This book will ask you to make tough choices.
Because what if the easy life isn't always the best life?
What if living a truly full life means so much more
than just "believing" in Jesus--and what if
He promised you it would be worth it?
This book review is long overdue. A part of blog reviewing is that you agree to try to get your reviews published within a month. Let's just say I am running late on this one. Partly due to "sharing the computer with everyone else issues" and partly due to my own slackness.
When I first read the description of No Easy Jesus on Tyndale's website I knew I NEEDED to read the book. But, I am not a non-fiction gal. I LOVE to read just not books about real life. So, venturing into this book was going to be a challenge. But even more than that, this book was calling me to face some issues that had crept into my life over the last several years.
Those of you that know me know some of the struggles our family has faced over the last five or six years. Those of you that don't, probably don't need to. But suffice it to say, I had chosen to take the "Easy Jesus" path because frankly, the Hard Jesus was just too hard. I was tired of it. I was let down by Him. I was disappointed and frustrated with what He had asked of me and my family.
However, I knew I was not happy. I knew I needed something more than Easy Jesus. Which is why I requested Jason Mitchell's book to review.
Did I like the book? Yes.
Did I enjoy reading it? Yes and No
Who likes being chastised after all? (although this was NOT done in a harsh way!)
Would I recommend the book? Whole-Heartedly
My struggle is not over. This chapter in my life is still being written, edited, and rewritten. But the reminder that Jason Mitchell gave me of the necessity of following a No Easy Jesus is penetrating my heart and encouraging me to be willing to risk again. I hope it will do the same for you.
As usual, this book was provided free by the publisher, but the review is in no way influenced by that fact.
About a week ago I started getting ready for Passover, Pesach, 2017.
I know, I know.
It's still 2 months away, but, I'm not the only one out there doing this so early.
I received an email the other day from a very prominent lady in the Messianic community and in her video she was talking about how NOW is the time to start planning for Passover.
Justified in my craziness.
All from a YouTube video message.
Last year we led 2 different seders. One was at our home (photos in this blog post are from that one) and one at our local Bible Study Group/Congregation. It seems like either my hubby or I "rewrite" a Haggadah every year to fit where we are and what we've learned lately. Last year was no exception. The home haggadah was strictly based on scripture. I got the idea from Kevin Geoffrey at Perfect Word Ministries. He has a wonderful little Haggadah that only uses the elements we see given in the original Passover account in Exodus. I expanded a little on his idea and came up with probably one of my favorite Haggadahs. If you are a stickler about tradition, then Kevin's book is not for you. But if you are ok with stepping outside the box, or if you are just new to this whole Passover idea, then I highly suggest Behold the Lamb Hagaddah. You won't find an Afikomen or Dayenu there, but there is still lots of scripture and sound Biblical teaching.
a Jewish ritual service and ceremonial dinner for the first night or first two nights of Passover.
Above is me getting the table all set for the seder meal. Notice the blurred hands. That's me being frantic.
Our second seder (although I think that one actually took place first...) was beautiful too in its own way. Most everything was disposable but elegant, I thought. However, as usual, I forgot to get anyone to take pictures.
The story of my life.
If it wasn't for my sister, Rie, I probably wouldn't have very many photos of my children growing up. Especially ones at any family function.
I would, however, have plenty of photos like these because I love to sneak into my children's rooms at night to get them:
But I'm getting off topic.
I loved the flowers Susan and I found for the center piece.
Notice the blurred hand with the sparkling grape juice bottle...the children got a little silly
trying to divide up the last of the yummy juice!
Two really neat things Susan and I did for the first time last year was an edible 10 Plagues plate and a little sacrificial lamb.
The edible plagues were Susan's idea...probably spurred on by something on Pinterest. I do know that we came up with our own ideas for each plague because I very well remember scouring the internet for exactly what we were looking for. We wanted them to be something that wouldn't be necessarily "delicious." Overall, we were very pleased with the edible plagues but do plan to tweak them a little this year.
This photo combines our plagues with the horseradish for the seder elements.
Don't you just LOVE my seder plate?
My whole color scheme last year revolved around getting to use it for the first time.
You can find it here, but don't judge me for spending so much on it.
It is one of the few splurges Chris and I have done in a REALLY long time.
Frogs: see below
Bugs/Gnats/Lice: shredded coconut
Flies: black olives with slits cut for sliced almonds to be inserted as wings
Disease on Livestock: cow gummies (Stonyfield Farms or Annie's Organics)
Boils: shredded cheese melted to a crisp on matzah crackers
Hail/Fire: crushed ice
Locust: green pea crisps
Darkness: dark unsweetened chocolate squares
Death of the Firstborn: mummied baby carrots
We heated strips of white cheese laid over baby carrots to "mummify" our first-born baby carrots.
Then Susan painted little eyes on the carrots with ranch dressing.
The frog was a bit more difficult and I am working on a new idea for this year's edible plagues. Stay tuned for that. But for now, I'll try to explain what we did. Try to ignore that one of the eyeballs had fallen out in the photo.
We used a large dill pickle for the body and baby gershwins for the legs. I don't know if you can tell but Susan cut the ends to make it look like webbed feet. The eyes were the ends of Peperoncini peppers and inserted with a toothpick into the dill pickle. The eyeballs are whole cloves. When it came time to eat the frog plague we just all took a piece of the legs to eat.
A side note on the cow gummies: I looked for the Stonyfield ones since they are all cows but could not find them in my area. We ended up buying the Annie Bernie's Farm Fruit Snacks. They were DELICIOUS but only one or two out of every pack was a cow so we almost didn't have enough for our family seder. I am hoping to find the all cow ones this year.
Also, I suggest making the flies at the last minute. We made them early that morning and by the time the seder came around the olives had softened the almonds significantly.
The second neat thing we incorporated last year was this little sacrificial lamb. If you purchase the Behold the Lamb Hagaddah from Perfect Word Ministries there are instructions to how to make it. I do not want to spoil the awesomeness of this project but trust me when I say that it was the highlight of the evening. The photo below is a little hint to why...
A big thank you to my mother-in-law for letting me borrow plates, goblets, and extra silverware to add to my wedding china set. Of course, I couldn't have done it all without my sons helping me with the cleaning and Susan being my right hand lady with most everything else! And definitely my hubby for being patient with my crazy planning.
Well, now that I have revisited last years Passover Seder, I can move onto finishing my plans for this year. I've already been working on tweaking my frog plague, choosing a color scheme, and menu ideas. I know we will be repeating the lamb again this year, even if it did leave a small stain on my tablecloth. Kinda reminds me of a song. I'll end the post with that.
With my job requiring more and more of my time lately, I was afraid I would have to give up my book reviews. Thankfully, my mama has taken on the role of book reviewer for a little while. Seasons come and seasons go...books will be back in my life again soon, I hope!
Seeing Jesus is a small book measuring only 6.5" x 4.5" x .5" and is adapted from the longer The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament also by Nancy Guthrie. It is really nice in appearance...tan leather cover with gold embossed title...a perfect little gift for someone special. There are 60 short devotionals contained within, each about 4 pages long. Each "lesson" or "devotional" begins with a scripture reference from both the Old and the New Testaments and has several more sprinkled throughout the text. (These scriptures are in the New Living Translation unless otherwise indicated.)
I choose this book because, being Messianic in faith, I enjoy finding something to read that emphasizes the importance of the OLD and the NEW Testaments together. Neither are complete without the other and it is wonderful to come across something that points out this fact. I would like to have seen more coverage for the topics, however, I do realize that it is difficult to pour a lot of depth into such a short writing. And for someone not previously attuned to this idea, it would probably be just the right amount to wet his appetite to study more.
One problem I did have with this book is one I have with many others. I am not a fan of taking a single scripture or even a part of a scripture reference to make a point in a devotional. (I do admit to having done this myself before, sadly.) I noticed that Ms. Guthrie does this in some of her "lessons" and while the practice may result in a correct presentation, things can be twisted when given out of context. Scripture, in my opinion, needs to be read in context of, at a minimum of several verses, an entire chapter for better understanding, or best of all, the entire book! Once again, I realize that the size of the entries limits how much coverage can be given to a topic.
Overall, I think the book is a nice presentation of an underutilized topic. No one book, outside of The Bible (the Holy Scriptures themselves) will ever be perfect. Keeping that in mind, I believe this could be a handy reference and quick encouragement for many people.
I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.
We started off the week with a baptism at Brighton Beach. There were three people to be baptized, one man and two ladies one of whom is Jewish. It was amazing to be standing on the beach singing and worshiping GOD with my fellow brothers and sisters in Messiah whom I had never met before and welcoming yet new siblings into the family of GOD! I felt so connected to these people that are so different from me, but yet we all share the same Heavenly Father and the same love and gratitude for HIM. And the joy to watch these three new believers announce publicly to the world what GOD had done for them and their decision to follow HIM for the rest of their lives was something I really can't describe to you. But if you are a Christian, you know what I'm talking about.
(each person being baptized gave a short version of their testimony beforehand)
Everyday started off with a worship service and devotional. We had training all morning and headed out to the streets in the afternoon. There were about 34 participants in Shalom Brooklyn and we were divided into teams of 5 to 8 with a Chosen People staff member as our leader. The teams would rotate between sites throughout the week so there was a new team at the same location through the entire week (which proved to be very helpful in many ways). At the sites (usually a park) we would set up a book table with some Biblical literature and Bibles to give out. While 2 people would man the table the other team members would break off into pairs and walk the park doing a one-page spiritual questionnaire to try to get people in conversations about their beliefs.
If you will notice our shirts say Isaiah53.com on them. The main book we handed out at the tables was the book Isaiah 53 Explained. This book goes through Isaiah chapter 53 (also known as the Suffering Servant passage) and breaks the passage down explaining how Yeshua (Jesus) is the Jewish Messiah. We would ask people if they had ever read Isaiah 53 and if they had who they thought the person in the passage was.
You will also notice in the picture above that the sign on the table asks the question "Does God Exist?". Another way we got people to stop by the booth was to pose a question on a white board and ask people's opinion on the question. Some of the questions the Shalom Brooklyn group thought of included "Was Jesus really the Messiah?" "Have you found peace with God?" and "Who or what is god in your life?".
It was interesting to hear the answers people had. One guy stopped by the booth that I was at with the question "Does God exist?" on it and checked "yes" in the boxes we drew below the question. When I asked him why he checked "yes" and who he thought God was he said that he didn't know who or what it was but he knew that all this (meaning creation) didn't just happen but chance that something, or someone, had to have made it. It was amazing to see that no one taught this man that knowledge, GOD revealed HIMSELF to this man. I always felt like it was MY responsibility to tell people about GOD, that if I didn't tell people they would never know about HIM. But that day GOD taught me that it was not my responsibility to save people. HE saved people, it was just my responsibility to obey HIM as HIS disciple.
In the months leading up this mission trip I had really been struggling with having a Messiah complex (meaning I felt like I was responsible to save people). Through this trip GOD showed me that HE was orchestrating plans that I didn't know about to draw people to HIMSELF and that when I, in my human disadvantage, could not fulfill or finish a task HE would and that nothing was slipping by HIM. Every person is precious to HIM and HE desires that ALL come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9, 2 Peter 3:15) and, while HE wants us to choose HIM of our own free will, HE will do the drawing.
Which leads me into my next story.
On the fifth day we were in NY we set up our booth in a part of Central Park (actually right next to the Trump campaign headquarters). There I met who I'll refer to as Pigeon Man. Pigeon Man was feeding pigeons (thus the name) and had drawn the attention of me and two other young people because the pigeons where eating right out of his hands (literally!). The particular tracts I was handing out that day were advertising a website called I Found Shalom where several Jewish people share there testimonies. I mentioned that he seemed to have found shalom because he obviously seemed to be at peace and asked him if he'd share how he found it. Apparently this man has looked at every major religion of the world and has picked out the "common threads" in them to be his religion. This man also believed strongly in free will and that the purpose of life is to choose righteousness and that if you don't choose righteousness in this life, you will come back again and again until you do. I tried pointing out to him that you can not say that you believe in free will if life's ultimate goal is to choose righteousness.
Let me explain what I mean by that:
Free will is the ability to choose your own path in life and how you will walk that path. In order for free will to work, the choices you or I make must be honored. If I want to choose to follow a Jewish Rabbi my choice to do so must be honored by letting me follow this Jewish Teacher. And if I want to choose to be evil and not choose righteousness in order for free will to work I should be allowed to pursue evilness. But what this man was saying is that while I could choose to be evil, at the end of the day (or the end of one of my many lives) I must choose to be righteous in order to move on. Otherwise I would be stuck and unable to proceed in life. But if free will is the ability to choose ones' own life, how can we make our own choices if at the end of the day we MUST choose to be one certain way?
I tried to be respectful in presenting my case, as Pigeon Man was in presenting his. But in the end we had to part ways because neither of us could agree with the other. We talked for a good hour on this subject and many others before he had to leave. Honestly I would have finished the conversation sooner but remember the two young people I mentioned earlier who were watching the pigeons with me? They were hanging on every word Pigeon Man and I said. So I stuck around because I knew they were listening and when we parted ways they walked off with Pigeon Man asking him more questions.
Watching them walk off I literally began to weep knowing just how blind this man was and here he was making disciples. It was so heartbreaking to see an intelligent man who has genuinely studied be so blind to one simple truth. It was hard to walk away from that meeting not knowing if I made a difference and feeling like I had not.
But you know what? GOD gave me a peace about it. No, I didn't feel like I presented my case in the best way and that Pigeon Man got back to his house, fell on his knees, and gave his life to Messiah. But, I had defended my Savior in the best way I could, and even if those people didn't listen, I shared The Truth with them and GOD was going to handle the rest.
I've got more stories coming up so stay tuned!
This is the Mother again. Susan and I are working on getting some of these made to have for sale. Let us know if you would like to order one or have a specific color family you are interested in. These photos are some that have already been given to my sweet great niece and nephew but some of the styles can be reproduced.
I know you have all be really excited about seeing pictures from my New York mission trip and I PROMISE they are on their way! Things have been super busy since I came back and I honestly haven't had much of a chance to blog about anything. Basically I would describe it like this: my plane landed back in Tennessee and the world was like "Welcome back Susan! Let's put you to work!". Like yesterday, (the 20th) was my first day that I didn't have anything to do since coming back and I'm sorry but I took that day to do absolutely nothing.
So thank you so so so much for your patience in this matter. I know this is basically a post full of excuses and I'm sorry you have to read it, but I wanted to let y'all know that you have not been forgotten! I have a post in the works and will have it up soon. So view this as a preview or trailer of sorts to make you happier! :)
Thank you again everybody!
Hello people! I'm back and boy do I have lots to share! So without further ado, here's what all went on in the big apple!
So Jonathan and I flew out on a Saturday morning. Considering I've never flown or navigated an airport before I would say I did pretty good having only forgotten to take my phone out at security and crashed into a lady on the airport tram :). The flight was SO COOL even though I cried all during take off :). We landed right on time and found our way to the hotel with very little trouble. I did have the worst headache ever upon arriving due to the cabin pressure in the plane and seriously considered taking another flight home. Only after talking and praying with my dad, hearing that my baby cousin was praying for me (thank you sweet Brandon), and taking two of these magical green things call sinus pills, was I able to feel better.
(at the airport on our way to New York)
So we are finally in New York and get to have a quick rest before we begin ministering right?
See we had ordered a cab service to pick us up at the airport to take us to the hotel before orientation that night (because we all know that if it was up to me to navigate I would have gotten us completely lost! :). The cab driver, we'll just call him Carl for now, picked us up at the baggage claim and took us on a 15 minute drive to the hotel we were staying at for the week. We got to talking and turns out this man is a Hindu or Buddhist (I can't remember which now) and freely told us what he believed. Johnathan and I, not knowing what else to do, continued to ask him questions as Carl told us how sin comes about. According to him humans were once giants who were equal to God but once we started living for ourselves (Carl described it as when the word "mine" came into being) humans began to shrink and loose connection with God. I honestly don't know if our questions made any difference or if he just thought he was an older man "enlighten" these poor confused youths. He allowed us to pray with him after he dropped us off and to take a picture with him. But needless to say, that was our first taste of New York!
(us with our cab driver and our amazing selfie taking skills :)
Orientation was that night and we got to meet some more people who were join us for the week as well as our team leader. There were about 34 participants in Shalom Brooklyn and we were divided into teams of 5 to 8 with a Choosen People staff member as our team leader. While we would all be together during the morning and evening hours we would break off into teams in the afternoon.
There were people from all over that came! We had one lady from Hawaii and one guy from Canada, but the cool place to come from apparently was North Carolina. Almost half of the people there were from North Carolina. Jonathan and I were the only ones from Tennessee and that first night everyone thought we were married because we had the same last name! So when it came time for us to introduce ourselves I had to set the record straight because everyone kept asking us if we were married or not. I even had a man come up to me after orinatition thanking me for clarifying because he didn't know if we were married or not and didn't know how to ask! :)
But that was just the first night. And it was just the beginning. Next post I'll share about some of the actual ministry as well as a baptism at Brighton Beach!
Sorry it is taking me so long to get this out. Life hit me full force when I returned. But, more on that after I get out my ministry trip posts!
More Soon...I Promise!
This is the Mother. I am guest posting for Susan while she is on her mission trip. Just wanted to let everyone know that her and Jonathan made it safely to Brooklyn. All went smoothly and they have already experienced some culture shock. Below are some text messages I received from Jonathan:
Our driver (talking about the car service we used to pick them up at airport) was a talkative hindu-bhudist. Interesting.
He had a reasonable philosophy: selfishness is bad. It was hard to understand his accent, but he didn't seem to have an explanation for when selfishness came into being. It was just in the world.
He already believed in Jesus and that God had to die for us, but it wasn't quite the same. Susan did most of the talking (shocker, right! Susan doing most of the talking while Jonathan just listened!)
Please remember them this week in prayer and hopefully Jonathan will get me some photos up here soon!
Well people, it's now time to do what we all hate to do for any trip:
I hate packing. Yet, it must be done so thus I do it. But as I'm packing I'm reminded of the many things that GOD has provided for me to go on this trip like:
a new backpack
a carry on suitcase loaned to me by my brother (thank you Gideon!)
a few new bargain-priced clothes
and the knowledge that people are out there praying for my safety. Guys, to be honest I have been overwhelmed with the support y'all have given Jonathan and I! Knowing that people are praying for me is the number 2 thing that gives me the courage to tackle this adventure laid before me (knowing GOD is with me being number 1). So thank you again for helping us to prepare for this trip!
Now I would like to share this experience with each of y'all by inviting you to follow me! Not in the physical sense (I'm pretty sure the flight we're taking is full, sorry!) but thanks to the wonderful world of technology you can follow me on Instagram where I will be posting photos of all the cool things we'll be doing. And yes I promise to write a detailed post here on the blog when we get back!;)
So that's really it for now! Continue to keep Jonathan and I in your prayers as we travel and work alongside GOD's chosen people. Pray that:
-Their eyes will be open to the truth that they've been blinded to for so long
-That we will be purely vessels The LORD will work through. We can not in any way through our own power save people. So pray that GOD will work through us in such a way that our sinful selves can't, and won't, get in the way
-That our team will be in perfect unity with each other. That we will be understanding anytime someone gets tired and encourage them to keep pressing on in the hard, and easy, times
-That we will have a safe travel to New York, from New York, and all the little journeys made in between
-That GOD will be glorified this week in everything said and done. This week is about HIM not me so all praise belongs to HIM alone
Shalom (peace) to you all,
Here is the 2016 Promo video for the mission trip Jonathan and I are attending in less than a week!
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