Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kingdom Family Devotional Review

"If we're ever to see the salvation of our nation, we must first pursue the salvation of the family.  The strength or weakness of the family will ultimately determine whether our society stands or falls.  That's why we've written the Kingdom Family Devotional" - Tony and Jonathan Evans

Family devotional time has always been an area where my family has struggled to be consistent.  Trying to figure out a time when everyone can eat dinner together is challenging.  Then to find material that is engaging for all age groups?  Really tough.  I'm always keeping my eye out for good resources.  I picked up this book to see if it would be appropriate for my family with boys ages 9-14.  While some tweaking will be necessary, I believe this is worth a try!

The Kingdom Family Devotional is designed to last a full year, focusing on one topic per week, Monday through Friday.   Examples of topics: Love, Respect, Purity, Money, Forgiveness, Courteous Speech, Wisdom, Repentance, and Humility.   Each day is only one short page, beginning with a Scripture.  You will find short stories and illustrations, verses to memorize as a family, discussion questions, and suggestions for activities.  Wednesdays tend to focus more on Scripture (Wednesday in the Word), while "Fun Fridays" have an activity.

I found that I really like the content of this devotional.  The Scriptures and readings that have been selected are interesting and relevant.  I can see meaningful discussions taking place as a result.  The one area that will require the most adaptation is the activities.  Crafts? Not happening.  Family dance and song writing? Nope, that's probably out too.  Read ahead...If you see there's an activity coming that you know would not work for your family, simply omit it or tweak it to fit your style.

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Meals From Mars by Ben Sciacca

Meals From Mars is a fictional story that is meant to fuel conversations about racial tension.  I found it to be an interesting, quick read that helped me to expand my perspective on the challenges facing segregated communities.

The story revolves around a white man from an affluent neighborhood who goes into "the other side of town" to deliver some groceries to a needy family.  He ends up getting carjacked and stranded with a young black man.  As the two strangers begin to open up to one another and share their stories, readers can be challenged to explore their own views and prejudices regarding race.

I was drawn to one observation that the author made about violent crime.  He writes "Some simply label things too quickly and try to connect violence to race rather than to circumstances or context.  The reality is that any community - regardless of race - that is facing...poverty, joblessness, and brokenness tends to use violence in equal measure.  In most cases, when violence emerges in a community, it has become the currency of negotiation for people who feel like they have no other option."  This story aims to provide understanding and get us thinking about how to fix the root problem and bring reconciliation, rather than just the quick fix.

This book is an engaging tool that can be used to get the conversation about racial tension started....there are even 20 discussion questions provided to get things rolling!

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

Shaken: A Book Review

While this book could be beneficial for anyone to read, if you have teenage sons who are sports fans - this book is awesome!  Why?  They will read it!  And it's solid, faith-based teaching and encouragement.  I could buy them all sorts of spiritual books aimed at teenagers, but they would only get a passing glance.  Two of my boys have already read Tim Tebow's first book and enjoyed it, so I know they will give this one a try.  His writing is kid-tested and mother-approved ;)

Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life's Storms.  We all have disappointment and discouragement in our lives - even professional athletes.  In this book Tim shares some of his struggles in his sports career, such as getting cut from a few teams, and uses that platform to share how we can overcome our storms.  He also shares stories of other people who have inspired him.  I thought it was the perfect mix of sports, story, and teaching.  Enough football talk to engage my sports-oriented boys, but not too detailed for someone who could care less about the game.

Tim's story helps to give perspective on what it's like to be a professional athlete.  Right now my oldest son sees only the game and the money.  What he doesn't see is the risk of crushing disappointment, the fickle fans, and the struggle with remaining humble and grounded.  Everyone has highs and lows in their lives, but we can't let them define who we are.  That's the heart of this book.

I respect Tim for using his fame to make a difference in the world.  He has a foundation that is changing the lives of children, some of which we hear about in this book.  He does mission work in prisons and overseas, and he is sharing the message of hope with those who will listen.  Many of us don't have the same level of influence that fame provides, but he still encourages us to stand up and practice acts of kindness.  We can all make a difference.

Tim writes "I want my life to speak louder than a world record.  I don't just want to leave a legacy on the field.  I want to live off the field in a way that outlives me.  I want my love for God and for others to shine greater than an incredible comeback moment, a heavy gold trophy, or a handful of favorable headlines".  Thank you, Tim, for being bold enough to share your faith and set an example for these young men of mine.  You are leaving a legacy.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NIV Bible for Teen Guys Review

I have one teenage son, with two following quickly behind, so this Bible caught my attention.  I'm always on the lookout for content that will help them engage with and relate to God's Word.

The main thing you need to be aware of is that this is a devotional bible, NOT a study bible.  You will not find footnotes or maps explaining the text in further detail.  What will you find?

  • Scattered throughout the Bible are roughly 333 one-page devotions focused on a specific verse found within the book where the devotion appears.  Several of these are excerpts from popular student edition books, such as All In, Thrive, and Gods at War.  At the end of the bible is an index arranging these devotions by topic.
  • Since this is a bible for guys, there are 55 one-page highlights of Men of the Bible.  Each page tells what the man's name means, where his story can be found, and what lessons he can teach us.  There is an index at the back of the book for these highlights as well.
  • Each book of the Bible starts with a one-page introduction.  It details when the events happened, who is in the book, popular verses, and a brief synopsis.
  • The Bible ends with a 60-page concordance.
While I think a study bible might be the best choice for a teenage boy wanting to understand the Scriptures, I do like the features contained in this book.  The devotions are relevant and I think boys will be drawn to the stories of men.  The book I was given was hardback.  If I were going to purchase this book, I would probably spend the extra money for an imitation leather cover.

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Riley Unlikely by Riley Banks-Snyder

This book is the heart-warming story of how God has and is using a teenage girl to impact the world.  Can one person really make a difference?  Absolutely.  All it takes is one step of obedience at a time.

Riley Banks has an aunt and uncle who were going on a short-term medical missions trip to Africa.  At the age of thirteen she was able to go visit them and help serve, which ignited a passion in her for the children in Africa.  She would see a need and then figure out what she could do, with the help of others, to meet it.  She sacrificed presents and other material goods for herself in order to raise funds for return visits to bless the children.  What started as something as small as collecting school supplies has now become her lifelong vision to live and serve in Kenya.

This true story was enjoyable to read.  It is encouraging to see how God can use an ordinary girl and her family to start a ministry and do more than they possibly could have imagined.  Riley is honest about the challenges and obstacles that were present on her journey, but is also quick to point out the many ways that God has shown Himself faithful.

If you want to learn more about Riley's ministry Generation Next, or if you simply want to read a story about the impact that one family is having on the world, check this book out!

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

I had heard of and seen this book in various places over the years, but I never thought it would be for me.  The subtitle states "How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars".  My primary job title is Mom, and I'm not career-oriented, so how many big opportunities are really going to come my way?  What I found is that this book speaks to any challenges in life, not just opportunities in the career field.  Mark Batterson writes in a very engaging and relevant manner, and I did lots of highlighting!  This book offers insight and can infuse you with courage to tackle whatever challenges you are facing right now.

The title and theme of this book comes from 2 Samuel 23:20-21 which briefly tells of Benaiah chasing a lion down into a pit on a snowy day and killing it.  Most people would have done the exact opposite and ran away.  Whether you agree that chasing a lion into a pit is a courageous act or a stupid move is up to you - but the result for Benaiah is that it led to a position of high rank within King David's administration.  If he would have run away, his safety would have been guaranteed, but he might have missed the blessing and future opportunities for influence.

I doubt I will ever encounter a lion.  (And if I did, I would definitely not chase it!)  However, there are situations I face where fear threatens to overwhelm me and I would rather change direction than face it head-on.  That is where the book's message hits home.  Mark writes "Lion chasers don't let their fears or doubts keep them from doing what God has called them to do."  He encourages us to unlearn our fears and reset our perspectives.  He goes on to say "The goal of faith is not the elimination of risk...We won't regret the mistakes we made as much as the God-ordained opportunities we missed."  I was encouraged from the stories shared in this book and reminded of some important truths.  I don't want to miss out on what God has in store for me.

For those of you like me who like to play it safe, this book will give you a nudge toward taking those first risky steps.  Keep a pen or high-lighter will need it!

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Open by David Gregory

Open is a short fictional story that leads a person to think about his/her understanding of the Christian life and spiritual growth.  The main character, Emma, is going through a challenging time in her life and is having doubts and feelings that many of us can relate to.  She knows what she has been told: God is enough to satisfy you...reading the Bible will guide and comfort you. But what do you do when those things that are supposed to happen are not a reality in your life?  You read the Bible and can't relate.  You are not satisfied.  You can't deny that your feelings are not in line with what you've been told.  This is where we find Emma.

The story is based around Emma receiving a letter that tells her to go through the nearest open door for an adventure with Jesus.  When she does this, she is transported back in time, witnessing firsthand some of the stories told in the gospels.   She is able to gain a better perspective of what these encounters with Jesus meant for the people involved, and begins to see her own story in them.  Emma also has several conversations with Jesus, opening her eyes to the true path of spiritual growth.

I was asked to share in this review how I related to the character's experience with Jesus.  There have definitely been times in my journey that my spiritual life has felt empty when compared to what I hear others have experienced.  I've learned over the years not to compare...that one person's plan for spiritual growth/connecting with Jesus may not work for another.  I could relate to this truth that Jesus shared with Emma in the story.  He says "The only one who can make you grow spiritually, Emma, who can make you more like me - is me.  Spiritual disciplines in themselves have no power to transform you...I'm not telling you not to do them.  They can be vital.  But they only benefit you if they keep you focused on me.  On me personally, not as a concept...They're simply to help you know me, the faithful one who loves you perfectly and acts on your behalf powerfully."  It reminded me that relationship, not checking things off a to-do list, is the way to grow.

If you like short books that give you something to ponder, you will enjoy this one.  It doesn't have a lot of character development like you would find in a longer story, but just enough background to allow you to find common ground with Emma and go along on the "adventure".

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