Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Included In Christ by Heather Holleman ~ book review

Included In Christ: Living A New Story From Ephesians is an 8-week Bible study of Ephesians by Heather Holleman. During the course of this study, Heather guides us through the book of Ephesians, one chapter at a time, while learning to write our own Savior Stories and use them to replace the Shadow Narratives that we so often tell about our lives.

What exactly are Savior Stories and Shadow Narratives? A Shadow Narrative is "a story that you tell yourself over and over again that keeps you in the darkness of exclusion and loneliness, weariness, and toxic patterns of jealousy, comparison, and despair." To contrast, a Savior Story (also called a Signature Story) is "a classic story that best represents who you are." Heather also describes Savior Stories as "healing stories, hopeful stories, and harmonizing stories about your life."

Now, you're probably reading this and trying to figure out what all of this has to do with the book of Ephesians. Here's the simple answer: verbs. Heather has broken down the book of Ephesians into seven main verbs that are studied one at a time and applied to our own stories as she helps us learn to tell "the right story" about our life.

This Bible study is so much more than just reviewing the book of Ephesians and it's various hidden implications. It's also a journey of personal discovery as you learn exactly what it means to be Included, Chosen, Seated, Strengthened, Renewed, Filled, and Proclaiming within your Savior Story - the story that no one but you can take hold of and claim.

Written by Heather Holleman, a teacher of composition and advanced writing at Penn State, this study is not just for those people who "like to write". As long as you're willing to follow her simple suggestions and seek out honest answers to her heart-felt questions, this book will help you discover the real you hidden beneath the Shadow Narrative of the everyday hustle. Now is the time to rewrite the story you tell others - and yourself - about your life and God's place in it. This is the tool to help you begin that journey. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Heather Holleman, PhD, is the author of Seated with Christ and Guarded by Christ. She teaches composition and advances writing at Penn State and has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching and mentorship during her career. She also serves alongside her husband, Ashley, in graduate student ministry with Cru's Faculty Commons. They live in Pennsylvania with their two daughters, and Heather writes daily at heatherholleman.com.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Beloved Hope by Tracie Peterson ~ book review

Beloved Hope is the story of learning forgiveness and letting go of the past, trusting in God's plan for healing amongst the aftermath of betrayal, and believing in the strength and courage of looking toward a brighter future.

In this second book of the Heart Of The Frontier series by Tracie Peterson, we focus on Hope Flanagan, the middle of three closely bonded sisters in 1850s Oregon City. Tracie has done a good job at knitting important details from the first book throughout this one, so as to not confuse the reader if this book is their first exposure to the series.

Having survived the massacre at the Whitman Mission two years earlier, Hope finds herself now having to stand as a witness in a trial against the Indians that robbed her of so much more than just her innocence. While she had spent the last two years "moving on" and attempting to make the best of life, she now has to face everything that happened and admit to the pain she stills grips so tightly.

With the help of her sisters and a few close friends, Hope learns that not only is there a greater power in forgiveness than in revenge, but also that God can turn even the most dire of pasts into blessings of a hopeful future.

While I did not find the story and dialogue to be quite as gripping as the first book in the series, Treasured Grace, I still found this to be a wonderful gem and a novel testimony to God's power to help us overcome the past and let go of the bitterness that can grab hold of us so tightly at times. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Bethany House publishers for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Tracie Peterson's love for history and research fuels the bestselling stories she writes. She is the author of over one hundred novels and the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award. Tracie and her family live in Montana.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson ~ book review

We Stood Upon Stars: Finding God In Lost Places by Roger W. Thompson is a series of 31 short stories of various travels Roger has been on throughout his life. Most of these recollected journeys focus on the detours, wrong turns, and other mishaps that happen when things don't go quite as you anticipate. But, as Roger demonstrates, those wrong turns often lead us on the greatest adventures and hold the secrets to life's biggest mysteries.

Most of the stories tend to wander and get off topic themselves, which lends to the overall flow that life doesn't follow a set map or order when it comes to how we learn the lessons it has to teach us. And for those of you who want a definitive purpose or moral behind each of these mini road trips, Roger has made a point to show us what he's come to learn from the experience.

While I found some of the stories to be things I could relate to, I had a hard time getting on the same page as the author for most of this book. I think it would be a great gift for the outdoorsy man who enjoys mini road trips and summer camping ventures and fishing with his family. Or, the guy that remembers having done all of those things in his childhood and would be able to reminisce about those days of seemingly carefree wonder while reading the ventures enclosed. 3/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Roger W. Thompson is a successful entrepreneur, collaborator, adventurer, and writer. He's spent his career building innovative businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition to creating the first mission tourism resort in Haiti with the Hand and Feet Project, he's produced surf films, built skate parks, and outfitted adventure trips. Alongside his wife, he travels, surfs, snowboards, and fly-fishes - and is teaching his two young sons to do the same.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Perfect You by Caroline Leaf ~ book review

The Perfect You: A Blueprint For Identity by Dr. Caroline Leaf is a very unique personal assessment tool. Dr. Leaf has formulated a method by which to discover your own uniqueness as God's masterpiece and to help yourself become more in alignment with that uniqueness in everyday situations.

Not for those seeking easy answers, quick fixes, and simple "to do" lists, this book is a very thorough scientific exploration of what makes each of us unique in the way that we create and store knowledge to gain our own perspective and interpretation of life as we perceive it. Dr. Leaf reveals seven metacognitive modules which we use in order to constantly interpret information as it is presented to us throughout our day. These modules are Interpersonal, Kinesthetic, Linguistic, Logical / Mathematical, Spatial / Visual, Musical, and Intrapersonal.

The first two parts of the book are a detailed analysis of how the brain works in conjunction with our mental / emotional state, how we can discover and unlock our potential to control and boost our mental awareness, and an explanation of what is meant by "The Perfect You", as well as how to achieve it.

The third part of the book is "The Unique Qualitative (UQ) Assessment Tool", which is a series of 34-50 questions for each of the metacognitive modules discussed in parts 1 and 2. These are not "yes / no" or Likert scale (1-10) questions. Instead, these are all short answer questions, with 5+ lines provided for each answer. These are questions like "Do you enjoy learning and using new vocabulary? If yes, describe the what, how, when, and why. If no, describe the what, how, when, and why." The point isn't to get a final tally or pass some test, but rather, to be honest and open with yourself about who you are and how you process and interpret your surroundings in everyday mundane moments. This part of the book also includes a checklist and exercise to help you stay focused on changing your thought patterns in order to alter your current state.

Dr. Leaf states "Your UQ profile has a threefold purpose: to help you understand how you uniquely think, feel, and choose; to increase your ability to mindfully and deliberately self-regulate your thinking, feeling, and choosing to keep you in alignment with the Holy Spirit; and to help you understand how you think, feel, and choose when you are operating in your Perfect You so that you can recognize when you are operating outside of it."

Part four of The Perfect You has examples and tips to help you get through those times when you find yourself not following the assessment of your unique Perfect You.

Overall, I found this book to be a very interesting study of how we interpret and respond to our surroundings, and how we can adjust our thinking in order to change our world - both inside and out. However, as stated, this book is deeply scientific and could be very confusing and hard to read for a lot of people. Also, while the in-depth short answer questions are designed to probe your specific reasons behind your actions, I could see this as being a problem area for people that don't have an analytical mindset and have a hard time objectively assessing their own behaviors. For those of us that are more scientific and analytical, this book is a masterpiece and can connect the dots to raise your personal awareness of why you think, feel, and choose the things you do on a daily basis - as well as how to have better control in order to become more in alignment with God's design for your being. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Baker Books for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back inside flap):
Dr. Caroline Leaf is the author of Switch On Your Brain and Think and Eat Yourself Smart, among many other books and journal articles. Since 1981, she has researched the science of thought and min-body connection as it relates to thinking, learning, emotions, renewing the mind, healing from TBI and other neurological and mind issues, potential, and education. Dr. Leaf practiced clinically for twenty-five years while simultaneously working in impoverished areas in South Africa and doing research. She has worked in education for as many years. She is currently still doing research on the mind-body connection and is an international and national conference speaker on topics relating to optimal mind and brain performance such as stress, toxic thoughts, male/female brain differences, thinking and learning, controlling our thought lives, and how to identify and use our uniqueness. She is frequently interviewed on TV stations and media around the globe, has published many books and scientific journal articles, and has her own TV show, The Dr. Leaf Show. Leaf and her husband, Mac, live with their four children in California.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Essential Guide To Prayer by Dutch Sheets ~ book review

The Essential Guide To Prayer: How To Pray With Power And Effectiveness by Dutch Sheets is mostly a book of testimonies about various purposes and types of intercessory prayers. I found the subtitle to be slightly misleading. While there is a suggested prayer and study questions at the end of each chapter, this book is focused more on examples than instructions, as the "how to" heading would imply.

While Dutch does provide both personal and second-hand testimonies to support each of his points about effective prayer, you have to be the type of person that can learn from examples and replicate the experience of others within your own life in order to really make a lot of personal progress here.

As a book used to enlighten and encourage you on the prospect of intercessory prayer, I'd give this book 4 stars. However, it is lacking in personal suggestions aside from the testimonies, and Dutch spends a large portion of the book sharing second-hand stories that he's heard or read elsewhere. For me, this made it seem more like a college thesis than a book meant for personal growth in your relationship with God. 3/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Dutch Sheets is an internationally recognized author, teacher, and speaker. Based in Colorado, he travels extensively, empowering believers for passionate prayer and societal transformation. He has pastored, taught, and served on the board of directors of numerous organizations. Learn more at www.dutchsheets.org.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dark Deception (Defenders Of Justice 02) by Nancy Mehl ~ book review

Dark Deception is the second book in the Defenders Of Justice series by Nancy Mehl. Without having read the first book in this series, I found myself very grateful for the prologue and first chapter, which left me feeling as though I'd been filled in on everything I needed to know in order to follow the plot and storyline of the book, and the series in general. I'm sure that reading the first book (Fatal Frost) before reading Dark Deception would be ideal, but I appreciate being able to jump straight into the second book of a series without feeling lost and clueless as to what's going on.

In Dark Deception, we find Kate O'Brien in witness protection after having survived an attack by a serial killer, who claimed her sister's life. All has been going well for her new small town life, until new evidence leads the courts to believe that the man convicted of the murders may be innocent, and he has to face trial again. This time, her eye-witness testimony is the only shot at keeping him behind bars.

While Kate has moved on in her new life, she has no intention of digging up her past and facing buried nightmares. She reluctantly agrees to testify if Tony DeLuca, the deputy Marshal who protected her during the first trial, takes lead on escorting and protecting her.

What starts as a simple mission for Tony soon becomes complicated when he arrives in the small town only to discover that no one is who they seem to be. Then, as the shadows start to emerge from Kate's past, Tony finds that his job of protecting her includes sheltering her from the darkness brewing inside herself, and that is going to be a lot harder than he'd bargained for.

Nancy's descriptive writing allows for a vividly realistic portrayal and a captivating story that pulls the reader in further with every turn of the page. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Nancy Mehl is the author of more than twenty books, including the Road To Kingdom and Finding Sanctuary series, and a 2015 finalist for RT Book Reviews' Reviewers' Choice Award. Nancy writes from her home in Missouri, where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their puggle, Watson. Visit www.nancymehl.com to learn more.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Friday, July 14, 2017

Remarkable Faith by Shauna Letellier ~ book review

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled At The Faith Of Unremarkable People by Shauna Letellier is Shauna's own rendering of not-so-classic Bible stories that remind us of the times that Jesus used the most unremarkable of people, the lowest of the low, to exemplify those who not only needed Him the most, but also honored Him the most with the greatest show of faith.

In Remarkable Faith, Shauna shares with us eight chapters, each focused on a varying type of faith (weak, helpless, unworthy, suffering, distant, panicked, defiant, and flagrant). Each contains a Biblical passage followed by her moving and elaborated tale of the story in question. After her vivid reenactment has taken place, she carefully and thoroughly explains what was so remarkable about this person's faith, why Jesus took notice, the reasons we should aspire to be more like them, and brief suggestions and a prayer to start us on that path.

Not many of us would aspire to be more like the blind beggars (up until Jesus gave them their sight), or the ten healed lepers (before they were healed), or the woman who bled for twelve years (while enduring that bleeding)... Yes, we would long for the sight, and the healing, and the dignity that these people regained once Jesus took notice and restored their broken bodies and souls. But so many of us would not sacrifice what we have right now in order to "need" that kind of redemption. Yet, we already do. Every day.

Those of us who know we're unworthy, but have faith anyway. Those of us who feel weak or lost, but have faith. Those of us who are defiant against the doubters in our lives, and struggle but hold onto the faith that we have. This book is written for you... And for those people who have wandered enough that they feel their faith slipping, but still long for it to return - if only they could see the right path or hear the compassion in Jesus' voice. This book is written for you... Or for anyone else who has faced hardships and still managed to hold onto the slightest amount of faith, hoping that it will be enough... It is. Jesus notices you. Hiding in the crowd. Hoping to just barely touch His robe and slip away. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About the author (copied from back cover):
Shauna Letellier has written for the Huffington Post, Day Spring's (in)courage blog, and MOPS International's MomSense magazine (now Hello, Dearest). She attended Focus on the Family's Leadership Institute and earned degrees in Family and Biblical Studies from Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Breaker Anointing by Barbara J. Yoder ~ book review

The Breaker Anointing: How God Breaks Open The Way To Victory by Barbara J. Yoder is a mostly theological and anecdotal book, in which Barbara explains the power of God the Breaker, and ways in which His power has manifested - both in Biblical times and in her own experiences.

The back cover includes the sentence, "In these pages are the biblical wisdom and practical application to help you learn how to partner with God for your own breakthrough", which is the main reason why I selected this book. Practical application. I presumed that this would include a lot more of a personal study and application section than it actually does. Yes, it has questions in the back of the book entitled "For Group Study". Although, I had a hard time relating to them as I was reading the book because they are not separated by chapter or another relevant context; you have to just keep reading the questions until you hit something that does not resemble what you've already read.

Also, as far as personal application goes, there really isn't much. If you're the type that can read other people's experiences and relate their story to your own sufficiently, then you could probably get a lot more out of this book than I did. However, for those of us that need questions to reflect on and have a hard time figuring our how a case of the chiggers relates to us receiving messages from God, this book comes up lacking.

On a more personal level, I had a hard time with the author's persistent mentioning of prophetic experiences and relations. This is one of those areas where I have heard so many different interpretations and specific meanings, that I had difficulty determining exactly what she meant by her usage.

Overall, I would recommend this book to Christians who believe in speaking in tongues and prophetic experiences, and are looking for stories to encourage them in their faith to keep pushing forward until God the Breaker makes Himself known in their lives. 3/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About the author (copied from back cover):
Barbara J. Yoder is founder and overseer of Shekinah Regional Apostolic Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the bestselling author of five books. She travels extensively as a national and international speaker and is considered one of the most influential women leaders in the Church today.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Praying With Eyes Wide Open by Sherry Harney ~ book review

In Praying With Eyes Wide Open: A Life-Changing Way to Talk with God, Sherry Harney defies Christian legalism and dares us to take our prayer experience to a new level by praying with our eyes open - both literally and figuratively. In the introduction, she tells us that when we pray with our eyes wide open physically, "we become more aware of creation, people, beauty, and the needs around us." She also reminds us that "As we pray this way, our opportunities for prayer multiply." Figuratively, Sherry states that praying with eyes wide open "encompasses praying with greater awareness of God's presence, power, and work in the world."

This book is a combination of a road map for a deeper, more meaningful prayer life, personal anecdotes that demonstrate the strength of praying with greater passion and clarity, and exercises to help you on your personal prayer journey.

Divided into four sections (eyes wide open, ears wide open, hearts wide open, lives wide open), Praying With Eyes Wide Open reveals the power in continual prayer, how to have deeper conversations with God, the truth about our relationship with God, how we are to address Him, what types of prayers God expects from us, and how big or little our prayers have to be in order to be heard.

I found Sherry's gentle approach to be welcoming even for those of us who have been scolded or felt inadequate in our attempts at having a consistent prayer life. I would recommend this book to anyone who yearns for a deeper connection with God or for those who struggle with the legalistic norm for traditional prayer. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Baker Books for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Authors (copied from back cover):
Sherry Harney is the leadership development director at Shoreline Community Church in Monterey, California, and the cofounder of Organic Outreach International. Sherry speaks regularly about prayer, spiritual formation, leadership, and organic outreach for local, national, and international groups and events.
Kevin G. Harney is lead pastor of Shoreline Community Church and the author of several books, including Reckless Faith, Empowered by His Presence, and the Organic Outreach series, as well as more than eighty small group guides, curriculum, and numerous articles written in partnership with Sherry.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Joyful Inspirations Coloring Book by Robin Mead ~ book review

Robin Mead's Joyful Inspirations Coloring Book is sure to have something for everyone, with over 85 pictures to color. These range from puppies and flowers to buildings, geometric designs, and people. While the pages are all double-sided, I was very impressed that they are thick enough for me to color the pictures using my Crayola adult fine tip markers (non-washable) with zero bleed-through or shadowing at all.

While the pictures themselves cover a wide range of subjects, the format of the pictures also vary. Some are simply an illustration, others contain Scripture or inspirational quotes, and still others serve as a frame along the outer edges of the page with Scripture or inspirational quotes being held within their boundaries.

Overall, I do like this book. Not all of the pictures appeal to me, because they cover such a wide spectrum of art. But this is also part of makes this book suitable for anyone, and it would be a nice project to share with others to fill in the pictures that don't quite fit your personality. That being said, my one complaint about this book is that the pages are not perforated, and some of the pictures continue all the way into the binding making removal (and even coloring) very difficult. This is something to be aware of, depending on your preferred method of coloring pages. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Artist (copied from back cover):
Robin Mead is an artist who combines her background in social work, studies in fine art, and love of expression to create joyful depictions of life. Using insight and intuition, she translates positive emotions onto paper, canvas, and the digital screen. A native of New York, Robin and her husband of twenty-seven years now reside near Athens, Georgia.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     Christian Book

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Layman Looks At The Lord's Prayer by W. Phillip Keller ~ book review

A Layman Looks At The Lord's Prayer by W. Phillip Keller is a line-by-line study of the Lord's Prayer. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting when I requested this book for review. A Bible study on the implications within the Lord's Prayer, perhaps. Or maybe a deeper understanding of how it relates to Christ and the rest of the Bible story as a whole; insight into how this piece of Scripture fits into the big picture.

Yes, both of those descriptions fit this book. However it is also so much more. Phillip has taken the Lord's Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13 and turned it into a roadmap for the ideal Christian lifestyle. He combines personal experiences, Biblical examples, and brief historical references to bring us a thorough in-depth study and review of what exactly it means to be a Christian and to pray to God in the manner in which Jesus Christ showed us.

Phillip reminds us that most people rush through the Lord's Prayer as though it is simply one more checkbox they need to check off before continuing their day. And yet, he gently rebukes us into admitting that we know it is supposed to be so much more. As with everything else in the Bible, there is a very distinct purpose and meaning behind every word. Once we embrace this purpose, it opens the pathway for our daily prayer to be so much more than just a quick plea for God's graces.

The Lord's Prayer becomes an opportunity to embrace God as our loving father, learn to honor and respect Him, follow His will so that we may lead others to His kingdom, admit out sins and faults, and so much more. This becomes the very backbone of what it means to seek God and follow Him.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a deeper understanding of the significance behind this piece of Scripture, as well as to anyone seeking a closer relationship with God on a daily basis. I did find that portions of this book may be a bit difficult for the "layman" as the title implies is the targeted audience. However, Phillip provides enough repetition during each chapter in the form of various stories, examples, and re-wordings that even if parts of the book are hard for the reader to understand, as long as they keep reading, he will quickly light a simpler path to keep them going in the right direction. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
W. Phillip Keller (1920-1997) was born in East Africa and always loved wildlife and the outdoors. Having spent many years in agriculture research, land management, and ranch development in British Columbia, he later pursued careers in conservation, wildlife photography, and journalism. His experiences as a shepherd equipped him with the insights that are the basis for A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. His other titles include Splendor from the Sea, Lessons from a Sheepdog, and A Gardener Looks at the Fruits of the Spirit.

Monday, June 19, 2017

You Can Do This by Tricia Lott Williford ~ book review

You Can Do This: Seizing The Confidence God Offers by Tricia Lott Williford is a compilation of insights focusing on various character traits and qualities of a confident girl. This is not a traditional "self-help" book. In the introduction, Tricia tells us "I didn't write this book to help you. I have definitely written it to you and certainly for you to read, but I did not write it to help you." Instead, Tricia proposes that we view this book as a conversation between friends, having been invited into her kitchen for a chat over scones and a cup of coffee.

Within these pages, Tricia shares with us those things which make a woman confident while relying on God to guide her through life's many challenges, trials, and pitfalls. She uses her witty sense of humor and candid honesty to share her personal stories of times when her confidence blossomed, and times when it dwindled. She also reminds us of Biblical characters and Scripture verses which show that the battle with confidence is a timeless one. She finishes each chapter with insights, questions, and opportunities for you to share your side of this little chat.

So what exactly are these traits of a confident woman and how do we uncover and perfect them within our own lives? Tricia starts the first chapter by informing us that "The confident girl knows her story", which takes us to the root of our battles with confidence. After reading her story, it becomes your job to share your story about when your confidence was stolen from you so that the wounds can be exposed to sunlight and the pain can be faced. She wastes no time in dealing with the heart of the problem, because only then can the healing begin.

Once you've shared your story (even if it remains locked tight within the pages of a journal of scribbled in the margins of this book), you'll move on to other important steps to regaining (and maintaining) your confidence, such as: the confident girl appreciates her beauty, the confident girl enjoys her own company, the confident girl sets boundaries, and the confident girl chooses vulnerability...

I'd recommend this book for any woman who could use reminders and suggestions to come out of hiding and boost her confidence in herself, her place in this world, and her purpose in God's magnificent plan. Due to some mildly explicit sexual material, I would not suggest this book for girls on their way to becoming women, but rather to women who already in the throes of adulthood. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Tricia Lott Williford is a remarried widow, an author of three books, a writer, a teacher, a reader, and a thinker. Thousands of people daily enjoy Tricia's funny, poignant stories as she captures the fleeting moments of life on her blog at tricialottwilliford.com. She lives near Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two sons, and right at this moment, she is probably doodling in the margins of an overdue library book.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Most Misused Stories In The Bible by Eric J Bargerhuff ~ book reviews

The Most Misused Stories In The Bible: Surprising Ways Popular Bible Stories Are Misunderstood by Eric J. Bargerhuff is an informative glance at 14 popular Bible stories and ways they are frequently misunderstood or misrepresented to serve a purpose other then their intended meaning. While a lot of what Eric states as the true moral of the story could be considered mere speculation, he does do a pretty thorough job of walking the reader through his deductive chain of reasoning to reach his conclusions, using a combination of related Bible references, commentary notes, original Greek wording.

Some of the misused stories and their errant interpretations are ones I was familiar with, such as David and Goliath telling us to face our fears (when, as Eric shows us, it is very obvious that David was not afraid at all). However, about half of the stories in this volume are ones that include interpretations I'd never heard. Once Eric explained the popular usage for these alternative meanings, I could see how some people (and ministries) would use these stories for their benefit instead of God's.

A few of the stories covered are Gideon and his fleece, Cain and Abel, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus the tax collector, the three wise men, and the rich fool.

While Eric lays out these stories in order to share his deductions with us, this book is more than just a set of essays comparing different views of the same stories. Eric has chosen to use it as his personal platform for reminding us how sacred the Bible is, how careful we must be in our interpretation, representation, and retelling of it, and common mistakes that people and churches make when referring to portions of the Bible.

I think The Most Misused Stories in the Bible would be a good book for anyone looking for a deeper understanding and appreciation of classic Bible stories. It would also be a good fit for anyone lost in the depths of trying to sort out one interpretation versus another, while trying to discern which truth to believe. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back of book):
Eric J. Bargerhuff, PhD, teaches in the Bible and Theology department and directs the Honors Program at Trinity College of Florida. Author of the acclaimed book The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, he served in pastoral ministry for more than twenty years. Eric received his doctorate in biblical and systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Wings Of The Wind by Connilyn Cossette ~ book review

Wings Of The Wind is the third book in the Out From Egypt trilogy by Connilyn Cossette. For those of you who have read the previous books, you'll meet a few familiar characters and be happily greeted by Connilyn's rich and vivid story-telling. For those of you who have not read the previous book in this series, you can easily jump in and read this as a stand-alone novel. Although, be warned that you may find yourself hunting down the first two books after you read this one - just so you can read more of Connilyn's intriguing sketches of the Hebrews' journey out of Egypt and into the promised land.

Wings Of The Wind starts in 1407 BC with a bloody battle between the Canaanites and the Hebrews. Having lost her only family to the Hebrews in a previous battle, Alanah dresses as a male to join the Canaanite soldiers. Her quest is one of revenge set to end in certain death. However, she finds herself having to make new plans when she is injured and rescued from the blood-stained battlefield by a Hebrew soldier, Tobiah.

Tobiah's only interest in saving Alanah is to spare a woman from the ravages of this war. But he soon realizes that in order to save her, he must sacrifice a deep part of himself by marrying this foreign woman whom he knows nothing about.

Wings Of The Wind is an epic journey of self-sacrifice and self-discovery. Connilyn reminds us just how far we should be willing to go for those we love, and how drastically our lives change once we realize our true identity as children of God and accept that His plans for us are far greater than we will ever know.

I strongly recommend this novel to anyone seeking a fresh reminder of how God's plan is constantly working in the background of our own lives, and why we must be prepared to listen to His voice - no matter how strange His instructions may seem at the moment. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn Cossette is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure, out-of-print history books. There is nothing she likes better than digging into the rich, ancient world of the Bible and uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives near Dallas, Texas. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Overcoming Adversity by Carl Garrigus ~ book review

Overcoming Adversity: Life Lessons From The Book Of James by Carl Garrigus is a study of the book of James designed to help you incorporate its lessons into your life in order to gain a closer relationship with God.

Carl breaks the book of James into 7 sections, with each section relating to a specific portion of the Christian life - life's circumstances, God's help, life's trials, faith vs works, godly heart, humility, and prayer. Each chapter has personal stories, Biblical examples, and questions for exploration. Overall, I like the format, and Carl does a good job at explaining his view and inviting you to use these insights to get closer to God.

Now for the not-so-great part... At first, I was surprised by the short length of this book (just over 50 pages), but I was still hopeful that Carl would pack enough into the pages that the length wouldn't be an issue. I can easily say that this book is not a quick read, despite its length. However, that comes at a cost. Most of the book is complex and from a theological view, rather than having a gentle "chatting over a cup of coffee" feel that I typically relate better with. For longtime Christians and frequent Bible readers, this probably wouldn't be an issue, But It's not something I'd recommend to anyone still searching for their newcomer footing in the Christian faith.

Also, Carl has a tendency to jump around and go from one idea to the next without a definite break in the writing. There are several 1 - 1 1/2 page long paragraphs where I could easily find enough separate topics to have made 4-5 paragraphs instead of one. Again, this probably is not an issue for most people. But for someone who likes easy break spot while dealing with the kids, and finds it confusing when topics jump suddenly, it might be a problem. I found myself having to go back and re-read frequently just to keep track of what he was talking about.

All in all, it's a good read for someone looking for a bit more guidance and insight from the book of James, as long as the above issues won't bug you. 3/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy from the publisher via BookCrash for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Dr. Carl Garrigus is a Professor of History at Brewton-Parker College. He holds a PhD in History from Georgia State University and a doctorate in Theology from Andersonville Theological Seminary. He has written Finding My Knees Again, The Reading Habits of Maryland's Planter Gentry, and Profit and the Press.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Whispers Of Rest by Bonnie Gray~ book review

Whispers of Rest: 40 Days of God's Love to Revitalize Your Soul by Bonnie Gray is more than just another collection of devotionals to lift your spirit. Here, Bonnie has compiled full quiet time lessons and exercises to help you reconnect with the little girl inside that found it so easy to be carefree and confide in God, before life's hectic schedules and responsibilities started inching their way into your world and squandering what little freedom you had left.

Each day's entire lesson revolves around a different focus word / phrase, and follows the same easy-to-use format:
   1) focus word / phrase - yes, choose joy, gather, remember, play, light, etc
   2) inspirational scripture / quote
   3) personal story / lesson
   4) re-telling and explaining of a Bible story
   5) God's whispers to you - thoughts to reflect on
   6) daily prayer
   7) things to give yourself permission to do - prioritize your well-being, take a break, open up, etc.
   8) reflection questions
   9) one word prayer
   10) soul care challenge & trail notes - music therapy, taking a bath, looking at trees, girls' night out, etc.

Whispers of Rest is written in such a way that each day's lesson could easily take 45 minutes or so to complete, or you could break it down and turn each day into a 2-3 day adventure, if you don't have time. But honestly, the point of the book is to make time. It's to help you relearn how to slow down, breathe, and take life in one glorious moment at a time, while praising God for all that He has provided for you.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to any Christian woman who feels as though she's wandered some or gotten caught up in the daily grind enough that she's not feeling God's whispers of love as strongly as she once did. However, for those who have deep-rooted pain and a feeling that their relationship with God is more than just a little weak or off course, this book may leave them wanting. 3/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary print copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Bonnie Gray is the author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace, An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer, and meditation. Bonnie's writing is featured in Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit her at TheBonnieGray.com.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     Christian Book

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Overcome by Clayton King ~ book review

In Overcome: Replacing the Lies That Hold Us Down with the Truths That Set Us Free, Clayton King introduces us to his personal efforts to overcome some of the most powerful lies that can hold us down and keep us from realizing the Truth of God's presence in our lives.

Here, Clayton has selected ten common and powerful lies that we allow ourselves to believe everyday - God is mad at me, I am unloved and alone, things will never get better, good people don't suffer, and more - and breaks each one down to show us how the lie works by infiltrating, insinuating, intimidating, and re-creating your reality.

Once we see how the lie works, through powerful real-life examples, Clayton shows us the Truth that each lie hides, and reveals how to uncover and reinforce that Truth in order to break the cycle of lies that we're stuck in.

I really appreciate Clayton's candid personal approach - he has no problem admitting his own weaknesses as encouraging for our journey. I also found the "Next Steps" reflection/journaling section at the end of each chapter to be helpful.

I'd recommend this book to any Christ follower who is having a hard time letting go of the lies that stand between them and their personal relationship with God. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Baker Books for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Clayton King is founder and president of Clayton King Ministries as well as Crossroads Missions and Summer Camps. He is professor of evangelism at Anderson University and pastor at NewSpring Church, one of the largest churches in America. The author of over a dozen books, including Stronger, King regularly speaks to tens of thousands of people all over the globe. He and his wife, Sharie, have two sons and live in South Carolina.







Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson ~ book review

The Imperfect Disciple: Grace For People Who Can't Get Their Act Together by Jared C. Wilson is not your standard book on discipleship. It is not a book for those people who attend church weekly (or several times a week), and feel as though they somehow almost always manage to act like "good" Christians, consistently saying and doing the right things. No, it's not for those people. Instead, this is a book on discipleship for everyone else. Those of us who - for one reason or another - would be "doing well" to make it to church once a month, if that. Those of us who "know" we should do better but somehow always manage to fall short. The Christians who find their "How To Be A Good Christian" checklist constantly having more empty boxes than it does checkmarks. This book is for people like me.

While parts of this book spoke to me more than other parts, I feel that most people would find something useful within its pages. Jared explains why it's good to be a loser at the bottom of the Christian ladder, how you can learn to listen to and confide in God more, and how to focus on God's glory and grace instead of your own behaviors and actions. He reminds us that even at our worst - when we feel as though we're lower than low - God is there to listen to us, hold our hand, and help us rise up to meet Him.

Overall, I'm giving this book 4/5 stars. It's a good theme, with a solid foundation and a witty writing style. But I often found myself re-reading in an effort to determine how the section I was on fit in to the lesson of the chapter or the book as a whole.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Baker Books for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own."

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and managing editor of For the Church. He is the author of numerous books, including Unparalleled, The Story of Everything, The Prodigal Church, and Gospel Wakefulness. His blog, The Gospel-Driven Church, is hosted by the Gospel Coalition, and he speaks at numerous churches and conferences throughout the year.
Purchase Links:
   Amazon
   Christian Book

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bible Promises For Parents Of Children With Special Needs by Amy E Mason ~ book review

Bible Promises for Parents of Children with Special Needs by Amy E. Mason has a lot in common with other Scripture books. You look up a topic and find Bible verses to help you deal with whatever it is that you're dealing with. However, Amy has taken a very traditional concept and given it a couple extra twists.

First, it's geared for parents with special needs kids, meaning that the issues are ones that we commonly face (even if we seldom talk about them). Second, while similar books would have a heading for "goals", Amy branches this topic into three separate issues: 1) When you need perspective on your ultimate goals, 2) When you wonder if your child will meet the goals you're working toward, and 3) When you wonder what kind of goals to set... Each of these issues has a couple of Bible verses to bring you wisdom and comfort, and there's also a summary paragraph at the end of the topic that kind of wraps up all of the issues and helps guide you in the right direction.

Other issues that reveal Amy's careful planning in creating this book are things like "When you wonder if your child will have a relationship with God" (Knowing God), "When your family members keep their distance" (Rejection), and "When you wonder if your child's special needs are somehow your fault" (Diagnosis).

While this book is very handy to look up a specific issue during a moment of weakness or self-doubt, I also found it refreshing to flip through and randomly read questions, revealing issues I hadn't even realized were things that weighed heavy on my heart. I also really appreciate that this book is small enough to fit into a purse and take with me so that I can refer to it throughout my day. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Amy E. Mason is a wife and a mother to two boys, one with special needs. She is the author of 365 Pocket Prayers for Women, The NLT Bible Promise Book, and Bible Promises to Live By. Her books have sold more than one million copies. Amy is passionate about helping families who have children with special needs to find hope and encouragement in God's Word. Visit Amy at amymason.com.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Invitation by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky ~ book review

Invitation (Harbingers: Cycle One) is a compilation of four novellas by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky. In this first book of the Harbingers series, we meet our unlikely cast of characters: Brenda (a tattoo artist who has visions of the future), The Professor (a priest-turned-atheist who relies on logic instead of God), Andi (the professor's assistant who sees patterns in everything), and Cowboy/Tank (a football player with religious belief in the healing power of prayer).

Invitation takes on a writing style that sets it apart from most compilations I've come across; each author writes a short story from a specific character's viewpoint - but the tales are all linked together and go in a set order to give the reader a better image of the entire story (the big picture, if you will).

Bill Myers writes as Brenda and tells of the group first coming together, along with the tale of an Institution of psychic study being controlled by evil forces and dark energies.

Frank Peretti takes on the persona of The Professor, recounting the group's involvement with a house that haunts those who give in to their inner demons.

Angela Hunt takes us into the mathematical genius of Andi, while seeking answers to strange natural phenomena and unexplained animal deaths.

Alton Gansky portrays Tank, who stumbles across a little girl in need of help only to find that he needs her more than she needs him.

All four authors do a wonderful job at pulling us into their character's world, while keeping us connected to the story at large. Each character's personality remains the same, regardless as to who is telling the story at the moment. And the bigger picture is always at play.

This book is very well thought out, with excellent collaboration. I look forward to reading the Cycle Two of the Harbingers series at some point in the future. I would recommend this to any teen-adult readers who enjoys sci-fi/paranormal fiction with a twist of God's blessings thrown in. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     Christian Book

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Messy Beautiful Friendship by Christine Hoover ~ book review

Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding And Nurturing Deep And Lasting Relationships by Christine Hoover is written for Christian women who find themselves wondering when friendship became so difficult.

In elementary school, friends were easy to come by. Kids in our class or that we ran into on the playground, the neighbors or children of our parent's friends. Our friends were other kids that we spent time with, had very little in common with, and found things to do together anyway.

As we got older, our choice in friends became more personal and less situational. Enter adulthood, and things like political views and marital status suddenly play a factor in deciding who our friends are. And yet, we feel like we're missing out on so much.

Christine walks us through personal stories (many from her own life) to demonstrate what our new idea of friendship should look like, things that are hazardous to friendships, how to discover friendships or deepen the ones you already have (and often times don't value enough), how to be a friend, and how to be open to receiving the gift of friendship in your life.

Throughout the book, Christine frequently reminds us that our greatest friend (and highest priority) is our relationship with Jesus. All of our earthly friends are to be considered a gift from God, not a replacement for Him. He is the first one we should take our troubles to or share our joys with. After that, we thank Him for our friends here on earth that will also share in our sorrows and our celebrations. Christine emphasizes that while some friendships last much longer than others, the only one that we can count on eternally is the one with our Heavenly Father. He is our greatest friend and our greatest treasure.

There are discussion questions, key concepts, and Scripture verses referencing friendships included in the back of the book, to make this an engaging personal study and journey to discover what friendship means to you, and what you can do to better cherish the friendships that God has already blessed you with. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Baker Books for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Christine Hoover is a pastor's wife, mom, speaker, and the author of From Good to Grace and The Church Planting Wife. She has written for The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, and Christianity Today. Blogging at www.GraceCoversMe.com, she enjoys helping women apply the gift of God's grace to their daily lives. She lives in Virginia.
Purchase Links:
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Momentum by Colin S. Smith ~ book review

In Momentum: Pursuing God's Blessings Through The Beatitudes, Colin S. Smith lays out the road map for us to trek our way through the beatitudes found in Matthew 5. He starts by using the analogy of rings hanging from the ceiling, with the idea that you have to use a swinging momentum to get from one ring to the next. The rings represent God's blessings for our life, as found in the beatitudes. The rings illustrate the way in which we must work our way through the beatitudes and their blessings.

Colin then explains the beatitudes in he context of roots, shoot, and fruit.

The first three beatitudes are the roots of a blessed and godly life. They tell us to be poor in spirit, mourn, and be meek. But what do these really mean? Colin breaks each one down, explains what it really means, and gives us working examples of how we can foster these specific traits in our own lives. But you have to approach them in order, allowing the momentum from being poor in spirit to let you mourn, so you can become meek. You have to trust God's order as being important and let His guide lead you.

The fourth beatitude is the shoot; a hunger and thirst for righteousness. This is pretty much a stepping stone to get from the roots to the fruit, something to keep pushing you forward in your quest.

Next Colin explains the fruits of this blessed life, mercy / forgiveness, purity, and peace. He explains what they are, the context in which we should aspire to achieve them, and practices to help us engage each of these fruits in our life in due time.

Lastly, Colin reveals the purpose behind the final beatitude - persecution. Why did God include something most of us would not be eager to pursue? What does it really mean in today's world? Is it worth the cost?

Colin has done a thorough job at laying out a road map for those of us aspiring to follow God's teachings and receive His blessings. This book uses plain language and explains things in simple ways that should be easy for almost anyone to follow, understand, learn from, and put into practice. 4/5 stars.

*I received a free print copy of this book from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Colin S. Smith (BA, Theology; MPhil, London Bible College) serves as senior pastor of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church. He is the author of several books, including 10 Keys for Unlocking the Christian Life, 10 Keys for Unlocking the Bible, and The 10 Greatest Struggles of Your Life. He can be heard daily on the Unlocking the Bible radio broadcast at unlockingthebible.org.
Purchase Links:
     Moody Publishers
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

One by Deidra Riggs ~ book review

At first glance, One: Unity In A Divided World by Deidra Riggs seems to be a book about racial separation, particularly within the church and Christian community. While this may, in fact, be the core message at the roots of this book, Deidra expands on the notion of unity beyond just those racial lines and into areas that tend to blur the vision of most Christian churches today.

She explains that not only are we called to love fellow Christians, but also those whom we view as different from us, those who go against the grain of our personal identity.
"I have to be just as willing to lay down my life for the terrorist, the sex offender, the drug trafficker, and the rogue politician as I am for the terrorized, the trafficked, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised." (page 163)
With this profound concept, comes the realization that the purpose of our time here on earth is to bring unity and love to others so they may experience a relationship with God through us. We can't do that if we're not sharing God's love with every person whose life we touch. Every person.
"We have one true enemy, and it is not one another. If we get distracted from that, we do the enemy's work for him. If we look at other human beings, no matter how much we may disagree with them, and label them as "evil" or the "enemy," then we have missed the point. We have fallen into a trap." (page 188)
Deidra invites us to cross the lines that keep us from loving one another. It doesn't mean to forget those things we don't agree with, but it means to see each person as the person God sees them as - a child of God - His son or daughter - our brothers and sisters. They may be lost. They may have wandered from His path. But it becomes our job to light their path so they can find their way home.

I love that Deidra writes from her heart and personal experiences. She shows us her faults and asks us to love her anyway. One is a great book for anyone looking to expand their understanding of God's desires for us in relation to one another. It's written in an easy-to-read format, even for those new to this path. Includes a study guide in the back with questions for each chapter. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Baker Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Deidra Riggs is a national speaker, author, and blogger. As founder of Jumping-Tandem, Deidra leads an online community offering inspiration, encouragement, and a safe place to practice grace. She is a regular contributor to Dayspring's (in)courage online community. She has been a speaker for TEDx and IF:Gathering and has organized her own women's retreat. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband, Harry, and their dog, Santana. Connect with Deidra at DeidraRiggs.com.
Purchase Links:
     BakerBooks
     Amazon
     ChristianBook

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Talking With God by Adam Weber ~ book review

Talking With God: What To Say When You Don't Know How To Pray by Adam Weber is a book on prayer for "the rest of us" - those of us who struggle with what to say when it's just us and God; when we're not reading out of some pre-written prayer book or copying the person standing across from us.

Adam starts with the notion that talking to God is different from talking with God, and that most of us have learned a scripted way to talk to God but find ourselves lacking when it comes to having a heartfelt conversation with God. He uses a combination of personal and Scriptural examples to guide us on a journey to learn a few key points about the God we talk with; things most of us probably haven't given much thought. Then Adam discusses the way we pray - and the way we should pray. His keywords here are Short, Simple, and Honest. God says we should come to him like children, so Adam uses plenty of examples from the lives of his four children.

Adam then gives us moving stories of personal struggles and real-life examples of how to pray when life hits its many bumps, including storms, discouragement, being stuck, exhaustion, need of an anchor, seeking God, and extending grace. The Field Notes (footnotes) at the back of the book add Adam's personal wit and humor to this read, reminding you to lighten up and enjoy life while seeking God.

So how exactly does Adam propose that we talk with God? By keeping it short, simple, and honest. And by realizing that you've already been talking with God your entire life - even if you weren't yet a Christian. When the Bible says to pray "unceasingly", it means exactly that. Everything we say and do becomes an opportunity to converse with God. Talking With God will help show you how. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging For Books, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (back cover copy):
Adam Weber is the founder and lead pastor of Embrace, a church that has six campuses in two states. He likes typewriters, drives a Rambler, cheers for the Cincinnati Bengals, and has four chickens and a dog named Daisy. Adam, his beautiful wife, Becky, and their kids live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Fun fact: He once made worldwide news when a turkey vulture fell out of the sky and onto his back porch during an ice storm. Google it.
Helpful Links:
     Embrace Church
     Adam Weber's website
     Purchase From Amazon.com
     Purchase From ChristianBook.com

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gifts From Heaven compiled by James Stuart Bell (book review)

Gifts From Heaven: True Stories Of Miraculous Answers To Prayer compiled by James Stuart Bell is a collection of 40 real-life examples of God's answers to our everyday prayers. Reminiscent of articles found in Reader's Digest a couple decades ago (and maybe more recently, I haven't read one in years), these brief glimpses will leave you feeling refreshed and hopeful in times of grief or if you're stuck in a period of wandering.

Whether it's the miraculous healing of cancer, an angel watching over a baby in NICU, or walking away from car wrecks that should have been catastrophic, everyone will find something here that is close to home and touches their heart.

The story that touched me the most while reading through this book is one that took place in Germany in 1946, when a 13-year-old girl came down typhus. She became very ill, entered into a coma, and only survived by God's grace and the power of prayer. But the story doesn't stop there. Not only did God heal her from the immediate danger of typhus draining her life, but He also healed her womb from the long-term effects of the typhus so that she was able to overcome the doctors' verdict and become a mother in due time... Having bore two children myself, despite being told I could not have children, I found this particular story to be a reminder of my own story. This helped remind me to take the time to appreciate God's graces in my own life.

Borrowed from life's lessons all over the world and spanning decades, Gifts From Heaven could easily be read straight through, or taken in as a 40-day devotional to help you reconnect and feel closer to God and all of his miraculous possibilities for your life. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Editor (copied from back cover):
James Stuart Bell is a Christian publishing veteran and the owner of Whitestone Communications, a literary development agency. He is the editor of many story collections, including Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters; Heaven Touching Earth; and Encountering Jesus, as well as the coauthor of numerous books in the COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE series. He has cover credit on more than one hundred books. He and his wife live in a western suburb of Chicago.
Helpful Links:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Paul The Apostle: A Graphic Novel by Ben Avery and Mark Harmon ~ book review

Paul The Apostle: A Graphic Novel is the first installment in a futuristic "sci-fi cartoon creature Bible idea" by Ben Avery and Mark Harmon. This graphic novel is very well illustrated with beautifully bright pictures and an easy-to-follow layout. The language and graphics used throughout are intended to appeal to an older child, I'd say 10-12+ unless they've got an expanded vocabulary or you're reading through it with them.

The storyline itself is thorough enough for adults to find it a worthwhile read, if you're the graphic novel reading type (my paw goes up). It's primarily excerpts from the book of Acts, with snippets and references from 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, John, Mark, Job, and Philippians. Almost every page has Bible reference verses listed at the bottom, so you can easily open your Bible for further study or to see the bigger picture behind each specific scene.

I got this book as a gift for my 10-year-old step-son who finds Bible time at our house to be "boring" and entirely unappealing. He would much rather read the adult-themed graphic novels he gets at his mom's house. This book seems to be a fair compromise for him, and is the third Christian-based graphic novel I've managed to get him to read (and put on his "keep" shelf to re-read) while at our house.

I did find one typo, and one place where they randomly refer to Saul as Paul in the middle of a conversation, before he says he's using a new name. For a project of this magnitude, that's not something I'm going to complain about, just mentioning it in case anyone else would find it off-setting. I'm giving this book 5/5 stars and eagerly await a chance to read the next installment, Peter The Apostle (not yet published).

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from the publisher through BookCrash, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Authors (copied from inside book):
BEN AVERY is a children's pastor by day and a comic book writer by night. His comic writing career started when he adapted George R. R. Martin's The Hedge Knight novellas into comics. Since then, he has written over thirty graphic novels for publishers like Zondervan, Image, Marvel, Random House, Kingstone Comics, Lamp Post, and numerous smaller press publishers. He has also adapted numerous books of the Bible into graphic novels, including The Christ, a project putting all four Gospels into a single narrative. He lives in Indiana with his wife and five kids.
MARK HARMON is a professional illustrator for kid's books, comics, comics for kids, and anything in between. He currently lives in the small town of Mountain View, Wyoming with his wife and three kids. His professional career started at the age of ten when he won a coloring contest. Ever since then people have been breaking down his door to get him to work for them. Okay, so that might be a bit of a stretch. You get the idea though, right? His clients include Scholastic, Lamp Post, Benchmark Education, Warner Press, and many more. 
Helpful Links:

Beartruth Collective (they're currently offering a free download of the first 50 pages of the book here, and are working on a Study Guide for Paul The Apostle)

Purchase from Beartruth Collective (both e-book and print formats available)

NOTE: These pictures are to give you an idea of the format and overall graphics in Paul The Apostle: A Graphic Novel. The brightness of the colors has been dulled by my camera, and the actual book is much more brilliant with a beautiful contrast between hues.



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell ~ book review

Still Waiting: Hope For When God Doesn't Give You What You Want is about learning to wait with grace (if not patience). Ann Swindell combines her personal journey of praying for healing from an incurable condition with that of the Bleeding Woman found in the New Testament. While Ann's condition is bound to be different from whatever pains and weaknesses you are enduring, her candid openness about such personal issues should compel us all to look upon ourselves, each other, and our relationship with God with more honesty, grace, and compassion.

The underlying presumption Ann makes is that we're all waiting on God to answer a prayer of some kind. And that waiting takes its toll on us. No one likes waiting. And most of us tend to get this idea that our timetable and God's timetable somehow line up; they don't. Sure, some prayers are answered immediately, and others take a few months or years. But what about those prayers that don't get answered for decades, or until we see Christ face-to-face? Yet, most of the time, those prayers seem to be about the matters that are the most pressing to us. So what do we do? We wait.

Ann reveals and discusses the various experiences that go along with that kind of waiting - brokenness, weakness, high cost, lack of identity, offensiveness, shame, suffering, and risk - while weaving her own expanded version of the Bleeding Woman's story into the narrative so that we can get a better understanding of the sheer desperation that overcame this woman as she reached for Jesus and his healing.

While there are no definitive solutions waiting for us in this book about waiting, there are discussion questions at the back to help you apply some of the lessons in your own journey. Personally, I've spent the last few years praying for healing from an abusive past. I started out feeling broken, then weak for not being able to just "move on" on my own. I've felt extreme levels of shame, and lost my own identity more than once. I've spent hours upon hours crying, praying, and screaming to God begging for His help to overcome my obstacles. And in the end, I'm still waiting. Just like the Bleeding Woman was. Just like Ann still is. Just like you probably have at some point. It's a long and painful path, but Ann's testimony and vivid story can help shine a little light on the trail and show you that sometimes waiting is the best thing you can do. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Ann Swindell is an author and a speaker who has written for CT Women, Relevant, Deeply Rooted, Darling, the Gospel Coalition, and (in)courage. She holds an MA in writing and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing, and she makes her home in the Midwest with her husband and daughter. Connect with her online at annswindell.com.
Helpful Links:
     Purchase From Tyndale.com
     Purchase From Amazon.com
     Purchase From ChristianBook.com

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson ~ book review

Treasured Grace is the first book in the Heart Of The Frontier trilogy by Tracie Peterson, a historical fiction series set in the late 1840s western frontier of the United States. The trilogy focuses on three sisters (Grace, Hope, and Mercy) who lost their parents and now must rely on God's strength to endure. Grace secures safety and care for herself and her sisters by marrying a Reverend headed west from St. Louis to Oregon by wagon train. However, when the Reverend dies en route, the sisters' future becomes unclear and they seek refuge at the Whitman Mission for the winter.

Tracie has entwined historical events and situations into a beautiful story of God's redemption for those who seek Him. She reminds us that no matter how many hardships we face or how much pain we hold in our past, the key to our future lies in forgiveness and mercy through a personal relationship with God. Each of the characters in Treasured Grace has a story to tell, and a path that only God can reveal.

Treasured Grace does contain graphic scenes of violence pertaining to the Whitman Mission massacre and the abuse of the white women and children following that tragic event. I would not recommend this book for those who are faint of heart.

Overall, I'm giving this book 5/5 stars and look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy (Beloved Hope and Cherished Mercy).

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Tracie Peterson's love for history and research fuels the bestselling stories she writes. She is the author of over one hundred novels and the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award. Tracie and her family live in Montana.
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