Advent Book Box – Top Christmas Book Picks

The kids asked where our Christmas books were located as soon as we began decorating for Christmas last week! Reading is an integral part of our family life and fosters creativity, unity, and imagination. What you read together matters and I hope you enjoy this list of classic books for the season.

A Pastor's Glory

Our Advent Book Box

A tradition began years ago as my oldest daughter (then 3) and I hung our Advent Calendar. We filled each pocket with a piece of candy, as was the custom I grew up with, but also added little slips of paper. Each slip of paper had the name of a Christmas book we would read, and all books were nestled under in a Christmas box under our tree. Those first few years, I simply used Christmas books I had from my childhood or books given to my daughter. However, it was time to beef up our Christmas Book Box! I found several lists already floating around, but quickly realized many were specific to one particular faith or another. So I have created a list (in no particular order) for our family, focusing on the Savior’s birth and Christmas traditions. You will notice there are only 22 titles, and that…

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The Screwtape Letters

Are you still on the fence concerning joining our online discussion of “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis? Here’s my Top Five for Why I Should Read “The Screwtape Letters”: 

  1. The letters when first published one by one in a newspaper called The Guardian (1941), are hellish correspondence between a senior devil and his green devil nephew. I mean seriously. Aren’t you curious?
  2. Although the “patients,” humans in which the devils are trying to keep from the “Enemy’s” (God’s) team, are fictional characters, most biographers of C.S. Lewis agree the mother is based off a woman he lived with and tended to. And it isn’t a pretty picture. Bottom line – you will picture no only yourself in these characters, but also those around you.
  3. I am not sure about you, but I have experienced my share of criticism…some well-founded. Sanctification is sometimes unpleasant. Through this fictional piece, God provides a safe landing place to satirically see ourselves and how silly we sometimes appear….while dealing with the heart of the issue…sin.
  4. The book is dedicated to the author of “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy,” J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien thought the book disturbing. Combined with the knowledge his dear friend Lewis did not enjoy writing the book, Tolkien did not appreciate the shout out. Mild friendly squabble over book dedications…no big deal among geniuses I am sure!
  5. Lewis frequently wrote an entire letter in one sitting. Many years later, this book is still considered a classic. It’s worth the read!

I hope you will join as we encounter one of the greats, a member of The Inklings, and great theologian. Once you click on the link below, you can choose to create an account with your email account or through a Facebook link:

To access the forum for The Screwtape Letters, click on the Forum Tab. You should see this as the next landing page:

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As you can see, each letter contains an average of three questions. Each are short in length, but thought and soul provoking. Feel free to either read all three letters and answer questions at the end of each week, or answer each set of questions as you finish each letter. There is no right or wrong system.

For those local ladies, we may plan a few Lewis Nights at my house for discussion! If you have any questions, just let me know!

A Spring Ordained

As Springtime approaches, I find myself longing for the winter to end and for newness of life to emerge. Visible in the buds growing on the trees, the flowers beginning to bloom, and the birds beginning to sing, my soul yearns to take a deep breath and relish the beauty rising. Spring is coming.

It won’t be long before Spring cleaning overtakes my house. Though my family has not yet lived in our home a year, junk quickly accumulates. The purge is not always pleasant, but the rewards are worth the frustration. Dark corners of the house will be scoured and cleaned. Rooms will be likely turned upside down in order to bring the newness of life inside the walls of my home. Springtime ordains the upkeep of the inside.

Doesn’t that language tug and pull your soul’s heartstrings? It does mine. I long to be made new once again from the inside out. I long to turn upside down the dark corners of my heart. If those tender places of weakness are not purged, I fear I will miss the deep breath of Springtime and the fullness of life God promises.

I am choosing to ordain my Spring. I am ordaining a time to be intentional about sitting with the Lord and allowing Him to expose the corners that need cleared of the cobwebs. The Thrive ministry at TVBC is opening an online study, a guide through C.S. Lewis’ great classic The Screwtape Letters. Though it may seem an odd choice, I am convinced my dark corners stay hidden and protected because my mind is my own worst enemy. There temptation is birthed, I learn to self-protect, and I convince myself the pain of allowing the light to overcome those dark places will be too great.

In writing to his brother, C.S. Lewis writes the inspiration for this book is to “give all the psychology of temptation from the other point of view.” Through the letters and the exchanges between Screwtape, an undersecretary in the lowerarchy of Hell, and Wormwood, his incompetent nephew and junior devil, we will see how our thoughts are easily distracted and influenced. Spring is the time to resolve ourselves to grow our roots deep, weed sin from the hidden dark places, and renew our faith.

Spring is also a busy season in my home, my church, and my work. If you are reading this, wanting to join the study online, but are hesitant because the upcoming days in your calendar are filling up, know saying yes to a thing is always saying no to something else. What is of eternal value? We can be intentional and ordain our Spring together.

The Screwtape Letters consist 31 individual letters, each letter with six paragraphs or less. We will cover 4 letters a week, each letter taking less than 10 minutes to read. At any point during the week you can log in to our Group Spaces discussion forum, read through the discussion questions, post your own thoughts, and read what others are posting. Depending on your schedule for the week, you might choose to tackle each set of discussion questions as you read each letter. Others might read all assigned letters for the week before logging on and completing the discussion questions. The discussion questions will be posted several weeks in advance allowing you to work ahead if you are a fast reader or have a vacation planned. If life happens and you get behind, the questions will still be there when you get caught up.

Women sometimes start bible studies and never finish them because one or two weeks derailed them. They couldn’t get the homework done and therefore felt bad about coming to the session or the participating in discussion. But God knows our hearts and He knows what we need. He will teach as you bring what you have to the table. I don’t know about you, but the times He has spoken deeply to me were often times when I felt like I had nothing to offer. He calls us to come to the table so let’s be obedient. He brings the blessing.

In the next two weeks before the study of The Screwtape Letters officially begins, I hope you will log in to the Thrive: TVBC Women’s Group Spaces account, browse around, and  learn how to navigate the forum. Any women are welcome to join the discussion so feel free to invite family and friends via long distance!

Spring is coming. Let’s be intentional to ordain our time, all the while asking God to bring clarity to our thoughts as He refreshes and renews us from the inside out.


Reconcile: A Study of Philemon

now available!

Introduction To Philemon
by Dr. Frank Teat

Picture the worst looking group of weeds in your flowerbed.
 Can you see them?
Now picture your favorite fruit.
 Watermelon? Grape? Orange? Apple? Raisin?
This letter Paul wrote to Philemon describes a word picture of what you were thinking about.
Except it’s not about plants.
          It’s about God’s crowning creation.

Philemon describes in one verse how men can transform from a foul weed, to choice fruit. Onesimus means “useful.” Paul, using a play on words, describes Onesimus’ transformation from useless to useful. Philemon 11 reads, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.”

Why did I ask you to picture the worst looking group of weeds and your favorite fruit at the beginning of this introduction? I prompted that imagery because in the Old Testament, the Hebrew utilizes the words useless and useful to describe weeds and plants.(1) “Bashaw” describes a useless plant and foul weed. “Zimrah” on the other hand, is not only a useful plant, but a choice fruit.

You are God’s “choice fruit.” King David desired to be the “apple of God’s eye” in Psalm 17:8, a choice fruit. Why did he choose that phrase? Maybe David was repeating a phrase from the Law (Pentateuch) he had meditated on many times. In Deuteronomy 32:10, God promised He would care for and guard His people, the “apple of His eye.”

God is in the business of molding the useless into the useful. This is what God does. He reconciles that which is broken back to Himself through Christ. He calls us to be vessels of reconciliation as we bear His image. I pray through the reading, studying, and meditating on this letter to Philemon, you recognize your purpose.

Why study Philemon?

  • Philemon is a timely letter for those feeling useless – to know there is hope.
  • Philemon is a timely letter for those who know someone like Onesimus and to champion their cause.
  • Philemon is a timely letter for those who, like the letter’s namesake, might need a word of encouragement from a trusted brother or sister in the Lord. Maybe you need accountability to make the right decision concerning reconciliation with others.
  • Philemon is a timely letter for those who have been reconciled to God and are walking the journey – from useless to useful.

Pastor Frank Teat, Ph.D.

Frank has been married to his beautiful bride, Carol Beth, for forty years. He started his career as a teacher and coach, and was called into full-time ministry in 1987. For 22 years Frank served as Student Pastor at North Orange Baptist Church in Orange, Texas and then at First Baptist Church in Henderson, Texas. God then called him to serve as Pastor of Administration/Education at Summer Grove Baptist Church. He is currently the Pastor of Connections (Discipleship and Ministries) at First Baptist Bossier City in Louisiana.

     Frank loves spending time with his two children (Sara and Jonathan), their spouses and children (six grandkids!!), teaching God’s Word, hunting, running/fitness, reading, and really enjoys playing the guitar and helping lead worship!


1 Spiros Zodhiates, Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible : New American Standard Bible.

A New Year: Thrive 2/4

a-new-year-thriveAnd let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
(Galatians 6:9)
That time of the year has come where we approach setting goals and try to change a habit or two. Looking and feeling lean has always been a goal of mine, and it will take determination to get there. I have had success within the first 21 days and I tell myself it’s not just for my appearance, but also for my overall health. But now that February has approached, I notice that I’m not progressing on my New Year’s Resolution as I would have hoped. So, I try different eating habits and exercise routines hoping the end result is not that I end up back where I was before I made this commitment to myself to make myself healthier.
We are stewards of this vessel God has given us and it is our job to nurture it. Our hearts are idol-making factories as Augustine once said. We fail because we focus on ourselves. We place ourselves as the goal.
Imagine if we focused on what God wanted us to do? We could use that same drive, determination, and motive behind our resolution and direct it toward God’s will and purpose for our lives. Will we be perfect? No of course not. We are sinners after all. Paul says not even he has achieved the goal, but presses on (Philippians 3:14). We should have a daily RESOLUTION to pray and study the Word of God. Just as my 21-day Fix videos tell me to take it one day and one pound at a time, we should daily ask God to keep us on track.
John Owen says we should be killing sin or it will be killing you. Let us press on toward the goal, the upwards calling of Christ Jesus.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the one thing you think you cannot do.
(Eleanor Roosevelt)
Jessica Statler
TVBC Youth Minister’s Wife

A New Year: Thrive 1/31

a-new-year-thriveChoosing to Thrive

It sounds so simple: you were made to thrive, not just survive.

Yet how many of us find ourselves so often in survival-mode?

Adding 4 children to our family in less than a decade naturally meant that in certain seasons, we were surviving. In that season, Jared and I would attempt to brainstorm a different plan to combat the chaos tracking that week, but those conversations often ended with one of us saying, “This is a season. We are surviving. It’s ok” (possibly the sleep-deprivation talking !).

Looking back, I’m thankful we had enough sense to provide the space to “just survive” with realistic expectations. God in His great love, carried us through proving His faithfulness in trying seasons.

I do not believe, however, that God intends for His children to stay in survival-mode indefinitely.

This last month, the women at TVBC have been blogging testimonies for our “A New Year: Thrive” posts. I hope you have enjoyed their testimonies as I have! Such wisdom among these women. Many have shared with us how good God has been to them in different seasons. Yes, sometimes “just surviving” is a testament to the faithfulness of God. He is a God who sees and cares about our immediate circumstances. He has promised a purpose and a goodness through the trials (Jeremiah 29:11). But we do not want to be women who only experience God from the need in tragedy.

  • We want to be women who plant roots, cultivate, and nurture our relationship with Him.
  • We want to flourish in all seasons.
  • We want to thrive.

So how do we do that?

I believe we can thrive if we follow these few simple steps:

  1. Abide in Christ (John 7:38). We need to daily dig into the Word. For most of us, choosing to daily invest time reading Scripture means we are saying no to something else. If you want to thrive, are you willing to say no to a daily habit in order to say yes to abiding in Christ? Dig into and drink from the wellspring of life.
  2. Be a worshiper (Romans 12:1). True worship is birthed from a correct posturing of oneself against the identity and character of a holy God-the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who took on flesh, became a suffering servant, blameless in word and deed, and proved His divinity in His resurrection! When we truly realize who we are in light of who Christ is, how can we help but begin worship with thankfulness? If we want to thrive, we must be women of thankfulness. What better discipline to grow thankfulness than that of true worship?
  3. Finally, hold fast to community (1 John 1:7). To thrive entails growth. Thriving cannot be to stay the same. God designed us, His prized creation to need one another. In participating in the body of Christ, in doing life together, we find encouragement and accountability that leads to a spiritual deepening. If you have ever felt like you cannot do it all or do not have enough time to complete that which God has called you to, then you are not alone. God does not give us all the time we need because we were created to exist in gospel-centered community. This means we were meant to depend upon one another to complete His calling! Gospel-centered fellowship is crucial for our spiritual growth.

We want to be women who reflect the image of God as His image-bearers. In some seasons, God is shown glorious through His faithfulness to us in difficult circumstances when we need to be carried through just to survive. Those who have walked this kind of season, often marked with tender vulnerability, know what I mean when I say Christ and His presence is intimately treasured in a unique way. 047f013d48dc325e183fc10c41a590cf

While these markers on our journey are important and inevitable (John 16:33), learning to operate in all seasons from a deeply rooted stability is equally vital. This stability allows us to thrive, not merely survive. We become like sturdy trees, reflecting the fullness of life, joy, and peace that can be found in Christ…in and out of season (Psalm 1:1-3).

In 2017, let’s grow some deep roots girls. Let’s nourish and cultivate our relationship with God through His Word, worship, and our fellowship with one another. Let’s thrive.




A New Year: Thrive 1/30

a-new-year-thriveI love listening to K-LOVE and hearing stories of how God speaks to people through song. Whether it be words of encouragement, an answer to prayer, direction in times of need, or affirmation, I find these stories an encouraging reminder of God’s love for us.
It also reminds me of times when I felt God speaking to me in unique ways.
Having been diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), I knew conceiving a child might prove difficult, if not impossible. Even so, I had not given it much thought.
For several years, including the first three years of marriage, I was working as a substitute teacher at an elementary school. I had dropped my class off for lunch and was walking back to my classroom, when I noticed a little girl walking beside me. She looked up at me and asked if I was Caitlin’s mom.  I said no, but she kept staring at me and walking right alongside me.  So I asked her if I looked like Caitlin’s mom, and she said yeah. We both went to our respective classrooms.
I finished the day, sent my students home, cleaned my classroom, wrote notes for the returning teacher, and signed out to go home myself. As I was walking to my car, I saw this same little girl playing at the flagpole. It is noteworthy to mention she probably should not have been there. All buses had left, car riders had been picked up, and those that walked home were likely home by now. But this little girl was playing unsupervised outside the school. As I walked by her, she once again engaged me in conversation. She said to me, “If you want a baby, you should ask God for a baby. That’s what my mom did. She asked God for a baby and He gave her one.” Taken aback I responded, “Well, maybe I will do that.” With an excited matter-of-fact tone, she said, “When you get home. Yes, that is it! When you get home ask God to give you a baby. And He will!”
That day I did not ask God for a baby, I thanked Him for giving me a baby. I thanked Him for the child I had not yet conceived. I knew that He had sent this little girl to tell me a prayer I had not even prayed had already been answered. How amazing is our God that He takes the time to meet our needs, sometimes even before we ask? He meets us where we are and comforts us, encourages us, and reminds us He is in control. His timing is perfect.
Fast forward about six months and I found myself at a fertility doctor, trying to have a baby. I was praying for that child!  I was also wearing a prayer bracelet with one charm attached. The charm was a small silver box that opened to hold a hand-written prayer. I had typed my prayer on the computer using a teeny tiny font. I printed it, cut it out, and carefully rolled it up into a tiny scroll before placing it in my bracelet. I wore this piece of jewelry everyday, taking it off at night and putting it back on in the morning. I prayed through that prayer throughout the days for about six months.
One evening I was getting ready for bed and I pulled back the blankets to find this little rolled up piece of paper. “That looks like my prayer,” I thought. I unrolled it to find it was in fact the prayer that was suppose to be in my charm. I must have slept in my bracelet that night and somehow, my prayer fell out of my bracelet. This might not have seemed strange except that the box on this bracelet was not easy to open. I often had to use my thumb nail to forcibly flick the latch open. So while I was sleeping, this hard to open bracelet “accidentally” opened, my prayer fell out, and the box re-latched itself.
Once again, God had spoken to me in a unique and personal way, not through a child, but through a piece of jewelry. I knew at that moment God was telling me, “This prayer has been answered.” I put that little piece of paper in my jewelry box and said another prayer, asking for a healthy, happy baby. I was in fact pregnant!
Before, it was ever confirmed by a doctor, my Heavenly Father comforted and reassured me that my prayers had been heard.
How amazing is our God that when we pray He always hears us!
How amazing that the creator of the universe takes the time to speak to us!
Be encouraged. He hears your prayers, He listens, and He always answers them…in His perfect timing and in His perfect way.
Lynda Martinson