Books I Am Determined To Finish Reading This Month

I got into a bad habit, ya’ll. I have a bad habit of starting books and then putting them down and starting another. This has led to a pile of 20 something books by my bedside that I’ve started and not finished. So, my goal for this month is to finish two books. I can start another book; I just got to finish two.

This is it. The books I'm determined to finish.

This is it. The books I’m determined to finish.

And because I love hearing what other people are reading, I thought I would share what books I currently am reading. The picture you see featured are the books. So in no particular order, I’ll summarize the books for you:

  • True Love Dates by Debra Fileta. Yes, it is a book on dating. No, it will not tell you dating is less holy than courtship. Debra has, in my opinion, a balanced take on dating and relationships. We all want to do relationships right, but sometimes we get so caught up in doing things perfectly that we start living in fear of doing the wrong thing. Let’s call it hamartiaphobia (hamartia is the Greek word for sin), the fear of sinning. The only fear we should have is the fear of the Lord. If we have a fear of anything else, it will lead us to bondage, captivity. We are called to walk in faith, not fear. Amen? To summarize the book, Debra encourages singles to date inward, or in other words, get to know yourself first. Then date outward and upward. Get to know others through your dating interactions and, most importantly, know God. In the introduction, Debra explains, “Dating upward proposes that to fully engage in the exchange of love with another human being, you must first experience it within the context of a relationship with God.”
  • Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery. I must admit I am a big fan of the Anne series. I have all eight books and I read them just about every summer. Montgomery’s descriptions of a scenery in Prince Edward Island is as breathtaking as if you were there seeing it with your own eyes. Anne of Avonlea is the second book in the series. And I must warn you, if you watched the movies, there is not a whole lot of similarities with the sequel of the movie by producer Kevin Sullivan. Anne starts teaching in her old schoolhouse where she was a student, but there is much more that happens in the book than in the movie. Marilla adopts twin orphans, a boy and a girl, much to Anne’s joy. Anne and Gilbert become friends and share in taking correspondent courses while teaching. And of course, throw in a few more mishaps that only Anne can do. New and interesting characters are introduced such as Miss Lavendar of Echo Lodge. I love the characters and I love all the stories Montgomery weaved into the book. It is a lighthearted and charming book.
  • What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa Terkeurst. Lysa is the president and founder of the Proverbs 31 Women organization that helps women to grow in their faith. I’ve read a few of her books and love her honesty and humor. I also love how I can relate to her struggles with insecurity and fears. This book was written in 2005 and I am just now discovering it. Great book and Bible study!! And so what I need right now in this stage of my life where I am wanting to walk in faith and see how God moves in big ways in my life. Lysa says in her introduction, “I believe God gives every woman a dream. Not the same dream, of course, but a dream that is especially tailored for her talents and His purposes.” But like the Israelites, we women face some obstacles along the way. A desert full of discouragement, impatience, fear, and fatigue. Giants in the Promise Land. We always have a choice when faced with these obstacles: either shrink back and give up, or keep plugging ahead.  In the book she teaches on five phases of faith: Leaving, Famine, Believing, Death, and Resurrection. I don’t want to say too much, but just enough to wet your whistle…pique your interest. Trust me, the book is full of good stuff. There are questions at the end of each chapter along with verses to help you dig into God’s word and listen for His voice. Have a notebook or journal handy!
  • Get Unstuck, Be Unstoppable by Valorie Burton. I am proud to say I just finished this book today at the time I’m writing these words (Wednesday, June 17). YAY!!! I bought this book a long time ago. A looooooong time ago. I’m pretty sure I bought it in October of last year. This book is written by life and executive coach, Valorie Burton. If you find yourself stuck in life, not moving forward with your goals, this book might help you pin point why and encourage you to keep going. There are question at the end to get your wheels turning in your head and a prayer at the end. The author has been featured on several t.v. shows including Oprah and The Today Show. I like this lady. She gives me a good kick in the pants. Many of us have learned bad habits that have not served us well in life. I know I have. However we’ve learned these bad happens, whether learned through our dysfunctional families, or just got into making bad choices that became bad habits, it is never too late to learn new ones. We are not doomed!  Valorie encourages me with these words, “God wants to do a new thing in you. What has occurred in the past does not need to dictate your future.” She teaches you to be aware of emotions and triggers that can be keeping you stuck. She gives inspiration to conquer those emotions and triggers, and helps you to rescript your story so it “epitomizes the power of God in your life”, allowing you to step into the amazing life God has for you. If you want to find out more about Valorie and what she does, check out this link to her website:
  • Successful Women Think Differently: 9 Habits to Make You Happier, Healthier, and More Resilient by Valorie Burton. Yes, I have another one of Valorie’s books. 🙂 I must admit, I’m not very far along in this book. It’s a good book; I just got distracted by all my other books. Well, it is work to read it because I have to think and write. This book is a little bit of a different format than the above book. There are thought-provoking questions that she asks throughout the chapters, but not in every chapter where you have to write down something. I get stuck on the questions and have to put it down for awhile. Valorie defines success as a “harmony of purpose, resilience, and joy. Think of it this way: Success is living your life’s purpose and embracing resilience and joy as you do.” There is a lie I have believed about success. I believed that success comes only to the most talented and gifted of people. The rest of us have to sit on the sidelines. Not true! Valorie teaches 9 habits that successful women have and anyone can learn. One of the main reasons why success comes to people is because they think differently. What do they think? One of thoughts is about themselves. They believe they can do whatever it is they want to achieve. The ones that struggle and quit are the people that doubt themselves. My pastor always says, “If you can change your thinking, you can change your life.”  The first habit Valorie teaches is “Believe you can do it.” She teaches in this first habit to adopt a “growth mindset” rather than a fixed one, and to take notice of what you tell yourself and adjust your thoughts to accurate thinking which is different than positive thinking. You can be positive all day long but not be accurate. “Choose hope. Dream big. Learn new skills. Believe all things are possible.”
  • The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. Deep stuff, dude. Deep stuff. I’ve been reading this one for awhile too. I am almost done with it though with a just a few more chapters to go. While Willard covers a lot in this book (it’s 400 pages), the gist of it is about how we as Christians are to live in God’s kingdom on earth, “the kingdom of the heavens”. Many Christians have the mindset that the primary function of Christianity is as, Willard called it, “admittance into heaven”. In this book, Willard shares his hope, “to gain a fresh hearing for Jesus, especially among those who believe they already understand him. In his case, quite frankly, presumed familiarity has led to unfamiliarity, unfamiliarity has led to contempt, and contempt has led to profound ignorance. Very few people today find Jesus interesting as a person or of vital relevance to the course of their actual lives…The life and words that Jesus brought into the world came in the form of information and reality. He and his early associates overwhelmed the ancient world because they brought into it a stream of life at its deepest, along with the best information possible on the most important matters.” Towards the end of the book, Willard teaches on the primary function of the Church which is to make disciples. Unfortunately, in the West, we do little of that. We live in an age where the darkness is getting darker. While it might seem darkness is winning, light never shines as bright as when it is darkest. We need to let our light shine! Willard really draws out some great truths from Scripture that has inspired me to let my light shine. People are hurting and they need to know where to go to be healed.
  • One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America’s Future by Dr. Ben Carson. This book is a political book. Now, don’t roll your eyes. There’s nothing inherently evil about politics. I don’t talk much about politics on this blog because that is not the focus, though, I might imply some things that are debated by both political parties. Nothing wrong with that. We have some serious issues going on in this country that, yes, involve politics; just no way around that. We have issues that need to be debated and discussed and discussed some more, because we have some decisions to make about what kind of country we really want to be. I feel we are at a crossroads with this next presidential election coming up and we, as Americans, need to decide which America we are going to be: the one our Founding Fathers envisioned, or this new America that some are propagating.  In the preface of the book, you can find a transcript of Dr. Carson’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast from 2013. You can also read some of his story on how he rose from poverty to the place as the most respected neurosurgeon in the country. Very inspiring!! “Many Americans argue that our nation’s future does not need to be saved and that we are in very good shape. They think that only partisans are skeptical about our future and that people say negative things in order to make the current administration look bad. They see the beautiful view that is America, but they don’t have the common sense and wisdom to look for lowering clouds that obscure the mountain.” Some issues he talks about? Political correctness, racism, elitism, historical revisionists, education, unity. He also talks about the need for civility in our debates over hot button issues. How do we cordially disagree with someone while making a stand for what we believe? There are action steps at the end of each chapter to help encourage you to increase your awareness of how you treat others that disagree with you and also how to be better informed for the voting booth, and how to deal with academic/pc bullies.

There’s so many more books I need to finish, and I just got a new book in today!! Woohoooo!!!! I’m a bookaholic. What books are you reading? Leave a comment and don’t forget to give me the author. I might want to read it! 🙂

My Top Five Christmas Movie List

Merry Christmas, ya’ll out there in cyber world!

Today I thought I would write something fun for the Christmas season. I know it is a tough season for many, me included. I pray for the Lord to help me remember why I celebrate Christmas. I celebrate not because I have enough money to buy everyone a bunch of gifts, cuz I don’t. It’s not because all of my family members are healthy and alive, because some are not. It’s not because I’m healthy, cuz I’m not. It’s because of the gift of Jesus Christ that was given to us on Christmas day.

Now, before you literalistic people wig out on me and remind me most emphatically that Jesus wasn’t really born in December, let me say this: I know. Scholars think he was maybe born in spring, but no one can say when, so we picked December 25th as the day to celebrate. Does God care that it isn’t the exact date? I don’t think so. He knows we can’t figure that out because none of us were around that day and since no one in Bethlehem bothered to write out a birth certificate the day Jesus was born, we’re probably never going to know. If they did, I bet it got lost between Bethlehem and the flight to Egypt. You know how it is with moving from house to house. Things get lost. 🙂

I am thankful today for the gift of Jesus. Where would I be without him?

I am also thankful for Christmas movies.

Yeah!!!!! Christmas movies!!!!

Today I am putting together a list of my top five Christmas movies with a bit of commentary. So without further ado, here it is:

It's a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. It’s A Wonderful Life.  Now, if you’ve never seen this, you’ve been missing out. A 1946 movie, clearly a classic and number 1 on many best Christmas movies lists. It is a movie that is in black and white. You youngin’s out there might not like black and white cuz you’re not used to seeing it, but trust me, this movie is fantastically written and exceptionally performed by actors Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed as the lead characters. Lionel Barrymore, who plays the crotchety Mr. Potter, is Drew Barrymore’s great (grand) uncle. Interesting movie note: Barrymore’s character was in a wheelchair not because the story called for it, but because Barrymore could no longer act standing up. His health had deteriorated by the time of this film and had to act sitting in a wheelchair. I know! I’m a movie nerd! The story follows a boy named George as he grows up into adulthood and has to take over his father’s bank business rather than follow his dreams. He then gets married and has kids and begins to wonder if his life is worth living. Once 8,000 dollars is misplaced by George’s Uncle Billy, he becomes suicidal because he would be held responsible and sent to prison for federal charges.  An angel is sent from heaven to show him what life would be like if he had never been born. It is a very dramatic movie, but one that leaves you with the reminder that you might not have much but you do have things for which you can thank God.

Cover of "White Christmas"

Cover of White Christmas

2. White Christmas.  Again, an oldie but a goodie. Like It’s A Wonderful Life, this movie covers World War II. In fact, it starts out around the end of the war. Leading actors are: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye (love him!!), Rosemary Clooney who’s name you might recognize. Yes, kiddies, that is George Clooney’s aunt. And also Vera-Ellen, the beautiful and talented dancer in the show. The movie came out in 1954. It’s a sort of romance, musical comedy. The storyline is about a couple of song-and-dance enternainers who become romantically involved with a sister act. They team up to save the inn of the guys’ former commanding general in the army. It’s hilarious. My favorite scene is of the guys taking the place of the girls’ act so as to let them sneak out and run away from the hotel manager who wants to hit them up for damaging the carpet in their room. I know all the words to the song they sing by heart. Yes, I’ve seen it that many times! haha! This movie has great one-line zingers! I love the banter between Crosby’s character and Kaye’s character. Plus, I just love old American 40’s vernacular. I wish people still said, “How do you do?” upon face to face introductions and greetings.

English: Bing Crosby & Marjorie Reynolds in Ho...

English: Bing Crosby & Marjorie Reynolds in Holiday Inn – trailer (cropped screenshot) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. Holiday Inn.  Another musical. OK, so I love musicals. 😉 Now, this one, ya’ll, is the movie where the song White Christmas first appeared. You’d think it was the movie, White Christmas, but no. You’d be wrong. This one came out in 1942, a little more than 10 years before the movie production of White Christmas. The song, White Christmas, was written especially for Holiday Inn. It stars Bing Crosby and the great Fred Astaire along with Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale. The storyline is Crosby, Astaire, and Dale are an musical act working together in New York City nightclubs. Crosby’s character, Jim is engaged to Dale’s character, Lila. Little does Jim know that Lila and Astaire’s character, Ted, are romantically involved and plan on breaking the engagement between Jim and Lila so Ted and Lila can run off and get married. You notice a sort of love/hate relationship between Ted and Jim as they fight over women. Jim leaves for Connecticut where he had bought a farm since he was tired of showbiz. Once that doesn’t work out he changes the farm into an inn and sets it up as a dinner club with musical acts. Lila finds herself a millionaire and breaks up with Ted who is distraught and turns to Jim. Jim, meanwhile, had moved on and found someone to work with him, Reynolds’ character, Linda. They become romantically involved until Ted steps in. Cue dramatic music. haha!! Ted now looking for love and a new dance partner begins chasing after Linda while Jim tries every maneuver possible to keep Linda from him. My most favorite scene of the movie is Astaire’s dance act with firecrackers for the 4th of July. The man is brilliant and moves like he’s weightless! He practically was at 85 lbs. during the time of shooting the scene. The motel chain franchise that we know as Holiday Inn was named after the inn in this movie by founder Kemmons Wilson in 1952.

Cover of "Elf (Infinifilm Edition)"

Cover of Elf (Infinifilm Edition)

4. Elf.  One of the few films with Will Ferrell that I like. Main actors Will Ferrell, James Caan, and the legendary Bob Newhart. It’s charming and silly. I probably don’t need to give much commentary on this since this is a modern film and most probably have seen it. But on the rare chance that you haven’t, here’s the summary of the film: Buddy is an elf. But he’s no ordinary elf. He’s a human elf. As a baby he managed to sneak into Santa’s bag while at an orphanage and hitched a ride to the North Pole. So Buddy was raised by elves. As he grew to 6 ft tall, and became an adult he finds out he’s not really an elf so he heads to NYC to find his real dad who happened to be on Santa’s naughty list. Buddy is sweet and childlike. And there are so many scenes where I about peed my pants laughing so hard. My favorite scenes are when Buddy is in a department store and it is announced that Santa was coming. He exclaims most excitedly, “SANTAAAAAAA!!!!!” And then a bit calmer but still excited, “I know him!” haha!! The other scene is Buddy interaction with a literary agent, Miles Finch who is about the height of an elf. Mistakenly thinking that because of Miles’ size he must be an elf, Buddy asks him questions about how he left the North Pole. Miles, of course, takes offense to it and chaos ensues.

Cover of "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York&...

Cover of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

5.  Home Alone 2.  I picked Home Alone 2 as my number 5 pick because I think it is absolutely hilarious! The first one was good, but this one is even better. This came out in 1992. Can you believe that? Just over twenty years ago! What makes this film funnier than Home Alone? Tim Curry. The man’s comedic delivery is genius as the concierge for the Plaza Hotel, which is a real hotel in NYC. Movie note: The Plaza Hotel was built first in 1907. It is the only hotel in NYC that is a historical landmark. What I also love about the movie is how a fake movie was done to look like an old gangster movie from the 40’s. The director had to do some research on old movies from the 40’s to write the lines for the characters so they could sound as authentic as possible. The storyline is much like the first movie only this time Kevin is alone in New York. He’s alone in New York in a swanky hotel. Alone with his dad’s money and credit card. He runs into the bandits that tried to rob his parents’ house in the first movie. This time the bandits are trying to rob a toy store and Kevin tries to stop them. In my opinion, Tim Curry steals the show. Two of my favorite scenes with him is when he and the other concierges chase after Kevin into his hotel room where Kevin hides in the bedroom and plays scenes from the fake movie, Angels With Even Filthier Souls, the sequel to the first movie’s Angels With Filthy Souls. If the title sounds familiar it is because it’s a spoof of the real movie with James Cagney, Angels With Dirty Faces, a 1938 gangster film. My other favorite scene is with Tim Curry and the parents after they finally arrive at the hotel to find Kevin. The mom, played by Catherine O’Hara, says she is going to go out on the streets to look for Kevin. Curry’s character says, “Madam, there are hundreds of parasites out there armed to the teeth….” Mom slaps him. Then he says, “Do bundle up, it’s awfully cold outside,” as his eyes begin to well up with tears from the stinging slap. Man, oh man did I laugh when I watched this movie for the first time in years last week! I laughed so hard I cried.

There you have it. My top 5 favorite Christmas movies. If you haven’t seen any of these, I recommend you check it out on Netflix or Hulu!

Got any favorite Christmas movies? Please share in the comments!

Merry Christmas, everyone!