Food for the Soul

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Posted 10/5/17 at 11:09 AM | Audra Jennings

Have you invited Jesus to His party?

Melissa Spoelstra helps readers make over the Christmas season and celebrate with purpose

Abingdon Press
Total Christmas Makeover by Melissa Spoelstra

In the bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to get swept up in all of the things to do: decorating, cooking, socializing, and shopping. However, it is important to pause and remember the priority should be to spend time celebrating Christ’s birth and not forgetting to invite Jesus to His own party. In Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose (Abingdon Press/October 3, 2017/ ISBN 9781501848704/$16.99), Melissa Spoelstra provides a practical approach for helping families learn what it means to truly celebrate the Savior.

“A total Christmas makeover doesn’t mean scrapping all your holiday traditions or adding ten more to your list. Instead, it is a personal time of reflection to evaluate how your Christmas practices align with some biblical concepts of celebration,” explains Spoelstra. “Passover, festivals, and feasts were instituted by God to help His people remember who He is and what He has done. While we have no such specifics given for our celebration of Christ’s birth because it comes from church history rather than biblical mandate, we can glean some important principles about celebration from Scripture.”

As Spoelstra studied the Book of Numbers while writing her Bible study on the topic, she noticed three elements included in the festivities and began thinking about how she could apply them to her personal Christmas celebrations. She shares those revelations with readers and devotes a section of the book to each:

Ritual: Special activities out of the ordinary routine were planned to help remember what God has done.
Relationships: Time spent together preparing special foods, eating, gathering in holy assembly, and explaining traditions to children.
Rest: Regular work set aside for planned times of celebration and rest from activity to allow for reflection on God.

The 31 reflections in Total Christmas Makeover focus on prioritizing the rituals, relationships and rest that will draw readers nearer to Christ while celebrating His birth. Each reading contains key scriptures, thought-provoking questions to ponder, as well as practical ideas to implement, helping to reimagine the holiday and then prepare for the year ahead. Mindfully taking the time to listen to how God continues to speak through the Gospel narratives centered around the birth of Jesus provides encouragement and revelation concerning the love of God and His wisdom for us today.

Christmas is far more than a celebration of an event from long ago or a modern holiday centered around shopping. However, that doesn’t mean the gift-giving aspect of Christmas doesn’t have meaning. “The wise men brought gifts, and Jesus is the greatest gift to us,” reminds Spoelstra. “Giving gifts is a tradition to remind us of our generous God. Dialoguing about the tradition of gifts and taking time to include our families in being generous to others help realign us in remembering the greatest gifts usually aren’t bought in a store. People, peace, contentment and forgiveness are all gifts. Shopping for a needy family, reading about missionaries and starting traditions of gratitude help us rediscover the joy of giving and receiving.”

A Christmas makeover doesn’t mean changing all traditions and habits throughout the holiday season to completely adopt new ones. However, it might mean prioritizing the traditions pointing to Christ’s birth, rediscovering the intent behind treasured practices, or incorporating new rituals to help share God’s message of love.

Advance Praise

“Christmas is meant to be cherished and celebrated, not barely survived due to stress. Total Christmas Makeover will help you focus on Jesus, directing your heart to the loving Savior who came to earth. With many practical applications, your Christmas season will become much more meaningful and rich after reading Spoelstra’s book.”
~ Arlene Pellicane, speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom

“Are you tired of just letting Christmas happen at your home — and praying merely to survive? No more! Now you and I can be absolutely intentional about embracing all the fun, faith, family and friendships of this amazing holy season. Melissa Spoelstra’s Total Christmas Makeover gently guides us through everything seasonal around music, food, scripture reading, extended family gatherings, serving and especially how to rest in the midst of it all.”
~ Lucinda Secrest McDowell, author of Ordinary Graces and Dwelling Places

“How many times I’ve said, ‘This Christmas I want to keep my focus off of presents and onto His presence, off of the craziness and onto the stillness, away from commercialism and nestled in the arms of God.’ Melissa Spoelstra has given us the perfect 31-day companion to make this desire a reality.”
~ Laurie Polich Short, author of When Changing Nothing Changes Everything

About the Author

Melissa Spoelstra, author of Total Christmas Makeover

Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages to seek Christ and know Him more intimately through serious Bible study. She has a deep, abiding passion for studying God’s word and teaching others to do the same.

Spoelstra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Theology from Moody Bible Institute and enjoys teaching God's Word to diverse groups and churches within the body of Christ. She is the author several Bible studies, including Numbers: Learning Contentment in a Culture of More, First Corinthians: Living Love When We Disagree, Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness and Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World. She is also the author of two books – Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose and the Mom's Choice Award-winning Total Family Makeover: 8 Steps to Making Disciples at Home.

Spoelstra describes herself as a small-town girl from East Texas, but she now resides Dublin, Ohio, with her church planter/pastor husband of more than 20 years and their four children.

To keep up with Melissa Spoelstra, visit melissaspoelstra.com. You can also follow her on Facebook (AuthorMelissaSpolestra) and Twitter (@MelSpoelstra).

Posted 10/5/17 at 10:50 AM | Audra Jennings

Find God’s power in the deepest places

Part 1 of an interview with Micah Maddox,
Author of Anchored In: Experience a Power-Full Life in a Problem-Filled World

Abingdon Press
Anchored In by Micah Maddox

The world is rife with global and personal crises. News outlets report one troubling development after another. Within the home, studies reveal half of Americans feel financially insecure, more than half are unhappy in their jobs and divorce rates escalate with each subsequent marriage. When problems abound, it can feel as if God is far away. However, as Micah Maddox explains in Anchored In: Experience a Power-Full Life in a Problem-Filled World (Abingdon Press), these same trials can bring us closer to God if we change our way of thinking and focus on Him.

There are a lot of people in the world who seek power in the human form, but Anchored In is about spiritual power and learning to live in tune to God’s voice, direction and desire for our lives. Maddox hopes readers will realize God’s power is available and accessible to each of them. She does not attempt to resolve the adverse circumstances of life; rather, Maddox offers a different approach to those circumstances, giving readers a new strength to manage them, rise above them and ultimately conquer them with a power that exceeds humanity’s grip.

Q: What does it mean to live Anchored In?

Every day, we all anchor our lives in something. Sometimes we anchor our lives in our work, mothering, goals, desires and sometimes even our problems. I’ve learned I often allow my problems to take the center stage of my thinking and my life. Anytime we allow anything other than God to take the focus of our hearts and minds, we are not living in the power God has provided for us to live in. God is teaching me that living anchored in His presence is the only way to experience His power. Living anchored in means we willingly set aside every circumstance and problem of our lives and fully focus our hearts, minds and souls on the Savior, the Anchor.

Q: What does it mean to live a power-full life in a problem-filled world?

There are a lot of people in the world who seek power in the human form. This book is about spiritual power. It’s about learning to live in tune to God’s voice, direction and desire for our lives. I believe God has a purpose for every single one of His children, and we can know that purpose and live confidently in the power He freely offers us.

The problem is many people struggle to experience God’s power when life is crazy or tragedy strikes, so they begin to believe God’s power is reserved for someone bigger and better than them or someone who has an easier life. However, I know God’s power is available and accessible to each of us. When we experience it for ourselves, we learn what it means to live a power-full life. It’s a life where we choose to be emptied of our selfish ambitions and desires, and we learn to be filled with God’s promises, protection, providence, peace and ultimately His power.

I want to encourage women that God’s power is not reserved for teachers, leaders or pastors. God’s power is reserved for every person who is willing to receive it. Be encouraged that God is waiting for you to experience His power! It’s available and accessible to every single person. My prayer is this book will help many people learn how to experience God’s power like they never have before.

Q: You write, “The power of God is not about avoiding the deep waters of life. It’s about diving into them.” How do we do that without feeling like we’re drowning in our circumstances?

When I say dive into the deep waters of life, I don’t mean we saturate ourselves in a sea of our problems. I mean we face the facts. It’s not so much about becoming absorbed with the problems; it’s more about having the courage to look eye-to-eye with the reality of life rather than turning a blind eye and pretending it away.

Q: Tell us about the “Praying God’s Power” prayers you include at the end of each chapter. What part does prayer play in experiencing God’s power?

Prayer is huge, and so often we don’t pray because sometimes it’s just too hard to verbalize what we are feeling or what we are really thinking—it’s too painful to say out loud. However, I’m learning to focus my prayer on Jesus rather than on myself. When I pray with Him as the center, the focus, I find Him so very near. Praying God’s power is praying with faith, trust, and assurance God is going to carry me to the other side of the storm.

Micah Maddox, author of Anchored In

Q: What wise words did your son tell you one night as you were tucking him in to sleep that resonated with you as you wrote the chapter on listening to God’s voice?

When I pulled his covers up and leaned in to give him a goodnight kiss, he acted like he was having a dialogue with God. As he and God had a conversation back and forth, I asked him what God was saying to him. His answer was, “God speaks quiet to us. He loves us.” That moment for me was an a-ha moment, one I hope I never forget. The still, small voice of God is powerful, and the simple truth that He loves us is something we can always cling to.

Q: How do we allow God to define our dreams?

This is a loaded question. There is so much I could say, but I’ll try to sum it up. We all have dreams. Some we go for and act on, and some we just imagine—some we never speak of because we are afraid of failure. However, I’m learning God has dreams for us we never can even imagine. Allowing God to define our dreams means we completely surrender every single thing in our lives to His control. What I mean is we strip away everything in our lives and pare it down to just us. We get rid of the fluff and the American dream of cars, kids and a nice home, and then we expose ourselves without all of our stuff. When we begin to strip away the sparkle and shine of life and get down to the reality of who we are and whose we are, we begin to find a new dream. We get it so mixed up and can never really experience God’s power when we are constantly seeking a picture-perfect family, home, job or success. God’s dreams don’t require success. They require surrender. We surrender everything.

Learn more at www.micahmaddox.com. She is also active on Facebook (@micahmaddoxencouragement), Twitter (@MrsMicahMaddox) and Instagram (@mrsmicah).

Posted 10/4/17 at 12:38 PM | Audra Jennings

Randy Singer’s latest release is equal parts legal, political and military thriller

Part 1 of an interview with Randy Singer,
Author of Rule of Law

Tyndale
Rule of Law by Randy Singer

In a world of political accusations and threats of war, what does the public need to know, and what is better left unsaid for our own protection? Are our leaders following the Rule of Law or acting outside it? In his latest legal thriller, Rule of Law (Tyndale House Publishers/September 5, 2017), award-winning author and attorney Randy Singer weaves a gripping page-turner that explores the inner workings of the White House, the CIA and the State Department in dealings with foreign governments. Drawing from one of his own recent cases, Singer gives readers a glimpse of what is really going on behind the headlines of today’s international events.

Q: In the author’s note of Rule of Law you explain you wrote the book to address some critical issues lurking on the horizon. What are some concerns you have that Americans should be aware of? FULL POST

Posted 10/4/17 at 12:14 PM | Audra Jennings

Exploring the relationships between three generations of mothers and daughters

Part 1 of an interview with Kim Vogel Sawyer,
Author of Bringing Maggie Home

WaterBrook Press
Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Mother-daughter relationships can be complicated. When secrets from the past are involved, the best of intentions can be entirely misunderstood. Bringing Maggie Home (WaterBrook/September 5, 2017) by award-winning author Kim Vogel Sawyer explores the hearts of three generations of women whose lives have been shaped by the 70-year-old unsolved mystery of 3-year-old Maggie Blackwell.

Q: Bringing Maggie Home explores the relationships between three generations of mothers and daughters. Do the relationships mirror your own relationships with family members in any way?

I think it’s inevitable that personal experience finds its way into every story because writing is an intensely personal activity, and we tend to write from the view of our own “life’s glasses.” I didn’t have the privilege of a relationship with my grandmothers — they both died when my parents were children — but I had Tantie, a dear woman who was an important part of my life until her death on my 16th birthday. She filled the role of “grandma” for me, and much of the advice Hazel gives to Meghan are gems of wisdom passed from Tantie to me. Diane (Hazel’s daughter and Meghan’s mother) tells Meghan at one point, “I did the best I could with you, and everything I did was out of love.” This is so true for me with my three daughters. I loved them endlessly, but that didn’t mean I made no mistakes with them. We enter any relationship with the best we have to offer, and we pray it will be enough. FULL POST

Posted 10/3/17 at 10:28 AM | Audra Jennings

Of more value than many sparrows

Part 1 of an interview with Lori Benton,
Author of Many Sparrows

WaterBrook Press
Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

Understanding why some things happen the way they do is impossible, but as Christians, we must remember God is in control and His timing is perfect. His purposes are deeper and broader than we can imagine. These are lessons Clare Inglesby must learn in award-winning author Lori Benton’s latest historical novel, Many Sparrows (WaterBrook).

Set in 1774 and based on historical facts, Many Sparrows depicts the harrowing account of a young mother who will stop at nothing to find and reclaim her son after he is taken by a native tribe.

Q: Without giving away too much of the story, can you share where the title Many Sparrows comes from? FULL POST

Posted 10/3/17 at 10:19 AM | Audra Jennings

How would your life be different if you grew up in another family?

Part 1 of an interview with Cindy Woodsmall,
Author of Gathering the Threads

WaterBrook
Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall

How different would your belief system be if you grew up in a different culture? Would your faith in God be the same if you were raised in a different family? New York Times best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall poses these questions in the powerful conclusion to the CBA and ECPA bestselling Amish of Summer Grove series in Gathering the Threads (WaterBrook/August 15, 2017).

Q: The Amish of Summer Grove series introduces readers to a pair of girls, one Englisch and one Amish, who were switched at birth. What are some of the challenges each faced when pushed to experience the life she would have lived had the switch never taken place? FULL POST

Posted 10/2/17 at 5:29 PM | Audra Jennings

Hayley DiMarco helps women trade in stress and worry for grace and love

Part 1 of an interview with Hayley DiMarco,
Author of A Woman Overwhelmed

Abingdon Press
A Woman Overwhelmed by Hayley DiMarco

Women are often overwhelmed by the demands and circumstances of life, resulting in stress, fear, worry, impatience, fatigue, frustration and even depression. The emotional tolls are great but result in physical symptoms, such as weight gain, insomnia, headaches, and anxiety. In A Woman Overwhelmed: Finding God in the Messes of Life (Abingdon Press), best-selling author Hayley DiMarco shows readers what would happen if they could see the insanity in their pace and turn to embrace an overwhelming God.

DiMarco shares biblical insights and personal stories to show we were created to be overwhelmed, not by life, but by God. She offers a glimpse at the comedy of an overwhelmed life while encouraging readers to discover the depths and heights of God’s love and power. FULL POST

Posted 10/2/17 at 5:24 PM | Audra Jennings

Choose Wisely, Live Fully points to Proverbs 1–9 for wisdom and truth

Part 1 of an interview with Donna Gaines,
Author of Choose Wisely, Live Fully

Abingdon Press
Choose Wisely, Live Fully by Donna Gaines

Fortune, fame and power mean nothing without godly wisdom. King Solomon learned this in his day, and it is a truth that stands today. Author Donna Gaines’ new book, Choose Wisely, Live Fully: Lessons from Wisdom & Folly, the Two Women of Proverbs (Abingdon Press), draws from the timeless wisdom of Proverbs 1–9 to help women apply the same principles in practical ways to the issues they face today.

Q: Women are often referred to Proverbs 31 when it comes to an example of being godly wives and mothers. Why did you decide to focus instead on the first nine chapters of Proverbs and the women described as Wisdom and Folly? FULL POST

Posted 9/29/17 at 11:18 AM | Audra Jennings

The beautiful sacredness in the life you are already living

Part 1 of an interview with Kari Patterson,
Author of Sacred Mundane

Kregel Publications
Sacred Mundane by Kari Patterson

When life seems ordinary and unexciting, it is easy to slip into the mindset of being stuck and in need of a change. In Sacred Mundane: How to Find Freedom, Purpose, and Joy (Kregel Publications), Kari Patterson shows the reader the key to change is already in her hand once she realizes what is holding her back. “In 2 Kings, we read, ‘Naaman was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.’ He had so much going for him, but his leprosy threatened to steal it all,” explains Patterson. “I ask readers to consider their own lives and prayerfully simmer down their own life into a sentence. So often we’re vaguely aware of the areas we want to change, but we don’t take the time to narrow down and identify the one thing hindering us most. Identifying the one thing helps us see more clearly how God wants to use our mundane to make us more like Him.” FULL POST

Posted 9/29/17 at 10:59 AM | Audra Jennings

Lessons in how to live and how to die

Becky Baudouin shares priceless lessons her mother revealed during her battle with cancer

“I’ve taught you how to live; now I want to teach you how to die. You don’t have to be afraid.” When Becky Baudouin’s mother spoke those words to her, they weren't said lightly. Her mother had an inoperable tumor — and after months of treatment, there was no hope for a longer life. There was, however, assurance of everlasting life. In Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy: What My Mother Taught Me About How to Live and How to Die (Kregel Publications/September 26, 2017/ISBN: 9780825444746/$14.99), Baudouin shares the invaluable wisdom imparted by her mother during her final days.

Upon learning of her mother’s diagnosis, Baudouin made a decision she knew she would not regret. “I decided to rearrange my priorities so I could show up and be fully present with my mom during her illness. I knew I needed to pull back from some of the groups and activities I was in so I would have the energy and time to take care of myself and my family and to take frequent trips to be with my mom. I realized I had limited time and resources and knew it was a season that wouldn’t last forever.” FULL POST

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