Jan 17

American Patriot's BibleWe're about a week into the New Year, and I hope that if you have New Year's resolutions, that you haven't broken them yet.  If you have goals that you want to accomplish this year, I hope that you are on your way to achieving them.

One of the goals that I try to accomplish every year is to read through the Bible.  I like to start in Genesis in January and then read through to Revelation by the end of December.  I don't always succeed, but I have finished in the last couple of years.  Last year I read the Bible in Spanish (I'll probably review that Bible on a different date).  This year, I plan on reading the Bible in English again, using the American Patriot's Bible.

I've had this Bible for several years now, and have read through it a couple of times already.  This hardback version of the Bible has held up pretty well (as you can see, there's only some minor wear to the dust jacket).  I've packed it on vacations, have taken it places, and it's still holding up pretty well.

American Patriot's Bible (open)The version that I have is the New King James version of the Bible, but an old-school King James Version of the American Patriot's Bible is also available.  Everybody has their preferences, and some years, I've read different versions.  One year, I read the 1599 Geneva Bible (I may review that at a future date as well).  I find this version pretty easy to read (and if you're going to read about three chapters a day, you'll want something that you're willing to go back to every day).

The American Patriot's Bible has all the text of the New King James version of the Bible (or King James, if you get that edition), but it also has a lot of inserts and tidbits about how the Bible has played a part in American history.  I've found the stories to be pretty interesting.  There are a few sections that are in color that speak in-depth about a particular topic (like Christianity in Colonial America, pictured here).  While I may not read through all of these as I go through the Bible this time, I have read all of these sidebars before, and I have enjoyed them.

If you already have a Bible, it's not too late to read the Bible through this year.  I've actually gotten more than a month behind and have caught up by the end of the year!  There are many bible reading plans that you can choose from.  Some are short-term, others will take three years to go through the Bible (my church is doing a two-year plan, although I'm doing a one-year plan on my own again), and others let you go through the Bible at your own pace.  You can start where you are, or choose to catch up.  The main thing, if reading the Bible is a goal in your life, is to actually start.

The American Patriot's Bible is a good choice if you plan on reading through the Bible this year.  It is not the only choice, of course, but it will be the one that I will be using to read through the Bible in 2017.

Jan 17

US CurrencyWe're still less than a week into the New Year, and perhaps, if we made New Year's resolutions, we've already forgotten about them.  Or maybe we're keeping them.  At any rate, it's never the wrong time to think about improving our finances.  I'm sure that most of us can work in that area.

One of my favorite finance guys is Dave Ramsey.  He has a daily radio program, writes books, and has a Financial Peace University that goes through all the major aspects of household finance.  He focuses on getting out of debt, saving for emergencies and beyond, and then building up a nest egg.  He tells us to "live like no one else, so that later, you can live like no one else," that is, sacrifice today, so that later you will have a decent amount of money and you can give to others like no one else.

If 2017 is the year that you want to get your finances in order, you might want to consider reading Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money.  It's the same book that they use in the Financial Peace University classes, and it covers almost everything that you need to know (although the hard part can sometimes be actually living the principals).

The book covers everything that you need to know about getting out of debt, building a savings, and even dealing with creditors, if you've gotten into trouble in the past.  It talks about getting a home, getting a bargain when you're shopping, and investing.  It also has all the forms that you'll need to use to get a budget started in the back of the book (although you'll probably end up using an Excel spreadsheet, since you'll want to do a budget every month).

If you're not familiar with Dave Ramsey, he suggests going though several different baby steps on your road to financial freedom:

  1. Put together a baby emergency fund of $1000 (in case something catastrophic comes up.
  2. Pay off all of your debts (with the exception of the house) from smallest to largest.
  3. Put 3 to 6 months of expenses into savings.  This is in case something catastrophic comes up, like a job loss.
  4. Invest 15% of your income into retirement.
  5. Save for your children's college.
  6. Pay off the house.
  7. Build wealth and give a lot of it away.

The farther along you go down these baby steps, the better it feels.  Sometimes, unfortunately, things happen and you can slide backwards (it's happened to me... we've had the baby emergency fund and then the emergency happens) but if you have don't have a plan, it's never going to get done by accident.

The Complete Guide to Money is well-written, easy to read, and if you live it, it really works.  The closer my husband and I live to this plan, the better we feel about what's going on financially.  It provides inspiration with little sidebars about people that have lived the plan and have succeeded.

If you're looking to win with money in 2017, and you haven't learned the basics of financial planning yet, I definitely recommend this book.

Jan 17

I couple of days ago I put out my list of my favorite books that I read for the first time in 2016.  I didn't have a list in front of me of all of the books that I had read for the year, and was just going off the top of my head with the things that stuck out to me (this year I need to keep a record of the books that I read).  There was on glaring omission to this book list: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

I apologize for the omission, but it truly belongs up in one of the top three books that I read this year.  I just read it earlier in the year last year and didn't remember it.  So I'll review it now.

"Thank God for the fleas."

Whenever something bad happens in life, and I still want to try to be thankful, this is now the phrase I use.  It has its origins in The Hiding Place; more on that later.  I posted that on Facebook earlier this year and my mom was wondering why I posted it.  No, we don't have fleas in our house... but it reminds me to try to be thankful in all things.

German concentration camp in World War II.

While obviously not the place where Corrie and her sister stayed, this is an example of how conditions must have been like while she was in the concentration camp.

Corrie Ten Boom grew up in a modest family in the Netherlands before World War II.  The early part of this book describes her childhood, all the family members that lived with her, the love that got away, and how she helped out at her father's watch shop, which was attached to their house.  It was a simple life where she was taught to honor and love God.

When World War II started, the Ten Boom family went through hardships like everybody else, but they were more fortunate than the Jewish people, who started to disappear.  Corrie and her family end up getting involved in an elaborate scheme where they hid Jews until they could be moved to a safer place.  A few of the Jews that she helped couldn't be moved for one reason or another, and they lived with the Ten Boom family.  An architect built a space in their house where the extra guests in their house could be hidden.

This was a dangerous business, because if they were caught, they could be killed.  They had to hold drills where they had to hide all of the evidence of what they were doing as quickly as possible.

One day, they were caught, and the Ten Boom family was rounded up and sent to jail.  Some of her family members were released; eventually, it was just her and her sister, Betsy, who ended up in a concentration camp together.

What the two sisters had to go through was horrendous, but one of the most inspiring things about the book is how they kept their faith through all of this.  The Ten Boom sisters managed to smuggle a Bible into their sleeping quarters at the concentration camp; Corrie was disgusted by the fleas in the room, but her sister Betsy reminded her to be thankful for all things; even the fleas.  The two sisters began to hold Bible studies in the concentration camp; I'm sure that there are several people today who are in Heaven today because of those Bible studies.  Later, Corrie learned that the only reason why the Nazi soldiers wouldn't enter their sleeping quarters, which allowed them to hold their Bible studies, was because of the flea infestation.  They didn't want to go near the place and the fleas.  So today, when I feel like something bad has happened and I want to be thankful, I try to "thank God for the fleas."

I find Corrie's forgiveness after the war to be amazing as well.  Instead of becoming bitter and wanting revenge, she showed forgiveness to her former Nazi captors.  It's easy, in times where everybody else is doing wrong, to go on the wrong track and partake in evil.  Yes, the Jews needed healing after the war, but so were the former Nazis that got involved in evil because they were just trying to survive.  Corrie showed forgiveness to them as well, which completely awed me.

The book was easy to read, and it was required reading for my kids last year, after I found the book on sale on Amazon.com.  It's not a happy book (I cried at times), but it is a beautiful, inspiring book.  If you haven't read it yet, please put it on your list of must-read books for the new year.