Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review: Messy Grace

Title:  Messy Grace
Subtitle:  How a Pastor With Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction
Author:  Caleb Kaltenbach
Genre:  Christian Life
Publisher:  WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group
Number of Pages:  212
My Rating: 5 out of 5

There is much in the news these days about the LGBT community, from the passage of the same-sex marriage law to Olympian Bruce Jenner's transition from male to female. This book offers readers two things: the opportunity for Christians to learn about and to love the LGBT community without compromising Biblical conviction; and the opportunity for the LGBT community to learn about and to love Christians in spite of a history of hurtful words spoken or actions done by them.  Any prejudices and barriers that exist, exist on both sides and must be dealt with in a loving, respectful way.

As Kaltenbach states, "I didn't write this book to tell you what to think. I wrote this book to share my heart with you and to hopefully help you think on a deeper level about this issue." He succeeds in doing this by weaving personal anecdotes about growing up as the son of separated gay and lesbian parents and the precious people in the LBGT community whom he encountered through the years, both before and after he became a Christian. Not once does his decision to follow Christ and the Biblical lifestyle cause him to disrespect or disavow his family and friends; if anything, his decision to follow Christ stirs up a greater love for them as he realizes that they need the Lord as much as he does (as much as any of us does).

Kaltenbach doesn't shy away from calling homosexuality a sin, based on his Biblical beliefs, but he is also not shy about inviting, even urging, Christians to pursue meaningful relationships with individuals in the LGBT community so that we can "think critically and talk comfortably about the issue of homosexuality." Christians "need to overcome our inner resistance to getting involved with those who are different from us" and "to lose our us-versus-them mentality" because we're all sinners in need of God's grace. He also reminds us that is is "not our job to make gay people straight; it is our job to lead anyone and everyone to Christ." Amen to that!

I commend Kaltenbach for presenting a complex and often divisive issue in such a humble, sensitive, and practical manner, and I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about relating to and responding to the people of the LGBT community with grace and truth.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from for review. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day. Be still my heart. I love reading poetry, and I love writing poetry (particularly haiku).

To celebrate, here is a poem I wrote in 2006:

Carry Me Close

I've wandered away
From Your comforting arms,
And the beat of Your heart
Has grown faint;
Search for me, God,
And carry me close,
Close to Your heart again.

I've left the green pastures
You led me to,
And the sound of Your voice
Has grown faint;
Speak to me, God,
And carry me close,
Close to Your heart again.

My soul needs restoring,
My cup's running low,
And the shape of Your face
has grown faint;
Shelter me, God,
And carry me close,
Close to Your heart again.

(inspired by Isaiah 40:11 ~ He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Houston, We Have a Plan!

Sorry I've been "missing" from the blog for a bit, but My Hero and I are busy with decluttering and reorganizing our little house now that our girls are grown and moved out.

First, we downsized the stuffed game and puzzle closet, giving most of the contents to the girls and the thrift shop. We kept a few things, like Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, etc., so we could amuse ourselves into old age. Then we moved the 14 cartons of homeschool memories and materials that had been stuffed into our coat closet into the old game and puzzle closet, freeing up our one and only coat closet to actually be, you know, a coat closet. It also now houses the vacuum cleaner and ironing board, both of which had been sitting out in plain view for an embarrassing number of years.

Our next project is to turn the playroom/bookroom into the living room/tv room. It's small, but cozy. And the current living room will become the dining room. Yes, I'm grinning ear-to-ear over this! I have never had a dining room, making do with eat-in kitchens my entire married life. Now we'll be able to have people over for a meal and not be crammed around our lovely table in a too-small space.

We also hope to bring up the washer and dryer from the basement and put them behind louvered doors in our kitchen (along with shelves above them for a small pantry). This will free up space in the basement to put in a powder room, which will make My Hero happy since his man-cave is down there. And we'll be on the look-out for a two-seater breakfast table to go in the kitchen as well for simple tete-a-tetes.

No idea how long all this will take, since My Hero is swamped with work lately, but Houston, we have a plan!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Book Review: Miss Brenda and the Loveladies

Title:  Miss Brenda and the Loveladies
Subtitle:  A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and Gumption
Author:  Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell
Genre:  Memoir
Publisher:   WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group
Number of Pages:  228
My Rating:  4.5 out of 5

What an interesting story. A Christian woman on a mission to minister to female ex-convicts by providing a "whole way house" (rather than a "halfway house") for them to live in upon release from prison sees dramatic changes in not only their lives but in her own life as well. Who knew that a wealthy businesswoman facing her own brush with the law would end up meeting and living with some of the toughest yet most endearing women she'd ever encountered?

Brenda Spahn (nee Lovelady) decided she wasn't satisfied with the way things had always been done and set out to change the system. An outspoken but humble entrepreneur used to living a privileged lifestyle, Brenda opened her home to a rag-tag group of women whom she was sure she could rehabilitate through a combination of tough love and Christian empowerment. Little did she know how hard it would be.

In spite of the many challenges and difficulties that Brenda and her daughter, Melinda, faced, they were committed to the program and the women depending on it to rebuild their broken lives. It wasn't easy. Some of the women resented her authority, some of the women had major trust issues, and some of the women relapsed. But all of the women ended up knowing they were loved by the crazy lady who became a true mother figure and friend to them when they desperately needed one. 

Through perseverance and a hope in God that just wouldn't quit, Brenda saw her vision grow from serving about 20 women in a fancy house to over 400 women and children in a former hospital reborn as a facility that to this day provides housing, counseling, drug rehabilitation, childcare, and job opportunities to women who need a new lease on life. (To learn more, visit

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this inspiring story about a woman with a dream and a desire to make a difference. God bless Brenda Spahn, her family, and all her "adopted daughters" who have been given a second chance to become "whole," not "half," because of her willingness to love and to serve.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from for review.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Just Because

Whether a newlywed, an oldywed, or someone in between, every Mr. and Mrs. yearns to be reminded of his or her spouse's love on a regular basis. It is nourishment for the soul as essential as food and water for the body.  No matter how busy one is or how disconnected one feels, making the time to remind each other of our love blesses both the giver and the receiver.

To that end, my husband and I have begun a new tradition we call the "Just Because I Love You Bag."  It sprang from a serendipitous purchase I made the other day and that I put inside a small, heart-covered gift bag and presented to him after dinner that night.

"What's this?" he asked, with a goofy grin.

"Just a little something for you, because I love you, that's all."

He was like a kid at Christmas with his eyes all a-sparkle.

"Should I open it now, or wait?"

"Now would be good," I told him. I was just as excited as he was and didn't want to delay.

What I gave him shall remain a secret between the two of us, but it was something I knew would warm his heart and make him happy. It did, and he was.

It was so much fun, we decided to keep the idea going. The small, heart-covered gift bag is now in his possession, waiting to be filled with some token of his love for me at a time of his choosing. When and what will be a sweet surprise. Then, after he has reminded me of his love for me via the gift bag, the bag will be back in my possession, and I will fill it for him again, and so on, back and forth and back and forth, until death do us part.

Whether a newlywed, an oldywed, or someone in between, be intentional about reminding your spouse that you love him or her...just because.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Always on His Mind

Have you ever noticed how once in a while, when you least expect it, the Lord surprises and delights you? When it happens, you just know it's His way of saying "I love you, and you're on my mind."

About thirty years ago or so, I read a book that was so strange and fascinating that I still remember bits and pieces of it. When this book was mentioned recently by a Twitter poster, I decided to put it on my TBR list of books to borrow from the library and read it again (after I managed to read the dozens of books ahead of it first).

Well, yesterday I decided to go to the thrift shop just to browse. I never know what little treasure I'll unearth, but I usually do end up buying a few articles of clothing for our granddaughter. The last section I peruse is the books, since it's the far side of the store, and being the methodical little creature that I am, I always start my browsing at the entry side of the store.

Just as I was about to leave the books section and head to the register to check out, a pretty cover on the bottom shelf caught my eye. Sure enough, I pulled out a hardcover copy in nearly perfect condition of the book I had read all those years ago and that I had just added to my TBR list. The book cost only $1.75, but the feeling that the Lord did this just for me was priceless.

I love how once in a while, when I least expect it, the Lord surprises and delights me. When it happens, I just know it's His way of saying, "I love you, and you're on my mind."

(In case you're interested, the book is titled "Little, Big" by John Crowley, and it won the World Fantasy Award in 1982.)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book Review: The Girl in the Road

Title:  The Girl in the Road
Author:  Monica Byrne
Genre:  Futuristic Fiction
Publisher:  Broadway Books, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group
Number of Pages:  319
My Rating:  2.5 out of 5

How do I review a book that tells a skillfully-written fascinating story but that is littered with foul language and sexual scenes that leave a bad taste in my brain?

When I chose this book to read and review, it was because I was intrigued by the tale of two women, continents and years apart, who embark on journeys of discovery that lead them toward one another in a surprising way. I found their cross-cultural experiences to be richly detailed and their struggles, both inner and outer, to be transparent and moving. The author did an excellent job of transporting me to other lands through her colorful descriptions of the sights, sounds, and scents that dwelled there.

However, I also found the liberal use of foul language and the sexual scenes a turn-off. I don't knowingly read books with this type of content, and my level of discomfort was detrimental to my enjoyment of the story.  I persevered, since the publisher had sent me this book in good faith, and I wanted to honor my commitment.

So here we are. I wish I could give a glowing review (and certainly many other readers have done so), but I can't. I can only give an honest review and hope that it helps others to make an informed decision.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from for review.