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  Archive of Books Featured in My Newsletter

Updated: December 6, 2004

These books are presented for your convenience, not with my recommendation. Unless noted otherwise, the comments and reviews about them are taken from the site.

[Stop the Runaway Conversation] Stop the Runaway Conversation
by Michael D. Sedler

Negative words contain great destructive power. Whenever you talk negatively about people or listen to someone else talk negatively about others, you unleash that harmful power.

Here are some ways to avoid gossip and criticism:

Seek cleansing from God so you'll have the power to resist talking negatively about others. Take a look at the attitudes you hold and the comments you make. Confess the times you've gossiped or criticized in the past, and invite God to transform you. Release any pride or fear that is obstructing you from making the changes you would like, and be open to God's correction and guidance.

Pray for people you have hurt with negative speech about them. Ask God to heal them. Also pray for people who have hurt you in the past through their negative words about you. Forgive them and ask God to let them be aware of His loving presence with them.

Examine what tempts you to speak negatively, and pray for God to give you the strength to confront and overcome those temptations. Ask God to purify your mind.

Always be prepared for the possibility that someone may to try to engage you in a negative conversation about someone else. Pray for God to give you wisdom in such situations so you can resist being pulled into negative conversations.

When someone approaches you and begins talking negatively about someone, try to determine the speaker's motivation and encourage accountability by asking questions such as, "Is this something I need to hear about?", "Who told you this information?", "Have you spoken to those people who are directly involved with this situation?" and "Before you share any further, what are you expecting from me?".

Juicy tales about another person can be very seductive. Know that you should never accept what someone says about someone else as true without checking the validity of the statements yourself. And even if the statements are true, cruel words create unnecessary strife.

Realize that participating in negative conversations harms you spiritually.

Use positive words to heal when confronted with destructive, negative words. Respond to gossip or criticism with encouraging words about the person being talked about, and ask the person spreading the negativity to pray for the person about whom he or she is talking.

Be bold when confronting people who want you to listen to gossip or criticism. Remember that the consequences of listening far outweigh the awkwardness of taking a stand against the negativity. The speaker's feelings may temporarily be hurt, but you will be helping the speaker more than hurting him or her.

(Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

Stop the Runaway Conversation

[Act of God/Active God: Recovering from Natural Disasters] Act of God/Active God: Recovering from Natural Disasters
by Gary Harbaugh

A natural disaster strikes at people's faith besides at their health and property. In such circumstances, people often wonder whether God is really present with them. You -- yes, you! -- can be a channel through which God's grace can flow, bringing healing to those who are hurting.

Consider a few ways in which you can help people recover from natural disasters.

Encourage people to express their thoughts and feelings . . . and listen well. Help them sort through their questions, confusion, and doubts, recognizing that all are normal to have after suffering great loss. Don't become defensive if someone says something negative about God. Although God never causes suffering, we live in a fallen world, and God sometimes allows suffering to accomplish certain purposes (some of which we can know, and some of which we can't). Help people through their grieving process by being there for them as a representative of Christ, showing His love to them.

Ask people in need how -- in what specific ways -- you can help them the most rather than assuming a certain plan of action before talking with them.

Since recovery efforts often take a prolonged period of time -- sometimes several months or even years -- it is important to pace yourself so you and others working with you don't become exhausted. Don't be overwhelmed by the amount of work before you. Just strive to be faithful doing the particular tasks God has called you to do and cooperate with others who are joining you in the effort.

Pray often for people hurt by natural disasters, and share Scripture passages that speak of God's promises and the hope Christ offers.

Look for opportunities to build genuine friendships with people affected by natural disasters, and ask God to use those friendships to teach you and them more about giving, receiving, and working together.

Help people who want to reorganize their priorities after a disaster figure out how best to do it. Listen to their ideas and pray with them for discernment from God.

(Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

Act of God/Active God: Recovering from Natural Disasters

[The Word of God in English] The Word of God in English
by Leland Ryken

This volume may do more to change how you view the Bible (and how you read it) than any book, preacher, professor, or other influence you have ever had.

The Word of God in English focuses on translation theory. It features the debate between so-called "literal" translation on the one hand, and "dynamic equivalent" translation on the other. The author comes down unambiguously on the side of the literalists. It's possible (but not likely!) that you could read this book and end up disagreeing with the author's main thesis. What I don't think is possible is that you'd read this book and end up with a lower view of the Bible than you had before.

Leland Ryken holds a very high view of the Bible. He thinks God chose the Bible's words, and not just its ideas, in a very purposeful way. And he thinks the Bible's very message is altered when people tinker and tamper with the words.

Dynamic-equivalence translators argue that by asking the question, What was the main idea the author intended? and then expressing that idea in the idiom of the "receptor language," the reader will have a richer experience of the author's intention.

Leland Ryken devastates the dynamic-equivalent position, arguing in such convincing fashion that you may never again be satisfied with a translation of the Bible that is even mildly "dynamic." You will know that any such "translation" denies you much of what is rightly yours. It does that by first denying you what is rightly God's.

This book will drive you back to more serious Bible reading. It will increase your wonder for the very words God has used. It will draw you into closer personal fellowship with God Himself as you reflect on the myriad ways in which He has expressed His love and His mercy for His children.

(By Joel Belz in World Magazine -- heavily excerpted and adapted by Mark Roth)

The Word of God in English

[The Occasional Cook: Culinary Strategies for Overcommitted Families] The Occasional Cook: Culinary Strategies for Overcommitted Families
by Cyndy Salzmann You and others in your family can savor your meals best by eating in a peaceful atmosphere. Is dinnertime at your house a stressful rush to get any kind of food on the table while trying to stave off hunger? Then try cooking a bunch of meals in advance and storing in them in the freezer so they're ready for you to choose each night for dinner?

  • About every six weeks, block out about a day and a half in your schedule to devote to planning, shopping, and preparing meals that should provide all you need for dinners for the next six weeks. Alternately, you can test this idea by preparing meals about one week in advance. Also, consider splitting the work into two or three afternoons.
  • Gather recipes for entrees you enjoy. Try to include a variety of types of dishes.
  • Compile a list of all the ingredients you'll need to buy to make your recipes. Keep in mind how much you need of each ingredient to make each recipe, and decide whether you'd like to double or triple any of your recipes.
  • Consider what type of packaging you'd like to use to freeze your meals. Good quality freezer bags can work well because they take up less space than most other types of packaging.
  • Organize your grocery list by store (if you plan to visit more than one) to cut down on your shopping time.
  • Write down a plan that details the best order for you to assemble and cook your recipes. You may want to start by slicing and chopping food, cleaning and peeling vegetables and fruits, and simmering slow-cooking sauces or starting crockpot meals.
  • Shop for your ingredients and packaging materials.
  • Start cooking! Follow your game plan as best you can, washing dishes as you go so they'll be available for your next recipe.
  • Wait until your food has cooled before packaging it. Then load it into your bags or containers and label it with a description, date you plan to eat it, and any instructions for heating it up. Organize the food in your freezer, and make sure your freezer is cool enough (0 degrees F. is ideal).
  • Write an inventory list of all the meals you now have available. Place the inventory list in an accessible place in your kitchen, then cross off each meal on the list after you eat it. Plan on using every meal within two months to preserve the food's quality.
  • (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    The Occasional Cook: Culinary Strategies for Overcommitted Families

    [The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving] The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving
    by Randy Alcorn

    You know God wants you to give money to your church and other organizations that do good work. But fulfilling your duty is one thing, and getting excited by it is another. In fact, you may not be giving as much as God would like you to, because you're just not very motivated. How do you find the cheerfulness God says in the Bible that He loves to see when people give?

    Realize that investing your money in earthly things will provide a limited and temporary payoff at best. Possessions themselves can't satisfy you, and often end up possessing you rather than vice versa, because they demand so much time and energy to maintain.

    Understand that investing your money in eternal ways is guaranteed to pay big dividends. God has promised to bless gifts faithfully consecrated to Him and use them in ways that bless the givers and others.

    Acknowledge that it's God who has given you the ability to earn an income, and that all your money is ultimately His. Commit yourself to managing that money as effectively as possible.

    Don't wait until you feel like giving to actually give. Start giving out of obedience. After you begin to give, God will send you joy, and that joy will motivate you to keep giving.

    Remember God's generosity -- Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and the many blessings God has poured into your life. Seek to express your thankfulness to God by giving as an act of worship, and allow His love to flow through you to others as you act in generous ways.

    Make sure that your expenditures match your values. If you truly value God's work on earth, you'll give financially to support it.

    Get out of debt and avoid future debts so your money isn't tied up in places God doesn't want it to be, limiting your ability to serve Him. Before you buy a particular good or service, ask yourself whether it truly reflects your values, and whether you might do better if you were to spend your money in another way.

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving

    [What the Bible Says About Child Training] What the Bible Says About Child Training
    by J. Richard Fugate

    The very word teenager implies an in-between age, neither child nor adult. It is no wonder that teens feel isolated during this awkward age. A parent's job is to train up young children -- through their teens -- and prepare them for the world of adulthood.

    To develop maturity in teens . . . .

    Allow your children enough room to fail. Don't make their world fail-proof. Let a young adult make some mistakes and suffer the natural consequences for those mistakes (as long as they aren't dangerous). Let a lazy child fail a math test; let a proud child make of fool of herself because she boasts in front of her friends; or let a willful boy have enough rope to trip himself. Parents who coddle their children promote their child's perpetual immaturity.

    Fathers must take an active role in the training of young adults, especially the boys. Try to adjust your work schedule so you have time with the family, and, if at all possible, do not move the family during the teen years.

    Parents need to present a united front. Before the difficult situations occur, parents need to determine and discuss rules and punishments -- with each other and with the young person.

    Don't harangue or try to intimidate your young adults to accept your position. Don't be critical or belittle your children. If they disobey, punish them, but don't browbeat them.

    Talk with your young adults. Discuss tough issues with them (alcohol, drugs, dating, entertainment, dress, etc.). Allow them to say what they think or feel about anything without your immediate criticism or correction. You don't have to agree with every strange opinion your young adults might have; guidance, not control, is your goal. Remember that teens are trying on opinions and points of view to see how they feel. Ask questions that cause your young adults to think through their stated opinion to its logical conclusion.

    Teach young adults to analyze things for themselves. Don't always speak negatively or ridicule everything the world says and produces. Ask your children to tell you what they think about a particular news story or movie.

    Provide them a variety of experiences. Encourage your young person to participate in a variety of school and community activities, different types of after-school jobs, and interesting family vacations. Fill your home with books and magazines to expand the mind.

    Train your teens to become self-sufficient. By the time they leave home they should know how to cook, clean, launder their clothes, clean up after themselves, help with home repairs and maintenance, balance a checkbook, and possibly assist with family finances or college costs.

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    More about What the Bible Says About Child Training

    [TruthQuest Survival Guide] TruthQuest Survival Guide
    by Steve Keels

    If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, and yet your closest friends are not, it's very likely that your spiritual growth will be hindered, if not stymied altogether. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 we're told that "bad company corrupts good morals." That makes sense when you consider that unbelievers...

    It is absolutely crucial that you pursue making friends with people who are actively following Christ.

    Well, then, what about friends who say they love Christ, yet their actions say just the opposite? Isn't it possible that a person can be a Christian but just not live it out very well? It is possible, and unfortunately, it happens all the time. Beware of a friendship that doesn't easily center on Christ.

    Perhaps the best way to find godly friends is to work hard at being a godly friend yourself. Here are some ideas for how to sustain friendships that are pleasing to the Lord.

    Don't let wrong friendships hinder your new life in Christ. Choose your closest friends carefully. Make sure they are leading you toward Jesus Christ, not away from Him.

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    More about TruthQuest Survival Guide

    [Fearless Faith] Fearless Faith
    by John Fischer

    God doesn't intend for His people to hide within a subculture. He wants each Christian to fully participate in the larger culture, building meaningful relationships with others that will transform the world one life at a time.

    So pursue a fearless faith that makes a significant difference in our world!

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    More about Fearless Faith

    [When Couples Pray Together] When Couples Pray Together
    by David and Jan Stoop

    Many couples understand the concept of praying together. For a variety of reasons, though, they never do it in their own lives. Many things in the world can press in and keep couples from praying together. Making and keeping a commitment to shared prayer can bring spiritual intimacy to your marriage. Making prayer a top priority can make a marriage vital as you share common concerns and joy in prayerful conversation with God.

    Here are some barriers to praying together:

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    More about When Couples Pray Together

    [Spanking: A Loving Discipline] Spanking: A Loving Discipline
    by Roy Lessin

    Parents need to understand why and when a spanking should be given; but it is also important to know how to give a spanking. Some parents who say they spank their children see very little results in obedience and right attitudes. The problem might be in their definition of a spanking: it may amount to a haphazard, halfhearted swat with no explanation or follow-up. This is not how a spanking should be given and will not produce the desired results. There are seven major areas that need to be understood in order to give an effective spanking.

    1. Use the right instrument

    God has instructed parents to use a "rod," not the hand, when they need to lovingly correct their children with a spanking. (A rod is a flexible twig or stick.)

    Why does our loving God instruct parents to spank children with something other than the hand? Because the hand is a part of the parent and should be reserved for expressing affection and love. We've all heard a disheartening experience of a parent who has used his hand for discipline; then when he reaches out to give his child a loving embrace, the child flinches and retreats.

    A rod is the most effective instrument to spank with because its flexibility brings the greatest result without the danger of physical injury. Stiff, hard objects like paddles or wooden spoons aren't flexible and could possibly injure a child. Belts might also cause injury and should not be used.

    2. Spank promptly

    A spanking should be given as soon as possible after a child has done something that needs correction. If delayed, younger children may forget or be confused over the reason for the discipline. A mother shouldn't put off spanking "until Daddy gets home." But when he is home, a father needs to be sure to take his responsibility in providing correction and not leave it only to his wife. A child has the responsibility of obeying both parents.

    Another reason a spanking needs to be given promptly is because of the negative issues that can develop in the heart of a child. It is easy for hardness or resentment or bitterness to grow if discipline is delayed.

    3. Find a private place

    Spanking is a private issue between parent and child. Its purpose is correction, not embarrassment. Before a spanking is given, a parent should take the child to a place where privacy can be insured. If a parent is away from home and a spanking is needed, time should be taken to find a private place.

    4. Clarify the issue

    Before a spanking is given, it is important to make sure the child understands the reason for the spanking, in order to bring that child to a place of repentance for the particular issue involved. When explaining the reason for a spanking to a child, a parent can use simple and direct wording. The explanation should always be connected to what the child did.

    5. Spank the proper area

    A practical suggestion is to have the child lean over a bed or chair in order to receive the spanking. A spanking should be given on a child's lightly clothed bottom.

    6. Spank sensibly and swiftly

    Children may attempt to get out of a thorough spanking with a "fake" cry, but it is important not to give too few swats and undercorrect. Of course, it is also important not to give too many swats and overcorrect. Parents need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and their child in this matter. Too few swats, as well as too many swats, can render the spanking ineffective. The swats should be given rapidly so that the spanking is over with quickly. A spanking should not be a slow, drawn-out process. Administer the spanking swiftly, and then it's over and forgotten, not to be brought up again.

    7. Have a period of reconciliation

    After correction, a parent needs to allow a child to cry for a reasonably short amount of time. Then a child should be told to stop crying and be brought under control. If parents leave the room immediately after a spanking and a child is left in tears, those tears can quickly turn into self-pity. When this happens, children will usually go looking for sympathy from someone, most likely the other parent. This will not only hinder a child's repentance but also create an opportunity for the child to divide the parents by working one against the other.

    The period of reconciliation after a spanking provides a special time of love and intimacy between a parent and child. It gives comfort and reassurance to a child. It also helps to bring a child into self-control and freedom. The time a parent spends with a child after a spanking assures him that the issue is dealt with and over. It is in the past and is not something that will be brought up again or held against him. This fact can be reinforced by the parent's loving, reassuring embrace and even a brief time of prayer.

    The time a parent spends with his or her children after a spanking will also help confirm to the parent that the child's heart has truly been brought to repentance. If steps of restitution are necessary, the child can be instructed in this at this time.

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    More about Spanking: A Loving Discipline

    [You Can Experience a Purposeful Life] You Can Experience a Purposeful Life
    by James Emery White

    God's ultimate will is that we know and love and obey God, become more like Christ, serve with our gifts and abilities, and tell others about Christ.

    God's moral will has to do with how you should think and believe, what you should value and honor -- and from that, how you should live. People often skip right past this in trying to figure out what God wants you to do in a given situation. Instead they are looking for signs, when God's moral will is already speaking to what they should or should not do. Instead of giving you a detailed road map, He gives you something more along the lines of a compass.

    God's specific will never will contradict God's moral will for your life, so if those two are in conflict, you have misread God's specific will. God doesn't want this to be a guessing game. He wants to guide you and have you to recognize His leadership. The Lord assures His people that One Who loves them will guide them (Isaiah 49:8)! You can be released from the fear that God's will is a deep, dark mystery that you may never be able to understand.

    God speaks through His written Word. The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration of God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God's way of making us well prepared at every point (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

    God speaks through prayer. Prayer is not simply talking at God; it is a conversation with God. He tends to speak through a still small voice that you can sense in your spirit. Prayer focuses your thoughts on God and helps you come in tune with all that He is and all that He might want to say to you. I pray...and wait for what He'll say and do (Psalm 130:6).

    What do you do when you are trying to discern God's will for your life, and nothing seems to come to you through the Bible or through prayer? Here are some indirect ways God can make His will known:

    Circumstances. God can work through circumstances, open and close doors, create opportunities, then place it all in your path -- in order to direct your steps or confirm a particular direction.

    Common sense. Run through a mental checklist of pros and cons and strengths and weaknesses, and see what comes out on top. God gave us common sense -- to use. Caution: Your reasoning is not always objective and is limited in how far it can direct you in regard to God's perfect will for your life.

    Counsel. Advice from godly people is seldom sought. But it is highly regarded in the Bible. Others can be objective and can share wisdom from their own experiences and knowledge.

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    More about You Can Experience a Purposeful Life

    [After the Locusts: Restoring Ruined Dreams, Reclaiming Wasted Years] After the Locusts: Restoring Ruined Dreams, Reclaiming Wasted Years
    by Janis Coleman

    Dreams die hard. When your dreams are ruined, it can seem as if a swarm of locusts have invaded your life and gobbled up whatever sense of hope you have. But God promises to restore your hope -- and your life -- even if you've lost many years to the locusts of destruction.

    Be honest with yourself and God. Freely express your thoughts and feelings about the loss you've suffered.

    Confess any bitterness, misdirected anger, or self-defeating attitudes or behaviors to God. Then ask God to forgive you for those habits, and give you His grace to let go of them and replace them with faith. Remember that God loves you deeply and unconditionally, and that He alone has the wisdom necessary to guide you successfully into the future. So decide to trust Him, no matter what your current circumstances.

    Don't try to change the past -- it is gone and cannot be changed.

    Forgive others who have hurt you, and forgive yourself for mistakes you've made. Know that forgiveness is absolutely necessary to rid your spirit of poisonous resentment that blocks your intimacy with God.

    Surround yourself with supportive, godly friends. Don't be afraid to ask for help for specific things you need, such as listening, help with tasks you don't have energy to complete, advice, prayers, accountability, and more.

    Be patient. When God transforms you, it's an intricate process that shouldn't be rushed. Stick with God at His pace, walking alongside Him. Don't panic and grab at whatever new opportunities happen to present themselves; wait for God to give you what's truly best.

    Expect and eagerly anticipate a better future once you leave this dark season. Remind yourself of God's promises to restore you.

    When God gives you new dreams, don't be afraid to embrace them. Have courage to step into those dreams, trusting God to help you make them come true.

    Ask God to use your struggles to help other people. Consider how you might tell others the story of how God is restoring you.

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    More about After the Locusts: Restoring Ruined Dreams, Reclaiming Wasted Years

    [Too Soon To Quit] Too Soon To Quit
    by George Sweeting

    Building friends is one of life's highest privileges. After creating man, God declared: "It is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). We were created for friendship, not loneliness. Yet the reality of sin in our world not only turns us away from friendship with God, but friendship with others.

    Faith in Jesus Christ not only restores a right relationship with God, it also enables us to experience freedom from self, resulting in new relationships with our fellowmen. The Bible repeatedly urges the followers of Christ to pursue friendship. Jesus commanded His followers, "Love one another, as I have loved you" (John 13:34). This divine love is our identifying characteristic and the very proof of our relationship with God (John 14:35). The apostle John concluded his third letter with the statement, "Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name" (3 John 14). The early followers of Jesus apparently were known as the friends.

    Encourage friendship by a spirit of acceptance. Halfhearted, conditional acceptance frustrates friendship. Upon receiving Jesus as Lord, you experienced complete acceptance by God. This unconditional acceptance is your model for accepting others. The Spirit of God replaces your cautious, calculating, conditional attitude with God's unconditional love. Receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God (Romans 15:7).

    Encourage friendship by consciously seeking to be a friend. A man who has friends must himself be friendly (Proverbs 18:24). You show yourself friendly by taking the initiative in speaking to people. A pleasant smile and a cheerful word go a long way. This can be further expressed in quality listening, learning, and eventually entering into the circumstances of other lives.

    Encourage friendship by exploring common interests. David and Jonathan of the Old Testament were military men. They enjoyed common pursuits. Their friendship was broad and deep. Common interests can provide a solid building block for friendship, provided they are honoring God.

    Foster friendship by making a serious commitment. Jonathan and David agreed to be special friends by verbally promising to support each other throughout life -- through every trial. They even bound themselves together by an oath. There was no back door to their friendship. Dramatically, Jonathan, the prince, shared the full and true meaning of friendship by giving to David, the shepherd boy, his robe, armor, sword, bow, and belt. He committed himself to David without reservation. This kind of openness is probably the most difficult part of building friendships.

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    More about Too Soon To Quit

    [Where Are We Going So Fast?] Where Are We Going So Fast?
    by Jim Warda

    Life can rush by too quickly, and moments packed with valuable lessons can escape your grasp. So grab those moments and listen to their messages!

    Slow down your pace. Cut activities from your schedule if they don't help you achieve your goals in life or allow you to grow closer to God and other people. Ask the Holy Spirit to transform your restlessness into calmness, then reveal what God wants your priorities to be.

    Keep records of moments that have helped shape you. Recall some important moments in your life, and think about how and why they touched you.

    Consider moments that demanded you choose between faith and fear. How did you respond, and why? Pray for the grace to always choose faith in the future. Celebrate the ways God has helped you in the past, and trust Him to continue to do so.

    Remember moments when you have shared love with someone else, and ask God to show you everything He wants you to learn from those times. Make a list of ways you can turn to God -- the source of love -- for the power to live each moment with greater love.

    Study a child -- either your own, or one you see on a regular basis -- to see what you can learn from him or her. When you actively observe and listen to a child, you'll be surprised at how God will enlarge your perspectives in each moment. Also consider how you would like to use your moments to invest in that child, to help him or her grow.

    Frequently ask yourself whether you're truly fulfilling your unique purposes in life. Are you investing your talents for God's service? If not, when and how will you decide to begin doing so? Make commitments and devise plans to serve God during the defining moments of your life -- the ones that call for you to make decisions that will affect your life's direction.

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    [How To Get Out of Debt...and into Praise] How To Get Out of Debt...and into Praise
    by James T. Meeks

    Debt is like a monster that consumes your resources, wasting your money, time and energy. It gobbles up money for interest payments that you could be spending on useful goods and services. It compels you to devote precious hours of your life and much hard effort to earning more money (to pay your creditors more interest). Here are some ways you can eliminate your debt and use the resources you save to serve God more:

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt! with further modifications by Mark Roth)

    [Uncommon Graces] Uncommon Graces
    by John Vawter

    One of the uncommon graces we need to practice with each other is candor -- a commitment to giving each other honest answers, regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable this is. Practiced with love and discretion, candor strengthens rather than weakens relationships. It convinces us that other people care, that your friendship matters. When others are candid, they give you the opportunity to grow in your personal life and develop character. You also gain a certain freedom of mind because you never have to worry if the person is telling you the truth, or is saying one thing to you and something else to others.

    Why we are reluctant to be candid:

    Candor is not rudeness. Candor is the honest, living, sensitive, and discreet presentation of truth. It is always polite, gracious, and courteous. It respects the dignity and feelings of other people. It says things so clearly that people cannot mistake what is meant.

    There is all the justification in the world for candor. There is none for rudeness. Rudeness stems from insensitivity and a lack of manners. While the truth sometimes hurts, rudeness is needless offense.

    (Above excerpt and adaptation by LiveIt!)

    [The Gift of Hospitality] The Gift of Hospitality
    by Delia Halverson

    Even if you don't like entertaining, you can serve others through a hospitable attitude that will extend God's love into any situation. Here are some ways you can bless others through hospitality:

    (Above adaptation by LiveIt!)

    [Financial Freedom: Seven Secrets to Reduce Financial Worry] Financial Freedom: Seven Secrets to Reduce Financial Worry
    by Ray Linder

    A reader writes, "Ray Linder writes a book that is not only interesting and at times humorous but is easily understandable by the lay person. He makes an often dull subject come alive and packs it full of practical advice on putting ones financial house in order and keeping it that way. Ray points out the common traps we all fall into and offers solutions that are "do-able". Acknowledging that conflicts surrounding money are often the greatest sources of friction between husbands and wives, Ray addresses this problem by explaining how different personalities handle money issues in very different ways. While using sound spiritual principles of money management, he also takes into account that we need to enjoy life and encourages making allowance for the things we like to do. I would recommend this book highly to anyone wishing to be free of the constant tyranny finances often play in our lives."

    [You Can Afford to Stay Home with Your Kids] You Can Afford to Stay Home with Your Kids
    by Malia McCawley Wyckoff

    The author comments, "Have you ever considered tossing your Daytimer and staying home full time? We thought about it for years and, finally, we each took the leap from two incomes to one. We were certain that we would miss all the extra money, but in fact, we didn't. Once we got home it became clear that most of that second income was eaten up by the cost of working. And this included not only daycare, traveling expense, but the small hidden costs such as, lunches out, convenience foods, and take-out meals. We were shocked to realize that all the while we had been slaving away at our jobs, we were only adding a small dollar amount to the family budget. We wrote this book because we want to help let people in on a little secret -- it costs money to work and sometimes it is cheaper to stay home with the kids."

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    [Gardening Mercies: Finding God in Your Garden] Gardening Mercies: Finding God in Your Garden
    by Laurie Ostby Kehler

    Growing plants in your garden is a lot like growing yourself in your relationship with God. Just as you work to cultivate flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables, God continually shapes you into the person He has created you to be.

    Gardening can help you see how God wants to grow you:

  • Some flowers, such as gardenias and tuberoses, exude beautiful aromas even as they're dying. Whenever you put your own agendas to death and embrace God's will for your life, you will exude sweetness to God and attract the attention of others in a hurting world.

  • A healthy garden needs bees, since bees play a crucial role in pollination. But bees can sting, and gardeners need to take the risk of being stung in order to cultivate a fruitful garden. If you try to avoid the bees of life -- risks that could help you grow -- your life won't be fruitful. But if you take risks God is calling you to take, your life will be enriched.

  • Plants often need to be staked so they'll be able to grow without drooping. People also often need to be supported. God wants you to accept support when you need it, and to support others to help them bloom.

  • Weeds can quickly take over your garden if you're not vigilant about clearing them away. If you let a few days go by without praying or reading your Bible, the weeds of a life unconnected to God can start to sprout, choking your spiritual growth. Once you clear the weeds by connecting to God, your eyes will be opened and you can grow again.

  • Just as compost helps gardens grow, the compost of our lives -- tough experiences, mistakes and other struggles -- can help you grow, because God uses hard times to make you more and more into who He wants you to be. When compost heats up, its materials decompose, fertilizing gardens. When God allows the heat to be turned up in your life, attitudes that block your growth in Him start to decompose, clearing the way for you to grow.

  • Just as you prune plants in your garden, God prunes attitudes such as stubbornness or impatience out of your life. It may hurt while God is pruning you, but the process is necessary for you to bear fruit.

  • Plants that are common and taken for granted in one part of the world may be rare and highly prized in another. The blessings you take for granted may be considered precious by someone else who doesn't have them -- good health or a car, for instance. Considering the perspective of others will help you appreciate what God has given you.

  • Gardening often presents obstacles to overcome, such as short growing seasons or arid soil. Life, too, often will present you with obstacles, but God will help you overcome them.
  • (Above adaptation by LiveIt!)

    More about Gardening Mercies: Finding God in Your Garden

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