Friday, November 21, 2014

"The Atonement Child" by Francine Rivers [Book Review]

The Atonement ChildThe Atonement Child by Francine Rivers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My favorite part of this book began in the later chapters when the main character finally decides whether or not to abort her child, conceived by rape. The intensity of such a decision was well written. Francine Rivers also does an excellent job of calling out individuals claiming to be "Christian" and challenging all Christians in their belief of life, death, and choices. Because I believe GOD creates life from conception, I felt that abortion, no matter the circumstances, would leave a woman with long lasting effects, but I didn't know how to put it into words. Francine does that. The reason why astounded me. On her website,, she was asked to explain how she got the idea for each of her books and she described this book with her own personal testimony, "Is there complete forgiveness and restoration for a woman who has aborted her child? Does abortion have any effect on the woman and the man involved in the crisis pregnancy? Does it impact people around them? (This was my most painful and personal book because I needed to face and deal with my own abortion experience. The character of Hannah is based on my story; Evie is based on my mother’s.)" And yes, she answers each of those questions. When asked which book was the hardest to write, she explained it was this one. Her reason is obvious, "The Atonement Child was the most personal and difficult to write because I had to face my own abortion experience. Added to the considerable research I did, and women who shared their experiences with me, I went through an intensive post-traumatic stress Bible study for post-abortive women at our local pregnancy counseling center. Reliving all aspects of my abortion decision and experience was excruciating – but healing. After twenty-six years of being imprisoned by guilt and shame, I was free through the power and love of God. Though the book was the most heart-wrenching to write, it also proved to be the most life changing. I’ve received countless letters from other post-abortive women and have learned my experience is not unique. Our nation is filled with wounded men and women. The character of Hannah is based on my story, Doug is based on Rick’s, and Evie is based on my mother’s." I feel Francine's testimony is reason enough to read this book and take her seriously.  To share her own personal testimony of how abortion affected her own life took some guts. She opened all kinds of doors for criticism and judgement. Testimonies have the ability to change lives and that was obviously her goal. It was also quite obvious, by reading this book, that her experience was excruciatingly difficult. It was an all around, incredibly infuriating, devastatingly sad, read.

View all my reviews

P.S. As a result of this book, I decided to write a blog post all about my favorite quotes from each of the books where I've written a review. There's a lot of quality quotes that I can't wait to share! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Funniest Books]

I wonder, as I review this list, about my taste in comedy. Seriously, I love to giggle over Laffy Taffy jokes! As a result of that truth I wouldn't put too much emphasis on "funniest" books; in fact, I might actually call the list wacky. Still, I'd check these books out for their outlandish silliness, 'cause everyone needs some silly in their lives.
For more laughs, giggles, or eye rolling be sure to check out Melany's list! 

1. Ghastlies, Goops, and Pincushions by X.J. Kennedy is a book full of wacky nonsense verse. I giggled through each poem - all in one setting.

2. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series is hilarity at its finest. The book is a little rough around the edges at times, but I love the strange characters Evanovich creates stories around; plus the bizarre situations Stephanie Plum gets herself involved in are mysteriously comical. Stephanie Plum is an awful bounty hunter who's constantly down on her luck and with Grandma Mazur or Lulu to babysit half the time, things are always interesting. Not to mention the fact that she has two men she's in love with and I often wonder if Evanovich isn't just going to leave us hanging on which one she picks. I'm rooting for Ranger, but we may never know, which is killing me! 

3. The children's book titled Rooster Can't Cock-a-Doodle-Doo by Karen Rostoker-Gruber is hilarious only because of the illustrations by Paul Ratz de Tagyos. It's the pictures that make this book come alive! Each time I read it I giggled as the animals "help" Farmer Ted with his chores. Seriously, read this book for the illustrations.

4. If my two year old daughter would add anything to this list it'd be The Monkey Goes Bananas by C.P. Bloom. I found it hilarious because of my daughters adorable belly laughs. She especially likes the page where the illustrator ingeniously depicts the monkey being flung across the watery chasm between the islands separating himself (once again) from the bananas. I add a few monkey "oooo's" and "aaaaa's" and "eeee's" to make it that much more "comical." I still can't get over how much she LOVES this book. It's a book of few words, but it's a great story.

5. If my former students could add anything to this list it'd be The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It's funny, yet it isn't. It's full of heartache, while also being side-splitting. The main character, Junior, loves to cartoon and as an Indian growing up on the Spokane reservation he has quite the subject list: like drunkenness running rampant, unemployment, hunger, education woes, tragedies galore, not to mention his own medical problems. This book is emotionally loaded - with tears and hysterical laughs throughout. The reason it makes this list is because Junior makes lemonade, adding a bit of wit and humor, with the truck load of lemons life hands him.

Side Note: I taught this book to my high school reading class, which consisted fully of struggling readers (it was a 100% special needs class). Unfortunately, each of my students could relate to Junior's medical issues and the exclusion experienced because of it. Fortunately, we all fell in love with Junior's ability to take life head on (well sorta, because Junior's list of medical issues begin at being born with too much cerebral fluid on the brain and all kinds of issues as a result of that one issue, but that's beside the point). Junior is relatable and I loved his take on life, which is exactly what many of these kids desperately needed. It was always, always, always a riveting success. Warning: masturbation is a short, but embarrassing, topic of discussion at one point and time. If it hadn't been for that one piece I would've read it to my junior highers. 

6. Moo! by David LaRochelle is a picture book with one word: Moo! It's funny only because of the ending. 

7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney does make the list. Don't judge! If you can't read this book from a junior high teacher or parent perspective, don't read it. Half the stuff I read about in this book (like the cheese touch) actually happens. If it wasn't for stupid books like this, I'd have gone hysterical with all the crazy stuff I dealt with day in and day out. Trust me. It's funny. (I might also think it's funnier than it is because one of my high school speachers created a humorous prose speech out of it. Call me biased, but he did really, really well with it.)

8. I thought the children's book Plaidypus Lost by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel was worth a giggle or two. If you have a little one, this book will be relatable, which is why I found it worthy enough to make this list.

9. Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year by Esme Raji Codell is filled with hilarity, sincerity, brilliance, and ingenious. Esme documents her first year of teaching in a Chicago Public School. What she faces and how she deals with it inspired me as a teacher on so many levels. There are hilarious moments, but there are also tear jerking and frustrating ones as well. It's an all around great read.

10. Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan is most definitely worthy of this list. You see, I have a naughty Marley (not nearly as naughty as this Marley) but after reading this I was convinced it had something to do with the name. And no, I did not name my Marley after this book. If you have a dog, you'll be able to relate and empathize with the hilarious situations Marley gets John and his family involved in; but I warn you, you'll cry just as hard as you laugh.

This is my Marley, who we refer to as "Naughty Marley" or " Marley Man"...
... he's also been the topic of conversation many times here...

All in all, I think you're guaranteed a giggle here and there by checking out the books on this list. Still, if you don't appreciate jokes (like the one I found on the Laffy Taffy I ate last night, What Makes Music on your Head? A Head Band) then you won't appreciate a few of the books on this list. ;) 

Before you sign off, don't forget Melany's list!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Favorite Book Quotes]

Today Melany and I are sharing some of our favorite book quotes. My list was a difficult one to narrow down. Since Melany is a lot like me I know this list could be exhaustive, but I honestly can't speak for Melany so be sure to check out her blog today!

1. "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library." - Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice 

How perfectly fitting that quote is to my own life and I have an excellent, forever growing library.

2. "More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie." (Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place, p. 197)

It was that quote that made me want to be like Betsie. I admire the way that woman handled adversity. This story is one worth reading, not just because Corrie related the story of what they faced in a Nazi Concentration Camp, but because of how they endured these horrors. Absolutely amazing.

Homer Hickam, October Sky, p.232 
Homer Hickman's science teacher, Miss Riley, gave him a book about rockets. It was this book that helped Homer and his friends reach an unprecedented level of understanding in rocketry, physics, mathematics, &etc. Every teacher yearns for that type of courage from every student in his/her classroom.


I could have 1,000's of quotes from The Valley of Vision! So I simply opened the book and picked the first one I had highlighted. This is a must have prayer book for every Christian. 

5. "It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts." - C.S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters

Although fiction, it was this book that helped me understand the war against sin. It also gave me a different perspective on demons and Satan. I didn't find it scary. A tad creepy? Um, yes. But C.S. Lewis offers insight over and over again into the truth behind our sinful nature. This quote was one way he did that.

6. Another book where I could have 1,000's of quotes from is Milton Vincent's A Gospel Primer. This quote (which was one of thousands)

7. "I don't know why, but the Bible always seems to come to me in my time of need, even with the exact words." - Rochunga Pudaite in The Dime that Lasted Forever

Rochunga's story of unwavering faith was inspiring. Everyone should read his story and come to the same place of trust in God's ability to provide in all circumstances, no matter what.

8. "Grown-ups are always thinking of uninteresting explanations," said Digory" in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Haha, this one just cracked me up, but also made me realize that I need to have more fun.

9. "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." (Veronica Roth, Allegiant, p.372)

This is such an amazing description of love. (From a fictional, high school love story to boot!) Love is a choice. And you must make it multiple times in the course of a day, week, month, year, lifetime. 

10. "Because God is good, we have an infinite number of reasons to praise him in our homes." (Gloria Furman, Glimpses of Grace, p. 18)

Truth. We deserve nothing from Him. The fact that I have a cup overflowing is enough to praise Him. Heck, the fact that I have a cup at all is amazing! 

And one more just for the sake of sharing a perfect reading quote...
... besides, every favorite book quote list needs some Dr. Seuss! 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

BecKyle, Bean and BABY!

The decision to add to our family came with trepidation. The butterflies haven't entirely disappeared as we make this announcement, but I can tell you they are in part excitement and unease. We desperately wanted to add to our family, but we also debated on whether or not it was worth the risk.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting Kyle to want another child for many, many years (that is until this vivid memory of carrying me to the ambulance was muddied a tad). The "baby" conversation gave him memories of a day he'll never forget. Memories he describes in such detail that it gives me goosebumps. To him, memories of carrying his gray-skinned, non-breathing wife to the ambulance - covered in her blood - was enough to confidently say, "no more babies." That was why I never pushed the issue.

So it was little things that put the idea in his brain -- like a vintage wooden high chair given to us by some dear friends. Or the prodding of our pastor who discipled Kyle. And it was most definitely the result of this one prayer we shared that makes me cry even as I recount it to you,

(Taken directly from my Thank You Journal.)

"Thank you for our incredible tear filled prayer in asking to fully trust in You, Lord. You know the day we breath our first and our last. To be able to rest in Your Sovereign Hand is so freeing of worry over what could be or what could happen. Kyle's prayer broke my heart, "Lord, I don't want to live this life without my wife, but if that's your plan for me - give me strength." BUT it also warmed my heart. It's amazing what October 1, 2012 did for us. It scared Kyle to death, but it also forced us to fully and wholeheartedly trust You - no matter what. So in this decision to try for a baby help us to trust You and Your Sovereignty - no matter what. AND thank You Lord for this beautiful moment with my husband that I'll never forget: this prayer and how it drew us closer to YOU!"

The likelihood of that day repeating itself is highly unlikely, but that day planted real fears. We are desperately trying to give our fears to God so that we can glorify Him in this journey no matter the outcome. I am EXTREMELY excited to share this journey with you! I'm also asking for your prayers, that God calms Kyle's heart (and my own) so that we can joyfully welcome this little one into our lives. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Ain't That the Truth!]

Before I go into this week's top ten, I have two things to share with you. One is from October 21st where Melany and I compiled a top ten Creative Costumes list. There I shared with you that I couldn't decide between a couple ideas and since I forgot to do this last week I thought I'd share what was decided today.
Our little Monkey got to hang out with Mayhem and Flo at our youth group's Halloween party! I had so so so so so much fun with Mayhem's suit. I ran over it, played tug of war with Quigley, took a razor to it, stomped around on it in the the dirt, set it on fire... I'm glad we decided to go that route just so I could have fun destroying something. 
Bean picked a monkey suit. She called this outfit her "monkey dress" and spent her time in it showing off her monkey tail. What is left of the tutu has now been retired to her dress up suit case and she has worn her ears every day since. 
Last week we shared a few truths about ourselves and one lie. My lie you ask? #4. I really don't like baking or cooking and I've never been very good at it or interested in it. My poor husband. He says I'm getting better the more I actually do it. In this case I often wonder if practice will ever bring perfection. Sigh.

Now for today's top ten topic: Ain't that the truth!
Truth? You may ask... what's the truth? Well there's only one thing in history that I believe is absolute truth and that's the Bible.
Here's a few ways I'll back up my claim: My dad made this amazing statement, "Either Jesus was the biggest liar on the face of the planet or what He says about Himself is absolute truth." I've chosen to believe the later and here's a few reasons why: not one historian can disprove the FACT that Jesus lived, that he died on a cross, or was buried in a tomb. What Christians take on faith (because of what is written by witnesses in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is that He rose again. Also, events in the Bible have been proven through archaeological finds and scientific evidence. In fact, 
"The Bible has proven to be more historically and archaeologically accurate than any other ancient book. It has been subjected to the minutest scientific textual analysis possible to humanity and has been proven to be authentic in every way." (source, and here's another incredible story) 
And lastly, the Bible does not contradict itself. What is said in Genesis is the same throughout. I'm on my second read through and am finding it to be more amazing this time through than it was the first. (I'm hoping that happens each time.) If I live 50 more years I hope to read it 50 more times and each time I'm sure the Holy Spirit will bring something else to light, or that I'll be old and senile and simply forget and it'll be God's way of introducing a new book to me! I'm really joking because I know that it'll be the one thing in my life that will remain true, unchanging, and reliable.

2. You want the truth ladies? Well, here it is...
And I don't mean read a verse here or a verse there, read ALL OF IT from Genesis to Revelation with the mindset that it's GOD'S WORD revealed to us to reveal Himself, and it was written for HIS GLORY. This whole, "but how does it apply to me?" crap is annoying and fills us with a "man centered" theology instead of a God glorifying one. Read it to know HIM and I promise, you'll change as a result.  

3. The biggest lie on the face of the planet is to love yourself most. By doing that you need to understand that you've made yourself #1. If you call yourself a Christian, the truth is, GOD SHOULD BE #1. Love Him first and foremost, others second, and yourself last. That's how Christ lived and taught us to live. I'll give you one example of hundreds and it's the greatest commandment given by Jesus, 
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13) 
Do you think if Christ loved Himself most that he'd have died on the cross for dirty, rotten, selfish sinners like us? Nope. And He's telling us to love others like He loved us and quite frankly, there is no love like that. The truth is, when you fulfill the greatest commandment, you glorify God, and if you do that, there is no room for self exaltation. 

4. I've heard it said a hundred times that, "I don't read the Bible because it makes me feel bad." Well, ain't that the truth! Congratulations you've figured out that you're a sinner! Guess that means you need Jesus Christ as much as everyone else. The truth is that the Bible shows you your sin so that you fall on your knees in repentance to a holy, perfect, and blameless Savior and worship Him for the work HE accomplished on the cross. Now because of your faith in Jesus Christ, you can worship Him in a complete and utter state of thankfulness for this amazing selfless gift.

5. We don't read the Bible in it's entirety for many selfish reasons, but I believe that #4 is one of many reasons. I also believe that as a society we've put ourselves in a dangerous position.
And that's the truth.
6. As Christians, once we accept the facts outlined in 1-5 we'll have to let go of a few things and I don't know about you, but this is the absolute truth in my life...
... because it requires sacrifice, difficulty, temptation, and temporary moments of glee.
 7. I saw this quote once, "If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." And the truth is that the world says A LOT of foolish things. Don't follow the world's teaching because the voice of the masses does not dictate the truth, there is only ONE source of truth (see #1). "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2) How do you transform your mind? How do you discern the will of God? How do you determine what is good and acceptable and perfect? Through Scripture. God's will of command is revealed with final, decisive authority only in the Bible. Meditate on it. Apply it correctly and the truth is, you will get results. And the result is wisdom.

8. I've found this to be true on more than one occasion. 

9. The truth is evident in all aspects of life.

10. And just for "fun" there's many of us who can relate to this truth, right?

While you're at it, stop by Melany's blog for more truths. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Spilling the Beans [October 2014 Edition]

When I published Briella Bean's post on her birthday celebration I realized it had been way tooooooo long since writing about her. It was past time to change that. I wanted a unique title so I called my two creative friends Daniel and Tori who came up with 4 fantastic ideas:
  • Beanisms
  • The Bean-a-factor
  • Spilling the Beans
  • Bean Bean the Farcical Fruit
We honestly couldn't decide between them so I put it up to a vote on my Facebook page and the winner was obviously Spilling the Beans. Which is perfect timing because Bean quite literally needs to spill the beans: She's going to be a big sister come April! 
Whenever we talk about the fact that there's a baby in mommy's tummy she lifts her shirt and says, "Baby tummy!" Like she's the baby and that's her tummy. We're preparing ourselves for quite the adjustment (haha, for all of us, not just Briella Bean). Life has revolved around her and her adorable little antics, so it might be kinda rough to share the lime light, but for now here's a few stories worth sharing...

Bean loves singing and for a long time Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star was Winkle, Winkle, Wittle Star. It was a sad day she began saying it correctly. She also likes singing the song, "Daddy finger, daddy finger where are you? Here I am, Here I am, How do you do?" and adds her own special fingers like Marley finger, Quigley finger, Poppy finger, Brielle finger, &etc. But the best one by far was when she was looking at her reflection in the oven and started singing about her clothing, "Mickey-Mouse-shirt finger, Mickey-Mouse-shirt finger, where are you?"

As Brielle and I were Facetiming with some friends, Brielle wanted to show off my bra's to my friend's husband Daniel. "Daniel is bra!" Which is better than calling it a diaper I guess... so we have made some progress...

The first doctor's appointment for any pregnancy is a pee test to confirm whether or not you're actually prego. I took Bean with me to kill two birds with one stone: she needed her final Hep A shot. She's a shy little booger so instead of giving her to the nurse (like offered) I took her in the bathroom with me (this may sound gross and unacceptable to all you non-mommy's out there, but she always joins me there anyway, mom's have zero privacy). Anyhooooooo, she was thoroughly disgusted that I was peeing in a cup and told me that it was icky multiple times; but the comment that took the cake was this one, "Mommy, is icky juice." I giggled through the entire doctor's visit, that is, right up until she got her shot. After her shot the nurse tried to give her stickers, to which she refused. So the nurse gave them to me. Brielle took them from my hand and gave them back to the nurse telling her, "NO stickers." Apparently she holds a bit of a grudge. It was an entertaining doctor's visit to say the least.

She calls popsicles potsicles and caterpillars packapillars.

She makes up songs at the dinner table, in fact, singing is a minute by minute activity in this household. So are dance parties (and it's to the same song over and over again - you probably know by now that it's Darius Rucker's Wagon Wheel).

After her birthday she'll randomly yell "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" to herself or begin singing the "Happy Birthday" song.

One of her favorite games is ring around the rosy and when she falls down, she has to fall all the way down.

Whenever she gets all dressed up she always has to "show daddy."

She counts to 8 all by herself but she recently started skipping six (which she calls sick) and 7 is "seben."

When she swings (aka fwing) she shrieks "TUMMY!" when it tickles.

Yogurt is "ogre."

Aunt Melissa is "wissa", her little friend Faith is "Faif", and our friend Bryn who has a baby son named Alton is "Momma Alton".

We attended a wedding where Bean stole the bride's limelight and danced the night away. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that she danced to (Perhaps it was because Darius Rucker's Wagon Wheel was the 3rd or 4th song played that night, getting her started early.) By 10 (2 hours past bedtime) I put her in PJ's - getting ready to leave - and she went back on the dance floor to dance some more. I dragged her off the floor kicking and screaming, "NO BYE-BYE! Dance Mommy! Dance! Pwease!" (Pwease = Please)

For Halloween she chose a monkey costume. She LOVED it and it has now been retired to her dress up suitcase. She has worn the ears every day since.
Our little monkey hanging out with Mayhem and Flo at a Halloween party.
She'd run around chasing her tail, desperately trying to show everyone that she had a monkey tail on!

She LOVED trick-or-treating. She went door to door saying "Trick or feet!" We thought it was too cute to correct.

Thanks to her favorite rhyme "Monkey's jumping on the bed" every time she bonks her head she wants me to call the doctor.

She's also terrified of bandaids.

One of her favorite playmates is Quigley. When she says, "QuiQui pway wif me?" that usually means I'm out of the picture. When she plays with Quigley, she does not want me in her room. She tells me good-bye, kicks me out, and shuts the door. I've spied on them a couple times and Quigley allows her to put necklaces on him, read stories, and just watches over her while she digs through her toys. It's pretty cute.

We visited the pumpkin patch and she thoroughly enjoyed jumping on the hay bales with daddy. I'd say this was the highlight of the day...

I LOVE this picture!

She did NOT want to leave...

I have to say that she's one of the cutest little 2 year olds I know. She brings more joy and laughter into our lives than I ever thought possible. She also challenges our patience on a daily basis, but we wouldn't trade her for the world. God has blessed us with a pretty amazing, simple and sweet life.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Would I deny Jesus if faced with death?

Do I want to be a martyr? No. Honestly, the life that I dream of living is one that includes growing old with my husband, watching my children and grandchildren grow up, and dying in my sleep. Essentially, isn't that what every human being dreams? BUT, that's not the end God has in mind for all those who believe in Him. I'm not saying it'll be my end, but with stories like this (warning, it is graphic) all over the news or the countless stories that VOM shares, Christians must face the reality that they may be asked to deny the name of Jesus Christ and endure the consequences regardless. We must then be able to answer the all important question, Will I be able to stand firm in my faith even if I face death because of it? 

Reading stories like that has forced me to put myself in these situations and honestly ask myself, if I was facing a beheading, what would I say? 

I really, really believe that we cannot ignore what's happening around the world. There's three specific reasons why:
  1. Reading these stories comes a testing of one's faith. Do I really believe that Jesus lived, died, was buried and rose again? Do I believe what Scripture teaches about Him? And if I do, would I be willing to die for those beliefs? 
  2. Extremists like ISIS are desperately trying to invade American soil and have threatened our livelihood on numerous occasions. We cannot be so wrapped up in pride and arrogance by stating or thinking that will never happen to us. Scripture has proven over and over and over again that God has a way of humbling the mighty and making the lowly victorious.
  3. As Christians we are called to live in unity with Christ. If we are united in Christ we must stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Only together can we stand firm "... against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) In the book of Ephesians Paul is telling the saints in Ephesus to understand the mystery of Christ which is that, "... the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." (3:6) We are called to walk in a worthy manner (4:1), not to walk as the Gentiles do (4:17), to walk in love (5:2), to walk as children of light (5:8), and to walk in wisdom (5:15) together, so that together, we stand firm as one (4:4) against the schemes of ISIS, Buddhist monks, corrupt governments, Boko Haram, or anyone killing, kidnapping, incarcerating, or persecuting those of Christian faith. Although we are half a world away, American Christians especially have the freedom and the means to support these martyrs through prayer, financial support, or otherwise. Pray. Support. Contribute to their needs. Help them stand firm even if they're facing a beheading.  
By praying for these individuals or by sending an action pack or by sharing their stories here, my faith is constantly renewed and rejuvenated. I find encouragement in their faith and as a result can truly live in a state of thankfulness for the freedom to read my Bible every day, go to church without fear, talk about what I believe, and teach God's Word freely. By doing those things I may be risking much in this life and gaining so much more in eternity. I earnestly hope and pray that if faced with the demand to deny Christ or lose my life, that I'd stand firm in my faith. And I know the only way I can truly be encouraged in that statement is through unity with my fellow believers, being fervent in prayer, and constant time in Scripture: "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4) 

Quite frankly, writing that means I'm basically saying it out loud, and it does scare me. But if I can't say that I'm willing to risk everything for the sake of the gospel, then in reality it really means nothing to me. So would I deny Jesus if faced with death? I earnestly pray that God give me strength and remembrance of the hope found in Scripture through the grace found in Jesus Christ alone if that day ever comes. I cannot do it alone. I need HIM. I need you. I need prayer. I need Scripture. And so do others. 

If you want to read what I've shared about the persecuted church over the last 2 years follow these links (and I highly encourage you to participate where you can):
Here's an excellent sermon by John MacArthur called "Hated Without a Cause" (Part 1 and Part 2) that will help you understand (according to Scripture) why a persecuted church exists.