Monday, June 11, 2018

Breaking the Fear Cycle

     BOOK REVIEW:   The Bible calls us to "fear not" on many occasions. But just how do we accomplish that when every news item seems designed to get us wringing our hands? Using her own story as a catalyst, Maria Furlough discusses how to overcome fear for good. With practicality and passion, she shows us the steps we can take to bring those fears to God rather than act on them and to trust God with the future.
     When we give God full control over our lives, choosing His sovereignty over our own ability, we can break the cycle of fear, grow though suffering, and trust God to fulfill His promises of protection and peace. If you are filled with anxiety about your personal circumstances, the state of the world today, or even your fear-clogged social media feeds, you'll welcome this hands-on journey from fear to freedom.

     MY REVIEW:   I enjoyed this book, even though I don't feel like I struggle with the kinds of fears portrayed in this book. And yet, there are many things that I could take from it. The book felt honest and down-to-earth. Maria was not afraid to uncover her personal fears and trials. And I liked that the last section has several stories of different people who overcame their fears, which is always nice to see as it attests to the realness of a book and its author.
     A few quotes that stuck out to me are:
*Do not spend one precious moment of joy focusing on fear of pain. 
*...in my experience, peace is not something that is poured out over us until we first determine to jump into it. Obtaining peace is not a blissful walk in the park; it is a hard-won battle, and peace is the prize. 
*Our fears are not trustworthy. They are not based on truth, they do not know facts, and they are guilty of vast exaggeration. 

     Maria covers many things in her book, from realizing the lying character of fear, to realizing Who holds your future, to giving God control of your life (and your fears), to facing your fears head-on, to resting in God's Peace and being willing to go through whatever He has in store for you. It is quite the book.

  I received a copy of this book from REVELL and was not required to write a positive review. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Breath of Hope

     BOOK REVIEW:   With her younger brother Ivar in tow, Nilda Carlson is on her way to America to join her oldest brother Rune and his family in the northern forests of Minnesota. While she sees this as a golden opportunity, she has enough experience in life to know it won't be easy. The transatlantic voyage itself proves to be an adventure, and she hopes she will feel safe in her new home.
     Rune and Signe Carlson are thrilled that Nilda and Ivar are coming to Minnesota, but life on the Strand farm remains a struggle. Rune is trying to build a house for his wife and children, but Uncle Einar Strand, obsessed with his own ambitions, refuses to help. What's more, he forbids anyone from the community to step foot on his land, leaving Rune to toil on his own. When a tragedy lays bare the truth behind Einar's anger and isolation, the Carlsons and Strands will have to come together like never before to become a true family.

     MY REVIEW:   This book is the second in Lauraine Snelling's UNDER THE NORTHERN LIGHTS series. The first book is The Promise of Dawn. I did not read the first book, and I don't think it took much away from this one. There was some background that I would have liked to know, but overall I could follow the story very well.
     The only of Lauraine's books I have read are the RED RIVER OF THE NORTH series and Daughter of Twin Oaks. I don't think I would rate this book as good as those. I found it a little boring and something about the dialogue I didn't care for. But opinions aside, the book is written well. The characters are strong and faithful, responding properly to the trials in their way (except of course for the one causing said trials). They grew and were strengthened, met good people and forged new friendships, supported each other and reached out to others. Any Lauraine fan would like this book. 
   
  I received a copy of this book from BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Yes Effect

     BOOK REVIEW:   We all long to do great things. But sometimes the needs of the world seem so insurmountable that we just shrink back. When this happens we need stories of God at work---stories like those in The Yes Effect---to renew our passion. 
     Luis Bush, originator of the 10/40 Window concept, recounts a lifetime of watching God move through the "yes" of His people. From communist China to the slums of Cairo, these accounts show that when God works in us, we join His work around us. True transformation is sparked when we reorient our hearts, get in sync, with God's tenderness toward the oppressed, and regain compassion for the lost. 

     MY REVIEW:   I liked this book. It is focused on spreading the Gospel, even when you don't think you can effect anything. Luis uses multiple true-life stories of people who answered "yes" to God's call, and the impact they were able to make through that.
     A huge factor in being able to spread the Gospel to those in need, is being willing to go wherever you are called. And many times, it is not a place or circumstance that makes sense to us. We think our impact is best made doing huge things in far-off lands. But that is not always the case. Often we are called to witness to the people in places we think very unlikely. Father Sama'an, in Cairo, Egypt, witnessed to his garbage man, Quidees. After committing his life to the Lord, Quidees adopted a concern for the destitute living in "garbage city", and convinced Father Sama'an to visit with them. As a result, a huge brotherhood of Christians was formed, and the formerly destitute people began to thrive, and were able to keep 80% of Cairo's garbage off the streets and recycle it to support themselves.
     Luis instigated several movements focused on the people who are most often over-looked. The 10/40 Window is the tribes between the latitudes of 10 and 40 who were most unreceptive to the Gospel, and therefore, the most over-looked. This movement focused on reaching out to them. Another movement was the 4/14 Movement, which focused on children between those ages. They work with these kids while in their most formative years. There are many other movements, but for sake of time and not revealing the entire book here, I shall leave as is.
   

  I received a copy of this book from MOODY PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. 

42 Seconds

     BOOK REVIEW:   Every interaction you have can be significant.  Forty-two seconds. That's the average length of Jesus' conversations as recorded in the Gospels. Of course not every dialogue Jesus had was written down, but this glimpse into His way of interacting makes one thing clear: Jesus deeply and eternally impacted people's lives through brief, everyday connections---and you can too.
     Jesus kept it simple, straightforward, and real. Read 42 Seconds as an inspirational primer or a four-week devotional and learn how to be like Jesus as you engage daily with those God has placed in your life.

     MY REVIEW:   This book is a paradox. It covers a deep subject, yet is an easy read. I found the pages flying by. The meaning is clear and straightforward.
     Witnessing does not come easily to me. I don't really know how. I've never discussed it with anyone, or really figured out how it is "supposed" to be done. 42 Seconds reveals that witnessing is not complicated, does not have to be hard, and is not "right" or "wrong".
     The book is divided into four sections. The first three focus on critical attitudes Jesus used in witnessing. They are: BE KIND, BE PRESENT, and BE BRAVE. Respectively,
-Realize that you can witness to the janitor, waitress, checkout attendant, everyone---no one is too low to be passed by.
-Be all there when to speak with someone---rather than being distracted or impatient, make them know you care, and give them your full attention.
-Have the gumption to stand up for what you believe, do the hard thing, and realize when something is worth fighting over and when you should just leave it be.
     The last section is titled BE JESUS. We all think we know Jesus and are following His Word, but often we mistake or misrepresent things. We need to be sure of Jesus' lifestyle and teachings, then follow them. A thought I liked was that most of us work on making our actions look right and letting thoughts and beliefs follow. But rather, we need to focus on our beliefs, then the proper thoughts and actions will follow.
     "Carl Medearis is an author, a speaker, and an international expert in Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations, promoting peacemaking and cultural, political, and religious dialogue for reconciliation. He and his wife, Chris, have three children and live in Colorado." (back of book)

  I received this book from TYNDALE PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. 
   

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Coach Wooden's Forgotten Teams


     BOOK REVIEW:   Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is known for his record-breaking run of NCAA championships and for working with some of the best players in the sport. His principles for success have been used by not only coaches and athletes but also entrepreneurs and leaders of all kinds. But his reach stretches even farther than most people know---into the hearts and lives of the people who learned the game of basketball in one of Coach Wooden's forgotten teams. 

     For nearly twenty years, John Wooden ran scores of summer youth basketball camps, imparting wisdom and teaching skills to thousands of boys and girls between the ages of eight and fifteen. Most would not grow up to play professional or even college ball, but all of them found their lives changed by their interaction with the greatest coach who ever lived. In those camps, Coach Wooden also impacted hundreds of camp counselors and assistant coaches. 
     This one-of-a-kind book shares their inspiring stories, along with six fundamental lessons from Coach Wooden for a life of success and unforgettable impact on others. 

     MY REVIEW:   I had not heard of Coach John Wooden before getting this book, but it seems he was the best of basketball coaches. Pat Williams has written several books about him---this one focuses on his work with summer basketball camps for kids. The first section outlines the week of camp, then the rest of the book takes Coach Wooden's life practices and teachings and shows us the great love and care this man had for any and everyone. There is so much to learn from him---the way he valued people; his humility in giving all the credit to his teams; how he lead by example, never asking anyone to live in a way he did not already; teaching his team how to be respectful, considerate, neat, and humble; and so much more. One person said "John Wooden tried harder than any man I've ever met to be like Jesus Christ". Not until close to the end of the book when Pat is telling us about John's life does it come out that he was a Christian, but throughout the book I wondered if he wasn't. 
     This book has countless interviews, etc, with people who met, spoke with, or were impacted by Coach Wooden. It also includes wise sayings of his. A few I especially liked are: "Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference" and "Don't blame others for what you don't have. Be thankful for what you do have". Maybe my favorite lesson Coach Wooden taught was to make everyday your masterpiece. Prioritize, and do what will mean something in the end. Make time for people and relationships. Help someone who cannot return the favor. Don't waste a day, but make it worth something. 
     
  I received a copy of this book from REVELL. I was not required to write a positive review. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Running the Good Race

     BOOK REVIEW:   In Running the Good Race, read how Dennis Blue, a man guided by his faith:

  • survived the tragic loss of Dorothy's parents, John and Lucille Hacker, in a plane crash,
  • flew as a missionary pilot in the Amazon bringing supplies to missionaries and Indians alike,
  • discovered a stone-age tribe in the dense jungles of Amazionia,
  • negotiated a peaceful outcome to a violent labor strike in Venezuela,
  • assisted in the establishment of Ford Motor Company operations in the Asia-Pacific region,
  • worked at senior executive level to help change the direction of the Ford Motor Company, and always
  • let his personal relationship with Jesus guide his decisions.
"I want you, the reader, to experience what my wife Dorothy and I affectionately call our 'Open Door Policy'. God directed our lives through doors that He opened for us and turned our faith into our reality. Running the Good Race can be your story---if you let yourself be led through the open.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5

     MY REVIEW:   This book is a 429 page autobiography of Dennis Blue, covering his life from his birth in 1933 through his retirement from Ford Motor Company in 1988. A sequel will cover the next several years. This book was interesting to me because it was the era of my grandparents. The way of living and the customs of the day are similar to what I think my grandparents would have seen. And while Ford wasn't talked about much in reference of operations, it was interesting to read about it from Dennis' administration perspective. It sort of felt like an 'America Remembered' book, what with the period it covered. Except it was mostly out of America, but anyway. :) 
     I was impressed by the vast amount of dates quoted in this book. It's amazing! Dennis seems to remember the exact date for every single occurrence in his life, from relocating between countries, to meeting new friends, to unexpected fishing/flying mishaps. And the details are incredible. Surprisingly the book does not drag. It's all interesting to read. If you have the time. :) And there are many pictures of friends and acquaintances throughout the years, as well as aerials from flying in Venezuela, the many boats they owned from place to place, fishing prizes, and more. The book is written in such a way as to seem almost like a journal, if in a freehand font. It doesn't have the polish some books have, but it doesn't need it. There are a few instances of misspelling or awkward sentence structure, but nothing laborious. 
     A few humorous happenings I enjoyed: 1) floating too close to the shore and having the breath knocked out by a 10-pound iguana!  2) transporting a tractor to the depths of the Amazon with no roads, only rivers (complete with pictures) and 3) catching a 719-pound black marlin in Australia. 
     This book tells of Dennis' life working for Ford, fishing every possible chance, and having the faith to follow God's leading. 

  I received a copy of this book from BOOKCRASH and was not required to write a positive review. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pasta Chili.....then.....Leftover/Spaghetti Pizza

I tried a new recipe last week---Pasta Chili. Basically your regular red chili soup, but with pasta (in this case spaghetti) added in, and cheese melted on top. It gets thick like a casserole, but has that chili-ish taste. With pasta. I can't find the original recipe, but there are 300 variations on Pinterest, which is where I got mine (of course 😉). 

Anyway, it wasn't a big hit. Of course, only half the family was here that night to sample it, but I don't think they would have been too cracked over it. Usually, I'm biased enough (being the cook) to like anything I make, but I didn't even care for it. I think with some variation I would have, but not as I made it that night. 

And as it goes, I ended up with FAR too much left over, and no one interested in eating it. Problem.

Then this evening, I for some unknown reason was thinking about a macaroni and cheese pizza I made last summer (also Pinterest). That led to the idea of making a pizza out of my leftover pasta chili. And I've heard of spaghetti pizza, so it would be basically that. Why not try it???

I made a basic pizza crust and pre-baked it 15min. Then i spread an inch of spaghetti-like substance over it. I then sprinkled on some chopped raw carrots. I don't know where that idea came from, but it seemed a good idea. Finally, some shredded co-jack cheese. Because all pizza needs cheese. 10min longer in the oven, finishing with a mild broil (to melt the cheese and make everything golden brown and bubbly. It also takes care of that slightly watery center that likes to present itself). 

Ta-da!!





I was impressed!! It turned out rather good. Definitely better than eating the plain leftovers. 
And the carrots were indeed a good idea. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Unimaginable

     BOOK REVIEW:   Is God dying? That's what some people think and want. They say Christian beliefs and our way of life aren't relevant anymore. but what critics and even many churchgoers don't realize is the life-changing importance of Christianity.
     Showing how the world without Christianity would be a dark place, Unimaginable guides you through the halls of history to see how Jesus' teachings dramatically changed our world and continue to be the most powerful force for good today. Learn:

  • How Christianity has stood against the evils of slavery (more than once), racism, eugenics, and injustices toward women and children. 
  • Why democracy, freedom as a universal value, and modern education and legal systems owe much to Christianity. 
  • How Christians throughout the ages have demonstrated the value of human life by sacrificially caring for the sick, handicapped, marginalized, and dying.
  • How people of faith are extending God's kingdom through charities, social justice efforts, mental health initiatives, and other profound ways. 
This provocative and enlightening book is for anyone concerned about where our world is heading. 

     MY REVIEW:   I was a little unsure about this book. I didn't know if it would veer into some strange theories, or present weird suppositions. But I was pleased with it. The book is divided into three categories: The World Before Christianity; The World Without Christianity; and The World With Christianity. The Greeks and Romans seem to be the main characters.
     The first section tells of life before Jesus' ministry. Superstition ran rampant. People were fearful of death and all things unknown. Life expectancy was very short. Anyone of a different race or standing were considered below par. And so on. There was a portion on the many god's of the Greeks and Romans, and Rome's evil rulers. It was interesting to read about them a bit.
     The second section is after Jesus' ministry, into the 1800's. Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Ludwig Feuerbach, Freidrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud are considered the "Big Five" who led us away from the Judeo-Christian setting. Then we have several prominent atheists who came onto the scene. They are followed by the communism crowd: Adolf Hilter (opposed by Winston Churchill), Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, and the Kim dynasty. It is shown how atheism is so deeply embedded in communism, and how spectacularly the original goal for communism failed.
     The last section discusses first how churches around the world are helping poor and needy people and enriching their lives. Then there are several chapters on why Christians were so hated by the Romans. He discusses how the hope, equality, and love that are so fundamental in Christianity were the things that drew people to it, yet it was also these things that so infuriated the rulers. The hatred then escalated after Nero blamed them for the fiery destruction of Rome.
     This book was written by Jeremiah J. Johnston. I found it to be written quite well, not dry or requiring massive effort to read through.

  I received a copy of this book from BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Better Together

     BOOK REVIEW:   Ever feel like success in life is all about you? And even trying to "die to self" only makes you more self-consumed?
     The Bible certainly has a lot to say about "you", but it has even more to say about "us". In fact, there are over 100 passages in the Bible where the two words let us are used. Let us not give up meeting together..... Let us encourage one another..... Let us serve one another. Could it be that the only way to fix "me" is found in "we"?
     Sure, that all sounds good to the "people persons" among us, but what about those who prefer to go it alone?
     It turns out, the people who think they don't need community may need it most of all! In these pages, pastor Rusty George---a self-proclaimed introvert by nature---gives you the tools to "do life together", whether that feels natural to you or not. He shares such secrets as how to become more vulnerable, how to draw other people into your everyday life, and how to lean on others in times of need. Together we connect with God better. Together we heal better. Together we overcome fears, raise families, fight temptations, and bless the world better.
     Learn what it means to live in true community and find the fulfillment you've been looking for!

     MY REVIEW:   I really enjoyed this book. It's written very well, kept interesting and not dragging. I've not before given such thought to the importance of community, but I had to agree with all he said. Better together indeed!
     Not just going to church and engaging in brief small-talk while your spouse catches up with a friend; rather, inviting people into "you" and being vulnerable and willing to share your trials and insecurities. Rusty talks about several different fields in which together is better, and why.
     Temptations are better overcome when shared with others and held accountable. And knowing you are not the only one to struggle in whatever area can give the strength to believe in overcoming.
     More is accomplished (with less headache) together. When we are willing to let others help us with our important projects instead of stubbornly doing it all on our own we really do get more done, and with less stress.
     When facing a "scary" or hard circumstance, friends are what take you through. Circling arms and plunging forward is far more effective than tentatively advancing on your own. Rusty gives the example of surviving a haunted house with his friends in middle school. The only reason they didn't run screaming was their circled arms with one another (apparently if everyone pulled in different directions no one actually got away :)
     Rusty George has pastored Real Life Church in California for 11 years. He can be found at pastorrustygeorge.com. I tried to see if he has written any other books, but couldn't find a book page on his website. In the "about" section it says he has authored several books. On Amazon I found When God, Then You: 7 Things God is Waiting to do in Your Life and If/Then: Unleashing God's Power in Your Life. Both are books I want to read sometime.

I received a copy of this book from BETHANY HOUSE and was not required to write a positive review. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Prayer Wheel

     BOOK REVIEW:   The Prayer Wheel invites you into the rich world of faith illustrated by a stunning medieval artifact that resurfaced in 2015 in a small art gallery near New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The seven paths of the twelfth-century Liesborn Wheel, arranged in a circle around the word Deus (God), lead believers---now as in times past---to encounter and apply the transforming truths of the Christian faith. The book you're holding tells the remarkable story of the wheel, guides you through its teachings, then provides beautiful, contemporary prayers for personal or group use. As you pray, you will discover new ways to speak to God about your everyday concerns and deepest longings, and find your faith powerfully refreshed. 

     MY REVIEW:   When I got this book, I expected it to be about the prayer wheel. I was looking forward to hearing how it got started, then how on earth it got completely lost, and finally, how it was rediscovered. But alas, the book actually is the prayer wheel. There is a brief introduction that explained a few things on its invention, loss, and rediscovery, but then the rest of the book is actually praying the paths of the wheel, once a day for seven weeks.
     Despite that disappointment, I did enjoy the book. I've never heard of the prayer wheel before, and it intrigued me a bit. Patton Dodd, Jana Reiss, and David van Biema co-authored it, and they did a wonderful job. Something like this could very easily become idolized, and worshiped, and God taken completely out of it. But they seem to have done a careful job to keep that out. This is simply a guide to prayer. It's not something I'm really comfortable praying through as they suggest, but just to read through it, there are many truths to behold.
    The book itself is beautiful---hardcover, about 6 x 8, and 200 pages long. There is one spread to a day, seven spreads to a week. Each day is portrayed as a chapter, and each week a section. At the  beginning of each section the prayer wheel is illustrated, with that week's path highlighted. It is all very simply and easily laid out. Each day has a brief blurb on that subject on one side and a prayer on the other.

   I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS and was not required to write a positive review. 

The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies

     BOOK REVIEW:   When it comes to the realm of biblical studies, students of the Bible are often overwhelmed, both with the sheer volume of information and with all of the unfamiliar terms, concepts, and topics. Like any other field of study, the serious study of the Bible has developed a specialized vocabulary. The key terms in this important field are defined in The Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies. It provides clear, concise, and accurate definitions to help students of the Bible make sense of the specialized language of biblical studies.

     MY REVIEW:   This book would be very helpful to a Bible student, and even to just anyone looking for clarification on a specific term relating to Bible study. The many different things explained include important ancient documents, notable historians, specific events from the Bible, the many different Bible translations, terms of study, people groups of the Bible, and more. It is a compact book of 209 pages, roughly 4 x 7 in size and paperback. It would be an interesting book to read through on a whim sometime, just to become familiar with the different terms and explanations. 

  I received a copy of this book from BAKER BOOKS  and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions here are my own. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Farewell, Four Waters

     BOOK REVIEW:   In fourteen days, the life she knew would end on the streets of Kabul.   All Marie needed was a few stamps and signatures--the mandatory paperwork necessary for the Afghan government--and she could hold literacy classes in the rural town of Shektan. Her hope: Afghan women would learn to read.
    Suddenly, shots resonated. An aid worker killed at an intersection in Kabul. The community scattered. Most decided to say farewell. Not Marie; she chose to stay, to teach. But she was unaware that this choice would make her a pawn at the center of a local feud.
    Kidnapping was Marie's worst fear. She didn't know treachery was more deadly. 


     BOOK REVIEW:     Farewell, Four Waters is a story of an aid worker's frantic last two weeks before a sudden departure from her Afghan home. A story revealing deep roots, helpless desperation, swirling events too swift to process, and finally, the finding of God through it all. 
     Not a true story in itself, but each event is true of one person or another known by the author. Kate McCord is a pseudonym. To protect those involved, she could not tell her own story, or even use the real names of the people in this book. But some events are her own, and everyone is inspired by someone touching her experiences there. 
     This book, while not actually nonfiction, tells us a bit of the life and customs and unrest of an aid worker in Afghanistan. It is certainly not a bed of roses, not easy in the slightest. But very rewarding. In the Author's Notes, Kate discloses that in a way, this really is her story. The events may not be quite the same, but the feeling, the closeness, the finding God---they are. The book is not written in the usual smooth flow of a fiction story, but rather, reading more through the mind of Marie, hearing her process what is going on. Short. Almost choppy. Making sense of swirling events that cannot be fully understood. The loss. The helplessness. Feeling alone, yet very much there. A story full of feeling. Feeling that cannot be expressed fully without being written this way. It works. It's beautiful. 
     Kate McCord has written two other books, both of which I have read. In the Land of Blue Burqas is a nonfiction book about her actual time in Afghanistan. Why God Calls us to Dangerous Places is self-explanatory in the title. Not so much on her time there, as on why she went, and how it affected her, her family and friends, and the Afghans she met. All three books are well worth reading. 

  I received a copy of this book from MOODY PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Cross and Christian Ministry

     BOOK REVIEW:   Today, the cross is sanitized. It adorns churches, dangles from necklaces, gleams from lapels. Yet in the first century the cross was a grotesque and abhorrent image, a symbol of evil, torture, and shame.
     Which of these is the cross that calls us to Christian ministry? The one made of shiny precious metals? Or the one fashioned of rough wood and stained with the blood of Christ?
     In The Cross and Christian Ministry, D. A. Carson explains what the death of Christ means for ministry and why the focus of ministry must be on what is central, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through his exposition of 1 Corinthians, Carson explores the issues of factionalism, servant-leadership, and shaping "world" Christians in order to present principles for dynamic, cross-centered worship that compel us to share the Good News.

     MY REVIEW:   This book took me a bit to get focused on, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. D. A. Carson is not a name I am familiar with, but it seems I have heard it somewhere.
     The centrality of the cross seems to be disappearing amidst the "pleasing" Gospel being preached in many circles today. Carson here brings it front and center and reminds why it has to be there.
     One point I especially liked was the message of the cross.....is "foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1Cor 1:18). There are many distinctions dividing people today, but the only one that matters is "saved" vs "unsaved". Another is the example of Paul, whe was not able to preach on any account without drawing it to the cross.
     More than just the cross itself, Carson talks of the life and character of a truly cross-centered Christian. They will suffer with Christ as well as share His Glory. They will boast in the Lord, not in any way themselves. They will not judge harshly, for they know they cannot see the whole picture, and that judging is for God alone.
   
  I received a copy of this book from BAKER BOOKS, and was not required to write a positive review. 
   
   

Saturday, March 3, 2018

In the Words of Jesus

     BOOK REVIEW:   No individual has had a greater impact on human history than Jesus Christ. In just three short years, this humble carpenter challenged, enlightened, and transformed those around Him with words of wisdom, grace, truth, hope, and love. And through His words and actions, He provided indisputable evidence that God always had been and always will be among us.
     In the Words of Jesus distills Jesus' most profound teachings from the four Gospels and reflects on what His message meant---not only during His brief ministry on earth, but also for us today.

     MY REVIEW:  This is a small, leather book. It looks like a Bible in many ways. The idea is a good one. The book is divided into chapters and divisions about different qualities and teachings of Jesus. For the content itself, a verse or section is quoted, then a short reflection given. I did not read through the whole book, but it seems simple and easy to follow. I do however have a few faults with it. The pages are too thin for the ink used. You can see words from the back of the page on the front you are reading. And it uses the New Living Translation. I have nothing against that translation, I simply prefer the King James. This would have been a good thing to have mentioned on the back cover, in my opinion.

I got this book from myreaderrewardsclub.com. If you are not already involved in this program, you should definitely check it out. For a quick explanation: you earn points for reviewing Tyndale books and use these points to get free books!! If you are interested in joining, let me know and I'll give you a code that will give you 25 points when you sign up!!

Gardener's Log book

     This book is pretty neat. It has documentation for five years so you can chart the progress of your plants and keep record of what you've planted, etc. It includes a Zone Chart so you can see what zone you are in (turns out I was wrong about mine! gasp). Next are nine spreads in which to record bloom and harvest date of each of your plants for each of the five years. Following that, is the main body of the book: winter, summer, fall, and spring checklists, notes portions, and plotting graphs. Everything from telling you when to prune, plant, mulch, plan, stake, order seeds, and more. At the end of the book are a few articles on topics such as When and How to Compost, Container Gardening, Pruning Basics, and a few more. Each includes websites, books, and articles where more information can be found.  Then there is a place to write down your suppliers and sources, and finally, a small pocket to keep a few things in.
     This book is paperback, with a slightly reinforced cover. It is 8''x 6'' with 240 pages. It is spiral bound with a string closure. While not quite what I expected, it is a very handy book that I'm very happy to have gotten.

 I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Light on the Hill

     BOOK REVIEW:   Though Israel has found relative peace, Moriyah has yet to find her own. Attempting to avoid the scorn of her community, she's spent the last seven years hiding behind the veil she wears. Underneath her covering, her face is branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods, a shameful reminder of her past captivity inn Jericho and an assurance that no man will ever want to marry her.
     When her father finds a widower who needs a mother for his two sons, her hopes rise. But when their introduction goes horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee for her life. Seeking safety at one of the newly established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face and the enemies---and unexpected allies---she will encounter on her way.

     MY REVIEW:  This is the first of Connilyn Cossette's books that I have read. She writes Biblical fiction; not about Bible Characters, rather, Bible Happenings. This book is written of the Cities of Refuge inhabited by Levites and open for falsely accused manslayers, etc.
     The entirety of this book but for the introductory chapters have Moriyah on a frantic journey to a City of Refuge. She is pursued by the man she is to marry because she accidentally---well, that would be a spoiler. 😊  This makes the book very interesting, not slow and boring. It made me appreciate cars. And GPS. And shoes versus leather sandals. And hotels!
     But to the authenticity, it felt too familiar between Moriyah and the men she encountered. I have in mind that men and women didn't communicate except when married and few special circumstances. I understand it had to be otherwise in this book because of the storyline---Moriyah is escorted by a man whom she (of course) falls in love with---but it takes away from the authentic feel of the book.
     There were, however, some very good lessons in this book. Moriyah hides her face behind a veil for she has the mark of a temple priestess which draws stares and whispered condemnations. She withdraws into herself and in so doing, sets an unconscious wall against God, then despairs at His seeming absence from her. As she finds acceptance and peace in her life, she is able to let down that wall and let God in. He hadn't been drawing away from her, she had been keeping Him out, though unknowingly.
     I enjoyed this book, though the repeated dangers got a bit long at times. It is a light read with subtle lessons. And I enjoyed the culture insight, some of which is into the lifestyle of the Canaanites which was interesting to compare, both to the Israelites then and to the world today. 

  I received a copy of this book from BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS, and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

An Unexpected Role

     BOOK REVIEW:   The devastation of a ruined summer. The gift of a second chance. Can Josie learn the lessons she needs in order to discover her true self?  After a humiliating event and overwhelming peer pressure, 16-year-old Josie flees her home to spend the summer with her Aunt on a South Carolina Island. Her fresh start turns into the summer of her dreams as friendships grow, romance blossoms, and a series of thefts surround her with excitement. However, when tragedy strikes someone close to her, Josie realizes there are more important things than her reputation. As she sets out to solve the mystery she has become entangled in, she not only realizes the importance of relying on her faith but along the way also discovers who God wants her to be.

     MY REVIEW:   I did not realize when I requested this book that it was a Young Adult book. I know, it's easily seen in the book review, but I got caught on the last sentence and wondered how the author would bring that about.
     To review this book on the basis of how I viewed it would be unfair, as I have discovered I do not like Young Adult fiction. It's all hormones and drama and sulking and really horrible judgment calls. Josie annoyed me to no end with her drama and pouting. But to review it from the perspective I can imagine it being written from, it is actually pretty good. I know teenagers really do face the bullying and poor self-image and lack of perspective expressed here. And I like the way God is brought into the story. Josie's mom is a Christian (maybe Catholic, from the sounds of it) and encourages Josie with Bible verses. Aunt Lily is less so, but there is that dynamic there. And the good guy also has a relationship with God. By these, this book would be Christian, but it's still Young Adult, which I still don't like.
   
  I received a copy of this book from BOOKCRASH and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Burden is Light

     BOOK REVIEW: Forget success, comparison, and applause. There's a better way to measure what matters.  Cemetery headstones are as diverse as the people they represent. But all have one thing in common---the birth and death dates are always separated by a small dash. Our whole lives on earth come down to that dash.
     Most of us want to have our eventual dash reflect truth and goodness, beauty and joy, depth and meaning. Imagine the peace of knowing you will have no regrets as you finish this race called life because you lived each day in a way that mattered for the moment and for eternity. New York City pastor Jon Tyson wants to make sure that is the story of your dash.
     But that doesn't come easy. Your story is not neutral or unopposed. A constant tug-of-war between the ways of this world and the wonder of the gospel competes for your attention.....and your heart. The Burden is Light shows how to overcome the distractions that lure us to "mislive" for prosperity, pleasure, and performance. There's a better way forward. Discover it and you'll find your voice and purpose through a beautifully countercultural, God-centered life.

     MY REVIEW:   I have never heard a more clear, comprehensible description of life on earth. A simple dash, the smallest line between birth and death. A sliver of space and time granted each of us. No time to fall under the influences of Comparison, Competition, Control, Cursing, Complacency, Judgment, Pride, or Distraction. Jon dedicates a chapter to each of these habits, or mindsets, and why we can't allow our precious dash to be whisked away by these things. He then gives the antidote, or reverse mindset---the right way to live.
     One section that stood out to me was on Comparison, and several reasons it comes so forcibly to us. Sometimes it is a false sense of identity, or a lack of one. Or a fear of living less than those around us. Whatever the reason, living in a constant comparison with those around you will never leave you feeling successful, or even important. There are always going to be people better than you in different areas. But when we put our identity and security in Jesus, we are freed from the burdens of comparison.
     Another section I want to reference is Control. We as humans do not like feeling helpless. And being human, we think we actually can control life. There are different reasons for trying to control people and circumstances around us. A prevalent one is Fear. Fear of being ignored or passed-over, fear of rejection or losing those we love, fear of the consequences of what we see happening around us. But when we try to control everything, we always lose. "Control is an illusion. The more we seek to mitigate risk by seizing power, the more we drive people away and distance ourselves from God. Rather than securing our future, we jeopardize it." (pg 69)"The reverse to Control is Surrender. Surrender to God, to let Him rule our lives, rather than trying to control it ourselves.
     The last section I want to mention is Judgment. "When we walk around judging people rather than advocating for them, we facilitate the work of the Enemy in their lives. When we read the Gospels, we find it wasn't the immoral but the self-righteous who were the biggest hindrance to the mission of Jesus in the world." (pg 136) In place of judging others on the tiny picture we can see, we need to extend Mercy. The same Mercy God extended to us.

   I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS. I was not required to write a positive review, all opinions expressed are mine. 
   
   
   

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Scribe

      This is the fifth book in Francine Rivers' Sons of Encouragement series. And it is about.... Silas.
Francine Rivers is a favorite author of mine, so I was really looking forward to this book. Especially as I like books about Bible characters we don't hear much about.
But I'm afraid I was disappointed. I couldn't keep my attention focused, and for only being a novella, it sure took long enough to read through.
This disappointment will not, however, keep me from reading the rest of the series. I will hold out hope that of the five, I will find at least one that is worth reading all the rest.
To look to the subject of the book for a bit, Silas is a character I would only know as having sung with Paul in prison. Francine takes "creative liberty" with Silas's roles, but one would need to if attempting many pages on him, as we are not told much in the Bible. I like thinking about those people who are mentioned but a little. Another approach I liked, was the "humanness" portrayed of Paul and Peter. Told from the perspective of Silas traveling with them, we can see how very "human" these great men were, which makes me appreciate their witness all the more.

I got this book from myreaderrewardsclub.com, which, if you aren't aware of it, you should become so. You collect points for reviewing Tyndale and NavPress products, posting on social media, inviting friends, and a few other bonus activities. You then use these points to get....... free books!


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Masterpiece

     BOOK REVIEW:   A successful Los Angeles artist, Roman Valesco appears to have everything he could possibly want---money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly-hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman's past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn't know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist---an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison. 
     Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it's as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together.....until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship---and both of their lives---forever.


     MY REVIEW:   Francine Rivers is a favorite author of mine, and this book is just as exceptional as her others. But there is one let-down---Grace is divorced. And Roman's indecorous lifestyle is sometimes rather bluntly portrayed.  But for the book itself and it's message I give a high rating. The story is exceptionally well-done. Francine flips between past and present, of two different people, in no apparent chronological order. It takes a truly gifted author to succeed at that without confusing or exasperating the reader.
     If you do read this book, be sure to look in the very last pages, behind the author's notes, and discover the inspiration for the cover. We are only shown a fragment of the picture, and in the back of the book, you can see the whole thing.
     The fact that no sin is too large, nor sinner too evil, to be saved by God is very well-expressed in this book. As I neared the end, I didn't have a clue how on earth Francine was going to be able to make Roman "good" by the time she ran out of pages. But she found a way!! And not an unrealistic, fell-out-of-bed-on-the-right-side-and-never-sinned-again-and-sold-all-his-possessions-to-give to-the-poor-and-lived-a-saint-with-no-temptation-of-former-life way. But rather, a dramatic conversion, then help from a faithful pastor and friend.
     I will say, I wish Francine had included images of some of the graffiti mentioned. Some of it sounded really neat. I liked how she described both the paintings themselves, and the creation of them. She must have put in a lot of time researching all this!
     I really enjoyed this book, and read it through with no interruption. You don't have to struggle through deep theology, yet there is a message to be grasped, and you won't walk away wishing to regain those wasted hours.

  I received a copy of this book from TYNDALE PUBLISHERS and was not required to give a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.