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 fortune...how 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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Quick Tips for Busy Families by Jay Payleitner

Parenting advice from one family to another.  Sometimes it's nice to get ideas from other families about what child-rearing strategies have worked for them and then decide which might also work for you.  That's what this book is....quick tips-ranging from games to chore responsibilities to spiritual guidance.  I think the idea behind the book was good, but the organization left a little to be desired.

The title even indicates that this book is for BUSY families.  If you're busy, you want to find the information relevant to you quickly.  The main drawback to this book is that there are ideas for all age-ranges of children that are scattered in no particular order.  My youngest is 10 years old, so there are many "tips" that no longer apply to my family.  It would have saved time to be able to go to a section specifically for my age-range of interest.  Instead I had to skim and browse to find what was relevant to me.  There is a topical index at the back of the book, but not for age.

As with any parenting advice books, there will be strategies you agree with and ones you don't.  For example, I don't think that if your child starts to pout in the grocery store that you should leave a cart full of groceries and walk out.  I think it's rude to give all that extra work of re-stocking your items to the store employees.  But there are other tips that I did like.  Turning work into a competition.  Using a Job Jar as punishment for bad attitudes and including "grace" as an option.  Teaching good stewardship on field trips by giving your child a certain amount of money and telling them they can keep what they don't spend.  There were definitely some good ideas on these pages, but nothing that struck me as really new and exciting.

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Under the Cover of Light by Carole Engle Avriett

     Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a prisoner of war?  In this memoir, USAF Col Thomas "Jerry" Curtis shares the story of his 7 1/2 year imprisonment in North Vietnam.  Despite the horrific circumstances, Jerry recalls those moments that kept the prisoner's spirits alive - lights in the darkness.  Whether you read this story to gain understanding or to be inspired, you won't be disappointed!

     This book is very well-written with just enough detail to put things into context, but not so much that would confuse the average reader.  We are able to get a glimpse into a situation that many of us will never face.  I have gained a deeper appreciation for these brave men and what they endured for their country.  Some of the lessons the prisoners learned can be applied to our lives today.  For example - appreciating our freedom and not taking things, like access to God's Word, for granted.  Also the practice of being intentionally thankful.  If they can find things to be thankful for as POWs, what excuse do we have not to?

    While Jerry was asking the Lord, "Why me?" at one point during his imprisonment, he was given the opportunity to minister to a fellow inmate.  This experience "led Jerry to understand that wrapped up in any explanation as to why believers might experience horrific circumstances in their lives was opportunity - opportunity to fulfill a God-glorifying task...The tragedy either brought others across a believer's path who needed to receive God's light from the believer or who needed to see God's light through the believer...Jerry realized he had been a conduit for God's glory to an unknown and unseen prisoner, and an eternal truth surfaced in his mind: the deeper the darkness, the more brilliant the light."

     In an age when we tend to idolize celebrities and sports figures, we need books like this that tell stories of true heroes.  By hearing of their courage and perspective during captivity, we can be challenged to look for the light in our own dark circumstances.  I highly recommend this memoir.

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review of Invitation: Harbingers Cycle One

I was initially drawn to the uniqueness of the way that this book was written.  There are 4 different authors - friends who decided to try something new and write a book in the style of a TV series.  This first cycle contains four "episodes", each written by a different author and from a different character's point of view.  While there is an overarching storyline, each story revolves around its own mystery to solve.

Something intrigues me about characters with powers and how they might use them to help others.  The main characters in this story use their gifts to solve mysteries.  A harbinger is a person or thing that signals the approach of another.  Each episode in this book presents a mystery that foreshadows a supernatural darkness descending on the Earth.

So how did this new writing style work out?  In my opinion, it left a lot to be desired.  While the characters are likeable and the storyline holds some intrigue, there simply weren't enough pages to sufficiently develop each episode and bring it to completion.  With each of the stories I felt like it began well, caught my interest, and then came to a rushed conclusion.  The mysteries were never completely solved.

Another problem with writing in this style is the length of time between books in the series being written and published.  Would you watch a  TV series with only 4 episodes per season?  The storyline has come to a pause when its barely just begun.

If you like short stories and the supernatural, you may enjoy Invitation and the Harbingers series.  However, I think I will stick to full-length novels.

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Grace Behind Bars by Bo & Gari Mitchell

Meet the Mitchells... A well-respected Christian couple who run in circles helping others and serving the community.  So how do they react when someone takes advantage of that kindness and it lands Bo Mitchell in prison?  That's what you will discover in this true story.

When we're too busy or distracted for God to get our attention, He has a way of slowing us down.  This could come in many forms - but for the Mitchells it came through an illness and imprisonment.  It was encouraging to hear about their perspective through these trials.  They took a bad situation and chose to trust God and learn everything they could from it.  This attitude ended up leading to a stronger marriage, character improvement, and deeper relationships with the Lord.  While we may not ever be in the same situations, learning to approach trials with their outlook would benefit anyone.

After being released from prison, Bo had a difficult transition back to "normal" life.  He felt weighed down by the pain of his experience.  One phrase he wrote really jumped out at me.  He said if he didn't take the lessons he learned and then move forward, "my mess would remain a mess rather than become my message."  Bo sets a wonderful example of how to use the "mess" you've created and turn it into a message to encourage others.

This story gives a glimpse into life behind bars - a place that many of us will never see.  It was interesting to read and easy to relate to.  Bo & Gari - thank you for sharing your story!

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




Friday, April 14, 2017

A Mother's Guilt


A few weeks ago we had a prayer time at our church and I sat down in front of a wooden cross.  I found myself thinking of Mary and what she must have been feeling, standing there watching her son be crucified.  Obviously she would have been heartbroken.  But did she also feel helpless?  Did she feel like a failure for not protecting her son as a mother should?  Did she wonder if she could have done something to prevent this series of events?

A Mother's Guilt.  It can start as early as pregnancy when deciding which foods and vitamins to eat to help our baby develop properly.  Then the baby comes home and the real worry begins.  Suddenly you are in charge of keeping an infant safe from harm, making sure he gets enough sleep and the right nutrition.  As the child grows, now you have to consider his cognitive and emotional development too!  There is an endless list of things we as mothers are responsible for.  Diet, exercise, safety, health, toilet training, education, character development, and of course documenting all of the important milestones.  We compare our mothering skills and children to others and then feel guilty when we don't seem to measure up.  I would bet that mothers of even the most successful children still struggle with feelings of regret and failure.

I know I'm not immune.  I lose my patience and yell at my kids.  I wonder if I'm spending enough "quality" time with them.  I worry about whether I'm making healthy enough meals and teaching them good eating habits.  I feel guilty that they aren't driven to grow spiritually and that I'm not doing enough at home to encourage that.  I see their character flaws and wonder if my actions contributed to them.  I see them get hurt and wonder if I could have prevented it.  I know I have many reasons to be proud of the way my boys are developing, but I still have a nagging fear that I'm failing them in some way.

So what do I take away from this picture of Mary at the foot of the cross?  I remind myself that just as God chose Mary to be Jesus's mother, he chose me to be the mother of my sons.  He knows my strengths and weaknesses, just as he knows yours.  I also remember to trust in God's plan and that He can use any situation for good.  It may grieve us to watch our children hurt and struggle, but God won't waste that pain.  Just as there was a reason for Jesus to die, so God can use our children's struggles to shape and mold them into the people he wants them to be or serve a greater purpose.  The things we perceive as "failures" may fall exactly into God's plan.

So Mommas - Do your best and then give yourself some grace.  You were chosen to be a mother. God loves your children.  Let's trust Him enough with their futures to let go of the unnecessary guilt.   Hopefully we can look back one day and see the ways in which God has uniquely shaped their lives and be proud of our part in it.