Wednesday, December 30, 2015

52 Books in 52 Weeks Reading Wrap Up for 2015

I have participated in the "52 Books in 52 Weeks" Reading Challenge for several years now. There is always a "wrap up" for the year. My list is at the end of this post with links to all my reviews. 

  • How many books did you read this year and did you meet or beat your own personal goal?

I read 53. My goal was 52, and I was so busy writing my own books (until May) and studying for other things (Pilates and Personal Training Certifications) that I really thought I would not meet it, but I did! 

  • Share your top 5 (or more) favorite books.

1. Living in Christ's Presence by Willard

2. A Guide to Listening and Inner Healing Prayer by Rustenbach

3. You've Got Libya by Livingstone

4. National Academy of Sports Medicine Essentials of Personal Fitness Training

5. Oliver Twist by Dickens

6. A Christmas Carol by Dickens

(The above list reflects my true passions: Jesus/Spiritual Transformation/Discipleship! (1), prayer and healing (2), missions (3), fitness (4), and classical literature/reading (5-6)!) 

I know several of the books on my list are ones that I wrote, and I loved all of them too! LOL! :) 

  • Which books or authors you thought you'd never read and were pleasantly surprised to like them?

It isn't that I did not think I would like her or never read her, but my former nanny, N.E. Casady, wrote her first novel, Time Assignment. So, I expected it might have many plot holes, but it was a well-crafted story! So proud of this woman! I have read some first time novels that have made it in big time publishing houses that were really bad, but this is not one of them! :) 

I had the book A Guide to Listening and Inner Healing Prayer on my shelf for the better part of a year. I wanted to believe that the author "walked his talk" and that prayer had truly transformed the person I knew 33 years ago. After having him in my home in May and visiting him in Colorado in August, I can heartily say that he most certainly "walks his talk"!!! That was a pleasant surprise! 

  • One book that touched you - made you laugh, cry, sing, or dance! 

Living in Christ's Presence was so moving as it is a transcript of a conference that Dallas Willard gave 77 days before he died. He knew he was sliding into heaven, and it is the wise words of one who was ready to meet his Maker. It made me bawl like a baby. I will read it over and over again.

Messiah Meditations made me do all of the above! I know I wrote it, but I love listening to and learning about this amazing piece of music even if I am the source of the information (or at least the one who compiled the information)!

You've Got Libya by Greg Livingstone made me both laugh out loud and cry at times, but that is because I know Greg so it might not hit others as it did me. 

  • Share your most favorite character, covers and/or quotes.

Favorite characters: Oliver Twist and Scrooge and all the characters in these two fantastic Dickens novels! 

Cover (colors are great!):

Favorite Quote from Living in Christ's Presence:

Spiritual transformation is not about behavior modification. It is about changing the sources of behavior, so the behavior will take care of itself. When the mind is right and the heart is right and the body and the soul and the relationships that we have in our social world are right, the whole person simply steps into the way of Christ and lives there with joy and strength. It is not a struggle. One of the lies about the spiritual life is that it is hard. No, no. It is not hard. It is the easy way.
Willard, Dallas; Ortberg, John (2013-12-26). Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God (p. 14). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. 

From A Christmas Carol:
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,' faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself. 
Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

 “There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,' returned the nephew. 'Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!” 

  • One book you thought you'd love but didn't:

Contagious Disciplemaking by David L. and Paul D. Watson

I have been using their Discovery Bible Studies for years, but I like the book about David's work, Miraculous Movements, much better. The chapters on prayer and church were what makes me recommend the book though. 

  • What countries or centuries did you explore:

Countries: Great Britain and Afghanistan

Centuries: I went to Dickens' Victorian era, pre and post 9/11 Afghanistan/Pakistan, and the Sahara Desert. 

  • What books would you recommend everybody read?
Living in Christ's Presence by Dallas Willard. 

All the Bible Book Club books! :) It is a huge commitment, but you will come out of it with a better understanding of God and what life is all about. 
  • What was your favorite part of the challenge?
Having a goal to reach that I felt held accountable for. I also like that fact that I had to reflect on the book by writing a review. 

2015 List: 

1. Living in Christ's Presence

54. Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain

I am adding this almost a year later because I forgot to add it to my 2015 books.

I had to read this for my Pilates certification. I didn't really care for it and found it rather dry and boring with illustration somewhat difficult to follow.

53. The Triple Agent by Joby Warrick

This book is so gripping that I could not put it down. I love how the author weaves in personal stories about all the key players. You feel very invested in them by the end of the book. It might help you gain insight into the killers in San Bernardino too. 

This is well-researched and gives the backstory of the December 30, 2009 Camp Chapman attack in Afghanistan where seven CIA employees (or people contracted by them for security) were killed by a suicide bomber. Such a sad story!

I had originally heard this guy interviewed by Jeffrey Brown on the PBS Newshour Bookshelf segment for his current book, Black Flags: The Rise of Isis. I was so impressed by him that I got the book from my library before the rush (Often when authors are interviewed on PBS, there is a rush to hold their book. I find if I do it BEFORE the interview is over, I can usually get it!). The book became available, smack dab in the middle of my studies for my personal training certification exam and Christmas. I had it for a week after the exam, but there were other books already waiting in my queue so I returned it and decided to get this one since it was his first. 

I was not disappointed. It will be a great prelude to Black Flags. For anyone wanting to make sense out of what is happening in our world, this is a very valuable addition to the dialogue. An added bonus is that Bob Woodward helped Warrick structure the book. If you have read All the President's Men, you will appreciate this! (If you have not read All the President's Men, put it on your reading list. It is also a riveting read and well-worth your time investment!)

Here is a National Public Radio interview about the book, The Triple Agent, if my review has not yet convinced you to read it:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

52. Time Assignment by N.E. Casady

I bought this book two years and four months ago, and it has sat on my nightstand for that long!  It was always edged out by other books I had to be reading for something else. It was such a pleasure to sit down and read this great page-turner as a reward for finishing my Personal Training Certification! 

I loved it. It has fantasy and suspense. I wanted to finish it so I could find out where all the characters would end up. And the burning question that I had throughout the book was answered.

This woman was my nanny when my kids when they were two and four. We moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1997, and I wanted someone I could trust to take care of my kids while I went out and learned the language. She was a great nanny, and she is even a better writer! I just don't see how all that could be in her head! What a creative person! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tuesday Twelve Minute Freewrite

You know I really should get to work on my weight training workout and straighten up the house before the Gingerbread House Decoration Party, but I think I still have lots of time, and I have enjoyed this lovely morning.

I couldn't stop doing Messiah Meditations so I finished it up yesterday. Not that I am going to stop listening to Messiah before Christmas, but I will stop reading the devotional I wrote. 

This morning I listened to The Promise by Michael Card. LOVELY, LOVELY, LOVELY! It is one of my favorite CD's. I really need to get it on my phone since I seemed to have lost all the CD's I painstakingly put on my iTunes. I am not sure what is up with all of that. In my humble opinion, iTunes gets more and more complicated. It used to be so much easier to navigate. Now, I just cannot figure it out unless I Google how to do things. Oh well, no time for that.

On top of all of that, I was updating my Linked In page to reflect that I am now a Certified Personal Trainer. WOOHOO!

I think I can help a lot of people. I certainly have loved helping the people in my Pilates classes get stronger and learn to stretch their overactive muscles and strengthen their underactive ones!

Well, I took all this time trying to convert my certificate into a JPEG so I am out of Freewriting time, and I really should get to my workout because it is a busy day starting in the afternoon! 


Sunday, December 20, 2015

51. Messiah Meditations by Carol Weaver

I know I wrote it, but I actually went through it as a devotional this season! Of course, I found little mistakes here and there. Then I had a friend ask me about using it for her church next December, and that made me want to make sure I fixed those mistakes before they printed the books up.  

All in all, I am so pleased with how this book turned out! 

Here is the Word document download (I will be adding journal pages but am waiting for the church to specify how they want that done):

Here it is on my blog:

50. Rick Steves' European Christmas

What an enjoyable read! I have had this "tabletop" book for  years. I got it for free when I donated to Oregon Public Broadcasting along with the companion DVD that has the Christmas Special TV episode of the same name. I have watched that several times, but I have never opened this wonderful book! It has much more detail than the show, and it even has recipes of the dishes they discuss!

He gives a wonderful history of Christmas along with all the holiday traditions that came out of the celebration of the birth of Christ and the pagan festivals that were already in existence. Then he goes through how different countries celebrate. The countries include: England, Norway, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. It made me want to get on a plane and celebrate there!

I am really happy that there is a recipe for Nuremberg's famous traditional gingerbread: Lubekuchen! We were in Nuremberg on a holiday in 2014 so none of their famous gingerbread bakeries were open! We were so disappointed, but now I can make it myself! 

Wonderful book! I started it in the morning and could not put it down until I finished it that night of the same day. It is a perfect thing to read at Christmas! Now I am going to go and watch the DVD again. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

49. In the Warlord's Garden by Melinda J. Lewis

This is a lovely, poignant, and often amusing memoir of the experiences of a young American wife and mother serving in Afghanistan. I knew Rich and Melinda when they were both students at the University of Oregon. I had a letter from her once when she was homeschooling in Afghanistan during the civil war there in the mid-90's. Then, Rich stayed with us in Malaysia in 1998 when he was on his way to India. Then I talked to Melinda when the World Trade Center fell in 2001. This filled in the gaps of their life for me! It is a great read and only 3.99 on Kindle! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

48. Handel's Messiah: A Devotional Commentary by Joseph McCabe

I do not recall where I heard about this little book. It had some quotes that were real gems; but overall, I was not super impressed. He does not cite the references for the Scripture he uses in the text. If I did not know my Bible, I would not know they were Scripture. He does reference the Scripture in the references in the end though. 

Here is my favorite quote from the whole book. I have never been able to put into words what the "Hallelujah Chorus" part of the oratorio does to my soul, but I think he has captured much of what is in my heart:

Through an everlasting mercy the trumpets do sound in the soul. The goodness and the kindness and the love which once we knew arouse as if from long sleep. Our finest nature comes forward, and we behold the true self like a long-lost friend. If not seized and cherished, the moment passes, and the soul returns to sleep again, to a long sleep. Your spiritual chance is in the finest moment. Lengthen it, nourish it, say to that nobility within you: “This is the person I can become.” For if you don’t, life will lull you to sleep again, smother you in convention again, choke you with success again, choke you to death, spiritually.

The burning desire to have the buried self be more and more your true self is the finest gift we can bring to Christ at Christmas. Let Messiah do its good work in the soul’s deep places, then rise in faith to that height you know as fact when the chorus calls you to worship him who is “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”

Handel’s Messiah: A Devotional Commentary, p. 87

One thing I do not like about the book is that he leaves out the more unpopular parts in the main body of the book. He has an appendix with most of them, but I think if you are going to write a devotional on this great work, you have to include it all and explain why those verses are there within the context of the whole. So, that is my biggest disappointment. 

I like Forty Days with the Messiah much more; and, of course, I like the one I wrote (review soon to come) better too! LOL! 

Freewrite Five Minutes

It is my last full day of studying before the big test, and I am listening to "All We Like Sheep" in Messiah. I am going through it once again, but this time I am using the devotional that I wrote. I have a couple of people "testing" it out, and I think they are enjoying it.

I am ready for this test. I am passionate about wholeness, and that includes physical well-being. Hey, that is what this blog is all about: wellness of mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Right now, my soul is being fed with this awesome music! This is a hard part of Messiah, but it is a cleansing part.  

It is WELL with my soul! :) I think I am pretty WELL physically too. I have been really diligent about stretching lately, especially those pesky neck muscles (found a new sternocleidomastoid self-myofascial release move with a lacrosse ball - how great!). I feel great as a result. SMR (along with MELT) and stretching is my new reality. I just need to be diligent, and there is no pain! 

Well, I am to "He trusted in God that He would deliver Him" turba chorus. Love it! But it is also five minutes.

Hopefully, next time I write a freewrite, I will be a certified personal trainer! 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

47. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles DickensI read it again. I could not resist after Oliver Twist. I finished it on my walk/run, and I was crying with a big smile during the last five minutes of my walk as I walked along a major street in my city. Everyone should read this book. It is only 2 hours and 45 minutes, and it is a FREE audiobook:

What a wonderful opportunity he had to see his life from the outside looking in. I think many people would change if they could see like Scrooge was able to. Just a great story. It is It's a Wonderful Life only opposite. Of course, the counselor in me thinks it is because he was neglected as a child. What a lousy father he had! I am still upset about that.

My favorite movie version still remains The Muppet Christmas Carol. They really do a great job of following the story with lines quoted right out of the book! :) 

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

46. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Cover image for Oliver Twist I read this in 2004 when my friend Debbie had just been let go from her job. I flew over to be with her. In between her long "core dumps" on me, she would go into her room and cry, and I would read about Oliver, and somehow, it just brought great perspective to things. I was transported back to a time in the early 1800's when life was very hard for the poor. What a picture Dickens paints, and in the midst of the tragedy, such humor too! He was brilliant! 

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed listening to Nadia May's narration of this timeless classic. If you have never read Dickens, you are missing out, and this is a perfect one to start with. His characters are so amazing.

It was hard to pull myself away from studying for my certification exam, and I was reluctant to even read it again for my Book Dames Book Club, let alone LEAD the discussion for our January meeting;  but again, going into this world of Dickens fiction gave me perspective on that too.  Go figure! 

45. Pilates Anatomy by Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippinger

This is the preferred Pilates anatomy book over the book by Paul Massey (see my review for HERE), but I prefer the Massey book because it talks about different postural problems typical for people and how Pilates can alleviate those problems, and that is how I teach. 

This is not a bad book though, and I learned some new things. I think I would prefer the printed book over the Kindle because it is not spaced well on the Kindle version, and I like looking at the pictures in real books. I am glad I have this one, but I wish I had purchased Massey's because the cheapest used copy I can find is $51! It was only about $20 when I first was looking to buy it. I am thankful that the library has a copy that I can continue to check out though! 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Saturday Seventeen Morning Freewrite

I have been up since about 5:30 am. I woke up at 4 am, but I forced myself to stay in bed. I had a lovely time listening to Oliver Twist as I made my tea this morning. I think the last time I read this book was Memorial Day weekend in 2004 because Debbie was just let go from her job, and I went to Boise to be with her as she struggled to understand why. It was heartbreaking, but somehow Oliver Twist grounded me. I also did 2 Thessalonians as she had to go in her room and cry by herself a lot. :) 

So, it has been 11 1/2 years, and my Book Dames Book Club decided to read it for January and asked me to lead. Since I have all the notes, I said yes. I am happy to do it. 

Then, I listened to He Shall Purify - Scene 2, Movements 6-7 of Messiah. I think my absolute favorite part of the whole oratorio is when the chorus joins all together in crescendo and sings "and that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness" from Malachi 3:3. Sends chills.

After this, I took 40 minutes correcting some things in the devotional book I wrote. Now, I am doing a freewrite until 8 am on this Saturday morning. 

Oh, and did I mention that I have been doing the corrections and freewrite on my treadmill desk? I have been sitting TOO MUCH lately because 1) I am not teaching at OSU again until January 4, and I have lots of things to do to set up my Winter term Canvas site, and 2) I must study for this Personal Training Certification exam. Yesterday, I spent from my time with God (maybe done at 6 am) until noon SITTING. I made a cool chart with all the muscles in groups (according to muscular complex like lower leg, quadriceps, hamstring, hip, abdominals, back, scapula, shoulder, rotator cuff, arms, and neck). It took me much of the morning, but it helped me to see everything as they interact with things. I do not know how much of the test will involve all of this, but I want to be over prepared!

So, today, I think I have all my flashcards, charts, study guide answers, etc. all in one place in my notebook. So I will go through it. And I will try to do it while I am walking on my treadmill. I just cannot sit that long.

Oh, I should mention that I FORCED myself to take a break when the sun broke through after a grey and rainy morning in Oregon. It was lovely. I was so tempted to bring my new, spiffy chart of muscles to study as I walked, but I brought Oliver Twist  and my pal, Dickens, with me, and I smiled and laughed when I listened to characters with names like "Sourberry"! Only Dickens can bring the depravity of those days AND humor together! I love it.

After I came home, I thought I might as well finish the last day (of four weeks at three times a week) Phase 1 -  Stabilization Endurance of my resistance training, and I listened to more of the story as I lifted and sun broke through and gleamed on my weights as I did a tricep extension on my stability ball and listened to Oliver be captured by Bill Sykes (via Nancy)! OH NO! It was a moment of joy though. I don't know. I am so bad about taking breaks when I have a goal in mind. So, I considered this a reward of joy for taking a break and being good to my body. By the way, I ended up running for the majority of my walk. I have three days in a row of getting my cardiovascular into Zone 3 for over 20 minutes. That is the only way I can do it these days.

Oh, my 17 minutes went by very fast. Now to work!

Messiah Meditations

Reposting this for those interested!

DECEMBER – Meditations with the Messiah
(click on each for a link to the meditation for the day)
1.      Messiah Introduction
Part I: Coming of Messiah
2.      Overture: Movement 1
3.      Scene 1: Movement  2
5.      Scene 2: Movement 5
6.      Scene 2: Movement 6
Part II: Redemption by Christ’s Sacrifice
Part III: Victory over Death

Thanks for joining in on the FUN! 

Old Herbaceous

This was a sweet story about a gardener in England from the time he was a boy to an old man. It made me cry it was so short and sweet.  Here...