Sharing my faith and my life one day at a time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2011

Reading is my one habit that will never die. I wish I had the same enthusiasm for other things the way I have for my books. My happiest 'me' time is when I am alone in my room, reading, and my home is completely silent.

I own may too many books. A lot of them are still on my book shelf waiting to be read.

However, I am grateful for the ones I got to read and made an impact on my life. Now that 2011 has come to a close, I would like to share with you my favorite books of the past year.

"We do not have time to waste our lives living out a Christian spin on the American Dream."

A passionate perspective on Christianity in America and the desperation to bring back the fire of knowing, sharing, and living out the Gospel. Now that I live in the United States, I know first-hand how real the problem is. First heard about this book in a casual conversation with a pastor (that we just met at that moment) while waiting at a movie theater in Dallas, TX. Read the book. Heard the audio version. Both excellent ways of learning.

"It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it is absolutely vital to grasp that he didn't call you there so you could settle in and live your life in comfort and superficial peace."

Sermons, books, podcasts have a plethora of material on the nature of God as our Father and Jesus Christ. God as the Holy Spirit seems to be the least popular and perhaps the most intimidating. Chan has always been one of my favorite teachers. I learn best from his demeanor and he did a great job bringing the Holy Spirit to life. It truly is a tragedy to not depend on its power and its presence in our lives. Read the book and heard the audio as well.

Katie Davis with Beth Clark

"God reminded me how beautiful we all are to Him, after all, we are created in His own image, and He looks at me, at you, in all our sweat and dirt and brokenness, and says, "I choose you. You are beautiful."

I was not planning to reading this book until I heard that Davis was class president and homecoming queen from Ravenwood High School and decided to live in Uganda after high school graduation and start an orphanage there. Ravenwood is one of the high schools we are trying to reach out to in Franklin, TN and its students has been in many of my prayers this past year. I also have a deep love for orphans ever since I can remember. When I think of having children and starting a family, the immediate response of my heart is always to follow God's Biblical mandate of caring for those children who don't have parents. I love what the author is doing in obedience to God. At the age of 22, she is now the adoptive mother of 13 children. An inspiring book to start doing something to care for the orphans, the widows, the hungry, the neglected, the forgotten.

"Getting healthy isn't just about losing weight. It's not limited to adjusting our diet and hoping for good physical results. It's about recalibrating our souls so that we want to change -- spiritually, physically, and mentally."

I consider this book as a source of my breakthrough in terms of health and fitness. I am a work in progress (and I mean, a lot of work) but the lessons I have learned led me to a path of caring a lot less about what I eat and yearning more for my God -- the only One who can fill my deepest desires. Do you get cranky when you are hungry? I used to be like that. I consider it nothing short of a miracle that I am not like that today. I still have to make huge improvements in a lot of areas but I am so grateful how my faith was strengthened during this process of maintaining a healthy, not-obsessed-with-food lifestyle.

"Discipleship, in our understanding, is not a mentoring program to help encourage Christians to become better Christians. The discipleship process starts with introducing nonbelievers to the gospel and person of Jesus Christ."

A book authored by the pastor of my home church in Franklin, TN. He was also the senior pastor of my church in the Philippines. I am where I am today because when I was living for myself in 2003, someone took the time to introduce Jesus Christ and the Gospel to me. I continued to grow in my relationship with Jesus with the help of small groups I were a part of and because many women passionately taught me to follow Him. That passion made me want to do the same for people who do not know Christ. Church is not a Sunday thing for me. Every single day, I love to live for Jesus. I am grateful that I belong to a discipleship-based church. The book tells the story of a 1984 missions trip to the Philippines turned into a church plant that made many (including myself) disciples and continues to make more. Truly an excellent book on church growth and what it truly means to win the lost.

Rebecca Nichols Alonzo with Bob DeMoss

"God is still God when things don't make sense. God hasn't made a mistake yet, so He can be trusted even when my circumstances suggest otherwise."

One of the most challenging, most convicting Bible passages of all time (at least for me) is Matthew 5:38-48. Jesus asked for what seems impossible. He asks us to pour out love specifically to people who has done nothing but cause harm and pain to us. Phrases like 'eye for eye' and 'tooth for tooth' were explained by Jesus how those principles miss the whole point of what being a believer is all about. This book is a stirring story of love and forgiveness for enemies -- especially if that enemy killed your parents. Alonzo lived out Matthew 5 in the purest way. If forgiveness is something you struggle with, I am certain that this book is going to change your perspective.

"Intercessory prayer is our most powerful and strategic corporate weapon in spiritual warfare."

The title sounds intimidating and dark. I promise you that when I read this book, it was the complete opposite. It left me empowered and confident of God's power in me. The enemy of our souls is defeated. We are in a lifelong spiritual battle whether we like it or not. Oppression is a reality. It is wise to completely understand it and know what we are in the middle of.

"Dear performer, God wants to heal your shame. You do not have to hide your sins committed against you. Bring them to the feet of the Grace Giver. He will not condemn you. He will forgive you and heal you. He invites you to come out of hiding and stand in the light of His grace, where you are fully known. He invites you to take off the dirty clothes of shame and receive the clean robe of His righteousness."

Hands down my favorite Bible study this year. Enriching. Liberating. Perfect for me who grew up in a performance-driven school that put so much emphasis on excellent grades and good works. It's amazing how that kind of academic training leaves a person unfamiliar with grace. Undoing that mindset was accomplished with a lot of help from Harling's insights. I plan to re-visit it again this year.

"We're called the Pawnee Goddesses and we're freakin' awesome"

A fictitious book written by a fictitious author based on the best-written (in my opinion) comedy on television today. A must-have for any Parks and Recreation fan. Your tummy will hurt in laughter, I promise you.

"I'm Jessica Quirk and I've been taking my daily outfit pictures (almost) everyday since May 2007. This isn't a posed photo shoot, what you see is what I really wear on a daily basis!"

I have been following her blog for quite some time now and I am happy that it eventually birthed a book on personal style. 

"Job diversity is essential because 'job security' has evaporated."

I have made a few steps of working independently. Most of these steps were based on my own limited knowledge of survival skills in the world of work. This book is helping me pave the way to make more wise steps in that direction. I may have read through the whole book but it continues to be a reference material as I make new steps in my non-corporate career.

How about you?
What are the favorite books you have read in 2011?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

One Word 2012: GENEROSITY

If you are curious, visit this website

It says: 

 One word can change everything. 

Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap the long list of goals that you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word

One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2012. 

One word that you can focus on every day, all year long. 

It will take hard work, and will require intentionality and commitment. But if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow. 

Discover the big impact one word can make. 

One word. 

365 days. 

A changed life.

When the last week of December 2011 was unfolding, I searched. Searched my heart. Looked for the voice for my Father. I needed to make sense of the toughest year of my life.

2011. Hard. Tough. Difficult. Painful.

Moving to a new city unexpectedly required so much out of me.

Not being able to say goodbye to family and close friends.

Leaving everything I owned behind.

Missed my spiritual family -- people I shared my life with intimately for years.

Awkwardly trying to build new relationships.

Yearning to fill an empty new home.

Losing two grandparents in a matter of three weeks and not being able to be with family during this time.

Juggling the demands of a full-time job, building two different ministries (middle school and high school), staying on top of running a household and managing finances that seem to keep on declining over time.

My conversations with God pretty much consisted of cries and selfish declarations of feeling forgotten.

I knew in my mind that I had to "consider it pure joy" when I faced these different trials. And yet my heart ached with pain rather than with hope.

And then one morning, as I was asking God "Why is this season so difficult?"

He spoke to my heart so loud and so clear. He lovingly responded back.

"If I made this year easy for you, then you would not have seen the depths of My faithfulness."

His voice was undeniable and my heart started leaping at the thought of how deeply faithful He truly was.

We got blessed by a car. Found an apartment in a safe location. It was once empty and yet today we have everything we need. Skype. New friends who took time to get to know me. Having that one friend I can run to in times of heartache. Craigslist. Outpouring of support (in finances, gifts, words, and prayers) to help us stay encouraged. Travel opportunities. Our marriage is the strongest it has ever been and it just keeps on getting better and sweeter.

 Barbara Mouser in 'Five Aspects of Woman' said it so beautifully:

"God is good, & life is worthwhile in spite of its pain. I am regaining the joy of giving by accepting the pain & struggle. I do all I can to alleviate my sufferings & those of others. But even when pain & death do hold sway, I am not utterly quenched or without hope. At the depths of suffering, I keep finding Christ who is there before me."

The second sentence kept on resonating in my heart.

I am regaining the joy of giving by accepting the pain & struggle.

I am certain that God is challenging me this year with this one word:


And I humbly accept the challenge.

Sowing and giving sacrificially have never been personal struggles. But I am certain that God wants me to take it to a whole new ridiculous level. 

The kind that hurts. If it is not painful, then I am not giving enough.

The kind that leaves me hanging by a thread and only God can make a way to provide.

I sincerely desire that even when resources seem to be scarce, I will give crazily.

He wants me to be generous with my money, my things, my time, my words, and my acts of service.

"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB)

Please pray for me that this verse rules over my heart every single day of this year. I cannot do it without Christ's grace and without your prayers.

Share with me today:
What is your 'one word' for 2012?
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