Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review of Kelly Pulley's Treasury of Bible Stories

When I received Kelly Pulley's Magnificent Tales, Treasury of Bible Stories (Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times), I was overjoyed. It is a hardback book, beautifully and colorfully decorated on the inside and out.
I sat down the first day and read the book to my 2, 3, and 10 year old kids. We took our time, enjoyed the illustrations and often read pages over and over in different sing song voices.
Kelly Pulley takes from the Bible and tells the stories of scripture in such a fun and easy to understand way that it kept all my children captivated and they did not want to put this book away. It has been my go to night time book since receiving it and it has taught my kids so much about the Bible!
The illustrations are realistic, yet have some cartoonish aspects to them, making them fun to look at and educational at the same time. The bright colors on every page grabbed everyone's attention and held it.
I have struggled for a while with sharing scripture with my younger two children and being able to keep things on their level and keep their attention for any amount of time. I have a stack of children's bibles that have not cracked the code of my kids. This book has done the trick. They love being read to from Kelly Pulley's Treasury of Bible Stories!!
I highly recommend this book for anyone who works with or has children of any age. Not only is it a blast to read, it is entertaining to watch your children read through this book and it is absolutely heart warming to see their love of scripture grow with the turning of each page. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review of Kyle Idleman's Aha

Kyle Idleman’s book, Aha, steers you away from the self-help section of the land of books and helps you realize that maybe, just maybe- you aren’t enough to help yourself. Perhaps you need . . . something more.

You are taken to a place in the Bible that, if you’ve ever wondered from the familiar (be it church, your family, anything) and turned your back on it all, you will either already know- or you will just feel better about "coming home". It is the story of the prodigal son. It’s a story that I cannot read without shedding a tear. Not because it makes me sad, but because I have been there and I know the truth of this story. Our loved ones (and God) want us to come home. They do not care where we have been or what we have done while we were gone, they simply want us home.

"He sat straight up and suddenly realized what his life had become. He wondered how things had turned out this way. When he’d left his father’s house, he’d never imagined it would have come to this. This was never part of the plan. But now life had his attention, and he knew things had to change. One moment he was sleeping, the next he was awake." (Idleman. 2014. P.30, 31)

Ever been there? Does it sound or feel familiar? If it does, then read Aha. Read it with openness. Read it with your Bible open beside you. Kyle Idleman takes passages and parables from the Bible and he will help open your eyes to the "alarms" that may already be sounding in your life. Stop hitting the snooze button. Stop walking into libraries and book stores, and thinking books written by other humans with just as many problems as you can help fix you. Throw your misconceptions about God (He’s unreasonable, unpleasable, unmerciful, uncaring, etc) out the window and see that God just wants to you to come home. I read somewhere on Facebook a quote that said, "Satan knows your name, but calls you by your sin. God knows your sin, but calls you by your name." There is truth in those words. God does not care what your sin is or was, He’s there to tell you it doesn’t matter, He loves you regardless, and it’s not too late to do the right thing. (Idleman. 2014. P.37)

Idleman goes on to discuss how deeper spirituality, more often than not, results from difficult circumstances. You may find that your day is filled with clutter and insane schedules. You may have little to no time for God or prayer in your life. But then something devastating happens: in my own family’s case, unemployment. I would like to say that I spend a little time every day talking to God in prayer, but prior to this circumstance, I doubt I did. I can guarantee you that in those long drawn out months of not knowing what we were going to do financially, I spoke to God every day, and it wasn’t just about my problems. I learned in those months to celebrate the smallest victory and to stop complaining about things in general. I learned to be thankful for everything. I learned to trust my husband in every course of action and to verbally cheer him on in his ventures. Without the difficult circumstance that happened in our lives, I would not have grown closer to God. Along that same thought, Idleman tells an abbreviated story Gerald Sittser who through incredible loss and grief comes to the realization (as we all should) that it is not the loss, the hardship, or the difficult circumstance that becomes our story; it is our response to it that will define us. (Idleman. 2014. P.56,57)

I have heard Psalm 46:10 for the better part of my life from multiple facets: "Be still and know that I am God." I have never really found comfort or great meaning in that verse. While some of you may be gaping at the screen right now, it is true. I would read it and think, "that’s nice." That’s it. It was not a great, fantastic, moving verse for me. Until it was what I needed. My life had gotten too busy. Everything was hectic, we were always running late, (we still are, but without the negativity) I was angry all the time, our family was falling apart at the seams. Then, I read that verse. It hit me as though I had run full force into a brick wall. "Be still! Be quiet, sit still, and just listen and know that I am God." My heart stopped pounding with panic. That short verse from Psalms packs a punch. It just took a lot of alarms going off in my life to realize it. Idleman illustrates this perfectly.

In closing, you should know this book will contain a lot of "kick yourself" moments of looking back on moments in your life and realizing you should have seen the signs. It speaks to the obvious a great deal . . . and while that seems simple and you may ask yourself why in the world you would need to read it- I’m going to ask you to just stop. Stop and listen. Is your life spiraling out of control? Do you feel like your marriage is on the verge of failing? Do you feel like you’re on the edge of a constant disaster? Do you simply have a feeling of guilt that you constantly push away because you do not want to deal with it right now?

Read this book. Read it and open your heart. Maybe it isn’t speaking to you, but to a friend or a loved one. Read it. Read it and realize that your problems are probably bigger than you and your stack of self help books, but nothing . . . nothing in this world is bigger than God. Kyle Idleman’s book is not a self help book, as he will tell you. It is a book that makes you feel good, that will convict you on multiple levels, and reminds you through parables, Bible verses, and true life experience, to be still and listen to God. This book made me laugh and this book made me cry, but most of all this book caused me to realize God is always there, always willing to give us a warning (if not more than one) before we make some cataclysmic mistake that will cost us dearly in some way. Never has the phrase, "make wise choices" made so much sense.

Read this book and come home.

Follow me on facebook (name Amber Maynard Dugan) and become entered to win a free copy of Aha, or simply order your copy here:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

faith as small as a mustard seed

"...Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matt 17:20

This past year, 2013, was a learning year for myself and my family. We thought we had faith, we truly thought we did. We had prayed for several years about moving closer to home and to family, and at the end of 2012, we moved on that prayer. We took a huge leap of faith and moved. 2013 came with so much prayer and I'll be honest- worry. It just seemed like we were hit by challenge after challenge. We began to wonder if the move was really what God had intended for us. It took us 4 months to find a place to live *after* we had moved.

and so we prayed.

I cried a lot. I knew Arnie was unhappy in his job. I knew the job wasn't what he was meant to do. He knew it as well, we just didn't know what to do. The unhappiness and discontent was affecting everything in our lives.

and so we prayed.

In October, we were faced with an ultimatum. for probably one of the first times in my life, I gave up control and just went with it. We were a family of 5 and we were without a job. We were without a job from November until February. That's FOUR months without an income.

If you've never been in this position, let me just tell you: it is a humbling, humbling experience. with every moment you spend not looking for a job, you feel more guilty. I spent hours...days...doing nothing but filling out applications and making phone calls....with nothing. absolutely...nothing. occasionally, we both needed breaks from job searching...and in those "break times", I felt nothing but guilt that I wasn't looking actively for a job. we heard nothing. no phone calls, nothing.


What many, including myself, don't realize are the little things. Everyone worries about food on the table. Everyone worries about paying bills... but you don't instantly think about laundry detergent, dish soap, toilet paper, shampoo, diapers, wipes, deodorant, etc. So many little things begin to pile up and you constantly question where you went wrong. you question everything you do. you pour over receipts wishing a mistake had been made..

I cried. I cried a lot. I spent nights staring at a ceiling, just crying. what were we doing wrong? what had I done wrong? we fought a lot. I felt like a failure. we didn't communicate well. we were failing each other. tears were endless.

and so we prayed. we told ourselves (and were told by friends and family) over and over...God has a plan.

we had family trying to help us, we had friends reaching out to help us, but nothing seemed to pan out. we had silence answering our prayers. our phones never rang.

and so we prayed. we repeated it, over and over: God has a plan for us.

as our savings drained down to smaller and smaller numbers, my worry fought my faith.....and yet, we never went without (much).
We continued to pray. it seemed as though every free thought, every spare moment was a small prayer.

finally, an answer came late this Januar: a job came through- just as our savings emptied and I had no idea what we were going to do. I know that during last year, my faith waivered but never failed. it was small as a mustard seed. and while at the time, I felt nothing was happening, I felt abandoned....I was wrong. I was dead wrong. my two year old knows how to pray now, she knows Jesus. She talks about Jesus and she loves her Bible. That happened this past year. I don't think that would've happened otherwise.

you know what else happened? my husband and I- we are closer now because of what happened. we learned to communicate better, we learned to make a true blue bare bones budget. we weathered a pretty big storm, and we came out on the other side still holding hands. our marriage isn't perfect, it never has been, and never will be, but we've conquered some pretty large challenges. I feel blessed to have him in my life....and do you know what else?

I wouldn't change a thing.

being in these positions teaches me a lot about character. I have learned to be a student in all situations. there is no area of your life that you cannot learn more in. don't ever look at something and cry, "why me?"...but look at it as a challenge and see how much you can gain.

"...I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength."-Philippians 4:12-13