Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Catching Faith (DVD Review)

John and Alexa Taylor appear to have the perfect life – they’re the envy of all the parents in town. Their son Beau is the high school football star and their daughter Ravyn is a straight-A student. But when Beau is caught drinking alcohol, his place on the team and his bright future are on the line. With the football season at stake and the judgmental community turning their backs on them, every member of the Taylor family is at a crossroads. Now, they must find the strength from one another, and the spiritual courage from within, to prove that faith and family is the only score that really matters.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this DVD, at no cost to me, for review purposes.  All opinions in this post are my own.

I think most of us know people whose lives seem charmed, but we never know what's really going on with them.  John and Alexa and their children are that family.

They are, that is, until things start to unravel.  Alexa's father dies and, on the same night, high school football star Beau is caught drinking.  The fallout from Beau's poor choice includes being disallowed to play on the team (which brings the possibility of ruining the bright future he'd hoped for) and losing the support of the community (who'd been counting on him to lead the team to victory).

Meanwhile, Ravyn finds herself facing a crucial decision of her own, though it's not as public as Beau's.

All of this leads to a crisis of faith for all four of the family members.  So as you'd expect, faith is a major theme of "Catching Faith,"  Others are integrity and true friendship.

You know I like to share favorite quotes, especially from books.  This one comes right after the football coach reminds Beau that actions have consequences:
"You can let those consequences define you, or you can let God define you."
I liked this movie, but I wouldn't call it one of my favorites.  I haven't been part of a "charmed" family, either as a daughter or as a mother!  I can, however, relate to John and Alexa's struggle to make hard decisions regarding their children; even when part of us wants to make things easier for the child, we know the right thing to do isn't always the easiest.

I do think that kids today are under too much pressure to succeed.  I can understand how that could lead to challenges of integrity and the "whatever it takes to win" attitude.  In that respect, I think this movie is both timely and on target.  It would be excellent for families to watch and talk about together.

"Catching Faith" will be available on DVD, Digital HD, and On Demand in August.

For more information and to see the movie trailer, visit the "Catching Faith" website.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Remember Me

I haven't blogged much lately because I just haven't had any ideas!  But this writing prompt got me thinking, so I'm going to give it a try.

Imagine yourself at the end of your life. What sort of legacy will you leave? Describe the lasting effect you want to have on the world.

Well, can I first tell you how I don't want to be remembered?

I don't want to be remembered as the independent (in my case, read that as "self-focused") young woman I was.  I don't want to be remembered as the one who made decisions without regard to how it would affect anyone else.  People who knew me only B.C. (Before Christ) wouldn't recognize me now.  For as the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth,
... [If] anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)
I am not that person anymore.

I'd like to be remembered for the second half (Lord willing) of my life.  As a woman who finally listened to God calling her to Him, who first recognized the ways that He guarded her even as she rebelled against Him, who learned to allow Him to transform her into His servant.

Isaiah 64:8
I'd like to be remembered as someone who was a loving, faithful wife and mother. Someone who sought wise counsel, who kept promises, who helped everyone she could.  Someone who was willing to serve the Lord even when the job was as unglamorous as chopping onions or polishing pews or hemming a costume.  (Did I ever mention that sewing is not on my list of favorite things to do?)

I'd like to be remembered as someone who showed the love of Christ in every setting--not only to my church family but also in the rest of my environment.  Someone who showed compassion to "the least of these" (Matthew 25:37-40).  Someone who freely gave of her resources to serve the Lord.  Someone who didn't do things halfheartedly or halfway.

I'd like to be remembered as someone who leaned into the Lord during times of trouble--through cancer diagnosis and treatment, through years of depression.  Someone who was abundantly thankful for the people He sent to help her through those times.  Someone who tried to use those experiences to encourage others.

I'd like to be remembered as a woman who allowed God to stretch her far beyond her comfort zone.  Someone who was naturally quiet and introverted, but--through the power of God--learned to write openly on this blog about personal subjects, to approach new people, to lead a small group, and to contribute in a larger group.

Later this month I'm going to speak to a class.  Believe me, even I was surprised when I heard myself say Yes!  The topic I'll speak on is my testimony.  I can't tell anyone why he should believe in Jesus.  All I can share is my version of
I was blind but now I see! (John 9:25b)
God has opened my eyes to all that He can empower me to do.  He has opened my eyes to the joy of serving Him.  He has poured out His mercy and love and grace on me, and all I can do is allow that to overflow into the lives of people around me.

None of this is my doing:  it's God working through me.  All I've done is say Yes.

 How would you like to be remembered?

photo credit: Potter's Hands via photopin (license)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Mary's Secret Ingredients (Product Review)

Disclosure:  I received a sample of this product for review purposes.  I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions in this post are my own.  All product information has been provided by MSI and the product packaging.

Have you heard of Mary's secret ingredients (MSI)?  The website describes the service this way:
MARY’s secret ingredients is a limited edition culinary surprise box containing unique gourmet, artisanal products along with handy kitchen tools. Every season, a limited number of themed boxes filled with lovely surprises to inspire your cooking are delivered right to your door. Mary shares mouthwatering recipes using each box’s ingredients on the LOVE – the secret ingredient blog.
So four times a year, the team at Mary's secret ingredients assembles a collection of natural, gourmet foods as well as small kitchen tools.  On the company website you can see the contents of previous boxes, but each season the boxes are entirely different.  As I'm writing this, each box sells for $25.95, or you can get a one-year subscription for $103.80.  (Those prices include shipping in the continental US.)  The summer boxes, like the one I received, are sold out, so if you want to get on board for the next box, you might not want to wait.

Well.  As someone who likes to cook and who experiments with recipes until my family complains, I can't think of many things more fun than opening a box of cooking-related surprises!

The outside of the box looked ordinary, but inside, it was wrapped like a gift.  I broke the seal on the tissue paper and started looking at what was inside.

I wanted to savor the unboxing, so I took my time.  I lifted out each item, one at a time.  I can tell you that all of these products were new to me.  This is what I found:

chipz Happen gourmet tortilla chipz in Cinnful Sweet Heat, a new flavor.  These chips come from a family owned and operated business.  Did I mention that the products selected by Mary's secret ingredients are all natural, as well as gourmet?  These tortilla chips are gluten free and non-GMO, with no trans fats, artificial ingredients, or preservatives.  I like sweet-spicy flavors, so I'm looking forward to trying these with my family.

This small box of Love Grown Chocolate Power O's was crushed when I opened the carton.  This cereal may resemble a more familiar cereal, but take a closer look.  Chocolate Power O's are made with navy beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils.  I'd think that gives more protein than grain-based cereals have.  Sounds pretty good to me.  They're non-GMO, as well.

I'd never heard of rice grits until I saw this bag from Delta Blues Rice.  This product is grown, milled, and packaged on a multi-generational family farm that has been operating for over 90 years.  Rice grits are "a delicious and versatile byproduct of the rice milling process.  Traditionally known as 'middlins,' rice grits are actually broken pieces of rice.  The broken pieces cook up creamy with a texture that is perfect for sauces."  This product is also non-GMO and gluten free.  I can't wait to try it in some recipes where regular long-grain rice won't work.

The Speegee Spatula is a cool-looking silicone tool that scrapes bowls, transfers food, mixes, spreads frosting, and even cuts.  I really appreciate multi-purpose tools, especially since my kitchen drawers are usually so jammed that I have to rearrange things to close them.

Maguey Sweet Sap is totally unfamiliar to me.  According to The Little Book of Ingredients that accompanied the MSI box, it's an "unrefined and unprocessed alternative sweetener" with "a very unique flavor profile and tons of versatility."  Also according to the Little Book, the color of the syrup will change over time.  Right now it's "ideal to use as an everyday sweetener" and, after the color is darker, it "adds a one-of-a-kind flavor in sweet and savory dishes."  It's 100% organic, never heated, and all natural.  I'm ready to get started experimenting with it.  (Watch out, family!)

Rufus Teague Genuine American Barbeque sauce is also new to me.  This is the Touch O' Heat variety, one of five barbeque sauces from the company.  It's all-natural and gluten free.  Though my family likes some spicy foods, we usually don't use spicy barbeque sauces.  When I tasted this later, I decided that I'd call it more than a Touch O' Heat.  I was going to use it in a BBQ ranch dip, and this was too spicy for that.

One more point about the philosophy of MSI:  "In addition to encouraging healthy, creative cooking, MSI strives to end worldwide hunger. We partner with Feed The Children, where we donate a portion of our profits. No one should go hungry."

For more information on Mary's secret ingredients and the individual products I've described, visit the MSI website.  (Click on Marketplace/Partners to read about the products.)  You can also connect with Mary's secret ingredients on YouTube, on Twitter, on Pinterest, and on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Think, Act, Be Like Jesus (Book Review)

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book, at no cost to me, for review purposes.  I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions stated here are my own.

A few months ago I reviewed Believe:  Living the Story of the Bible to Become More Like Jesus from General Editor Randy Frazee and Zondervan.  I liked that book enough to recommend it to a friend and my pastor.  So I was eager to read the companion book:  Think, Act, Be Like Jesus.

The back cover text begins with this challenge:
Are you living the story?  The Bible is the most amazing story ever told, but it is a story that demands a response.  It teaches us that the goal of the Christian life is to become like Jesus--for our own personal growth and for the sake of others.  Each believer needs to ask three big questions:  What do I believe?  What should I do?  Who am I becoming?
 It goes on to describe the book this way:
In Think, Act, Be Like Jesus, bestselling author & pastor Randy Frazee helps you grasp the vision of the Christian life & get started on the journey of discipleship. 
In thirty short chapters, Frazee unpacks the ten key beliefs, ten key practices, and ten key virtues that help disciples to think, act, and be more like Jesus Christ.  As he unfolds the revolutionary dream of Jesus, he shows how our lives fit into the big picture of what God is doing in the world.
Think, Act, Be Like Jesus is organized in the same way as Believe.  It has three major sections:
  • Think Like Jesus:  What do I believe?
  • Act Like Jesus:  What should I do?
  • Be Like Jesus:  Who am I becoming?
Again like Believe, each of these sections is divided into ten short chapters. Think Like Jesus explains basic tenets of the Christian faith, such as what we believe about God, salvation, the Bible, and eternity.  Act Like Jesus describes our practices:  worship, prayer, total surrender, spiritual gifts, and more.  Finally, Be Like Jesus covers traits such as love, joy, peace, and humility.

The difference between the titles is that Think, Act, Be Like Jesus has more focus on application of each point, rather than including as many passages of scripture to support each belief, action, or trait.

When I started reading Think, Act, Be Like Jesus, I didn't care for it.  I couldn't pinpoint why, but I kept setting the book aside.  However, when I picked up a copy of Believe and read the chapters in parallel, the combination was great.

I read a chapter in Believe--say, the chapter on compassion--then the corresponding chapter in Think, Act, Be Like Jesus.  In this way I read about what we believe and why, then what we should do and who we are becoming.  I think this is far better than reading one all the way through, then the other.

So, while I like Think, Act, Be Like Jesus, I strongly recommend it for use in conjunction with Believe.

Links for more information:
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.