Friday, March 28, 2014

being sick does have a good side...

I have been doing a lot of reading lately as I have been flat on my back with a really nasty flu bug - I usually have sympathy for people who are sick, but now I realise that I don't have enough... this was nasty. PTL I am mostly through it (just a nagging cough left and still-oh-so-tired), so will soon be getting back to real life...

But because of the sickness, I managed to finish off two of my "book review" books and figure if I don't get the reviews up on my blog now, who knows when I will get the chance. I was reading them all this time in parallel and decided that they have enough in common to put them together on my blog...

The first book is "GREATER" by Steven Furtick:
He is a pastor of a church called Elevation and his book has a lot of resources that go along with it (found on this website: The book tells some of his story of how he started the church and focuses on ways that he has worked out that God uses to help us be greater. It isn't about being "great", but about being "greater"!

His main focus throughout each of the chapters is actually on the story of Elisha - the prophet that followed the more well known prophet Elijah. I appreciated this look into Elisha's story as it isn't one that I am that familiar with. He also masterfully extracts points from the story that really made me think and examine the way I treat God's work in my life.

The main message is about dreaming bigger, but then starting smaller - making sure we are following what God has for us and not out own pride. He tells us to use what we have "think inside the box" and God will multiply that, just as the woman gathered up all the jars from the neighbours and God miraculously filled them with oil... we need to use what we have and God will do the rest.

He is also realistic, acknowledging that sometimes the "greater life" leaves us worse off than before - God has his way of doing things and we need to keep believing even through the hard times that He will come and make things greater out of this situation.

We need to remember that Jesus said about us: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) and step out to do greater things!

At the same time that I was reading this book, I was also being encouraged by another of Max Lucado's books "You'll get through this: Hope and Help for your Turbulent Times". I love Max's use of great stories, amazing insights and just beautiful writing to help me see things that God wants me to see.
In this book, he focuses on the story of Joseph and in each chapter takes a look at another aspect of the story of how God got Joseph through the various adventures he was put through in his amazingly turbulent life. We are also reminded that although things looked horrible for Joseph at times, in the end God was weaving it all together into his eternal story of love and redemption for the people of Israel. It isn't always just about us, but about the bigger picture which only God can see.

However, I do believe the authors differ in their treatment of the people reading the book. Steven is trying to encourage those who feel like they aren't able to do it, to get out there and get onto God's bandwagon. Whereas Max's emphasis is more on helping those who are feeling a bit battle-weary realise that there is more to the story, and they can trust God to move them forward.

I enjoyed these books immensely and would highly recommend them to a Christian seeking either to do greater things for God, or one who is maybe feeling a bit downtrodden and need of encouragement. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received these books free from the publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Trip to UK and France...

I needed to go to a conference in Lyon, France and when I looked at the price of tickets it was about the same to go via the UK as to go directly, so I took the opportunity to see some friends and my family on the way there and back. I just realised that I didn't get any pictures with my sister and brother-in-law, but I did spend most of my time with the kids, so it is understandable...

Here are James, Amy and I with the Bosnian honey heart cakes we made together (they had to translate the recipe from Bosnian, and they did a great job of figuring it out!): We all started out wearing hats, but Amy lost hers along the way... we also have a whole video of the cake making - needless to say we had fun :) 
I also had another chance to see James singing at Magdalen College Chapel. He is now Head Chorister, and as he just turned 13, there is no way to know how much longer he will actually be able to sing, so it was great to get the opportunity to see him in action!
Then I spent a night with some dear friends in London and of course didn't get a pic with them :( It was great seeing them even if it was whistle-stop as I had to fly out very early on Monday morning to the conference in Lyon... The amazing thing was that without even coordinating I sat next to fellow YWAMers on both flights to and from France - and it wasn't as if they will full of YWAMers, either: one had 6 of us, the other 5... so it really was funny.

The conference was amazing. It was for Western European leaders, but they had invited us from Central Europe to come as well- and there was about 20 of us which was really great! 280 people at the conference in total, and it was really long days - from 9am-9.30pm and with half an hour travel to and from the venue made for very long days... but it was worth it: Here is one of the plenary sessions which were held in a large (and stunning) church building
One of the highlights was catching up with and spending time with my friend Belinda - here we are at the other venue (for lunch, dinner and afternoon workshops...and another 20 minute walk there and back - we did a LOT of walking!).
The food was amazing... here is how they cooked most of it: remember 280 people and they had no kitchen to speak of! They did amazingly well with figuring out how to do it all!
I stayed an extra day (because of flights) and so had some time to do some sightseeing on the Friday. Here are some remains of the amphitheatre from the Roman city of Lugdunum... which is featured in Asterix and Obelix!! 
 St John the Baptist's Cathedral (or in French St Jean-Baptiste):
 A view of the Notre Dame Cathedral on the hill...
 And a view from inside. It was magnificent! Well worth the trek up the hill :)
Although it wasn't too bad of a trek as our youth hostel was also up the hill (so I had to go most of the way anyway) and there was a funicular to halfway which helped. Here is a pic from the terrace of the hostel - it really was a lovely place to stay...
Then it was time to say goodbye to Lyon, and go back to the land of English to stay with my friends near Stoke-on-Trent. It was great to be able to see them: and after trying to find a time to get a pic of all of us, so that I would have one, we finally got it together on the morning before I left:
Trevor, Anna, Carol, Christopher and I
And Trevor forgot to put his "collar" on for the pic, so I got another one with him - he is a Curate, and will soon be a Vicar, but he is still Trevor-who-can't-keep-a-normal-face-for-photos it seems :)
Then it was time to go back to my sister's for one more night... and spend some quality time with my nephew and niece... Here is a "selfie" Amy and I took on the trampoline :)
I come back full of great memories, good times and ready for things here in Bosnia!
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