Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: Unending Devotion

Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund is a totally unexpected, unique read. Disturbing at times, this historical fiction novel takes its readers to a moment in history rarely covered in this genre. I greatly appreciated the new information about the development of America's logging industry, now greatly reformed compared to what it was back then!

At the beginning of this story, Lily Young, a woman who grew up as an orphan, travelling from caregiver to caregiver with her sister, is travelling through the logging camps as a photographer's assistant. Oren, the widowed photographer, is more father than employer and is fiercely protective of Lily. Lily gives him plenty of challenges, though, as she boldly goes wherever she feels she needs to go in her search for Daisy, the sister she raised, now a runaway living quite perilously. Lily plans to rescue her from the life that has now imprisoned her and doesn't hesitate to rescue many other young women along the way.

Connell McCormick, the son of a logging baron, seeks only to please his demanding and often unreasonable father--until he meets Lily, who challenges him to consider how his father's business is impacting people's lives. He'll be challenged to choose: his father or his conscience and his heart.

Control is the theme woven throughout this read. Is God in control? Or does He need our help? Are we at the mercy of our circumstances? Or are there positive ways to work for change? As the story unfolds, Lily and Connell discover the answers they need.

Bethany House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I was thankful for the insights I found in this story.

Book Review: The Weight of Mercy

The Weight of Mercy by Deb Richardson-Moore is her story of her first seven years in full-time ministry--seven years in the unique pastorate at the Triune Mercy Center. Originally, this center was a traditional church. Over time, however, it developed into a ministry to the homeless of its community. When Richardson-Moore became its pastor, though, she began to realize that simply providing free food and clothing for people may not be the best way to minister to them. Her book outlines her thought processes over problems she identifies, issues she encounters, opportunities she takes hold of, and developments within the ministry that worked well and, sometimes, not so well.

As one would expect, ministry at the Triune Mercy Center was challenging for Richardson-Moore and her staff. By the end of one month, she determined she'd commit to just one year--and wondered if she'd make that. She did, however, and found herself staying for much longer than that.

Though I didn't always see eye-to-eye with Richardson-Moore, I liked where we landed, author and reader, by the end of the book. She opened my eyes to often unconsidered complications and consequences within this kind of ministry while showing some of the great good that can be done. We do the best we can for those God brings into our lives, then leave the outcome in His faithful hands. We may not be perfect, but our God is always at work in all people's hearts.

I thank Kregel Publications for sending a complimentary copy of this insightful book for my honest review.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Review: Fearless Daughters of the Bible

Fearless Daughters of the Bible is a fifteen week study of 22+ women of the Bible. Each chapter tells the story of one biblical woman or group of women. As readers learn about character traits and strengths displayed in these women’s lives, stories of historical or contemporary women who also displayed these traits or strengths are brought into each lesson for greater understanding. Readers see God at work in and through His daughters. They see Him calling, teaching, using, and greatly blessing the efforts of women devoted to Him.

Author J. Lee Grady is not only an award-winning journalist and ordained minister, but also the father of four daughters. He believes the potential contributions of women to God’s Kingdom are often overlooked or dismissed, and so he strives to inspire women to serve God faithfully and with confidence however He leads. Through this book, Fearless Daughters of the Bible, Grady shows that God has a purpose for the women of His Kingdom that we can take seriously.

Also woven into the text are messages of encouragement and healing for women who’ve suffered abuse. Women who’ve been mistreated will find some comfort here.

The studies themselves do not go into great depth. Grady retells the stories in his own words, then moves right into the life application. However, the summaries are well written. Curious readers can easily dig more deeply into the Bible on their own. Each chapter begins with a quote from a well-known woman. Each ends with discussion questions and a personal message to the reader, presented as a message from our Heavenly Father.

Overall, I appreciated Grady’s big picture of God at work in and through women found all through God’s Word. I loved seeing that Jesus, Paul, Philip, and even Peter, greatly valued the ministry contributions women make. I also appreciated the generous amount of life application found in these stories useful to both women and men. The stories of women in the Bible are included by God’s design with messages applicable to both genders.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, published by Chosen, in exchange for this honest review. It's one I definitely recommend!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: You Be Sweet

Slowly, but surely, this California girl’s southern vocabulary is increasing. Thanks to a new cookbook by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson, I now know what You be sweet means. And it’s much nicer, than Well, bless your heart, let me tell you. If you don’t believe me, click here to read what I’ve learned about that phrase.

You Be Sweet is a collection of down-home desserts. Each chapter or group of desserts opens with a story by Wilson describing a food-oriented event in a small southern town: a holiday, a baby shower, a visit to a relative, a bake sale. Wilson helps her readers see how food helps people connect socially. After all, we all have to eat!

The recipes themselves are Caldwell’s contribution. I loved her comments introducing several of them, telling whom she collected them from or who loves to eat what most. These were an extra-sweet, gently southern touch. Several of these recipes just demand to be created. I look forward to working my way through these. Others seemed a bit complex. Rosemary may have been able to teach Georgia to bake (Chapter 2), but she’d have found a greater challenge in me. Maybe I’ll work my way up. The collection includes a little bit of everything, from cakes, pies, and cookies, to fruit desserts, ice cream recipes, punch, and frozen hot chocolate. I’m going to start with the Sour Cream Blueberry Pancakes with Cinnamon Honey Syrup!

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary eCopy of this cookbook for my review. I recommend it to all fans of dessert!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: A Path Toward Love

A Path Toward Love by Cara Lynn James is the story of a widow in a pickle. Katherine Osborne knows her hasty marriage was a terrible mistake. Yet, now that her husband is gone, all she wants is to quietly live out her life managing the orange groves in Florida that she inherited. Creditors are calling, though, and her parents are pressuring her to return to the wealthy, society life she left behind when she eloped. Desperate for funds, Katherine strikes a deal with her dad. What she doesn’t know, though, is if the deal will grant her freedom to live her life as she desires or keep her in bondage to that which she longs to escape.

The story starts slowly, but builds in intensity as Katherine’s plight becomes layered with distress upon distress. Yet, Andrew, the man who loves her, and her Aunt Letty work together to help her see where to go for guidance and relief. God gives the message she needs to hear through an unexpected source.

As I read, I did find some of the characters, such as Katherine’s parents, Roger, and Andrew’s aunt to be unrealistically manipulative and blinded by wealth and society to truth. I realize that, to a point, their behavior was true of the upper classes of that time in history, yet I would hate to believe that any parent would be that unaware of a child’s needs. Still, I enjoyed the book, and thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing a complimentary eCopy for this honest review.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Last year about this time, I read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts for the first time*. (Yes. There will be a second time someday!) I loved it so much, I went right out and bought copies for my mom and daughter-in law. Now I’ve discovered her new One Thousand Gifts Devotional and just may have go out buying copies for gifts again.

This book is just that inspiring!

To begin with, Voskamp’s writing style is truly unique. It’s a combination of poetry and literature and rambling sentences full of devotion to God and living His way. Voskamp paints pictures with her words that one can’t help but see clearly. It’s almost like visiting her farm every day.

Better yet, Voskamp helps her readers understand what really matters in this life: developing a genuine attitude of thanksgiving that carries one into God’s Presence and keeps one there. All the time.

Her first book introduced the concept. This second helps readers practice on a daily basis as they read and reflect on sixty grace-related devotionals. In fact, the book includes lines at the end of each chapter for personal gratitude lists with a numbered set of lines at the back of the book for listing one’s own noted one thousand gifts.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I’ll most definitely have to add it to my list of one thousand gifts. I earnestly recommend this book to you.

Note: I did not read Voskamp's first book for review. I purchased it on my own and read it just because I really wanted to.