Friday, April 29, 2016

Is Belief Enough?

Hebrews 11:1-2
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

We sat in on a Super Saturday architecture class with our granddaughter. The teacher, an architect, shared a video with the students of how a foundation is built. They watched with interest as a cement mixer sloshed the gravel, sand, water, and cement around to make concrete. The teacher went on to explain that the concrete wasn't strong enough to hold the skyscraper up by itself. So the construction workers laid heavy wire mesh at the base and poured the concrete over it. This small change made a huge difference in the strength of the foundation.

That got me thinking about faith. I've known many believers who went through difficult times. Instead of giving up, they clung to their faith and marched through the fire. But what if instead of faith, the person only had belief. Believing might be like the concrete. It's not strong enough by itself. But with faith mixed with belief a strong foundation is built. It's not enough to just believe God exists. I have to have faith and know beyond a doubt that God knows me and loves me, that everything comes from Him. I didn't see the creation come into being, but I believe and have faith that God created our world. I didn't see Jesus raise from the dead, but I know he did. I believe, I have faith, and I trust. Praise God for faith that's the foundation for life.

I Love the Lord

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Win a copy of the Inheritance

Children's Board Book Review: Counting Blessings by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Lee Holland

Book Description:
Children count along from 1 to 10, following the sweet rhyming text by beloved author Eileen Spinelli and the cute and cuddly illustrations by Lee Holland. Along with counting, this padded cover board book teaches children to see the blessings in life. With whimsy and joy, Counting Blessings captures the attention of young children, filling their minds with numbers and their hearts with happiness.

My Review:
I can count on Eileen Spinelli to deliver an enjoyable rhyming text that's fun to read to my grandchildren. In Counting Blessings, which is more than a counting book, she leads the child through numbers 1 to 10 then goes on to name many blessings like, "snow to dance in and songs to sing." My favorite blessing in the story is, "Six books beside your chair." What reviewer wouldn't love that. The bunny in the story is adorable thanks to Lee Holland's delightful illustrations. They're the kind of drawings that make me go ahhh— charming and colorful. The sturdy board book pages, simple text, and bright illustrations make this a perfect book for little ones. I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Purchase a copy at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Children's Book Review: Adventure Bible, Wild About the Bible: Sticker & Activity Book

Book Description
The Adventure Bible comes to life with puzzles, activity pages, and 50 reusable stickers in the new Wild About the Bible Sticker and Activity Book. Featuring Bible time heroes and their adventures, activities are fun and engaging and will entertain as well as teach young children about familiar stories in the Bible.
Heroes and adventures include Creation, Noah, Moses, Esther, and the parable of the Lost Son.

My Review:
Adventure Bible, Wild About the Bible is a great way for children to learn about the stories and people who lived during Bible times. The book is full of puzzles and pictures to color. David Miles drawings are inviting and enjoyable. Two pages of stickers come with the book. This would be a great book for car rides, quiet time, or learning more about Bible stories. I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Buy a copy from Zonderkidz.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Poem: Pink Dogwood in the Cemetery©

Nonfiction Book Review: Wonders of Creation : Illustrations to Color and Inspire

Book Description:
Wonders of Creation explores the wonders of our created world though detailed black-and-white illustrations—each one ready to be filled with the hues of your imagination. From amazing Eden-esque gardens to the creatures God made that still ramble through our world, this ninety-six-page book offers hours of coloring inspiration and relaxation for any age.

Book Review:
Wonders of Creation is a beautiful book that offers hours of coloring fun. Cindy Wilde and Pimlada Phuapradit created lovely renditions of God's glorious creation. I love the charming and whimsical details of the drawings. Coloring pencils, markers, and crayons can be used on the high quality paper. No doubt coloring these delightful pages will give hours of relaxation. I also like that the artists included some less commonly seen animals. The only drawback are the double-sided pages if you want to frame the pictures. This would be a great book for a family to share or a gift for someone who loves nature. I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Purchase your copy from Zondervan.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Nonfiction Book Review: The Mother Letters : Sharing the Laughter, Joy, Struggle, and Hope

Book Description:
Mothering isn't easy. Some days you second-guess every decision. Some nights you fall into bed in a haze of exhaustion. Yet even if you feel alone in the struggle, there are mothers who have been there--right where you are now--and they want you to know you are not alone. That's where The Mother Letters comes in.

The Mother Letters began as a gift of encouragement. After Amber Haines had given birth to three boys in three years, her husband Seth realized the day-to-day details and drama of child rearing were overwhelming her. He secretly began collecting letters from other mothers across the world and gave these "mother letters" to her as a gift.

Amber and Seth have compiled these wise, honest, and sometimes hilarious letters into a beautiful book of hope and encouragement for moms everywhere. Their desire is that these words speak to you as they did to Amber, and that you hear "Me too. We can do this."

My Review:
The Mother Letters is a beautiful book written with honesty and insight. A variety of moms contributed to Steve's efforts to bring together a lovely compilation of instruction, compassion, and wisdom. I wish I'd had a book like this when I was a young mother. Many of the moms talk about feeling discouraged and maybe not being the best mom. Yet each mom's words, in the end, are encouraging and uplifting. A wisdom I noticed repeated through the book— we learn so much from our children. I can attest to that. I'm still learning from my thirty-somethings. The Mother Letters would make an excellent gift for Mother's Day, especially to moms who still have children at home. Kudos to Seth Haines for recognizing how stressful mothering can be at times. I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Buy your copy at Revell books.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

He Made Beauty from my Mess

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

On the way through town the other day, I noticed a beautiful pink dogwood blooming. As I turned onto the street where I live, vibrant purple and yellow pansies brightened the entry. Irises bloomed along the highway and phlox spilled over rock walls and across flower beds. Each plant weathered another winter. Leaves fell off, blossoms died, and the frost shriveled the plants to nothing. Yet, the green sprouted through the dirt again and produced beauty. They didn't give up.

James, Jesus' brother, speaks about what happens when we go through trials and our faith is tested. 2015 was a tough year. I suffered through some illness and diagnosis I wasn't particularly happy about. I have chronic pain and feel flat out terrible, at times. But as much as I wanted to give up at times, my faith didn't failed. Please understand, I've been discouraged. I've even been angry, but because I know beyond a doubt that Jesus is real, the Bible is true, the Holy Spirit works in me, and God loves me— I have faith that God is using my circumstances to make me a stronger more faithful follower.

As much as I dislike pain, I find joy in my circumstances and pray God uses me to help the people in my path. As a work in progress the challenges will keep coming. My prayer is to find the beauty and hang onto James 1:2-4. Praise God for creating beauty out of my mess.

Fiction Book Review: Song of Silence by Cynthia Ruchti

Book Description:
Lucy and Charlie Tuttle agree on one thing: they’re committed to each other for life. Trouble is, neither of them expected life to look like this. While Charlie retired early, Lucy is devoted to a long-term career . . . until the day she has no choice.

Forced to retire from her position as music educator in a small Midwestern K-8 school, Lucy can only watch helplessly as the program her father started years ago disintegrates before her eyes. As the music fades and a chasm separates her from the passion of her heart, Lucy wonders if her faith’s song has gone silent, too. The musical score of her life seems to be missing all the notes.

When a simple misstep threatens to silence Lucy forever, a young boy and his soundless mother change the way she sees—and hears—everything.

My Review:
I've read several of Cynthia Ruchti's books and enjoyed them so much. Song of Silence has a good story line, but it just didn't resonate with me. I had a hard time feeling sorry for Lucy because she whines so much. Charlie, bless his heart, tries to help but just seems to get in the way. He's a bit distracted, although he's a very kind and loving man. Their children are a little too perfect, although it was good to see children who care for their parents. The kids seemed to save the day more than once. I liked what Cynthia was trying to do with the story, but felt there were too many coincidences. However I was happy to see the characters rely on God throughout the story. If you love music, or you're a musician, you'll probably relate to Lucy better than I. Although I enjoy listening to music I don't have the heart of a musician. Cynthia does paint pictures with her writing which, for me, made the book more palatable. 
I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Click to enter a $150 prize package Music-Themed Giveaway with Cynthia Ruchti

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Children's Book Review: Little One, God Made You Special by Amy Warren Hilliker. illustrated by Polona Lovsin

Book Description:
Little One, God Made You Special, written by Amy Warren Hilliker and inspired by the New York Times #1bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life, is a cute and cuddly board book that let’s children know God made each one of us very special.

My Review:
As most parents, I believed my babies were perfect even when they made messes. In Little One, God Made You Special the mama and papa animals talk to their little ones in an adoring way. They show them how they're special, from their tiny chins to their big hearts. I like books like this one because I believe children are a special gift and need to know that God created them for a reason. We can't encourage our children too early or too often. Polona Lovsin's illustrations are lovely and add joy to this sweet book. 
I received Little One, God Made You Special in exchange for a fair review.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Children's Book Review: Read with Me Bible for Little Ones by Doris Winbeek RIkkers, illustrated by Dennis G. Jones

Book Description: 
The Read with Me Bible for Little Ones is the perfect way to introduce the Bible to young children. Featuring simple language and vibrant, full-color illustrations by Dennis Jones, this action-packed padded cover board book is a great way to jump-start literacy and a love of the Bible.

My Review:
The Read with Me Bible for Little Ones features gentle tellings of some of the more common stories of the Bible. I particularly like "Jonah and the Big Fish" because it speaks the truth about what happens when you don't listen. In this case, Jonah didn't listen to God's directions. Each story could also be used for a Bible class in the nursery or preschool class. Although the book doesn't mention the crucifixion, Jesus is depicted going to heaven with the assurance that he'll return someday. I see a lot of good conversation starters for three to four year olds. The illustrations are fun. Young children will enjoy the exaggerated features and big smiles. 
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Let the Children Come

Luke 19:13-14
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 

He ran down the aisle.

The night before, Eli told his mommy he wanted Jesus in his heart. Our grandson loves Jesus and he wants to go to heaven someday. He talked with his mommy and daddy about why he wanted to accept Jesus as his savior and be baptized; and at the young age of six years old, he's got it. So on Sunday morning, with total abandon he ran to the front of the church and met his grandpa who took his confession of faith. Then his daddy baptized this sweet young man in the water. After he came up out of the baptistery he looked at his mommy and said, through his beautiful grin, "I can't believe I have Jesus in my heart!" He was excited.

Jesus told us long ago to have the heart of a child. To run to him with total abandon. But how many times do I let my insecurities, frustrations, and doubts hold me back. Too often Satan gets in my ear and fills me with anxiety. The trouble is, I listen to him sometimes. My prayer today is that I can meet Jesus without constraint, love him unashamedly and run into his arms without hesitation. I asked him into my heart a long time ago. Now I need to bring him into every day and go to him for everything.

The Newsboys sing I Want to Live with Abandon. That's how I want to live! Like a child who runs to Jesus.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

River of Life

©Penny Frost McGinnis

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

One of the first books I remember reading by Beverly Cleary was Fifteen. Jane, a high school student was asked out by Stan, the most popular boy in school. I remember reading this sweet romance and thinking it was the best story ever.

Many years later my daughters read Henry Huggins, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and so many other wonderful books written by this beloved author. When I worked in an elementary school library, I read Dear Mr. Henshaw to my students and recommended many of her books to my precious readers.

I can't let this day pass without wishing Happy 100th Birthday to one of the most wonderful children's authors, whose books crossed so many generations.

What's your favorite Beverly Cleary book?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Children's Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Mother's Day Blessings by Mike Berenstain

Book Description:
Mama Bear is the best mama in all of Bear Country and Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear know just what to do for her on Mother’s Day. In this newest title in the Berenstain Bears Living Lights, The Berenstain Bears Mother’s DayBlessings, join the Bear family and all of Bear Country as they spend Mother’s Day together remembering just why our mothers are so special to all of us!

My Review:
As always the Berenstain Bears teach the bear cubs about the blessings in life. This particular book focuses on Mother's Day. I like that Mama Bear points out that moms work in all walks of life, from a mama bear who stays home, to a doctor bear and a farmer bear. Each bear is treated with respect and appreciation. I like that the bear cubs want to surprise their mom and grandma for Mother's Day. This is a sweet story, focused on family, as the bears celebrate Mother's Day with a trip to church and a fun surprise. If you are a fan of the Berenstain Bears you'll want to add this new selection to your library. If you are new to their stories, you'll be delighted with this positive, uplifting tale.
I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

And the Winner is....

Congratulations Lacey! Your number was drawn to win.

I'd Take Their Place if I Could

Psalm 31:12b, 14-18
I have become like broken pottery...
But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
    deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your unfailing love.

As a wife and mom, I know what it feels like to have my heart become like broken pottery. Shattered in a hundred shards. I'd rather go through the pain and hurt my husband and children struggle with, than watch them suffer. Whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual— witnessing the hurt the people I love endure, breaks my heart. I'd take their place if I could.

God's servant David struggled, and lived a life of turmoil even in his dedication to God. At times his heart shattered over the suffering he endured. In the Psalm he broke down and cried out to his Father to deliver him. Whether he deserved it or not, he knew that God loved him unconditionally.

Romans 5:8 says "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus understands our suffering and pain. God gave him the power to take the place of all who sin. Unlike me, who can't take the place of my loved ones, Jesus could and he did. How beautiful is that? Praise God for his unfailing love.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Children's Book Review and Give-away: Baby Wren and the Great Gift by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Illustrated by Jen Corace

Book Description:
The Baby Wren and the Great Gift, written by bestselling author Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jen Corace, is a celebration of all the wonderful gifts God has given us. The tiny wren marvels at the incredible creatures around her, all the while wishing she had a special gift to share. As she takes in the beauty of the world around her, she discovers a unique talent that’s been inside her all along.

My Review:
Baby Wren and the Great Gift is absolutely beautiful, from the lyrical writing to the gorgeous illustrations. Have you ever looked at the people around you and noticed their amazing talent. Then wondered why you couldn't do what they could? Me too. And as much as I might enjoy listening to a talented pianist or seeing a mathematician solve a complicated problem, I get a bit discouraged. That's where we find Baby Wren. She's discouraged because all the creatures around her can do the most amazing things and she can't. Sally Lloyd-Jones' writing sings as she speaks through this sweet bird and travels with her on her journey of discovery. From page one, I was mesmerized by Jen Corace's illustrations. She knows where to add a perfect pop of color in the yellowness of the canyon. The pink sunset is breathtaking. While Baby Wren may be seeking her special gift, Lloyd-Jones and Corace have found theirs. I recommend this book to be read to pre-school through primary and read by intermediate age children. I also believe adults will enjoy this fabulous book as much as the kids. A must-have on the library's shelves. Five plus stars!

I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

If you'd like to win a copy of this wonderful book, leave a comment. I'll draw a winner on Saturday, April 9.

Baby Wren and the Great Gift is ideal for:
  • Children ages 4 to 8 years old and those who enjoy picture books
  • Spring and Summer reading lists for beginner and emerging readers
  • Curriculum with a focus on poetic and lyrical language for kids
  • Back to School reading for children needing encouragement upon beginning school and fitting in
  • Teaching resource supporting every child having a gift, strength or talent
  • Bird lovers seeking books on Wrens and birds for children (Zondervan)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

National Poetry Month-A Few Haiku

In honor of National Poetry Month, I've added some new haiku poems to my Haiku page

I enjoy the art of haiku, the brevity, and capturing a moment in words.

To learn more about haiku, visit Shadow Poetry. They also share info on other types of poetry. 

©Penny Frost McGinnis

And God Created Trees

 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

As Tim and I hiked through the nature preserve, we noticed a variety of trees budding for spring. The Bradford pears were in full bloom. Red buds were pushing out their deep lavender-pink blossoms, and soon the dogwood would flower in clouds of pink and white. A few days later my daughter, Sara, her two little ones and two of my other grandchildren trekked along the path at Sycamore Park. Along the trail were several old sycamore trees that had hollowed out over time. We also saw birch, oak, and maple trees preparing for spring.

A variety of trees make up a forest. Some provide shade, others food. Some stand out with their flowery beauty, while others are content to spread their leaves and bring shelter. And in all of them God is at work. He created every one of them for a purpose. Is it so different for people? We all look different. We all have abilities and gifts to share. Some of us may shelter, while others stand out.

I know this sounds simple and maybe even trite. But think about it. There are so many different people in the world, and God created everyone with purpose. Every tree in the forest grows alongside trees who are different and trees who are the same. They rise up in community and do the job God intended. Is it so different for people who receive their gifts from the Holy Spirit when they become believers in Christ? I'm thankful God made me unique, as I strive to share my gifts through writing.

As you embrace your gift, take one word of warning. Don't compare yourself to others. Comparison is detrimental. Seek your gift and God will bless you. He'll lead you into circumstances where your abilities and purpose shine. No gift is more or less than another. Every gift has purpose. Praise God he made us all different, with gifts to share.