Book Review

Kneeling with Giants

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Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers

Kneel is my one word for 2013. I had the opportunity to meet professor and author Gary Neal Hansen through Chad R. Allen’s blog. I was really blessed by his book. I’m so excited to introduce it to you and hear some great insight from Gary.

Reading this book was like taking a whole course in prayer and leaving with your faith inspired and challenged.

His book searches the lives of historical figures and their approach to prayer. I think it’s so easy to get into the habit of prayer being in terrible moments, or when nodding off to sleep. Really, prayer is so much more.


Gary Neal Hanson shares:  

1. Which form of prayer did you find most helpful in your own spiritual journey?

It is very hard to pick just one as most helpful, since in one way or another all have helped me.  However, when I was about 16 a Young Life leader got me to read Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God, and it shaped me deeply.  This 17th century Carmelite monk developed the discipline of remembering constantly that he was in the presence of God, and that sparked a rich and constant conversation with God inside his heart and mind. As a kid who had just come to a new relationship with Christ this was really helpful, and it laid a foundation for the rest of my prayer life.  Little did I realize Brother Lawrence’s little book was basically an excellent accessible example of the teachings of another Carmelite from a century earlier — St. Teresa of Avila.  There’s a chapter on her in my book.

2. I loved Appendix 2 practical ways to practice each form of prayer. Why do you think prayer can be such a hard form of worship for Christians?

Actually I think it is kind of strange that Christians seem to think prayer should be easy. What in life that really matters, with the potential to remake your life from the ground, up is easy? Marriage? Parenting? Work that you are really called to?  Everything weighty takes a whole lot of effort, and prayer is the most weighty thing of all.

Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking it ought to be easy by saying it is just talking to someone you love.  But it’s still counter-intuitive: when you are new to praying it can seem like the entire relationship is leaving voicemail messages for someone you’ve never even met. And it is not just talking to anyone we love.  If you’ve ever admired someone famous for years and then met them face to face you were probably tongue-tied.  In prayer we are talking to the creator and ruler of the universe. No wonder it is hard.

3. How did you choose the “giants” that corresponded with each prayer practice?

They were all people I’d met in my own spiritual journey and my work as a church historian. They had written things that helped me pray.  The crucial thing, the thing that ruled out a whole lot of other genuine giants, is this: To be in the book they had to teach or practice a particular way of praying that was different from the others included. They were either the originator of the approach, or famous for it, or a particularly fine example of it. And it had to be a way of praying that other people could try for themselves.

This ruled out a lot of people who had really interesting prayer lives. Take Hildegard von Bingen. One of the most amazing people of the Middle Ages.  She was a benedictine abbess, so she surely spent a great many hours praying the divine office. She’s not a distinctive for that approach. I dealt with the divine office in my chapter on St. Benedict who created benedictine monasticism.  She also had mystical visions, apparently sparked by migraine headaches.  That led to some fascinating writing.  However, I couldn’t say “Step one: Have a migraine headache.  Step two: Have God grant you a vision.”  It can’t be taught or practiced.

Leave a comment to win a copy of the book! What is a meaningful way you have entered into prayer?
4-up on 2013-05-17 at 13.50Bio: Gary Neal Hansen is the Associate Professor of Church History at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.  Much of his research and writing have focused on 16th century Reformed theology, especially John Calvin and the Heidelberg Catechism. He is currently working on a book (and blogging on it regularly) about movements in the history of the church that had creative approaches to community life that led to deepened discipleship and effective participation in mission.  
Find his blog at
Connect with him there and on Facebook and on Twitter.

gods at war.

Gods at War

gods at war: defeating the idols that battle for your heart   by Kyle Idelman 

Kyle Idelman wrote the best selling book, Not a Fan. When I had the opportunity to review his newest release gods at war, I was excited to see what all the buzz was about. Idelman is the teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Kentucky. He and his wife DesiRae have four children.


Exodus 20:13 You shall have no other Gods before me.

In the Old Testament of the Bible things get a little creepy. People have real idols, like giant graven images.

Maybe, you don’t have a giant golden calf, but idols can take up residence in our hearts in numerous ways.


Here are the idols Idelman talks about in his book:



Anything that you put before God can become an idol in your life. Yes, I hate to say it, but even junior mints and ice cream.


Once an idol takes up reside in your heart, it becomes a substitute for God. 

  • What do you sacrifice for?
  • What makes you mad?
  • What do you worry about?
  • Whose applause do you long for?


I love this encouragement from the book. We were made for a different world. NOTHING in this world can satisfy that.

We see that many of the gods that battle for our hearts don’t try to lure us with what is obviously wrong or overtly sinful.


This book is full of scripture and story. His words challenge. We have to be on guard, because sometimes what lures us can be good things, they are just not the BEST that God has for us.

I love how he wrote about God who loves us so much he is jealous for our hearts.

When we put an idol before God we are choosing something inferior.


I will leave you with part of the  poem The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson, a Christian poet who struggled with opium addiction.


Leave a comment and WIN a copy of this book! 

Why do we choose what is inferior? 

Clean House: Party Planning!

images (19)Last week I joined in the book group discussion of Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12 Month Experiment to Rid Her House of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma. You can read those thoughts here, mostly that we are very challenged in all areas of the book! Thanks to Amy Sullivan and Steph from Only Here, Only Now  for hosting the discussion.

Task 8 for the Wyma family was Party Planning and Hospitality. I had to ask my daughter Ellie to guest post on this one!


2 year old Ellie: Who are we going to see today? What are we going to do? She’s always had a knack for welcoming people, planning parties, hosting special times and generally just reaching out. I see God working through her gift of hospitality.

Hospitality is a beautiful way your whole family can encourage and love others. It’s also a great way for your kids to think outside of themselves. 


What made you think of starting Tropical Treats?

My Grandma gave me a shaved ice machine and a palm tree. That’s why I call it tropical treats. It’ really fun to make them and for people to pick the flavor they like. I really like giving people treats.


Tell me about using duct tape to make gifts for people. 

I have a habit of making crafts. I just starting thinking of lots of things to make for people using duct tape. I like to take someone’s personality and bring it into what I make for them. It feels good to give people things.


What’s the hardest part about hosting parties? What’s the best part? 

The hardest part is finding activities every would like to do and not fight about, especially if there is boys and girls at the party. The best part is people’s face expressions. I like doing this stuff to see people’s faces having fun!


How do your kids get involved in serving through hospitality? 

Cleaning House: Youth Entitlement

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Check out that puppy!

Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12 month experiment to rid her home of  Youth Entitlement by Kay Willis Wyma.

Amy Sullivan and Steph from Only Here, Only Now have organized bloggers and readers to discuss this book.


Today, I’ll write about the book in general. Next week, I’ll cover a chapter we’re actually good at…

Which means the rest of the chapters… are a challenge to say the least. The worst part of that is our kids have always done chores, but that still has not ceased the endless whining, complaining and push back of doing so. Anyone else struggle with this?

My kids are active and creative. They are always “creating” which means toys and paper trails and experiments and inventions litter the landscape of our house.  Leaving these creations to do something as mundane as chores ALWAYS brings cries of dismay.

kids can press

My husband and I were both summer camp counselors. When we got new campers each week, we always noticed there were certain kids that did not know how to sweep the cabin during clean up time. They simply had never had to work before and when faced with the challenge were completely clueless about how to do so.

I’m thankful that my parent taught me work. My brother and I used to do the dishes with an elaborate story line about the inner working of a diner and its patrons. I babysat starting in fifth grade, worked my summers away selling go-cart tickets and giving out redemption prizes and I cut up vegetables in college. My husband grew up on a farm and work was weaved into everything they did. I have to admit I have not done the best instilling the same principle in my kids.

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Grandpa’s and Grandma’s are good at this stuff!


Kay set out to reverse the trend of youth entitlement in her own family of five. The results will encourage and challenge your family.

I do not have it all together as a Mom. This is where I struggle…

It’s easier to just do it for them, or in other words enable. Sometimes, I get tired, my husband travels a fair amount for work. Sometimes to conserve my energy… avoiding the arguments and push back that occur… I throw the clothes down the hamper, I make the beds, I cook dinner, I sweep, I pack the lunches etc.

Other times I enforce chores, especially when Kris is home. The inconsistency is killing us.

Everyday I need to remind myself that this is important and worth the emotional energy:

  • Our family becomes a team and we are all responsible for the state of our home
  • They learn to work in a way that will benefit them in future jobs when they are grown
  • We show them we trust them and believe in their abilities
  • Kids rise to the expectations we give them. They are more than capable!

also, be kind and patient with yourself and your kids. Habits take time to be established. Change does not happen overnight. Be consistent and change will come.

These are the experiments the author tries with her family: clutter control, kitchen, outdoor work, working for a living, dirty jobs, laundry, home repair, hospitality, team work, errands, service and manners.

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What has worked for my family:

  • We approach school like work: getting up, doing our best there, completing homework and going to bed on time. The kids earn points that they apply to practical categories; things we might buy them anyway for example clothing, art supplies, books, room accessories. With the points earned they can choose their own categories and items. 
  • We do a small allowance for certain chores completed each day. Some chores they do each day just because we are a family.

Disclaimer: There is still ranting, on the ground tantrums and diatribes about how no one else does this stuff! 

  • We try to teach them all jobs, but help them build confidence by doing ones they enjoy and are good at. Those jobs are mopping,  pushing the garbage can to the road and magic erasers! 

Our Goals:

  • Keep reinforcing what they are good at. 
  • Keep teaching them new skills.
  • Be consistent! I hope it can be so ingrained in our daily lives that it seems normal eventually.

Win a copy of book by leaving a comment! 

What is your biggest challenge when teaching your kids chores? What systems have you used that work for your family? What are your kids favorite chores? 

Take a Chance on Me

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Today I get to introduce you to Susan May Warren!

I’m learning that you all like fiction and she is a fixture in the world of Christian fiction. Susan has wrote more than thirty novels! Here is the link to her website full of great information. She spent eight years with her husband and four kids as a missionary in Russia. She and her family now live in Northern Minnesota, where she writes full-time.

Take a Chance on Me will be a part of series about the Christiansen family of Northern Minnesota. There are seven adult siblings in the family and this 7-book series will follow each one of them. Take a Chance on Me is the first! So, if you like the book there is more to come.


The setting of Deep Haven, Minnesota and the Christiansen resort of Evergreen Lake drew me into the story right away, think rustic summer vacation.

This first story follows the eldest Christiansen son, Darek, a single-father. And wait for it… the story has not one, but two love stories going on simultaneously. I know, it’s enough to make you pass out 🙂


I most enjoyed the book because of its theme of forgiveness. The characters in this story have deep frailty. To experience a future of hope they need to forgive the past.

The longing to be more and to let go of past hurts is something we can all relate to… to take a chance on faith and forgiveness.


I love these discussion questions:

In what circumstances have you doubted God’s kindness?

Looking back, are there any difficult circumstances in your past that you now see as pruning, shaping you into who you were meant to be? 


Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of the book! 


Lead Your Family Like Jesus


Lead Your Family Like Jesus brings the knowledge of Ken Blanchard, Phil Hodges and Tricia Goyer together.

Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges operate the Lead Like Jesus non-profit. They believe the world is in desperate need of new model of leadership. That leadership model can be found in the example of Jesus.

Tricia Goyer has written more than thirty books of fiction and non-fiction. You are going to love this woman. I hope you’ll check out her website. Her heart for others is a beautiful thing. Tricia was a teen Mom, who shares her story with honesty and grace (read her story here). She lives her life offering hope to others. (Her Pinterest boards are amazing too!)

lead family

This book speaks to something I’ve been struggling with, intentional parenting.

Sometimes, I just get swept up in the busy nature of life. It’s funny how many days and months can pass before I stop and realize I need to re-evaluate. I need to constantly keep my kids before me in my heart and in prayer. Everyday.

I love the many stops in the book called Pause and Reflect.

I need to pause and reflect more often!


The book is less about changing your kids and more about changing your heart to reflect Jesus.

When I read the book I realized I might be inspiring disobedience. Ever have those moments, when you are so tired of the stubbornness that you don’t stand your ground. Let’s just say I did very poorly on the how are you doing quiz.

I overreact. I am inconsistent. I negotiate lower standards of behavior to avoid a hassle. I sometimes match anger with anger.

I can improve. I think there is something in this book that will touch any parent right where they need it. There are many practical applications (like crafting a family vision) and stories that are easy to relate to.

Best of all, the authors continue to draw you back to the best leadership model there is, Jesus.

family lead

Leave a comment and win a copy of Lead Your Family Like Jesus! Also win a DaySpring Family Calendar for 2013! 

My favorite Pause and Reflect Question, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How can you approach your day differently to find the right balance between meeting your child’s need for your attention and your reality of being overwhelmed? 


The Book Days Like These

days like this

Kristian Anderson.

His wife Rachel.

Their two boys Cody and Jakob.

Fighting through a terminal illness.


Halfway through this book, I wanted to pretend I had never started it. I wanted to push it away. I made myself keep reading.

Suffering, we want to keep it as far away from ourselves as possible. Placing yourself in proximity to it takes courage. This book deeply challenges and inspires. Their story is courage gathered up and defended.


We struggle with Krisitian through his cancer journey from his poignant, honest journal entries. He holds onto his faith with unwavering resolve.

Even in the Darkest Moments Light can Shine Through. 

After Kristian, a television editor, makes a birthday video for his wife Rachel (complete with Hugh Jackman) he attracted the attention of Oprah. His story of faith became well-known around the world. He successfully campaigned to get a powerful cancer drug on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme in Australia. He left a legacy of faith to his family.


From his last blog post:

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in… the truth is, we’re all broken, we’re all cracked, and what so many people see as  a fault or a malfunction really is something to be considered useful.


Rachel describes in the book when they were watching a portion of The Fellowship of the Ring. 

Frodo says: “I wish the right had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf replies: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us.”


Their story is hope in the darkness.

Their story is purpose even when the answer is no.

Their story is faith even when we don’t understand.


Their story is courage and it is needful.

Each day we are given is much and it is enough.

Leave a comment and win a copy. How do you keep faith when your prayers are not answered in the way you hope? 

Jen Hatmaker’s Seven


Jen Hatmaker has written ten books (see them all here.)

Here is Jen Hatmaker’s website.


Five kids, a prolific speaker, a pastor’s wife and unbelievably real.

I love this woman’s sense of humor. She is hilarious. I also loved her ‘council’ a group of six friends she leaned on during the project and who joined her in varying degrees.


Seven: an experimental mutiny against excess is one of the best books I have read in a long time. You will grow and you will laugh, that’s a winning combination to me. 


Clothes: She wore seven pieces of clothing for an entire month.

Spending: Her family spent money in only seven places for one month.

Waste: She adopted seven green habits for a month.

Food: She ate seven foods for an entire month.

Possessions: She gave seven things away each day for a month.

Media: She eliminated the use of seven types of media for a month.

Stress: Her family slowed down and adopted the ‘seven sacred pauses.’



Leave a comment and win a copy! What category would you struggle the most with? 


For me: Clothes, pretty partial to sweatpants, so no struggle there.

I think media, because I really like the internet and The Amazing Race.

Also food, no ice cream or nachos bell grande for a month?

Honestly, I was challenged to adopt all of them in varying forms and can’t recommend this book enough!

Girl Rising Book and Teacher Resources

How can we respond to Girl Rising

Girl Rising 23 (2)

One way is to learn and to share what we have come to know. 

beneath the lion's gaze

Maaza Mengiste, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze. The book opens the eve of revolution in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Yonas is kneeling in prayer pleading that the violence might end. The book speaks to the lengths we go to attain human freedom and its cost.

Click here for the PDF Book club download (recipes, music, discussion questions, and an interview.)


Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. Lounge is a childhood surviver of the Khmer Rouge regime. The book is the courageous story of her family and hope.

Click here for the PDF Book club download ( recipes, interviews, discussion questions, and live links.)

girl rising youth collage

Click here for the young adult toolkit. Above are the suggested titles for the young adult reader. The books include the topics of: war, education, gender equality, HIV, human trafficking, child marriage, slavery, adoption, human trafficking, and famine.

The toolkit includes suggested titles, discussion questions, action ideas to support girls education, and recipes.

middle grade girl rising

Click here for the middle grade toolkit. Above are the suggested titles for the middle grade reader. Titles include the topics of: recovering from tragedy, war, separation, refugees, immigration, poverty, education, gender inequality, and famine.

The toolkit includes suggested titles, discussion questions, action ideas to support girls education and recipes.


Educators can click here for 10x10act resources: You will find age-group curriculum, videos, articles, a classroom activity, fact sheets, and Suma’s Song. All resources are downloadable.

adult collage

Four more titles complement this film:

The Hole in our Gospel

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers

The Blue Sweater

Half the Sky 

Intentional Parenting

intentional parenting

Intentional Parenting: Autopilot is for Planes. 

The three authors of this book: Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan have over 50 years experience counseling kids and their parents.

With that expertise, the authors guide us to understand how to be intentional parents. I think this topic so needful, I struggle when weariness hits to shift into autopilot, but our kids need intentional.


I loved reading the different voices of each author as they took on different chapters. They pose questions that I never thought to ask myself. Each chapter is a unique challenge that guides gently.

We have so much more to offer our kids when we operate from a place of awareness- of our shortcomings and areas of deficit, of our triggers, of when we get needy and depleted, of when we need a break, of when our expectations are unrealistic, of when we are living vicariously through our children, and of when we need to ask for forgiveness.


This is a book I could actually write down notes. It’s a book I could keep returning to as a parent. Their stories of their own family’s and the families they counsel help illustrate each challenge. They also root all their work in scripture.

My best take away: Even if you make mistakes as a parent (as you will), being intentional will cover your kids with the knowledge of your love, and that is enough to sustain them.

In their conclusion they encourage parents to walk in freedom. You can entrust your children to God. His great love has each one of you.


Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of Intentional Parenting. 

What aspect of their challenge do you struggle with the most? Being an intentional, patient, grown-up, balanced, consistent, playful, connected, encouraging, spiritual, merciful, hopeful, or free parent? 

I think I struggle with being a playful parent most. I let worry choke away life all to often.