Sunday, July 31, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week

People ask me all the time, "What are you reading?" Contrary to popular belief, I do a few other things with my life, but I love to read. Most of what shows up on this blog are reviews for Thomas Nelson, but I read a lot of other books. I like Christian, spiritual, monastic books and I equally love books that have nothing to do with any of those. I'm going to start posting on Sundays what I'm reading in the week ahead. So, this week I'm reading....... An advanced copy of With by Skye Jethani releasing in a few weeks

Peace Be With You - Monastic Wisdom For a Terror Filled World by David Carlson

And Downward Dog Upward Fog by Meryl Landau - A Yoga Novel

Happy Reading!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fall Book Club Announcement!

Our fall book club is scheduled to start September 6th from 10-11 a.m. at the store. We will be reading Lisa Harper's latest, Stumbling Into Grace. Come register to receive 20% off the book!

Enrollment is limited so don't wait! Sign up today!

Please be prepared to discuss the first five chapters at our first meeting.

Please contact Brenda with any questions
By E-mail at
Or By phone 229-247-5262
Or just stop by!

We look forward to reading with you soon!

****This will not be an on-line book club. Just in store.****

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fresh-brewed Life - A Book Review

Nicole Johnson is the dramatist for Women of Faith. Fresh-Brewed Life is a version of her previous book that has been revised and expanded. I read this book back in college (I'm a sucker for religious books WITH coffee on the cover-what can I say?). It's a transparent, real book. The first edition focused more on her first marriage and a lot of that has been removed for this one. She is now remarried with two small children, but I think at least some of the previous content should have stayed. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter are not cheesy like most. They provide the opportunity for deeper insight and examination. It's a good book for women.

*For Thomas Nelson

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Journals and Letters and Memories - Oh My!

I've been transferring years of journals to Evernote, a great online program that safely stores information. A lot of what I've written I plan to use some day. And a lot of it represents various rants on topics I wouldn't discuss with most people. I'm planning on being around awhile, but in the event that doesn't happen, I don't want people reading all of that! I want to be perfected in death as is customary.

So, I've been coming across some interesting memories along the way. I remembered why I hated junior high school and why you couldn't pay me to go back to high school. I remembered how many deep thoughts surfaced in four years of college. Self discovery is pretty amazing.

And I marveled at the journey of the last 10 years. Great times, hard times, life times. People who appear frequently in some journals have long since moved on. Some have stayed. Some relationships have changed. Some had to go. People have been added and changed. The life continuum.

I came across this card that took my breath away. I wish it was dated. My dad died 4 years ago, but our relationship was over long before that. Divorce is messy. Distance is hard. Sometimes blood doesn't mean you get along (ever read the Old Testament?). I read this card like it was from a stranger. I don't remember him like this, casually talking about vacations and school happenings.

I forgot that he liked to write and sent lots of cards. I only have a few.

I found this line kind of interesting. "My ear and door are always open!' Underlined for effect. And you've GOT to be kidding me. Surely I didn't believe that even then. Our court mandated Sunday evening phone chat consisted of about 20 words and a prayer that age 18 would hurry. I'd like to be kind and say it was both of our faults, but I don't believe eight year old children are responsible for maintaining a relationship.

None the less, God showed up early in the journals.

I watched as He wove a tapestry of grace along those pages. Even in the, "Where are You?" entries, He was there handwriting a perfect script of this, His story. I'm honored to be even a small part.

So, journals from 20 years have been scanned, labeled, divided and are now searchable. And are under password lock and key. Someone suggested I give someone the password. Someone who knows me better suggested definitely not. As for the physical journals? It makes me a little sad to see them go.

But, this card, I think I'll keep.

Surprised by Oxford - A Book Review

This is a memoir by Carolyn Weber telling her journey of graduate studies at Oxford University. It's broken into the three terms established by the liturgical calendar. It's a good book, well researched, applicable quotes and an interesting journey. The only downside? It's ridiculously too long. Like at least 100 pages could be easily eliminated and the story would be better. After the first half, it just drags on forever. It's still good. It's just too long. Also, the language is somewhat offensive.

I did appreciate her intense documentation about her spiritual journey from Agnostic to Believer. I loved this example. "What happens if you turn from one, but can't fully turn to the other? Tell me. Is there a word for being eternally, pathetically, insurmountably stuck?" I paused, searching for the right words, the words that would convey exactly how my soul ached but could not quite leap. They were evading me. The entire table sat still. "Tell me," I finally got out, grappling for a light switch in the dark. "Is there a word for wanting to forget this God and Jesus and the whole mess? For wanting to forget it all?" I pinned him with my eyes.

"Despair," he reminded me, draining his glass.

And this one. "You had better think through God if you're going to stay in one piece. I've had colleagues try to sidestep God, but that only cracks them apart even further in the long run."

And, of course, I love an epilogue entitled, Believe Wisely. Amen to that.

Again, it's a great book, a great journey and a well documented story. It's just too long.

*For Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Healing Hearts - A Book Review

I'm not a huge Amish fiction fan, but I do like Beth Wiseman. This is a 3 novella collection including A Choice To Forgive, A Change of Heart, and Healing Hearts. The stories are somewhat predictable, but that is improved by rich character development and interesting story lines. It's a believable escape into the Amish culture and I enjoyed it.

*For Thomas Nelson

Monday, July 25, 2011

That I Might Not Sin Against You

Praying today...

That my actions and reactions would resemble Your behavior.

That I would take responsibility for this temple like it belongs to You.

That I would nurture truth in my life and those surrounding it.

That the grace given to me would be extended freely to others.

That I would live like one forgiven.

That peace would reach to every corner of my heart.

That while I'm alive I would live.

That I would find You uncompromisingly trustworthy.

That I would serve You faithfully.

That I might not sin against You.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

When Depression Wins

I've dealt with diagnosed depression in my own life for at least 10 years and have blogged extensively about it. The battle against depression has been gentle and brutal and not much in between. Some seasons are better than others, but it's forever present.

I guess I thought in order to win against depression it had to be all gone. I couldn't just go a day, week or month without a high speed come apart. I had to stay perfectly balanced for the rest of my earthly life to be the champion. So, when I had a bad day without a good reason or cried myself to sleep because I felt like it, I assumed depression was back and I was losing.

It's not true.

I've realized in recent weeks that in order to survive, I have to let depression win. I suppose it's possible that at some point in my life depression will be completely gone. It's not likely. My estimated life span is significantly longer than most meds will be beneficial. I am creative and an over-thinker - double whammy in the depression department.

At the risk of sounding like a life affirmation guru - I've surrendered to depression, acknowledging that if it's going to be around we might as well try to get along.

I'm doing my part. I've done a complete life makeover in the last year. I've incorporated all the peace I can possibly manage. I've added a twice a day yoga practice, jogging, meditation, lots of prayer, scripture, and extra rest. I've eliminated things (and people!) that stress me out and offer nothing in return. I've joined a community of believers in a church that speaks life to the corners of my soul in this season. And I've nurtured relationships with friends that don't need lots of explanation.

And maybe, most importantly, I've granted myself the grace to believe that just because depression wins, doesn't mean I lose. It means we co-exist without constant strife. It means sometimes it's okay to not be okay......and that's okay. It means reminding myself that feelings pass and sitting with them is fine.

I'm not spending energy these days trying to make depression "go away." I'm absorbing the lessons it has come to offer and using them for good.

God has used depression in amazing ways in this one little life. It's made me better. It's made me stronger. And it's made me fall into total dependence on the grace I need. And for that, I'm thankful.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why is There a Menorah on the Altar? - A Book Reivew

My general opinion about all things religious and especially denominational is, "Can't we all just get along?" Finally, a book that proves we can and we should because historically our roots are the same.

The first half of the book delves into scripture capturing insights that will benefit the new believer and devoted follower alike. Clear instructions on how to read and interpret scripture lay the groundwork for a wealth of passages that will keep you thinking long after the final page. Woven throughout is God's presence in the lives of His people from long ago that continues on in the lives of those who believe.

The other half of the book zeros in on the sacraments of baptism, communion and confirmation. The reason I'm doing something is important and this book answered a ton of questions for me. I highlighted, took notes, and had a few "aha!" moments. Sitting in church just last night I found myself thinking, "So, that's why they do that!"

There are enough humorous and personal examples by the author to keep the reader entertained and interested in some heavy reading material. It's perfectly balanced.

This is an important book. You will benefit from the quality research and deep insights no matter what church you call home.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Women of Faith

August 12th and 13th I will be tweeting and blogging LIVE from the Women of Faith Imagine tour in Atlanta, GA for Thomas Nelson. You can follow my tweets that weekend from my personal account @BrendaAKeller or at the store @pottershouseinc

The Lineup includes:

-Sheila Walsh

-Luci Swindoll

-Lisa Harper

-Angie Smith

-Mary Mary

-Natalie Grant

-Nicole Johnson

-Steve Arterburn

-Laura Story

Looking forward to a weekend with great friends in a great city worshipping God with Women of Faith!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Water's Edge - A Book Review

Robert Whitlow does it again with his latest offering, Water's Edge. As a former John Grisham fan it is so refreshing to find in the Christian market someone who is comparable.

The book tells the story of Tom Crane, a young lawyer from Atlanta on the fast track to success. Expecting a promotion, he instead finds himself unemployed and on the way to Bethel to settle his deceased father's affairs. The story twists and turns and finds resolution in the journey.

This is a stand alone book and perfect for teen's to adults. Whitlow captures attention from the first page and it just gets better from there.

*For Thomas Nelson

Christian Encounters J.R.R. Tolkien A Book Review

The Christian Encounters Series by Thomas Nelson has been a great addition to my spiritual library. They're short, informative, and interesting. The facts are solid but not educationally burdensome. Emphasis is placed on the human side of the subjects leaving the reader with a great appreciation for their lives and accomplishments.

I didn't know that much about Tolkien before reading this book. I'm not a lord of the rings fan. I do like The Hobbit. I loved the stories peppered throughout this book that were often amusing.

I appreciated how his experiences in the time of World War I shaped the rest of his life.

I also loved reading more about his integrity as an author. He sought to write books telling stories that would stand the test of time. Quality over quantity seemed to be his lifetime motto.

I left this book respecting him as an author and even more as a human being.

*For Thomas Nelson

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Closer to Home

Honestly I wasn't paying much attention in church Wednesday night. I heard the music and knew it was time for communion, but running through my head was, "I need to go to the store after this. And Target. And Petsmart. Do I have enough time? What time is it?" I stood up looking at the clock and about ran into the lady in front of me.

Yikes. I, thankfully, collected myself right before face planting into her paisley sweater. She turned around and smiled hopefully unaware that I had just about taken her out. I smiled, too. She had perfect hair, ruffled only slightly by the oxygen tubing tucked behind her ear.

She made her way to the altar slowly, but intentionally. I stayed behind wanting to see that moment as she did. She had to be at least 85. How many times in 85 years had she walked this path to the table of the Lord?

We knelt at the altar beside one other, a half a century apart in age, but common in purpose.

I take the time for confession before communion quietly in my pew. I take the service seriously and believe in it's importance. But, as one who is always onto the next thing, my brain tends to think, "Bread-body, Blood-Wine, dip, amen, go."

I tried not to stare, but I feel certain I did. "The Body." She took it into her hand like she was touching the Hope Diamond. Carefully folding her arthritic fingers around the wafer she pulled it to her chest and whispered, "Thank you." The officiant serving the communion nodded, but she wasn't thanking him.

"The Blood." Her hand shook as she sipped from the cup and a tear fell to the floor beside her. She closed her eyes and smiled like she was seeing things reserved for those who are closer to home.

Mesmerized by her reverence, I realized I was still holding my communion. I helped her stand up as she headed back to her pew and I stayed where I was longer than normal. I took the body and blood willing it's precious representation to soak into the core of my being.

And I prayed that my life would matter for eternity as I'm one more day closer to Home.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sweet Sanctuary - A Book Review

I'm a huge Sheila Walsh fan. Her book Honestly probably saved my life at least once. She reaches the hearts of women in ways I can't describe. She understands heartache, depression, loss because she's been there. This is her second fiction book and I have to say I prefer her writing in a different realm. The story is okay. The writing is okay. It's an okay book. It's not great and it's certainly not Sheila Walsh standard. Personally, I think she should have stayed with Gigi for children and books and Bible studies for women. She shines in that connection and that doesn't come through clearly in her fiction works.

*For Thomas Nelson

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Into Newness of Life

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into

Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death,

so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,

so we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6

I'm not one who typically celebrates the anniversary of my baptism, but this year it just felt like the thing to do. One, I now go to a church that acknowledges the day, but also the phrase, "Walk in newness of life," has been circulating around my heart for the past several months.

So last week in the middle of my regularly scheduled existence, I remembered that 22 years ago on July 9th I made a profession of faith with the sacrament of baptism in a family friend's pool. It counts.

I can't be sure what my 9 year old self thought about God at that moment. I certainly did not understand fully what it meant to die in Christ and be raised to newness of life. Do I even understand that enough now? Probably not.

I always compare baptism to marriage in that you're standing there hoping you can keep your promises, but the best you can offer at that moment is your profession.

"I promise to love You always." Yeah, well, sometimes I'm more prone to kick and scream and act, well, unlovely.

"I believe in You." True then. Even more true today.

"I renounce Satan." Um. Duh.

And the profession goes on. I suppose I believed all of that 22 years ago, but standing here today, I cherish it. Stepping out of that water is when my living out that baptism began. Have I always lived like one completely forgiven and totally free? No. Do I always act like the Christian I professed to be that hot July day? Not hardly. It's okay.

As my hand touched the water last week for another one's baptism - I remembered. I remembered that as one redeemed I am dead to sin. I remembered that true life begins and ends with faith. I remembered that I share in the resurrection power by belonging to Him.

Newness of life available to me if I choose to receive it - 22 years ago, every day since, and this very day.

The Little Red Book of Wisdom - A Book Review

This book is a jewel on any bookshelf. Marketed equally to personals and professionals, it covers 23 topics in short bite sized chapters. Life and Death, Understatement, Work, Technology, Writing real letters, Honesty, Integrity, Listening and eternity just to name a few. The stories are enjoyable and the examples relevant. It's so easy to read that you'll forget you're gaining wisdom with the turn of every page. It's one I put up on my bookshelf and quickly thought, "I'll be back to that time and again." It would be a great gift for graduation, life changing events and people in need of everyday wisdom. And aren't we all?

*For Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why I Gave Up TV

I have not had a television in my home for over a year now. To be honest, it happened by accident. My house got struck by lightning and barbecued several outlets, the garage door, and the tv in the living room. I meant to get another one, but a day turned into a week and then a month. When I finally got to it on my to-do list I realized I didn't miss it.

Sure, I missed a few shows, a few channels, and the zoned out time tv afforded me. I've never been one to just lay on the couch and watch tv for hours, but it was usually on as background noise. Quite frankly my life was too noisy anyway.

I watched more tv on vacation than I have in months. Here's what I discovered.

-I don't miss the anxiety that the news produces.

-I'm not missing anything by not keeping up with The Housewives of wherever, The Teen moms and whoever else feels the need to have a "reality" show at the moment.

-I'm much more peaceful with Mozart or Bach as background noise.

-I'd still rather read a book

I'm not advocating that everyone take a sledgehammer to their 42 inch flatscreen, but I am saying you may find more peace in your life by turning it off once in awhile. I certainly have.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yoga and Prayer

I like motion, especially the forward variety. I remember cross country in high school when the coach made us run backwards to strengthen different muscles. It made me feel off balance, unsure, and I hated it. Parts of starting a consistent yoga practice are making me feel the same way.

Apparently I'm a rock star at "power sequences" per my yoga instructor. I love the warrior poses and variations. I like the sun salutation. And even though it makes me feel like I'm at a zoo sometimes, I love the animal poses - cat, dog, cobra, eagle, camel, fish, turtle and rabbit.

She suggested today that we incorporate more open poses. It didn't surprise me that they were hard flexibility wise, but I wasn't prepared for how brutal they would be emotionally. It was amazing how fast my mind raced to find a reason why I couldn't stay in these poses. Did they hurt? No. Were they hard? Yes, but not too hard. Yikes. What was it?

Somewhere mid pigeon pose I said, "I can't do it."

She calmly (of course) replied, "You are doing it."


I said, "Okay. I don't want to."

Wisely she said, "Now that we can work with."

Turns out I'm a control freak (shocking!) and poses that invite vulnerability, letting go, calmness and peace are contrary to the stubbornness of every single cell in my body. In that moment I watched everything I'm trying to work on spiritually line up with that moment on the yoga mat.

She said, "If you want we can take all of these poses out of the sequence."

After I told the "Yippee!" that jumped through my brain to shut it, I said, "No. I'd love to go that route but I'm convinced that running away from hard things isn't the answer to anything."

She said, "I knew you would say that. And you're going to find through yoga and in your relationship with God that holding on securely to the things that matter always involves letting go. In these poses you're not only letting go to breathe deeper into the move, you're letting go. Period."

I transitioned into savasana and prayed, "God, help me to let go of everything but You."

And that's a prayer that's only started to be answered.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Great Vacation

Returned late last night from a FABULOUS week in Puerto Rico! We absolutely loved the El Conquistador Resort and never left the entire 8 days. It's such a gift to have a best friend when you love to spend lots of time together. We spent time on their private island with the most beautiful white sand and perfect water. I completely, totally overdosed on sunshine, sand, sleep, great food, deep conversations, reading, chlorine, yoga, prayer and total peace. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! is all I have to say about that. I wrote (by hand!) an entire journal and I'll be turning that into posts in the days to come. I'm so thankful for this time away and had no idea how much I needed it until I realized I was breathing again.

Thunder Dog-A Book Review

I read this book several months ago when our sales rep gave me a copy. As a dog lover I generally stay away from books about dogs lest I collapse into a heap of sobs on the floor. I prefer dogs to most people and find animals to be way better examples of how to live. This book was inspirational. It's the biographical account of a man who worked in the World Trade Center during September 11th. He is a blind businessman and that day had his seeing eye dog with him at work. It's still hard for me to wrap my brain around the events of that day. I can't even imagine being blind in the middle of all that. He tells the story of making it out alive and how his life is changed forever. The dedication of his dog is inspiring. His determination will make you want to be a better person. And by the time you turn the last page you'll remember you have no reason to complain. Fabulous.

*For Thomas Nelson

The Final Hour-A Book Review

This is the third book by Andrew Klaven in the Homelanders series and it does not disappoint. I'm not going to say much specifically about it because it will give everything away. I hate when people do that. I'll be honest and say when I read the first one (in one sitting) and THEN found out it was teen fiction, I was shocked. The quality of writing and level of suspense is unparalleled in the Christian or secular market for teens. Selfishly, I wish he would just write for adults-it's that good. This series is remarkable and I'm so excited that it's in the works to be made into a movie. It releases in a few weeks which gives you just enough time to catch up on the other two if you haven't already. Read it!

*For Thomas Nelson

It's Not About Me-A Book Review

So, Max Lucado is not my all time favorite author. I like a book that keeps me thinking for a long time and his generally don't. I will say there have been seasons in my life when I've really appreciated his work. He's a heart author. Need reminded God loves you? Max Lucado. Need peace in your storm? Max Lucado. I'm too much of a thinker for a steady diet of that, but I will say this book probably applies more to me than his others. We all can use a reminder that a life lived for Christ is not about us. I needed the reminder to see people through His eyes. I needed a gentle nudge from a Savior that what I'm doing, however insignificant it may seem at the time, it important through the lens of eternity. True peace is found in daily sacrifice of all we are for all of Him. Living our lives for an audience of One.

*For Thomas Nelson