Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Review (And Giveaway) : A Journey into Deeper Prayer

B&H Books provided a complimentary copy of Beth Moore's Whispers of Hope in exchange for an honest review.
     Of course, the name of Beth Moore needs no introduction amongst Evangelical Christian circles. But, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the author, Beth Moore, is a sought-after, highly-regarded Bible teacher. She uses stories that dig deep into the biblical truths and words that penetrate the heart.
     I don't how many times I have asked myself if I pray properly, as if there is a secret formula. I know there is not. And I also have heard other believers ask the same of themselves. Beth Moore addresses this issue in Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer. The real secret is to actually spend time with the Lord and in His Word, of course. However, Moore provides a six-step guide to help you endeavor into a more meaningful quiet time with the Lord with some terrific fodder for thought.
     In 70 devotionals Moore hits upon a wide gamut of material and what it means to live a holy life. Each devotional is a page long and is accompanied by assigned Scripture readings. Then two pages of space are provided to lead you through your prayer time.
    I found the wide variety of material to be very thoughtful and enticing. Some readings are going to stir the heart more than others. Whispers of Hope isn't a one-time use devotional for that reason. As we go along our journey with Christ certain aspects of our walk will need to be deepened as we go. Though some devotional readings may not hit home now, it may later on down the road.
    I personally found Whispers of Hope to be engaging and helpful. It is the intention we put into our time with God that is going to help us be present for our growth. If you want a one topic study this book isn't what you need. However, Moore has given a great tool for those of us that are truly wanting a little assistance and guidance to deeper, more intimate prayer. This volume is wonderful and full of Moore's beautiful gift of teaching. I pray that your journey will deepen and be richly blessed.
B&H has kindly provided an extra copy of Whispers of Hope for a giveaway.
To enter simply do one or more of the following for one entry each.
1. Follow my blog and leave a comment letting me know.
2. Leave a comment about this post.
3. Like this post link on Facebook.
The contest ends January 7, 2014 at 12a.m.
A winner will be selected and notified by January 9th.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: Real Life and Faith

Moody Publishers provided a complimentary copy of the featured book in exchange for an honest review.
     Every time I open up a book I never know what to expect. Sometimes I am disappointed and at others I am pleasantly surprised. As I opened Live Free: Eliminate the If Onlys and What Ifs of Life by Kendra Smiley my expectations were completely wrong, and gladly so in this case. Smiley does not attempt to give you a one-two-three-and-check-it-off-your-to-do-list method. Instead, she offers you the stories of people that have been through harrowing, faith-testing trials that have instigated these women to face their problems with a heart of faith and openness to new possibilities.
     Life is going to hand us adverse circumstances, from meager financial resources to major health problems, from soured relationships to broken dreams. We always have choices in the midst of the storms. What sets believers a part is our hope we have in Christ. Are we willing to trust and believe that He is working things for our good? Or are we going to allow the circumstances to dictate our life, our dreams, our joy?
    Live Free doesn't just present examples of miraculous healings, though those are there, too. But, she takes care to present stories that have had outcomes that are far from ideal according to our fleshly desires. However, the women involved have chosen to see their circumstances in light of Christ. There is real power and hope in these pages.
    I also really appreciated how Smiley incorporated theology, application and the story into one, comprehensive reading in each chapter. Some times the three are written separately and loose their cohesion and power. I would recommend Live Free to any woman wanting to live free from the constraints that life places on us and live freely in Christ.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: More than Bubbles and Fluff

Moody Press provided a complimentary copy of the featured book in exchange for an honest review.
     Erin Davis attempts to reconcile the discord between the noble nature that is motherhood and the self-infatuation and absorbency that is promulgated by modern media and propagated by many working, childless adults. In her book Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood as a Sacred Role other mothers will breath a sigh of relief and a bit of fresh air into their seemingly mundane routines of bath time, diapers and sleepless nights. (Please note here, those are not my thoughts or stances. I have never found mothering in any sense mundane.)
     After Davis cynically defines the onslaught of anti-child rhetoric in our society, she then gets to the happy part, the hopeful part of the book. God has called us to be mothers of worth. It will be our greatest lasting accomplishment and contribution to society. Raising children that follow God and seek Him out on their own is our highest goal as mothers. Christ called us to the Great Commission, not to put it on hold until our sons and daughters are grown. Our children are our mission field.
     Here I note, that it seemed her outlook was a little too harsh. I, of course, have no idea what experiences you have faced as a mother and for that reason cannot discount her criticism all together. I just simply did not find the cynicism relevant to my world. And then, Beyond Bath Time became good, really good. 
     Davis' passion for Christ is what makes this book worth your time. Her enthusiasm is contagious and captures the heart.Many books may seem daunting for mothers who are changing diapers and/or playing chauffeur amongst the many other tasks of mothering. The great thing is Beyond Bath Time is a mere 140 pages with fast-paced chapters. At least, that can get checked off the to-do list. I encourage mothers who are struggling with their identity as women and mothers to pick up this book. Beyond Bath Time will open your heart and eyes to see that mothering is so much more than bubbles and fluff.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: An Ambitious Success

Chosen Books provided a complimentary copy of R.T. Kendall's Finding Your Heart's Desire in exchange for an honest review.
     Everyone strives for something, be it success and fame in the fast lane or accolades and acceptance from colleagues in the suburbs.  Yet, what are we measuring our success with and exactly what is it that we desire? Author R.T. Kendall takes aim and challenges the reader to align their goals and measure of success with that of God's standard in Finding Your Heart's Desire: Ambition, Motivation and True Success.
     People can go all their lives always aiming high, wanting more and in turn are left wanting. It is when human desires lead to ungodly ambition that can leave us hanging high and dry. However, according to Kendall we can realign our hearts with God and have a godly ambition. For God has put in us a natural desire to succeed at something, whatever that may be, that when paired with motivation can keep us moving forward in life. We need to ask ourselves though whether our motivation and goals are God ordained or of simple selfish desire? God wants us to work with Him, so He may work through us all to His glory.
     Finding Your Heart's Desire  is a candid look at human desire. Kendall doesn't pull any punches with the reader or himself. One of his best assets is his honesty and personal insight. God has certainly allowed personal experience to shape this godly man. I was truly inspired and impressed with the author's transparency. He gives clear and poignant advice to the reader as well. There was a set of questions I found very helpful to see whether a decision or opportunity was one I could make without any inhibitions.
     The bottom line is that this book can be used for God's glory. God can use the words of Kendall to transform your life if you allow it to. Everyone needs to evaluate their trajectory in life and understand why they are striving after certain goals. It is all too easy to get caught up with the standards of success pressed upon us by the media at large. What will it matter when we get to heaven if our bank accounts are heavily padded or how much stock we own? Or how many trophies and awards decorated our mantles? Absolutely zero.
     All that matters is that we finish well knowing we gave our all to things of eternal importance. This book can really shape the lives of readers and those around them. God placed the content of this book on the heart of the author to minister to others. May Finding Your Heart's Desire lead you to true success.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Giveaway: God is Able by Priscilla Shirer

I feel so blessed to be able to share this book with you. Priscilla Shirer is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. She is direct and lively, honest and passionate. B&H Publishing Group has graciously offered to allow me to host a giveaway for a copy of God is Able.

There are a couple of ways you can win.

1. Leave a comment below. And if you dare, tell me what your "it" is. What problem do want God to handle out of His abundance and riches in your life right now?

2. Share on Facebook or Twitter and leave a separate comment letting me know you did so.

The entry deadline is December 2, 2013 at 11:59p.m. A winner will be drawn and notified on December 3rd.

Check out my review of Priscilla Shirer's book God is Able.

Book Review: Shirer is Able

B&H Publishing Group provided a complimentary copy of God is Able in exchange for an honest review.
     What can God not do for you? It seems impossible, right, that God could care so much for you? In fact, God can do so much more than you can even fathom. Your plans may be good. But, God's plans for your life are far greater than anything you can ever imagine. Your problem may seem giant. But, God He is a giant-problem slayer.
     Author and speaker Priscilla Shirer has written God is Able with you in mind. She investigates Ephesians 3:20-21 and unpacks those words for all they are worth. So, whatever plagues you, bothers you, haunts you God is able to take care of it. For instance, God not only took my anxiety away, but went beyond that and restored my peace and confidence out of His abundance. Sometimes we really just need to have the faith, believe and ask.
     We have a choice when adverse circumstances come our way. We can allow the enemy a win and claim defeat. Or...we can claim our victory in Christ and rest knowing He is far greater, far more powerful than our circumstances. God's ability is always greater than whatever issue looms large in our minds, in our world.
      Priscilla Shirer's passion and vivacity jump off the page. Her words ring so clearly it seems she stands before the reader declaring God's infinite goodness. Her writing is downright contagious. The only downfall is when the book ends, the cover is closed and the silence is sudden.
     I hope every woman grabs God is Able and claims for herself God's abundance. He is there working on our behalf, fully, powerfully and lovingly. So, ask yourself what is "it" that you want God to handle? Because whatever it is, God is Able!

Click here to enter the giveaway for a copy of God is Able.

Book Review: A Bible for the Journey

Tyndale House Publishers provided a complimentary copy of The Wayfinding Bible in exchange for an honest review.
     I have read several Bible translations in the last few years and have never stumbled upon such an easy-to-use Bible. For many, at first glance, the Bible can be overwhelming. Which of the 66 chapters does one start with? The New or the Old Testament? A Gospel? It really can be a monumental task just to start reading the Bible.
     The Wayfinding Bible, a New Living Translation Bible, is written with a modern-day American vernacular while maintaining the integrity of the original meaning.  The Bible sets out three different reading plans to choose from depending on what you are looking for. If you want an in-depth plan, the orange-highlighted Scenic Route is for you. Maybe you want a fairly in-depth look, but don't want to commit as much time, then you will find the green Direct Route is suitable for you. Finally, there is the blue-coded Flyover Route, which will give you a quick, 52-readings plan. All three reading plans are in chronological order making the Bible a lot less confusing. Between reading 1 and 2 Samuel, Kings and Chronicles there are enough names to make your head spin, usually. This one takes the guess work out of it.
     For the sake of time and wanting a quick sampling I chose the Flyover Route of The Wayfinding Bible. I was completely enthralled. This bible brings such a fresh perspective to the Word of God. Each reading begins with a synopsis of the events leading up to that chapter lending a relatively good idea of the context in which the reading is based upon. I never felt I was missing something in between the readings of this route knowing full well many events occurred. The synopsis is concise and logical. With the context in mind your read the featured verses.
     Subsequently, an observation point and exploration point are read. These points are to further your understanding of the context and the applicable spiritual ramifications of those verses. The Wayfinding Bible is full of other features. I loved the points that painted a better historical portrait for me. Between book introductions, historical markers, side trips and more this Bible is engaging and fun. There are so many ways in which to enjoy this bible, it really could be treasured and explored for years.
     Honestly, there are times when I get bored of reading my Bible cover to cover. This Bible broke it up for me in a way that kept my attention. I was excited to see where I was headed next. Who knew an arrow could be fun to follow? I do now, after following the blue arrows that led to the next reading.
     The Wayfinding Bible is truly made for every believer, new and seasoned alike. For the seeker, this edition would be perfect and money well invested. May your journey into the Word be fascinating and rewarding.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Review: Worth Your Time

Tyndale Publishers provided a complimentary copy of the featured book in exchange for an honest review.
     Holiness seems to be a vague part of the Christian faith. Many pastors speak of holiness in passing, but never get to the root of holiness and what it means to pursue it as a means to worship the Lord. Yet, the Holy Spirit is key to leading a holy life as God has called us to live. Fortunately for readers young and old, editor Bob Hostetler has compiled the writings of Samuel Logan Brengle into bite-sized portions in this fabulous compact devotional, Take Time to Be Holy: 365 Daily Inspirations to Bring You Closer to God.
     "Do you want to know what holiness is? It is pure love." This excerpt from the reading of January 11 has to be my favorite line out of the devotional. Maybe some will find it trite and simple, yet Brengle points out holiness isn't any more complicated than that in thought. It is to love others. Of course, in deed it is far more difficult to love others purely, unconditionally and without want of anything reciprocated.
      Brengle further delineates the Holy Spirit, His work in and through us and the extension of love flowing out into the world. It is in awe the reader will stand in front of the Almighty day by day. Brengle's words are so concise and thought-provoking that it is a wonder when three paragraphs or so can dig deep into the heart of the matter.
     I thoroughly enjoyed each reading. Through doctrine and personal experiences the author draws upon the Holy Spirit to teach what it means to strive after and embody holiness to the glory of God. It is striking and inspiring to read of a man who lived a life working for The Salvation Army what seems to be as holy as humanly possible, perfectly imperfect this side of heaven, and humbly bestowed credit to God never losing sight of his eternal destiny.
     Take Time to Be Holy is a gem of a devotional. A page that will take one a minute to read each day can lead to eternal repercussions that far surpass that given moment dedicated to learning of the Lord. I highly recommend this book for any believer who wants to draw closer to God and know more intimately the Spirit within.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review: Plunging into New Territory

Bethany House generously provided a complimentary copy of The Secret Keeper in exchange for an honest review.
     Beverly Lewis transports the reader from the modernity of city life to the antiquated ways of the Amish. Jennifer Burns, referred to as Jenny, wants to part with modern life as she has been drawn to the Amish manner of living for years. Finally, Jenny makes the plunge into Hickory Hollow following her heart much to the surprise of her family. Samuel and Rebecca Lapp become her adopted family and teach her the ways during her time of Proving. Many in Hickory Hollow are skeptical of the seeker, however, many want her to succeed and join their family. What happens when an outsider wants to join an exclusive group? To what extent will one pain oneself to fit in?
      To complicate matters during Jenny's Proving Time, she meets Kyle. It is her initial desire to serve God and lead a simpler life. Yet, when Kyle walks into her heart she finds herself being consumed with thoughts of him rather than just of God. Throughout the story, Jenny learns that loving others as she goes about her day is the most tangible way to worship God.
      The Secret Keeper intertwines good intentions with human missteps. Sometimes secrets are kept to protect others. Other time those secrets do a lot more damage than good. Jenny and the
 characters surrounding her are no exception, harboring secrets and longings of the heart that separate rather than reconcile. The story hinges upon the desire for reconciliation. It is the fuel for the fire.
     I enjoyed the reading for the most part. It was interesting to have a better understanding of Amish ways. The storyline isn't much different from other novels in this genre. However, the theological and spiritual currents are the aspects that made this novel worth reading for me. Any reader of Amish fiction will most likely enjoy The Secret Keeper.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: Useful, But a Tad Dull

Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of the featured book in exchange for an honest review.
     The Jesus Story: Everything That Happens in the New Testament in Plain English by Dr. William H. Marty condenses the New Testament for readers in a very, easy-to-read book. Its main intent is to outline the life of Christ and the beginnings of the Church. It does a fine job of that. The retelling of events such as healings and miracles is useful, as the Gospels tend to cover the same events changing details dependent upon the author's perspective. This book defines the events in a clear manner.
     New believers or someone whom would like a better grip on the chronology of the life of Jesus and the Church's beginnings will find this volume a great help. However, one with a fairly decent grasp of New Testament times may find this book dull. The Jesus Story reads like a set of notes, though in full sentences. I found the language prosaic and somewhat comatose. The other downfall of The Jesus Story, at least in my book, is it is completely devoid of any theological insight. If that was included the book would have kept my interest a lot more.
      The Jesus Story will appeal to some who want notes and need a clear-cut grasp of the story. However, I guarantee it will leave seasoned believers who read their Bibles wanting. Let me leave with a positive note. The book is easy to read in a matter of hours. The chapters are well divided and make good sense. Certainly, every reader will gain something from Dr. Marty's The Jesus Story.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review: Making Sense of Prophecy

Moody Publishers provided a complimentary copy of the featured book in exchange for an honest review.
     Studying eschatology for the layman can seem overwhelming, interesting at best. Frankly, even after reading Christ's Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue that is still where I stand. Although, the matter is not quite as foggy as it once was. This book clearly shows through Scripture and the use of a straight-forward, literal hermeneutical approach to reading thereof, that the Futuristic Premillennial view prevails. The millennial reign of Christ will follow the rapture, tribulation and Second Coming.
     Many wonder why even study or care about prophecy. Truth be known, it shapes and/or compliments a lot of our theological beliefs. Of course, beliefs shape behavior. One interesting factor that separates Futuristic Premillennialism from other prophetic end times beliefs is Israel and its role within that framework. The Futuristic Premillennial view understands that no where in Scripture does the Christian church override the livelihood of Israel. If one does not believe Israel has a place in the future then the support thereof would be relegated to a non-existent issue. As one can see Israel seems to be the hub of political turmoil to this day. Frankly, world events make sense under a scriptural lens and a Futuristic Premillennial view.
     I cannot claim to know the subject matter well, as it is vast and still rather novel to me. However, I cannot praise the writings of MacArthur and Mayhue enough for taking a highly technical topic and breaking it down into more digestible bites. Little by little, page by page I have learned and will continue to with further study.
     Christ's Prophetic Plans is well worth the read. Whether you are a believer and want to further your knowledge or search out your beliefs this book is for you. Pastors and teachers should definitely understand this material for obvious reasons. This volume is a great starting point to jump off into the deep of eschatology.


Book Review: A Soundly-Built Book for a Soundly-Built Marriage

Lift Up Every Voice in conjunction with Moody Publishers provided a complimentary copy of the featured book in exchange for an honest review.
     Dr. Johnny C. Parker, Jr. has written a book with well-to-do advice to build or remodel a marriage upon the firm foundation of Christ. In Renovating Your Marriage Room by Room readers of both sexes will find helpful information that can invigorate stale marriages. Let's face it, marriages cycle through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows and sometimes we get stuck in the pits. Parker methodically journeys room by room, or in other words, the many facets to marriage, and asks for couples to invest in one another in a myriad of ways. The differences between men and women are respected and celebrated by one another.
      After establishing what a marriage is not, Parker establishes what a marriage can and should be. The chapters range from communication to forgiveness and respect to lovemaking. Each chapter separately stands well alone. So, if a couple was struggling in one area they could very well focus on that chapter together patching up any holes in that room.
      The content of Renovating Your Marriage Room by Room is biblical and fair. The writing takes a very neutral stance and addresses both the responsibilities of the husband and the wife. I like the fact that a couple can use one easy-to-read book to help them love one another as we are called to do. Some marriage books seem to be a bit harsh leaving a bad taste in the mouth, yet this one is easy to digest and apply. Although, I did find the analogies a tad nauseating at times. I am all for allegorical writing, but only when it is done in small doses and some pages were heavy-laden.
     Dr. Parker certainly penned Renovating Your Marriage Room by Room with wisdom and care. Even if your marriage is strong, this book would help make it stronger. Maintenance is key. Really any couple who wants to seek out godly wisdom would make a wise decision to work through this book together. If your marriage is suffering and one party is unwilling to work together, this book could still be beneficial for the willing party as long as it is read with an open heart. I do hope you find that a strong marriage is built from the ground up in Christ alone and gift yourself to one another.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review: Find Your Rhythm

First, a big thank you to BookSneeze on behalf of Zondervan for the complimentary copy of God in My Everything in exchange for a review.
     In today's culture it is all too easy to find ourselves caught up in the rat race, finding we are growing weary and mindlessly going at it day after day. Author and pastor, Ken Shigematsu guides the reader to find their rule, their rhythm and allow God into everything. God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God is a book that will really help create a vision where life becomes worship and God is found everywhere. Rather than allowing daily work dictate chaos, we can choose to be intentional and set the pace for ourselves.
     Shigematsu creates a trellis to demonstrate the various support bars and crossbeams that anchor us into God, into our ground. Sabbath, prayer and sacred reading allow us to establish roots firmly into Christ. It is from this firm foundation we build up and out allowing our vines to flourish. Relations, restoration and reaching out subsequently follow. He wisely plants a holistic approach to a healthy rule of life. When one factor is neglected slowly the trellis weakens giving way to further decay. How can we abide in Christ if our vine does not have the necessary support?
    There are plenty of books that attempt to assist readers to find balance. There are quite a few good ones. However, most do not incorporate the various facets of life as Shigematsu does. He addresses it all; there isn't a facet I can think of that this book does not cover. In each chapter many suggestions are advised and dissected to help the reader establish their own rhythm. The lovely thing is they don't all have to be used to find balance. You may realize your life is out of balance in one aspect and not another. Little by little we can cultivate a life that flourishes with and in Christ.
     I found God in My Everything to be a very relaxing read. Shigematsu's writing exudes a balance of gentleness, peace and sound doctrine. Although, each chapter stands alone, there is a cohesiveness that binds them together into a beautiful whole. As I read from day to day, I realized how some of his suggestions and overall awareness of God in my life began to seep into my life in an organic manner.
     These pages would be well-suited for anyone wanting to slow down and figure out how to lead a life that incorporates God. All too often God is reserved for Sunday mornings. God wants to walk with you through it all and be your everything.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Review: To Ponder and Pray

Chosen Books graciously provided a complimentary copy of Why Still Care About Israel? in exchange of an honest book review.
     Honestly, I did not know what to expect. When one brings up the Israeli-Arab conflict it is any one's guess considering the myriad of opinions and prejudices what reaction will be elicited. Author Sandra Teplinsky, an American-Israeli Messianic Jew, reassesses the situation from a very concerned manner. In her book Why Still Care About Israel?: The Sanctity of Covenant, Moral Justice and Prophetic Blessing Teplinsky evaluates the past, present and future of the Israelis, their state and what it means to the church as a whole.
     In the current state of affairs amongst the world it seems you are either for or against the State of Israel. If anyone could be simply for Israel it would be Teplinsky. Yet, she has a tender heart for all people and takes that into consideration. She calls for support of Israel, but also for Palestinians . She is not against a people, but the ugly side of humanity that comes out in the name of God. It is within the remnant of Israel that God proclaims as His choice people, or firstborn son. Therein lies a covenant with his people to bless and prosper. Yet, the land that was originally given has been significantly reduced. Prophetically, looking to the future, the state of Israel is to be restored for the coming of its rightful King. It is in the greater picture that the world should care, that Christians and Messianic Jews should care.
    Why Still Care About Israel? serves as a voice for the Israelis. One point I found sad and interesting was the discombobulated journalism that sways public opinion along anti-Christian/anti-Jewish lines. The author as a part-time resident of Israel has seen first-hand what a spin on reporting can do to the detriment of a population. How can people form educated opinions when the news is  biased? With that in mind, I applaud Teplinsky for writing a book from an unbiased perspective, as much as humanly possible.
    Teplinsky does a wonderful job observing Israel from the inside with an outsider eye. She addresses the many facets of the problems religiously, culturally and politically. Easy answers are not given, yet options are surmised and analyzed. For all the strife and pain that resonates with this topic, there is a hope, a hope to be prayed.
     If you pick up Why Still Care About Israel? you may be shaken. The very ideology you claim may be swayed. On the other hand maybe you have given this topic ample thought already. However, my guess is you will ponder this some more from a completely different angle. This will be great reading for any and every believer.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review: A Plain Good Mystery

A warm thank you goes out to B&H Publishing Group for the complimentary copy of A Plain Disappearance I received in exchange for an honest review.
     Author Amanda Flower continues her Appleseed Creek Mystery series with A Plain Disappearance. Chloe Humphrey, a twenty-something young lady, moves into the heart of Ohio's Amish country to Appleseed Creek. She is a bit of a standout with bright red hair and more obviously, no Amish roots. Some of the locals have warmed up to her which is why she works as a bit of a sleuth for Appleseed's police chief. This Christmas is unlike any other when a local teenage Amish girl goes missing and is found dead in the snow laden countryside.
     Chloe, along with her former-Amish boyfriend, Timothy Troyer, set to work to help crack the case. Many suspects come out of the woodwork and are intertwined as Appleseed Creek is a town where everyone knows your name, whether you want them to or not. One such character, Billy Thorpe, turns out to be one of high interest as his harried past catches up with him. It is up to Chloe to set the record straight and dig through the Amish's tight-lipped ways. Trying to prove Billy's innocence is a task that puts many reputations on the line, including Chloe's.
      A Plain Disappearance makes for an enjoyable read, although I did find the simplistic, first-person voice a little trite. Chloe is written to be a woman of intelligence yet, her voice seemed weak at times and a bit redundant. The other aspect that was frustrating was keeping the characters straight. There seemed to be too many male characters that were so closely related, whether by familial ties or neighborly, it was hard to decipher who was who. In fact, there were three teenage characters I finally had in line by the end of the story and not a page before.
     The story line was interesting enough. I appreciated it was a modern-day plot where modernity meshes with antiquity. The paradox that unfolds between two different cultures is one I read with keen observance. I realize how easy it is to judge the ways of others when we simply are unfamiliar with varying customs. There isn't necessarily a correct way, just a different way. The other bit of moral goodness found was that just as it is inappropriate to judge customs, it is just as wrong to judge the person. Many characters in this mystery tried to hide something of themselves from the world, only to be misread as deceit. We really cannot tell what it is they are hiding and probably more importantly, why it is they are holding up a mask.
     A Plain Disappearance was a nice break from my other reading. If you are one to enjoy a mystery with many twists and turns pull up a seat and enjoy.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Book Review: Into the Deep

Master Books provided a complimentary copy of Don't Miss the Boat in exchange for an honest review.
     Don't Miss the Boat: Facts to Keep Your Faith Afloat is a great way to delve into the depths of the Flood in layman's terms. Author Paul Taylor guides the reader first into the exposition of some chapters of Genesis theologically explaining things in a comprehensive, yet understandable synopsis. Subsequently, without compromising biblical fact Taylor covers antediluvian times to the post-Flood world in a scientific, discernible manner.
      Taylor investigates the Flood with a very precise, educated mind,  but in no way lacks biblical authority. Many so-called Christians have compromised their faith in the Bible in order to succumb to the mindset of the secular, scientific world. Fortunately, many creationists have refuted evolutionary claims, while defending the biblical account of the Flood with scientific evidence. This information will help educate the believer and provide fodder for discussions with non-believers.
      My absolute favorite aspect of Don't Miss the Boat had to be the logical, concise refutation  against arguments made by evolutionists. The evidence when lined up with the biblical account simply makes more sense. Taylor made it an adamant point that fault often aligns with our presuppositions. The key for creationists is to first hold the Bible true and realize a lack of evidence for something may be just that, a lack, rather than false findings. Whereas, others may try to use missing evidence as proof. Creationist science works with the firm foundation and builds up. Evolutionists try to build their religion with their findings.
     If you are interested in building your faith or simply questioning the Flood, Don't Miss the Boat is an excellent resource. The facts are astounding and all point to an amazing Creator. This is a fairly easy-to-read book. I say that with a slight smirk, as I had to read several paragraphs over to wrap my mind around some new scientific material. Neutrons and atoms aren't my cup of tea. Yet, I am blessed to have read this book and hope you will begin this journey too.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Book Review: Another Terrific Peterson Novel

Bethany House Publishing provided a complimentary book in exchange for an honest review.
     I must say, I am a huge Tracie Peterson fan. Every single work of this author's draws me in immediately and The Miner's Lady is no exception. This novel, part of the Land of Shining Water series, is set in the late nineteenth century in a bustling Minnesota iron mining town. However, as the mining crowd can bring a rough set of people frequenting gambling saloons it is hard for women to find the marrying-type.
     The Panetta and Calarco families, Italian immigrants have been at odds with one another for years. Much to the surprise of both families, Isabella Panetta is smitten with Orlando Calarco. Their emerging love will either create a further divide or bring these feuding families to forgiveness. One heart after another seems to soften and two hearts in particular grow together. The question is can Dante Calarco let bygones be bygones and submit to his heart's longing for a Panetta girl, Chantel.
     Tracie Peterson's use of language is absolutely astonishing and vivid. As I flipped the pages I was no longer in 2013, but transported to the dusty mining town of Ely in 1890. The saloon doors could be heard swinging. The pungent smell of tobacco and whisky, mixed with dirt and grime was wafting about as one of the Panetta men pulled up a stool. The emergency signal rang out sending panic within me following Isabella down to the mine wondering if her beloved was the one in the midst of danger. Peterson has a knack to elaborate on the details creating scenes that are realistic and endearing. Rather than being an outsider looking in, I find myself walking with characters along their journey. My heart always becomes involved with those of her characters.
     The Miner's Lady also was well researched. The nuances of iron mining were mentioned that only bespeaks of intention and dedicated research. It is Peterson's ability to handle such an array of topics and time periods that enriches the reader's life. I know more about iron mining than I did before and have a greater appreciation for such back-breaking, dangerous work.
      I will say this book is predictable. Yet, it is entertaining. For me it is the historical background that really makes it a book to read. This story line is one of forgiveness and following one's heart. Peterson has certainly added another great book to her growing list of works with The Miner's Lady.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Real Help for Real Emotions

Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of Take Charge of Your Emotions in exchange for an honest review.
     Author Dr. Linda J. Solie has truly lent her years of experience in an easy to read book, Take Charge of Your Emotions: Seven Steps to Overcoming Depression, Anxiety and Anger. Even if you aren't one of many who deals with deep depression, crippling anxiety or enraged anger, all of us must deal with our emotions. Please don't let the "seven steps" scare you away, as these steps are very flexible and applicable to your personal situation.
    We have to two choices when faced with emotions. One, we can allow our emotions to drive us and run the show wreaking havoc in the choices we make. Or, two, we can take charge of them by realizing we can intervene with productive thoughts positively influencing our behavior. The key is to reframe our thoughts in sight of our worth in Christ. This process isn't about sugar-coating the scenario, but realistically accessing the situation. There are some things we can do to make a difference and other things we have to let go as we have no control over them. For instance, I can proactively pack moving boxes, but I cannot make escrow close quicker. I can control my reaction to a problem, but I cannot control the manner in which others will react.
     Take Charge of Your Emotions really is a book that can assist overcoming difficult emotions. When anger festers bitterness rots our bones. When anxiety attacks the panic can literally stop us in our tracks. When depression hovers darkness consumes our very being. Solie shows that retraining our minds is possible, though it will take a diligent effort. They say it takes 21 days to begin a new habit. Solis suggests writing down the seven steps for each of our problems for 30 days. If any of these emotions is plaguing you it would be well worth every moment.
     As some of my readers know I have dealt with anxiety and depression myself. I still do at times. I must applaud Solis for coming up with a plan that seems feasible for those that are tired of sitting in the toxic waste of damaging emotions. I  know it's hard to be in the pit. It will take initiative on your part to work your way into the light. The writing isn't meant to be fun. Yet, when you write out your rationale (or lack of ) in black and white, you will come to see there is a clearer way to think. In light of that, your behavior and life will begin to look different, better. I pray that you will give Take Charge of Your Emotions a chance to restore your joy. You'll wonder why you didn't start writing it out sooner.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Review: Joy Begins with Gratitude

It would be inappropriate to start this review off without a big thank you to Moody Publishers for providing a complimentary copy of Choosing Gratitude in exchange for an honest review.
      Author Nancy Leigh DeMoss has really done an exemplary job penning Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. Joy eludes many as they grasp at chaff blowing in the wind in hopes of happiness. Ingratitude seems to be our culture's default setting. Blessings abound all around and yet, are all too often missed. The correlation between gratitude and joy is a concept that needs to be taught and learned. cultivated and practiced. When we choose to worship in thanksgiving, even in difficult circumstances, it can change our heart and perspective. One of the greatest aspects is that gratitude is not simply self-serving. It benefits us for being grateful yes, but, it also flows into the heart of others when we tangibly extend our gratitude.
     DeMoss in no way condones a rose-colored glasses point of view because frankly, life can get sticky and stinky. In the face of death, we can choose gratefulness for being allowed the time we had with the individual or we can sulk and let darkness consume us. Choosing Gratitude means just what it says; we have a choice to choose gratitude and subsequently, joy will follow.
     I appreciated DeMoss' frankness and compassion, which is often a paradox. There is this vulnerability she lends the book that allows the reader to connect with her, manifesting in a deep understanding, a shared secret. She knows pain, she knows life and she knows a woman's heart. Through biblical references and personal accounts that span a rather wide gamut, DeMoss brings clarity to the matter and practical application. Gratitude is something that needs to be nurtured within our hearts, cultivated to bloom.
    Choosing Gratitude is a wonderful read. In the back is a 30-day devotional that will further your quest for joy. Just think, it takes 21 days to form a habit and DeMoss is giving you 30 days to instill a life-long habit of giving thanks and reaping joy. This would be a terrific book for many believers, especially for those that want to renew their relationship with the Lord. God has given us blessings out of His goodness. The question is: Do we acknowledge those gifts with unceasing thanks?


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book Review: Hearing His Voice

Moody Publishers provided a complimentary copy of Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God is Speaking by Priscilla Shirer in exchange for an honest review.
     Author Priscilla Shirer does an amazing job presenting understandable material that will enable the reader to further their relationship with the Holy Spirit in Discerning the Voice of God. The Spirit is often misunderstood and believers chalk it up to a gut feeling rather than the inner working of God Himself. Shirer first addresses the manner in which He speaks and then describes the how-to discern His voice. The latter third of the book covers the Spirit's purpose in our lives.
      I really cannot applaud Shirer enough for writing an all-encompassing book about the Spirit. My accumulative knowledge thus far on the subject was the product of many books. Yet, in one softcover the subject matter is truly delved into in an applicable way. Shirer thoroughly explained the difference and the symbiotic relationship between soul and spirit. Our spirits are instantly renewed when we receive Christ but, our souls are sanctified in time as the Spirit infiltrates our entire being.
      Discerning the Voice of God also gives credence to the various, harmonious ways that God will speak to us. One thing alone may not stand up well but, if we add in other credible things then we may ascertain God is indeed leading us down a certain path. For instance, if we listen to our "gut" only, we may lead ourselves to disaster with good intentions. However, if we our wise and choose patience we may find that God is not leading us where we thought as we read Scripture, pray, seek counsel and if we are gifted by the mercy of confirmation, i.e. corroborating circumstances, Scripture passages and other believers. It is this type of information that can help us in our journey. It seems in many Christian circles that believers are just suppose to instantaneously know every thing about being a Christian the moment of salvation. Yet, the beauty of our journey is we are never finished learning about God. The Spirit is all too often overlooked. How sad it would be to miss out on a third of the Trinity.
     This book can become a catalyst to draw you closer to God. It will be an eye- and heart-opening read for any believer. He wants you to know Him intimately. Priscilla Shirer's intimacy with the Lord comes through her writing. I hope you pick up this book to share in her gift. Discerning the Voice of God is her invitation (and quite possibly His invitation) to you to build a deeper connection with the Almighty through His ever-present Spirit.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Motherhood: Grace Desperately Needed

     I hope no mother has ever said motherhood was easy. There is no way you'll ever hear those words coming from my lips. In fact, my prayer last night went something like this. "Lord, please don't let me screw up this child." Not exactly the eloquent quote I wish I could claim. However, as blatantly raw and true to my emotions, that is where my heart laid.
     My youngest child is one of my greatest joys. Yet, he also has been the most challenging. Every mother needs one child who keeps the excitement going. My guess is our personalities (read: tempers) are a bit alike, probably more than I wish. He is quirky and witty, sweet and loving. He can also be ornery and difficult. Can't we all at one time or another? Time and time again, I find myself losing my temper, yelling, doing the monster-mommy thing, red-faced with those eyes that shoot daggers blazing afire. And those are the moments I live to regret with every ounce of my being. Here God has blessed me with my sweet, little guy and I turn that blessing on its head and breathe out frustration and anger.
     Every child, every precious gift of life on this earth deserves the chance to be nurtured and encouraged to become the image of God that they are. My reaction was anything but loving.Yes, they sin, as do I when I lose my cool. God doesn't scream at me when I mess up or have a fit. He shows me the grace that He is, the grace His love births. That same sweet grace is exactly what every child needs and craves when a mistake is made. It is what this mom desperately needed last night after a long, trying day.
     As I continued to pray, His sweet spirit embraced mine letting me breathe a little easier. God's mercies are new every morning and I can praise Him for that every evening. When we awake, we can rest assured that just as the sun rises and warms the earth, we can rest in the Son and allow his warmth into our hearts no matter how frigid yesterday may have seemed.
     This morning God used a complete stranger to encourage my heart. After watching the kids and I build a little project at Lowe's this woman walked up commending me for my patience with my kids. (Those are her words, not mine.) Of course, that is not always the case. Nonetheless, God was showing me that yes, I do mess up. But, in His grace and mercy my kids are growing and I am blessed to be a part of their story and His, too. There are going to be days where it takes another voice to point out what it is we are doing right as parents. So, this is my dare to you today and hereafter: Take the time to encourage another mother. No matter how pulled together she may seem, we have no idea what hurt or regret her heart is hiding. We have no idea what words may come when God gives us the chance to impart His love to others.

I ask that You will open my eyes to the hearts of others. Provide opportunities for me to extend that same grace to my children and others that You have graciously extended to me. Give me words that will encourage and nurture. May I rest in knowing that You alone Lord are holy, mighty and good. Every day that I feel faint and weary remind me I can find rest and renewed strength in You. Father, help me be the best mother for my children and the best friend to other women that You want me to be. In Your Son's precious name, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
John 1:16
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
Acts 20:32
So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: A Fun, Whimsical Devotional

WaterBrook Multnomah provided a complimentary copy of A Sisterchicks' Devotional: Take Flight! by Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Hannan in exchange for an honest review.
      What is a Sisterchick? This is the friend that does life with you. The friends that love you so much they are willing to tell you when you're wrong (of course, in the nicest way possible). They accept you, flaws and all, loving you just the same. These are the friends that will squabble with you and laugh with you and maybe, sometimes at you.
     From the first page the reader will get the idea she has book a devotional quite original in its own right. Friends and authors, Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Hannan, have collaborated to bring us A Sisterchicks' Devotional. The name itself screams fun! Robin pens Robin's Nest with a flourish-filled, story-telling voice and shares personal experiences for a few pages making the reader ponder their own life experiences. In the subsequent pages titled, Cindy's Perch, Hannan delivers questions and thoughts to provoke more engagement building upon the story. Tie that in with Bible verses and room to jot down a few thoughts we have a promising devotional.
     Apparently, there is a Sisterchicks line of fictional books that Gunn has written that inspired this work. However, by no means would any reader have to read those other books to gain from A Sisterchicks' Devotional. This volume has stories that deal with genuine worship to hospitality to getting out of a funk.  This is for a woman's everyday life. Every story/experience that is shared is not an extraordinary moment within itself but, the repercussions of seeing God in that moment bringing the extraordinary into the seemingly ordinary.
     One of my favorite devotions from this book was Cindy's desire to relinquish control of her heart to God as she stood in awe of a sunset. Rather than simply admiring His handiwork she wanted to worship His work unabashedly, with abandon of her own inhibitions. In each reading there is some wisdom to be gleaned and treasured. There isn't one Christian woman who wouldn't  benefit from this collaborative effort in some measure, for our walk is never complete here on earth.
     Gunn and Hannan our obviously good friends as it comes across on the pages. A Sisterchicks' Devotional would be a great small study book. Although, there isn't a lot of content; there are 14 devotions in under 150 pages. However, I could surely see these pages leading to deep conversations with our sisters in Christ. This is also a great gift book or nice devotional for the solo reader. No matter what, these ladies will encourage your heart to Take Flight! and soar with the Lord.

Visit Robin Gunn's site here.

Click here for info on A Sisterchicks' Devotional

Check out Chapter One here.

ROBIN JONES GUNN is the best-selling and award-winning author of more than seventy books, with over 4 million copies of her titles sold worldwide. Best known among them are the Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen, and Christy and Todd: College Years teen series. A Christy Award winner and a two-time finalist for excellence in fiction, Robin has also been a Gold Medallion finalist. She and her husband have a grown son and daughter and live in Hawaii.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Review: A Fast-Paced Read

Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of Into the Whirlwind in exchange for an honest review.
     Author Elizabeth Camden journeys with the reader back into the year 1871. Here is where the heroine, Mollie Know, owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, is introduced as a fire blazes in Chicago around her. The first few pages are a whirlwind into the story, vying to pull you back into history past. The heart quickens with Mollie's has she tries to escape the flames licking at her feet.  In the chaos Zack Kazmarek, a lawyer for Mr. Hartman's top-of-the-line department store, puts his life on the line for the sake of Mollie.
     Mollie has a heart of gold for the veterans that work for her at the watch factory. She must rebuild the 57th in order to preserve the welfare of the forty-some families that depend on paychecks from her. Sometimes her heart is defeated at times, by an overly analytical mind. Zack has pined for Mollie for years wanting more than a business relationship. Finally, in the heat of the moment he confesses her love for her. As their world crumbles around them, Mollie must figure out how to allow herself to love without having reason to. Can she love unconditionally without putting conditions on her own heart? Will she let business take precedence over a matter of the heart?
     When I first thumbed through Into the Whirlwind I was a bit hesitant to begin. Some 374-page books seem a daunting. I suppose I enjoy fiction more than I allow myself to believe. As soon as I began to read I was drawn and compelled to continue my reading. The scenery is so well-written the story swallows you whole. You feel as if you are running with Mollie through the streets of Chicago. The clamor and bells ringing are loud and deafening. The chaos is felt, the whirlwind of emotions is experienced and the heart is submerged into the storyline. The mannerisms of the time seem genuine and reflective of a culture that I only long to have known.
     The pages fly by as you try to keep pace with the developing storyline and character growth. The development of the characters is fluid yet, realistic. Fear and hope intersect, love and betrayal collide and life and death contrast. For any lover of historical fiction will be fascinated with Zack's Polish descent along with the overall 19th century flavor. Elizabeth Camden has penned a beautiful novel once again. When you pick up Into the Whirlwind, into the whirlwind you'll go.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review: Give Your Worry to God

Chosen Books provided a complimentary copy of Kent Crockett's The Sure Cure for Worry: Learning to Trust God No Matter What Happens in exchange for an honest review.
     Problems plague our daily lives. Bills pile up. Unemployment can deflate us. Relationships can sour. And the list goes on and on. We have two choices as we usually can't turn our circumstances around fast enough. One: we can allow worry to rule the day. Yet, there is a second option that author, Kent Crockett, zeroes in on. In The Sure Cure for Worry Crockett proposes we rest in a sovereign, almighty God and hold onto our faith. If we allow worry in, we are lacking trust in God. We are assuming He is not watching over us, that He is not ruling from on high and He isn't as big as we say He is. Jesus already said there would be trials in our lives but, He has "overcome the world." (Jn. 16:33)
     The Sure Cure for Worry is broken into three sections: Learning to Trust God, Deciding to Follow God and Claiming God's Promises. Learning to trust the Lord can be difficult if we forget how big He is and what He does. Nothing is out of God's view. If the sparrow is noticed, surely we are as well. Even if we claim to know God is sovereign we need to make a choice, intentionally placing our trust in Him. Once that trust is established we can be sure to find God's guidance in our lives, looking for it, knowing our infinite God has our eternal best interests at heart. Sometimes visions and dreams can be followed but, more often than not, He will speak to us through His Word and others placed around us. Finally, the last chapters dare us to place our lives in His hands as we look to Him for provision and protection and hand over our worry.
     There are many self-help books out there claiming a easy-to-do check list will be a sure fire way to rid your life of stress, as if stressors can easily be flung far. Crockett uses a biblical approach to help believers let go of worry, not rid your life of difficult circumstances. While you may not find a job tomorrow or a spouse or whatever plagues you, you will find comfort, provision, love and an eternal, broader perspective of your current situation.
     There were a few places that I found redundancy. However, the subtopics overlapped into many chapters. So, really the material was well-placed, just rehashed with some minor differences. Other than that, I enjoyed the book. The content of the book is of high quality and can actually be utilized with some practice. Worry is a heart issue that can be addressed with God's Word and hope.The Sure Cure for Worry is well-written with plenty of personal accounts of God's divine, guiding hand. Any reader I would hope, will set this book down with a renewed, strengthened faith. Circumstances will change daily, but Our Creator remains the same always.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: Everyone Has a Story to be Lived

BookSneeze ,on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing, provided a complimentary copy of Death by Living: Life is Meant to Be Spent by N.D. Wilson in exchange for an honest review.
     Author, N.D. Wilson, has compiled a beautiful narrative of pivotal moments in his life leading to insights and illuminations that have resulted in Death by Living. Time moves on, as do we. It is when we embrace our moment in time, what has led to our being and the story we have yet to live out that we truly find our sense of being and worth. Once we accept nothing but God is permanent, we can open our hands and give of ourselves freely. We have been given legacies to follow, stories that have led to us. What makes us all unique is the culmination of our family histories. Our place in time has more to do with the history behind us than anything we have done. However, we are empowered to live our lives well, lives spent on those around us leaving legacies of our own for the generations that will follow.
     Wilson delves into his family's history with a nostalgic pen and voice of solemnity yet, covers it all in profound gratitude and grace. I was completely mesmerized by his captivating way with words. Words that are tinkered with and fine-tuned and seemingly dancing across the page. Words that bring substance to memories and envelop the soul. Wilson has blessed the reader with a gift of delicate nuances that stir the imagination and provoking an engagement of the senses as he recalls his relatives stories and memories from a childhood past.
     As I read Death by Living I found I was detecting the nuances in my own life that the surrounding environment lent. The nostalgia of chapters past brushed by me. Gratitude ran deep. A sense of quiet grace washed over me. For all the mistakes I have made and missed opportunities I let go, I sit in thankfulness knowing they are all part of a narrative bigger than I can fathom. Time is grace. It is a gift we cannot keep but, we can embrace its impermanence. We can pass memories, beliefs and values on. The lives we lead are the legacies we leave behind as we step into our eternal journey.
     Death by Living is not morbid but, very reflective. A couple of times I wondered where Wilson was headed. Then, I turned the page and a life lesson or a luminous epiphany took center stage. The lights were on and it all made sense. Even if you aren't in search of yourself the quality and character of Wilson's pen will draw you into his world. I only hope people take the time to pick this book up to begin a journey of reflection, gratitude and a deeper appreciation for the role they can play on the world's stage.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: An Incredible Story to be Told

Tyndale House Publishers provided a complimentary copy of Dabney Hedegard's memoir, When God Intervenes, in exchange for an honest review.
     Imagine battling cancer while pregnant and trusting God to save two lives. Or imagine being told your wife is probably going to pass and to quickly get to the hospital to say your good-byes. Unfortunately, these circumstances are all too common with even more unfortunate outcomes. Other times, God brings you through so many adverse circumstances and health issues that all anyone can reason is that a miracle occurred.
     The Hedegard family walked very close to the valley of death multiple times beginning with Dabney's diagnosis of cancer at the age of 25. Add to that, bouts and ordeals with cardiomyopathy, pulmonary embolism and acute pneumonia to name a few, it is of great wonder how author, Dabney Hedegard, survived and her family grew at the same time. Yet, she lives to share her trials and triumphs, setbacks and steps forward in her memoir, When God Intervenes: An Extraordinary Story of Faith, Hope and the Power of Prayer.
     After devouring this book in a day I am amazed at Hedegard's unbreakable spirit and lively candor of her journey. I simply wanted to know what the next page held. She never seemed to let defeat set courageously waging battle against every obstacle that came her way. Yet, there was still an emotional toll as she just wanted to live freely. Dabney's faith carried her through. Although her battle was 10 years long and I would imagine could seem pointless at the time, God saw otherwise and foresaw the bigger picture in the making. She continued to trust and allow God to direct her path. How many times did God intervene? Only He knows.
      What I know though, is God is there and He will step in when all seems lost. When God Intervenes will bolster your faith if it is fleeting. Dabney Hedegard's story is amazing and awe-inspiring. I only hope that you will find, if you don't already know, that Almighty God is incredible and personal. He is right there waiting to intervene (in His ordained time).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: The Spiritual Battle is Real

Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winning the Battle for Eternity by Jack Graham in exchange for a review.
     In many circles speaking of the evil dimensions is taboo. Other people seem to shirk at the idea of angels. Jack Graham delves into the Bible and explores the spiritual battle that is waging and the entities that are not visible but, surely there. Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winning the Battle for Eternity not only leads the reader through biblical excerpts but, also gives personal accounts and practical application. Graham discerns truth from cultural fiction making sense of taboo topics. He relegates the pitch-forked-tongued, red-clad-bodysuit-wearing devilish character to the gutter and extracts Satan of the Bible. Angels surround us, assisting in the war we face as the targets of evil exploits trying to capture our souls.
     In the past I would have passed this read over. It has only been through the Spirit that has taught me the truth of Scripture. Some of Unseen will be difficult for some believers to swallow but, with the guidance of the Spirit this truth needs to be absorbed. I appreciated Graham's willingness to tackle these topics in a style that is personable yet, real. He readily admits that he doesn't have all the answers. The Bible has provided enough detail though to have a relatively good idea of what is there and what we can do about it.
     The highlight of Unseen is the practical use of the spiritual weapons God has given us. Graham looks at the weapons in Ephesians and provides helpful knowledge to wage war. He goes onto the power of prayer and really explores ways to have an impactful prayer life. The glorious hope of heaven awaits us that are willing to persevere to the end. That hope is painted in such a beautiful way that it is heartbreaking to think what many are willing to give up in exchange for the pleasures of this world.
     Unseen is recommended for believers, new and seasoned alike. This gives a comprehensive perspective of the reality of the spiritual world. If you have any doubt about the realm beyond our comprehension I beseech you to peruse this book and ask the Spirit to guide you to the Truth.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A New Creation Dawns

Eternally amazed at His grace,
I yearn for the day I gaze at His face.
Warmth and love took the place,
Where the old once stood cold.
God's love lives bold.
But, at what cost was I sold?
Sin drove each nail.
As it bore into skin, a face drew pail.
With each breath labored, to no avail.
Death would be conquered just not yet.
Sorrow, pain, anguish, regret.
Where is our Hope?
Where did He go?
Three days in waiting.
Grief wasn't anticipating.
A new dawn was emerging.
The Son again shining.
A new creation born for believing.
In one breath, everything changed.
"For He is risen!"


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Changing Seasons

     Isaiah 40:8--- The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

     As I sit here on my couch in the middle of summer, I am reminded of autumn. There is a cool breeze blowing through the screen door while the leaves are filtering through the day's last light, shadows dancing across the floor. I much prefer this temperate weather than endure the scorching heat of summer or the bone-piercing cold of winter. As summer approached I was already awaiting the arrival of cooler weather. Ironically, I live in the High Desert where both extremes are not uncommon. Here it is where I ponder.
      You see, the seasons are always changing. There isn't a day that passes that will never come again. Time moves forwards whether we like it or not. Sometimes that is a very wonderful thought, to know whatever hardships you are enduring will pass. Time seems very relevant in the hard times, wishing it would only hurry up. In fact, there are moments that stand still forever etched in our memories. When a loved one passes on our world stops spinning, all the while everyone goes on without us. Or when we are faced with unemployment or heartache, time crawls torturing our souls.
      Then on the other hand, our wedding days were enjoyed not long enough. The jubilant moment our child was placed in our arms for the very first time was one we only wish could be replayed, relived. Those are the seasons in life that come and go in the blink of an eye. Those are the times I wish I could push the pause button and savor each delectable morsel slowly, intensely, selfishly.
     Time is a funny thing. Have you ever had the pleasure to watch a toddler's gears turn trying to make sense of this thing called time? Their grasp of minutes, hours and days is amusing. Months and years for them are even more mind-boggling and all the more hilarious to watch while they grasp at such an abstract concept. My youngest son loves to say that he hasn't done this or that for 14 years. No kidding. He is only seven. It is his way of saying he hasn't done that in a long time.
     Yet, it is our wonderful Creator who created time in the Beginning.  Genesis 1:14 reads, "And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years,..." Day and night serve us well. We rise up as dawn welcomes us every morning. The evening readies us for sleep. Our food sources depend upon time and seasons, weather and moments. Even those days move forward. Frankly, we need every season for this earth to sustain us, just as people need to move through seasons to experience life as God wills it to occur. We become fuller, more understanding, empathetic souls for it. Only as I bring an awareness to the moment can I attempt to live it fully for everything that it is worth.
     As things continually change I can count on the one constant in our world, our God and His Word. He is unchanging. When our world seems to flash before my eyes leaving me dizzy and imbalanced I am steadied by God's immutable, eternal character, His very being. Come what may, God never changes and that we can always depend upon.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Capturing the Moment for His Glory

     Every time I feel like things are settling, it seems God stirs things up. It can be little things or the large looming clouds that pour out but, it is always unexpected. Really by now, I would imagine I would know God's ways. Then again, if that was the case my God wouldn't be nearly as big as He truly is. I love Isaiah 55:8-9 for just this very reason. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." God is so immense and glorious I will never know and understand all of His ways. That is a good thing.
     However, it is hard to wait upon Him at times. Let's face it, we are not born patient. Just when I think I have patience nailed down, a situation arises and all of my patience is thrown to the wind and I am on pins and needles. And that is when Isaiah 46:10 works its way into my heart. "He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
     The first half of this verse is often quoted.  I do have to be still and listen for His voice. The second half is just as reassuring to me. It is in knowing that it is God who is to be exalted and lifted up, not me. So, all my impatience is a vain attempt to lift my own wants up. God knows what is best for me and how I work into His plan. If He wants me to wait for events to unfold as He sees fit that bodes well for me. He is an omnipotent, omniscient God. It is in accepting my place in humility and acknowledging Christ as Lord that my soul finds rest.
     I wonder how many times impatience has dampened my mood. How many minutes have been misused because I was caught up in selfishness? Oh, there are many moments I wish I could redeem and use them for His glory. When we exalt our Lord finding rest, we will find joy. Our hearts will be calmed in the storm and we can savor the moment for what God created it to be. Just as every moment has potential, we do too. Yet, if we are wasting the moment, are we not wasting our potential as well to  become the full creations He has so tenderly cared for? That is a sobering question to ponder.
    There is nothing more that I want to do but, live for my Lord praising Him for all He is. We can praise Him as we rise and welcome His tender mercies (see Lamentations 3:22-23). As we live out each moment, we can breathe out small prayers and thanksgiving. We can love others as He loves us without hindrance, just pure love flowing out of our very being. Finally, as we lay our heads upon our pillows we can thank God for carrying us through another day and letting us breathe another breath. Every breath is a gift even if we don't know yet the potential it may unleash. In turn, we can live each moment as an offering to God.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: An Enjoyable Mystery

Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of Blood and Bone: A Novel by Don Hoesel in exchange for an honest review.
     Blood and Bone takes the reader across the world alongside Dr. Jack Hawthorne and his wife, Espy. Thirteen years ago, they held in their hands the bones of the prophet, Elisha, burying them in Australia. With the burial, the couple had hoped they had hidden their old life of antiquities and hunting trading it in for the life of a suburban family. Much to their surprise, one call changes their pace of life and sends them on the fast track of the hunting trail once again.
     Between having a CIA agent and a secret society in charge of protecting the bones on their tail, their very lives are in peril. During a two-week journey that leads them to several cities on five different continents they find themselves seeking refuge in dark corners, all the while looking for the bones. Jack and Espy need these bones in exchange for their two sons.
      This book is certainly different from my usual reading fare. It was a nice change of pace, once I finally was drawn into the book. The first chapter was slow going. By page 75 though, I was hooked. For all the twists and turns Blood and Bone keeps the reader's attention. Some parts I found a little confusing as the scene quickly changed and read over them to make sure I was keeping up with the turn of events. I guess every mystery needs exhilarating, heart-quickening exchanges between characters.
     I use to be a fan of the Alex Cross series, although the obscene language was bothersome. In fact, that is why I don't read them anymore. The language in Blood and Bone is pleasant and yet, the emotions that Hoesel wanted to portray come clearly off the page. When Jack is seething with anger, you get the gist. There are a few gruesome scenes but, nothing I couldn't stomach. If the thought of skeletons bother you, then this mystery is not for you. I appreciated the history behind the story.
     Blood and Bone is a bit far-fetched but, intriguing. If you are fan of mysteries or history, then this book is recommended. If you are looking for something different, then it might be for you as well. The best portion is towards the end. It makes you question: Who or what is your God?


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book Review: Listening to Negative Emotions

BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Runaway Emotions: Why You Feel the Way You Do and What God Wants You to Do About It by Jeff Schreve in exchange for an honest review.
     We all experience the highs and lows of life sending us on an emotional roller coaster at times. Yet, many ignore the negative emotions and can suffer the consequences. But, what if there is a better way? What if we were to listen to our emotions and see them as an alarm sounding letting us know something is off?
     Author Jeff Schreve surmises that much and more in Runaway Emotions. God has given us a wide gamut of emotions to experience from the positive to the negative. Every human has needs that need to be met. When these needs are unmet than our emotional health becomes misaligned.  Schreve observes that those emotions are indicating a problem. For example, embarrassment is letting you know that your sense of self-worth is low. When we realize that our worth is in Christ our sense of self is secure and unshakable. In kind, the reader will work through loneliness, frustration, worry, anger, guilt, discontentment and depression. These emotions all have one main thing in common: they all lead us to God.
     I was impressed with the content of the book. He uses a sensible approach. It is biblically-based, yet is very personable and compassionate. The author validates the emotions we all go through without going so far to say we are spiritually sick or incompetent. Although, our spiritual health is certainly connected to our emotional health. I have found some books on mental health to be callous and critical of the suffering. Kudos to Schreve for having heart and allowing others to as well.
     Unfortunately, I have suffered some of these emotions and ailments intensely. However, I have seen the light of Christ and can validate the presented material. It is one of those books I could have utilized myself many times over in the past. The great part is now I can utilize it as a help to encourage others who are suffering, for none of our suffering is in vain.
     Runaway Emotions could make a nice gift for someone you know is suffering if you are in a great place with that person. Emotions are so personal that I would use caution placing this book in an other's hands. It would be prudent to read through it yourself first. If you are the one suffering, grab the book and delve in. Pray for strength and guidance and use Runaway Emotions as a jumping off point to begin your emotional healing.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review: Good to Know Prequel

Bethany House Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story by Dee Henderson in exchange for an honest review.
     I have never read a book in the O'Malley series by Henderson, but that is soon going to change. I am familiar with the author a bit and was excited to read anything by her. This small prequel introduces Jennifer O'Malley. She is an orphan who found a family amongst other abandoned children. Maintaining a strong tie to her happenstance family she finds her identity within that unit. Jennifer, is a well-renown children's physician in Texas, far removed from her hometown of Chicago. Here her life unfolds.
     Tom Peterson, a fellow physician, slowly walks into Jennifer's heart. Apprehensive to give her heart to another, Jennifer has to warm up to the idea of love from Tom and Jesus. Jennifer sees the light shining within Tom and allows him to introduce her to the Almighty God. It is in the acknowledgement there may be something to Tom's life, something she doesn't have, that Jennifer begins to yearn for herself.
     Dee Henderson does a phenomenal job of developing Jennifer. Her character possesses inhibitions that we all possess in one way or another.  I wanted to get to know this character more as Jennifer went on. She is written with a transparency that is refreshing and real. Past issues and events make up the person she is now. The story line moves along well enough to hold my attention.
      I highly recommend Henderson fans and readers of the O'Malley series to grab Jennifer. It is 154 pages long (or short- call it what you will) and holds a complexity and richness within. Apparently, I found a new series that is vying for my attention soon.