Daughter of Jerusalem

She was the first person to see her resurrected Savior, a sinner whom Jesus cleansed of seven demons, and one of the women who followed and supported Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, but who was Mary Magdalene? What was her story? In her latest novel, Daughter of Jerusalem, New York Times bestselling author Joan Wolf puts a story to the person of Mary Magdalene. This first-person tale begins when, at a young age, Mary is sent from her family to live with her aunt and ends after Pentecost.

This is the first Joan Wolf book that I read and I am so glad I did. The novel is easy to read and utterly engrossing – I didn’t want to put it down. I cried at times while reading of Mary’s hardships and rejoiced in her triumphs. I will definitely be reading more of Joan Wolf’s writings. I’ll also be learning more about the Biblical account of Mary Magdalene. The book has me intrigued and I want to learn more about this important woman.

I love historical fiction because it weaves well-known historical characters and occurrences into the story. It’s fun to see how the author gives life to the Biblical account by putting names and relationships to people who we know little about from the Bible, such as Fulvius Petrus, an acquaintance of Mary’s that turns out to be the centurion that had the faith to ask Christ to heal his servant from a distance. However, it is important to remember that Daughter of Jerusalem is a work of fiction. The Bible gives us no reason to suppose that Mary participated in many of the events that the author places her at, nor does it give us many details about her life. It also doesn’t explain her political leanings. I found it startling that the author blends Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany (the sister of Lazarus and Martha) into a single person. I had always thought that these were two different people, but after reading the book I spent some time researching and discovered that there are some who believe that they may be the same person (though many scholars do not). The author provides a believable explanation of how Mary of Magdala could also be Mary of Bethany and the truth is that we really don’t know.

This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to any Christian. It is a wonderful story, makes some great points, and will cause you to open your Bible and learn more.

Want to read it? Worthy Publishing invited me to review Daughter of Jerusalem as part of their blog tour for the book and has given me a copy to give away to one of my readers! Enter below. Good luck!

Discovering the City of Sodom

When I first read the subtitle for Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of the Discovery of the Old Testament’s Most Infamous City, I seriously doubted that any book about Biblical archeology could possibly deliver such a promise. I am not disappointed to report that my doubt was unfounded. Authors Dr. Steven Collins and Dr. Latayne C. Scott deliver a stirring tale of the discovery of this infamous city that is easily understandable by a noob like me, but that I believe is also detailed enough to keep a more knowledgable reader interested.

The book includes enthralling narratives of the expedition to find Sodom, extensive Biblical context, and fascinating explanations about topics such as Biblical dating, including competing theories, to give context for understanding the issues involved in finding and verifying the true location of Sodom. I listened to the audiobook and many times discovered that my trip was over but I didn’t want to stop listening.

Speaking of the audiobook, narrator Sean Runnette provided an exceptional narration that made the already fascinating book truly engaging.

I recommend this audiobook for any Christian who is interested in learning more about Biblical archeology and how a team of archeologists is challenging the firmly held beliefs of academics around the world.

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) – Matt Redman

I Have Decided – Elevation Worship

Here I Am To Worship – Hillsong

Be Lifted High – Elevation Worship

the-book-of-man

Is it possible to become a man by reading one book? No, but if it was, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood by William Bennett would be that book. In the book, Mr. Bennett has compiled profiles, stories, letters, poems, and myths into a volume intended to show the reader what it means to be a man.

The book is divided into six sections: Man In War; Man At Work; Man In Play, Sports, And Leisure; Man In The Polis; Man With Woman And Children; and Man In Prayer And Reflection. The author says that men are called to be heroes and he uses a series of stories, vignettes, essays, and profiles in each section to provide heroic role models.

This huge volume (the hardcover edition contains 576 pages) is a vital addition to any man or boy’s library. Before placing it on the shelf, though, read it cover-to-cover. Don’t let the size discourage you – it is well worth the time you’ll spend reading it. There is something to be gleaned from every page.

By the way, this would be an excellent Father’s Day gift for any man – young or old!

River

By Nate LaClaire —  April 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

I know it’s the wrong time of year for this, but do you recall the Joni Mitchell song, River?

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Somehow that song resonates with me right now.

I’m so hard to handle
I’m selfish and I’m sad
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

There’s no “baby” in my story, but I’m hard to handle, selfish, and sad. And “I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

This post is the first part of a series. Stay tuned for more information.

Featuring The Heart of Worship, Mighty to Save, Thy Word, and more!

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Happy Easter! This week’s selection of worship music includes The Wonderful Cross, Saved the Day, and others!

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It happened like this: I woke up at my new normal wake-up time (5am) on January 2 ready to start my first workday of 2013 on the right foot. I read my morning devotions, spent a few minutes in prayer (too few, I admit), and replied to a couple of emails. Then I headed downstairs for breakfast and a shower. Everything was seemingly going very well, but there was this one problem: I couldn’t get Straight No Chaser’s The Christmas Can-Can out of my head. You see, my family’s annual Christmas get-together with some family friends had taken place on Sunday, so we had been playing Christmas music from my iPod most of the day. This lead to me humming Sara Groves’ Toy Packaging all day on Monday and Tuesday. One might think that The Christmas Can-Can was an improvement and one might be right, but this simply would not do for my internal playlist for the first workday of 2013. On top of that, I couldn’t endure another day of a one-song internal playlist. Not. At. All.

So, in between donning articles of clothing, I created a new playlist on my iPod for my morning commute. It featured a selection of mostly up-tempo songs, many secular, that I felt would get me in the right “take no prisoners” mood for the day. My goal: world domination. In one day. Sweet. To the end of this list, I appended various songs that I found along the way and thought, “Oh, that would help me get Christmas music out of my head as well.”

But God. I have a client who loves to repeat that phrase. But God. It’s found throughout scripture:

“You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to . . . save many people alive” (Gen. 50:20)

“Their beauty shall be consumed in the grave . . . . But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave” (Ps. 49:14-15)

“My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26)

(Thanks to Julie Ackerman Link for the references)

Well, on January 2 I had a “but God” experience. I got in my car, hit play on my iPod, and hit the road. First up, We Are Young by Fun. Now, if you suddenly find yourself rolling on the floor laughing about the fact that We Are Young would be featured on the playlist previously described, enjoy. I will not apologize nor explain. I refuse. Ahem. What song I was expecting next I will not say, but it turns out that I had left Shuffle turned on after Sunday’s 12 hours of Christmas cheer. Consequently, my iPod pulled a song from near the end of the playlist, Ginny Owens’ I Am. Next, a TobyMac song. TobyMac certainly has a “take no prisoners” vibe – I mean, look at his name – but the particular song chosen was City On Our Knees. Then, another Ginny Owens song. After that, TobyMac’s Hold On. Then another TobyMac.

Somewhere in here, the tears started flowing. You see, I set out to conquer the day on my own. My playlist was all about embracing the moment, taking control, pushing ahead, and leaving everyone else in the dust. But God. He used my iPod’s Shuffle technology to send me a better message for the day. Embrace the moment, yes, but with a different purpose in mind and following Someone Else’s beat. Thank you, Lord.

How about you? How has God used music (or other randomness) to correct your path?

A selection of worship music, including Give Us Clean Hands, Unashamed Love, God of Wonders and Agnus Dei, A New Hallelujah, and He Reigns.

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Setting Goals

By Nate LaClaire —  August 1, 2012 — Leave a comment

Goals. So many of us have some hazy ideas that we refer to as goals, but how many of us accomplish them? How many of us even go so far as to turn them into something solid and truly commit to them? We say things like, “my goal is to lose weight,” or, “my goal is to visit Rome,” but somehow we never make it. Why? In some cases, we are afraid. At least that’s been my experience. The thought of reaching our goals scares us, whether because of the unknown “what comes next” or simply because as awesome as the goal sounds, it’s something new and frightening. In other cases, we just don’t do what is needed to accomplish the goal, including solidifying what exactly our goal is.

Michael Hyatt has covered the topic of goal writing from various angles. He says that goals should be S. M. A. R. T.:

  • Specific – define exactly what you want to accomplish with as much specificity as possible
  • Measurable – for example, “lose 20 pounds” not “lose some weight”
  • Actionable – start it with a verb
  • Realistic – yes, you want to push yourself, but don’t set the bar so high that you can’t possibly achieve it
  • Time-bound – give yourself a deadline

Michael also says that goals should be written down and made public. This gives you accountability. Maybe you share your goals with an accountability partner, your spouse, your family, or maybe with the whole world, but publicize them somehow.

I’m terrible at setting goals and worse at accomplishing the ones that I do set. I could leave it at that and continue “spinning my wheels” and never accomplish anything. After all, I’m bad at it. It’s just the way I am.

I’ve chosen to not do that, though. Goal #1: prepare a list of goals for the next year and revise my “contract with myself” by August 1 (I created this goal on 7/18). The list of goals should prepare me for the undertaking I’ve recently committed myself to and for future success. Goal accomplished!

I will be announcing here more about that undertaking in the next few of weeks. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’ve decided that I’m not going to allow it to become one of those things that I “never got around to.”

I’ll also be detailing at least some of my goals and discussing portions of my contract on my blog in the near future. The focus of my blog going forward (Faith, Life, Intentional Living) is directly related to my contract and my goals. Some of the goals and portions of my contract are between me, God, and my accountability partner, but the rest will be public. I’ll need your help staying on track.

By the way, I’ve set another goal: lose 6 pounds by August 20, 2012 (my 31st birthday), by using the Lose It app to ensure that my caloric intake stays within a daily budget and exercising at least 30 minutes daily. It’s specific (what and how), measurable (an exact quantity), actionable (lose), realistic (2 pounds per week, based on my current weight, is easily accomplishable), and time-bound (August 20). That’s step one in a larger health-related goal, but we’ll talk about that later.

What about you? Please share your experience with goal setting and/or a S. M. A. R. T. goal that you have set.