Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express

If you enjoy murder mysteries, this book is for you!

Murder on the Orient Express is perhaps one of the most fascinating murder mysteries I have ever seen and read. It is nearly impossible to guess the outcome of both the book and movie.

I did break my own rule and see the movie before I read the book, so I already knew what would happen in the end. But let me also tell you, you will never see this one coming.

The book has many elements that truly make it a work of art. The clues in the book and movie are so well-hidden that it keeps you guessing to the very end. The characters each have very unique individual qualities that set them apart from each other, yet they are believable all the same. The style of the author is a little different because it is an older book, so it is not necessarily an easy read. You must be ready to think when you pick it up, but if you’re reading a mystery, I’m assuming you’re not afraid of a little brain stimulation.

I won’t give away any spoilers because I know that’s especially frustrating for a mystery novel. So I’ll leave you with these two thoughts:

  1. If you decide to pick up this book, you won’t regret it.
  2. I’ll definitely be reading another book by this author.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Short Story: We Can’t Win

The men gathered in a huddled mass with their armor clinking and the slither of swords being drawn. Then there was a simultaneous pause in that valley with one single thought echoing in each warriors mind.
We can’t win.
He observed the men around him. Not a single smile lasted from the times before. Before battle, there was drinking, women. Now there was nothing but fear.
No matter how many times you’ve been in battle before, the fear could still be seen in the glistening eye before the sound of the first clang of the sword.
The dreaded Roman army was here in what they called barbarian territory. But in reality, they were the barbarians. Thinking all land was their own. The general did his job of telling his men what he wanted.
And now all barbarians were left to defend their precious mother land.
If the Romans invaded, all men would be killed or made into slaves. Spectacles actually for their elaborate arenas. They’d heard the stories. Men fighting men to the death for sport. A thumb signaling the value of life or death. Lions hunting men like gazelles, just another pathetic meal.
This would not be his fate. Or would it?
We can’t win.
The thought echoed again through the valley. The only way out was up. He lifted his eyes to the ridge. What lay over the mountain, no man should ever have to face. Yet here he was. Tomorrow his land would be free or he would be dead. There would be no way to see both.
He gave the command and the troops began to move. His words from the moments before ran through his mind.
“Today we fight!” The men had watched him in silence. “We fight for our children. We fight for our wives. We fight for our lives. But most of all we fight for our freedom!” A cheer rose form the men. Freedom always overcomes fear.
Except for today.
“Draw swords,” the command fell from his lips. Clinking echoed off the rock. “Forward. March.” Metal scraping metal. Shields rattling. The army was on the move.
It was a long lonely trek up the mountain. Not an enemy in sight. Something was wrong.
Where were the arrows? Where were the horses? Where were the Romans?
We can’t win. We can’t win.
They continued the climb, shield touching shield. An eternity passed and then they were at the top.
And that’s when he saw it.
The arrow sunk between the gap in his armor and deep into his heart.
One last thought crossed his mind as he fell to the ground.
We can’t win.

Book Review: Daring to Hope

IMG_9297.JPGI waited so long for this book.

So so long.

After reading Katie Davis’ first book, Kisses from Katie, I eagerly anticipated this book the moment I learned she was writing a new one.

Katie Davis’ first book inspired me to actually take a missions trip. And by that, I mean that I finally put feet to my dreams and took action to go to a third world country to share the gospel with people. (And by the way, I got to tell Katie this in person. See the picture at the end of the post.) It changed my life forever. I’ll write about her book and my missions trip in another post.

This post is to tell you to go pick up a copy of Kisses from Katie and Daring to Hope and read both of them in their entirety.

In Daring to Hope, Davis takes you on a journey of hope not through amazing adventures and daring feats, but through the everyday life of an American missionary in a foreign country.

Many times we think of missions work as one exciting adventure after another, but Davis’s honesty in the struggles of everyday life are what make you realize that not only she is a real person, but that God is real and He can work in your life every single moment of every single day.

The overlying theme of this book is that God uses tough situations to teach us to hope in Him. We may not understand the way He works, we may not even agree with the outcome of the situations He allows to happen in our lives, but we do have a choice. That choice is this: To dare to hope in God or to dare to hope in nothing at all.

God alone is our hope. Our confidence. We can trust Him because He is always, always good.

I challenge you to pick up this book and dare to hope in the true God of the Bible.

I’ll leave you with one quote that really stuck out to me while reading this book. I think it really shows why we have to choose hope in our lives.

“At the end of time, all that will count is that we lived the Gospel with our very lives, that we paid attention to the people God gave us and dwelt knowledgeably and hospitably in the place to which He called us.”

Why hope? Because the Gospel is a message of hope and people need to know that true hope exists on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

Katie

Flawless

“Flawless.”

This is the comment that graced the Instagram photo I recently viewed. It wasn’t my own, but it struck me as strange.

Flawless.

I would dare to say this word has not been popular until recent pop culture adopted it into her songs, and then it followed into the rest of the media world. Yet I believe it is something we all strive for. Yes, I felt a touch of jealousy seeing this commented on her photo. Why couldn’t she say that about mine? But a better question is possibly this: is anyone truly flawless?

What does it mean to be flawless?

Flawless is defined by Merriam Webster’s Dictionary as “having no flaw or imperfection, perfect.”

That’s a pretty high standard for a photo. And if the truth be told, it’s not even accurate.

There is only one individual who could ever be described as flawless. It’s not you. It’s not me. It’s not your favorite celebrity, singer, or role model.

It’s Jesus.

Jesus was born a perfect human being because He is the perfect God (Check out Colossians 2:9). He was sinless (1 John 3:5). Absolutely flawless.

Why do we equate ourselves with Him? There is no match. We are not flawless.

Maybe I speak for myself on this, but my flaws are evident in so many ways. It’d be nice if I didn’t need to work out and wear make up. But more than that, it’d be nice if I didn’t think ungodly thoughts and say unkind words. It’d be nice if I didn’t have a bad attitude and an ungrateful spirit. It’d be nice if I truly were flawless.

And the good news is I can be.

Wait. What?

Someone can comment on my photo and say, “Flawless,” and it can be completely true.

Why?

Because through the blood of Jesus Christ, I am flawless.

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

Jesus Christ has promised the cleansing of all sin to those who believe in Him alone. We just have to reach out and accept this free gift.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”                                                                                       Ephesians 2:8-9

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanest us from all sin.”                                                            1 John 1:7

Let me close with these song lyrics for a beautiful song entitled “Flawless.”

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

I may not be physically flawless ever. You may not be physically flawless ever. But by the grace of God, you and I can be spiritually flawless forever.

Book Review: Miracle on Voodoo Mountain

Let me just tell you this:

Tears were shed over this book.

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain took me back to the country that forever changed my life, Haiti.

I wish I could put into words all of the emotions I felt on that beautiful island country, but I could never quite describe it well enough. Instead let me recommend this book to you, so that way you can get a glimpse of the work God is doing through missions around the world.

In her book Miracle on Voodoo Mountain, Megan Boudreaux takes you on her journey to reach the children of Haiti. She answered the call of God after she visited Haiti on a business trip after the horrible earthquake that wrecked Port-au-Prince in 2010.

Having been to Haiti before, I could picture the places, the poverty, and the people she mentioned throughout her book.

I could picture the places. I saw the government buildings she mentions, including the palace. I saw the homes that have are nothing more than concrete walls and roofs and dirt floors. I could picture the busy roads and the insane amount of traffic with no laws of any kind. I could see the orphanages with cots for beds and no food and no money to get any.

I could picture the poverty. Building after building of closed businesses line the streets. People slave in the fields just to provide a couple of dollars for their family for a day. Roads lay ruined from disasters and rain. Anything that can be put in your mouth becomes a snack including styrofoam.

But most importantly, I could picture the people. Hungry eyes. Hurting hearts. Hopeless souls. People that need Jesus. I could picture the mothers who let their children roam the streets. I could picture the 14 year old girl who is already 6 months pregnant, most likely the result of being raped. I could picture the boys and girls with no parents who ride down a mountain every day just to get a basket of fresh water. I could picture the people who more than food, water, or any other physical need need Jesus more than anything else.

And that’s what this book is all about. It’s about changing a life one at a time and showing each person the love of Jesus.

If you want some perspective of what Jesus is doing around the world through average people like you and me, pick up the book. You won’t regret it.

Beauty and the Bible

About a year ago, I noticed this thing called Bible journaling during my incessant Pinterest scrolling. Yes, I’m a little obsessed with Pinterest. Okay, maybe a lot obsessed. But as a teacher, there are so many good things to be found on there. Plus the e-cards are always good for a laugh. But let me get back to the point of today’s post.

I noticed these colorful concoctions popping up on my Pinterest page and as I took a closer look, I realized these beautiful images were drawn in a Bible.

Insert shocked emoji here.

Growing up in conservative Christian circles, I absolutely could not believe that this kind of thing was being done in a Bible. How is that possibly okay? The Bible is holy. Is scribbling all over it really showing it the respect it deserves?

I quickly wrote off the idea of this kind of art in a Bible, but just a few weeks ago, the idea popped up again, this time thanks to Instagram. I saw beautiful images depicting what the Bible verses really said and I was drawn closer to God’s Word as a result of this.

So I began researching whether or not this is okay. After studying my Bible, reading many articles, and praying over this issue, I came to the conclusion that I would start Bible journaling to help me grow in my personal walk with God.

Maybe you’re struggling with whether or not it’s okay to create art like this in your Bible. Let me share with you some things to think about when considering this for yourself:

  1. Why are you journaling in your Bible?
  2. When are you journaling in your Bible?
  3. How is journaling in your Bible helping you grow in your walk with God?

Now I’m not saying this will answer all your questions, but hopefully it will inspire you to dig into your own personal stance on this topic.

Also, come back later to see some of my Journaling Bible pages.

Spectator Christianity

It’s 2016. He walks up to the track, running shoes ready. The training’s been done. This is it the final moment. Usain Bolt will now determine that he is the fastest man in the world.

You may remember watching this race or possibly another favorite event from the Olympics. It could be the swimming legend Michael Phelps, volleyball stars Misty May-Traenor and Kerri Lee-Walsh, or gymnast Gabby Douglas. Most Americans have someone they are pulling for when watching the world games, but that’s all we are doing watching.

Isn’t that similar for some of us in the Christian life?

Some of us are caught up in spectator Christianity. We have pastors, leaders, and other great teachers and role models we look up to. We cheer them on. We expect them to win. We expect them to train properly. After all the Bible does describe the Christian life as a race. Check out Hebrews 12:1.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

We are all athletes in the Christian life. God has called us to run the Christian life, and He doesn’t want us to live like we are not even part of the team. We often live not just as losers, but like we aren’t even participants. We sit idly by, thankless for how Jesus rescued us from sin, death, and hell.

How?

First, we expect our leaders to fuel properly while we eat junk. Any athlete will stress the importance of a healthy, balanced diet. It’s essential to training your body to be its best. The same is true of our Christian race.

What do you need to survive? Food and water.

The Bible tells us that Jesus is the living water and the Bible is the bread of life.

We expect our leaders to study the Bible daily, but we only read ours on Sunday. We like God’s Word when it fits with our schedule and preferences, but if we don’t have time, oh well it’s not really that important to us.

Can you just skip eating and really be okay? No. Absolutely not, I know that from personal experience, but that’s a topic for another time. Your body shuts down without the proper fuel.

Without the proper fuel of God’s Word every day, you’re spiritual walk is going to shut down. You will find yourself starving spiritually. You miss out on what God wants to teach you.

Now sometimes, we just have an unhealthy diet. Maybe you do read your Bible, but what else are you feeding your soul? We all know that when it comes to our physical bodies the bad stuff tastes so good. Pizza, ice cream, burgers, pasta. Is your mouth watering yet?

But we also try to fill up on these terrible things in our Christian life, and they can only satisfy for so long. We look to bad relationships, drugs, alcohol, money, fame, immorality, pornography. We have somehow justified tasting these things that God says are sin. And we are only hurting ourselves (and your team and God) in the race.

Stick to a healthy, balanced diet. Feed yourself from God’s Word so that you have the strength and energy you need to run the race before you.

Second, we expect our leaders to train while we do practically nothing.What if athletes skipped their training? Yes, maybe they could live without going for a day. But what if it becomes two, three, four? And then next thing you know, you haven’t been to the gym for 5 years now. The athlete would obviously not be prepared to do his best in any competition. He would fail.

If we are not daily training in God’s Word, we are going to fail. God’s Word has the principles and standards we need to live out our life daily. What are some ways that we can daily train ourselves in God’s Word?

  • Be kind. Every single day. Even on those days when you feel like just snapping at everyone.
  • Be a servant. Look for other peoples’ needs instead of your own.
  • Give. Give of your time, money, and effort.
  • Love your neighbor. Even when they aren’t being loving to you, love them anyway. It’s a command.
  • Pray. Pray for everything. There’s nothing in your life that Jesus doesn’t care about.

The list could go on, but I think you get the idea. Find those ways to fuel your body from God’s Word and then practice them daily.

If you watched Usain Bolt’s race from the 2016 Olympics, you would without a doubt say he is the fastest man in the world. He was successful because of all the fuel and training he put into his running.

Shouldn’t we be just as passionate about our Christian race? Maybe it’s time to dust of those running shoes that have been sitting in the closet for awhile. Put ’em on. See what God can do with your life.