BOOK REVIEW :: Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal

Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict


Esther de Waal

One of my new favorite people is Esther de Waal. In my opinion Esther is responsible for the global growth of the Oblate movement for the last 30 years. Her book Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict brings St Benedict’s Rule to life for those trying to live monastic principles in our ordinary lives outside monastery walls.

Ms. de Wall breaks down the Rule, written by a celibate man to other celibate men over 1500 years ago, into ways that can be applied to every life. Along with the beautifully translated Rule, each chapter is punctuated with sweet prayers and quotations perfect for a devotional or meditation time.

I learned many things in this wonderful book. But the most important is something I use every day; a principle that is tied to our daily work, whatever it may be.

Reflecting on this quote from the Rule:

He will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected. (RB 31.2)

Esther de Waal writes:

What we can learn from the Rule is that the sense of God’s presence can be mediated throughout daily work and not destroyed by it…  seeking God does not demand the unusual, the spectacular, the heroic. It asks of me as wife, mother, housewife that I do the most ordinary, often dreary and humdrum things that face me each day, with a loving openness that will allow them to become my own immediate way to God. (Ch VII Material Things)

After reading this I put a daily ritual in place to help me keep this forefront in my mind. I start each morning by lighting a candle at my kitchen altar where I have placed a reminder card of this principle. Prayerfully, I dedicate my hands and work to God. Reminding myself that every implement of my work is a sacred vessel on the altar of my transformation. This immediately puts my heart attitude in check with the Holy Spirit.

You may not be interested in becoming an Oblate. But if you are pursuing spiritual growth, I highly recommend you read Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. Esther’s words have been so inspirational to me. This is a book I will read again and again!

If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful teaching by Esther de Waal given at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 2013. I love love love this woman! Her spirit is so sweet! I hope you enjoy her as much as I do. Blessings… Tamara

BOOK REVIEW :: The Book of Hours with Thomas Merton

A Book of Hours 


Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was an incredible spiritual thinker of the 20th Century. Though he lived a mostly solitary life as a Trappist monk, he had an amazing impact on the world through is writing. He was an out spoken anti-war and civil rights proponent and was reprimanded for his social criticisms. He was unique among Christian leaders in that he embraced Eastern mysticism and sought to bridge the gap between the East and the West.

Over the last several years I’ve run across Thomas Merton’s name in many books. Having read several by now, I am quite taken by his way of teaching, his convictions and his sweet poetic writing style.

A Book of Hours wasn’t written personally by Thomas Merton, it is a recent compilation from his books sweetly edited by Kathleen Deignan and beautifully illustrated by John Giuliani.

Designed as a daily prayer book, A Book of Hours has various selections from Merton’s poems and other writings divided up as hymns and prayers which are to be read each day of the week at Dawn, Day, Dusk and at Dark.

It has been the a tradition of the Christian church since ancient times to pray throughout the day. In this way the church fulfills the Lord’s precept to pray without ceasing. As I have embraced monastic spirituality, praying the Liturgy of the Hours has been a wonderful way to keep me spiritually focused through the day. It helps me specifically in my recovery walk to stay on track.

I highly recommend The Book of Hours by Thomas Merton. Beautifully bound, it is a great gift for yourself or a friend. It is one of the sweetest prayer books I own. I will treasure it for many years to come. 

Blessings… Tamara




How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul


Stuart Brown, MD



Earlier this year I reviewed Brene’ Brown’s book Daring Greatly in which I first learned of Stuart Brown and the National Institute for Play. Having my own challenges with finding play time I decided that PLAY was an important book for me to read.

In PLAY, Dr. Brown takes us to all sides of play, from the animal kingdom through the human lifecycle, play time in infancy to school yard rough and tumble, through adolescence on into adulthood. We learn through Dr. Brown’s research the incredible importance play is to the prevention of violence in our world and spawning innovation in the marketplace.Most interesting to me was to learn that the opposite of play is not work, but depression. Which makes total sense if you think about it.

When you read PLAY you will discover your play personality, how to take your own play history and hopefully learn how to be free to play more. I found this book quite interesting. It’s a little heavy on the research for my personal taste, but all in all I recommend PLAY by Dr. Stuart Brown.

If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE for Dr. Stuart Brown’s fascinating TED talk.



Unglued: Making Wise Choice in the Midst of Raw Emotions



This past September I was blessed to see Lysa TerKeurst speak at the Women of Faith conference in Dallas. When she spoke at the conference her message was taken from Unglued so I was excited that I had already chosen it for my October Book Review.

Are a woman who struggles with stuffing your emotions or exploding from over-stuffing? Then you are going to want this book! To be honest most of us are one or the other and sometimes both depending on the hour of the day or the day of the month.

Our schedules are overly committed which keeps us in danger of bursting at our seams with raw emotions daily. In Unglued Lysa shares transparent personal stories to help us recognize the differences between stuffing our emotions and exploding. She then gently teaches us from Scripture how to repair our thought processes and reactions which can help prevent future explosive episodes. 

Though I don’t struggle with raw emotions much these days, there were many years when I was a walking time bomb. I could have really used Unglued when I was raising my three children!

I enjoyed reading Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst and I think you will too! 

If you can’t see the video screen below click here to Lysa TerKeurst discuss Unglued.

BOOK REVIEW :: Change Your Words Change Your Life by Joyce Meyer

Change Your Words Change Your Life: 

Understanding the Power of Every Word You Speak 



Over the years I have read multiple books by Joyce Meyer. If you’ve been following my blog you know the profound impact her ministry has had on my life.

The message of this particular book is one of Joyce’s foundational teachings and is one I’m sure she will continue teaching as long as she has breath. Why is it she continues to pound away at us about our words? Because our brains are extremely stubborn and don’t given up bad habits easily!

Joyce has written several books and preached countless messages about the mouth. But I believe Change Your Words Change Your Life is her most user friendly to date. She gives us a dictionary of Scriptures divided up by topics to help us quickly in our time of need. Through good times and bad, complaining, encouraging, and opinions… she doesn’t miss a beat. And what I love most about Joyce is that she keeps it real by sharing her own areas of weakness and growth!

I have personal experience that this principle works, so I highly recommend Change Your Words Change Your Life by Joyce Meyer!

If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE for a wonderful conversation between @JoyceMeyer and @JohnCMaxwell on the power of our words.

BOOK REVIEW :: Girls with Swords by Lisa Bevere

Girls with Swords: 

How to Carry Your Cross Like A Hero



I had a wonderful summer book study with my newest daughter-in-law, Alicia, who chose Girls with Swords for us to read. Although, I’ve seen Lisa Bevere multiple times on television this is the first time I’ve read one of her books. Not unlike her TV appearances, Lisa has a powerful message to share.

Today many of the popular video games and comic book adventures depict women as heroes. But that certainly has’t been the norm of our social culture. Having not seen strong women modeled for us, many of us girls find it difficult to step into the role of warrior princess.

In Girls with Swords Lisa does a wonderful job using fencing metaphors to teach us the power we have available through The Sword of God’s Word. But before we can learn how to weald our sword we must first be aware of the battle set before us. Once we learn our battleground the task of becoming a warrior begins. We learn how to forge our sword, walk through the battle toward our harvest, armed with the Light, songs of praise and even times of silence.

Lisa carefully teaches us that as God’s children we are chosen but we must be trained and armed before God will commission us to our individual battles. We may be chosen it’s up to us to attend boot camp. Only there will we get the preparation necessary for the battlefield of life.

If you are looking for a book to study this Fall I highly recommend Girls with Swords! Also, you might want to check out the Girls with Swords Fencing Manual which goes beautifully with the book. It’s perfect for individual study or small groups.

If you cannot see the video screen below Click Here  for a message from Lisa Bevere.

BOOK REVIEW :: Making Good Habits Breaking Bad Habits by Joyce Meyer



14 New Behaviors That Will Energize Your Life



Making Good Habits Breaking Bad Habits is up there with Joyce’s best and most practical books. I love the way Joyce writes. She sweetly imparts her wisdom from personal experience of dealing with consequences of her own bad habits that ultimately motivated her to create healthier habits.

Joyce takes us through a series of behaviors that when combined, provide a beautiful recipe for successfully changing habits. She recommends rather than focusing our energy on removing the bad habits we should implement positive habits which will eventually drive out the bad habits.

I have been a huge fan of Joyce Meyer for years and have read many of her books. She has impacted my life in immeasurable ways. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for her.

If you are struggling with some bad habits, and who isn’t, I encourage you to get Making Good Habits Breaking Bad Habits. I personally have purchased an audio copy and look forward to listening to it so I can further cement these principles in my brain. Thanks Joyce! 

If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE to watch Joyce Meyer discuss Making Good Habits

BOOK REVIEW :: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown


How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead




Oh my gosh! I think this may be one of the most important books I will ever read! And I don’t say that lightly. Those of you who know me or have followed my blog for a while, know I’m a voracious reader. And when I find a book of this magnitude I’m going to shout it from the house top.

Daring Greatly is critical to living an emotionally healthy life!

This book is a voice of reason, understanding and explanation from a woman who has spent more than a decade listening to painful stories of lived experiences in order to put a theory into words. And not just research words to complete a degree, but words that will make a difference, words that can bring a sense of meaning to the struggles we all have in common.

Every person on the planet needs to read Daring Greatly!

No doubt about it, this book is a tough read. Not because Dr. Brown is a researcher who writes sentences that are five lines long (which she does not) but because her material hits me right where I live inside and outside my brain.

Do yourself and everyone in your life a favor… read Daring Greatly! 

I’ve just finished reading Daring Greatly and taking notes all over the book’s pages. Now I have to read it again. This time I’m getting out my spiral notebook and stepping into the Vulnerability classroom with Dr. Brené Brown as my professor.

Thanks Dr. Brené Brown! I look forward to reading much more of your work!

If you can’t see the video screen below Click here to watch Brené Brown’s ground breaking TEDx talk that has garnered more than 9 million views thus far!

BOOK REVIEW :: Our Favorite Sins ~ The Sins We Commit and How We Can Quit by Todd D. Hunter

Our Favorite Sins:

The Sins We Commit and How We Can Quit


Todd D. Hunter

During Lent I was privileged to see Bishop Todd Hunter speak when he came to our home church in the Dallas area. Until that time, I was unfamiliar with his books and really knew nothing about him as a minister. But not long into his talk, I became a fan. As a result I purchased and soon scarfed down this book.

Bishop Todd Hunter is an unusual minister in that he has only been in the Anglican denomination for a few years and not too long ago became a bishop. I believe this gives him great credibility in the way he tackles sin and temptation.

In Our Favorite Sins, with a Barna survey to back up the needed topics of discussion, Todd teaches us how to recognize our areas of weakness. Then step by gentle step, he leads us through time honored Christian practices, with a new perspective on scripture, prayer and sacraments that can bring healing and strength in times of temptation.

You may be unfamiliar with the Anglican traditions of prayer and liturgy, but don’t let that keep you from reading Todd’s book. I found his approach of using the Book of Common Prayer along with other ancient writings and practices extremely powerful and very refreshing.

I hope you will consider reading Our Favorite Sins by Todd Hunter. It has deepened my commitment to pray through various prayer books that I own, to meditate more fully on scripture and be even more intentional to giving all my desires over to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

BOOK REVIEW ~ Storyline: Finding Your Subplot in God’s Story by Donald Miller

Is your life floating by meaninglessly with no purpose or passion? 

Do you long for goals and ambitions that will make a difference in the lives of others? Then this is the book for you!


Finding Your Subplot in God’s Story



I was introduced to Donald Miller’s writing about four years ago through Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program, when I reviewed Searching for God Knows What. Since then I’ve read a few more of his books all of which I like very much. I’ve found Donald’s writing style to be fresh, friendly, fast paced and fun. And Storyline is no exception. 

As a writer I’ve been working on my autobiography for a few years. So when I learned about Donald’s new project I thought it might help with my story writing skills. Reading Storyline can help me write a better story about my life, but most importantly it will help me live a better story every day. 

These days I’m working on being intentional and committed to the activities and people in my life. Reading Storyline couldn’t have come at a better time to help me be more intentional and more committed to the roles, goals and climactic scenes I want to see in my future.

Storyline is a fun and engaging workbook that goes along with the Storyline conference. But it can also be used for small groups or individual study.  No matter your age, gender or season of life, you will benefit from reading Storyline by Donald Miller. 

I’m excited to put what I’ve learned from Storyline into practice. It has already given me a better vision for my life and a clearer focus on that vision. I believe my story will be much improved because I read this book. 

I hope you will get a copy of Storyline. I highly recommend it!

Click here to watch an introductory video about Storyline.

What is Storyline? from Donald Miller on Vimeo.

BOOK REVIEW :: The Resolution for Women by Pricilla Shirer

The Resolution for Women



B & H Books 

288 pp

What a perfect book to start the new year with! Although I’ve seen Priscilla Shirer speak in person, I’ve not read any of her books before now. If you enjoy watching Priscilla teach you will like this book. Like most good authors you can hear their speaking voice in their written word, and this was no exception.

The Resolution for Women was written in partnership with the movie Courageous which is calling men to be stronger spiritual leaders. Priscilla’s book is essentially that same message to women.

While all the resolutions are excellent, you may find some challenging to walk out. Certainly, they will cause you to think about some areas in life where you may have gotten lazy.

This book is quick read with fast moving chapters that aren’t full of fluff like many of today’s commercial writers. It is thought provoking with encouragement to put the resolutions in practice.

I highly recommend The Resolution for Women. It’s great for a small group study or just to share with a friend over coffee. Either way, I think you will enjoy it!

Check out the Book Trailer for The Resolution for Women:

BOOK REVIEW: The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler, MD

The End of Overeating:

Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite


Rodale, Inc. 2009
330 pp

While scanning the Internet for blog material, I ran across this book. The title was intriguing and seemed to fit my research needs, so I placed my Amazon order. Upon it’s arrival, I was so overcome with the shocking information being revealed to me that I consumed the book as fast as I could. 

Do you have an overpowering urge to eat an entire bag of chips while surfing late night TV?
Does the dessert tray at your dinner date call your name long before your entree has arrived?

In The End of Overeating Dr. David Kessler explains in fascinating, but scary, details why the food industry’s conniving scientific, “tricked-out” recipes keep us coming back again and again to foods that are not at all in our best interest.
The End of Overeating is timely and brilliant… disturbing but vitally important! Well written with engaging short chapters that keep you cruising through the book at an amazing pace. The information is concise and life changing! We can get off this overeating roller coaster if we take heed and do the work Dr. Kessler carefully lays out.
In studying sexual addiction I knew that food addiction was similar. But not until reading this book have I seen it so clearly. I’ve never read a book that so closely describes sexual addiction! 

Among the many internal conflicts that plague us—the unwanted thoughts, the anxieties, the compulsions and impulses that too often seem beyond our power to quiet–the struggle over what we eat is, for millions of people, the most daunting. (from the Foreword)

A few years ago this controversial former FDA commissioner, Dr. Kessler exposed the tobacco industry. Today he is taking on another business that’s making us sick– the “big food industry” who manipulates our tastebuds to get to our pocket books with scientifically designed recipes that keep us coming back for more. 
I will never look at a restaurant menu the same. Thank you Dr. Kessler!
For the sake of your health and your family’s health— Read this book!!
Check out this interesting interview with Dr. Kessler: