You Gotta Read This Book

I just finished reading The Garden: A Spiritual Fable about Ways to Overcome Fear, Anxiety, and Stress by Jon Gordon, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Seriously. Go to Amazon or your favorite book seller right now, and order your copy. It is worth the $17 list price.

The Garden is for anybody experiencing fear, anxiety or stress or anyone who knows someone dealing with those issues. I would venture a guess to say…that’s pretty much all of us.

Gordon tells the story of the gospel through what he calls a “spiritual fable” – a narrative involving twin high-schoolers Jay and Kay and their neighbor Mr. Erwin.

Mr. Erwin befriends the siblings, and, using the garden he lovingly tends in his backyard, he helps them see how the enemy distracts people with lies and causes them to be fearful, anxious, and stressed. Then, Mr. Erwin reveals to the teens how God has already won the battle for them – all they have to do is avoid the 5 D’s which are the enemies tools for warfare.

I read this book because my son’s Sunday school teacher recommended it for parents of middle school or high school students, and I can see why. Everyone in my family will benefit from a discussion of the 5 D’s.

The copy I read actually belongs to my friend, but I will definitely purchase my own copy to reread and keep as a reference. I may even ask Ethan to read it himself since it reads like a narrative.

This book’s message is so timely because of the high-stress we’re living in right now with many still out of work due to the pandemic and school in an uproar. My son is most certainly experiencing some anxiety over starting middle school this year coupled with the challenges and frustrations of virtual learning. This, in turn is causing me fear, stress, and anxiety! I already feel more calm and confident after having read the book.

Buy it today and crack it open as soon as it arrives in the mail. It can’t come soon enough.

I’ve Found Your Next Bible Study

Deep. Challenging. Introspective.  Quiet.  Calming.

These are words I would use to describe Psalm 119: Walking in the Light – A Flourish Bible Study Journal.

This study is an in-depth look at scripture from Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible and the longest Psalm.  And I cannot recommend it highly enough to you for your next Bible study – either as an individual or with a small group.

One of the things that I love most about this study is that it challenges me to dig deeper into the Bible.  It focuses on a few verses of the Psalm and fosters thorough exploration of those verses.

The authors, Mindy Kiker and Jenny Kochert, co-creators of Flourish Writers, encourage the use of alternate translations, Bible commentaries, word studies, exploration of the context, an application to investigate and understand the scriptures.

There is not an excess of narrative in this study.  Instead, readers are directed to use the methods mentioned above to study and then to record our own thoughts, discoveries, journeys, and experiences with God as we explore the verses.  Journaling is a technique I enjoy using in my own study of the Bible, so the openness of this study appeals to me and encourages me to flex my writing muscles.

The writers realize that different people have varying amounts of time to devote to the study, so they’ve built in multiple options for investigations; you can complete as much as you can based on your available time.  The self-paced study is organized into 4 weeks with 5 days of work each week, but you can go through at your own speed.  If you end up spending two or three days on one section because of how God is speaking to you, there is room for that.  If you push through a couple of lessons in one sitting because you have the free time, that is ok, too.

I enthusiastically recommend this study.  God has already spoken to me so clearly about a current struggle in my life.  I am gaining understanding and confidence to walk through this time with the assurance that God’s word is and will continue to illuminate my path so that I do not stumble.

Based on the structure and organization of the study and how it has already challenged me to investigate in greater depth, I am confident this will not be my last Flourish Bible study.  I will definitely be on the look out for more materials from Mindy Kiker and Jenny Kochert.

A Giveaway and a Book Review

You definitely need to read Confident Moms Confident Daughters by Maria Furlough if you’re a woman who is influential in the life of a girl: a daughter, niece, granddaughter, student, church youth group member, etc. Maria makes it clear that the answer to the problem of how to be more confident for ourselves and our daughters lies in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  She supports her assertion with biblical scripture and her own life experiences.  She also uses expert testimony from various areas to support what she has to say about different aspects of identity and biblical confidence based on our identity in Christ.

As I read through the book, it felt like Maria and I were sitting across from each other having coffee and talking – the tone was so comfortable and conversational.  She truly shared her passion for God and family as she explored the topics of female body image, insecurity, and modeling godly confidence for the young women in our lives.

The book includes details from Maria’s own life experiences to help the reader see where she is coming from.  In addition, she discusses nutrition and physical activity among other topics related to body image.

I was concerned that the book wouldn’t be relevant for me at this time as my daughter is six.  Each chapter ends with a series of questions, and the readers are encouraged to discuss these with our daughters.  Upon first read-through of the questions for Chapter 1, for example, I felt they were over my daughter’s head – not age-appropriate.  However, I came to realize as I read further that I could adjust the wording of some and talk through a few with her right now.  Others, I can save for later.  Overall, because of my daughter’s young age, I am viewing the book as my preemptive strike!  I may not have these concerns with my daughter at this time, but they are certainly coming soon.  I can learn how to be more confident in my identity in Christ now so that I can begin modeling that for her immediately.  Some of the other information – such as Maria’s list of “Signs Your Daughter is Struggling (or Thinking about It)” – I’ll keep in my back pocket, so to speak, for when the time comes.

I honestly believe that every woman who has an influential relationship with a young woman would read this book.  It is so important to me, that I’m giving you the opportunity to win a FREE copy.

There are two ways to enter the giveaway –

  1. Like this post and leave a comment telling me about the girl or young lady in your life.
  2. Find me on Facebook at Heather Murdock Hooks and find the Facebook live video I posted about the book.  Like and share that post and leave a comment telling me about the girl of young lady in your life.

* Get your “name in the hat” twice if you complete one of the two ways explained above PLUS you subscribe to this blog by leaving me your email address (click on the “Follow” button to the right of this post).

Enter by 9pm Friday, August 30

The Quiet Advent Calendar (Repost)

It’s December 1.  Did you start your Quiet Advent Calendar?  (I’m a little old-fashioned, so I printed out a hard copy of mine 🙂 ) This is a repost of last week’s post, but I don’t want you to miss it.  Please join me:

The frenzy is already building.  Can you feel it?!  The frenzy that is the Christmas season – only 31 more shopping days to go!  Who’s left on my gift list?  What am I going to bake to take to my in-laws’ house on Christmas Eve?  I didn’t even start decorating yet!!!

Oh my goodness!  No wonder we rarely enjoy the season anymore.  It’s too crazy busy.

Let’s take back the holiday season this year.  Let’s focus on the real reason we celebrate – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Let’s prepare our hearts for the Advent season.

I’d like to invite you to “The Quiet Advent Calendar” from my friend, Julianne Gilchrist.  Join me in 24 days of delighting in this season of Advent.  I’m excited for this Advent Calendar because, as I’ve gotten to know Julianne over the past 6 months, I’ve discovered that she’s all about slowing down, breathing in, and just being with God.  Her concern is helping people learn to hear God’s voice above the hum-drum of life.  And I can see her desire for sacred space built into “The Quiet Advent Calendar.”

If you plan to join, let me know, and we can walk through it together.  Just click on “The Quiet Advent Calendar”, fill in your name and email address, click Send Me The Quiet Advent Calendar, and settle in and get ready.

I can’t wait to get started.

A Mountaintop Experience: Reflections from a Weekend at The Cove

Sit a spell in a rocking chair on the porch at the Training Center and watch the fog creep in until it completely covers all the blue-gray mountains in the distance.

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The “Back Porch” at the Training Center

Amble through the halls and take in the multitude of gifts given to Billy and Ruth Graham over the years as they traveled the world: the pin from Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Nesting Dolls from the Russian Delegation, or the Wooden Pestle from Romania, to list just a few.

If nature is your pleasure, choose a sturdy walking stick and follow the trail as it climbs and twists through the woods and past the creek up to the chapel. Those who are more adventurous can climb 3 miles up to the overlook.

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Porter’s Creek on the hiking trail

 

This past weekend, I passed a sweet time meeting with the Lord during a women’s retreat at The Cove in Asheville. Be Still Mama Women’s Ministry from FBCIT hosted the event and put together a dynamic line-up of godly women to encourage us to “Choose Joy” based on John 15:1-11.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Based on my observation, I heartily recommend that you go on a retreat the next time you have the opportunity. And, if that opportunity happens to take you to The Cove, I encourage you all the more.

To begin with, the venue is absolutely breathtaking, both the surrounding, natural environment as well as the inns, Training Center, and chapel themselves. Although we were there in the middle of winter, the weather was pleasant enough to venture outdoors, walk a few trails, and take in the beautiful mountain scenery. All around you’ll see glossy, smooth magnolia and hearty cedar. It was overcast while we were there, but the heavy clouds hanging low on the mountains and even lower in the trees epitomize the mountains to me.

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Imagine what the Graham home might have looked like when Ruth often stood at the door and kissed goodbye her evangelist husband as he went off yet again to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Do you see a cozy fire, creaking rocking chairs, soft rugs covering wooden floors, and shelves and shelves of books? That’s what I see, and I imagine that was the inspiration behind the homey, mountain decor that permeates the inns, the Training Center, and the chapel at The Cove.

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Suite sitting room in Shepherd’s Inn

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We were all crazy about this grand fireplace in the lobby of the Training Center.  There were more pictures taken of this than just about anything else!

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Chatlos Chapel

If the interior says, “Relax. Pull up your chair and sit by the fire,” the exterior says, “Take notice. Stand tall! You’re nestled into mountain country.” Each building was built with a mix of natural stone and dark, handsome wooden beams.

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Shepherd’s Inn

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Shepherd’s Inn

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Chatlos Chapel

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Chatlos Chapel

And, oh the windows! They were everywhere! Some rooms, such as the dining room, had floor to ceiling windows, and lobby of the Shepherd’s Inn, where we stayed, was two-story, featuring windows from the floor to ceiling! The word ‘breathtaking’ just doesn’t even seem adequate to describe what you experience with your eyes.

 

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Shepherd’s Inn Lobby

You don’t just experience The Cove with your eyes though! Your nose and mouth are tantalized as well – at least 3 times a day – at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Truthfully, I hadn’t considered the food as something to look forward to on this trip. But, let me tell you, I was completely and utterly blown away by the amount and quality of food as well as the selections themselves. Breakfast was a buffet of eggs, meats, pastries, fresh fruits, yogurts…I could go on, but breakfast is my favorite meal, and now I’m hungry again. Lunch and dinner included choices such as filet Mignon, grilled shrimp, baked Parmesan chicken, salmon, pork ribs, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, salad, rolls, cornbread…you get the picture, right?! I’m not saying you should go to The Cove just for the food, but I’m saying that you won’t be disappointed by it. You’ll probably leave a few pounds heavier than when you came. (I didn’t even mentioned dessert!)

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Dining Room in Training Center

The staff was kind and helpful as well. Their demeanor added to the overall hospitable air of the place. Everywhere you were greeted with their smiling faces welcoming you in the door, asking if you needed assistance with anything, or reminding you to help yourself to the coffee, soft drink, or water stations located around the facilities. The folks waiting the tables in the dining room were especially jolly as they begged us over and over to go back for seconds and thirds. “If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault,” one lady kidded us as she refilled our water pitcher.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not also share with you what you are likely to experience on a spiritual level while there. I most certainly encountered the Holy Spirit’s presence; it was there nearly every moment. This was due in part to the group of women there with me, the caliber of speakers and the message they prayed over for weeks and weeks, the worship leader and the music she chose, and the overall design of the retreat itself by the leader of our women’s ministry.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

However, added to that was the idea that this facility itself, everything at The Cove, in fact, was designed with the purpose of bringing people to a place where they can relax, refresh, and experience the Lord. You just…feel His presence. You look out over the mountains, and you encounter majesty and awe knowing that He created those mountains and those trees and those clouds, and He knew you’d be standing there in that moment, feeling so small but not alone. You look at those friendly faces assisting you, and you realize that He made those people, and He gave them attitudes of servitude so they could be His hands and feet. Even the configuration of the furnishings – a grouping of chairs here and there by a fireplace, or a couch nestled in the corner by a bookcase – invited you to breathe in fellowship and experience the Lord’s calming presence.

It’s just a majestic place. The Lord is there! I urge you to go should the opportunity arise. You will be so grateful that you did.

Have you ever been on a retreat? Was it for work, recreation, church, etc? Where did you go? What was your experience there?