Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow

When I'm subbing at the high school, I enjoy reading a good fiction book now and then to pass the time.  This story revolves around a crime that has been committed...a young black man being shot by a white officer.  But it goes beyond the crime to explore the racial tension in the community and how that affects the case.  While the plot does focus on legal matters, very little of the action takes place in the courtroom.  It mainly focuses on Adisa, a young black attorney, who must decide whether she can go against her racial prejudices to defend the officer.

I enjoyed the book, but a piece of bad theology left me unsettled.  In the story, the grandmother of the boy who had been shot stood up at church and announced that she had forgiven the officer and asked others to show him mercy.  Instead of supporting that act, the preacher and deacons think she needs to be rebuked.  He says "On the issue of whether it's necessary for someone to ask forgiveness in order to be forgiven.  Does Jesus forgive our sins if we don't ask him to?  I don't think so.  If that's the standard he laid down, how can anyone, even Thelma Armistead, forgive someone who hasn't admitted to doing something wrong and asked for forgiveness?  Several of the deacons were telling me I have to publicly rebuke her."  This line of thinking was never corrected.  I know this is a work of fiction, but it bothers me to think that someone may assume this is true.  From what I've read in Scripture, we absolutely can and should forgive others, even if they don't ask for it.

Other than that, the book was well-written and thought provoking.  There are 7 discussion questions at the back of the book.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

All Saints by Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Windle

All Saints is the true story of a dying church in Smyrna, Tennessee that welcomed a group of refugees into their congregation.  What resulted was life-giving for both parties.  The story is full of examples of God's provision for the community and shows what can happen when people work together for the common good.  All Saints has also been made into a movie - showing now at theaters near you!

Many times a book is better than the movie version of a story.  All Saints may be an exception.  While I haven't seen the movie, the book left much to be desired.  First, nearly half of the book is backstory.  While there should be some information leading to the arrival of the refugees at the church, I thought the amount written was excessive.  I enjoyed the second half of the book much better.  Also, the book is written in 3rd person.  It was as if I were reading a news report about what happened instead of someone sharing his/her experiences.

While I think this story is inspiring and needs to be shared - I recommend skipping the bookstore and going to the movies!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Convicted by Jameel McGee & Andrew Collins

The tagline pretty much nails it.  This is a true story about a crooked cop, an innocent man, and an unlikely journey of forgiveness and friendship.

Officer Andrew Collins works for narcotics - ridding the streets of Benton Harbor, MI of drug dealers.  Slowly his morals start to ebb away though as he begins to lie and plant evidence to ensure the criminals convictions hold.  Since he was convinced a drug dealer was guilty, why should he let him get off due to a technicality?  That is, until he was caught and discovered he had put at least one innocent man in jail.

Jameel McGee had a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Due to Andrew Collins false report, he was imprisoned of a crime he didn't commit.  He was robbed of 3 years of his life and knew who was to blame.

So what happens when these two men come face to face?  That is the beauty of this tale....while it didn't come easily, they became best friends.

 This story was interesting and captivating the whole way through, with chapters alternating between Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins telling their side of the events.  It is a touching example of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Online Bible Study?

   Recently I heard about a ministry called Love God Greatly and their Bible Study groups, many of which are online.  To be honest, the thought didn't appeal to me at first.  I've been a part of and have led women's bible studies before, and there's just something special about physically showing up!  You can read each other's facial expressions and understand so much from tone of voice and body language.  You can give hugs and welcoming smiles.  And let's not forget coffee and snacks!  Relationships are built easily when we make time to get together.

  But...I haven't been in a women's bible study for years.  Why?  Because it's too difficult to find a group of women who want to commit to a study AND align schedules to make it happen!  I'm in a season of life where my kids activities and therefore my schedule are always changing.  Evenings that we do have free I usually try to reserve as family time.  So you take multiple women with varying schedules, and it's hard to meet consistently.  Maybe this online bible study thing is worth a try!  Women can plan their time with God whenever is convenient in their schedule that day, and then post insights and encourage others in a private online group setting.  The best part - you can do it in your pajamas!

So you've probably guessed by now that I'm in for a trial run.  And more than that...I feel like God wants me to facilitate a group. It forces me to put the time and effort in.  As with anything, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it!   I have a month to prepare, because the next study with Love God Greatly (LGG) begins on August 28th and is over 1 & 2 Timothy.  If this interests you too, read on for more info!

Who can join the group? Women only, please

How long does it last?  It begins on August 28th and continues for 6 weeks.

What do you have to do? LGG publishes a journal that can be ordered through Amazon or downloaded for free.  It provides daily Scripture readings, room to journal using a SOAP format, and other helpful tips.  LGG also has a blog that posts related devotions 3 times per week.  After journaling, simply participate in conversation in a private Facebook group.

What is SOAP?  This is a method of journaling.  SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.  Click here for more info.

What will we be studying?  1 &2 Timothy.  Click here for a description of the study or to order the study journal from  You can also get a kids version of the journal here so they can study along with you!

How do I join?  Just let me know you are interested and I will send you an invitation to join the group Facebook page once I have it ready to go!  Also, you may go ahead and order your journal (see above).  There will be a PDF version available for free download at a later date if money is an issue.  However, buying the $12 journal through Amazon helps to support the ministry and offers a nicer presentation of the material.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.  Who wants to try this out with me?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Known by Dick and Ruth Foth

Known: Finding Deep Friendships in a Shallow World.  Don't we all want that?  In this digital age of texting and Facebook, something seems to have been lost, or at least harder to grasp than it once was.  I was hoping this book would have some insight into how to navigate these challenges and create more opportunities for deep relationships to flourish.  While the book did well at describing the components of deep friendship, it did not address the struggle, and therefore lacked personal connection for me.

Using Scripture and story, the authors paint a picture of what deep friendships look like.  Friends share stories, spend time together, and affirm each other.  They are authentic, honest, and trusting.  They pursue, invite, sacrifice, and remain.

"Friendship - true, deep friendship - is found in a desire to know and the willingness to be known.  It is choosing to walk with another person through whatever comes.  A lasting friend knows you and still likes you.  And a lasting friend, at the end of the day, is quite simply there."

This book is written mostly by Dick Foth, with some comments added at the end of certain chapters by his wife, Ruth.  When I read Ruth's comments following the introduction, I thought this book was for me.  She was going to add in an introvert's perspective...just what I needed!  But instead, her thoughts were mostly poems or stories that didn't address an introvert's struggle.  

Overall, this is a nice book about friendship...defining what it is and sharing some good stories as examples.  It provides wisdom on how to be a better friend.  But it may leave you right where you started...longing for a deep friendship and not knowing how to take the first step to find one.  Just not quite what I had expected.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

This Life I Live by Rory Feek

You may be interested in this book because this couple is famous.  I, however, had not even heard their names before picking it up.  I like to hear people's stories...learn about the lessons and insights their experiences have taught them.  That alone sparked my interest in this book, and I'm glad I took the time to read it.

Rory Feek writes in a blog with the same title: This Life I Live. Many people have heard about his wife, Joey, and followed their music career and her battle with cancer.  This book focuses more on Rory's life before fame and God got his attention and prepared him to be a good husband.  Like most of us, there are some parts of his story that Rory is not proud of, but he recognizes that those things still have value and need to be told.  He writes, "I've learned that most of the time, the things that you're most ashamed of and don't want to tell anyone are the things that can become a new beginning for you.  And, in time, God has a way of making those moments the first things you want to talk about because it's from there that He was able to work in your life.  To really change you.  From the inside out."  It is with this spirit of authenticity that Rory writes, and I found it both engaging and easy to relate to.

This book has the same feel that a blog has - short chapters that either tell a story or focus on a theme.  While the book as a whole does flow from start to finish, the individual chapters don't always come in chronological order.  Jumping around in time was mildly confusing at times, but I could follow it.

Every family has a story to tell and lessons to share.  I'm glad I got a glimpse into this one...

And if you like to listen to audio-books: Rory recorded this book himself!  I think it would be really cool to listen to an author reading his own story.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Drawn In Bible Study Review

Adult coloring books have been increasing in popularity.  While I personally have not found the time to enjoy this new hobby, I know many people do! Drawn In Bible Studies are unique in that they combine scripture/study with coloring.  There are studies on Mary, Esther, and Ruth.
The books are roughly 5" x 8".

Bible Study: There are four main sessions that include scripture from The Message Bible, devotional thoughts by Eugene Peterson, questions for discussion, and a prayer.  Coloring pages are woven throughout the session.  There are also notes at the end of the book to guide someone in how to effectively lead the study.

Why include coloring pages?  The author says "the act of coloring will help your orienting response, the brain function that allows you to filter out background distractions and attend to the matter at hand...By coloring as you engage in this Bible study, you'll be more attentive to what the Scriptures have to teach you."  It gives your hands something to do while your mind is meditating on the Word.

What to color with? You could use colored pencils, but only if they are very sharp.  Many designs have very tight spaces. (Some examples are shown below).  I tried using gel pens, and they work well.  The pages are thick enough that the ink does not bleed through the paper.  However, if the ink is still wet when you turn the page, it can transfer to the following page.  This could create a problem if you are coloring bits of multiple pages in a short amount of time.

If you like coloring, this type of Bible Study is a new and interesting option!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.