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Showing posts from 2012

A Review: "The Fantasy Fallacy" by Shannon Ethridge

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"The Fantasy Fallacy:  Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts" by Shannon Ethridge was written primarily as a response to the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy. However, it goes far beyond being a simple response. Ethridge digs deeply into the uncomfortable world of sexual fantasy. A topic that is generally seen as a taboo subject among Christians is covered in great detail and depth in this book. The book includes nine chapters, covering topics such as why do we even need to talk about sexual fantasies and then delving into what some common fantasies are, and five appendices with great resources for individuals or churches.

I appreciated that Ethridge was so very real in this book. She talked about her own issues with fantasies. She really took the time to explain common fantasies and helped the reader to explore the deeper meanings behind them. She helps the reader to address their fantasies and channel them in the appropriate, healthy context of marriag…

A Review: "All Things New" by Lynn Austin

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"All Things New" by Lynn Austin is set in post-Civil War-era Virginia and focuses on the months immediately following the end of the war. The Confederacy has just lost the war, the citizens are facing poverty and attempting to pick up the pieces of shattered lives, and deep prejudices continue to come to light.

Josephine Weatherly lost her father and one older brother in the war. Her family may lose their plantation as well with limited resources and no real ability to bring in a cotton crop. Josephine begins to see that life needs to revolve around basic survival, not trying to keep up a facade of life as it was before the war. Her mother, Eugenia, is appalled at the idea of her daughter expressing interesting in tending a garden, sewing, and learning to cook, and she tries to forbid Josephine from having anything to do with "manual labor".

Lizzie is a freed slave who continues to live at White Oak plantation with her family after the war, primarily due to the pro…

A Review: "Heaven Changes Everything" by Todd and Sonja Burpo

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"Heaven Changes Everything:  Living Every Day with Eternity in Mind" by Todd and Sonja Burpo is a devotional based on their best-selling book, "Heaven is For Real". This book features 42 entries, beginning with an excerpt from "Heaven is For Real", followed by a brief devotional thought written by one or both of the Burpos, and concludes with a reflective question and Scripture verse. Each reading is designed to help the reader turn their thoughts toward heaven. Some of the topics covered include miscarriage, children's ministry, and forgiveness.

Overall, this is a nice companion book. I appreciated the format of the book, as well as reading reflections from both authors. I never gave much more than a passing thought to heaven until my own miscarriage. Their original book brought so much comfort to us in a great time of need and helped turn our thoughts toward heaven. In a world that tends to be pretty self-absorbed (even in Christian circles!), a boo…

A Review: "Taming the Wind" by Tracie Peterson

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"Taming the Wind" by Tracie Peterson in the concluding book in the "Land of the Lone Star" trilogy. This book follows the story of Carissa Lowe, a young widow with a small daughter named Gloria. After her terrible, abusive first marriage, she is afraid to trust her heart with anyone. Relying heavily on her sister, Carissa seeks to be as independent as possible. Tyler Atherton was the man who saved Carissa's life when her husband attempted to end her life. A former Confederate soldier, he's lost his family's ranch due to his loyalties in the war. He attempts to get back his ranch with the help of his friend, Will Barnett.

The story was captivating and the characters were well developed. I loved how this story drew in characters from the other two books in the trilogy and neatly wrapped up the series. There was a bit of predictability in the story, but there was enough action to help offset that aspect.

Overall, the story was well done and I felt it was a…

A Review: "The Radical Question & A Radical Idea" by David Platt

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"The Radical Question & A Radical Idea" by David Platt is a two-in-one book combination. The first book, "The Radical Question" appears to be a summary of some key concepts from his original book "Radical". The second book, "A Radical Idea", appears to follow the same vein and sum up key points from the book "Radical Together".

"The Radical Question" asks readers to consider what Jesus is worth to us. He challenges us to live differently, to pursue a true Christianity instead of simply a Christian spin on the American dream. As he talks about how underground house churches often risk everything, including their very lives, for the chance to gather together and worship Christ, he ponders "I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we in America have lost touch with what is essential, radical--even dangerous--about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable" (p. 8). Having read the original bo…

A Review: "Red Letter Revolution" by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo

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"Red Letter Revolution:  What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?" by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo is written as a dialogue between the two authors. They introduce it as a "new movement" of believers who attempt to take seriously the words of Christ and commit to living them out in daily life. Overall, they tackle twenty-six different topics, including hell, Islam, family, racism, homosexuality, immigration, politics, war, national debt, and missions, divided into three separate sections.

There are some good points in the book. Both authors call the church out on handling finances--do we have a balance between what we use for ourselves and what we give away to take care of those in need (both within and without our church)? Both authors call us back to being good stewards of creation, a hearkening back to God's call to Adam in Genesis 1. 

But overall, the book had far more troubling aspects than good ones. I found it to be pretty reductionist and incomplet…

A Review: "What About Heaven" by Kathleen Long Bostrom

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"What About Heaven" by Kathleen Long Bostrom is a fantastic little book meant to help children begin to understand the amazing promise of heaven. The illustrations in the book are done by Elena Kucharik, the artist for the Care Bears. Her illustrations are whimsical, bright, and colorful.

The book begins with a series of questions about what heaven is like: Is heaven a place that is near or that's far? Can I have a room only for me? What food will I eat? And what clothes will I wear? The second half of the book transitions to answers to those questions. At the top of each page in the second half are the Scripture references referenced on that page. It's a wonderfully, biblically sound book that can be appreciated by people of all ages. The rhyming text, combined with the wonderful illustrations, are sure to make this book a hit with kids.

Both of my preschool age boys enjoyed this book. It's a wonderful little book that will get a lot of mileage in our reading rep…

A Review: "To Love and Cherish" by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller

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"To Love and Cherish" by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller is the second book in the "Bridal Veil Island" trilogy. Bridal Veil Island, a fictional island set off the coast of Georgia, is a popular resort area that caters to the wealthy. Melinda Colson became a lady's maid out of necessity after her parents died and left her and her brother, Lawrence, penniless. She regularly spends winters on Bridal Veil Island with her employers, where she meets Evan Tarlow, the gamekeeper for the island resort. A romance between them develops, but the future remains uncertain. After a hurricane strikes the island, Melinda leaves her employers and travels back to Bridal Veil in order to search for Evan. She obtains full-time employment on the island in hopes that will spur Evan to proposing. There are plenty of twists and turns in their journey to the altar!

Overall, this book was a bit slow and contrived. Melinda was a bit annoying in that she spent much of her time bemoaning…

A Review: "Twelve Unlikely Heroes" by John MacArthur

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"Twelve Unlikely Heroes" by John MacArthur takes a detailed look at the lives of twelve different Biblical men and women that the casual reader may gloss over upon first glance. The people that MacArthur chose to examine in this book include Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon, Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James, Mark, and Onesimus.

MacArthur thoroughly dissects the stories surrounding each person, skillfully bringing together not just Scripture, but historical, archaeological, and cultural evidence as well. It is clearly evident that much research has gone into each story. I truly appreciated the historical evidence presented throughout the book as it helped to tie things together and provide a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding these fascinating people.

Each person MacArthur looks at in this book are all sinners and have all fallen short in various areas. But he highlights so beautifully the way that God worked in each person's life t…

A Review: "Be The Mom" by Tracey Lanter Eyster

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"The Creator of the heavens and the earth fashioned you to be the mother of the children He has entrusted to you. What joy it is to embrace the role of motherhood, free ourselves from the traps that aim to devour and devalue us, and live a momlife worthy of His calling. This doesn't mean a momlife without challenges or mistakes, but a momlife increasingly dependent upon our heavenly Father" (p. 153).
Motherhood is full of blessings and challenges. And sometimes it can seem that the challenges outweigh the blessings. Eyster takes a candid look at the most common attitude traps that moms fall prey to. Using humor and real-life examples, she helps debunk these traps and points us to the one perfect parent:  God. She discusses seven traps:  Just a Mom, Me Mom, Martyr Mom, Busy Mom, Mirror Mom, Tomorrow Mom, and They Say Mom. Each chapter ends with a brief quiz to see how embedded in each trap you are, as well as though provoking questions to help pull you out of that particu…

A Review: "Touching the Sky" by Tracie Peterson

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"Touching the Sky" by Tracie Peterson is the second book in the "Land of the Lone Star" series. This book features the story of Laura Marquardt, a strong and independent Southern woman, and Brandon Reid, a captain in the Union army. The Civil War is over and the nation is slowly being reunified. However, there are plenty of Confederate supporters for whom the war is not yet over.

Despite the Marquardt family's support of the Union, Laura's younger sister, Carissa, makes a hasty decision to marry a Confederate soldier, Malcolm Lowe, which results is disastrous consequences for all involved. Malcolm is being investigated by the army for murder and conspiracy, spearheaded by Brandon Reid. A chance meeting leads to courtship with Laura, who assists him with his investigation.

A side storyline is Laura's desire to help freed blacks learn to read. She longs to help them gain an education to help better themselves in their newfound freedom. Laura begins by tea…

A Review: "Mondays With My Old Pastor" by Jose Luis Navajo

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"Mondays With My Old Pastor" by Jose Luis Navajo is Navajo's story of finding rejuvenation for ministry through visits with his old pastor. Navajo was burned out on ministry, tired and discouraged. He was questioning even whether he was truly called to pastor a church. At this point, his wife gently suggested that he contact his old pastor. Navajo did just that, and he began meeting with his old pastor (whose name we are never given). His old pastor was a man who pastored the same church for 55 years and was married to his wife for 60 years, until his death. He was a man of tremendous wisdom who passed it on to Navajo, and Navajo blessed readers with the wisdom of his old pastor in this book.

Granted, the book is aimed more at pastors or other leaders in the church, but the principles in this book transcend to apply to the lives of every believer. The old pastor gives us fifteen principles to live by. The wisdom contained in this book is overflowing. I loved the messages…

A Review: "No Greater Love" by Levi Benkert and Candy Chand

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"No Greater Love" by Levi Benkert and Candy Chand features the true story of the Benkert family as they journey from America to Africa on a path that could only be constructed by God. Benkert was a successful real estate developer until the housing market crash caused his business to go under. Near the ending of his company and facing an uncertain future, a pastor friend contacted him about possibly going to Ethiopia to help organize a rescue orphanage. He took a leap of faith and signed on. What he saw and experienced changed his life forever. Utterly touched by the lives of the children he met, he and his family sell everything and head to southern Ethiopia to settle in a help with the orphanage. The children they work to rescue are from the Kara tribe, sentenced to death because they are believed to be "cursed". The Benkert family embarks on a wild journey over the next couple of years that results in greater dependence on God, a shift in ministry focus, and an …

A Review: "The Fiddler" by Beverly Lewis

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"The Fiddler" by Beverly Lewis is the story of Amelia Devries and Michael Hostetler and the providential turn of events that led them to one another. Amelia is a professional violinist who is growing steadily discontented with her life path. Michael is a young Amishman who has yet to fully commit to the Amish way of life. He yearns for the "fancy" life, yet is held back by love for his family. Their mutual discontent draws them together as they begin to process how to redesign their life paths. Faith is integral in all aspects of this story. Michael has a deep faith and Amelia rediscovers her faith through her conversations with Michael and an impromptu visit to his hometown of Hickory Hollow. That faith allows them to eventually make the right choices for themselves while still showing love and honor to their family members.

The main characters in this story were believable and thoughtful. The potential for a love story between them existed right from the beginnin…

A Review: "Beloved Enemy" by Al Lacy

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"Beloved Enemy" by Al Lacy is the third book in the "Battles of Destiny" series. This book features a fictional account of the events that surrounded the first Battle of Bull Run. The story dives into the web of intrigue surrounding Confederate spy missions during the Civil War. Jenny Jordan, a southerner who is employed by the Federal government, falls in love with Buck Brownell, a northern officer. Jenny's father sets up an elaborate spy ring to bring Union secrets to the Confederate army. She is aware of his actions and covers for him. Her involvement with the spy ring nearly drives her apart from Buck.

I have never read an Al Lacy book before, but I was drawn to it by the historical aspect of the novel. The book was mildly interesting and I appreciated learning more about the Civil War era. The factual events happening in the book appeared to be well researched. However, I was completely turned off by the character dialogue in this novel. It was at times ch…

A Review: "The Truth About the Lordship of Christ" by John MacArthur

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"The Truth About the Lordship of Christ" by John MacArthur is another installment in "The Truth About" trilogy. My expectation about the book was that it would be an examination of the life of Christ:  who He is, His ministry, His fulfillment of Scripture regarding the prophesied Messiah. Instead, it was primarily focused on Christian living. It was good subject matter, just not what I was expecting.

MacArthur dives deep into what it means to truly live as a Christian and a disciple of Christ. Drawing upon a myriad of Scripture passages, he examines the many aspects of living as a disciple. The challenge for believers is great. He exhorts "[i]f you want to live correctly, expose yourself to the Word of God" (p. 80). With so much junk surrounding us in today's world and culture, it's even more crucial for followers of Christ to dive into Scriptures and allow a transformation to happen based on the Word.

Overall, he covered a lot of great topics in …

A Review: "Chasing the Sun" by Tracie Peterson

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"Chasing the Sun" by Tracie Peterson is her first in the "Land of the Lonestar" series. Set in Civil War-era Texas, the story focuses on a young woman named Hannah Dandridge. Her widowed father's disappearance leaves her young siblings in her care along with a ranch to run. William Barnett is a soldier returning after being wounded to reclaim his ranch which had been seized due to his family's loyalties in the war. Her father's law partner, Herbert Lockhart, adds intriguing complications to the story.

Overall, the characters are likeable and flushed out. Hannah's strong will and determination made her a compelling character. The compassion that she sought to demonstrate was remarkable as well. In some instances, it really took a bit of courage but the payoffs were well worth it. The story flowed well and the plot had enough twists and turns to keep it engaging. Themes of forgiveness, redemption, compassion, and love run strong in this novel.

As a bi…

A Review: "The Truth About Forgiveness" by John MacArthur

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"The Truth About Forgiveness" by John MacArthur is another book in "The Truth About" trilogy. In this book, the focus is forgiveness, both our need to receive it and to give it. He opens the book with a look at our utter sinfulness and need for a Savior. By starting with a portrait of humanity's total depravity, he sets the stage for the rest of the book:  "It is the good news that man's sin can be forgiven, guilt can be removed, life can have meaning, and a hopeful future can be a reality" (p. 16). MacArthur then goes on to show that forgiveness comes from God alone through Jesus Christ and the extent to which we are forgiven. It is a beautiful picture of the love of God toward His people. He brilliantly weaves together our sinfulness, our need for forgiveness, and the grace and love of God poured out on humanity through Jesus Christ.
My two favorite portions of the book were in-depth looks at the story of the paralyzed man (Luke 5) and the story…

A Review: "The Truth About Grace" by John MacArthur

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Grace is a word that tends to get tossed around in Christian circles. But how many of really stop to think about what it means for believers? John MacArthur explores this issue in "The Truth About Grace", one book in a trilogy called "The Truth About" series. He takes a detailed look at what grace means, how believers receive grace into our lives, how the idea of grace gets distorted, the implications for living a grace-filled live, and the practicalities of living a life of grace. He draws on a plethora of Scripture passages to shed light on this uniquely Christian concept, as well as looking at the Hebrew and Greek meanings of certain words to further emphasize his point.
I really enjoyed this book and exploring the concept of grace and what it means for me as a believer. My favorite chapter was the last one, discussing the hallmarks of a grace-filled life. Grace is truly transformative and every aspect of our lives should be changed once we really grasp the impl…

Book Study

I've had a copy of "The Mission of Motherhood" by Sally Clarkson for a while now, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. But I now have more incentive! There is a blog called MomHeart.org that is doing an online book study of this book, complete with personal or group discussion questions, online interaction with others who are going through the book, and reflections from bloggers. I'm going to be participating in it. Anyone want to join in? You can find the link here:  http://www.momheart.org/blog/welcome-to-the-mission-of-motherhood-book-study. Enjoy this dive into the calling and mission of moms the world over!

Favorite Parenting Books

With two small children at home, I've turned to books to gather different ideas about parenting and discipline issues. There is such a plethora of books available, I thought I would share a few of my personal favorites that have been beneficial to me in my parenting journey.

1.  "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Ted Tripp
2.  "Sacred Parenting:  How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls" by Gary Thomas
3.  "Treasuring God in Our Traditions" by Noel Piper
4.  The Power of a Praying Parent" by Stormie Omartian
5.  "Grace-Based Parenting:  Set Your Family Free" by Tim Kimmel
6.  "Loving the Little Years:  Motherhood in the Trenches" by Rachel Jankovic
7.  "Wild Things:  The Art of Nurturing Boys" by Stephen James and David Thomas
8.  "Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood" by Jim Fay and Charles Fay
9.  "Your Boy:  Raising a Godly Son in an Ungodly World" by Vicki Courtney
10.  "5 Conversation…

Inspired Reads

I recently was turned on to a website called "Inspired Reads" which finds and shares free or reduced price Christian Kindle books. As a new Kindle user, I've loved checking out this site in order to expand my collection of books. It's a great way to test out some new authors or find some that I've really been wanting to read but haven't gotten around to buying yet. It's a great site and definitely worth checking out!

A Review: "Song of My Heart" by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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"Song of My Heart" by Kim Vogel Sawyer features the story of a young woman named Sadie Wagner. Her stepfather is badly injured and unable to work to provide for the family. Twenty-two year old Sadie hears of a job opportunity available in Goldtree, Kansas. Her desire for work to help her family compels her to relocate from their home in Dalton, Indiana, to Goldtree, where she knows no one except for her cousin, Sid. Sadie soon finds herself caught up in a complicated romantic quandary with two young men vying for her affection. She quickly settles in to her employment, one job working as a clerk in the local mercantile and the other as a singer in the "opera house". Sadie bonds with her mercantile employers, twin sisters Melva and Shelva who quickly grow to love their new employee. Her opera house boss, Asa Baxter, brother to the twins, quickly proves to be manipulative and unscrupulous in his quest to earn money and shed a past nickname. 
Thad McKane, the town she…