Monday, August 31, 2015

Prayer Works by Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick with Amy Parker

This is a good book for young children on what prayer is and how to go about it. It not only teaches about prayer but has kids actually praying too.

It starts with explaining what prayer is, then why we should pray, what we should pray for, how to pray, etc. Each reading is about the equivalent of one page of text, taking the child maybe five minutes to read. Some are even shorter. There is a Bible verse at the beginning of the reading and an encouragement to specifically pray at the end. There are also cute illustrations on each page. There are twenty two pages at the back of the book with space for children to write down their prayers. There is also a prayer for salvation near the back as well as a Parent Connection with suggestions for a directed conversation about prayer.

I think this book would work well with younger school age children, around ages 6 to 9. The style of the illustrations might be too childish looking for older children. It would make a good daily devotional on prayer.

It was inspired by the recently released movie, War Room.

My rating: 4 stars.

Stephen Kendrick is a speaker, screenwriter and film producer. He has coauthored New York Times bestsellers. He serves on the board of the Fatherhood CoMission. He and his wife have six children.
Alex Kendrick is a screenwriter, actor and movie director. He is a featured conference speaker and coauthor of New York Times bestsellers. He and his wife have six children.
You can find out more about the Kendrick brothers and their work at
Amy Parker has written more than twenty books for children, teens, and adults. She and her husband have two children. Find out more about her and her books at
The illustrator is Lisa Manuzak and you can see her work at

B&H Publishing, 128 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon Media for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Peter's Perfect Prayer Place by Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick

In this delightful book for children, Peter tries to find his own special place for prayer. He is inspired by his mom who is in her very own prayer room. He looks in the kitchen, thinking he may have found a spot where he can take a snack and drink and talk to God. But clanging pans are noisy and maybe the kitchen will smell like broccoli!

With simple rhyming verse we follow Peter to his tent but it is dark. He finds his tire swing is too distracting with noise and animals running around. His tree house looks good as he would be closer to God, but it is so high. He searches more places and wonders where God will hear him.

His dad has the answer. God will hear Peter anywhere and any time.

There are extra features in this book, including a Parent Connection. A parent can use the suggestions on that page to lead their little one in a directed discussion about prayer. There is also a collection of stickers so kids can identify when they prayed and when God answered. A large Prayer Poster provides ample space to write prayers and attach the stickers appropriately.

This book is a great one to help children understand prayer and begin the habit of writing down their prayers. This book was inspired by the recently released War Room movie.

My rating: 5 stars.

Stephen Kendrick is a speaker, screenwriter and film producer. He has coauthored New York Times bestsellers. He serves on the board of the Fatherhood CoMission. He and his wife have six children.
Alex Kendrick is a screenwriter, actor and movie director. He is a featured conference speaker and coauthor New York Times bestsellers. He and his wife have six children.
Daniel Fernandez was born in Santiago de Chile and has lived in Germany since the age of five. He has worked as a creative director, art director, illustrator, designer, and has worked for many advertising agencies and publishing editortials in Chile. He has published more than 30 titles and has won numerous awards.

B&H Publishing, 24 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon Media for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Street God by Dimas Salaberrios with Angela Hunt

What an amazing story - from hustling drugs as a young teen to being a preacher.

Salaberrios was told by his parents that if he worked hard he would get a good life and a good salary when he was older. But the lure of flashy toys and expensive rides right now was bait that hooked him and drew him into drug dealing as a young teen. He got trapped in an organization and was arrested for the first time when he was only thirteen. Arrested again when he was fifteen, he went to Rikers Island then got out on bail.

He went deeper and deeper into the drug hustling culture. He nearly killed a man in a botched armed robbery. He got hooked on cocaine and then crack. He experienced something like demon possession when there was finally intervention and salvation. Even though he had a new Lord, he was still a drug lord and it took him a while to get out of it all.

His is an amazing story of God's grace and restoration. I can tell God had His hand on Salaberrios, saving his life many times. For me, the book was a lesson on a culture entirely foreign to me. I had no idea how young urban boys got sucked into the drug culture. Salaberrios did an excellent job of explaining the bait that lures them in. It was amazing he made it out of that culture alive as death is a common experience for them.

Salaberrios has had an amazing ministry after he was saved. He has traveled internationally and seen miracles too many to count. He has established a ministry in the drug culture he used to be a part of. What an amazing story!

Salaberrios has written this book with the aim of drawing people to Christ, Who is active, alive, and powerful today. His is a very powerful testimony to that end. I recommend this book to parents and teens alike. It is informative to the culture of the inner city yet is so encouraging as to what God is doing today.

Find out more about the book and the author, watch the book trailer and book endorsements and read the first chapter here.
You can download PDF excerpts and Discussion Questions here.

Dimas Salaberrios is pastor of Infinity Bible Church, which he founded in partnership with Tim Keller and Redeemer City to City, in the South Bronx of New York City. He has shared the gospel on every continent except Antarctica. He is also president of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York. He has a MDiv from Alliance theological Seminary. He and his wife live in the Bronx with their two daughters.
Angela Hunt has authored more than 130 works. He books have sold nearly five million copies worldwide. She has received numerous awards. She has a doctorate in biblical studies and is currently working on her ThD. She and her husband live in Florida.

Tyndale Momentum, 304 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Into the Trenches by Andrea Barringer

While this is a novel, the author says that it is mostly true. It is a fictionalized account of the horror of war based on personal experience.

Annelyse is a young woman who decides to join the Army, following in the footsteps of her older sister. We are along with her through boot camp, training, and then assignment. She spends time at Walter Reed but, when a volunteer is needed for deployment to Iraq, she evaluates the lives of her workmates and volunteers. Her experiences there are heartbreaking.

This is a powerful novel. Many of us have no idea what soldiers experience when they are in a war zone. Barringer has done an excellent job of taking us into the action. Through the eyes and heart of Annelyse, we experience the tension, the drama, the insecurity and the pain of war. We feel what it is like to lose buddies. We feel the internal torture of aiming a gun at a child strapped with explosives. We experience the mental anguish of coming back home, the guilt of being alive, the depression of hopelessness, the need for help.

There are a number of important issues covered in this book besides those of the military in war. For example, remaining pure while dating. There is really good teaching on the tactics the devil uses to sidetrack Christians. There is also a clear presentation of the gospel. The book is written from a strong Christian viewpoint. The importance of trusting God and relying on Him comes through very clearly.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to really know what soldiers experience when deployed to a place like Iraq and when they return. Wrap the story in the struggle to trust God, add a little romance and you have a very good novel.

Because this book is authentic, there are some rough scenes. They are appropriate to the story so I found nothing offensive. It just portrays the reality of war and those who fight in them.

You can watch the book trailer here.

Andrea Barringer is a veteran of the United States Army having served four years active duty at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, and four years in the reserves. She lives in Florida with her husband and their daughter. Find out more at

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 344 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the author for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

This Means War by Stephen Kendrick, Alex Kendrick, Troy Schmidt

Being a young Christian teen in this culture can be difficult. Prayer is essential but how to go about it may be frustrating.

The producers of the new movie War Room have created a prayer journal just for young teens. I really like it. It has great graphics and provides tons of room to write. And to get young teens into the habit of journaling their prayers, there are short devotions and thought provoking questions.

The journal begins with the basics of the Christian life. It includes the importance of the privilege of communicating with God. The enemy is explained as is the war we are in. There is a section on the nature of prayer, that it takes time and discipline to get going, the kinds of things we pray about, the character of God, and what it means to be saved. Another section covers the weapons of a prayer warrior, such as Scripture and praise. There is even “advanced” training on prayer including issues like knowing God's will, waiting for God's answer, and how to pray strategically with focus. At the end of each chapter is Go To War, with suggestions for specific prayer.

I liked this journal, a combination of teaching on prayer and ample space for young teens to write their thoughts. Good questions are included to stimulate thinking about prayer. I like the lessons on being sincere and succinct, perhaps identifying some of the bad prayer habits they may have seen in adults. I like going through the Lord's Prayer as a model.

The format and graphics of the book revolve around going to war and being a soldier in it. I tend to think this book would appeal more to guys than gals. It is a good tool to help young teens, about middle school age, develop a strategic prayer life and get in the habit of journaling their prayers.

Stephen Kendrick is a speaker, screenwriter, and producer. He coauthored the  New York Times bestsellers The Love Dare and The Resolution for Men. He also serves on the board of the Fatherhood CoMission. He and his wife have six children.
Alex Kendrick is a screenwriter, actor, and movie director. He is a featured conference speaker and coauthored The Love Dare and The Resolution for Men. He and his wife have six children.
You can find out more about the Kendrick brothers and their work at
Troy Schmidt is a writer and video producer who has had assignments with Disney, Nickelodeon, and Max Lucado's Hermie franchise. He is currently the lead writer for The American Bible Challenge hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. He and his wife have three sons. You can find out more at

B&H Publishing, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon Media for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

I sometimes wonder when I hear of a novel written by the child of a famous author. No need to wonder on this one. The Choosing is an exceptionally well written novel.

It is over a hundred years in the future and society has changed immensely. Decades before, what was thought to be a great medical breakthrough had, in fact, set off a devastating plague. One man pulled the survivors together and began a new society based on words revealed to him. Now, a warped style of Christianity is used to govern the people.

One aspect of this society is the Choosing. Young teens are groomed for marriage. At a gala celebration, young men choose their brides. Those not chosen are taken across the river to work in production facilities. Such was the fate of Carrington Hale. Before long, however, she becomes embroiled in a situation that might very well lead to her death.

I have read several teen dystopian novels and I think this is my favorite so far. There is so much in this novel to think about and discuss. It would be a good choice for a teen reading group. (Good discussion questions are included.) The spirituality in this futuristic society is such that salvation must be earned. The result is that people blindly follow those in authority over them.

Yet there are some who want to rebel. There is a prophetic voice in this novel who encourages those willing to listen to believe the truth about God. The price is that they may die for their faith. Carrington is caught between wanting to seek the truth and wanting to follow the rules of society – just like many teens today.

This novel has well developed characters and lots of drama. It thoroughly kept my interest throughout. Add a little mystery with a serial killer and a forbidden romance and you have a great novel. I highly recommend it to older teens. (There is a little violence unsuitable for younger teens.).

Rachelle Dekker is the oldest daughter of bestselling author Ted Dekker. She and her husband live in Nashville, Tennessee. You can find out more at

Tyndale Fiction, 449 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Fervent by Priscilla Shirer

Today marks the release of a new movie, War Room. (You can watch the trailer here.) Several books have been released this month as valuable resources for strategic prayer. I'll be reviewing several of them over the next few days.

We are at war, Shirer writes. “A very real enemy has been strategizing and scheming against you, assaulting you, coming after your emotions, your mind, your man, your child.” (2) Prayer is our secret weapon and she wants us to use it fervently and with strategic focus.

This is a powerful book. I've read many books about prayer but this one is different. This is a book of strategy - that of the devil and that of Christians. Shirer writes with passion and encourages that same passion for prayer in us. (Stealing our passion is a strategy of the devil.) And that's where we begin praying, to restore our passion.

Shirer uses her own personal experiences, stories from the Bible, and her grandmother's decades of focused and strategic praying to instruct and motivate us. She has us praying right away – and writing down our prayers. (There is space provided in the back of the book but you'll want to buy a notebook.) She takes us through ten strategies in all. (Your Passion, Your Focus, Your Identity, Your Family, Your Past, Your Fears, Your Purity, Your Pressures, Your Hurts, Your Relationships)

I love how Shirer gives us Scripture with each of the strategies as a foundation for powerful prayer. Those verses are great jumping off points for specific prayer. I really like her prayer outline: Praise, Repentance, Asking, Yes. That's easy to remember. I like the way she has outlined the book. She lays a solid base for our authority in prayer at the beginning. I like the way she writes, like she is talking directly to me.

I think this is the best book on prayer I have ever read. Shirer wants us to wear out the book – write in it, copy parts of it, dog ear it, use it. That's because it is not just a book about prayer, it is a valuable resource for focused prayer with passion.

My rating: 5 stars.

Priscilla Shirer is a popular author and speaker. She has a Master's degree in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Thousands of women have attended her conferences and used her Bible studies. Shirer made her film debut in War Room. She and her husband have three boys and live in Dallas, Texas. You can find out more about her and her ministry at

B&H Publishing, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon Media for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Miracle in the Middle by Charlotte Gambill

Sometimes we get to tired of the journey, we start looking for an exit ramp rather than focus on moving forward. Gambill aims to strengthen the weary traveler and breath hope into the soul.

She writes about the stages of a journey and the qualities necessary to follow through to the destination. She encourages readers to be prepared ahead of time, knowing it will be a place where the Devil will try to discourage us. She suggests remembering past testimonies and gives the character traits that need to be developed. She uses stories from the Bible and her own experience to illustrate her work. The end of each chapter has suggested Action Points and Prayer Points.

This book is a good preparation for the journey and persevering through the tedius middle. It would best be used by reading it before getting stuck in the middle. Gambill has plenty of good ideas but they are mostly ones that take time and effort before they will be meaningful.

For example, writing about the strain of being in the middle, she says, “So today, learn to recover from strain. If you strained your faith, fix it; if you strained your relationship, resolve it; if you strained your courage, rebuild it.” Great instructions, for sure. What is lacking, however, is how to do all those things. One of her Prayer Points in another chapter: “Pray for the strategy to change your situation.” No practical instructions for creating such a strategy are included, however.

So don't think this book will have particular steps or strategies to persevere in the middle. The book is full of encouragement but the working it out is left up to the reader. Because of that, I think this book would best be read in a small group of trusted friends. The action and prayer points could be used as jumping off points for making a plan and carrying it out.

Christians in general would benefit from reading this book. Gambill does have a good section on helping others who are in the difficult middle of a journey. There are good insights from the Bible stories too. Just don't expect that by reading this book you are going to find a miracle in the middle of your journey. In that respect the title of this book is a bit of a misnomer. What you will find is a good foundation upon which to build so that when the time comes you will have the tools to persevere.

Food for thought: “Persistent faith is forged in the middle – it's the tenacity we discover when things don't happen in our predetermined timing.”

You can go here to read a chapter and watch a video.

My rating: 4 stars.

Charlotte Gambill leads Life Church in England with her husband Steve. They have two children.

W Publishing Group, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Born Again by Jim Barringer

Ever since President Jimmy Carter said he was “born again,” the term has been used a great deal. But just what does it mean?

Barringer lays a good foundation, establishing why we are no longer who God created us to be, and why Jesus said (to Nicodemus) we must be born again. I like his ideas on identity. Apart from God, we will never be who we were intended to be as our identity comes from Him. Barringer's thoughts on God's jealousy were enlightening. I am glad he confronted the myth of people being born good. He also writes about sins but, oddly enough, defines sins well after he has written much about them. I did, however, really like his discussion as it gave me a new understanding of sin.

The rest of the book is about the process of living out being born again, loving God and loving our neighbor. His thoughts on loving God and how to love Him more were great. His thoughts on loving my neighbor were very convicting and insightful.

This would be a good book for new Christians or for people who have been Christians for a while but long for a new understanding of what it all means. It would also be a good book for use in an evangelism type of group, introducing nonChristians to the idea of being born again and what it all means. The Bible is used quite a bit so the leader of an evangelistic might first want to lay the groundwork for believing the Bible is actually the Word of God first.

I, as a Christian for over 50 years, also found some really good material in this book that was convicting. Barringer's definition of sin was new to me and made me much more aware of sin in my own life. I would recommend every Christian read this book just for that section alone. He has a section on gay marriage that really made me think a while. I'm not sure I like what he said but it was certainly thought provoking. He also speculates a little about eternity, saying God “will celebrate our diversity by letting us retain our languages, but meld us into one by allowing us to understand every language.” That and much more is food for discussion.

There are very good discussion questions at the end of each chapter so this book would be a good choice for a group study. It's a thought provoking book and Christians, new and old, would benefit from reading it.

Jim Barringer is a worship leader, teacher, author, traveler, and speaker, serving at The Church of Life in Orlando, Florida. He has a Masters degree from South Western Seminary. He and his wife have one daughter. You can find out more on Facebook and follow his blog here.

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of the book from the author for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Murderer's Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

I liked this psychological suspense novel with a new character as the heroine.

Grace Blades is a successful psychologist in private practice. As the novel progresses, flashbacks reveal her troubled childhood - murder of a parent and years in unfit foster homes. One foster parent realized her intelligence and arranged for testing. Grace was genius quality.

One event in her childhood would later bring Grace into a life and death situation. Three children were brought into the foster home in the dead of night. Two of those children would come back into Grace's life nearly twenty five years later. Murder soon followed.

I liked the psychological aspect of this novel. We follow the action as Grace tries to unravel what happened twenty five years ago and why someone wants to kill her now. It was interesting to get into Grace's character. She is a successful private psychologist, loved by her patients. But Grace has a dark side, a sexual compulsion that gets her in trouble.

I liked Grace's savvy character, even if she had severe sex issues. At times she seemed almost too savvy, so accomplished in so many areas, from personal protection to seeking out information. She seemed too accomplished, too confident. And the mystery of all those years seemed to solve too easily.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book. I liked the concentration on the psychological aspect, there not being any suspense until the last few pages. I liked Grace enough that I hope there will be more novels with her at the center.

My rating: 4 stars.

Note to my regular blog followers: there are graphic violence and sex scenes in this novel.

Jonathan Kellerman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than three dozen bestselling novels, including the Alex Delaware series. He has co-authored novels with his wife, bestselling author Faye Kellerman, and one with his son, Jesse Kellerman. He has also written two children's books and many nonfiction titles. He has won numerous awards. He and his wife live in California, New Mexico, and New York. You can find out more at

Ballantine Books, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

The Jesus Training Manual by Richard Mull

After years in ministry, Mull cried out for the Lord to disciple him. This book is the fruit of that cry.

Mull shares his story, how he came to understand what it means to be a disciple and fulfill God's anointing on his life. He made the choice to passionately pursue God and listen to His voice with a mixture of caution and abandon. Mull had been taught that God was not moving today like He did in the Bible. Yet he began to see God move in mighty ways with healings and words of knowledge. He came to hear God's voice, after much prayer, fasting, and study of Scripture. He shares his experiences with youth revivals, strongholds being broken, dreams, and walking in the power and authority of the Lord.

Mull includes teaching in the latter part of the book. He gives the biblical foundation for hearing God's voice, for engaging in spiritual warfare, and for healing. He has also included great study questions at the end of each chapter.

Mull gives his readers a warning: If you decide to truly pursue God and live what God's Word says, “it will mess up your neat little religion.” (37)

This book is a great example of how God uses a man when he makes the choice of being totally committed to pursuing God and His will for his life. It is also a great example of what God is doing today among those who are waiting on Him. As Mull writes, “It is amazing what God can do with a life when the individual begins to listen to Him.” (108)

I recommend this book to Christians who are at a point in their Christian life when they know there must be more, that something is missing. This book is well founded in Scripture and is a good study for a time when authentic and powerful Christian living is essential.

This book was previously published as Lord, Disciple Me.

Richard Mull is founder and president of Operation Light Force and has ministered worldwide. He holds a MDiv from Columbia International University and has over 25 years of ministry experience. He and his wife have four children.

Destiny Image, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Book Club Network for the the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Original Jesus by Daniel Darling

Darling is concerned about the kind of Jesus the American church culture is promoting. He is one we can resonate with – a Jesus we can shape and mold into our liking.

Darling's aim in this book is to knock down those mythical images of Jesus and reveal Jesus as He is.

He does a good job of identifying those false images of Jesus and why they are so attractive. He writes about the “Guru Jesus” and the “Red-Letter Jesus.” He explores the “American Jesus” or the “Republican Jesus.” He discusses politics and various causes Christians want Jesus to promote. In his chapter on the “Left-Wing Jesus,” he writes about the “best delivery system for raising the poor out of poverty.” (78) I thought he got a bit off track in that discussion, writing about free markets, wages, profit, economic growth, creating wealth, and the right to private property. He notes, “The creation of wealth provides more opportunity for charitable giving.” (85) He adds that readers are to understand he is “not saying Jesus gives his endorsement to all aspects of our modern economic system.” (85) I didn't know Jesus gave an endorsement to any aspect of our modern economic system. It was strange, after reading a chapter on the “American Jesus” that Darling wrote so much about the American economic system. I kept wondering how that would apply to Christians in an oppressed nation, say under a dictatorship.

Later on, in his chapter on the “Prosperity Jesus,” Darling does remind us, “The call to discipleship is one of self-denial and sacrifice (Luke 9:23).” (111)

Perhaps what was missing in the whole discussion of the poor and wealth is what I found missing in the book in general. Darling has done a great job identifying the wrong images of Jesus but fails to give us a right view of Jesus. I would have appreciated a paragraph or two at the end of each chapter suggesting the right image of Jesus in response to the wrong one. In that respect, this is not a biblical study of who Jesus is, what he is like, what he taught on subjects.

This missing aspect of the book was really apparent in his chapter on the importance of being a part of a church body. He makes reference to three sayings of Jesus, eighteen references to other books in the New Testament and one reference to an Old Testament passage. We read much more of what Paul said about being part of a church than Jesus did. I found it odd that in a book about revealing the real Jesus, Darling did not make reference to Jesus' practice of regular synagogue attendance as an example for us today.

So this book was not what I expected. After reading it, I pretty much know who Jesus is not, but am left having to do my own research in the gospels to remind myself of who He really is. In that respect, Darling did not fulfill the second part of his aim, to reveal Jesus as He really is.

I appreciate Darling's premise. He wonders if we have lost the transcendence of an Almighty God. “We seem to have lost touch with the divine mystery of Christ.” (135) Jesus has become our buddy, our best friend. I just wish Darling would have brought us to the feet of Jesus and reminded us of His majesty.

My rating: 3 stars.

Daniel Darling is the vice president of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a former pastor, the author of several books, a speaker and blogger. He lives with his wife and their four children in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn more at

Baker Books, 160 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

We get caught up in the buzz of life. Could it be that we are missing the kingdom of God present in the smallness of life?

Freeman wants us to pay attention to the small ways that Jesus shows up in the ordinary and the plain, like on a Tuesday. “The deepest need of my soul is Christ,” she writes. “But the problem is, I often forget where to find him.” (17)

I appreciate the premise of the book. So often we think we have to have a big ministry to be effective in God's kingdom. Freeman suggests instead, “learning to lean back into small-moment living rather than trying to keep pace with a fast-moving world.” (35) She encourages us to celebrate Jesus in our simple conversations with friends, the experiences with family, the daily moments.

She recounts a number of her experiences, such as watching neighbors talk on the benches in their cul de sac, going to a water park and watching American Idol, and then shares her lessons from them. The format reminded me of a daily blogger. I had a bit of difficulty appreciating the many rambling stories. She writes in the middle of the book, “Sometimes what I want more than anything is to be fully understood, to be able to explain myself, to have everyone see where I'm coming from and to have it all turn out well.” (183) I think younger readers, say thirty-something, would appreciate that kind of foundation for a book more than older readers such as myself, a senior citizen. I did appreciate her ability to glean a spiritual lesson from each of her experiences, however. I also appreciated her encouragement to live well in ordinary time.

A few questions are given at the end of major sections of the book, making it a possibility for a small women's discipleship group. This book would work well for young people who love to talk about their experiences and how they impact their soul.

Food for thought: “Jesus came to earth to extend a personal invitation for us to enter into his kingdom rather than try to build our own.” (20)

You can follow her blog at and you can go to for videos and other resources.

My rating: 4 stars.

Emily P. Freeman is a writer and speaker, creator of the blog Chatting at the Sky, and co-creator of the membership site Hope*ologie with her family. She is a regular contributor at DaySpring's (in)courage. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina, with their children. You can find out more at

Revell, 251 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon Media with the purpose of an independent and honest review.

When I Pray What Does God Do? by David Wilkinson

Prayer is hard for many Christians. Wilkinson suggests that is because of the way we think God answers prayers. As a physicist and theologian, he shares his insights from his own journey of prayer.

Wilkinson shares his experience with prayer. He has had some surprising answers and all too often no answer. Concentrating on how we understand God, he looks at some popular myths about prayer, such as the slot machine view, the prosperity contract with God, and others. He also looks at biblical passages and what they tell us about God and prayer.

He has a good discussion on science and miracles, looking at the arguments rooted in the scientific worldview of Newton. He then discusses quantum theory and chaos theory and the arguments of Hume. He reminds us of the folly of saying that our scientific understanding rules out miracles. Scientists continue to modify laws. “It may be that some phenomena appear miraculous not because they are breaking scientific laws but simply because they reflect a deeper, truer reality that our present understanding does not reach.” (165)

Wilkinson notes that this book is not a definitive work on God and prayer. It rather reflects his own personal journey in trying to understand prayer as a scientist and Christian. His emphasis is that the key to prayer is our understanding of God. “It is not how we pray but who we pray to and how we think God can respond.” (183) Models of how God works in the universe may be developed in the future. Then again, God and his actions may always be beyond our ability to comprehend.

This book leans a bit toward the style of an academic investigation. Wilkinson does add some humor as well as personal experience, however. I recommend this book to those who are particularly interested in science and prayer. Wilkinson has done a great job of exploring the relationship between the two, often referring to previous books on the subject. I appreciated his insights.

My rating: 4 stars.

David Wilkinson is Principal of St. John's College, Durham. He has earned doctorates in both astrophysics and theology.

Lion Hudson (distributed in the U.S. by Kregel), 224 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

One Thousand Wells by Jena Lee Nardella

Can one young woman change the world? Can she change living conditions for thousands of people?

Jena was a young girl on the way to a restaurant with her mother for lunch when she encountered a homeless and hungry man begging on the sidewalk. She was shocked, having faced the brutal reality that not all people were blessed with food and shelter like she was. After lunch, her uneaten burger was boxed up. She and her mom went back to the place where the man had been but he was gone. She never saw him again but that experience gave her the insatiable desire to have her life matter.

As a teen and college student, she worked in soup kitchens, feeding the homeless. Her life took a turn when, through another, she met with Jars of Clay, a contemporary (Christian) music group who had a desire like hers. They were concerned about the lack of clean water in Africa, as well as its untreated HIV-positive people. Blood:Water was born when Jena was twenty-two. Their audacious goal was one thousand wells.

She writes of her trips to East Africa, observing groups with which they would partner in work. Some projects would be fixing existing wells. Other projects would be transporting clean water from a distant source. They helped build a clinic. They struggled with their identity as a “Christian” organization and what that meant.

I was especially interested to read of the insights Jena gleaned about this kind of development work. There had been many previous attempts to provide water to African villages. Many of the projects failed. Some well projects succeeded only to have the well or machinery fall into disrepair. Jena realized that the local people needed to be involved in the project and take ownership of it. Partnering with grassroots organizations in Africa would be the way forward.

What an encouraging book! Jena's writing is well done, much of it in an almost poetic voice. She is very honest about her dreams, questions and struggles. She shares the hard lessons she learned about life, service, and marriage. At times she was overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, betrayal and disillusion. At times she was celebrating a glorious victory.

It is better, her mentor said, to be doing something than be doing nothing. Jena's book is a challenge to be doing something, to be honest about the world yet live in hope. It reveals that even a small group of people dedicated to helping others can initiate a work that has helped millions. I highly recommend it.

My rating: 5 stars.

You can find out more about Blood:Water at You can watch a video about starting Blood:Water here and the journey to one thousand wells here.

Jena Lee Nardella is co-founder of Blood:Water and one of Christianity Today's 33 Under 30. She has received several honors and awards for her humanitarian work. She serves on the team of Praxis and served on the board for Equitas Group. She and her husband and their son live in Nashville and East Africa.

Howard Books, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.