Friday, March 30, 2012

What's Next? by H. Norman Wright

If you're a baby boomer like me, you just retired. What's next? If you knew you had twenty more good years, what would you plan? Wright reminds us we are never too old to live wholeheartedly for the Lord.
He's getting older too. He has written this book to help us on the journey of the rest of our life.
He begins with transitions and writes about those we will experience in the second half of life, especially the unpredictable ones. Parenting transitions are discussed as are the changes of midlife. Wright encourages us to reframe our perspective, always keeping in mind God's criteria for success. He gives great suggestions for being proactive when it comes time for the empty nest.
He walks us through the changes in marriage, encouraging us to seize the opportunities midlife brings. He helps us move toward having the marriage we want.
More frequently now, adult children come back home and he addresses the feelings we may have (spouses may not have the same ideas here). He gives tips on how to relate to grandchildren when there is trouble in their parents' marriage or when it is a blended family.
The older we get, the more losses we experience and Wright gives us the steps in dealing with them. He encourages us to aim for optimum health and gives other traits of aging well, such as living a reflective life. He has a chapter on the loss of a spouse, sharing his own experiences when his wife died. He also explored the possibility of remarriage and all that entails.
With longer life spans, we have the opportunity to redirect our life, being good stewards of all God has given us. Wright ends his book by helping us know our purpose for this stage of life. We need to trust God as we seek to understand His calling for us.
Finally, “What will your legacy be?” (195)

There is a discussion guide at the end of the book. That, as well as the content of the book would make it a good one for a small group with older couples.

The majority of this book, by far, concentrates on marriage and parenting for the later years of life. For a single person like me, with no children, I felt Wright failed to address my situation. I would not recommend this book for single individuals just entering retirement, unless you are widowed. For couples or singles with children, there is much to gain from this book as you enter a new phase of your life.

H. Norman Wright is a licensed marriage, family, and child therapist, as well as certified trauma specialist. He is the bestselling author of more than eighty books. He is on the faculty of Talbot Graduate School of Theology and conducts seminars on many subjects. He and his wife, Tess, life in Bakersfield, California.  See more at:

Bethany House Publishers (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 220 pages.  To see other reviews and read an except, go to the publisher's product page.

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

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Enough by Dr. Helen Roseveare

This thin book is a treasure. Dr. Helen Roseveare went to the Congo in 1953. She pioneered vital medical work in the rainforests of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Throughout her live and service, she was continually learning that Jesus was enough.
He became enough when the hospital compound at Nobobongo was taken over by soldiers in 1964. Held for five months, she was sexually assaulted and humiliated. She realized she was privileged to identify with Christ and his sufferings in a new way and was able to return to her medical mission work in 1965.
She was deathly ill when she went home on her first furlough. Then a friend sent her a letter with Hosea 2:16. She was rejuvenated and returned to the Congo. Seven years later, during an uprising, she was wrongly accused of embezzling funds from the nurses' college.
She faced the battle within her of wanting recognition for her work. She learned Jesus was enough.
Roseveare lives in the amazement of the patience of God, putting up with all her failings and weaknesses. She came to realize that her love for her Savior had to displace all other loves.
“Hallelujah!” she writes. “He has enough of everything I need. He is my sufficiency for every single day of my life, whatever it holds of joy or sorrow, blessing or challenge,of pleasure or pain.” (70)
This little book is only 78 pages but holds a wealth of lessons the author has learned. What an inspiration!

Christian Focus Publications, 78 pages.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns

Some have recently argued that evolution destroys the possibility of religious faith. Enns' goal in this book “is to focus solely on how the Bible fits into all of this.” (ix)
Regarding the title, he argues that our understanding of Adam has evolved. It must now be adjusted in the light of scientific evidence supporting evolution and literary evidence from the world of the Bible. He calls evolution a “game changer.” “If evolution is correct, we can no longer accept, in any sense of the word 'historical,' the instantaneous and special creation of humanity described in Genesis...” (xiv) Unless one just rejects scientific evidence, adjustments need to be made to the biblical story, he says. This book thinks through what sorts of adjustments those are.
The first part of the book looks at Genesis, the second part at Paul's writings.
Enns accepts the conclusions of biblical criticism (such as that the Pentateuch was not completed until the postexilic period). “There is good reason to believe that the Old Testament as a whole is fundamentally a postexilic document.” (32) The Creation and Fall of Adam can be seen as a parallel to Israel's history. This reading “supports the notion that Adam is the proto-Israelite rather than the first human.” (67) “Israel's creation stories are potent claims about who they were. Understanding those claims against the backdrop of the world in which they were written, in [Enns'] opinion, lays to rest any notion that these writings have any relevance to modern debates over human origins.” (34) The six days of creation reflect postexilic liturgical life. “The creation story was written with Israel's temple and the Sabbath rhythm in mind...” (73)
With Genesis seen in its context, Enns turns to Paul. It would appear that Paul regards Adam as the first human and ancestor of everyone who ever lived. Paul must be read in the context of the first century Jewish theological understanding and culture.
Enns argues that Adam need not be the first created human but can be understood as a hominid chosen by God somewhere in the evolutionary process to be the representative “head” of humanity. As Enns sees it, “...the scientific evidence we have for human origins and the literary evidence we have for the nature of ancient stories of origins are so overwhelmingly persuasive that belief in a first human, such as Paul understood him, is not a viable option.” (122) “By saying that Paul's Adam is not a historical first man, we are leaving behind Paul's understanding of the cause of the universal plight of sin and death. But this is the burden of anyone who wishes to bring evolution and Christianity together...” (123) Enns argues “that the uncompromising reality of who Jesus is and what he did to conquer the objectively true realities of sin and death do not depend on Paul's understanding of Adam as a historical person.” (122)
He writes, “the notion of “original sin,” where Adam's disobedience is the cause of a universal state of sin, does not find clear – if any – biblical support.” (125) He admits he does not have an answer to why humanity is in the condition of sin and death. That an answer cannot be provided, “does not mean that the scientific and archaeological data that raised the problem in the first place can be set to the side.” (126)
Enns uses recent theological writings (like the New Perspective on Paul) to argue his case. You'll have to read him yourself to evaluate his work.
Enns ends his book with a summary chapter, listing nine thesis, such as Thesis 1 Literalism is not an option.
Enns does not clain to have found the best path forward in this complex set of issues. He is offering perspectives for readers to begin exploring. (82) He offers a selective bibliography for the reader to do so.

I am one of those Enns mentions at the end of his book. “What makes some uncomfortable is that such a view of the Bible can open the door for all sorts of uncertainty, and most of all to questioning familiar ways of talking about God, the Bible, and much else.” (145) I guess I am committed to the supreme authority of the Bible in all theological matters. I guess I do want the Bible to be historically accurate. I guess I am not willing to leave much room for interpreting the bible in light of extrabiblical information.

Only time will tell, I suppose, whether we are at another Copernican revolution. Am I one of those hanging on the the earth being at the center of the universe (despite scientific evidence), so to speak, when I believe Adam was a historical person?

Peter Enns is senior fellow of biblical studies for The BioLogos Foundation, an organization that explores the integration of science and Christian faith. He has taught at Eastern University, Fuller theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary and is the author or editor of nine books. To find out more about why he wrote this book, go to:

You can read more on this subject and keep up with the dialogue at

Brazos Press (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 172 pages.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Not This Time by Vicki Hinze

This is the third in the Crossroads Crisis Center series. If you have not read the other two, this one may be a difficult read for you. Much of the impact of the novel relies on action in the previous books.
In this novel, Sara and Beth have created a multi-million dollar business. Sara fell head over heels for and married Robert Tayton, someone Beth intensely dislikes and does not trust.
The novel opens with a terrorist attack by NINA (a terrorist organization seen in the previous books). Then Robert is kidnapped. Sara is preventing Beth from getting close and supporting her in this time of need. Beth knows there is something strange going on in Sara's life, something Sara will not talk about.
The tension heightens as it becomes evident that someone in Beth's acquaintance is a NINA operative. Add to the mix Joe, part of a secret investigative team. The possible romance between Joe and Beth must first make it through their previous hurts.

I have mixed emotions about this book. I liked the action. There is much going on that kept my interest. Hinze's writing style is not my favorite. Sometimes I'll read through a dialogue and what was supposed to be communicated in the choppy sentences just mystifies me.
And she frequently uses the “shock at the end of a chapter” technique that actually comes to nothing. Here is an example. Joe and an antagonist are fighting. “A gunshot fired. Joe went down and they fought no more...” (206) The next chapter starts with other characters. Six pages later, we get back to Joe. “The special phone vibrated at Joe's hip. Omega One. Joe pulled off Highway 98 and onto the shoulder.” (213) Joe's riding his motorcycle, alive and well. We find out on the next page that a woman fired the gun the antagonist had dropped – fired at the ceiling. The bad guy took off running. Now, keeping the reader in suspense for several pages, thinking Joe is shot, might be acceptable literary technique. But after several of these, I get a bit to disliking it, actually, quite a bit.

So, the action is good. It's an exciting novel. I'd change the writing technique a bit. But that is just my preference.

There is a Reader's Guide at the back of the book for discussion groups.

Go here to read chapter one.
Go here for the publisher product information.

Vicki Hinze is an award-winning author of several novels. She lives in Florida with her husband. For more about her and her books:

Multnomah Books (a division of Random House), 328 pages.

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos

The man living next door to Matt is a normal looking man but turns into a werewolf when he gets angry. His wife and daughter have left him, fearful of angry outbursts. He hopes Matt can help him with insights into the transforming effect of being a follower of Jesus. “If claiming to be a Christian meant personal transformation, our world would be a far different place. As it is, I know far too many Christians who are worse men as Christians than they were as pagans.” (53)
That sets the stage for Matt's not-so-true book on spiritual transformation. Should Matt kill the werewolf? “Destroy it so that my wife and daughter can return to me and I won't ever harm them.” (57)
What is it that aids spiritual transformation? Going to church? Right theology? What really makes one a Christian? Is it belief, regardless of behavior?
And there is the vampire. What really makes one a vampire? Is it sucking blood or something else? “It's a question of selfishness, of putting yourself and your needs ahead of the people around you.” “...[V]ampires don't make sacrifices, they sacrifice others to themselves.” (140)
Then there are the zombies. They are Christians who do everything their leader commands and believe everything he says. Some are zombies wearing makeup to look alive. Others are humans wearing makeup to look like their fellow zombies.

What a fun yet penetrating adventure. Christians in various stages of spiritual growth are portrayed as monsters. They may look so normal on the outside, sitting on the church pew. But inside they are hiding their monster traits. And there there is the question of how Christians deal with those monsters within. The answer may surprise you.
On occasion the action and dialogue seem a little too contrived. It seems Matt had a certain topic he wanted discussed and created the scene to do so (such as the discussion about translations in the Secret Lair).
Nonetheless, the issues covered in this book are clear. How does that transformation of becoming Christlike really take place?

This would make a great discussion book for teen and college age groups (although as a retired person, I really liked this book). There is an extensive discussion guide at the back, designed for small group use. You can also go to for help and additional resources.

Be sure to check out the monster guide at the back of the book. You can find out if you are one!

See my review of Matt's earlier book, My Imaginary Jesus

Matt Mikalatos works with a Christian nonprofit equipping college students for overseas missions.  He lives near Portland, Oregon, with his wife and three daughters.  You can find out more about Matt at

To buy this book, check out your local Christian bookstore!

I am taking part in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour

Check our these other bloggers to see their reviews of this book:

Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Theresa Dunlap
Amber French
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Janeen Ippolito
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Crista Richey
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Shane Werlinger
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Godforsaken by Dinesh D'Souza

Some reject Christianity because there is evil and suffering in the world. How could there be a God as described in the Bible with such suffering? Dinesh has thought about this for decades and finally feels he has something original to say.
He argues that God, wanting to make a universe with conscious, rational human beings, constructed the universe in the only way it could be done. God could have created a different universe with different laws – in which case he would have gotten different creatures. God could not have created a universe without evil and suffering and still have us in it. There are outcomes that can be obtained only one way, this universe being such an outcome. Of the Anthropic Principle, he says, “Consequently it is reasonable to suppose that if God wanted to make creatures like you and me, there was, as far as we can tell, only one formula available to him. And he used it.” (176)
Dinesh explores why the natural world must be the way it is, earthquakes, tsunamis, disease, etc. He argues that evil and suffering in the world are necessary for a greater good, a greater plan of God. We may be unhappy about evil and suffering but we can understand “that it is an intrinsic part of the formula that produced us.” (34)
Dinesh also addresses the evil that God fails to prevent and whether God is the perpetrator of evil. He also looks at hell, arguing that it is actually a good idea and is required by the goodness of God.

Dinesh says his book has three purposes: to answer the atheist's argument that evil and suffering contradicts the idea of a good God, to convince everyone that there is purpose for evil and suffering in God's plan and providence, and to address Christians who are suffering.

I have read a number of books on this issue and it does seem that Dinesh brings new thoughts to the table. I am not sure any argument will convince atheists of the existence of God but this book certainly provides a great deal about which they will need to think.
There were two areas Dinesh discussed that were of particular interest to me. The first was, “Does God have emotions?” This is apparently an issue addressed by theologians beginning with the early church fathers but it was new to me. The other issue was Dinesh's argument that God's plan for a fallen mankind is better than a plan with no fall of man.

Reading his book has certainly given me much to think about and has already stimulated a couple of discussions with friends. Anyone interested in the question of the existence of evil and a good God will benefit from reading this book.

Go to to watch a book trailer, an interview with D'Souza and additional information about the book.

Dinesh D'Souza is the president of The King's College in New York City. He was a former policy analyst in the Reagan White House. He is the author of several books and a Fellow at two Institutes. For more information, visit

Tyndale House Publishers, 274 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Stand By Me by Neta Jackson

He saga of the Yada Yada group continues. This story centers around Avis, an African-American principal of an elementary school in Chicago and her software entrepreneur (second) husband, Peter. Avis has been involved in the Yada Yada Prayer Group since its inception. She and her husband are active in a multi-ethnic church, Avis frequently leading worship. Avis is a pretty polished woman except lately she has been worrying about her estranged daughter, Rochelle, and grandson.
Into the picture comes four white students from a nearby Christian college. The most gregarious is Kat (Kathryn), an ecologically conscious education student. She is the only Christian in her family, recently being saved at a Christian concert. The students begin attending Avis's church, clashing a bit with the differences in culture.
When the students find summer residence in the same building in which Avis and Peter live, tensions increase. Kat meets Avis's estranged daughter while “dumpster diving.” Kat wants to set things right, not only in the world in general, but in Avis's family specifically.

This is not an action packed, fast paced novel. Instead, it covers the daily struggles Christians go through, finding their way in God's plan. Should Avis and Peter respond to the call to help missionary friends in Africa? Should they stay in Chicago and help out in their church when one of the pastors suddenly dies? How can Avis deal with the well-meaning but irritating Kat? And Kat, how does she deal with her parents who just don't understand her? How does she handle their lack of communication with her? Do they really love her?

This book is a pleasant read. I wouldn't consider it a page turner, but you will become attached to the characters as they make their way through life.

Neta Jackson is the author of the award winning Yada books. She and her husband, Dave, have written the Trailblazer books and Hero Tales for youth. They live in the Chicago area, where the Yada books are set.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 400 pages.

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Money Saving Mom's Budget by Crystal Paine

Enter Today and Save the Date-4/5!
Money Saving Mom iPad Giveaway 
Crystal doesn't promise you'll become a millionaire overnight. In fact, she starts out by telling you that getting your finances in shape is a process that takes time. What she offers is practical suggestions to get you there.
She begins with setting goals. She explains how to come up with the goals and then divide them into doable segments. Writing down goals inspire you and hold you accountable.
Crystal is convinced that you will not be successful in finances until you get your life and home under control. She explains how to set priorities and how to create a time budget. Essential is removing the clutter in your home. She has a very manageable plan to maintain a clutter free home too.
Then comes the budget. But she starts off slow with just managing food expenses the first month. She recommends setting aside the designated amount in cash as a way to hold you to the amount. When it is gone, it is gone.
Next is the full fledged budget. She gives many ways to cut expenses. She also recommends doing away with credit cards (and if you need one for travel, such as car rental, she is strict on its use).
She realizes doing a budget requires work, time and commitment. But the result, peace of mind (and extra money) is well worth it.
Her next chapter is on coupons their use, how to get them, how to file them, and much more. She has many other tips on shopping too, such as buying on line, like groceries and eye wear. She also has lots of ideas for keeping your children in clothes for a reasonable amount.
Crystal ends with what it really means to be content.

Crystal's book is not some new and guaranteed technique to make you rich. But it is full of practical ideas so that you can live within your means. Budget hardy people may be disappointed but if you are relatively new to keeping your life and finances in order, you'll find loads of information in this book.
If you listen to the audio, like I did, you will want to keep a pen nearby as she mentions many great web sites you'll want to investigate.

Be sure to check out this video:

Crystal Paine is a wife and homeschooling mom to three young children and has been writing on frugality for the last five years. Her blog,, is one of the top personal finance blogs on the web. She has had articles published in magazines and has been referenced by several radio and TV programs.

I am taking part in a blog tour.  To see other reviews of this book go to 

I received a complimentary audio download of this book for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

A Brand new iPad2 
The Money Saving Mom's Budget by Cyrstal Paine, audio edition
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 4/4/12. Winner will be announced at The Money Saving Mom's Live Webcast Event on 4/5. Crystal will be hosting an evening of chat, laughter and encouragement - bring your friends! She'll share tips and advicde and her husband will be joining her to share how the prinicples Crystal outlines in her book have dramatically impacted their family life. She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, and much more!

So grab your copy of The Money Saving Mom®'s Budget and join Crystal and friends on the evening of April 5th for an evening of fun of learning, sharing and encouragement.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings

Enter Today and Save the Date-3/27!

Regina Jennings Sixty Acres and a Bride GiveawayRosa Garner, a young Mexican woman, and her mother-in-law, Louise, have just arrived in Caldwell County, Texas. It had been four years before that Louise, her husband and son had moved to Mexico to make their fortune. Now she and Rosa have come back. The men had been killed in a mine collapse caused by an earthquake.
They've come back to the Garner farm only to find out that the renters have left early and had not been paying the property taxes. The back taxes come to nearly two hundred dollars, money the women do not have. They have three months to come up with the money or they will lose the farm.
Rosa is a hard working woman. She does all she can on the farm to raise produce to sell. She does needle work the local dry goods store happily buys. But it is not enough.
She narrowly escapes when the neighbor husband comes close to attacking her. He is a conniving man, willing to pay if she would only give herself to him. His wife is terrified of him, hiding her bruises.
Rosa meets Weston Garner and there seems to be an attraction. But his wife committed suicide several years ago and he has never gotten over the pain. He is not ready to give himself to love.
Rosa is desperate. Weston could help financially but how could she ask him? When Louise tells the story of Ruth and Boaz, Rosa has a plan.

This is Jennings' debut novel. Overall, it is pretty well written. The action is a bit slow at times as the main characters, Rosa and Weston do lots of thinking and ruminating. Both have to overcome past hurts to love again. The tension between the two is repeated over and over again. At 366 pages, I think that aspect of the novel was spread out too long. A typical 300 pages for this type of novel would have had tighter action.
The book wasn't so compelling that it kept me reading late into the night but it was a pleasant read.
There is no reading group guide.  You can read an excerpt of the book at the publisher's product page
I am participating in a blog tour of this book and to see other reviews, go here.

Regina Jennings and her family live outside of Oklahoma City. This is her first novel. See more at her website:

Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 366 pages.

You can buy the book from CBD here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 3/26/12. Winner will be announced at Regina's Author Chat Facebook Party on 3/27. Regina will be hosting an evening of chat, fun trivia and more! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, and some beautiful silver jewerly!
So grab your copy of Sixty Acres and a Bride and join Regina and friends on the evening of March 27th for an evening of fun.

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP TODAY and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 27th!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why Jesus? by Ravi Zacharias

We all have deep spiritual hunger. We long to escape the world around us and have peace within. We are offered a spiritual smorgasbord. Ravi reviews the most popular forms of the New Spirituality and their marketing techniques. He reveals their underlying worldviews. He then looks at the message of Jesus, the one and only hope for mankind.
He notes that New Age Spirituality has displaced inductive reasoning with personalized mystical revelation as the basis for truth. (30) He reviews the impact of Oprah and Chopra, including their spiritual journeys and their success. He reveals the eastern roots of the “new” Western Spirituality, identifying the Hindu and Buddhist links, and describes the designers of the east to west movement. He addresses the “...bizarre twists of truth offered by proponents of the New Spirituality.” (230)
He explains how the west lost its way and stumbled into the New Spirituality. He reveals the decline of the Word, the Son, and Truth. He also shows how many have reshaped Jesus to suit our prejudices.

The is a great book for people wanting to understand the successful offerings of spirituality by people like Oprah and Chopra. Ravi was born in India and from that background is able to clearly explain the eastern basis for their spirituality. He also includes evaluations of authors like Eckhart Tolle, Neale Donald Walsch, and Elizabeth Lesser.
This book would be helpful in approaching those who have been leaning toward any of the New Spirituality gurus.
Ravi's conclusion is that spirituality is not enough. We need Jesus.

Ravi Zacharias is the founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author of many books and has a weekly radio program. Ravi and his wife have three grown children and live in Alpharetta, Georgia.

FaithWords, 281 pages.  You can read an excerpt here at the publisher's product page.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Beauty Will Save the World by Brian Zahnd

When Prince Vladimir the Great was looking for a new religion to solidify the Russian people nearly a thousand years ago, he sent envoys to investigate the faiths of the neighboring realms. ...[T]he envoys who had investigated Christianity in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople reported finding a faith characterized by such transcendent beauty that they did not know if they were in heaven or on earth.” (xiii) “What impressed the envoys and persuaded Prince Vladimir to embrace Christianity was not its apologetics or ethics, but its aesthetics – its beauty.” (xiv)
Many in the Western world are searching for a spirituality to replace the emptiness of materialism. The Church may want to respond with apologetics or ethics. But what about beauty? What about the aesthetics of the Gospel? The beauty of Christ has an allure, presenting an aspect of the gospel too rarely seen. “Our task,” Zahnd writes, “is not to protest the world into a certain moral conformity, but to attract the world to the saving beauty of Christ.” (xvii)
Zahnd believes, “Christianity as the ongoing expression of the Jesus story lived out in the lives of individuals and in the heart of society is a beauty that can redeem the world.” (2) He tells what can be done for Christianity to recover its form and beauty, a kind of reformation. The cross is essential as it is the form that makes Christianity uniquely beautiful. The cross, not political involvement, not triumphalism, not pragmatism. “If the common man doesn't recognize what we do in the name of Christ as beautiful, we should at least reexamine it.” (31)
The form of the beauty is the cross. The death and resurrection of Jesus gave the world a new axis of love. This is the beauty that saves the world. “It saves the world from the pernicious lie that power and violence have to be the foundation of human social order.” (77)
We are from the future. “...[w]e who are in Christ should demonstrate the realities of the age to come by living them now in this present age.” (137) “Because we are called to be from the future and thus a prophetic witness to the world, the first job of the church is not to be “relevant” or “successful” (which can easily become idols of compromise and accommodation). Instead, our primary task is to be faithful.” (140) We are to live as if we actually believe Jesus is Lord.
Zahnd reminds us that holiness is not legislated moralism. “Holiness is otherness. Holiness is prophetic untimeliness.” (150) “We are holy when we are from the future.” (151)
“In the American Christianity of the past fifty years we have built the equivalent of a big box store of pragmatism – a kind of discount God-Mart. But what we need is a cathedral of astonishment.” (165) “...[I]n North America we have a Christianity that is relatively popular but damaged. It is thin, shallow, and trite.” (167)
This beauty is seen through the beatitudes. But, he asks, do we really believe them? About mourning Zahnd writes, “I sometimes think we are trying to replace the symbol of the cross with a smiley face! Serious Christianity has given way to “inspirational” Christianity, which is turning into insipid Christianity. Have we replaced a serious theology of the cross with the pop psychology of happiness?” (194) He has similar comments on the other beatitudes.

“To rediscover Christianity in all of its astonishing mystery and beauty will utterly overwhelm us and make all our notions about its devaluation feel completely redundant. It will leave our skepticism in shreds.” (171)

Zahnd's book is about beauty, the beauty that should be seen in Christianity. It is a thought provoking book. I suggest you read it and think on your own life. Does it reflect the beauty of the cross and the beatitudes?

Brian Zahnd and his wife, Perl, live in St. Joseph, Missouri, where they pastor Word of Life Church. Follow Brian's blog:

Charisma House, 234 pages.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Seattle Cinderella by Gail Sattler

Sattler has created a modern tale of Cinderella, her “wicked” stepmother and hateful stepsisters.
Cindy inherited half of her father's muffler shop when he died. Growing up in Seattle, Cindy had worked with her dad in the shop. Now an adult, she is determined to keep it going and make it profitable. She puts in long hours and Luke, the handsome owner of the car rental business across the parking lot, notices her too.
The other half of the muffler shop is owned by her ornery stepmother. To keep some peace in her step family, Cindy has hired her step sister Annie to help with the bookkeeping at the shop. When Luke asks Annie to help out at their business while their accountant is home sick, Annie finds some irregularities. Skeptical, Luke wonders if Annie is at least incompetent, and at most, a thief. But Luke's partner Brent has fallen for Annie and is determined to find the truth.
Cindy's other step sister, Zella, is frustrated with her mother's attempts to marry her off. On a whim, she decides to get out of the house on Friday nights and joins a book group at the local library. She finds out too late that it is not a group that reads book but one that writes them. She doesn't know it but the handsome man across the table is her favorite author who writes under a pseudonym.
Last is Farrah, the dear friend of Cindy's mother. She practically raised Cindy when her mother died while Cindy was young. Now fifty, she is resigned to a single life. The only love she had was diagnosed with cancer while they were engaged. He had called off the wedding, not wanting her to be strapped with the medical bills when his benefits ran out. She still feels the pain. Then she meets Dr. Matt, the veterinarian at the local animal shelter. They find they have more in common than love for stray animals.

The four romance stories form a nice collection. The characters are interwoven throughout as the overall story progresses. These are simple romances. There are no complex plots nor deep thinking characters. These are four light stories that will ease your mind. They are well done. Each one can be easily read in an evening, a pleasant couple of hours.

Gail Sattler lives in Vancouver, B.C. With her husband, three sons, and various animals. She is the office manager for a web design company and plays bass guitar in her church's adult worship team. She writes for Barbour's Heartsong Presents line where she was voted Favorite Author three times. She has also written a number of novellas for Barbour's anthology series.

Barbour Publishing, 352 pages.

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos

Everybody likes to think they know what Jesus was like. People invent their own Jesus, just the way they want him to be. Matt supposes a journey to find the real Jesus, but encounters all too many imaginary ones.
There is Perpetually Angry Jesus. “Some people believe that God is always mad at all humanity because the world is so full of evil.” (63) There's Testosterone Jesus, “a popular men's retreat speaker.” (164) The 8 Ball Jesus people pray to for answers to questions. There's King James Jesus. Bargain Jesus, who always answers your prayers – for a price. The Liberal Social Services Jesus, thinking the best way to tell people about God is through service. Political Power Jesus – together we can do incredible things! Don't forget Hippie Jesus, Televangelist Jesus, New Age Jesus, and a host of others, including one for each denomination.
Where do all these Jesuses come from? Lies others tell us or we tell our self.
Do you have your own Jesus? One who might say, “I always agree with [you], I don't enforce unpleasant rules, and I never tell [you] that [you] eat too much.” (81)
The problem with following an imaginary Jesus is that you get farther afield from the real one. “The real Jesus is inconvenient. He doesn't always show up when you call. He asks for unreasonable things. He frightens people.” (79)
Matt's hope for this book is that people will enjoy themselves while they are thinking about God. There are lots of funny scenes in this book that people can laugh over while they are discussing the real Jesus.
But there are some serious spiritual lessons in this book too. There is a great question and answer time led by Daisy the talking donkey about why we keep ourselves so busy and noisy so that we don't hear Jesus. There is also a good session between Matt and a couple of Mormon missionaries.
While technically not categorized as fiction, it sort of is. Matt says it is “sort-of-true” book. While it is based on actual experiences, he has added lots of fiction.

How do I evaluate a book like this? It is so different. I didn't think it was that funny but then, I'm a senior citizen. A young person may find it funny. I do think Matt has offered much for us the think about in an unusual way. There is an extensive Reader Discussion Guide at the end of the book so it could certainly be used for a youth discussion group.
I do know that just about everyone will find thought provoking content in this book. Just how much of the Jesus you believe in have you imagined? The answer may surprise you.

You can follow Matt's blog at or visit him at You will find free materials especially created for churches at Also check out for images of the imaginary Jesuses and other stuff. There are also lots of YouTube videos you can access from the book by QR Code, or go to to get started.

Matt Miklaltos works with a Christian nonprofit equipping college students for overseas missions.  He lives near Portland, Oregon, with his wife and three daughters.

Tyndale House Publishers, 258 pages. Publisher product information.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Secret Life of Copernicus H. Stringfellow by Lorin Barber

What a curious fellow is Copernicus H. Stringfellow. He just may be the smartest person in the world. He's got at least fifteen PhDs and is board certified in seven areas. After all, he started university when he was eleven!
Nick lost his mom when he was two and his dad ran away shortly after. Raised by his aunt and uncle, he has a photographic memory and breezes through textbooks as fast as he can turn pages.
Now in his twenties, he has moved to Seattle. He's invented vital products and invested his money well. He's worth billions. Unlike many rich, however, he is a mild man and wants to use his money for the good of others.
Appealing to a medical professor from one of the medical schools he attended, Nick begins work in a major Seattle hospital as a nurse. He uses his extreme intelligence and heightened mental powers to help patients heal quickly. He even meets a woman he'd like to get to know a little more.
But there are some in the hospital who don't like him and are out to see him fail.

This was a fun book to read. Nick is a great character, a typical scientific type who can rattle off information but doesn't know how to carry on an effective dialogue with a woman. He is a sweet hearted man, too. He only wants what is best for other people. It would be an interesting book for teens and young adults.

While the action is pretty good, there are periods of almost boring interlude, where facts and figures are inserted. And the dialogue leaves a bit to be desired. Some of it is just too simplistic to be interesting. I read the book as I live near Seattle and enjoy reading about places I know.

I read an uncorrected proof from the publisher. So the errors I saw may have been corrected in the final edition. Also, the proof I read was about 35 pages shorter than the publisher now lists so my copy may have been missing pages. That could be why there were loose ends not tied up at the end. What about the abducted girls? And who were those two fellows following Nick?
This book is from a Mormon publisher. Nick is a moral person and there was some talk about Christianity in the book, but nothing I would characterize as particularly Mormon.

You can see more about the book at the publisher's product page and at

Cedar Fort Publishers, 304 pages (my edition was 260).

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Dog That Talked to God by Jim Kraus

Do you ever just want to read a good novel? A novel that keeps your interest, has nothing bloody or scary? A novel that has great characters, a good plot and a tear jerking ending? If so, this is the one for you.
Mary lost her beloved husband and son to an automobile accident four years ago. She is mad at God so she is not talking to Him. She still has the pain and she can't move on.
She decides to buy a schnauzer, a warm body to have close by. She names him Rufus and they enjoy their walks in the evening.
Then, one night, Rufus speaks, out loud, to Mary. He not only speaks to her, he speaks to God too. Through Rufus, Mary begins to see her way to healing. It is a slow process and there are some mistakes along the way. But Rufus is there to help her, even to the point of being willing to give his life to keep her from harm.

What a delightful book. I am usually frustrated when a male author writes with a female lead character. But Kraus did an excellent job.
Strictly speaking, there is no Jesus in this book. There are plenty of references to God, however. And the point is clear. Life is only “right” when one is in an honest relationship with God.
This book kept my interest from cover to cover. I loved the theological issues that Rufus and Mary deal with. Rufus talked to God once a week, like the animals do. What wisdom he got in those conversations.
Be sure to have a tissue nearby when you get close to the end of the book. You'll happily need it.

Jim Krause is a longtime writer and editor who has authored or coauthored twenty books, both fiction and nonfiction. Jim and his wife, novelist Terri Kraus, have one son and live in the Chicago area.

Abingdon Press, 330 pages.

Go here for the Abingdon Press product information and a look at the first chapter.

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.