Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Job: story of suffering, faith and trust in God

This month’s study is on the book of Job. It is an illustration of God’s sovereignty and the meaning of true faith. It addresses the question, “why do the righteous suffer?” A question that is still debated today. The book of Job is believed to have been written during the time of the patriarchs (approximately 2000-1800 BC) and the first book of the Bible to be written. It is the first poetic book of the Bible. The book of Job opens in the land of Uz where Job is living with his family among vast wealth. Job was “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3).

Satan approaches God in heaven and the discussion turns to Job. Satan believed that Job was a righteous man because he had everything and if it were taken from him, he would turn from God (Job 1:9-11). God gives Satan permission to take everything Job has but he could not physically harm him (Job 1:12). Soon, Job loses his children, his herds and still does nothing wrong. Job is given a second test in which God allows Satan to physical harm Job but he could not take his life (Job 2:6). There Job sits with every sign of his wealth taken and illness has claimed his body but Job still refused to turn from God (Job 2:10). Job discusses his sufferings with his friends who all give their view as to why he is suffering.

First, Job’s view about his suffering is “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21) and “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). His attitude is that we should not give up on God simply because he allows bad experiences. Faith in God does not guarantee prosperity and a lack of faith does not guarantee troubles. Job was a man of faith, patience and endurance. As his friends claim that he is suffering for something he has done, he is willing to confess it if he knew what it was. He demands to be shown what sins he could have committed to deserve such punishment (Job 13: 23-24). Job wanted to know why and claimed he could bear the suffering if he could only know why (Job 23. It is a very human demand to know why we are suffering. Does understanding the reasons help the pain and suffering? If God were to answer why would it be easier to accept and bear the pain? The question why is the hardest to answer because you may get the reason but you may not like or accept such an answer.

Second, his friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, come to comfort him and offer advice. They soon turn to accuse Job of an unresolved sin in his life. Eliphaz’s view is simply that man is responsible for his own troubles for “those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8). Bildad claims that Job’s suffering is because he is unjust as God would not reject a blameless man (Job 8:20). When Zophar joins the discussion he adds that only does Job have sin in his life but his sin deserves more punishment that he already is suffering (Job 11). It is a sentiment the friends will repeat several times. It is also a sentiment repeated in churches today: “Oh you are dealing with financial issues because there’s sin in your life.” Or “You are in pain because you haven’t confessed a sin.” While God does allow the consequences of our sin and bad decisions to play out despite our confession, it does not mean that the bad circumstances are the result of your personal sin. Good and innocent people will suffer bad circumstances because people don’t always do what is right and innocent parties will suffer. Does this mean that you shall lose faith? No, because faith in the bad times shows a stronger character than faith in the good times.

Lastly, the Lord speaks to the group. He first addresses Job and demands to know why he speaks with knowledge (Job 38:1). The Lord rebukes Job for daring to demand an answer, to question God and the workings of the universe he couldn’t possibly understand. God uses His questions to Job to demonstrate how little he really knows (Job 38-39). Job acknowledges that he cannot understand what God understands (Job 40:4). In Job 42:2, Job says “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” This is a concept that many believers must face and learn. There’s a Yiddish proverb which states, “Man plans and God laughs.” We can carefully plan but if it is against the will of God, it will not come to fruition. As believers, we must submit to the will of God in our lives. As it says in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The Lord then addresses the three friends because they “have not spoken of me what is right” as Job has (Job 42:7). The Lord blesses Job’s life with far more than he had originally because he passed the test of faith.

In conclusion, the lessons learned from Job is bad circumstances are not always the result of sin and knowing the reason why isn’t the point. The point is our faith in God in times of prosperity and in times of troubles, especially in times of troubles. It may sound easier said than done and it is something I still struggle with from time to time. There has been other times when my faith was tested and it will continued to be tested for the rest of my life. There are times where I worry and I think “how am I going to do this?” And I forget to lean on my faith in Christ. However, there is always something that reminds me to trust in Him. It would be a whisper in my dreams, a voice of a friend, or a verse I read during my studies. Even in his anguish, Job never turned from God. And in mine, I won't either. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Hammer of Thor: Book 2 of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series

The next book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard is here! Book 2, The Hammer of Thor, opens six weeks after the events in Book 1, The Sword of Summer, take place. Magnus is given a clue as to the whereabouts of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, which is missing again. Magnus and his friends are soon on the trail to find the hammer before a looming deadline. Magnus’ adventures takes him to Alfheim, the kingdom of air and light, and deep underground of Midgard as he must find the tools to stop the evil plans of Thrym, the Frost Giant, the God of Ice and king of Jotunheim. Along the way, he meets important figures of Norse mythology who help him along the way. Will Magnus and his friends be able to thwart Thrym’s plans before it’s too late?

Rick Riordan has opened up the world of mythology in an exciting and brilliant manner. I thoroughly enjoyed his Percy Jackson series as well as The Heroes of Olympus series. While the Magnus Chase series isn’t on the same caliper of the first two series, I love seeing the Norse gods in their mythological images (and not the common Marvel ones where Thor is a gorgeous superhero). The Hammer of Thor further expands the world of Norse mythology where the reader is introduce to the common and not-so-common Norse gods. I look forward to future books in this series (book 3 is set to be released in October 2017). If you enjoyed the Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus series, you should give Magnus Chase a try, especially if you are unfamiliar with the Norse mythology.

The Hammer of Thor

is available at major booksellers

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Pattern Artist: one woman's courage to fulfill her dream

The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser is the story of one woman’s dream to make her life better than what she lived before. Annie Wood is a housemaid for a wealthy English family. She has dreams of becoming a lady’s maid in the household as she travels with Lady Newly and her daughter, Miss Henrietta, to America. When she realizes that her dream isn’t going to become a reality, she strikes off on her own in New York City.

Set in 1911, Annie is a young woman with a natural talent for fashion and her skills for alternations and sewing are used to the advantage of the lady’s maids.  She sets out with Iris and Danny Dalking, servants from the household that she’s visiting. Alone on the streets with nothing to their names, the trio is taken in by a family who runs a bakery. Knowing that working in a bakery isn’t where she wants to be, Annie sets off and tries to get a job at Macy’s. To her surprise, she does and immediately begins to establish herself with great customer service and an eye for the fashions her customers desire. She soon gets involved with a pattern salesman, Sean Culver, who helps open another door which will lead her closer to a new dream of design fashions for the everyday woman. As she works, more and more doors of opportunity open. Does she dare walk through them, knowing there is no return? Can she trust God to guide her through those doors?

The Pattern Artist is a great story of the American Spirit where “humble beginnings are a badge of honor. It’s not where you begin but where you end up.” I loved Annie who struggles with her own worth but had the bravery to try anyway. I loved all the characters she meets along the way especially Sean. The budding romance between the two is sweet and heartwarming. The story has romance, suspense, heartbreak and joy. I highly recommend The Pattern Artist.

The Pattern Artist
is available
in hardcover, paperback and Kindle/Nook

on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Twilight Wife: one woman trying to get her life back

The Twilight Wife by AJ Banner is the story of Kyra Winthrop as she recovers from a diving accident. She now suffers from anterograde amnesia (the difficulty forming new memories) and retrograde amnesia (the difficulty remembering old memories). As she struggles with her recovering, she begins to suspect something’s not right with what she knows. She begins to question her husband, Jacob, and her life with him. When she begins to search for clues of the memories she has lost, she learns that everything she knows may be false. When she finally learns the truth, she must play safe as she tries to recover the life she lost.

The Twilight Wife is set on an island in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. It is an excellent book from the first page. Readers will feel for Kyra as she struggles to recover and catch your breath as you learn the truth alongside her. It is suspenseful with clues pointing to so many directions. Readers will decipher the clues with Kyra as she tries to pierce the fog in her head and the lies she’s been told. I highly recommend The Twilight Wife. It’s an excellent, excellent book!

The Twilight Wife
will be available December 27, 2016
on Amazon in paperback and on the Kindle
as well as Barnes and Noble

in paperback and on the Nook 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The season is more than just a phrase

The holiday season is in full swing. Christmas songs are playing on the radio. The stores and malls are decorated with garlands and trees. And the ads are begging you to buy the expensive gift for your special someone. I love this time of year especially now that my daughter is old enough to fully participate in decorating the tree and wrapping the presents. Even old enough to ask for specific gifts and talk about Santa (even though she really knows Santa is Daddy). This year I have been studying the Bible book by book and I’ve been thinking about many things that some Christians do that I think really shouldn’t be done.

First, harping over “Happy Holidays.” I’ve heard stories of people, very rudely, lecture “Merry Christmas” when a cashier has told them “Happy Holidays.” This attitude takes away from the meaning of the holiday. Yes, Christmas is Christ mass, a celebration of Jesus’ birth. However, it does not give Christians the right to bully others to say “Merry Christmas.” Yes, I said bully because that’s how I see it. Christmas isn’t the first holiday to be celebrated in the winter. The celebration of Christmas was moved to the winter solstice to encourage non-believers to convert to Christianity. Everything we love about Christmas has non-Christian origins. The Christmas tree was originally a Scandinavian tradition as it was thought to protect the home during the long dark winter. Even gift giving, originally a New Year’s Day tradition, was shifted to Christmas in the Victorian Age  when Queen Victoria gave her family gifts on Christmas Eve in 1850. So I’m not going to get snippy with a cashier for saying “Happy Holidays.” I’m going to reply “Thank you. You too.” Why? Because the cashier was pleasant enough to acknowledge the season and he or she doesn’t know if I’m Christian or Jewish, etc. I know why I celebrate Christmas and someone saying “Happy Holidays” to me doesn’t take away that reason.

Second, I think too many Christians are seasonal Christians at Christmas and Easter. As Christians, we should celebrate Jesus’ birth, as well as his death and resurrection, every day. To be thankful that I have Christ in my life every day. I wake up every morning knowing that Christ will be there to be my guide. And peace on earth and goodwill toward men should be practiced every day. While at Christmas time, I am more active to give to my fellow man in the form of physical gifts; however, every day I give the gift of my time. Every day when someone asks for my help, I will help. Even though I may grumble about the person needs my help again. I am reminded that Christ helps me when I absolutely don’t deserve it. I’m not saying that Christians should be a doormat and be taken advantage of. What I am saying is if someone truly needs your help, even time after time, reach out your hand and help. If it’s to help a tired new mom watch the baby as she takes a shower she desperately needs and wants, do so. If it’s to help the man with the car that constantly breaking down, do so. If it’s the friend who needs to talk at 1 am and you want to sleep, talk. We can show Christ’s love more in our actions than our words.

Lastly, many Christians forget that Christ told us that many will be invited but few will be chosen (Matthew 22:14). Don’t be surprised when your family and friends resist your message of salvation through Christ. Christ even warns us that His message will divide people (Luke 12:53). Jesus speaks of the four soils in Matthew 13:1-23 when the seed is thrown in different soils and not of all them take root. Just as His message will not take root in everyone’s hearts. We see the division that Jesus speaks about in the world today. Today Christianity is becoming the number one persecuted religion in the world. However, again do not be surprised at that. As Jesus warned about that. Matthew 5:11, Christ says “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Also don’t forget that many evil things were done in the name of Christ either. Many people have read the message of Christ and perverted to their own means. Totally missed the message and used it to persecute others for their gain. Today’s true believers will have an uphill battle to show the world Christ’s love and message. Many non-believers will not let you forget about the atrocities done in Christ’s name. Keep in mind Matthew 5:11 when they spit back at you.

In conclusion, the holiday season is a time when we stop to reflect on the year past, to celebrate Christ’s birth and remember what’s more important. It’s not the gift but the person giving it. We need to stop nitpicking on the small details like Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas and remember Christ’s message of salvation. Reach out with love as we spread Christ’s message. Be gentle but firm and remember that not all well receive His message. Remember the parable of the four soils and keep in mind that it may not be their time for the message to take hold if it does at all. So refrain from insults and name calling when someone rejects your message. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, may you and your family’s holiday season be filled with love, laughter and precious time together. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Bear and the Nightingale: a fairytale is about to become very real

The Bear and the Nightingale by Kathrine Arden is a story of a brave young girl who must battle magical beings and physical obstacles in order to save her family and her village from the cold Russian winter. The story opens during the reign of Ivan I where a young family in a Northern Russian village is settling in for a story. The story, a fairytale, about a young maiden and the Frost-Demon. The children have no idea that the story will become very real.

Vasilia “Vasya” is the youngest child of Pyotr Vladimirovich and his wife, Marina. Marina dies shortly after her birth and a prophecy that Vasya will inherit the gifts of her grandmother. As a young girl, Vasya, loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. She is told to honor the spirits of the house, yard and forest that protect them from harm. She begins to see things that others do not see. She learns quickly to be quiet about the strange beings she sees around her home and her village. When her father remarries, her stepmother forbids the honoring of the spirits. When Vasya reaches the age of 14, a danger grows as the spirits are weakening. The strange occurrences seems to happening more and more. She tries to warn her father about what is happening but he dismisses her concerns. Vasya realizes that she is on her own to save her family and her village against the growing threat. Will she be able to fight back the growing power that seems to build in the wintry cold?

The Bear and the Nightingale is an intricate story where every detail is important. Every event is a clue to the growing danger. I cannot discuss too many details as it will give away too much as the story reveals its secrets. What I can say is that while in some places the story seems to lull; however, I recommend to keep reading as the story reaches its climax it all becomes clear. I loved the imagery in the story. Ms. Arden’s descriptions are breath-taking and some are designed to frighten you. I highly recommend The Bear and the Nightingale. If you enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or Anansi Boys, you will love Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale!

The Bear and the Nightingale
will be available January 10, 2017
on Amazon in hardcover and on the Kindle
as well as

on Barnes and Noble in hardcover and on the Nook

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

¡Hola!: a great new book for children to learn Spanish

¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish with Pete the Pilot and Panchito by Judy Martialay is a fun and adventurous story through Mexico as the reader is introduced to vocabulary in Spanish. Panchito is a Mexican jumping bean and he is on an adventure to find friends. As he travels through various locations in Mexico, he introduces the basics of conversation, names, places, food and much more. The Spanish words are in bold and the English words are presented only at the first time a new word is introduced. Each time after that, only the Spanish word will be used. The book has fun games and puzzles to further teach the readers the Spanish words. For instance, a Treasure hunt can be played to find the items in Spanish around the house as well as a skit to practice a conversation in Spanish. The book also includes an online resource for pronunciation help and a Parents page for downloadable versions of the games for further practice.

I was approached by Ms. Martialay about reviewing ¡Hola! and I jumped at the chance. My husband and I have been trying to teach our daughter Spanish. I’m currently learning while my husband grew up speaking both Spanish and English. I have been looking for new ways to introduce Spanish to my daughter. While the book is recommended for children ages 6-10, my daughter, who is 4, enjoyed hearing the story as Panchito searched for new friends. I enjoyed the presentation of the Spanish words and the resource of an online Audio pronunciation help. I loved the games that the book presents as a great way to integrate the Spanish words into the reader’s everyday life. I highly recommend ¡Hola! for any family and classroom libraries. It is a great resource for children and adults who wishes to learn because you are never too young or too old to learn a new language.

¡Hola! is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

in print and on the Kindle

Monday, December 5, 2016

Always: a love story

Always by Sarah Jio is the story of Kailey Crane who seems to have moved on after the love of her life disappeared from her life. Until one night, she stumbles across a homeless man who she is convinced is Cade. The narrative moves back and forth between the present of 2008 and the past and the events which led to Cade disappearance.

Kailey is a food reporter with the Seattle Herald and engaged to Ryan. Her life seems to be idyllic and happy. Until one rainy night, she sees a face which throws everything out of balance. She becomes obsessed with finding Cade and helping him regain his life. As Kailey investigates what happened to Cade, it becomes clear that he didn’t just leave and she wants to discover the truth. However, she is met with resistance from James, Cade’s best friend and former business partner, her best friend, Tracy and her fiancĂ©. Is the homeless man Cade? Will she be able to find out what happened to him?

Always is an amazing book. From the first page to the last word, the story grips the reader in as Kailey searches the streets for the man who believes is Cade. She must fight against prejudices against the homeless as well as her own ideas about what she wants in her life. I loved the flashbacks to the love story of Kailey and Cade and I cheered her on as she was determined to find out happened to Cade. I highly recommend Always. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll fall in love with a true love story.

will be available on February 7, 2017
on Amazon in hardcover and on the Kindle
as well as

on Barnes and Noble in hardcover and on the Nook

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Emotional Eating: recognizing it and moving forward

Emotional eating is the tendency to eat in times of stress, anxiety, anger or sadness in order to deal with the situation. With emotional eating, an individual will suppress emotions with food instead of facing them. In recent months, I have taken a closer look at my eating habits. I realize now that I am an emotional eater. I tend to eat or not eat based on my emotions. If I’m angry or anxious or depressed, I don’t eat. I overeat when I feel guilty for eating the wrong foods. I also look for food when I’m bored. With this revelation, I was curious to discover more about emotional eating and what I can do to fight it.

First, recognize the difference between emotional eating and physical hunger. Emotional eating has a sudden onset while physical hunger is gradual. Emotional eating tends to crave certain foods, like sweets, and with physical hunger any food sounds good. Mindless eating is a clue to emotional eating and awareness with physical hunger. After emotional eating, there is no satisfaction once full and physical hunger, there is satisfaction. Emotional eating is often inside your head instead of your stomach. And most important, after emotional eating, there is often string sense of guilt, shame and regret. My biggest time for emotional eating is the idea of food is often inside my head. I’ll wake up at night with the thought that I am hungry. Often times I can fight it. I get up, go to the bathroom, get a drink of water and lay down again and fall asleep. Other times the thought is like a song that wouldn’t end. For instance, last night I woke up with the overwhelming desire to have a piece of cake that my sister baked for my mom’s birthday. The cake wasn’t gluten free and I knew the consequences if I ate it. Ate it anyway I did. This morning I woke up sick to my stomach. Due to the gluten or my guilt and shame? I think it was both.

Second, recognize the triggers which can bring on emotional eating. Stress is a big trigger for many emotional eaters. The need to temporarily silence emotions is another trigger. The need to avoid feelings of anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment and shame. Eating can be used to hide boredom or loneliness. Have you ever been home with nothing to do and you go to the kitchen thinking “I must be hungry.” And you eat simply to give you something to do? Emotional eating also can be from childhood habits. This is my biggest trigger. Growing up in a single-parent family, we didn’t have a lot of treats. So candy, chips and other treats were uncommon. When these treats were in the house or I was somewhere these were available, I hoarded. I ate mindlessly because I didn’t know when I would have them again. Instead of savoring the chance to have such treats, I gorged myself to the point that I would become sick and eventually overweight. You may eat to avoid conflict or conversation. Triggers can be one or all of the above. One method to figure out what your triggers are is to keep a food diary. Write down when you eat, how much you eat, what you eat, how hungry you were and what your feelings or moods were when you ate. Whatever one’s triggers may be, recognizing them is the next step to avoid eating because of them.

Once one has recognized the difference between emotional eating and physical and recognizes the triggers which brings on emotional eating, the next step is to figure out ways to combat the urge for emotional eating. In my research, stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing have helped calm urges. You can give yourself a hunger check: “Am I really hungry? Or am I bored, tired, etc.?” For me, if I’m not willing to fix food, then I am not hungry. If I’m looking for something to grab and eat, then I’m not really hungry. Having a great support systems through friends, family or even a support group is a great way to combat the urges. Having someone to call or reach out to in times of loneliness or depression can help relieve the urge to eat to suppress those emotions. Find an activity that you fill your time if boredom is a trigger or an outlet to relive the urge. A few examples could be exercise, crafts, in my case reading and writing. It is important not to derive yourself. Allow yourself a treat once in a while but focus on healthy eating habits. It is also important to forgive yourself for setbacks. Pick yourself up, brush it off and start fresh. You could even write down what to avoid in the future to keep a certain setback from happening again.

In conclusion, there are many great resources out there to help with emotional eating. I only touched on a few methods to combat emotional eating. The Mayo Clinic website is a great resources and your doctor can probably direct you to some support groups or other methods in your area. Bottom line is you are your greatest enemy as well as your greatest cheerleader. Your inner monologue will help or hurt you if you are listening. Being able to change those thoughts, get help and support when you need it and don’t allow failure to defeat you. You will falter sometimes. The important things is learn from the experience, pick yourself up and start over. For me, I realize that avoiding emotional eating is going to be a lifelong commitment. However, I know that I am not alone in my struggle and I will get better.


Normal Eating: an online support group http://normaleating.com/supportgroup.php