My One Word: The Surprising Serendipitousness of Simplify

My One Word for this year – simplify – has taken me by surprise.

It has worked its way into my life, my thinking, my decision making with surprising speed.

Maybe it had been crouching at the door to my soul waiting for an entrance for quite some time. I don’t know.

Even as I write of this Surprising Serendipitousness  I cannot fully express what I have experienced so far.

But I can speak of a slowing down and being quiet…

of knowing when to say ‘stop and rest,  Jim you can do that later…’

of knowing enough is enough

of making more margin

of get acquainted with solitude

of having a greater clarity about direction and discerning God’s will

So as I continue this journey with simplify now almost five months in, I am grateful for the increasingly focused clarity that I am being granted and given…

Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

 

My Review of Ace Collins’ Hollywood Lost

22945106Set in the golden era of Hollywood, Hollywood Lost (Abingdon Press, 2015), is a fast-paced mystery that is not solved until the last moment and in a unique way that blends the fantasy of the movie set with reality of murder as the actors, of which two are suspects in a string of murders, play the role of two police officers who are attempting to solve the case ahead of the police and as the cameras roll!

With a set of credible characters, Hollywood Lost, also brings to the forefront one of the long standing battles in 20th and 21st century America – between faith (well represented by the firm and rock solid costume seamstress Shelby Beckett) and film (well represented by the dashing and self-centered actor Flynn Sparks) – as the cast of characters battle both their pasts, the blurred line of reality and fantasy, and the moral and ethical battles each fights to maintain their real character or their portrayed character of stardom.

I really liked Hollywood Lost as Collins’ narrative style kept me guessing as to “who done it” though I had an idea about two-thirds of the way through. His descriptions of the period costuming, the Hollywood studio sets and operation of the fictitious Galaxy Studios, and the details such as the Packards and Hudsons driven by some of the cast, add to the story telling and depth of the novel.

This is a great read and worth your time.

I gave this novel Five Stars on Goodreads!

Note: I received a copy of this novel via the Amazon Vine review in exchange for a copy of the novel. I was not required to write a positive review.

My Review of Richard Bausch’s Before, During, and After

18473919Before, During, and After is a dark and tragic tale set against the terrible backdrop of September 11, 2001. Focused on the developing love and relationship between Natasha, an aide to a US Senator and Michael Faulk, an Episcopal priest who is struggling with his faith and calling which he eventually leaves.

Meeting and falling in love prior to that terrible September day, a vacation with a friend to Jamaica turns terrible and tragic for Natasha who carries the unresolved pain and scars back to the states several days after 9/11 as well as not knowing if Michael, who is in New York on that day for a wedding is alive or dead.

Reuniting in Memphis, the two marry but the dark secret that Natasha carries begins to destroy the bond between them and drive them apart.

A very complex and dark novel, Before, During, and After (Alfred A Knopf, 2014) is slow moving and has an element of predictability to it. The characters and the plot is credible, all too credible, but the novel suffers a slow pace which this reader found hard to deal with.

Note: I received a galley copy of this novel through the Amazon Vine Review program in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Reflections on My Caregiving Journey; Three Years In…

This week marks the third anniversary of my mother’s health care journey due to serious cardiac issues.

And it marks the third anniversary of the beginning of my journey as a caregiver.

I had the privilege to share the beginnings of that journey this week as well the importance and dynamics of caregiving  with a group of young adults.

As I prepared for the presentation, I turned to a great resource site called caregiving.com that is run by a wonderful caregiving mentor, Denise Brown.

She has lots of great resources and support and I value her six stages of caregiving that I shared with the group. (And the #carechat Twitterchat twice month on Sunday nights that she facilitates has been a very helpful place to go for me.)

As I developed the presentation, I turned to an important tool of that time

0414161932

 

When I opened this small note pad, the emotions of that time period, from mid-April to late July, came flooding back into my conscious thought. I felt the fast pace, the long hours of waiting, the uncertainty of the next moment, and the celebration I noted on one page

0414162004

 

But now, three years later I am definitely in stage four, The Pragmatic Caregiver Stage, knowing that five and six,  the Transitioning Caregiver Stage and the Godspeed Caregiver Stage (respectively), can come at any time.

Since that journey three years distant, she has had a recurrence of breast cancer which has been successfully dealt with; had to deal with the effects of medicine that once regulated has helped her deal with all of her cardiac “additions;” and has fought to keep going at now nearly 92.

She has been a strong willed person throughout her life (my late father found that out as he pursued her for well over a year before she finally said “yes” to marriage!) and that, along with as she says, “the Lord and Mary Kay” has kept her going.

It has kept me going, too.

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Weekday Meditation: Coming out of the Lenten Wilderness…Simply

If Lent can be a good thing (and I think that it is a good thing) this past Lenten season was the best one I have ever experienced.

Why?

I experienced simplicity in multiple ways.

One important way was that I did not try to add to my devotional practices. I did not add a Lenten study to my regular Bible reading…

I simplified my Lenten spiritual disciplines.

I dropped the Bible reading  and read the passages of scripture from Sarah Arthur’s recently released Lenten and Easter prayer guide Between Midnight and Dawn.

(See my review of it here )

In fact I read them out loud… the entire readings… the scripture and the wonderful passages each week. I slowed down and listened to and for the Spirit to speak.

Another thing that I did was I simplified my reading.

My reading slowed down. I stopped trying to pound out book reviews as fast as possible. Only two books during the entire month of March I read and reviewed.

I slowed down my social media activity. I logged on less and said less and listened more. I simplified my interaction.

But what I enjoyed the most was I simply pondered Christ’s experience in the wilderness and tried to imagine what that was like for Him.

So in the time of Lent I experienced the clarity of simplicity

 

On the Book Table and Kindle

It has been a while since I posted about the books I am reading these days and while I am still wading my way through the list that I posted back in February, I have two additions to the book table to note this month.

18473919The first is Richard Bausch’s Before, During, and After (Knopf, 2014). Set around the dark and tragic days of September 11, 2001 this novel features two characters who fall in love but face personal pain and tragedy of their own which affects their relationship.

 

 

 

 

22945106The second book is Ace Collins’ Hollywood Lost (Abingdon Press, 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both are via the Amazon Vine Review program…

 

See you behind the page!

My Review of Roger Daniels’ Franklin D Roosevelt: The War Years, 1939-1944

27161576The second volume of Roger Daniels’ two volume biography of Franklin Roosevelt is a worthy and helpful read which focuses on, as does volume one, FDR’s own words  Daniels uses to offer what I believe is a clear and helpful picture of Roosevelt generally free of political overtones.

 

Having read the first volume of Daniels’ FDR biography last year Franklin D Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal, 1882-1939, I was hopeful that I would be able to read volume two which focused on the beginning of World War 2 through his sudden death on April 12, 1945 at Warm Springs, Georgia.  Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher, The University of Illinois Press for the availability of this volume.

As with volume one, volume two, focuses on the public statements of FDR but at a crucial point in 20th century history – the onset of the Second World War. With a “you are there” feel, Daniels’ takes the reader on a behind the scenes look at FDR’s words and actions as he navigated between then current American isolationism and the international call, especially from England, for moral and material support against Hitler and Nazi Germany as, Daniels notes, FDR learned to utilize the Executive Order, as a main tool to accomplish this task.

Daniels’ portrait of Roosevelt reiterates those of others, especially a President who liked to stay in charge of things by keeping his subordinates off balance. But this book also tells of a President who resolutely began putting the nation he led on a wartime footing before war would come.

With a dizzying array of acronyms, Daniels takes the reader on a historical review of the development of programs such as Social Security which are now part of American governance and life. He also documents Roosevelt’s on-going domestic battles, notably with numerous labor issues and strikes, as well as the isolationist forces that were active in his late second and early third terms. But much ink is devoted to the war effort and this reader appreciated the detailed portraits of FDR’s meetings with Churchill and Stalin late in the war and notes how difficult travel was for these leaders, especially Roosevelt with his deteriorating health, a theme which Daniels addresses in the late chapters of the book.

But a portrait of FDR that stands out to this reviewer is one of a forward thinking optimist who, even in his last days as the war was being won by the Allies, was thinking ahead to making American and the world a better place. This was clearly shown in the passage in which Daniels quotes at length a letter FDR wrote to Vannevar Bush who was his chief scientific adviser asking him for ways that the research and development which had been done over the course of the war could be used for ways to improve life for everyone after the war had been won.

Franklin D Roosevelt: The War Years, 1939-1944 is a well-researched and well-written book about the 32nd and longest serving US President. I liked it for its narrative style and ability to take me along as Daniels walks us through a turbulent and dangerous time in American history. I gave this book a four-star rating on Goodreads.

Note: I received an electronic galley copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.