Saturday, June 25, 2016

Discipline

No, I'm not in trouble. :) Let me begin to explain the title: I went to L.I.F.E. Camp last week (June 13-16) and we studied a few of the various spiritual disciplines. Before I talk about that, let me recap a bit of my week of camp.

I was pretty nervous about going to camp this year in particular because it was my first year attending the high school camp. There were only seventeen campers and I knew very few of them. As the week went on, I learned more about studying the Bible and I made several new friends. The awesome thing is, many of the friends I made had actually been attending the camp for the exact number of years as I had. In the small group environment, we finally "met" each other and became friends, for which I was so grateful. Making these friends changed the course of my week and made camp so much more enjoyable for me. (Thanks, you guys! You're the best!)

As far as the activities at camp, we did tomahawk throwing, swimming, slip 'n slide, capture the flag, Apples to Apples (SO MUCH FUN IN A BIG GROUP!), lazer tag, an after-dark hike, and so much more. It was amazing. The staff had all been at previous years of L.I.F.E. Camp and I knew them all. They were wonderful mentors for us!

As I mentioned above, the focus of the teachings was the spiritual disciplines. As a group we made a list of them. They are in no particular order.
  1. Prayer
  2. Silence/Solitude
  3. Fellowship
  4. Bible Reading
  5. Encouragement
  6. Resisting Temptation
  7. Fasting
  8. Scripture Memorization
  9. Meditation
  10. Speaking
  11. Preaching
  12. Worship
  13. Testimony
  14. Celebration
  15. Service
  16. Rest
  17. Accountability
Of course, this list could include many more areas, but these are the ones we came up with. I found this series of teachings to be very fascinating and a great reminder of the things we should be doing. Some of these are easier than others depending on the person, but all are equally important. This is why they are called spiritual disciplines. We have to discipline ourselves in all these areas.

Even Jesus was disciplined. At age twelve in the temple he studied with the teachers. The important thing about learning these disciplines is that they take work. None of them will be easy at all times, and most take training. Jesus also demonstrated this.

Looking at this list, I shake my head. How am I supposed to do ALL THIS?? But I can, it just takes work. If you wish, join me in trying to train toward being better at all these disciplines. Let me know and we can encourage each other! And keep each other accountable. Hey, that's two of the disciplines right there!

Hopefully sometime in the semi close future I can bring you up-to-date on everything going on, but next week I'll be gone at camp again—this time as a counselor! (It's my first time counseling and I'm the youngest counselor.) I'm super nervous and I'd really appreciate all your prayers. Thank you all!

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Blades of Acktar: Defy Blog Tour

Ah yes, The Blades of Acktar series by Tricia Mingerink. This is a Christian fantasy/fiction series which I was introduced to this year. I am going to start this post by saying . . . YOU MUST READ THIS SERIES!!! I don't care who you are—you have to read these books. They are amazing. From the first moment that I opened each book, I couldn't put it down. If this says anything, they are among my very top favorite books.

Defy is book three in the Blades of Acktar. I am absolutely honored to be a part of the blog tour and release of Defy (see the bottom of this post for other blogs participating in this "tour"). Last night I was thrilled to participate in the Facebook Party celebrating Dare's (the first book in this series) first year anniversary and Defy's release. It was so much fun to chat with the author and her "characters."

The Blades of Acktar series has everything a reader could want. From assassins to orphaned girls struggling to forgive. From lords and ladies to an evil king. From spies to The Resistance. (And, of course, horses!)
Each character is well developed and everyone has a different personality. They are so well-crafted that they seem to be alive. (They ARE alive in my mind!) No details were forgotten in the making of these books. Every plot twists and turns so that it is impossible to predict the ending. Danger fills every page but it mingles with romance threatening to be destroyed.



Now, on to Defy. Can I rate it six stars? Or seven? I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this book.

As I already mentioned, the characters were stunning. The struggles that they face are handled so well and . . . realistic! Leith (my favorite character by far after watching what he has overcome) has so much turmoil in his spirit. He struggles with his past and its consequences. He is being hunted by the best assassins in the land. Meanwhile, he has to get to the assassins headquarters to rescue Renna! The only way to do this runs the high risk of losing his life brutally.

That brings me to Renna. Throughout the story, she is the character to probably grow the most. Originally, she relies on her own strength—not God's. Then, she slowly comes to see that she really does need God, and that He is still there even when everything has gone wrong. She transforms from a young lady trembling at death, to a strong woman who does what is right. And then, the choices she has to make! Oh my goodness. I wish I could go into detail but I won't because I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't read the series. Just read it. :)

Brandi, Renna's younger sister, starts the book by being quite the opposite of her usual bubbly self. She resents that she was saved from captivity and potential death and Renna wasn't. She also deals with some pride when she wonders if Renna can stay strong without her. She gets a bit cocky in her faith. After she gets over this, she plans to rescue her sister in any way possible. Which may or may not include disguising herself and joining the army.

Shad remains a steadfast and loyal friend and leader throughout the story. He handles himself well and isn't afraid to do what must be done. He is willing to sacrifice himself for his friends.

Jamie is a wonderful friend for Brandi during this time, and their relationship blossoms. He also remains true to Leith and willingly risks his life to save both Renna and Leith.

Martyn. Oh, Martyn. Through the novel, Martyn faces horrible choices between loyalties. He stands by and watches his best friend be tortured, but finally makes the right choice in the end. His situation is absolutely heart-wrenching. I'm so glad that it turned out well!

Finally, I am going to mention King Respen—the villain of all three books. He is as nasty as nasty gets. As brutal as possible. Horribly wicked. Unfeeling and uncaring—or is he? Watching his role throughout all the books was terrifying. Definitely one of the worst villains I've ever read about.

My friends, I truly can't tell you how much I love this series—this book. After Dare, I didn't know what could top it. Deny did just that. Again, I wondered how the next book could even compare. It did. Defy was terrifying, heart-tugging, exciting, adventurous, dangerous. I could go on and on but you get the picture. I. LOVED. IT. SO. MUCH. You have to read this series!!!

Tricia, thank you so much for writing such a wonderful, and God-glorifying series. You are such a talented writer. I am honored to have been able to participate in this blog tour! Please hurry up with book 4!

The sale actually goes until June 4.
Please click HERE to buy Defy!

Below is the schedule for the blog tour. Be sure to visit everyone's pages for more Defy fun!
May 26
May 27
May 30
May 31 – Release Day!
June 1
June 2
June 3