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.
Suggested Links: