Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sifted by Rick Lawrence

We all experience troubles. Each of us has pain. We wonder what God is doing. Bad things aren't supposed to happen to good people.
Lawrence says what is behind what is happening is found in Luke 22:31-32. Jesus has pulled back the curtain on the spirit world. Lawrence takes his readers through the seven sentence fragments in those verses.
God calls us by name. He knows each one of us.
Satan is our enemy. He is a illusionist. “...[H]e has no real legal power or authority of his own, so he must steal our by deceiving us.” (75) Satan is detailed, organized and shrewd. He is systematic in his “sifting.” The “you” is plural. Although Jesus mentions Peter by name, all of the disciples (and all Christians) will be sifted. Satan's motivation is our destruction, but God uses it for good. God using Satan's sifting for good “is an explanation of His genius and a summation of His redemptive strategies in our lives.” (112) The essential work of sifting is revelation. Our true identity is revealed through suffering.
“But.” That little word makes all the difference. God is unfailingly kind. Sometimes the kindest act is not the most pleasant. As Satan accuses day and night, Jesus is continually making intercession for us.
Jesus' intersession is centered on our faith, that it would not fail. Lawrence gives insights to keeping faith at the level needed. Our faith grows in relation to how often and how deeply we listen to Jesus. (192)
Jesus knew Peter would “turn back” and survive the sifting. Jesus was not worried about Peter and He is not worried about us.
Jesus predicted Peter would strengthen others. After the sifting Peter would have something great to give others. It was to Peter Jesus would say, “Feed my sheep.” We give to others of the strength we receive from Jesus.
Lawrence concludes, “Only those who have been sifted like wheat, then have offered themselves as food for God's beloved, have the clarity to proclaim that, in truth, they love God unconditionally...” (261)

This is an excellent book to give to someone who is being sifted. Finally, a theology of suffering that is biblical and compassionate. The is will certainly be an encouragement to anyone who reads it.

Rick Lawrence is the longtime editor of GROUP magazine and co-leader of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. He is a frequent conference speaker and prolific author. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters.

David C Cook, 300 pages.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Demon A Memoir by Tosca Lee

What an unusual novel! Having read the novel Lee co-authored with Dekker, I knew I had to read one she penned on her own. This one did not disappoint.
Clay is an editor at a major publishing house. At the end of a day at work he stops by the Bosnian Cafe for a bite before heading home to his dark and empty apartment. A man beckons him to sit with him. Clay tries to steer away but the fellow is persistent. He's taken the liberty of ordering for Clay.
Thus begins Lucian's interaction with Clay. Lucian wants to tell his story and insists that Clay will publish it. Over the next weeks, months, Lucian reveals the beginning, his devotion to Lucifer, Lucifer's fall from El's graces, El creating these things out of dirt, etc. Clay is at times repelled and at other times captivated. As the novel progresses we learn more about Clay's life and how it interacts with those around him. We feel the tension as Clay's life spins out of his control, bound as it is with the demon and his story.

One might think the plot line wouldn't hold the reader. A demon, telling his memoirs to an author/editor? Lee's writing is so good, however, that I was drawn to continue on, to find out who the monster really is.
Lee says in her afterward that she got to thinking one time of what the events recorded in Genesis must have been like, experienced from the viewpoint of a fallen angel. Her imagination is as good as her writing skills.
One message that comes across in this book, loud and clear, is the absurdity of God loving the humans He created, even after they rebelled against Him. It made me stop and think, and be very grateful, for God's continued love toward me. It's rare for a novel to illicit that kind of response, I think. It will stir your soul. Well done.

B & H Publishing Group, 314 pages.

Lit! by Tony Reinke

Lit! Is a book for nonreaders. Are you one? You know you should read (like you know you should take your vitamins). But you don't.
This book will give you hope that reading can make a difference in your life. This book is for anyone who wants to read books and read them well.
Reinke promises if you commit your life to reading books, your life will be enlightened. But books will also complicate your life.
The purpose of the book is to study reading from a Christian perspective. In chapters 1-6 he develops some biblical and theological convictions about books and reading. He divides books into two categories: the Bible, everything else. We must remember to read the perfect in light of the imperfect. Because of sin, God must enlighten our spiritual eyes. He shares his concern over the trend to images over print. He speaks of developing a biblical worldview. He reviews the benefits of reading non-Christian books.
In chapters 7-15 he writes about how to pick the right books and how to read them. American publishers add 200,000 books each year. For every one we read, we must ignore some 10,000 others. He shares his own priorities in reading and we are encouraged to develop our own. He gives six ways to find time to read books. He shares how he marks up his books and takes notes. He reviews recent books he has read.

I enjoyed this book. But then, I'm an avid reader. This book is for nonreaders. I am not sure nonreaders will wade through all the philosophy of Christian reading, the history and philosophy of images as carriers of meaning, retelling of biblical stories, describing how a worldview is developed, the seven critical truths of Scripture... You get my point. I wish Reinke would have grabbed the nonreader right at the beginning with the excitement of reading and some penetrating truths one can obtain only by reading. I think a nonreader would need to be grabbed in the first twenty five pages or so. That just did not happen in this book.
So who will read this book? Christians like me who love to read all kinds of books and have been longing for a theology of reading that encourages us to do that. Reinke does give us that. There is much to learn from reading non-Christian books – as long as we keep Scripture our priority.

Crossway Books, 190 pages.

I received an egalley of this book for the purpose of this review.

Change Agent by Os Hillman

Hillman believes, “Deep in the heart of every human is a desire to make a difference in their world – they want to be change agents.” (1) “Each of us was created to solve a problem.” (1) We often settle for the little story of our lives. Hillman has written this book so we can understand the battle and how we can become part of the larger story of God.
If we are to impact the nation for Christ, seven areas must be affected: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion.
We have been losing influence in these seven area of culture because 1) we have separated ourselves and our nation from God, 2) the gospel of salvation has been emphasized over the gospel of the kingdom, and 3) the church does not have a biblical view of work and calling.
“We are each called to become change agents in the sphere of influence God has called us to impact.” (10) God is raising up people for this time. “Influence in culture is only possible when those who want to exert influence have a message and a life others see and desire.” (14) “God wants you to bring the kingdom of God into the territory He has given you so that His will can be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (26) “If we are to become change agents, we must make the gospel an integral part of our life, our worldview, and our passion.” (32)
God will see to it that we are trained. “When God gives a saint an assignment, the training ground fits the assignment.” (41) “God's training ground usually is made up of life experiences that will contribute to the ultimate assignment God has for us.” (42)
Hillman goes through the six stages and processes of the call of a change agent: divine circumstances, character development, isolation period, personal cross, problem solvers, and networks. He shares his own experiences at that of others (including biblical characters) in this process.
He then goes through each of the mountains giving examples of change agents and encouragement to those who want to be of influence. He includes points for each of the mountains, including suggestions for individuals and identifying what success would look like.
Hillman says, “For the last fifteen years I have devoted my life to helping Christians see that their working lives are not simply a place to collect a check, but a holy calling from God to reflect His glory and influence culture.” (203) “There is a grassroots movement taking place across the United States right now. It involves the formation of community-based Christian coalitions made up of local churches, workplace leaders, and intercessors who desire to see change in their communities.” (205) “If we are going to reclaim culture,” Hillman believes, “local community transformation movements must be a part of that.” (206) Three groups of people are vital to this movement: intercessors, pastors and nuclear church leaders, and workplace leaders. Hillman identifies four key ingredients required of Christian leaders: prayer, humility, unity, and knowledge of God's ways.
Hillman's final word is that if we want to see our cities transformed, workplace leaders who are change agents must be identified. They play the key role.
Are you ready to be a change agent?

You'll be encouraged to become a change agent when you read this book. But what happens then? I would encourage you to go to for additional resources. This would be a great book for a study group in the workplace or a discipleship group at a church. Working with others who have the same calling as yours will be beneficial.

Charisma House, 221 pages.
Buy this book from

I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

From the Garden to the City by John Dyer

We live in a rapidly developing technological age. Tools are being developed faster than we can evaluate their impact. How should Christians understand this era and the influence technology has upon them?
Dyer loves God...and technology. He combined seminary studies with computer programming. When a seminary professor stated that one of the most dangerous things to believe was that technology was neutral, it set Dyer thinking. He had been building websites for churches. How could technology not be “neutral”?
His investigations revealed little about how technology fits into the redemptive story. As he read McLuhan and Postman he began to find some troubling ideas that made him wonder if technology was what it seemed. He started a blog which eventually resulted in this book.
The title refers to the Garden of Eden and the Jim Jones cult of the 1970s. In both cases people consumed something they didn't fully understand. Is the same thing happening today?
Dyer notes that prior to the printing press, people heard the Word of God. It has only been the last 500 years that the printed text has been the dominant form of communication. We are returning to a culture of spoken words. What does this change mean?
There are two ways to understand technology and life, Dyer writes. Either God has a purpose and plan and technology is a part of it, or, there is no God and technology is the answer for the future.
Dyer examines familiar biblical stories to find clues as to how Christians should approach technology. From Genesis 2, “God designed the world in such a way to be cultivated and shaped by humanity, and when we create we are operating as God's image-bearers.” (54) From the Fall, “...we must be careful not to believe the lie that the right tools will enable us to live independent from our Creator...” (73)
As an example of how technology changes culture, Dyer looks at music. Once it was live musicians, many people producing and many people sharing in the listening. With the advent of the battery operated Walkman in 1979, music became an individual experience available anywhere.
The views regarding technology can be stated in two extremes: technology is a tool, neither good nor evil (often the view expressed about guns), or, technology is a driving force in our culture, irrespective of human use (“The Internet has made my life...”). Dyer takes a middle ground. “People are culpable for their choices, but technology still plays a role in influencing the decisions they make.” (86)
Where we worship has been influenced by the invention of automobiles. How we worship has been influenced by the invention of sound systems, allowing large congregations.
From Babel: “Technology does not make people do anything, but it does alter the choices people have in front of them.” (107)
From the ten commandment tablets: God used cutting edge technology of the day. He does not have a “wait-and-see policy.” “...[I]nstead God is always working through the tools of the day as he accomplishes his redemptive program.” (112)
He notes that, “...every good technology comes with a trade-off of some kind.” (133)
From creation, our ability to make technology is a reflection of our Creator. From the fall we learn that every technology can be used for sin and rebellion. We also learn that technology can be used for redemptive purposes. In the end God will restore all things, including technology.
We have the opportunity to worship God whenever we use tools and they work well. We can thank God for the creativity He has given man. But we must also realize the redemptive capacities for technology are limited. At the same time we see great evil conducted through technology
There are those who think all our problems, now and in the future, will be solved by technology. Some argue this has become a kind of unspoken religion.
We have information access, all kinds of knowledge at our fingertips. But there is a downside: porn is now abundantly available, we have information overload, almost anyone can publish almost anything, we scan instead of read, and we are constantly interrupted. Much of the Christian life “requires the ability to concentrate and focus on ideas over long periods of time.” (165) We have to work against the distractions, the chaos, the complications technology has brought us.
We are living in the time between the Garden of Eden and the City of God. We could try to avoid technology or we could use technology as much and as often as we can. Either extreme, Dyer says, is failing to live faithfully with what we have been given. (176)
To faithfully use technology, Dyer suggests five steps: valuation, experimentation, limitation, togetherness, and cultivation. (176-179)

Dyer's style of writing here is that of textbook quality. He spends much time on the philosophical implications of technology the layman may find distracting. The parent who wants an easy answer to their child and the internet will not find it here. This book is better for the church leader who wants to understand the theological implications of technology.
I appreciated Dyer's conclusions. I write this blog on my laptop while listening to music on an MP3 player and I'll post this on the Internet. I trust all of it is to the glory of God.

Kregel Publications, 182 pages.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hook, Line & Sinker by Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren created Deep Haven as the setting for many of her novels. She created characters to inhabit Deep Haven and some of them just would not be confined to one novel. One of them was a Native American named Noah Standing Bear. He is a dynamic youth worker and has a youth camp that made a great setting for a fishing contest...and a little romance.
Abigail and Ross had known each other for years. Abigail spent time with Ross's older brother, Scotty – but mostly so she could be around Ross. Then Scotty was suddenly killed in a skiing accident. Ross was sure Abigail was devastated and the fun the two once had together came to an end.
Ross loves her. He's loved her since she beaned him with a line drive. And she loves him, but...she knows he doesn't want her. He's flunking out his senior year and she is going for her doctorate. What could they possibly have is common?
Ross and Abigail lead somewhat competing youth groups at the college. The two are thrown together as the youth groups are challenged to a fishing contest near Deep Haven. The tension between the two ebbs and wanes.
Can they possibly overcome their misjudgments to break through to the love they have for each other? Can Abigail use the principles of fishing to catch him, hook, line, and sinker?

This is a short (38 pages) novella and it was hard to get “into” it. For Warren to complete the typical romance plot, things had to move fast and sometimes without all the interesting background material fleshing it out. If one needs an introduction to the writing style that had made Warren popular, this is a good one. It was just over too fast!

This novella is available at

I received an egalley of this novella from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

The Liberating Truth by Danielle Strickland

I knew I was going to like this book on the second page! Strickland had read a Christian book that said all women long to be princesses. She certainly hadn't felt that way! In fact, her mother had to bribe her as a child to wear dresses!
She then begins to deal with this modern, worldly stereotype of the Christian woman, revealing instead, God's plan for women. “So,” she says, “this book is a celebration of the diversity of God's calling to all people. … He wants you to contribute any way you can. You are not limited to gender based work...” (23)
She addresses cultural differences. If a society is cannibalistic or centers on terrorism, we will fight to change it. If the culture suppresses women, makes them wear total covering or forbids their education, well, that's just “cultural differences” and should be tolerated.
She speaks about prostitution, that it is supposed to be “liberating.” She says, “Eighty-six per cent of women who are involved in prostitution around the world would do anything else – anything else – if they thought they could.” (40) It is oppression, not liberation. She notes that Sweden has taken the radical move of criminalizing men. Being a prostitute is not illegal in Sweden but visiting one is. (44)
She is ruthless on those who proclaim women cannot preach. “This lie was, and is,” she writes “believed by men because it feeds some sort of ego and affords them power.” (44)
She explains that men and women were created equal (she addresses the Hebrew of Gen. 2:18,20). That undermines the idea of gender discrimination. Subordination of women was not part of God's original design for humanity.
Strickland is saddened that the church, rather than being the entity to model empowering women, it continues in its reluctance to do so. Rather than being salt and light, it is stuck in the Dark Ages and is a stench in the nostrils of God. (77) “...[T]rue biblical feminism is...based on the fundamental principles of equality and dignity. … The Bible simply does not support the doctrine of authoritarian male headship and female subjugation.” (66) She notes that Scripture texts used subjugate women need to be read in context and accurately interpreted.
On marriage, she writes, “The beautiful picture of marriage, of love and mutual submission, where two people become better together than they were apart, has been turned into a travesty of control and oppression. One person – always the woman – has to become less in order for the system to work.” (68)
Strickland takes a deep look at Scripture in the second part of her book. Jesus, she writes, “vigorously promoted the dignity and equality of women in the midst of a very male-dominated society.” (101) “He quite directly rejected the stereotype that a woman's place is in the home.” (105) She takes a deeper look at I Corinthians 14:26-37 and I Timothy 2.
Strickland is on a mission – to see His kingdom come. “Galatians isn't just a nice idea – it's the reality of how God wants the world to be.” (154)  (Gal. 3:28, " longer male and female, you are one in Christ Jesus.")

Be prepared! Strickland has got it right! Women, if you think you've been relegated to second class citizenship in God's kingdom, read this book!

About the Author: Danielle Strickland is a Major in the Salvation Army in Canada. A gifted evangelist, she is widely sought after as a speaker. She and her husband, also a Salvation Army officer, have two young children.  Read more about her on Wikipedia:

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Sky is Not Falling by Charles Colson

This book is comprised of essays that first appeared in Christianity Today and have been collected here in themes.
Colson senses that evangelicals are battle weary and are in a sort of malaise when it comes to influencing culture. Some might cry that the sky is falling, but we should be encouraging instead as the church has withstood the onslaught of two millennia.
In one essay, Colson notes, “The truth is that Americans are losing their moral recognition of the universal dignity of human life.” (21-22) He asks, “Where are the adults who are supposed to teach these kids the intrinsic value of human life and other moral absolutes?” (22) Colson suggests, “Today people are beginning to recognize the soul-destroying consequences of postmodernism, and now is the time to press them to see the wisdom of biblical truth.” (22)
He has a great chapter on marriage. He notes the supreme court decisions that effectively ended any morals legislation. (42) When the person is divided from the physical body, the body is treated as an instrument for getting what someone wants. (44) Christians cannot just say that homosexuality and adultery are against the Bible. The understanding of the human person must be explained, and Colson does exactly that.
He next addresses the decline in our culture, encouraging Christians to have high standards in speech and dress, as well as for worship, music, etc.
He addresses postmodernism and the denial of absolute truth and the disastrous results that follow. Colson is concerned relativism has invaded the church. “It is vital that Christians become more discriminating.” (71)
He next investigates what happens when a utilitarian logic, such as evolutionary ethics, is applied to science. He covers the ramifications of recent Supreme Court decisions. He believes they show a trend that puts religious liberty in jeopardy.
The public has lost confidence in the congress and Colson gives several reasons for it. Since 2005, earmarks have cost the taxpayers over $142 billion. (93) Special interests dominate. Lobbyists and politicians no longer work for the common good but for what is in it for them. Virtue and ethics in government are plummeting. He encourages Christians to get active in holding their politicians accountable.
Of the modern culture, Colson says, “We must show why postmodern relativism is the cause of such despair and is at the root of much cultural restlessness and fragmentation. And then we must point the way out of the corner that postmoderns have painted themselves into.” (105)
There is now rampant doctrinal ignorance among American Christians. (111) Christians need to be able to speak intelligently and courageously about the hope that is within them. “A vital key to turning today's church around is taking special care to see that the next generation is solidly grounded in Christianity's core teachings and infused with an accurate worldview.” (113) We must teach discernment or we are going to lose the next generation. He says the “cultural commission” is every bit as real and serious as the Great Commission. We cannot ignore the moral issues of the day.
Colson suggests “God may be using disastrous events to wake up America. (124)
When it comes to political involvement, Colson wants Christians to remember they are appealing to hearts and minds, not twisting arms. (130)

As is sometimes the case with essay collections, this book does not seem to have a cohesive thread running through it. If one does want to get Colson's take on a variety of current political and cultural conditions, this would be a way of doing so in bite size chunks.

Worthy Publishing, 154 pages.

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book of Dreams by Davis Bunn

Dr. Elena Burroughs is an authority on dreams. For three years her book has topped the bestseller lists around the globe. On the surface, she appeared to be a successful woman, counselor on staff at the University of Oxford, at the top of her career. But underneath she was still a grieving widow of five years.
One morning she is surprised to see a new name on her patient list for the day. And it is just a first name. When the patient arrives she is accompanied by body guards. She is the U.S. Ambassador's wife and she has been having troubling dreams.
This counseling session begins an exciting adventure for Elena. She perceives from the wife's dreams that the Ambassador, previously CEO of the fourth largest bank in the U. S., is in potential danger. He is in the running to be the next vice-presidential candidate but Elena knows if he accepts the offer it will mean certain death.
Elena's good friend Miriam gives her an ancient book that had been passed down for generations. When Elena opens the fragile pages, she begins to “see.” God reveals to her part of His plan for the future.
As the novel progresses Elena meets others involved in the highest levels of international banking. It becomes apparent that there is a conspiracy to use the banking industry in a way that parallels the actions that caused the downfall of many in 2008.
Elena and the others seek God's leading as they try to stop the evil forces bent on deceiving the public with their financial schemes. It becomes evident that someone is out to stop them, even killing them if necessary.

Bunn has the gift of creating exciting novels and this one does not disappoint. We are faced with the intrigue of international banking and those who would use it for personal gain, even if it means the ruin of many. We are also confronted with a band of believers, once powerful in themselves but now relying totally on God. They choose to follow God's will even when it means their own lives are in danger. We are reminded of the ways God can speak to His people today – through dreams and visions. We are also shown that God can and does heal the hurts of tragedy and open the door for new life.

I recommend Book of Dreams. The characters in the novel are depicted well. Their Christianity is real, their desire to follow the will of God honest and their experience ultimately rewarding.
There is a reading group discussion guide included so this would make a fine choice for a reading group.

Howard Books, 328 pages.

Buy this book from

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Deadly Indifference by Michael Brown & Ted Schwarz

Brown, director of FEMA during Hurricane Katrina, kept a journal of his experiences, running to several hundred pages. Four years after he left the Bush White House he started writing this book. Other high Bush officials began writing and Brown saw that their writing was often in conflict with his (recorded) experience. Self-serving autobiographers were spinning details of the past. Brown realized most people did not know the planning involved and what should have happened after Katrina. He also realized the average person was not going to search the Internet to find the records being made public that would prove the accuracy of what Brown has written in this book. Karl Rove and others were pinning the blame on Brown.
Brown felt it was time the truth came out. It was time the public knew about the “bad choices [that] changed a serious situation into a needlessly deadly one.” (203)
He covers the role of FEMA and how they do planning. He notes that the states must ask for assistance. The politicians were hesitant. If the hurricane veered off, might they be liable to lawsuits from disgruntled business owners?
FEMA does not possess the resources and personnel to respond to disasters. It only has teams to coordinate state, local, and federal personnel. FEMA does provide training and resources to many of the teams but they are not FEMA employees. They are local fire departments and paramedic units.
The federal government does have strategically placed supply centers with emergency generators, cots, drinking water, medical supplies, MREs, etc. The government does not own a fleet of trucks or buses needed to transport the supplies to the area of need. Privately owned trucks and their drivers would be contracted.
Thirty-eight urban search and rescue teams are spread around the country. They are made up of specialists from city and county departments. They receive special training and equipment, then teams are called in during a disaster.
Brown notes that after September 11, 2001, the focus of homeland security was terrorism, not all kinds of disasters. Money was taken from natural disaster response and was authorized for counterterrorism. (62)
As Katrina approached New Orleans as a category 2, FEMA waited for the request for assistance, as Jeb Bush had done for Florida. The governor of Louisiana decided not to act until the mayor of New Orleans asked her to do so. The mayor delayed. Then at 11 p.m. August 26, the governor declared a state of emergency and requested federal assistance. FEMA began to mobilize resources. Some of the teams had to come from a distance.
The director of the National Hurricane Center called the mayor, telling him the hurricane required immediate evacuation. Instead the mayor “declared his city to be in a state of emergency and suggested that the residents voluntarily evacuate.” (78)
While the needed evacuation order would eventually be given, it was too late to be effective. The city and it inhabitants suffered the results of the political game.
After the disaster the politicians tried to cover their mistakes. Bush said, “I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” (83) Recordings of the conferences before the disaster proved otherwise.
The bureaucracy that resulted when FEMA was placed under the Dept. of Homeland Security proved to be a problem. The request Brown made for buses for New Orleans got lost in the layers of administration. When he realized this, it was too late to do any good. (109)
The destruction area covered ninety-three thousand square miles, the same land mass as Great Britain.
The first line of responsibility is the states. “Only when the response and recovery to a disaster is beyond the ability of the state and local government is FEMA to respond.” (148)
Brown gives several examples of political posturing that caused lives. One example involves the navy hospital ship in the area. Brown had been in dialogue with the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana. They agreed that the Navy hospital ship should go to New Orleans, as the hospitals in Mississippi were functioning. Senator Lott was livid and pulled strings to get the ship to Mississippi. Brown says because a senator wanted a photo op, a vital resource went to a place where it was not needed, denying aid where it was very much needed.
Brown certainly was not innocent of all wrong. He admits he made mistakes too. He just wants to set the record straight. It is sad to read that for many of the politicians, there own future was considered more important than the welfare of the people they represented.

Taylor Trade Publishing, 219 pages.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson

This is the third in The Wingfeather Saga.
Janner is recovering from his wounds on the ship commanded by his grandfather. The family is heading to the safety (they hope) of the Green Hollows. But they have been gone for nine years.
The reception goes well until Kalmar is seen. His Fang appearance drives the Hollowsfolk to attack him. The leader finally calms things down but there is great tension in Green Hollows as the Wingfeathers settle in their family home.
Janner, Kalmar and Leeli must attend school and there they meet their mother's old friend, a terror looking woman, the Guildmadam. Even she cannot erase the attitude the students have toward the newcomers, especially Kalmar.
While the Wingfeathers are getting settled in school, Sara Cobbler is being worked to exhaustion in the Fork Factory. She gathers a few fellow “tools” around her and begins to make plans for escape.
The Wingfeather children must join guilds. Leeli gets to be with the dogs who love her and with whom she can communicate. Janner wants to be in the bookbinding guild but when Kalmar chooses another, their mother makes Janner go along.
Janner fights the feelings inside of wanting to be angry with his brother. It seems like Kalmar is ruining everything Janner wants. And then Kalmar confesses – he was not forced to become a Fang, he chose it. He wanted the power he was promised. Janner suddenly realizes that all of the Fangs must have at one time been regular people. Fangs were people who had wanted the transformation or had succumbed to the awful pressure of "the song."
The Hollowsfolk are determined to get rid of Kalmar and have their children pick on him, trying to incite him to attack. One scratch on a Hollowsfolk and Kalmar goes to the dungeon, and so does his mother. 
 And then animals go missing. Is it Kalmar who is getting them in the night?
The Hollowsfolk say it is, and that he took a child too. The nooses are formed and the hanging platforms built. Is there any way Kalmar and his mother can be saved?

Besides being a great story for kids there are lessons for us adults too. Kalmar (and other members of the Wingfeather family) succumb to “the song” of Gnag the Nameless. Some withstand the repeated assault longer than others but are finally worn down under its continued barrage. So how do we do under the assault of the world's ways? How long do we maintain our Christian principles? Do we finally give in?
There is also the troubling issue of accepting someone who has succumbed to “the song.” Kalmar's appearance has become like that of a Grey Fang. (The other family members who have succumbed also have changes in their physical appearance.) The Hollowsfolk ultimately want to kill Kalmar, mostly because he looks like a Grey Fang, the hated enemy. So how do we as Christians treat someone who has been terribly stained by the world? Do we let their appearance put us off? What if a Christian succumbs to the world's song, do we write them off for good or do we look to the inner being of the person? It has been said that Christians “kill their wounded.” That is what the Hollowsfolk would do to Kalmar.
And what about the actual “monster in the hollows”? It was not who I thought it was but was instead a being trusted by the family. He was an agent of Gnag the Nameless, a traitor. (Why his physical appearance did not indicate his allegiance, I don't know.) So here is another lesson for us about wolves in sheep's clothing.
And then there is the cloven who is willing to walk into certain death to save a little girl.
Enough. You get the idea. These are just a few of the great teaching moments you will find. There is much to think about: appearance, true character, and how we can tell the difference.
What great discussions parents can have with their kids about the spiritual lessons in this book! I would suggest the parents read ahead of what the kids hear so they can have some Scriptures ready for the appropriate discussion.
Peterson reminds me of C. S. Lewis – a great fantasy with penetrating analogies to the Christian life.

Rabbit Room Press, 339 pages.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

See the publisher's information here.
Go to the Wingfeather Series web site here.
Check out the author's web site here.

This is one of several reviews of this book as I am part of the CSFF Blog Tour.  See other reviews on this tour:

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Cynthia Dyer
Amber French
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
 Eve Nielsen
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sweet Sanctuary by Sheila Walsh & Cindy Colona

Wren is a single mom. She's been raising Charlie on her own since her husband abandoned them a few months after the birth. She has returned to her home town on the coast of Maine and is living in the cottage next to her family's larger home. The home is empty and has been for years. At her father's funeral there had been a family blow up. Wren has been estranged from mother and siblings since that day.
Her grandmother suddenly shows up on her doorstep, suggesting a birthday party in a few days. Grandma Ruth turns 90 and she wants her grandchildren all together again.
As Wren reluctantly begins to make plans, parts of her childhood come out. Her brother went missing when Wren was supposed to be watching him. Though eventually found, Wren was blamed – source of Wren's feelings of estrangement.
Add to the plot a fellow who gently begins to show interest in Wren. Bring in Wren's ex-husband who wants to get involved in Charlie's life, having been absent over a decade. And when Wren's brother and sister show up for the party (the mother refuses to come), personalities clash.
The action comes to a climax when Charlie goes missing during a heated family meeting. Wren begins to relive those hurtful experiences from her childhood.

There are problems with the plot line in this novel. There's lots of buildup with secrets and past hurts and when the events come to light, they seem rather unexciting.
The novel ends on a realistic note as all of the problems between the siblings are not ironed out. I can certainly see the possibility of a sequel.
There are lessons learned by characters in the novel, such as forgiveness. But it doesn't seem like the lessons carry all the way through to a final restoration. The hero of the novel, I think, is Charlie. He struggles with accepting a trouble causing friend, a friend who destroys his prize possession. Charlie is able to overcome that, however, and again accept his friend. He ends up coming through as a better representative of Christ than any of the adults.

Thomas Neslon, 352 pages.

Friday, September 16, 2011

40 Days to Better Living - Hypertension by Dr. Scott Morris & CHC

Dr. Morris, founder of the Church Health Center, wants you to be healthier. He has created several booklets to help you do so, to improve your life, just a bit, day by day.
Each of the 40 days of readings begins with a morning reflection. He frequently relates the stories of people who have gone to his Church Health Center and have had positive results.
Each day also has short readings and practices on faith, medical, movement, work, emotion, family and friends, and nutrition. The daily reading ends with an evening wrap-up including Scripture, encouragement, and a prayer.
In the faith section, we are encouraged to get a journal and record our faith progress. We are helped to discover our habits, to be joyful, be thankful...
In the medical area we jot down all our medical concerns, learn to take our pulse, list the medications we take, record our family medical history, recognize the symptoms of stroke and heart attack, quit smoking, drink enough water, determine your BMI, and many more.
For movement, we are encouraged to get moving, go for a walk, stretch, get more vigorous in our activity, do jumping jacks, dance, exercise while waiting in line, use weights, and more.
Considering work, we are to journal what we like and dislike about it, use a stress ball, listen to music, prepare healthy lunches, walk during lunch, and more.
The emotional area is an important aspect of overall wellness. We are encouraged to journal our feelings, practice deep breathing, relax, and sit in the sun are a few of the suggestions.
We need family and friends and are encouraged to ask for their support, ask one to go along on the journey, journal how they have helped, and more.
Under nutrition, we are to keep a food journal, develop a healthy shopping list, learn to read food labels, regulate our salt intake, eat some raw vegetables and whole grains, reduce our meet consumption, among others.
Most of the days center on a specific theme, carried through the seven areas. Topics include motivation, goal setting, first steps, setbacks, habits, triggers, seasons, sound, balance, and endurance are some of them.

Go to the Church Health Reader,, for reflections on living with disease, starting ministries, and much more.

Barbour Publishing, 176 pages.

I received an egalley of this book for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Place to Belong by Lisa Troyer

Lisa wants you to know you are beautiful. That's what this book is all about.
Lisa has created a “Circle of Friends” where women learn the concepts of acceptance, authenticity, affirmation, accountability and action.
Acceptance. Lisa carried a secret. It was years before she told anyone about the inappropriate behavior of a teacher toward her. She thought she was keeping herself safe but she was building a wall, keeping others from helping her. “As well hidden as your secret is, that's how deeply lonely you will be.” Though she married and had a loving husband, Lisa was depressed. She miscarried and fell apart emotionally.
Lisa has learned, “Finding a place to belong – where people notice you and care – begins with accepting that God notices you and cares.” “Acceptance means being willing to receive from God...” It took years for Lisa to learn to let family and friends stand by her. Because we are valuable to God we are valuable to each other.
Authenticity. Lisa realized God was bringing hurting people across her path. She knew she had found her ministry calling. But Satan put her down. Who would want her?
Lisa learned to be real. She says first be real with God. Trust Him with your secrets. Be real with one other person in your life. Admit it when you are wrong. Pretending everything is OK when it is not will not work.
Affirmation. Lisa dares you to enrich the lives of those around you. Being real with people allows you to touch their lives. Lisa wonders “...what could happen if more Christians embraced a sense of responsibility to care for people with a personal touch.” She reminds her readers that your place of ministry might be as close as your doorstep, at your work, or in your circle of friends. God wants to love someone through you.
Accountability. When you find a place to belong, you are accountable to those who journey along with you. Finding an accountability partner or group is an important step in moving to freedom. “You need a few friends to whom you can say anything and everything.” These friends point each other toward the life God wants for each of them. (Lisa includes some cautions – such as don't try to be another person's savior.) Remember that accountability is mutual. Lisa shares her own experience of the “loving arms of accountability.”
Action. Lisa wants you to step into your journey as others walk alongside you as you discover what God wants to do with your life. No one else is you. No one else has the gifting you do. Get out of your comfort zone.
Lisa suggests you keep a journal. Write what comes to mind and remember you life is a process.
Get started. Watch for opportunities. Lisa intersperses practical ideas in this section. Lisa says, “It is time for action. What are you waiting for?”

Lisa has included questions for reflection after each major section in the book. There is also a discussion guide at the end of the book for group use. Also included is a plan to read through the Bible in a year, tips for leading a small group, tips for setting goals, questions for small group accountability, and recommended reading.

You can find out more about Lisa's ministry at The website includes a blog and daily inspirational readings. Visit the author's website at

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I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Stars for a Light by Lynn Morris

This is the first in the Cheney Duvall, M. D. series. It was originally published in 1994 and has recently been reprinted.
Cheney is a recent graduate of a woman's medical school. It is the 1860s and she is having trouble finding a position. When the opportunity to travel from her east coast home to Seattle with Asa Mercer and his brides, she jumps at the opportunity.
She is surprised when the nurse she requested turns out to be a man.
As the journey proceeds, there is intrigue, a mysterious shipment, a Pinkerton man, a hurricane, and finally, a murder.
Morris has based her book on actual history. Asa Mercer did take two groups of women from the east coast to Seattle to be brides for the many men there. The story has been embellished, however, but that makes it all the more exciting.

This was a pretty good story. It was well written and held my interest throughout. Of course, I live in the Pacific Northwest so I appreciated the historical aspect of this book.
I would have liked an author's note describing what parts of the book were actual history.
I was a little unhappy with the resolving of the murder mystery. How the murderer was uncovered and the events that immediately followed did not see to me to be withing the character and flow of the book.
That was a minor problem, however. I think the book is well worth reading. You get a good story and a bit of history too.

Hendricksen Publishers, 313 pages.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011


It is challenging for church leaders to equip people to progress in spiritual formation. MissioLife was created for that purpose, to guide adults, youth and children to engage Scripture, moving from understanding to participation in the mission of God. Missio is Latin for “mission,” the sending by God.
The creators of the program have developed a theological framework for spiritual formation having two aspects: relational and content. The program is not only about content but also the way of helping in spiritual formation.
The model begins with the story of God. The Bible. Participants understand God through the many narratives in the Bible.
Engaging the story helps participants begin to build a framework of theology, a worldview. We begin to understand God in the context of our own lives, the world, and others.
Engaging the story also lays the groundwork for our living out that theology. This informs our identity and calling, our role in the world, and our being used of God.
This then forms our way of life, our behaviors and expressions.
The program uses age appropriate material for each age group. All generations, adults, youth and children, share in the formation experience. It can be used in a small group or throughout the entire church. One six week module can be used or an entire year or the complete four year program.
The resources are digital and the lessons are easily accessed and downloaded from the website, Each lesson has a three page commentary on the Scripture passage, a two page facilitator's guide, and a one page participant's handout. A typical adult session includes reading the Bible passage, commentary, questions for discussion (centered on God's story, our story, others' story, and the world's story). The session ends with corporate prayer and suggestions for weekly practice. Participants are encouraged to read additional Bible passages and journal reflections.
You can go to to watch videos, download sample lessons for each of the age groups and promotional materials. The prices are also listed there.

Since spiritual formation includes development of theology, I think it is important to know the theological “bent” of the developers of the program, MissioLife. I found nothing in the preview kit nor at their website that included a statement of belief or anything like that. The sample lessons I was able to view did not reveal the developers' theology. The “publisher” of this material if Beacon Hill which is the book publishing arm of the Nazarene Publishing House.
I can only conclude that the theological bent of the material would be Wesleyn. For those of use who are Calvinist in theological bent, this may be troubling. I would feel more comfortable recommending this program if I could be assured of the theological foundation it promotes. There is just not enough information in the preview kit or on their website to determine that.

I received a preview kit of this program from The B&B Media Group for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cherished by Kim Cash Tate

Kelli has a past she'd like to forget. Music used to be so important to her. She had written that special love song so long ago. But that was before all the hurt and pain.
When Kelli's brother asks her to sing that song at his wedding, all of Kelli's hurtful past comes into the present.
Kelli had just received her two masters' degrees, communication and public relations, and was looking for a job in Texas. Her family convinces her to move back to their hometown, St. Louis. And it is there she sees Brian again, after all those years.
Brian was now a very popular Christian rapper. In high school he was Kelli's boyfriend. When Kelli became pregnant Brian had “abandoned” her to pursue his higher education. He had dreams of a successful career in biochemistry. Kelli wasn't ready to be a mother so she did the unthinkable.
Now their lives cross again. When Kelli tells him of their child, Brian is devastated. It takes Kelli a long time to deal with Brian's asking for forgiveness.
Add Heather to the plot, a young woman who had been caught having an affair with a friend of Kelli's family. Then she is seduced by a “Christian” musician who promises to help her break into the music industry. Then Heather get's saved.
These stories are woven through events in the Christian music industry to create a good novel. Several characters must deal with forgiving those who have hurt them severely. Others must trust God with their future, whether it be in the music industry or not.
And Kelli and Brian must deal with the fact that God seems to be bringing them back together to create beautiful music. Will they be able to combine the mistakes of the past with their music today to help heal others?

A major theme in this book is sexual purity. The consequences of sexual impurity are well portrayed in the characters of Kelli, Brian, and Heather. But another theme is forgiveness and new life in Christ. Tate has done a good job showing how God can and will use broken people who are willing to let Him form their future.
Tate is African American. While this book may be aimed at African American readers, it was a great read for this Pacific Northwest Caucasian. It was fun reading about their church life and family celebrations. It was great to read about the family solidarity and support.
This is a book for all ages. Teens and college age readers will certainly get the message of the importance of sexual purity. Older readers will find satisfaction in reading about the broken lives healed by God.

Kim Cash Tate is a Woman of Faith speaker and the author of Faithful, Heavenly Places, and the memoir More Christian than African American. She appeared as the cover girl for the May issue of Empowering Everyday Women and will be featured in the September edition of Significant Living. A song based on Cherished will be featured on the newest album for Da’ T.R.U.T.H., a Christian wrapper. A former practicing attorney, she is also the founder of Colored in Christ ministries. She and her husband have two children.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 336 pages.

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.