Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review: Voices of the Faithful, Book 2

If you have a heart for missions, you will be blessed by the stories in this book.

If you’ve become skeptical about the state of our world and are prone to wonder if God is still at work, you will be encouraged by the stories in this book.

If you long to pray more meaningfully, more intentionally, more specifically, you will find the information and inspiration you need in this book.

If you desire to see God at work in this world to learn where He wants you to join in, you may gain vision through this book.

Voices of the Faithful, Book 2 is a daily devotional containing stories told by more than 300 missionaries. The stories will encourage you personally, while helping you know how to pray for those who serve God in foreign cultures. Stories were compiled by Kim P. Davis, a former missionary now working for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Stories are divided into monthly themes with an introduction for each written by Davis, herself.

The idea for the Voices of the Faithful series came from Beth Moore, who wrote the introduction for this book. Moore hopes readers will feel connected to believers all over the globe, be motivated to pray, and be encouraged to pursue their own callings in God’s Kingdom work. I believe God can use this book to help readers do all three things.

If this is something that interests you, I recommend this book. Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending it for my review.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Blind Hope

Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher understand what Wildflower Thinking is! Their book, Blind Hope, is a collection of devotional thoughts brought to mind through the life of an unwanted dog. When we’re seeking truths about God and our life with Him, He can speak through anything!

Kim and her husband own and operate the Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in Oregon. The book opens with the story of how this ranch came to be, a place where horses and children are rescued from some of life’s harsh realities. (I would love to visit this place!) Laurie worked at the ranch as an intern. In the spirit of rescue, she adopted a badly neglected dog. Blind Hope records the lessons she learned about God through her experiences with this dog, how these lessons changed her life, rooting and establishing her faith in her Master, and how she shared these with Kim, her mentor, and now, with readers of the book.

Laurie reveals very little of her past, but that part of the story is not essential—it belongs just to her. Instead of dwelling there, she tells us enough to help us see that God used an abandoned, little dog to lead a prodigal safely home. It’s a touching, God-honoring story, full of wisdom and insight of value to any reader—new Christian to seasoned believer.

I truly enjoyed this book and am happy to recommend it to others. Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah, for sending Blind Hope for my review.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible

If you’re looking for a new Bible and/or Bible study resource for the new year, The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible is worth considering. Long-time Lucado fans will recognize the work as an updated version of The Inspirational Study Bible published in 1995. The format for the Life Lessons is the same, along with some of the opening articles, and several of the devotionals, but this version also includes passages from Lucado’s newer works and many new Bible study features.

The Bible itself is the New King James Version written in contemporary language with an effort to preserve the beauty and poetry of the original KJV. It’s not as hard to understand as the original, but it does require a little more work on the reader’s part than the NIV, NLT, or other more recent translations. It’s a worthwhile trade-off for those who appreciate the language of the KJV, but long for easier understanding.

Placed near the relevant passages are excerpts from Lucado’s books written in devotional and Bible study forms. There are also full page studies, Bible reading plans, indexes, and introductions to each book. I appreciated the new Christ Through the Bible feature—a series of short articles highlighting the thread of God’s plan for our salvation revealed throughout the Bible, uniting what appear to be separate parts as a unified whole.

There are also several features designed to help new believers get started studying their Bibles, absorbing foundational truths. In fact, there are 30 studies for New Believers, a 30-Day Overview to the New Testament, and a “Where to Turn When” index in the back of the book.

But there are plenty of devotional and study aids for long-time believers, too. If you like the NKJV, appreciate Lucado’s insights, and love new Bible study helps, this may be a great resource for you.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this Bible for me to enjoy, study, pray through, and review.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: Parenting Is Your Highest Calling . . .

One of my most favorite parenting books ever is “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields. If you’ve hung around my blog for very long, you know I’m pretty picky about my parenting books, so this is high praise. In this book, Fields gives us “a liberating look at what God most wants you to know.” She acknowledges up front that the Bible doesn’t offer a lot of directly specific parenting advice. Yet she gleans biblical truths about parenting from the stories of God’s people, from their parenting successes and failures, from God’s work in their lives. It’s a true parenting Bible study—no twisting God’s Word around to support strictly human ideas will be found here.

This book provides unique insights for parents of older elementary, tweens, and teens—though parents of younger children can benefit from reading it too. It’s non-judgmental and encouraging, combating society’s beliefs about parenting that leave parents frustrated and wondering where they must be going wrong.

To summarize my favorite ideas, society tends to teach parents that if they carefully follow all the parenting rules, their kids will turn out right—just as sugar cookies turn out just so if you follow the recipe. Parents like this thought because they see in it a guarantee that their kids will grow up to be responsible Christians, contributing members of society, and problem free.

The truth is, however, there is no such guarantee. God gave each of us—even our kids—the freedom to make choices. And our kids will make choices. And sometimes those choices will be wrong. This would be true even if there were such a thing as perfect parents. In fact, God is the only perfect parent, and He gave His kids free will, and every single one of them rebelled.

The good news is that God graciously provided for that, and He lovingly provides for our kids. As parents we do the best that we can do, then we prayerfully leave the rest to God—the One Who loves our kids even more than we do. We all have a spiritual journey to take. This book helps parents understand Who Is really guiding their kids on theirs. Go get it! Go read it today!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Book Review: Flight of Shadows

As I read Flight of Shadows, I had to ask, “What’s the purpose of a book?” Do I read to be entertained, to learn, to provoke thought? Flight of Shadows plunges the reader into darkness and evil from the very first page and leaves that reader there, absorbing horror and hopelessness.

That’s not where I want to be when I read.

And so, I almost gave up on this book, something I very rarely do. Before I did however, I turned to the back of the book, another thing I rarely do. My son thoroughly enjoyed Sigmund Brouwer’s books for kids a few years back; I wanted to give this book for grown-ups a fair review—but I didn’t want to let it leave me among the sad and cynical.

Instead of finding the end of the story, though, I found a letter from the author telling why he wrote such a book. He explains how he drew from history to show a possible future based on current scientific and political events. In the book he is speculating on where society’s current direction can lead us all if people don’t examine their choices more carefully. He’s reminding us to learn from history, so history won’t repeat itself.

That intrigued me. I decided to finish the book.

If you enjoy books that examine society and make you think, if you like science and political fiction, you may want to read this book. Remember, however, that you’ll have to wade through a lot of darkness and evil, horror and disturbing images in order to discover what the author is trying to say. It may not be a journey that you really want to take. Proceed with caution. Reader beware.

Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Review: A Time to Dance

I’d never read a Karen Kingsbury novel before, so I was thankful when Thomas Nelson Publishers sent A Time to Dance for my review.

In this book, Kingsbury makes her case for couples to fight to save and strengthen their marriages. It’s a fictional story, of course, yet it serves as a parable. First, through a series of flashbacks, Kingsbury shows how a series of minor and seemingly innocent choices can slowly, but firmly drive a couple apart. Then she shows how God can act in so many ways to pull them together again. His Spirit spoke God’s Word into their minds. He used people in their lives to gently confront, encourage, pray, and even speak of regrets, making characters think. He caused them to remember happier times and even intervened miraculously. Again, it is a fictional story, yet our God truly does work in all these ways. Our marriages matter to Him.

Kingsbury closes the book with a heartfelt and non-judgmental letter to readers, emphasizing God’s view of marriage, its value, and the need for couples to protect and cherish theirs. The book is a ministry. I’ll look forward to reading its sequel someday. (This story is self-contained; the sequel must tell what happens next in this couple’s life journey.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review: Nightingale

Historical fiction is my favorite kind—especially when the story covers an aspect of history that I don’t know much about. That’s what Nightingale does. The historical part of the story focuses on the unique and sticky struggles faced by Germans living in America during World War II. Imagine the issues that would have come up with German POW’s living in camps in America surrounded by some of their own relatives and friends who’d migrated and were living as free Americans, yet whose loyalties would have been a concern. This element of the story reminded me of the book made movie, “Summer of My German Soldier.”

Yet history is only the background for this story that really is about God’s love, forgiveness, and grace. Characters who have lost themselves in the sins of their past are found again in Christ. They learn that they don’t have to stay prisoners of their mistakes. They can’t live lives that will make them respectable in spite of their wrong choices. But they can turn to God Who will gladly set them free and enable them to live His way.

I enjoyed and recommend this book—an intense and interesting story with a beautiful Christian message and lessons in history. If those are book elements you appreciate, you’ll like reading Nightingale, too.

I gladly thank the Litfuse Publicity Group for sending this book for my review.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review: Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

If you, like me, never quite outgrew the love of a great fairy tale, Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball will sweep you off your feet. This book is absolutely delightful! Donita K. Paul has quite an imagination! I saw it in her characters. (Sandy and Skippy were my favorites.) I saw it in the setting—if only I could actually visit Sage Street and the Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bookstore. (That’s right—it starts in a bookstore. I was sold from the start! And I’d love to buy a dress from the Booterbaw sisters someday. If only I could.) Finally, I saw her imagination at work all through the vaguely familiar, but not entirely predictable plot. I enjoyed reading this book.

As a bonus, skillfully crafted into the story are many subtle words of Christian wisdom and practical ideas for life. This is my favorite kind of story: one I can thoroughly relax and enjoy, yet glean some significant insight from as I do. (The one I considered most profound can be found in the second full paragraph of page 144.)

If you’re in the mood for a sweet Christmas story as this season just begins, watch for this book this year. While you’re doing that, I’ll be watching for more stories from Donita K. Paul. I guess she’s written several, but this was the first to cross my path.

Thank you Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending this book for my review.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book Review: Remember Why You Play

When Tyndale House Publishers offers free books for review, they first show me products they think will interest me. This book didn’t show up on that list. I found it in their complete list of available titles. But I’d already heard the story of the final game of the 2008 season for the Faith Christian Lions. (Watch for the movie to come out soon!) When I read that this book was about the whole season, I was curious to learn about events leading up to that final game—even if I’m not a big football fan!

I wasn’t disappointed. Author David Thomas followed the team for a full year, from a heart-breaking end of the 2007 season loss to the final 2008 game. As he takes us through the year, he reveals the story of an incredible head coach/mentor/teacher/friend. Coach Hogan is the kind of influence every Christian parent prays their teenager will meet. He not only teaches the sport, elements of teamwork, and good sportsmanship, but he also shows kids how their relationship with Christ should impact every area of their life. He holds his players to a high standard while teaching Christian values that stick.

Also woven into the story are the personal testimonies of individual players, their families, and other teams impacted by this one. True, there’s a lot of “football-ese,” but it’s understandable even for those who don’t follow the game closely. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to fans of inspirational biographies and as an idea resource for people who work with teens.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book Review: On This Day in Christian History

I was disappointed in this book. It wasn’t what I expected—it’s not really a daily devotional. As I read, I felt let down.

A devotional starts with a verse or two of Scripture then gives an anecdote or illustration to illuminate biblical truth. Devotionals in this book start with mini-biographies then have a somewhat loosely related Bible verse tacked on at the end. Verses are taken from the Contemporary English Version, one I don’t know much about and wasn’t comfortable with.

In the preface of the book, author Robert Morgan promises a story from an historical Christian’s life for every day that actually happened on the scheduled day of the reading. This is what drew me to read this book. What I found on each page, however, was a mini-biography: a person’s whole life summed up on one page. There was too much information, so the readings were dry and promised anecdotes were mostly lost. One interesting story from someone’s life showing biblical truth in action would have been so much more meaningful than a bombardment of random facts.

One other concern to me was the complete lack of source citations. Morgan makes a confusing statement about sources in the preface, saying that “Secondary sources are not always accurate, and whenever possible, I have tracked down details and verified facts.” But there’s no record of his research anywhere, no way to know what was verified or which details actually came from reliable sources.

I love history and enjoy daily devotionals, so the combination intrigued me. In this book, however, Morgan tried to squeeze in too much and ended up leaving the essential elements out.

I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers for review.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: Heaven is for Real

Heaven is for Real is a thought-provoking book filled with hope. I was totally caught up in the story from one cover to the other. It starts with the not-quite-sequential, but skillful telling of a near tragedy and a little boy’s miraculous recovery just in time.

Normally, that would be the end of the story, but for Colton and his family, it’s where the story begins. A few months after his recovery, Colton casually mentions his visit with Jesus and how the angels sang to him. At first his parents think he had a sweet dream. Then they realize he knows things that he shouldn’t have known—like where they were and what they were doing while he was in surgery. They begin to question him, without leading him, to learn more about their son’s experiences on that day.

Todd Burpo, Colton’s father, tells readers the things that Colton said and why they were surprising to hear from a 4-year-old. He also quotes Scripture throughout, citing passages about heaven that match up with what Colton saw.

The book is a beautiful testimony, a biblical study of Heaven, and a joyful glimpse into what all Christians look forward to seeing someday. I’m sorry for all the Burpo family had to suffer before coming to such a place of blessing and joy, but I’m thankful they chose to share. As they said, through Colton, God gave them a gift. In this book, they let us enjoy it, too.
Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: The Grace of God

The Grace of God is the first Andy Stanley book I’ve had the opportunity to read—and I truly appreciated his points of view. In this book, Stanley gives us a panoramic view of God’s grace from Adam and Eve to David to the early church to today. He first defines this amazing grace—something no human being will ever deserve. (If you deserve it, it’s not grace.) Then he shows it at work throughout the Bible.

My favorite chapters were the two—yes, two!—on the Ten Commandments and the one about Nicodemus. The historical and cultural information he provided about the new Israelite nation and its place in the world at that time led to helpful insights and showed the Commandments in a new and even more meaningful light. Likewise, the information Stanley provided about Nicodemus revealed his role in Christ’s ministry, giving me new appreciation for his story and leaving me once again in awe of the way our God works, using ordinary and even unsuspecting people to further His plans. Stanley definitely has a gift for helping his readers understand the Bible from a historical and cultural view—a view which always results in revealing more of its relevance to students of God’s Word today.

He also has a gift for making it easy to understand. He tells the stories, working lessons in clearly as he goes. His words draw the reader in, and then he makes his point. If you want to see God’s grace at work throughout the Bible to see it even more clearly today, I recommend this book to you.BlogSign

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Review: The Waiting

Amish fiction. Who’d’ve thunk it would become its own genre with a whole store of its own at! I’ve been reading Beverly Lewis’s books for years and recently discovered Cindy Woodsmall's, too. But then I thought, “That’s enough.” There are other kinds of stories to read.

Then the Litfuse Publicity Group offered me The Waiting for free to review. I couldn’t resist—and I’m glad I didn’t. This was a very fun read!

Though it’s the second in a series, The Waiting stands alone. I haven’t read the first, but I never felt I’d missed anything—though I will go back and read The Choice as soon as I find time!

Not only is The Waiting Amish, it's also historical. Setting the story in 1965, author Suzanne Woods Fisher, shows how events of that time—the Vietnam war, racial tensions, and such—impacted even the Amish communities.

The Waiting shows that life can get complicated even for people who strive to live simply. The story line is intriguing and unpredictable—truly hard to set down. The heroine, Jorie King, loves her family, their horses, children, and her community. Though pressured to marry, she refuses to settle for less than true love. Caleb, a young leader in the community, struggles to balance ministry, managing his farm, and caring for his brothers after the death of his parents, while raising his own daughter, too. The adventures and concerns of the children, Ephraim and Maggie, are a bonus delight in this book.

If you like sweet stories, Amish or not, I recommend The Waiting to you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: Really Woolly Bible Stories

Really Woolly Bible Stories is an adorable board book for preschoolers. The artwork is so cute—as it had to be being Really Woolly. (I'm a big fan of that greeting card line!) Each two-page spread shows a Really Woolly lamb, bunny, and duckling doing something story-related together on one side with cartoon-style Bible art on the other. The sixteen stories are actually two- or three-stanza poems which summarize Bible passages in a catchy way. Some close with a line or two of life application. Under the Bible art beside each poem is a reference for finding the story passage in the Bible. The book’s brief introduction proclaims the purpose and truth of the Bible, the child’s relationship with God, and assurance of Jesus, the Good Shepherd’s care. The book closes with a prayer for children, showing the Really Woolly characters tucked into bed for the night with the Good Shepherd nearby.

I’m not sure that children will really know the Bible stories after having this book read to them, but they will enjoy the time with those who read to them and the pleasant look and sound of the book. The children will meet and become familiar with a few of the major Bible characters in preparation for further learning as parents and churches faithfully follow through. They’ll learn that the Bible is a precious Book—God’s Word—and that God, their heavenly Father, loves them. They’ll learn that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, welcomes children to come to Him and watches carefully over their lives.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this cute book for my review!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: Transforming Church in Rural America

Transforming Church in Rural America is part autobiography, part advice, written to encourage and inspire pastors of churches in small towns. In the book, Shannon O’Dell tells of his calling to rural America and how God turned a struggling church into a multi-campus ministry with services also available via satellite and the internet. Using this story and the acrostic, VALUE, O’Dell provides principles for evangelism, discipleship, and mentoring to help pastors grow congregants who can in turn reach others for Christ.

My husband and I pastured a rural church before entering military ministry. Everything O’Dell says about the blessings and challenges of such a church is on target. He brought back a lot of memories for me. From that point of view, the book was fun to read.

But O’Dell’s ideas for reaching people in this setting are impressively innovative. Some of them concerned me a little, but every church, every minister is unique. I recommend this book to pastors of rural churches as a source of inspiration—a catalyst for fresh ideas. Yet I would encourage them to prayerfully consider how they can best integrate these ideas or others triggered through the book into their church’s own situation.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review. It was an interesting and worthwhile read.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Review: The Treasure of God's Word

I was surprised to learn, recently, that the King James Version of the Bible is turning 400 next year. Normally, 400 would sound pretty old. But when we’re talking about the Bible, it doesn’t so much. The Treasure of God’s Word is available to help interested readers celebrate this event.

The Treasure of God’s Word is an attractive gift book with an embossed cover and gilt edging on the pages. Inside, you’ll find a presentation page, introduction, nine articles about the history of the King James Version, and a sampling of Bible verses arranged topically. The articles tell about the KJV’s origin, its influence on literature, politics, and science, its revisions and some versions that came from it. They are short and interesting. Two, however, according to the copyright page, were adapted from Wikipedia articles. Since this site isn’t considered a valid source for my son’s high school research papers, this kind of concerns me.

The articles were interesting, though. I was fascinated to learn that scholars of the day were having trouble deciding which of several English versions were most reliable. King James decided to settle the issue by authorizing one to be used by everyone. Considering how many versions we have to choose from right now, sometimes I wonder if we might appreciate a visit from King James today. But no, each reliable translation gives us new insights into God’s amazing Word helping us to understand the original languages that relatively few can read.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: Pursuit of Justice

Pursuit of Justice is the story of an FBI agent who is a) pursuing a serial killer who has been stalking her and b) solving the mystery and tragedies of the legendary Spider Rock treasure. I loved the ending.

After the story, the author, DiAnn Mills has included a note telling readers a little about her research process. It sounds to me like she had fun writing this story.

And it is a good story. It’s a combination suspense-romance. Bella, the FBI agent, and those she’s working to protect are always in a bit of danger. As she gets to know the people around her, Bella learns about forgiveness and love and trust. She overcomes the betrayals of her past, moving into a happier future.

As I was reading, I did wish for stronger character development and more of a sense of the danger the characters were in. I think because of the suspense-romance combination, the short time period for the story, and several characters moving quickly in and out of the picture, some of the things the author revealed to or told the reader didn’t feel real—they were hard to accept. I can’t say much more about that without giving too much of the story away. Even so, it was a good story, and I did love the ending.

One other note, and this is not the author’s fault, but Mills described Bella throughout the book as being auburn haired with green eyes. She mentions this several times. But the cover doesn’t match this description. I think the artist should have read the book. The cover became a distraction to me. That's not really fair to Mills.

If you enjoy light suspense/romance with a touch of mystery and Christian insight, Pursuit of Justice fits that category well. Thank you, Tyndale House Publishers, for sending me a copy for review.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Review: Good Morning, Lord

I am so thankful to Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending Good Morning, Lord for my review. This is just the kind of book I love! It’s a keeper I’ll probably reread several times.

Good Morning, Lord is a daily devotional written by Sheila Walsh to help us say, you guessed it, “Good Morning, Lord!” as we begin each day—whenever we happen to begin our day. (You’ll find no guilt or pressure here.) Each devotional begins with a proclamation—and the first one went right along with the theme of my blog: “Today I will look for evidence that you are in everything I encounter.” How fun is that?! It made me happy.

Following that statement is a short devotional, then two thought-provoking questions with space for journaling. After that we find a short prayer and a Bible verse taken from the New King James Version. The devotionals aren’t numbered, but there look to be about 108.

I especially like the look and feel of the book. It’s an attractively designed and embossed hardcover, with the shape and feel of a nice journal. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice gift for a friend and to anyone looking for a simple way to encourage a new or fresh devotional habit.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: Immanuel's Veins

There are so many things I’d like to say about Ted Dekker’s latest book, Immanuel’s Veins. But I can’t. I’d just give everything away. And you wouldn’t appreciate that from me.

You see, the whole book carries quite the enticing mystery along with its adventure. While you may suspect what kind of enemy you’re dealing with early on, Dekker doesn’t verify it until more than halfway through the book. Even then, he never, ever, even once uses the name. So if I say much at all, you can see how I’d just risk telling you everything.

I will say this: For reasons I won’t go into right now, I think guys will like this book. In some ways, it may be a triumph on their behalf. It’s a great reversal they’ll appreciate.

For me, though, the book was just a bit, well, a lot, too over-the-top gruesome for me. I understood that Dekker was trying to contrast good and evil and to show the truth of just how evil evil is. But there wasn’t much of the contrasting good, and what was there was always being tempted to go the other way. At one point, I even wondered if Dekker was planning to turn everything upside-down to show that everything was the opposite of what it seemed. I won’t tell you what came of that. You’ll have to read the book yourself—if you’re curious enough to endure its darkness.

I did love the last three pages. It was also fun to find, as one often does in Dekker’s books, allusions to familiar characters from the Circle series. If you’ve enjoyed Dekker’s most recent books (which lean more heavily on the gory, disturbing side), you’ll probably like this one, too.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Your Money God's Way

I was curious, but skeptical, when I chose this book for review. Much money advice for Christians isn’t based on Bible truths at all. Sometimes those who offer it mean well, but make assumptions about the Bible without really studying it. Other times, they are trying to guilt, manipulate, and/or finagle well-meaning Christians out of their money. Because we trust God and want to further His Kingdom by giving, sometimes we turn ourselves into rather easy marks.

But that’s the point of this particular book! Amie Streater devotes the whole first chapter of Your Money God’s Way: Overcoming the 7 Money Myths That Keep Christians Broke to showing how the Bible is often misused to confuse Christians and how it should be used regularly to help Christians understand good stewardship so they can honor God with their money, then use what He gives to avoid debt, cover their own needs, give to others, and save for the future. Streater then goes on to reveal common money myths (or counterfeit convictions) which she counteracts with solid, in-context, biblical truth. It’s a wise and practical book. I plan to read it again!

Woven throughout the book are true stories of Christians who’ve made wise decisions or overcome poor ones. Streater shares her own story of debt and near financial ruin and changes she prayerfully made to turn her situation around. At the end of each chapter, Streater includes a prayer for wisdom, a summary of chapter points, and a list of solution steps readers can follow if the situation applies to their lives.

Streater writes with grace, not condemnation, but her message is powerful. Readers will know that she truly cares and wants to help them do the best they can with whatever God graciously provides.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Book Review: Out Live Your Life

Wow! Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado is one of his best books ever. Of course, I say that about all of his books; I was thrilled when Thomas Nelson offered this one for review.

Out Live Your Life is a series of messages taken from the book of Acts. Lucado offers basic, yet profound, lessons in Christian living based on the experiences of the early church. These 16 lessons are followed, as always in Lucado books, by a discussion and action guide, this one prepared by David Drury. This guide helps readers further explore the ideas in the book and effectively apply them to their lives.

Something else in this book that I really appreciated was a short passage of Scripture and a life application prayer at the end of each chapter. This one page addition to each chapter concisely summarizes the point and helps to drive it into the reader’s heart. If ever I want a quick refresher course, I can read these pages to remind myself of what I learned as I ask God to make it more real in my life.

I highly recommend this book to new Christians exploring what this life is all about, to seekers looking for the Truth of Christianity (as opposed to some of the confusing ideas floating around today), and to established Christians looking for a deeper understanding of service to Christ and their role in His Kingdom.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Review: The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews is a small, attractive gift book with an uplifting message. Using biographical stories, Andrews shows how someone did something to change the world. Then he backtracks, showing how someone else influenced that first someone so that that person could change the world. Then he backtracks again, making the point that our smallest actions, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, can make a big impact, changing the world for better or for worse.

While I loved the look of the book and Andrews biographical choices and presentation, I noticed that the book left Something significant out. There’s no mention of God anywhere. Andrews gives all the glory to us. And though I know that God has given us free will, the ability to make good or bad choices, I also know that He is the One Who uses our actions, good or bad, to accomplish His purposes in this world. The back of the book says, “Every single thing you do matters. You have been created as one of a kind. You have been created in order to make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.” Yet, Who did the creating? For Whose purpose? And What is that power within? The answer to all those questions is God. He deserves the praise for creating and managing the butterfly effect.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Book Review: The Boy Who Changed the World

I really enjoyed reading The Boy Who Changed the World, and I think children will like it, too. As a parent, I loved that it wove the biographies of actual people into a simple story with a clear message. People, their connections, and related historical events are clearly identified, yet the book doesn’t read like a history lesson. Rather it’s a fun story with a bit of a mystery (Just who exactly was it who started the butterfly effect to change the world?) and an encouraging, stick-in-your-head moral for kids. Author Andy Andrews knows how to get and keep their attention while leading their thoughts where he wants them to go.

I also loved the artwork by Philip Hurst. Pictures are full of color and texture, with butterflies appearing on almost every page to subtly carry the theme. The illustrations effectively do their job of bringing the story to life on the page.

I hope lots of libraries will make this book available. It’s the kind I would have been drawn to during summer reading programs! But even if they don’t, parents or grandparents can get it for the children they love. It’s a book young kids will choose to read over and over again.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Review: Love, Charleston

Love, Charleston is a difficult book to describe. It definitely wasn’t the historical fiction novel I expected. It’s a contemporary story made up of the interrelated stories of a few families living in historic Charleston.

The first character we meet is a widower, Episcopal priest with a young daughter. He learns that St. Michael’s church in Charleston may be calling him to be their priest and must prayerfully discover if that’s where God wants him to be.

Next we meet three sisters. Two are married. One is a successful doctor married to another successful doctor and expecting their third child. Her life seems ideal. Another is a writer married to an artist—a life she loved until their financial struggles begin keeping them from providing all she believes their daughter deserves from them as their child. The single sister is a bell ringer at St. Michael’s desperately trying to determine God’s will for her life. Should she remain in Charleston as she thought God told her to or give up on that thought and move on?

As their stories progress, taking both anticipated and unexpected turns, the three sisters lean on each other as they have all their lives, learning to handle whatever comes as it comes with thankfulness for whatever blessings they find. It is what it is, a snapshot of a crucial year in these particular characters' lives.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Anne Bradstreet

I love meeting new, old people through biographies. The story of Anne Bradstreet did not disappoint me. I'd never heard of this early pioneer woman, but her story was intriguing and well-written. Author D.B. Kellogg not only researched her story well, but also wove interesting historical and cultural details into the text naturally. I enjoyed meeting Anne's family and society as I read her story, learning what was important to her, the challenges she faced as a woman in a new land, and what motivated her to write poetry.

Born in England, Bradstreet was one of the first New England colonists. Reluctant to leave her home, she didn't want to stay without her family of origin. Her husband felt it best to migrate, too, so Anne left the life she knew, trusting God to help her and her loved ones settle safely into life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Anne's story is of a courageous colonist, wife, mother, Puritan, and poet. It's a story of illness and other challenges overcome. It's the story of a woman who admired Queen Elizabeth, modelling some of her stands, while worshipping God and expressing her life through poetry.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review that I could meet and learn from this extraordinary woman.