Monday, June 25, 2018

Book Nook: When God Happens - True Stories of Modern Day Miracles

In a world full of bad news, it can be hard to stay positive. For Christians, it can be easy to wonder if God is still working in our lives and in our world today. It can be very inspiring to read real-life, modern stories of God's very real work right now.

In When God Happens: True Stories of Modern Day Miracles, editors Angela Hunt and Bill Myers compile true stories of God stepping in to solve the problems of regular people who with great faith. The book is full of positive news, with stories that transcend what we think is possible: angelic encounters, superhuman feats, and stories of God's quiet but very real work.

This was a great book to read. I enjoyed reading stories before bed to help put me in a positive mood before going to sleep. For non-Christians, the stories will be unbelievable, stretching the bounds of what could possibly happen, but for believers looking for testimony about God's work today, the stories are fascinating and inspiring to read.

Book Nook: Rumor Has It

Boys Town Press publishes books on a variety of helpful topics for parents and teachers - relationships and bullying, mental health and emotions, character development, self-control, anger, and more. I recently had a chance to review a new book from Boys Town Press, Rumor Has It.

As adults, we know the effects rumors have, but a lot of times kids aren't aware of just how serious they can be - they think of it more as being "in the know" or sharing information. Using the image of a rolling marble, this book does a really good job of educating kids on the importance of stopping rumors before they start.

You can also listen to Julia's podcast about rumors.

Book Nook: Just Be Yourself - A Ladybug's Journey

I recently had the chance to review Just Be Yourself: A Ladybug's Journey by Karen Stone, a book designed for young children to help them form and maintain a positive self-image. In the Happy Peaceful Forest, young kids meet a ladybug who wonders why she's the only one in her family without the special crown. She decides to journey to the shiny purple castle to figure it out. While she's on her way, she meets several different animals, each one giving her advice on self-assurance. At the end, she finds out the way to earn her crown.

It's a cute book with fun illustrations and a very positive image - a great way to start kids on a journey of self-acceptance and positive self-esteem.

“I want to enable children to build a foundation to be happy with who they are for the rest of their lives,” Stone said. “Just Be Yourself teaches children to be confident with their own attributes, skills and appearance so they can build a positive self-image.”

Available at AmazonBarnes and Noble and Balboa Press

About the author
Karen Stone is an avid reader and very much enjoyed learning from the adventures that books would take her on. Growing up can be difficult. Books can help learn new skills to help overcome challenges in life. Stone looks to inspire children to understand that what matters most is to be happy being themselves. She currently resides in Hackettstown, New Jersey with her husband, Gregory, and daughter Kristen.

Book Nook: Am I Enough? Embracing the Truth About Who You Are

There is a strong temptation to compare ourselves to others, to think we aren't enough, to struggle with self-esteem. This often is especially challenging for young women. My older daughter is just getting to the age where young ladies often start to struggle with self-image - and although right now hers seems rock solid, that may not always be the case.

I had a chance to review Am I Enough? Embracing the Truth About Who You Are by Grace Valentine. Grace has experienced the pressure to fit a certain mold herself, and decided she'd had enough of the toxic culture. She didn't want to just survive, she wanted to grow and thrive. This book is a look at her perspective on self-esteem - a perspective that is rooted in the fact that it doesn't matter whether we are "enough" for this world, because we weren't created for this world, but for the next.

The book looks at common lies that women often pick up, either from society or from internal monologues - lies about our worth in relationships, our abilities, beauty, and more. The book has a good balance of honesty and humor, which makes it both easy to read and very helpful. Those who read this book will feel understood and know they aren't alone, and will be empowered to confront the lies with a stronger self-image based on their image and value to God.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Book Nook: Masks

Masks, the debut novel from Nataly Restokian, takes readers on a journey through Anna's persistent struggle to find true, authentic happiness in an environment that marginalizes women. Inspired by the author's personal experiences as a television personality in the Middle East, Masks reveals through Anna the uncensored reality of the way women are treated in the Arab world and the hidden traps found within the glamorous circles of fame and fortune.

As an Armenian girl growing up in Lebanon, Anna had suffered unspeakable hardships, including rape, with the country's civil war a constant backdrop. Against all odds, she fiercely works her way into a successful television career as an adult, but her fame and loveless marriage only serve to bind her ever tighter to society's expectations. 

She combats her husband's infidelities with her own steady stream of lovers, but each encounter only underscores the emptiness in her heart until the unexpected happens: a passion-filled night with a handsome Canadian awakens untested emotions inside her. Suddenly, she's ready to risk everything she's ever known for a stranger who lives oceans away. Will Anna find the freedom and true happiness that she so desperately seeks, or will Middle Eastern society's unrelenting grip prove too powerful? 

Author Q&A:

Do you fell the #MeToo and #times up movement are relevant to events in your novel, and if so could you elaborate on you?
Wherever women and minorities are ambitious for success, powerful men will be there to exploit them. Wherever  it takes place -in television studios, in the creative arts, in the halls of power, in royal palaces -its always the same ,and its victims are afraid they will lose everything if they speak up ,so they cry alone.

Why did you choose “Masks “as the title of your book?
We live in a world under the influence of social, religious, and traditional obligations that are dictated to us. We hide behind masks, repressing our courage, ambitions, and sometimes even our destiny. The title is Masks because the novel explores how much strength we need to be able to remove those masks, thereby destroying all obstacles and reaching our goals regardless of the consequences.  
What does the novel talk about?
In a society in which men dominate women, the story follows an ambitious girl who is one of the few people to realize that fashion, social status, plastic surgeries, and bright smiles are not the answer to happiness. She lives in a world where a girl is only worth as much as her virginity, where women do not dare ask for a divorce, and where the fear of retribution keeps them locked in a cage that is very rarely gilded. The characters in the story are the voices of so many who do not dare to speak up in a world in which social and religious standards openly chastise the very actions that behind closed doors have become the ultimate paradigmatic way of life.
Taking into consideration the social customs of the Arab culture, this novel is covered with many controversial characters, sexual taboos including royals, celebrities, men in power. What prompted you to write so boldly about?
I focused on taboos and corruption as a regional phenomenon in order to allow the rest of the world to embrace our differences and similarities, and to see the Arab world from other angles than the stereotypical one of terrorism or extremely sexy women. 
If talking about human suffering, celebrity secrets, the abuse of women, civil war, and the humiliation of homosexuals in the Arab world generally and Lebanon specifically is a reason for backlash then evidently I might get shot very soon.

Author Nataly Restokian is the granddaughter of Armenian genocide survivors. Born and raised in Lebanon, Restokian spent nearly two decades as a television journalist, actress, talk show host and radio host in the Lebanese and Arabic societies. She also worked as a marketing manager for three different economic and industrial magazines in Lebanon. She rose through the ranks before giving it all up for a chance at happiness and true love. Today, Restokian is married and living in Montreal. She is working on her second novel. 

Healthy Habits: Balloon Weight Loss Surgery

Americans spend almost 60 billion dollars annually in pursuit of weight loss with gastric bypass surgery being the most common type of weight-loss surgery; an option that isn’t for everyone. Like any major procedure, gastric bypass has significant health risks and side effects. In addition, to be a candidate for the procedure, one must have a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or higher. The fact is, a huge percentage of the population are only between 15 to 50 pounds overweight without any other options besides diet and exercise.  Dr. Stanley Poulos, a San Francisco board certified plastic surgeon is an early adaptor of the non -surgical balloon weight loss method approved by the FDA in 2016. Following the two-part program, patients lost an average 3.1x the weight compared with diet & exercise alone. 

Dr. Poulos stresses that, “there is a direct correlation between those patients who stay connected to their program and their weight loss success.” Dr. Poulos is highly experienced in body contour plastic surgery which is sometimes required after major weight loss. Sometimes, due to skin laxity after weight loss, procedures such as thigh lift, breast lift, liposuction or “tummy tuck” are desired by patients.

Who is an ideal candidate for the balloon weight loss method?
It is appropriate for patients with a BMI of 30 to 40 that have not had previous weight loss surgery. Patients diagnosed with bulimia, binge eating, compulsive overeating, high liquid calorie intake habits or similar eating related psychological disorders are not good candidates.

How does the balloon method work?
This non-surgical outpatient procedure begins with a diagnostic endoscopy to ensure that there are no contraindications and that it is safe to perform. Once the patient is mildly sedated and comfortable, the procedure can begin. The deflated gastric balloon is inserted through the esophagus and into the stomach. A syringe is then used to fill the balloon with a sterile saline solution. Once the weight loss balloon has been filled with saline, it expands to approximately the size of a grapefruit. The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes. Patients can usually return home after the placement or removal procedures within 30 minutes. Over the last 20 years this procedure has helped over 277,000 people. The gastric balloon encourages portion control while patients make healthy changes to diet and lifestyle.

How long does the balloon stay in place?
The balloon remains in the stomach for the first six months after the procedure. With the stomach balloon and Dr. Poulos’ support team, patients usually see the most drastic results in the first six months. It is very important to use this time to develop healthy habits that will continue for not only the 12-month weight loss program, but for the rest of one’s life.

What to expect after the balloon placement.
Over the first 14 days after placement, patients may experience nausea or vomiting. Dr. Poulos recommends a liquid diet for his patients during the first week to help manage these symptoms.  Also prescribed are effective anti-nausea drugs to help the patient through the initial stage.

How is the balloon removed?
Once the stomach balloon has been in place for six months the balloon is removed. The simple and non-surgical procedure is very similar to the placement process. Once the gastric balloon has been removed, it is very important to continue working closely with Dr. Poulos’ team and coaches to follow the personal diet and exercise plan provided. This will help to keep you in a positive and healthy mindset while achieving your weight loss goals.

Additional benefits of the balloon weight loss method.
ü  It’s been shown that the average person loses 3x more weight with this procedure than with diet and exercise alone. Here are some of the reasons why:
ü  Diets can leave you feeling hungry or dissatisfied. This procedure helps by taking up room in the stomach and encouraging portion control.
ü  When you’re overweight, exercise can be challenging and uncomfortable. With The Balloon Weight Loss Method aiding your weight loss, physical activity can be more comfortable.
ü  There are no incisions, stitches, or scars.
ü  Unlike gastric bypass surgery, this procedure is not solely for the morbidly obese.
ü  The procedure takes 20 minutes and most patients return home the same day.
ü  The balloon is only placed temporarily.
ü  The procedure is intended to work with a fitness and nutrition regimen for optimal results.

Cost: The general cost for the procedure is $8,000 to $10,000 nationwide and can be used with patients 22 and older who fit all of the medical criteria.

About Dr. Stanley Poulos
Dr. Poulos specializes in cosmetic breast surgery and body contouring procedures. He helped pioneer the quick lift facial rejuvenation surgery in California and is recognized as one of the leading plastic surgeons in Marin County and the entire San Francisco Bay area.  Dr. Poulos and Plastic Surgery Specialists have extensive experience in body contour procedures. A graduate of the University of Texas Medical School, Dr. Poulos completed his internship and residency at UC San Francisco. He completed a plastic surgery fellowship at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco and is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Boys Will Be Men

By Sean Patrick Hughes
I still remember the girl everyone picked on in my 3rd grade class. I don’t remember anything I learned in that class. I barely remember the teacher’s name. I don’t remember who my best friend was or who I spent time with or much of what I did at all.
But I remember her.
She was tall. She looked older than everyone else. I realize now she probably was. Her clothes didn’t fit right and the other kids said her hair was cut like an old lady’s. They said she smelled too. I didn’t think she did but that didn’t matter because everyone said she did. She was quiet and didn’t participate much in anything. No one knew her family or where she came from before 3rd grade. But she didn’t seem very good at school. When she was called on to read aloud, she struggled and stuttered and sounded things out.
The other kids called her dumb.
I remember it 30 years later. The earth has traveled 17 and a half billion miles since then and that memory has traveled them with me—the tall girl with the old lady hair whose clothes didn’t fit right that everyone said was smelly and dumb.
One day she wasn’t in school any more. And almost no one ever saw her again. Almost.
A few years later, I think I was 12, I saw her. I was at a friend’s house who didn’t go to my school in third grade and therefore didn’t know the girl as I knew her; as my third-grade classmate. He knew her as the girlfriend of the man who lived in the house next to him. I saw her bringing in groceries.
She looked much older than us by then. And probably was by a year or two. Maybe she was fourteen. Maybe 13. And she was with him. A grown man with kids of his own that she was also caring for. She recognized me. I could tell. But she never said a word to me.
I didn’t say anything about her to anyone either. I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe it was something in the way she looked at me. She was scared of me, not him. I didn’t want to ruin it.
Somewhere after being bullied in school she disappeared from the life of a child and ended up doing the shopping and cooking and all the other things one imagines that the woman of the house does. All that was unimaginable about that was her own. No one else’s.
I remember the bully from my school too. He didn’t discriminate. He bullied everyone. He was big and angry. He cried when he got mad. But mostly he was just plain cruel. The tales about punching the bully back and he’d leave you alone were just tales with him. He just punched back harder. He used to put his fingers in his mouth and throw spit at people because he could do it in class without the teacher hearing it.
No one knew his family either. Or where he lived. We just knew him. And then one year he disappeared too. And no one thought we’d ever see him again.
We did though.
His end was different. He’d gotten into drugs and taken to beating up elderly women for their purses. Eventually he murdered one in the parking lot of a restaurant. At his trial, his mother begged the court for mercy. She said he was a good man, just caught up in addiction. I knew better. Whatever made him the way he was, it wasn’t new. He was mean as a snake his whole life.
There’s a saying. Hurt people hurt people. It’s true. And it’s a valuable thing to remember, especially when dealing with kids. But there’s something incomplete about it. It implies some symmetry about the world that’s simply not there. Hurt people don’t hurt people.
Hurt men hurt people.
The wounds we inflict on each other, the ones that time alone won’t heal, are almost all dealt at the hands of men.
93% of all murders, rapes and non-prostitution sex related offenses are perpetrated by men. 97% of mass shootings are carried out by men. 93% of federal prison inmates are men.
77% of the time we men kill each other. The overwhelming majority of women that are assaulted raped or murdered are done so by men as well though. Of all the humans in the world who could kill a woman, half the time, it’s her intimate partner—husband, boyfriend, ex—that does it. Usually they’re shot.
If you’re wondering why women aren’t particularly interested in tolerating any talk that justifies or normalizes terms like enforced monogamy or violence related to the asymmetry of sexual distribution, it’s likely because of all the murder and violence that already comes with their relationships with men.
This is the part where the discussion tends to get particularly scientific, with long explanations of testosterone or the behavior of chimpanzees or maybe even lobsters. Or maybe it wanders into a cautionary tale of morality. The description of a societal rot and a spiraling away from the temperate waters of days past can be pretty handy when trying to make a point that people can throw at each other over their social media threads. The science and biology may be true. The basis for moral finger wagging isn’t. We’re killing far less of each other today than we did when I was a kid. I’m not interested in either perspective though.
The contrast in the stories I shared above is intentional. I don’t know what was happening in the background of the lives of that little girl and that little boy when no one was around and no one was looking. What I know is where they ended up. One of the hardest realities to swallow, as a man, is the asymmetrical nature of the poor outcomes of troubled childhoods. This is one place where it’s obvious that the outcomes, at least, for men and women are very different. Hurt women don’t hurt people, not the way that men do. Their tragedies are so often their own. As for us men, we take far too many others with us.
I’m the father of three boys. Three boys that one day will be men. And the only perspective that I’m interested in, relative to the discussion of men and violence, is my responsibility to the world for who they become. And what becomes of them. And the fates of the people whose lives they touch.
Contrary to popular belief, Johnny Cash songs or social media, my job isn’t to teach my sons the hard lessons of life. Life will take care of that for me. Of that I’m sure. There’s enough pain and loss and heartbreak coming to them; a lifetime’s worth to teach them about the truly hard things that I will never be able to.
I do need to teach them accountability, of course. But that’s best taught by example; by watching me go to work every day, come home and treat their mother and those around me with respect and to honor my responsibilities and to admit when I’m wrong and apologize. Not by hammering them when they do things wrong.
My place in this world, the one no one else can fill, is to teach my boys that they are loved. And that they have worth. And that the world is full of people worthy of the same. To teach them to see themselves in the suffering of others. To teach them strength through service, not dominance, bravado or violence.
At stake is the lives of everyone they touch for the next 70 or so years. The women who trust their bodies and safety to them. The children who will look to them for the same they look to me.
It’s a hell of an important job. And no one else is going to do it.
Sean Patrick Hughes is a writer, veteran, non-profit founder ( and a special needs father. A veteran of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and a Bronze Star recipient, Hughes launched the data, politics and society blog in 2015 as he brings a contrarian point-of-view and a wide range of depth and experience to his writing. Rationally objective, his work challenges us to look deeper into our modern problems. 

A graduate of the United States Naval Academy and the University of San Diego Graduate School of Business, Sean left the Navy, after 10 years of active duty, at the rank of Commander. He lives in Southern California with his wife Annette and three boys. You can learn more about Hughes on his Blog, 
ChartwellWest, or connect with him via Twitter and Facebook. Hughes’ new book, Sixteen, is now available onAmazon and other fine booksellers.  ###

Shopping Savings: DSave

I thought this might be of interest regarding high costs of healthcare.
When a lifelong runner and marathon athlete was told he couldn’t run after a painful injury, he scheduled an MRI. He was shocked when the out-of-pocket came back to him as more than $1,500. He decided to ask around for some advice before shelling out the expensive payment.
That was the dilemma Scott Young faced before being referred to MDsave, a leading healthcare technology platform designed to help consumers find affordable costs for health care by dealing directly with hospitals and doctors to avoid the hurdles of high insurance prices. As a nuclear medicine technician in a medical clinic, Scott knew the pain of dealing with insurance companies and the frustration of the high OOP costs. By going through MDsave, he was able to save nearly $1100.
As Scott and others have learned by discovering MDsave, “it was seamless.”  
By streamlining the provider payment process, MDsave ensures patients save more and providers net more due to removing the inefficiencies of the system in place.
You can see the video testimony here:

Paul Ketchel // Nashville, Tennessee
Paul Ketchel is Founder and CEO of MDsave, the world’s first transactional healthcare marketplace. He has more than a decade of combined experience in the healthcare industry. Previously, Mr. Ketchel served as Chief Operating Officer of Diagnostics Network Alliance, and as Director for American Capitol Group, a government relations firm which represents more than 60 clients in the healthcare and crhpharmaceutical industries. Prior to joining American Capitol Group, Paul was Director of Government Relations for Elanex Pharma Group International. Before joining the private sector, Mr. Ketchel began his career as an aide to United States Senator Bill Frist. Mr. Ketchel served as an aide for the Senator on his Washington, DC staff.
Paul on OANN Tipping Point:

Healthy Habits: Staying Hydrated

With weather forecasters predicting a summer of average or above average temperatures, it is going to be another dangerously hot time for most of us. The main health tip is to stay hydrated, with water leading the charge. But outside of water, what are your best liquid hydration options when dealing with the summer sizzle?

Dr. Mayrene Hernandez of UnitedHealthcare says there are a couple of good choices, outside the everyday glasses of water (always the best choice), to stay healthy and hydrated for the long, hot summer.  These alternatives include:

1.)   Lemon Water
According to the Center For Disease* Control Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do.

2.)    Skim Milk  (no, seriously, milk)
You may have not known this but milk is actually better for rehydration and also for countering dehydration than water. It contains a natural blend of good quality carbs, proteins and sodium that helps your body retain fluids.

3.)   Herbal teas.
Herbal Teas such as hibiscus tea, rose tea or chamomile tea are great hydrating drinks. They are natural and caffeine-free, so you don't have to worry. They not only help in keeping you hydrated by also calm your tired nerves and relax your mind. 

4.)   Fruit Infused Water
Fruit juices may not be the best hydrating drinks but a glass of fruit-infused water is.  Adding fruits in water helps in diluting the sugar content and increasing its hydrating powers.

5.)    Smoothies
Smoothies are a smart way to fit some extra hydrating nutrients in your day. You can incorporate fruit, add nutrient blends, or turn it into a meal by adding protein and healthy fats. Be wary of the amount of fruit you add — add too much and you might add too much sugar

6.)   Coconut Water
If you are looking for an all-natural, flavorful alternative to traditional water, coconut water is worth a try. A study published from Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise which demonstrated that coconut water replaced body fluids as good as a typical sports drink, and slightly better than water. Stay aware of to many, if any added sugars.****

For this and more health tips you can visit:

Website Spotlight:

Wealth management and trust company, Ronald Blue Trust, has partnered with Church Law & Taxa publication of Christianity Today, to provide content for ChurchSalary. Released this month, the tool features compensation best practices and guidance on personal financial topics, including budgeting, debt management and retirement planning.  

ChurchSalary was born out of the National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. Funded by $28 million in grants announced in December of 2015 by the Lilly Endowment, the initiative resulted from extensive nationwide research. It showed that pastors from multiple denominational groups and geographic locations were facing serious financial stresses and obstacles. ChurchSalary is designed to help alleviate some of those pressures.

A division of Thrivent Trust Company, Ronald Blue Trust provides wealth management strategies and trust services based on biblical principles. The division (and its predecessor) has been serving individuals and families with complex financial needs across generations since 1979, helping them enjoy a healthier relationship with money and be inspired to live more generously.

This is the first year the Church Law & Tax editorial team sought assistance from a wealth management expert to provide personal finance resources within the ChurchSalary tool. Ronald Blue Trust has contributed a series of articles that address a variety of topics, including strategic giving, four financial decisions that may affect contentment, five methods of budgeting, and five principles of stewardship.

For more information about ChurchSalary and to access the tool, visit Information about Ronald Blue Trust and additional resources are available at
 # # #
About Ronald Blue Trust
Ronald Blue Trust ( is a division of Thrivent Trust Company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrivent Financial ( Ronald Blue Trust serves individuals and families across generations with complex financial needs and helps them to enjoy a healthier relationship with money and be inspired to live more generously.
Trust and investment management accounts and services offered by Ronald Blue Trust, a division of Thrivent Trust Company, are not insured by the FDIC or any other federal government agency, are not deposits or other obligations of, nor guaranteed by Thrivent Trust Company or its affiliates, and are subject to investment risk, including possible loss of the principal amount invested.
Trust and investment management accounts and services are offered by Thrivent Trust Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrivent Financial, the marketing name for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, based in Appleton, Wis., and an affiliate of Thrivent Investment Management, Inc. Neither Thrivent Investment Management, a FINRA member, nor its associated person(s) is offering any product hereby. Certain Thrivent Investment Management associated persons refer prospective clients to Thrivent Trust Company.
About Christianity Today
Christianity Today is a nonprofit, global media ministry centered on Beautiful Orthodoxy—strengthening the church by richly communicating the breadth of the true, good, and beautiful gospel. Reaching over five million people monthly with various digital and print resources, the ministry equips Christians to renew their minds, serve the church, and create culture to the glory of God.