Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Favorite Bible Stories]

Last week Melany and I wrote about what we believed about the Bible and this week is all about our favorite Bible stories! The Bible is one amazing book...

1. The woman who washed Jesus' feet with her hair. (Luke 7:36-50) I wrote about this story nearly two years ago and every time I read it, it has the same effect on me. (Read my post titled Canceled Debt.) I can relate to this woman and Jesus' statement, "Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven - for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." (vs.47) That's me. My sins are many and so I kneel before God in thanksgiving and praise for the work He has done and is doing in my life.

2. When Jesus claims authority over the Sabbath. (Mark 2:23-3:6) This story shows up again in Matthew 12:1-14, Luke 6:1-11, and John 5:15. It's basically written the same four different times and here's the gist: "One Sabbath [Jesus] was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" Jesus response to this question blows.me.away. "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and at the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to this who were with him? The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (vs. 25-28) Basically, the needs of David's men took precedence over ceremonial bread and Sabbath rules! Jesus is telling them that HE IS GREATER THAN DAVID AND THE TEMPLE! He made the Sabbath, He owns it, He made the rules and Jesus was telling them, "IT IS MINE!" The best part of this story is the continuation into chapter 3 of Mark where Jesus intentionally provokes controversy when He entered the synagogue and told a man with a withered hand to "Come here." (vs.3) and proceeded to ask this amazing question, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" And no one had an answer for him. After He healed the man's hand the Pharisees sought ways to destroy Him. And this is why this story is so extremely powerful: Jesus put the issue of the Sabbath on a new plane: the Sabbath is for expressing Jesus' rule and authority - not Moses' - it is for worshipping CHRIST. It is for relieving man, not burdening him. And for showing mercy and doing good - just like CHRIST. Jesus is telling them to REST IN ME. WORSHIP ME. EVERY DAY. I AM YOUR SABBATH.


3. The story of Job. Although it has a sad beginning, I LOVE this story. Job loses every thing: his wealth, his children, his health and then every one turns against him - including his wife (2:9). His three "friends" give horrible advice, telling him he deserves what happened to him because of his sin. Here's the thing, Job was a righteous man and it had nothing to do with Job's sin. God gave Satan permission to touch all that belonged to Job to see if Job would continue to follow Him or turn away from Him. Instead of blaming Job for all his tribulations his friends should've taken Elihu's advice in 37:14, "... stop and consider the wondrous works of God." (which I believe is the entire purpose of this book). No matter what you're going through, stop and consider the wondrous works of God! Even if you lose everything... praise God! Do not be like Job who started out doing just that, but then turned to complaining and begging God for an answer to his "why me?!" Instead of praising God, he begins to conflict with God (see 3:26, 6:8-9, 7:11, 9:15, 10:1-2, 13:3, 13:15, 21:15, 23:1, 23:4, 23:17, 31:35, 31:37). And God's answer to Job is awesome, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements - surely you know!" (I'm sensing God's wrath and perhaps a bit of sarcasm?) God continues to lay out his mighty works in chapters 38 - 41 and after this AMAZING discourse, Job promises silence in 40:4-5 (which I believe is the climax of the book) and repents in chapter 42! Read it to find the happy ending, but learn from Job: no matter what - praise God! And if you need reason to praise Him read what He says about Himself in 38 - 41 (My favorite is when He tells Job that He can put Leviathan on a leash... wow... or when he simply states, "Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine." (41:11) Even what was taken from Job and even what was given to him at the end. Amazing.)

4. The Lord freeing Israel from bondage in Egypt. (Exodus 1-15) If you want to read a perfect example about God's Sovereignty - read this story. Every time I came across something that pointed to God's sovereign hand - I highlighted it. God was in control from the beginning starting with why the Israelites were there (see #9) to the very end when the Israelites were freed from slavery. In this story you learn God's name (3:14) and you learn the reason this event is about to take place, "So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it;" (3:20). God's sovereignty is on display with Pharaoh when He hardens his heart again and again, "I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go." (4:21) Why did he do that? Well each of the plagues pointed to each of the god's the Egyptians worshipped. In other words, God is sending sign after sign after sign stating, "I AM THE ONLY LIVING AND TRUE GOD!" Need proof? Read 7:5, "The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them." or "By this you shall know that I am the Lord..." (7:17) or "...so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God." (8:20) or in 9:14-16 (my favorite), "For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth." (bolded mine) or 9:29 or 10:3 or 11:9 or 13:8-9 or 14:4 (another favorite) "I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord." He states that again in 14:17-18. He is in control! This story makes His sovereign hand evident from beginning to end. They were in bondage because God wanted His Name glorified in all the earth! They were freed from bondage because God wanted His Name glorified in all the earth! Praise God for His sovereignty!

5. The story of Onesimus, the slave of Philemon. There's this itty-bitty book that's less than one page in length, sitting in the New Testament, that shares an amazing story of forgiveness and grace. Paul is asking Philemon to forgive his slave (Onesimus) who ran away from him and probably wronged him in more ways than that. Paul is asking Philemon to welcome Onesimus in his home, not as a slave, but as fellow follower of Jesus Christ. The key verse is in 18 where Paul is giving a wonderful example of what God did through Jesus Christ, "If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account." In other words, just like Christ, Paul was willing to pay this man's debt, but Paul, knowing Philemon's faith in Christ, would forgive and welcome Onesimus (just like Jesus). Beautiful.

6. The widow's offering. (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4) This woman had little, but she gave all she had. Jesus praised her for her sacrifice. I need to be more like this woman.

7. The plot to kill Jesus. (John 11:45-57) Ahhhh! Another amazing example of God's sovereignty. This event happened just after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and as a result of that miracle many people were following Jesus. This of course upset the Pharisees and the chief priests so they gathered together and plotted how to kill him. What the high priest says is this, "You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." (vs.50) What John wrote about this one statement is incredible, "He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad." (vs.51-52) Get this: "These words spoken by the high priest sealed Jesus' fate. These words were his death warrant. Caiaphas, the high priest, wanted Jesus dead and out of the way so he spoke these words. God wanted Jesus dead and risen and reigning forever, so he spoke these words." (- John Piper) Isn't that amazing?! God parodied this high priests words into truth! God himself issued the death warrant for Jesus knowing that Jesus would prevail! Jesus would be victorious! The only reason the high priest spoke these words (remember, "he prophesied") is because GOD BROUGHT THESE WORDS TO MIND. God is the author of HIS story; this story makes that evident. *Mind.Boggling.*

8. Abraham's faith in God when he was asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-19) Abraham had an unwavering faith in God and His Word. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, even after God had promised that a mighty nation would come of his son, Abraham followed through. His statement to his son when he asked, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham's response, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." (vs. 7-8) What faith! Just as he was lifting the knife God called out to him saying, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." Abraham knew the Lord would provide because Abraham knew God would keep His Word. Do I have faith like that?

9. When Joseph makes himself known to his brothers that sold him into slavery. (Genesis 45:1-28) This part of the story is awesome because of Joseph's response to the brothers who wronged him: "... do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life." He again points to God's Sovereignty in the midst of heartache in verse 7, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here but God." God is in control of this whole story. Which leads into the future where God displays his mighty Name through Pharaoh and the plagues (see #4)!

10. The Gospel. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) There is no better story than that of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is through His work that we are righteous. And because He is our High Priest, our Mediator, our Savior we have reason to praise His Name - now and for all eternity.


My goodness. Writing a brief summary of all my favorite stories makes me want to jump up and sing praises to an amazing, almighty, sovereign GOD! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Freeman Beauty #BAREFOOTbliss [Influenster Review] #Contest

Influenster provided these Freeman BAREFOOT products when the three Wal-Mart's I searched came up short. At first I was bummed thinking this VoxBox perk was a no-can-do. Due to my imperfect skin and my love of flip-flops, I am constantly searching for an exfoliant and moisturizer that fits my needs, as a result I was looking forward to reviewing this product. So thank you Influenster for following through and sending these to me!
What I like about this product:
  • It does indeed provide baby smooth skin immediately after usage.
  • It's gentle, yet effective.
  • It smells divine (seriously, the smell is what first caught my eye... ahem... nose).
  • The fact that the moisturizer has coconut oil as its second ingredient means that I'm sold. Coconut oil has countless benefits.
  • Most importantly this product provided a #BAREFOOTblissful moment with my almost 2 year old daughter who's favorite activity is copycat mommy!
"Help Mommy?"
#BAREFOOTbliss
Whatever provides an opportunity for fun with this cutie is bliss in my book - barefoot or not.
The pic is blurry cause this little barefoot princess was in a hurry to let her little bare feet take her on whatever adventure is next. 
What I dislike about this product:
  • I could not, for the life of me, find it. I received a coupon for a free product through Wal-Mart. My husband and I searched two different locations and I asked a friend to check a third. As a team we failed. It may be searcher error, but seriously, it should not be that difficult. Although I do like this product, how am I to use it or purchase it in the future if I can not find it? 
If you find this product, try it. I think you'll be glad you did. Your summer-tanned, BAREFOOT-tough skin will thank you.

Be sure to check out the Freeman Beauty website - you'll find it there under skin-care and the barefoot link on the left hand column. Oh, and did I mention that they offer free shipping for $25 purchases and free samples with every purchase? (Another reason I'm sold!) After checking out their website I remembered slumber parties filled with creepy colored masks and crazy pictures... thank you Freeman for fun had by all, memories made, and fresh skin - past and present!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fire Engine Recipe [Traditional Bahamian Corned Beef & Grits]

Every year my husband and I make an effort to take one trip for a family vacation. Back in February we saved up enough $$$$ to travel to my sisters home in the BAHAMAS! It was a wonderful few days (read about it here). Ever since our Bahamian experience I use avocados, lime, fresh cilantro, and butter like it's my job. Seriously, Bahamians know how to cook.

When I heard what we'd be having for breakfast one morning (corn beef & grits) I cringed. I never thought of myself as a grits fan and I sure as heck wasn't confident in corn beef. BUT I absolutely fell in LOVE with this recipe, trust me, you will as well.

Bahamian Fire Engine Recipe


Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 green or red pepper
Juice from 2 limes
2 tbsp butter
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can corned beef
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 tbsp thyme

Instructions:
Melt 1 tbsp of butter in pan
Sauté onion, cilantro and green pepper
Add corn beef, lime juice, tomatoes and sauce, top with thyme
Let simmer till hot



Serve with buttery, cheesy grits (cooked according to package directions), avocado, and Johnny Cake.
Enjoy!

This is the last of my Bahamian recipe's, I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten [What I Believe about the Bible]

I am beyond thankful for today's topic. It renewed my faith in the fact that Scripture is the only source of truth in this world (see #2). If there's ever something I want my children to write down it is this: their belief on God's Word and who God is according to what He's written in it. His Name and His Word will be exalted in our home. Writing on this topic renewed that passion in me. I hope that passion has been evident in nearly everything I publish; because my mission is to know Him and make Him known and I believe that is accomplished through Scripture.
Which leads me to #1:

1. I believe that Scripture was given to us so that we may know Jesus Christ (John 5:39). The more time I spend reading and studying God's Word the more I learn about Him. The more I learn about Him the closer I am to Him. The closer I draw to Him the more I grow and change in miraculous ways. So, the Bible is the most important thing I own and I never leave the house without it. 

I challenge you to think about what you believe about the Bible because what you believe about the Bible will affect how you read it. How you read it determines what you believe about Jesus Christ and what you believe about Jesus Christ is the most important thing you'll ever believe. 

2. I believe Scripture is absolute truth. In fact, I believe that it is the only true source of truth in this world. "The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." (Psalm 119:160)

3. God exalts His Word above all else. There are actually two things He exalts above all things: His Name and His Word, "... you have exalted about all things your name and your word." (Psalm 138:2).

4. God's Word reveals God's character. God's Word is perfect and holy, just like Him, because His Word reveals who HE is. (See John 5:39, or simply keep reading.) 

5. The Bible is GOD centered. Not man centered. If the first question asked while reading it is: How does this apply to me? you are missing the entire purpose of this book, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me," (Jesus Christ's words in John 5:39). Scripture reveals Jesus Christ, who is the only source of life. My purpose in studying HIS WORD is so that I know THE WORD (aka, Jesus Christ, read John 1:1-18). If you don't read it from a GOD CENTERED perspective, you're reading it with the wrong intentions. And be wary of handling it with the wrong intentions, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene." (2 Timothy 2:15-17) 

6. I believe God had a purpose in each book from Genesis to Revelation. When I read I try to find the author's reason for writing it to whom he wrote it, what I learn grows astronomically. That means I must understand the author, the audience, the history, the original meaning of each word, the sentence structure, and how it all relates to the purpose. By doing so, I'm learning why the Holy Spirit revealed His Word to His prophets, His disciples, His apostles... so that we may know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is who He says He is! I believe that understanding the purpose in each book helps me to rightly handle it (2 Timothy 2:15-17) and know the truth about who God is according to Scripture.

7. I believe the Holy Spirit opens my eyes to the meaning and brings it to mind when I need it. I believe what God's Word states about the Holy Spirit, and I believe He is here to help me. I also believe that I cannot understand God's Word without Him. HE ALONE opens my eyes to HIS WORD, it is nothing that I do on my own. No matter how much studying I accomplish, if I do not rely on this one fact, I will not understand it fully. And if I never make an effort to study, memorize, and meditate on God's Word correctly, how can the Holy Spirit use it to change me and give me growth? I believe that in order for the Holy Spirit to work effectively in the lives of those who believe in Him, we must spend time in His Word - daily

8. Scripture is the very breath of God.  With His Word He created the heavens and the earth, with His Word all of creation came to be. If he is capable of producing all of that with His Word, I have no doubt in my mind -at all- that He created Scripture to reveal Himself and can accomplish His purpose in His believers. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16)

9. "Everything will unfold, not as 66 separate documents, or even 2 separate Testaments - but 1 book, by 1 divine Author, who wrote it all with 1 overarching theme: the redemption of sinners for the glory of God." - John MacArthur (Could not have said it better myself.)

10. I believe God revealed what He revealed for one divine purpose: HIS GLORY. Why do we live? For His glory. Why did God harden Pharaoh's heart? For His glory. (Exodus 6:7, 7:5, 8:10, 8:22, 9:14, 9:16 "... for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.", 9:29, 10:1-2, 11:9 and finally 14:4, "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.", bolded and underline mineWhy did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? For His glory. (John 11:4, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.") There are many, many examples to prove that God exalts His Name and His Word above all else; and I will continue to study what He has given me to know Him better and will continue to make Him known. His glory is revealed throughout Scripture and I will do my best to learn all that He has revealed. How do I know there's more to be revealed? The book of John ends with this miraculous, thought provoking statement, "Now there are also many other rings that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25) Why wasn't everything about God written down? Well, I don't really know, but perhaps our finite brains couldn't handle such information. Still, I do believe all will be revealed in eternity; and I.can't.wait.

As an added bonus: I believe history is HIS STORY unfolded. After all, He created the world, He made the rules, and since He created the beginning; He also created the end. Just because the Bible is written, does not mean HIS STORY is over. Day after day, Scripture is being fulfilled right before our eyes. To continually see God's hand at work - changing lives, revealing Scripture, fulfilling Scripture - well, that gives me incredible peace that He is sovereign and faithful to His Word.
Believing in God's Word and trusting in it entirely has changed my life. Charles Spurgen understood the Bible's effect on people when he said, "A Bible falling apart usually belongs to a person who isn't," and I can honestly tell you that since diving into God's Word a few years ago, my faith is stronger, I am more grounded, more hopeful, more thankful... all because God has revealed Himself to me in more ways than I can count. And because of what Scripture has revealed about Jesus Christ, I am at rest.

Trust me, Alistair Begg had it right in stating that...

Melany and I share a love for scripture and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God's Word plays a vital role in this 16 year old's life as well. Don't forget to read what she believes about the Bible.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Traditional Bahamian Meal [Boiled Fish]

My sister made this for me when she visited after Brielle was born. After my second surgery I lost my appetite but I couldn't get enough of this particular dish. Don't let the boring name fool you. It's so yummy!

When we visited the Bahamas in February David made it for us as a breakfast meal, which I thought was a tad weird at first, but it was delightful - especially with a perfect Bloody Mary, avocado, and Johnny Cake.
Bahamian Boiled Fish

Ingredients: 
3-4 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp thyme (more if needed, it should cover top of pot)
1/2 onion
5 potatoes
3-5 Limes
4 fillets of white fish
Grits

Directions:
  1. Peel and cut potatoes. 
  2. Fill a large pot with water. 
  3. Add butter, lime juice, thyme and salt to taste.
  4. When potatoes begin to soften add onion.
  5. When potatoes are finished cooking add fish.
  6. Boil for another 10-15 minutes until fish is cooked.
  7. Cook grits according to directions (don't forget to add butter!)
Enjoy by pouring the boiled fish over a serving of grits and top it off with avocado!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"The Help" by Kathryn Stocket [Book Review]

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a love/hate relationship with reading any book or story on African-American history. I become emotionally involved, whether or not the characters are real, and I'm ready to fight - shoulder to shoulder. I feel books like this should be part of every woman's "must read" list; by doing so we may prevent history from repeating itself. Although this book is fiction it does give insight into the lives of women who endured nonsensical treatment by other women. I say nonsensical because Hilly is silly in the most ridiculous, irrational, crazy way possible. If Hilly represents even a fraction of the women who hired help and treated them as such, I'm ashamed.

I couldn't put this book down and I couldn't stop thinking about it even days after I read the last word. I couldn't stop thinking about the unreasonable lies on how the color of one's skin makes you so much different, or how the help was required to raise children and teach them manners - but were thought to lack such things themselves, or the frustration of segregation as a whole. Mostly, my heart ached for the babies unloved by their mama's who were raised and loved by the help, and then grew up to be just like their mama's. I felt that Kathryn took a sensitive subject and wrote, with honest experience, what it must've been like for these women working for privileged, spoiled white families with the daily fear of how they could ruin their life. To hear Kathryn talk about the sneaky, manipulative, underhanded way the white women ruined the lives of the help that "wronged" them was unbelievable.

Still, it was encouraging to read stories (like the author's tid bit titled, "Too Little, Too Late") where relations between the hired help and the employer were friendly and developed into lasting friendship. "What is the point of this book? For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought." (p.418) I walked away with an understanding that not all stories of "The Help" are heartbreaking, but those that are stick out like a sore thumb. Kathryn wrote an incredible story that will leave you with an inability to stop shaking, crying, laughing, and seething with frustration and anger.

Oh and as a side note, like the editor Missus Stein, I too adore Minny (aka Gertrude) because she is in fact "... every Southern white woman's nightmare. I adore her." (p.386)

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Favorite Summer Outfits]

Melany and I are back in the swing of things, but summer is still underfoot! Bean and I are spending every last second we can in the great outdoors enjoying the warm weather. As a result, the timing of my top ten's over the next few weeks might be a tad sporadic. Today was no exception. We spent the afternoon at the pool soaking up some rays. It was wonderful. I wore one of my favorite summer outfits: one of my swimsuits with my new mint-green, lace, ombre coverup shorts I found at Forever21 for a whole $5 (which I'll count as #1). 

Which leads me right into our topic of the day: our favorite summer outfits.

2. In Colorado I learned to layer. It can be blazing hot, then ten minutes later rainy and cold. Layering became a habit I just can't break. You can't go wrong with red sandles, lace skirt, denim....


3. This lace button up is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE pieces in my closet. I purchased it for $5 at ThredUp and I can't get enough of it. It goes well with this floral tank top and pink shorts, huh?


4. A nice T or tank top with a flowy skirt and sandals? Heck yes! 


5. I love any outfit that goes with these tops...


6. This is one of my favorite looks and I have just the pieces to pull this outfit off...
7. I have a top almost exactly like this, and I've worn it with jeans, slacks or with my lace skirt pictured in #2... definitely a fav...
8. This is soooo me.
9. Hats are a necessity during the summer. Cowboy hats, baseball caps, floppy sun hats... they're perfect for any summer outfit and I wear them a lot.

10. Flipflops. I can't wait to drag them out of storage every year and I will never have enough. ;)

Don't forget to check out Melany's top ten summer favs from her closet! Be sure to stay tuned for next week!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant Book Review

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)Allegiant by Veronica Roth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Veronica Roth, if you ever read this review (ha) take what I say next as a compliment, if I ever meet you I'd pull a Dauntless and punch you in the face.

Seriously.

Reason being? I LOVED these books and highly recommend them to any and all readers. However, take the advice of two of my former students, "Prepare for severe emotional trauma." (Hence the reason for wanting to "punch her in the face" for getting me emotionally involved in a fictional story... ugh...) If you're anything like me, you fall in love with the characters authors introduce you to, or you hate them. In my case I have a serious dislike for Tris and I LOVE the character Tobias. I think the traits I most admire in people and in characters (based on my original top ten character list) is loyalty, devotion, sensibility, and selflessness and all those traits describe Tobias.

PLUS, Veronica Roth is a Christian. In each book her first acknowledgement goes to God and His promises. Also, she inserts Biblical truth throughout this story: depravity, life after death, devotion, God's sovereignty and our inferiority.

Depravity? 
Depravity is the abandonment of all things good. Because of our sin, things will not get better. It's a fact of life. There is no good in people except from God. (That's Romans 1-3.) It's evident Roth understands this Biblical truth in her writing,
"One of the lines I remember from the Dauntless manifesto is, 'We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.'"Will sighs.He doesn't need to say anything else. I know what he means. Maybe Dauntless was formed with good intentions, with the right ideals and the right goals. But it has strayed far from them. And the same is true of Erudite, I realize. A long time ago, Erudite pursued knowledge and ingenuity for the sake of doing good. Now they pursue knowledge and ingenuity with greedy hearts. I wonder of the other factions suffer from the same problem. I have not thought about it before.Despite the depravity I see in Dauntless, though, I could not leave it. It isn't only because the thought of living faction less, in complete isolation, sounds like a fate worse than death. It is because, in the brief moments that I have loved it here, I saw a faction worth saving. Maybe we can become brave and honorable again." (p. 140-141, Divergent)
When Tris receives peace serum, which makes her loopy, Tobias states to the Amity leader that she must give all Amity members the serum in order to keep peace because...
"I'm not an idiot. Every member of your community has trouble keeping the peace, because their all human...." (p.63, Insurgent)
We are such dirty, rotten sinners that we want nothing to do with God. (Again, that's Romans ch.3.) In fact, Paul quotes Scripture that states, "No one seeks for God. No one understands." Scripture states that our "throats are open graves" and we seek destruction. There is nothing good in us because we are sinners. As a result we deserve death. BUT while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, and our faith in Him is our ONE AND ONLY ticket to heaven. (Romans 5:8) Isn't that an amazing gift?

Life After Death? 
Tris' (Beatrice) thoughts on life after death:
"I don't believe that what comes after depends on anything I do at all." (p. 379, Insurgent
Nope, it doesn't. Salvation is a free gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. By believing in the gospel (that Jesus lived, died, rose again, and is seated at the right hand of God all according to Scripture) is our gift of salvation. That's it. By confessing and believing that Jesus is Lord, that He is who He said He was, we are saved from an eternity in hell. It doesn't have anything to do with us, so that no one can boast. We boast in Jesus and His work. Not ours.

A conversation had an an Amity religious ceremony:
"May the peace of God be with you," she says, her voice low, "even in the midst of trouble.""Why would it?" I say softly, so one one else can hear. "After all I've done...""It isn't about you," she says. "It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift." (p.440, Insurgent
She's absolutely right in that the hope we have in God as a result of the gift of Jesus Christ (aka the peace of God) has absolutely nothing to do with what we can or cannot do. It is purely the work of God. Salvation is a gift!

Devotion? 
"I used to think that when people fell in love, they just landed where they landed, and they had no choice in the matter afterward. And maybe that's true of beginnings, but it's not true of this, now.I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me." (p. 372, Allegiant)
How beautiful is that? Love is a choice we make over and over and over again. It isn't an emotional experience. It is a choice. Perfect.

Our Inferiority? God's Sovereignty? 
"How big is it compared to the rest of the world?" Peter says from across the plane. He sounds like he's choking on each word. "Our city, I mean. In terms of land area. What percentage?" "Chicago takes up about two hundred twenty-seven square miles," says Zoe. "The land area of the planet is a little less than two hundred million square miles. The percentage is...so small as to be negligible." She delivers the facts calmly, as if they mean nothing to her. But they hit me square in the stomach, and I feel squeezed, like something is crushing me into myself. So much space. I wonder what it's like in the places beyond ours; I wonder how people live there.I look out the window again, taking slow, deep breaths into a body too tense to move. And as I stare out at the land, I think that this, if nothing else, is compelling evidence for my parents' God, that our world is so massive that it is completely out of our control, that we cannot possibly be as large as we feel. So small as to be negligible. It's strange but there's something in that thought that makes me feel almost... free." (p. 186-187, Allegiant
We are small. Teeny. Tiny. In comparison to a God who holds the universe in His hand! He is in fact, in control of it all, and she's right, it's worry-free!

Despite Veronica's obvious attempt to transplant Biblical truth into her story, I would not consider this a "Christian" series. I highly recommend it because it is very well written! She has a knack for planting seeds while telling an excellent story. Prepare yourself, however, for a not-so-happy ending BUT also concluding with an ounce of unexpected hope.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Bucket List]

We are back!

After the craziness of summer starts to wind down, Melany and I have decided to get back on track with our top ten's. What a better way to kick off the top ten's than a bucket list... list?!

I have an extensive bucket list, one that is saved on Pinterest and includes beautiful pictures of all those places I want to visit or the things I want to do. Be sure to check it out - perhaps you'll add something to your own list?

Despite the long list of things I'd like to do or see before I kick the bucket, I do have a top ten...

1. I desperately want to visit Italy. Ever since I was a child and saw a National Geographic magazine highlighting Mt. Vesuvius and the remains of lives affected by the mountain's eruption, I've wanted to visit!

2. I want to wear a big hat and get all dressed up for a Kentucky Derby! That sounds like so much fun. Thankfully, my husband is totally on board with this idea (honestly, I think it has a lot to do with the mint juleps).

3. Someday I want to work side by side with my husband on a small ranch of our own. My husband dreams of Alaska, I honestly don't care as long as we homestead together. Land filled with horses, chickens, dogs, cats, cows... a lot of work... but well worth it.

4. Scottland and Ireland are calling my name. They're beautiful, packed with history, and I simply want to hear the natives talk!

5. There is a bridge in Paris where you hang a lock and throw the key in the river. I would like to engrave the lock with BecKyle and throw away the key with my husband. It signifies forever and that's what we work for - day in and day out.
I guess there's also a tradition like this in Germany... so let's do both!

6. Someday I want a tattoo. I have yet to decide what to get or where to get it... like I said... someday. But if I'm going to get something that permanent, I want it to have meaning. So I'll take my time.

7. I'm in love with the idea of hiking, taking pictures, making camp, sleeping under the stars and waking up to do it all over again. I want to do this with my husband for a week at least; and then come home to take a really long, lovely shower (probably with him as well, hehe).

8. I would love to say that I've visited all 50 states.

9. My "BOOK bucket list" is a mile long. My goodreads "to read" list only displays 63 of them, but you should see my office downstairs... oy.... Books will always be part of my bucket list, but I doubt I'll live long enough to read all of them.

10. Someday I hope to publish a book. My husband tries to convince me every day to pursue this endeavor. Writing isn't the issue, it's what to do once the writing is done. (Sigh.)

Don't forget to check out Melany's Bucket List as well!

Stay tuned for next Tuesday, we'll be writing about our top ten summer outfits.