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BookSneeze: The Search for God and Guinness
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Last year I came across a program through Thomas Nelson Publishers called BookSneeze.  This is where they send books to bloggers (me) and in return I write a blog with my thoughts on the book.  I got to choose from a list of available books at the time and so I chose one that looked interesting and out of my norm of reading, The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfield.  When I started reading it I realized that this could cause some division with those who read this blog because of differing opinions about drinking alcohol and differing life experiences involving alcohol.  Even so, I feel that I need to complete my review and actually encourage readers to check this book out because it is very well written, thoroughly researched, and inspires a life lived in all areas of life to glorify God, regardless of your stand on alcohol. (This is not a blog to encourage drinking!)

Stephen Mansfield’s quest to understand the fact and fiction behind the stories and legacy of the Guinness family yielded a fascinating story of a family who sought to honor God through living with a sense of calling and do good for their community.  Arthur Guinness who began the Guinness brewery in Dublin in 1759 also founded the first Sunday schools in Ireland.  I was inspired to see how many vocational ministers came through the Guinness line through history.  “What distinguishes his story is that he understood his success as forming a kind of mandate, a kind of calling to a purpose of God beyond just himself and his family to the broader good he could do in the world.”(59)  Of course, when you trace a family through that many generations you get all sorts of people who make all sorts of life choices, good and bad.  It was fascinating to read how the Guinness brewery responded to local and international times of crisis and how pivotal choices affected the long term success of the company.

An equally interesting part of Mansfield’s book was his history on the origin of beer and tracing the uses of it through history.  I learned that “Clearly, beer and wine used in moderation were welcomed by the early Christians and were taken as a matter of course.”(20)  And, “The popular attitude toward drink was that of earlier generations of Christians: alcohol in moderation is a grace of life but drunkenness is both sin and a plague upon society.”(217)  I also read about many a negative consequences of abuses of alcohol, something of which many of us in our current day society know from family or friends whose lives have been wrecked with substance abuse.  Mansfield dips into some of Martin Luther’s thoughts concerning alcohol:  “‘Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused,’ he once wrote.  ‘Men can go wrong with wine and women.  Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?'”(29)  I am thankful for those in my life who have displayed healthy uses of alcohol and those who have sought health by overcoming past abuses.

Bottom line…I enjoyed reading this book, learning through history, and considering the legacy that we all have through the small daily decisions we make.

Incidentally, our Pastor of Adult Ministries, Steve, recently preached a solid sermon about Jesus’ first miracle of turning water to wine…although the point of the message was not about drinking, he had a nice caveat addressing issues on both sides, you might want to check it out.

Mandy’s Monday – Resolutions Review
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In 2010 we set a goal as a family to each read 20 books. I learned a great deal from the books I read as well as the process of trying to reach this goal. I will reveal right up from that I did not accomplish 20 books 🙁 I love to read, I have said that many times, and I loved reaching for this goal but just fell short. I read more books than I would have with out the goal. It pushed me to continue reading and therefore it is a goal I am going to set once again in 2011!

Below is a listing of the books I read in 2010. I will not be listing them in order for one main reason, I lost my list two different times this year and had to recreate it both times. There is a good chance I forgot a few books and I know I did not remember them in order!

1. Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson
2. Stomping Out The Darkness by Neil T. Anderson
3. Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
4. When People are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch
5. Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
6. Emma by Jane Austin
7. Mansfield Park by Jane Austin
8. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austin
9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin (why not throw it in there one more time!)
10. Jesus, 90 Days With the One and Only by Beth Moore
11. The Poor Will Be Glad by Peter Greer & Phil Smith
12. Helping Your Kids Deal with Anger, Fear, and Sadness by H. Norman Wright
13. Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton & Tim Keown
14. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (still finishing this one with the kids)

I really believe there are a few books I forgot about, that I read in the beginning months of 2010 and were lost from memory when I lost my list. It is amazing how long ago January 2010 feels from today!

This coming year as I set a 20 book goal once again I decided to add a layer to the resolution. I desire to read at least one book from each of the following categories: marriage, parenting, classics (Jane Austin does not count…I have now read all of hers), NY current best seller list, spiritual walk, and theology. I look forward to reading and blogging in response!

Now to reveal a few of my new resolutions:
1. I have fallen in love with my slow cooker! Therefore, this year I will use my slow cooker at least once a week, with the exception of the summer time. During the summer I use the grill all the time…and love it completely!! I found a blog with great slow cooker recipes, A Year of Slow Cooking. Be sure to check it out if you do not already know about it.
2. Run a second marathon with a new PR! I can not say enough about how much I loved running the San Antonio Rock N Roll Marathon in November. It was such an encouragement to me in many ways.
3. Attack the basement…AARRGGG!! For years I have wanted to do something drastic down there, just too many things are down there that need to be given away or thrown out…too much clutter.
4. Do a Bible Study with Addie and Emma. They are at a wonderful age and I want to take full advantage of the opportunity to disciple my daughters!
5. In 2010 I started a twitter journal of sorts for God’s love. I began in Genesis and as I read through the Bible I noted where I saw God’s love. I tweet each of these and am currently in I Samuel. In 2011 I plan to continue with this #God’sLove twitter journal.
6. In a restatement: I will work to read 20 books this year with at least one from each of the above stated categories.
and lastly:
7. I want to be faithful to post a blog for each of the Monday’s in 2011! (I missed one last week, but I am OK with that.) Hopefully, there will be 51 Mandy’s Mondays at the close of 2011. Writing is enjoyable for me, so this goal is for me to force myself to take the time to do so!

I am looking forward to a new year, the old has gone the new has come!

Mandy’s Monday – Watch the Movie and Skip the Book
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If you have not figured it out by now I need to tell you I LOVE to READ!!  This year (2010) we made it a goal to each read 20 books.  I have been reading and enjoying it but I need to pick up the pace if I am going to get 20 in before 2011!  Right now I am trying to finish books number six and seven.

My first book of the year was Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia which I found while roaming around WalMart at Christmas time.  I had recently seen the movie based on the book and thought it would be a story I would like to read.  It is possible that it should have stayed on the shelf at WalMart, which I will explain soon.  I just loved the movie, you can see my earlier post about it if you like.  Almost from the first page I discovered maybe the movie is better than the book… “It had been happening for a couple of years now, ever since I’d sold some of my eggs (ovarian eggs) for $7,500 in order to pay off credit card debt.”  I was thinking “what did I just read?   I don’t know that I am comfortable with that!”  And that was only the beginning!

Julie is harsh in her language to say it nicely, OK she cusses throughout the book and I did not enjoy that!  Julie is very different than myself in not only life experiences but values and core convictions.  So after a chapter or two I questioned if I should just stop reading and choose another book.  The movie portrays Julie more in the light of a sweet young girl trying to make something of herself instead of the book which reveals a character who is brash, sarcastic, and able to see sexual innuendos in everything, especially cooking.  Two things compelled me to continue 1. I hate to not finish something and 2. Maybe this would be a good experience in seeing what women’s lives are like who are very different than me. So I continued on, although I will admit I learned to race my eyes over all the curse words and at one point I took a week or two break from reading.

There were a few things I liked about the book.  Reading it gave me a desire to try cooking new things.  I enjoy cooking and this just spurred me on.  I decided to give Julia Child’s Potage Parmentier a try and yes it was simple and delicious, as described.  I enjoyed reading about blogging, which I am  found of doing myself!  I loved the way Julie set a goal and then worked like crazy to accomplish it, never giving up till it was complete.  I loved reading about a young woman wanting more from her life and striving to get it.  I appreciated seeing a glimpse into lives that are lived by convictions very different than my own.  I found it very eye opening!

From time to time Julie starts to reveal her own spiritual views “I have never looked to religion for comfort-belief is just not in my genes.  But reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking-childishly simple and dauntingly complex, incantatory and comforting- I thought this was what prayer must feel like.  Sustenance bound up with anticipation and want.  Reading MtAoFC was like reading pornographic Bible verses.” (pg 15) Interesting!  I wonder if she has ever read Song of Solomon, it might be shocking to her!  Song of Solomon is not pornographic but it is not PG either.  Julie refers to a woman at work who wears a What Would Jesus Do bracelet as a “loon”, directly implied because she wears the bracelet.  I have never worn one of the bracelets, but I have read the book which this was inspired by and at times live by the principle; and I must say it is rather helpful and convicting at the same time.  I don’t think that makes me a loon.  Near the end of the book she compares Buffy the Vampire slayer to the Bible.  After a description of the Buffy story line (teen vampire slayer and only one who can save the world) she writes, “In all this is not so unlike the Bible, except with stunt doubles and better jokes.  Those of you who are offended by this can take some comfort in knowing that I am far from the first person to have made this observation.  Also like the Bible, Buffy got a little bloated and Revelations-y toward the end…you don’t skip out of Revelations, no matter how kind of weird and lame it is.  Or maybe you do.  But not the last episode of Buffy.” (pg 248-9)  I don’t find this offensive, the Bible is an amazing true narrative and many story-lines have mirrored it’s genius!  The Lord is the perfect story weaver and amazingly His is reality!

Overall, I am glad I read through Julie & Julia, but I would not go so far as to recommend it.  If you read it and I know that you know that I read it…well I just might blush and try to deny it all.

Mandy’s Monday – Mandy is NOT a fan of Twilight!
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A few weeks back I decided to dive into the madness and read Twilight! I was drawn by the scores of teenage girls I know who love this book, one even referred to it as her “Bible” (she carries it with her everywhere). It is not only teens that love it, there are millions of adult ladies who are right in the middle of the craze as well. To my disbelief, Addie has fourth grade friends who have read it, and even Emma’s second grade friends pretend to be vampires (Twilight was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2005). I realize I am telling you nothing that you do not already know! So I thought “Maybe, I should read this so I can talk to the girls in my small group who have read it, a mere twenty some times!” I borrowed a copy from another Student Ministry leader at Calvary and started in.
I must say it is a page turner and I finished it with in a few days. I found myself trying to figure out how I could work my schedule and parenting so that I could read more. Reminds me of when I read Davinci Code while my kids ate cracker after cracker and I put off lunch till the chapter ended. Besides being a page turner there is not much that I liked about the book. I found it to be dangerous and therefore I am officially NOT a fan of Twilight! Let me explain.
My first problem with this story, and the huge following it has, is the deception Bella the main character is comfortable living in. This is a subtle flaw in her character but is there none the less, and I would go so far as to say it is promoted through the story. Bella tells half truths or twists things to protect her parents or keep them in the dark about her Vampire boyfriend. “Dad, I spent the day outside.” Not the truth “I went hiking with a vampire who was either kissing me or working hard to prevent himself from sucking all my blood and leaving me dead in the middle of the forest.” What is a little white lie or two, you might ask. And why should I make a big deal about it. I believe truth is drastically IMPORTANT! The Lord is truth himself and he asks the same of us. A lie or even a half lie are not acceptable, and therefore I did not enjoy reading Bella’s half truths that continued through out the end of the book. Strike One!
Secondly, I found if unwise and distasteful, (a pun when referring to a vampire novel) that Bella pulled away from all her friends as her friendship/romance developed with Edward. She became more and more withdrawn from other relationships in her life while Edward became her entire purpose. Dangerous in deed! Bella’s total abandonment for Edward leaves her willing to end her own life rather than go on without him. Strike two!
Finally, and I could go on with other reasons but three will do, the main theme throughout the book disturbs me the most. Bella reasons something like this- “I know he is a vampire, I know he thirsts for my blood, I know he could kill me at any moment, but it just does not matter! I love him!” “It just does not matter”, runs through the book constantly! And here is where I find the most dangerous aspect of this story. If you fall in love with someone who is not good for you, it just does not matter. If he has a drinking problem, it does not matter. If he is abusive, it does not matter. If he is not a Christian and you are, it just does not matter. If he continually treats you horribly, it just does not matter. I realized that Stephanie Meyer was most likely not trying to write a novel to promote women into relationships or marriage with abusive men, however I find the story doing just that. Strike three…you are out!
I would not recommend this book be read by anyone who is under 18! That is my opinion, you may not like it. Young girls are forming what they want in a life partner and what they think about dating. Deciding who to marry is the second most important decision in life. Twilight does not promote Godly wise patterns, instead it captures you with a love story and makes you think “it just does not matter”.
I decided not to read the next three books in the series, I have read enough and Bella can make it on her own with out me – game over!

Mandy’s Monday – A New Reason to LOVE Pride & Prejudice
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I was first introduced to Jane Austin’s novel Pride & Prejudice as a senior in high school. It was one of the senior research papers that were pages and pages long that I was to write. With this assignment I had to compare two novels by one author. I chose Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice (now referred to as P&P for the remainder of this blog) and Emma. I must admit I completed maybe 80% of P&P and just enough Emma to get the paper written. It was in college where I picked up P&P again and read it completely just for the fun of it. I had enjoyed the first “reading”, but it was most definitely the second complete reading where I feel in love with this story!

Elizabeth Bennete is such an amazing character! I love her strength, determination, witty comments and resolve to only marry for love. Her disregard for money is refreshing. I think it was she that first drew me to the book. Mr. Darcy is so consumed with appearance and control of his own life, that it rocks his world to discover he is falling in love with someone beneath him in society. She has such “fine eyes!” I love reading his transformation to become worthy of Elizabeth, his decision to abandon all that is “proper” to serve her and rescue her family name. “You must know, it was all for you!” And then there is the humbling transformation that Elizabeth herself goes through. Since college I have read the book three times or so. I reread it every few years just because I enjoy it and always find something new to appreciate. Brian loves to tease me “What are you reading? Are you really reading P&P again?” I compare it to watching a good movie over and over. “How many times have you seen Gladiator or Brave Heart Brian?”

Over the Christmas break Melinda, a senior in high school and Calvary Student Ministry member, and I decided to watch the A&E five and a half hour version of P&P. I own this movie as well as the more recent 2006 version. I love them both, each for different reasons. The five plus hour version is the closest to the book that I have seen, hence the five hours! It is a bit of a commitment to decide to watch it, especially if you decide to do so in one sitting. Melinda and I decided we were up for the hours of watching enjoyment while comfortably seated on my living room couch. What I did not expect was that my two oldest daughters, Addie and Emma, were also up for the challenge! I assumed the girls would get board and give up on the movie, but they did not.
Through Addie and Emma’s eyes I discovered a new reason to love P&P!

As the story unfolded I was bombarded with questions from my 9 and 8 year olds, but most of the questions had to do with Lydia Bennete. Lydia, the youngest of the Bennete’s five daughters, is a foolish flirt who abandons all reason and falls prey to the self seeking Wickham. I have always loathed her character, and the shame she so uncaringly brought on her family! “Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted!”

I watched my girls as confusion came to their minds and faces:
“What is wrong with that girl, Mom?”
“Well girls, she is foolish! She is a flirt and is chasing after boys, any boy.”

And to my delight as the story unfolded Addie and Emma were disgusted in deed! How wonderful! Tucked in this story that I have loved for years was a painful picture my girls could grab hold of – being a foolish girl brings ruin in the end! We talked the movie over and over as the girls had questions and I was thankful they had decided to hang out with Melinda and I while we watched. Hopefully, it placed in their minds and hearts the desire to seek wisdom in life, especially in the area of finding that perfect someone to spend their lives with!
I just love P&P, and now so do Addie and Emma 🙂

(By the way my Emma was not specifically named after Jane Austin’s Emma, but it was the first introduction I had to the beautiful name!)

What is Christianity All About?
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Simply Christian Book Cover“Christianity is not about a new moral teaching – as though we were morally clueless and in need of some fresh or clearer guidelines…Christianity isn’t about Jesus offering a wonderful moral example, as though our principal need was to see what a life of utter love and devotion to God and to other people would look like, so that we could try to copy it…Nor is Christianity about Jesus offering, demonstrating, or even accomplishing a new route by which people can ‘go to heaven when they die.’…Christianity isn’t about giving the world fresh teaching about God himself…Christianity is all about the belief that the living God, in fulfillment of his promises and as the climax of the story of Israel, has accomplished all this – the finding, the saving, the giving of new life – in Jesus.  He has done it.  With Jesus, God’s rescue operation has been put into effect once and for all.” (N.T. Wright Simply Christian)

That is the story of the whole of scripture…God’s Epic Rescue of his creation, heaven and earth colliding and the power of grace and mercy triumphing over the power of the law.  We are to daily experience the rescue of God in our lives and be the rescue of God in others’ lives!  David Crowder’s song Remedy constantly pours through my head…

Oh, I can’t comprehendDavid Crowder Remedy Album cover
I can’t take it all in
Never understand
Such perfect love come
For the broken and beat
For the wounded and weak
Oh, come fall at His feet
He’s the remedy
He’s the remedy

He is the one who has saved us
He is the one who forgave us
He is the one who has come
and is coming again

The Epic Rescue Title ImageWe are currently teaching an 8 week series through the story of all of scripture and making sure we don’t lose or cut up our scriptures into unrelated parts, resulting in just a collection of stories and truths.  I am rediscovering how by keeping the whole in perspective, it brings out the richness of the details and specifics of scripture AND how my life is still part of this great rescue story.  This isn’t something that has merely taken place thousands of years ago, but a new-life story that is played out over and over through the days that you and I live!

If you are interested, I am posting the audio recordings of each week in my podcast media tab of this site.
(We have had some problems with some of the recordings that we hope to have worked out in the future.)

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