding to do something, accomplished so much.  Steve’s true story shows the difference one person can make.  It will give you hope, and encourage you to do something to help others.

–>Click on THIS to donate or see their website.

Steve tells us what missionaries have to do to raise money so that they can go to Africa and work.  Missionaries don’t get paid unless they raise enough money.  People like you and me can answer that request and give money to a missionary.  Missionaries care about the people they are working with, and the people who live in their community.  They always do much more than they were asked to do.  To be a missionary takes a strong dedication and a loving heart, this is what keeps them working so hard.

Steve and Nancy were sent to Kenya to work at one school doing various jobs, but they did so much more than that!  Their story is one that grabs your heart, and may make you cry, but it also makes you feel thankful for what you have, and thankful for people like Steve and Nancy who are willing to leave their home and travel to a foreign country and live in poor conditions, all to help people and show people the love of Jesus.

I highly recommend you read this book!

–>Click HERE to get a copy!

–>Press HERE to see what they are doing now.

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Black Lives Matter

BlackLivesMatter Cover

I want to know why we need “Black Lives Matter”.

That is why I read “When They Call You a Terrorist” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors.

This book is about the formation of the group “Black Lives Matter”.  I wanted to know how it came about, and why it is needed.  This book explains that.

The author is one of the founders of the group “Black Lives Matter”.  I wanted to know more about “Black Lives Matter”, but much of the book is about the author’s life.  However, that does explain how she came to create “Black Lives Matter”. 

There were many factors in the process.  There was her life growing up in poor neighborhoods.  There were her experiences growing up in the Black culture. There were political factors.  There was the tendency of the police to call any group of Black kids, a gang.  There also was the tendency to call Black political or social activists, terrorists.  By labeling them terrorists, they could treat them with more severe tactics.  Their civil rights as citizens were often ignored.  Then there were a string of instances when police killed unarmed Black suspects on the streets.  This brought with it, fear and anger and mistrust.

The three women who started “Black Lives Matter” did not do anything illegal.  They did not kill anyone, nor make a bomb, yet they were labeled terrorists.  The author writes about her fear that at any time, police could kill her or one of her friends or family members.  She writes about needing to find some hope.  

Even just this week, improper arrests of Black people, even children, are in the news.  Yes, we need “Black Lives Matter”! Our society needs to change.  Change will not happen without protest.  Change will not happen without listening to both sides of the story.  

Taken in full, this book does explain how “Black Lives Matter” was started and why we need it.  This book is a political history, but it is also a memoir.  That is a strange mix, and yet it is the life the author experienced.  Out of her life, “Black Lives Matter” was born.

Reading this book will explain a lot about what living Black in the United States is like.  It will explain why we need “Black Lives Matter”.  For me, it explains why we should encourage the group “Black Lives Matter”.  We do not have freedom, until every citizen has the same freedom.  

–>Click HERE to get a copy of this book!

Just a note – Nelson Mandela was labeled a terrorist by the FBI, yet he later became President of South Africa!

I am supposed to tell you that I got a free Kindle copy of this book from NetGalley.com The book review is my own opinion about the book’s merits.  Your comments are welcome in the comment section below.  I would love for you to share about this book on Twitter or Facebook or other social media. Thanks!

 

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Pause and Take a Breath

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Pause and take a breath…

Then look at your To-do list and delete 1 thing!  

Just let go of 1 thing.  You can do it.

Maybe just buy bakery cookies instead of baking 3 kinds of cookies.

Maybe just put a wreath on your front door instead of putting up lights.

Maybe just mail a check instead of going to the store again.

Whatever it is, choose 1 thing to take off your list.

Then pause, and take another breath…  Feel better?

Christmas is not about how many things you can get done.  It is not even about buying everyone gifts and wrapping them to look impressive.  Christmas is about family and friends.  

Christmas is a celebration of love!

Love is not expressed through shopping or baking or decorating. Nope.

Love is expressed by hugs and smiles and welcoming people together.

Love is expressed by going to church and remembering Christ’s birth.  

Love is expressed by wishing people a Merry Christmas.

Love is expressed by making donations to charities that help people who need help.

In case you need some ideas of where to make a donation, here is a partial list of places where I have donated. (Please note that I do not make any money from these links. I am just sharing information.) —

link–>International Disaster Emergency Services (IDES)

(At IDES 100% of your donation goes to those in need.)

link–>Northwest Haiti Christian Mission  (NWHCM)

(NWHCM — orphanage and medical clinic)

Jeremie Christian Mission  / PO Box 273Scottsmoor, FL 32775  

(In Haiti — school, children’s meals, church, home repairs)

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                             Merry Christmas! 

 

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