Saturday, March 23, 2013

Great Family Devotional Book


Drew and I have begun to use a new book for our morning devotional time and it has been a really good way for us to begin each day together, seeking after God.  The name of the devotional book is Common Prayer: A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals.  Shane Claiborne is one of the authors of this book, and that made me initially drawn to the book, because I loved his other book called The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical.

This devotional book is really good for us because it has daily readings that include prayers, Scriptures, songs to sing, as well as inspirational stories and quotations from Christian heroes of the faithWe also found evening devotionals in this book and we are going to try to start having an intentional time for prayer and devotion each evening, too.  So far, the structure of this devotional book has really helped Drew and I to consistently worship God together as a family and for that I am very thankful.  If you or your family is looking for a way to connect spiritually each day, I would highly recommend this book as it is quite easy to follow the daily readings and all you have to do is turn to the day's date and everything you need for the devotion is encompassed within that daily section. 

Do you have a favorite devotional book or method that you use personally or with your family? I would love to hear about it!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pursuing Justice: A Book Review

The call to justice is a God-given whisper of what we were created for, a trace of God's true image in us that helps us believe we can be active participants in bringing about the goodness of God's kingdom.  I want to pursue justice because God is calling me, and I want to be with God.  That is the only goal to which I want to give my life away." (Wytsma 169)


I just recently finished the book Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma, the founder of the Justice Conference. {Learn more about this awesome, inspiring conference here:  I have yet to go to one of these conferences, but I really hope to in the future (when I'm living in the States again)!Anyway, I must admit that I was a bit hesitant about how good this book would be, as I have already read several wonderful books on justice (for example, Generous Justice by Timothy Keller - absolutely fantastic book!) and I didn't think this book would even compare to those other books.  Well, I was dead wrong. Not only is this a great book, it also challenged me and inspired me in a new & fresh way to continue to literally pursue justice in all areas of my life in order to really know God's heart and bring Him all the glory.  I heartily recommend this book and urge you to read it right away! :)

 Some of the ways that Pursuing Justice inspired me:
  • Wytsma describes how he, his wife, and their family live out justice on a daily basis, in very practical ways. One of the ways they do this is by making every family vacation or special present also an equally-special gift for others.  For example, Wytsma said that one time his family renovated their yard with new landscaping.  They then bought a giftcard to a home-improvement store and gave a young couple this gift so they could also do a home-improvement project that they could not normally have afforded.  This simple way of blessing others through radical giving is something that Drew & I also want to incorporate into our family's DNA.
  •   Wytsma describes several ways that he and his family try to live justly and simply, including really tracing back the origins of the products with which they consume.  It is often true that some of the products we buy and use on a daily basis promote injustices such as child labor and human trafficking.  His call to educate yourself on what you're consuming was a reminder to me to be a conscientious consumer.  He also reminds us that it's important to not get caught up in the consumer culture, and he states the benefits of getting caught up in God's ways: "The objects of consumer culture, ironically, consume us.  Conversely, in giving our lives away to God by serving others, laboring for justice, and loving sacrificially, our lives are given back to us." (280)
Some of my favorite quotes from Pursuing Justice:
  • Justice is rooted in the character of God, established in the creation of God, mandated in the commands of God, present in the kingdom of God, motivated by the love of God, affirmed in the teaching of Jesus, reflected in the example of Jesus, and carried on today by all who are moved and led by the Spirit. (Wytsma)
  •  Justice isn't a nice addition to God's otherwise perfect character.  If we ignore justice, like ignoring love or truth, we create a caricature rather than the divine character we meet in Scripture and in our lives.  Justice is a hallmark of God, a distinctive and pure feature of His character that defines Him and His will for the world.  Justice - a right and equitable relationship with God and with people - is truly a word worth redeeming. (Wytsma)
  • Jesus calls His followers to be flourishing branches. His desire is that we become a living part of Him, extending His kingdom into the world.  We must join with God to become stewards of His creation, involved in establishing justice, because that's what God is already doing. (Wytsma 87)
As always, I'm eager to hear your thoughts about this post! Have you read Pursuing Justice or do you have another favorite book about justice?  I would love some more book recommendations. Thanks!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Link to my work blog

I'd like to invite you to read my latest post on my work/ministry blog about life in Madagascar.  This latest post describes my husband and I's recent visit to a local hospital to watch a friend's sister die before our eyes.  I'd love your prayers and comments. Check it out here:


Saturday, March 9, 2013

This month has been like an episode of "House"

Have you ever seen the TV show House?  Back in college, I thought this show was about landscaping or gardening, but then, after a lot of laughs, my friends told me it was a medical TV show.   :) The basic premise of the show is that it's about this crazy/brilliant doctor (Dr. House) who diagnoses un-solvable medical cases and often uses unconventional methods and medicines to do so.  (More about the show here:

Well, our life has been a little bit like an episode of House for the past month because Drew has been sick with an, as of yet, un-diagnosable sickness.  We live and work in a rural bush village setting (even the "town" we live in is pretty village-like in terms of cleanliness, at least) here in southwest Madagascar, so it's pretty normal that we are often sick.  But, about 3 weeks ago, Drew became more than sick after a visit to a forest village and has stayed that way.  We went to our doctor in our local town and she immediately diagnosed Drew with tyhpoid and gave him some antibiotics.  But, after a week, his symptoms didn't get better, so we flew up to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, and sought better medical treatment at a hospital there.  The doctor in Antananarivo has said that Drew has an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection.  But then a few days later, this same doctor said Drew has E.Coli.  We have also consulted with our company's doctor in America, who has said Drew may have chronic diarrhea, or something more severe having to do with his liver or colon.  Poor Drew has been on countless medicines, antibiotics, de-worming medicines, de-parasite medicines, liquids, powders, vitamins, and more.  He's had blood and stool tests, IV's and shots.  Still we have yet to have a clear diagnosis or treatment plan. 

Fortunately, I am a believer in God and his power to completely heal Drew.  Unlike Dr. House or any of the doctors here in Madagascar or in America, I know that God can and will ultimately make Drew whole again.  I have come to the (often difficult for me) fact that there is literally nothing I can do to make Drew better, but I must trust and rest in God's healing and faithfulness.  Despite all the ups and downs, the treatments and mis-diagnoses, God is in control and He's going to show up in a big way here.  I'm counting on it and expecting it.

----------Some TRUTHS I can cling to-----------
  • I know that Jesus has the power to heal everything and everyone.  While he was on earth he went "throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people." (Matthew 4:23)
  •  I know that there is a time for everything and that God will bring glory to Himself here. (Ecclesiastes 3)
  • I know that God is our ultimate Comforter and he also enables us to comfort others.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Thumb's up! After Drew got out of the hospital and before more treatment began

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Our Family Mission Statement: Part II

As promised, this is the second part of my post about our Family Mission Statement, so thank you for sticking around and waiting for this part.  We got a lot of our inspiration for crafting our family mission statement from tips by a fellow blogger, Simple Mom, as well as a Personal Mission Statement Builder by Franklin Covey.  (Yes, the same people who sell planners like these: Franklin Covey Day Planner Deluxe Starter Set (Google Affiliate Ad)).  If you decide to make your own family mission statement with your spouse and/or your family, make sure to set aside plenty of time to really think about your goals, priorities, and have time for revising your statement to creatively reflect the unique qualities and gifts of your family.

Drew and I worked hard on our family mission statement and it was actually a fun process to go through together.  So, without further ado, here it is:

Our Family Mission Statement:
Smith Family
We will:
Follow God selflessly and sacrificially to glorify Him by always learning, serving, encouraging, and practicing hospitality for others and our family so that our world will be transformed into a more God-honoring, just, and peaceful place. We will strive to be healthy - mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically and relationally, through intentional encouragement, spiritual growth, simplicity, and physical activity.


We also got inspired to pick out our family Bible verse after we finished up our Family Mission Statement.  Here it is:

Our Family Bible Verse: 
Matthew 22:37-39
And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your  mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

We might frame one or both of our family statement and family verse at a later date, and we really like the work that is done by Red Letter Words.    

We're so excited about the journey we're on together - it's not always easy, it's not always fun, but God is with us and it is worth it all. For us, our Family Mission Statement and our Family Bible Verse are good reminders about our purpose in our marriage and as a family as we serve Christ together.

 Do you and your spouse/family have a Family Mission Statement or a Family Bible Verse? Have you creatively displayed these types of family statements in your house or do you have ideas about how to do this? Please share - I'd love your comments!