Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What I Read Wednesday: Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman

Almost Amish: A NovelFrom the Cover:
Over committed and overwhelmed, Julie Charlton is at the breaking point. She knows she should feel blessed as a mother and wife—but she just feels exhausted. And then, the miraculous happens.  Her sister-in-law Susan, a Martha Stewart-in-training, lands the chance to participate in a reality TV series about trying to live like the Amish and needs another family to join her.  It’s just the break Julie needs.

But the summer adventure in simple living soon proves anything but simple.  With the camera watching every move, Susan’s drive for perfection feels a lot like what they left behind, while Julie suddenly finds herself needing to stand up for slowing down. Whether it’s cooking, cleaning, or dressing differently, each new Amish challenge raises new complications…and soon each woman learns unexpected lessons about herself and her family.

Andrea’s Take:
Almost Amish is a departure from my usual preference of historical romance, but when Kathryn Cushman broadcast the back cover copy and called for influencers, my reply to her was something like, “This woman sounds so much like me that I really think I need to read this book.”

Almost Amish is a character driven story, and the characters are amazingly compelling. Julie and Susan are easily likened to the Biblical Mary and Martha. Julie’s continual feeling of, “What am I good at? What am I supposed to be doing?” struck a chord in my heart, and resonated with me throughout the story. Often, her scenes brought tears to my eyes because I saw so much of myself in her. She comes to realize strengths in herself that have been hidden under layers of busyness and urgency. 

Susan’s perfectionist-induced stress rolled off of her in waves. At times, just reading her point of view was enough to make my shoulders ache with tension. Circumstances at one point forced Susan to view her life and family from a very different prospective, and she began to realize weaknesses in herself, and strength in others, that she had never understood before. Though I didn’t readily identify with Susan, I did understand her.

After learning some hard lessons about their relationships with each other, their families, and God, both women return home with new determination to simplify their lives in all the ways that count.

Characters to Watch:
Whitney, Brian, and Angie – Julie’s children and Susan’s daughter.  All the children are wonderful, and Angie is instrumental to Susan’s transformation. But thirteen year old Brian stole my heart. He bears an uncanny resemblance to a young man in my church. His dry, intelligent humor had me chuckling often.

Chris – A production assistant for the TV show. Chris doesn’t get a lot of “screen time” in the story, but his presence serves as a catalyst for much of the family drama that unfolds.

Kendra – The show’s producer. Smug and self-serving, Kendra very often had me seeing red.

Some details of the production of the TV show struck me as not quite right, and I didn’t like that Julie’s husband (Susan’s brother) Thomas didn’t accompany the family on their summer adventure.  Since I don’t know anything about TV production, I let that slide with little trouble. Thomas’s presence would have drastically altered the group dynamic. It would have made for an entirely different story, which would have made me very sorry indeed.

Overall, I enjoyed Almost Amish very much. I started reading it early in the morning, read every spare moment, and finished before the wee hours of the morning. It was a day well spent.

I give it Four Stars

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Miscellaneous: Bible Study Matthew 4:1-11

I was studying in Matthew some time back and I wrote part of this then. I found it while doing some "housekeeping" on my blog last week. It's still so inspiring, I decided to finish it and post it.

Matthew 4:1-11 The Temptation of Christ

Verse 1, "Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil."

Okay, I've read this a thousand times and never noticed the way it reads, as though the entire purpose of this time of fasting was for Jesus to be tempted!

I run from temptation. If I know it awaits me in a certain place, I quickly and deliberately turn the other way. But Jesus went toward it. Why?

He went toward the temptation so he could give us an example to follow when we are tempted.

Satan tempted Jesus three separate times before giving up.

Jesus continually faced Satan's assaults with Scripture.  "It is written..." was his standard reply.

Even on the third temptation, Jesus didn't say, "You can't offer me that! It's already mine! And by the way, I created you, so it's not likely I'm gonna worship you. Sheesh!" (which would have made perfect sense to me). Once again, He quoted Scripture.

Verse 11 "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."

Satan admitted defeat and left. He didn't leave forever, Luke 4:13 says, "And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season." (emphasis added). He wasn't finished, but he admitted defeat for the moment and went off to torment someone else for a while, I suppose.

My most favorite part is, "and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him." How long had it been since He had stood in the presence of His adoring angels or partaken of the good things Heaven offers? His body was tired, sore, and hungry from weeks of deprivation. But the angels came and ministered to him bringing - I believe - Heavenly rations to restore and strengthen Him for His coming ministry.

So what does all this mean to me? Well, I think I've boiled it down to three basic facts.

1. Satan will not give up easily.
If he went three rounds with the Son of God, Creator of the Universe, how much more will he bring against me, a mere mortal.

I realize that's a pretty dismal view to take, but don't give up yet. There's more, and it's really, really good.

2. Satan cannot stand against a defense based on Scripture.
The Bible is the only weapon we can use to defeat Satan. But what a weapon!

Inside this unassuming little book (or perhaps your copy is large and forbidding) lies an arsenal powerful enough to defeat the greatest enemy that ever came against mankind.  And it is at my disposal.

If I take Jesus's example and fire Scripture at Satan every time he comes at me, he cannot defeat me! (yes, I really think it deserves all that emphasis). Eventually he'll get bored and move on, at least for a while.

3. I will receive Heavenly rations when I resist Satan with Scripture.
Okay, so angels may not come down from Heaven bodily and minister to me with food and drink. I'll admit that. But there's something much better than food or drink.

After Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, he told his disciples, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." Of course he meant spiritual nourishment. The good stuff!

That's what Jesus gives us when we resist Satan in His name--peace that surpasses understanding and joy rooted deeply in our souls that Satan cannot reach it to corrupt it.

Each time we defeat Satan with Scripture, we grow stronger. Resisting will be easier and easier. Then one day we'll see him coming and whip out that old "Gospel Gun" and send that rascal running with his forked tail between his legs!

What a great God I serve!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Songs: Beautiful You by Trent Monk

The Cover:
As far as I can tell, this one is just a single, not an album.

Beautiful You - Single

The Song:
I couldn't find a video that would cooperate, so here's the link. 

Andrea's Take
Today's offering makes me want to drive down a sun-dappled country road with the top down, hands raised to the sky in praise to my Beautiful God. 

(I don't have a convertible, but that's a minor detail. Right?)

It has a mellow and relaxing melody I just can't resist.

To my friends who prefer a more traditional sound: 
Give this one a listen and see if it doesn't just make you happy.