Category Archives: Book Reviews

Hope for All Seasons; Friends for All Time

Is it fair to have a three-point “message” this morning? I probably shouldn’t,
but there are three ideas burning a hole in my brain: 1. Please extend yourself in love to widows and widowers
(who are often more lonely than widows, since men sometimes aren’t quite as connected to their kids and grandchildren). 2. There’s a new book that just came out, Hope for All Seasons,
and I’d like to recommend it. 3. I never cease to marvel at how connected we all really are,
although most of the time we probably have no clue!

              Okay, for any of you who have time to hear the longer version… #1. Since coming to our new church, we’ve made a lot of new friends. One teaches our Sunday school class sometimes, and not only do we appreciate his excellent teaching, he lost his wife to breast cancer a couple of years ago (just after we started going to our Sunday school class), so we’ve had a special heart to pray for him and invite him over a bit. (We have several close friends who live far away and have lost their mate, and we know how deeply lonely they are!) #2. At any rate, over the course of getting to know Jay, we realized that his wife was Julie Ackerman Link, who wrote for Our Daily Bread, a daily devotional ministry that has been a part of my life for 50 years (and where several of our kids worked during summers). Posthumously, Discovery House has just released a book of 150 of her devotionals called, Hope for All Seasons, which is now available online and through Christian bookstores. I’ve ordered a copy and am really looking forward to reading it, because I love her writing and heart. She was also the person who started the writers’ group I attend, although (sadly) I joined after she was gone. #3. Last time Jay was over for dinner, we realized we also had a college connection. Bob Jones University was our alma mater! Jay is enough younger than I am so that we weren’t students at the same time, but he mentioned having an older sister my age, and once he told me her name, I realized we’d actually been very good friends! In fact, we were “society sisters!” (At B.J.U. “societies” were comparable to sororities and fraternities.) Sadly, his sister recently passed away with cancer, so I won’t be able to renew that friendship here on earth, but she was a real “kindred spirit” 45 years ago, and it was such a revelation to realize our interconnectedness. I’m guessing that for all of us—if we only knew—we’d discover multiple connections with friends and family members within a 30-mile radius of our home. We probably pass people on the street or in stores who are actually friends with whom we’ve lost contact, or distant relatives, or related to people we know and love. I suppose in this life, we’ll never fully know “who’s who,”  but won’t it be a delight in heaven to explore all the relationships we have with one another? And, don’t forget: All believers are brothers and sisters in Christ and children of God. What fun…and what a family reunion there will be someday!

“Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus”

“Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
sing His mercy and His grace;
in the mansions bright and blessed,
He’ll prepare for us a place.

“When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we’ll sing and shout the victory.”  (—E.E. Hewitt, 1898, public domain)

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

*If you’d like to learn more about Our Daily Bread, you can access it here:
http://bible-guide.org/free.php?seed=our%20daily%20bread

Have You Considered The Case for Christ?

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of Chicago Tribune journalist,Lee Strobel, and his search for the truth about Christianity. Back in 1980, Lee (played by Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (played by Erika Christensen) were livin’ the dream…self-proclaimed atheists, in love, and enjoying life together with their daughter. However, their world started to unravel after their daughter nearly choked to death and Lee’s wife became a Christian while attending Willow Creek Church.  Intent on restoring their marriage to its former simplicity and peace, Lee began a two-year investigative journey to debunk the Christian myth: the death and resurrection of Christ.His research took him around the country, where he interviewed leading experts in various fields:  archeology, theology,  psychology, and medicine. The Case for Christ traces Lee and Leslie Strobels’ journey from atheism into faith. If you’ve ever wished you could believe in Christ but haven’t been persuaded
of the veracity of the resurrection, please consider watching this movie (or read the book Lee wrote). It’s also really encouraging for those of you who might be believers
but have spouses who do not believe. PG, 84% (audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes, great acting, excellent script. Nothing embarrassing or unprofessional,
so you won’t need to hold your breath if you invite someone to see it. And, it’s probably showing in a theater near you right now!  In truth, I’ve only been to a theater for anything besides a private showing
twice in the last 55 years: once to see The Passion of Christ,
and yesterday to see The Case for Christ. So, you can tell what means the most to me! Believing in Christ,
who loved us and gave himself for us, is right at the top! 

Declare and present your case;
    let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none besides me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:21-22, ESV)

 

Grace is Greater than______________

Have you given up anything for Lent? I have a young friend who said he gave up self-loathing. I was dumbfounded (which is all too rare in me), but this past weekend I heard the same thing from a sweet older lady in Sunday school.

Do you struggle to forgive—either yourself of others? Are you experiencing deep pain in your life? Do you have wounds that just won’t heal? Are you seething with bitterness, raging with anger, fantasizing about revenge, or despondent over your brokenness? Do you believe that if God really was good and all powerful, He wouldn’t allow all the sin and evil in our world?

If you’re struggling with any of these issues, then I’d like to recommend Kyle Idleman’s latest book, Grace is Greater. Kyle is the bestselling author of Not a Fan, but he’s also the pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky (reported to be the fifth largest church in America), where he preaches to a congregation of over 20,000 weekly. This pretty much insures that he’s a super engaging speaker and writer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he knows what he’s talking about. Nevertheless, after reading his book, I’m convinced he does!

The term “grace” has been overused but under-understood for at least a generation. Grace is Greater breathes fresh insight into this matchless subject. Kyle’s subtitle is apt: “God’s Plan to Overcome Your past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story.” No matter where you are on your own spiritual journey—even if you’re just staring down the path wondering if it would really lead anywhere—you’ll find lots to motivate, challenge, and help you grow in grace.

Kyle is a great story teller, and we all know that stories are the sugar that makes the medicine go down. We remember stories. We retell stories. We learn from stories. In under 200 pages and ten thoughtfully (but also playfully and transparently) crafted chapters, Kyle addresses his (and our) mistakes, hurts, and circumstances, sharing through scripture and example how God’s grace is not only equal to but greater than each of these challenges.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

Chasing Slow All The Way To Hawaii

chasing-slowErin Loechner is young. I am a senior citizen. Erin Loechner is a blogger with a fan base of over a million women. I have yet to have half a million people even view my blog and no “fan base” at all! Erin Loechner’s new book, Chasing Slow, just hit the market three weeks ago. I’ve never had a book hit the market! One thing we do have in common: She has no clue who I am, and I have no clue who she is…or at least that was true until I accepted the offer to read and review her book on my blog.

Chasing Slow arrived just before we left for Hawaii, and I chased slow all the way there and back, as the deadline is today! Do I recommend her book? Yes, for these people:

*Women who feel a lion roaring inside them or are feeling dizzy on their merry-go-round. (If this makes sense to you…you’re in.)

*Women who own a Millennial, love a Millennial, or would like to understand the pressures on this now largest living generation, born sometime between 1980 until 2000 or so. Millennials are a cohort of 75± million precious souls who are the major target of massive marketing efforts. They live in a world of cyber connection, averaging 250 friends on Facebook and a median of 50 phone texts per day. They tweet, instagram, pin, blog, linkin and are expected to measure their self worth on the yardstick of what the world-wide web deems perfection.

There’s the reason the “web” is called the “web.” It’s sticky and few escape. Erin found herself trapped in the vortex and has been trying to find her way out.

But it seemed impossibly hard, because she kept feeding the lion, and he was never satisfied. Feeding the lion? I grew up eating the Word and brushed my cut my teeth on 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Don’t feed the lion, resist the lion, and cast all your cares on God, who will care for you and deliver you from the lion (1 Peter 5:7-9; 2 Timothy 4:17). Sounds simple, but I know it’s hard. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to keep the lion fed. Both sooner and later he’ll just keep devouring you.

Feeling dizzy or empty? “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). That works better than yoga, brambleberry lip stain, or a double chocolate latte with whipped cream. Seeking fame and fortune—which comes standard on most Millennials—isn’t the endgame of life. Love and connection with God, family and friends is. Erin’s struggle to figure that out will inspire you if you’re a Millennial and probably distress you if you’ve stayed out of the fast lane, but she’s a very entertaining, openhearted writer, and she salts her mismatched analogies with lots of pepper, so if you can keep from crying you’ll be laughing as you read along her wild ride Chasing Slow.

(P.S.—Tomorrow I want to tell you about a Hawaiian we met last week named Larry Rivera. He played with Elvis Presley back in the day but passed him forty years ago by chasing slow!)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

Life in Season: Cozy and Warm

life-in-season-bookLife in Season is a book of gentle reflections to “Celebrate the Moments that Fill Your Heart & Home.” It’s the type of book you’d like to curl up and read beside the fire with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. At least, that’s how I enjoyed it! vanessa-hunt-and-heather-patterson-life-in-seasonTwo sisters, Vanessa Hunt and Heather Patterson, open their lives to give you glimpses into what the Lord has taught them through their tears and triumphs…mostly as wives and moms, but ultimately as women. scars-life-in-seasonTheir meditations journey across the four seasons of the year, and the entries are a potpourri of lessons. quote-by-oswald-chambers-life-in-seasonAs I read, I kept having the fantasy that they’d cooked up a nourishing bowl of oatmeal, sprinkled it with craft projects and evocative photos, and poured over it some warm milk of the Word. hospitality-life-in-season                                                      Very sweet soul food. mind-the-gaps-life-in-seasonIf this sounds interesting to  you, check out their website, At the Picket Fence. peppermint-sugar-scrub-life-in-seasonIf you enjoy that, Life in Season is a new release that’s now available on Amazon. Or, if you live close by, you can borrow the copy I received for this review. It might be too late for Christmas this year, but there are ideas for Valentine’s Day and Easter at the beginning of the book…

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:8-11. ESV)

From Depths We Rise Reviewed

from-depths-we-riseIf you’re ever tempted to feel sorry for yourself or bitter because your life is so hard, here’s medicine for your beleaguered soul, fresh off the press this October. Reading From Depths We Rise reminded me that life is never predictable, tragedy is almost universal at some point in our lives, and God doesn’t owe us anything. Still, like Job (and Sarah Rodriguez, who authored this memoir), God is worthy of our worship and trust.

Job declared his shocking faith thus: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). How’s that for the antithesis of modern Americans, who argue that if God were good he’d order the universe according to our sensibilities and opinions? And yet, Job is lauded around the globe for his patience and held up as a model of integrity in the Bible. Similarly, I stand in awe of Sarah’s faith through a world of heartache, infertility, love found and lost, and love almost lost but ultimately found.

From Depths We Rise was hard to read but good to remember. I read it in spare moments between chatting with people while tending my ArtPrize entry. It was the perfect therapy for thinking I “should” win anything. Life is all about obeying God and leaving the results with Him. He doesn’t promise us any tangible rewards in this life for surrendering our lives to Him, but He does promise to bless us with far more precious intangibles: love, joy, peace, patience, faith, hope, self-control, gentleness, goodness…

Feeling disappointed? Feeling loss? Try reading Sarah’s amazing story of passion, prayer, anger, surrender, and joy as she learned to rise from the depths of sorrow and loss. May it inspire you to steadiness in faith as it has inspired me.

Tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:3-6).

Rewriting Stories: Jungle Book

jungle-book-coverHave you seen Disney’s new version of The Jungle Book? How did you like it?  jungle-book-2I’d definitely recommend it, and I especially loved their fantastic graphics.
The world of reality and imagination are merging at an incredible pace!

jungle-book-3Although I appreciated the advances in sophisticated graphic design techniques, the movie was a little disappointing to me. It was scarier and less humorous than Disney’s original cartoon classic…more tension; less relaxation and fun. jungle-book-cartoon-versionAdmittedly, I own a copy of Disney’s original version, and we’ve watched it so often as a family (kids and now grand kids) that we know all the songs by heart and use classic lines to pepper our family’s own peculiar inside-joke culture. baloo-and-mowgli-singing-in-disneys-jungle-bookSo, I guess I’m not surprised that the new version is a bit of a let down. Who can forget all the good song and dance routines, and who will never miss them?  🙂

mowgli-1895-illustration-by-j-lockwood-kipling-father-of-rudyard-kiplingHowever, I was doing okay until the ending. What? No romantic “happily ever after”? In Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Mowgli enters the village, is adopted by a human family, marries, and has a son of his own, which is portended in Disney’s original cartoon version. The thought of Mowgli spending his life in the jungle is simply unacceptable to me! I want all my endings to be happy, and “happy” usually ends with wedding bells and a “happily ever after.”

Thankfully, my comfort isn’t riding on how accurately Disney portrays Kipling’s book, but my comfort is riding on how accurately churches portray the end of the Christian story. The Bible is clear that there will be a happily ever after ending for all who believe and come to the Lamb of God. If you go to a church where they’ve rewritten the ending to the story of life, I hope you’re not content. Find a church where the story of man’s need for redemption and the marriage supper of the Lamb is still told!   summer-sun-and-cloudsThen a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.‘”
(Revelation 19:5-9, NIV)