Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Removing the Dragon from our Lives

It’s amazing to see where our journeys take us in life.  In his book, No More Dragons, Jim Burgen tells the very honest story about his life growing up in the church.  His joy in attending worship and being part of the that culture . . . that is, until one day the people of the church complained once too often about his father (the pastor) and how Jim’s mom played the organ.  On that day, Jim checked out of the church.  He still had to attend, but he became involved in drugs and alcohol until he met his wife and refound a relationship with Jesus.

This is the story about the dragon inside of us.  The dragon which needs to be conquered if God is going to do His work in us and if we are to become the creation God designed us to become.  Burgen explains we become dragons slowly, over time.  It’s not necessarily intentional, it just happens, from our choices and then one day we look in the mirror and we don’t see ourselves, we see a monster, a dragon staring back at us.  We realize we aren’t who we thought we were.

Burgen’s summation is that the only one who can save you, is the One, Jesus.  We need to take the steps to move closer to Christ, but in that process we need to be open to the work of Christ in our lives to remove, sometimes painfully, remove the dragon from our heart and spirit.  We need to hold onto Christ if we want to remain free from the dragon and his influence.  It’s not a one time only process, but it’s a life long process to become free and be the person Christ calls us to be.

Overall, this was a very good book.  At times I felt Burgen took too long to make his point, but that doesn’t take away from the good in the book. 

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review from

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Raw and Honest!

Every so often you come across a book which is raw, honest, fascinating, difficult to put down and kid friendly!  This is one of those books.  Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove has written one of those true stories about his journey in his book, Strangers at my Door: An Experiment in Radical Hospitality.

Wilson-Hargrove and his wife believed they were called into what I will call urban racial ministry.  They moved into an all African-American community.  They were the only white folks around, which makes for interesting and remarkable encounters.  They wanted to open up a hospitality house in which they would house those who were less fortunate and demonstrate the love of Christ.  While this is a book about their mission for Christ, this is NOT a preachy book.

There is raw honesty from Wilson-Hartgrove as he discloses his own racism, even as he attempted to help those within the community.  He wrote about their successes, those they were able to help and their mistakes and non-successful stories.  He in very poignant ways showed how those who they were trying to help were the victims in more ways than one.

He opened my eyes to the ways the world looks at one another in ways which are unhealthy and detrimental to society.  This could be a terrifying endeavor if you are not called to do this.  It can be romanticized, but is not for all people, yet, welcoming and loving people is for everyone to do.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, but expect to be challenged by it.

The book was provided free of charge through the reading program at Blogging for Books, in exchange for an honest review.

Blogging for Books - Free Books in Exchange for an Honest Review

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Fascinating True Murder Story

In Paul Collin’s book,  Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery, I was fascinated at his writing style which helped move me into the drama of the first major murder mystery in the United States. 

The story takes place in 1799-1800; and moves beyond that as Collins shares the fate of those involved in this case.  It’s the story of a young Quaker woman, Elma Sands, who is found dead in the bottom of a well.  The story takes place in lower Manhatten and Collins, helps us to understand the cities dynamics as it was in that era.

Elma, was unmarried, and was living in a boarding house for the past 3 years.  The story focuses at first on muffs she borrowed and hadn’t returned and escalates into a murder mystery.  Another tenant, a young carpenter named Levi Weeks, was accused of the murder.

The well in which Elma's body was found belonged to a new municipal enterprise named the Manhattan Company, which had been chartered by the state legislature to provide the city with clean drinking water.  Aaron Burr was the chairman of the company and was going to defend Levi Weeks.  Assisting him was Alexander Hamilton, who was an arch rival of Burr.  Collins gives us insight into the progression of the trial, slowly unveiling different facts from the story.  Collins notes that all quotes in parentheses are literal quotes as recorded from the trial.

He has so many pages at the end of the book of notes and comments, which helps bring him authenticity.  He used stories from 9 newspapers and actual transcripts of the court case, as well as diaries and journals.

He concludes the book by discussing the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, the death of Hamilton and the effect this duel had on the political career of Burr.

This was a fascinating book.  If you enjoy history and murder mysteries this is an excellent choice.

I received this book free of charge from "Blogging for Books" in return for an honest review.

Blogging for Books - Free Books in Exchange for an Honest Review

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Excellent Choice ~ New Spirit Filled Life Bible

I jumped at the chance to review this Bible, the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, because I had thought about buying it about 10 years ago.  I appreciate the ministry of Jack Hayford and he is the Executive Editor.  So, it was a great opportunity to review this Bible.  While I prefer the ESV, the NIV is a Bible I still refer to so this was a good opportunity to review the Bible and see what makes this edition unique.

The NIV is not a literal translation and is called a ‘dynamic equivalence.’  This means the authors are not as worried with the literal translation as they are with the reader understanding what the Bible states.  As a Study Bible, there are notes on the bottom of every page explaining some of the more difficult passages, as well as highlighting words which help the passage come more alive. 

What makes this Bible unique is the fact that they have added the following sections ~

Word Wealth
Kingdom Dynamics
Truth in Action

Each are explained more fully immediately prior to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. 

Kingdom Dynamics are the sections that are probably what most makes this Bible unique, because they are study notes from a large number of speakers and authors, and helps the reader better see and understand how the Holy Spirit is leading in specific areas.  There are 41 of these.  They are easy to spot, as there is a box with the words in bold.

Word Wealth explains more than 550 important words and terms.  These words are listed alphabetically, including their Greek or Hebrew transliteration and scripture reference.  Then on the page where the word is referenced, there is a box with a further explanation of the word, along with a reference to Strong’s Concordance. 

Truth in Action sections are charts at the end of each book of the Bible.  The purpose is to show how the Holy Spirit can impact your life.  What is very helpful is that this section is practical.  The left side shows ‘truth’, while the right side of the chart shows ‘action,’ that is what we are to do on a more practical basis.  That’s a great help.

There is also a very nice introduction before each book of the Bible.  There is a limited concordance in the book of the Bible, as well as some selected color maps.

Overall, this is a very good Bible.  It is excellent for studying and going deeper in becoming the person God is calling you to become.

I was provided with a free copy of this Bible through Booklook.  All opinions are my own.

A Great Journey!

In his book A Life of Miracles: What One Ordinary Family Gained When They Gave Up Everything to Follow God, Don Schulze has written a book that may resemble Chicken Soup for the Soul.  This was an easy to read, quick chapters about the chapters in his life.

He takes you on a journey from his time in Vietnam to returning home and living the wild life, to his marriage, family, trials, tribulations; but also his joys and triumphs as he and his wife, Leia met Jesus on the same day.

This is a true story about their adventures, told in a humorous, yet engaging manner.  There are 27 chapters in the book, with each chapter having a short meditation at the end of the chapter.

If you are looking for a fun summer book that will challenge your faith to be more than an occasional Christian, a book that shows the journey of one family to different parts of the world and their passion for Christ and God's power made real, then this is a book to read.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Press in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Gritty Futuristic Novel

I am not sure what I was expecting from this novel by Adam Sternbergh.  In Shovel Ready, he gives us a glimpse into a futuristic New York City, which has been decimated by terrorist bombs and a future in which people enter a new reality through injections and find themselves in a new world.

The story revolves around a man called Mr. Spademan, a garbage man -- turned hit man.  A man with no conscience, well, he does have one.  He will not kill a minor or anyone who is pregnant.  Thus, we enter into the drama as he is asked to kill the daughter of an evangelist, who may be the father.

It's written in a bare bones method, that takes awhile getting used to reading.  But I liked the style, it made the book move at a faster pace.  I'm still not sure of how I felt about the book, other than to say, I was grabbed into it very quickly, which I really, really like in a book.  Although, I felt the book ended abruptly, but I see he is writing a second Spademan book, which may be the reason.

The biggest negative for me was the language, and it was only one word, but it was repeated more times than I felt necessary, it was the f-word.  Count me prudish, but I didn't need it.  It didn't impress me or make the villains more like villains.

Otherwise, I was captured by the book.  It was a quick and easy read, not for the faint of heart.

"I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this honest review."

Blogging for Books - Free Books in Exchange for an Honest Review

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Is it really All Right Here?!

In some ways this book is all about the normal dysfunctions of life, yet it's a hard to put down book.  In her book, All Right Here: A Darling Family Novel, by Carre Armstrong Gardner has written an easy to read book about a family in turmoil.

Ivy Darling is married to Nick Mason, but still uses her maiden name which infuriates her mother in law.  Her sister in laws don't like her and seek to hurt her at every chance.  Ivy and Nick want children but can't, and it is the cause of tension in their lives.  Nick is very regimented in his life, which is the opposite of Ivy.  Then one day three children enter their lives.  The children are African American who have not had real parenting.

Ivy is excited, Nick is not.  Yet, the children stay and stay.  But their marriage is crumbling.  Ultimately, they have some real decisions which need to be made.  What will they choose? 

This was an easy to read book, and a good book.

The author, Carre Armstrong Gardner has worked in Russia for 3 years working with at risk children.  Which highlights some of her passion for writing this book.

I received this book at no cost from Tyndale House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

Solomon Style: Seduction and Temptation

Solomon was supposed to be the wisest man in the world.  Really?  Maybe for a moment he was, but he ended with hundreds of wives and hundreds more concubines.  Now, that’s not a comment on women, it’s a comment on all the enticements this brings and the slow dissolving of our own beliefs.  But Solomon had more downfalls than just his women.  In his book, The Solomon Seduction: What you can learn from the Wisest Fool, Mark Atterberry, has written an easy to read book for men about the pitfalls of being seduced.

Atterberry takes us through 10 Wake Up Calls (Chapters) that grab a man, seducing him and leading him away from who is really called to be. 

Chapter titles include ~
1. Sin seems like a good idea
2. God's commands seem out of touch
3. Your glory is more important than God's glory
4. You're more influenced by enticements than warnings
5. Sin management seems like a better choice than repentance
6. Your faithful friends are troubled by your behavior
7. Your drinking glasses cost more than some people's houses
8. There are a thousand women lined up outside your bathroom
9. The throne of your heart goes from being a chair to a sofa to a sectional
10. God draws a bull's-eye on your chest.

Atterberry gives a number of examples about the ways we fall into these seductions / temptations.  He discusses the pitfalls and ways we can battle back.  The book is written from a Christian point of view, although he does not use a great deal of scripture to prove his points or to beat you up over a legalistic point of view.  Basically, it’s a call for men to turn away from sin and turn back to God.

This is a good book, which also has a study guide, which asks 5 questions about each chapter.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review program.

Fun Kids Devotional

God Gave Us the Bible: 45 Favorite Stories for Little Ones is a very well done, hardcover introductory Bible for parents to read with thei...