Saturday, December 1, 2012

Help My Unbelief...

Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal

By Michael Kelley

This book has a subtitle …a boy, cancer, and God. Right away, I want to state…this is not a depressing book.

  It is a book of hope and truth. When I first looked at the cover, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go into this author’s world. So much sadness, sickness, hardships are around in my own area, my own circle of friends and family, I wasn’t sure I could read about a little boy with cancer.

   I am glad that I did read this book. In fact, this is one of those books that will stay on my shelf to be pulled out and reread again and again. Usually I skip over the recommendations at the front of the book…the blurbs. But this book had 6 ½ pages of blurbs…that is quite a few. So I started reading those, curious as to why there were so many. They were written by fellow authors, professors at divinity schools, pastors at well-known churches, famous singer/songwriters, CEOs of Christian companies, vice presidents of corporations, editors. I will share a few sentences from the blurbs that also describe my thoughts about the book.

  “Reader, please listen to me: If you have ever suffered, struggled, doubted, wrestled with a God who allows hunger and disease and two-year-old boys to get cancer, if you have attempted to believe God in the midst of devastation and fear, please devour this book like the gift it is.” - Jen Hatmart, author of 7

“The relational and spiritual insights you’ll read about are hard earned and precious. Michael pulls back the curtain on faith and hope during times of difficulty.” - Thom S. Rainer, CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources

“There are countless wildernesses: from depression to divorce, from brokenness to bankruptcy. ..I am deeply thankful that they did not waste their sorrow, and I am deeply thankful that Michael wrote this book.” - Michael Card, Christian singer/songwriter

This father writes about his son, Joshua, and their journey through leukemia. He tells more than just this journey through illness…he describes his journey in faith, in learning what faith really is. I like his honesty and his transparency. For Christians when adversity comes, sometimes we try to act brave and believing …when inside we are asking questions like , Why, God? Or, Is this punishment for something we have done? Or, Are You even real? How could You let this happen? His journey becomes one that he says “forces long-held ideals and beliefs from the comfort of intellectualism into the discomfort of reality and tries to square with them there.”

The author looks at Scriptures through the eyes of suffering and showed me things I had never thought of concerning passages I have read and reread in my life. For instance, the story of the father with the son who was sick and the disciples could not help the boy. They brought him to Jesus and Jesus turned to the father who had said to Him, If you can do something then please help us. Jesus then asked the father, Do you really believe that I can? The father answered Him with “I do believe; help my unbelief.” The doubts that come at times even with our belief in the Lord are not new to God. The author writes more about this Biblical father , insights that could only come from having been in the situation himself.

  He writes , “Maybe the difference between this guy and most of us is not the state of circumstances around us; we all have cancer or car wrecks or poverty or whatever. Maybe the difference is that this dad had the faith to doubt. Can that be right? This father had the faith to doubt? We have this idea of what faith must be, and that definition of faith has no room for doubt; no room for questioning. Who can blame us? After all, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, according to Hebrews 11:1. That’s the definition of faith in Scripture…What if our definition of faith is wrong? What if we have been putting faith in our own ability to HAVE faith? What if real faith is not necessarily absent of questions and doubt; what if real faith is more about what we do with doubt than whether we have it?” Interesting concept and one I have thought much about myself.

  This book is not just for people with sick children. It is for Christians who question, Christians who do not understand why things happen the way they do. It is for Christians who love Jesus with all their hearts and yet do not know why He allows things to occur sometimes in our lives. It is for those who want to hold onto their faith in difficult times…and do not know how.

  The author writes about Job and his three friends…and how good people, kind friends can sometimes be the worst at encouragement. He tells what really means the most in being a friend to those walking through adversity. Being there…not necessarily talking or advising. Just being there. He tells of the changes that come when you face adversity, how it colors who you are, and then coming out on the other side…fearful, clinging to that new identity you had…the one forged in the fires of suffering. He tells how to let go of who you think you are and just become who Jesus knows you are. What freedom!

This book is one I will recommend over and over again to those I know facing struggles without answers. If you have to choose one book on suffering this year to read, I would suggest this be the book. It is a blessing. It is filled with hope. It does not hold all the answers but it brings comfort to the heart and mind. Thank you, Mr. Kelley, for sharing your life and your walk with the Lord with us. I received this book for free in return for an honest review, which I have written here.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

More Than A Bucket List

More Than A Bucket List

By Toni Birdsong


This is a cozy sized hardback book that includes short one page devotionals or positive writings among the many lists that inhabit its pages.  List lovers will probably go crazy over this one.

My favorite parts were the devotionals that focused on God and the Real Life Challenges scattered throughout the book. 

For those unfamiliar with the term “bucket list”, it is intended to be a list of things you hope to do before you “kick the bucket”. 

To me, many of the writings and the lists of things to do were directed towards people who have been financially blessed.  It seemed to be written without consideration for the fact that some people may never have the means to enjoy traveling the world and fulfilling their every wish.  Not to say that all the lists were unrealistic.  But most focused on travel, expensive visits, expensive foods, expensive hobbies.

I still liked the book because it is full of lists …and I love lists.  My favorite part out of the whole book was the suggestion to make an “unbucket” list.   The author describes this as a list of things you have already done in life.  To me, this would bring more contentment than focusing on all I have NOT been able to do in life. 

I was given this book to review for free in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Another Great Collection by Cindy Woodsmall

Christmas in Apple Ridge is a collection of three books in one by beloved author Cindy Woodsmall. Each novel is connected by characters who show up in the other novels but you can read one alone and not be lost at all :) Cindy Woodsmall is one of my favorite authors. Her settings in the Amish country amid Amish people are a glimpse into the lifestyles of a fascinating people. I enjoyed all of these stories, but I think my favorite was The Sound of Sleigh Bells. In this story an Amish girl who has decided that she does not want to ever marry because of a bad experience with her previous fiance finds herself caught up in the life of a young Amish man due to some matchmaking meddling by a friend. I liked this story because of the humor in it as well as the characters. This book would make a great Christmas gift for the reader in your life, or someone who is interested in the Amish community. I give it 5 stars!!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

American Idol Fans Will Like This One...

By Faith Not By Sight is the autobiography of Scott MacIntyre who was an American Idol contestant. This is his story of the role music played in his life as a blind prodigy. Scott’s story is interesting because of all he has been through. If you are an American Idol fan, you will particularly love this book because it gives a lot of the “behind the scenes” information that TV viewers never realize. I think my favorite part of this book was when he talks about his kidney failure and having to go on dialysis and then eventually go through a kidney transplant. I know many people who have gone through this but I got a different insight into what is involved and how it affects someone than I had ever realized before I read the book. Much of the book, of course, covered his rise to success. This was interesting but I was left with more questions by the end of the book. I wanted to know more about his family, his father’s role, his sister that was also born blind and had kidney troubles. Although it was not one of my favorites personally, I do think the book was well-written and an inspirational read. There was not as much about Scott’s faith as I thought there would be based on the title. It is not a deeply spiritual book but it is inspirational.
Our Christmas Card

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Walking on Water When you Feel Like You're Drowning

Walking on Water When You Feel Like You’re Drowning (Finding hope in life’s darkest moments) By Tommy Nelson and Steve Leavitt I was offered this book by Tyndale Publishers for free of charge in exchange for my honest review which I am giving in this writing. When I first chose this book to review, I was not thinking of much use for myself, but more of just a good general book about anxiety and depression in the Christian’s life. As I started to read, I could not put the book down and had to complete it in one sitting! I wish this book had been around 16 or 17 years ago when I went through this with my first husband. Every symptom, every feeling, everything he was experiencing that made him feel as if he was going to die…these authors write about from experience and from a Christian and clinical standpoint. Part of going through panic attacks and anxiety that is so disabling is that you do not know what is happening to you. We had no idea what was causing him to be experiencing the pacing, the high blood pressure, the sleeplessness, the heart racing, the mind racing. The doctors we visited ranged from not knowing what was going on to stating that he must be taking illegal drugs! Not a pleasant experience at that hospital! This book is going to be so valuable to the families as well as to those who have experienced panic attacks and anxiety and depression. It clearly lays out what is happening as well as providing Scriptures to help during these times and suggesting that medications can be used to control this disorder without having to feel guilty that as a Christian you should be able to “handle it” with God’s help. Tommy Nelson is a senior pastor in a large church. Steve Leavitt is a Christian Biblical counselor. Both have suffered themselves with anxiety and depression and write about it from their own experiences. This book explores these topics : • What causes anxiety, depression and obsessiveness • What is actually happening in your body • The problem with perfection • How Biblical thinking is crucial to recovery • When you should consider medication • And more! I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with anxiety, depression or OCD as well as to family members or friends who know people that struggle with this. I believe this book will fulfill a need for the encouragement of those who are walking alongside people who are hurting. Sometimes when a person is going through this dark time, they cannot focus enough on reading to benefit, but if someone who cares can read this book and share with them during the periods of clarity, it will definitely help.

Friday, October 19, 2012

You Can't Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded)

You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded) By Cynthia Ulrich Tobias I am thankful to Blogging for Books for providing this book for me to review free of charge and this review is purely my own opinion. Always searching for helpful hints on how to lovingly encourage my red-headed four year old son to see the point of obeying, I chose this book . The subtitle is “Strategies for Bringing out the Best in Your Strong Willed Child”. In the first couple of chapters the author discusses exactly what a strong-willed personality is and that is is not necessarily a bad personality trait…as long as the individual learns to focus his will on positive results. Included is a short quiz to determine if you, your spouse, and your children are strong-willed. There are many different theories of how to raise a child with a strong will. You do not want to break the child’s will but you do want to enforce the rules. The author attempts to show how merely changing how you communicate your rules, your wishes, etc. can relieve a huge burden of parenting a SWC. The things I liked about this book were that points were made clearly and with examples. Already I have tried changing how I communicate and I have seen very positive results. I liked the Scripture verses provided with each chapter that strengthen the author’s concept that relationship will always be more important than rules. I liked, and disliked, the fact that certain points were repeated over and over again. I liked it personally because it helped me to retain those points after I finished the book. I disliked it as a reviewer because it was so repetitive. Yes, I have two separate opinions  Two of my favorite tips were : 1) Lighten up but don’t let up. This chapter went into the value that humor can have in your relationship. Using humor to defuse the potential battle that is to take place. 2) Ask more questions, issue fewer orders. This works with me too. Ask me to help you and I am more than willing. Order me around and I am resentful. It comes back to communication. This is also working with my child. Overall, I thought this was a sensitive addressing of the issue of strong-willed children and how to use love and humor to help nurture the child. It gave helpful examples and it was good to read of other parents dealing with the exact same situations that I have dealt with.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Man in the Blue Moon

I was so excited to hear from Tyndale Publishing Company that I had won a prize in their recent contest!! When I received the book in the mail, I was pleased at two things right off the bat. One, the book was a nice thick book…more pages to read ! 377 to be exact! The second was the cover was beautiful which always makes a difference in just the excitement of reading a new book. As I started reading , I was drawn in to the story from the beginning. Michael Morris, the author, is a Southern Book Critics Circle Award finalist and is a true Southern writer. This story kept me tuned in by the many twists and drama happening in this small Southern town. The characters are very believable and you feel a connection with them. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and can’t wait to read more by this author. The book starts off with a woman and her sons, trying to survive since her husband left her due to drugs. She has to decide whether to take what money she has and pay it towards the mortgage, which she is already behind on, or take the money and pay shipping on an item her husband had ordered from the Blue Moon Clock Company before he left them. She decides to take a chance that the item, which she has no idea as to the identity of, will be of sufficient value to sell in her store and make more money to try to pay the mortgage. When the package arrives, she and her boys go to pick up the crate at the railroad station and bring it back to open at their home. What a surprise awaits them when they open the crate! This book also has a great story in the prologue about how the author came up with this idea for a story. There are also questions to be used for discussion in a book club or if you are a homeschooling mom like me…you can assign these to be answered. This is a book that I want to read again. I think it is one of those that you can reread over and over and it will speak to your soul in different ways.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Heaven in Her Arms by Katherine Hickem

The subtitle of this book is Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What It Means to You. When I first chose to read this book I have to admit I went in with some trepidation. Was it going to be a book of worship of Mary, the Mother of Jesus? Was it going to focus on glorifying her? I was pleasantly surprised that when I finished reading it, I not only had a better sense of who Mary was, but I also found myself glorifying God the Father, not Mary :) This is a wonderful book for anyone to read, but as a mother myself, I found it particularly relevant. It made me relate to the issues I have as a parent, the emotions. I loved this book!

God Gave Us Love

This children's book by Lisa Tawn Bergen and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant is adorable! My 4-year-old son loved the story and the illustrations! It would make a great gift or an addition to your own home library. God Gave Us Love

Sunday, March 25, 2012

THEN SINGS MY SOUL by Robert Morgan One quote from the author seems to me to sum up the spirit of this wonderful third volume of the history behind selected hymns.
Hymns are miniature Bible studies that lead us effortlessly to worship, testimony, exhortation, prayer, and praise. They're bursts of devotional richness with rhyme and rhythm.
I love the history behind these hymns as well as the fact that the hymns are printed with words and music in the book.
The history of the church is encoded in her hymns..." the author states.
Worshippers used to own their own hymnbooks and carry them to meetings with their Bibles. This particular volume is divided into seven sections: Biblical Hymns Ancient Hymns Medieval Hymns German Hymns English Hymns Gospel Songs and American Hymns Contemporary Praise and Worship Music I loved reading the stories behind "Shout to the Lord" and "In Christ Alone". Knowing the story behind the songs make them more meaningful. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Prince Will Come by Sheri Rose Shepherd

Through her book My Prince Will Come, Ms. Shepherd continues to uplift and inspire her audience. Packed with Scriptures, prayers, applications, experiences and observations, Ms. Shepherd's book will be a blessing to those who read it. Each page is filled with such wisdom and heart that I wanted to slow down and reread it again and again. This is one of those books that you will always keep and want to give to friends for any occasion! The writing is superb and the Biblical content is right on target. The only way Ms. Shepherd can write like this is because she knows Who she is writing about. If she did not know Him (our coming Prince Jesus Christ) there would be no way this book would read as it does. I encourage anyone to read this book...women AND men! Although targeted to women, there are many parts that I shared with my husband and my sons and they too were inspired by the writings! I was provided with this book by Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest opinion, which I have given here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge by Tony Dungy - Giveaway!!

When I chose this book to review I knew a little about Mr. Dungy from watching a few football games and I respected him for his willingness to stand for the Lord in a secular field such as professional football.
This is a great daily devotional book for boys or men. Or for ladies as is just that he refers to sports in many of the devotionals so I believe it would be a great devotional tool for men. :)
The book focuses on seven themes, with each theme repeating every seven days. Therefore, every week you will read one devotion from each of the themes:
1) Core
2) Family
3) Friends
4) Potential
5) Mission
6) Influence
7) Faith

Each devotion includes Scripture and an Uncommon Key - an application or action to implement based on what you've just read. The goal is to spend time with God daily and to engage you to act on what you read. He emphasizes to just jump in on whatever date you decide to start reading it.
If you would like to download the first chapter of the book, you can for free by clicking on this link. First Chapter

He is a very humble man and you can feel this in his writing. He is honest and transparent and that makes this devotional very appealing. I was glad that I was reviewing it and could go ahead and read ahead to different days!
See for yourself what Coach Dungy has to say in this video about the book.

Tyndale, I believe, has partnered with a man after God's own heart in releasing this book and I believe God will use it for His glory.
You can investigate more for yourselves at Tyndale or at Coach Dungy's website.

Tyndale has generously provided me with a free copy of this book to give away to you, my readers!
I will choose at random on Wednesday January 18th from everyone who leaves a comment on this post and the winner will be mailed an award certificate that you can redeem at your local Christian bookstore for your free copy of The Uncommon Life Daily Challenge. I believe you will enjoy this book :)

Thanks to Tyndale for providing a copy of this book for me to review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Miracles are for Real by James L. Garlow and Keith Wall

This is a book subtitled What Happens When Heaven Touches Earth.
The book is about miracles and the authors are very scientific in their discussion of what constitutes a miracle as opposed to something else. I like the way they categorize the "inexplicable".
1) Simple Answered Prayer
2) Complex Answered Prayer
3) Coincidence
4) Against All Odds event
5) A Miracle

I was glad to read this book because it wasn't just a collection of many people telling their "miracles". The authors only included verified stories that fit their definition of a miracle. That is not to say that God is not involved in each of the other instances as well. Answering prayers is to us a "miracle" because we cannot see how the Lord can answer our prayers at times. Or the lining up of several coincidences to provide for a certain event can certainly seem like a miracle and certainly at times the hand of God may be involved in this as well. But the miracles are events that extend beyond all the scientific known laws.
An example is of a person who had their entire eye removed due to a tumor. Later during a miraculous healing this person can now see from that eye socket ...where no eye is present. This has been proven through doctors' examinations and numerous tests such as covering the good eye and using only the socket to see things.
This is an inspirational book for those who believe in miracles and a wonderful resource for those who are unsure whether miracles exist and tend to want to have explanations for things that happen in life.
I was blessed by reading this book, and challenged in my thinking of miracles as well. Excellent book!

I received a copy of this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Blue Ridge Holler - January 27 6:00 pm - Union Mills Learning Center

First Date by Krista McGee

To be honest, when I chose this book I was thinking based on the cover and the title that it would be a book of fluff, no substance, some romance novel. I don't really enjoy romance novels except for some by Grace Livingston Hill. So when the book came I put it aside. Finally, this week I picked it up because I didn't have anything else to read.
As I started reading I realized my preconceived notions were all wrong. I should know better by now than to judge a book by its cover. I really enjoyed this book.
It is about a 17 year old girl who is chosen by her Christian school principal to be a contestant in a reality TV show where girls compete to be the prom date for the President's son. Addy, the main character, has no desire to be a part of this. However, the principal tells her it will help their struggling school with their finances because the publicity could get them more enrollees. So she prays about it and decides that this will be a situation sort of like Daniel and the lion's den. She will go there but she will not like it.
The book is humorous and moves quickly. I read it all in two nights. The writer has really developed her characters and I felt like they were young girls I might meet in our church youth group. Addy is not a perfect Christian girl. She struggles with what God would have her do, with her attitudes, with fear, and with sharing her faith. However, she learns from this experience and draws closer to God through it all.
I think any young girl would absolutely devour this book. I am in my 40s and I ate it up! The writing was excellent. The story line showed how God can use any situation for His glory if we are only obedient to Him. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from Ms. McGee!

"With thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishing through the Booksneeze program for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion."