Friday, November 30, 2012

A Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner

This novel combines the lives of three women of different times and cultures. Meg is a southern California gal, an editor for a publisher of travel books. Sofia is an older woman of Florence who claims to be a descendant of the Medici family. She hears the whisperings of Nora Orsini, granddaughter of the great Cosimo I and living in the sixteenth century.
The lives of these three women cross when Meg travels to Florence, a childhood dream and the promise of her father. Meg is introduced to Sofia through a mutual friend. Throughout Meg's week in Florence, she tries to unravel Sofia's story.

Meissner has created an interesting character study of three women. Meg's grandmother had a painting of herself as a child in Florence and that had put the dream to travel there into Meg's heart. While her father had promised to make it happen, Meg's parents had divorced and he had never followed through.
Sofia is convinced she is of the Medici line even though historical records indicate there are no living descendants of that historically important family of Florence. When Sofia is by statues or paintings, she can hear the whispers of Nora Orsini whose mother was killed and father abandoned her in the late 1500s.

Meissner skillfully interweaves the lives of these three women. She highlights the similarities in their families. For example, Nora's father abandons her. Meg's father made a promise he has not kept and has essentially abandoned her. Sofia's father is in the deep well of dementia, essentially leaving her.

Most of the novel takes place in Florence and there is a bit of a travel book feel to the novel. Unfortunately, there were not the gripping descriptions of buildings, statues, etc., to make me feel like I was really there. There is a hint of romance throughout the novel as Meg tries to figure out who she really loves.
Mostly the book is about women who are trying to understand who they are in the midst of life happening around them.

There was actually nothing “Christian” about this novel. This is a descent novel but not captivating nor page turning. There are discussion questions at the end.

Susan Meissner is an award-winning author of several novels. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. When not writing she directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at The Church at Rancho Bernardo in San Diego, California. She and her pastor husband are the parents of four young adults. You can find out more about her at

WaterBrook Press, 352 pages.

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler

Nearly twenty years ago, Mohler was selected to become the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was brought in to radically change the direction of the seminary.
Mohler knows leadership. His goal in this book is to change the way we think about leadership, the way it is understood and practiced. He offers 25 principles for leadership that matters.

Some of the principles are expected. The leader is a decision maker, knows how to organize his time, knows how to shape the world views of others.

Some of the principles might be a surprise to the corporate world (though not to Christians). Mohler highlights virtue and morality (through honesty and being humble). Leaders must have their lives align with their convictions. “Character is indispensable to credibility and credibility is essential to leadership.” (80) Time is to be viewed in relation to God's eternal purposes and plan. Leaders must have patience and endurance. They must be aware of their own mortality.

He advocates convictional intelligence: “The Christian leader must have mental reflexes that correspond to biblical truths.” (34) His beliefs should be passionate, attracting passionate followers. He sees leadership as an intellectual activity. “Careful attention to thinking is what sets the leader apart.” (59)

Mohler offers some very practical advice, such as on decision making and what to do when a reporter calls. The content is current, including a section on understanding the digital world in relation to leadership.

Every leader leaves a legacy. What will your legacy be? Reading Mohler's book will help you leave the legacy you want, finishing to the glory of Christ.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served several offices of leadership in the SBC and is the author of several books. Dr. Mohler and his wife live in Louisville, Kentucky. They have two children.

You can follow Dr. Mohler's blog, listen to his podcasts, and find out more about his books at

Bethany House Publishers, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of this review.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Weight of Mercy by Deb Richardson-Moore

Deb decided to become a pastor after a career in journalism. She graduated from seminary in May of 2005 but found that women were not easily accepted in the pulpits of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (of South Carolina).
She had come to know of Triune through her job of newspaper reporting. Once a thriving UMC congregation, it had been dissolved and then taken on as a satellite by a church close by. Triune's pastor was leaving and Deb found out the board would consider a nonMethodist. She was hired the end of June.
Triune was a church and ministry that welcomed the outcast, the broken, the hurting, and the marginalized of Greenville, South Carolina. Deb came to realize that the street population of the city was mostly drug addicts, alcoholics, and the mentally ill. “I was in over my head, and I knew it,” she writes. “I prayed earnestly for my footing.” (42)
She thought she would leave after a year or so. She saw many people using the system, selling groceries they received for alcohol or crack. The church was broken into. There were outbursts at the free meal. There was even a fight during a church service.
She struggled with showing the love of Christ – was she enabling bad behavior? How could she minister to the forty percent of the people they saw who had mental illnesses? Even the other sixty percent had grave mental health issues.
She would get discouraged. Should they be trying to reach a segment of the population more amenable to transformation?
She thought she would leave...but she stayed. In August of 2012, she celebrated her seventh anniversary at Triune Mercy Center. There are now 57 churches who partner in the ministry.

Deb writes, “More than two years into the ministry, I finally grasped that Triune ministered not only to the homeless and economically underprivileged. Fully half of its ministry was to more affluent Christians, helping them to live out Jesus' commands to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, welcome the stranger. … Triune was a place where they could come face to face with people they might not otherwise meet, people they might deem too frightening, too different, too 'unclean.' … Day after day after day, as we put one foot in front of the other and invited others to do the same, we provided a route for cross-bearing.” (219-220)

Triune's mission statement: “to share Christ's love while meeting physical needs and providing life-changing opportunities to the disadvantaged.” (125)
Today Triune's ministry is strong. “I never thought I'd day this,” she writes, “but Triune has become a place of fun and creativity, healing and laughter. It has become a place of joy. … Not always, of course. By definition, a whole lot of hurt still walks through our doors. But along with accessing drug rehab or employment assistance, hurting folks may sit down to write a song or paint a canvas and talk to someone who was in the same predicament six months earlier. 'Hang in there,' they're likely to hear. 'You're welcome in this place.'” (282)

You can find out more about this ministry and watch a video at

What an encouraging book. If you have any interest at all in ministry to the needy, and every Christian should, you must read this book. Deb's is a story of hope as she and the others at Triune show the love of Jesus to the needy.

Deb Richardson-Moore was a journalist for 27 years, is an ordained Baptist minister, and current pastor of the Triune Mercy Center, a non-denominational mission church to the homeless in Greenville, South Carolina. She and her husband, Vince, have three children.

Kregel Publications (Monarch imprint), 288 pages. Publisher's product page.

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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Carl Trueman

Seventeen years ago Mark Noll came out with his The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Noll criticized the lack of cultural and theological engagement among evangelicals. There was no “mind.”
Now, Trueman says, the real scandal is that there is no “evangelical.” Evangelicalism doesn't exist. There is no consensus about evangelicalism's identity. There is no clear doctrinal definition within the greater Christian community. Its identity cannot be determined by shared doctrine or experience.
Trueman reports that Christian institutions now deemphasize their doctrinal distinctives to build their size and influence and be more acceptable to an inclusive culture. Speakers and authors call themselves evangelicals even though they equivocate on homosexuality or the authority of Scripture. “If evangelicalism has no boundaries, then no boundaries have been transgressed...”
Trueman's analysis to the change of viewpoint on the homosexual issue is alone worth the price of the book. “With evangelicalism no longer defined by doctrinal commitments, there can and will be no evangelical consensus on homosexuality.” He predicts that biblical authority will continue to be eroded, as will the historical Adam.

I highly recommend this book for anyone desiring to understand the current state of Christianity and its possible future. This little book explains a great deal.

Carl Trueman is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA). He is also a Council Member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He has authored a number of books. You can find out more about him at his WTS faculty page. You can read articles by him at Reformation 21.

Moody Publishers, 44 pages.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to Survive the End of the World by Bob Hostetler

There is a lot of talk about the end of the world these days. It instills fear in some. But it doesn't have to be that way, writes Hostetler. We can't change how or when the world will end, but, if you know how to survive it, “it can actually be the best of all beginnings.” (5)
He explores The Revelation as “a survivor's guide, a message of blessing and hope, and a tool that will thoroughly prepare you for the end … whenever it comes.” (5)
Hostetler shows how the opening words of The Revelation give three powerful instructions: feel blessed, focus on Jesus, feel His touch. With that introduction, he goes through The Revelation section by section.
The letters to the churches reveal that God knows us, as well as twelve imperatives for those who want to be ready for the end of the world.
The next chapters get us oriented to worship in relation to the throne of God.
The seven seals help us recognize the evil around us and realize that it will not overrun us. The golden censer shows us what happens with prayer. The seven shofars may reveal what happens when we don't pray, or perhaps that we are to pray for justice, or that we are to pray because these things are going to happen.
Chapters 10 and 11 emphasize the importance of gospel proclamation and Christian witness in the end times. Chapters 12 and 13 offer three revealing perspectives. Chapter 14 yields a new vision of three redeeming practices to apply.
Hostetler goes on to reveal the encouragement found in the rest of The Revelation. He sees this book as last minute reminders of truly important things, especially in light of the approaching end of all things. (114)
A prayer is offered at the end of each chapter, instilling the encouraging truth into the spiritual life of the reader.

If you want to identify the Antichrist or know when the (supposed) rapture will take place, this is not the book for you. But, if you desire to experience the blessing and encouragement The Revelation holds, then I recommend this book.

As Hostetler says about Chapter 15: “So, yes, the world is going to pot. Yes, our culture is corrupt. Yes, things may be getting worse in many ways, but that is all the more reason to sing and pray and listen to God in worship.” (148) Wise words.

Bob Hostetler is a writer, editor, pastor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His books have sold over three million copies. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award. He is a co-founder of Cobblestone Community church in Oxford, Ohio. He and his wife has two grown children. Find out more at

Leafwood Publishers, 214 pages.

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

On the 7th Day by T. D. Jakes

The toddler of a young black couple is abducted. As the police pursue an investigation, it becomes apparent that both the wife and the husband have issues they are hiding. Kari has made a new life for herself despite her troubled childhood. And David has something to hide too.
As the days go on, will the child be found before it is too late and will their marriage survive this stressful time?

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. It was pretty well written and kept my interest. There are many issues covered in the plot, such as honesty, marital fidelity, forgiveness, loyal friendship, and more.
I was surprised by some of the language the Christians used. Perhaps it is a southern cultural thing. For this northerner, it was a bit of a shock.
Nonetheless, I appreciated the book as a good read and an example of literature from a part of the country far from me.

Atria Books, 320 pages.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Protection for Hire by Camy Tang

Tessa just got out of prison three months ago. She had been an enforcer in her Uncle Teruo's Japanese mafia gang in San Francisco and she took the fall for her cousin's crime. All for the family, she thought.
But while she was in prison she had a life changing experience. She got saved. How can she possibly live a new life when her Uncle expects her to continue working for him?
Tessa meets a woman at a shelter who needs protection from her violent husband as she pursues a divorce. Tessa agrees to help her and both of them get plunged into the dangers of the Asian underworld.

This novel got off to a bit of a slow start. The Japanese mafia in San Francisco was entirely new to me, as was its conflict with the Chinese mafia. It took me a while to get involved in the novel but once I did, I enjoyed it. Tessa is an expert in martial arts and it is a good thing. As an ex-con, she cannot carry a weapon.
The force of this novel is Tessa's new faith. How can she live out her Christianity when there is vengeance and rage surrounding her? How can she maintain the honor of her family yet honor Christ?
There is just a hint of romance in this novel. At the end, we are certainly set up for more in the sequel. I look forward to the sequel.

Camy Tang writes full time and is a staff worker for her church youth group. She also leads one of the worship teams on Sunday morning. She won the Carol Book of the Year award in the Debut Author category with her novel Sushi for One? She and her husband live in San Jose, California. You can find out more about her at

Zondervan, 331 pages.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Accidental Pharisees by Larry Osborne

Overzealous faith has a dark side. And sometimes Christians, despite best intentions, end up pursuing an overzealous model of faith that ends up sabotaging the work of the Lord. (17)
The zeal is not the problem. We are to be zealous for the Lord. “The problem is unaligned spiritual passion, a zeal for the Lord that fails to line up with the totality of Scripture.” (18)
Accidental Pharisees don't set out to be that way. They just end up there.

Osborne begins by looking at what a Pharisee is and what it means to be one. Then he investigates how one becomes a Pharisee, identifying the early warning signs, becoming confident in one's own righteousness and looking down on others. He also offers techniques for parents and spiritual leaders to make sure they do not foster that Pharisaical dark side.
He turns some of the current buzz words (such as radical, missional, New Testament Christianity) on their heads. He brings reality to those concepts.
Using Joseph of Arimathea as an example, Osborne wonders if any of us has the absolute devotion we think we do, even those “who trumpet such devotion as the only acceptable mark of genuine discipleship.” (36)
He tackles seven issues:
Pride (when comparison becomes arrogance)
Exclusivity (keeping the riffraff out)
Legalism (Pharisees love a litmus test)
Idolizing the past (blind to the beauty of the present)
Uniformity (it's not biblical unity)
Gift projection (everyone should be called as I am)

There are discussion questions for each of the seven sections. This book would make a great choice for a small group of a Sunday School class.

Beware. You are bound to find your self in this book. I did.
I think just about every Christian will find some correction in this book too.
Are you a “jerk for Jesus”? Read this book!

Larry Osborne is a teaching pastor at North Coast Church in northern San Diego County. Osborne speaks extensively on leadership and spiritual formation. He has written several books. He and his wife live in Oceanside, California. Find out more at

Zondervan, 197 pages

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Effect by Linda Hoy

Linda Hoy had some unusual experiences surrounding the death of her mother. She began to investigate the possibility that what we physically see is not all there is. Perhaps like in Plato's story, we are only seeing the shadows of reality.
She began looking for a theory that would explain everything and read everything she could get her hands on. She wanted to grasp the spiritual in an understandable way.
A dream encouraged her to investigate life after death, the brain and the existence of the soul. She writes about dark matter, how the Aborigines view time, creativity linking us to something beyond ourselves, dreams of future events, lucid dreaming, entanglement (mind and machine, mind and mind), entrainment, multiple universes, and more.
She was surprised by the Groundmut theory, found a spiritual home in a Quaker church, and draws from John Dunne (aeronautical engineer) and J. B. Priestly.
Most of her book is about giving reasons “that something exists over and beyond our physical selves... I am still unable to name what or who it is that's out there...,” she writes. (208) If pushed, she'd call it God, she later adds.
She realizes that people who abhor the idea of “Anything Out There will never shift no matter how much evidence is trowelled on the page.” (209)
She calls for an increased effort devoted to exploring the concepts she has covered in this book.

Linda Hoy begins her journey as an avowed atheist yet comes to the conclusion there is something or someone out there, beyond the observable physical reality. She has a great deal of anecdotal evidence as well as reports from investigative authors. After reading this book, one would need to face the overwhelming evidence to a spiritual reality.
Linda is very personable in her writing, including many of her own experiences. There were times when I thought she may have included too much of her personal experiences.

Linda has by no means come to the point where she is willing to see the spiritual reality as the Christian God. But this is a good book showing the journey from atheism to “something” out there.

Linda Hoy is a British author best known for her works for children and young adults. She won the Children's Book Award in 1994 and her first television play won the Silver Award for Drama in New York in 1985. She has taught creative writing and regularly leads writing workshops in schools and universities. She lives in Sheffield, UK.

O-Books, a division of John Hunt Publishing, Ltd., 280 pages.

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs

The year in 1894 and the place is Stirling, Scotland. It is the day before Christmas. Margaret Campbell, a teacher in Edinburgh, has been home visiting her parents and brother. But it has not gone well. Her younger brother Alan had been injured when a youth, some twelve years ago, and is wheelchair bound. He has become a bitter man.
Meg has had enough of his tirades and escapes the house, anxious to take the train back to Edinburgh. The snow is heavy but the train finally leaves.
On the train she meets a handsome man she finds out is Gordon Shaw, the very man who, in a drunken state, injured Alan.
Gordon is attracted to Meg and she to him. And then the train is stopped by a drift of snow and the two are forced to walk back to Stirling – and to a very awkward situation.

I have come to really like the Christmas novellas. (I've read all of Anne Perry's.) And this is a good one. There are many issues dealt with in this story. How long is the past to direct the present? Should forgiveness ever be withheld? Is it ever right to lie when the truth would hurt so much?
An added plus is that you learn a great deal about the Victorian Christmas traditions and celebrations, and about curling.
The book was a little predictable, or was it just great foreshadowing by Liz? Nonetheless, a fine holiday read.

A Reader's Guide is included at the end of the novel. (So is a recipe for Scottish shortbread.)

Liz has created a special website for readers who love Scottish fiction:

You can find Liz's photos of Stirling at and at

Liz Curtis Higgs has written thirty books including her six Scottish historical novels. She has won several awards. She and her husband live in a nineteenth-century farmhouse near Louisville, Kentucky.

WaterBrook Press, 224 pages.

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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

one thousand gifts by Ann Voskamp

Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.” (15)
It has always been God's plan to fill us with glory again. It is a choice, to choose to say yes to all He freely gives, even the painful gifts.
But how does one choose? This book is Ann's story of how she made that choice.
She was challenged to name a thousand blessings. “We only enter into full life if our faith gives thanks.” (39) “I want the very fullest life,” she writes (55) She took up eucharisteo, being thankful in all things. “And I can see it in the looking back, how this daily practice of the discipline of gratitude is the way to daily practice the delight of God...” (82)
The practice of giving thanks...eucharisto...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” (135) And, “The discipline of thanks only comes with practice.” (135)
Not all of gratitude is easy. “Sometimes we need time to answer the hard eucharisteo.” (90)

Ann shares her own story, beginning with her sister's untimely and gruesome death as a child. The memory of seeing her sister bloodied and dying permeates her account of learning the discipline of eucharisteo. Married to a farmer, with half a dozen children, Ann's life is a lesson in thanksgiving. Even when it is a challenge, like when pork prices drop and bankruptcy is a looming possibility, or when her son stuck his hand in the barn fan and it could have been sheared off.

Ann has given us a new way of seeing, the art of deep seeing. It is not what we see but how we see – seeing the gift of God before us.
Ann is a word smith and this book is a pleasure to read. Her practice of eucharisteo is so encouraging. She didn't stop at a thousand gifts. She keeps looking, “Because that list of one thousand gifts has me always on the hunt for one more...and one more – to behold one more moment pregnant with wonder.” (68)

Read this book and be blessed.

Ann Voskamp is a writer with Dayspring, a contributing editor to Laity Lodge's The High Calling, a global advocate for the poor, traveling for Compassion International. Ann and her husband are farmers in the countryside of southwestern Ontario, raising half a dozen kids, and crops of corn. She writes about everyday wonder at You can also join the community at

Zondervan, 240 pages.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

Quinn Reilly has kept herself out of the public eye for the last four years. Ever since she saw to it that the man who swindled the members of her father's church went to prison. Then she receives the dreaded phone call. He's been released from prison and he is out for revenge. Will he be able to find her in her Rocky Mountain cabin?
Morgan Spencer lost his wife in a tragic automobile accident a couple of years ago. There was no way he could take care of their daughter, just a few month old. Olivia is taken in by Morgan's brother, Rick, and family, a rancher in the Rocky Mountains. Morgan, a wealthy corporate turnaround specialist, has never dealt with the grief over his wife's death.
Quinn gets to know Rick and his family. She falls for little Livie and is intrigued by Morgan. When it becomes all too evident that Quinn's life is in danger, Morgan tries to do what he is best at – fixing the situation. But his solution is about to change all their lives.

While this is certainly a stand alone novel, the characters from The Still of the Night (Morgan) and A Rush of Wings (Noelle) reappear here.

This is a complex romance/suspense novel. It is longer than it needed to be, I think. At times the action is slow. You know the ex-con is going to catch up with Quinn sooner or later, and it is later, much later. The romance between Quinn and Morgan drags. Granted, they both have much to work out, but it seems like they go over the same issues again and again.
And the whole thing with the asylum. I don't think it really added to the plot. That might explain why this book was about a hundred pages longer than the usual Christian romance novel.

Kristen Heitzmann is the bestselling author of over a dozen novels. Secrets won the Christy Award. She and her family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Find out more about Kristen at

I'm taking part in a blog tour of this book. Go here to see other reviews in this tour.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

Bethany House Publishers, 448 pages.

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

Unstuck by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross

What if we could get unstuck from the things holding us back, making our faith ineffective? These authors argue that engaging God's Word is the key to getting unstuck.

Their book comes as a result of a survey of more than seventy thousand households between 2005 and 2011. They found that American Christians, on the average, have five Bibles per household, yet the majority don't read it regularly. (57) The study showed that our lives are dramatically different when we engage Scripture four or more times a week. (56) (Four times a week is the tipping point.) The authors have relied on this research to give proven methods of spiritual growth.

This book is a 45 day journey into engaging the Word. “Neglecting God's Word is the main reason believers become stuck spiritually, get disconnected from God, and are prone to losing ground to all kinds of damaging thoughts and harmful behaviors.” (58)

The first part of the book reveals what goes wrong for most of us. They they look at the relational way of experiencing God's Word (receiving, reflecting, responding). The last part of the book shows how to apply the principles of biblical engagement.
This book has been designed so that it is not just another book about the Bible. It is a manual for engaging the Bible. They give lots of examples of people who have become unstuck through doing exactly that.

If you are ready to stop reading the Bible and start engaging it (receive, reflect, respond), this book will help. Remember, engage the Bible at least four times a week!

Go to for ways to get unstuck, including Scriptures sent to you to interrupt your day. Go to for more about the book. Or, go to the publisher's product page to see the table of contents and read a sample chapter.

Arnie Cole is the CEO of Back to the Bible and Director of Research and Development for the Center for Bible Engagement. He and his wife live near Lincoln, Nebraska.
Michael Ross is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author. He writes, edits, and manages Back to the Bible's book publishing efforts. He has authored and collaborated on more than 30 books. He and his family live in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 265 pages.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A God Sized Future by Ron Phillips

Change is hard. It can be frightening. But it happens, and more is coming. In fact, God requires change.
Jesus promised that His believers would do “greater works.” Those greater works are outside of our comfort zone. Our minds must change if we want to do those greater things.
Using Habakkuk as an example of a person willing to go beyond his comfort zone, Phillips gives the following steps to receiving your vision for the greater works: 1) ask God for a word and wait for it, 2) write down what you see and hear (he suggests regular journaling), 3) share the vision with others, 4) discern the season to act on the word, and 5) trust God with a life of faith.
He explores a surrendered life, a spirit-controlled mind, and radical obedience. He gives five steps to a God-sized future.
Phillips is quick to remind his readers that vision and change must be based firmly on biblical ground only. He also reminds us about opposition and enemy attacks but that failure is not final. God will restore.
Phillips is charismatic and frequently refers to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, enemy strongholds etc. He sometimes sounds like popular preachers, assuring you God has a wonderful future for you, God wants to bless you, etc.
His message is clear, however. After 33 years pastoring in the same church, he has come to embrace change and not be afraid of it. He wants his readers to have the same attitude.

This book is another in the long line of those encouraging Christians to be all God wants them to be. Charismatics will find this book particular appealing.

Ron Phillips is senior pastor of Abba's House in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His weekly television and daily radio programs are broadcast world wide and available at He is a popular speaker and the author of numerous books.

Charisma House, 200 pages. Publisher's product page.

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pilgrimage Into the Last Third of Life by Jane Thibault and Richard Morgan

We baby boomers are entering the last third of our life. Our life is changing. Our circumstances are changing.
Thibault and Morgan believe that experiencing the last third of life, whether hale or frail, will gain meaning and joy when experienced in relation to God. They have written short meditations on some of the best ways they have found to know, love, serve, and enjoy God and one another in the last third of life.
They use the term “pilgrimage” to indicate a life of meaningful intent and spiritual intensity. The latter part of life can be an intentional move toward God.
They cover seven topics, or “gates.” I am going to list just a few of the meditations from each of the seven topics.
Facing Aging and Dying: dealing with life no longer filled with accomplishments, changing interests, contemplating death.
Living with Limitations: dealing with balance or vision or hearing loss, downsizing possessions.
Doing Inner Work: willingness to forgive, gratitude, wearing masks.
Living In and Out of Community: dealing with fewer friends, moving, needing care.
Prayer and Contemplation: Lectio Divina, living with uncertainty, writing a letter to God.
Redeeming Loss and Suffering: reinterpreting suffering as an invitation to draw closer to God, lessons from Gethsemane.
Leaving a Legacy: how you want to be remembered.

I found this to be a valuable little book. The thoughts are short and work perfectly to read one a day. The authors have provided good reflection questions at the end of each meditation. This book would make a great choice for a reading group or Sunday School class consisting of older people.
This book has given me much to think about, now that I have entered into that classification of “retired.”

Jane Marie Thibault (age 65) is a retired gerontologist and professor of Family and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She is the author of several books and lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
Richard L. Morgan (age 85) is a retired Presbyterian (USA) pastor. He is a volunteer in pastoral care and chapel director at the Redstone Highlands retirement community near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author or coauthor of several books.

Upper Room, 144 pages.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More Than a Bucket List

We've seen the bucket lists, those pleasure trips or daredevil actions someone wants to do before they die. But suppose there are some other items that should be on that bucket list. Maybe something like trusting God more or becoming a more grateful person.
This book is a compilation of fun things to do and places to go combined with spiritual encouragement and teaching. You may see a suggestion to take a ferry through the San Juan Islands in Washington State (my favorite) on one page and the encouragement to accept God's forgiveness on the next. Some suggestions are pure fun, like learning to throw a boomerang. Others are character building, like going complaint free for thirty days. Some of the suggestions are costly, like traveling to a tropical island, or going on a mission trip, but others are free and can be done anywhere or anytime.

Here are a few more ideas I liked:
Go on a word fast.
Donate blood regularly.
Learn a magic trick.
Have a food fight.
Go barefoot.
Share your faith.
Watch less TV.
Write a love letter to God.
Start a gratitude journal.

I was impressed with this book and the ideas contained within. Sure, there are lots of fun and (maybe) selfish activities you could add to your bucket list, but there are also many thought provoking, character building, and others oriented suggestions that could be added too. This book can help you make your latter years thoughtful and inspiring.

This book would make a perfect retirement gift.

Watch a trailer for the book here.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 288 pages. Publisher's product page.

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

Take the Trophy and Run by Gail Sattler

Stan and Amber have known each other a long time – from birth. They've been friends forever. Amber now owns a garden gift store and Stan owns an auto repair shop. They have settled into a familiar friendship.
Amber is a member of the local garden club, even though she's not very good at gardening. Stan helps her out, though, like he's always done.
It has become a tradition for Amber to place her gnome, Gnorman, in the garden of the winner of the garden club prize. But this year, as the club assembles in the winning garden, it becomes evident the gnome is missing – and along with it, the trophy he held.
Over the next weeks, Gnorman appears in various gardens of club members, always with a note, a clue to the next location. Stan faithfully helps Amber as they try to solve the mystery of the missing trophy and their friendship turns into something more serious.

This is probably the calmest mystery/romance I have ever read. The plot is a bit weak and the action is rather slow and repetitive. There is a little humor, but not very much. The end was kind of cute, but you knew it was coming.
If you have high blood pressure and need to remain calm while reading a novel, this one would work for you.
I have read other books by Gail and this is not her best.

This novel is one in a series about Bloomfield, following in the tradition of Mitford or Lake Wobegon. Find out more about the series here.

Gail Sattler is a prolific author and has written Mennonite fiction, Christian romance novels, devotional Bible contributions and more. She plays piano at her church, electric bass in a modern jazz band, and double bass in a concert band. She lives with her husband and three sons in Vancouver, BC. Find out more at

B & H Books, 320 pages.

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Crossovers by LeAnne Hardy

Thirteen year old Ben Bradley loves to be on the ice. His whole family plays hockey – even his older sister and mom. He's a good hockey player too.
But what Ben really wants to do is learn to jump and spin. He's been going to the ice arena early in the morning watching Shannon and taking lessons from Mr. B. Ben is careful to be finished by eight when the hockey practice starts. If the guys saw him figure skating, well, they'd make fun of him.
As if life wasn't complicated enough for Ben, his sister wants to go to hockey camp. Hockey camp -with the guys! And she wants to try out for the varsity hockey team. The guys will never let him live that down.
And his parents. How will he ever tell his hockey playing parents he wants to dance on the ice?

Hardy has crafted a youth novel dealing with many of the issues facing young people today. Ben wants to be accepted by the guys but is it worth it to not follow his heart?
Ben's sister wants to be on the hockey team. Should she try for it even though she is convinced she would have to be twice as good as a guy? Ben wants to support his sister but does that mean fighting the bullies who make fun of her?
When Ben's bicycle is trashed, has his best friend betrayed him?
Should Ben be nice to Norman Skagway? Skag is a nice kid but the guys call him a name that rhymes with his nickname. What will the guys think if Ben is seen with Skag?
Is Ben lying to his parents when he does not tell them about his dreams or his early morning practices at the arena? Is lying just with words or do you do it with your actions too?

This is a great novel for kids 10 to 13 years old. A good Discussion Guide helps readers discuss fears, peer pressure, lying, the roles girls and boys are expected to follow, being true to your faith and being accepted by your peers, and more.

This would be a good novel for parents too. You will get a pretty good idea of what your kids are going through in middle school and early high school.

LeAnn Hardy has degrees in philosophy and library and information science. Her love has always been children's literature but she did not begin to write until she was well into her forties. She and her husband of thirty-eight years have lived in Ethiopia, Brazil, Mozambique, South Africa, England, and finally in Wisconsin. When she is not writing, she is probably at the ice rink figure skating. You can find out more about her and the books she has written at her web site.  You can follow her blog here. Go to her author page on Facebook here.

Watch a video of LeAnne figure skating and explaining Crossovers here.

Buy the book from Amazon here.
The Kindle edition of the book is on sale for $0.99 this week.

BookSurge, 136 pages.

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