Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Song Lyrics: Strong Enough by Matthew West

First, let me say I'm sorry. I've neglected this little Sunday Morning feature since my "comeback" a few weeks ago. I'm getting back on the ball now...I think.

The Album:
The Story of Your LifeMatthew West: CD Cover 

The Lyrics:
You must, you must think I'm strong
To give me what I'm going through
Well, forgive me, Forgive me if I'm wrong
But this looks like more than I can do
On my own

I know I'm not strong enough to be
everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up
I'm not strong enough
Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
For the both of us

Well, maybe, maybe that's the point
To reach the point of giving up,
Cause when I'm finally, finally at rock bottom
Well, that's when I start looking up
And reaching out

Cause I'm broken
Down to nothing
But I'm still holding on to the one thing
You are God
and you are strong
When I am weak

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don't have to be
Strong enough
Strong enough

The Video:

This song brought me to tears last summer while I was driving to the hospital where my husband was having tests for what turned out to be a cardiac close call. It echoed in my heart again last Christmas when he totaled his truck, and again late this winter when I felt frozen with the stress of moving.

I can do all things, but not on my own, only through Christ who gives me strength. In His strength, there is nothing I cannot do.

God doesn't expect me to be strong on my own. He doesn't want me to be strong on my own. He wants me to call on Him, draw on His strength because He is "strong enough for the both of us."

Click here to read the story that inspired Matthew West write this encouraging song. This story makes all my stresses seem like a walk in the park.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What I Read Wednesday: Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK by Betsy St. Amant

Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PKFrom the Cover: 
Addison Blakely has never had much trouble pleasing her widowed, overprotective father. After all, he’s a pastor, and she knows her reputation is closely linked to his.  But when the bad boy next door, the cute but arrogant quarterback, and a charming new guy all vie for Addison’s attention, she begins to doubt her resolve. To make matters worse, Addison’s best friend suddenly seems to hate her, a talent show has the entire school at odds, and an exotic foreign exchange student from Germany is shaking everyone up.

Join Addison as she attempt to separate love from lust, facts from faith, and keep her head above water in her murky fishbowl existence.

Andrea’s Take: 
I found myself intrigued with this story when Betsy St. Amant sent out the call for influencers. You see my husband is a pastor, and we have a five year old daughter. In a decade or so (that will seem much shorter, I’m sure), she may find herself  in shoes very similar to Addison Blakely’s, though I hope I’m around to help her then, unlike Addison’s mother.

So, though I’m several years past Young Adult (unless “young at heart” counts), I answered Ms. St. Amant’s call, and I am so glad I did!

This story made time travel possible. It transported me back to the years of high school. I lived again - in a thankfully shorter version - the overwhelming angst and temptation of that time. Addison's struggles are very true to life. And she is a delight to read.  She’s good, but not a goody-two-shoes. She has her little rebellions, but she doesn’t fit the image of PKs gone wild that is often stereotyped. She manages to take the high road mostly, but not always the first time. She is sixteen, after all. 

The story, at its bottom line, is about Addison’s struggle to answer - for herself - the question, “Why Jesus?”  She learns answering that question is the key to answering all the others.

Characters to Watch: Betsy St. Amant has written a wonderful supporting cast for this story. I enjoyed them all, but here are my favorites.

Marta: She is an amazing blessing to Addison. She needs to come back to America and get her own story.
Wes:    Local bad boy, but so much more. I loved him.
Luke:  Every girl should have a friend like Luke.
Claire: That I dislike Claire through much of the book is not surprising, but she comes around. I’d love to see her get her own story too.

*****5 Stars 

I love to give 5-star ratings! And this book earned it. I would not have changed a single thing about it. It’s a great pleasure to say so. Great work, Betsy!

 I received my copy complementary from the publisher, but was not compensated in any way. All opinions are genuine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What I Read Wednesday: The Rose of Winslow Street

Cover Image From the Cover:
In the small town of Colden, Massachusetts, Libby Sawyer leads a quiet, predictable life. Yet beneath the surface, she is haunted by a secret.
Newly arrived on American shores, Michael Dobrescu is far from predictable, and his arrival in Colden is anything but quiet. Michael's shocking claim to be the rightful owner of Libby's father's house immediately alienates him from the appalled citizens of Colden.
Despite her own outrage, Libby is unwittingly fascinated by this enigmatic man who seems equally intrigued by her. As the court's decision about the house looms and the layers of mystery surrounding Michael's past are unveiled, Libby's loyalties are tested in ways she never imagined.

Andrea's Take:
I approached this, Elizabeth Camden's second book, with caution.


It's simple, really. I absolutely loved her first one (Click here to read my review of The Lady of Bolton Hill. ). She set the bar pretty high, and I wasn't entirely convinced she could live up to it in her second book.

I needn't have worried. She absolutely did do it again.

The Rose of Winslow Street has a cast of the most interesting and unique characters I've ever read. Libby has an amazing talent as well as secret she's ashamed of, and she has a father who takes advantage of the first and never lets her forget the second. Even so, she loves her family deeply. Her loyalty to them - though severely tried - remains strong, even if they don't always return it.

Michael has an unusual gift, which I would never have thought to give to such a big, tough-guy hero. But it is as much a part of him as his large stature and rough, foreign ways. He too is fiercely loyal to and protective of his family, so much that he will, and does, alienate himself from his neighbors and the Sawyer family. His audacity is jaw-dropping in several scenes.

Though their loyalties clash and they drive one another crazy, Michael and Libby share a sense of fair play that won't allow them simply to write each other off as enemies, no matter how badly they want to.  It is on this foundation that Camden builds their romance, and it is a lovely thing to watch. 

All the while, the subplots are unfolding in the background that seem unconnected to the romance. But when they come together, they show how God, in his great love for his people, weaves every detail of our lives into a most beautiful tapestry.

Sibling rivalry plays a part in the lives of both characters, especially in Michael's, where I noticed parallels to the biblical story of Ishmael and Isaac.

I recommend this story to anyone who wants to read a captivating story of the love between a man and a woman and the love of God for his children.

Character to watch: Mirela - Overcoming unspeakable pain, she blooms where God plants her, much like her family's famous roses.

***** 5 brilliantly shining stars

(Note: I gave away my copy of The Lady of Bolton Hill in my birthday bash last fall. Don't look for this one in the next giveaway because I have no plans of letting it go. :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What I Read Wednesday: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller

I'm Baaa-aack! 

After a long hiatus, that wasn't much of a hiatus for this painting, cleaning, packing, moving...tired...lady, I'm back. 

A couple of plusses...

1.   All of our belongings (that we intend to keep) have been moved from the old house to the new. Many of them are still packed (a fact that is beginning to grate on my poor husband's nerves), but they are moved.

2.  I lost 6 pounds in the last six to eight weeks of work...and that was living on McDonald's and Taco Bell for about two of those weeks. Not too shabby.

It's not completely done. I still have painting to do...perhaps someday I'll share that story, but not today. And of course there's the hanging up of all the pictures, shelves, and knick knacks. But we're in, and there's time to get settled (though not much if I want to keep my husband happy). ;-)

One thing I have found a little time for in all the ruckus is reading. I have a small tbr (to be reviewed) stack of books (not to be confused with the much larger TBR - To Be Read - shelf, which at a rate of one a week, is full enough to keep me busy for over a year, no kidding. But I digress).

So now I'll bring on the first post back What I Read Wednesday: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23The image I display is from Barnes & Noble's website. My copy is very old and was published especially for a Billy Graham Crusade, which I think is kinda cool. 

The short blurb on the back of the Crusade Edition says, "Experience Psalm 23 in a new way: see with the Shepherd's eyes, touch with His hands, feel with His heart through this intimate look into the full life of our Lord--the Great Shepherd."

Andrea's Take:
A wonderful lady at our church recommended this book to me years ago when my family was living in her house (Yes, living in her house. It's a huge house...and I already mentioned she is wonderful.  Yes, that wonderful). This wonderful lady bought a book for my husband and me that we thought at the time was this one, but it was more of a "highlights of..." kind of book, not the real thing.

Fast forward a few years to last fall's Friends of the Library book sale. You know, the sale where hardbacks are a dollar and everything else is less? On the last day of the sale (when even hardbacks are only a quarter) I found this 142 page treasure, and the lady running the till gave it to me...for free.  Yeah.

Well, it's worth so very much more.  Mr. Keller, himself a shepherd for many years of his life, examines the lines of the Psalm one by one, expounding on what they mean to a shepherd and the shepherd's motivation for so many of the things he does for, to, and with his sheep. 

A couple of my favorite chapters are Chapter 2, "I Shall Not Want," in which we learn how human beings are indeed very like sheep; and Chapter 3 "He Maketh Me to Lie Down in Green Pastures," in which Mr. Keller reveals the state of sublime perfection a sheep must experience in order actually to lie down, and explains that sublime perfection is what our Good Shepherd offers, if we will only accept it.

By far, for me, the best part of this book is Chapter 10 "Thou Anointest My Head With Oil..." It is not exaggerating to say this chapter changed my life. In it Keller tells how summer insect infestations often lead sheep to seek relief in self-destructive ways. The watchful shepherd will see the early signs of irritation and apply to each sheep's head and nose an ointment that will repel the pestering bugs.

"What an incredible transformation this would make among the sheep. Once the oil had been applied to the sheep's head there was an immediate change in behavior...she sheep would start to feed quietly again, then soon lie down in peaceful contentment" (116).

The Christian parallel to the ointment applied by the shepherd is the Holy Spirit, "...Christ Himself, our Shepherd, urges us to ask for the Holy Spirit to be given to us by the Father." When life's little irritations bug us we can pray, as Mr. Keller recommends, "O Lord, I can't cope with these petty, annoying, peevish problems. Please apply the oil of Your Spirit to my mind. Both at the conscious and sub-conscious levels of my thought-life enable me to act and react just as you would" (118).

Or if you are me (or like me) you can pray, "Anoint my head with oil. Anoint my head with oil..."

Mr. Keller says, "It will surprise you how promptly He complies with such a request made in deadly earnest" (118). It's true. In the past months of buying a house, painting a house, and moving into a house, I've had ample occasion to try it. It really does work.

I intend to re-read this book. Often.

Here's a link so you can buy it and read it for yourself. Often. It's the best $4.99 you'll ever spend.

I give this book 6 stars because 5 just isn't enough.